Ahh Coney Island. The land of dreams.
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).
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).
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.
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).
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.
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).
The ultimate goal of course is to be able to grab both great portraits, landscapes and potentially the combination thereof?
I love old film cameras. Their like swiss watches… except you can make art with them!
Because I’ve purchased my fair share of them, I think it only fair to share some secrets regarding the purchase and maintenance of classic cameras.
So you followed the guidelines for buying a used camera. Now what to do once you bring her home? Clean her out!
While cameras from the 70’s and 80’s are very reliable, even moreso than their new age counterparts, one thing that always messes things up is the foam seals that are used. These seals degrade over time… and eventually become a funky black gunk. But the seals provide a very real and important purpose… to ‘seal’ out light from the camera box.
If the seals degrade and light comes into the camera, then you get light leaks. Want some illustration? Just take a gander at the upper right hand corner of the above photo. Notice the big blob of ungainly white light coming into the frame on the ladies face? That my friend shows you that your camera is leaky… And it’s time to patch her up and make her right.
So how do we stop the leaks? Well replace the seals! And the first part to replacing the seals, is to get rid of the old ones.
Above you can see that gooey nasty black crud that’s surrounding the bottom part of the viewfinder. Mind you, this tutorial will describe how to remove the seals on the optical viewfinder of the Pentax 67, but really, all light seals are the same so go ahead and use these instructions for removing the seals in other cameras (and in the camera bodies too).
Here are my tools:
- Toothpicks (skewers are better as they are thicker and stronger)
- Paper Towels
- Mineral Spirits (other chemicals to remove adhesives will work as well… Goo-Gone etc)
Step #1. Identify and Attack.
Find the seals that need to be replaced and start applying Mineral Spirits with a Q-Tip.
Because Mineral spirits and other similar chemicals evaporate quickly, a few different appliques will be necessary to loosen the adhesive underside. Notice the glossy shine of the chemicals on the above viewfinder.
So we identified where we need to remove the gunk… but… Oh No! The gunk spread!
This is the Pentax 67 body and focusing screen (focusing screen in the center in white). Notice around the edges of the screen is the gunk! It transferred from the viewfinder to the camera body! That rascally gunk needs to git outta der so we can have clean viewing!
So we have identified two places where the gunk is. Apply the mineral spirits to the body as well!
Now start scraping. This is the tough part. And can take some time.
You have to scrape off the goo with the backend of a skewer or toothpick. With the skewer, the blunt end is good for the majority of the work, the pointy part for the nooks and crannies. Now apply more mineral spirits… Wash, rinse and repeat. Eventually your work station looks kind of like this:
But you would rather have that crap out of your camera than inside of it right? Agreements all around. And some hugs.
One word of caution – mineral spirits and Goo Gone are liquid and can get into places you don’t want them to. A perfect example is getting into the vewfinder. After I cleaned out the viewfinder I put it all back together and found a hazy patch in the middle of the screen! I was really worried… but after some investigation I found that there was condensation on the inside of the viewfinder (so it wasn’t the lens or the focusing screen… phew!).
That tiny patch in the middle was much bigger about 5 minutes before… but over time the condensation went away. This is important to think about when choosing a chemical. Mineral spirits evaporate quickly, and in this case, that is a very good thing.
So now your camera should be without gunky crap, which is nice. And you’ve gotten over the toughest part, so kudos to you. But now you have to replace the seals. And that, my friend, is for another blog post :-).
Happy (light leak free) shooting!