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

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

  1. Glad to try and help when I can, my friend! :)

    Hardly an oracle, tho: we just got lucky that your questions often concern cameras I use myself. ;)

    I can pitch in for Hasselblad, most Mamiya, Kowa, old Bronica S2 in medium format. Or Nikon in 35mm+digital, a bit of Sony, and the stray Pentax, Olympus OM, Konica item.

    If you had a very specific question about electronic Bronicas (SQ, ETR, GS), Canon, Minolta or Leica (other than the CL I owned for awhile), etc, we'd both be lost. :D

    BTW, I did mess up the Mamiya TLR filter sizes I mentioned earlier. Putting mine away just now, I realize I mistook the bright silver rim finish on the 135mm for the retaining rings of the larger lenses. Only the 65mm, 180mm, and 250mm use 49mm filters and/or silver reinforcement rings. The 55mm, 80mm, 105mm, and 135mm lens sets all use 46mm filters and have no reinforcement rings. The very old chrome-barrel 80mm and 105mm lens sets used 40.5mm filters, like most of the early Press lenses.

    So much for oracle...:oops:
  2. I've got another bid in for a 65mm f3.5. Hopefully this one won't get away.

    At least there are only going to be two different filter sizes for my growing collection of C lenses. Re finding the right filters for these (no lip or overhang), can I safely assume that any Mamiya 49mm filter will be suitable for the purpose? Are there any other makes that are guaranteed to be 49mm flush?

    I too have an interest in Nikon 35mm kit (and own a D1X, so am stuck in 2001 regarding Nikon digital thus far). However, since I had my head turned by 6x6, 6x7 and 6x9, 35mm has lost a little of its appeal. I'm sure this is only temporary.
  3. Orsetto, dont say you missed Contax RTS II and the 45/2.8 Zeiss T^^
  4. Unfortunately, the lovely Contax RTS system was way beyond my pay grade during its heyday! Started in 1977 at 16 with a new Olympus OM1n gifted by my father, eventually working my way toward Nikon F2AS in 1991, where I seem to have settled permanently.

    The rise of mirrorless has me seriously considering a few "moderately priced" Contax RTS optics (like 35mm and 85mm f/2.8). Would love an original first-gen RTS body to go with them, but at this late date examples with good leather covering and stable electronics are scarce.
  5. If I can jump in here, I feel the same way about 35mm. My re-entry into the world of film a few years ago was led by 35mms but I quickly went "back to the scene of the crime", Bronica 6x6. Since then I too have been smitten by the Hasselbugger . All the benefits of medium format overshadow the convenience of 35mm IMO. .
  6. OK, mag_miksch, you've piqued my interest. I knew nothing about the Contax RTS series. There seem to be some questions about reliability. Is it a risk worth taking to gain access to the lenses? What about the Yashica FX-3 Super 2000 as a cheaper (and mechanical) option? And then, what about the lenses? You mention the 45mm f2.8. Are there other lenses you can recommend?
  7. reliability?^^
    in my experience the newer cams with more electronics inside were maybe problematic, but a simple one like the RTS II didn`t make a lot of problems, you can compare it to Nikon F3, where the F3 has a slightly more stable body; but the RTS II is just a charming cam.
    All Zeiss T lenses show beside sharpness a very nice and saturated color rendering, today shooting digital this color thing is adjustable in the post, on a slide it matters a lot. 28mm is very nice, 35mm is nice, but 45mm is just outstandig, its very small and what I remember a Tessar type and sharp as hell, together with an also small RTS II a very small, elegant and performent combo.^^
  8. Thank you for this mag_miksch. This might seem like a bit of a tangent on a medium format thread, but maybe here is an option when hand-held medium format is considered impractical.
  9. RTS II with 45/2.8 for sure is more practical than medium format cameras, hand-held or not^^
  10. An Hasselblad, even as large as a 555ELD, is within the capacity of a motorized gimbal (e.g., DJI Ronan S). The gimbal will isolate the camera from large motions, in addition to hand shake. It would take some ingenuity to find a way to release the shutter without physically touching the camera. However the 555ELD (and other motorized bodies) can be triggered by a switch closure. Not many would find it comfortable to hold the combination weighing up to 13 pounds in front of their body for more than a few minutes*. On the other hand, a shutter speed of 1/60 (or 1/30) shows no visible degradation in a 4K image (8 MP equivalent).

    There are no tripod legs for people to trip over, nor to violate the law in some areas (e.g., Washington DC). You do get a lot of odd looks, and a few serious questions.

    * Some people use a flag pole harness, as used in parades.
  11. Nope, forget it. - I have a 250mm taking the 49mm filters and ended trying to grind away most of the ring of the "bargain bin gem", I intended to place on the viewing lens, to remain able to use the original cap with a regular filter on the taking lens. - It did not work out. Lenses are too tight together.
    If you get a 49mm lens, order a pair of snap on caps (or two), grind one to taste for the viewing lens and glue them somehow together, maybe use some fabric belt as a flexible connection.
  12. OK, thanks Jochen. I got a Mamiya filter which I tried on the taking lens and that was fine. That said, I haven't tried putting a filter on the viewing lens at the same time.
  13. I think anything 49mm filter would fit on my taking 250mm on it's own. Placing cheap old filters on my 46mm threaded viewing lenses had the advantage of allowing original lens cap use and might warn about the risks of lens flare, caused by a filter on the taking lens.
  14. I agree with Ben.
  15. I agree with the RF/leaf shutter sentiments. If the interchangeable lens Mamiya 6 isn't an alternative, then consider a Zeiss Super Ikonta 532/16. The lens won't be interchangeable but it shoots 6x6, does hand held incredibly well, and folds up to fit into a jacket pocket. A TLR with interchangeable lenses is a bit too bulky to tote around. A fixed lens TLR would be a second to the 532/16 but even the smallest 6x6 TLR is still bulky enough that you either are wearing it all the time or carrying it in a bag or with its case..
  16. I've now got three medium format options for my portrait work: the Hasselblad 503CW with a CF Sonnar 150mm f4 T*, a Mamiya C220F with Super 180mm f4.5 and a Mamiya Universal Press with a 100mm f3.5. If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, the one that serves me best is the C220F. I've used it a lot and am very happy with the results. I like the fact that I can get in really close, even with a 100mm lens. That said, I've used it almost exclusively on a tripod. I went away on holiday for a few days last week and thought long and hard about which camera to take with me. Much as I'd have liked to shoot medium format, I ended up taking the most compact 35mm camera I've got (Olympus OM1n) for two main reasons: we were travelling by train, so had limited capacity for luggage; we were staying in people's houses and I didn't want the photography to get in the way.

    I love the results I get with the Mamiya Universal, but it is a very large and ugly camera. I'm quite a shy photographer (maybe this will pass with time), so the MU does not get the use it deserves.

    I've looked into both the Zeiss Super Ikonta and the Mamiya 6 folder and much as I am attracted to these cameras' greater portability, something is holding me back from shelling out on them.
  17. When I first read this I thought: 'Ken, you're just being a killjoy.' Now I'm thinking it's sound advice.
    ken_kuzenski likes this.
  18. In early 1979 I went to a new camera show put on by a local camera store. I liked the 645 format and much preferred the feel of the Bronica ETR over the Mamiya version. Years later I bought into the Bronica GS-1 system, but eventually sold it all for LF and digital. Now I have a Bronica ETRC body bought for next to nothing which I plan on adding some other cheap bits. I still have much 120/220 in the freezer. I also recently bought a 645 folder for use at the beach, it is an ancient Petri with working, at one speed only, shutter at about 1/100 or so. Sunny 16 or should I say sunny 22 at the beach.
  19. "My best lens is a tripod." This has seemed like wisdom to me for many years (and VR lenses may make it less important.) But an interesting experiment reinforced it, and I'll tell you about it once I chase those kids off my lawn.

    Way back in prehistory, hundreds of years before the dawn of time, the "internet" was text only--no graphics or websites, no mouse clicks, just typing. There were people from the military and universities on it in those days, and almost nobody else--until the AOL people got a gateway in. Mostly there were mailing lists at first (beermaking, pet dogs, astronomy) and then "usenet," which was a little like discussion websites, though text only.

    SO: there was a usenet group with a name like 'alt.camera.medium-format,' with several dozen participants. And one of them, an academic somewhere, set up a really interesting set of tests. He shot subjects (fountains, gardens, buildings) in the same lighting at the same time, with three different cameras and somewhat different settings (you statisticians out there probably know what's coming.) He used, for each set, an inexpensive TLR, a medium-level MF camera, and an expensive MF SLR. He tried all three in different settings wide open, medium apertures, and stopped down, and he tried a number of the series with and without tripods.

    He cut up the slide film to the same size image (so we didn't know if it was 645 or 6x6 or whatever) and arranged each piece in groups, in pages in a sort of binder. Each series was the different cameras under same conditions and aperture. And each series was pseudo-randomized. You looked at Series B-12 and decided whether shot 1, 2, or 3 was the best.

    You'd do the grading--any light you wanted, any loupe, etc--and mail the binder to the next person on the list, and your scoring sheet to Prof. Whomever at Midwest Something State. He compiled the results--in those days most statistics was done on paper, not on a computer. The results were interesting: the better cameras ranked better by a statistically significant amount, in order, shot wide open. At medium apertures the grading was nearly random: The Yashica-C got almost as many votes as the 500c/m or maybe even more. No statistical significance. (I don't remember the stopped down results.)\

    But one group of comparisons showed dramatic differences: the tripod vs. no-tripod scoring. Tripod slides won by large margins against handheld slides even with medium apertures and fast shutter speeds, and that was true for all three cameras. IIRC, that was the biggest differential between groups in the entire test project.
    So I try to use a tripod, or at least a monopod, any time I can. Ed Ingold said, more or less:, "Why shoot medium format handheld?" Implying, you see, that you lost some of the quality you paid for with MF. May be entirely different with digital (I've got several DSLRs but no VR lenses) but I still try to use a tripod any time I can. And this is behind "the best lens I own is a tripod."

    OK, long boring ramble by an old man; maybe someone found it interesting, maybe not. Now you kids get off my lawn! ;-)
  20. Thank you, Ken. Very interesting.

    This whole exploration has opened my eyes to the issue of camera shake. I'd been relying on the old chestnut that if the shutter speed is the reciprocal of the focal length of the lens, I don't have to worry, ie with a 50mm lens, 1/60 sec and faster is safe. I have, nonetheless, read some writers on photography who have questioned this wisdom, most notably Barry Thornton in his book 'Edge of Darkness', which is really a quest for sharpness in photographic images.

    I'm now remembering a shot of a beach scene I took with the Mamiya C220F fitted with a 100mm lens, which I liked and uploaded to Flickr. The more I looked at it, the more I realised that it was too muddy to pass muster. I took it down without thinking any further what the problem was. I'm in no doubt now that it was camera shake.

    I like the idea that the tripod is the best lens in my collection; it suggests that achieving sharp images is about getting the simple things right and doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg.

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