medium format cameras

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by jonnymiller, May 18, 2009.

  1. Hi guys,
    Im gonna be traveling around india and i'm looking for a medium format camera that gives off very artistic shots without giving the wallet to much of a beating. Any recommendations for a camara that can produce really rich and colourful pics would b greatly appreciated.
  2. Why a medium format camera should give you "very artistic" and "colourful" shots ? Medium format cameras are not that easy to operate, colour film needs careful exposing and development, scanning, etc... I would say, just get as good a DSLR as you can afford and be done with it - if you want to exaggerate, instead of the usual cheap zoom try to get a decent prime lens. That is it.
  3. It depends on what you mean by "very artistic shots". Some people consider images made with a Holga very artistic, and that will set you back about US$25.00 or so for 6x6 images. Regardless, the artistry is going to come from you, not your camera.
    Rich and colourful pictures will be had with any number of films and will depend less on the camera itself. Velvia is going to give you super saturated colors in chromes, Portra VC (in various speeds) will give you great prints.
    As you're going to be traveling, I think you need to consider the size and weight of the camera. An old TLR will be light and relatively cheap now: Yashica D or later, or a Mamiya C220. A Mamiya 645 may fit the bill, though a Mamiya 6 or 7 may be out of your budget. Bronica ETRSi may be an alternative as well. Stay away from Seagull.
  4. Med format options include slrs, rangefinders, and tlrs and the format includes 6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7, 6x9 and so on. A used Bronica RF 6x4.5 rangefinder with a 65/f4 lens would be a very nice lightweight item. If you want a used slr, options include Hasselblad, Pentax, Bronica, Contax, & Mamiya. Rich and colorful pics are the result of operator talent and technique more than hardware. It's the carpenter, not the hammer IMO.
    Henry Posner
    B&H Photo-Video
  5. I like my Mamiya 7 II - it's compact and light and it produces a nice 67 neg. But there are limitations, such as close focus that isn't very close. In addition, MF isn't great for low light because you'll need to stop down to get enough DOF.
    A nice 645 SLR is versatile and not very expensive. The Bronica ETRSi suggested above has leaf shutter lenes that flash sync at all speeds. Or you could go with 6x6. A TLR is a good compact choice for travel.
  6. If you really believe that it's the camera that makes the pictures "colourful", "artistic" and "really rich" you are bound to fail with whatever camera you buy.
    Better get a good, non-entry-level dSLR with a couple of prime lenses and learn photography while traveling scenic India.
  7. It looks as if some folks want to push you to digital. Ignore them and buy what you want to use.
  8. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    Is the trip about photography or about the traveling? I leave the Hasselblad at home if it's about travelling, especially if it's traveling with other people or visiting people who aren't photography people. Shooting with a camera that doesn't have a meter is going to be slower than shooting with a modern SLR/DSLR with TTL matrix metering. Shooting film requires dealing with rolls of film while in transit.
    I'm with the people who suggest a TLR, but preferably one of the later models with a working meter, but without some prior experience with a film camera, using a TLR or any cheaper medium format camera isn't like shooting with an automatic everything DSLR.
  9. You didn't say what you budget was.
    You didn't say how much you know about photography (can you use a handheld lightmeter?).
    You didn say if you will be taking B&W, colour negatives, or colour slides.
    You didn't say what your subjects would be.
    You didn't say how the pictures would be displayed: projected slides, large prints on the wall, medium prints in an album, small prints in a album, or just viewed on a computer screen.
    You didn't define what " off very artistic shots without giving the wallet to much of a beating..." means
    So how are we to help you find a camera?
  10. stp


    If I were in your shoes, I'd get a Pentax 645N (or NII) and some lenses to go with it. Relatively inexpensive, intuitive, operates much like a 35mm SLR, great glass, and an all-around good value. Your choice of film will be important; you need to investigate the pros and cons of various films. The artistic output will come from you. The color will come from your film and from your post-processing (assuming you will scan to have digital images).
  11. Have quite a few MF cameras. Folders, TLRs, Mamiya RB, and a Mamiya Universal. But, for traveling, bought a Mamiya 645 Pro. About the size of a DSLR, takes 15 photos. And, can be used with a metered prism finder.
  12. The only really portable MF cameras are the 6x4.5 systems. Of these Mamaya and Pentax are the cheapest - Mamiya being the more readily available of the two. You may also want to consider Bronica which is also cheap. Either of these with a metering prism offers SLR ease of use and is not too much bigger. Lenses for both are fairly reasonable. Your other option is to go with a TLR (again Mamiya is a good bet) or a rangefinder (mamiya or Bronica)
  13. You can't go by format alone, and deem the smallest format the most portable.
    The old Mamiya 645, for instance, is actually bigger than some 6x6 cameras.
    And if you add the prism you need to shoot verticals ...
    So do also take a look at the cameras and see which one ticks all the boxes.
  14. Invest a hundred bucks in any postwar Rolleicord in decent condition. Burn a dozen rolls of film, and after that you'll know what you really need.
  15. Unless you have a real desire shooting film etc .. I would just get a compact dSLR and a kit lens and be done with it, a all in one automatic camera while on holiday.
    What is the difference if you shoot the same settings on both camera ... they both are gonna be rich and powerful. If you do it wrong they both are gonna be crap. Don't forget with film you have no histogram. The best advice I have is really surf sites and read books about India and see what sort of pictures you like to shoot, what angle to point towards,where to stand, what lens to use, what time of day to use, what light is there from the sky etc etc....
  16. Hasselblad 500C or CM with 2.8/80 lens and a meterknob, or a small Sekonic or Gossen light meter. A12 back and standard waist level finder. Has been a workhorse for about 50 years now. Cannot go wrong with that.
  17. Thankyou for all your suggestions guys. I think i'm gonna do some research on the mamiya 645. I've just had a mamiyaflex model c2 TLR given to me as a gift a few days ago so i think i'll burn a few rolls of film and see how they come out. Thanks again to all
  18. Thankyou for all your suggestions guys. I think i'm gonna do some research on the mamiya 645. I've just had a mamiyaflex model c2 TLR given to me as a gift a few days ago so i think i'll burn a few rolls of film and see how they come out. Thanks again to all
  19. I would tend to agree with Mr. Posner above - Medium format options include a wide variety of types. What size Image do you ultimately want? Digital or Film? There are (IMHO) a number of questions only YOU can answer that will greatly assist you in your choices.
    This site is a great resource for your search - but you need to know what you want. Photos that have impact are the result of a combination of operator talent and technique much more so than the equipment used to capture the image. It's the carpenter, not the hammer. hI have seen impactful photos from an Instamatic 104 - and I have seen bland images from a Hasselblad - so get on out there and use your imagination and vision (never an included feature in ANY Camera). Happy shooting!!
  20. You can pick up MF cameras cheaply now. The old Rolleiflex 3.5F and 2.8F TLRs give amazing results and the meters are perfectly reliable but they are rising in price now. They are also light and very easy to use but cause much interest to onlookers so not a street camera. I have had a Rollei 6008 (bulky and very heavy), a Bronica 645 (great and easy to handle) and a couple of Rolleiflex TLRs of which I have kept one as I love it. However, if you want MF quality without film hassle get a Sony A900 DSLR. The IQ is stupendous and rather better in my experience than MF. It'll cost you more though, particularly as you'll need high quality lenses to cover the FF format.
  21. I can vouch for the Mamiya 645 Pro TL. It is a good film camera, although a hefty camera, it is still very portable. You can find used ones on ebay fairly reasonable, the mamiya lenses are very sharp and are a great deal, especially the medium range prime lenses, they're cheap and fast 2.8 lenses.
  22. i think the fuji gw690 range would answer your question very well. amAzing price-to-quality ratio - and very lightweight, too. only eight shots on a roll of 120, but it will Definitely give you 'rich and colourful' results!
  23. Go to eBay or craigslist.
    Look for TLR - twin lens reflex cameras. When it comes to Rolleis, make sure the seller has used it in the last few months. Rolleis have a problem with their shutters freezing up if they're not used often. Repairing it will cost around $250.
    The Sears TLRs were built in Germany. I think they stopped selling them in the 60s. You can get them for under $50.
    Unless you find other lenses, you'll be stuck with the 75mm that's built into them.
  24. Think about portability as well. There are medium format rangefinders that are quite good and you can snap in p&s mode as well as manually. Look at the Fuji ones to start with, on the used market they're $500-600 for a zoom lens version in great shape. Optically they're not as crisp as the 'Blad optics, but they're nothing to turn up your nose at, either. I'd probably have brought my Fuji 645zi with me to Vietnam if I'd had it then, in addition to my dSLR. It doesn't take up much room and it would have been great for street photography there, and for some nature/landscape stuff as well. Around home I take my Fuji into markets and the like, around my neck, set on wide and a best guess aperture/shutter, and run a remote cable through my shirt sleeve so I can snap pictures (candids) without people knowing. I'd have loved to do that in VN where the streets were colorful and alive but pulling out a camera seemed to make people act differently, which I wanted to avoid. That would have worked with the dSLR, too, but for street photography I like B&W pushed 2 stops for really contrasty shots, and I couldn't get that in digital.
    If you like landscapes avoid the RFs and go for a MF 'Blad or similar if you're concerned with tight control over your shooting and focus, and don't rule out LF cameras like the Chamonix 4x5 or similar. The 'Blad is really tough to go wrong with since the optics are superb. As a previous poster suggested, the 80mm CFE is simply stunning, and you could get a 50mm CF for a reasonable price (assuming you think buying a used lens for $800-1000 is reasonable, which I think is reasonable for MF).
    Most important... have fun and post pictures when you get back!
  25. I highly recommend the Minolta Autocord TLR,you can achieve the most beautiful images with this camera cost should be between 150-300$ used!!!
  26. Jonny,
    I recently started to experiment with Medium Format. I purchased a Rolleicord V for about $280. You will need a light meter, unless you are great at guessing the exposure. Purchased an old Sekonic for $95. You will also need a tripod and a Shutter Release cord, $17.
    The combined result is very nice. I am getting better at it with every roll. I am currently trying a B & W roll.
    Hope this helps.
  27. Another vote for Rolleicord or Rolleiflex. I've got one of each, from the 1950s, and although I just bought a Nikon D90 dSLR, those two old Rolleis will give it a run for its money. In daylight, the Rolleis are excellent. If I were going somewhere that charging a digital camera's battery would be a problem, I'd take a Rollei TLR instead.
    Agreed also that they're maybe not the best way to go for street shooting, as they tend to attract people who want to tell you about their dad or grandpa using one....
  28. Mamiya 6 or 7.... if you are going medium format, then be faithful to it and keep to 6x6.
  29. "Mamiya 6 or 7.... if you are going medium format, then be faithful to it and keep to 6x6."
    The Mamiya 7 is 6x7 format.
  30. if you are going medium format, then be faithful to it and keep to 6x6​
    . . . unless you want to do 6x7. If you want that in an inexpensive out-of-production camera, try the Bronica GS-1. The Mamiya 67 cameras are good, too. If you like square format (6x6), there is the SQAi in Bronica or many,many Hasselblad models . Don't forget Pentax or Rollei or. . . . Man, you have some choices to make--and some good prices on eBay.
    But for traveling? Whew! What a time to be learning medium format!
  31. Better get a good, non-entry-level dSLR with a couple of prime lenses and learn photography while traveling scenic India.​
    wouldn't that be a something like aHasselblad H series? My vote is for a Voigtlander Bessa folding camera.
  32. A holga.
  33. wouldn't that be a something like aHasselblad H series?​
    Careful, Tom. I got several postings deleted when I recommended the latest Mamiya and Hasselblad cameras as answers to the question after the "best" dSLRs (seems like only CaNik as correct). Same goes for stating the obvious -- that actual entry-level dSLR cameras are crippled "toys" that are not that suited at all for beginners who need/want to learn photography.
  34. Can't go wrong with a Mamiya 7 or Mamiya 6, a Rollei TLR or Hasselblad. My favorite medium format travel companion is the Mamiya 7II but a 2.8F Rollei or 2.8 GX Rollei TLR is hard to beat (the Mamiya gives you interchangeable lenses and the 43mm and 65mm lenses are great for travel/landscapes).
    Enjoy the trip!
  35. Hi Johnny.
    Frankly, you didn't give us much clues about your previous experience in photography ...
    So, remembering that no so long ago I was a "newbie" in MF, sincerely I don't think it's a good idea to travel with a camera you're not familiar with. The chances of do something wrong are pretty high and, probably you will not notice it before ending your trip.
    If you don't want to loose the images you will take, get a camera you already know well. If you don't have one and you haven't too much experience in photography, I suggest you a more common 35mm SLR or a dSLR. They are much more easy to use than a regular MF camera and they give more than average results, specially if you don't have plans to make big prints with your pictures.
    Then, if you want, after your trip, get yourself a TLR (Mamiya, Rollei, Yashica, Minolta, Ikoflex, etc. etc., NO SEAGULL) and try a couple of rolls. If you get infected with the MF virus, then my dear friend, you'll be in trouble. Prepare your wallet. And enjoy!
  36. It's laughable to hear DSLR suggestions for someone wanting to get into M.F.
    My vote is also for the Mamiya 7 or 7II. I wish I hadn't sold mine . . . Enjoy your trip!
  37. Mr. Miller...
    With all the anger and suspicion of photographers in today's world, why not take an old 1950s folder. They come in 6x4.5, 6x6 and 6x9 sizes. A 6x6 will get you an exposure of about 2 1/4 X 2 1/4 inches and will fold up and fit in a pocket. If you get one with a top three element lens or most four element lenses you can probably make up to 24" x 24" prints of decent quality. I've noticed much better acceptance from people who might get into the photos as well as officials when using my old folders than with modern cameras. Rather than complain, they are more likely to say "How old is it?" or "Can you still get pictures with that?" People seem less prone to think you are trying to get a cheap crotch shot or aid terrorist bombers.
    I also have a 1954 Pontiac. People smile at the car and tend to let me in traffic a lot easier when I drive it too. It will take me to all the same places that a new Mercedes will but the people along the way will treat me better in the old Pontiac. I find the same thing usually happens when I use and old style camera.
    Tom Burke
  38. Have found used Rolleis and 'blads to be pricey. Also, I never thought medium format was more difficult to learn than a 35. The Mamiya 645 with the prism finder can be used either vertically or horizontally. It's like using a 35 SLR the same way.
  39. "Don't forget with film you have no histogram."
    That's a really funny comment! Some of us know how to meter.
  40. A medium format camera will not take artistic photos.
    The person behind the camera takes artistic photos.
    I would recommend a Pentax 645 (any of them). They're decent cameras and will get you into 120 format film cheaply. My kit consists of three prime lenses and a body (645, 35mm, 75mm and 120mm). I LOVE it :)
  41. Jonny. No one can tell you what would be best for you. Everything has an upside and downside. I can only tell you what I like. You may not like the same things.
    I used a Nikon digital that I got to replace a Pentax Spotmatic. I wanted to take photographs, not photos, if you know what I mean. So I bought a Pentax 645. I now have a 45mm, 55mm, 75mm & 150mm lenses. Everything is manuel. I didn't want a rangefinder because I use a polarizer almsot all of the time, so I wanted to see thru the lens taking the photo.
    A 6x6 or 6x7 will give you very good chromes, but you will need to change film rolls quite frequently. With a 645 you can get 15/16 shots per 120 roll, almost double that on 220. Still not a lot of shots but still more than the larger formats.
    You won't go wrong with a Bronica ETRS/I, Mamiya 645 or Pentax 645. In short, do what you want.
  42. I came here just to say if you don't have enough money to buy a very good dSLR you probably get better results with a top line 35mm SLR and then I found new opinions!
    I agree with Jack Welsh that a Mamiya 645 works more or less the same way than a 35mm SLR, of course there's a big difference in cost, at least here were I live.
    So, if you have the money and you really want to do that trip with a MF camera, I think he gave you a good advice. The Mamiya 7 is probably one of the best MF cameras in the world, so if you have experience with rangefinder cameras, you will also find comfortable with it.
    But, if you don't have much experience and/or you don't have enough money to buy, let's say a Mamiya 645 Pro with meter prism and 80mm lens (around u$s 600 at ebay) or a Mamiya 7 (around u$s 2000 at ebay) for half the price of the first one you can buy, let´s say, a very decent Nikon N90 with two or three lenses.
    Again, if you don't plan to make big prints, a 35mm camera would do the job perfectly. And cheaper.
    So, again, if your budget is around u$s 300, between a mint Yashica Mat 124G or a Nikon N90, I suggest you to choose the Nikon for the trip. But if you have u$s 1000, the Mamiya 645 it's the best option, as Jack said.
    That's my modest opinion.
  43. Recently, bought a Mamiya 645 Pro, 80 2.8n lens, one film back, and a non-metered prism. All in excellent shape from for $265.00.And, that includes shipping.
  44. . . . . "camera that gives off very artistic shots" . . . . . . ?
    I never heard of a camera giving out artistic shots, images ! . . . Hummmmm? . . . Maybe . . . I have to ask Vincent. . . . But. I heard, . . some photographers able to produce artistic images with any cameras. In my knowledge, the pinhole camera producing a most artistic images, with a little help of the photographer, whom standing behind it. The other cameras need a lots of photographer to stand behind the camera, to produce an artistic image.
  45. Jonny - You're in luck - I'm selling my Mamiya 7 system. Check my ad in and drop me an email if you are interested.
  46. .... if you are going medium format, then be faithful to it and keep to 6x6.​
    Huh? What's unfaithful about 6x4.5, 6x7, 6x8 (except that this is a kind of rare format), or 6x9? They all use 120 rollfilm.
  47. Have a look at Fuji GA645 and what owners think about it. Does not look as prestigious as a Rollei hanging from your shoulder, but more compact, and effective.
  48. I prefer square format in MF. They are small enough, big enough ( negative ), and fast enough ( glass ). Square can be pretty artsy as well.
    If it were less about people and more about landscapes then maybe a Bronica ETR series... very small package.
    If it were more about people, then a Mamiya 645 autofocus
  49. If you want artistic, then be odd ball. Get one of the many Zeiss Icon (east or west) folding medium format cameras. As long as the bellows is sound, and the shutter still works, these are inexpensive and take very good pictures from 6x4,5 up to 6x9 cm negative size. Better than Holga since they can take superb pictures (depending on who is operating them).
  50. I came back to this thread to qualify my earlier post, in which I said that traveling would be a heck of a time to be learning to use medium format.
    On the other hand, I don't think that you say when you are leaving. Perhaps you can attain at least a basic level of proficiency with medium format before you go--and get to know your camera as well.
    Whatever you buy, be sure that the equipment has been thoroughly tested before you go, perhaps even cleaned, lubricated, and adjusted.
    If you can do all that, then you might just come home with great shots on medium format film. Otherwise, you might come home to find yourself greatly disappointed by light leakages, etc. Know your equipment well before you go.
    Take a backup--and use it at least part of the time. You don't want to come back with nothing.
  51. david_henderson


    A couple of points.
    If you're going to India and you're going to visit the major monuments then you'd better be sure that you take a camera that you can use hand-held. This is because you won't be allowed to take a tripod into these sites without going through a complex application process before you get there. Also when in the cities and towns the crowds are such that a tripod is out of the question. So thats making the ideal recipe for rich photographs- a tripod mounted slr with slow film and sometimes a polariser- very difficult to follow. When I visited India I scarcely used my Bronica slr and instead concentrated on a Mamiya 7 rangefinder which I can handhold pretty reliably down to 1/30 or 1/15 and ISO 400 film. Sadly these are more expensive than a slr.
    Second, for a trip like this there's no way I'd buy a 40 year old folder or indeed anything that might be better to collect than to use. Those cameras are best kept for short trips near home when any malfunction won't cost you hundreds of shots. The last thing you want is a reliability issue on a trip like this. If buying used I'd want something fairly recent and in overtly great condition, and even then I'd have a service agent check it over a bit before I left, in time to test it. I would also always take a backup, even if a compact.
    I have to say that as a MF user myself, I'd be very tempted by a decent dslr with zoom lenses and IS for this sort of application.
  52. Get a Mamiya 6 or 7 and a few lenses. Compact, good ergonmics and impeccable optics.
    I would also research the Fuji 645 RFs if budget is important.
  53. Robert, I think you have picked up on what is probably one of the best comments of the digital crowd yet. Excellent response...

    "Don't forget with film you have no histogram."
    That's a really funny comment! Some of us know how to meter.
  54. I spent a month trekking in Nepal in 1971 and took splendid pictures with my two Yashica twin-lens reflexes, a Yashica D loaded with Ektachrome and Yashicamat 124 loaded with B/W. They were light and easy to pack and use. However, they were also familiar to me after many years of practice, and they were current models.
    As several people have noted here, use a camera you are proficient with and which is in top shape mechanically. For film that would be a recent model 645 or perhaps a recently CLR'd TLR. Rolleis, Minolta Autocords and Yashicas were wonderful TLRs but after so many decades they should be gone over by a repairman before you venture overseas. Today I would probably pack a 645 with a 45mm wide-angle and a 150mm telephoto in addition to the standard 75mm or 80mm lens, with a couple of inserts or backs for the film. I loved the TLRs but I have long since gotten addicted to the SLR experience.
    Since you now have an excellent TLR model, the Mamiyaflex C220, get some practice with it and see how you like it. It's a good deal heavier than the TLRs with fixed lenses, but by having interchangeable lens sets you have flexibility in focal lengths.
    Allan Swensson

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