Digital replacement for a Mamiya 67

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by geoff_edwards, Nov 22, 2014.

  1. Hi
    I have a Mamiya 67 and because of the costs of taking a photo I am considering replacing the camera with a digital equivalent. Is there one?
    My trouble is that I may encounter a situation where I may need high quality 67 or 54 and my film is still too cold to load and wasted if not used. Ideally a digital camera could replace my film camera but how much would it cost?
  2. Whew... this question could sure open a can of worms, and is basically getting back to the film vs digital debate which has raged for over a decade. I will just put out my two cents. You will probably get answers all over the map.
    One thing you did not mention was what degree of scan quality you were / are doing with your 67 negatives? If just mediocre low cost scans, then even a low cost entry level DSLR would equal it, or even better it. If you are doing costly extremely high quality drum scans of your negatives, then you will probably be looking at the need for a "full frame" DSLR in the 25 plus megapixel range. The bodies are in the three to six thousand dollar range, ... then you will need quality lenses to match.
    The next step is medium format digital, based more closely on the 645 format. These cameras are, in my opinion, far beyond even medium format film no matter how it is scanned. As of now, the Pentax 645 MF digital SLR cameras are the "lowest" cost, but you are still looking at over ten thousand dollars with lenses. If you have REALLY deep pockets, you can get up into the over $30,000 range with the Hasselblad and Phase One cameras, (the Phase One cameras being based on the Mamiya 645 AFD bodies).
    You pays your money and you takes your choice. If it matters, I also used MF film and find I get results just as good if not better with just a relatively basic 18mp Canon DSLR with crop sensor, but I am not printing huge.
    You can search online and find articles and "proof" to agree AND disagree with everything i have said. Lab tests and theory and numbers are fine and good, real world results are another matter, and I am only saying that in the real world of today's highly sophisticated DSLR, I do believe they have surpassed MF film. My opinion, everybody has their own.
  3. I tend to agree with Steve. HOWEVER, I extensively use medium and large format B&W and print in my wet darkroom on fibre based paper. Slow, some would say tedious, but still "magic!" For everyday use and the few paid gigs I still do, I use digital, still in the 12-18 meg range. Perfectly adequate for the intended use if not printing "huge."
    Perhaps consider keeping the larger formats, and get a consumer grade 35mm with pro grade lenses. The digital camera bodies might be considered "throwaways," but pro grade lenses are "keepers."
  4. Any decent 24mp+ body with good lenses will come close to equaling the Mamiya 7 (I assume that's what you have as I'm not aware of a Mamiya 67, unless you mean an RB/RZ) unless you're willing to pay for a high resolution drum scan (as Steve mentioned). I did my own comparison test using a Fuji 69 with 90mm lens using Velvia 50 scanned on an Epson 700 flat bed (realistic for my pocketbook) vs a Sigma SD1 and found the SD1 equal in resolution and much superior in grain:
  5. Film compared to digital:
  6. If you do indeed have an RB/RZ 67 you could get a digital back for it. If you have a Mamiya Universal/Press (also 67 format) I doubt that a digital back would work, or if it did would the lenses be up to the task.
    If you camera is a Mamiya 7 as Mike suspects there is no digital option other than another system.
    I'm a Canon shooter, and have been for years but today I'd sure look at a full frame Nikon or Sony. I think either would equal if not out perform 6x7cm film. Especially if you're using a flat bed scanner.
  7. Geoff: Ignoring the buggy-whips and the digi-snaps, there are two important questions. One has been asked already. How are your images scanned/printed? The second is, what exactly are you shooting, and for what purpose?
    Speaking more generally: when considering questions like yours, I suggest ignoring the opinions or "factoids" presented by people with names like "Digiman" or "Filmshooter".
  8. My gear was enhanced this year with the purchase of a Sony A7r full frame mirror-less 36 MP camera. I have a few Zeiss lenses to go with it.
    My older gear includes a Hasselblad 503CW and a Hasselblad 903SWC, again paired with a few Zeiss lenses. I scan on a Hasselblad Flextight X5.
    Sometime I reach for the film, other times for the digital.
    We don't know what you intend to do like others noted here, what subjects you are photographing, and what is your intended output (print size).
    I can only say the following: If you were to scan on the Flextight a 6x6 frame in color, saved in Adobe RGB 16 bit the resulting TIFF file is about 7000x7000 pixels. You would get a very very sharp print (assuming you used good lenses and all the proper photographic precautions) easily to 24"x24". If you need a larger size print sharpness becomes a bit less important IMHO, since you are viewing the image from further away!
    Now, if you used the Sony A7r which as mentioned above is a 36MP full frame camera, you end up with a TIFF image that is 7360x4912 pixels (206mb). I am confident that you will also get a very very sharp image of 21"x14" from a TIFF image of this size (assuming again that all the photographic precautions have been followed in the taking of the image).
    Nothing I wrote here is absolute, and you should conduct full research before purchasing your digital. The A7R is a pleasure to handle smaller and lighter than a Nikon, and producing awesome images.
    One thing is for sure, Sony, at this point in time rocks!
  9. No question, FF digital is the solution. Especially if film service are drying up and/or pricing you out, something like the FX/FF Nikons or Sonys would suit. They're getting cheaper and the 3-6 grand figure is a bit out of date. I saw a pre-Black Friday flyer ad for a Sony A7 body here in Ontario for $1299.
  10. Seriously, if you find shooting film too expensive, you'll really panic at the prices of anything digital that can approximate the quality of 6X7.
  11. I read Mike's film v digital comparisons. Any time you are comparing the two in a final print you have differences to take into account. When you scan a piece of film, even with the best equipment and techniques, you are getting a second generation image. You can try to digitally sharpen it and you can get great control over color and contrast but it will never have the same look or quality as a projection print. A projection print is already a second generation image but it is the type with the least degradation of the original image. It is understandable that comparisons are made the way they are because digital printing is more available, less expensive and offers more image editing options. If I shoot an image with a digital camera at very high resolution, make a large print, photograph the print with a film camera and then print the resulting slide or negative, I will get a third generation image which would not be comparable to the print I could make directly from an original digital file. In High School I saw large original Ansel Adams b&w prints at the Metropolitan in NY. At the time I was mostly using 35mm Tri-X so the Ansel Adams prints looked remarkably good. It is not practical to view a 4'X6' print at the same distance as a 4"X6" postcard size print. At correct, normal and practical viewing distances a person's eye will not be able to distinguish between the quality of a 24X36mm digital large print and one made from medium format film. The DSLR will be able to shoot action much more easily and the medium format film camera will not be able to operate at an ISO of 250,000 but there is still plenty of life left in medium format film and medium format film and equipment is still capable of very high quality results.
  12. Danny O' makes a very good point. You can get a LOT of film processed and quality scans made for the high price you will have to pay to get digital equipment to equal 6x7 film. Not to mention, with the high end digital gear, you need a computer that can handle the load and software needs. Then there is the archive issue. Those film negatives are SO nice neatly arranged in pages in albums, but with digital, you MUST have proper storage OTHER than a computer. You need external hard drives or CDs or flash drives or "cloud" storage, or ALL of the above. The cost of digital is never "free". Buying the equipment is actually just the tip of the iceberg.
  13. The cost "advantage" of film is getting stretched here. Quality processing and high-end drum scans for quality printing by a pro lab don't come for chump change. Anyone doing hybrid workflow already has computer capable of running current processing software and storage sufficient to handle the image output. Hard drives aren't ruinously pricey. No one said digital was "free." Problem is, film workflow isn't getting any cheaper or easier.
  14. look for one of the Sigma DP Merrills, for me they are nearest to film look and delivering an outstanding resolution.. I was shooting a lot slides 6x6, 6x8 and 13x18 but since I got my Merrills the other cameras become dusty.
  15. Mike Earussi, Nov 23, 2014; 10:53 a.m.
    Film compared to digital:
    I see this so often when the topic comes up on "film vs. digital". I think the guy really missed the boat here. Not every image has to be pinpoint sharp. The pixel counters will disagree with this but I really don't care. Most of the most amazing images ever taken were with film cameras. Adams, Cunningham, Stieglitz, Weston, et al and their images might not stack up to a Nikon D800. Who gives a damn? There is A LOT more to making a fantastic and artistic print than counting pixels.
    So many younger photographers, or ones who basically cut their photographic teeth on digital just don't get this. Film, especially B&W film printed on high quality paper like Oriental Seagull, blows the absolute doors off of digital and probably always will. There are so many intangibles that are not considered. Not everything is all about megapixels and all the rest of that techie crap!
  16. since an RZ is no sports camera and the lens selection usuall is something like 3-4 lenses that are realy used, I'd get the high resolution Sony A7. Alternatively you can get a used 22mp digi back for the RZ, but that's a few generations behind current 35mm sensors.
  17. my film is still too cold to load and wasted if not used​
    For using in cold, digital may be unreliable, and batteries may not be usable. Film may be more reliable. What kind of temperatures are you talking about? If you're having difficulty loading film because it's too stiff in the cold, have you considered simply getting a few extra film holders which you can preload? For my smaller Mamiya 645, I often carry four or so preloaded just to make it quick switching films.
    Full frame digital really won't compete with 6x7 for quality so it's no replacement, and anyway it has quite different characteristics. But I doubt that the batteries and specification in an expensive digital back are going to cut the mustard if you're going to be taking pictures in real cold. Below about -20 or -30 Celcius you'll have to adopt a specialist strategy no matter what you use, and above about -30 you shouldn't really be having problems with film.
  18. Not every image has to be pinpoint sharp. The pixel counters will disagree with this but I really don't care.
    Not everything is all about megapixels and all the rest of that techie crap!​
    Scott, the quest for pinpoint sharpness pre-dates digital. It was just as much an obsession for advanced film shooters back in the day.
    There is A LOT more to making a fantastic and artistic print than counting pixels.​
    Most digital photographers will agree with you on that!
  19. >>Adams, Cunningham, Stieglitz, Weston, et al and their images might not stack up to a Nikon D800. Who gives a damn?
    Actually, if you're talking about the hardware, you're understating the case. Many of the great images made by those guys were taken with pretty dodgy equipment. Weston famously used a second-hand lens that cost him five bucks. Adams's Monolith was taken with an ancient uncoated Tessar, and Frozen Lake and Cliffs was taken with one cell of a Goerz Dagor. (Of course, they did have the benefit of those great big negatives.)
  20. I haven't heard of Lloyd Chambers but considering his long years of experience, I'm astonished at how misguided his article is. His site has lots of vendor links. Perhaps he has an agenda to push digital?
    Some points that stand-out to me from the article:
    • The author says that the dynamic range of digital is better than film, but is comparing color digital to slide film. It's common knowledge that slide film has the lowest resolution of all film types. Digital has film beat on color. B&W film still has more dynamic range than digital.
    • The author says that film grain negatively impacts resolution. This is true in a sense but grain also leads to the perception of sharpness, something that noise does not do. Grain and noise are not the same things.
    • The author goes after Kodachrome. It was not the only film available and wasn't intended to render neutrally. What Kodachrome did have was a high saturation, high contrast look that was popular. Beefing on Kodachrome is like beefing on a Lightroom preset.
    • The author makes a straw man argument that the resolution per square inch is the same for medium format as it is for 135. Everyone knows that it's the same, just that the negatives are larger. The benefit of having larger negatives (beside bigger HQ prints) are a perceived increase in tonality, and a more natural-looking perspective.
    • You can't compare a scan, even a drum scan, to a print.
    • The author mentions his Nikon D800E nineteen times on the page yet doesn't present a single photo from his D800E to backup his claims that it is better than film, even better than at resolving than the Mamiya 7 lenses. I have a Mamiya 7ii and can confirm that the lenses are freakishly sharp. Using the 4/65mm (32mm equivalent) I can read a house number from approximately a mile away. While impressive, this alone does not make the lens or the medium better or worse than some other combination.
    • The author places high resolution on an altar above all else. High resolution is nice but it is doubtful that it will make a poor photo great. Lens character is more important than high resolution, but pixel counters can't argue or pontificate about qualities. That's why they wax nauseous about lines per mm.
    The article is symptomatic of the race to have the best gear rather than the best photo. The baby has been thrown out with the bath water. Shoot film. Shoot digital. But don't twist facts to rationalize an exclusive position.
  21. The internet has been full of these declarations for years that X latest small format digital camera is finally at the same quality as medium format 6x7. It's all nonsense - it just isn't. At least, it's always possible to find conditions under which the small format digital can compete - if you don't focus the medium format camera properly, or if you you use a bad quality scanner (this is probably the commonest one - using a flatbed or low end scanner), or don't flatten the film in the scanner, and so on, it's possible to reduce the medium format quality enough to prove anything.
    And of course there are circs in which the small format digital wins - if you need to shoot a lot of frames without expense, taking pictures with fast lens in low light, you need to get the picture out quickly, and so on. That's why we use them, and they're great for that.
    I've just been preparing a series of big enlargements (around a metre) from a mix of 6x7 film (Mamiya 7 and Mamiya 645) and digital (mix of Nikon and Fuji cameras). The film enlargements are glorious, even when looked up very close. The digital ones - well let's say they are best viewed at the 'correct' viewing distance. They're pretty good - but not as good.
    And yes, a colour negative film like Portra also still has (a bit) more greater dynamic range than the digital RAW files.
    Don't get me wrong, the digital cameras are wonderful, I love them to bits, they're amazing at what they do, but the kind of conclusions in the article linked to are just the latest internet fluff which has been bandied around for ages.
  22. There's a very interesting article been posted trying to adopt a reasonably scientific approach to testing the differences between digital and film. This includes specifically a Nikon D800 compared to a Mamiya 7. As expected, the Mamiya 7 blows the D800 right out of the water. There are lots of other interesting comparisons and thoughts in the article too though, well worth reading:

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