Why I Shoot Medium Format

This post has been a long time in the making. Well, what I mean is: I can't believe I haven't posted on this subject before!

If you follow this blog, you may have noticed that I'm a bit obsessed with my Hassy.  Rarely do I put up pics shot from my lowly 'backups' - my Canons.  Point in fact, I've been spoiled.

[caption id="image_161" align="aligncenter" width="700" caption="Hasselblad 503cw 80mm 2.8 with #32 tube; f22 @125th 50iso; strobe with #30 grid high and above"]Hasselblad 503cw 80mm 2.8 with #32 tube; f22 @125th 50iso; strobe with #30 grid high and above[/caption]

Why medium format?

This subject has been a constant debate since the advent of digital technology and it's steadying hold since the 90's .  Even now, photographers are debating the fine points of shooting medium format film vs. 35mm film and medium format vs. DSLR.  It's enough to give you a nose bleed.  Each source on the web claims a different result, and always with different images.  (Hmm, surprised?)

Certainly, there are examples where you can prove one way is definitively better than another.  But, it seems these days, the argument for shooting in DSLR is for nothing more than convenience sake. It is much easier to shoot with my Canon 5dMKII, upload the images, make a few minor adjustments and be done with it.

Personally, in regards to these reviews,  I think experience speaks volumes.

Despite the conveniences of my Canons, I keep going back to my Hassy.  It's cumbersome, it's manual, it's annoying uploading the files to a dedicated software and outputting to my DAM and then working through my RAW workflow.  Yet, I still keep going back to it like a lost puppy.

Why?

I love the results.

That's what photography is really about.  It's not the equipment, it's not the effects, it's not the props.  It's all about the final image.  Who cares how you got to it?  When it's up on a wall, viewer's appreciate the tones, textures, subject matter and color.  Not how the photographer arrived at the final image.  There are days when I wish just pushing the shutter is enough.  But, working the image results in much more satisfying work.  It's the craft.

Sure, there are times where the novelty of a photographer shooting an image with nothing more than his iPhone is riveting and all the rage.  But, in the final analysis, that photo will be memorable in it's own right, regardless if shot from a $10 disposable or a $40K Leaf back.

The image below is a prime example of what medium format will allow you to do.

[caption id="image_163" align="aligncenter" width="700" caption="Hasselblad 503cw 80mm 2.8 with #32 tube; f22 @125th 50iso; strobe with #30 grid high and above"]Hasselblad 503cw 80mm 2.8 with #32 tube; f22 @125th 50iso; strobe with #30 grid high and above[/caption]

I know well enough that, had I shot this image with my Canon 5dMKII, the details may have been almost as apparent, but the contrast and color fidelity would have been muddled.  The Canon sees about 8 stops of brightness.  The Hassy sees as much as 14 stops.  Much closer to the human eye's 24 stops.

[caption id="image_164" align="aligncenter" width="700" caption="Hasselblad 503cw 80mm 2.8 with #32 tube; f2.8 @125th 50iso; strobe with #30 grid high and above"]Hasselblad 503cw 80mm 2.8 with #32 tube; f2.8 @125th 50iso; strobe with #30 grid high and above[/caption]

[caption id="image_162" align="aligncenter" width="700" caption="Hasselblad 503cw 80mm 2.8 with #32 tube; f4 @125th 50iso; strobe with #30 grid high and above"]Hasselblad 503cw 80mm 2.8 with #32 tube; f4 @125th 50iso; strobe with #30 grid high and above[/caption]

How does this translate with respect to the images above? Shadows and highlights are more 'real' - you can 'see' more.  Subtleties in the shadows, details in the highlights, bring together the image.  Your eyes have more to feast on.

The larger your format, the closer it comes to what your eyes naturally see, and therefore, the more beautiful and realistic the image.

Granted, medium format photography is hugely expensive and more work.  But, it's worth it for the end result.

To make an image that I will carry with me for a lifetime, I want the most I can get from it.  I want the details; every crack, every tone, every imperfection.

To me, those are the details of life.