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645 Newbie I fear my 645



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?
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.
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

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 - 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...
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.
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)?
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.
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?
> 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