medium format

Different areas afford different photographic opportunities. I probably have some sort of photographic style. I haven’t given it much thought but there are certain elements that I love in a photo. India is one of those places that just keeps giving me those things that I love. We travelled from Mumbai to Kerala and this is a mix of them.

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After shooting medium format for awhile (aka 120mm), you get a little weary of the workflow.  Let’s look at the list of inconveniences for 120mm in comparison with 35mm film.

  • Number of shots per roll.  120mm gives me 10 images per roll (6×7 format).  35mm gives me 36 images per roll.
  • This translates into a higher cost per image.
  • Scanning takes a long time.  I can scan 10 35mm images in the time it takes me to scan 3 120mm images.
  • 35mm scans are smaller and therefore don’t take up as much space as 120mm.
  • Medium format cameras are bigger, bulkier and heavier.  35mm cameras are more common, more mass produced, lighter and less expensive (speaking generally).

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Of course, inconvenience is all in the way that you look at it.  You could also say that these inconveniences are beneficial.

  • Only getting 10 images per roll makes every frame more important and therefore worthy of more work per image (WPI).
  • Film is expensive so there is more WPI.
  • Scanning takes a long time… so there is more… WPI.
  • Very large image sizes so very large image files… WPI.
  • Bulky and heavy cameras… WPI.

So the pattern here is pretty obvious.  Working in medium format makes you… work more.  And that can be a very good thing.  Not to mention some of the other benefits of medium format… which are shallower depth of field and larger image size (freaking awesome resolution).

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But of course, putting more work into every image changes the style of your photography.  You don’t see people wanting to shoot candid shots walking around with a big camera that shoots medium format do you?  Of course not and that all has to do with the fact that shooting 35mm is easy and quick.  Automatic modes take out all of the thought process in exposure and focus so you can quickly get that shot when it comes in front of you.  If you like classic street photographers then a few of these names come to mind – Garry Winograde, Henry Cartier Bresson, and Joel Meyerowitz.  These guys loved the Leica 35mm rangefinder because you could quickly compose, snap the shutter and capture what you need.

This kind of shooting opens up avenues that simply aren’t possible with medium format.  When you see an image that is the quick snap, the reflexive shot, the instantly composed frame, you feel all of that in the photo.

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On the flip side, photos that are painstakingly planned out down to the tiniest detail, when a lot of time and energy and patience has been sunk into that one image… you feel it as well.  Which style is better?  After soaking in the instant style for some time, I became convinced that the slower, planned out shots were the best.  But now, I have been shooting only 120mm in 2013 and have now soaked in the slow style for a spell.  So the pendulum is starting to swing back to the other side.  Really, both styles have merit and can make great artwork.

So here we have setup a loose dichotomy between 35mm (fast) and 120mm (slow).  But this portrait I have painted is not 100% accurate.  Of course you can work fast with a 120mm camera and you can work slow with a 35mm camera.  But what camera will allow you to work the fastest while retaining that buttery amazing DOF and resolution?

Enter the Mamiya 7.

I have yet to purchase this camera… and to do so would require disposal of some other pieces of kit.  But this is the fastest shooting 6×7 camera in the world.  And that is why I am seriously thinking about buying one.

Sure, I love my Pentax 6×7.  The lenses are great, its inexpensive, its a solid camera. (Further Pentax 67 sycophancy linked here).  But I would like the option of shooting faster, with automatic modes.  Of course, I say the word option, because no doubt I won’t be using the automatic modes all of the time.

So the question is this (the sacrifice!!!) – should I trade in my Pentax 67 with 5 lenses for a mamiya 7 with one lens and save up for another lens (I only really care about the 80mm and the 65mm)?

This will take some deliberation…

I never really mentioned it, but I’ve changed some of the style of shooting I’ve done over the past couple of months.  Partly due to the desire for new projects, partly due to the shooting of medium format.  I have slowed down, caught less candid snapshots, and focused more on a series or body of work than I have in the past.

Previously, I would shoot anything came my way.  This usually made for a bunch of shots on a roll that seemed to be randomly thrown in there.  There was little rhyme or reason to it (the only consistency being black and white film most of the time, the locations and my style of shooting).

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Not to say that everything I am doing now has a strict rhyme or reason. But one thing that has been a marker of my recent work is the shooting of fewer portraits.  I always thought portraits were the best but now I want to get good shots of both portraits and landscapes.  So I have focused more on landscapes.

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Portraits are beautiful and I will always love a good one.  But I feel like it’s almost cheating a bit.  Landscapes are tougher to get a good photo out of because they require more interesting subject matter (in my humble opining).

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The ultimate goal of course is to be able to grab both great portraits, landscapes and potentially the combination thereof?

Cheers,

J

I am now fortunate to call a very special woman my wife – yessir, I am a very happily married man.  We were married on February 23rd at 4 PM in Miami, FL.  I would post photos of the wedding but our photographer is still busily editing and developing.  That will come soon enough.

After the greatest night of our lives, we woke up early on Sunday morning preparing to leave for the trip of our lives – Thailand.  Twenty six hours later, we arrived in Bangkok!  Do honeymooning and street photography mix?  I think so…

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*All shots were taken with my Pentax 67 and either a 75mm or 105 mm lens using Provia 100f slide film.

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Wow.  The Pentax system is really great.  Yea Yea Yea… I know the Hasselblad system uses those amazing Zeiss T* lenses… PHOOEY!

PHOOEY I SAY!  Who can purchase a Hasselblad camera and 5 lenses for $800???  That’s right.  I got the entire above system for a little over $800!!  Here’s what I got:

  • Pentax 67 Body (along with viewfinder).
  • 45mm f 4.5 lens (21mm equivalent)
  • 75mm f 4.5 lens (37mm equivalent)
  • 105mm f 2.4 lens (52mm equivalent)
  • 135mm Macro f4 lens (75mm equivalent)
  • 165mm f4 lens (82mm equivalent) with leaf shutter :-).

All in very good condition.  To do the same with a Hasselblad system would have cost me something like $4-5 thousand (and probably much more).

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This system is superb. The lenses are superb, the quality of the camera body is superb and it just feels good to hold. The 67 is notorious for it’s ‘thunder-clap’ of a mirror slap when you open the shutter and indeed it is there.

But something feels kinda nice about the sound. I don’t care if other people hear my shutter going off. It’s sounds like some nice metal mechanisms doing their thing, all in synchronized harmony. In terms of sound, it also beats the Fuji GW 690 series. The 67 is more of a ‘FLIP-THWACK’ kind of sound. The GW is a ‘THWINGGGGgggggg…”. I added the trailing thing to add emphasis because there are these springs inside the GW that just keep vibrating and you can hear the shutter trip awhile after.

But what about that vibrating mirror? Well, if you’re doing really critical work, you can use the MLU (mirror lock up, if you’ve got one). I used it rarely. But honestly, I wouldn’t get this camera for ultra-critical work. Maybe that’s just me and the work that I do. If I was shooting really critical stuff, I’d shoot with the RZ67 (but that comes with its own headaches). If I was shooting critical stuff but wanted a rangefinder, I’d probably opt for a Mamiya 7 or 6. The Fuji 690’s are great and that negative is amazing, but I’d take the quality of the Mamiyas (you’d have to pay for it though).

In terms of feel, I got a great example with little beading on the body. The body is solid as a rock – not sure what kind of metal it is but it is fully metal with the heft to accompany it. Other cameras are definitely lighter which you’d expect.

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If you want to get into Medium Format… then the Pentax 67 along with it’s wonderful lenses and range of accessories will do you well :-).

Happy (Medium Format) Shooting.

J