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New or recent to medium format photography: What changed when you started using these systems?

diforbes

Well-known member
I'm curious to hear from others like me who are fairly new to medium format. Have the subjects you shoot or your ways of seeing and approaching subjects changed when you started using these systems?

I'll start. I come from many years of using APS-C and full frame digital mirrored and mirrorless systems and autofocus. I did a lot of street photography, urban landscape and some documentary work - subjects that required quick responses and using AF. I'm now using a Fuji GFX body and mostly older manual focus lenses. I have just one AF native lens. I haven't been back on the streets with this gear due to COVID. I've found myself gravitating to more static subjects such as landscape. I need to hone my manual focus skills.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.
 

olafphoto

Administrator
Staff member
Insightful and very important question. I wrote about this several articles. I thought I would share one of them here.

Shooting with Medium Format: Silence of Seeing

“The camera doesn’t matter” is one of the most widely accepted dictums in the photographic industry. In its core meaning it holds its ground but when taken too seriously it could jeopardise an honest conversation about the state of seeing. In my case, the camera has always influenced my photography in the most unexpected ways. Over the years I have described the way the X100-line steers me toward creative photography. A similar phenomenon has occurred since I started working with medium format, but this time creativity and vigour were replaced by silence and articulation. It was an unexpected change which I didn’t see coming but welcomed at this stage of my personal and photographic life. Silence is what I desire.

It needs to be said: I am well aware that I am a contemplative and introspective photographer. Almost monthly I take upon myself the task of looking deeply into my imagery, my photographic state of seeing, and collating it with my personal and professional growth. I pay special attention to my emotional state, which over the years has played an important role in the way I see the world.

For years I have been a “loud” photographer. I strolled around the city or drove along the forgotten roads of North America bursting with enthusiasm, taking imagery and capturing the world in strong visual notes. My style was a loud, rich beat with strong blacks and whites, unconventional compositions and strong visual flavour. I would see something on the side of the road, grab my X100F or X-Pro2 and jump out of the car like a kid who had just noticed an ice cream stand on a hot day. Then a burst of shooting, experimentation, crawling, climbing and other energetic and youthful activities followed, sometimes to the horror of my wife watching from a distance. From this one observation I could produce a plethora of photos, which of course I would reduce to one or two images during my usual review (or rather purge) of my work.

Then, a few years ago, I started shooting medium format. I’ve explained the reasons in numerous articles. One of the most important lessons I had to learn when working with medium format was about the techniques of shooting. I quickly realized that my bellicose attitude when shooting was no longer working. I had too many blurred and technically defective imagery; my laissez-faire shooting technique no longer worked with my newly acquired gear. I was disappointed. For about four months I questioned the idea of using a medium format camera for my photography, but despite this initial dissatisfaction, I continued. I knew I had to rethink my personal shooting methods.

I had to start with the most trivial activity—how to hold a camera properly. It was no longer a Cirque du Soleil affair but rather, let’s play chess in the park. Will I be able to checkmate? This is where I started developing “shot discipline”. The objective was to learn shooting techniques in order to extract the best image qualities of medium format. The most logical way to start was to learn how to hold a camera against your body when not shooting on a tripod. It was a massive change for me as a photographer. I went from controlling my breath to holding the camera firmly against my head/eye and using nearby objects to stabilize my entire body. Then I had to make sure I used a proper focusing technique with time-eliminating auto-focus in some cases and relying on manual. Of course, in an ideal situation I would shoot from a tripod, persona-non-gratia in my previous life.

It was a massive change in the way I saw and crafted imagery. However, after a few months different mechanisms of shooting emerged. When I saw something on the side of the road, I would stop the car and look carefully. There was no jumping out, no excitement or eagerness to press the shutter button. It was a slow and deliberate evaluation of the scene including the key question: why? Why would I take this image? Is it part of the project? Am I going to print it? Have I done anything similar before? I sat quietly and looked. Every scene became a feast of seeing and only very few scenes warranted reaching for my camera. The camera became the final element in a long and deliberate chain of creation. How strange, I thought.

In time, I started enjoying this different way of working. The careful observation and undisturbed interaction with my subject allowed me to calm down and tune in to my surroundings, something I had struggled with before. I started enjoying silence. In this new state of mind, I noticed that I passed on so many flashy and attractive scenes, strangely without regret or envy. There was no longer any internal argument with “I should have taken this image.” If there was doubt, there was no shooting; just being present was enough.

Furthermore, this calmness prompted by my new way of shooting has propelled me to new projects. I knew right away that they were not going to be as popular as rich and golden-light-bathed imagery from my street excursions or travels. I accepted this. It was time to focus on the mundane, boring or even plain. I felt that I had bought a new puzzle with a very different set of pieces and now I had to put it together slowly and methodically. And I am not going to mix it up right after completing. Not at all. I will let it last until the next set, whenever it comes.

And this silence of seeing. It’s an unexpected arrival in my photographic life and, I guess, to some extent, personal life. Maybe this quietude is a direct result of my personal struggles and weariness with loud and glitzy imagery. I don’t really know, and I don’t need to know.
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
Yes, the first two posters are new to MF. And I am Marie of Romania.*

I'll throw in my 2p. My move to MF was from a regular SLR (can't remember the brand!) to a Yashicamat TLR. Everything made me smile. The ground glass focusing, the leaf shutter and, most of all, the image quality. MF has made me smile for almost 40 years in a way that formats both larger and smaller haven't. (Not sure why, but I never took a single decent 4x5 or 8x10 image. OK, one decent portrait, but not worth the years of frustration. And I'm not counting Wet Plate, which is super cool in its own right.)

If, as has been said, it's a matter of speed, then MF is just the right speed for me.

* Life is a glorious cycle of song
A medley of extemporanea
And Love is a thing that can never go wrong,
And I am Marie of Romania.
-Dorothy Parker
 

diforbes

Well-known member
Insightful and very important question. I wrote about this several articles. I thought I would share one of them here.

Shooting with Medium Format: Silence of Seeing

“The camera doesn’t matter” is one of the most widely accepted dictums in the photographic industry. In its core meaning it holds its ground but when taken too seriously it could jeopardise an honest conversation about the state of seeing. In my case, the camera has always influenced my photography in the most unexpected ways. Over the years I have described the way the X100-line steers me toward creative photography. A similar phenomenon has occurred since I started working with medium format, but this time creativity and vigour were replaced by silence and articulation. It was an unexpected change which I didn’t see coming but welcomed at this stage of my personal and photographic life. Silence is what I desire.

It needs to be said: I am well aware that I am a contemplative and introspective photographer. Almost monthly I take upon myself the task of looking deeply into my imagery, my photographic state of seeing, and collating it with my personal and professional growth. I pay special attention to my emotional state, which over the years has played an important role in the way I see the world.

For years I have been a “loud” photographer. I strolled around the city or drove along the forgotten roads of North America bursting with enthusiasm, taking imagery and capturing the world in strong visual notes. My style was a loud, rich beat with strong blacks and whites, unconventional compositions and strong visual flavour. I would see something on the side of the road, grab my X100F or X-Pro2 and jump out of the car like a kid who had just noticed an ice cream stand on a hot day. Then a burst of shooting, experimentation, crawling, climbing and other energetic and youthful activities followed, sometimes to the horror of my wife watching from a distance. From this one observation I could produce a plethora of photos, which of course I would reduce to one or two images during my usual review (or rather purge) of my work.

Then, a few years ago, I started shooting medium format. I’ve explained the reasons in numerous articles. One of the most important lessons I had to learn when working with medium format was about the techniques of shooting. I quickly realized that my bellicose attitude when shooting was no longer working. I had too many blurred and technically defective imagery; my laissez-faire shooting technique no longer worked with my newly acquired gear. I was disappointed. For about four months I questioned the idea of using a medium format camera for my photography, but despite this initial dissatisfaction, I continued. I knew I had to rethink my personal shooting methods.

I had to start with the most trivial activity—how to hold a camera properly. It was no longer a Cirque du Soleil affair but rather, let’s play chess in the park. Will I be able to checkmate? This is where I started developing “shot discipline”. The objective was to learn shooting techniques in order to extract the best image qualities of medium format. The most logical way to start was to learn how to hold a camera against your body when not shooting on a tripod. It was a massive change for me as a photographer. I went from controlling my breath to holding the camera firmly against my head/eye and using nearby objects to stabilize my entire body. Then I had to make sure I used a proper focusing technique with time-eliminating auto-focus in some cases and relying on manual. Of course, in an ideal situation I would shoot from a tripod, persona-non-gratia in my previous life.

It was a massive change in the way I saw and crafted imagery. However, after a few months different mechanisms of shooting emerged. When I saw something on the side of the road, I would stop the car and look carefully. There was no jumping out, no excitement or eagerness to press the shutter button. It was a slow and deliberate evaluation of the scene including the key question: why? Why would I take this image? Is it part of the project? Am I going to print it? Have I done anything similar before? I sat quietly and looked. Every scene became a feast of seeing and only very few scenes warranted reaching for my camera. The camera became the final element in a long and deliberate chain of creation. How strange, I thought.

In time, I started enjoying this different way of working. The careful observation and undisturbed interaction with my subject allowed me to calm down and tune in to my surroundings, something I had struggled with before. I started enjoying silence. In this new state of mind, I noticed that I passed on so many flashy and attractive scenes, strangely without regret or envy. There was no longer any internal argument with “I should have taken this image.” If there was doubt, there was no shooting; just being present was enough.

Furthermore, this calmness prompted by my new way of shooting has propelled me to new projects. I knew right away that they were not going to be as popular as rich and golden-light-bathed imagery from my street excursions or travels. I accepted this. It was time to focus on the mundane, boring or even plain. I felt that I had bought a new puzzle with a very different set of pieces and now I had to put it together slowly and methodically. And I am not going to mix it up right after completing. Not at all. I will let it last until the next set, whenever it comes.

And this silence of seeing. It’s an unexpected arrival in my photographic life and, I guess, to some extent, personal life. Maybe this quietude is a direct result of my personal struggles and weariness with loud and glitzy imagery. I don’t really know, and I don’t need to know.
Thank you for posting this essay, Olaf.
 

jdphoto

Well-known member
I didn't switch, but use both FF and MF. When shooting with a 612 pano film camera I always used hyper focal or zone MF for very effective results. Doesn't the Fuji have magnification for MF?
 

diforbes

Well-known member
On the GFX 50r, pushing in the rear command dial magnifies the image. I use it along with focus peaking to check focus. I use mostly adapter lenses which require manual focus.
 

Godfrey

Well-known member
My photographic endeavors started 50+ years ago with my grandfather's loaned Rolleiflex TLR. While I've used Nikon and Leica 35mm equipment for the bulk of my photography, I've always "seen" in MF terms, and gone back to the larger film format frequently. When the era switched to digital, and then until recently, medium format digital was simply beyond my financial means/interest/desire to spend for. With the recent drop in MFD sensors (Hasselblad X system, Fuji GFX system), and my purchase of the Hasselblad 907x, I feel like I'm back at home.

I photograph a wide range of things with any camera system/format. I'm always experimenting to see what I can get out of any particular, specific equipment. In hand-held, fast paced shooting, I find that the APS-C and FourThirds format cameras provide for me the hand-holdability, quality, and imaging character that I used to get with 35mm film and I prefer them to "FF" format cameras. And now the "small MFD" X system does the same for me compared to medium format film (6x6 and 6x4.5 is what I mostly prefer there). Since arriving at this point, I'm happy and satisfied to stay here and focus on my photographic intent and technique instead of mucking around with too many more cameras. :)

My Hasselblad X and V equipment-with-digital-back feels best, to me, used as a tripod camera and naturally in that mode I work more slowly with it than with the Leica CL, Olympus E-M1 or Panasonic GX9. But these are minor differences, to me, and don't represent too much of a departure from my usual train of photographic thought. I see the same way, filtered by how my cameras capture modify that, and work to achieve my intent with the specifics of any particular camera in my hands to work with.

G
 

msstudio

Member
My journey is somewhat different. As a kid I started with 35mm cameras, Minolta, then Nikon. When I did finally dove I to my formative years, we only shot 8x10 slide film, anything smaller was basically regarded as pedestrian or used for grain effect, often repros of 8x10 slides (we did manual layering and composition on a copy stand, well prior to photoshop). Gradually accepting medium format as a compromise to photograph people and finally, seeing and working with Peter Lindbergh, I accepted the fact that gorgeous photography can also happen with 35mm film cameras (he was a Nikon guy...). Finishing my assistant years working for Annie Leibovitz, I again recognized the value of medium format, which took a center stage in my own adventures in photography, shooting mostly Mamiya RZ, along with Fuji 690, Mamiya 645 and Hasselblad H1 toward the end of (my) film era. Once digital became acceptable for my clients (like Vanity Fair) I did switch back to 35mm capture, but always missed the rendering of a medium format. I never liked the whole tech aspect of shooting MF (aka PhaseOne adapted kits), tether, reboots, etc. so I stuck with Canon for a long time with great results and published work. Once the MF solutions became more reliable, quicker and accessible, I went back to the H6 system and loved it for everything MF stands for, and foremost to be able to use a central shutter for ambient/strobe mix.
Today, I'm so happy to shoot Hasselblad for more thoughtful and slower work, be it with people, landscapes, still life etc., filtering, from a tripod, etc. at any chance I get. It always reminds me of where photography came from, its history and how we go forward in a iPhone photo world. But still love my Nikons when needed, for quick moving, auto eye detect, subjects (and sometimes its actually better with color fringing etc., which bums me out).
 
I'm curious to hear from others like me who are fairly new to medium format. Have the subjects you shoot or your ways of seeing and approaching subjects changed when you started using these systems?

I'll start. I come from many years of using APS-C and full frame digital mirrored and mirrorless systems and autofocus. I did a lot of street photography, urban landscape and some documentary work - subjects that required quick responses and using AF. I'm now using a Fuji GFX body and mostly older manual focus lenses. I have just one AF native lens. I haven't been back on the streets with this gear due to COVID. I've found myself gravitating to more static subjects such as landscape. I need to hone my manual focus skills.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.
I have a GFX50s (Mk 1), a collection of Pentax 645 lenses and the Fuji kit lens. I've had my GFX outfit for about 4 months. It seems like any other camera outfit, just bigger, bulkier and heavier. It reminds me exactly why I slowly migrated from DSLRs to m4/3. The main effect moving to medium format has had on me is make me appreciate the freedom smaller formats provide. I'll be using my GFX mainly from a tripod to shoot long exposures, something it excels at. And for experimenting with image quality of course. For general walk around stuff, I'm going to stick with my m4/3 and a superzoom. Suits me better.

Do I think there is anything marvellous or special about medium format digital? No. It's just like any other format, it has its characteristics, pros and cons. Image quality-wise, it is a marginal improvement on high resolution full frame, and most of that is probably down the range of consistently high quality lenses.
 

jotloob

Subscriber Member
New or recent to medium format photography . . . . . .

My way into photography was exactly the other way round .
I started off with a VOIGTLANDER VITO B , the basic model , no lightmeter and no distance metering .
After a very short time , I discovered the 35mm format is not what I wanted and I was able to sell the VITO after half a year .
Saving every penny and getting money as birthday and x-mas presents from within the family enabled me to start into MF . I bought a ROLLEI CORD 6x6 (grey edition) .
I was very happy and at this time , I started to develop the B/W films myself . I was lucky and I was offered to use a semiprofessional darkroom .
The next adventure in MF was to aquire a MAMIYA C330 professional S , a great camera , which then enabled me to change lenses . I did mostly portaits at that time .
To make it short , I sold the ROLLEI CORD and also the C330 and got a HASSELBLAD 500 , mint , with just one lens . The 80mm . The HB system became a bigger family later .
The next adventure started years later to aquire an ARCA SWISS 6x9 , F-LINE METRIC , which was extended to use 4x5 inch sheet film as well .
When digital backs came up , i decided to go for HB CFV16 . That was the entry into digital photography for me . I totally gave up film and darkroom work and will not return .
CFV39 and CFV50 (classic) followed by trade in the CFV16 .
Today I use all formats , starting with iphone 13 pro , MFT , APSC , FF but most of all HASSELBLAD , ALPA and ARCASWISS with HASSELBLADs 50MP backs , including the 907x
with CFV II 50 c , which can be used native and on the HB , ALPA and ARCA .
After all these years , for me , the above written , was a very long journey through my life and also photographic life . I just discovered that was rather hard . Too many memories .

And as a photgraphic summary , I must say , that MF always has been and still is my only beloved format . It gives me peace , inner calm and satisfaction . It slows down life and photography . Happiness is the word .

Jürgen
 
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