getting started with medium format

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by phthenry, Nov 9, 2008.

  1. phthenry

    phthenry Member

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    I needed some direction in getting started with medium format, or advice if I should even get a medium format camera.

    My main reason for wanting a medium format camera is to get better resolution photos. I have used a 35 mm camera for over 2 decades. I am an amateur who likes to take pictures of people, mostly my family and friends.

    I also have a very limited budget. I could spend 300 dollars to get started, though I would still have to save up to spend even this. I would be satisfied with starting with an outfit that had just a normal (the equivalent of a 50 mm (80 mm?) lens). I assume I could use the flash equipment I already own, manual flashes such as the Sunpak 383, with a medium format camera.

    Ideally, the medium format camera would have a high sync speed. Right now, my Minolta only has a sync speed of 1/60 of a second, which limits my ability to use a flash outdoors. I have thought of getting a Nikon FM2, but then I wondered if instead I should save my money for a medium format camera. Ever since I owned my first camera way back even before there was such a thing as a digital camera, I have wanted a medium format camera, but never considered buying one because of the price. But now that one can get them fairly cheap on ebay, I have reconsidered.
     
  2. maezabeth

    maezabeth Member

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    Hi phthenry,

    One of the main reasons I like medium format is because you can make larger prints without having a grainy image.
    maezabeth
     
  3. michael9793

    michael9793 Subscriber

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    check out a mamyia, pentax, at e-bay under medium foremat. I have a hassy and a pentax both medium the hassy is 6x6 and the pentax is a 6x7. more of a standard foremat. The pentax also has a 35mm look to it. the mamyia is another style but good. once you get an Idea of which one you are interested in, check out google and and there should be areas like Photo-eye which has commits on the different cameras by different people.

    mike a
     
  4. michael9793

    michael9793 Subscriber

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    maezabeth,
    welcome to APUG hope you have years of great times like I have.
    michael andersen
     
  5. Chris Nielsen

    Chris Nielsen Member

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    Hi, have you checked KEH.com ?? They have MF outfits of various flavors starting at like $200
     
  6. Polybun

    Polybun Guest

    Well, the little folding range finders will suprise you, and many of them have full sync shutters!

    Latelly for photographing bmx racing I've been using a Mamiya Press. full sync shutter, so I can have strobe sync at 1/500th for doing fill flash on those anoying clear sky days. (if i wanted clear sunny skys, i wouldn't live in portland!)

    Even better, you can get a Mamiya press rig for right around $300 with a couple of backs. I will admit, mine was problematic at first. I had endless light leak problems, couldn't find it! Finally, it turned out to be a foam seal around the lens release button! 5 minute fix!

    [​IMG]
     
  7. papagene

    papagene Membership Council

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    For use with flash sync at all speeds I would recommend these systems (in no particular order):
    Bronica Etrs (6x4.5 SLR)
    Bronica SQA (6x6 SLR)
    Mamiya RB67 (6x7 SLR)
    Mamiya RZ67 (6x7 SLR)
    Mamiya C330 (6x6 TLR)
    Mamiya C220 (6x6 TLR)

    Other suggestions include (these two do not have interchangeable lenses):
    Yashica Mat 124g (6x6 TLR)
    Rollieflex (6x6 TLR - if you can find an older model in your price range)

    The following MF cameras can be used with leaf shutter lenses, but normally sync at slower shutter speeds with their standard lenses:
    Mamiya 645 Super or Pro (6x4.5 SLR)
    Pentax 67 (6x7 SLR)

    If you do some research (the Search feature here on APUG is very helpful) and ask a lot questions, I am sure you will find something that you will enjoy using.

    gene
     
  8. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    I love my Pentax 645N. With the normal lens (75mm), I can handhold it in most situations. The 120mm lens is great for portraits, but is a little heavy for me unless I'm shooting at pretty fast speeds. I don't remember the flash sync speed off the top of my head (I don't use flash much), but it might be 1/125 or 1/60. Basically, it's a 35mm on steroids.
     
  9. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    A Rapid Omega 200 just went for under $150 on eBay. The Koni-Omega and Rapid Omega cameras, lenses and accessories are probably the best bargain in medium format. As for synch speed, the lenses have leaf shutters, so there is x synch all the way to 1/500. The cameras are also very rugged. An occasional CLA on the backs is all you will need.
     
  10. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    There are many options for getting into medium format ranging from free to second mortgage in terms of cost. Papagene's list is comprehensive but if you are happy with a fixed, normal focal length lens, the Rolleiflex and the cheaper (but not inferior) Rolleicord are also good options.
    The Yashicaflex and Minolta Autocord are similar to these and can also produce good results.

    EDIT: Oh! He did mention those. I must have skipped two lines whilst reading the post!



    Steve.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 10, 2008
  11. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    $300? Borrow, try, save, then choose.

    Just because something might cost less than $300 doesn't mean that it's the right tool for you. There is much more diversity in MF than any other format. Everything from p&ses, RFs, TLRs to SLRs to field and view cameras. Old plate cameras too. Do you really think you can make an informed decision based a scattershot apug thread?

    1/500 synch can be had with just about any leaf shutter lens.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 10, 2008
  12. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

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    High speed synch in medium format SLR means 1/500 max, which is achieved with lenses that have leaf shutter mechanisms in them. Best for this purpose would be one of the following: Hasselblad, Rollei, Bronica or Mamiya RZ67. (Rollei does have somewhat higher max leaf shutter speed.) Pentax or Mamiya (645) are focal plane shutter cameras that have a few leaf shutter lenses, but they are rather bothersome to use.
     
  13. MartinB

    MartinB Member

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    Phthenry,

    Perhaps some more information on what you hope to gain by going to medium format would help focus the responses. You mention resolution - do you have any photos in online galleries that show some problem photos? In general, the move from 35mm to MF should gain improved tonality but marginal gains in resolution (although in a print it may seem more improved but mainly because for the same size print the enlargement factor is less) Is there anything else beside resolution?

    What is the max size enlargement you usually print? B&W or colour films and are they usually ISO 400? If you don't print larger than 8x10, you will seldom see much difference in the print between 35mm and medium format.

    For your subjects, do you usually pose them or is it more following the action? If the latter, then you will likely need a MF camera that handles more like a 35mm. You may find the reverse image in waist level finders llike you find in twin lens reflexes difficult to adjust to.

    Finally, you should consider how to print MF film. If your current enlarger can handle MF negs, then you may only need to add a neg holder and perhaps a lens. Even there, you may find the max size is 6x6 (which would rule out 6x7 cameras). If you need a new enlarger, then your $300 budget would be very stretched.

    Before hearing your answers, my guess is that a 645 camera with a prism finder and a leaf shutter is probably going to be the most comfortable upgrade for you. An older model Pentax 645 with 75mm leaf shutter lens or a Bronica 645 are most likely to fit your budget. You would need to use a PC cord (not the hot shoe) to get the flash sync.

    Martin
     
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  15. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

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    Bronica ETRS with speed grip would provide a leaf shutter with a hot shoe for flash.
     
  16. darinwc

    darinwc Subscriber

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    I reccomend one of the 645 slrs.. mamiya or bronica they are comparatively cheap right now. With a side grip they handle very well, and the enlargement from a 645 neg are nicer if you dont like grain. They are lightweight, have bright lenses, and with a side grip they handle much like a 35mm slr.
    Rolleiflexes are overpriced right now.
    6x7 cameras, including pentax, mamiya press and rb, koni omega, all look good on paper until you pick one up.
    Hasselblads are coming down on price, that may be an option.
    If you want to experement with 6x6, a yashica or rolleicord is a good value.
     
  17. Polybun

    Polybun Guest

    I think that all depends on just how stout of a person you are. I'm 6'1", 220lbs, I don't even notice it.
     
  18. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    I think it depends on what else you're carrying.

    Everything about an RZ for example is bigger. The lenses all weigh more then a 645. Even backs do.

    Carry a body,normal,wide and long lens. A few backs. Then add a meter. Tripod. Suddenly we're talking real weight. Makes an 8x10 look nice and light.
     
  19. phthenry

    phthenry Member

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    Thanks everyone! I have taken your advice and have started looking at the suggested cameras.

    MarinB: I probably won't print many pictures larger than 8 X 10. Also, I both pose my subjects and follow the action, so yes, I would need a camera that handles like a 35 mm. I was under the impression that a medium format film would produce much clearer images with less grain. Am I mistaken? I use 100 ISO film these days.
     
  20. MartinB

    MartinB Member

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    Given your use of ISO 100 film and 8x10 enlargements, I have found little difference between 35mm and MF film prints of "real" subjects in terms of grain and resolution. Strictly controlled tests can show differences (and I expect others can give examples) but in prints of negatives taken during normal shooting conditions, for me the differences are slight (and mostly in tonality)

    Since 35mm like handling will be important to you, I suggest a camera with a prism finder and avoiding a waist level finder since the latter takes getting used to (reversed image makes moving with the subject confusing at first)

    If you want flash sync above 1/60 or 1/125 then you will need a leaf shutter of some sort. You can get that with either a system where all the lenses have leaf shutters (Bronica ETRS series) or a system that has at least one leaf shutter lens available (Pentax 645 has a 75mm leaf lens and I think Mamiya has one for their 645 too) The focal plane shutter systems that have a special leaf lens (such as Pentax) require more fiddling than systems like the Bronica so it depends on how often you think you need the higher flash sync.

    I think the 645 models will be the easiest step up for you into MF and should fit into your budget. They have 35mm like handling and viewfinders, can be found in your budget, and are most likely to work with the current enlarging system you have. I have the first model Pentax 645 which I find has a nice bright viewfinder. I also have a P645N but that body will blow your budget. The P645 bodies have everything built in like 35mm bodies do (metering, winder, finder) so all that is needed is a body, a lens and a film insert(back) The Bronica Etrs is also very good but you need to assemble a few more pieces so if buying a complete kit make sure it is the combination you want - get the combination of body and finder for your needs. A Bronica user can give you better advice than I.

    A MF system will likely change the photographs you make. For me, it did not replace 35mm but gave me new options so if you are thinking of trying it out, I would encourage you go give it a try.

    Martin
     
  21. SamWeiss

    SamWeiss Member

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    In my experience, using Tri-X (ISO 400) and making 8x10 prints, one does indeed notice a difference. Even more so with color film, where I've found Fujifilm's pro 800 rather pleasing when shot on MF and printed to around 8", but when enlarged 8x from 35mm the grain starts to intrude. So yes, using fast film, even the modest increase in size matters.

    Having said that, recently I've printed some pictures made from Fujifilm Acros, from 35mm negatives, and the 8x10 prints are very close to "grainless" (I have to hold them close to my nose to start seeing the grain.) In this case the ISO 100 film won't show such an improvement if you only print 8x10, though I bet one could tell the difference if one printed enough from Acros in various sizes.
     
  22. ricksplace

    ricksplace Member

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    A few years ago, I bought a Yashica A for $15 on ebay (out of nostalgia -I had one 40 years ago). It only has a four speed shutter, but the results are stunningly sharp when the lens is stopped down to f8-11.
    My point is that you can try medium format for a lot less than 300.
     
  23. nsouto

    nsouto Subscriber

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    If you want portable medium format AND flash synch at higher speeds AND interchangeable lenses AND a price around $300, there is really only one solution: the Mamiya C series. C220 or C330. Entry point price is low, you can expand lenses later as needed. And it is still reasonably portable.

    Of course there are cheaper ways to get into the format, but all will cut into one or other of the options you mentioned.

    You can also reduce grain effects and increase resolution in 35mm by using different films. Efke 25, Adox CMS20 and other such will give you much reduced grain and much higher resolutions, assuming your lenses are up to the task. Acros 100 used with a "small grain" developer will do a very credible job of increased resolution with less grain. But, be aware that "small grain" is not a synonym for "high resolution": the two are completely different concepts, not inter-dependent.

    However, nothing will provide you with such a great jump in quality as increasing the negative size by going for MF.
     
  24. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

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    In your budget, with your stated aims, I'd suggest a TLR - despite the image being laterally reversed without a prism, there's nothing else out there that will truly let you follow the action up to, through and after the moment of exposure. Start off with a quality budget TLR (yes, santa, there is such a thing). The Yashica, Minolta and Rolleicord models that have already been mentioned are great. You can also find Olympus TLRs (yes, OLYMPUS TLRs - they made some very nice ones back in the 1950s). Another very inexpensive TLR that produces decent images is a Graflex 22 - they are also known by some other names, which I forget off the top of my head). The Mamiya C22 and C220 models are the smaller, lighter versions of the Mamiya TLR line. They offer the advantage of interchangeable lenses, but that advantage comes with a downside, increased bulk. Your best bet is to get yourself in to a dealer of equipment who has a range of choices for you to play with, and get your hands on them.
     
  25. Pupfish

    Pupfish Member

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    If one purpose to having a higher flash sync speed is to stop action (and not merely to balance outdoor fill-flash with medium speed ISO films at wider apertures than f/16 or f/22), then a MF SLR introduces a significant unintended consequence versus 35mm-- total shutter release propagation time. It's nigh impossible to hit peak of fast action with a camera that takes 1/4 sec for the mirror to swing up out of the way and the shutter to release. 35mm and DSLRs rule here with relatively tiny mirrors that allow total propagation times down to about 1/30s (not to mention fast motordrives).

    In this regard, MF TLRs, rangefinders, or folders will prove faster than MF SLRs by an order of magnitude.
     
  26. phthenry

    phthenry Member

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    Again, thanks everyone. I have done more research, and that research, as well as pupfish's post, leads me to believe that hand holding a medium format camera is harder than I thought. It seems that the SLRs are hard to hand hold because the big mirror causes too much shake when it flips up. I read that one photographer complained that despite looking like a 35 mm SLR, the pentax could not be hand held, at least by him.

    My understanding is that one can more easily hand hold a TLR or rangefinder. The Yashica 124G seems like a nice camera for me to start with. I see one selling on ebay right now for $75, but I'm not ready to commit yet, knowing too little. I think someone mentioned the Mamiya press camera.

    I have used a waist level viewfinder before. I once owned an Exacta 35 mm camera, and yes, the image looking backwards really proved a problem at times.