Jump to content
  • 0

Going to Black and white film


danaa

Question

Hi, I'm currently in the process of taking up old film based photography.  I intend to do landcape photography by use of medium format film camera equipment. Bøack and white only. There are several options, 6x6 and 6x7…. I will not use time and money on low quality body and lenses. What would you recommend?

Dan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 answers to this question

Recommended Posts

  • 1
  • Contributor

It depends on how much weight you want to carry - 6x6 is substantially smaller and lighter than 6x7 SLR gear as a rule. You could opt for 6x7 or even a 6x9 rangefinder camera like Fuji Gw or GSW690, the cameras are large but not too heavy - however the lenses are fixed and not interchangeable unless you opt for the very early GL690 model. More modern and also relatively light and compact with good interchangeable lenses are Mamiya 6 & 7 models, but they are still rather expensive. If all you want to do is landscape, the other option is a 6x9 view camera like the Horseman with a rollfilm back, but the learning curve will be a lot steeper. On the other hand there are literally hundreds of different large format lenses to suit available on the used market at reasonable prices that can be used on such a camera.

 

6x6 is challenging as composing for a square is not as simple as might be imagined. If you intend to crop to a rectangle you may as well consider 6x4.5 format, gear  is smaller and lighter than 6x6 will be. There are numerous models of each to choose from, obviously Hasselblad is at the top of the list in both formats (although the H-series 645 is in reality the Fuji GX645AF camera that was bought by Hasselblad and developed from there - the lenses were still always made by Fuji, whereas the V-series 6x6 has Zeiss lenses).

 

As medium format was the main pro format from the 1960's to early 2000's, there are many of these cameras available, but prices are increasing and the cameras are getting older - most medium format film cameras will be at least 20 years old or more as the professional industry was the first to sell out and switch to digital starting in the late 1990's. These cameras were also subject to heavy working lives, so it's unreasonable to expect that they will still perform to their original reputation, and getting them fixed when they break down is not so easy anymore. This is one of the reasons I opted this time around for Russian and East German equipment - the Soviet system of production to a quota and not to market demand meant that there are still many unused cameras sitting in storage waiting to be sold, as well parts and service for the Russian examples is still available. (I do still have a Mamiya RB/RZ outfit, but I never use it - I prefer the Kiev-60 6x6 cameras for field work; the Mamiya is better left for studio work).

 

There are a couple of companies who bought most of this remaindered stock and are refurbishing the cameras and selling them with 12 month guarantees (ARAX and Hartblei in Ukraine), and while the assembly and finish may reflect the downside of building to quota and not quality, if you get a good, well-adjusted one they perform just fine - all a film camera has to do is provide a dark place for the film, a shutter that works reliably, and a method of transporting the film and keeping it flat during exposure. This is not so complicated and the cameras should last for years without trouble if you get a good one! :) The lenses are also readily available still at reasonable prices, most are either built in the original Zeiss Jena factory in East Germany, or on equipment moved from that Zeiss factory by the Soviets to Kiev, along with much of the original Zeiss staff, and built to mostly pre-1953 Zeiss designs, with updates. This means that most of the lenses are really excellent, although their condition may be variable. However the Russian lenses in particular are relatively easy to open to tighten screws and re-grease, with many online tutorials on disassembly and reassembly available on YouTube.

 

The final choices are yours to make, however, but be aware that B&W Film photography is by no means a simple thing to master and do well. Best outcomes can probably be achieved if you handle the whole process yourself as dedicated B&W film processing labs are relatively scarce these days and the quality they produce may be very variable. You can buy expired film cheaply to practice with, but for serious results you'll want to buy fresh film always, which is relatively expensive.

 

Setting up a B&W darkroom is relatively straight forward, but the processing and printing takes a lot of practice - although aside from actually loading the film into processing tanks in total darkness the process can be done under normal light or yellow-orange safelights (when printing) so you can at least see what you are doing. Simply reading articles on it won't be the path to excellence; a lot of practice and developing an understanding the way film with regards to the relationship between exposure and processing is the only way.

 

Good luck in succeeding with whichever gear you choose; this is now a rather exclusive area of photography to work in and the results you produce will be visually very different to the usual digital stuff that has flooded the world in the last 20 years. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 0

Thank you very much for your  informative answer. I still have my complete darkroom, however not used since about 2000, so I intend to develop myself. I plan to scan the negatives on an Epson flatbed skanner. I think the question for me now is to find the system that gives me negatives that are sharp enough å from egde to edge. I still have my Bronica S2a, with 75mm Nikkor, and a 135 Nikkor. However, I suspect that the focal plane shutter make long exposure not possible due to camera vibrations. I belive that leaf shutter systems are better. However, my knowledge on lens quality of the later Mamiya, Bronica, Fuji systems is zero! 

Dan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 0
  • Contributor
16 hours ago, danaa said:

Thank you very much for your  informative answer. I still have my complete darkroom, however not used since about 2000, so I intend to develop myself. I plan to scan the negatives on an Epson flatbed skanner. I think the question for me now is to find the system that gives me negatives that are sharp enough å from egde to edge. I still have my Bronica S2a, with 75mm Nikkor, and a 135 Nikkor. However, I suspect that the focal plane shutter make long exposure not possible due to camera vibrations. I belive that leaf shutter systems are better. However, my knowledge on lens quality of the later Mamiya, Bronica, Fuji systems is zero! 

 

I have a Gitzo GT2531EX Tripod with RRS BH-40 ball head and it supports the heavy Kiev-60 well, even with the 3,5/250 lens attached (over 4kg altogether) and I have no trouble with vibration on longer exposures with the focal plane shutter. The camera does have a mirror lift modification so mirror vibration is eliminated, and as the shutter travels horizontally and opposite to the down-force of the camera and tripod, there is minimal shock transferred from that. If the Bronica can be triggered in the same manner you should have no problems if you have a good tripod. The Nikkors will be easily as good as any other manufacturers' lenses, too.

 

A friend of mine used Mamiya 7 cameras for landscape photography and said it was the best camera he used for doing that, and that the lenses were superb. I never used a Mamiya 7, but I have owned RB/RZ cameras and lenses all through the 1980's and '90's, and again since 2007, and I've never had a complaint with lens quality - the lenses were always excellent, just the camera is unsuited to carrying around and using outdoors - it's so big, awkward and clumsy to use in that way that I preferred to use a 5x4 Toyoview 45A Field camera instead. For B&W the 5x4 negative size was also a lot better than anything from 120 film, of course, and the selection of lenses available is huge. My favourite lens for 5x4 was a Rodenstock Grandagon 5,6/65 when taking landscapes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 0

Thanks again. I just read your post on using a LED-panel and a dedicated macro lens. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing that experience. 

  • Like 1

Dan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By visiting this website you are agreeing to our Terms of Use, Privacy Policy & Guidelines.