"Budget" Medium Format options?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by agphotography, Oct 11, 2011.

  1. agphotography

    agphotography Member

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    So I'm dabbling with the idea (again) of picking up a medium format camera. This would honestly only be used for fun and probably some candid street photography (I can imagine the reactions of people seeing one haha!)

    Anyways I'm trying to figure out what my best options are going to be.

    Some facts: I am not particular to any one format, I'm thinking I would be fine with a fixed lens, but modular cameras are not out of the question (future expansion, especially if Digital Backs are available), I'm going to have about $4-900 to work with.

    I owned a Fuji GW670III for a short time, and while the image quality was amazing, I just didn't really care for how the camera felt in my hands. It felt a bit too "plasticky", I'm partial to metal cameras for some reason.

    Regardless of my prior fuji experience, the GW690II is still on the table of interest, but not the III. I am also considering a TLR (thinking Yashica Mat 124g?). Also possibly one of the Fuji 645s? The GS645s sounded interesting because it was manual focus and had a range finder (not just scale focus).

    Anyways I am open to suggestions from you guys. I am not looking to necessarily build out a kit right now. One lens would be fine (I am a big fan of 35mm and 50mm in 24x36 terms).

    So what are some of your favorites in that price range?

    - Abram
     
  2. mcgrattan

    mcgrattan Member

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    I've a GS645s and a couple of TLRs. The image quality from the GS645s is really high. The lens is one of the best I've used in medium format. The downsides -- the viewfinder is excellent, but the rangefinder is not. Mine is faint and hard to see, and I gather that's common. The shutter is surprisingly loud for a leaf shutter, and I've had a few reliability problems with the frame spacing on mine, although I've not read of that as a common problem. The lens with the bumper around it is quite fragile and prone to damage, though.

    By contrast, the Rolleiflex, which I also use, is much much quieter and much more robust. For me the image quality is about on a par, although I prefer the rendering from the Planar on my Rollei and the extra stop/half-stop of speed and slightly closer focus distance is handy. I think it would come down to whether you prefer a slightly wider field of view and whether or not you like the ergonomics of a TLR and a waist level finder. For me, it's definitely the TLR, but the image quality from the GS645S won't disappoint. I've gone on trips before with the GS645S as my main camera and been very happy with the resulting photos.
     
  3. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    Other than a TLR how about a RB67. Even though a little on the heavy side, best bang for the buck.

    Jeff
     
  4. bushpig

    bushpig Member

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    I'm gonna second this. I've owned a couple of other medium format cameras, and I haven't touched any of them since getting my RB67. I have the Pro S and I'd recommend that over the original Pro or the SD for you. It sells for less than the SD and the SD doesn't really improve on the Pro S much. And it usually sells for equal to or very, very slightly more than the Pro and it adds the interlock features which are a big help. So I'd go with the Pro S if you decide on a RB67, unless you find a spectacular deal for one of the others, in which case, you can't go wrong with any.

    As for a Yashica 124g, if you're looking for budget, skip the 'g'. Not worth the extra money. And check out other TLRs as well, most of them will give you quality photos and the Yashica 124 is popular; therefore costing more than you need to spend.

    I own a Koni-Omega Rapid M. It's a 6x7 rangefinder. It's a cool camera, but rangefinders aren't my thing, so I picked up the RB and am probably going to give away my Koni (I have a friend getting into medium format as well). But if you happen to like rangefinders, it's a fantastic system, cheap (I got mine from ebay for $75 shipped), and the lenses, being Hexanon, are effing fantastic. Konica made some fantastic lenses and some hardcore bodies. Shame they bit the dust.

    But I digress. Basically, unless you're talking about toy cameras, you can't go too wrong with pretty much any medium format camera. Feel free to ask questions. I've found that APUG is one of the best photo communities on the net and have had only pleasant experiences here. And if possible, find places or people that will let you test out the cameras before you commit. If you can make it to Bakersfield in less than a month (I'm going on a trip), You can test out my RB67.
     
  5. sandermarijn

    sandermarijn Member

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    I had a GS645s twice and sold it twice. To me this is one of those cameras that is better on paper than in real life. Some cons are personal, others more arguable:
    - the shutter is loud for being a leaf shutter
    - the shutter release button's travel is not so smooth, which negates some of the advantages of the vibration-free (if noisy) leaf shutter
    - the default orientation is vertical
    - the viewfinder is rather distorted and not very accurate (not as good as my Bessa R2A at least)
    - the rangefinder spot is not as clear and easy to use as some others (Bessa R2A again, no comparison)
    - I never really liked the focusing tab
    - there is some clutter on the smallish lens, with the aperture, shutter speeds and focusing ring all next to each other
    - the camera feels plasticky
    - the lens protection bar is not pretty
    - the lens is sharp but also very contrasty (typically Fuji), a bit too much so for b&w to my taste
    - the mfd (1m/3ft) is too long for a wide (60mm) lens
    It's not a terrible camera, just one that I could never quite like, even after trying hard.

    In the price range that you indicate (400-900 USD) a Rolleiflex with a 3.5 Planar/Xenotar would be the most likeable choice for me. I would avoid the Tessar/Xenar models. The Planars/Xenotars are better at wider apertures and have (much) flatter fields. A used but well-working Planar/Xenotar 3,5 (not mint or near mint) should just fit your budget.

    There are many (types of) medium format cameras around to choose from given your budget and preferencec. Maybe you should try to find out first what type of camera fits you best (rangefinder, SLR, TLR). Admittedly this is a difficult task if you've never handled one of each category.
     
  6. ozphoto

    ozphoto Subscriber

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    I use an old Kodak Folder 6x9 for my quick and easy shooting and my GS1 for the more complicated stuff. (Although the Bronica is currently in AU.)

    The folder is fixed lens, guess the distance, f-stop and shutter speed (I don't have a light meter here in BKK) and the results I've got have been great. You'd be amazed the number of people who look and point at it, nodding and smiling; some have even pointed to explain they'd like to look and hold it. :D

    Guess the Thais appreciate the older stuff as much as embracing all the new tech stuff as well. . . . .
     
  7. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I forgot to mention to look up KEH to see what they have.

    Jeff
     
  8. lesm

    lesm Member

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    I'd second an old folder and would add a Voigtlander Perkeo to the list. Great lenses, almost silent shutter, easy to load, dirt cheap, 6x6 format and slips into a jacket pocket. Stick a Voigtlander or some other rangefinder in the flash slot (try saying that after you've had a few), get a cheap light meter or just use sunny f16 and you're away.
    Another option is a 645, of which there are legions well within your price range. I love my Mamiya 645 1000s because it's solid metal and largely mechanical, but I believe the Pentax is excellent if you don't mind noisy motor drives.
     
  9. georg16nik

    georg16nik Member

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  10. Jesper

    Jesper Subscriber

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    If you want something cheap and fun you could try a Moskva 6x9 folder.
    The image quality is not excellent but acceptable for most usage and it is a very non-threatening camera which is a good thing for street photography.
     
  11. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    Well - your preferences are rather wide. There is a big difference in handling of a TLR, rangefinder or SLR. You may just try to be a bit more specific on the usage (landscapes, portraits, macro, etc.). For example rangefinders and TLRs are the lightest way to MF, but will bring some limitations (close focus, lens speed, light metering). On the other hand a camera like Mamiya 645 or even RB67 will give you nearly unlimited amount of options, but will weight much more.

    I personally found that a TLR offers a very unique way of looking at the world around - the images (in particular portraits) look different (lower vantage point). Cameras like Yashica 124, Rolleicord, Minolta Autocord, Rolleiflex T (and many others) would not only deliver very nice image quality, but leave you with quite some cash for film. TLR also mage great traveling cameras as even for long exposures a table top tripod is all you need.

    For the RF do not overlook the Bronica RF645 - you should be able to get one with 65/4 lens for under $900. Reportedly very nice camera to use with excellent lens and good handling. Later you could add 45 lens for reasonable money.

    SLR - many. 645, 6x6, 6x7 and even the Fuji monster GX680 (but I am not sure about the price). You will need to search a bit, but pretty much all what is available are good cameras.
     
  12. dnjl

    dnjl Member

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    The older Fuji GW6xx feel much less plasticky, because the metal body is not covered by plastic parts. My GW690 (first model) feels very solid and has the same lens as the newer models. The old ones are cheaper, too.
     
  13. BrianL

    BrianL Member

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    I agree that to be better able to make suggestions we need more information. While I also reccommend the Rolleiflex for a TLR, for a component system and a SLR I'd vote for a Bronica. You do not mention what size in the MF 6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7 or 6x9 so again do you have a preference? For your budget you can get the 6x4.5 ETR series with a pretty complete kit. These are brute workhorses and used by so many that units are very plentiful. Today, the resale value is quite low and several nice basic kits have been listed in the classified section here in the $210-250 range. The lenses are 1st rate and the camera can be configured so most users can find one that feels good. Several viewfinders including waist level, prism, average metering, spot metering, rotating. Backs include 120, 220 and 2 35mm. Lenses go fom 30mm through 500mm, have several zooms and a shift lens for achetectural photography. Bellows and extension tubes for closeup through macro work. Most lenses take the same filter size, a plus. Need motor drives, 3 available and a speed grip so it feels like a 35mm slr, if you want. I bought mine decades ago to try MF and found it to be so good that I ended up using it as my primary camera and have a fairly extensive system. I use it as both my MF and 35mm slr system.

    You can move up to one of the SQ series 6x6 that has pretty much the same flexibility. With an accessory back, it will also yield a 6x4.5 format.

    While these were not inexpensive in their day, in fact because the shutter is in the lens, the lenses were more than some of the competitors' today they ar absolute bargains. There were several series but even the earliest are excellent.
     
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  15. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    If you are looking to photograph people, especially strangers, there is something about the vintage cameras they are more apt to be comfortable about. I alternate between two TLRs and it's lots of fun. I have a Yashica-C (with 3 element lens), and a Rolleiflex automat mx (with a 75mm tessar). The first was free but needed about $100 of work to be nice. The second camera was $200 ready to go. A newer TLR will get you a meter, more plastic, perhaps higher shutter speeds.
     
  16. agphotography

    agphotography Member

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    Wow everyone! Thank you, thank you, thank you! You all gave so many great recommendations.

    I apologize for not being more specific in my original post. I mentioned that I had no preference in format because I've owned 6x4.5, 6x6, and 6x7 cameras before. (Just not 6x8 or 6x9 or wider). I used to own a Mamiya RZ system and I was quite fond of that camera, but it is rather enormous! I also have owned a Bronica ETRSi kit which I also liked, but I don't know that I'd go back to that system. Something just didn't click for me. The Hasselblad H1 has also been a system I've owned but it was too expensive to expand, I sold that kit to fund my digital gear a long time ago.

    Anyways, what I'm saying is: I enjoy all the various formats and I am not particular to any specific one, I also have experience with both waist-level finders and traditional prisms, as well as rangefinders. (Even 4x5 which is upside-down and backwards!)

    I have long been a "landscape" or "environmental" photographer, and I'm trying to break away from this. I looked into pursuing architecture but even that wasn't where I need to be. Taking portraits of people, particularly strangers has long been a challenge for me so I am trying to spend my time focusing on this genre.

    So, to sum up my response: I prefer robust, well-made cameras, I am accustomed to WLF, VF & RF, I am willing to shoot any format. Main usage of the camera will be for portraits and street scenes.

    Again thank you all for chiming in. I really appreciate it!
     
  17. PaulMD

    PaulMD Member

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    Yashica TLRs, some of the Ds and all the earlier MAT and MAT-124 models have Yashinon lenses. The Ikonta folders are great for their relative pricetags (triplet models are cheap and usable, Tessar models are great and somewhat spendy). The Koni Omega is great and can be had cheaply every now and then. The cheaper Tessar Rolleiflexes are also great, but really could use a repair to brighten the mirrors and screen up. Kowa Six or Bronica SQ are cheaper alternatives to a Hasselblad that produce some great results.

    For your budget you could get a start in any system you want. The Pentax 6x7 is great, particularly the wideangle lenses. The Mamiya RBs are best suited for studio, but work fine outdoors too.

    e: For that kind of stuff, I'd say the P67, a Koni Omega, or Hasselblad/Kowa/Bronica style SLR would be good options.
     
  18. BrianL

    BrianL Member

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    I'm going to go out on a limb on this. Your response provides a lot of information. It sounds like you are going to carry the camera and street shooting or something similar. A small, light and easiy to use camera would work best. I'd suggest looking for an excellent 35mm as these are really made for this type of shooting. I love my Bronica but after close to a days worth of carrying it, it does get heavy. For the shooting you describe, I pull out my Leica CL. The stock 40mm lens is excellent as well as the 90mm. You can also fit on a 50mm as it has the frame lines. I like it better than the M series that is larger. Also, a screw mount Leica user with Leica glass is very good and closer to the CL than M size wise. The CL while looked down on by Leica fanatics is every bit a Leica. The shutter is not quite as quiet as the M and SM bodies but the results ar just as good and the meter is really right for portrait work as it is a spot meter. No battery for the shutter, only the meter. True the meter has to be calibrated for a non-mercury battery or use a Wein cell or a CHRIS converter and the meter is better than the M6 led metering system imho.

    Mine fits nicely into my jacket pocket with the 40mm lens. I have a small shoulder bag also to carry it, the 90mm lens, a flash, film, camera and lens hood. The complete kit weighs less than say my Rolleiflex or Bronica body, back and prism before taking into consideration the lens.

    Another nice carry camera is actually currently for sale in the classifieds. An EXA. The one for sale has a waist level finder and a couple of very good lenses, is small and an easy carrier. Yes, again 35mm. Some really great lenses were made for the Exacta mount and a number of others can be adapted with the Adapt-all converters for several lenses.
     
  19. agphotography

    agphotography Member

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    Brian,

    I appreciate the insight, however I am plenty happy with my EOS 1n for 35mm work. It's not small or light, but I've got a few great lenses available and I'm happy with it. If I am to buy another film camera I would like it to be medium format. I am well aware that they are not as compact as 35mm, but it's really no different than something like my 1D with large L lenses.

    While I will use it on the street, that won't be the only place, I just want to focus on both candid and posed portraiture.
     
  20. Barry S

    Barry S Member

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    All signs point to------------------------>>>Mamiya C33 (or C330)

    -Heavy metal (I've disassembled one and everything is solid cast or machined metal)

    -Charming (seriously, strangers are disarmed by TLR's--I've even had multiple compliments from the TSA)

    -Full system (full range of lenses and accessories, easily obtainable)

    -Inexpensive (lots of gear out there available at good prices--the C330f (or s) can be a little pricey, but C33's and C330's are still very reasonable.
     
  21. VaryaV

    VaryaV Member

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    I don't know Barry. My C330 is an unbelievably, awesome camera but heavy as a hay bale... :D

    M645's are really cheap and readily available and I love mine ... and if you like 6x6 and a cheap TLR I would recommend a Yashica A.

    Good luck with your hunt.
     
  22. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    OK, now we home something to begin with :smile:

    I would say the Bronica RF645 would not be the best solution - the 65mm lens is a bit wide for portraits (well, depends what you like of course, but it is like 35mm on small format) and the 100mm lens is both pricey and rather rare.

    Some TLR would be nice if you like portraits in square. On top of that I found that people really respond well to it.

    Of course all hand holdable SLRs (does RB67 belongs in that category?) are perfect for portraits, though could scare crowds on streets :tongue:

    I have only short experience with a Pentax 645N and found that camera really easy to use and the mirror slap was not so bad. A true big SLR (I guess the Pentax 67 really is just for big boys - but the 105/2.4 seems great for portraits)

    If I were you I would try to chose based on lenses (if that is any help, all cameras you consider offer great lenses)
     
  23. agphotography

    agphotography Member

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    Well I am admittedly a huge fan of both 35mm and 50mm focal lengths in small format terms. In fact, those are my two most used lenses. I would be perfectly happy with a 40-50mm ish lens honestly. For my purpose that would be just fine.

    I've often wondered about the Pentax 67. I've never actually shot with one, but I have handled them a few times. I found it odd that the camera was so heavy yet the lenses weighed almost nothing, less than even my smallest Canon lens (despite being physically large). Does that bother anyone in actual usage? It's also my understanding that the P67 has one hell of a mirror slap and can cause some grief at slower shutter speeds. Pentax does hold a special place in my heart though as my first camera was an MX.
     
  24. Galah

    Galah Member

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    I have two AP6x7s.

    They are very easy to handle (like a largish 35mm SLR) and you don't really notice the weight (unless handicapped).:tongue::tongue: It is a good idea to attach one of the carrying handles as well as a carrying strap (not necessarily an original fitting, though the originals are excellent, but scarce).:sad: I often carry one of mine as a walk-about camera (short distances -up to a mile, or so: no problem!).

    In my opinion, the mirror slap is an over exaggeration. 1/60th in braced position is quite doable even with a 200mm lens. 1/125th is easy. (All my shots are hand-held and I have no complaints)..Of course, it all depends on the size of your enlargements.:laugh:
     
  25. TareqPhoto

    TareqPhoto Member

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    Buy whatever your budget allows you to get.
    Good luck!
     
  26. sandermarijn

    sandermarijn Member

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    Please be respectful. Thanks, Sander