Two posts ago I talked about film stock and how you can't be considered a 'real' film photographer unless you process your own black & white (my developing tank has arrived and now I just have to finish the roll of T-Max 400 in my Olympus Trip 35).
Well this week I want to take that one step further by suggesting you're not a 'proper' film freak unless you're shooting medium format!
Okay, slight tongue-in-cheek again - but just like the black and white developing thing, I know that in the good old days of film, many 'real' landscape photographers would scoff at anyone who even dared to suggest that they shot 'seriously' on 35mm. The negative you get, they argue, just isn't big enough to do any critical or meaningful enlargements with.
Although I don't necessarily prescribe to this line of reasoning, I do take their point, and admit that it is a valid one. And as someone who used to work as an Art Director and studio/fashion photographer in a former life (using both medium format and 35mm film), I can attest to the superiority (if even only psychologically) of looking at a medium format slide image on a light table compared to its 35mm counterpart. There's just no comparison. Any important 'hero' shot we needed for a catalogue was shot on medium format (a Mamiya RZ 67), no question. A drum scan from a medium format slide has a gorgeous look to it - something I think digital is still trying to replicate.
And all of this pre-amble is by way of introducing my latest purchase... (no, not a Mamiya RZ unfortunately)... the Bronica S2 6x6 medium format camera.
What attracted me to the Bronica S2? Well, as always, price played a major factor :-) I have been watching the internet auction site here in New Zealand for a while now, and had been watching a couple of Bronica's, as well as a Mamiya. I've already related my positive experiences with the Mamiya RZ 67, and although I would certainly be happy owning one now, they are a bit of a beast! I've also owned a Pentax 645 very briefly a couple of years ago - and while I enjoyed its ergonomics and handling, the 6 x 4.5 format didn't really do it for me size-wise.
So what really attracted me to the Bronica S2 (apart from the price and general condition) was the 6x6 format it uses. I've never used the 6x6 format, but must admit to being very captivated by the square 'hasslebladness' of the format. And the Bronica S2 has been called the 'poor mans Hassleblad', or more kindly, the 'Japanese Hassleblad'.
Of course Hassleblad is synonymous with medium format - their name inextricably linked with one of the greatest photographers who ever lived - Ansel Adams. Would I rather own a Hassy? Maybe. Will the quality of the image produced from the Bronica be inferior? Probably not. I could have waited around for a Hassleblad to come up for sale and spent at least twice as much to get one. Or I could go with the Bronica and save money. Given the subject of this post, my choice is obvious.
Some people who have owned Bronica's, and then moved on to Hassleblad's, have even swapped back because they preferred the S2's handling over the Hassy's. I've never used a Hassleblad (or a Bronica for that matter), so I won't be making the comparison anytime soon. I simply intend to take the Bronica out and have fun with it. Making some 'serious' landscape images ;-)
I may end up hating the square 6x6 format? Or I may end up loving it? Who knows? Time will tell.