Medium and large format cameras...a dying breed?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Jim Walczak, Oct 21, 2004.

  1. Jim Walczak

    Jim Walczak No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Greetings All,

    I breifly looked for info on this forum about this, but didn't see anything right away, so please forgive me if this is a redundant post...

    As I've been getting more and more into photography lately, or at least taking it more seriously, I've been reading everything I can (of course) to help me along my way. Recently my father picked up a couple of old copies of "Shutterbug" magazine, circa 1997, for me to thumb through. Now please keep in mind that I have been playing with photography for about 20 some odd years on and off really, with most of that working with 35mm...I had "heard" of medium and large format photography, but never really had much exposure (no pun intended) to it. Anyways, as I read thru these older magazines I'm seeing lots of adds for brands like Hasselblad, Rollie, Bronica, etc...medium and large format cameras (4x6, 8x10, etc) that at that time were selling for $1500 and up. Now in the "old days" (no offence to anyone here), I realize that the advantage of having, say an 8x10 large format camera was that it would allow massive blow ups of photos, especially for commercial work. While again I have never used said cameras, I'm sure they also had outstanding optics/lenses as well, at least compaired to some of the lenses that emerged over the years for 35mm's (K-mart's "Focal" brand comes to mind!). I'm sure back in the day, these pieces of equipment were quite worthwhile investments for pro's. With that said, in todays world of digital photography with 4-8 megapixel cameras being the standard (and producing exceptional quality in many instances) are the old Hassleblad's a dying breed? I mean I've been able to do some really decent 8x10 blow ups from just a 1 megapixel camera (thru the use of Photoshop and the "digital darkroom" of course) and with the newer cameras it seems like the sky is the limit. With the newer digital SLR's, the issue of decent lenses isn't even a factor any more...take a look at the options for a Canon D10...drool drool! LOL!

    I guess what I'm really askin here is, is something like a Hasselblad or a Bronica or something really worth that kind of investment any more? I'm sure that there are probably still more then a few "clients" that prefer a hired hand to use a large format camera for commercial work, but it seems (to me at least) that with the coming of the electronic age, email, the electronic darkroom, etc., that digital photography is really the way of things to come. It seems to me that if I'm going to invest $1000+ into a camera, that something like the aforementioned Canon D10 or something equivilant would be much more practical and useful then spending the equivilant on a Hasselblad, not to mention a lot more economical (for both the photographer and the client)...am I wrong?

    I'd just like to get some feedback on this issue...maybe the opinions of a few pro's. As always, I'm grateful for everyone's collective wisdom, knowledge and experience...thanks!

    Bright Blessings & Gentle Breezes,
    Jim
     
  2. ahelg

    ahelg TPF Noob!

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    Certainly I would think less people are using it but I strongly doubt it will die any time soon.
     
  3. photong

    photong Typo Queen

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    Well, they tought us about 4x5 and medium format in school and we had many assignments with them :) There was an 8x10 camera but only a couple people played with it.
     
  4. voodoocat

    voodoocat ))<>(( Supporting Member

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    First of all people equate megapixels with how much detail the camera resolves. Thats not really true. Take for instance the Sigma SD10 which has a 3 megapixel sensor. The sensor size is about the size of aps film. Same size sensor as the other DSLR's like the 10D, D70, etc which have 6 megapixel sensors. Yet it actually resolves as much detail. A 2.6 megapixel Nikon D1 is going to resolve more detail than an 8 megapixel consumer camera.

    Reason is, lenses can only squeeze out so much detail. If a small sensor is ever going to compete with a larger film counterpart, it's going to need a mighty sharp lens. Technology that is not here.

    So to answer your question. I believe the answer is never. Digital SLR's may have a cleaner image blown up to the same size but 35mm still resolves a smidgen more detail. Another thing that digital technology will do for us is give us better and better scanners.
     
  5. mygrain

    mygrain Friend to nose goblins everywhere

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    First, I'm no pro photographer but I am an professional fine artist so I might have some clout in a response. I think it will all boil down to what type of picture quality you prefer. More and more are turning to digital for what ever reason and there are still many many film lovers. Either you dump a wad on a film set up or a digi set up. It really doesn't matter outside of your needs and preferences because it's gonna be a real long time before film photography becomes obsolete especially with MF and LF because they continue to prove themselves as great cameras. I agree it is somewhat more economical to go digital. I mean you still have to keep a running computer, printer, and storage devices, not to mention keeping them current. Then the camera needs batteries, memory cards, etc...

    I have a 1950's Rolleiflex MF that is built like a solid chunk of metal, uses no batteries, and produces amazing photos- i'm consistantly amazed. For that matter (quality that is) I prefer to use film but I'm also an avid supporter of digital cameras because I can potenially save a lot of money in developing using my DSLR and have much much more control of my images because I don't have a darkroom setup. But will this DSLR stand on it's own after 50years. I don't think so. Most electronics I have last 10 years tops if I'm lucky and are usually obsolete in just a few years. If I continue to take care of this Rollei it will easily last another 50 years.

    Personally I thinks it's best to mix the two as much as possible and don't restrict yourself to to one type of anything. Don't let the camera be the master, but rather you be the master of the camera. :wink:
     
  6. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Digital technology is still catching up to film. Most of what I have read says that only the best digital sensor can rival 35mm film in terms of resolution. Medium & large format film is even better than 35mm film so there you go.

    Film also has better exposure latitude that most or all of the current digital technology. True black & white film has properties that a digital sensor has not be able to emulate...as far as I know.

    On another note...there are digital medium format cameras. They have very large sensors. The last one I read about was a 22 MP Mamiya. I think they even have digital backs that will fit onto medium format film cameras.
     
  7. Ant

    Ant TPF Noob!

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  8. danalec99

    danalec99 TPF Noob!

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    Canon is coming out with a 24 MP (around this range) DSLR in 2005.
     
  9. Jim Walczak

    Jim Walczak No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Thanks for the info!
    I was aware that there were newer, larger sized CCD chips on the market...heard about them mainly thru astrophography circles, but didn't know they were using them in cameras...never really even occured to me that some company like Hasselblad would be doing something like this! Doh! I'm sure they're probably -way- out of my price range, but it gives me something new to drool over! LOL! My main interest in the Canon DSLR's is mainly that all of my older 35mm equipment is all Canon...will save me a few bucks on lenses and such. For the stuff I'm doing at the moment...which is primarily for self interest and improving my work/techinique, digital had many advantages over film...the main one being cost of course. I agree that for someone who just wanted to get into digital photography and had no other interest in computers, this probably wouldn't be all that economical, but for someone like me, it's a very practical alternative...I'm -very- computer oriented to begin with :). Aside from the PC graphics work that I do, I'm also a musician and all of my recording gear is tied into PC's. In addition, my wife is a database programmer...PC's are very much a part of my household so pluggin a camera into a USB connection as apposed to paying for film and processing...you get the idea.

    I'm still not quite sure on the resolution issue though. I've recently had to fotune to reshoot some pics at a local zoo that I had shot many years ago with my 35mm and with the 4x6 prints at least, honestly the digitals look better to me then the 35mm prints. On the other hand as someone above said, with digital I also have much more creative freedom and control over what gets prints. With digital I also have the opportunity for instant review of my work...I can review my work on the laptop "on site" and if I had a pic come out bad, I can go back and do it over again so naturally my end result is going to be better to begin with. Also I'm sure that I'm much more proficient as a photographer now then I was back then and I'm sure that contributes as well. Either way, it's something I"m going to have to give more thought. I know that a portion of it is simply how much is too much...with music/audio work, the trend is to record at 98,000/24 bit resolution (CD's are only 41,000 16 bit). Now there comes a point when your average person simply can not tell the difference...human perception simply isn't that fine tuned. I know that digital camera's...at least the models commenly available now, arn't quite to that point, but when your talking about particals the size of a grain of film...or a pixel on a CCD chip, even with sizable blow ups of prints, it seems like it won't be long before we're really splitting hairs (so to speak) about the quality with all things (such as lenses) being equal. Even the finest quality large format film camera is going to show some degridation if you blow the print up large enough and aside from bill boards and such, I'm not really sure why most people, even in a comercial setting, would need prints -that- large.

    Sorry...not really trying to debate you folks here or your expertise...more just debating this in my own mind and typing while I'm thinking! LOL!

    I guess the thing that's really buggin me about this is photo situations like portrait studios and wedding photographers. For example, a portrait studio...most of the clients who use such a place are going to want 8x10 blow ups at the very largerst, with most pictures being 4x6 and wallet sized...would a good digital camera not excel at this and again be more economical to the photographer as apposed to film...especially in the instance of "fashion shots" where there's a tendancy to use soft focus? I would think the same would be true of your average wedding photographer...in your average situation, it's not like the bride is going to ask for billboard sized blow ups of the wedding party...8x10s seem to be the largerst size needed on average. Here especially...and maybe this is just my inexpereince talking...it seems like having a good digital camera (and knowing how to use it properly) would have many advantages over the traditional medium format camera that many photographers use...you could shoot -a lot- more pics for the wedding party to choose from and not have to pay (or have the client pay) for all the unwanted pics. Commercial photography could be a different situation, but again...something that's going to be printed in a magazine or newpaper isn't going to really warrent monsterous resolution is it? Focus and sharpness yes and I agree with whoever stated the issue about lenses, but again it seems like we're splitting hairs here. BTW, I do in reference to voodoocat's comment about resolution versus megapixal...yes I do understand this. There's a lot more that goes into a good digital picture besides resolution, but this in essence comes back down to quality...you can have a 50 megapixal camera but if it's got a crappy lens, it don't mean much where as a lower megapixal imager with a great lens can do some wondeful things :).


    Ok...I'm rambling here (LOL). I'm sure that what most of it is going to come down to is where my photography leads me. Should I be able to pursue this as a career option, then I have no doubt that at least some of that will dictate my choices in equipment. On the other hand with recent and continueing developments in the field of digital photography, by the time I get there, digital may be the format of choice anyways. I'm sure that film will be around for a long time to come...I never really doubted that. Just as digital/PC based recording had never really replaced the old reel-to-reel multi-tracks and even as television never replaced radio, I'm sure there will always be some realm for film...it's probably just a matter of "will it be something I really need to pursue".

    Alrighty folks...again thanks so much for your input, you've given me a few things to think about :).

    Bright Blessings & Gentle Breezes,
    Jim
     
  10. Corry

    Corry Flirtacious and Bodacious Supporting Member

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    Rambling? No, you are writing a book!!!! :) :lol: Heh heh..unfortunately, I'll have to read all that later cuz I have to leave within the next half hour! :)
     
  11. Jim Walczak

    Jim Walczak No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Hehehee...that ain't nothin...you should see how I write when I -really- get on about something! LOL!!! What can I say...I'm long winded :).
     
  12. voodoocat

    voodoocat ))<>(( Supporting Member

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    Yeah.. well i think you have the idea when you said what you shoot will dictate which gear to get. Each format has it's place.
     

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