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07-22-2009, 10:18 AM   #1
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k100d upgrade path - K20 or Medium Format? Help~

I have been shooting for a couple of years with my Pentax k100d taken a ton of pictures and recently started taking some more formal “art” focused photography classes. I am at the point with the k100d that I feel I have progressed to the in my skill to where the poor low light performance and the low megapixel rating is hampering my ability to make large prints and drive the detail out in my work that I know could be there with an upgraded system.

I do love shooting digital – the workflow is easy and the results are immediate but there is a big difference between taking pictures and making art. I want to make art.

I want to focus mostly on my portrait work, natural light, and outdoor scene shooting.

My choices as I see it are to upgrade to a k20 or the new K-7(a bit too spendy and more "wiz bang" than i need i think) or...
Look at a medium format film camera.

I don’t have a ton of money to outlay on this so I am really leaning towards the k20 or the medium format.

It seems crazy to me to think in this day and age of going with film but after seeing the prints several of my classmates have made with medium formats like the 67II (think its out of my price range though) I must say I am very compelled.

I do live in the Minneapolis area so being in a large city processing will be easy for me.

Anyone been faced with a similar choice? Drivers to consider?

How easy is it to take medium format film into a digital workflow?

How does the process of dealing with film and “weak link” of scanning compare with a 14 megapixel digitally originated image? Printing from scan vs printing from neg etc...

Also looking for model suggestions for someone starting in the film space... Pentax medium format cameras in the sub $800 range with basic lens setups Pentax 67/645... other?

So I guess I am tossing up this softball of a eclectic list of questions to this group for feedback.

Help me make up my mind...

and thanks in advance...
~derek

07-22-2009, 10:51 AM   #2
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I shot film and did my own darkroom work for many years. Got into digital first with a DS and then a K10D;I also have a 35mm film scanner. In the last month I have started shooting with a Mamiya 645 camera that someone gave me several years ago;got the 1st/test roll of B&W back yesterday. I've started with the MF film camera more out of missing the shooting process than anything else, although I have a few film based projects in mind. Once I got seriously into digital, I dismantled my darkroom. That said, here are my thoughts, in no particular order:
1. There are not many options open to me for film processing unless I send my film somewhere and pay pro prices. If I start shooting a fair amount of film, this will probably force me back to doing my own developing.
2. I will use a hybrid workflow with film: process, contact print (if using a lab), scan, PP and print. I already have a 35mm scanner and printing equipment; would then get a flatbed scanner for MF and have a drum scan done as required. This is not without cost and scanning is not one of my favorite activities.
3. I regularly print up to 10X15 from the DS (typically very minimal or no cropping) with good results. The 10MP camera does even better.

Shooting film in any volume tends to lead one to doing the processing and darkroom work (control and cost). You already know what it costs you to produce the type of digitally generated work you want to do;compare the two. If you start to require high resolution originals, to produce large prints, then you need to think about either an FF DSLR, an MF digital back or using an MF camera in 6X7 format and doing high end scanning.
07-22-2009, 11:38 AM   #3
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Hi Derek, I have shot film my whole life, and still consider myself to be a beginner, and certainly not at the artist level, so take this FWIW.

I have really gone toward available light photography for a variety of reasons, and I find film to be more forgiving than digital in this regard, at least in the cameras I could afford. I frankly also really hate spending time on my computer doctoring up digital stuff. Nonetheless, prints are expensive, and most everyone wants digital images anymore.

The path I have taken, is to have the film professionally developed, then scan it in at home. I am not nearly as picky as many others, but I find the scans to be adequate without much touch up. Usually my errors are far larger than can be fixed with software - either it was a useful shot, or it wasn't.

Compare the specs of the scanner I just picked up for about $ 200 (canoscan 8800F) with the megapixel and color bit depth of any DSLR 10X that price. I don't claim expertise, but it seems to scan at 48 bit depth x 40+ megapixels. In spite of the claims by some, the 35mm kodak ultracolor 100 never ran out of resolution before I maxed out the scanner.

I will make the same offer to you as I have to others - send a 35mm or 120 format negative or transparency to me and I will scan it for you - as a test. I don't offer this because I am great at this, but because I am learning, and really want to understand how my setup compares and get feedback, positive or negative.

BTW, there are medium format cameras on craigslist from time to time, and sometimes you can pick them up from local pro camera rental shops.
07-24-2009, 09:04 PM   #4
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It is a decision you'll have to make on your own.

I have a K-7 as well as several medium format cameras and a 4x5 view camera. And for me, I shoot the film cameras most of the time. Why? Because I shoot BW a lot and I feel it is totally daft to shoot imitation BW given a choice. Especially since the digital sensor does not capture as much light range as BW film.

Plus shooting mechanical cameras is more fun for me. I feel like a camera operator with the K-7 and it takes the fun out of it. But the K-7 rocks when I have to do pictures for other people because I only want to do the film effort when it is for myself.

Obviously, you need to be able to develop your own film. If that is too much for you then the decision is made. But for me that is the joy of photography.

You want to create art? You can do it with a plastic lens on a $35 Holga. Many people do. Sharpness many times is not what you want in an art picture. Here is a story about that. Back in the film only days they had these disposable cameras, remember? You sent the cheap camera in with the film to get developed. I went to a friend's cabin for a weekend get away. A person there was a professional photographer. He had one of those disposable cameras (a panoramic one) that he took apart, put in some BW film and duct taped it back together.

I remember thinking he's nuts. That thing can't take a good, sharp picture. Next time I visited the cabin the owner had a picture hanging on the wall. It was one from that cheap plastic camera. It was fantastic! He used the strength of the camera's perspective and captured a shot that told a story. It didn't matter if it was sharp or not. It was an excellent picture. That day I learned something. And many people hung up on camera specs, sharpness and performance would do well to learn that lesson too.

Good luck on your choice.


Last edited by tuco; 07-24-2009 at 10:13 PM.
07-25-2009, 06:32 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
Because I shoot BW a lot and I feel it is totally daft to shoot imitation BW given a choice.
I appreciate if people enjoy the shooting experience with classic equipment, but if it is only about results, then isn't it an advantage that if you shoot colour first that you then can use a channel mixer to create B&W images that would have required filters or would be impossible to do with B&W film?
07-25-2009, 11:05 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Class A Quote
I appreciate if people enjoy the shooting experience with classic equipment, but if it is only about results, then isn't it an advantage that if you shoot colour first that you then can use a channel mixer to create B&W images that would have required filters or would be impossible to do with B&W film?
You will be short several stops of light than real BW has and more if you compress or expand your tones in the negative via custom development. And you can nearly always spot a color converted BW. That would be the difference; you are creating imitation BW. And if the average Joe finds that acceptable, fine, that makes the real thing that more special and reserved for those willing to take that extra step.

Ironically, I constantly read people fighting over whose new camera has better this and better that. This lens is soft on the edges wide open what a POS so don't buy that. This is the small format mindset. But yet they have no problem settling for second best with their light range in BW. Go figure.
.

Last edited by tuco; 07-26-2009 at 11:10 AM.
07-26-2009, 01:48 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
Ironically, I constantly read people fighting over whose new camera has better this and better that. This lens is soft on the edges wide open what a POS so don't buy that. This is the small format mindset. But yet they have no problem settling for second best with their light range in BW. Go figure.
.
Good point. I really wish camera companies would give more focus to increasing dynamic range, instead of a lot of other mumbo jumbo
07-26-2009, 04:15 PM   #8
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As digital technology progresses and one tries to chase this advance in mp, the cost of equipment seems to go up with it, to the point that many shooters are priced out of the market. It is natural to look to MF cameras like the Asahi Pentax 6x7 and Pentax 67. The advantage of the 67 is that so much information can be stored on film and at a reasonable price! There are still lots of film types available with all of their corresponding pallettes to choose from.

I bought a prism for my 67 from the National Camera Exchange in Minnesota, so I know that you can find used 67s in your area.

A cheap way to start with lenses, is to go with the proven primes, 75mm Takumar, 150 Takumar. Go to our Lens Reviews/Tests of this forum to choose lenses.


Last edited by desertscape; 07-26-2009 at 04:24 PM.
07-26-2009, 05:20 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
You will be short several stops of light than real BW has and more if you compress or expand your tones in the negative via custom development.
True, for the captured range in a single image. But you can do HDR like processing and tone compression/expansions with digital as well.

QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
And you can nearly always spot a color converted BW.
Easier said than done, I guess.
If the film image was shot with a filter and has its tones altered in development, I don't think you'll be able to always identify it as the "real thing".

QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
you are creating imitation BW.
Why "imitation" and why is film the "real thing"? It is just older technology. Perhaps wet plates are really the "real thing"?
I have no problem with someone wanting the higher dynamic range but I don't see why you cannot be at least as artistic with digital B&W as you can with film B&W.

Is there some fundamental problem with capturing all B&W tonal shades with RGB sensors?
07-26-2009, 09:08 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Class A Quote
True, for the captured range in a single image. But you can do HDR like processing and tone compression/expansions with digital as well.
Yeah only tripod shots on subjects that don't move. Pretty limiting. If you really wanted, you can painstakingly combine multiple exposure film scans in a HDR software too. But then you'd just end up with more fantasy pictures that are more digital paintings than a photograph. You've seen them. The 8+ exposures combined into one. They all look the same and not very real.

QuoteQuote:
Easier said than done, I guess.
Not really. After 25 years of working with BW you notice. But in some conditions it is difficult to tell.

QuoteQuote:
If the film image was shot with a filter and has its tones altered in development, I don't think you'll be able to always identify it as the "real thing".
You can spot the use of a Orange or Red filter in an average landscape shot a mile away, for example.

QuoteQuote:
Why "imitation" and why is film the "real thing"?
You don't have a color option with BW film. And that's how monochromatic images have been captured for over a 100 years so it defaults to the real thing.

QuoteQuote:
Is there some fundamental problem with capturing all B&W tonal shades with RGB sensors?
Nope, no problem at all. But what I've been saying is you don't capture very many tonal shades with the digital sensor before detail is lost in the shadows and highlights are blown. You get more on each end with BW film.
.
07-27-2009, 02:26 PM   #11
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Thanks~

Thanks all for the thoughtful responses...

In reading the various responses and giving it a lot of thought I have concluded I will likely go both routes, all a matter of what deal I come across first

With the K-7 out there I would expect to start to see some deals on k20’s, and I am going to keep an eye out for a used 67 from a trusted source . Whatever comes first I will snap up.

In talking with my friends that shoot film and reading the responses to this post and others, I need to keep reminding myself that it really all comes down to approach.

I know my 6 megapixel wont make big prints – but it can make art if I work with it. Using triptychs and other methods I can make it work - in the spirit of David Hilliard who is one of my favorite photographers.

That combined with really working each shot, stop the “machine gun” shooting that digital inherently encourages, compose each shot, be aware of the light and your limitations work with that and results on any platform with any equipment is possible.

I must say for the price point though the dynamic range of medium format film is seducing... but yes its all relative.

Thanks for the dialog and the thoughtful responses!
07-28-2009, 07:28 AM   #12
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In re-reading the posts again, and thinking about your position financially, I have an alternative for you.

First of all, I will start by saying that there is no reason the 6 MP camera cannot print up to 11 x 17 (or perhaps 13 x 19) using the full frame. I have done so many times with my *istD. Others have made this comment also.

If you want more resolution, clearly a 14 MP camera (either K7 or K20) will give you that.

If you want to shoot film also, then why not consider your DSLRs as an extension of a total system. By this I mean start out in 35mm.

To do this, you need to consider carefully your lenses, and you may find yourself lurking on the used market, for full frame pentax or 3rd party AF and MF lenses. As for a camera, Look at the PZ-1 or PZ-1p. they are a great back up body for a DSLR, and offer a few other "goodies" such as 1/8000 shutter with 1/250 flash sync. the PZ-1p does 4.5 fps with its drive, and either will work fully with every lens that fits on a DSLR except the new HSM lenses.

If yoou are going to go into Medium format, remember that as others have commented, this will involve most likely, setting up your own darkroom, and doing your own processing. It gets not only expensive buyt time consuming. You can practice a lot of your art, in a much smaller format, and please don't take this negatively, but aside from maximum resolution, I doubt you have exhausted all the learning possibilities with the 6MP camera you now have.
07-28-2009, 11:28 AM   #13
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I started with a Pentax 645 (original) and a 75mm f/2.8 with a 120 back. Great starter that I put together for around $200 (got a silly good deal on the body). I liked it a lot and moved up to a pair of Pentax 645N bodies with a few lenses. It is very nice for portrait work. Big differences for me (compared to APS-C digital as well as 35mm film) were:
- depth of field can be much shallower with medium format, which is very nice for portraits
- the obvioously larger negative
- black and white
- that "film" look
- develop your own black and white, scan the negatives and you have a really nice hybrid solution
- archivinig your images (physical film master and scanned file)
- almost dirt cheap equipment

Start off with a body and lens and you might still have enough left over to get a K20D.
07-28-2009, 12:16 PM   #14
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If you're going to be shooting B&W, my vote is for MF film. B&W is very easy and cheap to process yourself, and a darkroom isn't required, just a changing bag or darkened room for film loading.

645 gear can be found at great prices, 67 a bit more, but I'm partial to the bigger negative. That being said the K20D is a real bargain now at just over $600. Of course if you can afford it, get both!
07-28-2009, 12:53 PM   #15
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I've been following this thread with some interest... as sooner or later I'll want either a MF Pentax or the K-7, though which first

I'll suggest something off to the side a bit: Consider buying a low priced 120 film TLR or folding camera. That's how I started with 120... a folder, then another... then I wanted to focus, so a couple of TLRs... and so on. These machines bring photography to its basics, yet are capable of excellent results, or vintage/artsy ones, depending on the camera. Apart from two exceptions, I haven't paid more than $40 for any camera... and found some very good ones indeed. A nice Yashica Mat or Diacord (or Rollei, or Minolta... etc) really gets you into the MF experience.

What I end up lacking - the lenses don't focus very close, and of course aren't interchangeable. Therefore, the yen for a Pentax...

The advice about developing for yourself is a good one. 120 film really is easy, especially if you use a plastic reel with large flaps for loading. Color print film can be a bit of a pain, but often there are minilabs that will do 'develop only' pretty cheaply - prints and scans can get expensive in a hurry. But that's why we all bought scanners, no?

I have to say, once I really got into 120, 35mm can be a bit lacking... capable of some good results, but I find I actually have to be more careful with the 35mm, as every flaw gets magnified through the process.

ps. I've made some good 13x19 prints out of a 6mp digital file, and even far smaller film scans. I find film actually sizes up well due to the grain, which is realistic in that a trad darkroom enlargement would be a large 'upsizing' as well
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