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Medium Format Shooting & Developing Process You Can Do At Home

By Kishore Sawh on May 11th 2015


If I asked a room of a thousand photographers if they ever wanted to shoot medium format, barring one or two who like to go against the grain, everyone’s hand would likely go up. Asking for a show of hands from the same group how many shoot medium format, or own a medium format camera, the number would probably be around 1 to 2%. To a large extent, it’s because we all primarily shoot digital today, and the cost of digital medium format systems is akin in number to Haiti’s GDP.

The desire though, is still there and growing. Add to that the sort of resurgence, if you will, of film, and more people are finding joy and their first experiences with medium format using older film systems without a digital back. After all, you can get a Mamiya RB67 Pro for only a few hundred dollars, or RZ67 Pro II for a few hundred more – WITH a lens.

nigel-barker-behindtheglass-mamiya-leaf-profoto-medium-format-photography-slrlounge-1 medium-format-developer-r3-monobath-mamiya-hasselblad-photography-slrlounge-1

When Photographer Andrew Jamieson was to give a presentation on his medium format film process, he created a video to do it. Using his Hasselblad, it takes you through the entire process from loading his Tri-X film, through to metering and shooting, developing, and even through to scanning and post processing the images in Photoshop. The video is only 4 minutes long, but gives a taste of what the process is to newcomers, and a reminiscent lick to those of us who’ve done it before.



One of the things that’s great about this process, is that you can do this in your home, or even a dorm, without the need for a darkroom or specialized equipment like an enlarger, since you’ll be scanning into Photoshop. Sure you can buy older enlargers online for not too much these days, but again they take up a bit of space, and this process fits the modern digital sharing platform. It kind of makes me want to go buy some R3 all-in-one solution and shoot some film right now and develop at home.



[REWIND: R3 Monobath | Film Developing In One Process From Instant Film Makers]

As someone who’s spent a fair amount of time in dark rooms developing, a few things stuck out to me about his process, like the fact his wash wasn’t done with temperature monitored water. I will caution that his method of disposing the developer leaves a bit to be desired. There are other better procedures to follow for getting rid of these chemicals, and down the drain isn’t really one of them. In his defense, developer isn’t all that bad comparing to the silver in fixer/hypo process, and it’s clear he doesn’t dispose of that the same and reuses it.

All in all, an inspiring video.

Source: PetaPixel

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Graham Curran

    I think I must have been about 10 when I got a “Junior Photographer’s Kit” and developed my first roll of 120 film in our bathroom at home and made a contact print. The camera was totally plastic, fixed focus, and had a pop-up metal rectangle for framing. I can’t remember if it was fixed aperture or actually had a sunny/cloudy setting. That was over 50 years ago. :)

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  2. Barry Cunningham

    The idea of course is that you don’t shoot as many photos with film. You take more time preparing the shot. Personally, I like to shoot digital with my film, using the digital camera to try out compositions and get the exposure for older all manual film cameras without light meters. Then use that feedback to set up a much smaller number of film exposures.

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  3. Timothy Tasmin

    Medium Format is extremely expensive even with film. Let’s say a single roll of 220 Portra film is $15, $15/20 shots on a 6×7 camera = $0.75/per exposure. Life of a leaf shutter lens is around 100,000 actuations, so $0.75*100,000 = $75,000. Might as well buy a FF body that has a shutter life of around 400,000 actuations, obviously there are benefits to leaf shutter lenses. Also, this doesn’t include the time and money to develop and scan the film. Still, even with the costs, I’d still love to shoot MF film, there’s something magical about it.

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    • Brandon Ward

      @Timothy Tasmin, I’m not sure you have the math right on medium format lens cost of ownership. The cost per actuation calculation is Lens Cost In $ / Lifetime Actuations. There is no way I pay $0.75 per actuation when I have already paid for my lens, and there is no way a single MF lens (well, most of the very reasonably priced used lenses available today) costs an additional $75K over its lifetime. If you revisit the cost of ownership, does that change the desire to get into MF film? I got a Bronica ETRS system with 3 lenses, 120 back, 220 back, prism, finder and motor drive for about $400.

      I calculate I can shoot 4 rolls of 120 color print film / month for 5 years and come in well under the cost of a used Pentax 645Z with one lens (this assumes outsourcing dev and printing, as well as a 1% “awesome shot” rate, for which I’d get a drum or Imacon scan made). Well, that’s probably low (# of rolls), since I enjoy shooting so much now. But at least I don’t need to take out a loan to get a MF SLR or rangefinder anymore.

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  4. J D

    I bought a RB67 from ebay and I only have put one roll of film through it but the look of final results are amazing. I can’t wait to learn how to develop it all myself so I can use it even more.

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  5. Barry Cunningham

    I also got sucked in by the Tony Santo video on E-6 developing on a Jobo that popped up on the youmightalsowanttowatch list. ;3^)

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  6. Lauchlan Toal

    Always a pleasure to watch people work with film, as I’ve yet to have the chance myself. What I’d really love to shoot is large format though – you can grab a decent 4×5 camera with 35mm equivalent lens for $300 used, and a sheet of film runs $3-4… Very tempting to try.

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    • Peter Nord

      For 300 bucks you can have my old 4×5 Speed Graphic, lens, and 120/220 roll film holder. It’s old, not quite as old as I am at 76, well used, beat up even; you might say it has the character of it’s age. Still works. Don’t think I have the developing tank. Get a black cloth and you will look much cooler than all the other dudes at the next landscape shoot. Heck I might even throw in a 4×5 film holder.

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  7. Kim Farrelly

    The process is a thing of beauty, like most things that take time and care to return a good result. Finally seeing your images come to life as you roll out your negs to dry, it feels like my fifth Christmas every time. A distant memory now.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      I agree. I’m such a slacker for not doing this more, and with every video like this I see, I’m reminded of just how rewarding it all is.

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    • Richard Olender

      Ill never forget unrolling my first roll of developed film…That’s how I got hooked

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    • Richard Olender

      I’ve got a 1969 Hasselblad. That video makes me want to take it off the display shelf and shoot a roll or two. I have to say though. I’m not impressed with the agitation. I was taught to give it a twist while inverting it

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