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05-14-2014, 09:40 AM   #1
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Medium Format Novice

I've been wanting to take the plunge into medium format for awhile and finally just did it. Picked up a 645 and a A 75mm lens for $290, loaded batteries last night and everything seems to be working. Found a manual on-line and been reading it, and picked up some 220 film (came with a 220 film holder) and am going to brave trying to load it tonight (heard this can be a challenge first time).
Anyway, been a long time since I shot film, and never medium format. Wanted to know if there is anything (i.e. quirks of camera, shooting medium format, etc) I should know about going in, any advice getting started. I mainly shoot outdoors, landscapes, architecture, and people (never done any studio photography so I'm mainly an available-light kinda guy, sometimes using on-camera flash for fill light when my subject is backlit. Love to hear from some of you experienced hands.

Last edited by jrpower10; 05-14-2014 at 10:12 AM.
05-14-2014, 03:06 PM   #2
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Welcome to medium format film photography. This thread is currently covering similar ground:

You may want to consider getting a 120 film insert, the film is probably easier to get hold of/process and it has a full length backing paper to protect it against scratching (220 only has the backing paper at each end). Fuji 'Easy Loading' films have a 'peg' within the slot of the spool and a hole on the backing paper which helps secure it to the take-up spool when loading. Loading may seem daunting at first, but once you've 'got' it, it quickly becomes second nature.

Other than that, until you're comfortable, take your time when loading and keep everything as simple as possible so you can concentrate on the different camera handling and workflow.

05-14-2014, 05:59 PM   #3
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You can also convert the 220 back to a 120 back in about 30 seconds if you can't find a proper 120 back.
I would also recommend 120 film over 220 film just because of greater availability. And if you are going to do any home developing the short emulsion is easier to work with.
05-15-2014, 01:41 PM   #4
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Thanks for the advice. Ordered a 120 insert. The 220 came with the camera but I understand the film availability issue. I did load the 220 insert last night. Not as difficult as I had read. Pretty straight forward actually. One question ,thoug, about the 645 meter. My K5 pretty consistently underexposes between a half and a full stop so I keep positive exposure compensation dialed in unless I'm really worried about highlights. Does the 645 meter act the same, i.e. err on hte side of protecting highlights? Hate to shoot a roll of film to find out.

05-15-2014, 03:41 PM   #5
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A mean average-weighting meter will not explicitly act to "protect highlights", but read right across the scene and aim for a balance. It's a bit of a one-trick pony though and not a patch on multi-pattern/evaluative/matrix meters that for so long have populated the technology of the 35mm realm. Keep in mind that the majority of films available to us today do not particularly enjoy exposure in bright daylight sun which is where many photographers strike serious trouble with metering. If you must shoot in those conditions, use a separate hand-held spot meter.

To check the accuracy of your 645, load it with transparency film, at box speed. There is very little give with transparency, and exposure errors will be glaringly obvious (not so much at 0.3 stops as at 0.5 stops). Bracket exposures and take notes so you can make informed comparisons on the lightbox. Negative film has too much latitude to reliably inform about a meter's accuracy.
05-19-2014, 06:41 PM   #6
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Are you shooting transparency or negative film? If you are shooting negative, there's no need to protect highlight and you can get away with overexposing by a lot. Especially if you shoot Portra or 400H films.
With this films, what you need to worry is exposing for shadows so you get details there. If you underexpose shadows, you will get nothing. It's opposite of digital.
05-19-2014, 07:33 PM   #7
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Ahh, OK. Thanks Nuff. First rolls are negative film. I might switch later. Been a long time since I shot any film (15 years) so I'm sure I'll botch up a few shots while re-learning.
Thanks to everyone for the feedback. If I get anything worth sharing I'll do so.
05-19-2014, 08:11 PM   #8
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The basic rule I follow for negative film is: meter for shadows, let the highlights fall where they need to.
But to get my exposures I use external incident and spot meter. So I can get the exposure right every single time, transparency or negative film.

05-21-2014, 06:25 AM   #9
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Here's another question. Reading the manual indicates I sould be able to see exposure info (i.e. shutter speed when I'm in A mode) thru the viewfinder in the bottom right corner. I'm not seeing anything. Other than hte batteries in the grip, is there another battery which might need replacing that would power the viewfinder LCD? Would this indicate a bigger problem with the light meter? I shot a couple of frames, one wide open at f2.8 and one stopped down to f22 and could tell no discernible difference in shutter speed from listening, but then again I don't have a calibrated ear.

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