Which medium format camera should I buy?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by emily_jayne_griffin, May 30, 2010.

  1. Hi :]
    I'm a documentary/fine art student, about to enter the final year of my degree. I'm dedicating my final year project to making a photographic documentary of the Illegal Rave scene in the UK. I will be photographing raves and doing location and portraiture work.
    My personal tutor suggested I use a medium format camera, particularly a Rolliflex twin lens reflex, which I felt was a little out of my price range.
    I was just wondering what medium format camera you would all suggest? My project will feature a lot of work in unpredictable situations where there is little to no light, but I will also be using the camera to create location and portraiture shots. I also need to bare in mind that I will not be able to use a tripod in the environment in which I will be shooting. I also want the camera to create really colourfull and interesting, unique photographs, but I do not want to use a Diana or Holga.
    Does anyone have any suggestions for me? Im looking for any information on cameras and any accessories you think I may need for this project, and any film that would be good for my project.
    If you need anymore info just ask me :]
  2. Obviously you want a fast lens. I think the Mamiya 645 cameras have an 80mm/f1.9 and might be within your price range. Contax also has a fast 80mm lens, but the Contax is way out of your price range. Fast lenses for medium format are few and far between, unless you consider f2.8 to be fast.
  3. The Bronica ETRS (or ETRSi if you want mirror-lockup) is an excellent camera. Get one with the speed grip and the AE Prism II. They even have one with a motor wind, but that might not be the best thing for you. I bought one in 1996 for $1300 complete with body, back, TTL prism, and 75mm lens. Now you can get the same thing for $300.
  4. Why medium format and not 35mm?
  5. Um...illegal rave scene? Are you a time traveler from 1995? Anyway, I think you might have been given bad advice on the camera. 35mm handles low light better and is a lot less conspicuous at a gathering like that.
  6. Thankyou for your responses :] I'll give them all some research.
    I have been doing some experimentations for the project in digital and found that shakes and blurs were inevitable whether I used a tripod or not because of the vibrations of the bass. I also found using a tripod in such a fast paced environment limiting. I don't mind the slight shakes and blurs though as it added to the slightly pyscadelic feel to illegal raves.
    I'm also concerned about focusing in such a dark environment. On a digital camera I can use the auto focus, however on a medium format camera I'll have to manually focus it, which I may find difficult when it is so dark??
  7. I think my tutor suggested medium format as the negatives are much better for printing and enlarging?? But at the end of the day, if I felt 35mm would be best for this project, it's my decision :] What would you all suggest? Im really confused about the whole thing! I would love to use film in some way if possible though, rather than digital.
    The illegal rave scene is still massive in the UK, but is very underground. I did a small project on it just before christmas and my tutors loved it because it introduced them to something that they didn't even know existed anymore!! :]
  8. What's a "Rave Scene?"
    Low light, no tripod and descrete operation argue against medium format. If you don't get the scene on film, it doesn't matter how easy the negatives are to print. At best, medium format will produce less grain, but grain may actually enhance the secretive nature of your endeavor.
    Will you need to pawn your gear to make bail?
  9. I used Bronicas in my business for several years. Also 35mm. I have a full array of Canon digital now. Get a full frame or even a 1.6 crop digital camera used, either Nikon of Canon. Full frame high ISO performance is way beyond what the Bronica would do. The best I could do at a wedding was 800 ISO and you could see grain in enlargements. My full frame does well at 1600 and passes at 3200 ISO. I had my own dark room and could push process B&W but when you push it gets grainier. I also have done newspaper work. I would not use MF for this assignment. My digital printing is:

    -quite high quality
    -retouches much more easily
    -produces a more flexible output
    -you don't have to sweat in a hot darkroom and spend hours making prints.
    -saves more marginal prints

    I have some very nice MF prints made from both transparencies and negatives. It just takes much more work to get them processed than digital and unless you are going very large the human eye cannot tell the difference from two feet even on an 18x24 print

    If you want to cut your workload go to digital. Even an older body. The quality is in the talent and knowledge of the photographer not in the equipment. BTW my Bronicas made wonderful pictures but they were a lot of work or money in processing and printing the film.
  10. While out of your price range a full frame DSLR is the way to go as you can shoot at ISO 3200 or even 6400 and (with care) get great quality. I think you will find film too limitng unless you want to shoot high ISO B&W and live with a lot of grain. Something like a Canon 5DII or Nikon D700 with a fast lens like a 50 F1.4 will probably be the best option but still very expensive. You should be fine with one of these DSLRs as you can shoot ISO 3200 and F1.4 which allows you to get 1/60 at a light value of 2. Even if the bass vibrations mean you have to use 1/125 you still can shoot in EV3 at these settings. By contrast a Mamiya 645 with ISO 800 film and an F1.9 lens at 1/125 needs EV6. In terms of quality for large prints I find that my 5DII is about the same as a Nikon 9000 scanned Velvia 50 slide from a Mamiya 645. If you compare the Mamiya on ISO 400 print film and the 5DII at ISO 3200 the Canon wins. Don't get me wrong I own lots of film cameras, use them and love them but a good full frame DSLR with fast 50mm or 35mm lens is the way to go for discreet shooting in very low light. The DSLR will also allow you to experiment with settings and get instant feedback.
    You can see plenty of quality test with film vs DSLR but these days a good DSLR will beat 35mm film and produce results on a par with 645 format. At the moment my Fuji GX680 (6x8) scans still beat a DSLR at low ISO.
    This is a crop of a pair of hockey shorts taken with a 5DII in low light at ISO 3200. The image has not been processed and the shorts are 0.76% of the total image. On my screen they display 6 inches across which means that this is like looking at a section of a five feet wide print! This is why you see lots of DSLRs at sports events but why a large format camera still wins for outdoor fine art from a tripod!
    I wonder if your tutor has tried to use an MF camera (or DSLR) handheld in very low light! By the way you can always rent a body if you cannot afford to buy.
  11. Sorry I posted the wrong crop - the above is an EOS 7D which is not a great low light camera. Here is the 5DII
  12. when I worked previously documenting illegal raves I used an entry level canon digital SLR.
    You can see my photos here :
    This may give you a better idea of my subject matter and environment in which I am shooting. My tutor suggested a film camera as he said there is more weighting in the bottom of the camera making it easier to shoot on a long exposure with no tripod and hold the camera steady?
    I am so confused at the moment about whether to shoot on medium format, 35mm or digital?! I really want to convey strong colour but also be able to capture my subject clearly. I just do not no what to do!!!
  13. I don`t know why your tutor adviced you to use MF, it certainly has its advantages related to image quality but ask for a technique and shooting style that looks to me against your purposes. Better for enlarging? Better for handholding? I`d say it doesn`t. His suggestion (Rollei) makes sense, as a light photojournalistic tool designed to be used hand held... but to focus with a waist level finder into that dark "rave" scenarios could be a nightmare, thought.
    If you want color and low light settings, definitely my choice would be a DSLR. Color film at high ISO is ugly to my liking.
    Maybe I`d use a SLR or even a MF with highly pushed b&w film, looking for that special look, but I suspect it`s not what you`re looking for.
    Medium format will provide more detail and better tone gradation, at the expense of spontaneity, speed, comfort... and other technical issues. If you can manage it, that`s ok but I suspect you want speed, to go unnoticed, etc.
  14. I just can not envision use of a MF 12/16 shot roll film camera to shoot a fast paced club type event. Since it's a an illegal Rave, the less obtrusive you can be the better.
    My first preference would a DSLR with a crop sensor, not FF. Reasoning is that the smaller sensor would give a wider DOF than a larger sensor. This may help the number of keeper shots where the lens is wide open for low light shots and focus is more critical. Probably use primes, something like a 28, 35, and a 50 or 85mm with an aperature of around f/1.4-f/1.8. Wider lens would be less susceptible to shake and any longer FL in low light with slow shutter speeds might be difficult without a tripod. With a good lens the AF in most DSLR's built today is pretty good in low light, but as an aid, some flashes can emit an "IR" pattern that can be used to aid AF in low light without having the actual flash operate. A DSLR will allow better options for metering and focus point selection. Shoot in RAW so some tweaking can be done later if the exposure is off a bit. Where you might use a tripod, instead just brace your camera holding hand/arm against a pole, a wall, or other structure to get stability for a shot.
    Second option would be the DSLR above with an additional 35mm film body loaded with high ISO B&W film so you'll have the feel of real film. it can also serve as a backup for the DSLR.
    Third option if it has to be film would be two 35mm camera bodies, preferably with AF, one for a high ISO color film and second one for a high ISO B&W film. Same lens pick as above.
  15. Emily---
    In documentary photography, the subject matter weight more than the technical aspect of photography. I can't see your flickr but I'll advise you that you don't have to rule out flash and blurs. Flash, like second curtain sync and shake/blurs can help you show (e)motion of your subjects or/and ambient party scene.
    Secondly, I like digital over film because I can keep track of what I shot and see if I captured what I wanted: big advantage over film...ask any PJ or Doc photographer. Instant ISO changes, don't know about others but I love it. Sudden lighting changes, no problem.
    Lastly, your tutor's suggestion is no good. No one can handhold a camera (large and heavy or light and small) a long exposure. Use a VR/IS lens if the subject isn't moving, of course. It will help a little...maybe 2 or 3 stops when you can lucky.
    There other forums here on Pnet that might get more viewers than this medium format forum. Try the Street and Documentary forum. Canon/nikon are also good if you decide to go with one of those...
  16. Emily, This kind of photography is the domain of 35mm (or dslr's of that style) particularily a crf such as the Leica (fast light and high speed lenses) If that is beyond your means, then digital may be the answer. Considering the low light and the need to maintain quality, I recommend that the camera be attached to a Leica table top tripod with small ballhead.
    With this setup, you can use much slower shutter speeds than without support.Two legs are spread across your chest with the downward leg of the tripod in the centre. The ballhead allows for vertical orientation if needed. You maintain unlimited mobility.
    Really enjoyed the pictures. Bought back memories; I was actually born at the Hackney Hospital in London.
    Good luck with your project.
  17. As everyone else said, MF is a bad idea. The cameras are heavier/clunkier then 35mm and slower to operate. Walking around an environment such as the one you plan on going to with a MF camera will be hard from the weight of the lenses and camera. Not to mention the rolls and rolls of film you will need.
    Digital would be a good choice. It allows instant preview, you can change stuff in photoshop, the cameras are a bit chunky but not so bad, they perform well in low light...
    However I would go with a 35mm film camera, my first choice being a Leica rangefinder (probably out of your price range) or second, an SLR. Something cheap and light with fast prime lenses would be good. Cheap is good because you don't want to worry about your camera getting broken while you are running around in the dark. Light is good because you can be more mobile or even carry 2 bodies.
    Being a Pentax guy, I would get 2 MZ series bodies. Something like the MZ-5. Its autofocus and cheap. Stick high speed colour film in one and high speed B+W in the other as mentioned above. Get some fast AF prime lenses, something like a 35 or 50 for the up close people type shots. Maybe an old wide angle zoom for the more scenery type shots. You can add a long lens like a 85 too for portraits. That should be a small and perfectly workable kit that you can carry for a long time without getting tired.
  18. Emily the advantage of a DSLR is that you can shoot at higher ISO than with film. A high ISo allows a faster shutter speed than a lower ISO so you need atripod less. With a fast lens and a good DSLR you should not have any issues with this type of light. While a film camera may be a cheaper option you will find that colour films above ISO 400 are pretty low quality for large prints (they will work fine for small web and print shots).
    If you cannot afford a good DSLR (or to rent one) then get a film camera with a fast lens (at least F2) and buy 800 ISO film.
  19. Also agreed, your tutor gave you bad advice. An entry level Canon or Nikon DSLR will outperform a medium format film camera when it comes to low ISO performance and will still provide excellent quality for print reproduction.
  20. If it must be medium format and handheld, the Pentax 6x7 is the easiest to hand hold, and should be among the lower priced choices. It does sound like 35mm film would be a better choice. Unless you need unusually large prints, a film like tri-x will give you excellent results. The advantage of 35mm is ease of hand holding, much lighter, less expensive, and considerable savings on the film over 120. And the lenses available are both faster and less costly. I would suggest a Nikon FM2 or FM3, probably with an 85mm lens.
  21. I am also in the 35mm/Digital camp here. If it must be MF, I'd suggest a Mamiya 7II. As a rangefinder, you can hand hold slow speeds and I would humbly submit that the 7 is the easiest MF to hand hold and travel with. Either way, stopping action will be difficult without ISO 6400 and extremely fast lenses. Enjoy!
  22. Emily, I have a Rolleiflex TLR which I use and love but it's the last camera I own that I would take on an assignment like yours. Size, difficult to focus in poor light, (relatively) slow lens, 12 shots before having to change film - I could go on, but believe me it's the wrong camera for this. Portraits and landscapes, yes.
    I don't even think that MF is right for the type of project you're undertaking - a 35mm-sized camera, whether film or digital - would be much more practical. And auto focus would be a huge help in the environment you'll be operating in.
    I'd choose my Bessa R3A Rangefinder with the 1.4 lens if I was using film, but would have to get high speed film in colour or b&w and accept there was going to be a lot of colour shift, grain and a fair few failures.
    But what I'd probably do is take my m4/3 Panasonic digital which is relatively small, put it on auto everything, and go for it! It has the EVF (electronic view finder) so I wouldn't have to be trying to frame and focus using the screen on the back of the camera. I'd set it to capture the images in both RAW and JPEG so I could judiciously edit and adjust the final images. And I wouldn't have to stop to change film halfway through some action.
    Now, I don't know what your budget is. There are a lot of quite inexpensive film SLR's around due to people switching to digital, and there are SO many choices in digital across a huge price range that it's hard to advise you further. Many people will put forward suggestions based on their own particular favourites or foibles but we photographers tend to get a bit myopic when it comes to equipment choices, so sift the advice carefully. I personally can't cope with viewing a screen on the back of a camera, and I don't like the weight and bulk of a DSLR which is why I waited until the GF1 came out, but that might not be within your reach.
    The other thing you might want to consider is whether you want to use a zoom lens or a fixed focal length lens.
    The Rolleiflex is fixed at the MF equivalent of a 50mm lens on 35 mm. My choice in a crowded party scene would be a much wider angle lens. Most digital P&S cameras start at 35mm equivalent and my feeling is that this would not be wide enough. Try something with 28mm equivalent or even my favourite 25mm - the vibration and movement around you would make anything longer than a 50mm lens problematic and the wider the lens the less problem you'll have with focus. If you saw something happening a little distance away, move to the spot rather than try to use a telephoto lens. Likely as not in a crowd people would get in the way of a clear shot if you tried to take it at a distance.
    Now most zooms except the huge and expansive ones, have apertures that are two stops smaller than prime lenses and it gets worse as you extend the zoom range until you're likely to be trying to shoot in dim light at f5.6 when f1.5 should be more like what you'll need.
    So in the final wrap up, I'd suggest having a look at the Panasonic GF1 or the Olympus EP2. They're relatively new on the market but both offer an EVF, they're both cameras you could keep and use for many years in all sorts of situations and there's a reasonably good range of lenses available, although Olympus have a better range of wide angle zooms that might be a good choice for you.
    If that's way outside your budget then I'd be having to decide between a compact, unobtrusive, digital p&s with as many good features as I could afford, or a second hand DSLR and a suitable lens or lenses - a couple should be enough.
  23. Many years I have used 35mm SLR and DSLR. In last four years I have been using Pentax 67 and 67II medium format camera and two prime lenses including 55mm and 45mm. I just love it. The dynamic range of medium format film is still nonparallel. Pentax 6X7 format SLR is very easy to use, just like 35mm SLR camera. Many readers will surely agree with me. You may try this out.
  24. Since you will have a limited number of days shooting this project, rent a good DSLR for your shooting days. For low light, a Nikon D3s would be a good choice with a 24-70 f/2.8 VR. Make sure you carry full insurance on the camera/lens package.
    Another option would be shoot the whole thing in black and white, use ISO 3200 film or push Tri-X three stops and embrace the grain - this is an "underground" rave is it not? Gritty and grimey may be the way to go... or not.
    You may not be able to use a tripod, but what about a monopod?
  25. Having reviewed the photos you took previously on Flikr I would say, forget B&W - you need the colour and mono would just get too drab on its own. And I'd support the use of a DSLR digital or Micro 4/3rds digital + EVF with auto focus and the best zoom you can afford or a couple of fast prime lenses - but better if you don't have to change lenses - you might drop one or the dust might get onto your sensor.
    I think my choice would be an Olympus EP2 with their 11-22 / f2.8-3.5 Zuiko WA zoom, or better still their 14-35 / f2 Standard zoom. If you can afford it. That combination would be a kit that will serve you well for many years' photography in all sorts of situations and if it's a bit of a stretch now, consider calling up family and relative favours and mortgaging your birthday and Christmas present for a couple of years and get them to club together to get it for you.
  26. I don't normally recommend a Mamiya 6/7 because they're expensive and not for everyone. However, for the OP's stated purpose--stealthily taking photos in low light--they're almost perfect. The 6 is very compact and light, and easy to focus in low light. This is an example of Ilford Delta Pro 3200 shot at 1600. If color and/or a longer roll is needed, Portra 800 in 220 length could easily be pushed a stop.
  27. Dear Emily,
    I currently have several Rolleiflex. They are good for street and also fine art, but not perfectly suitable for wide-angle object. in other words, they are not a system camera. Hassy make this job better but you'd get only 6x6 but pay your $ more than you'd expect as a student. There is an alternative!
    last year, I sold my hassy for a Summicron 90f2.0. hoping that Leica M will be my better system on a travel. That is my wrong idea! and it was not the end of my purchase. Not until have I found the independable Mamiya Super23, I did stop my landsape gear. What you mostly need on quick travel for fine art photography is NOT a SLR system, but the rangefinder or viewcamera or even a good MF folder. In reality, f1,4-f2,8 shall not provide you a good landscape. Therefore, no need to consider SLR for your scheme. You'd better consider leaf shutter which'd render vibration free between 1/8 - 1/60 while MF SLR can not deal with this shortcoming. You may only need a monopod at your evening scenic.
    Mamiya Super23 or the Press system has its 100f2,8 as its best normal lenses and 50f6,3 Biogon clone of extrawide. (24mm eqiv to 135 mm perhaps) It had a freshnel ground glass for your better composing, plus a shift-and-tilt swing back which helps you make your fine art more pleasable. The system shall not cost you much $.
    For many year of my photography, I switch myself from SLR to carry a leaf shutter camera (if not of my bw works with M3). It is the leaf shutter- the same craftmanship you'd find in large format. After I end this thread, I will walk across the street to bring my newcoming 65f6,3 after sending it a week for overhaul. The 6x9 will be my next choice instead of 6x6 of the great Rollei.
    Happy shooting!
  28. If you want a lightweight MF camera which won't break the bank then I'd suggest you look out for a Yashica 124 TLR. Alternatively, you could try to find something like an old Ilford Sporti 6 - this was a rangefinder camera and easier to handle than a TLR - or something similar.
  29. if i was going to cover such an event, i would take two olympus trip 35 cameras, a couple of small flashguns, and Maybe my fuji gw690iii [only eight 6x9cm negs on a roll of 120, though!] - i would leave the hasselblad at home. the last thing i'd consider taking would be an old, twin-lens reflex [rollei, or otherwise!] - as you don't yet have a m/f-camera, i'd second the mamiya 6/7; certainly over the pentax 67. if you don't want to use flash, forget everything but an old, 35mm slr - or rangefinder - with At Least a f/1.4 lens! good luck! http://www.flickr.com/photos/j12t/
  30. For the shooting at rave stuff a MF film camera would probably be the worst choice .
    I am assuming you really wish to get into the gritty side of your subject and I am assuming also that there are a lot of people dancing and it is moderately dark .
    You really don't want to be changing MF film and film backs in those conditions ,you don't get that many shots on a roll so you will also have to carry a lot of film and a few film backs and unless you are very very familiar with your camera you will wast a lot of film and that gets very expensive.
    If you must use film get a 35mm with the fastest lens you can afford
    Better still use digital ( Hey I am a film user but digital has its place and this is one )
    On the other hand some shots taken with a 6x6 hasselblad or bronica would look fantastic
  31. It may be because of my humble experience with film, but still it seems to me that low light work should be done almost only via digital. Prefferably fullframe. An exception must be really long exposure work because digital sensors tend to get hot and stuff. If someone would tell me to do a documental low light work with my 6X6cm I would call him a sadist. Film mostly shines when used in calm circumstances when time is not of an essence. As others said- fine art, landscape and portrait work. The Nikon D3s on the other hand allows high frame rates, fast AF and quite usable ISO 12800 plus it shows right away if the exposure or focus had gone wrong. In addition you can have ultra fast fixed lenses and reasonably fast zooms from 14-200mm. The flash work also is more fluent and easy.
    My advise would be to go and try various systems before the d-day cometh. Maybe I am wrong and the is light for the MF in a dark dancehall.
  32. Awww thanks everyone for your responses! Their all really helpful, and have definately given me a lot to think about. I have from now until next april to work on this project, but these events only happen on saturday nights so it does limit me slightly.
    I already have an old 35mm found in my Grampy's attic, its a Pentax MV1. Could I look at getting a fast lens for that camera and take that and my DSLR and experiment with both, until I decide which works best for me?
    Or just look into getting a decent, fast, wide angled lens for my DSLR?
  33. Emily, there is a photographer I like a lot, Alberto Garcìa-Alix, that used to work under a "similar environment" at the eighties, using amongst others, medium format cameras (I have seen him with a Hasselblad) and b&w film materials.

    His exhibitions are wonderful, the ones I have visited shown silver based prints of outstanding quality. Not in vain, he is a spanish national award in photography.
    Sadly, I don`t find a dedicated website, nor a good web gallery with all that work; the most I can offer are this two videos and another recopilation page with a mix of his well-known softest photos, but there isn`t all that outstanding work that show the darkest side (which is certainly very dark). Drugs, alcohol, dangerous night life, etc.
    BTW, despite of the look he sometimes likes to offer, he is a very, very nice guy.
    Video 1, video 2, recopilation page. If you`re patient enough maybe you could find some inspiration on him. Check that his style is definitely more paused, more "feeded" than "candid". The use of bigger cameras ask for it.
  34. Hi Emily,
    Definitely the best camera for these kind of subjects is the Nikon D700 imo. I don't know your budget but this performs best in high ISO and might be affordable 2nd hand. That, combined with a fast short lens.
    BTW, I am a film shooter too, using Mamiya 6. A great camera for these subjects but lenses are not fast. With a high sensitive 220 film it will work great. But it's also a bit expensive.
  35. Illegal rave?
    Have you considered using an infrared flash with IR film? Read about it somewhere…I think it was linked on some forum to a page on Google Books, to a magazine, where Weegee gave a few tips on how he got his photos.
    Turns out he used an IR flash (emits a barely-visible blink of light) with IR film — he could make photos in a cinema during a movie.
    I'd use that along with a leaf shutter (flash sync at all speeds) rangefinder (light & small) or, if your flash is bright enough, a scale focus camera like a Rollei 35 (also leaf shutter). The Rollei 35's literally small enough to hide in your hand or slip in a small pocket, so if everything goes wrong, drop the flash, hide the camera and run for it.
    Alternatively bring a really bright (normal) flash to temporarily distract subjects if you get chased…
    I would definitely not recommend going to an illegal event with a camera much bigger than your hand.
  36. Suggesting the use of a Rolleiflex might be your tutor's way of challenging you.
    I'm all for it, Emily. Limiting yourself to all of the "disadvantages" of a TLR should make you think a little more about what you can and cannot accomplish with photography in a given situation.
    Personally, I'd love to take my 3.5E Planar R'flex to a rave. Some Tri-X ( @ 400 and pushed to 1600 in Accufine, chrome film for cross-processing and a Sunpak 333 on a long spiral pc cord stuck in my pocket and I'm good to go. I'd concentrate on getting intimate portraits of candy-flippers , the dj unloading his/her gear in a dark alley, over-the-head crown shots,..... you get the point.
    If you succeed, you can probably do well on a reportage of a busy hospital's trauma center with a pinhole camera.
    Get some inspiration from the book Bande à part : New York Underground 60’s 70’s 80's
  37. The Pentax MV-1 is automatic exposure all the time. Meaning, there is no manual exposure control. Now you can fake it out by setting the ASA (ISO) to compensate, but even a seasoned pro can get confused by doing this. I mention this because in AUTO exposure mode your camera is going to get fooled by all the dark areas in night shots......and end up overexposing the image. Some may argue with me on this....but i personally wouldn't want to shoot night scenes with a totally automatic camera. I could do it....but I wouldn't want to have to.
    The medium format suggestion from your tutor was probably so you could get extreme enlargements from the pics.....that's just a guess. As others have stated, it is not the best choice in todays world. A DSLR is....and in my opinion, a full frame DSLR would be the best choice. Most of the latest generation full frame DSLRs match or come very close to Medium Format quality. Albiet, they are not cheap.
    The next best would be a 35mm film slr.....as exhaustively stated above.
    Then would come Medium Format. Which variety? As someone else stated, the Mamiya 645 (probably the Pro TL) with the 80mm f/1.9 would be ideal. However, one does not live by one lens alone, so you would have to choose lenses that had a max ap of f/2.8 to stay in the low light arena. Regardless of focal length. Unless, of course, you push all your film....which you will probably be doing even with f/2.8. But, luckily, Medium Format film pushed still looks great (compared to 35mm film pushed).....unless of course, you really really like grain......so, even a f/3.5 lens would work with pushed film.....I would not go with a slower lens than that though. Pushed B&W is pretty cheap these days....most labs don't even charge for the push.....but color pushed is a whole other story. The grain gets huge, the colors shift, and labs tend to charge extra for a color push (if they do it at all).
    Would I use the Mamiya 645 in a rave situation?.....yep.....kinda done it at a small club rock scene. Changing the film all the time was a pain in the ass tho.....and I had film inserts.....just plop the exposed insert out and plop the new one in....sounds easy, but under pressure to get back to shooting.....Murphy's Law sets in and nothing goes right. BUT, it was still better than having to reload film into a non insert or non changeble back MF cam....like a TLR.
  38. Save your money. Your Canon shots on Flikr look just fine (quality wise). Maybe get a fast prime lens like the inexpensive 50mm/f1.8. MF film will have too many practical drawbacks for this kind of shooting. Capturing the right moment is more important than slight improvements in print quality. Go for more close-in facial expression portraits than landscapes.
  39. If your funds cannot run to a Rolleiflex tlr, then there are clear problems in buying some of the suggested cameras/lenses. I don't think I'd use medium format as a primary format for this purpose anyway.
    There are some fine 35mm film cameras out there at very reasonable prices.
    I would go for a Nikon F90x - a very good one at no more than £100. A standard 50mm f1.8 af lens for £70. Where circumstances permitted, an SB28 flash at £70.
    Some fast black and white and colour film, and good results just about guaranteed.
  40. My project is split into three parts:
    a dissertation exploring how subcultures and minorities have been represented and portrayed within documentary photography.
    A negotiated study exploring and experimenting with the best possible ways to capture raves. So exploring with different types of cameras will be important, however, I do not want to invest in a medium format camera if it will not aloow me to produce a series of succesful shots. I am however, interested in experimenting with 35mm if this will be more successful? If anyone could recommend a 35mm camera that would be good for my project that would be much appreciated. I will also be using my digital SLR. I am going to be experimenting with moving image aswel and making a small video documentary for pure experimentation.
    My final major project will be exploring rave culture with the medium I found worked best during the exploratory stage. So this part of the project will not only feature shots from the raves themselves, but also interviews and portraits of people who go and organise the parties and location shots of where raves happen, accompanied with the news paper report. My final piece is likely to be a book and a series of prints for exhibition.
    Sooo, to sum up, experimenting with 35mm and digital seem the way to go...so...any advice on 35mm cameras??
    All this help is much appreciated!!
  41. I've just given my advice on a 35mm film camera, but I'd be interested to read the views of other members. Mine was based on "horses for courses", top quality equipment, and high value for money.
  42. Hi, Emily! As someone who regularly shoots on the London club scene, I can tell you that shooting medium format in that
    environment...well, that way madness lies! But it can be done.

    I once attempted it with a Fuji 6x9 rangefinder with a flash in the hot shoe, when I started thinking I was pretty good.
    Disaster. I have had better success using a Mamiya TLR and two other techniques:

    (1) I used a 65 mm lens and a flash on a Stroboframe bracket. The wider lens also gave me a bit extra depth of field. I set
    the lens to focus on about six feet, and then depended on being the right distance away when I fired. I got some decent
    stuff that way.

    (2) I've also had success bolting a monolight up high somewhere and using one of those cheap Hong Kong radio
    transmitters off eBay to trigger it. Lights up the whole place, and if you drag the shutter (use a slow shutter speed) you can
    catch some of the effects lighting.

    Get on Facebook/Flickr and look up Robin Bharaj. He has done some amazing work documenting London grime raves
    using a Hasselblad, a hand-held flash, and shooting Provia 100. He's a wizard - I'd never dare to try such a thing - and
    he's a very nice fellow. I'm sure he could offer you lots of practical advice.
  43. Thanks very much! I'll def check him out and drop him an email maybe! :]
  44. Emily -

    Based on what you've described, you'll need a 35mm rangefinder camera. I agree with others in recommending a Leica M rangefinder camera, but there are cheaper alternatives such as the Zeiss Ikon M-mount rangefinder and the Voigtlander Bessa M-mount rangefinders. You could get more than acceptable results using one of the M-mount rangefinders and Voigtlander lenses (The latest versions in Leica screw and M mounts). I personally like the Zeiss M-mount lenses (virtually all of which are made at the same Cosina factory as the current Voigtlander cameras and lenses, but under stringent Zeiss quality control), but they will also be expensive.

    Alternatively, as a much cheaper route, may I suggest acquiring a Contax G2 or G1 (which has been modified to use the 35mm Biogon) autofocus rangefinder camera? You wouldn't go wrong with either one, especially if you acquire a kit that would include a 50mm Planar and a 28mm Biogon. The 28mm Biogon has long been one of my favorite lenses. Here's some recent work I did last month which included using a Contax electronic flash:

    Anyway, I do wish you much luck.

  45. Emily - you might help by indicating just how much cash you have available. What you have said so far suggests not too much. Some suggestions for equipment may be well out of your price range, especially in the UK. My suggestion had cash limits but quality equipment much in mind.
  46. Emily, as mentioned by so many here, about the best MF camera for you would be something like the Mamiya 6 or 7, given the close-in, shoot from the hip style required for this project. I shoot MF, and for this type of shooting, a MF camera would be my last choice in this situation.
    Since you do state that funds may limit your choice in gear, (..."Rolleiflex...a little out of my price range"), I wouldn't want to take expensive gear into this environment anyway, and the less gear, the better.
    I think I would approach this first, by looking at affordable lenses suited to this situation, then find a body to work with those lenses, [film or digital]. One fast prime, short and sweet, and then one of the faster zooms in your price range. That's it, (and a flash).
    There are many good used 35mm cameras and lenses on the market now, for bargain prices. And, finding one of those, say in an EOS mount, may be a good path, as you could take most of those lenses forward to an EOS digital body later. I will let those more experienced with [film body to digital body] lens compatibility, to expand on this subject.
    I really wouldn't entertain the thought of bringing anything expensive into this environment, So, if you go the used equipment route, look for full function, but accept a few normally undesired cosmetic issues. The Rave scene, (as I remember it) is hot, fast, and sometimes downright dirty. It could just be that you, and your gear, will be more accepted if it too, looks a bit dirty and battle worn. (Your gear, that is.... not you)!
  47. Great subject matter!
    Well medium format will be difficult but not impossible. A TLR is a poor choice as they are not designed for quick handling or loading. A rangefinder or SLR would be better. 645 would give you more shots and be easier to handle than 6x6 or 6x7.
    A Bronica ETR series SLR with a wide angle lense would be good as you could load up several backs which would make reloading easier. A eye level viewfinder and a speedgrip would make it easily handholdable. http://www.tamron.com/bronica/prod/etrsi.asp
    A Bronica (or Fuji or similar) 645 rangefinder would be lighter and easier to handhold, but maybe pricier and you would not have quick change backs. http://www.tamron.com/bronica/prod/rf645.asp
    Personally I wouldn't use medium format, due to the nature of the locations. I would go with a cheap battered 35mm SLR a 35mm or 28mm and a cheap manual flash. I have often shot at friends house parties with an OM4, 35mm lense and a 3rd party flash. Shooting available light at a rave is going to be tough (judging from your flickr) so I wouldn't reject using flash without trying it. I got pretty good results just from setting the flash to a prefixed distance and ISO and using pre-set focusing. I usually use Black and White film (HP5) and love the results. If it was me I would try out a borrowed medium format kit and a 35mm SLR (with/without flash) and try black and white versus colour. This way you can see what you prefer both in terms of handling and for the finished result.
    Also have a look at Derek Ridgers work shooting the London club scene. I seem to remember that he shot with an Nikon FM2 (?), a wide angle lense and a homemade ringflash.
  48. A simple request about a Rolleiflex has led to every suggestion under the sun. I suggest a Rolleicord. Almost as nice as a flex and one can be had in decent shape with the Xenar lens for a few hundred dollars. They take wonderful photos.
  49. Unless I am mistaken these Rave scenes occur at night under extremely low light conditions. You need a camera that is light with a bright viewfinder and very fast lens and fast film. Since you can not use daylight film your choice is flash or high speed B&W. I'd look at Rock Concert & Jazz photos taken indoors to get an idea of what the photos will look like. If you are shooting film I'd use ISO 400, 1600, or even 3200 (3200 expires exactly on the date indicated...no leeway). If shooting 400 you can go up to 2 stops negative and still get a readable image. You need an f2 lens or even f1.4 (1.5). My recommendation is an inexpensive rangefinder with a manual over ride. If it is very dark with just high lights set the shutter at 60 (maybe 125) (30 if you have a soft release and are comfortable) consider how fast people are moving and adjust for that. Set aperture at f2. The fastest MF is f2.8. That is fairly slow.
  50. As I'm a student, I do have a very limited budget of about £300 maximum.
    So I'm not sure if there is much I can do with my budget to be honest? I do have an old, basic 35mm camera, so may have to settle for simply buying a faster lens for it?
  51. Emily,
    I had assumed that your budget was under £400: many of the suggestions would be miles over your funds. That is why I suggested the Nikon f90x kit. Do a search on the f90x - you will find it is very high quality and for no money.
    The f1.8 50mm af Nikon lens will perform even fully open. The sb28 gun is superb.
    Have a look at Ffordes site and London Camera Exchange.
  52. I've already researched your suggestion and have found a few possible purchases on ebay :] I'm going to email my tutor tomorrow though, just to check it out with him before i buy anything. Just in case! haha! I've searched the Nikon f90x on Flickr too to see an example of the images it produces, and I'm very impressed! Could you suggest a film to me that would allow me to capture vibrant colours? And what film speed would you recommend? I will possibly need to work with two film speeds as I will be working at night with very little to no lighting, but also in broad daylight.
  53. Hmm... Kodak Portra 800 anyone? Colour film, in my opinion, gets very nasty at high sensitivities or when pushed. BW film just gets grainier but colour films lose colour and tend to look downright awful at high ISO's. Portra 800 might be an exception and still it isn't to everyones taste. Looks a bit crossprocessed and colours tend to pop- could be useful in capturing that rave mood You might be striving for. Though the 800 in colour is rather humble compared to the boundries of BW films.
  54. I've had some very good buys on ebay, but there is always the risk.......
    You can often buy from a dealer for little more, and sometimes for less!
    Ffordes, at present, have an F90x at £79; a 50mm f1.8 at £69, and a SB28 at £79. Remember, you usually get a six month guarantee. I haven't checked LCE, but they often have comparable prices.
    Certainly worthwhile consulting your tutor.
    I've had good results from Fuji Superia 400, 800, and 1600. But others will, no doubt, recommend others. I don't usually push it very much.
  55. leica m3 with 2/50mm - $1000.
    medium format is beautiful, but the 35mm r/finder is the tool for the job.
  56. Emily, if you want cheap (but not bad quality) 35mm, Pentax is the way to go. Nikon lenses are expensive and the bodies in my opinion are hard to use. At LCE, there are a multitude of decent autofocus Pentaxes now. How about a MZ-30 for 29 quid!? Or a MZ-5n and 28-80 zoom lens for 55? On the bay, it is likely even cheaper. At that price, you can get 2 bodies, a 50/1.4 (a must have lens), a wide manual zoom like a 24-35 and a longer lens like a 85 or a zoom that covers that range. If you don't mind manual focus then you can get even more cheap lenses. You can also use the lenses on the MV-1 you have :)
    The body is not really important as long as it holds up to the job and it provides the controls you need. I would also opt for a smaller and lighter body (which Pentax is the best at doing) so you don't get tired carrying all the stuff around.
    I don't know how picky you are about lenses but I own a Nikon system and the lenses are sharp and contrasty but they are harsh. My Pentax kit though is also sharp and contrasty but they produce more refined and smooth pictures. Its a personal choice though.
  57. Emily,
    As lots of other people have recommended, a 35mm form factor camera in film or digital is probably a better choice for this project. So far no-one has recommended an older (non Leica) 35mm rangefinder camera. Most of these cameras have a moderate wide angle lens (35mm to 40mm) which would be a good choice for photos in a dark, crowded environment. Canon made several Canonet models with lenses as fast as f1.7. These have somewhat collectible but a working camera should be available for around 70 Pounds in the U.S. (maybe a bit more in the U.K.). Rangefinders are reasonably compact, sturdy, have manual controls, and may be easier to focus in low light than an SLR. The leaf shutter doesn't make much vibration and syncs at any speed if you use flash. You may also be able to pre-focus at about 2 or 3 meters as recommended earlier. Of course you have to shoot film which has some disadvantages compared to newer digital SLRs. Considering the environment, and risks to your equipment, it's another choice to look at.
    Whatever camera you choose, consider carrying a small tabletop tripod. These can be pressed against walls, columns, vehicles, or other objects. If the vibration from the bass speakers isn't too bad they will help with sharp pictures at slower shutter speeds.
    Good luck with your project. The initial images look promising.
  58. Hi Emily,
    Ive tried taking some shots a DnB rave in australia with D70 and SB600 flash. The flash didnt go down well at all. I guess you would know how this feels but I felt like I was intruding with that thing going off all night.
    I own a Rolliecord (cheaper flex) and the f3.5 lense would definately be way too slow.
    I agree with the suggestion of an autofocus slr. The contax G1 or 2 would be awesome but i think a bit out of your price range (and mine). Like other people have said there are heaps of cheap autofocus slrs out there and it might come down to the price of the lenses available. Fast primes, around the 28mm mark would be the go when working in crowds.
    Ive never used colour film over 400 but have pushed HP5 to 1600 quite a bit. You could probably get away with the grain if you didnt go over 8X10.
    Maybe short list a couple of slrs, get on ebay and see what fast prime lenses are available for them.
    Would love to be able to use 'study' as an excuse to go raving (once wore a heart rate monitor to one while studying sports science. Didnt show the tutors the results of that one)
  59. Emily,
    I fear you may be getting confused, rather than helped, and I'm sorry if I've contributed to that.
    All systems and formats have things to be said for and against them. I have several twin lenses reflexes including 2 x Rollei, a Bronica ETRSi system, a Mamiya RBSD kit, film slrs by Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Minolta, Fuji, Yashica and Contax, etc, etc. And yes, I have used them all. There's an old Leica in my armament, plus two or three other rangefinders. I also use a Nikon dslr and a couple of Nikon compacts.
    At the end of the day there is compromise and choice. I based my Nikon suggestion on "horses for courses", quality and value for money. You been told that Nikon cameras are too complicated. They are as complicated or as straight-forward as you choose to use them. If, at 67, I can find my way through, I'm sure you can. Furthermore, I'm sure there will be someone not too far away who would be glad to help you. Also have a look at Thom Hogan's review of the f90x (www.bythom.com/n90.htm).
    My further advice is is this.
    First, if you get any sort of potentially complex camera, make sure you get one of the independent user guides, such as the Magic Lantern one on the F90x (F90s in the USA).
    Second, get a couple of films, say a 400 and 800, and run a trial, keeping a reasonable record of how you used the camera. But don't worry too much at that stage - regard it as the first component of learning and something to be enjoyed rather worry about. If the results are good or better, then you are well on your way. If disappointing, review with someone with experience, and try again. We all make mistakes and learn all the time.
    Third, choose a good processor. There are excellent ones in the UK, but some can be rather expensive. I've usually had very good results from Club 35 even with their basic d&p service, but look specially at their mix'n match scheme when you are exposing in difficult lighting circumstances.
    Good luck!
  60. If you have a digital Rebel already I would get a 50 1.8 for it and and cheap canon film body that will work with it. Or try the 35mm you found in your attic and see how you like film. If you want to try MF, get a Yashica TLR or something similar. It's fun to experiment, but my experience is that it doesn't really matter which camera I'm using, I basically get the same thing out of them all, though the experience while shooting them is quite different. But with your low light requirements you may have a strong preference for one or the other. In black and white film high ISO looks better than color.
  61. Hi Em,
    Some of the suggestions flying around here reveal the masochistic nature of some of us but are at the same time sadistic when offered to others as sage advice. We tend to think our own preferred gear is the only way to do things and I really do question whether some of the contributors have ever experienced the conditions in which you'll be operating, considered your budget constraints, or the wisdom of purchasing a camera type you've never used before, before rushing into print. There are some good suggestions mixed in amongst it all and in the end, I think you should probably follow the suggestion to grab a couple of cameras and/or lenses (beg, borrow, steal) and a couple of rolls of film of the type you might use and just go and experiment in an environment that isn't too far removed from your intended shooting locations. You'll soon see whether colour film suits you better than digital, whether you prefer to work close in with wide angle lenses or a bit further away. And you might start to form an opinion about the relative merits (for this type of shooting) of Medium Format, 35mm SLR or RF and digital SLR.
    It seems you've got a little time to experiment so use it before taking the plunge.
  62. Your tutor is right, for several reasons, not least of which it will be a lot easier for you to 'fit in', be a part of this group, with a 50 year-old TLR in your hand than with a recent-model DSLR that could very well make you appear to be a journalist rather than an art student. With the super-fast ISO films now available, and the ability to crop a 2" square negative creatively, I see no reason why the lack of autofocus alone should turn you against a TLR, say and old Rolleicord, Yashica, or even Seagull (being limited to 12 shots before reloading could be a challenge as well). Remember please that we're a bunch of camera buffs as much as we are photographers, we take almost as much pleasure from owning our favorite gear than we do from choosing an appropriate camera for a given assignment.
    One of the little secrets of medium and large-format cameras is that the larger the negative, the less 'camera shake' is a problem. Simply from the physics of the ratio of the actual movement of the camera lens/film combo to the size of the image projected onto the film. But I'm not suggesting you try this assignment with a 4x5 and a pocket full of Fidelity film holders. There's a trade-off between this effect and the size of camera you can easily hand-hold, and on top of that you avoid the camera shake problems of having a moving mirror assembly if you use the medium-format TLR. If you want the best possible image quality, and the ability to go from a wide-angle to a modest telephoto, all for you budget of L 300, the only way you can do this (IMHO) is with a Mamiya TLR and 2 or 3 lenses. Beautiful camera, takes awesome pictures, you can resell after the assignment for exactly what you paid for it.
  63. I'm on record as being with Jody on this! I think the Mamiya TLR is the way to go, if you're determined to use medium
    format. I know...because I have done it! With good results.

    But the Mamiya has several advantages: (1) the camera and a lens are within the budget, (2) interchangable lenses *and*
    unlike an SLR, there's no mirror issue (blackout at moment of exposure, mirror slap - a problem indeed if you're shooting
    handheld at slow shutter speeds), (3) it will take 220 film, so more exposures without reloading (too bad medium format
    ProZ is no longer easily available in the UK), (4) you really need a wide lens for this and with the TLR you can go wide
    cheaply - the 55 is not very expensive and the 65 can be had for peanuts, and (5) you could throw a prism on it but, even
    easier, zone focus and use the sport finder.

    There are disadvantages, true. But there's no perfect camera for this brief and a Mamiya TLR fills it as good as any and
    far better than most.
  64. Thankyou everyone for the responses and idea's you've given me!! I've now got a massive list of cameras and equipment to research further! I am definately going to do some experiments in a similar environment with my 35mm, just to see how it works before taking it to a rave. I may also do some medium format experiments too, based on my budget. I may even be able to borrow a medium format off someone to do some experiments with before I think about buying one.
    I really appreciate the help you've all given me! Thanks again!! :]
  65. Hi! Very interesting subject! You've got plenty of great suggestions but I would like to add my personal 2 (euro) cents. Depending on your shooting style you maybe looking for an old Canonet QL17 IIIG. It's a rangefinder with a leaf shutter so it's small and discreet (but I guess the latter doesn't really matter). It has a (very good) 40mm f1.7 lens so it should be reasonably suited for low-light environments. Moreover it's well within your budget (~100$). The disadvantages are that (if you acquire one) you may have to send it to a repair shot good CLA (the foam in the back tends to get sticky with age). Also, as all rangefinders, it has a rather large minimum focusing distance (0.8 m) and it has film speeds only up to 800 ASA (you'll have to compensate).
    Some links:
    Good luck!
  66. Hi Emily,

    If I had ONE thing in the world to shoot, which was dark places with no tripods, then digital is what I'd use. Your DSLR will shoot ISO 1600 easily. You can even shoot 3200 with not much loss of quality, given the subject matter. Just run it through Lightroom or Noise Ninja or something and the colour noise disappears very nicely.

    You can buy a Leica or a F90X or a TLR or whatever, but the simple fact is that the best a film camera can do is what the film you put in it can do. 35mm film above 800 is grainy. The colours get a bit washed out. The detail get a bit muddy in the grain. You can fiddle the print and the exposure to get something better out of it but there is only that much you can do. I honestly don't know why your tutor suggested film for the one thing digital clearly does better...?

    You can try a MF camera with 800 film. This will be much better, compared to 35mm but if you buy a cheap MF TLR or MF SLR, you have other issues. For £300 you can get a cheap TLR or MF SLR (other please note, the used market in the UK is nothing like the US. £300 buys you not that much). But the cheap ones have dark viewfinders/waist-level finders. And I mean dark. You won't be able to see a thing in a warehouse. Plus a waist-level-finder in a club will be lit up like a Xmas tree from the reflections. And you will have no way of doing some trickier shots, like holding the 400D high up and randomly shooting. Not just that, but MF cameras in the £300 range are limited at best to f/2.8 lenses. So 800 film and f/2.8 lenses is not good at all for handheld shots in a dark warehouse.

    I assume you have the 400D and 18-55 kit lens (looking at your flickr photos). I'd just add a Sigma 10-20 or something like that. You should be able to find one of them for less than £300 on ebay. Or if you don't want something as wide get a Sigma 20/24/28 (the f/1.8 ones). Or you might as well just use what you have and there is no harm in using flash with a bit of shutter drag. In fact, you might want to spend the money on a 420EX or something like that to give you more power. Gel it with some colour gels on it and you can get some really cool effects.

    You can also buy a Diana F+/Holda and use that in parallel. I shot a party with my DianaF+ and got some groovy shots by keeping the shutter open (you just hold your finger down on the shutter) and firing the flash manually using the test button. Unpredictable and some shots were really cool.

    If you really do want to buy a 35mm film camera in the end, get an AF Canon one. Why? You already have a Canon digital SLR so any lenses you get for the film Canon you can use on the digital one. Besides, the thing with film cameras is that they are all pretty much the same! The film makes the difference. So, if you really must buy a 35mm camera, get a EOS 3 from ebay. I bought one for £67. You get the best AF a film camera (of any brand) can have which is something you need in the dark. You get a tough body and high FPS. Get yourself a used Sigma 24/1.8 or Sigma 28/1.8 and then you have a fast wide lens to play with which you can also use on your 400D as a fast "normal" lens. Or get a 50/1.8. It becomes a fast normal lens on the EOS 3 and a very good short-tele portrait lens on your 400D.

    Just my thoughts. Hope it helps and good luck with your studies. :)

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