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Photography Question 
Sam Berg

How to use a Medium Format Camera?

Hi, I am a high school student and I am interested in pursuing a career in photography next year when I attend college. Currently I have been using a digital camera and a 35mm Minolta. I am interested in buying a Medium Format Camera - something inexpensive like the Seagull? I was just wondering how you actually use a Medium Format Camera (load film, take pictures, adjust settings, how to develop them - would I need to do it myself or could I bring it somewhere, etc?) Any and all information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

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5/1/2005 5:59:07 PM

Vince Broesch   Have you thought about wheather you want an SLR or a TLR? SLR makes a lot of noise (wedding photos don't want that) and the strob sync is about 125. TLR has the advantage of leaf shutter, very little noise and strob sync at 500. The old Mamiya C-33 or C-330 TLRs were great cameras and they are cheap now. But be carefull buying a 30 year old camera to be sure everything works.

Film loading, settings, etc are pretty much the same as 35mm. Not every drug store can process 21/4 film. You might need a pro lab and it will cost a lot. If you process it yourself, again, its not that much different from 35mm.


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5/1/2005 9:36:40 PM

Kerry L. Walker   Shooting with a MF camera is the same as shooting with a 35mm. As Vince said, you can choose between SLR and TLR. I agree that the old Mamiyas were great cameras. I had a C-33. TLR's are very quiet but most have a waist level finder (you can get an accessory eye-level finder). Shooting with a waist level finder takes some getting used to as things in the viewfinder seem to be moving in the opposite direction that they are. Once you get used to it, it is a breeze to use. Before I bought the Seagull, I would check into the used market for a Mamiya (they also make SLR's), Pentax or Bronica. Seagull is not a great camera. Sometines you can get one with a good lens and sometimes you don't. Not a lot of quality control. Loading film in a MF camera is slower but it is not hard, once you get used to it. Most local labs can't process MF film but the can send it out for you. Pro labs are another great place to get MF film processed. They ar more expensive but worth it. If you process it yourself, you will find that MF film is easier to load on a spool than 35mm.

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5/2/2005 6:44:48 AM

Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/13/2004
  Also, I understand wanting to get started with medium format, but you may want to wait for a while. I'm in college right now, but my major is music with an outside field in fine art/photography. Most beginning photo classes that you will take use 35mm. You probably know that from high school assuming that you are doing it now. Along with all the darkroom stuff. I know at my college you might be able to skip some levels with a portfolio to show to the instructor, but it's not until later in the curriculum that you will be using medium format. Also, dumping the money into the camera is a big thing. If you wanted to buy something that cost a little more and you have the resources, you might be able to get a student loan to buy a better medium format camera. I got a loan from wells fargo for $2500 for my digital stuff that I just got and the payments are differed until 6 months after graduation. Of course, if you don't have a year round job yourself, you will need a cosigner. Just showing you some options.

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5/2/2005 11:53:12 AM

James M. Feldman   Just to add my 2 cents. Most of the pros have already or are currently dumping their md fmt stuff. There's some pretty good gear (as well as junk) floating on ebay. The Hassie's are still holding some of their value, but the older, all mech, bronicas, mamyias (RB67 proS) and pentax 67's can be picked up for a third of what they sold for 5 years ago. The C33's and C330's are great deals, but lenses and accessories will be tougher to find. You can take a real cheap "dip" in med fmt with a Yashicamat 124.

120 film is backed on paper and wound on open spools rather than in a casette. You thread the paper "tounge" in the take up spool, and start the advance, and close the back. When you're done, you seal the paper end, move the supply spool to the take up spool position and start over.

Processing B&W 120 is really no different than 35mm. You just need wider reels and deeper tanks. The main downside to 120fmt right now, is that you'll need a pro lab to process it, if you don't.

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5/4/2005 12:38:33 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Hi Sam: While shooting with a MF camera is similar to 35mm, you'll notice a marked difference in the results you get with MF especially at larger print sizes, a distinct advantage over 35mm. Also, I think you'll find that most SLR, MF cameras use a leaf shutter as well as the TLR's which also gives you flash sync up to 1/500th of a sec. The old Mamiya's Kerry mentioned are truly great cameras, as are the old Rollei TLR's. As far as shutter noise at a wedding, I would think in most instances the flash is more distracting than the shutter clunk of a Hassie or some others SLR MF. Now if you want a quiet shutter, how bout a nice Leica M-6. The bodies are only about $1500 bucks. :>))

In terms of cost of use for film and processing, although you get about the same square footage of film on a 120 roll vs. a 135-36 exposure roll, and it seems processing prices work themselves out to be proportionately equal. Bof course you'll get less frames per roll in 120 or even 220 (12 0r 24 with a 2 1/4 square format)., but with a large Hasselblad magazine, I think you can get 70 shots on a roll). When you're just learning I know film cost can be a really important consideration since you want to be burning a lot of film and experimenting. For that, I'd go with a good, clean, used 35mm camera.

Lastly, if you're shopping around for used equipment, unless you really know what you're looking for and how to determine what kind of shape its in, I'd stay away from BAH (Big Auction House) and take a look over at a place like You may pay a little more at KEH than BAH, but you'll likely find the warranties and being able to work with a sales rep are worth the additional bucks. Take it light...Mark ;>)

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5/4/2005 6:00:55 PM

Sam Berg   Thanks for all of the information. It has been very useful.

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5/4/2005 6:40:24 PM

David Coombes   So I got interested in medium format a while ago with mixed results, so here is my story:

First off I should say that I shoot film to scan the negatives or slides and do my own ink jet printing. I have a coolscan V 35mm film scanner. For scanning medium format I have an epson 4180 flatbed with the adaptor.

I got a holga. 15 dollars. Did the 6*6 mod and light proofed it. Great fun! Got some nice dreamy images.

Then I bought a Moscva2 russian folding range finder from 100 dollars. This thing is mad. Its thinner folded than a 35mm slr and it has a decoupled range finder and it takes interesting "arty" pictures. Much better than the holga, but its still a 50 year old camera.

So then I bought a used bronica sq body and the 80 mm lens... with a waist level finder from keh. Its mint, it seriously looks brand new. Its not too big or heavy for hiking, and its very cool to play with!
Now as you can imagine I was expecting big things from this sucker and to be honest I've been pretty disapointed. I think a huge part of the problem is the mirror slap. It kicks like a mule even on a tripod with a cable release.
Also I think my flatbed which was ok for the holga/moscva just isn't good enough to do the slide film I'm shooting with justice. I know I haven't managed to take a single picture ( on about roll 6 now ) that compares with either my 35mm rebel or my digital rebel in terms of sharpness and I don't think its a defect in the camera...
Part of the problem seems to be velvia likes to curl up in the scanner where as the kodak and ilford b&w films seem to lay down much flatter...
I'm also hearing velvia 100f isn't that sharp... so might try changing to a different color film or getting a lab to scan my images.

Upgrading to a body with the mirror lock up I hope would make a huge difference...

Another issue is that I do need to get a wider angle lens for the pictures I like to take and thats more dosh!
If I add up the cost of all the bronica bits I've bought, and add in the mlu body and a wideangle lens its getting close to the cost of a EOS20d....

Another issue with medium format is the negs are a bit awkward to work with as they are huge and come in sleeves that seem to attract dust and hairs...

Anyway thats my story and I guess my point is that in the case of the Bronica I think its way more technically demanding and less flexible to use than a 35mm / digital camera...and even the low used prices are very expensive compared to 35mm.



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5/6/2005 10:07:47 AM

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