Help me to choose medium format

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by nat_gub, Oct 19, 2012.

  1. Hi,
    I am really new to this forum but I really need an advice to limit my choice for a medium format camera.
    After a long research through Hasselblad, Rollei, Mamiya, I like what Rollei 6008AF and Rolleiflext FX have to offer... may be I missed any other camera I should really take a look at, please advice.
    There are several things that are important:
    - Light-metering is quite important for me as I mostly work as a photojournalist on assignments. Thats where I though I would rather go with Rollei then Hasselblad (I can be wrong here...Hasselblad 203FE looks good but Rollei 6008AF seems to offer more options for less price)
    - Camera that works in very hot and cold temperatures (dont know anything about how these cameras wrk in such conditions)
    - Auto focus is sometimes an advantage for me as a lot of time I find myself in the situation where I just need to point and shoot. However most of the time I shoot everything on Manual mode and focus manually.
    - Weight is also important as I spend a lot of time trekking to get to a place.
    - Like to have several fixed lenses (usually use 2-3) and several backs but never shot with just TRL, so not quite sure what are the advantages.
    - Definitely 6x6
    - Batteries! I need an option to either have a lot of them (so I can survive for 2-3 months without electricity) and preferable rechargeable.
    I am willing to spend around $5000 - 6000 for a medium format camera with a standard lens kit.
    My main doubt...TRL vs SLR. I've read very good things about both.
    - Is it very heavy to handheld SLR vs TRL?
    - Can I have several backs for TRL?
    - What about battery life?
    - Do you find a limitation of 1 lens only being a problem?
    P.S Sorry English is not my 1st language, so excuse me if I was not very clear. I really would appreciate any advice.
  2. You don't say why you want a medium format camera, instead of, say, a DSLR, which starts us off at a disadvantage. But taking a look:

    I mostly work as a photojournalist on assignments.
    Unless your assignments are for quarterly periodicals or something, then IMO digital is the way to go. You can prepare and submit your work much more quickly and easily, without having to rely on a lab to process film (color) or having a bunch of fresh chemicals (B&W), and in any case probably having a good enough scanner (or a good enough lab with a scanner) to make using medium format film worthwhile.
    [A] lot of time I find myself in the situation where I just need to point and shoot.
    An overlooked advantage of digital over film in such situations is that full-program / auto-sensitivity will use just what sensitivity you need, but your film camera / back may be loaded with a film speed that is not a good choice. Also, in low light, any current digital with a decent-sized sensor will crush film. Is there still any color medium format film above ISO 400? Because I think Fuji Pro 800Z and Kodak Portra 800 are both gone, at least in medium format.
    Weight is also important as I spend a lot of time trekking to get to a place.
    Even a relatively small medium format rig, like my Mamiya 645 with the basic 80mm f/2.8 lens, is heavy as a brick compared to a lot of decent "APS-C" DSLR's, to say nothing of a NEX. My Yashica Mat EM TLR is considerably lighter, but if you need interchangeable lenses, the only TLR option is the Mamiya C2_ / C3_ system, which is fairly heavy.
    I suppose if I really had to be a trekking photojournalist with a medium format camera, I'd look first at the Fuji GA645zi (or whatever was the model with the zoom lens), then maybe a Rolleiflex 3.5F TLR.
    So why do you need medium format anyway? (Hint: IMO, you probably don't.) Why do you want it? Answers to that might make considerably easier our providing you a useful answer.
  3. Hi Dave,
    Thank you for your response. I really appreciate it!

    I already have a full DSLR kit with 5 prime lenses that I use for commercial and magazine work that need fast delivery.

    I want to use film medium format for my personal projects. Why? There is a lot of reason here. I love feel and look of film photographs more then digital. I used to shoot film all the time. I love hand print my work. The film negatives dont go out of fashion as the megapixel size of digital pictures :) I can print them very large for exhibitions :) I dont need to change this camera every single year to keep up with technology. I want to keep this camera for a very long time.

    I guess these are the main reasons. So I am pretty much decided that I am buying it, I just cant decide which one would be more appropriate for me and my style of shooting.
  4. A friend of mine loves his Mamiya 7 II, a rangefinder camera, about the same weight as a full-frame DSLR. He uses it with an 80 mm standard lens, but a few other lenses are available. It doesn't have an interchangeable back for changing film mid-roll, but it can use either 120 or 220 film. While the 7 and 7 II are 6x7 cameras, you may be able to find a used Mamiya 6 (which is 6x6) body in good condition. If you are in the U.S., KEH is an excellent store for used cameras.
  5. I'd say the choice is simple- Hasslebald, if you want 6x6, interchangeable lenses, and interchangeable film backs. Newer models will also take digital backs, which can be of use in your editorial work. Vibration and noise could be issues, depending on where and how you shoot.
    If you can skip the interchangeable film backs, the Mamiya 6, or 7, is the best bet. Interchangeable lenses. One thing to remember about 6x6 or 6x7 for most film is that you will be getting 12 or 10 shots a roll, so in a way you aren't ever too far from being able to change film?
    As a practicing photographer already, I bet that you can get a sense if a camera works for you pretty quickly. Borrow a Hassleblad, borrow a Mamiya or similar rangefinder (Fujifilm?). At some point, only using a camera in the field will answer your questions. One nice about the Hassleblad and the Mamiya is that you will be able to sell them on for about what you pay for them if they don't work out.
  6. Hi Dan,
    Thank you so much for your answer. I did try hasselblad and rolleiflext TLR and I found hasselblad more intuitive for me...but both were fully manual cameras.
    I am having a difficult time to find any of these cameras even to try in Sydney, Australia. I would love to see how auto-focus work in Hasselblad and in Rollei film cameras and whether its even worth considering (I mean auto-focus) . I definitely want metering system and Hasselblad only seems to offer it in 203FE model (only center-weighted), otherwise I need to buy prism which only adds weight :) I also can only find 1 camera in the world and its in Hong Kong.
    Throughout years I found that I keep changing cameras but I keep very good lenses. So may be I should consider Zeiss lenses (I love using them) and then see what cameras can use them.
    The internet is full of suggestions and I've been reading different medium format cameras for almost a month now and still cant make a decision.
    Mostly people say: buy Rollei TRL is you shoot street photography and buy Hasselblad if you shoot in studio and controlled environment....none really says why.
    Mamiya - a lot of people complain how heavy this camera is. Is it true?
    I haven't looked at 645 cameras yet... I kind of like feel of square format for personal work. However if there are 645 that are really worth considering over 6x6, i would love to hear about them.
    If I need to shoot in a very controlled environment and can get there by car, I usually shoot large format which I already have.
  7. There are four basic Mamiya medium format lines. The Mamiya 6 and 7 are rangefinder cameras with interchangeable lenses, like Leicas but fewer lenses and bigger. The Mamiya RB67 and other 67 models are SLRs, like the Hasselblad with interchangeable lenses and backs. Large, heavy. The C2/220 and C3/330 line are TLRs with interchangeable lenses, large and heavy. Mamiya 645 cameras (I don't know the specific model numbers) are SLRs, smaller and lighter than any of theo thers.
    I think that Pentax 645 cameras have some autofocus models? And then their new digital camera. Contax made 645s- there's your Zeiss lenses, I believe. Autofocus, I don't know but I think so. Contax lenses are great, Pentax lenses are well-respected. Bronica never did autofocus in either 645 or 6x6.
    Hmmmm... look at 6x4.5 SLRs? One of the companies might make everything fall into place. Depending on your enlargement needs, masking the viewfinder to 4.5 x 4.5 for composition is an option. The Contax, no longer made, might fit most of your concerns-
  8. I see it similarly. The TLR's don't offer much flexibility lens wise...and then there is the parallax issue thrown in on top. They weigh less (Yashica/Minolta) and they do offer pretty decent IQ quality...Let me put it this way, if you were just starting out and you were unsure whether 6x6 size nega is your thing, I'd say TLR for it's reasonable trying it out. I'm not readily including Rollei, since the prices can vary....and even go to $1500. And the SLR is even more so. The other day I priced full 'blad with 40mm lens and it came to around $1200 at KEH. This was for a CM model + better viewfinder...all in "excellent" condition or better.
    I'm thinking to go this route plus decent scanner and only do B&W's, but that's something else entirely.
    But, taking all this stuff with you...and you will likely need 3 lenses + backs + film....ah yes, and don't forget the sherpa.

    Fuji 690 appears to work really well, but they too have limits. What about Bronica ? I don't want to recommend Nikon D800/E, since it doesn't have the film look, though with good software the large file can even take some adjustments without losing much degradation.....and the reason I'm even mentioning it is to avoid dragging two systems. Yes, renting would give you more answers perhaps.
  9. "Newer models will also take digital backs"

    If by "newer" you mean all "Hasslebald" models made since 1957, that's correct. ;-)


    Besides the 203 FE (centerweighed), the 205 (spot) and 202 (centerweighed) models also offer built-in metering.
    The 205 TCC/FCC pairs a Tone and Contrast Control thingy (a Zone Mode) to Zone System users, needing TCC film backs (will take E and even 'regular' film backs too).
    The 202 FA is basically an Aperture-Priority AE camera without a true manual mode.
    There was no model that offered both spot and centerweighed metering modes. You do indeed need a PME45 or PME90 prism or handheld meter for that.

    If you want autofocus, can do with 6x4.5 instead of 6x6, a Hasselblad H1 or H2 (with film back) would be a good choice. But Zeiss lenses can only be used on those using a very expensive adapter.

    A Rolleiflex TLR (any TLR) is a bit of fun (i carried and used one all day yesterday.) But is very limiting. They have a cult following. But you not seeing why is not the result of missing something. Get one, as a fun thing. Get a proper camera for the rest.
  10. A Rolleiflex is not a proper camera? Now I've heard it all!
  11. Glad i could help, Steve.<br>How much choice in lenses (in anything) does your R'flex TLR offer? When was the last time you did some serious close-up work with your R'flex? How often do you switch from B&W to colour film and back again using your R'flex?<br>I know i never would, because could not, use my R'flex for anything much. One trick ponies. Nice. But something from an era that had not much better to offer, some 60-80 years ago. Things have changed since then. Proper cameras (including ones made by Rollei - since almost 50 years ago, in fact) are now available, in heaps.
  12. The later Rolleiflex SLRs are probably more unreliable than Hasselblad, although the features might be appealing. And living in Australia, as I do, maintenance of Rollei gear is very problematic. Mine is in Germany at the moment.
  13. It certainly has many limitations but it's still a proper camera.
    And of the sixty film cameras I have, My Rolleicord V is the one I would keep if I could only have one.
  14. Depends on the definition of 'proper' camera, Steve.<br><br>A R'flex TLR is well-built, offering high quality mechanics and optics.<br>So far so good.<br>And then those "many limitations" kick in.<br>Limitations, not in that it doesn't offer a choice in skin colours or doesn't tell you what day it is, or any other such wholy unimportant thing. But limitations in what you can do with it as a camera, compared to 'other' (to use a different term, that really doesn't cover it) cameras. Limitations in exactly that you need a camera for.<br> If the camera with many such limitations is a "proper" camera anyhow, what are those that do not impose such limitations? If you find another word for that, Steve, just substitute "proper" in what i wrote above with that word.
  15. "A Rolleiflex TLR (any TLR) is a bit of fun (I carried and used one all day yesterday.) But is very limiting. They have a cult following. But you not seeing why is not the result of missing something. Get one, as a fun thing. Get a proper camera for the rest."
    As the owner of four Mamaiya TLRs I regard them a very 'proper' cameras! :) Indeed, I have even taken them into churches and they haven't embarrassed me!
    Like all cameras, they have their limitations but one uses them where appropriate.
  16. What about a Bronica SQa? You get all the features of a Hasselblad at a much lower price. I have a metered prisim on mine that I have used with slide film. Still when I could I would use a spot meter. Also the lenses are wonderfully made and readily available. Before I went digital I used to backpack with my Bronica setup. It was a lot heavier than my Nikon D800.
  17. You may put bronica and pentax in your list too include pentax d645 digital. Also
    you can check sigma dslr which uses foveon sensor thats close to film output but
    they are all crop sensors
  18. A Bronica SQ Ai with the TTL metered prism finder and the motorized grip is a terrific 6x6 camera.
  19. I have (and use both!) a Rolleiflex 6008 Integral2 and a Rolleiflex GX. I started with the 6008. It is a marvelous system: very ergonomic, easy to use and with an excellent metering system integrated (multi-spot, centre-weigthed etc). It is very flexible with its interchangeable lenses and film backs. I use it in combination with a Gitzo mounteneering series 3 tripod and a Arca Swiss head. I definitely would not like to change it for an other SLR. The system completely depends on batteries, that can be used for at least 20 films during a long (weeks) period of time. I never felt the battery dependancy of the camera as a restriction, but always carry one spare in my bag. However, for long trips and hiking (more than 3-5 hours walking), the system is quite heavy, even if you just carry one lens and film back. That was the reason I extended my camera collection with a Rolleiflex GX: it ist very light, with a reasonable good working light meter integrated (centre weighted). As the shutter is mechanic, the camera is battery independent, if necessary. I use the GX in combination with a Gitzo Mounteneering series 0. One can carry this set all day without problems concerning weight. You will miss the flexibility of interchangeable lenses and film backs. But these restrictions also may be a challenge in photographing. So far, I did not find paralax problems using a TLR. So for 'normal' photography (no macro, the need of wide angle or tele lenses) I prefer to take the GX with me when I go outside.
    I hope this helped you a bit in your decision.
    Gerber van der Graaf
  20. I guess all things considered, with your additional comments, maybe the closest answer--because I really don't think anything meets all of your desired qualities--would be a Mamiya 7 system. If you buy used, on your stated $5000 to $6000 budget you may well be able to find a body or two and two or three lenses. You know what and how you like to shoot, but if it were me, I think it would be: if one lens, tough call between 65mm and 80mm; if two lenses, 50mm and 80mm; and if three lenses, 50mm, 80mm, and 150mm.
    It's a rangefinder, which is of course not auto-focus, but fairly quick to focus. It does not have interchangeable backs, but you could carry two bodies. It's 6x7 not 6x6, but you can always crop, and it and its lenses appear to be much more readily available than the otherwise-similar Mamiya 6 (which was a 6x6). Its battery consumption should be fairly modest. It is light compared to an SLR or an interchangeable-lens TLR. By all accounts the lenses are stellar. For most people, it should be easier to hand-hold well, compared to a medium-format SLR. And with those 6x7 negatives you can print quite large. (No, I've never had one, but you can tell I've long admired them!)
  21. Having shot with many medium format cameras, I have to say that the Rolleiflex TLR is my favorite. If I could have
    only one camera, period, it would be a Rolleiflex. The Rolleiflex is not as "flexible" as a system-type camera, but it's
    limitations force me to be more flexible myself.

    I do use other medium format cameras, such as the Pentax 67 and the Fuji GW and GSW690III. The Pentax 67 does
    everything, it has a lens or accessory for nearly every purpose. It is not small or light, but it is intuitive and easy to
    use. The Fuji "Texas Leicas" are rather light for their size, and deliver amazing images. The Fuji cameras do not come
    with built in meters, but I have never been a fan of built in meters in any camera, I love my Pentax digital spot meter,
    and I always use it when shooting larger formats. I also like the 6x9 format from the Fujis.

    Another mention is the Mamiya press. I use these cameras because I love the 100/2.8 and 75mm lenses. I also like
    the variety of formats which you can shoot with them.
  22. It seems the original poster should just stick with his DSLR because his huge range of (often conflicting) requirements rules out just about every MF camera, past or present. Obviously, a TLR doesn't autofocus and can't meter or take separate backs. 6x6 Hasselblads don't autofocus. Any of the older models should be suspect (especially for his stated 3-month trips to places without electricity) because they will likely not survive extreme cold or heat and will need repair. Many are attracted to the simplicity and discipline of having just one lens, but frankly I find it limiting. You simply can't do with an 80 what you can with a 150 or a 50.
    It's hard to imagine what his $5000-6000 for this project will buy.
  23. A Rollei 6008 AF.
  24. Touché. However, it's hard to see this kind of camera taken out of the studio and used in the described environment, especially away from power.
  25. Natasha as you want to use Medium format for personal projects then have a look at Mamiya 7 rangefinders. The quality of the lens' are stunning and they are light and easy to carry around. The additional bonus is the image size (6x7cm) which means they can easily be scanned and printed.
    They can be purchased new but are expensive or you could go down the used route and pick up an excellent camera and lens' for a reasonable price.
    In the UK look at Ffordes Photographic (I have bought two bodies plus lens' from them in the past) or Teamwork Digital. In your own country you will no doubt be able to find other dealers also.
    I now shoot digital exclusively due to market demands but I do miss a 6x7 transparency on a lightbox. Fortunately I still have a large archive to digitise.
  26. They invented small, portable power sources long ago already, just to make it possible to use equipment needing electrical power "away from power". Those thingies sometimes are called 'batteries', sometimes 'accu(mulator)'.<br>;-)<br>The downside of the Rollei's power source is indeed that it uses proprietary packs that must be charged, cannot be replaced by easily available batteries. But if you carry spares, it will not be a big worry, i guess.<br><br>I don't think it would be that difficult to use a 6008 out of house, away from the studio. Many people (including myself) carry cameras as big and heavy, or bigger and heavier, without problem.
  27. While you may to give up the light meter depending on the model, I'd recommend a Hasselblad SLR. The 501CM doesn't need batteries and mine have been very reliable over the years. I do documentary work, though not much traditional photojournalism lately, and I think that if you want a square neg, the Hasselblad system is hard to beat in terms of flexibility. You could get a meter prism but frankly you can do fine with a handheld meter. Even when I shot breaking news I usually used manual exposure and a handheld meter. And with color neg film you'll have a lot more latitude than you would with digital. If you're shooting digital alongside the film, you can use your DSLR meter.
    Since the Hasselblad was something of a pro workhorse camera, you can find great deals on used gear.
    If you like rangefinders and can work with a 6x7 format, then the Mamiya 7 is also worth a look. But there's something special about the square format and it can be a nice break from shooting your assignment work on a wider rectangular format.
    I used a Mamiya 7II kit for a while and it was great, but it felt a bit flimsy and the RF can sometimes go out of alignment. The lenses also don't focus all that close. But within certain parameters, they're great cameras.
    If you go with a hasselblad I'd check out the 60mm and 100mm lenses. They make a great semi-wide and long normal combo, and both lenses are really good optically. You could pick up a body (or two), a few backs and a few lenses for well within your budget.
  28. Thank you everyone for so much response! I really appreciate your feedback.
    I guess I would need to do a research on Mamiya, Pentax and Fuji before I make a decision...
    I am used to heavy gear, but by saying light... I mean something that weights less then (Canon Mark 1Ds Mark III, 50mm, 16-35mm, 70-200mm, 35mm, flashes, batteries, power). So for my personal work I would be happy to have just 3 fixed lenses in the end (even 2 really :)
    By meaning the budget of $5000 - 6000 is for 1 lense and camera only. I will pick more lenses along the way.
    Personal photojournalistic work means that I would have a bit more time to focus and set up but I wont have heaps of time to do so thats why I was lookign at something that have light-metering and auto-focus (I am not sure wheather its worth considering in film cameras at all).
    Why I need help is mostly for what meadium cameras out there that are very solid, easy to use, quick to focus and meter :)
    They may not exist but thats why I am asking...

    Once again THANK YOU everyone for your advice. I will look more into other cameras.
  29. One mroe question for people out there...
    What kind of lenses are compatible on several different brand medium formats?
  30. Arsat lens' are the only ones that I am aware of that will work across a variety of makes. They work on Mamiya 645, Contax 645, Nikon, Canon etc. You should search for those who used these lens' and Google their website and you will get their information. Anyone else know of other makes?
  31. I'd probably stick with digital for photojournalism as Dave said. And a Canon g9 or g12 at that - super quiet esp. if you turn the volume off.
    I'm the proud owner of a "new" Hasselblad for 2 months now. One reason I wouldn't use it for stealth photojournalism is the release is LOUD. Puts my old F1 to shame in that department. Something to consider if you care. Of course my Yashicamat (shhh) and all the other tlrs are much quieter. I do have an acquaintance that does street photography with one of the Mamiya rangefinders and is happy with it.
  32. I am jumping into this wagon ...
    First of all, manual focusing on a medium format is easier because of the VF brightness and focus ring construction, except you belong to the rookie club who always want to shoot wide open.
    Personally I don't like Hasselblad nor Rolleiflex TLR waist level finder. I know it looks cool, but outside the studio you will have problems in focusing. Do not buy Rolleiflex TLR, I sold mine. The IQ is out of the game now.
    For travelling outside your habitat, I think Mamiya 6 or 7 maybe the best on the market. If you use Hasselblad sometimes the mirror jams and if you are not techie enough you will land in a disappointment (You need a screwdriver, a needle and some nice hand to release the lock).
    Mamiya RB/RZ is wonderful but heavy as a brick. Now I solely use Mamiya 645 ProTL only because I think the roadmap to 645 AF and PhaseOne will be linear. IQ is good, weight is also about one D3, bringing outdoor is comfortable.
    Mamiya and Schneider Kreuznach build lenses on 645 format. SK is damn sharp. Carl Zeiss build lens for Hasselblad but people say it's soft. Forget all the Russian stuff
  33. Let's see, where to begin...<br>Viewfinders in MF cameras are not brighter than those in other cameras. MF lenses typically are slower. So MF viewfinders tend to be less bright.<br>The focus ring construction is the same as on other lenses having a focussing ring. The lenses being heavier than those used on DSLRs and 35 mm format cameras, focussing will be a bit stiffer, less quick.<br>Shooting wide open? Focussing wide open ensures easiest focussing. You can do that using all cameras, MF, 35 mm format, DSLR, etc. And you do that when you shoot wide open or not.<br>Using a lens wide open is not a "rookie" thing.<br>Hasselblads and Rollei TLRs are not more difficult to focus outside a studio.<br>The IQ of Rollei TLRs is beyond reproach, on par with the other top performers.<br>The mirror in Hasselblads does not jam. The often talked about, but hardly ever occuring, "Hasselblad jam" is a jam of the lens on the camera. Should that happen, all you need is a screwdriver. No needle. No advanced manual dexterity - how hard is it to turn a screw?)<br>Mamiya RB/RZs are indeed great, but heavy cameras. That's right!<br>Schneider lenses for 6x4.5 format? What Schneider lenses for 6x4.5 format?<br>People don't say Zeiss lenses are soft. That, because they are not.<br>If i missed something, tell me and i'll attend to that later. ;-)<br><br>Welcome on PN, Vincent!<br>Don't let the above scare you off. Just make sure that information you give is correct.
  34. @Q.G. de Bakker: Thanks for your comment, my evaluation based on equipments I have tried, I am not a pro nor a super technical guy in photography.
    I use Mamiya 645 ProTL with fast lenses, I have to say VF is brighter than 135 SLR VF. Brightmatte screen on Hasselblad also quiet pleasing e.g. compared to dark Rolleiflex TLR. I think my statement is too subjective :)
    FYI: SK is making lenses for Mamiya/PhaseOne 645. It's autofocus.

  35. Vincent,<br><br>Thanks for educating me about the Schneider lenses for Mamiya. Didn't know that.
  36. FYI: SK is making lenses for Mamiya/PhaseOne 645. It's autofocus.​
    SK is not quite "making" them. Schneider had a major role in their design, and gets its name on the barrel. But Mamiya makes them.
    They have leaf-shutter speeds of up to 1/1600 second, but at present only the 645DF/DF+ body can use them, and therefore they can only be shot on digital backs.

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