MF - why should an amateur bother??

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by rick_falck, Jul 8, 2001.

  1. I was ready to get a MF camera when I found out that my local camera
    store can now digitize 35mm slides to create enlargements greater
    than 8 X 10 that rival pics made with MF cameras. It is a little
    expensive, like $25 for a 11 X 14.

    Now that this technology is available, why would an amateur who will
    want to blow up a relatively small number of prints larger than 8 X
    10 want to bother with a MF camera? They said that you need to shoot
    100 ISO or less to get the best quality. I shoot Kodak E100VS
    slides. Is there something I would lose in the scanning process that
    using the same film in a MF camera would give me in a straight

    I am NOT bashing MF. I understand why many people would still chose
    it. But the only reason I can see now, is that the cost of scanned
    enlargements versus those done the old way, would be the only real
    impetus for someone to chose MF. Am I wrong??

  2. why would an amateur who will want to blow up a relatively small number of prints larger than 8 X 10 want to bother with a MF camera?

    Well, I am an amateur, and I want to 'blow up' all my prints to at least 12x10 or 16x12. The quality is far far better than 35mm in this specific situation, all other things being equal.
  3. I suppose it depends on how much you value satisfaction.

    I can see no way that a scanned 35mm slide could rival a mf print.

    MF printing does not have to be expensive.. Join a photography club and find out how to process and print your own efforts, I'm sure it will provide satisfaction.
  4. A digitized 35mm scan can have apparent grain reduced and acutance increased (along with lots of other manipulations). The resulting print will look smoother and crisper than a conventional print from the same negative. Digital manipulation cannot however replace information that's not in the original negative. An excellent MF slide/neg will have that extra detail. (Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby!) Just scan a slightly out of focus negative and apply sharpening to see what a high acutance & low detail image looks like. MF can be scanned too. Conventional color printing - why bother?
  5. Well, this is the old "35mm is as good as MF" argument. Unfortunately, it's built on some incorrect and misguided assumptions. MF technology has not stood still while 35mm has advanced. Advanced fine-grained emulsions and digital printing techniques are just as applicable to MF as to 35mm. 35mm technology *has* gotten significantly better, but MF has kept pace. With the introduction of new sub-$3000 MF film scanners from Nikon, Polaroid, and Minolta, the cost of bringing MF into the digital realm is lower than ever.

    Even at 8 x 10 the differences between 35mm and MF prints are significant. At 11 x 14 and above, the increase in resolution and tonality will blow you away.
  6. I have a bit different perspective than Barry's. I personally don't care to carry a MF camera around, and usually only use one when I have a specific need for it, like doing a wedding or special affair etc, where they have their use. A 6x6 has never been my choice of format, and I find most of the 6x4.5's overpriced. 6x7 is a landscape camera or at least studio camera by my accounts and well 6x8 is another matter as the camera rivals the weight of my 4x5. Each format has it uses irrespective of the great increase in detail or lack of grain from the larger negative, which seems more offset today with the better films. In fact, I could give my customers just 35mm prints and they would always be fine, as I find most of them rather ignorant of any idea of MF superiority. Basically they know what they like, and if it is a good picture, they wouldn't give a dam as whether it's a 35mm print or MF print.

    So where does this land you? Well.. you will see the difference if you can make side by side comparsions,... and if you want to spend the money to get it because you know the difference, go for it. But don't expect everyone else to.

    In looking at most publications on photography, I see that most of the pictures are taken with 35mm cameras, unless it's maybe View camera magazine, so I'm suspecting that a majority of 35mm slides are sold each year to fill the quoto for any type of magazine publishing, especially if it's a sports magazine where 35mm rules to roust. Like I said, each format has it's uses, and I wouldn't use a MF camera for sports, or landscapes for that mater where 4x5 will blow it away, but for event photography, fashion photography, yea it's good.
  7. A camera store I looked at said the same thing. The owner of the store, Elvis, told me that he bought the store after he sold some bridge in New York:)

    I would be very skeptical of someone claiming that they can make an enlargement to rival MF fom a 35mm image(slide or negative). While it might be possible in some small section of the universe I would be a disbeliever until I was looking at the two images side by side. If you want to test their theory, ask them to prove it.

    I don't have anything against 35mm, as I use both 35mm and MF. I just don't see how it could be done, even with the aid of a computer.

    Just my 2 cents.
  8. > In looking at most publications on photography, I see that most of the pictures are taken with 35mm cameras

    yes, you can always tell the 35mm images in a publication. they are generally grainy and lacking compared to medium-format print. let's see if I have this correct. the same technology that allows your 35mm to equal 6x9 now allows 6x9 to equal 4x5 or maybe 8x10. so, there is no reason to use 8x10 if I can get identical results using 6x9. but wait, if the new 35mm is identical to 6x9 then why use 6x9? therefore, 35mm equals 8x10.

    for sale:

    Linhof Technikardan 4x5
    Hasselblad 503CW
    Hasselblad 203FE
    Hasselblad Flexbody

    looking for a clean Leica M4
  9. There is more to an enlargement than just sharpness and lack of grain. The images from my roll film cameras have better color saturation and a much smoother look to the skin tones. There is also something different about using a roll film camera. Having fewer exposures on a roll and the bigger finder image make me take each image more seriously. Anyway, the real fun of medium format comes in at 16 X 20 and 24 X 32 blow ups. When I opened up the first 24 X 32 custom enlargement done on Fuji Supergloss of my best Yosemite landscape, my eyes nearly popped out of my head. The big print was actually better looking than the small prints I had. The print quality was so good that most people who see it on my wall assume I bought it and didn't take it.
  10. Rick--the main reason why people do choose MF is because of the bigger
    negative and thus greater enlargability. If you are not going to go
    bigger than 8x10, fine. But first see if you can directly compare two
    8x10 prints made with that digital printing of the same subject, one
    from 35mm and one from medium format. If the difference in grain and
    tonality is not enough to warrant going to medium format, so be it.
    But you really should compare apples to apples--ie, digital prints to
    digital prints.<p>On another note, another nice thing about some
    medium format cameras is removable backs--useful for using many
    different types of films at once. Of course, it would probably be
    cheaper to just get an extra 35mm camera body than to buy into MF for
    that.<p>Also, yes, shooting with a medium format camera will make you
    shoot differently than with a 35mm--I know I never shoot without my
    tripod with mine, and I take minutes to compose my photos--but you can
    shoot like that with a 35mm, it just is not necessary to do so.<p>So
    in other words, the main reason to go medium format is the bigger neg,
    and better print quality. Before you decide to avoid MF, do some side
    by side print comparisons (maybe rent a MF camera for a couple days or
    a week?).
  11. Well, allrighty then! I guess I am going to have to try it now to see for myself. Thanks.
  12. Well, Here's my creative answer.

    I bought a MF camera (TLR) because it was smaller than the 35mm camera, easier to use for snapshots, film was cheaper (per roll), processing was cheaper (per roll), and because square pictures look better than rectangular pictures.

    To continue:

    I bought a 4x5 because the camera (speed graphic) handles more easily than the smaller roll-film cameras, the dark room work is easier yet (I can be extremely sloppy and still get a 35mm quality 4x5 print), and because it looks cool. However, the cost of film is killing me ($1 a pop for B&W, $4 for E6).

    Of the cameras, I usually grab a 6x6 for prints and a Nikon for slides. This may change when I get a MF projector.
  13. Simple. I have thousands, I guess, of 35mm slides-many nice
    Kodachromes among them. I would gladly trade them all for 1/10th the
    number of 6x6 slides taken with a humble Yashicamat 124G. Once you
    start working with scanning, the impact of film size only becomes MORE
  14. I agree that trying the scans with 35 and MF is a good idea. Why don't you rent a MF for a weekend and see how you like it, and see how the prints come out?

  15. A scan will never improve the detail in the original or its smoothness of tone. 35mm is still 35mm, whether you scan it or not.
    Of course, if you like sharpening lines around the edges of everything, then that's fine too.
    If you can't see the difference, then go with digitally 'enhanced' 35mm.
  16. While I agree with all the responses about why people like MF, I will never give up my 35mm for some purposes. Perhaps I am too easily entertained but I just like shooting MF. I like the way it loads (slowly and complicated sometimes), I like the way it handles (heavy and no zoom lenses), and I like the way it makes me THINK more about the image! MF will never be perfect for all situations but it sure is fun!
  17. I've only just recently moved up to medium format. I shoot only black and white, and do all my own darkroom work. Although I will never give up 35mm, as it has it's applications, I've realized with shooting only 3 rolls, that medium format is so much better. The extra negative real estate is invaluable. If nothing else, medium format will will make you think more, but your life will be easier.
  18. > I've only just recently moved up to medium format.

    I always think of moving *over* to medium or large-format, not moving *up*. each format has its strengths, and it is up to the photographer to use the one that fits the application. I love my 4x5 and Hasselblads, but walking through the streets of Paris with a EOS-1v and 28-70mm thumping me in the chest, made me realize the beauty of a Leica M6 and how I would gladly compromise fidelity to get the image otherwise not taken.
  19. I'm surprised no one mentioned that MF, in general, handles differently than 35mm. Some people, like me, like the differences and find they help improve our photography. In my case, the large view finder image of 6x7 lets me see what's in the field better than 35, resulting is better compositions with fewer distracting elements. Regardless of format, find the camera that's suits you. Cameras are tools, and you should use the one that helps you get the results you want.
  20. I guess that I have a contrarian view. I use both MF and 35 mm and shoot lots of slides, mostly macro stuff. If I want B+W stuff, I use the 6x6 since I can process myself and handling 6x6 negs is much easier and enlargements are much nicer in 6x6. However for color the I almost always use 35 mm. I print most of my stuff myself (Epson printers) and it is simply much easier and less expensive to get a 35 mm slide into a digital format than a (usually much more gorgeous) 6x6 slide. You can get a very very good 35 mm slide scanner relatively cheaply, but a good 6x6 slide scanner costs big ($3 to $5K) bucks and getting 6x6 scans commercially is too expensive for me. So for B+W I am very happy to break out the Kowa, but for color it will stay the Canon. Also, 6x6 slide projectors are expensive and rare while 35 mm ones are dirt cheap.
    Just my opinion.
  21. interesting, but my observations are just the opposite. the larger the negative, the lower the scanner requirements. using an Epson 1640SU, I can scan my 6x6 or 4x5 negatives with acceptable quality. my 35mm negatives require a much more expensive solution for equal output.

    I believe the format you use should resonate and help guide your direction. for me, there is nothing like the pure symmetry of the square 6x6. I would find it difficult using a format that did not align itself with me emotionally.
  22. I am kind of on the trailing edge of the state of the art regarding newer equipment with an old Rolleiflex 2.8E and a Canon FTQL both left to me by my Dad. However, the difference in the prints are very visible. And yes, the 1.2 50mm lens for the Canon is very sharp indeed.

    The price of $25 for the 16x20 sounds really good as well, and you might not notice any difference with out a 35mm and a MF print side by side to compare. But in my experience, the MF photos always look much sharper and enlargement quality is superior too.
  23. I'll be the heretic here and say you may very well not see any difference between 8x10s shot on 35 and medium format. You should certainly see for yourself. Medium format gives you reserve capacity that 35 does not--both greater enlargeability and the option to crop with enough image left to work with--but in my experience the technical improvements are so subtle as to be almost invisible until you go larger than 8x10, assuming slow film and good technique. That applies both to C-41 prints, Ilfochromes and magazine reproduction. The question really boils down to your working style, quality expectations and how you choose to spend your (presumably) limited resources.
  24. I think the difference between 6x6cm or 6x7cm and 35mm is pretty visible in prints as small as 4x5"/5x5"/4x6" (I've never been that enthusiastic about the 645 format). There's a lot more at issue than grain--above all overall tonality and local contrast as well as the effect of using a longer lens with a larger format for the same perspective. It's really a different aesthetic.
  25. I would say for you to rent a MF camera, do a test roll and you be the judge. There is a marked difference that is visual even in the proofs!
  26. I love these debates! To cut to the chase, I have two idential 16x20 B&W prints of the same scene shot with a 6x7 pentax 105mm lens on T-max 100 and a Nikon F3 w/55mm micro nikkor on tech pan. Both were on a very heavy tripod, mirror lock up and the lenses set at there optimum f-stops. I forgot to mark the prints when I did them three years ago and now I'am suprised that I can no longer determine which is which. YMMV
  27. A recent photo monthly arrived and 1 article focused on wide angle lenses and several prints, all good ones, were used to reinforce points presented. For me, the print that stood out and said "look at me!!" was a wedding in a beautiful, domed cathedral and the details for the dome stood out, as did the bridal party etc. This one print "knocked my socks off!" whereas all the others were very good. I checked further and my winner was taken with an older Hasselblad & Zeiss lens, all the others were taken with varieties of excellent 35mm gear. Consistently besieged with visual stimulae, MF and LF photos usually "rock me" whereas 35mm down to my Minox usually are just positively noticed. FWIW-IMHO!
  28. I am a recent convert to MF, having bought a FujiGSW690III a couple of months ago. I did this primarily because I wanted to take shots for sale and stock and blowups at around the 10 x 15 mark and larger. But leaving that aside...

    I like the discipline of having a completely manual camera with only 8 shots a roll. It makes me compose more carefully, which leads to much better results - in effect no more expensive than 35mm. This is because I am cutting down on the number of shots that I simply shouldn't have taken because they were not interesting enough. I am also enjoying the lack of automation. All in a camera that costs less than a Canon professional lens.

    BTW, I am continuing to use 35mm for 'on the move' photography, or when I need to change lens (the Fuji's is fixed)
  29. Saturation, contrast, quality of the glass, ease of scanning, more information in the neg or chrome, and tonal gradations that rock.

    The work pace is certainly a personal choice, but, there are lots of photogs who are happier working slower and with a larger view finder and without a camera glued to their forehead.

    Having said all that, I think MF is always a compromise situation. It is rarely the best at any one thing - 35mm is easier to handhold and if you like a big negative, well, 4 x 5 is bigger. But for all around versatility and quality of images it's hard to beat a Hassel (it's light enough to handhold, it's a mechanical wonder and the Zeiss glass is legendary).
  30. I'll take a different road. 35mm is a compromise of performance for mobility. 4x5 is a compromise of mobility for performance. my Hasselblad's yield that perfect sweet spot in the middle.

    I cannot stress enough, the emotional impact of identifying with a particular format. for me, the square 6x6 is the perfect geometry that greatly influences my photography. it affords me compositions that best show how I see the world.
  31. I think Daniel has summed it up nicely. If you're not doing advertising/product/food photography, 35mm might be all you need. If you want a larger negative, medium format is the best compromise of size and resolution. The differences between 35mm and medium format aren't as great as they once were, as the optics of 35mm have improved more quickly than MF, and films for both formats are greatly improved. (Have you seen the detail Art Wolfe gets out of his 35mm Canon gear?) Medium format delivers the goods if you don't mind the added weight and diminished spontaneity (shorter film rolls, longer load time, frequently no motor drive, leaving the darkslide in, etc).

    A lot of it may come down to your preference for format: rectangular, square or panoramic. I shoot a lot of MF and 35mm, and they have their own assets. If you love the square, MF is clearly the way to go. If you want automation and TTL flash metering, 35mm still offers more options. If you are scanning, 35mm scanners give more options, scanners are cheaper and faster. If you decide to go digital someday, tossing a digital back on an MF camera is easier than starting all over again with a new camera, although MF digital backs are still about $20,000.

    The most important thing I got from shooting MF has nothing to do with resolution or image sharpness. Shooting a Hasselblad with no auto-return mirror and no meter taught me to slow down and understand exposure. I now use a handheld incident meter with any camera I use.
  32. So much 2 cents as a MF convert. I shot a group photo at my father in laws 79th birthday last year. His family is BIG! The 8x10 was well lit but the facial detail was a joke.

    3 Months ago I bought a 6x6 Bronica so I can be ready for his 80th at the end of the year. Group shots I have taken so far (2) have been AWESOME.

    I have some great 35mm shots as 8x10s, and use it all the time, but if I want to blow them up big, and I believe some of my shots deserve it, I am much happier to use my Bronica.

    As an aside, when I use 35mm people will walk in front of me. When I use the Bronica they don't. They understand you are doing a job - even if I am not ;-)

    Lastly, buy a TLR Yashica and enjoy. They will set you back less than US$200.
  33. Well things have changed a lot in the 2 years since this thread was last active. Now
    you can buy an epson 3200 flatbed scanner that does transparencies up to 6x9
    inches for about 450 usd. It does a remarkably good job scanning negs and slides.
    Buy one of these add to it a vintage folding medium format camera from ebay and
    you have a killer combination to take you into the realm of big sharp digital prints for
    CHEAP! Print these shots out online via a frontier or lightjet and you will have a
    stunning result in a nice big print.

    This is the way ive gone and now I get my film processed only and just print the shots
    I like.

    Or buy yourself a modern medium format system and the 3200 is still a great option.
    I bought myself a fuji ga645zi point and shoot zoom. I also shoot a Bessa II 6x9 for
    nice big negs. You could also go to 4x5 inches with the epson; serious resolution!

    I guess ultimately only an amateur who wants to go beyond 8x10 printing would need
    to do this, but at least now an amateur has the option of going BIG and SHARP for
    just a little money.

Share This Page