Medium format photography the old way, is it advisable?

Started Feb 24, 2014 | Questions thread
TheChefs Contributing Member • Posts: 522
Re: Medium format photography the old way, is it advisable?
1

Daro31 wrote:

I come from the medium and large format world, my father let me use his Rollieflex 2.8 Twin Lense Refllex (TLR) when I was high school yearbook photographer. With only 12 shots on a roll and developing your own fillm, making your contact sheets and a Sekonic light meter you learned exposure light and mostly checking out the details in the photo before you pushed the shutter. I used that camera for 10 years before I got a real job and was able to buy my Mamiya RB67. Only 10 shots to a roll with that one. I always did my own darkroom work, every house I bought a priority was, where is the darkroom going to go. My buddies in the factory wanted plumbing for a wet bar and I wanted to make sure there was a drain for my 6 foot sink.

I have photos on my wall here that I did in the darkroom, and have hung in my room for 30 years, taken with medium format, and a few even from my brief fling with 4x5 film.

I still have the RB and 4 lenses along with a 5 pound prism finder on my shelf above me so if I wanted to I could use use it easily, even have a Chromega 4x5 XL enlarger deteriorating in the corner.

I got my first digital camera, a Canon 20D when it first came out, I thought it was the first digital that might approach my Mamiya. Prior to the 20D I was scanning my large and medium format negatives to get into the digital world. In the last couple of years I got the Canon 5D MKII and was starting get what I thought was close to the medium format pictures. About 6 months ago I got an Epson pro 3880 printer and after one week I thought, damn it I have my darkroom back.

I have a photo I took many years ago with the RB67 and a 50 mm lens (Wwide Angle) at Rochester House of the skylight and the railings. Over the years I won a lot of awards from the print I did in the darkroom and it is one of my pride and joys for composition but mostly for the texture and tonal range it has.

When I got my 5D MKII I went back to Rochester to retake the same photo and see if I could do the same image again digitally. As it turns out the digital image shot on the 5D MKII and printed on the Epson is better. That may be a subjective judgement but now that digital has given us so many tools to control our photos I can not imagine going back to the film camera.

The one thing that I would recommend people go back to film cameras for is for the discipline part. When you shoot film and only have 10 shots per roll and do our own printing you learn to crop in the camera, look for the stray coffee cup in the grass and check you horizons for level. It may sound like an old curmudgeon not taking advantage of the new technology, but I would say try out film where you know every shutter click cost $2.00 and then bring that discipline back you your digital world.

Your solution involves 1000s of $$$. The printer itself costs close to $2000 in Australia. So I would have to go to the bank and get a personal loan first. I will not even mention cost of running such a beast.

Now to get the figures straight, a shutter click on my hasselblad costs me exactly AU$1.32 (film + development) for C41 and E6. It also costs me 40cents (AU) per frame of BW film including development). Since I shoot about 50/50 of colour/BW. The cost of the printer itself gets me 2325 photos.

Now it might not seem like a lot. But on my last 3 week holiday to Japan I took 96 photos in MF total. No wasted frames. So for the price of your printer I can take photo of my next 24 holidays. Now that's a bargain! I guess I will keep the money in my bank and accumulate interest or invest it in shares. The interest should pay for my film as I need it.

I should also add that since I developed my film in Japan where it costs half of what it does in Australia, the costs were actually lower.

On the same holiday I also shot 3 rolls of 35mm BW film. Cost to buy and develop all 3 of them was AU$12. Yes, I do my own black and white.

I'm not sure if I'm unique with colour 120, but my lab develops it in 2 hours. Usually in 1.5 hours if they are less busy. I drop it off before my lunch on Saturday, go to cafe, have lunch and pick it up after. Really takes no effort on my part. I have access to another lab where I can drop off film on the way to work and pick it up same day after work.

Scanning for me isn't as involving as sorting thousands of photos and post processing them. It's much faster to scan 5-10 rolls of film.

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