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Among several other aspects, the medium format (6x6, 6x7...) itself has one big advantage over smaller formats.  The photographer can put a considerable emphasis on a subject by working with the very small depth of field aperture settings.  If you follow that line, you better know your lenses.  The Mamiya RZ lenses have a lever that can stop down to the preferred aperture and visually check the DOF, however, that does not always help due to the darkness of the focusing screen when you close the aperture. The Mamiya lenses also have a little slide ring that can be adjusted (aperture/distance) that show the DOF,  but it is relatively coarse.  So it's always better to know in advance what you can expect from your lens, and swap them if necessary.  There are three main aspects of depth of field that I try to keep in mind for the main lenses I use:

- hyperfocal distances (min, medium, max aperture)
- DOF at open aperture at 5 meter focus.  The 110mm/f2.8 has a DOF of around 140cm here.     
- DOF at open aperture with an extended focusing bellows at around 4.5ft / 1.5meters distance (typical close up).  At that distance the DOF with the 110mm/f:2.8 is only a few centimeters, around +- 6cm!   

Now, for my working horse lens, the 110mm f:2.8 lens I have these values pretty much memorized. This is a great lens and but has to be respected because of it's shallow DOF capabilities.  But what if you need precision?  What about the other fixed focus lenses?  
I tried to use smart phone DOF calculators, but gave up on them.  Too hard to read on bright sunny days, and I loath fumbling around with the phone while photographing.  I tried to print charts, but they only gave hyperfocal values.  Important enough, but the object distance is equally important, if not more.     A few days ago I found a slide rule type calculator on the net, which is pretty nifty and also works for other formats than 6x7, from 35mm up to 8x10 large format.        

For those who are interested, here it is:…

Now I have to figure out how to put it together in a sensible way :-)

From Analog Negatives to Digital Art: A Short Overview of a Technical Solution

I've had quite a few inquiries on how I scan my analog photos and which scanner I use. A lot of people were surprised, if not bewildered when I answered that, for monochrome negatives, I don't use a scanner at all.

In the moment, I use a Sony Alpha 77 DSLR with a Tamron 60mm Macro for DSLR digitzing. Generally, I would say any good DSLR with a large sensor (megapixels really count here!) is good. A good macro lens is essential because of the close distance to the negative. It must be good if you want to make 2 or 4 (or more) shots of a single negative, because distortions or unsharpness on the edges absolutely lead to bad results.
For backlighting, I employ a 19" computer lcd monitor that is lying on it's back side (by pure luck the one I use is perfectly flat and parallel to the front). I took the LCD panel out, as well as all the polarizing and fresnel sheets behind the panel. Only the diffusor sheet remains. I put a thin glass plate over the monitor that covers the whole top. This eases handling and prevents the diffusor sheet from being scratched or collecting dirt/dust. Cost: Zero. A good, professional light box can also be used, but it needs a color temperature controlled light source that has an even emmitance over the spectrum (some cheap LED types don't do well in that regime) .

The camera is mounted on a Kaiser enlarger stand, which is rock solid. I took the enlarger head off and mounted a repro adapter from Kaiser instead. Instead of the repro adapter (expensive) one can use an own creation made of a cheap sliding camera rail, but that places the camera off the table center towards the support stand. This limits the use for max. 4x5. The repro adapter reaches farther to the center of the table, upon which the backlight monitor is placed.

6x7 negatives are usually digitized with two shots. The camera is set up for manual exposure. I use f:8 to f:11 for a bit more DOF to counter out of DOF wandering of slightly warped negatives. Exposure time is determined by analyzing the histogram (the Sony does that in real time). This is essential for good results, because you want to capture as much of the dynamics of grey tones as possible and keep the histogram curve within the recordable bounds. You will notice that many negatives will deliver more than the camera sensor can catch, so you'll need to find the sweet spot. Experience teaches that eventually. Focusing is also manual / uncoupled. The Sony displays red marks that visually show when sharp contrasts correlate with a on spot focus. Also a non flickering green center mark signals a perfect focus. All shots are saved in the RAW format, of course.

The glass plate negatives just sit on the backlight box, of course. 6x6 and 6x7 are in a nifty digitizer frame called "Digitaliza". This tool works quite well and I can recommend it. For larger film negs like 4x4 /9x12 I use strips of cut glass to hold down the edges and prevent warping. All negatives are digitized with the emulsion side facing upwards to the camera. This is better for the sensitive emulsion because no physical contact can scratch it and the results are better because you are not capturing through the clear film base. I never handle negatives with bare hands and wear protective gloves. I use special laboratory type compressed air bottles for a quick blow to remove dust or lints prior to digitizing. I'm careful not to spray the propellant on the negatives and only deliver short blows.

After digitizing, I merge the usually two halves of the negatives in Photoshop. This usually works fine, but it can be problematic when you have large unstructured parts (grey sky or black) in the areas that merge. That can throw off the merging algorithm and you might need to move the camera a bit further away or use a single shot. Two exposures per negative result in a ca. 50 megapixel image with the camera I use. After cropping the excess it usually results in a 40MP rendition. This does not at all cover the resolution a sharp 6x7 photo with what, say, an Ilford Delta Pro 100 can produce! But it is more enough for the web and it is fun to explore these huge photos. Besides that, you have plenty of space to crop or choose compositions.

Next in the workflow is checking the focus. I do that by searching for lints or dust specs. Normally a nuisance, they are welcomed here because if they show up nice and crisp I know that my recording focus was spot on and any unsharpness is within the analog exposure.

Further work after merging in Photoshop is done: convert to 16bit, convert to grayscale, rotate, mirror horizontal, and then use the CF Systems ColorPerfect plugin to convert the negative to a positive. I could elaborate on why I use this plugin, but that would be too much for this article. Just check… if interested.
After that I clean up the negative by stamping out the lints, dust specs or other anomalies. Then I save it as PSD and do the rest of the post processing and archiving in Lightroom. Here I straighten and crop the photo, if necessary, as well as make little changes to brightness and contrast. You also can determine by analyzing the histogram, checking if the distribution of the grey tones is OK and no values exceed or don't reach the bounds. I usually adjust the blacks and whites so that areas that should be exactly in the range of these values (maximal / minimal zone according to the zone system) deliver the RGB value accordingly. Can't trust any monitor for that by just looking at it. Sharpening is of very little use. You only make the grain sharper at higher settings, which looks ungainly and can produce weird artifacts. After all has been done I export the capture as JPEG.

All in all, compared to a full resolution scan, this method is very fast, you have full control over the resolution, and can digitize almost anything from 35mm to huge glass plates in a very good quality.

Tempus Fugit by Roger-Wilco-66
Finally, after years of agonizing if I should do this, I got myself a good monitor (Asus PA279Q "ProArt" <-- Art is always good :-) )

Pro:  The most stunning colors I have ever seen on a monitor, also the monochrome photos look better. The monitor has a very high color reproduction:   99% Adobe RGB, 100% sRGB, and 120% NTSC. Also, the WQHD resolution is great when working with highres photos.  

Con:  Darn!  On a calibrated monitors most of my photos look way off, too dark mostly. Seems like I have a long and tedious job of adjusting to do.  The photos, of course :-)

Oh well, can't have it all, it seems.

After a five week trip through Sri Lanka we're back again. We loved it in "the land of the smiles" and already miss it dearly. 
Took the Mamiya "beast" along, of course, and exposed around 30 films. The film rolls are processed now and I'll be spending the next few months picking out the good ones and getting them ready for displaying.

Nepal Earthquake

normally I don't post private stuff, but I have friends here and might as well do so now.

Our eldest son is working in Kathmandu as a student in the german embassy for half a year, and three days ago Tina (my wife) took a flight to visit him for 10 days.
Luckily, when the main quake hit, they were on a hiking trip and not in the city or around buildings.  
They are in the german embassy now (which has been partially re-opened, after damage assessments, I guess) and try to figure out how to proceed.  

My wife contemplated to get out on a flight earlier than the booked one on the 4th of May, but the airport does not seem to operate normally and many want a seat outbound now.

I told her to stick to the embassy and stay put for a few days if she can, to allow things to calm down and to keep an open ear for the flight situation. 

I don't know about calming down though, this thing is not over. Tina reported another heavy quake this morning, and there are aftershocks all the time.  

I really hope things work out for them to be able to come home soon.

In case anyone wonders why I upload my exposures in unusually high resolutions (I have had questions, even warnings).

I shoot medium format film and my photos are extracted from the negative at very high resolutions.  Minimum around 50 megapixels, max around 200.  One can print huge posters at a very high quality with this material.  For DA I usually scale them down so you can zoom in twice (3000 px horizontal, assuming a full hd 1080p monitor).  I do this to give you, the onlooker,  the opportunity to change the point of view as well as altering the composition within the limits of the monitor.  The high resolution image will follow almost without losses. I found that this feature opens some creative ways of modifying a photo or composition without actually altering it.  Try it! 

A word on monitors:  I have a calibrated monitor now, I use the Datacolor Spyder for this.  All photos are adjusted for viewing within that adjusted colorspace.  I have four other systems (tablet, IPS Monitor, notebook, default Samsung monitor) to check how it looks on other devices and noticed that there are considerable differences, expecially in black and white.  If you see anything worth to complain about regarding color pr b/w tonality in the photos  I'd be happy to try to find out what the culprit is.

And note on the legal stuff (may I state that I hate lawyers).   I've been warned that presenting high resolution images can be used or pirated without notice by some misfits.  
I shoot analog photos, the proof of me being the owner is right here with me in form of a negative.  It would be immensely dumb to pull anything against that. 

We're back from our Thailand tour again.
It was a great and adventurous trip, and we drove the 2700 kilometers through this wonderous and lovely country without an incident.  I'm glad I rented a 4WD because many routes up in the jungles of the far north were off road tracks and the weather conditions can be quite extreme because of hang slides and floodings.  Let alone of the  general traffic conditions.

I took my Mamiya  MF equipment along and shot 22 rolls of film, which are off to the lab now for processing.  
Shooting with this camera on analog film in a tropical environment is a real challenge.   The first problem arose right in the beginning when a guy threw my camera bag on top of a truck.  The trajectory was perfect and he had a big smile on his face when the bag landed with a loud plonk right where he intended it to do so, by I had ice in my veins when I saw that the Mamiya went ballistic.  The result was a broken release switch, faulty shutter and mirror up mechanism and the battery constantly draining which generated a logistic problem because you don't get that battery type in Thailand.  With some efforts I macguyvered the camera back into operation, but the body is toast and I'll have to buy a new one. I hope the shutter speeds were intact, from testing I think they were OK. 
The climate is very hard on the mechanisms and the electronics as well as the optics, but I anticipated that and took some measures.  I bought silica gel bags to dry the camera and the lenses each night in a sealed bag and it worked.  The silica changes the color when it is saturated with moisture so I had control over the effectiveness of the measure.  The bags were saturated every 2 or three days.  Also, never take the camera or optics which were exposed to high temperatures or humidity into a heavily airconditioned place (Seven Eleven stores are like being inside a freezer) without putting it in a sealed bag.  Instant condensation inside and out will occur which can damage the electronics or optics.  All temp changes must be slow, expecially from hot to cold.
I stored the films in a special aluminum case that is air sealed and has a tight lead lined bag around it.  Inside the case is a silica bag for moisture control.  I was able to keep the case mostly in a fridge at all places we rested, and took only the films out I anticipated to expose.  Exposed films were wrapped in aluminum foil and went back into the case ASAP.    I also allowed the film warm up to normal outside temperatures before exposing it.

In a few days the films will arrive and I'll know if things worked out :-)

Some trip photos (smartphone, I must admit) can be seen here:…   

We're leaving for a four week trip through Thailand today - the Mamiya and a bag of films is in the trip kit, naturally.  I even take my rather heavy tripod along, which I normally don't do on trips involving flying.  In the film bag, besides the usual and proven material, there are three film types I have not tried yet:

- Ilford SFX 200 which I shot already in the normal mode, but I plan to execute "real" IR shots with the 720nm filter
- Fuji Velvia color reversal film for landscape work
- ADOX CMS20 orthopanchromatic high resolution film, very tricky stuff, to be shot at ASA 10.  One of the reasons for the tripod.

I also want to put the focus a bit more on people and street - hope it works out all right!  

So, over and out for now, have a good time!

It's been exactly one year now since went back to analog photography and I bought my big medium format SLR,  and I say, WOW, what a year.  I was a bit worried when I made that step, because I knew that I had to re-adjust my whole way of photography (I come from 35mm analog SLR, with a 10 year analog hiatus mingling with the digital side).  Now I feel that my old 35mm experience laid a good foundation of basics that helped starting with the medium format at once and I'm in a very steep learning curve ever since, which is very gratifying and fullfiling.  In that year, with the help of some literature (AA's "The Negative" is a mainstay) and watching as well as enjoying the work of fellow analog photogs, I went through most of the shooting regimes like highkey, lowkey, DOF control, working with the zone system etc and have a pretty good control over what I'm doing. This buildup of self confidence and habitual  usage of that knowledge is pure joy, fueling all my doing and curiosity about new ways of exploiting the subject.  So here's a big Cheers! to all the fellow analog shooters, and a thanks for the many kind advices I received and inspirations I had by your work!  

Thanks, Steven, for the publication of my entry in the Photographer Features blog of the dA-Film-Alliance group.

To all the good people here who might be inclined to read a little about my background, here it is:…


2014-07-24  [Edit:  added Fujichrome Provia and Velvia color reversal films to the list)

This is a list of 120 type roll films as well as instant types I used so far, and my thoughts or experiences with them.  I use the terms "toe" to describe the way the film behaves towards Zone 1 and "shoulder" towards Zone 9.  These terms have been coined by Ansel Adams in his book "The Negative".   I will edit this list frequently!   Note that these are my subjective observations.  Other experiences may vary.  Comments are most welcomed.

Black and White Film:

  • Kodak TMX 100:    
    My favourite allround film.  Good sharpness, large toe and shoulder.  Very small grain. I love this film for it's way of drawing reflections and chrome surfaces. Great for scanning.  Recommended!  Example:  
  • Kodak TMY 400:    
    Good for low light settings, but doesn't produce the large dynamic the TMX has.  Must be exposed well, underexposure leads to cutouts in the blacks and large grain. But that can be favourable depending on the setting.   Example:  Istanbul Night Shot #2 

  • Ilford FP4 125:            
    I don't favour this one very much.  Small toe, a bit less than favourable shoulder, and very grainy.  Good if you want to produce that "classic" bw look.  Example:
  • Ilford HP5+ 400:         
    Good dynamic, seems a bit soft and does not like underexposures or dark settings.  Medium grain.  Example:  
    Old man in his realm
  • Ilford Delta Pro 100:   
    Also one of my favourites.  Very sharp and a large toe,  very fine grain.  Good for darker settings, very defined gradation.  Very high resolution, great for scanning.
    Recommended!   Example:  Town Gate or Mercedes Benz
  • Ilford SFX 200
    A bit grainy and with a small toe under normal lighting conditions and without the use of a IR filter.  I have not yet tried the IR capabilities of that film.  Example:  TU 144

  • Fuji Acros Neopan 100:  
    This is the third b/w film I like.  Same properties like the Ilford Delta 100.  I had some exceptional results with this film.  
      Recommended!  Example: Old Lady 

  • ADOX CMS 20:    
    Not used yet, but I have a few rolls waiting to be shot.  This film has a very low ISO rating (12 -20) and is supposed to be extremely sharp.   Can't wait to try this one!

  • Formapan 400:  Didn't like that one.  Heavy grain, small toe and shoulder, and the negatives curl like steel springs.  No Example right now.

Color Film:

  • Kodak Portra 160 NP:  
    Good for scanning due to its high resolution, a bit of a small toe, mellow red / yellow tones (great for skin colors).  Example (Nikon ED9000 Scanner, so the colors are pretty original):  
    Korfu, Greece, at Sidari Point  
  • Kodak Ektar 100:    
    Great and saturated colors, a bit unnatural on skin depending on lighting,  very good dynamics (and toe / shoulder).  Good for long exposure times.  Good for outdoor shots, like startling sunrises or sunsets.  People / light skin needs color corrections.   Good resolution.  Recommended, for my type of photography.  Example: 
    Mercedes Benz
  • Fuji Color Pro 160S:  
    Very similar to the Porta160.  Example:  
    Lamp flood  

  • Fujichrome Provia 100 RDPIII:
    This is a color reversal film, usually for slides.  I like it very much, ideal for landscape, sunsets/rises and architecture shots.  Great resolution, ideal for scanning.  For some reason my batch had a slightly magenta cast on the scans, which can easily be corrected in PS / LR.  It needs a precise exposure, as it is not as forgiving as bw film types (that goes for all color films, I guess).  The medium format film exposures are a joy to look at, I must say. Very sharp and colorful, even without a loupe!   Expensive to buy.  Example:

  • Fujichrome Velvia RVP:
    Another color reversal film for slides.  It as a slightly different color sensitivity.  Colors look not as natural as with the Provia, very saturated and with certain shifts.   Higher contrast.  Needs a careful exposure.  Somehow, it compares to the Provia like the Ektar would compare to the Portra.  Expensive to buy.  My captures have yet to be scanned, so I have not an example in the moment. 

Instant Film:

  • Fuji FP100C (color):    
    Mellow colors, great for people fotography.  It is easy to extract the negative for digitizing.  No way as sharp as a normal MF negative though. But instant has its own charm which is beyond pure sharpness.  I found that I need to overexpose by one stop on a cloudy day, and even 1.5 or 2 in the shade to keep the darks from dropping off.  Small toe and shoulder.

  • Fuji FP100B (b/w):      
    Same as above, except that the negative is not as easily extracted.  It seems that the negative is not really fixed after exposure and needs a bath to stop the process. Still have to do some research on that.  Unfortunatly, the FP100B seems to have been discontinued by Fuji.



What makes you lug a very uncomfortable and basic 3.5kg camera around, plus equipment, sometimes all day long.  What makes you bother about buying and developing roll film, bother about exposure, EVs and zones and measuring light with a hand held meter, memorize the DOF of the lenses most used,  keep certain qualities and do's or don'ts of 10 or so different films in ones mind, re-read Ansel Adams books and others for the x-th time, and go through the complex workflow of transforming the negatives into prints or digital copies?  And this in our days of high tech gadgets, convenient and comfortable to use, designed to speed everything up and generate a high output and better efficiency.
Well that's exactly my point.  I don't want to be on that comfortable and automatic high speed trip.  I like the challenge of digging down into the basics, to learn new aspects and use that knowledege on every capture I shoot. I want to be slow and involved, immersed in every possible step of the process, and if the outcome meets my expectations, I get a huge gain out of it.  Every time I hold one of these analog negatives in my hands.
A little film I discovered a few weeks ago pretty much sums it up, and if you, the reader, feel inclined you might want to have a look at it:

Title:  Long live film!