First time Medium format buyer.

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by ChrisC, Sep 22, 2004.

  1. ChrisC

    ChrisC Member

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    Hey guys. I was just wondering if you could help me out with getting into MF for the first time.

    A bit of history about me. I'm currently 20 and shooting exclusivly in digital. I've always liked photography, ever since I was 7 and my parents gave me my first basic point and shoot for Christmas. I've really gotten into it in the past couple of years though, and I'm looking to push myself further. I've taken some good photos in the past couple of years, but there are way more 'misses' than there are 'hits'.

    Because of this, I want something thats going to slow me right down, and make me put alot more thought into each shot. No matter how much I try with digital, I always have the mindset of "Who cares if it's a bad shot?! I Can just delete it later!", and that's not the best way to go about getting more great shots. I see film, and more specifically MF to be a good solution for this.

    I've done a reasonably amount of research on the web, and so far the camera I'm giving the most thought towards is a Mamiya 645E. It's right about how much I'm happily willing to spend at the moment, and has the advantage of being 100% new. The second hand market is tiny here, and I would like to avoid buying second hand off ebay and the like, just to avoid the whole having to deal with something that's not in the condition I thought it was, and trying to contact someone overseas. KEH does make a good case for buying second hand though, and would probably be an exception. Any other ideas on a good system to start with would be well appreciated, as there's so much out there! I don't really mind if it's a 6x4.5, 6x6 or 6x7 format either.

    Thanks alot for just reading this long winded post, and a special thanks for any replies. Medium format equipment is still quite a daunting price for someone my age, earning New Zealand 'pesos'.
     
  2. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Last spring I bought my first medium format camera through KEH. I didn't like bidding on e-bay. If you "win", it really means you are paying more than anyone else. I had decided on a Mamiya 7, and they were selling for about $200.00 more on e-bay than at KEH, and KEH has a good return policy. My system, even used, is pretty expensive, but I felt it would be the best for the way I shoot. Just do your homework.

    Having said that, I've been shooting all summer with this camera, and just started printing in the last few weeks. I had been shooting with a Nikon F100, which is such a souped up camera, and very fast to shoot with. The Mamiya slowed me down big time! Loading the film, focussing, advancing the film manually (something I keep forgetting to do! It was so natural when I first started shooting way back when in high school!) Although, I don't like to "edit" while I'm shooting, I do find that I am a more deliberate shooter, and I always have several extra rolls of film in my pocket. I do find that I have to sit down to change the roll, and with only ten frames per roll, I start to really observe what I'm shooting more carefully. My husband thinks it takes me too long, especially when we are out for a walk, but he'll learn to deal with it! Besides, with practice, I should be able to work a little faster. My subjects are frequently my kids, so being quick with the shutter release can be key! So far, I'm very happy with the results.

    Keep in mind that having medium format film commercially processed can add up, so if you can stick with b/w, and develop it yourself you'll be saving untold millions of New Zealand "pesos".

    You will be amazed at your photographs, and your shooting will get better, and the end results will be gorgeous! Good luck
     
  3. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    What do you typically shoot? Do you want an SLR or a range finder? Do you always plan on using a tripod? Have you considered large format? Is autofocus or builtin metering important? Will you develop and print your own images? Will you local lab be able to print the images? My local lab only prints 6x7 as square images since that is all they know how do do (I only used them once).
     
  4. FrankB

    FrankB Member

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    Hi Chris,

    I'm in a similar boat to yourself, looking to move to medium format although for slightly different reasons. You may find this thread of use: http://www.apug.org/forums/showthread.php?t=8866 it started as a comparison of two cameras but has since evolved into a look through a lot of people's experiences of a wide range of MF and LF gear. I also stumbled on this rather wry article, which I am personally taking very much to heart at the moment! http://www.largeformatphotography.info/chasing-magic-bullet.html

    As far as slowing down, I currently shoot with an F80 which is nearly as easy to shoot quickly with as Suzanne's F100. However, I find a tripod with a good three-way head and a cable release slow me down quite well and make it far easier to peer around the edges of the 'finder prior to making the shot.

    Whatever you decide, all the best with your choice.

    Frank
     
  5. papagene

    papagene Membership Council Council

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    Hey Chris,
    Welcome to APUG. You'll find a lot of fellow photographers here willing to help you out with just about any question you may have on photography. And there are a lot of threads covering just what you are asking about.
    My MF choice is a couple of FUJI rangefinders (6x7 & 6x9), they suit me just fine. And the other members will have other choices for you to consider.
    I would advise the used route, and KEH is a good place to start.
    Good luck on your quest.

    gene
     
  6. mark

    mark Member

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    Admitting you have a problem is the first sign of recovery. :smile:

    The Mamiyas are good and solid. I would go to a photoshop and handle one first. I found them to be a bit awkward for my hands. Good luck with your research.
     
  7. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Morning, Chris,

    I very much like my Fuji 6 x 7 rangefinder and the Koni-Omega system. The Fuji, however, is expensive, and the Koni may be hard to find in a limited secondary market.
    A TLR (Autocord, Yashicamat, Mamiya, Rollei) would probably be easier to find; condition is more important than particular brand. A decent TLR can produce excellent results.

    Konical
     
  8. noblebeast

    noblebeast Member

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    Hi Chris,

    I too bought the Mamiya 645E because of a shortage of American pesos, and have not regretted it. For a brand new camera package you get a lot for your money, and the Mamiya lenses are sharp and contrasty and always give excellent images to work with. The only downside for me is that I now find myself doing more portrature than I was doing when I made my purchase, and find that because of the rectangle format I am always turning the camera on its side which makes it a little ergonomically clumsy. So you have to consider that if you are a people photographer. If I knew then what I know now I might have saved up a bit more money and gotten a square format MF SLR.

    I also have a small collection of TLRs and would recommend you at least entertain the idea of a used Rolleiflex, Mamiya C220-330, Minolta Autocord (our own Les McLean says he spent the first portion of his photographic career using the Minolta, and he has some wonderful pictures to show for it). The twin lens cameras can be had for even less than the new Mamiya kit, produce terrific results, have totally mechanical operation so you won't be left with a suddenly dead battery and an unworking shutter. With a little homework and patient hunting you can find used TLRs in practically brand new condition, and still have some money left to get the things you need to start your home darkroom. There's no going back now...

    Joe
     
  9. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    It all comes down to what you want it to do and budget.

    The 645E does not have interchangeable backs I think, which you may find limiting. I have an RZ67II whiich is great, but also great BIG and at 2.5kg certainly slow and ponderous.

    Have you thought of going in cheap to start with, such as a second hand Rolleicord V. I have one and it is very sharp stopped down, wonderfully soft wide open! Fixed lens and no interchangeable back, but if you are into simple stuff (and prepared to be disciplined) it does enough. I would not be too wary of ebay. Feedback is everything. If they have loads of 100% feedback and the item is described clearly, unambigously and in detail, then your chances are very good. Poor feedback with vague descriptions...be wary!

    My rolleicord cost £100 and is mint.

    Good thing about the 645 Mamiya is that used lenses are cheap and plenty. Bronica prices have completely crashed, so are worth a look as this must have hit used prices. A new SQAI was about £1100 about 1 year ago...now £699. I've had one and there is nothing wrong with them!

    Oh, just bite the bullet and get big beautiful view camera and dont prolong the agony any longer.

    Tom
     
  10. Black Dog

    Black Dog Member

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    Yeah, I'm looking to move to 8x10.....it's a slippery slope-mais je ne regrette rien etc
     
  11. Joe Symchyshyn

    Joe Symchyshyn Member

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    If you're interested in slowing down... I would suggest something like the RB or RZ67... While they can be used handheld, they really belong on a tripod.

    The benefit of the 645 is that you get more frames and can easily hand hold it... Not exactly forcing you to slow down.

    Plus you get more square inches of film, which you'll GREATLY appreciate!

    joe :smile:
     
  12. ChrisC

    ChrisC Member

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    Thanks alot for all the advice so far everyone. I guess I should have been a little bit clearer in what I mainly shoot. Broken down, I would probably be shooting 65% landscapes, 30% architectire and 5% percent people. I'm not immensly worried about having to throw whatever I get on a tripod, because that's alother slwing down step, which it what I'm after. Heck, whatever I go with will most likely live on a tripod.

    I have given some thought to TLR's as a good way to wet my feet. I saw one in an antiques store here a couple of weeks ago, in what looked like perfect order for around $100 USD. Sadly, this was before I put any real thought into going into MF so I neglected to see what camera it actually was. I might go and have a more serious look tomorrow, because I just want to fix this itch and get shooting with film again. Any tips on what to look out for as far as TLR's go in general? Or are they mostly pretty bullet proof?

    I would quite like to get something in a bigger format than 6x4.5 aswell. Although I'll have to save for a little bit longer to do this.

    I will also get into developing B&W myself, as I've done it before working for a pro photographer for a couple of days through 'work expirence' at school. I'll also have to have a chat with him about this aswell. But in the meantime I shouldn't have any problem getting my initial photos processed. There are a couple of top notch camera stores close by.

    Thanks alot for all the replies so far. Anything else anyone has to add will definatly be appreciated.
     
  13. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Evening, Chris,

    Most TLR's are very basic, and any flaws are usually obvious. Check the usual (shutter, aperature control, focus mechanism, etc.) for smooth operation. If the camera is a Minolta Autocord--an excellent camera--be aware that the focusing lever is prone to becoming very stiff in operation and can be frozen. Double check that.

    When you start your darkroom fun, you'll have a real bonus with 120 film. With only minimal practice, you will soon be able to load it onto a stainless steel reel in about fifteen to twenty seconds; no other film/reel combination is as quick and easy.

    Konical
     
  14. Alexz

    Alexz Member

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    I also made through it just a few months ago.
    Initially bought a Rolleicord Vb off Ebay - shot one roll and was amazed teh quality and the apperance. For the first time, seeing big slide wasa revelation for me, just like somebody opened a big window in the tight room where I cuold only lurk into a tiny key slit...
    Well, soon after that I discovered a fungus in teh taking lens and thanks to honesty and integrity of my seller we worked out the return for full refund.

    However I was hit already by MF and decided to dive more seriously into it with SLR. It took almost two moths of extensive online research, reviews, personal experiences, forums, etc.. to figure my choice - Bronica GS-1 which is 6x7.
    I built a kind of list of Pros and Cons of three systems I considered (all 6x7: Mamiya RB/RZ, Bronica GS-1 and Pentax 67) and for my needs, Broncia won.
    In fact, I wrote an article about my way through MF choosing and put it on my site. You're welcome to check, perhaps you find it useful to shape your mind for particular system.

    Great thanks to our digital era that made our wishes true to afford a a fine MF gear and open up our horizons to a quality. Bronica GS-1 setup (a body, 120 back, AE rotary prism, standard 100mm/3.5 PG lens and Speed grip) has deepened my pocket by just a mere of 750 $ which is a joke if we would recall MF prices for such kind of setup (ro a comparable Mamiya for instance) just a few years ago....
     
  15. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    The danger of starting with a TLR is that you could be addicted for life. The same might happen if you get a good old folder. When I started in MF I bought a cheap example of each to see which I preferred. I ended up being hooked on both types of camera.

    Jurgen Kreckel restores folders to near-new condition. His modest website is at http://www.foldingcamerasrestoration.com/. He's in the USA, and sells cameras directly and via eBay. As far as I know his prices are in the USD 250 to 350 range. If you buy a folder, you might end up carrying it everywhere you go.

    The 6x9 neg from a folder has over 50% of the area of a 4x5 cropped to the same height/width ratio - that's closer than the area of 35 mm compared to 6x4.5 cropped (about 37%). Of course I've chosen the 1:1.5 aspect ratio comparisons to make the figures support my message. Naughty.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  16. Mongo

    Mongo Member

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    A quick note about Jurgen Kreckel and his folders: if you can forgoe a coupled rangefinder, or even live with an accessory rangefinder, you can get a folder for less than $200 from him. I picked up a Bessa I (a 6x9) with a separate rangefinder for around $160 or thereabouts. It's a great camera with a very sharp lens. Folders can definately be addictive!
     
  17. ChrisC

    ChrisC Member

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    Thanks for all the input guys, it's been alot of help.

    I went out today around town looking for anywhere that would sell an old TLR. The one place that I stumbled across that actually had any was an antiques store (you know the kind, with the seedy looking guy behind the counter, reading a paper and grunting his welcome as you walk in the store). The only one he had was a 'Photina'. I had never heard of it before, and the guy behind the counter looked like he would know less about it than me.

    So I paid a visit to an old family friend who works in a photolab (he used to be a pro photographer a few years back) and we talked for a few minutes about it. He then put me onto an old friend of his who has a little hidden shop, with stacks of old, great contition equipment in it.

    So after saying goodbuy, I headed in the direction of the shop. It was very hidden, and I wouldn't have been able to find it without the help. So in I go, and inside was the nicest guy I've ever had the pleasure of dealing with. We talked for a few minutes again, and eventually he went into a cabinet and pulled out a fantastic looking Yashica 635. After going over it and asking the price ($200 NZD) I was sold. On top of that, he threw in a light meter and a formed leather case for it too! Nothing beats dealing with guys who love what they do.

    So I've got a couple of cheap B&W rolls of film I'm eagerly looking to throw through it this weekend and even more eagerly looking forward to the results!

    Thanks once again everyone. If I can get my scanner to do a semi-decent job of scanning the film/prints I'll be sure to post them up.
     
  18. 127

    127 Member

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    Congrats on choosing the TLR route!

    I'm sure you'll love it (I've got 3 Yashica Baby TLR's and they're sweet!).

    It's a different experience, and I totaly agree with Helens assesment of looking AT an image formed on glass rather than looking THROUGH a pentaprism viewfinder. It's so much more about the photograph. Don't panic about the reversed image - it becomes second nature really quickly. I can't use a digicam viewscreen, cause I always pan the wrong way (If only they'd add an option to reverse the image!).

    Most people who've never used a TLR think they're big clunky monsters - you'll quickly find they're a simple elegant and unobtrusive design. You can wander around all day shooting stuff, and no one will even notice. No horrid mirror slamming around, no lifting it up to your eyeline(and scaring the natives), no sync speed problems, no batteries...

    I'm sure you'll be hooked. Keep an eye out for one the the Yashica 44 tlr's - same design but for 127, so they're about half the size and 1/4 the weight. Now if I could just afford one of the NEW rollei's...

    Ian