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Thread: Getting started with Medium?

  1. #1
    Kiri
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    Getting started with Medium?

    Hi everyone, I have recently become curious about this format due to some great photography I have seen taken with it (Nick Brandt for example), but have no idea what it involves really.
    I have been shooting with micro four thirds gear for a few years, but never used medium (or full frame for that matter).

    Could any of you give me some advice as to what would be a good and affordable way to start out with medium format?
    Or is affordable kind of off the table? lol

    thanks!

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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    As far as I know much of Nick Brandts work is shot on 6x7 analog film, scanned and dodged and burned digitally -- post-processing is a key ingredient in his look not only the format. Anyway an analog medium format system is very affordable second hand, for example a Mamiya RZ67 system.

    Medium format digital is a whole different story, it never is really cheap. A $10K budget and buying everything second hand can give you something decent though. I'm more into tech cameras so I don't have that good knowledge about MFD SLR prices but it seems to me that second hand Hasselblad systems often are a bit cheaper. Look around in the buy&sell forums to see what things cost.

    If I were you I'd look at full-frame 135 DSLRs first though. This is a major step-up in look from micro 4/3 and is more reasonable in price and much more flexible than MFD. There can be reasons to go for medium format digital, but you really need to know what you want and what to use it for so you know what you are into. With 135 DSLRs you don't really need to know what type of photography you are going to do, since you can use it for everything.

    I quite recently got into medium format myself on an amateur budget, and did a lot of research before on digital backs, I've written it down here, maybe useful to you:

    Guide to second hand medium format digital backs

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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    I just saw a P20+ for a Hassy V system at $3k. Add a camera and lens and you are in for 5. Is it cutting edge or state of the art? No... but the images will still be lovely. You may have to shoot with a tripod in less than ideal light, and focus will be sometimes tricky, but you will be delighted with the files and images.

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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    my recommendation, and i have been through the wringer:

    get a blad 503 some lenses and a blad SW with 38mm lens and a good 2-1/4 sq scanner (Nikon is excellent), shoot film. pick up a so-cool rollei 2-1/4 for backup
    gorge yourself on the square format and waist level finders and wiiide angle shooting

    shoot tri-x and thumb your nose at the Leica Monochrome

    any of the digital backs will have a major crop factor (1.3 for the P20) so your wide angles will suffer, plus a 16meg image won't be better than a scanned negative

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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    While I live Hasselblads, I would not recommend starting there. And MF digital is too expensive.

    I'd go with a Fuji GF670 .. New, at $1700, used around $1200 .. and work film and scanner. Reliable and compact enough to carry easily. Built in meter and a great lens. 6x6 or 6x7 format.

    Don't need a hyper expensive scanner either .. My ancient Epson 2450 does very well.

    And hey! I like the Monochrom ... :-)

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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    I assume you are speaking of film. There are two things you need to identify first:

    1. Format (6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7, 6x8, 6x9, 6x12, 6x17)
    2. Camera Type (SLR (waist level or eye level), rangefinder, view camera, TLR, etc.)

    Now if you have a plan to do very specialized photograph like wildlife, that will limit the problem as well as only a few companies made lenses with focal lengths long enough for that kind of work.

    If you have no idea where you want to do, I would suggest picking up a TLR which can be inexpensive. If you want a flexible system, I would look at the Mamiya TLRs, C2, C3, C220, C330 cameras, as they have interchangeable lenses.

    I have shot mostly medium-format for most of my career and the choice of camera is really important.

    Some MF companies:

    Hasselbald
    Mamiya
    Bronica
    Pentax
    Horseman
    Fuji
    Yashica
    Rollei

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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    Quote Originally Posted by jlm View Post
    my recommendation, and i have been through the wringer:

    get a blad 503 some lenses and a blad SW with 38mm lens and a good 2-1/4 sq scanner (Nikon is excellent), shoot film. pick up a so-cool rollei 2-1/4 for backup; gorge yourself on the square format and waist level finders and wide angle shooting; shoot tri-x and thumb your nose at the Leica Monochrome

    any of the digital backs will have a major crop factor (1.3 for the P20) so your wide angles will suffer, plus a 16meg image won't be better than a scanned negative
    If you are willing to use film and scan, then any of the above cameras make a great deal of sense. Its a great way in, and you'll be amazed at the quality.

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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    Since you are using m4/3 now, I think film will be too complicate and needs lots of $$ to burn for film and develop/scanner.
    Go with cheap digital medium format is the way to go, you will amaze with the quality.
    FYI, I am selling a digital Medium format now on this board, please search my profile.
    Goodluck!
    Sonny

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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    The economics of MFD depends on how much you shoot. If you shoot a lot and by that I mean 5000+ shots a year, then MFD can be much more cost effective. If you shoot significantly less than that, then film can be a better option. Now, access to film and processing can also tip that balance.

    The problem is you have no experience and no frame in which to judge this move. A cheap film system is a good way to get your toes wet with out having your leg torn off.

    Any reason you are not thinking of starting with 35mm digital cameras?

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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    Start with a system that allows you to use both film and digital backs. If you don't have enough money, you can start off with the film and scan it. If you see that you enjoy it, you can later get a DB for it as well.

  11. #11
    Kiri
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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    Well I would still primary use my m4/3 system, and probably only use the MF camera when there was something "worth shooting" so to speak.
    What attracted me to try MF was the impressive quality and tonality of some of the images I have seen. I figure that since I am already using m4/3, I should try something as extremely different as possible

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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    Extremely different from m4/3? That would be the Fuji GX680, which is what I bought. I love the camera and the system, but be aware; it's a rather big beast. Even the lenses, which come in their own little "suitcases" take up a lot of space in the camera bag. Still, I get camera, 3 lenses and a couple of film holders in a Think Tank Airport Addicted, and I recently travelled 60 kilometers on a bad dirt road using a 110cc Honda motorbike with that gear on my back. Most people would go for something lighter though, like the Fuji GF670, a real jewel of a camera and almost pocketable

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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    Another thought is if you want something "different" then maybe consider a panoramic? That's what I've done for my film fix - Fuji G617. I LOVE it although it eats film like a cookie monster. That said, there is a very definite enjoyment from wielding the huge camera to shoot wonderful panoramic scenes in a single shot.

    Another option might be a Mamiya 7II which is a great 6x7 format camera that produces wonderful images on film.

    If you're considering MF digital then it's a bigger jump off the deep end to really see the benefits. From a colour and tonality perspective pretty much any MF digital from Kodak 645, Hassy H1, Phase One P20+/P21+ and associated bodies will absolutely make your m4/3rds images seem very 'digital'.
    Remember: adventure before dementia!

    As Oscar Wilde said, "my tastes are simple, I only like the best"

  14. #14
    Kiri
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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    Thanks for the advice everyone. There are so many choices for MF cameras, its a little overwhelming.

    One other question, could you give me a rough idea of film and processing costs? I know it will vary a lot, but just a ballpark figure would be nice so that I can judge what I would be getting into in terms of recurring costs.

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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    One roll of 120 film cost is $5-7 - Professionally developed, scanned large and proof prints from Richard Photo Lab in LA is $24 - shipping to and from lab - $5-8 each way

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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    If you are just getting film developed and you scan yourself, $3-5 per roll depending on where you are.
    Remember: adventure before dementia!

    As Oscar Wilde said, "my tastes are simple, I only like the best"

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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    Are you talking about color or B&W. Color can be easier and cheaper, $5/roll. B&W can be more expensive. But you can also do that yourself.

    And format will also determine how many shots per roll--6x4.5, 16/roll; 6x6, 12/roll; 6x7, 10/roll; 6x12, 6/roll, 6x24, 3/roll.

  18. #18
    Kiri
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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    Thanks guys. I am in Japan, so I will have to find out what local prices are like. But about $5 per roll doesnt sound too bad. I would just get the film developed and then scan it, since I would want to be working on the images in photoshop

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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    In Bangkok, where I live, Colour negative is $2 for developing and b&w $4. It makes a lot of sense to develop b&w yourself. A cheaper way to do b&w at places where there's a difference between the two, is to use a film like XP2 that is developed with colour processing.

    Scanning varies a lot, but there are very good, reasonably priced flatbed scanners available. The Epson V700/750 are more or less as good as flatbeds get. I still use a 10 year old Epson 3200 and get decent results. I will invest in Betterscanning film holders though, to keep the film more flat and at the correct distance to the sensor, thereby improve sharpness and resolution.

  20. #20
    Kiri
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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    OK, so I've been doing some research, and I'm pretty sure I want to go with either 6x6 or 6x7 format.
    Both the Mamiya 6 and Pentax 67 seem like good options, but are still a reasonable amount of cash. I'm wondering if there is something in 6x6 as a very cheap entry point?
    I saw the Fuji GF670 recommended earlier in the thread. It seems very good, but a bit out of my price range at this point.

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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    TLRs are a good way to enter 6x6 cheaply. The Mamiya C-series mentioned above are very flexible. Minolta and Yashica have fixed lens TLRs. The only other cheaper way to try out 6x6 would be to look at old folders like an Agfa Isolate. They will not have as good optics and you need to worry about light leaks, but if you find a working camera, they can be fun.

    Bronica also made a 6x6 camera that might be a good option as it never survived the digital revolution. But this camera is more like a Hasselblad rather than the eye-level cameras you are looking at.

    Fuji made 6x9 and 6x8 fixed-lens rangefinders that are excellent. But at that point I think you are starting to get to the price range of Pentax 67.

  22. #22
    Kiri
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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    Thanks for the advice Shashin. I'll look into some of those folders like the Isolate you mentioned. And also the Bronica ones.
    The TLR cameras don't really appeal to me so much for some reason.

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    Re: Getting started with Medium?

    I think Bronica would be your best bet as far as price. As Sashin mentioned, I never saw one working with a digital back. My advice is to get a system that will allow you later on to slap a digital back on it at a later time if you decide to do so.

    Personally I would pay a little bit more to get into a system that can be used both with film and digital. The price difference is not that big.

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