[alt-photo] Re: AUUGGHH... Restarting and new decisions... Need advise.

Diana Bloomfield dhbloomfield at bellsouth.net
Wed Dec 30 21:45:22 GMT 2009

Hey David,

I'm intrigued with your questions and only wish I could seriously  
contemplate whether to buy a Leica M9 or a medium format digital camera.

I have a Canon 5D, which has been terrific for when I'm being paid to  
photograph people.  It's fast, does the job well enough, and-- in the  
end-- everybody seems satisfied and happy.  I recently rented the  
Canon 85mm 1.2 lens for a job, and it was a dream.  I really loved it  
and loved the results.  Honestly, it made me like the camera better--  
which makes me think I just haven't been using the right lens.

For my own artwork, though, I rarely use that camera-- mainly,  
because-- in the end-- I just don't like the format. I find myself  
cropping to square, or something close to it, all the time.  (I never  
actually liked the 35mm format, either, though I have had an M6 for  
years and love it).   I tend to still use 4x5 film for my 4x5 pinhole  
cameras-- and medium format film for my other cameras-- In fact, I  
recently purchased (from a guy who went all digital all the time) a  
Mamiya 6, with a couple of the lenses that accompanied it, and it is  
one amazing camera (and the lenses give spectacular results).  I  
really love using that camera. I scan my negatives and make larger  
digital negatives for alt process work.   I do believe that a great  
flat-bed scanner (and they are out there) works really well, at least  
for my purposes.  I think a drum scanner would be serious overkill--  
at least for what I do.

I'm not at all averse to making digital prints, either.  (I probably  
shouldn't say that, as one could possibly go to hell for making that  
statement on this list).  But I do believe that the digital prints  
made from scanned negatives are often more impressive than digital  
prints made from a digital camera.  The digital prints made from  
actual film don't seem to have that flat 'digital look.'  The owner/ 
manager of my local photo lab here told me a long story once about why  
digital prints look so flat, compared to images made with film--  His  
reasoning was way too technical for me, so I forgot most of what he  
said as it went way over my head-- but it seemed to make sense at the  
time.  I have actually seen quite beautiful digital prints, but I have  
found that those who learned how to make prints the old-fashioned way  
(in the wet darkroom) tend to also know how to make prints on the  
computer.   An excellent printer and scanner-- as well as superb  
paper-- surely helps.  Mostly, though, what we tend to see, I think,  
are the results of enormous numbers of people who never learned how to  
make a print, either the old-fashioned way, or the digital way-- and  
they seem to be overly enamored with Photoshop (especially the over- 
sharpen and saturation tools).   But I've made some digital prints  
that I think are gorgeous (if I do say so myself!), and I've certainly  
seen some that are amazing-- compelling and impressive, both image-  
and print-wise.

I understand that Canon's latest digital camera (still too expensive  
for me) now produces the 'look' of film in the print (not offering  
that flat digital look), and lot of folks think you'd be hard-pressed  
to see the difference as to whether the print was made from film, or  
straight from the digital camera.  My issue is-- several thousand  
dollars later, and upwards to $10K  or more if you're talking an M9--  
and you're STILL essentially working with a 35mm, or small format  
camera.  That makes no sense to me.   If I had the money, I'd be  
getting a medium format digital camera, for sure, but I would never  
pay thousands for a small format camera, and a format I really don't  

I still use (color) film and have an Epson flat-bed scanner which is  
wonderful and works really well.  Maybe I'm too easily impressed, but  
I don't think so.

Anyway, not much help here-- but given that you seem to have the  
available funds-- and, by your own admission, an arm that doesn't work  
as well as it used to--  my free advice is to buy a medium format  
digital camera.  You'd still have to make digital negatives, but they  
would be first generation negatives.  I'm sticking with film, but only  
because I can't afford what I'd like.  :)   I just hope they keep  
making it.

That's my 2 cents.  Good luck!


> Ok all... The basic story here is that I'm taking a bit of a  
> sabbatical from my day job (in high tech) and going to devote much  
> of the next year to various pursuits, most of them photographic.
> I haven't photographed much at all in the last 8-10 years... And I  
> hate even to admit that. I shot some 8x10, but mostly 4x5... 80%+  
> Polaroid type 55 which I dearly love, but also ready-loads (and  
> occasionally film holders, always for the 8x10 and rarely for the  
> 4x5) because while I'm more contemplative than the typical 35mm  
> photographer (and ALWAYS use a tripod) I did like to work lite (and  
> my favorite of 2 4x5s is my Polaroid 110 conversion). I'd process  
> all of the film myself, and had all but abandoned Silver for  
> Platinum printing. I was starting to get into digital negatives so I  
> could standardize on 11x14 prints, but hadn't gotten very far. I did  
> however scan every negative for cataloging and for my website.
> Jump ahead to late 2009 and I have the same basic desire for my  
> work, if not wanting to work even a bit lighter (part of the reason  
> for my time off is due to being on disability from almost having  
> lost my right arm and shoulder.. I've still got it, but it doesn't  
> worn near as well as it used to).
> So I start thinking.... I prefer ready-loads and Type 55 even  
> more... There ARE no B&W ready-loads available anymore, and until  
> The Impossible Project ( http://www.the-impossible-project.com/)  
> gets Type 55 revived, I'm limited to a very small stash I have in my  
> deep freezer.
> My workflow was analog, with a side of digital, but was and will  
> likely move to at least analog-digital-analog. I want to print Pt at  
> 11x14 for the most part so there'll have to be a digital (negative)  
> before the print... Hence the digital step in the workflow.
> Maybe it's time for a change.
> Is the quality of a good drum scan from a 4x5 negative still so much  
> better than a digital camera when printing negatives at 11x14 as to  
> make it worth hauling film holders or a couple or three Grafmatic  
> holders, a changing bag... And still processing the negatives myself?
> Or is it time to consider a Digital Camera-Analog print workflow?
> I'm one of those people who can tell an analog print from a digital  
> print... At least anytime I've called it out in a gallery or  
> photography exhibition I haven't been told I'm wrong (I'm usually  
> asked how I knew). From personal experience of my (and other's work)  
> I can't seem to see it in an analog print from a well made digital  
> negative (but all were from scanned negatives).  I don't really know  
> if I'd see it in a digital capture.
> If I did move to a digital camera, I'd probably go higher-end... And  
> likely medium format.  Something like a medium format digital  
> solution (Phase One, Hassy, or Leica S2) or a Phase One, Leaf, or  
> Hassy back on an Arca-swiss or other "technical camera" platform  
> (then I don't have to give up movements).  Either way, that would  
> require a significant investment (somewhere in the $13k - $25k  
> range.) I might also consider a Leica M9 and get a couple of those  
> sensuous lenses, which would cut the price down to around $10K or  
> $11K with a couple of lenses, give up some quality due to the  
> smaller sensor (still 35mm Full Frame), but again lose movements for  
> the ultimate in lightness and portability.
> Thoughts???
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