Medium Format B&W?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by pdpfilms, Aug 28, 2006.

  1. pdpfilms macrumors 68020

    pdpfilms

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Location:
    Vermontana
    #1
    Hey all-
    So I'm taking a photog course to re-learn the basics. It's normally a traditional 35mm B&W shooting/developing/enlarging course, but I'm looking to get more out of it than that. I've always wanted to purchase a medium format camera for landscape work, and figured now is a great time. I already know much (if not all) of what's being taught in the course, and want to use it as an opportunity to start fresh with a new system. But I have a few questions.

    a.) Do you own a medium format camera/do you extensively use medium format cameras?
    b.) What make/model do you have most experience with?
    c.) What make/model would you suggest?
    d.) What kind of things does one new to medium format need to know? Anything different about metering/shooting/film handling/etc?
    e.) Is there any true medium format black and white film being produced that can be developed by hand in a traditional B&W facility (i.e. myself+chemicals)?
    f.) Looking at film on BH, the prices seem all over the place. Are the low prices (6.99, 5.99, etc) for a single negative? Is it a group of negatives? Is it in roll format? (I know nothing about the film, so clue me in).
    g.) Anything else you'd like to add for a beginner in the field?

    To reiterate, I am not a beginner photographer. I've been shooting for years, beginning on older 35mm SLRs and now shooting mostly digital. I'm simply a complete noob to the field of medium format. I'd like to know if buying a medium format system would be a wise investment/usable system for the course and future use.

    (The professor mentioned briefly that they have the equipment to handle 2 1/4" negatives, such as enlargers, etc. There's no worry there.)
     
  2. pdxflint macrumors 68020

    pdxflint

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2006
    Location:
    Oregon coast
    #2
    I can't answer most of your questions too well, but I'll try. My only medium format experience came in a photo class in college a while ago, and we checked out the cameras (Yashica twin-lens reflex models, no meter built-in.)

    But, basically, you expose the same way, and if you're doing black and white, play around with how you want to expose the negative, because you can always print in various degrees of contrast, dodging, burning to keep highlights from burning out, and bringing out shadow detail.... it's all part of experimenting to see what works for you.

    The film comes in rolls, two sizes/lengths (I think they're 120 and 220) and the number of exposures depend on the camera and the aspect ratios used, from 2 1/4 square (6 x 6 cm), to 6 x 7 cm, 6 x 9 cm... etc. So, you can get square negatives, or rectangular negatives depending on the 'format' of the camera. I'm sure the film prices you saw were for rolls. I don't know what's still being made, but most pro photography stores should carry a good range of Kodak, Ilford and perhaps Fuji B/W film. Trusty old Tri-X 400 in medium format is pretty amazing - if you're thinking Tri-X was grainy in 35mm, it's decent in 2 1/4. Or Ilford HP5+ or Delta 400 were both good 35 mm films, so should work well in medium format. All are easily pushed using regular D-76 Kodak developer, T-Max developer or, for interesting effects/crispness, Rodinal, the old German developer that's been around forever.

    For cameras to consider, if you want to buy one, look for a used Hasselblad, or perhaps a Pentax 6 x 7 (heavy, 35mm style handling,) or maybe a Mamiya or Bronica. Most medium format cameras will take interchangable lenses (expensive...whew!) and various accessories like film backs, polaroid backs, motor drives, viewfinders, and other useful tools. A few Russian, Chinese or older Japanese Yashica twin-lens relex models can be pretty cheap, and yet make amazing blowups.

    Hey, have fun. There's a lot to discover, and a lot of creativity to unleash by going back to the basics. And, those 'basics' aren't so basic anymore. Learn it while you can, it'll always be in your blood that way and will undoubtedly help your photographic perspectives. -cheers -pdx
     
  3. Theoceanpisces macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2006
    #3
    Hey, I am an artist/photographer and was a photography major in college, and I hope I can answer some of your questions.

    a) I do own an old, old mf camera, but mostly use a large f camera now. I have however used a variety of mfc in school.

    c) I personaly believe having a mf camera that shoots 6x7 negatives is a better option for someone who wants to do landscape photos. It can be done with with 6x6 negs as well, but it can be tricky to get good compositions with that format (it is great for portraits though). A good camera for that is the Mamyia 67. It is a rangefinder (no mirror inside like an SLR) and that makes it lighter to carry, use and cheaper! The problem with the rangefinder is getting up close to things, but with landscape that won't be a problem. The pentax 6x7 that was mentioned by another person here is also a really good camera, but keep in mind that it is very heavy (you will feel a big difference coming from 35 mm) and the mirror can shake the camera at lower shutter speeds which makes a tripod necessary.
    It is also a lot more expensive. If down the line you decide to start using strobes (flash) with your camera, word out there (and I have experienced this myself) is that the pentax has sync issues with strobes/flash.
    6x8 and 6x9 cameras can also be found used (not sure if anyone makes them new anymore, perhaps the fuji 6x8 fixed lens rangefinder is still being made?). It could be a good option as well, if you can get a good deal.

    d) Loading the film is different in different mf cameras, so you need to know how to work on yours. You teacher can probably help you with that. There are no sproket(sp?) holes on the film and it comes with a paper backing. You need an extra spool to roll the film in (cameras come with an extra one usually), and there's no rewinding when the roll is shot.
    Also, most camereas don't have a built in light meter (newer ones do, at an added cost), so you'll need to invest in a hand held light meter.
    About handling the film you will need to be more carefull, since the film is more delicate than 35mm, so you can get dents on it a lot more easily when developing. If you use plastic developing tanks they can be reajusted for fitting the roll, if using metal ones, you'll need to get new reels/tanks.

    e) As far as I know there are no "fake" (developed in C41- color chemistry) BW film for MF cameras out there, like there are for 35mm. So what you see at the BH website is film that you can develop yourself. I mostly used the good old trustworthy tri-x, which you can also get at 320 ISO. Besides that I also very much liked Fuji Neopan Across 100. It was just coming out when I was in college and it is great. Keep in mind your what the lighting conditions are, because it is ISO 100.

    g) size 120 (mm) film gives 12 exposures with a 6x6 camera (2 1/4 x 2 1/4), 10 exposure with 6x7 and 8 exposures with a 6x9. Size 220 film is twice as long, but the film is thinner and better used by those sending their film out to be developed. Try to stay with 120 and avoid a nervous breakdown in the darkroom :p
    Invest in a good BW photo book! Ansel Adam's series of three books "The camera", "the negative", " the print" continue to be a great option. I still find myself checking up on it every once in a while even today. You'll probably need to learn more on light metering teachiques and this books cover that as well.

    Costs of MF equipment can be quite high. On the other hand, some cameras like the hasselblad don't loose much value througout the years. Fully mechanical, metal cameras last a long time and are not so easily broken, so maybe you may wanna take that into consideration when choosing one to buy.

    Have fun! :) Try printing on larger paper and be amazed by the great definition of a bigger negative. My mouth waters just thinking about it. :p

     
  4. serpent macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2006
    #4
    My personal MF favorite is Hassie 905 SWC. But since you're new to medium format I'd suggest you buy a TLR. You should be able to buy something decent for about $100. I am also fond of my Kiev 88CM MLU especially when shooting with my arsat 3.5/30mm lens.http://www.kievcamera.com/product.php?ID=124
    as far as buying film goes, as stated above if your using 6x6 you will get 12 exposures per roll. cost should be somewhere in the area of $4.00. If you walk into B&H they also sell outdated film much cheaper. I still have about 300' of panatomic x in my freezer from '74 and it shoots like new!
    since you prob don't have a stash I'd suggest you buy EKFE 25,which is a high silver slow speed film, a great re-seller is:http://www.jandcphoto.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWCATS&Category=135 and develop in Rodinol or Xtol. or stick with plusX or triX, stay away from the Tmax films or any c41 process, which you will not be able to develop yourself.

    Serpent
     
  5. milozauckerman macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2005
    #5
    a.) Do you own a medium format camera/do you extensively use medium format cameras?

    Yes, I own a Bronica SQ-A and an older Rolleicord, along with a half-dozen medium-format toy cameras of various shapes and sizes.

    b.) What make/model do you have most experience with?
    The Bronica. The Rolleicord works, but it's more of a project.

    c.) What make/model would you suggest?
    Depends on what you'll be doing.

    If you're working indoors or off of a tripod regularly, a good SLR system (like the Bronica SQ series, or a Hasselblad if you've got about a grand to spend) is the way to go. If 6x6 isn't your thing, Pentax and Bronica have 6x4.5 and 6x7 systems.

    If you're walking around a lot or shooting in low light without a tripod, look for a good TLR (Yashica 124 series are excellent, Mamiya TLRs are good but a little heavier, Minolta Autocords are great cameras from the '50s, Rolleis are also great but a little pricy for a good Rolleiflex or Rolleicord).

    And if you've got a lot of money, buy the best damn medium-format camera ever: Mamiya 7 (or an older Mamiya 6 if you like shooting square, as I do). Fuji made some good rangefinder MF cameras as well, but I've never actually used one.

    d.) What kind of things does one new to medium format need to know? Anything different about metering/shooting/film handling/etc?
    If you buy a camera with no built-in meter (most MF cameras don't have one), you'll need some kind of handheld meter to do incident and reflective metering if you don't use the sunny-16 method. I have a Sekonic L-408 spot/ambient meter.

    You can also use your 35mm to do this, but I don't like to haul around another camera unless absolutely necessary. If I'm shooting B&W I tend to just eyeball the exposure.

    e.) Is there any true medium format black and white film being produced that can be developed by hand in a traditional B&W facility (i.e. myself+chemicals)?
    Yes. Kodak still makes some, but Ilford is the market leader. A number of European manufacturers are still producing 120.

    f.) Looking at film on BH, the prices seem all over the place. Are the low prices (6.99, 5.99, etc) for a single negative? Is it a group of negatives? Is it in roll format? (I know nothing about the film, so clue me in).
    120 film is basically 12 6x6 shots to a roll, more if you shoot 6x4.5, fewer if you shoot 6x7 or 6x9.

    Check prices and availability at www.freestylephoto.biz (good in-house brands along with the majors) and www.jandcphoto.com. They're specialists who deal in films that get ignored by big suppliers heading to digital.

    g.) Anything else you'd like to add for a beginner in the field?
    Be patient and research the hell out of all your choices.
     
  6. mcmadhatter macrumors 6502

    mcmadhatter

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2005
    Location:
    Bath, UK
    #6
    ebay has some real bargins when it comes to medium format cameras, seems like loads of people are selling off 2-3 year old kit and really cheap prices
     
  7. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #7
    a, b, c) I sold a Mamiya RB67 system about a year ago I bought it used from a studio, I can tell you 1st hand "It's a buyer's market. You can pick up a great system for 10 cents on the dollar or less. The RB was very large, tripod only camera. If I had to do it over I'd go for a classic Hasselblad system. THis is more versitle and even hand hold-able and can do potraits and other kinds of People pictures. It was the standard of wedding photographers for year. And when you think "landscape" the Hassblad was what Ansel Adams used when the view camera got to big.

    6x7 does not sound much larger than 6x6 but it is if you intend to print to 8x10 format and you concider how you have to crop. So 6x7 is "huge" while 6x6 is "only" twice as big as 35mm.

    I've got loads of 6x7 negs and Valvia tranies. in my flie mostly landscape and details of plants (macro) but biy was that RB67 heavy t pack and transport. go with the 6x6 and save half the weight and bolk. Hassy does hold it's value batter the RB has mare bank for the buck.

    I put the money into underwater video. That's some thing I can get more use from (I live near the Pacific Ocean and dive at least two days a week.)

    d) Medium format requires much more light. To get the same depth of field as with 35mm you will need a smaller f-stop. Rather then "f/8 and be there" it is morte like "F/11 and be there". The reason is the longer focal lenght lens. Get used to thinking about square compositions. 35mm is a 3:2 aspect. Mediut format is mostly either square or 4:5. Square is fun try making nd mounting square prints. Or rotated 45 deg to make a diamond

    e) Film. It's identical. Except if you have a "two reel tank" it becomes a one reel tank. and you will need some 120 size reels but they are the same diameter so they fit. ..... But the good thing: The film backs interchange. Load one with ISO 100 and the other with ISO 400 and 3rd back with some film ultra-fine grain film you intend to develope for low contrast to cover a wider dynamic range. Then you pick the right back for the soot. Almost as good as having a digital camera with adjustable ISO. Much nicer than 35mm where you have 36 shoots all the same.

    f) 120 film is a "roll". it is sold both by the roll and by the 5-pack (five rolls) The number of expossures per roll depends on the camera. The roll is 6cn wide and a camera (like Hasselblad) shoots 6x6. and uses 6cm of the roll for each exposure. My RB used 7cm for it's 6x7 format so I got fewer exposures per roll. There are a few cameras that shoot 6x9cm (same shape as a 35mm camera) and they ger less per roll. Figure the film at 4X 35mm prices but still "dirt cheep" A Hasselblad with B&W film still cost less than a Nikon D200

    g) If you are a perfectionist buy a hand held analog spotmeter. I have the old clasic Pentex spot meter and a modern Minolta flash meter. A 35mm film camera makes a good spotmeter meter. But studio strobes require use of a flash meter


    All that said, my next film camera will be a 4x5 view camera. I have a scanner that can scan 4x5. The plan is to shoot B&W or Velvia tansparencies and then can them into 100MP files and then continue with a digital workflow. I should be able to make 4 foot wide prints at 300DPI
     
  8. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #8
    I like the Tmax films. The look is different then the older Tri-X and Plus-X but finer grain and I think wider range. Less forgiving during processing.

    I don't think anyone makes B&W C41 process in 120 rollfilm size.
     
  9. pdpfilms thread starter macrumors 68020

    pdpfilms

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Location:
    Vermontana
    #9
    Totally bueno, guys.

    I ordered a Mamiya 645 with a metered reflex viewer off ebay the other day. Should be coming soon, and should be a blast. I can't wait to try out the format, and I'll be sure to reflect on my experiences here.

    Many thanks.
     
  10. shecky Guest

    shecky

    Joined:
    May 24, 2003
    Location:
    Obviously you're not a golfer.
    #10
    a.) Do you own a medium format camera/do you extensively use medium format cameras?

    i have a couple of Holga 120 S "toy" cameras and a Seagull
    109
    . i do primarily experimental/non-representational photography with film so for me a higher end camera than the seagull is unnecessary as i am not concerned with perfect glass and so on.

    b.) What make/model do you have most experience with?
    see above

    c.) What make/model would you suggest?
    depends on what you are doing, but i have been pleased with my seagull so far tho i know most like to bash it as junk.

    d.) What kind of things does one new to medium format need to know? Anything different about metering/shooting/film handling/etc?
    really just like 35mm only bigger and better. depending on the kind of camera exposure may need to be done via sunny16 or with a handheld; i usually get pretty close just from guessing and experience. i generally find i take a lot more time setting up shots, focusing, etc, than i did with 35mm so in that respect i think its a slow paced camera.

    e.) Is there any true medium format black and white film being produced that can be developed by hand in a traditional B&W facility (i.e. myself+chemicals)?
    as far as i know, tons. im not the guru but i tend to shoot a lot of C41 B+W as its cheap and easy to get processed externally; i do not do it myself. real B+W is just bigger negatives, the chemistry is not different.

    f.) Looking at film on BH, the prices seem all over the place. Are the low prices (6.99, 5.99, etc) for a single negative? Is it a group of negatives? Is it in roll format? (I know nothing about the film, so clue me in).
    film is in roll format, with either 16 exposures of 6x4cm or 12 exposures of 6x6cm or (i forget how many) of 6x7 or 6x9. the names should be familiar, but i tend to shoot Ilford XP2 for C41 B+W, or Delta-100, -400 or -3200 for real B+W; and Fuji Pro for color.

    g.) Anything else you'd like to add for a beginner in the field?
    just have fun with it. :)
     
  11. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #11
    I've used one of those. It is the most 35mm like of the 120 roll film cameras. But even the "small" 4.5x6 format is still four times the area of the 35mm frame. It shoots a lot like a 35mm but with that "look" or smooth tones that medium format has. You save a tiny bit on film to. and of course ALL the Mamiys lenses are good rofesional quality.

    Could you tell us what the going prices are for a camera like this?
     
  12. snap58 macrumors 6502

    snap58

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2006
    Location:
    somewhere in kansas
    #12
    I love the T-max film, use it in my Mamiya 645 Super, you can develop in any number of BW developers.

    Kodak makes the 400CN 120 (C41 process) BW which is great if you plan to scan your film in the future, I have the film developed only at a local lab, no big deal. Makes great grain-less prints, a PP is $20.00 at BH.
     
  13. SpankyPenzaanz macrumors 6502a

    SpankyPenzaanz

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2006
    #13
    I bought a mamiya c330w/80mmf2.8 used about 2years ago and it is my only film camera to go along with my canon10d. I absolutely love it. What Ilearned very quickly was lens equivalency greatly different than what i had gotten used using 35mm film and dSLR. The 80mm I have is very close to about a 60mm(I think) in a 35mm equivalent. Metering and shooting was very similar and there is plenty of true b/wfilm in the medium format world. You said you are not a noob and therefore you will probably be drawn to certain films and iso's and for the most part they will be close. I can definitely say that since fuji velvia jumped from 50 to 100 i was not impressed on the 35mm side but the 120size is very nice. It has good saturation and a nice fine resolution with a very nice light responsiveness. I HATE B&H. Unless you spend thousands of dollars you get treated like sh*t. They generally rolls of 12 exposures. I used to live in texas and I was very pleased with service I recieved from arlingtoncamera. They get film in regularly which means it will not be expired and i believe they ship out with ice packs if you have a lot of film to order. for development i would find a local in your area and of course get to know them and if not bwc.net are exquisite in how they will not only treat you but also handle our film.
     
  14. ATD macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    #14
    I'm a designer, not a photographer, but I have been using medium format cameras for years. I really like the 6x7 format, it's rare that i ever needed a square image, 6x7 is a better ratio for me. I had a Mamyia for a while but I moved over to a Pentax 6x7 and really like it. Many of the medium format cameras can fell hard to handle compared to a 35mm, I really like the 35mm style handling of the Pentax 6x7. And as others mentioned it's heavy, it's a bit like carrying a small sledgehammer. And with most any medium format camera you will be hand metering.

     

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