The Joy of Medium Format Transparencies

One of the true delights of film photography for me is the physical output you receive at the end of your efforts, not just the tactile involvement in the creation of the photograph, but the end product itself, and it's something that digital photography will never be able to replicate.


But at the end of the day, strips of negatives are hard for you to really parse, however beautiful they are, especially with 35mm:



There's just no way for our brains to invert the colours, and remove the colour cast, to really appreciate them.


With B&W negatives, it's a different story:



Here, in my opinion, the negatives are almost more impressive than the scans/prints. It's definitely easier to reverse process them in your head, and even without reverse processing, the images themselves are incredibly beautiful in and of themselves. It does also help that they're 6x9 negatives, and not 35mm...


However, for me, the absolute pinnacle of beauty in terms of direct output (i.e. not reproduced, simply the raw output from the camera), are medium format transparencies - and the same goes for large format too, however I don't shoot it, so I can't comment.


The combination of beautifully saturated colours, a positive image rather than a negative and the sheer gigantic size of in comparison to 35mm means that medium format transparencies take on a life of their own, almost capturing a living world within the confines of the acetate frame. Of especial joy are 6x9s, which you can capture with, for instance, Fuji rangefinders (the 690 series - G, BL, GL, GW and GSW) and one of which I am the proud owner.


Just take a brief look at them:



And this really doesn't do justice to the actual transparencies themselves, since the lightbox isn't a top range one so the colour temperature isn't quite right nor the output.


The one hitch with such large transparencies is that it's almost impossible to find a way to do with them what was intended for transparencies - project them in large format on a screen. I have ordered an overhead projector for this since there doesn't seem to exist any projection equipment for 6x9 transparencies any more, so I'll have to make do with that as a solution for now, and fashion some masks to fit the 6x9 frames!


Additionally, it's impossible these days to get prints directly - or even via internegative - from transparenciesm since the Cibachrome process died, so you have to scan and print digitally to get prints from transparencies. That doesn't really bother me, since I predominantly work digitally once I have captured the image, and I don't really do much by way of post-processing work, but it might bother some who are truly looking for a full analogue workflow.


And how about you out there? Do you have a preferred format? Do you appreciate the convenience of colour negatives and the fact that you can still achieve a fully analogue workflow from camera to print, or the raw beauty of reversal transparencies? Let me know in the comments below!


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