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06-20-2009, 03:42 AM   #1
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Question about entering Medium Format

Hello All,

I know absolutely next to nothing about medium format photography, but I have some basic questions; which y'all can help me on.

1) I know few artists take photos with just a pinhole camera with 4x5 Ilford film and then scan to get beautiful results. How does that compare to a Pentax or a Mamiya 645 digital medium format camera ? Sure the lens, helps you focus but are there any other advantages ?

I read that the Mamiya DL28 creates RAW files of size = 53MB. My K10D creates RAW=16MB. So ok, higher dynamic range ... but can I get close to the same quality if I use film and a top scanner ?

2) I'd like to experiment with medium format photography but can't afford a digital medium format. I don't mind learning how to develop film. So which film based medium format camera would you recommend and which scanner would be a must to get best results ? Kindly quote price ranges & sources (B&H, Adorama, craigslist, ebay) if you can.

Thanks in advance,
sbw

06-20-2009, 04:45 AM   #2
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I've put together a 67 system from online auctions like eBay, one body and six lenses for less than $1,400.00 I use an Epson 4490, but I would like to upgrade to a V700 or V750 ($600.00 - $850.00) I don't process my own film as I send out to a pro lab and have the film returned uncut and sleaved.

I can't tell you how it would compare to a medium format digital, but I know it does well against DSLR APS chip models. I was amazed how much of a jump it was from 35mm film. The longer focal length lenses pull out alot of detail. A normal lens of 105mm (6X7) is equivelant to a 50mm in 35mm and a 34mm in APS DSLR models.

In my work of astrophotography this allows me to record finer detail in wide field views that a DSLR could not do. The longer focal length lenses have larger apertures and that lets more light in to record faint detail. I won't go on further, but this is my perspective and I imagine you will not be using your camera in this way.

The 67 is a beautiful camera and performs well in many areas. Patience is demanded, but the rewards are great.

Good luck.
06-20-2009, 07:00 AM   #3
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Larger file = more dynamic range?

QuoteOriginally posted by shadowbecomeswhite Quote
Hello All,


I read that the Mamiya DL28 creates RAW files of size = 53MB. My K10D creates RAW=16MB. So ok, higher dynamic range ... but can I get close to the same quality if I use film and a top scanner ?
I'm curious where you drew the conclusion that a larger file size = more dynamic range? You could probably conclude that the larger file size = more resolution/pixels and possibly lower noise (larger photosites). Assuming larger *photosites* on the medium format back you might see a wider dynamic range but file size alone doesn't mean a whole lot other than more pixels.

I would say if you're talking transparency film, digital will blow film away in terms of dynamic range. If you're shooting color negs, it's more of an even match-up.

Sharpness, again, I think digital wins (scanned film is a second generation image no matter how you slice it so there's going to be some loss of sharpness). Only way scanning would win in terms of sharpness is if you start with film that's larger format than digital. My gut tells me that you'd need larger than medium format film+scanning to beat the sharpness of something like the K20D or even K10.

Regards,
Terry
06-20-2009, 07:38 AM   #4
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How much is it to process the film in a lab?

06-21-2009, 06:20 AM   #5
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Entering Medium Format

QuoteOriginally posted by shadowbecomeswhite Quote
Hello All,
1) I know few artists take photos with just a pinhole camera with 4x5 Ilford film and then scan to get beautiful results. How does that compare to a Pentax or a Mamiya 645 digital medium format camera ? Sure the lens, helps you focus but are there any other advantages ?
You'll find that a 645 is in most ways just like any other 35mm SLR, just a little bigger and heavier. Of course, you load the film differently, but in most other respects they are the same. The 67 is heavier still, sometimes too heavy to handhold. A 4x5 pinhole camera sounds like fun for some applications but just doesn't have the versatility of a SLR system.

QuoteQuote:
I read that the Mamiya DL28 creates RAW files of size = 53MB. My K10D creates RAW=16MB. So ok, higher dynamic range ... but can I get close to the same quality if I use film and a top scanner ?
Bigger RAW doesn't necessarily mean more DR, especially when the sensors are so different.

As for a "top scanner" I am going to assume you mean a top consumer scanner, because high-end Imacon and drum scanners cost a small fortune.

I have a Epson V700, for which I paid $475 at Adorama. I chose the V700 because the Nikon Coolscan 9000 is our of my price range and I can eventually get a wet-mounting kit from ScanScience for it. (The Epson V750 has it's own wet-mount kit but from all I have read the ScanScience kit is better.)

QuoteQuote:
2) I'd like to experiment with medium format photography but can't afford a digital medium format. I don't mind learning how to develop film. So which film based medium format camera would you recommend and which scanner would be a must to get best results ?
At the risk of sounding like a Pentax fangirl, for film only, get a Pentax 645N or 645NII system. They are far less expensive than Mamiya 645AF or Contax 645AF systems, and Contax stuff can be a bit harder to come by.

If autofocus isn't important to you, than you have a great many more choices. If you think you'd like to upgrade to a digital back in the future, the Mamiya 645AFD would by my choice.

I have my film developed at a pro lab, it costs me $8 a roll for 120 color E-6 and $7.25 for 120 B&W film, uncut & sleeved. C-41 is a bit cheaper. The lab does 4x5 film for $3 each.

Buffy

Last edited by Buffy; 06-21-2009 at 07:07 AM. Reason: Grammar error.
06-21-2009, 05:55 PM   #6
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Don't waste so much money on a format you're not certain you're going to want to stick with. Get an old TLR for about $100 (I would recommend a Minolta Autocord, but there are other Japanese models that will serve as well). SLR Medium format cameras are not better, just have different qualities. TLRs, being out of fashion, are great values (except for the ridiculously priced high end Rolleis). You can always go down the much more expensive SLR route later on if you choose, & either hold on to the TLR if you've learned to appreciate it's unique qualities, or sell it for the same price you bought it for.
06-21-2009, 10:34 PM   #7
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Larger file does equal more apparent dynamic range to the eye. Digital suffers from bayer encoding and you have to get into some pretty big sensors(39MP Hassie for instance) to get away from it. Images just aren't as sharp yet on digital as all sensors are less than the represented MP number as a result.

Watch this space, however. Canon has managed to enhance bayer in their last round of image processors to a point where it's much less of an issue. The new 5D Mark II is extremely sharp as is the 1Ds MIII. Btw, I'm no evangelist as I shoot Nikon digital and Pentax film. Canon is making bayer less of an issue and it will simply be a matter of time before Nikon and Pentax follow suit. My original statement is still true however. If you want sharp, creamy, realistic looking pictures sell your house and buy a digital back or stick with medium format film. It's just THAT much better.

If you want to see for yourself just jump on flickr and enter hasselblad , 67 , medium format, etc and compare those to 35mm film scans or any digital uploads and you'll see what I mean. Even in smaller online versions of the files you can see the difference.
06-21-2009, 10:48 PM   #8
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Just for reference. The 67II weighs about the same as a full body DSLR like the 1Ds M3 or Nikon D3. It's not that hard to handhold. The shutter and mirror are a good bit larger so they make a bit more noise when they fire. The 67 is a bit heavier than the 67II.

I own two 67s and one 67II as well as my D90 digital.


Last edited by awksedgreep; 06-21-2009 at 10:54 PM.
06-22-2009, 05:48 AM   #9
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Dynamic range

QuoteOriginally posted by awksedgreep Quote
Larger file does equal more apparent dynamic range to the eye.
No, not necessarily. Too many other factors contribute to dynamic range; file size alone is just not enough information with which to draw that conclusion.

The OP's original comparison, a Mamiya DL28 vs. K10D, is an really apples-to-oranges comparison. The DL28 is a 28 MP sensor and the K10D 10 MP. On that basis alone I'd expect more raw data even if everything else were equal but, of course, they are not.

The DL28 has 16-bit capture while the K10D has 12-bit capture; the DL28 has 7.2 micron pixels, while the K10D 6 micron pixels. These two pieces of information, while still not complete, make for a better DR comparison than just RAW file size. You could design a 28 MP sensor with, say, 5 micron pixels and 10-bit capture that would produce a hefty RAW file but would actually have smaller DR than the K10D.

As for film, that's a different subject altogether!
06-22-2009, 06:49 AM   #10
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Apparent was the key word you missed there. The larger the capture the more _compressed_ the image becomes allowing for bayer to disappear either completely or almost completely.

Bear in mind the eye cannot look at a photograph the way a computer can. Dynamic range is interpolated as pixels that are next to each other that have contrasting appearance. The eye cannot count the number of colors in a photo and say whether it is 12-bit or 14-bit.

Bayer does not affect dynamic range in the traditional sense. A 14-bit image is still 14-bit, but the interpolation of colors by shifting means that some of that color is wasted and affects the way the eye perceives dynamic range. Just zoom in on any digital image and you'll see what I mean. It kills sharpness and color transition between pixels that are next to each other affecting the way our eyes _view_ the photo.

Ken Rockwell(KenRockwell.com) has a decent writeup on bayer if anyone is curious.

If you were bored enough to do the math(like me), a very sharp ISO 50 film on a 6x7 back calculates to the equivalent of 94.xx MP if you calculate by lines per mm. With no bayer to contend with you're eyes are getting and using all of that data, especially if you blow it up to a large size. It's hard to say that anything digital can compete with that, even digital backs. The effective resolution of even a 39MP digital back would be a bit less than 39 if you take bayer into account.
06-22-2009, 10:48 AM   #11
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Been there, done that...

Before investing in a MF film outfit, consider carefully how you will print/project/scan the negatives or slides, and the costs involved.

Chris
06-22-2009, 06:42 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by raymeedc Quote
Don't waste so much money on a format you're not certain you're going to want to stick with. Get an old TLR for about $100 (I would recommend a Minolta Autocord, but there are other Japanese models that will serve as well). SLR Medium format cameras are not better, just have different qualities. TLRs, being out of fashion, are great values (except for the ridiculously priced high end Rolleis). You can always go down the much more expensive SLR route later on if you choose, & either hold on to the TLR if you've learned to appreciate it's unique qualities, or sell it for the same price you bought it for.
Not arguing here, but TLRs are harder to use. Everything you see in the viewfinder is reversed, and getting sharp focus takes some getting used to. They're way cool. I have a Mamiya C220 and I love it. They are just clunky beasts and totally not what you're used to as an SLR user. $0.02.

I have run quite a few rolls through various MF systems. The 67II wins for me. It's easy to shoot with. Handholding is no problem in good light. I shoot velvia 50 @ 40 iso during "golden hour" light handheld routinely. When you get below 1/100, if you're doing critical work, a tripod will be necessary. The metering is spot on as well. Makes shooting in AV mode fast and easy.
06-23-2009, 04:02 PM   #13
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Pentax 645 body - $100 (KEH)
Pentax 645 A 80-160mm f/4.5 lens - $200 (KEH) (really nice lens)
Pentax 645 120 film holder - $40 eBay

or opt for a kit (645 body, lens and film holder) again through KEH but with the A 75mm f/2.8 for $260

Nikon LS 8000 ED scanner (I have two right now) for the same or less than the price you quoted for the Epson V700/750. They can be found for great prices, just keep looking. But I recommend getting the camera/lens first and shooting some rolls, get them processed and scanned and then make an evaluation if this is for you. If not, resell your gear, or return it to the merchant (KEH has 14 day return policy).

Last edited by yurihuta; 06-23-2009 at 04:10 PM.
07-09-2009, 11:05 AM   #14
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Checking the DXO site, it says all MF sensors give greater dynamic range than anyAPS-C sensor.

Slide film has a much greater dynamic range then digital, though not all scanners can suck all the detail out of the highlights and shadows.

Once you know your kit, and how it all works, using medium format really isn't that different from 35mm.
07-10-2009, 06:04 AM   #15
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I'd suggest starting out with 120 film with a TLR (or a folder) - The cameras are less chunky and heavy, a good Rollei/Yashica/Minolta/Ricoh give excellent results, and get you used to the whole process. There are plenty of lesser models out there, with lesser IQ, as well, which are worthwhile as starters.

In the folder world, you usually give up a focus aid so there's that particular anxiety to overcome... but again, with the better ones, IQ can be very good. Another alternative, though not really cheaper than a Pentax 645, are the Fuji fixed lens rangefinder cameras.

The advantage of starting out thus is your initial outlay should be less and you can get the money back by selling the camera when you no longer want it.

Re. the 120 SLRs - try to find someone or some store that has some, so you can judge the heft and bulk, and that large luxurious vf, for yourself.
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