Luminous Landscape Forum

Equipment & Techniques => Cameras, Lenses and Shooting gear => Topic started by: mbutler on January 14, 2006, 01:57:48 pm

Title: Paralyzed
Post by: mbutler on January 14, 2006, 01:57:48 pm
Hi all,

I would love to pick your brains on a few things.

I was about to drop a few large on a Mamiya 7 and two lenses, when I heard a devilish voice in the back of my head say, "You could buy a 5d for that kind of money, dummy." I already have the f/4 17-40L and 70-200L.

The thing is, I like B&W and have a wet darkroom, but I'm a new believer in digital printing, too. I recently for the first time had West Coast Imaging do a 12x18 Chromira for me from a B&W MF negative that was difficult for me to print, and I was absolutely stunned. (Haven't tried a piezo yet.)

I'm embarrassed to say I have zero Photoship skills and my older iMac isn't going to cut it. I don't have a printer, either, of course. I'm afraid it would take me a looong time on my own to produce a decent digital B&W print.

I guess I could continue to shoot MF film and have the occasional custom print made, but the voice goes up in volume every few days. Do I ignore it at my own peril? Take a pill?

Title: Paralyzed
Post by: boku on January 14, 2006, 03:44:26 pm

You know the change is coming for you, sooner or later. A few things to consider...

1) It will be a steep ramp no matter when you do it. Delay avoids the pain for now, but doesn't eliminate it in the long run.

2) If you invest in the MF gear, you will eventually abandon it for a significant loss.

3) Digital B&W currently produces credible results with the right technique.

4) Your investment in digital, as you have alluded, is far more then the 5D.

These factors sort of balance out, so I guess I didn't help you - just stated the obvious.
Title: Paralyzed
Post by: DarkPenguin on January 14, 2006, 03:54:26 pm
Is the Mamiya ZD out?
Title: Paralyzed
Post by: mbutler on January 14, 2006, 04:02:59 pm
Is the Mamiya ZD out?
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Yeah, that's out of my league, financially.
Title: Paralyzed
Post by: Peter McLennan on January 14, 2006, 11:27:01 pm
Random thoughts in no particular order.

Epson's K3 printers make superb BW almost a no-brainer.  Almost.

The Photoshop learning curve is steep at first, but it levels out to a steady climb from there on.  The wet darkroom process pales by comparison to Photoshop in nearly every way.

Except for a few niche markets, many believe that film is over.  I do, and I've shot hundreds of thousands of feet of it over the last thirty years.  Nikon thinks so, too.  They just announced they're quitting all but two film-based cameras.

You already have several 35mm Canon lenses.  Seems silly to change horses at this juncture.  

Think of a DSLR as buying an infinitely large box of film, all at once.

I lost a ton of money liquidating my Pentax 6X7 gear.  I waited too long.

The best part for me was discovering the unexpected benefits of digital capture.

Happy shopping.

Title: Paralyzed
Post by: DavidRees on January 15, 2006, 07:12:38 am
A counter-argument: buy the Mamiya 7 and 2 lenses.

Why: well, the lenses are stunning, and when coupled with 6x7 film, deliver big, sharp, prints. It's also a lovely camera to use, because it really is so simple.

Yes, you will have buy film, and pay to have prints made, given that you are not equipped to do it yourself. But unless you shoot hundreds or thousands of rolls a year, is that really a significant cost? B&W film and chemicals are cheap.

MF kit has taken a big hit lately, so hopefully you will be able to pick up a system at a reasonable price (note, though, that M7 gear seems to have held its price a bit better than some, so perhaps there's more to lose later).

You presumably have a camera (whether film or digital) with which you use your existing EOS lenses, so they won't simply be left lying around.

Best of all, decent flatbed scanners like the Epson 4990 are inexpensive, and can get you into the digital workflow gradually. Add a K3 Epson priter at some point, even an A4 model to start with (does Epson do one?), and become familiar with Photoshop, digital B&W printing, etc., gradually.

I currently use two M7 bodies, together with 4 lenses, for my main landscape work. Recently I have been experimenting with digital, having acquired a 350D, to go along with my 1V and 13 EOS lenses. Though impressed with it, I did not feel digital was the next stage in my photographic endeavours. So over the past 4 months, I have purchased (2nd-hand) a Wista DX 5x4, and a selection of lenses. Total cost has been well in excess of a 5D, but for my purposes, this has been money well spent. Not only am I getting great image quility, but the benefit of tilt and shift on all my lenses.

Ultimately it's about how you want to do your photography. The digital route, with a 5D, etc., might well be the best choice for you. But since you asked the question, I thought I'd risk the flames and offer a contrary view! Good luck!
Title: Paralyzed
Post by: Mark D Segal on January 15, 2006, 11:42:47 am
You've asked this Forum for some help in thinking about whether to remain with film or go digital. It is difficult to give people useful advice without knowing more about the kind of photography they do, their objectives, the amount of high quality output they expect to produce and what they intend to do with it. Hence advice offered out of context requires all the more careful screening and evaluation for relevance. I think the best kind of help you can be given in a Forum like this is some guidance about facts and logic that will help you make a reasoned decision.

From what you say in your initial post, high quality large format prints in black and white are important to you. The fact that you have a wet darkroom and are considering going digital probably means that you want more in-house control over the processes that give you those high quality large format black and white prints.

Let us start from the END (the print) and work backward. You will need a really good inkjet printer - nothing less than an Epson 2400 (about 700 US dollars), perhaps an Epson 4800 (about 1700 US dollars), to get into the 13*19 size range. These printers with Epson K3 inks do have the latest Epson technology for proper rendering of black and white and they make stunning prints when used with appropriate papers.

BUT to do that, you will need Photoshop CS2 - about 650 USD - and once you buy that, set aside another couple of hundred dollars and some time to buy and consult reference books on how to use it. This is one program for which the help file and the in-box manual simply aren't sufficient to unlock the potential of this amazing application. Sooner or later you will want to have another several hundred USD for buying a few of the key "plugins" that further enhance the quality of what Photoshop can do. In sum, figure about 1000 and plenty of time invested in Photoshop.

BUT to use Photoshop, you need a decent computer and a monitor that can be calibrated so that the luminosity and colours you see on the screen are close to what will come out of the printer. This is called colour management, the basics of which are not difficult to get a practical handle on, but it does require several hundred dollars extra to buy a monitor calibration package, used on a monitor of sufficient quality for fine photography. You don't say what kind of computer set-up you have, and the sky is the limit with computer set-ups, but count on upwards of two to three thounsand USD for the kind of computer hardware quality that Photoshop needs and deserves (Decisions about Mac versus Windows, speed, RAM, monitor type etc.). If you need that kind of advice there is plenty available from experts who regularly contribute to this Forum.

So finally, we are left with what to put into Photoshop - digital files or scanned film? I do both - only because I have a legacy of colour negatives. Once I am finished with that legacy, I am finished with film. Too much time and work to get roughly the kind of quality I get from digital. And to get even near there, it requires a high quality film scanner, which will set you back up to a thousand or more. Scanning is another process that has a learning curve and consumes a lot of time on an on-going basis.

So if you go digital, then the issue is the kind of camera. So many variables to consider it's a very personal choice. You should only buy something you are comfortable using, not because someone tells you it is good for you. But there a few fundamentals. To start with, and by no means the only consideration, to make those high quality prints you need a minimum number of pixels per inch (PPI) in the finished print so the print quality will be good. There is a general consensus that for large format prints you should have a basic minimum of 240 PPI. So, taking your 12*18 inch print, in digital that would mean having a file containing in the neighbourhood of 12.4 megapixels (i.e. 12*240*18*240) and this assumes no cropping of the original image, because after cropping fewer pixels would remain to fill those dimensions). This means you buy a Canon 1Ds second hand for about 3000, a Canon 1Ds Mark II for about 8000, a Canon 5D for about 3000, or a Nikon D2X for about the same price. The Canons can use those Canon lenses you already own. If you want to make large format prints from images that generally need substantial amounts of cropping, then you are safest with a medium format camera using a digital back, and that takes you into the tens of thousands, but it just can't be beat.

OK, I hope I was true to my word. I haven't tried to answer your question, except to lay out a way to think about it and some underlying factual implications. Others will doubtless join in with their views about this contribution.
Title: Paralyzed
Post by: dbell on January 15, 2006, 12:23:34 pm
The day will come when film is truly no longer viable. Someday, a vendor will kill off a film/paper/chemical that you depend on and you won't have a satisfactory alternative. Or the used market will be unable to replace an essential piece of eqiupment that fails (which will no longer be available new).

I think that acknowledging that is only realistic. Digital is not without it's own set of perils, either. The upgrade cycle is a lot shorter, there are a lot of new skills to learn and a lot of new equipment to buy.

If this approach appeals to you, why not ease yourself in? Get a scanner and an inkjet and start making digital prints of images captured on film. That lets you keep using equipment that you like and it means that you still get the quality that you're used to from medium format negatives. And you still have negatives that you can print in your darkroom as long as you want to keep it running (or so that you have your choice of approaches for any given image).

I don't personally think you're taking any huge risk by continuing to work on film. Lots of people do, most of them just aren't posting to forums like this one.
Title: Paralyzed
Post by: Mark D Segal on January 15, 2006, 03:47:46 pm
dbell is right - there is no "risk" continuing to work with film. But there are systemic inconveniences, such as: (1) you don't get the benefit of digital capture - seeing whether you got what you need at the time you take the picture,  (2) you need a scanner or a scanning service to digitize the negatives, (3) scanned images always contain grain and other artifacts that need to be cleaned-up, and etc. While it may be nice to have the transitional choice of working the same image in Photoshop or in a chemical darkroom, you pay for that choice with the scanning requirements.
Title: Paralyzed
Post by: mbutler on January 16, 2006, 08:54:36 am
Thanks for the great, and thoughtful, responses. Good arguments on both sides.

If I had posted this in a certain other forum, I probably would have started a war, or gotten 10 people telling me to buy a TLR or a folder.

I shot a roll with my Bronnie yesterday and developed it. 10 no exposures and 2 with light leaks. Yikes. That might push me over the digital edge.

Anyway, thanks again.

Title: Paralyzed
Post by: dazzajl on January 20, 2006, 01:23:40 pm
People have laid out some very good thoughts on the digital and the wet process here and some of the things to consider in terms of equipment needed.

Something I would consider of higher importance than which process is technically more apt is how do you like to work?

Digital IS great and has unlocked a new realm of creativity for millions of people but there are others that just don't get a buzz from sitting infront of a monitor nudging pixels, tracing masks and adjusting sliders. If you know someone with a digital set up, it would be well worth your time to try and arrange to go through the process from lens to print and see if you enjoy it. It may well be that it doesn't have the magic of the darkroom for you, it just as easilly might leave you wondering why you haven't moved over sooner.

After all, surely the pleasure has to be just as, if not more important than the results. Unless you're shooting to pay the bills. In which case, I see little future for the wet darkroom.

Title: Paralyzed
Post by: jwpeterson on June 25, 2006, 05:42:56 am
Get Both    or at least think about it:

I have, use and love the 5D, and I just bought the Mamiya 7 and 2 lens's (used), for a lot less then the 5D with no lenses cost me. Because the Mam 7 has no digital upgrade available you can get a uses 7 or 7 II for a great price.
It has the advantages of a rangefinder, ie focusing in low light, compact body design (it's actually lighter then the 5D) and the lenses and bodies can be had for a song. perhaps (I went through this debate for a while), one of the best ways to get into MF film, as long as you aren't shooting for the eventual digital back.

I agree with the post that the cost of digital isn't really the cost of the camera body. The real cost is the digital darkroom. A good monitor (e.g. Lacie) can cost over $1600, a computer with eneough RAM (at least 2Gigs) fast CPU and lots of hard disk, and back-up hard disk space, and a decent printer like the eson 4800, then Photoshop CS2, and the training to use it - these are all things best undertaken somewhat gradually.

A good camera shop may be able to develop your 220 film from the Mam 7, and even scan it for you, giving you digital files that you can work with as you progress in the parallel digitlal universe.

Best of luck - both can produce great images so there is no perfect answer.

The mam 7 is lens's are cheap eneough (less so the widest lens) in the used market, that you can add several lens's without too many tears (one great condition used Mam lens cost less then replacing the ink cartridges in my epson 4000)
Title: Paralyzed
Post by: stever on June 25, 2006, 07:43:19 pm
with some types of photography it makes a lot more difference than others, but there is no substitute for taking lots of images

since switching to digital, i've tried all kinds of things that i wouldn't have with film and used the EXIF data to help understand some of the successes and failures

consider the cost of 200-400 rolls of 220 film and processing per year when looking at  the cost of the digital darkroom (and on the digital side think about taking a class -- the Lepp digital workflow short course helped me immensely making the switch)

you're going to switch to digital sooner or later, do it now and start saving money and improving your photography