Best Camera for my needs under £1500

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Shakey, Jul 21, 2008.

  1. Shakey

    Shakey Member

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    ok i'm new to medium format and i'm planning on travelling around the world next and want better quality prints. So i'm looking for a camera that is well made and is unlikely to break down on me and can handle all the knock etc was from travelling. It will be for portrait and landscape photography, so was wondering what lenses you recommend, really looking at a max of 2 to help keep weight down, also really needs to be comfortable to handheld.

    i'm currently looking into the mamiya 645 range, but wondering what other options are available

    Thanks alot for any suggestions.
     
  2. Jon Butler

    Jon Butler Subscriber

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    Mamiya 7ii & 80mm lens for starters, the quality of image is great and it is the best MF
    travel camera I've used.
    JON.
     
  3. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    I love my Mamiya 7II with a 65 mm lens for travel. Add a 43 mm and you're in business. Unfortunately the 43 mm will bust your budget.
     
  4. Glenn M

    Glenn M Member

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    My suggestion would be to consider something bigger than a 645 film camera... which isn't all that radically larger than 35mm film. At least make the jump to 6x6 or 6x7. In the mamiya lines, perhaps an RZ67. Holding down to two lenses, especially if shooting landscapes and portraits might be a tougher thing to do, since landscapes oft-times needs wide angles, while portraits needs normal to short telephotos.
     
  5. rob champagne

    rob champagne Member

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    I would take a 35mm camera as film availability will be much easier and processing too.
    Because I have one I can recommend a Contax Aria (£200 approx) and a Contax Zeiss Vario 35-70 3.4 zoom lens (£150 - £300 depending on whether you get lucky). Easliy within your budget and is small and light enough to carry and will give very high quality results at f5.6 or thereabouts. The aria is much smaller and lighter than earlier Contax bodies but has really good matrix metering for snaps but also has ttl average and spot metering if you want to take control. Also has shutter priority if you get the MM lens rather than the AE lens. All in all a very good walk about camera and lens combination.
     
  6. mgb74

    mgb74 Subscriber

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    If you're traveling with just one body, you may also want to consider the availability of repair. I suspect that, of all MF cameras, Hasselblad might have the most universal service (but just a guess).
     
  7. Greg_E

    Greg_E Member

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    The Mamiya 7 has a tendency to get out of whack in the focus department when hard traveling is involved. Just a warning that you should learn how to adjust the rangefinder focus in the field if you go with one of these. There is plenty of info on the web about how to do the adjustment.

    That said you should be able to pick up a good used RZ with a couple of film backs and lenses for that much. That's a lot of money for some of this older gear. You could definitely get a pretty nice mamiya 645 kit for that much, maybe even a current AFD body and lenses.
     
  8. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Maybe if he's going by ship. But have you guys checked the European airline carry on limits? A RZ and two lenses will bust those limits.

    If you can live with one lens then one of the Fuji RF. The 690 would be my choice. Get a strap and wear it on the plane.

    If you want more then one lens get a Bronica ETRSI. Bring a backup body. No point worrying about repairs if you're on the road. Plus etc bodies and backs cost less then repairs.
     
  9. cmo

    cmo Member

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    On a world trip everything can happen. For that reason, I would pick a camera that does not cry when it gets a beating, is independent of batteries and does not look like an invitation to thieves. I would prefer leaf shutters for a simple reason: if the shutter in one lens breaks you still have the other lenses and the camera body. As there are not so many MF rangefinders with exchangeable lenses available and as the costly 7II is not a survival artist, why not consider a Mamiya TLR with three lenses (55, 80, 180S). That equipment is less heavy than you would expect. A handheld meter and you are set.
    Independent of the camera you decide for, carry an Olympus mju II with you, it is tiny and weather resistant and good in situations where even a 6x4.5 is drawing too much attention.
    Another recommendation: get some plastic containers for your roll films to protect them, they are much more vulnerable than 35mm canisters.
     
  10. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    1500 pound is a *lot* of money these days when it comes to film equipment. You could get a good kit from pretty much any system of your choice.

    There is no right answer. We're all going to give you an answer that is different. So, I'm just going to go over what my personal thought process would be in your situation:

    I would want something as simply built as possible. No electronics, and nothing that cannot be fixed without simply swapping on a replacement part. I would personally not care about weight, serviceability, or modernity. I would not get my camera serviced on the road anyhow. Too expensive, too much turnaround time, and too much chance at unknown repair shops. I would want a camera that is relatively inexpensive. I would also want an incredibly versatile camera.

    Personally, I would put together a Mamiya Press kit. A Super 23 is one of the most versatile and interestingly-featured cameras ever made, yet they are also nearly impossible to render unfixable in the field, if you have spare backs and spare lenses. The body itself is just a box. They are cheap. They can shoot multiple formats. They have the option of a ground glass and rear movements. They are hand holdable. They can focus close.

    You could almost get the entire system for 1500 pound.

    I would probably purchase a Super 23, a 65 lens, two 100mm lenses, and 150 lens. The 50 and the 250 are great, but the 50 is too expensive and the 250 is too large. I would get as many backs as possible.

    The biggest drawback would be close and accurate focusing for hand-held informal portraits.

    My two cents.
     
  11. cmo

    cmo Member

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    If you don't care about weight and really want to spend 1500, I have a camera similar to the Mamiya Press: a Linhof Press, even including a built-in selenium meter :smile:
     
  12. Shakey

    Shakey Member

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    As in parts of my travels i'll be in very secluded places and unlikely to be anywhere near a city or places that will be able to repair my camera, so really my most important factor is that it is reliable and built like a brick so that's it's unlikely to break however still has quality glass. Thanks for the replies so far.
     
  13. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Bring backups. That's a huge budget in todays world if you aren't buying new. You'd have no trouble putting together something like

    2 Bodies
    a few film holders
    a range of lenses.

    If a body/film back breaks you'll have a backup. With a range of lenses you'll be able to work around a lens failing.
     
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  15. Greg_E

    Greg_E Member

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    Well, it is going to be hard to beat a good quality Rolleicord or Rolleiflex for the simple durability. Get everything serviced before you leave so that you know it is working correctly. After that it is all mechanical and made out of metal, how much could really go wrong? Leave the old leather on until after the trip. If it looks all beat up it will not be much of a target for thieves. Cover everything that says Rollei with gaffers tape to make it look like it is held together with tape. When you get back get new leather put on and clean up the outside to have a really nice functional show piece.

    A Mamiya 1000s body is a pretty strong camera, lenses are decent, etc. The Mamiya 645 Pro should give you a good life too. As with any camera, don't drop them and you should be OK.

    All that said, I would try to get a Mamiya 7II system and would bring along a screwdriver and piece of ground glass and cheap magnifier to check the focus. Check it after each time you fly to make sure the focus on the range finder didn't drift, and you should be good to go. The only concern is that this will probably be at your upper limit in price (maybe slightly over or WAY over depending on lens choice).

    People are going to hate this next suggestion... but here it goes.


    Buy a $500 digital camera for back up. You can get a really nice Fuji one piece (lens does not come off) for that much, and they take really nice pictures if you learn to use them. It is better than coming home with nothing because your good camera got wrecked/stolen.
     
  16. P C Headland

    P C Headland Subscriber

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    The obvious modern choice would be a Mamiya 7, and if you are careful, you may be able to get the body and a couple of lenses for your budget. Not too heavy, and a nice large 6x7 negative. That would be one body though, and battery dependant.

    For a smaller sized negative option, a Bronica RF645 and a couple of lenses may do, although it may not satisfy the portrait requirements, with 100mm lenses being the longest (apart from the very rare 135mm). Again, this leaves you with one battery dependant body.

    Another 645 option could be the Fuji 645zi. With these, you could afford to get two entire cameras, and still have enough money left over for a bundle of film. Load one with B+W, one with colour.

    With any of the single body, battery dependant options above, you may well want a spare. So, how about a MF coupled rangefinder folder, like a Super Ikonta III/IV, Mamiya Six (folder), Certo Six or Iskra. These are easy enough to carry around all day - the Iskra was my travel camera while I lived in Europe. Then, if you are really paranoid and/or want something more pocketable, how about adding an Olympus XA, Minox 35 or Contax T to the mix? . This will give you access to easily available 35mm film as well. Just pack some spare batteries.

    Enjoy the trip!
     
  17. jeroldharter

    jeroldharter Member

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    Based on the recommendations, anything would do so let me add another one.

    Get a Pentax 67II with 2-3 lenses. The 67II is the modern version, but no longer manufactured. It has matrix and spot metering, exposure compensation, mirror lockup. The lenses are excellent and very inexpensive used. The 67II body is a bit pricey still but you could get an older 67 MLU body as a backup for cheap.

    I have travelled for months at a time through Africa in dust, rain, heat, humidity (with the older model) and no problems. It is a heavy camera, but built like a tank. Now I put the body with 165 mm lens plus either a 45 or 90 in a small insulated cooler to take as a backup for my 4x5.

    For a year-long trip, you will burn through a lot of film. I suggest taking a lot, but finding places along the way to which you can ship film, either as needed or ahead of time so that it is waiting for you. I have not had any fogging problems with shipping film (have others?). I have not tried lately, but years ago you could receive mail/packages at American Express travel centers worldwide if you were an American Express cardholder. All of the major cities in Africa and South America had travel agencies that we could use (for free) in that manner.
     
  18. sanking

    sanking Restricted Access

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    You have gotten many answers to this question, and most of them appear based primarily on what the folks who are responding use or have used.

    There may not be one single best answer to your question, but since you specify the importance of keeping weight down I would eliminate a priori some of the suggestions, including Pentax 67 and Mamiya Press. These outfits are feasible, but will weight three or four times as much as some other options.

    My main question for you would be how important is close focusing? If very important, I think the Mamiya 645, or Pentax 645, would be good choices. And I would simplify matters by using just one lens, a moderate wide angle to medium tele, say something in the 50-100mm range.

    If close focusing is not important you will get the highest quality image for the lowest weight with a rangefinder outfit like the Mamiya 7II, or even a couple of 6X9 Fuji bodies. I would also include in my list the highly versatile Fuji GA645Zi, which is an auto-focus, auto-exposure camera with a 55-90mm Zoom.

    I have some experience with all of the cameras mentioned so far. For travel photography my emphasis is on maximum image quality for minimum weight, and I am generally not interested in close focusing. With that, my choices would be.

    A. For prints over 16X20" in sizse.

    1. Mamiya 7II with a wide angle (43mm or 50mm) and normal focus (80mm) lens, or a 65mm and 150mm.

    2. A couple of Fuji 690 bodies, a GW690III (with 90mm lens) and a GSW690II (with 65mm lens).

    B. For prints 16X20" or less in size.

    1. Fuji GA645Zi.
    2. Mamiya 6 with 50mm and 80mm lenses.

    I believe all of this would fit into you budget, with the possible exception of the Mamiya 7II. If concerned about the cameras holding up to hard use carry a couple of cameras. Fuji GA645Zi cameras, for example, can be had for about $800 in EX+ condition and would be a very light weight and versatile system.

    Finally, when doing travel photography working with 220 film is a lot more convenient than 120 film as you got get twice the shots per roll which I find a great advantage. This is especially true with 6X7 and 6X9 formats.


    Sandy King



     
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  19. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    "...since you specify the importance of keeping weight down I would eliminate a priori some of the suggestions, including Pentax 67 and Mamiya Press."

    ...or grow some muscles and suck it up. :smile:

    The simplicity and indestructibility of a system view camera are worth it even if it weighed three times as much, IMO. I have a variety of small and medium format stuff, and I trust none of it in the "field" like I trust my view cameras (which include my Mamiya Press stuff). Nothing ever goes wrong with them that is not fixable with a simple component swap and/or some gaffer tape. You simply can't beat a camera that is just a box to which you attach stuff at either end.

    I have never understood weight concerns. I just don't get it. If weight is your worry, just shoot 35.

    I am very partial to Mamiya 645 stuff as well, and I agree that something like that would be the most convenient. However, stuff breaks...all the time. Especially when you need it to least. But if it breaks, I don't know how to fix it. I don't want to be at the mercy of an unknown, possibly-sleazy repair person who knows how desperate I am. I guess we all have different priorities.
     
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  20. sanking

    sanking Restricted Access

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    How much have you traveled abroad? I have done a lot of it, usually five or six major trips of two weeks or more a year, and I can tell you that my biggest worry is weight, weight of the camera equipment as well as overall weight. Whatever steps I can take to keep the weight down without sacrificing image quality I will do. And by the way, I backpack a 20X24" camera with a couple of holders so I don't need to do any weight lifting or suck it up to carry MF equipment.

    However, with medium format you don't have to sacrifice at all to combine great image quality and weight. The rangefinder cameras I mentioned, especially Mamiya 7II and Fuji GS and GSW 690 bodies, give outstanding quality, and they are both very dependable. The Fujis in particular are quite rugged as they are totally mechanical, and the Mamiya 7II gives better negatives than you can get from any MF system.

    I am familiar with the Mamiya Press line of cameras as I once owned two bodies and most of the lenses. And I took this camera system with me on a trip abroad about 12-15 years ago. The system is a bit more versatile than Mamiya 7II or Fuji 690 but at considerable cost of weight and ease of use. And the Mamiya 7II and Fuji optics are without question better than the optics of the Mamiya Press line.

    In any event, if cost is not an issue and image quality in print size up to about 30X40" is needed there is no question but that my Number One choice by far would be a Mamiya 7II outfit with 43mm or 50mm lens, 65mm lens, 80mm lens and 150mm lens. But that probably exceeds the budget of the OP so I offered the other questions, i.e. Fuji GW and GSW 6909, Mamiya 6 and Fuji GA645Zi. A backup body is always a good idea.

    Sandy King
     
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  21. Greg_E

    Greg_E Member

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    Probably exceed the 1500 GBP? I think that is probably more like definitely exceed, at least at US prices. Unless prices have changed, the last time I watched prices on the 150 on ebay for used lenses they all went at near $1000 USD. I would very much desire that the prices would fall as I have a body sitting here with no lens that needs the range finder adjusted. and some cleaning to get tape goo off (from the last owner). It was significantly cheap because of all that and a bent strap lug. Straightened the lug, pulled some of the goo off, now it waits. Will probably cover it in leather if I ever get around to rebuilding it.
     
  22. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    To quote myself: "I guess we all have different priorities." I respect your priorities; I was just stating mine. Weight has never been one of mine, and I have done quite a bit of traveling as well, though not six times a year usually. I usually bring a 35 and my Super 23 and three lenses. Have traveled a lot on weekend hikes this summer with 5x7 or 8x10 and a box of film loaded up and a 3051 tripod. Yes, I do wish for something lighter than a 3051 when hiking for several days...but lighter tripods are expensive...as is a Mamiya 7ii system compared to a Super 23 system. To save money, I can deal.
     
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  23. rob champagne

    rob champagne Member

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    Going back to the original question, you say you want better quality prints and you seem to assume that going medium format will automatically give you that. That is true but if your technique is good then 35mm will give good quality prints upto 20x16 but optimally upto 16x12. But it depends how you are printing them. If you are scanning for digital output then medium format is a must. But if you are printing direct to photographic paper then 35mm should give excellent quality upto 16x12 and good quality upto 20x16.
    So I wouldn't dismiss 35mm unless you really need medium format.
    For well under your budget you could have 2 contax aria bodies which each weigh only half the body weight of a Mamiya 7II, a Zeiss 35-70 3.4 vario and a zeiss 135 2.8 Sonnar. That lot would cost under £1000 and be an excellent travel setup providing two bodies ( one colour one B+W) and if one fails then you have a backup. Film availability wherever you are should be no problem and it will be far more compact and useable than a medium format system.
    OK so it wouldn't give the optimal quality for big prints but how big do you intend to print. If its just a hand full of images you want to print big, then you can get those drum scanned and print digitally via lightjet or similar. If most are going to be 8x10s or 16x12s then 35mm is all that is required and would be much simpler to travel with.
    Or a zeiss Ikon with a couple of lenses but that would push you way over budget although it would be supremely compact for travelling with.

    Just my opinion but if you are set on medium format then ignore it.
     
  24. sanking

    sanking Restricted Access

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    Greg,

    The OP indicated the need for a two lens outfit. I think you could put one of those together with a used Mamiya 7 body and a couple of lenses.

    Clearly the more extensive outfit I mentioned could not be had for $1500 GBP.

    Sandy King

     
  25. sanking

    sanking Restricted Access

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    To my eye the difference in image quality between 35mm and MF in a print 16X20" in size is enormous, whether printed directly or scanned and printed digitally. At this size print I see a lot more difference between 35mm and MF than between MF and LF.


    Sandy King
     
  26. rob champagne

    rob champagne Member

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    I'm not disputing that medium format can give better better quality at 20x16 and I did say good as opposed to excellent but what I am suggesting is that upto 16x12 there is little difference and technique plays a big part. The OP didn't say how big he wants to print and I'm just making the point that if 16x12 or less is the size he wants to print, then a high quality 35mm setup using good technique should provide excellent results and be much easier and compact to use as a travel camera for a lot less money.