Not sure which MF camera to get.

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by camden_h, May 9, 2010.

  1. Hi, I am new to and the MF world. I am currently doing the photography program at my local college and am looking to get a MF camera. I'm looking for a camera that can cover all aspects of photography from landscapes to portraits and studio work, etc. I would prefer a camera that doesn't need a tripod all the time; I usually prefer handholding over using a tripod. Any help is appreciated.
  2. stp


    IMO, most of them will do all of that. Folks are going to want more information, especially regarding budget. Also film or digital? The cameras will range from a twin-lens reflex (with a single focal length) to a rangefinder to an SLR to (I've probably omitted one or two important categories). Several months ago I would have recommended my personal favorite, the Pentax 645 (meets all of your criteria). However, with the pending arrival of the 645D (digital), lenses for the Pentax have become scarce and more expensive. Everyone will have their favorite that they will recommend for a variety of reasons.
  3. The TLR cameras provide a good platform for learning. I've got two, one with knob film advance, one with crank-which is my preference.
    However, a system camera that accepts a variety of lenses can offer more versatility. You should consider some of the lighter weight 'system' models in medium format.
    Depending on the system camera, longer lenses or accessories add weight that is more easily handled w/ tripod on other level surface as opposed to handheld.
  4. I knew I left a few things out but couldn't put my finger on it at the time and then you reminded me. I have a pretty small budget and have been trying to decide as to whether I want a TLR or SLR. I've been looking at Bronicas, Mamiya RB67, Yashica Mat 124, and the Pentax 67. Thanks for responding.
  5. You don't say what your budget will stand, but most used medium format cameras are cheap these days...even Hasselblads, which are my favorites. The later 501's and 503's can be had reasonably from many sources such as KEH, B&H, eBay, etc., and I can't think of a more adaptable outfit than the one I use with a 503 body, 50mm, 100mm, 150mm lenses, 6 backs, 3 finders, some extention tubes and various small accessories. If you have any photo stores in your area that still handle film equipment, it could be helpful to you to look at and handle various cameras to see what feels good to you; the Mamiya TLR's (220 and 330 are the later models if I remember correctly) with interchangeable lenses can also be had for peanuts these days and are fine cameras.
  6. A 6x6 or 645 SLR would cover most bases.
  7. A 645 SLR will be inexpensive and versatile. Take a look at the Bronica ETRSi - the leaf shutter lenses flash sync at all speeds and it's easy to hand hold. The film area is 2.7X the area of 35mm, so you'll see a huge improvement in image quality.
  8. While it still has a place, medium format isn't the basic go-to, general all around camera format it once was, because it was a speed and volume alternative to 4x5 or larger. DSLRs have taken that large segment of the market by storm and it's why MF gears have become so dirt cheap. MF yet excels within certain niches, however. (Ultrawide being one example.)
    Let's say though that you're doing this to get into it inexpensively, and want to learn the basics of B&W photography, a simple manual focus body, single lens, and film insert/back may be all you need.
    Mamiyas, Bronicas, and Pentaxes are all selling for pennies on the dollar verus what they cost new. If in good condition they're still they're very capable, with just as good results as when pros were building their careers with similar equipment. (You, however, probably want a particular camera that was not in heavy professional rotation and which may be worn out). The results should be very similar between camera brands. These all had pro-level optics available.
    Mamiya RB67s are substantial and rather hefty, probably cheaper by the pound than any other camera just now. The neg can be printed huge, particularly if scanned in a hybrid workflow. Most RBs and RZs, however, will have seen hard use. You might find that a Bronica ETRS-i in 645 format might be just the ticket. Many are also likewise banged up from heavy use as wedding and event cameras.
    Among cameras that are more likely to have belonged to amateurs who babied them, simple Hasselblad kits are now cheaper than they've ever been, used. Note that the better MF lenses, say Zeiss, Schneiders and Planars in Rollei, Contax, and Hasselblad mounts, are still quite spendy.
    Pentaxes also used to be tremendous bargains and are still cheaper-- even the rarities-- in comparison to most other exotic focal lengths. The Pentaxes, arguably, will be found in better condition used, since beyond the very few lenses for them that sync with leaf shutters, the relatively slow flash sync speeds of the bodies precluded their serious use by pros for wedding and event photography that most often involved flash packs. Pentax MF lenses are top notch, however.
  9. I usually prefer handholding over using a tripod.
    Perhaps this is a consequence of being a student and "new to MF". The applications you mention, landscapes, studio and portrait work, lend themselves to using a tripod. That aside, shutter speed means the same thing for MF as for any other camera - too slow and you get camera shake. Considering you should expect better sharpness from a larger camera, you need to hold it even steadier than a 35mm.
    From a versatility point of view, durability and availability of parts and components, it's hard to beat an Hasselblad. Studio and portrait work demand careful composition, which you only get with an SLR camera. You can get by with a TLR or rangefinder for landscapes, but interchangible lenses are nice to have for that too.
    A Bronica is a reasonable substitute for an Hasselblad - same 6x6 format, interchangible backs, etc. Not quite as durable, but widely available and inexpensive. Another excellent choice would be a Mamiya RZ (or older RB). They are about 1/3rd larger than an Hasselblad, but the larger negatives (6x7) are a definite plus. Pentax 645's don't have interchangible backs, just inserts. Again, it's a flexibility issue. The lenses are great, however.
    Rollei SLRs are good cameras, though a bit pricey and battery-dependent. Rollei TLRs are an acquired taste. I have one which served me well for newspaper work 40 years ago. Nice to hold, pretty to look at, sharp pictures, but severely limited in their capability. I resurrected mine about 8 years ago. All it accomplished was to give me a taste for medium format WITH interchangible lenses. (Shoulda' sewn my pockets shut while there was still time.)
    I think medium format represents a step toward serious photography for you, on a higher plane in both technique and potential quality. I'm not sure it should be your only camera, and perhaps not your first camera. That role is best played by 35mm or digital.
  10. I have an RZ67 and a Mamiya TLR and used to have a Pentax 6x7. The RZ67 and its cousin the RB67 are serious cameras. Beasts, if you will. The handling characteristics make them usable but not great for handheld and fantastic on tripods. The focusing screen with the magnifier hood finder is like looking at a particularly sharp HDTV. The TLRs are a lot smaller - you can use them with a neck strap and handhold them pretty easily. They are high quality, maybe not always as high as a Mamiya 67 but high. (Use a waistlevel finder hood, not a prism.) A Pentax 6x7 is a 35mm SLR multiplied by 2 in each direction. This doesn't sound like much but remember that multiplying by 2 in each direction is multiplying by 8 in volume. It's heavy, but high quality, and the handling is a lot like a 35mm SLR. I don't have Bronica experience.
  11. I was in a similar situation to you a few years ago when I first seriously started photography. I came to Japan for my first time and I wanted my first camera that wasn't a point and shoot... I was looking at 35mm SLRs mainly (digital wasn't so big back then). I was pretty much set on a Canon EOS-1v or EOS 3 so I walked into the store and there was this HUGE selection of cameras. From toy all the way to large format. So I took a look around these weird exotic cameras I had never seen before. I then saw the MF corner and the two cameras that caught my eye were the Mamiya RZ67 and Pentax 67II.I noted the model numbers down of several cameras, took some brochures and went home to research.
    The result was that I got the P67II. Why? Well, I thought for not much more weight and about the same price I could get into MF, i.e. much better quality so I ditched the 35mm idea. Then I decided I wanted a big negative, so 645 was out. 6x6 was limited to Hasselblads and other expensive cameras which were way out of my price range. So 6x7 it was. This would be my main camera for everything so it had to do well with all tasks. I looked at the RZ67 and it was huge. It also looked very awkward to handhold. The P67 however was big but it was ergonomically shaped. Price was also an important factor. The P67 and lenses could be had used for less money than the Mamiya stuff. I think the P67 system is about the best bargain there is for an MF camera now. The lenses are great, and they are very cheap and plentiful used. There's a full system of accessories too.
    I've used mine for landscapes, still lifes, portraits, general street shooting, travel type shooting... just about everything. I have a sturdy tripod which for landscapes is a must but I have also handheld with no problems. I in fact recently took it with me to our honeymoon to Italy with no tripod.
    The RZ is also an SLR and is a very capable system but the main advantage of the P67 is the size and handling. Some people complain about the lack of backs for the P67 but this is very rarely a problem. You have only 10 shots a roll anyway so you should be able to finish the roll quickly.
  12. If you're not adverse to weight then a Mamiya C220 or C330 (or one of the earlier series) will give you what you need within a tight budget.
  13. Kiev 66 - cheap 6x6 SLR. Looks and feels like a super giant 35mm but gives you a huge negative.
  14. I have had most of them over the years. I can Recommend the Hasselblad, RB, and Rollei twins above most of the others. The Pentax 6x7 is OK too, but has quite a kick when hand held. They are all better on a tripod, so if you want to use that format, you can expect to use a tripod with it. I currently have few RBs, a Rollei & a Hass. When I shoot med format, which is rarely, I normally use the RB, or the Hass if I want a square. If you are interested in considering large format, 8x10 is a big step up from 6x7, which is a step up from 6x6.
  15. Thanks for all of your responses, I have found them to be very helpful. I'm still not quite sure on which camera I'm going to settle on. At one of my local camera stores they had a Hasselblad 500 c/m kit for $400 so I'm considering it greatly and while some of you may think I'm crazy for not purchasing it right there, I do believe it was previously a rental camera so I'm not quite sure how heavy of abuse it has gotten or if that even matters. And I understand Hasselblads are built very well and have a very good reputation but what are some other advantages a hasselblad has over other MF cameras?
  16. I was just about to suggest a Hasselblad 500C/M with an 80mm lens when you said you are looking at one. I would be worried about a rental. Usually not well looked after and heavily used. I would reserve some money for a complete overhaul. The best thing about Hasselblad is the modularity. You can adapt it to just about any use and it is future proof with good digital solutions.
  17. I was just about to suggest a Hasselblad 500C/M with an 80mm lens when you said you are looking at one. I would be worried about a rental. Usually not well looked after and heavily used. I would reserve some money for a complete overhaul. The best thing about Hasselblad is the modularity. You can adapt it to just about any use and it is future proof with good digital solutions.
  18. With Mamiya TLRs you can change lenses from 55mm up to 250mm, very charming cameras and good handholdable.
    Mamiya RBs are big but you get 6x8 backs for them.
  19. Hasselblad 500cm + 80mm. That should hold you for a while. Add a portrait lens and a wider lens at your convenience. You may not like the medium format.
  20. I use several, and can only comment on those. First let's strike off the Pentax 645 that I like so much. It's too easy. As a student you need to suffer for your art.
    Next Mamiya press types, so long as the rangefinder is good, they are great. Avoid the 90mm lenses, just get a 100mm lens and one back, 67 or 69. The original press bodies are dirt cheap. If you get one with the movable backs (supers), and a retracting lens, you can also explore some of the view camera movements, i.e. swing and tilt.
    Any TLR. You don't need to have interchangeable lenses, though I do appreciate the Mamiya C's ability to do this. Once you master a TLR with one lens and an incident meter, or no meter at all, you will be a much better photographer than having had luxuries at your disposal. Certainly better than I am.
    And don't forger the humble folder. Without a rangefinder you can get ones with good lenses for peanuts. Look up for a wealth of info.
    BTW all of these recommendations use leaf shutters, much better for hand holding without jumping mirrors and slapping focal plane shutters.
  21. I am highly happy with my Mamiya RZ67 with a 65mm for wide angle and 140mm macro for detailed shots and portraits. There are some good deals second had. But don't under estimate the costs of development and scanning. I must say I use the tripod not sure its good for hand holding. Also not light. Saying that an RZ67 and single lens in a bag. Is not more weight than carrying a 5D with a collection of three L zooms. But if the budget is tight you might reconsider and be better advised to go digital it will be considerably cheaper long term. But I use both and love the Mamiya. I have not had a Hasselblad but from weight and size it would be a better choice. Happy shooting.
  22. BTW all of these recommendations use leaf shutters, much better for hand holding without jumping mirrors and slapping focal plane shutters.
    These effects are insignificant compared to shake induced by your hands.
  23. Cheap Hassy's may not be that great - usually you get what you pay for. Best bargain options are Mamiya 645 or Bronicas if you want something fairly modern. RB / RZ are rather heavy and more expensive - I found mine needed to be on a tripod most of the time. The quality of a 645 scanned with a good scanner like a Nikon 9000 is about the same as a 5DII in Raw with good glass. A camera like a Mamiya 645 ProTL with a winder and metering prism handles in a similar way to a more modern SLR and is not much bigger than a pro / semi pro DSLR and lens combination.
  24. You need to use a tripod if you are serious about medium format. Otherwise, use 35mm.
  25. If you like to shoot handheld, and don't want to spend a whole lot of money, the Pentax 645 is tough to beat. It's a very capable camera and light enough that I've carried it into the backcountry many times. I agree with Andre in that using a tripod will almost always improve your images and improve the consistency of your images provided you're shooting subjects for which a tripod is appropriate. But if you want to shoot on the streets or live performances or in other more dynamic environments, the Pentax 645 will do that too.
  26. MF is a 100+ year old format. Before Kodapak/Instamatic of 1963 it was what Joe six pack shot with. A 1950's box camera for us kids was often either free or a dollar or two.
    MF has cameras with pinholes; single element box cameras; triplets; tessar's; Gauss type Planars and Xenotars.
    MF is like knives; there are zillions of free and 1 to 5 bucks ones; and 2000 buck ones too.
    Unless you know what you are going to do it is hard to buy the perfect knife or MF camera.
    MF started out as a childs camera; equalvent to a bubble back camera that one buys a child today.
    In the 1930's a TLR was a young mans sports camera; used to shoot sports. Today it is more of an old farts camera; folks need a wazoo screen and a tripod to get great results. The 1930's photo magazines had a lot of contests with sports photos; and a TLR was the king then. (like an EOS or dlsr is today) .
    Today the average TLR user has bad eyes; and is a grumpy old fart who cannot fathom that a TLR could be used for sports; ie closed rigid mindset. Here I shot sports in High School with a TLR; just like a teenager today might use a dlsr; ie the normal thing in the era.
    Todays MF user seems to shoot more static objects. MF stuff is cheap today; wedding folks mostly ditched MF; and many photo courses have too.
    MF cameras vary all over the place as far as weight and size. Some folks love others hate TLR's. Without seeing or actually holding one it is more difficult to select a camera.
  27. As cameras age often the user base does too. Thus in 20 to 30 years folks will say it is not possible to shoot sports with a dslr of 2010; ie the camera needs a tripod ; the camera is for fixed stuff.
    Today a dslr makes it easier to shoot sports. With time all the tricks about old tools get lost with time and what they were used for fades away.
    In the 1960's in shooting weddings here a 4x5 was used for Formals and a TLR 6x6cm for informal stuff. I used a TLR to shoot a mess of portraits for several decades.
    A poster a few years back mentioned that it is not possible to shoot a portraits with a TLR. I mentioned that it is not possible to grow corn in Iowa too as a comeback and the hornets nest came alive; with many folks saying a TLR was poor for portraits and impossible for sports.
    In past eras for portraits one wanted a face as big as a dime to do retouching; thus using a MF of 4x5 was common
    It is not clear if you have an enlarger or not; or planning on scanning film.
  28. I recently bought a used, excellent condition Bronica ETRSI from keh and I'm having a lot of fun with it. With the grip it is pretty easily handholdable. I say pretty easily because I would rather use a tripod for most shots if possible, because I want sharper images. But if you don't want to deal with a tripod for certain things then it is handholdable. It's just not that heavy, especially if you've used a dslr. I think it's handholdable even without the grip. I went with ETRSI rather than ERS because I wanted mirror lockup. I have been enjoying looking through the large viewfinder and manually focusing, and knowing that I got if focused - rather than dealing with the guesswork I was used to with my older digital camera. As far as I could tell this is one of the most affordable options for medium format slrs right now. The only drawback I could see is that there may or may not be an upgrade path to a digital back; something Mamiya has. But that would take more research. Not sure one way or the other on that one.
    Bottom line - recommend it. Btw if you're looking for a nice, compact, affordable tripod I recently bought the slik pro 340 bh with ball head to use with this bronica, and it's been working great. Good luck with your decision.
  29. Also look at the Bronica SQ series cameras .
    Far better optical quality than the ETR's though they are a lot heavier and you will pay a bit more
    but the SQ lenses are considered amongst the sharpest there is
  30. I love my rolleiflex TLRs (2.8F and 2.8GX). Great for handheld work especially if you fit them with a prism finder (IMO - I don't like waist-level finders for walk-around in the world work).

Share This Page