advice on camera for daughter for college : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

my daughter will be entering USC next fall majoring in photography. she wants to do studio-type fashion work, i think. i was planning to get her a used hasselblad 500cm w/80mm to start. the lady she is apprenticing with uses a hassy for color work and a nikon for her b/w work (her specialty), and my daughter thinks she would rather take a nikon to college. i cant afford both, and dont want to intimidate her with a medium format camera if she wont carry it around and use it like she would a 35mm. if 35mm, she wants auto-everything, whereas i would rather get her an F2 or F3. on the other hand, i cant help but feel that the future of photography (other than what we do with LF, of course) is in digital - my cousin has moved almost entirely to digital for his commercial work, and frankly it looks pretty darn good at 8x10). what do you guys recommend that i send her off the college with?

-- jnorman (, April 15, 2000


Wait to see what the instructors reccomend for her classes/assignments/projects. I have a HARD time believing that a photog major wants a "wants auto-everything" camera!

-- sheldon hambrick (, April 15, 2000.

Well, as SC grad-school alum, I guess I can be a little more constructive in my answer. From what you say, it doesn't sound like you daughter will need/appreciate a Hassy at this point. Nor do I think that she needs one. Medium format is great, but for learning purposes, an inexpensive twin lens reflex would be very adequate. This way you can afford to get her a medium format and a 35mm.

As for the 35mm, I guess it's OK to get an "auto-everything" camera, as long as she doesn't ONLY use it in that mode. You don't have to go as ancient as an F2 though to appreciate manual (I have one, and it's heavy with the MD, and frustrating sometimes with the older metered finder). I'd suggest one of the mid-level AF Canons or Nikons with a 28mm f2.8, 50mm f1.8, and a 85/105/135 f2.8, and a nice TTL flash - but that's just me. I still say wait and see what the instructors say.

What is she using now?

-- sheldon hambrick (, April 15, 2000.

Ask the instructor before you send her off to college what equipment would be advisable (or even necessary) to meet the objectives of the class. I would bet that her first classes will focus on the fundamentals. Therefore, any pre-purchases on your part would not be advised.

I would bet that the course requirements are a simple 35mm manual camera and a 50mm lens. You can always rent equipment for very reasonable rates from the photo department for specialty project work. I had a friend that completed a photo degree with minimal photo equipment of his own. After graduation he got a business loan and then got the Nikon setup. Save your money for tuition. Attending USC is a long hard financial pull.

-- Michael Kadillak (, April 15, 2000.

Michael brings up a good point regarding actual equipment requirements. I'll be entering Ohio University's Fine Art Photography and Photo Illustration programs as a freshman in the fall and the only required equipment is a 35mm camera with a 50mm lens f/1.8 or faster. That said, something more than just that basic setup would probably be very much appreciated, but by no means essential. Chances are that most photo students will arrive at school with minimal equipment. There are exceptions to that rule, like me, having devoted 3.5 years worth of minimum wage to my exploits in photography, but I'm a fluke, a photographic freak if you will, so don't think that you have to supply your daughter with a truckload of equipment. I'll be taking my Nikon, Mamiya, and Linhof stuff, and chances are I'll use only the 35mm stuff to complete the actual work I'm assigned in the first year or two. I'll use everything, and you can take my word for that, but mostly for personal shooting. What's appropriate to give your daughter should be the best balance of what she needs to get her work done, what you can afford, and what she needs for her own personal photographic pursuits. Whether that balance dictates the purchase of a Nikon F2, Hasselblad 500CM, or something entirely different is what you need to determine. The Hasselblad would definitely provide for higher image quality than the Nikon, but it would also probably be more prone to breaking down and additional lenses and accessories would definitely cost a heck of a lot more. Whatever you decide on, there will be tradeoffs, so try to choose the system that will provide the best overall value. Talk to your daughter and find out exactly where her interests lie and go from there.

Good luck!

-- Dave Munson (, April 16, 2000.

Don't forget that many schools/full-time students get discounts on the purchase of (at least) Medium Format equipment. It may be worth contacting the school and/or the manufacturers to see what's available.

I do agree with the post about finding a used TLR- if she's not too embarrassed to use it, she'll get good use out of one.

I'd kill for a student discount on a 645 system at the moment ;)


-- Paul D. Robertson (, April 16, 2000.

Indeed, check out the Bronica web site. With a student ID, you can buy an ETRSi set up at 35mm prices. Maybe they offer discounts for Toyo as well?

BTW, it seems to me that taking a photography class at you local junior college would qualify you for the discounts from Bronica.

-- Dan Brown (, April 16, 2000.

And entry level Toyo monorails. Check out the Toyo. James

-- james (, April 16, 2000.

If it was my daughter, I'd sneak the following into her suitcase. A Nikon FE with a MF 35/2 and a MF 85/1.8. That would fit your budget. I would urge her never to compare equipment, only images. I would not spend a lot on medium format. I'd buy her the biggest cheapest wooden 8 x 10 large format I could find. A couple of lenses from ebay and she'd be on her way. I'd show her how to swing, tilt, contact print and maybe even add some platinum or palladium to the mix. I'd try to convince her that autofocus, matrix metering and image stabilization have really very little to do with creating memorable images.

-- Tom Keenan (, April 17, 2000.

I don't know how much things have changed since I went to college, or if things are much different in the States, but Large Format gear was supplied by my college for communal use, as well as studio lighting and darkroom facilities etc. If I were you, I would ask USC what equipment is provided, and what they recommend for the course. It may be that your daughter will be able to try out a range of equipment in the first year or semester, before deciding what suits her best. The most important things to have are the silly little bits and pieces like a focussing cloth, dark-slides, a decent cable release and a studio flash-sync lead of your own! Plus a good supply of film and a bit of extra money for "props" and set-dressing materials. Consider also that by the time your daughter finishes her course the world will be an even more digital place, and a few years further down the road old wet process dinosaurs like me will be very close to extinction.

-- Pete Andrews (, April 17, 2000.

I think that if your daughter wants to start off with a nikon, then nikon it is. i think that this would be a better choice, especially if she wants to get into fashion. I beleive that a 35mm will allow her to explore ideas faster (and cheaper than MF or LF). As far as the camera being autmatic, i think that it should at least come with auto exposure, if not autofocus. I have seen many contact sheets from students using manual mode with old 35mm cameras and having their exposure vary wildly throughout the roll. Because they don't have the experiance for a reference in exposure, they will spend 2-3 semesters with the same problem. With a reliable built in meter and the camera set on "program" the exposures will be more consistent. As she developes more experiance (and understand how her TTL meter works) she can deviate from regular readings to produce her desired effect. I have found this to be the quickest way to learn. A good second hand nikon with a fast flach sync will last a long time. MF might be introduced when image quality begins to interfere with her 35mm work. And as far as digital is concerned, film scanners are a standard in today's schools. This will give her excellent digital results. I beleive the most important factor should be that she doesn't feel trapped with her camera. she should feel free to explore her ideas with it. I hope this helps. Dave.

-- Dave Anton (, April 17, 2000.

My response given above was supposed to be split into paragraphs, but for some reason it didn't show up like that?! I hope it still makes sense?!

-- Dave Anton (, April 17, 2000.

This response is coming from someone who has been an instructor of college age students since 1984, so take it with a grain of salt. She will only be required to use a 135mm camera and a 50 mm lens. She will want all the bells and whistles. Figure out what your budget will be. Take her to the local camera store, let her play with what she wants and what you can afford. Remind her that part of her assignments will be focusing manually, setting apertures, shutter speeds and the like. If she has auto everything, she will learn nothing about photography and everything about gadgets. In the past several of my students (mostly women) have come into class with Rebel "g's" or something similar and have found that they cannot do the assignments. They cannot control the ISO settings, use infrared film, or get depth of field preview. All important aspects of beginning photo and advanced photo. These same students have traded in their newer auto everything slr's for used manual slr's. The things that are important for a beginner is. Shutter control Aperture control, focus control, ISO control, self timer, depth of field control, (so they can control their focus and aperture more effectively). These are the assignments she will get. Hopefully her instructor will make her slow down a bit, and learn photography, not point and shoot work. Also lead her to a camera that she feels comfortable with. Her hands may be too small for a Nikon F2 but just right for a Pentax ME. Make sure that she can see the entire viewfinder. All the lights and arrows are important. Her 35mm camera must be able to become a part of her, an extension of her vision,not yours, if it is too large or small it will stay a thing and not a friend. Remember the cost of accessories and lenses as well. The reason the 50mm lens is so important to start with, it makes the student work for the composition. Improves their view, style, and confidence. Just a thought. j

-- jacque staskon (, April 18, 2000.

I definitely concur with the previous posters who suggested that you talk to the school first. I'm taking a studio class at SVA, and it is a mix of large format (which we borrow from the school) and smaller format shooting (using any camera we own). The students mostly use 35mm but a couple of us shoot medium format. It doesn't really matter, frankly. A couple things to think about:

(1) if you shoot in the studio, you don't need auto-anything.

(2) you DO NEED a PC socket to connect to the strobes - a couple people didn't have them in their auto-whizbang cameras, and they couldn't shoot any pictures that day. Oops.

(3) gear gets banged around a bit when you have many people and heavy lighting gear in the same small space. Keep to simple and sturdy stuff.

(4) zooms are not necessary in the studio, though they are always convenient.

In my opinion, an ideal starter outfit for studio fashion is something like a Nikon FM2 with a 105mm lens (1.8, 2.5, 2.8 macro lenses all work fine). Tough, simple, easy to use, not too expensive, and capable of producing top-quality results. This setup will allow you to take most of the pictures that you see in current fashion magazines and will last for decades. Opinions will vary widely and there are perfectly good choices from every major manufacturer, but I do think it's worthwhile to get a fast fixed lens in the 85-105 range - there is a reason that this is the classic portrait lens.

I love medium format but I wouldn't recommend buying anything like that for your daughter right away. Get her something that won't be in the way so she can learn how to shoot first before fussing over the gear.


-- Oliver Sharp (, April 18, 2000.

all this palaver is entertaining, but I suspect you should just contact the instructor. At my school, we were required to have a 35mm camera and a tripod was a good idea. The rest was availible to be checked out for use.

-- alan (, April 20, 2000.

I agree with the ask the instructor advise, but I'll also add my 2 cents in here.

My daughter took a photography class her senior year of college and asked me for a camera. Her instructor specificly asked the class to bring a manually controlled camera. I had a Minolta SRT MCII, which is a great manual everything camera with needle match metering and a nice 50mm lens. I had the camera CLA'ed for around $75.00 and sent it off to her. Her instructor used it as an example of what she wanted everyone to use in terms of manual control.

She learned a lot about what different shutter speed / aperature settings would do for her. She now uses a Nikon N2002 which she keeps in aperature priorty mode most of the time. It is very rewarding to see the work she has produced and to be able to discuss the how and why of each picture.

Best Regards,

-- Harry Pluta (, April 24, 2000.

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