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03-10-2017, 11:23 AM   #1
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Medium format...talk me into or out of giving it a whirl.

I follow the medium format picture thread here and after getting the film bodies back out, I'm curious about medium format. I'm constantly seeing articles and posts about medium format being "better" than 35mm, specifically film, for image quality, ability to go bigger with prints, and just having that extra "something" over 35mm. I was considering a 6x7 camera, but even the Pentax 67 models are pretty big before even considering something like a Mamiya RB67. One of the film labs I spoke to recently suggested 645 as a good way to start dabbling with MF and getting a few extra frames per roll to help with the learning curve over the bigger formats. I've never used a range finder in any format, but the Mamiya 6 system looks interesting, but I don't know that I see the point of the 6x6 format when I'd have to crop to do most print sizes anyway. I've been swapping messages with a local guy selling a Mamiya 645 Pro TL system. I wouldn't say I have a niche in any specific style or subject. I point cameras at my children/family, just shot some rolls in Morocco to capture scenery, some on the street, the chaos of the souk, etc. The biggest thing I have on my wall right now is a 16x20. I have plenty of space and room size for bigger.

Anyone willing to give me reasons not to pick up something in the MF arena? I feel like something the size of the RB/RZ67 is too big to take anywhere other than specifically for the purpose of doing a shoot. I usually have a 35mm or two with me at all times in the car. I don't want to have to haul around a studio-worth of equipment for the camera to be usable. I'm sure there are others who went through this who decided one way or the other and I'm interested in feedback. I've never even handled a medium format camera, let alone used one and while most are much cheaper than any FF DSLR, I'd rather not dump money into something that ends up sitting on the shelf in the long run. I'm strictly considering film cameras. I don't have the disposable income or photography business to warrant the expense of a digital MF camera system. I don't earn money with photography. I enjoy it. It's a hobby. Thanks in advance.

03-10-2017, 11:36 AM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by jtkratzer Quote
I follow the medium format picture thread here and after getting the film bodies back out, I'm curious about medium format. I'm constantly seeing articles and posts about medium format being "better" than 35mm, specifically film, for image quality, ability to go bigger with prints, and just having that extra "something" over 35mm. I was considering a 6x7 camera, but even the Pentax 67 models are pretty big before even considering something like a Mamiya RB67. One of the film labs I spoke to recently suggested 645 as a good way to start dabbling with MF and getting a few extra frames per roll to help with the learning curve over the bigger formats. I've never used a range finder in any format, but the Mamiya 6 system looks interesting, but I don't know that I see the point of the 6x6 format when I'd have to crop to do most print sizes anyway. I've been swapping messages with a local guy selling a Mamiya 645 Pro TL system. I wouldn't say I have a niche in any specific style or subject. I point cameras at my children/family, just shot some rolls in Morocco to capture scenery, some on the street, the chaos of the souk, etc. The biggest thing I have on my wall right now is a 16x20. I have plenty of space and room size for bigger.

Anyone willing to give me reasons not to pick up something in the MF arena? I feel like something the size of the RB/RZ67 is too big to take anywhere other than specifically for the purpose of doing a shoot. I usually have a 35mm or two with me at all times in the car. I don't want to have to haul around a studio-worth of equipment for the camera to be usable. I'm sure there are others who went through this who decided one way or the other and I'm interested in feedback. I've never even handled a medium format camera, let alone used one and while most are much cheaper than any FF DSLR, I'd rather not dump money into something that ends up sitting on the shelf in the long run. I'm strictly considering film cameras. I don't have the disposable income or photography business to warrant the expense of a digital MF camera system. I don't earn money with photography. I enjoy it. It's a hobby. Thanks in advance.
RF MF is normally are much smaller aperture lenses. It's much more portable but you can not precise composition due to they aren't like Leica, there was no coupling. However, Mamiya 6, 7 is famous for interchangeable lenses.. If you are okay with slower lens, not too expensive, not entire 67 but 645, there are some portable options made by Fujifilm. Fujifilm GA645zi or GA series are pretty decent. Actually they even have 67 and 69 options (just less automatic).
03-10-2017, 12:51 PM   #3
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Medium format isn't necessarily "better" than 35mm, but it's bigger and there a certain benefits that come with that, as well as certain drawback. With the larger negative you get more enlargement possibilities, but medium format is generally slower and more expensive.

I say you should definitely try it. There are a few points worth considering before choosing a camera system. Overall size being one. Format is another. 645 is a good starting format, and you can generally find the most features in 645 systems.

Are you going to want a waist level finder? If yes, that rules out the Pentax 645 and all the rangefinder type cameras.

Do you want swappable film backs?

Do you want autoexposure or autofocus?

For size and ease of use, you might want to look at one of the less expensive TLRs, like a Yashica 124 or Minolta Autocord.

If you want AF and AE, you should check out the Fujifilm GA645 cameras.

The Pentax 645 is a great camera and very easy to use.
03-10-2017, 12:54 PM   #4
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There's something wonderful about the Rolleiflex TLR.

The 6x6 format lets you worry later about printing horizontal, vertical, or keeping it square. The cameras are pretty much self-contained: you don't worry about needing a bag full of lenses, film backs, or other extras. Stuff a light meter in your pocket, keep a hood on the lens, and extra film in the other pocket. The cameras are also lovely and quiet.

If you go the SLR route, then you have to have a bag with lenses, extra backs, etc. etc. That extra weight takes some of the fun out of it.

03-10-2017, 12:58 PM   #5
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See if you can pick up a folding camera, and try the format for size.
Something like a Kodak Tourist II is cheap for the IQ, and relatively portable.
03-10-2017, 02:23 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Swift1 Quote
If you want AF and AE, you should check out the Fujifilm GA645 cameras.

The Pentax 645 is a great camera and very easy to use.
The Pentax 645 cameras would be very familiar to you, as they are large film SLRs. I think of the Pentax 645 as being about at the size/weight limit that you would want to carry around. But plenty of people also carry around the Pentax 67.

The Fuji GA645i is also very nice, relatively light and easy to carry. It's like a large autofocus point-and-shoot, though it does have the ability to do full manual settings. The weirdest (coolest?) part about this camera, is that when you hold it horizontally, the photos you will be taking will be portrait orientation; you have to turn it 90 degrees to take a landscape shot.

A friend of mine has the Makina 67, which seems pretty compact, though I don't know so much about it.
03-10-2017, 02:30 PM - 1 Like   #7
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I'm also an enthusiast who still dabbles in film. I bought a Mamiya M645 which I discovered in a pawn shop at a giveaway price. I've since spent a small fortune getting it serviced and buying more lenses, but only after having been seduced by the medium format look. The two things I love are the timeless quality of the photos. You look at them and they could have been taken last week or 100 years ago, depending on the subject matter. I also love the gentle fall off in focus. The thin depth of field enables you to isolate your subject but it's not done in a stark or harsh way. The subtle soft fogginess that differentiates the out of focus areas is very appealing. It's the elusive magic of creamy bokeh. Medium format can make what would have otherwise been commonplace snapshot look very arty. The downside is the weight. I haven't been able to work out a way of carrying the kit (55mm, 80mm, 150mm) around for the day without risking injury. Depth of field is a wonderful tool for composition but focusing is challenging. I've lost too many shots because of focus issues and of course there's no chimping. I love it for children and family because you feel like you're making an investment in posterity. The negatives are tangible things which can be filed and protected. Who knows where my digital files will be 20 years from now?

03-10-2017, 02:42 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Swift1 Quote
Medium format isn't necessarily "better" than 35mm, but it's bigger and there a certain benefits that come with that, as well as certain drawback. With the larger negative you get more enlargement possibilities, but medium format is generally slower and more expensive.

I say you should definitely try it. There are a few points worth considering before choosing a camera system. Overall size being one. Format is another. 645 is a good starting format, and you can generally find the most features in 645 systems.

Are you going to want a waist level finder? If yes, that rules out the Pentax 645 and all the rangefinder type cameras.

Do you want swappable film backs?

Do you want autoexposure or autofocus?

For size and ease of use, you might want to look at one of the less expensive TLRs, like a Yashica 124 or Minolta Autocord.

If you want AF and AE, you should check out the Fujifilm GA645 cameras.

The Pentax 645 is a great camera and very easy to use.
I think there is something to be said for a camera that lets me try the format vs a "dream" set up. Something about viewing the world through the waist-level is intriguing, but it's not a requirement. I place more emphasis on image quality over portability. Interchangeable film backs is a definite plus for that ideal set up, but isn't a requirement for my first MF camera. I'm also not dead set on AF or AE. I have and use a light meter regularly for 35mm, more than I use Av or any other auto exposure. I know Mamiya makes an aperture priority and AF version of the 645, but they start to get expensive in a hurry as do their RF variants. I could see myself ending up with several, the same way I have with 35mm bodies, although I could certainly thin that herd out, but those I'd be willing to part with likely aren't worth it to spend the time selling them.

03-10-2017, 02:47 PM - 3 Likes   #9
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if you find a cheap dedicated film scanner for MF go for it or else don't bother.
03-10-2017, 02:48 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by officiousbystander Quote
I'm also an enthusiast who still dabbles in film. I bought a Mamiya M645 which I discovered in a pawn shop at a giveaway price. I've since spent a small fortune getting it serviced and buying more lenses, but only after having been seduced by the medium format look. The two things I love are the timeless quality of the photos. You look at them and they could have been taken last week or 100 years ago, depending on the subject matter. I also love the gentle fall off in focus. The thin depth of field enables you to isolate your subject but it's not done in a stark or harsh way. The subtle soft fogginess that differentiates the out of focus areas is very appealing. It's the elusive magic of creamy bokeh. Medium format can make what would have otherwise been commonplace snapshot look very arty. The downside is the weight. I haven't been able to work out a way of carrying the kit (55mm, 80mm, 150mm) around for the day without risking injury. Depth of field is a wonderful tool for composition but focusing is challenging. I've lost too many shots because of focus issues and of course there's no chimping. I love it for children and family because you feel like you're making an investment in posterity. The negatives are tangible things which can be filed and protected. Who knows where my digital files will be 20 years from now?

Very much why I'm shooting 35mm again. I recently went to Morocco and shot more film than digital. I only brought the K-5iis out for an evening when I needed to bump the ISO way up to get hand-holdable shutter speeds. Speaking of no chimping, the DSLR I'm giving my daughter for her birthday came today. I set it up to not give a review of the shot just taken. After doing that and doing some testing, I found myself still immediately looking at the back of the camera for the image. I don't want her to develop that. I also have a 128MB SD card in it to only hold 22 images in RAW before it's full so we can look at them together without it taking hours. Part the reason I'm not selling my film bodies (ZX-30 and ZX-5 for autofocus, KM and KX for full manual, ME Super and LX for manual and Av mode).

---------- Post added 03-10-17 at 04:49 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by climit Quote
if you find a cheap dedicated film scanner for MF go for it or else don't bother.
I have an Epson V500 NIB upstairs. Had plans to use it for 35mm, but haven't bothered at this point. Pro lab developing, scanning and color/density corrections aren't that expensive and I'd rather spend the time with the family than do post work, at least for now. When the kids are older/gone, likely will give it a go then.
03-10-2017, 02:56 PM   #11
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A Pentax 645n is hard to beat really. The image quality of the 67 is better, but it's a beast of a camera, and the 10 shots per roll limit, makes it a tad pricey to keep up and running. The original Pentax 645 is a little clunky (in a charming way), and it's relatively low cost makes it a decent MF entry level camera (very capable of delivering stunning images as well!). The 645n is a nicer experience, and would be the one I'd recommend. The best thing about MF is the quality of scans you can get from even a basic flatbed scanner. I rarely, if ever, shoot 35mm film anymore.
03-10-2017, 04:14 PM   #12
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After trying several medium format cameras, 6x6 and 645, I'm happy to be sticking with 35mm now.
With medium format the potential for better quality is surely there but you must work hard at it.
I got fewer keepers shooting medium format than with 35mm, and 120 film is more expensive.

I agree, Pentax 645 models offer a larger negative with handling ease not unlike a large 35mm.
If you do take the plunge I'd recommend the 645N or 645NII over the original 645 if you can afford it.

Chris

Last edited by ChrisPlatt; 03-10-2017 at 04:24 PM.
03-10-2017, 04:14 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by jtkratzer Quote
I think there is something to be said for a camera that lets me try the format vs a "dream" set up. Something about viewing the world through the waist-level is intriguing, but it's not a requirement. I place more emphasis on image quality over portability. Interchangeable film backs is a definite plus for that ideal set up, but isn't a requirement for my first MF camera. I'm also not dead set on AF or AE. I have and use a light meter regularly for 35mm, more than I use Av or any other auto exposure. I know Mamiya makes an aperture priority and AF version of the 645, but they start to get expensive in a hurry as do their RF variants. I could see myself ending up with several, the same way I have with 35mm bodies, although I could certainly thin that herd out, but those I'd be willing to part with likely aren't worth it to spend the time selling them.
I would try a TLR first. They're compact, and fairly easy to use.
If you keep an out you should be able to find a nice old Japanese TLR for around $100.
03-10-2017, 04:20 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by ChrisPlatt Quote
After trying several medium format cameras, 6x6 and 645, I'm happy to be sticking with 35mm now.
With medium format the potential for better quality is surely there but you must work hard at it.
I got fewer keepers shooting medium format than with 35mm, and 120 film is more expensive.

I agree, Pentax 645 models offer a larger negative with handling ease not unlike a large 35mm.
If you do take the plunge I'd recommend the 645N or 645NII over the original 645 if you can afford it.

Chris
What didn't you like about it? Is it more complicated than shooting 35mm to get your desired exposure?

---------- Post added 03-10-17 at 06:22 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Swift1 Quote
I would try a TLR first. They're compact, and fairly easy to use.
If you keep an out you should be able to find a nice old Japanese TLR for around $100.
I'll start cruising the for sale ads and check out what's out there. I'm wondering if the voice of reason should kick in and say stick with 35mm for a while until I'm consistently happy with the results before moving on a bigger, more costly per frame format.
03-10-2017, 04:25 PM - 1 Like   #15
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The only reasons not to are if you are expecting something you won't get or you don't have the time or money. I think this thread should set some realistic expectations.
I have a Pentax 645 that I still shoot now and then. I like it a lot with T-Max or Velvia. Not much in the way of features but the meter is good enough and I like the photos I get. I have a 120 back on it but you can get a 220 back if you prefer that format.
I liked it so much I later got a 645D body and that's a good camera too. I shoot that more than the film 645.

I like the familiar Pentax style and layout I'm used to on both bodies. No regrets about getting into it. I don't expect to get my money back if I sell that stuff so I just enjoy using it.
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