Half Frame Camera Experiences...Shooting Half-Frame cameras can and will be pretty rewarding if you give them a chance.
Shooting half-frame cameras has been very convenient for me. I have learned to take the disadvantages and make them a plus. Knowing the capabilities of the camera, using the right film, right angles, and targeting a loosely defined audience will make a better experience of it. Once you get those, The advantages are truly amazing.
One particular disadvantage the format seems to have, at least in the old days, when there was little choice when it came to sharing was printing. These days very few of us actually print some of those frames we make. I tend to do mostly single frames. For me, the use of a single frame instead of a diptych, is a little more disadvantageous. One single frame means the picture will be blown up, and the grain will show a lot more. Using the right film can be great help.
My cameras are old. mostly from the 60's. The top speed on my half-frame camera is 1/500. it has no light meter either. I absolutely love it.
Family portrait, Olympus Pen F Gothic, Kentmere iso 100
Having tried iso 400 prior, I came to the conclusion that I was over exposing a lot. With a maximum aperture of f/16 it is also an issue. I had to try to use the lowest iso available. The results? I can handle more my depth of field and shoot in broad daylight without polarizers or neutral density filters. ISO 100 seems to be the best for the format in my opinion.
Lower ISO will mean less grain, generally. so when it comes to making prints, I would say that depending on how close or how far you are from the subject don't bother making too big a print. 8x10 seems to be borderline for a shot that has a primary subject far away.
The picture above was taken at close range, and if you zoom in you will see that the grain gives the vintage look that I like as a photographer. I try to sell that look as much as I can to those who are used to the modern sharp ones. This would make a pretty good 8x10. More room on the wall for more pictures! and if you look at them from eight feet away they look amazing if the contrast is well done.
A Biker zooms past me in a tunnel of trees, making a turn into the unknown
If you shoot landscape or long range subjects and they appear little, they will be hard to distinguish in a large print such as 8x10. I printed this particular one and noted a few things.
This bicyclist was a bit far, and it seems almost to vanish as you zoom in. I was committed to the the shot and took it. The nice thing is that it does bring a sense of adventure while exercising in this particular place. That was my message.
When taking a picture with a half frame camera, in my opinion, you have to know a bit what the image will deliver to an audience. In this case, people will look at the picture and put the pieces together. It is almost as seen on the architect job description in the movie Inception. If the picture appeals to someone, it will look amazing even when it has a few flaws. People will make it perfect in their heads. Quality is relative. I think that there are advantages to delivering a picture that has a few gaps, like quality because of the grain, makes the beholder work a bit. I like to give them a run for their money, because of a few reasons.
I often think that a grainy picture is a good invitation to see the real thing. It is a bit of a teaser. Which is something I actually love. The fact that the modern pictures are so sharp makes you think that you have been there or that you don't have to go. Black and white and grainy images makes the observer interact with the picture at another level.
Castle Mountain, Banff Nal. Park, Alberta, Canada.
Spectacular views become almost too realistic. If you use HDR. Myself, I like the possibility of enticing someone to think a little bit, to use their imagination, to wonder and speculate. This is how I have become more fond of landscape photography using half-frame.
The composition is there, the contrast is there, the grain is there, questions... also there. How blue is the sky? How green are the trees? How rough is the rock? if you want to know, come by.
What I call the right angles, can be taken for composition. Using rules such as the rule of thirds, can be helpful, but in most cases, just having a clear image the has few elements in it can be helpful. This will appeal to photographers in my humble opinion, and people will appreciate the simplicity.
Central Park, NYC. Happy family vs what seems a chalk outline of a body. Some variation of rule of thirds and humor.
If you compose the image well, I think that your craft will be a bit more appreciative. You can use humor to make the image appealing. I am a subtle person, my sense of humor is just like that as well. The following picture has a bit of rule of thirds and humor.
In sum, shooting half frame besides the obvious plus of being cheaper to develop per exposure, can create a good image these days. We don't print all that much anymore, and unless your pictures are viewed in a tablet or or computer monitor of considerable size, the grain is not an issue. Most people use phones to view their pictures and that is just about the optimum size for a half frame camera exposure. With good choice of angle, subject, and film, the downside is negligible, and the level interaction with the print is much higher, which is the goal of any photographer.
Posted by Andres Barillas Photo
The main reason I was attracted to half frame photography was the ability to shoot 72+ shots on a roll of film. For someone on a budget , this is an enormous benefit. You are literally doubling the productivity of a single roll of film and thus halving your costs associated with development and scanning. Now that comes with a drawback of a smaller negative size decreased resolution which may limit one’s ability to make large prints, but for web work and small prints this is minor issue. This decrease in resolution is just another way to say increase in grain. Grain is such a polarizing topic, some people love it, others hate it. Some grains may be more appealing than others, but grain is almost always visible in half frame photography. I found that using modern films like Acros or Portra can minimize it’s effect, but there is no escaping it. I’ve also found using traditional emulsions like HP5 or Tri-X can yield some beautiful grainy images that would be difficult to duplicate in full frame 35mm film without push processing.
Another reason I found half frame photography so appealing was that I loved shooting vertical and (most) half frame cameras have a vertical viewfinder. The ratio is also a 3:4 ratio which makes more appealing vertical composition than the 2:3 ratio of standard 35mm photography. Coincidentally, half frame cameras share this vertical ratio with many medium format cameras which produce a negative 4.5cmx 6cm in size. Not so coincidentally, the majority of print media is vertically oriented and with the increase of media delivery on mobile phone platforms, the vertical composition will likely overtake horizontal in the near future (wait they’ve been saying that forever)
The vertical composition, paired with the ability to take 72 shots on a roll of film really make it easy for half frame shooters to do diptychs, triptychs, panoramic sequences and photo collages. For me this was a huge draw. Diptychs and triptychs allow some real creative freedom and make it easier for me to tell a story. I also love panoramic landscapes or shooting a scene from several angles and stitching them together to make an altered reality. I always felt too stifled by a traditional 35mm camera when attempting projects like this, but with the half frame, not so much.
Speaking of landscapes, another side effect of the smaller negative is an increased depth of field. f/8 behaves much more like something between f/11 and f/16. People who are looking for blurry backgrounds will be disappointed but those looking for everything to be in focus will be really happy.
Most half frame cameras are also quite compact. Not everyone cares about size, but for me it’s paramount. I shoot all the time and I like to keep a camera in a pocket or in my hand. I can't stand wearing a neck strap and I don’t like carrying a camera bag around everywhere I go. Super cliche mottos like “ the best camera is the one in your hand” or “f/8 and be there” sound redundant after awhile but in the end they are true.
Dan Marinelli - Founder