What's the best film camera for medium-format hand-held photography?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by rexmarriott, Feb 3, 2019.

  1. This applies only to the various 645 rangefinders (Fujis, Bronica 645, old folders from the 30s-60s): their film advance is horizontal, necessitating default portrait orientation (most 35mm half-frames and the peculiar 6x7 vertical-advance Linhoff 220 also work this way). The reflex 645 cameras are all landscape orientation by default, which often makes for clumsy handheld vertical-portrait shooting. This one issue made the Mamiya RB/RZ67 extremely popular: its the only MF camera that doesn't need to be turned (instead, you rotate the film back). The RB/RZ are marvelously fluid in portrait sessions, combining the benefits of WLF viewing with either framing choice.
  2. Ah, the Pentacon 6TL, although it requires very careful handling, loading, etc. to work (well).
    It has had many famous users:


    peter_fowler and orsetto like this.
  3. Almost (almost) worth the body headaches to use the Biometar, Flektogon, Olympia Sonnar, etc. There was a nice window around twelve years ago when you could pick up an entire Pentacon kit with all the best lenses for a song, but digital cameras and adapted-lens-mania eventually killed the bargains. At today's typical asking prices, I can resist (tho if I ever lose my mind and splurge on a Fuji mirrorless MF body, all bets are off).
  5. Yes. I discovered that slamming the back shut was a definite no-no.

    Mine still needed dismantling from time to time to rebend and reseat the ratchet spring on the takeup spool. I got it down to only an hour's work after the third attempt!

    Getting rid of the shutter shading above 1/250th took a lot longer, and more equipment.

    Don't even mention the Kiev 6, or 'Krushchev's Revenge'.
  6. No problems with the viewing screen for the 500CW.

    At present I only have the 105mm lens for the C220F. As you say, it is capable of producing stunning portraits. I love the fact that, with this camera, I can get so close up. I find the screen pretty gloomy, and I'm considering alternatives, so your suggestions are appreciated. I've bought the left-hand grip since starting this thread.

    I really like the C220F; the way it functions and the interchangeable lenses. Not a scientific test, I know, but I've been looking at photos taken by enthusiastic amateurs with the C220F and the Mamiya 645 Pro TL on Flickr. Whilst the capabilities of the C220F shine through, what I see produced by the 645 Pro TL I find less encouraging.

    If I can iron out problems with focusing (or is that camera shake?), I'm definitely leaning towards the C220F being the one for the job.
  7. Might the Contax 645 be one? I think that may be where I got the idea from.
  8. I'm a bit surprised you find the C220f finder "gloomy" - its about the brightest standard MF camera screen short of an Acute Matte screen for the Hassy. Just to be sure, you have the same version as mine in the previous pics? All black, no shiny parts, black wind knob with no fold out crank, says "Professional f" on the front? The original 220 (far more common) is prettier with chrome and folding crank, and only says "Professional" on the front (no f after). It has a much dimmer, traditional old groundglass screen and antique-style waist level with folding flap gaps that allow lots of unwanted light to strike the screen (killing contrast and visibility).

    The dim 220 screen is not easily changed without a stripdown, the 220f screen is released by removing a single screw, which pops up a frame allowing the screen to slide out in one piece. Either way, both models are limited to the brightness they came with. Some repair shops can retrofit a Chinese aftermarket split image screen to the older C220, but its not that great and the cost is more than the camera is worth. The 220f is brighter to begin with, but far fewer were made, so no Chinese knockoff screens available. Tho you can use the nice Mamiya split image screens made for the C330S (also rare, compared to the much more common C330f- Mamiya's camera naming scheme was needlessly confusing).

    One other sneaky thing to check: if your 105mm is the final "DS" version, it has a diaphragm in the viewing lens to allow depth of field preview. A nice feature, but poorly implemented: the ring has no clicks or spring loading, and is very easily knocked down to lower settings than fully open. If set lower than max f/3.5, the screen will be very murky.

    All Mamiya TLRs can benefit from the non-folding magnifier hood with adjustable zoom: this really seals out all stray light and is very easy to focus, even with the slow 55mm f/4.5 wide angle. Typically runs about $60 on eBay. If you opt for a prism, be sure it is the squat small "genuine glass" prism that fits exactly on top of the body and bulges toward the front. The more common "mirror reflex" Porrofinders have flat fronts and hang over the side (like a beret): these offer a much smaller and dimmer view than the "real" prism (OK outdoors in daylight if you find one very cheap, otherwise forget it). I never cared for any of the Mamiya eye-level finders: when I need a prism occasionally I just hold a Hasselblad 45 degree prism over the screen (wish I'd bought one of the Hasselblad-to-Mamiya prism adapter plates when they were still made).
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2019
  9. Mamiya 645 cameras feed from side to side. However they are designed to be used at eye level, and can be held equally well vertically or horizontally. Holding a camera to your face lends a considerable degree of stability. Not enough, IMO, to get medium format quality without help of a strobe or high shutter speeds.
  10. Rick USE to post here, although I haven't seen him in a while.

    With that said, he's local to me and I've bought a few screens from him over the years. I have his older "split image" screen in both my Rolleflex Automat IV and my Rolleicord Va, along with his newer "BrightScreen"(microprism) in my 500C.

    Custom Fitted Focusing Screens

    At $50, assuming it will fit, it's a nice upgrade to cameras you intend to use even if that is-in some cases-close to the value of the camera.

    I will say that on my 500C, it's not necessarily any easier to FOCUS than the old ground glass(the GG was dim, but "snapped" nicely under the magnifier and I could reliably focus most anywhere but the edges of the screen)-I pretty much only trust myself to focus accurately with the microprism, and look at that under the loupe. Id DOES, however, make a big difference in how easy it is to compose-especially since I get even illumination out to the corners.

    My recently acquired 500 EL/M came with a diagonal split screen, and even though I haven't actually used the camera yet I'm finding it a bit more difficult to focus with anything other than the split. I'm not sure whether or not it's an Acute Matte-it doesn't have the "Ds" but at the same time I understand that was only on last-gen screens. Whatever the case, it seems to basically be a super bright aerial image that's always in focus.
  11. Yes, it's the same model as yours. Not sure whether it will tell you much, but here's the screen

    DSC_0004 small file.jpg
  12. OK, C220F problem solved, and I'm going to have to make an embarrassing admission: I've had the viewing lens stopped right down; that's why my view has been so gloomy. Suddenly, there is light!
  13. Rick Oleson upped his game in recent years, esp after acquiring the BriteScreen technology from the estate of its inventor. So I wasn't really thinking of him, but eBay type random screens from China that run about $40 and cost another $80+ to install. Of course intrinsic worth is a subjective thing, but I did weigh that option and decided getting the later model Mamiya TLRs with factory-standard improved screens was the better value (for me). The later models have additional improvements like MUCH better WLF sealing that make them more useful. In the specific case of the original C220, that camera is a total PITA to make screen changes compared to Rollei, Yashica, or even older Mamiyas: the 220 screen is a complicated affair and modern simplified replacements tend not to calibrate properly (not to mention the shims and washers that fly out everywhere if you don't operate in a clean room with assistants).

    Re the diagonal split image screen that came in the 500EL/M you just received: that is almost certainly a Chinese knockoff eBay screen, and should be discarded. In my experience, confirmed by numerous reports here and at other forums, those screen frame heights are not calibrated quite right for Hasselblad, and/or only the split is of any use (the matte is essentially aerial, as you've noticed). One is usually better off with the original black cross screen: at least its accurate over the entire area (tho I prefer the 42250 or 42234 microprism versions, which sell for not much more than the black cross these days). Hasselblad DID briefly make a diagonal split image screen with microprism donut (42218), but it isn't as good as their plain horizontal split image screen (42188). Both these older ground-matte split screens are poor value today: they fetch prices high enough to rival the 42165 Acute Matte plain cross, which blows either of them away (even without focus aids).
  14. Great! Thats the model with bright/easily changed screen. Glad my tip re the viewing diaphragm solved your brightness problem! Now you should have a viewing/focusing experience similar to or better than your 503cw.

    Your 220f can accept any of the optional bright split image, checker or microprism screens made for its companion 330s, but NOT the more common 330f screens. The S screens are modern one-piece affairs: just a flat of high-tech frosted plastic (the older darker 'F" screens have a large thick aluminum frame cap attached). To change the screen in your 220f, simply remove the screw to the left of the silver finder release knob on the rear top edge of the camera. The frame should pop up, and the screen is easily pulled out via a small tab on its edge (use a tweezers). Optional screens slot right in, press down the frame, and replace the little screw- done in a jiffy.

    Only drawback to using 330s screens in the 220f is they don't have the two parallax lines scribed on the original plain screen: instead they have translucent numbers along the left edge meant for use with the 330 mechanical parallax bar. With practice, you can eyeball the numbers as parallax/bellows compensation markers. Or, just use a razor blade to scribe DIY parallax lines on the new screen (or use removable thin black tape made for this purpose). Below is the 330s/220f "B" screen:
    Mamiya B Screen TLR.jpg
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2019
  15. Thanks for this information, orsetto. Really good stuff. You may have saved me a packet.
  16. Very happy I (eventually) managed to help you find a no-cost brightness solution, rexmarriott- and if anyone should be embarrassed, its me for not thinking of the sneaky preview diaphragm issue as soon as you mentioned owning the Mamiya 105mm. Its an easy glitch to overlook, since none of the other lenses have it. BTW, just checked my own 220f again: re screen changing, I forgot when you remove the little screw a small metal plate may come off with it, then you also need to press the little release latch tab (that the removed plate secured) to make the screen frame pop up.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2019
  17. IMO this grip is very uncomfortable used together with the WLF, Mamiya made a turnable grip too.
  18. They most certainly don't!
    The inserts load top to bottom and are common to both the older fixed-back cameras and the interchangeable magazine series.

    One peculiarity is that the focal plane shutter on the old metal bodies runs vertically, with a short-side travel, while the plastic-bodied cameras have a horizontal (long-side) travelling shutter. This does seem to reduce vibration on the later models. It's just a shame that they tend to fall apart, because if and when they work they deliver really nice results.

    Just realised maybe you were referring to the rangefinder 6 or 7 models? Or the Bronica RF645?
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2019
  19. IMO the most important thing with Mamiya TLRs is the design of the WLF, the one shown on orsetto`s pics is the fully enclosed new design, the older not fully enclosed reflect your face when used in bright light, (C220 old, C220f maybe old or new, C330 old, C330f maybe old or new, C330s new)
    and dont use such a baby with prismn finder, a 6x6 prisma is a hefty piece of glass and makes the cam unbalenced
    orsetto likes this.
  20. Would a type E screen do the job? By the look of it, it is a split-image screen with line-guides on it.

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