6x6 or 4x5?

Discussion in 'Nature' started by tom_smith|22, Dec 27, 2010.

  1. Gday all.
    I shoot landscapes for commercial purposes with a 40D, and what I do is montage pictures together to give acceptable sharpness at sizes generally up to 2 metres. However I've now got to a point where I cannot get the shots I want with multiple exposures, problem areas being mainly star trails and ocean waves.
    I've got no choice but to upgrade formats, but am at a bit of a loss where to start. I know it is difficult to give a hard and fast ratio of format to output, but given a 60" wide digital print, is there a sub-$1000 6x6 system that gives good results if used correctly? I've been looking at the Kiev range, 88 mainly, and they seem cheap and good.

    However I know the holy grain is large format, and I guess it's a question of just what quality I'm after. I can't give any answer but 'the best', but my wallet (loudly) disagrees. LF is the standard among professional landscape photographers for a reason, but then I think that 135 scanned at 4000ppi at 20x30 looks adequate from a metre away, so surely 6x6 would do, at least for now?

    I'm sure many other photographers have faced this problem, so your 2c worth would be worth a lot more to me. Portability is an issue also.
    Cheers, Tom
     
  2. For 6x6, look at the Bronica SQ series. JR
     
  3. I do not have direct experience with either of these formats - though I work with folks who do - so take my advice with an appropriate dose of salt.
    If you are regularly going to 2 metres (which is significantly larger than 60", by the way) and you don't want to continue stitching, I think that your best option is probably 4 x 5 (or bigger) large format, especially given the price limitation you mention. Even here, it is hard to imagine how you are going to do this with your budget limitations. Tripod, camera, and a couple good lenses for under $1000? And then you'll need to have the images scanned and printed. This isn't going to be inexpensive, to say the least.
    MF film can certainly go larger than 35mm film, but the improvement in resolution (which I imagine is your main issue with the sizes you mentioned) over full frame DSLR is not going to be that much. In many ways full frame DSLR can complete with MF film.
    How often do you actually produce prints in these sizes, and how are they used? There seem to be some seriously competing/contradictory factors here: desire for portability, prints at extremely large sizes, significant cost limitations, etc.
    Dan
     
  4. Tom,
    I've seen some pretty impressive enlargements from 35mm format using Genuine Fractals software.
    I shoot both 6x9cm and 4x5 using large format glass. You should get great enlargements from the smaller format, however I would not recommend 6x6 as a landscape camera due to the square format. To get a rectangular aspect ratio requires cropping to 6x4.5, which for me gives only a minimal advantage over 35mm images.
    Also am not sure a Kiev would give the highest quality if that is what you need, maybe I'm wrong.
    www.billproudphotography.com
     
  5. A 6x6 negative cropped to 8x10 proportions is still over twice the size of 35mm with the same cropping. That's the difference between a good 11x14" print (about as large as I'd care to go) and 20"x30".
    That said, it would be hard to buy a 6x6 kit for under $1000. The cost quickly mounts when you start adding lenses, backs and finders. There's also the problem in getting large prints, now that the last affordable film scanner, the Nikon 9000, has been discontinued.
    If your main goal is landscapes, printed large, then a 4x5 kit is both practical and affordable. You don't need a lot of lenses. A 150, 90 and 210, purchased in that order, is a good combination, with a 75 down the road for architecture and slot canyons. You become a better photographer too - at $5 a shot, you tend to think first and shoot later ;-). You could expect 6x6 quality out of an inexpensive flatbed scanner, with the option to get drum scans of the very best shots.
     
  6. For well under $1000, you could get a very comprehensive RB67 system from keh.com. You'd have the advantage of a larger negative than with 6x6, plus it would be rectangular in shape, so you'd lose less by cropping. The RB67's rotating back will give you the option of horizontal or vertical framing, and the fact that it's an all-mechanical camera will make long exposures for things like star trails less dependent on the vagaries of electronics. The quality of the images you can get from the RB67 is superb--these were workhorses of pros for decades for very good reasons!
    I think that from nearly every aspect you can think of, a Mamiya kit would be superior to a Kiev. Except for possibly the weight of the system; compared even to a 4x5 field camera, the RBs can actually seem quite heavy, so that would be something you'd have to weigh out, no pun intended.
    But for what you're wanting to do, I would recommend checking out the RB system thoroughly. They deliver top-of-the-line quality, they produce one of the larger image sizes in medium format, they're cheap and plentiful, they're extremely versatile (except for the weight factor) and they're highly dependable. I've been very pleased since I went that way a couple of years back.
     
  7. Whoops! That originally posted twice, for some reason.
     
  8. A 6x6 negative cropped to 8x10 proportions is still over twice the size of 35mm with the same cropping. That's the difference between a good 11x14" print (about as large as I'd care to go) and 20"x30".
    That said, it would be hard to buy a 6x6 kit for under $1000. The cost quickly mounts when you start adding lenses, backs and finders. There's also the problem in getting large prints, now that the last affordable film scanner, the Nikon 9000, has been discontinued.
    If your main goal is landscapes, printed large, then a 4x5 kit is both practical and affordable. You don't need a lot of lenses, and can stage your acquisitions. A 150, 90 and 210, purchased in that order, is a solid combination, with a 75 down the road for architecture and slot canyons. You become a better photographer too - at $5 a shot, you tend to think first and shoot later ;-). You could expect 6x6 quality out of an inexpensive flatbed scanner, with the option to get drum scans of the very best shots.
     
  9. Tom,
    You don't mention how much hiking/trekking is involved in your photography. While the Mamiya 67 is a great system, and available cheap most places, it is a heavy system. I made my living with RBs for years doing portraits and weddings, and still found it frustrating to use for scenic/nature photography.
    Look at the people who are doing what you propose and you'll find the majority are using 4x5 or even larger. My 4x5 field camera and several lenses weighs a fraction of what my RB system did.
    The Kiev/Ukranian cameras have decent glass but mechanically are unreliable in the extreme. A little checking on the web will bear this out. They are all now discontinued I believe and repairs will be a real issue. Nothing is more frustrating to hike miles, find a great photographic situation and have a camera seize up.
    Not only are 4x5 cameras very light, check out the Shen Hao or Chamonix field cameras, but they are so simple that their reliability is extremely high. Basically, if anything is going to fail it's probably going to be a shutter and if you have more than one lens you're still good to go.
    If you still prefer 6x7/6x9 look at Pentax 67. Lots of used lenses and bodies out there and all but the earliest are still repairable. However, with a 4x5 camera you have the option of shooting 6x7/6x9/6x12 or even 6x17cm with the same camera. Some will even allow you to reconfigure the camera to do 5x7.
    Spend some time on the Large Format home page, check out the galleries and links and read the articles/reviews. Great resource.
    By the way, after 40 some years of doing photography I have settled on digital and 4x5 as my formats of choice. Currently using a Shen Hao, but negotiating for a Chamonix.
    Good luck,
    Joe D.
     
  10. Tom,
    You don't mention how much hiking/trekking is involved in your photography. While the Mamiya 67 is a great system, and available cheap most places, it is a heavy system. I made my living with RBs for years doing portraits and weddings, and still found it frustrating to use for scenic/nature photography.
    Look at the people who are doing what you propose and you'll find the majority are using 4x5 or even larger. My 4x5 field camera and several lenses weighs a fraction of what my RB system did.
    The Kiev/Ukranian cameras have decent glass but mechanically are unreliable in the extreme. A little checking on the web will bear this out. They are all now discontinued I believe and repairs will be a real issue. Nothing is more frustrating to hike miles, find a great photographic situation and have a camera seize up.
    Not only are 4x5 cameras very light, check out the Shen Hao or Chamonix field cameras, but they are so simple that their reliability is extremely high. Basically, if anything is going to fail it's probably going to be a shutter and if you have more than one lens you're still good to go.
    If you still prefer 6x7/6x9 look at Pentax 67. Lots of used lenses and bodies out there and all but the earliest are still repairable. However, with a 4x5 camera you have the option of shooting 6x7/6x9/6x12 or even 6x17cm with the same camera. Some will even allow you to reconfigure the camera to do 5x7.
    Spend some time on the Large Format home page, check out the galleries and links and read the articles/reviews. Great resource.
    By the way, after 40 some years of doing photography I have settled on digital and 4x5 as my formats of choice. Currently using a Shen Hao, but negotiating for a Chamonix.
    Good luck,
    Joe D.
     
  11. If I were in your situation, here is what I would select in order of priority:
    1. 4x5 inches
    2. 6x9cm
    3. 6x8cm
    4. 6x7cm
    5. 6x6cm
    6. 6x4.5cm
     
  12. In the past ten years I've shot 35mm, 645, 6x9, 4x5, and Nikon D300. I have some thoughts. Don't even bother with medium format. My D300 is giving roughly the same detail as my 645 did. There is a huge difference between my D300 and 4x5 when it comes to detail and everything else. The 4x5 has movements too, making it even less logical to use medium format instead of 4x5. There are some view cameras that shoot 6x9 that give movements, but I still suggest sticking with 4x5. There's a catch though. To get 4x5 sheet into CS5, you have to scan it. Best scanner for the money is an Epson V700 with BetterScanning holders and wet mount. The V750 works well too. Buy a used one. The very best quality is drum scans, but those get incredibly expensive. My 4x5 is a Shen Hao, and I have three lenses 90mm, 180mm, 300mm. This corresponds to 30mm, 60mm, 100mm, all f5.6. Remember that 4x5 is very slow. I usually take about 15 minutes to set up and get a shot. Buy a used Shen Hao or Chamonix if possible. They are great for the money.
    Kent in SD
     
  13. Thank you very much for the responses everyone! This was just a feeler, hence lack of info.
    I have a tripod rated at 5kg, I only want 1 lens to start off, I have an Epson V700 scanner avaliable for my use, printing costs are not an issue. In short, I'm in a fairly good position. The truth is after I wrote that last night I all but decided on MF. However now I am 9/10 convinced 4x5 (at least) is the way I'm going to go. As for portability, I am on foot a lot, and will be for quite some time. It is an issue, but I don't mind lugging around quite a bit of kit.
    I love film precisely for the reason that each shot matters, unlike 'cheap' digital. Idealised, I know, but I enjoy taking my time for each frame.
    Having said that, I'm looking to rush into this purchase. I want a camera on the way within a week. Looking back thru this thread (I havent touched LF forum yet, will do) Shen Hao and Chamonix are mentioned twice. I'll be looking at these brands closely, but for the meantime, I've got two questions: what is a ballpark figure for a standard-ish (ivegotnoideawhatimtalkingabout) LF rig with a single lens, and is it customary to develop at home? Again, thank you, Tom.
     
  14. Twice, like the others.
     
  15. I second the Mamiya RB67 - you'll have to crop the 6x6 a lot of the time, where the 6x7 less so. So the 6x6 isn't that far departed from the 6x45 in that regards. The 6x7 is effectively a much bigger neg. It is a tank of a system, not that much different in weight to an 8x10 field camera, but it is a great compromise. Also mentioned is the rotating back - what a fantastic feature.
     
  16. My thinking is if I'm going to be carrying a whole lot of weight like the RB67 I might as well get the biggest negatives I can from it. I also suspect if I go the MF route one day in the future when I look at my first LF neg I'll kick myself for not having done it sooner.
    www.largeformatphotography.info/ is a good resource.
     
  17. Sorry Tom, I misread the 4x5, thinking you meant 645! My thoughts are that 4x5 just doesn't give the 'wow' jump that you get from say 35mm to 6x7. Now 8x10, that's a different story, and you start to get into contact prints, or even platinum prints [drool].
     
  18. Not that I ever owned or even used one, but how about a MF panoramic camera like Linhof Technorama 617s III or 612 PC II? (well, a second-hand one / earlier version considering $$$, obviously ;) Believe John Shaw used to shoot his panoramas with one, although it's no longer listed as the equipment he currently uses.
     
  19. I'm pretty much commited to LF now, but Ty how dare you say that! ha, I think I'm going to stick with 4x5, as good as 6x7 would be, considering price limitations.
     
  20. sorry Tom for being frank :)
    Hey check out this mini essay on formats, particularly down towards the bottom.
    http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2010/11/open-mike-film-format.html
     
  21. Interestingly, I have a good friend who shot LF film for many years, often on the trail, and whose work is highly regarded, both in terms of its aesthetics as photography and for the outstanding technical quality of his prints.
    He switched several years ago from LF film to MF digital. Although he had lived the "make every shot count" life with his LF camera, he found shooting with MF digital to be thoroughly liberating. He felt that being able to make scores or hundreds of exposures on a short trip was advantageous for his photography. He was much better able to photograph subjects like moving water, where one exposure is rarely enough. I asked him if he missed the movements of his older camera and the answer was no. I recently heard him speak at the opening of a gallery show and he jokingly apologized to his LF friends because he now has completely switched to MF digital... and he even shoots with a zoom!
    I still cannot see how MF film will get you what you want. We could debate the "film quality" that comes from using MF film rather than full frame DSLR (they are different, but different is not the same as better/worse), but the general consensus is that MF film will provide little or no advantage over full frame DSLRs when it comes to the upper limits of print size. MF digital on the other hand, can compete quite well with 4x5 film on this count.
    If you are able to accept the functional and operational disadvantages of LF film (you'll have far fewer exposures to work with, no immediately feedback, need to deal with the rituals of loading film, $5 cost every time you click the shutter, etc.) then it can provide the highest quality of the formats/media you have mentioned.
    Regarding price, I'm still wondering if your $1000 budget is realistic for any of these options. Yes you can get something for those prices, but is the something you can get the something you want and need?
    (If cost were no object, you might consider real MF digital... But that is quite pricey.)
    Dan
     
  22. hey Tom, you haven't said whether you are shooting colour or B&W. I agree with Dan when he says there won't be much difference in printable size between MF and SFDLSR (although it makes no difference whether the SLR is 24x36 or 18x24 or whatever). But if you are shooting black and white, then I can see why you're no longer interested in digital. also as Dan says, not sure if you'll be able to get into a decent 4x5 rig with your budget, but I could be wrong.
     
  23. acceptable sharpness at sizes generally up to 2 metres.​
    The key here is how you define 'acceptable sharpness'. We've all seen two-meter prints from 35 mm film displayed in public places. They looked fine to our eyes because we viewed them from several feet away. An inexpensive Canon Rebel T2i has a lot more resolution than 35 mm film or your 40D. Maybe that would be enough if your clients will judge the prints from a reasonable viewing distance.
    On the other hand if you have to impress pixel peeping clients who want to view a two-meter print from four inches away, even drum-scanned 4x5 film isn't going to satisfy them. 4x5 looks sharp up to about 50 inches (about 1.3 meters) on the long side. I would venture that you would need a 39 MP MF digital back or 8x10 film to satisfy such (unrealistic) requirements with a single exposure.
    Keep in mind also that drum scans are expensive. I calculate that it costs at least ten times as much to scan a 4x5 chrome as it does to buy and process the film. (It could be more depending on the desired resolution.)
    A view camera isn't particularly easy to operate, either. Do you have the time required to develop expertise with the camera? Do you have the ability to tell what and where you want to shoot five minutes or more before the best light arrives? It will take you about that long to set up the camera, establish an approximate focus, reframe the composition, re-focus and meter the shot, and that's without a adding labor-intensive movements like tilt or swing. Do you have the patience to load and unload and organize sheet film when you'd rather be out scouting or shooting (or eating or sleeping)? For people who are used to auto-everything cameras like the 40D, jumping into large format can be a humbling and frustrating experience.
     
  24. For large prints of landscapes, I too would recommend 4x5 and flat bed scanning to keep the cost down. I tried medium format for a while (Bronica) and found that even with a high end scanner (Nikon) the results were not much better than digital, so I agree with Kent on that point. With 4x5 you get swings and tilts, adding an important dimension to focusing too. Landscape photography is not a quick process with any camera, so setting up and focusing a 4x5 is not that much of an imposition in my opinion. One of my friends here in MN has some very nice work done with 4x5 for example: http://www.joeltruckenbrod.com/ If I was still serious about landscape I would still be using a 4x5! The kind of megapixels you need for digital work and large prints is really expensive, such as medium or large format digital or the top end Canon/Nikon full frame digital cameras.
     
  25. jtk

    jtk

    To evaluate the various comments here, make a point of viewing the prints of Galen Rowell, virtually all made from 35mm...and the examples at Mountain Light aren't nearly as good as his prints from 4X5 internegs when he was alive (IMO from first-hand experience). That underlines a point: Why commit to a process (E6) that barely rivals MF digital now and certainly won't in the near future.
    The problem with 120 and 4X5, or any film other than B&W, is the dinosaur die-off not yet completed by the remaining labs. Demanding photographers have always, save when dealing with Kodak/Fuji and a half dozen comparably well-run labs) required direct contact with skilled people (not just telephonistas), properly anxious about the risk and delay of transportation as well as perceptive communication. Ask the lab if they use a dip/dunk machine and what they pay their techs. If they don't use d/d and if they don't pay twice minimum wage (less than the pay of real technicians a few decades ago, which was in vicinity of $8-15hr in the 80s'), keep shopping.
     
  26. People laugh at me for using a Kiev 88 so be forewarned (I like to think of it as my generic Hasselblad 500CM). That said it gives me absolutely beautiful shots. I'm still a wet darkroom kind of guy and get great 16x20 prints from the 6x6 negatives. No visible grain. Do some Google research before going the Kiev 88 route. They are temper-mental and prone to light leaks. I love mine.
     
  27. Inexpensive medium format is Bronica SQ and Mamiya RB, both decent and to be had for low prices these days. Both have already been mentioned and both will work.
    A good 4x5 Calumet can be had for well under $200. A 150 Rodenstock Apo Sironar for a $300-300. Very sharp and one of the finest normal lenses around for 4x5. A half dozen film holders won't cost much.
    Yes, there are many other options as far as camera bodies. My preference is the Deardorff or the Linhof Technika. Both good and both work well. I have owned Calumets and they do the job, just not as nice for field work for what I photograph.
    Basic swing and tilt is all you will need for most images where you use any at all. The Calumet will do well there. I have looked around and you can outfit yourself with a 4x5 outfit, including light meter, two or three lenses and 50 sheets of film for well under $1000. It is not difficult to use in the field and coming back with a few very good images beats coming back with 200 average images every day for some of us.
    Regardless of where you end up, enjoy the journey. Some of us like the older cameras for the tactile experience on the way to the final image we will show the world. If it works for you, so much the better.
     
  28. Hello all! I'm wondering why no one has suggested the Mamiya RZ instead of the RB system. I too have gone from 35
    film to digital, from medium format film to digital and now from 4x5 using Polaroid instant film to a 120 roll adapter for
    my calumet field camera. I haven't been able to take the time to load sheet film so I cheat myself out of a huge
    negative by using roll film. I use both film and digital when the job allows the time but I'm finding that concerning the
    medium format film I'm having to do a ton of post processing, mainly cleaning dirt and scratches on the negs or slides.
    I'm wondering if it's the lab not changing their "water" routinely. They're coming with hair lines and just full of nicks and
    lots of dirt spots. So I am using my digital back more and more now on the Mamiya and just use the film for a few rolls
    only. Other than loosing some negative real estate area due to the crop factor I really think the digital back offers
    better resolution than MF film.
    This is of course for prints up to 16x24. Anything larger I havent tested yet.

    Cheers
     

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