Oh No!

Once or twice a year I look through my old medium format contact sheets and am mesmerized by some of the images. The moment usually passes without my doing anything about it. But once in a great while I pull an old medium format camera out of storage, put a (usually expired) roll of film in it and go out to take some pictures. And then reality steps in.

I dislike almost everything about working with medium format. The cameras are big and heavy. I find them harder to hold steady than my beautiful little 35mm film cameras. It takes an unconscionable volume of chemicals to develop one roll of film. And the only practical way I have of scanning medium format negatives is with a flatbed scanner and I never seem to be able to control the dust when I do that. But oh those images.

Only 10% or so of the negatives in the archive of my father’s work and mine are medium format, but half or more of the prints on display in our house at any time are made from those medium format negatives. When my father or I got the composition, exposure and development right, and I get the prints right, I find myself wondering why I waste my time with 35mm.

Last night I was looking at a contact sheet of 6×6 pictures I took on a long walk with my then fiancé 54 years ago and the whole cycle started again. It’s overcast today, perfect for photographing the very odd roof line of a house being remodeled just around the corner from us. I’m on my way out now and I’m taking a battered old Rolleiflex loaded with HP5 Plus. We’ll see what happens…

 

11 thoughts on “Oh No!”

    1. By all mean’s give a try, the format can be a lot of fun to use, and the quality of the negatives are superior to any 35mm film images, but what you and I do, I don’t think it’s not worth the time or expense.

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      1. I’ve gone one better. I finished the roll of film in the Rollei, developed it, scanned the negatives and in the process was reminded of how much I prefer my 35mm workflow. Both of my MF cameras are now in the queue to go to new homes.

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  1. Tried it, liked it, I once had the use of a Bronica SQ-A for a while, but then I asked myself a question… do you really need such large negatives for the amateur photographer?
    The answer is no. Why, well unless your going print very large wall mounted landscapes all the time, shoot professional wedding photography and most professional wedding photographers I know now shoot full frame digital these days, or work professionally for high end commercial agency, there’s really no reason at all for the amateur photographer. Other reasons, the equipment is big and heavy, prices of these cameras is still high, some commanding price tags as high as when they where new. 220 film is near now non existent, so your limited to 120 film so that’s only 12 exposures and carrying a medium format system plus large tripod around can be a health hazard!
    As for the Rolleiflex, wonderful camera, enjoy.

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  2. [UPDATE] I finished the roll of film in the Rollei, developed it in Rodinal, did a scan of the whole roll with the Epson for a contact sheet, and then re-scanned and printed two frames. The prints are OK but it appears I have lost my eye for the square format. Both benefitted from some judicious cropping. And not one step of the whole process was as easy, as fast, or as enjoyable as with my regular 35mm process.

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