OK, ordered the camera - now what film for my purposes?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by patricks, Feb 26, 2004.

  1. After being ambigous about going MF for quite some time, I finally
    bought a Contax 645 after having seen the prints from a Hassy I
    borrowed (couldn't get use to the WLF though, ergo C645).

    To start with, I will concentrate on shooting people, also some
    portraits of kids, and I wondering about the film selection. In 35mm
    I shot a lot of Fuji Reala, and lately some Kodak 160VC plus various
    mainly ISO 400 mono films.

    - What is your suggestion for 120/220 color film with the objective
    of making large prints? And why?

    If I understand matters correctly, my chances of making good prints
    increases by shooting neg film vs. slides. I never really shot
    slides, but I might consider it as a cost-saving measure now that
    I'm going MF.

    - What mono film would you recommend for people shots and why?

  2. Hi Patrick, I use Ilford XP2 almost exclusively as the standard B&W film for my Rolleiflex. Aside being easy to process for any commercial lab, this film has something magic. Please, see my folder "Medio Formato". Almost everything has been taken with XP2 Super. Ah, and congrats for your new Contax. Don't forget to comment on your reults or post some images!
  3. I would say that you should continue shooting the same emulsions you're comfortable with. They are both available in 120. I like Ilford mono films myself (in 400 speed )and shoot XP-2 super, HP5+. For slower speed, a sharp T-Max 100 negative in MF will blow you away.
  4. Hi.

    I have never met an Ilford film I liked; I am admittedly something akin to an oddball. I
    find T Max 100 to be what I was looking for when I switched from digital to film
    capture. It's like driving a Porsche: if it crashes, it is likely due to user error.

  5. B+W: Tri-X and Plux-X. Classic.

    Color: All the fashion guys are shooting Portra NC, either 160 or 400. I haven't tried it
    yet, but i love the results i see from Steven Meisel, Tony Duran, etc....
  6. I guess this is very personal decision. No matter what I try, I keep coming back to Fuji (NPS, NPC, NPH, Reala) for negative films and Fuji+Kodak for slides. Sometimes I shoot Konica Impressa (50ASA), it's quite good too. I really do not like Portra (in any variation) but other people love it. You have to try and find what you like. Fuji is a good brand to start with (and unlike other unnamed manufacturer (who murdered the wonderfull Supra Royal 200) Fuji seems like they plan to stay in film market for a while (at least)).
  7. FYI, if you don't like the Waist Level Finder you can get a Prism finder for the Hassy.
  8. For color, I would go w/the standard "portrait" emulsions in 400 ASA (NPH, Portra NC, etc.) to compensate for the slower lenses. Have you tried Reala in 120? I understand it's different from the 35mm version (more muted). How big do you mean when you say "large prints?"

    For B&W, I like Agfa APX 400 in medium format, even though I don't care for it in 35mm (where I like APX 100 a lot). I think any of the traditional B&W films (Tri-X, HP5, etc.) work fine for portraits, as their grain becomes less of a factor in medium format.
  9. Fuji NPS (color neg) I like the flesh tones

    Fuji Neopan 100 Acros (B&W w/wide latitude) I love this film, and for long exposures
    it cant be beat

    Iford Pan F 50 (B&W) Just try it! make a HUGE print, I love my DSLR but when I look at
    some of the prints from my MF/Pan F combo I start to wonder.....

    Ilford XP2 (B&W) I can get the negs back in an hour and they scan well

    I shoot mostly mono but I must admit there is something really special about the
    vibrant color of slides when you view them on a light box (Velvia)
  10. Like said above, for the most part just continue shooting what you do in 35mm. Although, if you have never tried HP5+, now is definitely the time to do it...its amazing in 120 format. I think it has a more gradual tonal gradation than Tri-X, even in 35mm, but when you couple that with medium formats ability to make tones more gradual...real nice. Mind you, Tri-X aint no slouch either, just HP5+ takes it an extra notch. If I had to put words to the difference....Tri-X is crystal clean....HP5+ is smoooooth ;o)

    The only other advice i might give is dont hesitate to try Kodak's Portra 800 in 120. Its amazing what a larger negative does for ISO 800 color negative film (developed in a good lab).
  11. The best people film's,in my ever so humble opinion,and in no particular order:Fuji NPS160,Portra NC160,Fuji NPH,Portra NC400.As far as blowing up these films,the 160's have a slight edge over the 400's,but really with medium format films,grain isnt much of an issue.Just be carefull with exposure,over or under can increase grain.Higher contrast films such as NPC,VC & UC Portras are okay for some subjects,but people aint one of them.(In fact the Portra VC family are pretty ugly films for most subjects).
  12. As the others say, it's a very personal choice. One thing is that films available from the major manufacturers in medium format are all professional films capable of excellent results. Some even say in 35mm it is best to avoid films that aren't also available in medium format, with a few notable exceptions like Kodachrome.

    Another thing you might observe is that films that you don't like for one reason or another in 35mm become more attractive in medium and large format. If you think Tri-X is too grainy in 35mm, for instance, you might decide that in 645 the grain isn't too much of a problem, and its tonality becomes more interesting. If you like very saturated color slide films in 35mm, you might find them to be overkill in medium format and might choose a more neutral film for 645, or you might just want to take advantage of that extra-extra-saturation and go with it.
  13. Shoot the same films as you did in 35 mm: you know how to use them and thus you'll save money. Note that the 120 Reala is different from Superia Reala. I kinda like Portra 160 NC for portraits.
  14. Patrick, I shoot Portra 160VC in both 35mm and MF, but in MF you will barely see any difference against 400VC unless you really blow it up *huge*. T400CN is *amazing* in MF, as the film already has a broader and smoother tonal range than any conventional b&w and in MF you get even more to work with.

    I guess though that a big part of the choice depends on how you're getting from film to print. I turn everything over to a local pro lab with whom I have a long-standing relationship and great communication. While I am equipped to scan MF (I've a Polaroid 45)I choose not to because I'd rather be shooting than scanning and Photoshopping, and plus the lab has a high-end drum scanner that no home scanner I cold afford can compete with. So if you're planning to do your own scanning you might consider getting drum scans for large blowups at least. And talk to people who are digitally literate (I am not and hope never to need to be)as to which films scan better. I was told that neg film is better because it captures more tonal range, others may have different advice. It works for me because the mechanical shutters in my Hasselblads are a little iffy for slide flim. The C645 is electronically timed so you have the option of shooting trannies also, if that gets you better prints in the end.
  15. Some great input here - thank you so much!

    Observations: I do like the high contrast/saturation of 160VC, but perhaps with the Zeiss glass and MF it will become 'too' much. We'll see. There is always the NCs, from both Fuji and Kodak. Gotta try some slower film as well to experience it first hand. :)

    I'll definitely give good ol' HP5+ a try again. I never got to like it too much in 35mm, mostly shot with Leica M, perhaps because I couldn't get the hang of scanning it either. Cannot really remember, haven't used it in a long time.

    I plan to use two local pro labs for all dev and printing, Black & White in Arlington for mono, and Chrome in Georgetown for color. Gotta love the first one - they simply don't do color or digital :) They deserve my business.

    Digital is over for me. Tried a DSLR for 7 months, couldn't stand all the post-processing, backing up, workflow etc. I'm sure I'll go back to it again in a generation or two, but for now this C645 will be my main gear for the people & places I shot.

    Kudos amigos!
  16. Patrick,

    Congrats on the camera. I usually use hp5+ or fp4 because I find them easy to develop, they react well with pushing, and give me the contrast and the grain that I like, however, if you are scanning, you might want to try out xp2 super. People that I have talked to say that this film scans very well and comes out grainless (of course) but still renders the tones of something like hp5.
  17. If you really want a great film for B&W and plan to use a tripod for the most part, then my vote is for Ilford Pan F. Rate it at 50 and process it in Ilfosol at 1:9. The resolution is fantastic and you will find it scans well too! I use it almost exclusively. When I need a little more speed, I use the Delta 100, also from Ilford. Good luck!
  18. Call me another Illford XP2 and Pan-F fan.
  19. by the way, I just shot my first 5 rolls of Kodak Porta 400 BW and I think I quite like it. Does that exist in 120/220 and has anyone tried it?
  20. Pat, my interest is in B&W conventional emulsions. Use XP2 Super in situations involving window light or a long scale. Tri-X and FP-4+ cover most situations. No one has mentioned the role of film developers. You can use Rodinal or FG-7 with FP-4. Both developers make sharp images with good tonality if you nail developing times for your setup. XTOL gives options as one can dilute up to 1:3 which results in sharp images.
  21. Portra 400 BW (for printing on C41 paper):


    400 CN (for printing on B&W paper)--now discontinued, I believe:

  22. Peter, I'm going to bombard you with useful info on this set-up and make you dump all that digital gear forever!:)

    Now I got to find a mint used 140/2.8 to go with it -- anyone got one to sell?
  23. Patrick,

    DSLR purchase several months ago has not been the best of experiences for me either.

    Wonder what moved you to choose the Contax 645 over other 645 format cameras?

    Best regards
  24. Fuji Reala.

    By the way, how much time did you spend with the waist-level finder before deciding you don't like it? To me, composing on the wait level finder, looking AT a picture rather than THROUGH a hole in the camera is the most exciting aspect of MF photography. I tend to get much better compositions this way! (I used Hasselblad the past 15 years and sold the prism about 14 years ago. Never regretted it.)
  25. I saw a lot of recomendations for B&W, so I reread you question to make sure you were looking for color films--I'll limit the comments accordingly.

    For studio portraits, most of what I do indoors and which are mainly head shots, I use Portra 160NC in an RZ. I don't know if it's habit or I just don't want to fix something that isn't broken. Someday I suppose I'll get results I don't like, and I'll change.

    If it's fashion or product related, I may switch to VC if it isn't going to be scanned and photoshopped. I'd rather stay with what I usually do and change the balance if needed.

    If it's outdoors, I use VC. It's usually fashion related and I like a little more saturation. I don't hesitate to move up to 400 so I can hand hold a P645N.

    I agree that you give up very little when to move up to 400. I also feel that any difference between VC and NC is not as important as staying with what you know.

    If I were you, I'd keep shooting the 160VC until I needed the speed or something needed fixing.
  26. Patrick,

    Great Camera isn't it!!

    I use Kodak 160NC for people prints, 160VC for nature prints and E100GX for slide. Ilford FP4 is great for B&W, HP5 if you need speed and/or grain.

    The lens.....try to get a 120 Macro if you do not have one already, great for portrait work as well!

  27. NC for portraits, Reala for sunny days, Delta for B&W; I'm over HP5+. You
    might try some printing on the new Agfa Prestige paper.
  28. Oh and try Portra 400 UC, it's very good in medium format, with clearly more saturation than the VC portras (if you like a bit of saturation and contrast...)
  29. Patrick,

    I shoot mostly b/w children protraits with Kodak Tri-x 320 and Ilford HP5+, developed in DD-X. I still print the traditional way so I don't know about scanning this film but others do.

    The 140 2.8 is a great lens for portraits, as is the 120mm macro. Check KEH's website because these lenses appear frequently. Getting your screen treated by Bill Maxwell (Maxwell Pres. Optics) is also a good investment, really brightens the image when focusing with the slower (f4) Contax lenses.
  30. Paul et al, some questions up here on why I went down the C645 route vs. Hasselblad or other 645 systems. Rationale:
    • Yes, I did try the Hasselblad, but neither the WLF nor the PME appealed to me very much. Also, if I ever want a WLF one can buy one for the Contax.
    • The C645 has AF, even if it is not the fastest one in town.
    • One can mount pretty much all Hasselblad/Zeiss glass via an adapter on this machine - great flexibility
    • Modern and fast shutterspeed and metering options
    • Price: the H1 system is way too expensive, the Mamiya is not significantly cheaper
    • I tried the Mamiya 645 AF/D and it does not handle as well in my hands, it is significantly heavier and much noiser. Overall a less modular and flexible system.
    • One can also use the C645 glass on a Contax 35mm camera like the N1 via adapter. Not that I think I will but again, it offers flexiblity.
    I'm not planning to build a huge system, only the 80mm, the 140/2.8, perhaps the 120/4 macro and a WA if I win the lottery/fall crazy in love with it. The Contax with its superlative glass just fits the bill. And I really dig the VF Luminous landscape has a a nice C645 review and I share a lot of the findings. I hope that explains some of the steps in my decision-making process.
  31. Congrats Patrick... welcome to the wonderful world of Contax 645.
  32. Thanks Marc. It is in no small part your fault! ;-)

    Well, turns out the seller is throwing in 40+ rolls of film so I guess I'm covered for a little while.

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