645 Newbie I fear my 645

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Guest

Greetings to all MF photographers - I purchased my 645 in Aug, 2001 with plans to offer clients the quality of Zeiss for their wedding portraits. In addition to their 35mm proofs. However, my attempts at using my 645 failed miserably and I turned back to 35mm. I started with simple tests: beach portraits, some family shots at home, some children bday parties; but everything was either over or under exposed. I was also embarrased that some of my shots were out of focus. I've shot 35mm for about five years as a wedding photographer and was hoping that the transition to MF would be easier. Can anyone offer advice on how to test out my 645 and measure my results?
 
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Guest

I use a Contax 645 for weddings all the time. At first with a film back using neg films from Portra 160 NC
rated at ISO 160 to T-Max 400 CN ( B&W) rated at
ISO 320. Now with a Kodak Digital 645C ProBack,
which requires far more accurate exposures than neg film. In both cases I've never had an exposure problem. Have you bench tested the Contax using a gray card against a meter you know to be accurate?
If that checks out correctly, I'd switch labs.

As far as focus is concerened, get a Contax flip magnifier and double check the focus manually. Read the camera manual on how to manually assume control of the focus when in AF mode.
 
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Guest

Marc - Thanks for the feedback. Tell me more about your experience with the Kodak Digital back. Did the benefit of the digital back outweigh the cost. Also, can you explain the advantages with your production and workflow now that you use the digital back? I was also a little confused with the idea that the digital back "requires far more accurate exposures than neg film." Thanks for all your feedback. O
 
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Oseas

Here is my take to your questions:

1. You asked if the benefit of the Kodak C645 digital back out weights the cost.
For professional photographer, usually the digital back pays for itself in a matter of months since you save a great deal of money films and processing fees, instance feedback from client, avoid paying for re-shoot from checking result immediately or problems cause by processing lab, etc.

2. You also ask why digital photography requires far more accurate exposures than film.
Generally, films has lager latitude than digital medium, even E6 films. So overexposed, sometimes just slightly, the high lite will blown out. On the other hand, the shadow detail is lost if underexposed . In digital photography, one must pay great attention to exposure and control the ratio (contrast) carefully.

I am looking forward to hearing from Marc's response as well.

Albert
 
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Guest

Albert - Thanks for the update. I can truly see your point. I started using a D60 to compliment my EOS3 cameras at weddings and definitely see the issues with over and under exposing. I was hoping that digital would be more forgiving than it has been. On the other hand, I planned to use the D60 to help improve my process by showing my errors at the exact moment they occur. My dream is to use the 645 with a digital back and produce awesome pictures with the highest quality.

I'm not sure if the kodak back needs it's own power pack. If so, using a digital back adds weight to the already solid 645/qFlash/turbo combination I'm not sure how much weight I can carry during the day, it might make me tired and cranky...
 
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Guest

Hello all,

Digital exposures require about the same care as transparency film, maybe even a little less since you can alter exposure after the fact. The Kodak DSC 645C ProBack opens a RAW file ( the camera only shoots RAW files) in the Kodak program called DCS Photo Desk. This program allows a 1 stop correction (either over or under) at the time of processing to a 16 bit, 95 meg file. I have found that further exposure correcton is possible in PhotoShop with little or no effect on image quality. A feature I always use on the ProBack is "highlight warning".
When an area of white becomes blown out, the area flashes black on the intigrated LED screen. This back has an ISO range of 100 to 400. When you shoot at 100 the level of information capture incompasses that of 400 also, which is why you can correct the exposure at the RAW processing stage.

You also can really refine color temp at this RAW processing stage ( I've fixed horribly yellow shots made in Tugsten light with a slow shutterr speed & flash to a perfect neutral balance).

As to size/weight: the DSC ProBack is a little larger than the standard film back and heavier because it is made quite sturdy and has contents inside it. The back is totally portable with no cords or teathers. The rechargable Lith battery clips on the underside of the back and lasts for about 2 gig cards of 58 RAW images each if you are using the LED to manage your images as you shoot.

The results are mind bending. 13" X 19" prints (cropped from a square) show no signs of being digital at all. The tonal spread is more that of a 4X5 film than 120.
 
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Guest

Hi Guys.
I'm confused. All Digital Back users say they pay really quickly for themselves because there are no processing costs. What are you guys offering as an end product? Do you supply Inkjet prints, are you not worried about longevity of prints? Don't you use labs to provide chemical prints from digi files, ( which cost the same/more than chemical processing from scratch)?
 
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Guest

It isn't just processing costs ( but that does add up) it's instant approvals and zero reshoots.

As far as processing is concerned, there is none in commercial work. It all stays in the digital domaine. An Art Director transfers the image files to their 20 gig portable hard-drive and takes them back to the agency for inclusion into thier layouts...all on the computer. The savings are enormous for everyone including the client who does not have to pay for high-end scans at $70 to $100. each. Our scan bills alone were running $3,000 to $4,000 for a catalog. Now it's $0. My Kodak DSC ProBack was paid for in no time by also charging a digital capture fee for each job. The fee is a fraction of what the client's scan costs use to be, so they rarely argue about paying it. When they do, I simply offer to shoot film and show them the attentant costs...which pretty much ends the discussion.
 
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I also had the same question on Return on Investment for the Digital Back. I notice that clients enjoy seeing their proofs immediately following a studio shoot or an event, but I can't truly say that this feature has increased my sales. I was hoping that viewing their proofs sooner would encourage the client to write their checks faster, but that hasn't happened either. Everybody still wants to see the proofs in print and they still want to wait.

I haven't sold inkjet prints yet, because I'm not sure how this will go over with clients. Is it possible to guarantee the quality of the prints we sell if they are not chemical prints from a lab?
 
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Guest

> Very good points. I had worried about these issues too. I can see how the photographer shooting for catalogs et al can have a savings by not needing the drum scans. I have gone this route myself on projects, and it is practical. I do not spend the extra $35 to $50 per drum scan. But, for every image that is taken digitally in the studio, there is someone who sits at the computer and sharpens, tweaks and corrects the image as it comes in. That ability to correct is a bonus and a liability at the same time. At their hourly rate, does this negate the savings? Honestly, I'm not sure. I'm still not comfortable with this situation. I do see the problems with providing hard prints for the clients from digital, especially critical for those who make your living more in portraiture etc. Very valid concern. I've seen the images that come off of Epson's printer (which one is that? the 2000 or something? with the archival ink etc for this purpose) and it is good, but I'm not wildly impressed. I don't want to sell it to someone to hang on their wall. (There is a new digital based lab (2 years old) nearby that outputs directly from digital and seems to do a good job, I'd love to have someone give me some ideas for judging the quality of their equipment and final product by the way) I'm glad to hear I am not the only one with these questions. Would love to hear more discussion on this subject. -Lynn
 
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Guest

I've taken the following equipment to local soccer matches and been able to sell prints off of the inkjet. But the clients are fully aware of what they are buying. Many of them say the same thing outloud 'why didn't I think of that?'

Canon D60/Epson 980/Laptop/Rayovac car battery booster/rayovac 12v converter

I thought the battery stuff was funny too, but fully charged, it gives me 3.5 hours of printer/laptop power. Back to the quality issue...

Clients seeing their prints come off an inkjet are satisfied with the proofs and I only charge $20 - 8X10, so I don't worry about the quality. However, portraits, event prints, etc. - I don't know how comfortable I'd feel selling inkjet prints in these situations. If someone has had some good results in this area, I'd love to hear it. It would definitely make it easier to convince my wife that I "really need to get that kodak digital back."
 
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Guest

I'm not sure how going digital would increase your sales anyway. That is a function of talent not process. However, capturing more profit from existing projects is a real possibility with digital photography.

Concerning having to tweek color and doing retouching, that was an existing expense with film anyway. The difference is that it's easier doing it in the computer.

I have been providing ink jet prints for my wedding business for 2 years now. None of the clients care what it is as long as it looks good. The quality of a 94 meg file printed to 11X14 exceeds that of a conventional print...IF you know what you are doing when at the processing stage, and have the right 3rd party programs and plug-ins.

Longevity is something I tested before offering inkjets to wedding clients. I put a conventional print, and a scanned version of the same neg printed on an Epson 2000P, in the sun, covered half of each picture and left it there for a year. Both showed some fadeing in the magenta range ( magenta being the most fugative color), but the ink jet showed less fadeing by a good margin ( in fact, it showed very little fade). This would stand to reason, given that conventional prints have a live span of 50-75 years if you are lucky, and Epson claims 100 years + .
 
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Good news for digital printing...inkjet printing that is. I have sold inkjet prints from my Epson 2200 and an Epson 9600 that were scanned from transparencies. First, the clients couldn't tell the difference. Second, I used to print Ilfochrome but am now able to tell clients that the archival capability of professional inkjet printers is twice as good as chemical color prints. They seem to be comfortable with that.

Guy
 
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Guest

I'm back from my first trip, Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon in Arizona/Utah shooting my 645. It really is a great camera to use but OH BOY DOES IT EAT BATTERIES!!! I shot everything on full manual but due to shooting all Fuji Velvia with a polarizer all shots were long exposure using mirror lockup at anything less than 1/8 sec. I shot 22 rolls of 220 film and used up more than 3 batteries in 3 days. I am planning a 3 month trip to Southeast Asia in November. Last trip I shot 120 rolls with my Canon. I think I may have to ship an extra suitcase just for my batteries! How cumbersome are the external battery packs for hiking in the wilds? Oh, BTW, a super wide angle equivalent to my 17mm Canon lens would be great!
 
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Guest

Lynn,

Were the prints you saw from the Epson 2000? I have a 2200 and can say that for portraits my clients have been very pleased. It takes me less than 10 minutes in photoshop just to tweak them a bit to get them where I want them. Using the best paper is a must. Guy
 
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Guest

> You've three options for an external battery holder. The MP-1 is the large battery holder with a vertical grip. This adds maybe 35 or 40mm to the overall height which may be too much for easy storage in your kit bag, furthermore many photographers dislike the added height when flipping the cammera to the vertical on a tripod, as it pushes the centre of gravity further away from the tripod's centre post. The advantantages of the MP-1 include a separate vertical shutter release, a wrist strap option, and the ability to switch between the lithium cell and the four AA size cells.

Second is the P-8 power pack, again taking four AA size cells (re-chargeable or otherwise, as you wish). It plugs into a socket on the base of the camera via a cable about 1.5 metres long. It weighs next to nothing, is relatively cheap and compact, and allows you to keep the power source next to your body in very cold weather. The down side is that you're tethered to the camera and because it plugs into the base you have to set the camera down on its side should you wish to rest it on the floor.

Thirdly I believe there's a new power pack, that I've never seen, which takes four C size cells for even more capacity. From what I can gather it's identical to the P-8 just bigger.

For many users the biggest advantage of a power pack is that the firmware recognises an external power source and no longer shuts the camera down after sixteen seconds, so you can shoot without a delay. This only applies when there's film in the camera so you won't notice the feature when evaluating a filmless body in a camera store.

Now here's the thing, a month or so ago I returned my 645 to the main Contax European service centre in Germany for an unrelated repair and now it no longer shuts down after sixteen seconds even if I'm NOT using an external power source. I've only just noticed this as I almost always use a P-8 or MP-1, and I wonder if there's been a firmware upgrade which is automatically applied at the service centre?

Can anyone shed any light on this? Has anyone had a similar experience or bought a brand new camera and noticed that it doesn't shut down after sixteen seconds?

Regards, Gary
 
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Guest

> GUY WROTE: > Lynn, > > Were the prints you saw from the Epson 2000? I have a 2200 and can say > that for portraits my clients have been very pleased. It takes me less > than 10 minutes in photoshop just to tweak them a bit to get them > where I want them. Using the best paper is a must. Guy >

Guy, you are correct, it was the 2000 that I dealt with. It sounds like the 2200 must be better. This makes me feel better to hear your experience with it. Thanks, Lynn.
 
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Guest

HI Gary, I purchased my Contax 645 a year a half ago. My 645 never shut down after 16 second. I didn't use any external power. I have never sent it for service. I beleive Contax have an upgraded firmware to solve the 16 seconds shut down problem for the later 645 cameras. My Contax 645 has the same heavy battery consumption problem as other users have--the 2CR5 luthium battery only last 5 to 6 rolls of 220.
 
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Could this get any weirder. I have two Contax 645 cameras. The first one I got just after they came out, and the second one a year and a half later. Neither one shuts down after 16 seconds. I never heard of or experienced the 16 second problem until I read it here on this forum.

And, get this, the first one use to eat batteries and now it doesn't !!!! The second one never was bad on batteries.

HUH? This has GOT to be user error. Okay, now I'm interested...so first chance, I'm running a test.
 
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Guest

Gary,

My 645 is 3 months old and it doesn't shut down after 16 seconds. Only the mirror lockup releases after 16 seconds. But I have another unusual problem. I have the 220 vacuum back as I shoot mostly 220 rolls to minimize reloading in the field. I just got back 20 rolls of film from my lab and many of them have very tiny holes in the emulsion. My lab, which is a very good one who has processed many rolls of film for me checked to see if it was a transport problem in their E6 equipment. Doesn't seem to be. I'm wondering if it's a bad batch of film (Fuji Velvia and Provia) or a problem in the film back. The vacuum back doesn't touch the emulsion side of the film so I find it hard to believe it's from dust in the back. I bought all my film from B&H (not gray market) and never had a film problem before. Has anyone ever had this problem? Guy
 
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