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Thread: Film Medium Format Cameras

  1. #1
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Film Medium Format Cameras

    The short of it here is does anyone have experience with medium format film? If so, what are your thoughts compared to modern digital (Canon R5)? Specifically, 6 x 4.5 and 6x9 formats.


    The longer version: I am finally taking on digitizing family prints, positive slides, and negatives this winter. I am actually well underway and will post a thread after I have tried a few more things. But, in learning about digitizing film, most of the articles/videos are about current film shooters rather than people doing archiving. So I have been inundated with opinions about the greatness of film and the uniqueness of MF film, etc. Not that I was looking for it, I just wanted to get the most out of my digitizing efforts.

    But, all this got me thinking and I was going to be near my local photo shop (Hunts) last night so I stopped by to see if they had 35 mm film. To my surprise, two center displays were dedicated to all sorts of film, not just 35 mm. Matter of fact, there may have been more 120 there than 35 mm. Based on all the videos, I had been under the impression that film was undergoing a bit of a renaissance but seeing this and discussing with the staff there confirmed it.

    Complicating things a bit, but I've been looking for something different to play with this winter so I checked out their used gear and sure enough, two MF cameras that I would consider were there, a Fuji 6x9 with a fixed 90 mm f/3.5 lens and a Mamiya 645 with an interchangeable 80 mm f/1.9 lens.

    Both reasonably priced. Not that I am consider a transition or anything, but if these were something special, maybe something I'd use a couple times a year.

    However....I really am not sure film MF is special and that is why I am asking here if anyone has experienced it.

    First, when talking MF, people talk about the detail, the perspective, and shallow DoF, etc. But I've played with this enough between APS-C and FF to know most of that really gets down to optics, math and physics, often referred to as equivalence in photography. Here is a good summary on equivalence, if interested, but what it gets down to is 90 mm f/3.5 on a 6x9 is really ~35 mm f/1.4 on FF and 80 mm f/1.9 on 645 is really 45 mm f/1.1 equivalent on FF. The ISO equivalence is still important, and the 6x9 ISO 100 would be ~ISO 33 on FF and the 645 ISO 100 would be ~ISO 64 on FF. In short, they should both be extremely clean. But ISO 100 on my R5 is already remarkably clean.

    Next, this is a good video. What has me a bit is in most of the photographs, I preferred the digitized film image. In the initial tests they did not adjust for equivalence as they were comparing 645 to FF and you can see the bokeh difference, but at 10:40 you can start to see how film and digital diverge. They call it a dynamic range test, but really they are over and underexposing the image in camera and observing the results, which were pronounced:
    • Digital starts to blow out highlights as soon as the full well capacity is hit. It gets ugly. Film handles the overexposure extremely well.
    • Digital is working incredibly well in the underexposed images where film just starts to fall apart as it needs the light for the chemical reaction.


    There is a difference to the look, shadows vs highlights, and it is easy to see how it could be based on the mechanism of each.

    Right now I am tempted to buy one, try 1-2 rolls and if I do not like it, treat it as a rental and sell it or store it.

    Thoughts? Anyone with experience between the Mamiya vs Fuji? My film experience was 35 mm.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Jonathan Huyer's Avatar
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    Sounds like fun! I've never played with a MF camera of any type, but I would be especially intrigued if it happened to come with a tilt-shift lens. Then you could do some incredible landscapes, with great detail in the foreground and background. Kind of a modern-day Ansel Adams, with his old bellows style camera.

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    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan Huyer View Post
    Sounds like fun! I've never played with a MF camera of any type, but I would be especially intrigued if it happened to come with a tilt-shift lens. Then you could do some incredible landscapes, with great detail in the foreground and background. Kind of a modern-day Ansel Adams, with his old bellows style camera.
    You got there a lot faster than I did!

    This is pretty close to where I think I am ending up. The two cameras I looked at would not have the tilt shift ability. Also, at least this photographer, using the much larger 4x5 format, concluded this would not be about gain in resolution compared to the 61 MP of the Sony A7R4 (which I consider the R5 comparable in terms of resolution). It was pointed out in the comments that he limited 4x5 resolution with his scan size...and his basic response was he thought comparing 10 ft tall print equivalents was enough resolution.

    Equivalent lenses exist for FF for most of the two MF lenses I was considering as well as several others I ran the calculations on.

    But, the tilt shift feature? Check out these portraits. While I like the first set more, I also came across this video that did not use tilt shift, but as you move to the 4x5 format, you do get lenses where there are no FF equivalent. And look at that difference. That was a 180 f/2.9 which has a FF equivalence of ~50 mm f/0.8. As that is a 180 f/2.9 lens, a FF 200 f/2 lens would give the same look (or better), but you would be 4x further back with different perspective regarding subject to background (200 mm perspective vs 50 mm perspective).

    So, I've moved off the Fuji 6x9, I am not sure it does anything other than FILM, compared to what I have, also scrolling through images on Flickr was not inspiring. I might pick up the Mamiya 645, but it would be more for the novelty and to get used to film (again), and I could easily turn around sell it, and get back most to all my investment. But, what has my attention right now is smaller Large Format cameras (4x5 or 5x7, inches, not the cm measurements of MF). Those provide for tilt shift and lenses that have no FF equivalent. Interesting.

    But, make no mistake, part of this exercise has me appreciating how good we have it with modern FF cameras.
    Last edited by Kayaker72; 01-14-2022 at 11:29 AM.

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    Been a long time, but in college worked at a high camera store/gallery. Ansel actual did a showing there.

    Played with all the MF cameras and 4x5 and spent my paycheck on a couple of ektachrome 8x10 slides.

    My coworker went far deeper/longer in view camera work and it introduces all kinds of new variables in exposure and developing (b&w film).

    As to resolution. I would not dream of a 16x 20 from a 35 back in the day. Now it is well within reach.

    The difference to me is depth of field amd subject seperation. In a "normal" lens you get the seperation from a short tele on 35 as an example.
    If you see me with a wrench, call 911

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    Senior Member clemmb's Avatar
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    I have a Yashica Mat 124G I have not used since I went digital. I also have a Bronica ETRsi. I have not shot any film in it since I went digital either. I do have a roll I am waiting on my granddaughter to come visit so I can try it out on her. I did get a Fotodiox Pro ETR-EOS and shot some photos of her with my Zenzanon 75mm, f2.8 mounted on my 1DsIII. I love this lens for portraits.
    1DS_0021v_fp by Mark Clem, on Flickr
    Mark

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    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Great picture Mark. If I remember right, the first picture I saw of your granddaughter she was riding a horse and was all of 4 or 5 yrs old.

    So....the more I get into this, the more and more I am appreciating modern digital FF photography and what we have available to us. It is impressive as I kept entering the values for MF or LF lenses the calculator would come up with values of lenses where we have FF options. It really had to be a 4x5 LF lens faster than f/4.5 or 645 lens faster than f/1.8 before you drop below f/1.2 FF equivalence.

    That said, I am curious, so I am about to head out and I am going to buy the Mamiya 645 with the 80 f/1.9 lens (~50 f/1.2 equivalent). I'll get a couple rolls of film and compare against my R5 with Sigma 50A.

    We'll see where that goes. Beyond the question of if there is something to film, such as handling highlights/overexposures better, etc, Large format does offer many lenses that are equivalent to f/1.5 (f/5.6) and the ability to do tilt/shift with them all with the right LF camera. There are a few LF lenses out there that get below f/1 FF equivalent, but they are certainly not common.

    My main project this winter is digitizing old family photos, so I need to get back to that.

    A few links I found yesterday:

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    I have no experience with it, but if you buy in I think you do it as a hobby. The cost of film and the inability to have instant results is why Digital did so well ten years ago. It might be just as interesting to invest in an old medium format digital and see what you can do differently.

    Are you wet scanning your negatives?
    I took up the same task last winter but ran out of steam about half way through. I bought everything to wet scan and was going to give it a try on the old family negatives we have. We had 2x2 prints of many pictures from the 20's thru the 50's and I was amazed how well their negatives did on the scan going dry.
    The time it takes to do the 35mm film I was considering hiring a company to do those.

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    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HDNitehawk View Post
    I have no experience with it, but if you buy in I think you do it as a hobby. The cost of film and the inability to have instant results is why Digital did so well ten years ago. It might be just as interesting to invest in an old medium format digital and see what you can do differently.
    I did pick up the camera. It's "just" the 645, which is the smallest of the medium format sizes, but still gives you 2.7x the surface area of FF. Mentally, I am considering this a novelty. This is the first time I've ever taken a hard look at MF and LF and I've enjoyed this quick dive into it. However, I am genuinely impressed with how good we have it with FF digital.

    Quote Originally Posted by HDNitehawk View Post
    Are you wet scanning your negatives?
    I took up the same task last winter but ran out of steam about half way through. I bought everything to wet scan and was going to give it a try on the old family negatives we have. We had 2x2 prints of many pictures from the 20's thru the 50's and I was amazed how well their negatives did on the scan going dry.
    The time it takes to do the 35mm film I was considering hiring a company to do those.
    So, I haven't got to the negatives yet. I've scanned prints and am working my way through positive slides right now. For prints, I used two different epson scanners (FF-680W and a V850 flatbed) and I also digitized using a copy stand and taking a picture of the printed picture with my 5DIV. Each has its Pros and Cons....but that is a different thread.

    For my positives, right now I am scanning with the flatbed scanner (Silverfast software), but also will try the picture of the picture of the slide with a macro lens and a light table.

    For the negatives, I haven't gone as far as wet scanning. I haven't tried either yet but I have brought in a scanning mask from lomography and a film carrier from the negative supply company. I came across very positive reviews of both. The film carrier also seems rapid, which I am in favor of. I added a link to each if you are interested.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Dave Throgmartin's Avatar
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    If I recall a guy in the camera club I was in pre-covid times shot large format. I didn't talk to him too much about the camera setup, but it was huge. He exclusively worked in B&W and developed the film himself.

    I never saw the work in all of its glory as the image contest printed size was typically no bigger than 11 x 14. The images of that size I produced with the original 6D or other club members with cameras ranging from entry level APS-C to Sony/Pentax full frame did not have much of a difference at that print size.

    Dave

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    Senior Member clemmb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HDNitehawk View Post
    Are you wet scanning your negatives?
    I have not heard of wet scanning, but I have not researched the subject either. When I was still shooting professionally with my Bronica ETRsi 6x4.5 I had my film developed by a reputable professional lab. I looked back at one of the old files from them. Their scanner was giving me 11MP files. I'm sure that was pretty big in 2006. Last year I shot some 35mm film. The lab files were 24MP.
    I remember from the old 6x4.5s when my lab went from direct printing to scanning then printing I did not see any real change in the quality. Not that my eye at the time would have picked up on it,
    Mark

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