Better or just bigger? (How I rediscovered medium format film while doing market research)

umbrella at night
umbrella at night, Mamyia 645 Pro with 80/1.9 lens, Kodak Porta 400

January is already over, the 2020 primary voting has actually started and I’m finally getting around to my first blog post of the year. In my defense I’ve been busy. Since my last post in November I’ve moved across town, finished up some consulting assignments, and started as an entrepreneur in residence (EIR) at Madrona Venture Labs working on a new startup.

I also picked up another camera while researching a project. Seriously.

Last fall I was still figuring out what I wanted to work on, I was connected with a company who provides a mobile peer to peer marketplace. Before I met with them I wanted to understand their complete user experience. How easy was signup? What about search and finding new items? Having never used their product I jumped right in, installing the mobile app, setting up some searches, getting alerts for new offers. It always important to really understand a service end to end, so why not buy a camera, something small, so I could get a feel for the full transaction process?

Browsing through all the listings I was drawn to the classic 35mm Nikon Fs and Leica Rs that already fill my collection. Lord knows I didn’t need anything like that. Then as I scrolled through the search results I came across a full Mamiya 645 Pro medium format kit with a lens, film backs, and autoexposure prism. So much for something small but the deal was too good to pass up. A few messages to the owner later, a meetup at Starbucks and soon enough it was mine.

I’d been thinking about trying medium format film photography for a while. The size and convenience of 35mm cameras fit how I generally work and makes it easy to (almost) always have a camera with me. Yet there was something intriguing about being able to shoot with the larger negative size. Even for street photography the camera is large but not impossible to handle quickly and easily. Taking it out on one January’s many rainy nights gave me the image above.

As for the startup that got me looking at cameras in the first place? Nothing ever came of my research or our discussions. I didn’t get a new project, just a new camera to keep pushing myself creatively throughout 2020.

You can find all my photography (phone, digital, 35mm and 120) on my Instagram and Flickr accounts.

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