After using the IQ180 back in February of this year. I decided that I should get back into shooting some film, so I went looking for a film camera, I was originally looking for something along the lines of a 1 Series Canon body. I found a few that came in around the £160 mark.

Then I was reading on one of the camera forums I frequent about putting a Digital Back on an old Medium Format Body. So then I started looking in the cost of a Digital Back and a 2nd hand old Medium Format Body. I checked out a few sites that showed MFB (Medium Format Body) going for around £230ish and then looked into the price of a Digital Back, £1,250 which I figured was a bargain! but further investigation showed that that was for the Digital to Analogue conversion to allow a Digital Back… Delving deeper into the internet showed that Mamiya did a 22 megapixel back for around £2,500, but it was only a 14bit back (the same as Canon’s current range of DSLR’s) not 16 like most MF Backs..

I decided to hit the button and have some fun with a MFB anyway so went searching for Auctions. Bingo! I found one ending in just 4 days, so hit the watch it button and waited. To my surprise I won the auction for less than i thought! WOO!

But I am still without a lens – searching as shown that a 180mm on a MFB will make an ideal portrait combo. Until I can find a lens that doesn’t bust my pocket (I dont wan’t to over spend on something I’m going to use once in a while), I’m borrowing a 127mm.

It just so happened that the weekend that I got this beast, my cousin and his family were down and I asked if they would be my victims subjects for my 2nd roll of film. I used my first roll taking headshots in the garden and when the kids were playing in the pool (and that was used quickly!).

I wanted to see how well my radio triggers and the Mamiya played together – I had to blue peter a sync cable so that the lens triggered the transmitter (yes you read that right, the lens triggers the shutter – the RB67 is a 100% mechanical body and uses leaf shutter lenses) – i had heard that because of the shutter design you can sync shutter speeds faster than 1/250 – this could become very useful and testing of this was very exciting!

So i setup a couple of speedlights (i thought this should be enough) one in a softbox camera left and the other shoot though umbrella camera right. Clamped the RB on my tripod. Tested the light with my 50D (with digital, instant feedback is great) and when i was happy brought the family in for their shots.

Testing Mamiya RB67 - Dorset Portrait Photographer Robert Whetton

Testing Mamiya RB67 - Dorset Portrait Photographer Robert Whetton

Testing Mamiya RB67 - Dorset Portrait Photographer Robert Whetton

Testing Mamiya RB67 - Dorset Portrait Photographer Robert Whetton

Thanks to my cousin and his family for agreeing to be my guinea pigs for this shoot!

Lessons learnt?

  1. The viewfinder isn’t WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) – the image I saw through the top of the camera everyone’s feet were in frame, it would seem that I need to figure out how much of the top and bottom i need to knock off when composing – I’m guessing this will be the same for when i shoot portrait mode.
  2. Clicks cost money! I’ve worked out that each click costs £1.60 so for a roll of 10 shots that £16.00. Its easy to forget this when you shoot digital and before you know it you’ve burnt through 10 shots! And it takes a week to see the results..
  3. Depth of Field (amount that is in focus) is shallower than on a 35mm camera, although the shots above look pretty decent, the amount that is actually in focus @ 6.3 is very little on a MFB. Manual focusing with this camera needs to be spot on as well – i didn’t focus each shot but instead decided to pre-focus before everyone sat down (for speed) – but I can see that each shot needs to be focused.
  4. Speedlights don’t cut it with MF with the above f/6.3, both speedlights were on 1/1 setting and im figuring f/11 | f/16 is what will be needed to get a decent group in focus so Studio Lights will be a must for any further family type shots. f/6.3 will do for couple shots or portraits I think.
  5. File sizes are huge – much bigger than any 35mm shot I’ve taken, and when I shot the IQ180 at FOCUS I came away with some RAW files they were approx 80MB in size, but as the scans are 16bits and TIFF they come in more in the 600-700MB mark each!
  6. Retouching takes longer! not only because you’re pushing more pixels with greater detail, but the dust and other crap that you get on the transparency which is picked up by the scanner (all the cleaning in the world and you still end up with some)
  7. Those white gloves you see the technicians at Jessops wearing are a must buy and I’m getting some for when I have to scan my next shoot!