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12-03-2008, 11:41 AM   #1
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Digital medium format or film? Which way to go?

I have been a Canon digital buff for a number of years and this is a turning point for me. Do I stay digital and go with a Mamiya or even a Hasselblad medium format or do I go old school and buy a Pentax film for medium format. I love the 6x7 format. I also love the ability to shoot directly digital without scanning. The color factor of film and the resolution are contributing factors as well. What say you of the Pentax fold? I would like to hear of your experiences with this as well as any technical info for my decision.

12-03-2008, 12:45 PM   #2
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I think it really depends what job you want this stuff to do. DSLR sensors just seem to be getting so ridiculous I might consider skipping the medium format digital and spending the Hassie type money on one of those.

Of course, for that kind of money, you could just get a 6x7 rig and shoot all the film you want.
12-03-2008, 01:36 PM   #3
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If you're not sure, go for film. For the price of a digital MF, you could have the film setup of your dreams and all the professional scans you could ever want.
12-04-2008, 12:36 AM   #4
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Go for the film. Your photos will be swimming in detail and will avoid that ugly crunch you get with digital when your highlights blow out. There's too much choice in digital, IMHO. I prefer simplicity in cameras - more reliable, easier to repair, solid feel.

12-04-2008, 10:25 AM   #5
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I too would have to say that for the small cost of a used medium format film camera, try it and see how it works for you. The images are really amazing. If you find it doesn't work best for your situation, you can probably sell it for about what you paid for it.
12-04-2008, 12:09 PM   #6
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Either way, the big $$ is if you want the end result digitized. The digital cameras / backs - to me at least - are extremely expensive. Film cameras are much cheaper, and plentiful used.

But then with film, you have the scanning issue. To truly get the quality you'd need to spend good $$ on a very good scanner.

Even then, and factoring in the extra materials and processing cost of film, I think film comes out ahead in cost/performance.
12-04-2008, 04:25 PM   #7
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I bought a 67II this past summer.

Wow - great camera. I also use large format (4x5) and 35 mm both film and digital.

I signed up to Pentax forums just to respond to your post, as I go back and forth between the mediums.

My impressions based on darkroom and photoshop work. Even in 35 mm, if you want B&W then shoot film. I have ,yet, to see a digital B&W give the equivalent tonality and range of film, particularly if printed to silver gelatin paper. If you like darkroom work, there are things which are easily done in the darkroom and with print toners which are very hard to accomplish and get similar results in photoshop.

Simply looking at a 6x7 color transparency on the light table can be stunning. The color fidelity is amazing and I have found scanning either print negatives or transparencies using my simple Canon Canonscan saves me a great deal of time as color correction is minimal unlike shooting with digital. Much of what I do after scanning, I am doing for my own artistic reasons not simply to get back a color corrected image that doesn't look right from the start.

I wish it had interchangeable backs, though. All the above being said, sometimes digital is just easier from a workflow basis. I guess it just comes down to how and what you want to shoot and how you want it presented. I hope this helps.
12-05-2008, 08:46 PM   #8
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The problem with digital as it exists currently is that a photographer has no alternative but to replace the camera or back on a regular basis..Digital cameras & digital backs just do not possess the longevity that film equipment does..Used daily, especially professionally, I think that most photographers would agree that modern digital cameras & backs are starting to show their age by the time they reach 5 years old..

This lack of longevity has less importance if the photographer is earning a steady income from the use of their equipment..On the other hand, if the photographer is an amateur then the cost of a medium format digital camera system becomes almost prohibitively expensive for all but the wealthiest photographers..Most of us do not have a spare $20K to $100K lying around that we don't know what to do with..

It is true that used medium format digital backs can be fitted to many older medium format film cameras that were originally equipped with interchangeable backs..It is also true that such setups are often not optimal for those digital backs..

For the price of a top-of-the-line used medium format digital camera system, $30K to $50K, one could purchase used a complete Pentax 67II camera system (body, 2 finders, 5-10 lenses, converters, ext. tubes), fully equip both a darkroom & a light room, & buy one hell-of-a-lot of film, paper, chemicals, & ink..Enough to indulge oneself for at least 5 years shooting 5 rolls of B&W film per day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year..

If one has no interest in film, wants to maintain a digital work flow, & has the money to spend, then medium format digital is certainly an option..OTOH, if one already has top-of-the-line APSC or FF digital, then medium format film would offer another look & dimension to that photographer's arsenal..

12-06-2008, 09:35 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by diveguru Quote
...or do I go old school and buy a Pentax film for medium format. I love the 6x7 format. I also love the ability to shoot directly digital without scanning.
I went a little old school with a digital twist.

I shoot with a Pentax 645N having sold my 6x7 gear. The 645N and lenses match me better (smaller, more likely to pick it up and shoot). My digital twist is a Nikon Coolscan 8000 - capable of medium format scans. I am still trying to find time (18 month old daughter...) to have a sustained effort with scanning, but I will likely sit with this for some time. The prices for film Pentax (or otherwise) medium format are just soooo attractive right now, that I can't ignore. Couple that with getting a Nikon Coolscan 8000 (just had been to Nikon for digital equivalent of a CLA) for a little more than a high end point and shoot digital... well for now it is my affordable ideal.

When I want results now, out comes the DSLR. Often the 645N comes out as well. Shooting film again is bringing back a lot of what I liked about photography - the anticipation, more thinking, more deliberation on composition, more photography.

I also agree with a previous response as to seeing large negative/chromes on a light box - wow, wow, wow.

Medium format film system + new Nikon Coolscan 9000 = much less than a current medium format digital system as well as less than a high end DSLR.

Film - even scratched negatives will yield an image. A damaged hard drive, well lots of money and crossed fingers to try and retrieve your files. This is another matter that has had me shooting more film, will my daughter be able to print the negatives to show her children in the future - yes. Will she be able to print from the digital files shot today - maybe, if files are migrated to the newer standards/formats, maybe not if I get lazy or the drives with backups fail.

Just some thoughts.
12-06-2008, 01:45 PM   #10
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I would say go film. If you're shooting landscapes, I have yet to find a digital shot that holds the same richness of color that I can get with Velvia. And, as many others have said, there is something magical about large chromes on the lightbox. With a good scan and the right paper you can bring that wow factor to the final print.

If you go film but want digital copies, you're challenge will be finding a good way to get them scanned. You can either buy a good scanner (Nikon Coolscan, Epson v700) and learn the true art of scanning yourself, or pay someone to do it. Check with the labs in your area what it costs to have film scanned at the time of processing.

If you do decide scan it yourself, be prepared to invest a lot of time scanning. In my (limited) experience, rarely can you just hit 'scan' and get a production-quality scan. On my Epson 4990 (predecessor to the v700), it takes 7 minutes for a high-quality scan from 35mm. This does not take into account prep time, or time tweaking curves (learn how to use them!). The best quality scans arguably come from wet-mounts, which are available aftermarket for many popular scanners, but these require even more time and effort.

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