I’ve shot a lot of 35mm for my school projects over the past year or two, and while it was fun, it was also very time consuming. Trying to fit time to shoot, develop and print within one week’s time span is no small task. Shooting and printing film are two processes that could take an almost unmeasurable amount of time if you don’t have an aggressive deadline. In the shuffle of trying to get assignments done and not knowing if I’ve even got anything to print while my film is in the can developing often just becomes a giant source of stress for me. Somewhere in between all the shooting and developing for assignments the novelty of 35mm gets lost.
Every time I was under the gun in the darkroom printing I realized that I would already be done if I had been able to shoot my DSLR for the assignment. 35mm film just feels so inferior to me because I’m giving up so much control over how my final image actually looks. There’s film purists, of course, that would strongly disagree with me, “but you can dodge and burn” that’s great, but I feel so much fluidity within a computer, within Photoshop and Lightroom, that I just get frustrated at how long it sometimes takes to nail a simple dodge or burn in a darkroom. I do however, thoroughly enjoy the metallic texture and heavy solidness of my Nikon FM2 film camera. I like the process of shooting film, holding the negatives, holding the final prints, and feeling like I’ve created something tangible and real. For me though, 35mm film will never be able to release itself from the inferior stranglehold that a digital workflow has on it in my eyes.
This past week I was able to photograph with the Mamiya M645 medium format camera. While I’ve never been a huge fan of shooting film, medium format holds its own. Unlike 35mm, medium format doesn’t have a digital comparison for me yet. There are digital medium format cameras, but not in the average consumer or even semi-pro market. Digital medium format cameras are sort of the odd man out, since they are only going to be more and more megapixels added to standard full-frame DSLRs, eventually there will be no recognizable difference between the two if there isn’t already. Medium format film cameras, like the Mamiya I shot this past week, are special because it’s a completely different experience from 35mm.
The Mamiya is a little larger, a little more mechanical and different than any 35mm I’ve shot. For a guy with big hands it’s a lot easier to handle in every aspect, I don’t feel like I’m going to break anything or drop negatives, and the prints look a little nicer, a little more detailed.
I can’t quite describe what it is about medium format but if I had to build a darkroom, it wouldn’t be for 35mm it would be for medium format. If I want shoot 35, I’ll use a DSLR, if I want to shoot film, I’m going to go with the types of cameras that give me a completely different photographic experience than digital does. That’s one of the only things film has going for it, it’s different, I might not have as much control over the end product, but damn if I didn’t have more fun shooting a medium format camera than any other camera.
I also shot a Hasselblad 500CM which is the real reason behind this blog post I just didn’t have time to take a few photographs of it when I was in the studio. I’m glad we didn’t make a semester out of shooting medium format though. At the end of two different assignments on medium format, I still find it interesting, at the end of a semester of assignments I don’t know if I could say the same. At least I can leave a little bit of mystery for the next time I shoot medium format, leave a few stones unturned for next time.