Pros & cons of 35mm film backs for Mamiya & Bronica

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by ron_hughes, Mar 20, 1998.

  1. I have a Canon EOS 630 which I use for colour slides and a Yashica Mat 124G which I use for B&W that I process myself.

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    I'm thinking of selling both cameras and all my accessories, but keeping my Gossen Profisix lightmeter and buying either a used Mamiya 645 Super or Pro *or* a used Bronica ETRS or ETRSI, with both a standard and 35mm filmback. The former for B&W and the latter for colour slides.

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    Thus I hope to eliminate the inconvenience of carrying two bodies around and generally rationalize my equipment. I will still want to take 35mm colour slides from time to time, but am really most interested in what medium format has to offer.

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    Question: Do you think what I propose is generally good idea? Are 35mm film backs a practical alternative to a 35mm format camera? Or, will I probably regret selling my 35mm camera?

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    Which entry level medium format camera should I choose? Mamiya or Bronica? Why?

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    Any comments would be much appreciated.
     
  2. Ron,
    I strongly recommend keeping your Canon 35mm. Whether to buy the Mamiya or Bronica depends on what you're shooting.

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    I first of all say keep the Canon because the 35mm back for the two 645 cameras is really not practical for everyday shooting. It crops a 24x36mm image out of the center of the aproximate 45mmx60mm image the camera produces. Thus, any lens on the 645 is going to have the effect of being significantly more telephoto since you're cropping into the image so much. You would need a wide-angle 645 lens to get a standard image on 35 and so forth.

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    As to Mamiya vs Bronica, the main difference is that the Bronica uses leaf shutter lenses and the Mamiya has a focal plane shutter. The Bronica syncs with flash all the way up to 1/500th second, so if you shoot weddings or outdoor portraits and need fill flash, it's the way to go. The Mamiya syncs only to 1/60th.

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    Whether you need to replace the Yashicamat again depends on the type of shooting you're doing. If you need wide and tele lenses, or you do a lot of closeups and a TLR's parallax is a problem, then switch. If you shoot landscapes and will only use a standard lens, you won't gain any real advantage by switching.

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    Craig Shearman/Baltimore
     
  3. I would keep the 35 and buy the 645 if you can afford it. Otherwise, the very best deal in medium format these days are the Mamiya TLRs (2-1/4 square) with interchangable lenses from a wide 55 to a long 250, for prices that are cheaper than all but the cheapest Nikon or Canon lenses. Quality is incredibly good. (And I'm not just saying this because I'm selling some right now.) Save to get what you want; don't give up your 35.
     
  4. Dear Ron

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    I am afraid that Craig has got it wrong on two points:1 The Mamiya 645 system has a 35mm back which accepts only 35mm film. The image is not cropped out of a 6X4.5 negative area 2 An 80mm lens on the 645 is an 80mm on a 35mm system, a 50mm lens on the 645 is a 50mm on the 35mm. The lenses project the same image; it is the size of the negative which determines how much of that image is recorded on film. If one takes the image from the portion of , say, a 645 negative which matches the area covered by a 35mm negative one gets exactly the same image. No difference. But to cover the area of the whole negative with the same image the angles of view need to be narrower on the 6X4.5 format since the negative is larger, and wider on the 35mm format since the negative is smaller which is why the 80mm lens is considered the standard lens on the 6X4.5 and the 50mm lens the standard on the 35mm systems.

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    The only problem with the Mamiya 35mm back is that it's expensive
    ,about $565 from B&H. I do not know how large your Canon EOS system is so I do not know whether the 35mm back makes fiscal sense for you. As for the Mamiya 645 I'd recommend the 45mm, 80mm, 120mm Macro or 150mm/F3.5N lenses. You get the 35mm equivalent focal lengths of 28mm, 50mm, and 73mm or 93 mm in the 645 formats, and 45mm, 80mm, and 120mm or 150mm for the 35mm negatives in the 35mm back. Okay, you won't be able go real wide when using the 35mm back (although there is a 35mm focal length lens available for the Mamiya 645, equivalent to 24mm in 35mm mode) but once you're used to the quality in the 645 you may not want to ever use the 35mm back again!

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    Rationalise by all means. Since you said that you're interested in the quality that medium format has to offer why bother with the 35mm back at all? Spend the money on more film and shooting more. Choosing between the Bronica and Mamiya is a tough call; each has its own advantages. The Mamiya has a wider range of lenses and accessories; the Bronica has the slightly cheaper body and all the lenses in the range are leaf-shutter lenses. Mamiya has only three at 55, 80, and 150mm. The quality is about even stevens for both which is to say - excellent.

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    I would encourage you to sell yuor Canon system. Medium format requires a slightly different mode of operation and visualisation. once you're used to working a medium-format system you may find it awkward handling the 35mm again. At least it's true for me. So you may find yourself preferring one over the other eventually, and the other sits on the shelf collecting dust. If you're are keen on medium-format forget 35mm, especially if you have not a large system.
    Work on mastering medium-format; the dividends lie in the images. good luck.
     
  5. Many thanks for the helpful feedback.

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    I've decided to hang on to my 35mm SLR system for the time being. I think I'll probably continue to make use of its autofocus autoexposure capability with my 70-300 zoom lens, for fast moving subjects (eg wildlife).

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    Meanwhile, I have now traded in my Yashica TLR for a used ETRS SLR with a WLF, 75mm lens and 120 back. I might try a 35mm back later, however, as I will probably use the ETRS for static subjects, I imagine I will probably end up getting another 120 back.

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    I compared the ETRS with a 645 Super and found the former to be more balanced. It fits into my hand better and I found its buttons and controls to be more intuitive in use. Also, I preferred the sound of its shutter/mirror compared to that of the 645 Super. Not a very scientific appraisal I'm afraid.

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    I realize that lenses for the ETRS are considerably more expensive. If I continue to use my 35mm camera for long focal length work, I might manage to restrict myself to only buying shorter focal length lenses for the ETRS, as I doubt I will using it for fast moving subjects.

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    Well that is Plan "A" ... :)

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    Any comments?
     
  6. Plan A sounds good to me. You've hit upon the most important issue when buying any photographic equipment: buy the system that works the way you want it to work, instead of the one that forces you to change your style. The Mamiya and Bronica are both excellent cameras. The key differentiator is ergonomics. Well, that and the leaf shutter vs. focal plane shutter.

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    As for the 35mm back on a MF body, why? You lose wide angle capability and some resolution. See the main photo.net page for an explanation of why 35mm lenses are sharper than MF and LF lenses. Keep the 35mm for what it does best, and use the Bronica for its strengths.
     
  7. Razzy,
    Perhaps you didn't understand.
    Any lens designed for a 645 camera projects a circle on the film plane slightly larger than the diagonal of the 645 aperture plate. If you have a 645 back on the camera, you capture the largest portion of that circle. If you Put a 35mm back on the camera, you capture a smaller portion of that circle, thus a narrower angle of view for a given focal length. Yes, an 80mm lens on a 645 camera using a 35mm back gives you the same angle of view as an 80mm on a 35mm body. The issue is that wide angle, normal and telephoto don't correspond between the two formats. A 50mm 645 "wide angle" will yield a "normal" angle of view on 35mm. It would take a 35mm focal length or wider to get what we normally consider a wide-angle view, but 645 lenses aren't available much wider than 40 mm.
    On the telephoto end, it works to your advantage. A 250mm 645 lens is only a 3x telephoto on 645 while it's a 5x telephoto on 35mm.

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    I think we're both saying the same things in our response to Ron. But I don't appreciate being told I've "got it wrong on two points" by someone who can't back up their assertion.
     
  8. Dear Craig

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    My assertions are fully backed up by my posting. Perhaps you can't read too well.
     
  9. Okay, guys, this is starting to sound like photo.net. Craig correctly writes "we're both saying the same things"; you're just approaching the answer from different perspectives. Kind of like when my wife and I discuss anything......
     
  10. Apart from the telephoto and masking effect, surely the image that is produced on film in a 35mm back is produced using the very best part of the lens (ie the centre, rather than the periphery). Does this not result in a better quality image?

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    Have you actually used a 35mm film back?

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    Why do people use 35mm film backs, if the results are inferior to those available from a 35mm camera? Is it simply for conveninece - to avoid having to lug a 35mm camera system around?

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    I'm not familiar with photo.net - how can I access it using my browser s/ware?

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    Many thanks for the feedback.
     
  11. 35mm film backs were popular when Kodachrome was the best thing around and was not available in 120. But now that E6 process films are so good that 35 mm films backs are in extintion and so the high price. Fewer people have to cover the cost of production. But it's a waste of time to use a 35mm back on medium format since MF cameras a slow compared to 35.

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    Regarding the difference between the lenses on LF, MF or 35mm or APS or 110 or microdot or whatever, an 80mm lens is an 80mm lens in any format. It gives you the "same magnification" in any format. But since the image size of the subject at the same distance is the same for any format, it will cover a wider angle since the film is bigger. Then the idea of using a larger format is to get the same subject bigger, you have to use a longer lens in order to give the same coverage. The best case to illustrate this point is in macro. A life size magnification of a US 25 cent coin (a quarter)will cover the entire 35mm film area. But a life size magnification ia a MF film will only over about 1/4 of the film. In order to get full film size image, you will probably have to go to 2x or a little bit more. This illustrates the fact that magnification must be increased to get a bigger image that cover the same angle as in a 35mm. That's why 80mm is normal in 6x6 and 50mm in 35mm. But still, an 80mm is an 80mm is and 80mm is an...
     
  12. Oh, forgot to mention that using a 35mm back is like using a Cut Film holder for MF. It used to be popular too in the days where many emulsions were not available in 120 but in sheet film. But now, it's kinda silly to cut film in order to use in a MF camera. All the emulsions are mostly available in any format. At least the ones that you really need.
     
  13. One aspect everyone seems to have overlooked in this discussion is the ability to use Kodak HIE in you MF camera if you use a 35mm back. This provided enough incentive for me to buy a 35mm Wide back for my Bronica system. Now I can shoot true BW IR if I wish while carrying my mainstay system and get a wider aspect ratio to boot. I could see no other significant use for 35mm on MF. A good P&S takes up the same space as another MF back so why not use that instead?
     
  14. Using a 35mm film back for B&W IR is an interesting idea. I upgraded my medium format TLR to SLR ostensively for B&W work and kept my 35mm for colour slides. I am also interested in taking medium format colour, but I presume it would have to be prints processed by a lab (as I'm not aware of any medium format transparency film - anyway I wouldn't be able to project them - hence the query about 35mm film backs). Presumably most people use B&W or colour negative film in their medium format cameras. Is this true?
     
  15. Actually, Ron, there's lots of slide film available in 120 and 220. No Kodachrome, but most others. Probably most MF shooters don't have MF projectors; it's much easier to examine a larger slide on the lightbox than it is in 35mm, and then make large prints of the ones you want to hang on the walls.
     
  16. The Bronica 24x54 for 135 film is a great idea. I wish that Pentax would offer it. There used to be (maybe still is) a web site of panoramic HIE-IR which was shot using a Pentax 67 and hand-loaded rolls. Jaap Los has a number of images using the Bronica 24x54 back.
     
  17. Many thanks for all your valuable comments.

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    Update - I eventually decided to keep my Canon EOS, sold my Yashica TLR and bought a used Bronica ETRS with 75mm and two 120 film backs - one for colour and the other for B&W. I recently added a 50mm.

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    The idea of getting a 24x54 filmback intrigues me. Are they readily available?
     
  18. I was considering buying the 135 film back for the Mamiya 645 and I was wondering if anyone knows if the film around the sprocket holes is exposed when taking a photograph.
     

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