I Love Medium Format Film…

Last Fast Action Promos - Band

I’ve been posting so many live pictures, that I thought it was time to change it up a bit.

A few days ago, I picked up the prints from a roll of 120 film that I shot with my Yashica-A TLR.  I’m so used to the ease and speed of digital, that it takes me a while to finish up a roll of film, because I often just grab my digital kit and run.  I have to make a definite effort to shoot film.  So, basically, when I develop a roll of a film, I usually forget what pictures are on it.

This roll was no different.

So, what did I find?  Some flowers and landscapes, of course, but also some pictures from a promo shoot that I did all the way back in November!  Jackpot!

Ok, great, but why do I love 120 film? Because of the tonality and the colors, first of all. Of course, part of that depends on the film you used (this roll was Velvia), but I’ve never seen a picture from medium format film that didn’t have great depth to it. And I adore the square crop. Yes, you can crop anything square in Photoshop, but that’s cheating to me. With medium format film, if you’re used to a 2×3 or 4×3 ratio, you have to really pay attention to your composition, which is good.

I also have a strong love for TLR cameras, most of which I’ve found to be medium format. Aside from the fact that they look so awesome, it’s a completely different experience to look down at a viewfinder. It causes you to really stop and think. Also, they’re great for shooting TTV (Through the Viewfinder) shots, so they have two uses!

Typically, the only music I shoot with 120 (or any film, for that matter) is band promos, but some day I’ll try shooting 120 at a concert. However, since all my medium format cameras are TLRs, I think this might be more disastrous than you think (for those who don’t know, in TLR cameras, the image in the viewfinder is reversed – so if the subject actually moves right, in the viewfinder, it’ll look like he went left – I’ve never been able to capture fast movement with a TLR). Perhaps I should just buy a Holga for this experiment 😉

Shooting Notes

This shoot was done in my house. The images with the TLRs were done with a single hot light, the digital images were done with a 550EX and a white shoot-through umbrella. Both types of lights were set up close to the camera, a few feet away from the subject. (You can see a bit of the setup in the video at the bottom)

Since the shoot was very laid back, and there were only the two guys, I wanted to make a diverse set of images. I took a set of digital pictures, just to be safe. These also provided crisp, clear, technically good images. But, those were my fall-back images. The vision of the shoot was do TTV images. For this, all I did was set up my Argus 75 and shoot down into the viewfinder with my digital. I put a black bag around the Argus and the digital camera, so that there was no light leakage or reflections into the Argus viewfinder, but the whole process was pretty simple.

If I had seen the images from the Yashica during the shoot, I would have shot more film. Ultimately, the tonality and look of the film is superior to anything that came out of the digital.

Last Fast Action Promos - Friends

Last Fast Action Promos - Augie

Last Fast Action Promos - Dan

Some TTV shots

Plain digital

7 thoughts on “I Love Medium Format Film…

  1. I LOVE MEDIUM FORMAT FILM TOO!!! It really is different than digital or even 35mm film. Not only the colors, but the sharpness and the awesome bokeh. The bokeh from shooting wide open on a good TLR is something I can immediately spot in a photo, but I can’t actually describe it. I’ve also noticed that large format has a more pronounced feel to it.

    Great set of shots from this roll — you really should do it more often! And yeah, I think a Holga or Diana would be perfect for shooting certain types of bands.

    Here’s one of my recent portraits on medium format that I’m pretty proud of:


    1. Hey Brian! Medium format IS completely different from 35mm – 35mm is fun, but it just doesn’t have the same look. And you’re right, the bokeh is great on medium format, I should add that to my list. I would love to try large format – that’s one thing I haven’t experimented with. Any good recommendations on a lower-end large format camera?

      I’ve been lusting after a Diana for a while. My birthday is coming up, that’s definitely going on the list 🙂

  2. Hmm… I don’t know of any cheap large format setups, but I haven’t really looked either. A while back, “the_wolf_brigade” picked up a Horseman 45FA with a set of lenses from an auction. I don’t recall exactly what he paid for it, but it seemed quite reasonable (maybe around the $500 range?).


    He’s been cranking out some wicked portraits with it.


  3. I wish I had you knowledge and talent to use this kind of camera properly. I really like this shooting ; the colours are really nice, indeed, but also the comp, the lighting, and the way subjects posed. Wouldn’t it be interesting if you posted the landscape and flower pictures too (You know I’m a nature lover) ? 😉

    Have a nice day!

  4. Hey! So by now I hear you have a Diana 🙂

    Yeah I picked up my Horseman kit in a college silent auction, but I paid well below street value…A cheap entry is a Speed Graphic which runs about the $400AU mark, but sometimes you can get older field cameras for that price too. The Shen-Hao cameras are good for entry level I hear, and being made out of wood they’re lighter than my Horseman.

    However it’s not over once you’ve got the camera. I’ve been doing my own b/w processing so that cuts down the cost, but it’s only last weekend when I shot 6 sheets that I feel confident saying I feel confident with the camera. And that’s only after shooting 75 sheets of film. I haven’t been game to put any colour through it yet for fear of messing it up, but I have a few boxes of E6 waiting for the next portrait shoot.

    As for the shots above, fantastic! I love shooting with TLRs! I really like the second shot down, of the solitary guy. I love the colours. I can’t wait to start doing some studio stuff with film.

    1. Hey! Thanks for the invaluable knowledge. I think I’m going to have to find someone to borrow from at this point if I want to play with large format… so expensive! I have so many other things to buy (it never ends does it?). I’ll just have to be satisfied with medium format, I guess (which really isn’t a sacrifice, since I do love it!). I’d be really interested to see what you do with film in a studio.

Comments are closed.