Photography, Communications & Me

Field Studies No. 2

Field Studies No. 2

OK, we’re back at it with another shootout between a full-frame DSLR, the Canon 6D with a pancake 40mm and a Bronica SQ-A medium format film camera with the kit Zenzanon 80mm (40mm full frame equivalent). I’ve square-cropped the DSLR’s image to make it a fair comparison. Let’s set the stage:


Here’s a view at a Cook County Forest Preserve over in Hoffman Estates. On the left is the full-color DSLR shot, followed by the B&W conversion and then a scan of the 120 negative. These were all shot at 1/100 sec., f4, ISO 100. Let’s look at them closer.

Field Studies No. 2-A

There’s really good depth of focus here as the late evening sun hits the field. For a suburban-Chicago field, it photographs well. It’s mid-Summer, and we had a good amount of rain, so the field isn’t all dried out (Aug. 3, 2018). And now for the B&W conversion…


Field Studies No. 2-B

We’ve lost the warm feel, although part of that could be fixed if I chose a warmer grey. The grass still has a fluffy feel to it, but overall it’s a sterile, flat image. Let’s see how the film version fares…

Field Studies No. 2-C

Right off the bat, I must admit that I got caught up in the moment and migrated to the right between shots. So the framing is a bit different. Right away, though, I’m enjoying the foreground entry much better. The out-of-focus transitions brings my eyes into the frame and leads me to step off the path and into the tire tracks. Unfortunately, the cloud details don’t scan very well, and you can see that I really need to add a yellow, yellow-red or red filter to the kit. Now we’ll zoom in on the tree in the middle ground.


Details, details, details.

Wow. The DSLR carries a lot of details from foreground to background. The mix of greens and browns is delightful.

And here we are with the B&W conversion of the DSLR image. The image detail is fantastic, albeit quite sterile. And lastly, the film crop:

It is definitely softer, especially in the background. The fir (or is it a pine) is much more out of focus here, which should be expected for an f2 equivalent.


So, what’s the verdict?

Before you jump in with “you should have shot on a tripod if you wanted depth-of-field” or “of course your sky is blown out if you don’t have a filter,” let me say that you are absolutely correct. I could take a much better film picture if I did either of those things. I could also drag along an apple box to look into the waist-level finder, screw in the remote trigger, and go with the zone system for the exposure. All excellent and valid points. But I didn’t. I grabbed the cameras and drove over to the preserve in that tiny window between a weeknight dinner and sunset. The biggest lesson learned for me was really understanding the tradeoffs between film speed, shutter speed and aperture. When I started the shoot a 1/2 mile away, the sun was still quite powerful. But by the time I got here, it was getting quite low, and I didn’t have a tripod with me. So instead I only had a handful of shutter speeds and aperture to work with. Also, I actually¬†like the focus fall off on the medium format camera. At a full-frame f2 equivalent, the field-of-focus is shallower than the maximum 2.8f I can get on the pancake 40 or the f4 of my 17-40 lens. It’s something I hadn’t considered with landscape photography. Now if I was shooting this with Porta color reversal film instead of B&W, this may be my favorite of the bunch. And I think the Bronica’s image is more interesting vs. the B&W conversion. If I have to pick among the three, though, I’m going with the color image. Again.

Which did you like best? Weigh in over on my social channels.


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