In need of a camera for landscape work

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by cody_goodfellow, Nov 28, 2009.

  1. I am looking for a camera to shoot landscape work. I am looking at medium format cameras, as i want to work with medium format before large format, as well as the convenience of medium format processing in my location comparative to large format processing. What are the best medium format cameras for landscape work within a relative price range of 800-2000, New or used including lens and body?
  2. What format, 6x4.5 all the way to 6x9 covers a large number of options. :)
  3. A great combo would be a Hasselblad 500/CM w/ 45ยบ NC-2 finder, A-16 back and a 60mm f/3.5 Distagon C T*. Depending on how much you get the camera and lens for, you could try to get an 80mm f/2.8 Planar C T* as well. Another great landscape lens is the 40mm f/4 Distagon C or CF, but that could cost you as much as all the other gear combined. I have all three and they work beautifully for landscape work. The 40mm and 60mm Distagons are so sharp, you need to handle them with heavy leather gloves! :)
  4. There are bargains galore these days in MF gear. If you want lighter cameras look towards 6x6 or 645. If you are a masochist and can deal with monstrosities , look towards the 6x7. Right now a used Mamiya RB kit (camera,lens,back,finder) can be had for under $300. The Pentax and Mamiya 645's sell for around the same. Used Hasselblad kits are selling for under $600, and the Bronica 6x6's are around $400.
    Depending on the camera, for under a $1000, you can get a basic kit and 2-3 lenses.
  5. This general question has been addressed on this forum recently. I suggest being more specific as to your intent with landscape work. For answers to your general question, do a search.
  6. Cody, there are also many recent discussions on this. I just now searched on Medium format for landscape photography and found this ... among many others.
    However, you will find valid suggestions coming from all quarters, from the 6x4.5 users through 6x6, 6x7 and up to 6x9, including Hasselblad and old 1930's folders, speaking of folders, here is something you should really see. Medium format for landscape
    I've been using Hasselblad for years, and often wished for a FlexBody. A FlexBody with a late 50mm Distagon would be excellent, providing little shift (because the image circle wasn't intended for that) , but a very useful degree of lens tilt ... not much of that either, but enough to provide an impressive amount of focus control. Within your budget? Not likely, for camera + back + lens.
    Linhof Technika (III or IV) 6x9, if you're lucky within your budget.
    Or easily within reach, a Mamiya Press 23, which has a movable back, copy of Linhof Technika type back. With a 6x9 neg, that's 50% more than a Hasselblad.
    Hope to see you back here with some images.
    Cheers, Kevin
  7. Thank you for all the advice. I am leaning toward a 6x7 or 6x9 now. Mamiya universal, Mamiya press 23, Pentax 6x7's. Any advice on these cameras or any other options. Thanks for the input, it's greatly appreciated.
  8. The landscape square images in my portfolio here is all shot with Hasselblad. It is a great, versatile system, and I cannot recommend it more highly. But there are followers of other systems who will undoubtedly steer you toward their favorite system. If you were to look outside of Hasselblad, I would probably consider only Mamiya and Fuji systems. The others have very limited component availability as they were never popular enough, never had the components in the first place, or couldn't stand up to the use and no longer exist<g>.
  9. Michael, I think that the Pentax users would probably disagree with you. I had a Pentax 645 for a while, and it was an excellent system. The lenses were cheap and plentiful, and produced excellent images. Ir was a great system to sue when I didn't want to lug a Hasselblad around.
  10. While you are thinking about which camera don't forget about camera support, it's a complete waste of time buying anything unless you have the proper control and positioning over the camera, having said that there is only one real camera for landscape work and that's the FUJI GX680III splendid negatives at 6 x 8 or smaller with the masks, excellent choice of lenses from 50mm to 500mm. Go take a look and see for yourself the real advantages of owning a Professional camera.
  11. Which format will give you the best results depends on how big your final prints are. The Pentax 645 is certainly the easiest system to both use and carry around, but is better for smaller enlargements (depending on you own personal standards). 67 and 69 will obviously make better enlargements than 645 but are much heavier and bulkier. If you're really macho go with the Pentax 67 or the Mamiya RB/RZ system. But if you prefer to pack light then the Mamiya 69 Universal is good. My personal favorite, though, is the 69 Crown Graphic which not only gives you interchangeable backs but is good for close-up work and also provides some movements.
  12. "there is only one real camera for landscape work and that's the FUJI GX680III"
    Excuse me ... but, .... what ?!!
    Sounds like a sales pitch, and reveals little more than a profound lack of knowledge.
    Can anyone tell us, in percentage terms, how much of the 150 years of landscape photography has been made with a ... "FUJI GX680III" ?
  13. Ditto the Pentax 645 recommendation. They are plentiful, reliable and relatively inexpensive. Perhaps not the greatest for wedding photography but great for landscape work. I am still selling images captured with my 645. As for ease of use, the cliche is true. The Pentax 645 and the 67, for that matter, are like 35mm SLRs on steroids. The 645n in particular, is quicker and easier to use than any Hasselblad when it comes to landscape work, in my opinion. The Pentax 35mm lens for the 645 is also one of the absolute sharpest of it's type available in MF and doesn't take a backseat to anything from Zeiss/Hasselblad in that range.
  14. Don't mean to be too off-topic in what is obviously a film-centric discussion, but is there a reason for not considering digital? The cameras you are leaning toward are all box cameras, so apparently the movements aren't that important to you...

    Other than those biased against digital, the limitations re: print size, a possible aversion to learning Photoshop, etc. there are many reasons these days to take digital seriously.

    An interesting phenomenon is that many of us who have done MF and LF landscape film (I have used all the cameras mentioned except for the Fuji GX680 III, which is very heavy and clumsy, may as well be a true LF) strongly prefer true 3-color digital capture for landscape. Unfortunately, Sigma/Foveon is the only game in town on that, but the SD14 and a gaggle of the best EX Sigma lenses would provide you remarkably 'film-like' quality if you go that route.

    Take a look at as a suggestion. There IS a tangible difference. Bayer demosaicing just doesn't work well for landscapes.
  15. How come nobody mentioned the Mamiya 7 yet? ;-)
  16. The problem w/ going to LF from MF is that, well, everything is different. You'll be going from roll film to sheet film, from a whole different DOF, and the movements in LF are what make things interesting. MF cameras as a rule have few to no movements. Might as well start w/ LF, and like most of us. the Graflex cameras are an excellent and affordable way to go. The Crown Graphic will give you most movements for landscapes, and the Graphic View (the II would be better but not a necessity) would be even better, but more inconvenient to pack up.
  17. Have you considered the Pentax 67II? Excellent lenses are available for it, and of course, you can do mirror lockup as well. It does require a tripod for slow exposures. Also, if you're considering moving up to LF eventually, why not try a 4x5 and use a roll film back on it? That way you can cover a couple of bases with one camera and (if you choose) only one lens. You can pick up a really decent 4x5 for a song now.
  18. Cody, I am thinking about selling my Mamiya 645 Pro (all manual) with Mamiya-Secor 55mm/2.8, 80mm/2.8 and 150mm/2.8 lenses (lens hoods, filters included), all in excellent condition. Let me know if that's something you'd be interested in.
  19. Cody, have the Universal with the Model P focusing hood. Not selling it. Like it to much. But, it's a great camera. The Focusing hood gives it a groundglass back and the 6x9 back enables a person to crop 645,6x6,6x7,6x9 or whatever. Smaller formats have fewer options in cropping.
  20. I used to shoot a Pentax 67II before I switched to the Canon 5D (don't hate me). It was great. There is a lot to be said for the Hassy's, but the Pentax was as solid as a brick. Good luck.
  21. (Since no one has mentioned it yet....)
    IMO, the Bronica 6x6 system makes sense as an all-around compromise between negative size (good), availability (very good), weight (possibly the best in the 6x6 SLR category. Much lighter than most 6x7 systems), cost (good+), and durability (the lenses are excellent, the bodies do feature some plastic and are not as bomb proof as other MF offerings.)
    The 'PS' lenses generally perform very well. 'S' lenses are supposedly more variable, across the lineup as well as on an individual basis.
    SQ handling is slightly awkward, as there is no natural place to grab the camera; consider adding a manual grip/winder unit.
    The square format takes some getting used to, but can certainly be made to work! :)
    Most (all?) SQ bodies, except the motor drive-only SQ-AM, have MLU, and all the lenses allow long exposure w/o battery drain.
    More discussion:
  22. (Just to stir the pot!)
    Ya know....
    With your $2K upper budget limit, you should give the 6x17 format a look. You should be able to score a Fuji G617 on Fleabay. Horseman and Linhof also make fixed-lens 6x17 outfits. Noblex and Widelux make swing lens pano cameras, but I think the MF bodies will be out of your $ range.
    These cameras are generally more limited in application than the typical MF SLR, but under the right conditions, the format is just incredible! See
    Video of the G617
    There are other panoramic 6x formats, including 6x12.
  23. Honestly I think that with an old Fujica 6x9 rangefinder you can't go wrong. Possibly an older model with interchangeable lenses. Also the "newer" version (with fixed lenses) should be fine for your needs. They are quite cheap too (i.e. less than 1000 $).
    Here there are some samples of what can be achieved:
  24. What I am missing in this discussion here, how large do you want to go with your landscape pictures! I guess, with an 645 camera you're very flexible, and the image quality is more than sufficient for most purposes, with film and with a digital back. My 2 cents!
  25. IMHO someone who is looking for a camera specialized for landscape work should look for a camera with movements... whatever the format. There are a lot of situations where tilting is needed, also swing or even rise. I never used extreme movements but a bit of front tilt is, in my experience, a must for that task.
    With a rigid type camera the only feature offered for "landscape work" will be a more or less lighter setup, but in my opinion this could be the second feature this kind of camera should have. Using TS lenses limit the lens choices in most occasions to one, perhaps two focal lenghts.
    The bigger the format the better, and rectangular format better than squared. Starting with the smallest, a Rollei SL66 could be worth a look (I never used it), then any medium format folding view camera (the more sophisticated focusing system the more expensive), or like mentioned above, a large format camera with a 6x12 or 6x17 back.
    Of course there are other wonderful options, but most them will cost you a fortune.
    I`d avoid large format cameras with focusing screens that need to be removed to install the roll film back (usually most large format cameras). These reducing backs are a pain to use, on mine this backs almost never fit as perfectly as I`d like (I use Linhof and Canham 4x5"s and Wista 5x7 and 8x10" cameras).
    I were buying a new "landscape camera" in medium format, my favourite could be a Ebony non-folding 2x3 model, probably the SW23 or even the 23S.
  26. I'll swear by my Pentax 67 with the 75mm perspective correcting lens. Gives you the PC of a large format without the hassle. The combo will costs about a grand so you'll have room left over for a nice tele.
  27. The choice of 645 seems to me an excellent first step up in format, you'll probably get to use it more as it will be quick to set up and work under more adverse conditions. The best 645 wide angle lenses tend to have higher resolving power than larger formats, leveling the differences in film size as you're at the threshold of lens-limited and not film-limited resolution. Ektar 100 renders film-grain questions moot. If you scan at 4000K+ dpi resolution, native 645 resolution even before interpolation will be more than adequate for 20x24 prints.
    I have the Pentax 645N and manual-focus 35mm f/3.5 lens, bought used but separately for under $700 on eBay last year. What makes the Pentax so appealling is that the matrix and spot metering and winder are all integrated to the body. The lack of film insert interchange mid-roll isn't too big an issue with 120/16 exposures. When pre-loaded these are very quick to swap out in the field, one handed, as they have a really slick quarter-turn latch mechanism.
    Just got back last night from the Sierra where it dumped 2 feet of powder snow on the Pacific Crest Trail. The P645N in a Lowe TLZ2 pack on a Think-Tank belt is my go-to camera in such conditions. I also took my 4x5 gear on this trip, but didn't get to use it due to the wind and the weather.
  28. Cody-
    I have a near mint Fuji GW 670 III (the most recent, but discontinued after about 2000 or so) with very low number of shutter clicks and well maintained, which is looking for a home. Not cheap used ($750), but very high quality to price ratio. If you want 6x9 instead of 6x7, they also made a GW and GSW 690 III (the GW cameras have a 90mm f3.5 lens, the GSW, a 65mm f5.6 lens). Manual cameras, but landscape work often benefits from separate exposure metering.
  29. There is just too much choice. I used a Fuji GW670III and a Fuji GS645S on my trip last summer to Ladakh and the quality of the images is simply superb. These cameras are not too heavy to carry for long distances.
    If digital in the future is not necessary, there is a cheap solution: a Crown Graphic 4x5 camera. I know, you did not want to go the large format path. However, get a camera with a graflock back and you can use all kind of roll film holders, from 6x6 up to 6x12. You can probably get a camera with 3 modern (used) lenses for less then what a Hasselblad with one old lens would cost you. And should you get the desire to shoot 4x5, you already have the cameras and lenses so all you need to get are some sheet film holders. These cameras fold up very compact too.
    I recently bought one of these cameras and I wish I had done it years ago...
    Good luck with your choice,
  30. I like shooting with my shift&tilt lens WIESE-TECHNOPLAN MC 3,5/45mm on my CONTAX 645 AF with excellent results!
  31. Referring to Mac Moss's response, the Foveon sensor may be good but the SD14 and upcoming SD15 resolution are so low by today's standards.
  32. I forgot to mention that although the Mamiya 23 / Universal are excellent cameras, they offer hardly any movements and weigh a ton. Everything for this system is very old. The Fuji GX680 system is indeed an excellent camera but it weighs even more, also more than most 4x5 inch cameras while still offering "only" a 6x8 cm image.l It weighs almost 1 kg more than my Crown Graphic. The Fuji is completely electronic and is no longer made or supported by Fuji. If something breaks down, chances are that the camera can not be repaired. It is huge, bulky, not made for backpacking into the countryside but for the studio or near your car. Excellent optics but also huge.
  33. I agree with you Frank that the Mamiya 23 is a heavier than many alternatives, and offers little movement compared to other fully specified, and more expensive technical cameras, ... BUT, a great amount of landscape work can achieved without movement at all, and for many scenes, all one really needs is a modest amount of tilt to give the image an edge. I recall a photograph in Hasselblad's FORUM magazine, in an issue not long after the release of the FlexBody. It really held my attention, having the feel of large-format about it. From the middle foreground right up to the camera was a spread of wildflowers, rendered so beautifully, I do not think it could have been created better with anything more sophisticated than what the photographer used: FlexBody, 50mm Distagon > with a few degrees of tilt. I have not handled the Mamiya 23 Super, but looking at available images, I find it very desirable, especially with a 6x9 negative.
    I will again come back to one of my favourite gems of advice from Jonathan Eastland, author of the Leica M and R Compendiums, "If you can't dig any deeper into your pocket, dig deep into your imagination." (... in reference to which lenses to buy.)
  34. That suggestion of the Ebony 23 is interesting. I had a Pentax 67II for landscape stuff and I loved it. Great quality, portable enough and it was reliable. Then I moved to LF. Got an Ebony 45S customised. It was everything I had hoped for. It was about the same weight if not lighter than my P67II, it didn't need such a beefy tripod, it had movements, it didn't require much more time to set up compared to the P67... Overall, there was not much gained in taking the P67II over the Ebony in a landscape situation.
    The Ebony 23 is an interesting choice because it is basically a scaled down LF camera. It still has the same workflow but it is tiny. Reading your post, you seem to have a desire to move to LF sometime in the future. I would personally say just go straight to LF and not waste time with MF but if you really want MF, then it makes sense to get something that can add to your learning experience with LF... and that would be where the Ebony 23 comes in :)
    Downsides are that when you do go to LF, you will be stuck with an obsolete camera. If you get a common MF camera like a P67 and the like then you will at least have a camera that you could use for other things like street photography etc. The Ebony 23 is not really very conductive to hand held work and speedy shots. Also Ebonys are expensive! You could easily blow your budget with the camera and a single lens. However resale value is high.
    If you decide to go with a normal MF camera then I would recommend the P67(II). I was in a similar situation to you when I was looking for a camera. I wanted an upgrade from my 135 kit and I was open to all suggestions. As a landscape camera the P67 has the other choices beat because it is portable, has a large film area, has a great selection of accessories and is cheap! 6x6 is good if you like squares otherwise you need to crop. My sister has a Bronica SQA and she finds the square annoying. When I need square I just crop from 6x7. 645 is nice and compact but I find it a bit too small. Great quality work can be done but I personally find it a bit lacking. BTW, the Pentax 645 is probably the most popular landscape film camera here in Japan. Larger formats like 6x9 etc are limited in their lens choice and they can get pretty huge (i.e. the Fuji 680 mentioned above!). Folders and rangefinders are just too limiting as a single camera for serious landscape photography with filters etc. As a secondary camera for those special occasions they are great but not as your one and only do-it-all camera. That leaves the 6x7 format and specifically SLR designs. Of all the 6x7 choices, the P67 and Mamiya RB/RZ67 stand out. However the Mamiya is freakin HUGE! Its much heavier than the P67 and the ergonomics aren't up to the P67s "135 SLR on steroids" handling. One thing the Mamiya has over the P67 is film backs. However 10 shots is not very many and I find that you only really need 2 films at most, i.e. a colour and B+W film. So, carry 2 cameras or just learn to look at what you want to photograph before you load the film. Shutter shake/mirror slap are a minor problem. Get a decent tripod and you will be fine. More important than the tripod though is the head and how you connect it to your camera. Make sure you get a good solid head and decent quick release system. I had the Pentax QR plate system and it was OK but it rotated slightly on the tripod head due to a rubber pad that was supposed to prevent rotation, but it actually reduced stiffness. Another problem was that the QR lever screw decided to gradually work its way loose which could have been catastrophic. I now use an Arca Swiss head with the RRS plates. That combo is not going to move/creep ever. Solid as a rock.
    Anyway, I personally recommend you go straight to LF but if you really want MF then get a P67II.
  35. Have the Mamiya Universal. Never thought of it has super heavy. Also, there have been those that have modified it to make negs as long as Polaroid pack film. 4x5x6x12.htm
    also, have heard from some who had the pentax 67 on the internet. they said using it in vertical mode was a pain.
  36. If you don't need movements then a Mamiya RB/RZ or a Bronica GS-1 will work. I actually use the GS-1 mostly hand held with a plain prism finder and a Speed Grip. This is heavy but it works. A Mamiya RB/RZ is much more difficult to use hand held.
  37. Re: Foveon. Yes, the SD14 and upcoming SD15 yield native 4.5 Mp photos. One step up during raw processing to about 9Mp results in almost imperceptible slight degradation.

    If you are of the 'more megapixels = more resolution" school, then you probably shouldn't be looking at the very serious, very high quality analog cameras being mentioned here anyway.

    I am reminded of a few things:

    1. In my early film days, I thought fine grain = more resolution, and used slow films with diluted Microdol. It was quite a revelation to find out how wrong that was.

    2. In teaching Photoshop, I used to project 1.2 Mp landscape images wall-sized as part of the opening and closing of the class, derived from LF images. Students kept marveling at the quality of the images. It was a dramatic demonstration of how much the fidelity of the numbers is so much more important than how many numbers there are.

    3. In very practical terms, the quality versus quantity issue needs to be balanced against the intended output. If the output is online images, then the SD14 etc. are absolutely superior. Prints up to about what I do (13x19 inches) are fine (just barely). Bigger than that, use LF with drum scans, or any one of the many fine cameras discussed here. As an aside, my main system is 12.8 Mp Canon 5D, which might yield more individual eyelash detail, but can't hold a candle to the overall image quality of the Foveons.
  38. Once again thanks for all the advice. Another question i have since i am once again considering large format cameras is will my tripod handle any possible large format cameras even though it is not indicated on the manual?
    I have a Manfrotto 055xprob with a 460mg three way head.
  39. I have both a Tachihara Cherry and Toyo 45CF. There is a big difference between 4x5 versus larger LF (4x5 is a lot easier to work with), between field cameras versus the big rigs, between lightweight materials (e.g. either the Cherry or carbon fiber above) versus the heavier weight (e.g. the Arca or Ebony).

    I don't know your specific tripod, but all the above play into that. Also you have to factor in the portability of LF gear plus accessories plus tripod versus your age, weight, health, and strength.

    Also, be prepared for VERY long exposures if you shoot LF at small apertures. That is why people get very fussy about tripod quality. That can be especially difficult if you are shooting foliage e.g. East of the Mississippi (like here in NC). If I am elected president, I will pass a law forbidding foliage from blowing in the wind when being visualized by LF gear.

    None of this is to disparage LF, which I love. There are complications like the above, but the image quality potential is fabulous, and it also makes you change the way you think.
  40. I ended up getting a Toyo 45cx with a Redenstock 1500mm lens

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