Any suggestions for a cheap medium format camera?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by yockenwaithe, Jun 21, 2016.

  1. I'm looking to get into medium format photography, but the catch is I'm looking for one under $150ish. I don't really want a Lomo [build quality and all that]. I don't care if it's non interchangeable lens and single speed, probably a box camera but that takes 120 film.
    Thanks in advance
  2. PN archives???
  3. Look for a Rolleicord III. Great camera.
  4. I've looked at the archives, but there are none that anyone has actually used [and not many reviews on them online either]. I'm wondering if there are any personal experiences rather than what people have heard
    That being said I'm probably getting a 50's-60's folder
  5. Look for a Yashica-Mat 124 TLR. Great camera.
    Henry Posner
    B&H Photo-Video
  6. There was some useful info on choosing a medium format system at, which is still accessible through the Internet Archive. Click through to the second page to see suggested systems listed by budget. Note the info comes from 1999 or so.
  7. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    Any Yashicamat TLR is worth its weight in gold. They all take amazing photos, are light weight and have a reasonable price tag.
    BTW the 124 is in high demand and will cost you way to much for what it is. The build and lens is exactly the same as the others.
    You should get a hand held meter no matter which Yashica you get as they are all inaccurate.
  8. A late model Rolleicord would be my choice, perhaps just within your budget. Yashicamats are excellent if they are working but the winding mechanism is their Achilles heel.
    There are so many possibilities. Folding cameras are fun but they do have their own peculiar problems. A camera you might consider, if you can find a working one is the Braun Paxina 29:
    These had the lens extending on a metal tube, rather than bellows, and the best models had F2.9 triplet lenses which give good results when stopped down. Scale focusing is easy enough, often easier than trying to see dim TLR screens or faded rangefinder spots. They aren't particularly well known so usually go for low prices. I always regretted selling mine.
  9. Yashicamat preferably 124G
  10. SCL


    I've used the Yashicamat 124, which is what I suggest for you, as well as a Rolleiflex, and currently use a Ricoh Diacord which I've cleaned up and fixed. Although it is by far the cheapest of the three, I put in a modified viewing screen which greatly helped my focusing in lower light situations. Whatever you get, make sure you get a lens shade because the lenses of the TLRs are prominent and subject to flare, and if you're planning to shoot B&W, a yellow or green filter. When you get your camera, run a sacrifice roll thru it to ensure the focusing is spot on, I've had to shim 2 out of my 3 to really nail it. Also, I've found that the film/developer combo differences seem much more prominent than with 35mm.
  11. Hello everyone. Spencer it would be tempting to go up on Ebay and look for a 6x6 cm camera, but be aware that 99% of them will need a SERIOUS cla to make them really usable. I speak from experience, having purchased more than a few 6x6, 6x7 or 6x9 cameras off ebay.
    Might I suggest you go up to Jurgen Krackel's web site and look at his different offerings of the various folder cameras. His site is: He does an excellent job of reworking these cameras and they work hard! I now own 6 of his cla'd cameras. Three (3) 6x9, two (2) 6x6 and one 35mm. If you want to start out simple, look at the Agfa Isolette I with the Agnar lens. I believe it has four or five speeds. Well within your stated price range, leaving you a few dollars for that monopod, tripod, filters (G & 25A) and lens shade you will need with any medium format camera (Ebay prices of course!) Consider a selenium hand meter.
    I have both the Isolette II & III models (Apotar lenses) so can only attest to their behavior. Those models are a tad over your $ mark, but produce pictures that rival my various Yashica Mat models, sometimes even my C330 negatives.
    Do not let the "Zone Focusing" freak you out. Marks (Sharpie pen) on a monopod will keep you dead on focus for 7 ft or under.. a small tape (12ft) will get into the range where a simple DIY range finder works, but with some experience, your eyes will take over on the focus distance.
    Hope this bit is of help. Bill
  12. Thanks Bill! I'll look into that site. Zone focusing is no issue- I'm used to using a Rollei 35 so it's pretty much second nature at this point
  13. Interesting that all the recommendations so far are for 6x6 TLRs or folders, with rather simple (3 or 4 element) and medium speed (f3.5) lenses.
    But there are SLR options too, with generally faster (f2.8) and better (5 element) lenses. In the same price range, you can get a Pentacon Six TL with 80mm Biometar lens; or an original series Mamiya 645 with 80mm lens.
  14. I thought that was humorous too Ray, the Pentacon does look like it's a good fit, and not too far over budget
  15. Mamiyas. M645's and RB67's, as well as the C series of TLRs are all fantastic cameras, and all are well under-valued IMO. I have all of them (M645 1000S, RB67 ProSD, and C330), all with full stables of lenses and accessories, and they were all 'cheap', less then $300, and most were less then $200. I even have multiples because I can't pass on a great bargain. Lens quality is great, and they're all built like tanks. As my go-to camera, lately it's been the M645 system.
    I do own a Yashica 124G and a 124, but while they're very nice cameras, I have always found that one focal length is not my preferred choice. The Yashicas are great when I'm not doing anything specific, and just want something lightweight to bring along.
    Figure out what format you like, and then figure out whether interchangeable lenses, motor drives, WLF or Prisms, macro, fast lenses, etc., are important to you. Then pick a brand. Because almost all you'll be looking at are older and discontinued, I'd suggest staying with a brand that there are tons of out there in case you need to replace something or want to expand the system.
    But I'll reiterate what I said above, figuring out what format you like best, or works best for your type of photography, is the most important thing to pinpoint when trying to decide on a system.
  16. Some of you posters live in dreamland, I think. Good usable Mamiyas and Yashicas for $150 or less? Where? I will take 10, and pay spot cash for them. Volume discounts, of course...
    Ten years ago you would easily have found a ton or so of MF cameras in your price range. Nowadays, not so. Prices have caught up. From long experience, I can safely say to you, any camera you find for $150 or less will probably not work right, and will need a full CLA, which will double your costs. If you want to go this way, go right ahead. I certainly wouldn't.
    The safest under $100 bets would be a 1950s German 6x6 folder in reasonable condition. Last week I bought a 6x6 Voigtlander Perkeo 1 with a Color Skopar lens in so-so but usable condition and the much-sought-after compur shutter with speeds from 1 to 1/500. Cost me $90, and came with a case, lens hood, and a yellow green filter. Private purchase, from an estate sale.
    This little gem produces 12 6x6 engraving like negatives on every roll of 120 film I've shot with it so far.
    Zeiss Nettars 6x6 are sometimes available, and come with Novar lenses, which are possibly slightly less up to par in the quality stakes than the Color Skopars, but good performers. The overall build quality can be iffy, but Nettars were amateur cameras, and not often overused, in fact the opposite will likely be the case, and the shutter speeds will be stiff from underuse.
    Be warned that a using a folder and getting good negatives involves a sometimes very long learning curve. A separate exposure meter is an absolute must. Also a lens hood, tho prices for some hoods (like the Voigtlander) on web sites can be a sick joke, one would-be seller wants $125 for one in a case, but has been listing this item for six months and it remains unsold. You can find generic lens hoods in some secondhand photo shops. A UV filter will suffice to protect your lens, if it's worth protecting. Many old folder lenses suffer from overcleaning, tho' again, this often doesn't affect image quality.
    Unfortunately it's now a case of you get what you pay for, at a premium. Maybe best for you to save up your money and buy better. A good Yashica TLR will also serve you well, but for a good one you'll pay much more than the upper limit on your budget. Ditto a Mamiya TLR, tho the really good ones (C330s) cost big money, and these cameras tend to be heavy. To me an RB67 is a studio camera and not really the best for casual outdoor work. Think Graflex!
  17. Amen, Brother Walker. The OP doesn't seem to get this. If you want "cheap," buy 35mm. "Cheap" and "medium format" decoupled some years ago. Bought lots of nice gear, sometimes NOS, between 2007-09 when demand for MF gear cratered. What' s on offer now for the OP's budget is often sorry stuff. If he's serious, he might first research repair services in or near his area, since bargain stuff is usually ailing. Those transformative CLAs aren't so easy to find and aren't cheap when you do. Think unrestored classic car sold as "running" for peanuts...
    The OP needs to double his budget or rethink dabbling in medium format. Just sayin'
  18. Sorry limited experience in your field. The Chinese Seagull Rolleiflex clone I had produced negatives 1.5 grades softer than my old Mamiya C (same meter, light, session & tank), so I resold it. - I had some Isolette with uncoupled range meter negs seemed OK but I ditched it on the girlfriend.
    I'm happy & quite content with my MamiyaTLRs even my Pentacon Six seems behaving well too and an inherited Super Isolette is apparently a damn good camera.
    My Voigtländer Bergheil 6x9 with it's uncoated Heliar suffers from bad Rollex Patent roll holder and the uncoated lens. - Results don't match my usual taste but I wouldn't call them bad. A typical falw of that camera seems left right shift mechanism getting sticky. Its a nice 6.5x9cm I think (and yes, I bought it for less than 150DM in the late 80s).
  19. Just wanted to say, I bought one of my (fully working) M645's from KEH for $89. The other was $76 on the 'bay. One RB67 was $39 on KEH (BGN grade, rough, but fully operational), and my minty RB ProSD with 3 lenses was $300. It's called patience.
    Right now, KEH has an RB for $35 (UG without WLF, but fully working), or a BGN with WLF for $99. The also have a C33 for $144, (EX condition w/ WLF).
    So yes, there are bargains out there. And lenses for all of those can be had for <$35.
  20. Spencer.
    I give the Yashica Mat another vote. Simple, easy to use. and takes great photos.
    No meter on the Yashica Mat but with some good common sense about aperture and shutter speed settings
    you will take some amazing pictures. I had one and loved it. A cheap hand held light meter will help if you think you will need one. I sold my Yashica Mat and got a Mamyia C220 and wish I would have kept the Yashica Mat. Much lighter than the Mamyias and a sharp 80mm lens. Good luck in your quest and have fun with the medium format photography.
  21. Hello again everyone. The cost of the add-on's for a 6x6 folder will get out of hand if one approaches that effort with the "collector" mind set. We should be talking about a "working mans camera". Even with rubs and scratches, the accessories should work, not sit around for display.
    The Agfa 6x6 lenses, or the 6x9 for that matter, all have 30mm diameter focusing rings. A recent purchase of a 30mm push-on Series 5 filter holder was $12 with shipping. A Series 5 lens hood was $8. Series 5 filters, G (dark orange) and a 25A (red), were $8 and $11 each. The filters are without cleaning marks or scratches, but the lens hood shows it has been to Paris, perhaps Berlin. It even has two marks on the inside that I believe are Japanese.
    A light meter can be had for less than $20. I use a Gossen Pilot selenium meter in each kit. At about $15 each, on average. Oh that camera case?, use a Plano pistol case. Yep, off Ebay for less than $15.
    Another big factor in the 6x6 "rebuilt" folder is that the camera is film ready... no need to test drive a roll or two. I use my folders. They are a mechanical device and the brain forms patterns quickly, making for a short learning curve. Most rewarding of all, the pictures are great ! ! Bill
  22. You can probably find a Mamiya TLR for $150, probably a C3 or C33.
    You might find a Rolleicord III or something like that. I had one once, and it was a good camera even though it was very battered. I bought an excellent Rolleicord Vb on ebay for $175 about ten years ago, but that was a fluke, and they'd normally go for much more than that.
    If you don't have any luck, contact me on the message board here, and I may be able to help, but I won't see email until about June 29.
  23. Woo hoo, everyone! I stand corrected on much of what I wrote before. Bill Bowes' post was especially informative. I will be on the lookout for filters for my bargain basement and rough-looking Perkeo 1, which works perfectly and was, I reckon, one of the bargains of my lifetime.
    Used camera prices in Australia, where I live, are ridiculously high. A leading secondhand camera shop in Melbourne is currently flogging, rather trying to flog, a 1950s Rolleiflex in so-so working condition, with lens hood and a rather battered case but no lens cap, for A$550. Of course it has the magic name, Rollei. Used Rolleicords when they do turn up, sell for about A$400, and a Vb in reasonable condition will fetch A$650 and up. Old folders rarely turn up in camera shops and have largely vanished from Ebay in the past year, as have most quality cameras.
    Then of course 120 film prices here, now edging to $10+ per roll. Chyeapest to order OL from overseas, even with postage and the depressing Aussie dollar devaluation US and some European film prices are still very good value.
    With the right mindset, photography with a 6x6 folder can be amazingly liberating (not so much 6x9s which seem to inhibit rather than free my creative instincts and, I've found, are good mostly for landscapes and not much else. With the square image folder, there is so little fuss or bother, just look at the scene, set speed and aperture, and shoot away. As long as I remember to wind either before or after every shot, my images (usually) come out fine. Fortunately I'm good at guessing distances, and my results seem to come out always sharp.
    Voigtlander lenses have to be the sharpest I have ever worked with. The Color Skopar on my Perkeo in a true winner. Most Perkeos come with the cheaper, three element Vaskar, which apparently was the competitor to the Novar on the Zeiss Nettars. I've seen slides shot with a Vaskar, and they were excellent.
    Used with care at f/8 or smaller apertures, the Novar is a good performer.
    So I've eaten my words, and now agree, yes, there are many MF bargains out there for those who have the time and inclination to look.
    Brendan Bell likes this.
  24. C Watson- I already have a Leica, I don't need a cheap 135 camera. I understand 'cheap' and 'medium format' are not synonymous, and I'll be sinking more money into whatever system I buy. I'm not looking for a pristine camera body with a lens and all the extras- just a body and a lens if I'm lucky, which I most likely will have to repair.
    In that vain I just bought a Mamiya RB67
  25. Nice! Great system. You'll get a lot of use out of it, and those big negatives are wonderful. Did you get it from KEH? I noticed the one I mentioned for $35 is gone.
  26. I absolutely did Kirk! $35 is a steal for such a camera, even if it needs extensive repairs [a lot of which I can do myself assuming it's not more complex that a leaf shutter Zeiss-Ikon camera]. I've been looking for one forever, but for some reason have never seen the KEH listings before- I'm glad I've found it now though because I've heard marvelous things about the camera from several professionals I know who've shot film for years
  27. Spencer, I've bought tons of stuff from KEH, most graded at BGN and even UGLY, and everything has always worked, unless they described an aspect as not working (meter typically). I bet the camera looks better then you expect, and will perform quite well. If I didn't already have 3 RB's, I would have bought it myself!
  28. What a deal ! .. I must invite you along on my next Vegas trip! Now, with all that money you "saved", go out and get a 3 month gym deal. . . you are about to learn the down side (if that is the proper term) to the RB67 system. Heavy to start the day, and dragging heavy at the end of the day.
    You might copy what I use with my two RB's. Again, my fav Igloo cooler. Medium weight dark foam for most of the kit, the blue foam is hvy weight camping pads. In this example I have (3) filters, lots of film, an extra film back, my trusty Weston V meter, a cable release and other do-dads.
    Now past 5 years, both RB's have twice been to Hawaii via whole baggage (duck tapped 2x), survived 3 TSA "events" (no film) and untold miles in my truck wondering about Wa. and other states.
    Enjoy that new toy, errr, tool. Aloha, Bill
  29. Peeling back the first layer of goodies
  30. There's no worry there Bill, I'm sure I can carry it around all day. The setup you have also looks pretty impressive- I'll most likely try it myself! Especially for when I'm going to be lugging in long distances for nature shots and all that
  31. Ah you guy's under 70 are all vim & vigor.. A decent tripod and a bean bag are all that you need now to stalk Big Foot. Bill
  32. Mr. Lang…

    Mr. Bowes does have a good idea. I have about a dozen folders bought from Certo6. They have all been CLAed and most every (and every AGFA or ANSCO) one has new bellows.

    Of the AGFA/Ansco brands, there are usually 4 lens qualities. The lowest is the Agnar. Better than meniscus lens but??? Acceptable is the Apotar which is a good three element lens as long as you do not shoot wide open. Next for a 6x6, is the desirable F:4.5, 85mm Solinar lens. If you want to pay a little more, and can find one with a Solinar F:3.5 lens, they were slightly sharper and equal to the Rolleicord V.

    Certo just sold a “buy-it-now” Agfa Isolette III with f:4.5 / 85mm Solinar which is a 6x6 with uncoupled rangefinder and new bellows for $210.00. That would have been about as much as you could get in your $200.00+or- range.

    I have one just like it from him. I bought it about 5 years ago. Everything worked, shutter speeds (I have an old fashion tester) were within new camera tolerances. I’d rate the lens condition and coating as “fine”. The transparencies are about the same as my two Yashica 126Gs as to clarity, color and lp/mms resolved.

    Beware getting any older medium format, all mechanical camera from someone you don’t know, as those old shutters just don’t last. Sixty to seventy years of mechanical and lubrication problems is a stretch. For the bellows-ed models, a few of the leather ones might be okay, but almost every fiber bellows has pinholes to large tears.

    The best thing about Mr. Bowes’s suggestion about Certo6 is that he is a responsible seller who has backed his work and ensures you get a working CLA-ed and light-tight camera. The few other sellers, whether on auction sites or personal websites, that I’ve known to be responsible have retired out, as I believe Certo6 is soon to do.

    A number of folders, including the AGFA/Ansco also come in 6X9. One is the AGFA Billy-Record which has a slightly tinnier body than the Isolettes, but you can still get a good four element f:4.5 lens if you’re willing to wait.

    Additionally, right now there is an Agfa BillyRecord 6x9 folder - Leather Bellows , W/L finder CLA'd, for $135.00 on that ole auction site from a responsible seller. I have one like it and find the Apotar stopped down to f:8 through f:16 (where I use it with 100 speed transparency film) is a decent performer. You also get the same height to width ratio as 35mm. Most flatbed scanners don’t scan more than 2000 ppi at best. Using a larger transparency or negative out of the Billy Record will get you more scanned information than the 35mm with the finest Zeiss lens.

    I hope you’ll enjoy the medium format experience.

    A.T. Burke
  33. Certo bought my near mint Super Ikonta III with Tessar for 150€ and resold it for 270$ in the US. Congrats on your Mamiya!
    Personally, my vote would always go for folders. Agfa folders are great as long as they have a leather bellows. If the
    shutters are working, Zeiss Ikontas and Nettars are nearly indistructable. Having said this, my first medium format camera
    was a Photina Reflex II with Cassar lens, it was so cute and cheap I couldn't pass it by :)
    For exposure meter I use an app on my smart phone these days, cost not more than 4$ and always with me. Enjoy
    shooting and let us know about your progress!
  34. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    wow is this a good time to sell off my collections? a few years ago these same cameras were
    dirt cheap.

    inventory time!
  35. There are 120 folders in the $20 to $60 price range that should be fine. As above, check the shutter, bellows, and such. I do have an Isolette, but I forget which model. Seems to work fine.
    The TLRs that I see are priced too high for me, usually over $100.
    SLRs that I see are even more. I haven't seen them anywhere close to $39.
  36. One more response from a Yashica Mat owner. I own a 124 -- not the "G", just the plain 124, which I prefer because it's all metal, lacking the "G"'s plastic. I bought mine from an eBay auction, paid right at $100 for it. It is an outstandingly accurate camera. I simply love it.
    I've owned a Yashica Mat 124G, and I've owned several Rolleiflexes and I do believe that a good "Mat" can hold its own against the Rolleiflexes without difficulty. So, since price is a factor, my recommendation is to go with one of the later "Mat" cameras -- one with the Yashinon lens. And enjoy.
  37. I actually just bought a Yashica from a gentleman who only wanted $100 for it! It'll get here on tuesday so I'll post updates when I get some pictures with it
  38. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    here is a yashica 124 for $80 advertised on APUG.
  39. Paul Ron, those are my cameras. :) The 124 is in like new condition except for the issue with the WLF screws. The two Lynx's are great, and I had to finish a roll to post that thread. The Lynx's don't fit my need, but they are nice cameras. If anyone is interested in the 124, hit me up!
  40. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    Its a beautiful camera. THis is a tough one to pass up.
    The screws should be no problem replacing. The meter issue, if someone is handy with a screw driver n soldering iron, its usually a corroded wire or contact, very common problem. Otherwise, use it as is.. its a beautiful camera to work with. Try it once n you're hooked for life!
    Im considering taking it if no one jumps on it soon. Ive got a couple already, there's something about Yahsicamats says I gotta have another. Terrible GAS problem.
  41. I use a Rolleiflex mx 3.5 and Yashicamat 124g both under $250 on ebay and both take lovely images.
    BUT I found a Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 folding 120 camera c1950s in a charity shop for $40 and I love it! The image quality is great. Half the bulk and weight of the TLRs. For a cheap introduction to MF, it's a no brainer. There are loads around.
    I've included an image taken with my Nettar using expired fujichrome and scanned with a epsom 4490. No photoshop used.

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