Cost of Medium Format Film

Discussion in 'Medium Format & Large Format' started by Horace, Jan 10, 2016.

  1. Horace

    Horace TPF Noob!

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    Hi guys,

    I am looking into the costs of trying MF film photography. An idea I had is to leave a battery-less camera in my car (which also has a tripod in there 100% of the time) in the event that I come across something that needs to be captured. I thought MF might suit those kinds of scenes that I might run into.

    Last time I used a film camera was probably when I was 10 or so, and it was a Nikon F2. Film was still cheap back then.

    How much would MF cost me, both upright and per 10 shot? 6x6 would be nice, but I can settle for 645. Finding a light tight room in my apartment would not be that ideal. I have seen cans that do not require a darkroom to process but cannot find them for MF. So it would probably have to be sent out for development. I don't think I need high quality scans though, because for me one of the main advantage is to print in large scale. So I see my workflow to keep only budget friendly screens and select the ones I really like to be printed by a store.


     
  2. snowbear

    snowbear Big Furball Supporting Member

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    Here and here. If you're outside of the U.S. try your favorite web search engine.
     
  3. limr

    limr Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Paterson development tanks will develop 35mm, 120 (medium format) and 127. You'd just need a changing bag, not a darkroom.

    Probably the cheapest way into medium format is to get a twin lens reflex (TLR) - these will be 6x6 for the most part (a baby Rolleiflex is 4x4 for example.)

    I'll post some links when I'm not typing on a €=!#_£, ●6○♡ phone keyboard.
     
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  4. 480sparky

    480sparky Chief Free Electron Relocator Supporting Member

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    As limr says, you don't need a darkroom, just a dark space. They're called film-changing bags or dark bags. Like this. You put your developing tank and reel in there with your film, close it all up, stick your arms in and roll the film onto the reel and place it in the tank. Then you can work in normal light to develop your film.

     
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  5. limr

    limr Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Paterson tank: Paterson Universal Tank with Two Reels (Super System 4) PTP115

    Changing bag: Dot Line Large 27x30" Changing Bag (Black) DL-0188 B&H
    (I would go for the large one.)

    Charlie already gave you some links for film. If you develop yourself, you'll also need chemicals.
    Darkroom Chemistry | B&H Photo

    And of course, you'll need a camera. Like I said, a TLR is probably your cheapest way into medium format because you don't have to buy the lenses separately. I'm not sure what kind of budget you're looking for. You could do a basic medium format kit for a few hundred dollars - you can buy the body, the film back, the lens, and the viewfinder separately, or buy a whole kit. A TLR can also get expensive (a Rolleiflex, for example, will be expensive, and Mamiya C220 or C330 is a TLR with interchangeable lenses, so you may end up having to buy body and lens separately) but a decent one can be had for less than $200. Look for a Yashica, for example, though be careful because some of them take 127 film.

    You can check out KEH.com for an example of prices and components. They don't seem to have any complete kits at the moment, but their stock is changing a lot, so you can keep checking: Used Medium Format Cameras | Film Cameras | KEH Camera

    Of course, there's ebay, though it's less reliable as something like KEH, especially if you are looking for something without a battery. This means you'll generally be looking at older cameras, and you'll want to make sure you get something in working order.

    Finally, you'll need a way to scan your film, which you can outsource, but it will cost money, or you can invest in a scanner, which will also cost money, though that money will be upfront instead of per roll.

    So how much would it cost to get into medium format?
    -A few hundred for a good camera;
    -about $60 for developing tank and changing bag;
    -add in another, say, $50-75 for incidentals (a thermometer to monitor the temp of the developer, something to mix/store the chemicals, maybe a loupe to look at negatives, some sleeves to store the negatives, some clips to hang the negatives)
    -another $50-75 for your first batch of film and chemicals (developer, stop bath, fixer)
    -let's say you get a basic scanner, so another $200 or so

    So, initial investment looks something like $650-750? (This can be less depending on what camera you get, of course.) After the initial investment (again, assuming you're doing your own scanning), then the costs to maintain the medium format addiction hobby will be the cost of film and developer. A bottle of Ilford Rapid Fixer lasts for quite a while, so depending on how often you develop, you may have to spend $10 on a new bottle now and again. I can't tell you about traditional developers because I don't use them, but they're not expensive. (I don't know much about doing color - C-41 - developing at home. I take mine to a local lab.) Film, of course, can add up. You can get most films for $4-8 per roll.

    So once you start, it's not so bad. If you don't add the scanner to the initial investment, then add probably at least $10 to every roll just for scanning. Most places charge $15-20 per roll for development and scan. It will be slightly less if you are developing yourself and only getting the scans, but it can still add up. That scanner might end up paying for itself after about 10-15 rolls.

    So, per roll, if you have your own scanner, it'll be less than $10/roll for sure (you get 12 shots from a 6x6 camera and 15 shots from a 6x4.5) for cost of film+development (I am not going to do the exact math but I'll guess around $7 for a roll of TriX or HP5.)
    If you don't have your own scanner, then it'll be, as I said, likely about $20-25 per roll (cost of film+commercial development and scanning.)
     
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  6. Horace

    Horace TPF Noob!

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    Thanks everyone and especially limr. That was a very informative post. So I guess I will not go into MF until my wallet grows a bit.
     
  7. minicoop1985

    minicoop1985 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Also, something to consider: Do you want autofocus? If you do, you're limited to 645. I don't know of any larger AF cameras. If you want to go manual, and are after 6x6, there's no better way to go than Hasselblad.
     
  8. Horace

    Horace TPF Noob!

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    No I don't need AF. Perhaps not even a meter built in. Just a usable, basic, platform. The idea is to keep it in the car for landscape photography as a start.
     
  9. petrochemist

    petrochemist No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    If you're leaving a camera in your car for extended periods that's got the potential to be ideal for fungus growth on your lenses. Cars can get relatively damp overnight (picked up moisture has been a frequent pain with samples we've had in the back of various hire cars over the years). Stored in an airtight box with a little desicant there shouldn't be any problems though.

    FWIW there are cheaper ways into MF than a TLR. All 3 of my MF cameras have been vintage box style cameras. The folding camera is rather nice, and only cost £1 & a little TLC. I'll freely admit more modern MF cameras are better, just not particularly affordable. :)
     
  10. Horace

    Horace TPF Noob!

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    Good advice about the air tight box.

    What are your box style cameras? The ones on eBay that are TLRish prices are Kiev 6C and Mamiya Six which is a folder. Does the folder focuses by moving the film forward and backwards? Are they less reliable than non folding ones since it is an extra thing to go wrong.
     
  11. limr

    limr Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    It's true - one doesn't have to spend hundreds on a camera. There's always a Holga :) (And I say that as a fan, not in a derogatory way.) And a decent TLR can be had for less than $100.
     
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  12. vintagesnaps

    vintagesnaps Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    That's what I got started in using 120 film - vintage, bakelite, plastic etc. Have a couple of Holga/Diana style cameras, fun and it's a matter of learning how to use them effectively like Leo does quite well (and I typed that before you snuck in with your post! lol).

    I've used box cameras, I have a Kodak that was the last model they made and it actually has settings! lol I have folders that were thrift store finds that I haven't even used yet.

    Depends on condition how well it still moves/focuses. Basically you're moving the lens forward and back and you extend the bellows out or back in along a track. There are some old cameras that have what were reportedly good lenses, Steinheil, Franke & Heidecke, etc.

    I don't have a problem with mold particularly where I live, as long as the camera/lens doesn't already have fungus.

    I send out film, the Darkroom in San Clemente, or you could try Blue Moon in Portland or Dwayne's in Kansas. Most seem to have options of just having film developed, or scanned, or a hi res scan, etc.
     

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