Sunday slide 39

medium format slide of lily pads in raised pond
As digital photography became more and more prevalent (before even smutphone usage was common,) the price of medium format equipment dropped precipitously. If you’re not familiar with it, medium format is still roll film, but with frames ranging from 60×45 mm (commonly called 645) to 60×90 mm – you can run the same film through multiple types of camera bodies, with the body dictating how big the frame is and thus how few frames you can get from the roll. I’d always wanted to get into medium format but couldn’t afford it before, because it was always considered the realm of the high-end professional and was priced accordingly. But as the format fell in popularity and the costs with it, I finally took the chance around 2006 or so and got my first Mamiya 645E body and couple of lenses. By 2010 I’d traded up to a slightly better body, and added a couple of lenses.

I’m fairly certain this one was a test taken soon after I’d gotten the 45mm lens, which is somewhat wide angle for 645 – 80mm is considered ‘normal,’ about how our eyes see things. I didn’t shoot a lot of slide film through the Mamiya cameras before getting slide film developed got much more difficult and expensive, and I followed the trend and stuck largely to digital. I will still, however, throw some monochrome print film through the camera, because I can process that myself. Maybe, at some point in the future, I’ll build a darkroom in the corner of the garage here at the new place.

The nice thing about the drop in MF prices, however, has been the quality of the glass that can now be found for a song. Those same professionals demanded superior results, and so the lenses for just about any MF line are excellent, and as long as you don’t mind focusing manually and closing down the aperture before firing off a shot, you can adapt them to current cameras fairly easily. For about the same price as the basic kit or ‘tourist’ lenses you’ll get much better results, and the 80mm macro that I purchased for the 645 film bodies sees regular use on my Canon digital bodies, being the sharpest macro that I’ve ever used.

By the way, I also have a large format camera, an ancient Graflex Graphic View II – this is the kind with the bellows, that you focus with your head under a hood like you’ve seen in the old silent films or if you’re familiar with Mathew Brady’s equipment. The film is a single sheet of 100×125 mm (usually referred to as 4×5 for the inch measurements, because consistency wasn’t considered important,) housed in a double-sided flat box, so you shoot one frame at a time – action photography this ain’t. Basically, you ensure that everything is perfect before you take the shot, but such a large film frame means very nice detail and the possibility of huge enlargements. At some point I’ll be back and talk about what can be done with a full-movement large format rig – it’s pretty creative stuff.

Okay, here’s something stupid that I just discovered. When I typed “4×5” the x was smaller and would center within the vertical line space, but when I wrote “100x125mm” it wouldn’t – apparently there’s some HTML formatting thing where the x is recognized as a mathematical multiplication symbol only if there are no other letters appended. I cannot wait to wield this newfound knowledge in myriad ways.