- Jon Longworth
My Dive Into Medium Format Photography
First, we'll start off with a con of owning a medium format, especially something like the Mamiya RB67. It is heavy. Like really fucking heavy. One time I carried it round in my backpack for about an hour and a half and I developed back, leg and neck pains from it.
Aside from that, shooting on my Mamiya has been such a rewarding and eye opening experience that has made me look at how I operate as a photographer. What I mean when I say that is that when I shoot with it, I usually set up some place, stand/sit there for about 10 seconds and then I shoot whatever I want to shoot. There is a level of consideration that I haven't experienced before when shooting on any of my other cameras. I haven't had it on my DSLR and I haven't had it on my 35mm. Maybe it's because the price of 120 film is ridiculously expensive. You can get a single roll for about £10-12 and a 5 pack of Kodak Portra 400 is around £40. Like if I sold my kidney I could probably get around 6 packs of Portra 400. And I don't know about you but that doesn't seem like an even trade. But apart from that, just those few extra moments you spend just soaking in what's happening before you finally fire the shutter release are actually quite blissful. Not to mention that with it being a waist level view finder I often find myself developing a greater connection with that image. It is only after shooting through my viewfinder on DSLR and SLR that I begin to notice the difference. There becomes some sort of disconnect with the. You're looking through what could be described as an artificial eye. I treat it more like what the camera sees rather than what I do. Whereas with the Mamiya, it feels like a collaboration between man and machine. Maybe I'm spouting nonsensical spiritual nonsense, but it feels like it's there, and that's all you can really do ain't it?
That isn't to say that you get that straight away. The first 3 weeks of owning the camera after I bought all the parts off eBay was trying to figure out how the bloody thing worked. The RB67 is a very modular piece of equipment, so finding out what could be taken off, how it could be rearranged was very interesting to see. With DSLR's its all well and good but trying to figure out how that works amounts to figuring out the interface. With the Mamiya, it felt like I was dissecting a heart. That dismantling and rebuilding really helps to develop that understanding of what you're shooting with. Granted, I'm still figuring out how some of the things work on the camera. For example, I only found out how to actually rotate the back of the camera about a week ago. I've legit spent the whole time thinking that you have to take the back off, and attack the back frame on in a different way. Turns out you literally just rotate the whole thing clockwise. The whole thing left me feeling a bit stupid that something so simple was the answer.
Another important thing to add is that owning and using a medium format felt like a right of passage in a way. Some of the lecturers own medium formats. I had always believed that my own photographic ability wasn't up to par with my piers and that I wouldn't deserve something like this, so the fact that I now not only own one but can shoot confidently on it is my own form of self improvement. Obviously not everything I shoot is going to be great, a lot of the time, there are things I shoot that I end up loathing, but when you shoot something good, and I mean really good, then there doesn't feel like there is anything more satisfying to see on this earth.
I'd like to learn how to shoot portraiture with the RB67, but currently at this point in time, I am shooting with a 127mm Sekor C lens, which is the equivalent of a 70mm on a regular camera, so shooting portraiture with that lens (whilst possible) does not seem like it'd be the best course of action. But hey, don't knock it til you try it. Maybe I'll do a shoot with it and end up loving it, after all I've done portraiture with my 70-300mm before. Who knows what I'll make next?