Medium format camera suggestions...need advice

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by alfredo_perez, Sep 22, 2014.

  1. I am looking to enter in the medium format B&W world; I have been shooting 35 mm SLR for quite some time. I am interested in 6x7 format and I know what I mostly do street photography (travel), classical music concerts (indoor activities in general) and some landscapes. It seems that the preferred system would be a rangefinder or SLR (such as Pentax 67, or Fuji), but it caught my attention the SLR waist finder systems such as Mamiya RZ-67, RB-67 or Bronica GS-1, but all looks pretty big and heavy. I know camera advice is very subjective but I would greatly appreciate any comments. Also does anyone know a link or have a photo where I can see side-by-side size images of the aforementioned cameras so I can get a good size idea
  2. The SLRs can be rather noisy in operation (or very much so, if you choose a Pentax 67) - something to
    bear in mind at a concert. Having said that, if waist-level finders are your thing then take a good look at
    the 6x7 Mamiyas as they offer rotating backs that will allow changes of orientation without having to tip
    the camera over.
  3. All the 6x7 cameras tend to be bulky and heavy. The RB/RZ 67s a little more so due to the revolving back. I think the smallest 6x7 SLR would be the Bronica GS-1, although it's long out of production, and many questioned its reliability.
    The Pentax 67 is bulky, but not overly so considering the format, and it handles much like a 35mm/digital SLR. Lenses are generally good to excellent, especially the latest versions. The metering system on the 67II is unbelievably accurate. I religiously bracketed exposures with mine until I discovered that the best exposure was nearly always the first one. A lot of people complain about mirror slap, but it's not that much of an issue in reality. Another frequent complaint is difficulty in loading film, but with a small amount of practice it's nowhere near the chore that some would have you believe.
    RB/RZ 67s aren't the best for field work, although I've seen some really nice landscape/nature work, and done some myself for that matter, with them. Check out Jim Zuckerman's work. He used to use the RZ system but I think he's since converted to digital.
    If you're somewhere where you could borrow/rent before you buy it'd be very helpful, but it's not always possible.
    Any of the 67 cameras are very capable as it was a professional format used by many studio photographers so reliability and good glass are pretty much a given.
    Only you can decide whether an SLR or rangefinder best suits your subjects and personal preferences.
    I'm sure that you'll get lots of good advice and many will point out considerations I've not thought of, so keep checking back. This forum is absolutely awesome.
    Good luck and remember it's never about the camera, "it's about where you set the tripod and where you put the edges"...I think I stole that from Mark Citret.
  4. I just re-read your original post, I had missed the classic music concert part and unless you limit yourself to only the 1812 Overture I wouldn't recommend the Pentax 67 for concerts. For concert work the Mamiya 7 rangefinder would be my first choice if the lens restrictions would work for your situation.
  5. Guys I am new to the forum but I have read tons of post in in other forum....first let me thanks for your kindness in taking time to respond with such insightful knowledge. I have to clarify something, I shoot Classical Music Concerts for several organizations with my DSLR (due to the noise and practicality), however I take artistic shots during rehearsal and practice room with my film, so noise is not an issue in his dimension...the constraint is low light some times. My main concern is that due to my limit budget now, I can afford only one camera for all my purposes and the size of the waist level is a concern and the RZ-67 seems huge! ...Cheers
  6. Just wondering why you're wanting to shoot film in low light? Unless you're planning on shooting everything on a tripod with long exposures, a dslr will give you much better results, especially the new ones that are good at iso 3200 and up.
    But if you do want to shoot film then I would also recommend you look at the Koni-Omega. It's a 6x7 rangefinder with very good lenses (and has the best MF rangefinder ever made) that can be had with the 90mm for around $200. The M, 100 and 200 versions are best, with the M and 200 having interchangeable backs. It also has a 58mm, 135m and 180mm lenses as well. But like all used equipment it can have its problems, so try to find one that someone has gone over to make sure it works properly.
    Of course, if money were no object the Mamiya 7 is certainly the best, but may be out of your price range.
  7. I have to admit the Rapid Omega is a great camera, quiet and with some razor sharp lenses available. Having said that I bought an RB67 Pro S set up earlier this summer. I've always enjoyed it and while a big heavy thing it works just fine outside the studio. KEH has excellent prices on all of the components.
    Rick H.
  8. Have you looked at a Mamiya 7, a 6x7 rangefinder. They are much smaller than 6x7 SLR cameras, and the lenses are unsurpassed in sharpness. KEH has several used bodies, and a wide variety of lenses. Since the shutter is in the lens, they are quiet. As a rangefinder, it is designed to be used at eye level, and might be suitable for street photography. The Mamya 7 is very nice for landscapes, and not to big and heavy to lug around. Unfortunately, there is no path to digital for this camera.
    Besides being huge, medium format cameras are typically slow. A few lenses are f/2.8 or faster, but most are f/4 or slower. Unless you choose a very fast B&W film, you will end up shooting indoors at at ISO 400 and 1/15 second or so. That's okay for classical concerts if you use a tripod and your timing is good, but don't count on any one shot being free from motion blur. Medium format is also expensive, both to buy and to feed (with film).
    I took some concert shots with an Hasselblad this Spring, and got called on the carpet for the shutter noise. Unless you can get well off stage, behind curtains or glass, the music had better be LOUD. At least I have a sound-dampening sleeve for my Nikon DSLR, which helps but does not eliminate camera noise.
  9. Thanks...well the classical
    concert aspect may have created a
    confusion, I dont shot w film
    during performances, I use my
    dslr. What I do is take portraits
    of musician steady or staged for
    the photo

    The mamiya 7 is prob a little
    eexpnsive at this moment however
    I think this is tge camera that
    fits my needs.

    Question how big are the mamiya
    rb-rz 67 compare to a bronica gs-

  10. The Omega Rapid is one of my favorite cameras. But its advance mechanism sounds much like a very loud chambering of a round in a big weapon of some kind. It is fast, but best not used around nervous security people, I suspect.
    The rangefinder is also good for low light and is fast,
    but the lenses are a little hard to find, fairly costly still, and not very fast apertures. Great, however, for sure.
    For quiet and quality, a good quality 6cm TLR with a f/2.8 lens would be good, quiet, and a little hard to follow lateral action, which is probably not relevant in your case. The old Mamiyas had interchangeable lenses, but i have never used one. Many of the great portrait photographers used TLRs.
  11. I have a Pentax 67II, and totally love this camera, but I never entertained the thought of roaming the streets with it. Never. The Pentax 67 belongs on a Tripod, in the field. Trust me. Ha!
  12. If you want 6x7 as you say and given the type of shooting you want to do with it, I would ditto what Edward Ingold said. The Mamiya 7 seems to fit your bill perfectly. It's light, yet sturdy, with really sharp glass and it is very quiet. I've used it on the street many times. A great camera and readily available. KEH seems to be the best source for them. I bought mine there.
  13. david_henderson


    I don't know what you mean by "street photography". If its generalised travel stuff that's as likely to be architecture as people, that's one thing. If its fast, spontaneous, informal, people photography then that's different.
    If the latter I'm not convinced that moving from a "35mm" camera whether film or dslr is going to make your task easier or the results a lot better. The issues I'd be concerned about are weight, speed of operation, speed and sophistication of metering, and depth of field. Its not generally the case that people who photograph people on the street require big prints. And for rangefinders, there are some who can focus quickly and accurately and others who just find it more difficult. I had a Mamiya 7ii for a decade and used it as a landscape and travel camera in situations where my MF SLR wasn't going to get me what I needed.
    Volume is another consideration. I save more that £5 000 pa now because I switched from film MF to a FF dslr a few years ago. So not so bad if you just shoot a few rolls of film here and there, but once you get into the hundreds of rolls its a real issue for someone who claims budget restriction. In short I'm not sure that you don't already have the best tool for the job.
  14. Thanks all...I am narrowing my
    search and I must say I
    understand all the implications
    and limitations. My intention is
    to enter and learn medium format
    and for sure I will be shooting
    with my initial step I
    would like to take with me to my
    business travels so I can
    experiment so David you are
    right weight is a consideration.
  15. I really urge you to take a close look at Fujifilm GF670. This is a light, compact, solid built and ergonomically friendly camera. When it’s folded it easily can fit inside my Kelvin Klein winter jacket. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that 6x7 camera can be that light and compact. It’s a dual format camera: 6x7 and 6x6, with bright and crisp viewfinder, deadly accurate metering and sharp optics. Much much better that Mamiya 6 which I used to have (I guess that Mamiya 7 is same as M6 but bigger). It’s good for travel and some “landscaping”. This is a pretty versatile camera. Not sure about classical music concerts. Never shot it. I guess for this purpose you might need Contax 645 with Sonnar 210mm or 350mm Tele Apotessar.
  16. Roman I checked the fuji GF670
    and thinks thats the way to budget is tight but I
    think o can afford it. Now those
    waist slr are interesting for me
    to explore they look cool and fun
    to learn maybe I will get a
    mamiya system later. I have a
    question though ...those anyone
    have experience with waist slr
    like rz67 using a digital and
    back adapter? Does it worth
    investing on an rz system waiting
    for digital back to drop in price
    in the future? Also considering
    rz prices are affordable
    now...thanks all...cheera
  17. If I were looking for a compact fixed lens medium format camera, I would give the GF670 a good look. The glass is impeccably sharp and it's virtually compact. However, I have noted that it feels delicate, almost fragile in the hands. My friend's camera needed to be repaired. It appeared to me there was a jammed interlock. The price is steep for what it is and I expect a large depreciation on these. Older 6x7 Fuji folder cameras like this can be bought for a fraction of the price, with little or no difference in optical performance.
    Slightly larger but still small for a medium format camera is a Rolleiflex. These are fixed lens 6x6, very rugged, fast glass (2.8/80mm), and hold their resale value. Lenses are by Zeiss or Schneider. The original screens are dark but provide excellent contrast for critical focus. I use mine for night photography without a problem. It's great for candid photos because most people don't realize you are looking through a camera. If you buy one from an auction site, only bid on auctions with a return policy. I went through three examples before finding one that worked as advertised. These are rugged, metal geared cameras with precision parts. A good example should last you a lifetime. There are only a few cameras that I am passionately enthusiastic about: Leica III-series, Leica M6 'Wetzlar', and the Rolleiflex 2.8c and 2.8d. Image examples
    The Yashica Mat 124g (3.8/80mm) is a lighter, less robust, budget alternative to a Rolleiflex. These are so inexpensive they are almost disposable should it need repair. Mine has worked flawlessly. Don't let the low price or less-than-German workmanship put you off of this camera: the lens is incredibly sharp, it's light weight, and the screen is bright. The Bay I accessories are cheaper than the Bay III accessories of the 2.8 Rolleiflex line. This camera has an avid following, less because of collect-ability, but because it's such a bargain. Image examples
    Both the Rolleiflex and Yashica Mat 124G will fit into a rangefinder bag with room to spare. Both have near-focus options that I use extensively.
    Lastly, the Mamiya 7ii rangefinder has interchangeable lenses, slow but laser sharp optics, 6x7 negs, and a reasonable size. A bag with camera, two lenses, filters, and extra film will be about the size of a typical SLR/DSLR bag. This camera is ideal for going on a shoot with one lens as a bag makes this a haul, in my opinion. The rangefinder patch is bright, and while the rubber and plastic parts do not inspire confidence, it feels more rugged than the GF670. The optics are legendarily sharp. I personally care more about lens character than sharpness, but the Mamiya 7 glass made me take notice. I have been gobsmacked by what it can render. I've been able to read street numbers on signs a mile away from a photo taken with wide angle lens! People complain about difficulty focusing the 150mm lens but I have never experienced this. Resale on these has stabilized so you stand a good chance of recouping your expense. Image examples
    All of these cameras use leaf shutters and are quiet. On timer, I frequently place my ear next to these cameras to make sure they have fired before moving them. I don't think you can go wrong with these cameras or even others I haven't mentioned. To me, the greatest consideration among these cameras is value. All of them have great optics and portability.
  18. @Jim T...thanks so much for your comprehensive analysis and suggestions, definitely more to think but great !...cheers
  19. Alfredo,
    Once you get used to the weight of the Mamiya RB67, you might find that this is the best camera ever. Trust me, i own two, as well as a Mamiya C330 TLR and a ultra-light Ricoh TLR. The one that gets used the most is the RB67, and i use it out in the streets. I'm considering buying a third RB... Yes, i like it so much.
    It is actually a very comfortable camera to handhold, and particularly stable to handhold. Because of this, and because of practically no vibrations (it has a mirror de-acceleration mechanism), you can actually get usable shots at 1/8s shutter speed with no problem at all. Which increases the versatility. Regarding camera vibrations the RB67 is very superior to the Pentax 67 and to the Hasselblad 500C cameras. Vertical shots are more comfortable than any camera i own including the DSLRs with a vertical grip. This because the camera never needs to be rotated. It allows using 6x4.5 format with the optional, inexpensive, film back, which opens up a world of possibilities. The lenses are cheap and extremely sharp and the results using NEOPAN ACROS 100 film resemble results from 4x5" format, no kidding.
    So don't be put off by the weight or size; once you fit one with a waist level finder and the 90mm (or 127mm) lens, and a good "quick-lock" strap, you'll find it easy to use on the street.
    In comparison, the lighter TLRs are not so easy to hold steady, particularly if they're small like a Rolleicord, needing a tripod for sub-1/30s speeds, which means added weight. The C330 gets steady once i add the lateral grip, but then the weight gets a bit close to the weight of the RB67. Plus i find the RB67 viewfinder a bit better for focusing. Still, the C330/C220/C33/C22 are great cameras and if you can find one in good shape with the 65, 80, or 105mm lens, grab it one quick, you won't be dissapointed. Leave the Rolleiflexes to the collectors!!
  20. @Flavio...thanks so much Iam
    really interested on those waist
    level machines. Question how
    small is the rb67 compare to
    rz67? My concern besides weight
    is the 6x6 format I dont see the
    world square...other question
    ...can u install a digital back
    and adapter down the
    road?...thanks so much
  21. @Flavio...oppps sorry I mixed the rb 67 with mamiya 6 sorry rb 67 is 6x7 cheers
  22. Flavio sorry I mixed the rb67
    with mamiya 6...rb67 is
    6x7...sorry for my
  23. Alfredo,

    I don't know if you want to compare the RB67 to the RZ67 or the RB67 to the Mamiya 6 or Mamiya 7. But let's do both comparisons:
    As you know the Mamiya 6 and Mamiya 7 are rangefinders, much lighter and smaller. With perfect optical quality (although you'll never find a bad lens in any half-decent medium format system). But they are considerably more expensive. And they are rangefinders, so they can't show you the actual perspective and depth of field effects.
    The RZ67 is supposed to be lighter than the RB, but it's an electronic machine, and some people don't like electronics on their cameras. The electronics are there for controlling the shutter on the RZ-specific lenses. However, the RZ can use the lenses of the RB as well, with their mechanical shutters.
    As for digital backs, digital backs are so expensive than the camera body cost is a minor consideration. If you want to go digital, a Nikon D800 is cheaper than most digital MF systems...
  24. Flavio Is the rb67 around 5
    pounds?...still concern about the
    weight...what do u think about
    bronica gs-1?
  25. Alfredo,
    2650 grams with the 127/3.8 lens, waist level finder, and film back.
    You should actually try using the camera (with a quick-lock strap, the ones that attach to the tripod body) in order to assess weight. It is definitely lighter than carrying a FF DSLR with a 17-35/2.8 and a 80-200/2.8 like some journalists happily do these days:
    Nikon D800 + Nikkor 80-200/2.8 AF-s = 2380 gram.
    + the 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S = 3125 gram.
    In any case if you are very concerned with weight, perhaps Medium Format is not the best choice, unless you can buy a Mamiya 7 or Mamiya 6, or you feel OK with a Rolleicord, or a folder camera. Or an Agfa Isola II which is probably the lightest medium format camera.
    I have no experience with any Bronica camera so far.
  26. Thanks Flavio...thats about 5 pounds...I like the camera very much I will start watching on ebay all options...Cheers
  27. There's a lot of great advice that's been provided. As you can tell, there's no such thing as a perfect camera. There are limitations to every system.
    Some medium format systems were designed, primarily, to be used on a tripod in a studio. Without naming names, these tend to be the heavier/larger cameras. The RB/RZ67 are great cameras with stellar lenses, but you can read between the lines. The Mamiya C330 has interchangeable lenses but is heavy. I've seen great photos from the Mamiya C330 but after playing with one I decided it would be too heavy to carry in the field (albeit, I typically carry 2-3 cameras at a time).
    My concern besides weight is the 6x6 format I dont see the world square​
    I thought the same thing but it's been a revelation to shoot square. It's also worth noting that 6x7 is virtually square. It kind of bugged me at first but allowed me to ease into 6x6. Here's a recent thread on how odd 6x7 is: 6x7 is weird isn't it?. Some folks disagree of course.
    Size matters: obviously, a larger negative matters but the size of the camera matters also. You're more likely to bring with you a camera of reasonable size and weight. This is why I advocate TLRs and the Mamiya 6/7. It's good to make sure you are comfortable with these camera sizes before going bigger. Well, that's always been by approach.
    [Note: I originally posted this in the wrong thread, though both apply.]
  28. Regarding the RZ67 vs Bronica GS-1 weight comparison:
    While both are, spec-wise, nearly identical (6x7 SLRs), their handling is dramatically different. The Bronica feels so much lighter and is a joy to carry around. Not so with the RZ, but not because of the larger size and weight: it may sound silly, but I think the strap lugs are responsible for the RZ's worse posture while walking around.
    Tomorrow, I'll post some pictures to illustrate that.
    Don't get me wrong, though. I like them both very much, it's just that the GS-1 is remarkably more compact in actual use.
    Hope this helps.
  29. @jim and @xenophon thanks so
    much...i will continue the search
    great info...cheers
  30. Regarding Xenophon's post concerning the RZ strap lugs:
    I carry my RB using a strap which attaches to the tripod mount (i.e. "quick-lok"). So the camera gets carried from its center of gravity and can pivot freely as needed. I agree with Xenophon: Using the standard camera straps on the RB or RZ will be uncomfortable. But with the strap i use, it gets easy to carry.
  31. @Flavio...what strapped do you use? specific brand? for my DSLR-Shoulder-Tripod quick release I use one that I love ...made by PeakDesign but I dont think this will work for this types of camera...insert an image if you can...cheers and thanks
  32. @xenophon...any chance to post the photo of the RZ and the strap...I am making a decision shortly...cheers
  33. However, I have noted that it feels delicate, almost fragile in the hands.
    Jim, GF670 indeed is much more durable than it feels. Once I was shooting waterfall staying on bare rocks under spitting rain. Being clumsy I didn’t attach the quick release plate properly. While maneuvering with the camera the plate got snapped off the head. I wasn’t able to catch the camera and it landed right on the rocks, some of them were quite sharp. I inspected the camera: a couple good scratches, no dents. The only “serious” damage was a broken tip of release cable stuck in the socket. On next day I spoiled a roll just to verify the rangefinder alignment. Everything was just perfect. So the total cost of this terrible accident was $15 for a new release cable. From my personal experience I can claim that GF670 is quite robust and well-built machine. I believe that this camera is a must for everybody who’s traveling and wants to get it light.
  34. Roman, it's great to hear feedback from the field regarding the GF670. It's a brilliant camera. The Mamiya 7ii has a cheap plastic feel to it but it's proven to be robust. I handled a Fuji X100 last weekend and noted that it didn't feel solid to me. I then checked myself for thinking that it wasn't solid. Yeah, it's never going to be as solid as my Leica IIIc, Leica M6, Nikon F, or Rolleiflex. I've been spoiled. ;-)
  35. Well I bought a Fuji GW690III to start, I think this camera will be a good jump start and I will definitely look into a SLR down the road...Guys thanks so much for such great comments and advise I learn a lot before even taking my first shot. Cheers
  36. Alfredo,
    What i use is a simple made-in-china thing identical to this one:
    Now, back on topic, if you REALLY are concerned with weight, your best option is a Rolleicord with a Xenar lens, say a Va or Vb model. It is extremely light and the lens is very sharp at all apertures, the shutter speed/aperture is really quick to set, and the viewfinder has parallax correction. Almost a perfect camera and i'd say it's a bit more practical camera to use outside than a Rolleiflex. However, i often leave the Rolleicord at home and carry the Mamiya C330 with me, because for me the C330 is still light enough, and i can handhold it in a more stable way. Plus it has interchangeable lenses, of course.
  37. I have used a Bronica GS-1. It is a nice camera. Much lighter than RB/RZ, it can be handheld, there is even a rapid grip for it, and comes with some very sharp and contrasted lenses which are of a late computer design. They are no fast lenses however. The whole operation of loading films and back swapping is a bit tricky at first, but once the method is acquired it's not a problem. At the time, new lenses were very expensive and I had a Pentax 67 opportunity. I kept the GS-1 for the studio, and used the Pentax outside.

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