I say almost because I'll grant you that 35mm is more convenient if you are out for an afternoon with the family and simply want to 'record' the day. In that situation then 'no', I wouldn't want to be lugging around a complete medium format system, plus tripod and light meter, just to get a quick shot of the kids as they play on the beach.
But even that is relative, since I would make exactly the same statement regarding my digital SLR kit. Less and less I find myself inclined to carry around my Canon 5D with battery grip and big zoom lenses, when for most occasions the Canon G6 compact will do. I'm even seriously considering leaving my digital SLR kit at home when we go over to Australia in a few months time (or pairing it right back) and just going with the G6. And I'm undecided as yet whether to take a film camera with me as well? I may end up just buying one over there.
The flip-side of this argument highlights therefore what I consider medium format film, or pro digital SLR cameras, to be for. The answer, of course, is for serious photography. I'm not going to take my Canon G6 to a wedding and start firing away - and nor would I get up at 5.00am to take sunrise images armed only with an Olympus Mju point-and-shoot. As a professional wedding photographer, my clients expect a certain level of gear when I turn up to shoot their big day - even if that is only their perception of quality. I probably could shoot a wedding with my G6 and present a beautiful album to the couple afterwards. But I wouldn't.
I love my 5D with its big grunty hand grip attached, together with my 70-200mm f4 L and Canon 580EX flash. Set that baby up and you absolutely scream photographer. Even if you're not (don't get me started on that). Sure, there is a level of reliability to be had from using the more rugged 'pro' quality gear - but even the entry level Canon Rebel's are solid units that take a licking and keep on ticking. Check out DigitalRev TV for this video on how much abuse these entry level DLSR's can take and keep working. So in the end, as far as using the big Pro DSLR's are concerned, it may very well come down to public perception - and looks.
But is that the case with medium format film? Do I advocate lugging 20 pounds of gear around just to look 'cool'? No - of course not. Because the real difference between medium format and 35mm film is, well, the film (or at least, the size of the negative). When you are scanning, enlarging and printing from a negative, then that extra real-estate really does make a huge difference. And it definitely makes it worth while to carry around the extra gear to produce a superior result.
Hang on though - I hear you say. What about digital? Doesn't a bigger sensor give you a better result? Isn't that the point of going to 'full frame' digital? And again, the answer is 'yes'. Although with today's technology, and the amazing advances in small sensor manufacturing, I would argue that the gains are not necessarily as marked or as obvious as they are when moving up from 35mm to 120 film.
|My new Bronica S2 Kit|
Since getting my first S2 about 6 months ago, it has become my preferred medium format system. I love its handling, its look (very Hasselblad), its ease of use, and the images that come out of it. The more I've used it, the more enamored I have become with it. So, of course, thoughts then turn to adding on to the system so that I can expand my creative possibilities.
|Bronica S2 with 135mm Nikkor lens|
My first thought was to find a wide angle (50mm) Nikkor lens, since I mainly shoot landscapes with the S2. Add to that one more film back and I would have a kit that I would be happy with. Well, it would be a start anyway :-)
Trouble is, 50mm Nikkors for the S2 system don't come up very often, and if they do, they tend to be very pricey. So I've watched, and I've waited, and a few have passed me by.
Then last week, a S2 kit came up for auction that almost blew my mind! A fully CLA'd S2 body, with 50mm, 75mm and 135mm Nikkors, a full set of Bronica close-up adapters for macro work, grip holder, lens hoods, quick focusing ring - the works!
The full 'Buy Now' price was, not surprisingly, out of my reach - but I added it to my watch list anyway - just to see what it eventually went for. Because although the 'Buy Now' was pricey, the starting price for getting under way was very reasonable. I thought I might even make a starting bid - just to say I was in the auction.
|S2 with 75mm, lens hood and grip|
So now I actually own my dream Bronica S2 Kit, which should be here by the end of the week! Two bodies, four lenses (counting the one I already had), three film backs, hoods, grip, close-up attachments - the works! All for the price of a mid-range digital compact camera. Unbelievable!
This is the sort of kit I could never have owned fifteen years ago when we were all shooting film and there was no such thing as digital. So I guess I have digital photography to thank for my good fortune. And I'm sure you can too. Amazing deals on medium format cameras are going up on internet auctions every day.
Thanks to digital, there's never been a better time to shoot film! Oh the irony....