Getting Started in Medium Format

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Wmcgowin, Aug 1, 2005.

  1. Wmcgowin

    Wmcgowin Member

    Messages:
    61
    Joined:
    May 12, 2005
    Location:
    Mobile, Alab
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Hello All-

    I have been shooting 35mm for years, and have decided to step up to a meduim format. I'll still keep my old A-1, but I want to add a larger camera. I tend to shoot nature and similar scenes, and don't shoot people or "action" photography.

    I know very little about medium format, oher than the little I have learned while using a Holga. Based on what I am reading, the 645 cameras seem to be a good start, which, I guess, puts me in a Mamiya, Bronica, or Pentax (am I right on that?). I would like the input of the group here. Do you have any recommendations for a starter camera, what lens or lenses, etc?

    I mentioned medium format earlier, and someone recommendded I go straight to large format. While that might be sound advice, I am not ready to make that much of a jump.

    Also, I live in a smaller city which doesn't have much in the way of a good camera shop (other than Ritz stores, there are 2 stores here-one pretty much has gone to digital, and the other is small and sort of junky). I am near New Orleans, however, and can drive over there. While I probably will buy a camera from an internet dealer, I'd like to handle one first. Is there anyone here who lives on New Orleans or who knows any good camera stores over there?

    This is an open ended question, or series of questions, so feel free to give me any thoughts you might have.
     
  2. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

    Messages:
    4,679
    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2004
    Location:
    Italia
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Personally I'd suggest the Bronica ETRSI. It's got the best combination of features and prices from what I've seen.

    Second choice would be the early Pentax 645. Problem is you'll be paying more for a camera that is older.


    Doing nature you can get the Bronica with a waist level finder and the 75mm lens to start. The 40mm and 50mm older model lenses aren't that expensive used. Some of the features with the Bronica might not be of interest to you. Leaf shutters. Removable backs.

    The Pentax adds a built in meter and motordrive. Both things you could add to the Bronica but from the sound of it neither are things you'd want to. Pentax lenses tend to be more expensive then Bronica lenses.



    http://medfmt.8k.com/mf/gindex.html

    Scroll down and they offer a feature comparison of the different cameras. They all offer something different.
     
  3. Magnus W

    Magnus W Member

    Messages:
    206
    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2005
    Location:
    Uppsala, Swe
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Take a look at the Pentax 6x7. It's a sturdy beast with good optics, and at a good price on the used market -- better than the 6x4.5. Since it is built like a 35mm on steroids you will feel right at home handeling-wise. For myself, I like the 6x7 format better than the 6x4.5. Personally I am shooting 6x6, but it seems to me that you ruled out the square alternatives.

    -- MW
     
  4. rogueish

    rogueish Member

    Messages:
    877
    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2004
    Location:
    3rd Rock
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The move up to MF is more than just the camera.
    Don't forget you'll need a bigger spool for your tank if you use stainles steel. (some plastic ones are multi-format) You will also need the neg carrier and a bigger lens for the enlarger (I'm assuming you enlarge your own). A 50mm lens won't give you the coverage you need. You'll need a 75mm at the very least.
    I started into MF with a Yashica C TLR. No builtin light meter and a fixed 80mm lens. Was OK to start with, but I wanted more flexability. Bought an Mamiya RB 67 and am happy. It has become my main camera (I still use the 35mm on occasion).
    As for online camera stores I would recommend KEH Camera Brokers, based in Atlanta. I've bought 3 lens (90,150,250mm). Good service, more than fair rating on equipment and quick, well packed shipping. Wish I could help with a camera store in New Orleans (beautifull city) but I was only checking out the drinkin... I mean tourist sites :wink: when I visited.
     
  5. MikeSeb

    MikeSeb Member

    Messages:
    1,062
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2005
    Location:
    Prospect (Lo
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Don't forget about the Contax 645. I haven't priced them against the other 6x4.5cm format cameras lately, and don't know what your budget is, but it is a fantastic camera. Yes, it has been discontinued by its manufacturer, but the camera is still available.

    It is the finest camera I've ever owned.
     
  6. jjstafford

    jjstafford Inactive

    Messages:
    735
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2004
    Location:
    Minnesota Tr
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Half-frame. Ugh.
     
  7. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

    Messages:
    3,894
    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2003
    Location:
    Middle Engla
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    You took the words right out of my keyboard!
     
  8. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    17,922
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I have to agree--645 has never really appealed to me much as a format. If one is going to have only one camera system, and wants a compromise between the light weight and versatility of 35mm with a bigger neg, then 645 makes sense. 645 is definitely an improvement over 35mm, but if you're going to keep 35mm, you might as well go to 6x6 (if you like the square format) or 6x7 (if you prefer rectangles) and really take advantage of the larger camera, using 35mm for what it does well, and MF for what it can do.

    There are lots of options, and have been quite a few threads about getting into MF, so you might read through them and see if that helps narrow it down.
     
  9. David Henderson

    David Henderson Member

    Messages:
    342
    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2004
    Location:
    Datchet, Ber
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    To me, the thing that marks the medium format experience is the feeling of expansiveness, closeness and detail that is visible through the finder and the elegance of the shape relative to the angular, distant and cramped (my view) 35mm view. I get these things with 6x6 and 67. Personally I don't get it with 645 which I guess is another way of saying that it all looks too similar to 35mm for me. That said there is certainly enough film size to produce great large prints.

    If you do go 645 I'd suggest you take a hard look at the Pentax 645n. It handles very much like a 35mm; has great auto exposure if you want it and the lenses are very good indeed- even the zooms. Definitely a generation ahead of the Bronica and Mamiya models.
     
  10. Troy Ammons

    Troy Ammons Member

    Messages:
    174
    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I would second the Pentax 67 if you want a SLR. Most of the lenses are very sharp, but the EDif lenses are very expensive. On top of that you can shoot 67 lenses on a Pentax 645 or any 35mm camera that will take a M42 adapter.

    If you are going to hike with MF I would go for a mamiya 6 (late) or Mamiya 7.
     
  11. esanford

    esanford Member

    Messages:
    637
    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2004
    Location:
    Hertford Nor
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I was the guy that probably told you to skip medium and go to large format. No matter how you cut it, MF is incredibly expensive. As someone mentioned, not only do you have to purchase the camera, lenses and accessories, you have to change out your dark room equipment if you can only accomodate 35mm... I went to medium format in the early 1990s. In fact, I am on my 2nd system. I started out with Mamiya RB 67, and I now shoot Hasselblad. I purchased all of my equipment used, and it was still very expensive. I love the format, but it can't compare to large format. There is a greater quality difference between LF and MF then there is between 35mm and MF. After all this time, I am now moving into large format. To begin with, I just built the Bender Camera to get started, and I just bought a used 4X5 enlarger off Ebay to accomodate the negatives. So, if I had it to do all over again, I would milk everything I could out of 35mm and then go right LF... It is far less expensive over the long haul. If you insist on going MF, I would get the camera with the largest negative that I could afford (i.e. 6X6 or 6X7)... Pick a system with outstanding lenses like Mamiya or Hassy....

    As far as stores are concerned, there are virtually no stores in any town that carry good camera supplies anymore... If you buy new, then B&H out of NY is your best bet. If you buy used like I do, KEH is the best used camera outlet in the country... They have a 14 day return policy for any reason, and they provide a 30 day warranty.... I have purchased nearly everything from them and they stand behind their warranties without fail...

    My last advice: don't go medium format... It will cost you a lot more over the long haul.... If you go MF, at least buy a 4X5 enlarger... There are a lot out there.... One of the great things that digital is doing for guys like us is flooding the market with a lot of quality used equipment.... See ebay as an example....
     
  12. mgb74

    mgb74 Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,776
    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2005
    Location:
    Minneapolis,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I'd give some thought as to usage and features to help drive the decision. For example, if landscape and scenics will be primary use, to me that suggests you might want a rectangular format (such as 6x7, 6x4.5) and you do not require a leaf shutter lens for flash sync at all speeds. You also may be concerned about weight. In addition to the inherent quality of a larger negative, it gives you more cropping flexibility ("a poor man's zoom").

    So, for example, 2 of the best price/performance choices (IMHO), the Mamiya TLR and the Mamiya RB67, may not fit your needs due to format (TLR) and weight (TLR, RB). Of course as soon as I say this a hundred very accomplished landscape photographers will tell me that's what they use and I'm wrong. And even though a Yashica TLR is square format and leaf shutter, it's light and could make a good MF starter.

    The Pentax 67 is a good choice for scenics and landscapes. Lenses are sharp and relatively inexpensive. Big negative. Not terribly heavy. There are a few older cameras (such as Graflex XL and Koni-Omega) that can give you this but they are old and may not be the best entry point for MF.

    Another good approach is a older 2.25x3.25 press camera (such as a Century Graphic) combined with a good lever-wind film back. Now you have some basic movements, inexpensive lenses, and the choice of sheet film and roll film. Assuming you could get one in good condition, this would be my choice.

    Give some thought as to metering. Many MF cameras have no meters and when they do the meters are pretty basic (not all, just many). Personally, for scenics and landscapes, I'd definately forgo any in-camera meter and find a good used Pentax spotmeter. After the camera and first lens, it would be my next purchase.

    With the decline of MF for wedding photography, it seems a good time to purchase used MF equipment.
     
  13. MikeSeb

    MikeSeb Member

    Messages:
    1,062
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2005
    Location:
    Prospect (Lo
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    You guys are hard core!:smile:
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Wmcgowin

    Wmcgowin Member

    Messages:
    61
    Joined:
    May 12, 2005
    Location:
    Mobile, Alab
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Wow-thanks for all the well thought out responses.

    I need to go somewhere and look at these cameras (not just the 645, but also the 6x6, 6x7, and whatever else was mentioned). I do want something I can carry without killing myself.

    Esanford-I hear what you are saying about large format. I just am not ready for that yet. Plus I do want to do some point and shoot with the camera.

    It is not too hard for me to get to Atlanta, which is where KEH is based. Does anyone know if they have a showroom? If they do, I just might go up there-Atlanta is good for a weekend (wouldn't want to live there, though).

    Thanks again. Any more input is always welcomed.
     
  16. Bill Hahn

    Bill Hahn Member

    Messages:
    351
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2004
    Location:
    North centra
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Just thought I'd add another vote for the Pentax 6x7. The one I use was built in 1981 and the lenses work well. It's a workhorse.

    (That said, after using it for a couple of years I bought a 4x5... :tongue: )
     
  17. esanford

    esanford Member

    Messages:
    637
    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2004
    Location:
    Hertford Nor
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Unfortunately, KEH does not have a showroom... What you can do (if you have plenty of space on your credit card) is to have them ship you a couple of cameras, test them out and ship the one(s) back that you don't want to keep... If you can get to Atlanta, there are other stores that will probably have cameras on display that you can see, feel, touch...

    To sound like a broken record here are few things to ask yourself about 35mm:
    Have you been using a tripod on every shot for a while, so that you can take advantage of slow shutter speed thereby maximizing depth of field?

    Have you tried a film that will give you good sharp pictures?
    Have you adjusted your development time properly to ensure proper contrast?
    Have you fine tuned your printing techniques?

    When I first went to medium format, my results weren't all that great... I purchased Fred Picker's Zone VI workshop book (always available on EBAY); I got my technique down much better and really improved my medium format photography. I went back to 35mm and applied these same techniques, limited my enlargements to 5X7 and I really improved the hell out of my 35mm quality... the message: moving to a bigger negative is not a panacea if you don't improve your technique....

    Good luck my man!!!!
     
  18. brent8927

    brent8927 Subscriber

    Messages:
    305
    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2005
    Location:
    Milwaukee, W
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    If you're thinking about a 6x6 at all, definetely look at the Bronica S2A; it was my first MF camera and was wonderful, with a full set-up (body, 4 backs, 50mm, 75mm, 200mm, prism finder, grips, other stuff I didn't need...) for about $800 or so. You can get a body, back, and lens in great shape on ebay for anywhere from $200-$400.

    Personally I really liked the square; one of the great things about it is you don't have to turn the camera on its side to shoot verticle (some 6x9s have revolving backs tough). The square grew on me so now I always shoot square, but if you're thinking about 645, you might as well do 6x6 and crop to horizontal or vertical.

    The best 6x6 would he a Hasselblad of course, and they're selling for pretty darn cheap on ebay right now. Of course, that's compared to their normal price!

    I also would agree with your opinion not to get a LF camera; I tried that, thinking the better detail and movements would make me never want to go back to handheld cameras. I was pretty darn wrong-- in my opinion nothing compares to being able to hold the camera and compose through the waist level finder-- it's heaven in a box!
     
  19. Soeren

    Soeren Member

    Messages:
    2,342
    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2004
    Location:
    Naestved, DK
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I don't think I agree on that one. Yes the possible end quality from a LF neg is greater than that from a MF neg. Regarding the costs on the other hand you can come a long way in MF before you start shooting in LF, at least here in DK. Most enlargers here is cabable of 6X6 and if you are lucky you can have them for free (I have got 4 given to me). Offcource that could be possible with a LF enlarger as well but they are rare here. The drums are mostly also cabable of taking 120 film so that shouldn't be a problem either.
    If you want 6X7 or 6X9 on the other hand you are in trouble. Those formats need bigger enlargers. Another problem is the size of the enlarger. for 4x5 they are mostly way bigger and much more cumbersome than the 24X36/6X6, not a good thing if use a makeshift darkroom.
    The MF cameras is very cheap now and here in DK they are cheaper than the LF we gan get here.
    If you want 4.5X6 look at: Bronica, Pentax, Mamiya and Contax. In 6X6 you can find Bronica and Hasselblad and possible some more.
    I have a Yashica and a Bronica SQA-i (6X6) because I like the square more than the 4.5X6 rectangle.
    See if you can borrow one (or more) and try it/them out.
     
  20. Digidurst

    Digidurst Subscriber

    Messages:
    629
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2005
    Location:
    SC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    A bit OT but I did that with a couple lenses once from KEH. When I called to get authorization to return one of them, I caught alot of flack. The guy made me feel like pond scum just because I wanted to try the two lenses side by side to make my final decision. Won't do that again, that's for sure!
     
  21. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

    Messages:
    4,679
    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2004
    Location:
    Italia
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    6x7 is too square. 6x6 is square. Bah. I can see going to 6x9 but the in between formats just aren't that interesting to me. Of course I also like 5x7 more then 4x5 and wish my camera was really 5x8 or something even less square. All depends what you like.
     
  22. esanford

    esanford Member

    Messages:
    637
    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2004
    Location:
    Hertford Nor
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Sorry you had that experience... I've been dealing with them for 16 years (I purchased my hassy + 3 lenses... I purchased my Beseler enlarger as well as several light meters... Nothing but gracious treatment.... I don't know where else you can get this kind of service in the "used market"... I've also noticed that they are becoming more competitive because of Ebay.....
     
  23. esanford

    esanford Member

    Messages:
    637
    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2004
    Location:
    Hertford Nor
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I purchased my Hassy w/80mm (older C type lens) + 1 back & waist level finder for $1,350... I used it for 6 months and then bought the following over time: 1 Eyeleve finder $400, 150mm C lens for $650, 2 additional A12 backs for about $600 for the pair, 50mm CT lens $700: total cost: $3700 This doesn't count the ~$1,000 I had tied up in the RB67 which I got too old to hike with.... After all of this, the kind of photography that I do is not optimal with MF

    I can buy a Zone VI field camera (on ebay) ~$750:, 150mm Nikkor lens for $245 (currently on KEH), a 210mm Nikkor lens for $484 (on KEH), and a 90mm Nikkor for $819 (on KEH) 3 lens boards for ~$100 and 5 pair of Elite film holders @ $20 (on KEH) for $100... total cost:$2498

    I just bought a used Beseler 4M 4X5 enlarger w/ a Zone VI cold light (the best ever made) for $400.... (it included 3 lenses (50, 110 & 150) and lense boards and negative carriers...so you see that you can break into LF for under $3000 if you had nothing, and the picture quality is a quantum better!!!! I still have enough left over to buy a very nice used Leica for 35mm handheld shooting!!!!
     
  24. jjstafford

    jjstafford Inactive

    Messages:
    735
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2004
    Location:
    Minnesota Tr
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Now who in the world would send you two or more lenses to choose from? I do think that is asking for too much, even from KEH.

    I worked briefly as a counter person at a huge camera shop once and thought I'd seen it all until a guy kept insisting that I get him a 'blad with "a cool serial number... list 'em all and let me pick one..." Sure, I did it because he was a customer but I wanted to tell him to get real.
     
  25. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,896
    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2004
    Location:
    Saint Paul
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I would like to put in a good word for the Mamiya 645 system. The prices for them are really affordable, they have great optics, and they handle very well. I agree that a 6X7 negative would be nice, but for the cost of a Mamiya 7 or the size and weight of a Pentax 67, I am very happy with the 645. I also believe that going from a 35mm to a MF system is a good move. I have found that I took my pictures much more slowly and contemplatively with the MF rig than with 35mm and it was a big step for me. Prices have dropped so much on these systems that they are affordable enough to just try out to see if you like it. If not, you can get most, if not all, of your money back on eBay.
     
  26. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Member

    Messages:
    726
    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I would agree with the various voices suggesting something bigger than 6 x 4.5. I tend to think that if you are going MF: go all the way. 6 x 7 has close to twice the film area of 6 x 4.5 and I too like the Pentax 67. It's a bit heavy to carry about all day, though. For landscape you might like a lighter range finder. 6 x 9 might be even better for landscape, especially as it will give you the same image proportions that you are used to with 35mm. It uses more film, but not that much. The only real trouble is that a lot fewer enlargers can take it.

    David.