Best Medium Format For Street Photography

By | 21/08/2022

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Ostensibly, this is already perchance not the most practical of ideas; if one is extremely masochistic, things can be compounded farther into the
really bad idea
form by using film. And a transmission focus photographic camera. Without a meter. I think it takes a certain corporeality of insanity – or at to the lowest degree a healthy dose of optimism – to fifty-fifty attempt it. Street photography (the genre itself existence discussed in this previous article) is the kind of thing that’south handled best with a responsive, unobtrusive camera that also has a goodly amount of depth of field for a given discontinuity, plus what I like to recollect of as beingness very forgiving of slightly loose shot subject. This more often than not ways good high-ISO power, maybe a stabilization organization, a depression-vibration shutter and decently large pixels to make the effects of camera milkshake less obvious.

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Focusing requirements are a bit less clear cut: either y’all have blazing-fast AF, D4/ 1Dx/ OM-D-style, or you have no AF at all, just a very well sorted manual focus system – i.e. a rangefinder with reasonably wide lenses that tin can also be zone/ calibration focused. Either way, lag is your number one enemy when information technology comes to beingness fix to capture oftentimes very fleeting moments. I really think an intermediate sensor size is the best way to go – perhaps 1” to APS-C – beingness the all-time compromise between high-ISO performance and depth of field vs. aperture tradeoffs. Annihilation significantly larger and focus precision becomes critical; whatever errors are made glaringly obvious both due to the shallower depth of field for a given angle of view and discontinuity combination, somewhat exacerbated by the lenses for medium format more often than not being rather fell in terms of resolving power.

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Yet the ane thing that compelled me to try this practice not once, but several times, is only the look that the larger format provides. It cannot exist replicated by smaller-sensor cameras – over again simply due to the nature of the optics required for a given angle of view. The about DSLR-similar of the medium format cameras is the Leica S serial; I attempted some street photography with it back in 2012. The handling of the camera is very much like a DSLR on steroids; it has a command dial interface, autofocus, a large, bright viewfinder, and some semblance of continuous shooting ability. There are even now zooms and ultrawides available for it. High-ISO performance leaves something to be desired; I oasis’t had a chance to shoot with the new Southward, but the S2’s pixel-level architecture was shared with the M8 and M9 – and we know the performance of both of those dropped off sharply at anything above about ISO 640 or thereabouts. Finally, although the sensor is big – 30x45mm, a bit less than double 35mm – but not that large; 645 is nearly double the area again, with all of the bellboy laws of optics and consequences to the rendering style of the final paradigm. And let’south non even talk about half dozen×6, vi×vii or half-dozen×9 – not that at that place are commercially bachelor digital sensors that comprehend these areas anyhow.

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To exist honest, I found two aspects of the shooting feel required me to change the mode I approached things: firstly, you could only really work in vivid daylight because of the shutter speeds and apertures required to brand the nigh of all of those pixels; secondly, focusing was accurate, merely nowhere about fast enough to take on fifty-fifty moderately slowly moving objects (e.g. people walking) with any degree of consistent reliability*. However, this made me await at street photography in a slightly dissimilar light: previously, I’d focus on the people and beingness equally fast or stealthy as possible; the big change was that I now plant myself focusing on the
instead, and using people in a more abstract fashion to give a scene a sense of scale, or some idea of the relative amount of activity – perhaps liveliness is a better term. It doesn’t matter if they’re out of focus or in motion/ blurred – the man figures decompose into an thought and lose all sense of individuality. In that sense, they could be anybody, and nobody.

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*You lot could of course downsize the images subsequently, but to my mind that would defeat ane of the major reasons for shooting something with a larger sensor in the beginning identify – epitome quality. If anything, the shot discipline required to maximize the potential of a medium format organization is even higher than the current crop of DSLRs, including the D800E.

I found the mechanics of
the camera less of a limitation the 2d fourth dimension effectually – that was during my trial run of the Hasselblad H4D-40; given the price of the thing, I would take had to sell off a large portion of my existing gear to fund the lenses I’d need. What didn’t work was the sheer size and bulk of the thing – not merely was it fatiguing to carry around for long periods of time, but it was just too obtrusive and attending-grabbing. And for some odd reason – chalk it downwardly to design – unlike the S2, it
expensive to the untrained center, which would likely brand me a target in some of the less overnice neighborhoods in which I photograph. Unfortunately, the virtually interesting scenes also tend to be in these kinds of places.

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Fourth dimension to chuck that idea out – or at least I’d abased it until the Hasselblad 501C came into my possession. It’s everything I described in the offset paragraph: fully manual, including exposure; even worse high-ISO image quality than whatever digital; single-frame only advance with a 12-shot ‘buffer’; lacking in any focusing aids (mine came with a patently matte screen) and both tedious to operate and very unforgiving of poor technique. Then there’s the mirror slap, which when compared to a FF DSLR is akin to the difference between say a .38 circular and a .50 Desert Eagle; allow’s but say it kicks like a mule and is making every try to ruin whatever handheld image. Fortunately, the foliage shutter is nigh totally vibration-gratis, but you’ll only observe that if you lock up the mirror – and then you tin can’t frame or focus accurately. Though the camera is capable of taking a digital dorsum (the CFV series, amongst other options), at that place are no solutions that cover the full vi×6 frame (which is actually closer to 54x54mm due to the rebate border).

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The funny matter is, despite all of these paper shortcomings – I’ve found that street/ travel reportage photography is most easily accomplished with the 501C out of the three. (It’s besides quite possible ane of the RFs like the Mamiya 6 or Fuji GA645 might exist even amend suited due to their leaf shutters, but they’re nearly impossible to detect in Malaysia.) Aside from the fact that it’s besides the smallest and lightest even after taking lenses into consideration, my theory is that these limitations really force you to actually concentrate and shoot in a very specific way. By limiting your ability to operate in low light due to picture speed/ image quality tradeoffs, your sensation and use of ‘pools’ of light is heightened; by metering for the highlights you tin can claw back a couple of stops or more than, and simultaneously endow your black and white negatives with a rich quarter tonality. In very bright light, the speed limit of the leaf shutter is just ane/500s, which means either using grads (hugely inconvenient if you’re constantly moving between sunny and shaded sides of the street) or working stopped down – which forces you to pay attention to backgrounds and subject isolation. Unmarried shot release – albeit with a very tactile and progressive shutter push button – ways apprehension is paramount to getting any moving subject where you desire information technology to be. Though there’s no autofocus, zone/ scale focusing is perfectly workable. If I’ve got plenty shutter speed to freeze motion, I figure out where I need a field of study or effigy in the frame, focus at the signal where they would pass through, and release when the right person walks through the frame; if not, and then I focus on whatever is static and let the humans abstruse themselves out.

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Of form, all of these statements utilise every bit to the autofocus digital medium format cameras, besides; the problem is precisely
they have autofocus, we tend to be lazy or unsure of ourselves and adopt to use that method – with the bellboy lag it introduces. I suspect if I had the opportunity to shoot with either the H4D or S2 again, I’d do it differently. Instead of running AF and aperture priority, matrix-metering like I practice with my Nikons, I’d shoot it like the 501C with the exception of AF – manual focus on an SLR of any sort is but as well hit and miss without an exceptionally good focusing screen, especially when dealing with the typical moderate-speed, medium-length lenses.

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What I take abroad from the whole feel – other than the fact that I find the look of the output sufficiently different and highly-seasoned to bother despite the considerably higher amount of work – is that in that location is a subtle, but important difference betwixt shooting street with smaller formats and medium (or larger) format. Smaller formats encourage you to concentrate on
the private
as the subject; I tend to find the step of piece of work dictated by the pace of the people, which leads to some extremely frenetic and sometimes frustrating sessions every bit i tries to capture everything he sees. On the other mitt, larger formats make you focus on the scene as a whole, using people as elements rather than subjects. Since the majority of the elements in the scene remain static, y’all tin work at your own pace – any that might be, probably dictated by the limitations of your camera. I have no doubtfulness that information technology would probably also be possible to employ large formats this way, likewise.

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There’s no demand to buy a medium format photographic camera (though if y’all want to have the same rendering quality, and so y’all don’t really have a lot of choice) – but from a
point of view, information technology’s possible to achieve the same outcome: focus on the scene. I find myself doing this quite a lot now, as well. Whether this way of seeing and composing works for you every bit an individual photographer is non a question I tin answer; withal, the merely fashion to find out is to investigate it for yourself. MT

You’ve probably guessed information technology by now, but the lion’southward share of the images were shot with the Hasselblad 501C, mostly on Fuji Neopan Acros 100.

Coda: Since writing this article (I plan the site a couple of months in advance to ensure editorial cohesion and a good overall menstruation to things, plus to permit myself a buffer for commercial piece of work and such) I’ve acquired a CFV-39 digital back for the V-serial ‘Blads. It shoots a 49x37mm sensor, roughly i.1x on a 645, or ane.5x confronting 6×6. I’m still evaluating its suitability for street work – so far, information technology seems to take less sensitivity than the ISO number suggests (probably due to lack of microlenses), and is even more sensitive to camera milkshake than the D800E; not surprising considering of the higher number of pixels per degree angle of view. I’m also having a footling trouble finding equivalence: my 80mm manifestly doesn’t shoot like an 80mm anymore, and is now also long. The 50mm works fine in 1.5x square crop manner, but loses the rendering backdrop of the 80mm that make it work so well with 6×6 picture. In that location’s also the issue of the rectangular sensor: you have to concord it very strangely indeed to shoot portrait orientation. Nonetheless…when the results come up together under controlled circumstances, the output is magical. Whether that’south translatable to the streets or not is quite some other thing…


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