Shooting medium format with film today

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by raymondc, Dec 15, 2016.

  1. Yup one of those questions. I do enjoy the slower planned style of photography, I shoot a dSLR off a tripod at the golden hour maybe with grad filters and as I do with my Nikon film bodies. I have now got into medium format film cameras and they are such a bargain.
    The different style of photography or the analog look that is a bit different. Put that aside. From a general or commercial point of view, Imacon and drum scanners are probably out of the reach of most people and probably including the medium format dedicated scanners as well like the former Coolscan 8000/9000 and the current Plusteks retailing $2k+. So most people may be using a flatbed scanner or get them scanned economically at their lab. Maybe for big clients, big shoots and upmarket projects and inhouse services. For nowadays in terms of detail how does that stand with medium format film cameras for most people? Well I guess in the past, the common wedding photographer who shot medium format film probably didn't use a dedicated scanner for every print right. TA.
  2. You can get a new 50 MP back for a 2xx or 5xx Hasselblad, or an Hasselblad X1 body for 1/3rd the cost of a new Imacon X25, or half that of an Imacon X1 scanner. From my own experience, even an aging 16 MP Hasselblad back is superior to color film from the same camera.
    If $9K seems steep, it is the same or less than the cost of 400 rolls of film and commercial processing (without prints). I've done my time with film. It's time to move on.
  3. david_henderson


    the common wedding photographer who shot medium format film probably didn't use a dedicated scanner for every print right. TA.​
    No, of course not. They'd have used neg film and in all probability a specialist rapid process and print package at a local lab, though some may have done the darkroom stuff themselves. Either way, no scanner necessary. Then when the client had chosen their pictures, they were almost always printed again. And when the opportunity came along to switch to cameras that didn't require servicing; didn't require film; and didn't require processing and printing of any image that the customer hadn't already decided to buy, they left MF film in droves, & effectively paid themselves for post processing rather than labs for process & print.
  4. @Edward, I agree with what you say. Nowadays if we take a common hobbyist many/most might spend <$300 per year on film expenses. :)
  5. I own MF & LF cameras and darkroom gear. I'm sure it will be fun to use that stuff someday (again), but I'd do so silver prints in mind. - If those turn out great enough to end somewhere online, I'd simply use my digital cameras to reproduce prints or negs. I proudly don't own anything inkjet anymore.
    In the past I got bearable 8x10"s from pushed film in my 6x6s. I wouldn't use those cameras for a pre-press or online publishing workflow anymore because the world I know went cheap: People want files to display on their HD TVs and might color laser SRA3s or A4s. Digital seems good enough for that.
    Resolution? - My biggest cameras are 5x7"; assuming a 1200ppi flatbed scan, I'd expect 50MP or 29MP from the 4x5".
  6. I shoot digital on vacations, at holiday and family affairs and turn them into slide shows with music, menus, narration, etc. and show them on my 4K UHDTV and give DVD xopies to others for them to play. In addition, I shoot MF film, usually landscapes, when I'm in the mood to slow down and just enjoy the process. I have a lab develop but then scan with a flatbed Epson V600. I'm not really printing currently so the scanner is good enough for the web on FLickr or on the 4K TV. You can see samples of both 35mm and 120MF here.
    Just do what you enjoy as a hobbyist.
  7. This quote from Alan pretty well sums it up:
    "Just do what you enjoy as a hobbyist."

    If you look at things in a purely practical manner, I simply see no need for film. Digital is simply SO good now, and a much better "fit" into the world today, that I said good-bye to my MF film gear years ago, including my Nikon 9000 scanner with glass carriers. I have found something to be true, or at least as far as I have seen so far, and that is this: All previous PRO photographers who spent half their life shooting film in the past have grasped digital with joy and glee. It seems to be only newer photographers or hobbyists who want to use film for the novelty of it. I, personally, use film in a pinhole and other "lomo" camera bodies purely for fun and the "artistic" look I can get from them, but that is a totally different world of photography aesthetic. When talking "proper" photography where quality and integration into current uses is considered, digital has it all over film.

    For film now, I would say using "The Darkroom" gives you the best bang for the buck. You can get very large scans, and quality is good. Scanning at home can get very old, very quickly. Also, however, the cost of film, postage, processing, and scans can get old quickly. As one other poster alluded to, eventually you reach a point with film costs that high quality digital is not as costly as it initially seems.
  8. Even with digital, medium format photography is a relatively contemplative form of photography. My Hasselblad is a very manual camera, regardless of the image medium. The size, weight and slow operation gives you time to think about what you are shooting, and why. For nearly ten years, my vacation photos were taken with that Hasselblad and CFV16 back, with a tripod, care to minimize vibration, and usually with a hand-held spot/incident meter.
    I have years of film, scanned with a Nikon LS-8000 (4000 ppi) for comparison. Although 16 MP seems small by modern standards, the CFV images are 4080x4080 pixels, which is comparable to 24 MP in a small format camera, not counting the size advantage, color and bit depth. For me, reverting to film would be a substantial expense and reduction in quality. I'm not sure the nostalgia factor is worth it.
  9. If I had a darkroom, I would probably still be interested in MF black and white, as this remains a route to an alternative process, and the results are excellent and controllable by you. But if you want to take color and/or have no darkroom and you want to make prints or show online: then the expense, hassle and poor quality of most affordable scans just makes it a non-starter in my book. Good MF scanners are rare and even then offer nothing to a good 20+ MP FF 35mm digital system. Do it for the fun of it, but do not expect a quality improvement, unless you are printing your own in a darkroom: even then it is debatable whether the quality will be better or simply different. Different, though, is sometimes good.
  10. Scanner technology is stagnant. When did you last see anything added to affordable, civilian film scanners that actually improved image quality? Look into DSLR scanning of 120 film materials.Many labs no longer offer scan service apart from pricey drum scans. DSLR scans offer speed and the ability to nail focus. Flatbeds? Not so much.
  11. Most amateur types assume that digital is the only way forward and really put the screws to film. And it is not uncommon for them to make blanket statements about pros like Steve Parrott (irony?) did in saying "All previous PRO photographers who spent half their life shooting film in the past have grasped digital with joy and glee."

    So here is the reality of it from this full time pro, me....

    I did not grasp digital with joy and glee, it took decades of use of it for me to feel it was even up to par with the entire cradle to grave creative vision of using film. I happen to own and use a great CFV50c back for my Hasselblad system and a dozen film backs, both sets are equally important. Furthermore, there has been a steady niche resurgence in the use of film among pros, some color neg but mostly black and white. I don't shoot a lot of color film but do have several projects going on it and use a Nikon 9000ED to scan it.
    I like digital a fair bit, but it does not nor will ever hold a candle to the full experience, the freedom and the creative credit line of my making of fine silver prints in a darkroom. This is why I have invested around $75K into it thus far and my wife and I have taken over a year to find the right home to purchase so that I will have the room to fully realize this next chapter of my career. The home we are about to go under contract on is costing us at least $200K more than average because of the expansive work areas it will allow me in doing darkroom work in 35mm, 120 and 4x5 formats making prints up to 40x50 in size, that is how important this is to both of us.

    So shoot film if you want, shoot digital if you want. But please don't go down the pointless rabbit hole of which is better because all that matters is passion, vision and talent...not what it was done on.

    My passion, vision and talent is best realized in using black and white film and printing it in my darkroom, no digital technology will ever change that.
    najja_foluke likes this.
  12. @Daniel. I am starting to think if b/w should be for film least it looks a bit different. I don't have a darkroom, the best I have is a flatbed scanner. I did buy a Coolscan 4000 once time second hand, scanned about 10 rolls and it broke, it was bought off a pro so maybe been used a lot. Now it turns on, doesn't get recognised by my comptuer including Windows XP. Have bought a new firewire cable to no avail and tried on a 2nd computer. When it is attached to the computer the lights turns off.
    So for film - what now. Apart from say projection cos a slide projector still looks better than our 1080 TV.
  13. Look into DSLR scanning of 120 film materials

    IMO dont do so, DSLR use Bayer sensors, Scanners not

  14. I got hold of a 6x6 slide projector. But how likely are we to get our home equipped like a movie theater where a screen has no bumps and happens to be entirely inside the narrow DOF and focal plane of a projector? Most screens I have seen don't permit a controlled forward tilt but almost all projectors have feet that permit rising their front end.
    How to enjoy image resolution when it isn't in focus?
    How long and how much money will it take you to get the 100+x keepers that make projection worth it together? And how are you going to integrate your DSLR harvest into the narration?
    I prefer my 4K screen over projection by my seasoned consumer means.
  15. So here is the reality of it from this full time pro, me....

    Just curious, Daniel, about what % of your money shots posted to your site are film?

  16. To me the workflow of shooting film and then
    scanning it into a digital file is simply crazy, not to
    mention slow and inefficient.
    If you want to shoot film, then get a darkroom as
    well, or less creatively, find a decent processor and
    printer (good luck with that at any affordable cost BTW).
    I agree that, sadly, the only way to get a good B&W print is to use a darkroom. I disagree that 35mm film has any place in the world today. Medium format is the very minimum needed for quality prints that stand comparison with a directly-shot digital image. And then only if wet printed.
  17. I have about $5,000 worth of Sony A7s and m-mount lenses, but for an upcoming trip to Norway, I'm seriously considering taking just a Plaubel Proshift with an adapted 6x7 back. I got hooked on slide film and Gepe holders many years back with a Mamiya 645, and last year, started doing 6x6 with a Fuji GF670. Maybe 10% or 20% of my shots are worth putting into Gepes, and with these, and a small home-made lightbox with a goose-neck magnifying glass, and the strongest reading glasses I can find, the results are stunning. And if I need to digitize something, I have an Epson V700 (and trial and error has determined that Gepe's with anti-Newton glass perched on Canadian two-dollar coins provides the correct focus distance).
    I just recently learned about b&w slide processing, but it may be too expensive me to send over the border.
    I took the Sony on a recent trip, and a Sigma Merrill DP1 on trips before that, but found that I spent a LOT of time manipulating files with Nik Collection and Topaz Labs. Plus, I'm a Nervous Nelly about losing digital files.
    I also bring a small Fuji W3 stereo camera wherever I go, since in order to see if the digital file is any good, I'm forced to convert it to analogue 4x6 prints (2, of course) and view it under a stereo-scope. It seems to be the best of both worlds (digital and analogue), but it doesn't work well for shots of distant objects (not enough parallax).
    I went on my first ever non-film holiday last year (with the Sony and the W3 to Quebec City). I had some decent prints made, but it just wasn't the same. Perhaps I should have got one of those photo books made, which provide more than just a passing nod to posterity.
    In the meantime, I just hope that E6 processing doesn't disappear.
    On a recent trip to Cuba, I brought the Sony (with a single wide angle lens) and the GF670 (with its medium lens). Subject matter then dictated which (digital or analogue) I tended to use. But also I found the viewfinder and ergonomics on the GF670 was much more user-friendly when I wanted to get a quick shot in hot, humid weather.
  18. C Watson wrote:
    Just curious, Daniel, about what % of your money shots posted to your site are film?
    That was a good question so I checked. On my publicly visible page bearing my namesake ( 90% of my work is PW protected ) it is 27 images on film out of the 60 on the slideshow loop. I expect that to increase a fair bit in the coming years.

    Rodeo Joe wrote:
    I disagree that 35mm film has any place in the world today.
    Oh, better not tell my editors that or better yet, Danny Wilcox Frazier of the agency Seven who shoots almost exclusively Tri-X in his M6......Pretty amazing what kind of blinders people insist on wearing...
  19. "..who shoots almost exclusively Tri-X..." - well, if
    you're that indiscriminating of image quality.
  20. "..who shoots almost exclusively Tri-X..." - well, if you're that indiscriminating of image quality.​
    If I understand you correctly, you are trying to be entirely scientific about what you opine as "image quality". But you do realize that casts a blanket of insult upon the thousands who choose to use this particular medium in 35mm format for a desired outcome and or experience, right? It also shows a blatant disregard for those art directors, photo editors and gallery curators who otherwise find well seen and executed works in 35mm film to be held in high regard and worth their time.

    Is that your goal here, to assert that only science matters in photography and not the passion or art behind it as well? Because with no work to show, a stage name on this site and this type of statement....what value does anything you have to say even have?
  21. There's nothing like Tri-X. Distinctive mid contrast and sharpness and a film for a variety of subjects. Tri-X may be the film that keeps the alive in film being alive. Tri-X=Beautiful film.
  22. Hi,
    I recently went back to shooting medium format (6x6 & 6x7). I was a wedding photographer who shot 6x6 and did scan every negative with a Coolscan 9000, then went digital. Not having shot 120 film for years I've discovered most of the new emulsions are fantastic. I usually find myself sticking with ISO 400 B&W or color negative so I can shoot at 1/1000 & 1/500 and hand hold most of my shots. (I hate tripods). I sold my Coolscan 9000 after hearing from Nikon that they no longer had parts to repair it (last repair was $300+) and replaced it with a Epson V850 for MF and a Plustek 8200i for 35mm. They do a good enough job for me. I can't afford a Hasselblad (my first choice) so I went with several Bronica camera. I love the older Nikon optics.
    I created an album with only images taken since this past Fall and will keep adding to it. The photos are not contest winners, most only test shots with various lenses or bodies. My free time is limited so it is coming along slowly.
    120 film is very alive. For me it has a magical feeling every time my shutter goes clunk.
    Hope your enjoying yours...and Happy Holidays!
  23. Daniel,
    You criticized people who
    make blanket statements​
    - but then in the same post you go and make a blanket statement yourself:
    because all that matters is passion, vision and talent...not what it was done on.​
    I have seen and heard this sentiment very often, and it is always from photographers who work in technically undemanding domains. They'll say: give me a Minox, a Holga, an M6, a Hasselblad, an EOS DLSR, a 5x7 view camera: the technology doesn't matter, I'll give you a great photograph from it!
    Unfortunately, no amount of "passion, vision and talent" can coax photons to register detections at a high efficiency, suppress thermal noise, or eliminate off-axis aberrations without stopping down. "What it was done on" is the making or breaking of many types of photograph. For example, I can refer you to spectacular astro-photos which are so technically demanding that they could only have been executed with the equipment that they were executed with - that one camera, that one lens; nothing else has the necessary spectral response and light grasp.
    Now it also required "passion, vision and talent" on the photographer's part to scout the remote location, be there at the right time, patiently polar-align the equipment, find the composition, nail the focus, judge the camera/lens settings, monitor for dewing in the freezing cold, take the dark and flatfield calibrations, and skilfully process it all at the end.
    But none of that would be enough without getting the "what it was done on" choices right.
  24. Trent Parke still shoots a lot of 35mm as well as medium format. Of course, his 35mm images are all rubbish, because they are 35mm. ;) I wonder why he bothers with it.
  25. I only play with film for the look, I know the resolution
    isn't there. Gritty 35mm Tri-X, Velvia/Provia/Ektachrome
    colors (the main reason I shoot film), and that super
    clean TMY-2 look are why I keep a few film cameras
  26. I really think that someone could make some money by releasing Instax backs for the 645 systems (Pentax, Mamiya, Hasselblad, Bronica, Contax - I don't think Fuji made a 645 reflex).
  27. I really think that someone could make some money by releasing Instax backs for the 645 systems (Pentax, Mamiya, Hasselblad, Bronica, Contax​
    I'm curious, Karim - what would an Instax back give you, that the regular Polaroid backs for these cameras doesn't?
    - I don't think Fuji made a 645 reflex).​
    Well, sort of. They co-produced the Hasselblad H1, and released a version of it as the Fujifilm GX645AF.
  28. Interesting thread. I grew up with film, tried digital for a while, but now shoot exclusively with film again (mostly MF and 4x5).
    I am fortunate enough to have a darkroom at home. I process all my film (b&w, E6 and C41) myself and print b&w and color neg. optically.
    I would print colour reversal film if only Cibachrome was still available. I love the manual aspect of all this, but I'm a hobbyist, not a
    commercial photographer and maybe that's the deciding factor here for many, as much as artistic considerations or ultimate resolution.
  29. I'm curious, Karim - what would an Instax back give you, that the regular Polaroid backs for these cameras doesn't?​

    Regular Polaroid backs, AFAIK, use large film sheets, most of which are wasted. The Instax Mini format is only slightly large than a 645 frame, so there is hardly any waste. Instant film is never cheap, but Instax Mini is cheaper than FP-100C.
  30. I agree with C Watson regarding scanning. I have an Epson 4990, which is the immediate predecessor to the V7xx series. It's a solid good scanner, but these days about the only time it gets used is when I scan medium format stuff.
    But I dupe all my 35mm stuff now with a Sony NEX 7 (I don't use a DSLR) and a 55mm f/2.8 Nikon Micro-Nikkor. Yes, I still shoot film. Quite a bit, actually. Anyway, the NEX's 24.3 mp sensor provides me with 4000 x 6000 image files and that 55mm Nikkor is so dang sharp that it takes full advantage of the sensor's resolution. This performance is high enough to extract just about all the information there is in a 35mm slide or negative. I would like to begin using my rig with medium format film as well, but I'll need to cobble together some sort of setup for it.
    I'm not a pro, so I don't have any of the concerns that they do, but I still do some freelance work now and again. And I find that a medium format film setup is often all I need. Most recently, I did a bridal shoot with my Bronica ETRSi and I developed the film, so the turn-around time was quick. There's a good pro lab here that I can use for quality prints, but she wanted digital files. So I just scanned the negatives on my 4990. The bride-to-be loved it.
    I've always loved medium format, but I was never able to afford a good system. I made do with a couple of TLRs and a folder or two. Until all the pros dumped their MF gear and moved to digital, sending MF prices plummeting. So, not having the concerns the pros have, I took advantage of all the cheap prices, and have now put together two very nice MF outfits -- the aforementioned ETRSi with a set of lenses, grip, flash, and TTL flash module, and a Pentax 67 outfit with a small collection of lenses.
    The pros can have their super expensive digital gear. I understand their reasons and I owe them a debt of thanks for dumping all their quality MF gear. I'm loving getting to use these great film outfits and producing simply stunning images. The variety of film emulsions available today may not be what it once was, but the emulsions that we have are the best they've ever been. So it behooves me to use as much as I can and enjoy using it for as long as I can and hope that it doesn't go away.
  31. This film vs digital stuff drives me nuts…

    First off, full disclosure. I shoot mostly film when it matters. Pretty much exclusively. I’ve been shooting since I was a kid, most of the pictures of me from back in elementary school have me wearing a Kodak Starflash around my neck, and it was a new camera back then a long time ago. This means I’m pretty well set in my ways, plus that I have enough experience to make rational decisions about the ways I want to pursue. I’ve also spent some time making money with a camera. Weddings, portraiture, sports (mostly motor sports), selling landscape prints, etc. I had a nice computer career going though and never wanted to drop that to pursue photography full time, preferring to keep it a serious hobby.

    That’s all just to let you know where I come from.

    Like I said, I shoot film. However, I don’t mind people shooting digital. Most of my photographer friends used to shoot film but now prefer digital. A couple who are fine art photographers with plenty of large and medium format film experience have said that they miss some of the qualities of those formats, but they really just like the convenience of digital and are willing to put up with its limitations in exchange for not having to deal with films different limitations. That’s cool, they produce lovely photographs with their DSLR’s. Really lovely in fact, and from an artistic sense I consider them both to be better photographers than myself, and I try to learn from them whenever I can.

    I personally prefer film for a number of reasons, reasons which really don’t matter at all as far as this discussion is concerned. What does matter is the pompous attitude that I hear from so many who want to proclaim that digital is “better”. Hmm… better… big word that. Really big in fact. Better, with no qualifiers, pretty much means just that. Better in all ways, no matter what, it’s just BETTER!

    We’re talking art here people.

    Who are any of us to proclaim to a fellow artist that our way is better, and they are less of an artist, and are wrong, because of the medium they choose to work in? Should Rembrandt have been told he was wrong, because pencils allowed higher resolution? I know a few painters and I’ve never heard a whiff of this kind of attitude from them. They each work in whatever medium they like and enjoy the work of fellow artists that choose to work in different mediums. I don’t think they’d ever dream of telling a fellow artist that they are wrong to choose the medium they use.

    I don’t understand. What is it about photography that causes so many of its practitioners to need to run down the methods used by their fellow photographers? And what has caused so many to feel that all that matters in photography is cold hard resolution?

    Marketing I’m sure plays a part. The camera manufacturers have touted pretty much nothing but resolution since digital cameras hit the stores, it’s the only way they can keep selling new cameras year after year.

    Maybe its fear of being wrong? Or a blind attachment to new technology? I don’t know but whenever I read something with the “if it isn’t digital it’s wrong” attitude it just comes across as ignorant of what photography is, where it came from, and what it can be.

    Shoot what and how, and in whatever medium and format you want. Create your art in your way, and do yourself a favor. Quit with the quasi religious proselytizing. It got old a long time ago.
  32. This film vs digital stuff drives me nuts…​
    I don't see this thread as an argumentative "X vs Y" discussion. Everyone explained their own preferences and experience. If I say that I used drive a VW, but I drive a Ford now because it has more luggage space and a more responsive engine, that does not mean that I am giving vent to a verbal Ford vs VW deathmatch. I still miss some things about that VW :)
    What does matter is the pompous attitude that I hear from so many who want to proclaim that digital is “better”.
    Quit with the quasi religious proselytizing.​
    I honestly didn't see any of that going on in this thread, Ed. Maybe Rodeo Joe did, a little, but his was more of a "big slow film beats small fast film" argument rather than anything about digital.
    The camera manufacturers have touted pretty much nothing but resolution since digital cameras hit the stores, it’s the only way they can keep selling new cameras year after year.​
    Now this, we can have a factual assessment of. The resolution/megapixel war really faded away 7 or 8 years ago. Since then, virtually everything new on the market has been between 12 and 24 MP. You have a few 36 and 50 mp models, but not many.
    What's actually been "touted" on digital cameras in recent years are qualities other than resolution - dynamic range, high-ISO performance, HD/4K video, mirrorless designs, touchscreens, wireless stuff...
  33. Ray, thank you for your calm, considered, response. It made me go back and reread the entire thread to see what you may have missed.
    I couldn’t find anything.
    Seems it was me. Overall upon rereading the whole thing, I have to say this thread is more pro film than digital, and not nearly as confrontational as my mind perceived it the first time through. Being the thoughtful introspective sort that I am I find this very interesting. The only real negative comments I could find were, as you mentioned, from Rodeo. I can only guess that he caught me in a bit of a mood and set me off.
    So a big apology to all, this wasn’t really the thread for me to vent in.
    My question at the end of my post however stands. Probably a discussion for a different thread, but I really do wonder what it is about photography that sets it apart from the other pictorial art forms and causes the divisive attitude I’ve seen in many other places.
  34. Who could argue against a properly exposed 6x7 transparency, through great glass, in sweet light, scanned with a Heidelberg Tango Scanner at 600MB, printed on Fuji Crystal Archive Super Gloss 30x40, via Lightjet? If you insist on shooting Medium Format film today and you haven't experienced this formula, you need to see the possibilities. Cost? Expensive, but who shoots 10 frames of anything in any medium worthy of a 30x40? Who even prints 30x40? But that's the point. Medium format film Photography is about capturing that highly worthy frame that if technically inline, will print and show off tonality in a very special way that is so tasteful, so attractive, it is to justify the point and the point of the thread IMO. But you really have to have your ducks in a row to do this and accept some inconvenience and be dedicated to slowing down.
  35. Don which lab do you recommend?
  36. West%20Coast%20Imaging.webarchive

    Alan, That's West Coast Imaging in Oakhurst California.
    West Coast Imaging has the Heidelberg Tango Scanner, they also have a Chromira Lightjet Printer.

    Moebius Digital One in San Diego also has a Lightjet Printer, although I don't think they have the Tango scanner.

    I'm so not surprised you responded, as I've seen your work and its right inline for these services.
  37. No problem, Ed - glad to see that on reviewing the evidence, you came to a different conclusion.
    You hadn't targeted anyone in particular, so I didn't think an apology was warranted, but it was big of you to do that as well.

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