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Sunday, 05 April 2020


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Hey, Mike:

RE "It has been nagging at me somewhat that the results from an ordinary Micro 4/3 camera can give these old battle tanks a run for their money!"

I never understand statements like this, so reminiscent of the "when will digital be good enough" battle of a few years back. To my eye, digital and analog images are different in character in a way that defies "run for their money" comparisons. Ditto for the look of images taken with medium format lenses are compared to those taken with lenses for micro-4/3rd cameras, as dictated by their differing focal lengths for equivalent coverage.

Well, dear Mike, this article is, as always, well written, but what's the point of working with that old technology? All that effort to work with that old material doesn't take you a step further.

Big overweight cameras? At our age, we can't even carry the Majestic tripod that will be needed to use them

I was never much into lenses, but I did have a darkroom for several years. One of the charms of working in a darkroom, if you're a person of a certain sloppiness (as I am), is that you would occasionally get results by error and chance that you liked, but you could never have thought of. That doesn't happen with digital -- what you get on the screen is what you get on the screen, and any decisions and changes you make are your decisions and changes, and not the result of serendipity. Serendipity, both in the taking and processing of images, is one of the joys of photography.

If you cannot visually see the difference in a medium format film image over a micro 4/3 image, then photography is not your art.

Not so long ago, film purists laughed at "toy" cameras using digital technology. Before then, large format film photographers disparaged "miniature" 35mm cameras, which gradually displaced 4x5 Speed Graphic and other press cameras.

Now, film seems to be regaining a strong avant garde niche. Kodak is now reportedly selling twice as much film as in 2014. Working 4x5 press cameras in good condition sell in the $800 range. The more things change ....

There's merit on both sides of the digital/film question:

Using even an original 16MP Olympus E-M5 M4/3 camera with pro-grade glass and careful technique, it's quite feasible to get exhibit-grade 24x32 prints, even in bad weather. That's better than what was possible with 35mm and 120 film cameras.

But, precisely because digital photography has raised our expectations of final print quality, the move back to large format film (lighter-weight 4x5 and 5x7 film field/press cameras and carbon fiber tripods) is a logical next step in the quest for highest possible quality.

Modern LF lenses are multicoated, diffraction limited and very inexpensive on the used market. Low ISO black and white films like Kodak TMax 100 and Ilford Delta 100 have better dynamic range and resolution than tightly packed full-frame sensors. As an example, scanning an 5x7 Ilford Delta 100 negative with an Epson V850 scanner gives a native mechanically limited, non-interpolated resolution of 2900 x 2300 pixels per inch. That's basically 8.5 megapixels per square inch and a nearly 300MP file when optimally scanning a 5x7 negative.

Digital and large format film technologies are not mutually exclusive but rather the best tool for a particular project.

Good god man. I can't think of a more esoteric way to sabotage your original intent. All this time and you haven't made a single exposure on film yet. I love you, but seriously, this is starting to look like a negative pathology and not a hobby.

[Who said I haven't made a single exposure on film yet? Not the case at all. --Mike]

There was supposed to be an exhibit of the "Class of '69" photos at the Darkroom Gallery in Essex Junction, Vermont, opening next week. That's obviously not going to happen, at least not right now. It's possible it will be rescheduled when we come out the other side of this plague.

The mats are all cut, so I hope I eventually find a place to hang them up.

The one time people were sure a photo of mine had been shot with my Leica and the 90mm Summicron -- nope, it was the Pentax screw-mount and the Tamron Adaptall 85-205 slow zoom. (Admittedly, my sample of that lens was somewhat better than it should have been.)

This was back in college. Ever since I've been really skeptical of people who see characteristic looks to lenses. Mostly, sure, medium format looks somewhat different from 35mm—because it's enlarged 1/2 or less as much, I think.

I can imagine learning to tell the difference between film and digital by working at it, but it's mostly a parlor trick, and mostly works by identifying the flaws of film that digital overcomes.

It's possible, today, to do a bunch of sample photos with different 35mm lenses in front of the same digital sensor, so one could to a set of example images on at least on aspect of this, showing differences in lenses. It would have to be the same photo taken with different lenses on the body to be convincing, which requires some fairly stable weather and quick lens changing, but something could be done. (Building indoor sets and keeping them standing is necessary for the "perfect" version but I don't think much of anybody can afford perfect here).

I don't have a full-frame mirrorless digital, which is what's needed to do this, so I'm not doing it, though.

Mike, No AF could be as simple as oxidized contacts. Simply cleaning the contacts can sometimes fix communication issued.
Also check that no contacts are even slightly out of position (fore/aft)
I do not know that camera so this is general. Some are seeing loaded, some friction fit.
If you have any contact cleaner for your music system interconnects , that works. Tiny amounts on a tiny lint free pad, and wipe them down.

Worth a try before you send it away

I have to add something that I have probably said before here.

I have a 30x20 inch image of Aroaki (Mt. Cook) hanging in my bedroom. The image is the second image of that size I had printed. Taken in 2006 using a 6MP Pentax *ist Ds and the sort of kit smc PENTAX-DA 50-200mm F4-5.6 ED. My better half hung the first iteration (glossy print on Fujicolor paper) in her office for several years. The current iteration is on canvas.

Good enough is just that - good enough. The trip where I took the image was our second all digital trip to NZ. The first was with my Fujica and a Toshiba 2MP point and shoot.

Of all the images we took on the first trip, it was a 2MP image of Aroaki taken by my son using the Toshiba. If you don't plant your face up to the printed - that is a key word - image you really would not think the 2MP image is all that bad. Definitely good enough where the images from my Pentax blow it out of the water for many reasons.

Resolution ain't the only game in town. The print I have hanging closest to my desk is a contact print from a pinhole camera using 120 film. It's a tiny thing, suitable for my tiny office. It doesn't distract from work when there's work to be done, but it still rewards a close look.


When you one day put real film through them fine lenses, can you do a favour at least a bit for me and the rest also for mankind who play with cameras and lenses.

How good is the "best in the world" Schneider-Kreutznach MF lens when used wide open? This is not a mischievous question. I am so used to ramping up my Leitz optics to full aperture that I am wondering if other marques' maximum apertures are equally usable and not just ceremonial.

Many thanks.

Dan K.

"it allows you to buy and play with the cameras and lenses you dreamed about as a teenager, but could never afford at the time."
Yeah, but they went and raised the price of the film.

Just because I check every month or so. ...
Yikes, B&H has 50 foot rolls of 70mm HP5in stock!!!! only $150 a roll !!!
no 20 rolls at $200 minimum order!!!
That equals about 20 $7.50 120 rolls or so.

Other than the world generally going to hell in a handbasket this is very good news _ except that I'll be right back in the "I don't know if I'll ever get any more of this ever again, should I use it of save it for later" syndrome - looking at a few boxes of portriga rapid , cibachrome, and kodachrome that never got used.

But still, 70mm film.
Made in this century.
In a store.
For sale.

When the Canon 1Ds became available I bought one, It was a struggle at times, RAW conversion was not nearly as good and polished as now.

But as a print maker of more than 30 years, at that time, I saw the future with certainty then.

So did a bunch of other photographers. Because within months the used prices of medium format film cameras fell through the floor. My medium format Pentax 6x7 and 645 and lenses were worth about a third of what they were a year earlier. So were Hasslesweedes and Mommyeahs. And that was the asking price; what you were actually likely to get was lower.

So now can one reasonably claim a 4/3 or m4/3 can match the print quality of a film medium format? Yes, they can. As printer of 50 plus years, from black and white and color negative to color positive to ink jet digital, yes they can.

And if the person competent with PS and who knows how to work with a late model full frame digital camera for 40 plus MPs with modern lenses, that person can lay down a better print that 4x5 film and maybe even larger. The print will be different, have a different "feel", but it will be a question whether the viewer prefers dinosaurs or border collies. In nearly every measurable respect it will be better.

That said, I have had the pleasure of seeing several very large prints of Ansel Adams' classics. Could modern equipment, full frame 40 plus MPs and high quality lenses many of which could be zooms, equal or surpass Ansel's 8x10s. In many ways yes. With respect to sharpness and tonal range at 30x40 print size, yes.

With respect to subtle tonal gradations, that special richness, well then maybe not. As I remember, back in olden days, sheet film emulsions were thicker. Not only were they thicker in microns, but they were thicker or richer in the variety of silver halides. Some were quite large, much like larger pixels. Some were smaller and could capture smaller details but were not as sensitive. Ring a bell?

How do we equal that variety of light receptors and the richness of tones with our modern digital sensors. Or do we learn to live with the glory of what we have now and learn to exploit what it can do.

"Cameras Are Always About Lenses for Me"

"Yes", I think, I've changed the bodies I use, but kept the lenses I love.

Then, I ask myself why I changed bodies, if it's all about the lenses. The answer is that the new bodies allow me to use the virtues of the lenses to greater effect.

And that has, once again, proved to be true in practice. So I'm sticking to the mantra that photography is about vision, and the cameras and lenses that allow me to capture what I see.

It ain’t about the sharpness folks!

Mike, in the spirit of buying what I lusted after but never could have afforded when they were new (55 Chevy 2 dr hardtop, Austin Healy 3000...) I picked up a Hasselblad C/M500 with the standard Zeiss Planar 80/2.8 for a few hundred $$ in a slow year during the 2000s. I took a few lovely full-family portraits with it. The big camera on tripod gave a proper sense of formality to the event. But what I missed out on was the set of what must have been bar-standard arguments between the Zeiss fans and the Schneider adherents (such as yourself).

For the sake of recreating a lost era could you compare the two families?

Gosh, Mike, let me get this straight. You've got that fantastic Rollei beast, tick, with that fantastic Schneider lens, tick. The combo works, tick. Moreover, the combo works in the best possible configuration there is: manual focus with in-camera focus confirmation. Another tick. Last time I checked, you had plenty of film rolls in your fridge, too. Another tick.

I can see only ticks. Now I would expect to find you out there roaming the woods (respecting all the distancing rules of course), enjoying your wonderful setup. And yet, no such thing. Mike is at home, looking at his gear, searching for a problem. Intervention, Mike, intervention!

I love you, Mike (in the forum sense, obviously), and therefore I think I have the right to say it: That missing autofocus is a non-issue, an absolute and utter non-issue. If you send that lens off for a not-needed repair, we will have to worry about you, Mike. Go out and enjoy some wonderful film in that wonderful Rollei with that wonderful Schneider lens!

And stay safe, as we all must in these strained times.

[Jeez, will you guys give me a minute? I just got the batteries back like two days ago. And it was raining. --Mike]

But those of us who actually did roll, shoot, process, and print film as a teenager still say "good frikkin' riddance" to film.

[Maybe, but these posts are for people who do not say that. Remember, not every post is for every reader. Take the ones you want and leave the rest. --Mike]

I just realised reading this that I never had a zoom or an autofocus lens until I went digital with an Olympus C-3030 in 2000. Prior to that it was Pentax, then OM system and Bronica, going back to about 1970

A couple years ago, late in my photographic life, I decided to finally get a real TLR. I had always been put off by the reversed image and had only shot a toy Gakkenflex TLR (where the idea was to get screwed up images). After much investigating, I settled on a Minolta Autocord. Brilliant lens, lovely to use, and lightweight. Also Rolleinar close-up lenses fit on its Rollei-standard bayonet.

So I was hooked. Got a Mamiya 220 with the wide-angle 55mm lens. Heavier, not as lovely to use, but for when I want a wide-angle, I have it.

But then, the most lovely and wonderful TLR I can imagine. A 1951 Koniflex, a short-lived TLR from Konica with a magical Heliar-style lens. This is the camera that convinced me, that shows me, 3-D pop is a real thing.

Altogether, these three TLRs cost me under $750. They are discreet to use (when people aren't coming up to you to ask about the camera or tell you stories about their dad who had one), fun to use, and (excepting the Mamiya) very lightweight. I regret that it took me so long to discover them.

While I no longer get my fingers wet, I'm with John Camp here. The serendipitous error that points the way "Oh! I need to radically increase the contrast!" was definitely a thing for me, and it is definitely missing in the digital world.

I miss that, along with the "make 4 prints as identical as you can, and pick the best one" are the two phenomena I miss.

" Cameras Are Always About Lenses for Me "
The same to me.

I have not followed all you have written on this experiment but I am a bit amused of the problems you are having with the latest medium format (film) technology. My choice of medium format was Hasselblad 500C and SWC. No need for batteries and no autofocus. And OM-1 instead of OM-2. I still have a working mercury battery but that is not needed for the camera to operate. Old Sekonic 398 is still working well, without any batteries.

How many reviews have we seen with
Just bad photos
Just take the photo!
I have a phaidon book of
National geographic photos before
The digital age - fantastic
Digital can be just as good
It's the photo!

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