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03-13-2018, 12:08 PM   #1
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Medium format and the masses

Medium format film was still affordable for a lot more people than digital is. Digital MF seems to be out of reach.
Would there be any way that medium format would be accessible to the average photographer given some limitations but not compromise on sensor size?

03-13-2018, 12:10 PM - 3 Likes   #2
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Follow up question: is it necessary for MF to be accessible, given the performance of digital FF vs 35mm film?

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03-13-2018, 12:14 PM - 3 Likes   #3
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MF for the masses is now film. No reason for an amateur to drop the mega money needed for a digital MF when the top film cameras are now available for a relative pittance.
03-13-2018, 12:23 PM - 2 Likes   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
Medium format film was still affordable for a lot more people than digital is. Digital MF seems to be out of reach.
Would there be any way that medium format would be accessible to the average photographer given some limitations but not compromise on sensor size?
For 35mm and larger, film is still much cheaper than the equivalent digital sensor.

if you estimate that 35mm film and development is about $10 a roll, and a used K-1 at about $1500, you have 150 rolls of film before you can even get the digital camera. If you spend $100 on a film body and lens, that's still 140 rolls before you break even on digital.

Medium format costs more per roll, and the bodies are generally more expensive than 35mm, but the cost of a digital medium format camera is much higher in comparison, and that's not going to have the same sensor size as the film its emulating.

03-13-2018, 12:23 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Mr Bassie Quote
MF for the masses is now film. No reason for an amateur to drop the mega money needed for a digital MF when the top film cameras are now available for a relative pittance.
I never developed film myself and I'm not aware of film processing being easily available. Are there some in depth articles and / or books to help build a MF film workflow without too many problems?
03-13-2018, 12:25 PM   #6
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The minimalist Hasselblad X1d probably comes closest to a purely software-driven device, but it’s a Hasselblad, so nobody expects to pay less for it. That’s the usual strategy for reducing costs.

Given the difficulty of manufacturing large sensor chips, I expect sensor costs are still too high to make a digital equivalent to a Yashica Mat-124, which was the standard low-cost-high-quality roll film camera of my youth.

Would people pay $2000+ for a plasticky cheap camera with a fixed lens? I rather doubt it. The 645D is nearly that cheap on the used market. And I bet the sensor package cost is still too high for that price point. If I’m paying what it takes to get the sensor, I want the full features of a professional camera.

Rick “recalling that 120 roll film was the most expensive film option, per square inch, of all the formats” Denney
03-13-2018, 12:27 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
Follow up question: is it necessary for MF to be accessible, given the performance of digital FF vs 35mm film?
Well, if I want a 4x5 output format from my K1, I have to crop the FF sensor. If there ever was a 36x36 sensor that fit the image circle of the same FF lenses, that would make the most use of the sensor.
03-13-2018, 12:33 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
Medium format film was still affordable for a lot more people than digital is. Digital MF seems to be out of reach.
Would there be any way that medium format would be accessible to the average photographer given some limitations but not compromise on sensor size?
Haven't done a whole lot of research, but a quick look at some lists from 1987 shows a 645 costing just shy of five times the ME Super. Less than twice the price of an LX, though. But the point is - was it really that much more affordable?



03-13-2018, 12:46 PM   #9
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From what I have heard, a significant chunk of MF camera cost is in its sensor and the electronics needed to support it. Something to do with to sensor production yields rates being much lower as the size of the silicon goes up.

For example when manufacturing CPUs, normally quite a number are made on each plate but when they are tested some may be rejected - as the size of the silicon used on the plate grows then there is a higher chance of it being rejected. I'm assuming the same would apply to sensors (but I'm sure someone here will know better).

So I'm thinking with current technology it would be difficult to product a MF camera priced for the masses but who knows in the future?
03-13-2018, 12:53 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
Well, if I want a 4x5 output format from my K1, I have to crop the FF sensor. If there ever was a 36x36 sensor that fit the image circle of the same FF lenses, that would make the most use of the sensor.
This is where the multi-aspect format sensors of some of the smaller Panasonic cameras really shines. I like this idea but doubt most would see the benefits enough to pay for the higher sensor costs for the larger wafer.
03-13-2018, 01:03 PM - 3 Likes   #11
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A used medium format film camera and film/processing may be initially much cheaper than digital medium format but the costs will quickly add up when high resolution film scans are added to the mix. Flat bed scans will not cut it if you're trying to maximize resolution that medium format film is capable of delivering. You will want drum scans or at the very least scans from a Hasselblad/Imacon type of scanner.

Pentax 645 lenses are once again very cheap on the used market. A Pentax 645D is about $2K used, delivers excellent color and ISO performance is very good even at ISO 800 and acceptable at 1600. That would be my choice of the route to take if I planned to get into medium format again, which I don't.
03-13-2018, 01:09 PM   #12
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Sensor costs are slowly and steadily decreasing. Sometime in the future I hope I can get a 44x33mm sensor in a K mount camera for just slightly more then a 36x24mm variety. Most K mount lenses can deliver more then Ø43mm image circle in most of the settings. Only occationally I would need to crop all the way down to 36x24mm or less to get decent corner performance.
03-13-2018, 01:10 PM - 2 Likes   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by CDW Quote
A used medium format film camera and film/processing may be initially much cheaper than digital medium format but the costs will quickly add up when high resolution film scans are added to the mix. Flat bed scans will not cut it if you're trying to maximize resolution that medium format film is capable of delivering. You will want drum scans or at the very least scans from a Hasselblad/Imacon type of scanner.
That's a pretty big assumption. I've been pretty satisfied with flatbed scans using my Epson V550. And if you need the absolute best quality, you can get scans done on the specific frames you need.

On a related tangent, medium format cameras very greatly in affordability, lens options, and general quality. Getting a drum scan done of a 6x6 negative from an Argoflex E is a waste of time and money -- the captured image is limited by the lens.

Last edited by timw4mail; 03-13-2018 at 02:34 PM.
03-13-2018, 01:29 PM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
Medium format film was still affordable for a lot more people than digital is. Digital MF seems to be out of reach.
Would there be any way that medium format would be accessible to the average photographer given some limitations but not compromise on sensor size?
Is FF even affordable for the average photographer? Larger sensor, larger files, more powerful processor, larger buffer, more battery power, bigger lenses, and then for post-processing with bigger files you need higher end computing hardware.

For digital, one solution can be stitching shots to create a greater MP image.

And then there is marketing and supply & demand which will always keep the price higher than cheaper to produce and more mass sold products. I suppose some kickstarter could get real creative and make the Holga/Diana/Lomo point & shoot MF, but itʻs like putting 500HP V8 in a Prius.
03-13-2018, 01:44 PM   #15
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The point of larger formats is two-fold: 1.) to avoid losing the illusion of endless detail even when closely inspecting larger prints, and 2.) to attain a spacious and smooth rendering resulting from larger pixels or square millimeters of film.

Putting 120 roll film in a flatbed scanner gives up the former, at least. My V750 (which I use for sheet film) is capable of about 2000 sip of real resolution. On a 645 frame, that scanner provides about 14 megapixels, at the outside of that scanner’s capability (meaning: at low MTF). In practice, it won’t match my 13mp Canon 5D.

But putting it in my Nikon film scanner doubles the real linear resolution, giving me 50-60 MP. A native digital camera at that resolution will still beat it handily. How long has it been since that scanner was made?

I need 6x7 in film to start to compete. 4x5 still shows a detail advantage.

But no color film can match the shadow handling and dynamic range of current sensors.

I suspect a 645D and some old lenses is still the cheapest way to get practical medium-format digital with enough of an advantage to be better than (most) 24x36.

Rick “film is hard to sustain and getting harder, except for those of us not counting the cost” Denney
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