Bronica, Mamiya or Fuji

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by darya_a|1, Nov 6, 2011.

  1. Hello, I am new to medium format photography and wanted to get a decent MF camera. I've read a lot about them and have somewhat narrowed it to a Bronica, Mamiya or a Fuji gs 645. I am a little hesitant on the Mamiya because of the size. I was hoping to get some advice on which Bronica to get or if the Fuji is better choice, or if I should re-consider a Mamiya? I will be using it primarily to take pictures of everyday events, friends, family, and portraits outdoors. I may be using it inside as well at times. I am not a professional photographer but photography is a big hobby and I love shooting and really like the way MF images look. thank you Darya
  2. If you are looking for a 645 rangefinder (based on your reference to the Fuji), then you will find Mamiya doesn't have one. The Bronica RF645 is harder to find than the Fuji rangefinders, but does have interchangeable lenses. Personally, I would look at the Fuji GA series instead of the GS series; a little more modern and they don't cost much more.
  3. Darya,
    Can you tell us what cameras you use now, or have used in the past?
    There is quite a difference (for me anyway), between shooting a rangefinder camera, vs a SLR.
    Rangefinders are easier to focus in dim light, and they are usually lighter, but aren't the first choice for close-up/macro, still life/table top, or portrait photography.
    If you have never used a WLF, (waist level viewfinder), that takes a couple of rolls of film to get use to, though, the Bronicas and Mamiyas do have prisms for eye level shooting.
    I am getting older, and slower, so using a camera on a tripod/monopod is right up my alley. I don't tend to shoot action events, as I can't move fast enough to keep up with the pace anyway. I love my heavy old Mamiyas.
    You may want something a bit lighter, or faster...or not.
    My progression into MF from 35mm's, started first with TLR's, then to a RZ.
    Not a suggestion, that's just the way it worked out for me. Don't let the size or weight of some cameras scare you away from them, especially if you have a few other cameras available.
    Match a suitable/given camera type, for a given shooting situation.
  4. Not so long ago, I made the same sort of decision. I'm not sure that you really want a medium format camera; why not 35mm or 6X7 plus digital?
    Medium format is not the best format for casual, everyday stuff. For starters, the 120 film will give you only 15 shots a roll in 645/10 shots in 6X7, so it means lots of roll changes. 645 negative is not that much bigger than 35mm. To get the full hit, you want to look at 6X6 or 6X7. (Don't want to start a format war here.) Moreover, the lenses are relatively slow, have a shallow depth of field (which I like, mind you) and rarely autofocus. Film choices are diminishing and have fairly slow speeds (by digital standards.) All together, it makes a difficult slog for events, candids, kids, etc.
    OTOH, you could get a very good 35mm camera that could share lenses with a digital system. Or, you could find a digital camera to do the everyday stuff and get a MF system to do portraits and other, more formal work. I ended up doing that. I tried a 645 system for a while, but ended up going with a Mamiya RZ. Great kit that's very inexpensive from KEH. It is heavy, though, no getting around that.
    Have fun.
  5. I've owned both a Pentax 645 and two Fuji GS645 cameras. For how you want to use MF the Pentax 645 wins hands down.
  6. I shoot with a D300 now and mostly use my 24-70 2.8 or my 50 1.4.
    I also recently got a Yachica electro 35G.
  7. I have the Pentax and Bronica 645s, a Bronica 6x6 and a Pentax 6x7. If I had to choose just one format it would be 6x6. It's convenient not having to turn the camera (or back) for verticals and the square format is a nice change from the rectangular format of digital and 35mm. I have several film inserts that let me change film faster than 35mm, but I don't shoot 120 to blow through a lot of film. Bronica, probably because it's a discontinued brand, is also a lot less expensive than other 120 SLRs.
  8. I would check out the Fuji 680 if I had to do over.

    Newer camera. Has movements. Inexpensive system from what I can tell just scanning auctions.

    90% of what I shoot MF is from a tripod. So size really isn't an issue, and my Bronica wasn't very small anyway.
  9. I guess now that I look at this more, I would like a recommendation for 6x6 or a 6x7. and it would be used a lot for portraits.
    I like my 35mm that I got but I am still looking for that creamy looking picture that I see with film images. And the shallow depth of field is one characteristic that is different small format photography, digital or film. Where you can isolate a feature and everything else fades to pastel smoothness.
    thank you!
  10. I also forgo to mention, I would prefer to not use a tripod.
  11. Look, I have owned both the fuji GS645S and the Bronica RF645 and to me the Bronica is a much better camera with a better viewfinder, metering, lens and handling, and feels a million dollars better made, the fuji felt like a fisher-price toy to me. BUT the fuji's go for half the price these days, so that is a choice for you to make.
    Personally I like Zeiss lenses and use Rollei 6006 SLR but could be just as happy with a Hasselblad, they both give that crisp image with a creamy tonal quality and I personally love the square format, I never got used to turning the 645's on their side for "landscape" format. Just got a 3.5E3 Rolleiflex and if I'd bought that first probably would never have bought another medium format camera. I still may end up selling the rest, that Rollei is unreal.
    If portraits are your thing get a Blad or Rollei with a 150mm Sonnar, there is a reason that was the standard portrait studio rig for 30 years-it just works!
  12. I never got used to turning the 645's on their side for "landscape" format.​
    Just to point out for the OP's benefit: this is only the case with 645 rangefinders, where the film path runs horizontally. The film path runs vertically in the 645 SLRs, so they are all in landscape format in their default orientation, and must be turned on their side for portrait.
  13. For the sort of shooting you mention, and handheld, the Pentax 645N is ideal. It's an ergonomic system, very good lenses, and AF. The portrait lenses are very good, the FA 2.8/150mm would be up your street.
    I have that system, but also the Plaubel Makina 67. As a manual rangefinder, it's less suitable for quick shots, but otherwise a great camera with a wonderful negative , not to mention the 2.8/80mm Nikkor. As an alternative, I would have considered Mamiya 6 or 7, even if less pocketable then the Plaubel is. The advantage of having one lens is great, I find. I carry this camera a lot more than the P645.
  14. My first foray into medium format photography was with a Bronica SQ-A. Some years later I am still using it. I managed to buy the whole kit, including metered prism, 2 backs, a grip and the 80mm for less then 500 Canadian. I don't use it professionally at all, never put it in a tripod, or use an external meter. With the grip it handles fine, once you get used to its heft, the meter is OK and the lenses are fabulous.
    The only gotchas are its weight, meter is in the prism and its easy to hit the shutter release button by mistake. Some reviewers have spoken about issues with interlocks but I've never had any problems with mine. I did have an issue with a broken film back. I lose the darkslides all the time. But that's more my problem then the bronica's.
    Essentially, this is a really great camera, that probably pales a bit in comparison to some of the other medium format cameras but will do what you want.
  15. Not to discourage you from MF, especially here on the MF forum, but "that creamy looking picture that I see with film images. And the shallow depth of field is one characteristic that is different small format photography, digital or film. Where you can isolate a feature and everything else fades to pastel smoothness." is all something you can do just fine with your D300. DSLR shooters are crazy about "bokeh" and all you need is a fast enough lens to drop the background out of focus. I was just looking at a friend's portrait work yesteday and if fits perfectly into your description, but it's done with a 16 megapixel Canon, not film. I like MF -- I own both a Yashicamat 124G and a Mamiya C330 in addition to my D200 and Nikon lenses. If you want to shoot MF because you want to shoot MF, it's a lot of fun. But if you want "creamy looking" pictures with shallow depth of field, you can do that with what you have.
  16. I recently bought a used Bronica SQ-A and I like it a lot. For around 1/3 the price of a Hasselblad outfit, you can experiment with 6x6 or 4.5x6 (a different pack, and it's in landscape orientation) and have loads of fun. It's not heavy, there's a lock in the shutter release that I have gotten into the habit of using. The worst I can say about it is that the form factor is clumsy for hand held use. It really wants a grip or a tripod. I have a tripod, so I use that. A TLR would be more usable for casual snaps, I think, but my Bronica has a prism finder, which to me is easier to use than the reversed WLF image in the Rollei, so I'm happier with my Bronica.
    There have been some negative comments about the long term robustness of some of the Bronica plastic parts, notably the back where the dark slide goes in, but mine seems fine, and I use it very lightly, so it should last for years.
  17. I like shooting 6x6 because it saves messing around turning the camera for landscape and portrait formats. I've owned quite a few MF cameras and I now have a Bronica SQ-A. You get a complete Hasselblad style system with added extras for a 3rd of the price of a Hassy. The Bronica lenses are also excellent.
    I also hate using a tripod so I shoot mostly handheld with an AE prism finder and speed grip. That way it's like shooting with an oversized 35mm SLR. I do find the SQ-A has an unusual operating method that takes some getting used to. The SQ-A is an ingenious mechanical wonder. All parts communicate mechanically with each other to prevent accidental exposure. For the first couple of weeks you'll spend your time trying to take photos with the dark slide in place, the film not wound on, the shutter uncocked and all sorts of other silly things. The brilliance of the SQ-A design prevents most accidental exposures but can also drive you nuts as you try to remember to make sure everything's set correctly.
    Just beware that the SQ-A and similar 6x6 SLRs are clunky, noisy contraptions. The Fuji GA cameras are nice but I find the AF unreliable. The Fuji GW cameras are superb but don't have built in metering. If you're happy shooting 6x4.5 I would go for the Bronica RF645. It's more compact, quieter and easier to operate than a MF SLR.
    Money no object? That's easy... the Mamiya 7II.
  18. I would love to know how the SQ-A knows there is film in it, and that you have advanced it to the first frame, mechanically. The only thing the battery does is power the shutter, and the meter, everything else is magic.
    It is a noisy clunky thing, but with a grip its very manageable. You just need to get used to switching three switches before taking a shot!
  19. The Pentax 6x7 is a steal nowadays, and has a ton of great lenses. I've never shot mine from a tripod and have a ton of great results - granted, i shot 400 speed film and keep the shutter speed about 125/sec, but i can keep up with my son on the playground with it:) The fuiji rangefinder sound like a great deal, but for portraits they're a pain. The rangefinders are not that plight, and focusing takes longer than it should. Pentax 645s are also great, but the lens prices have jumped up a bit with the 645D being out. If you are trying to keep the cost down, a Bronica ETRS/ERTSi is another option, reliable cheap camera.
    But i'm in love with the 6x7, the 105 or 150 give great bokeh and are pretty fast.
  20. Darya
    I also use the Nikon D300 with a few nice prime lenses.
    I went with the Bronica ETRSi 645. Very nice MF camera. Very easy to use. You can buy a complete kit for only a few hundred dollars. I have 2 x ETRSi Bodies with a 50/75/150 PE lenes. All very sharp. I love the Fuji Velvia 50 trannies on the light box. Awesome MF camera. I use this kit with a metered prism finder for ease of handling.
    Maybe something to look at.
  21. I shoot Pentax 67 cameras, handheld on location 99% of the time. All natural light, all manual functions. The aspect ratio is superb and the film originals scan easily for presentation online. I've used them since the 80's for all my work.
  22. The Mamiya RB and lenses are still a huge bargain at KEH.
  23. The Mamiya 7 (6x7) or Mamiya 6 (6x6) may suit your needs.
    If your portraits use flash, you can see the expression during the flash with the RF camera, but if you like pre-visualising blurred out of focus details, a 6x6 or 6x7 SLR may be better in portraiture, although you say you don't want to use a tripod which seems to suggest you might have more comfort in shooting with an RF camera.. The RF cameras work nicely handheld and the 6x6 RF (discontinued Mamiya 6 has 3 interchangeable lenses from 50 to 150mm) doesn't require you to change camera hold position.

Share This Page