A little film post about a big medium format camera

Last spring I picked up a medium format film Pentax 645, a camera that uses 120 film, as well as several lenses for it… of course this meant I had to lug it (plus my digital stuff) everywhere I went, from the local park and all the way to London for a wedding I was going to shoot in the UK. I haven’t put it on the scale, but it’s quite a heavy beast.

This winter I decided to process the color rolls at Pro Photo Connection in Irvine, as it was near to where I was living at the time… amazing group of folks there… fast, friendly service – so I’m going to be mailing them all my future work, since we’ve lost local developing for 120 format C41. Grrr…

Most of the shots and lens choices below were specifically to test how the lenses look in real world use. One thing often discussed among photographers (or at least, those who frequent online photographer forums) is how different sizes of film or sensors affect image quality. There is a ton of fancy-pants terminology for these effects, but really, images are the real proof.

For this test I was interested in how sharp the in-focus parts would be, how blurry the out-of-focus areas would be, and the smoothness of the transition from sharp to smooth – so the compositions are a bit more oriented towards that goal. I was also interested in how shallow (or thin) the depth of field – or range of in-focus distances would be. It’s often said that medium format has a such a thin depth of field that it’s really a hinderance to shooting, almost a handicap. Turns out – it’s no big deal – and as I hoped – I even prefer this look because it’s so subtle.

Below are my favorite images; this was all shot on Velvia, and I did digitally adjust them for posting here. This is also the first post to use images and HTML that I hope will be Retina / HiDPI friendly. Both Retina and non-retina displays should show versions of the images that fit horizontally within the blog frame. The only difference will be that high-resolution devices with modern browsers should show very crisp versions of the images with twice as much detail.

So, would I shoot an entire wedding on the 645 using film? Absolutely!


Using the 645 for street photography on Portobello Road



The best foodie bookstore in the whole world – Books for Cooks – just off Portobello Road. We had a great lunch there!



I found that handheld shooting (as all these shot are) was not a problem; even when going for high depth of field.



The Tate Britain at dawn.



A view along the Thames. Very deep depth of field; everything from my toes to the London Eye is in focus.



A less fortunate commuter…



Another one from Bessborough Gardens, but at sunset.



Back in Calgary. The viewfinder makes it possible to focus on details like spiderwebs!



Random tree #37. But really, a DoF test.



Another DoF test. I much prefer medium format for it’s ability to isolate subjects.



More isolation tests; this time a Canada Goose.


Probably my fave, although I didn't get as much isolation of the benches I'd hoped.

Probably my fave, although I didn’t get as much isolation of the benches I’d hoped.


This is actually from a 35mm Pentax on 200 ISO ‘drugstore film’, developed at the same time.


Another 35mm Pentax shot. I wish shooting film was more practical.

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