Advanced Technique & Process 2B: Medium Format Film vs Digital (studio)

30th January 2015

Equipment used:

Mamiya RZ67 (Medium Format film camera)
120 ILFORD film
Tripod
Canon 5D mk iii
Sync cables
Light Meter
Spirit Level
Hot shoe
Studio lighting

The aim of this session was to shoot using Medium Format cameras and film, to be able to compare it to digital. We set up specific lighting for each shot and took the same shot on both film and digital, to see how the tones and quality differ (when we can compare the end results). This exercise also helped me to actually learn how Medium Format cameras work first hand, and to try get me head around them after mainly using digital in my own work!

The film used was a set ISO 400 film and we set the shutter speed at 1/125. The Medium Format lens was a set lens, at 110mm. The lens I had on my digital only went up to 105mm so I shot at that using digital.

Set up 1

For this set up we started off with the 2 bare bulb lights, pointing into the book reflector (on the left) and then added the soft box pointing into the book reflectors on the right, afterwards. The 2 lights on the left were turned up to a higher power than the soft box which was turned down so it appeared more subtle and was used to fill in some of the harsh shadows that would be made by just having the 2 stronger lights only. We metered the left and right lights and also the background. However after adjustments, we decided to turn one of the two bare bulb lights off and set the one remaining bare bulb light a stop higher in power to the soft box, so the soft box still acted as a fill in light . This resulted in the left light reading f5.6 and the soft box reading f4 on the light meter, so we shot at 1/125 sec, f5.6, ISO 4o0.

Set up 2

For this set up I wanted to use quite a simplistic set up with lighting to get quite a striking image. It was a case of just one reading from a small soft box, central and slightly above the subject. We upped the power on the light head from what it was set on in the first one, and took a reading to get f11. The only thing with shooting in Medium Format film is there were a few things I kept forgetting to do, and one of them (quite an important one!) was forgetting to take the ‘dark slide’ out of the side of the camera before shooting each shot. This happened a few times and I got quite frustrated with myself, however by the end of this session it was something I became increasingly aware of and learnt from. Also throughout this session we were working with faulty connector wires which was challenging so it would be beneficial to go back and try again in the studio and become more familiar.

Set up 3

Here we had a large Octobox slightly above and around about 2 metres away from us. Behind, and above us quite close, was a soft box as a ‘hair light’ – to light us from the back slightly to make us look more 3D. This was quite complex because we shot on the Medium Format camera first and we upped the f stop on the camera to f22, because on medium format cameras the depth of feild is much deeper and the drop off on (even) f8 would be a lot more than digital, so we adjusted it to f22. However – we forgot to turn the Octobox’s power up to compensate for this adjustement, so when we shot, unfortunately there was no data recorded because it was so dark, as we forgot to adjust the power. We only realised this when taking a shot on digital (on the same settings as the film) and seeing it was way to dark. We re-metered for both the front and back lights, and got f4 for the Octobox and f5.6 on the back lights, so shot at f4 which was much better, as seen in the image above.

Set up 4

Here we just had the Octobox lighting up the subjects from the front, slightly above. We upped the power slightly (after forgetting last time!) and took a reading again. This came to f8. This shot was pretty straight forward because by the end of the session we had learnt through everything that had gone wrong and adjusted things in an attempt to correct those problems.

This session was definitely a ‘trial and error’, ‘learning through mistakes’ time for me personally, and although it was frustrating getting things wrong (especially when you only have 10 shots on a film when you’re used to rapidly shooting on digital without limit), it helped me learn more about every thought that is required when considering and shooting on Medium Format film & cameras. I want to conquer my ‘fear of film’ (haha) and will book the studio to practice using this technique more and more.

UPDATE: I scanned in my negatives using my printer at home:

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