Medium Format Forum

Register a free account now!

If you are registered, you get access to the members only section, can participate in the buy & sell second hand forum and last but not least you can reserve your preferred username before someone else takes it.

Learning from experience Film life alternative finders light metering


Active Member
2 weeks ago I was fortunate enough to spend time at the wonderful Eaglereach Wilderness Resort in the New South Wales Hunter Valley region.

This place is a small mountain of 1000 acres of Aussie wilderness - gum trees, rocks, native undergrowth and, of course, hundreds of wallabies. I'll post some s&les soon.

For those interested I learnt 3 things (or better said: "the experience reinforced 3 things").

My mission was to produce a few landscape images for the property owners to use in their new promotional material. Naturally I am nervous that they may be sadly disappointed.

This mission required the best in photographic equipment. So, I loaded up my rolling Storm Case with Hasselblad V series 6x6 gear and, of course, the XPan kit.

I was not going to shoot any flash so took the 501CM. I decided I should take the chimney finder, which I like using on a tripod because it has a better magnification factor for critical focusing that the PM45. Of course the WLF came for the ride.

I shot all early morning and late afternoon images on Fujifilm slide film - Provia 100 and Velvia 100. I took 1 roll of Ilford Delta 100 too. For the shots done during the day (few) I shot Fujifilm Reala and one roll of Kodak 800.

With the XPan I shot 1 roll of Ilford XP2 and a roll of Sensia 100 plus 1 roll of Velvia 100.

In fact I was using up "odds and ends" that had been in my freezer for between 2 and 3 years. All were frozen soon after their expiry date or just prior to it. The "old" film performed perfectly as I'd been told it would by others who freeze film.

Lesson 1:
When I dropped my films off for processing and scanning, I told my friendly and super professional lab owners that they must take great care because my film was years old and defrosted. I explained that the climate change is making exposure accuracy a challenge due to the regular harsh and heavy haze that fills our skies (warm air rising met by cold air falling), so I was nervous about burnt out highlights. They agreed to send me a message as soon as they saw the negatives and positives - settle my nerves.

So, having been told the exposures were near perfect, I could relax. They said not only were the exposures spot on, but the 120 film image quality highlighted to them the clear advantages of shooting MF - in their words: "simply stunning - colour, sharpness and grain; way beyond any 35mm film images and light years ahead of digital".

The upshot of Lesson 1 is: size matters. We should never feel deprived if high quality MF digital backs are way beyond our purchasing power. Today's 120 film is better than ever and is capable of stunning results!

Lesson 2:
The scenery over the Hunter Valley from the peak of Eaglereach was not just stunning, it was very difficult to take an exact light reading - dynamic range / light values were all over the place and in some cases by many stops.

Even in the soft early morning / dawn light the haze produced much to make the light harsh.

The upshot of lesson 2 is: understand light and never rely on cameras' overly complex "matrix" metering and take great care with cameras' traditional average metering - trust your own judgement; trust yourself to understand the image you are making and how the varying light values affect it!

The value of a good light meter and understanding how it works cannot be overstated - when incident metering was impractical, using the spot meter to evaluate each part of the frame is of critical importance! By taking a variety of spot readings I came to understand the challenge ahead. Then I could narrow it down to the 2 or 3 areas of critical importance and find the "mid grey" among them. Seems to have worked.

Using graduated ND filters was generally not feasible due to the structure of the elements in the frame. And moreover, I dislike much of the "textbook" evenly exposed landscapes we see in magazines and books today. IMHO they are unnatural - life just does not deliver such even exposures - they lose (IMHO) punch and reality of the area/scene.

Sure C41 film is more forgiving, but even C41 film badly exposed looses a lot in the final image IMHO.

Lesson 3:
While I took both the chimney finder and the WLF, I realised that we often overlook the clever simplicity and effectiveness of the WLF. Of course I find the chimney finder great when shooting with a tripod, I also realised on many occasions how neat the WLF is when shooting hand held.

The upshot of lesson 3 is: Simplicity rules - in that classic style of WLF shooting - camera braced against the middle abdomen (this time my pancreas did not complain!
)- the bright focusing screen allows reasonably quick focusing and composition. If I could only have 1 finder it would have to be the WLF.

Lesson 4:
Freezing film (non-Polaroid) works! In addition to the film I used in the Hunter, I have been s&le testing film I have had frozen for more than 3 years. I mark each box with the date frozen. 50% was frozen up to 6 months after the manufacturers' expiry date and the other 50% frozen some 6 months prior to expiry. The results in use are identically good.

When I am going to use it I move it to the normal fridge compartment the night before so that it defrosts slowly. Then I leave it at room temperature for a couple of hours before I load it in a camera.

The upshot of lesson 4 was that one need not fear disasters when using previously frozen film. It should also be noted that the temperatures outside in the Hunter ranged from 30C to 37C - HOT! Of course I kept the film out of the sun, but my fears that the heat might do harm to otherwise old film, were needless. So, buying in bulk and taking advantage of discounts as the film nears "expiry" dates is sensible - just keep some room free in the freezer!

I'll post some pictures soon.
Thanks Gary.

Well I've got my films back and am generally happy with the results. It will be a few days before I get the scans loaded up.

But in the meantime here are a few XPan images taken while walking around after the serious dawn / morning shots were taken.

Looking at the slides on a light box with a loupe, I am delighted ith the sharpness and performance of the Fujinon lenses. Most were shot with Sensia 100 or 400. Both films have very fine grain and produce natural colour - a wonderful film.

The files are small but should give you the idea.

Anyway I hope you like the XPan panoramas.





Needless to say that I love the XPan II.