35mm vs Medium Format

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Haasim Mahanaim, Jun 24, 2004.

  1. Haasim Mahanaim

    Haasim Mahanaim TPF Noob!

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    Last weekend I attened a dreadfully boring wedding where the only thing of interest was the gear used by the photography crew. I saw a medium format camera for the first time, upclose and in person. But was this overkill, wouldn't a 35mm have sufficed? Thenegain, I guess I should be asking what is the difference between a 35mm camera vs a medium format camera.

    I have searched the forums looking for an answer to this question, but I couldn't find anything that really explained the difference between these two types of cameras.

    I know that MF cameras use film that comes in various sizes, so I'm assuming this means MF can have larger prints than 35mm film. But are there any other advantages besides resolution? Can I ever be a pro who uses a 35mm camera or is this a much more complicated question than I thought?
     
  2. Scott WRG Editor

    Scott WRG Editor King of Smoothness

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    MF cameras used to be the norm for higher end photography and they of course still have thier place. However, the increase in film quality and optics available for 35mm SLR's mean the difference is minor unless your are talking extremely large blow-ups. Most wedding photographers have long switched to 35mm or even digital. MF is nice but overkill for all but the most artisitic applications. That is purely my opinion of course. I'm not a professional photographer but as a freelance videographer I work with them at weddings quite often.
     
  3. Walt

    Walt TPF Noob!

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    The big advantage to medium format is the negative size. There are several different sizes of cameras you can choose from that will yield different size negatives. The smallest is 6X4.5mm which is greater than three times the size of a 35mm negative. Obviously the quality of enlargements is increased as well as the tonal range. They are fun to work with but very expensive. The plus side to the popularity of digital is used MF prices are comming down a bit.
     
  4. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    There have been people who have been photographing weddings only with digital point-n-shoots for years now. It is totally possible to be all 35mm film, and do a great job.

    I was with a bride-to-be today who obviously didn't know much about photography, but she had no problem picking out the medium format photos in my portfolio. "These are much more striking" is how she described them.

    It's not just the resolution, it's the smooth tonality and saturated color from the lower enlargement ratio. Also, you can shoot ISO 400 film, and it makes nicer enlargements than 35mm ISO 100 film. But 35mm 8"x12" prints also look very good. Smaller than 8"x it probably is difficult to see the difference, but I think it's there at 8"x and up.

    Medium format BW looks so much better to me that I shoot all my family snapshots in MF. I'm only using 35mm film if someone is paying me to. With one exception: you cannot beat the 35mm high speed lenses, and I can actually afford them. I still use 35mm film for low light/no flash photography.
     
  5. Mitica100

    Mitica100 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Advantages of a MF camera: size of negative, allowing bigger enlargements with better resolution, sharpness.

    Disadvantages of a MF camera: processing the negative (special labs), size and weight of equipment, limited array of lenses, cost of equipment (with the money you pay to buy one MF lens you can actually buy a nice Digital camera).

    All in all, 35mm seems to have the edge, more so now with the more advanced fine grained films, but... I still prefer to use a MF camera for special shots.
     
  6. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

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    I shot a wedding last week and used MF, 35mm, and digital (Canon 10D). They wanted mostly film, so I used digital only sparingly, mostly candids before the ceremony. I shot 35mm during the outdoor ceremony and the indoor reception, and MF for the outdoor formals.

    Another benefit to the MF camera I used compared to the 35mm SLR was that it's a range-finder. I mounted it on a tripod and used a cable release. There's no mirror to flop around and blur the shot. It's hard to get much sharper without going to a large-format camera. It's also a 6x7, so the crop fits an 8x10 print perfectly. Many MF cameras also have film backs that you can pre-load if you have more than one, so changing rolls is easier, even mid-roll, which helps make up for the fewer shots per roll.

    It might be more of a pain juggling a couple of cameras, but I'd rather use the right tool for the job. If given my choice, I would have used the digital instead of the 35mm (the Nikon I used was loud), but I still would have used the MF for the formals.

    Koni-Omega Rapid M
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  7. GerryDavid

    GerryDavid No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I assist a wedding photographer and he uses both digital and medium format cameras, but mostly medium format. The Fuji Pro2 or 3 is mostly for candid shots. From the sound of things, the film isnt much more expensive than 35mm, you pay about the same but instead of getting 24 exposures you get 15. Im not sure of the developing costs though, I havent asked that question yet, hehe.

    And its nice to offer the option to print a much larger print if they want it, not to mention you make a good bit of money if they do. Like if they really like the one picture and want to mount it on the wall, at say 12X18 or even larger.

    Also its nice to have removeable backs so you can have film loaded in advance so you dont have to stop and load film every once in a while. Espeically if your going from indoors to out doors on a bright day and having to change iso film midrole, the camera back comes off and on goes the other film speed. No rewinding and advancing required.
     
  8. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    I tend to think of film in terms of amount by the square inch. For instance 35 exposures of 35mm film is 80 square inches, so is a roll of 120 film, and so is 4 sheets of 4x5. Actually I've found that when buying pro films, MF and LF are usually a bit cheaper, per 80 square inches, than pro 35mm film. 35mm film developing tends to be cheaper because the whole industry is oriented towards it, and there is much more volume. But processing MF and LF at home is no more expensive than 35mm film.

    format how many shots on a roll of 120 film
    6x4.5 18 shots? (I don't shoot 6x4.5 so I may be misremembering)
    6x6 12 shots
    6x7 10 shots
    6x9 8 shots
     

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