Alpa Anyone?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Bromo33333, Oct 5, 2006.

  1. Bromo33333

    Bromo33333 Subscriber

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    Anyone use the Alpa medium format camera? How does it compare to the Hassy SWC? I am curious - not that I can afford this scarily expansive camera without serious "financial reorientation!" ...:sad:
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Roger Hicks should weigh in here soon enough.

    If you want an ultrawide 6x6 camera that's really good and not too expensive, see if you can find the Nikor 40mm/f:4 for the classic Bronicas, and then find a classic Bronica body (S/S2/S2a/C/EC/EC-TL) to go with it. Arguably, the whole system, with its complicated falling or split mirror, is designed around this lens, and you can find it for often less than $500 these days (Dirk Roesler was selling one recently for $200!), then figure another $200 for a camera body.
     
  3. Richard Kelham

    Richard Kelham Member

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    Trying to find one that actually works may be more difficult....

    The other downside is that the Nikkor 40mm is a retrofocus design (as is the 40mm Distagon for the Hasselblad) – the great advantage of the 38mm Biogon on the SWC is that it is not a retro focus design. It is a sweet little camera to use: rich man's Box Brownie!

    OK Roger, over to you.


    Richard
     
  4. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    ALPA? isn't it just a cheap P&S camera? I mean, Stick on viewfinder and no rangefinder or other means of focusaid. :D
    Cheers
    Søren
     
  5. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Um, er, ah, Richard, 38/4.5 Biogons have been available for the Alpa. And Alpa offers a modified Mamiya roll holder with 44 x 66 gate. Its also possible to use a 38 Biogon on, say, a Century Graphic.
     
  6. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Yes, the Biogon is the ultimate, but if you don't have the cash, the Nikor 40mm is less of a retrofocus than the Distagon, because Bronica's mirror design allows the lens to protrude into the mirror box. Plenty of working Bronicas out there, plus they're SLRs.
     
  7. pyrometol

    pyrometol Member

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    A cheap way round the problem of an ultrawide lens for 6x6 is to buy a Kiev 88 and then buy the 30mm semi fisheye lens. All the reports that I have read say it's a fantastic lens, only snag - it weighs very nearly 2kilos! Look up Arax for both lenses and cameras and there is a review of the lens under the heading of budget medium format in APUG pyrometol
     
  8. Richard Kelham

    Richard Kelham Member

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    I am sure there have been lots of cameras using the 38mm Biogon, though none would presumably have been SLRs. I cited the SWC as that is the only one I have used (Alpa were just doing 35mm stuff in my day) and the one the OP cited. From what little I have seen of it, I guess the Alpa can be described as a Very Rich Man's Box Brownie, but a superb camera for all that.



    Richard
     
  9. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    But Richard, the humble Box Brownie has fixed aperture, fixed shutter speed, fixed focus, and, yes, fixed lens. The Alpa offers the user full control and a variety of optics all considerably better than the Box Brownie's meniscus. I hold no brief for the Alpa -- I put my money in 2x3 Graphics that aren't as nice or as expensive but seem to be functionally equivalent -- but you really should give the Alpa credit for what it is and and for what can be accomplished with it.

    Cheers,

    Dan
     
  10. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Surprisingly few, and the Alpa is the only camera with an interchangeable one. The Alpa with 38 Biogon delivers quite a lot more sharpness, hand-held, than the SWC with the 38 Biogon, simply because it's easier to hold still.

    Alpas are basic beyond belief, but also built to standards beyond belief. Very few photographers will both be able to afford an Alpa, and to appreciate it. I fall only in the latter camp; without Alpa's generosity when it came to a press discount, I'd not be in sight of one.

    It's easy to say, "Oh, yes, you'll praise the people who give you cameras," but it ain't true. Not unless I want the camera. If it's no good, I don't want it. If it is good, I'll say so even if the ******s ask for it back (as with e.g. Contax, Zeiss Ikon, Gandolfi 8x10).

    And I do spend my own money. My most recent purchase (at a far from nominal price, despite a press discount) was a 75/2 Summicron for my Leicas. I love to use the best. If it's not the best (or, of course, extremely good value for money like Voigtlanders or ZI), I won't lie. Alpas are, if you accept their limitations (no interlinks, barrel distortion in the viewfinder), the best.

    Cheers,

    Roger (www.rogerandfrances.com)
     
  11. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    38mm Biogons, in fact biogons in general, are fine lenses. You might also wish to look at Schneider's 38mm S.A.XL which cab be fitted to many cameras. Helpful also is the fact that it is more akin to a 53mm lensd as far as mounting than a 38mm....it is a retrofocus lens.
     
  12. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Um, er, ah, Roger, not to take anything away from the Alpa, but I shoot my 38/4.5 Biogon on a Century Graphic and one of my neighbors shoots one of his on a thin Graflex XL. Both bodies accept other lenses too.

    Cheers,

    Dan
     
  13. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Dan,

    OK, I stand corrected, but it is (according to Zeiss) the only interchangeable one sanctioned by Zeiss as original equipment. Their view is that no other cameras are precise enough to make them interchangeable.

    How did your neighbour get his onto an XL? I have an XL and it takes a focusing mount. The 53/4.5 was interchangeable on several cameras (mostly Linhofs) but I am intrigued by the XL.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
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  15. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Roger, your friends at Zeiss have short memories or Zeiss is more compartmentalized than I'd imagined. I b'lieve that the 38 Biogon was used on the Vinten F95, a highly precise camera with interchangeable lenses.

    As for Charlie's 38 on an XL, well, I sold him an ex-F135 Biogon and he had SKGrimes put in a #0 shutter on a focusing mount that will fit an XL. Take a look at the www.skgrimes.com site, they offer to supply a fair number of modern lenses adapted to the XL. None of these adaptations, including Charlie's one off, is RF-coupled. The F-135 is an extraordinarily precise and strange camera with fixed lenses.

    Photographic Systems, of Albuquerque, NM has offered other ex-aerial camera 38 Biogons (I think theirs came from a Maurer camera) on XLs. The idea's been around for a while. And yes, there are still yankee tinkerers.

    You forgot the 45/4.5 Biogon. Also interchangeable. 6x7 lens usually fitted to a Linhof. Perhaps your friends didn't look deep enough in the archives.

    Cheers,

    Dan
     
  16. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Dan,

    None of these explanations is unlikely. Maybe they meant 'general-application' cameras? You clearly know more about Zeiss history than I -- and quite possibly, on the evidence, than Zeiss. Indeed when I pointed out that the new 1700/4 was the same speed as, but shorter than, the Leica 2000/4, they smiled and said that they preferred to forget WW2...

    There's a lovely story about an elderly fellow of All Souls, who was asked what advice he would give to a new undergraduate coming up to university some 60 years after he had done so. He thought for a little while, and then said, "I think the most important thing I have learned in a long life is this: always verify your sources."

    And I hadn't.

    Sorry,

    [Edit]: Oh, and thanks very much for the SK Grimes story.

    R.
     
  17. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Roger, thanks very much for the compliment. I certainly don't know more about Zeiss' products than the people who made them or than specialist collectors of Zeiss gear and lens lore.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Zeiss' archives were somewhat like Cooke Optics'. Barbara Lowry once replied politely to a question with an answer to the effect that what I wanted to know was on a piece of paper somewhere, but that Cooke's many, many pieces of papers' contents had not been assembled into anything coherent and easy to use.

    All kidding aside, I got the idea that it was safe to buy an F135 with the intention of having one of its lenses remounted from the Vade Mecum. The VM mentions somewhere that the job isn't easy but has been done.

    Cheers,

    Dan
     
  18. mikebarger

    mikebarger Subscriber

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    Should be looking at the Kowa 19mm for the super 66, 40mm is just to tight :wink:
     
  19. schaubild

    schaubild Member

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    Actually, the Biogon for Alpa is sold out after two batches. But there is a good alternative in the new Switar. It's based on a Schneider Digitar and modified for analog use (focal plane etc). Identical image circle. With 5.6 it's a little slower, but optically at least on par with the Biogon. And significantly less expensive.
     
  20. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    Or buy a mamiya 7 and shoot the 43mm. the 6x7 format takes care (unless you crop square) of the longer focal length. I would be amazed if the biogon is sharper than that lens. I have read comments from users of both that rate the mamiya higher. All within a very useable handholdable rangefinder to boot - for when you want a narrow depth of field and longer lenses.

    Alpas may be beautiful, but the Mamiya 7II has this niche nailed for 99.99% of photographers and for good reason (price, flexibility,performance). My jaw hit the floor when I enlarged my friends first negs out of his Mamiya 7 from the 80 and 50mm lenses. They stood out even on a small 10x8 print as being truly exceptional. Apart from the pride of ownership i have not been able to quite figure out what the practical niche is for an Alpa. It cannot think of anything it can do better than a Mamiya 7 and can think of quite a lot it surely does worse.
     
  21. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Yes, you'd be amazed.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  22. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    Maybe, maybe not Roger! There seem to be a lot of wide lovers out there who have used both and from what I have read the Mamiya has has at least as many votes as the Biogon...more it seemed to me. I guess the Mamiya 7 provided a very appealing more handholdable and flexible (interchangeable lenses) package which naturally appealed to the Hassy superwide users who up until then had no real alternative. I read of a number who sold up straight away once they used the Mamiya and 43mm, some claiming that they found the Mamiya images superior, forgetting the handling issues (of course the Alpa solves these).

    Then there is the bigger negative's real estate.....6x7 vs 645 or Alpas unique 66x44 as I recall. Certainly in the case of 6x7 vs 645 there is quite a substantial difference, less so for 66x44 assuming you dont crop to a less elongated shape. Not that it matters a jot in the grand scheme of things. The Mamiya is a heck of good way to get pin sharp 6x7 negs whether at wide or small apertures, handheld with a whisper quiet and smooth shutter. Nothing else can do this as far as I am aware. I dont work for the mamiya marketing dept, but the lenses are simply breathtaking.

    I admit that I have never used both and dont even own a Mamiya 7. I have however printed from the Mamiya 7 and have had hands on. My comments are a result of reading comments from users of both.
     
  23. Philippe-Georges

    Philippe-Georges Member

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    Actually, it is the lens that duos the thing, most of it if not all.
    The deference between Zeiss and Schneider is amazing.
    In attachment (if it worked, I have never done this before on APUG) you can see two pictures I took in the same environment, on the same day, on the same film (FP4+), with the same filtering (A1), developed in the same tank in the same dev. (Rodinal 1+50 + 1 gr./lit. Borax).
    The square picture is taken with the Biogon 38 mm (Hasselblad) at F 11 1/2 (t = 16 sec.) and the 6x17 is shot with the Linhof 617 II + Super Angulon 90 mm 5.6 (not the XL) at F 22 (t = 60 sec. Schwartschild compensation included) and the same exposure metering (Pentax digi spot).
    Scanned on the same scanner (Epson), same software, same computer (OSX) in RGB and then converted to B/W with P.S. but no other manipulations except for the www resizing.

    Philippe
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  24. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Can't argue with that. There's always the point that Biogon users may find it necessary to justify their blindingly expensive lens, not least to themselves, though I have yet to hear from anyone who has used both an Alpa 66x44 with Biogon and a Mamiya and prefers the Mamiya or even rates them the same. As I think I said earlier, Zeiss's own research showed better hand-held results with the Alpa simply because it's easier to hold steady. It's a bit academic, though, as the last time I heard there was one new Alpa-fit Biogon for sale (in Russia -- he reckoned he'd get over $10,000 for it) and there ae only 99 others in use, with no plans for a third batch of 50.

    Of course if you want acreage there's my wife's preferred combination: 35/5.6 Apo Grandagon on 56x84mm.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  25. Bromo33333

    Bromo33333 Subscriber

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    I though Alpa allowed you to use many different backs? :confused:
     
  26. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Um, Tom, I don't understand why you people keep on talking about standard issue when DIY is possible.

    My little 38/4.5 Biogon of nothing at all wasn't blindingly expensive. I use it on a Century Graphic with a 2x3 back, also not blindingly expensive. The lens actually covers 87 mm, although outside ~84 mm the image is very dim. So I get badly vignetted 2x3 or some what less vignetted 6x7 or completely unvignetted 6x6 negs. The 2x3 allows cropping to ~ 25 x 82.

    Why use a Mamiya 7 or an SWC or an Alpa 12 and settle for less?

    Cheers,

    Dan