Medium Format – an irrational decision…

August 19th, 2011
Here are the facts:

  •  A roll of medium format film (MF, 120) is more expensive than a roll of 35mm.
  •  You can only take 12 shots with medium format film (6×6 size), as compared to 36 exposures in 35mm.
  •  The cost of develop and scanning MF is also more expensive than the usual 35mm.
  •  People talk about the rich tonality (dynamic range), the smooth bokeh and great details offered by medium format… But honestly, it is a bit hard to “really” appreciate these in normal small prints and 16-base scan. I also don’t think that the bokeh is significantly better, if not inferior to those using 35mm with fast lens 35mm f1.4 or 50m f1.2, etc…
Then why investing on medium format… ? I just love “too much” the square format (6×6) and the big viewfinder (56x56cm) of a MF camera. Plus the cool factor, especially when you hold a twin-lens reflex TLR (here for some examples). Clearly, it is not convincing, irrational, not economical at all.

My first roll of MF was taken on a TLR camera (Ricoh Diacord G) as my Valentine gift from my wife (:X). I often joke that shooting MF shows great respect of the photographer toward the subject. You always has to bow your head (example).

I guess one application where MF should be useful is for photographing landscape. So on my 2nd roll, I tried to capture the light show (every night) at Marina Bay Sand (Singapore) that is only about 5-10 mins. The shot below was taken at 8s, f5.6 on a 50mm MF lens (equivalent to 28mm lens in 35mm format). Until now I start to appreciate the mirror lock-up mode, otherwise, the picture will be shaky due to the vibration when big mirror goes up in long exposure… (a bit technical…)

Marina Bay Sand - Lightshow
It’s kinda funny that the logical reasons above just vanish when I hold the camera and then saw the pictures from the lab. Sometimes, irrational decision makes sense…

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