Looking to get started in medium format

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by thegman, Jul 16, 2010.

  1. thegman

    thegman Member

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    Hello all,
    Currently I shoot almost exclusively 35mm, only stopping to shoot a little digital if I don't want to carry my Zeiss Ikon. I'm now interested in trying medium format, and have a few questions.

    I'm looking to blow up pretty big, maybe 40" across if I take a photo worthy of it, is it worth getting a 6x7 camera vs. 6 x 4.5 to squeeze out a bit more resolution or is 6 x 4.5 enough for most things?

    I don't like the idea of buying into a dead system, I think it make investing in lenses a bit of a worry, so I'm currently considering:

    Mamiya 645 AFD - These are inexpensive, modern and wide angle lenses are cheap.

    Mamiya 7 - 6x7 negative is probably a good thing, the range finder system I am used to, and they are pretty portable, only downside is the price of the body and a wide angle lens. And the range finder, much as I like them, does not allow precise framing.

    Hasselblad 503cx - Inexpensive, legendary, but maybe the most cumbersome to use.

    Fujifilm GF670 - The most expensive, 80mm lens may not suit me, but it's drop dead gorgeous and it's portability is probably the best.

    At the moment the 645AFD is winning, on price, modernity, and cheap wide angle lens availability. I wonder about portability though. Is there anything else I should be considering?

    Thanks a lot!

    Garry
     
  2. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    You mentioned the 503CX, saying that is the most cumbersome to use. And i take my cue from that. ;-)

    You focus, set the shutterspeed and aperture, press the shutter release whenever you feel like it, wind on.... what's cumbersome about that?
     
  3. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    If you're looking for max image quality, get 6x6cm or larger especially if you want to use 400 film some of the time.

    You should not disregard the Pentax 67 (and 67ii) system if you are looking for a system. The 67's are cheap and high quality.

    A TLR from Rollei or a later Yashica would be good too, but not interchangeable of course. If you are interested in "trying medium format" as you say, this is an easy route where you could resell the camera for similar money if you don't like it. You might be out a CLA service at most, but that could be easily recovered by mentioning it in the sale.
     
  4. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I would look for a 6x7 or larger, maybe 6x9, or why not make the jump to 4x5. I have a 6x9 Kodak folder that's capable of tack sharp negatives, and a couple of 4x5 mono rail cameras. You need to think large negatives if you want super large prints. There are those that will argue that 6x4.5 or 6x6 quite capable of enlargments the size you are suggesting, IMO thats really stretching it thin. Obviously, the larger the negative, the better the quality of the enlargment, and that requires super-sizing negatives. I would even go so far as to recommend 8x10 and larger for your desires.
     
  5. thegman

    thegman Member

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    Thanks for the input, 4x5 for me is a step too far, I need/want a camera which can go in a bag, and be used without a tripod if required. I don't see myself using 400 speed film very much at all, I tend to use mostly Velvia 100 and Ektar 100 on 35mm, I don't see that changing for medium format.

    I see that Hasselblad is very simple to use, but not so much for handheld I don't think, whereas the range finders can be used much like a 35mm range finder I expect. The 645AFD seems built for hand held use more than the 'blad too.

    The 645AFD looks good as the wide angle lenses are cheap, and the whole shebang is less of an investment than the rest, except maybe the Hasselblad. Maybe I need to settle on a negative size first though, 6x7 I guess really is quite a lot bigger and will enlarge easier.
     
  6. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I used a Hasselblad almost exclusively for years until I got seriously into large format and contact printing. To me, it was an absolute natural to use handheld. To be honest, it's lighter and more compact than a Mamiya 645 AFD. As has been mentioned though, I'd go to 6x7 for non-cropped enlargeability (is that even a word??) or 6x9. For a 6x7, a Mamiya 7 or 7 II would be the ticket, although they have limited lens selection and they're not cheap. An RB67 would be the bees knees budget wise, but it's much less friendly for hand-holding than a Hasselblad, in part because the operation is not one-hand intuitive. The Pentax 67 is another option, and they're certainly hand-holdable, but they're big and chunky. The Bronica GS-1 is also a 6x7 SLR with many of the advantages of the RB without all the bulk and complexity. However, they're relatively scarce and Bronica is definitely no longer in business, so repairs for them are getting harder to find.

    Given your preferences, I'd look for one of the Fuji GSW 670 or 690 models - the I or II, not the III. You can pick up the I or II for a reasonable price, you get an outstanding 65mm wide-angle lens, and a 6x7 or 6x9 negative in what's been called a "texas leica". Lenses are not interchangeable, unless you get a Fujica BL 690 (earlier model) but anything other than the 100mm "normal" lens for that camera is ridiculously expensive.

    One last option would be a Crown Graphic 6x9 press camera. Cheap as chips, extremely common, takes interchangeable lenses. And it folds up into a self-contained box for hauling around. You can get 6x7 or 6x9 rollfilm backs for them, and if you want precise composition, you can use them with a ground glass back on a tripod.
     
  7. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    From my experience, a Hasselblad is a very easy camera to handhold, being just as easy to handhold as my Mamiya M645 system.
     
  8. Changeling1

    Changeling1 Member

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    You might check into the Bronica Gs-1. The Zenzanon glass is superb and the camera is easily hand-held either by itself or with the accessory Speed-
    Grip however I would highly recommend that you use a tripod on most occasions and especially when you plan to make enlargements of 40 inches. You'll appreciate the Gs-1's 6x7 negative when making those huge enlargements.
     
  9. cfclark

    cfclark Member

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    I wouldn't worry too much about investing in a "dead" system--after all, film has been pronounced dead many times already. :D

    I have a Pentax 6x7 and (thanks to GAS) now a Pentax 645, and there are plenty of lenses and accessories available on the used-equipment market for both, as well as ample technical expertise for repairs, etc. Which is not to say you should get involved with either system, but that there are plenty of options among what has been suggested, almost all of which you could enjoy without much trepidation.

    Personally, I'm now lusting after a Crown Graphic myself. Although a nice 6X6 TLR also has its appeal. (Don't tell my wife.)
     
  10. lns

    lns Member

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    I personally don't find a Hasselblad easy to handhold. Perhaps because I have small hands. I do occasionally handhold it, using a string monopod, and that works fine, but most of the time I use the Hasselblad on a tripod. The Hasselblad also has much bigger and heavier lenses. Garry wants a small setup, and he wants to use slower film without a tripod. I think he's right that he'd be happier with the medium format rangefinder.

    I can highly recommend the Mamiya 7, having owned one. It has the usual rangefinder disadvantages: you can't focus close and you're not viewing through the lens. And the usual rangefinder advantages: great lenses, reasonably compact. It can be carried in a small or medium bag with its lenses. If you're happy with your Zeiss Ikon, which is a great camera by the way, you should like the Mamiya 7. I'm not familiar with the 645AF.

    -Laura
     
  11. fotch

    fotch Member

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    The recommendation of the baby press camera is right on. Easy to shoot handheld, or as a field camera with limited movements, ground glass, close up capacity.

    Interchangeable roll film backs for any of the formats or sheet film.

    What more can you want?
     
  12. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Not to be a party pooper, but if you really need to blow up to 40 inches wide, I'd go for a 4x5 camera. There are many excellent models for very little money, and many of them can be used hand held, if the light is strong enough. Then again, if I wanted to blow something up to 40 inches wide, I also would likely not be shooting hand held. :D

    If you insist on medium format, I would suggest a 6x9 camera, for sheer negative width (as well as the aspect ratio that it shares with standard 35mm cameras). I am partial to the Mamiya Press system for shooting this format hand held (or on a tripod, for that matter :D), but there are several Fuji rangefinders that shot this format, and lots of medium format press cameras that do so.

    Also: Since when has the Mamiya AFD been inexpensive? :D There are many other 645 options that are just as good (better, I would opine), and for far less money, including Mamiya's own pre-AF models.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 16, 2010
  13. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    If you really, really want to enlarge to 40 inches and maintain quality, 4x5 would be my minimum....5x7 or 8x10 would be even better. If you really want to shoot handheld, I'd consider the Hasselblad (most flexible, high quality), Mamiya 7 (bigger neg, more expensive, limited lens options, great handheld), or a Rolleiflex TLR (exquisite, old, wonderful). I have both a Rollei and a Hasselblad. The Rollei is wonderful to shoot handheld plus is is small and light....and limited to a single lens. The hasselblad is way more versatile and can shoot at very short focusing distances with tubes. It is handholdable, but is happier on a tripod. For me, the upper limit for 6x6 negatives is about 20x20.....I can't enlarge beyond that anyway!
     
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  15. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    If by hand held you mean standing solidly in one place, taking your time to compose and focus, holding the camera very still against your chest and gently firing the shutter, I will argue that any leaf shutter camera with a waist level finder will do just as well as a Hasselblad (for instance, Mamiya RB/RZ).

    If you mean shooting action, then I will agree with you that a Hassy is better, due to its easier/accurater :smile:D) follow focusing and smaller/lighter characteristics.
     
  16. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I have enlarged both color and black & white to 24"x36" from 35mm.

    That said. I had a Mamiya C-330 and now I have a Hasselblad 503 CX and a Hasselblad 903 SWC. Hasselblad with a prism handles like a large 35mm camera. It is easy to use hand held. It is smaller and less bulky than Bronicas or equivalent Mamiyas.

    You should go to camera stores and handle any camera that you are thinking of buying. Perhaps renting. That will answer the important questions about YOUR handling the camera that no one here can answer for you.

    I do not think that you will be dissappointed with a Hasselblad. It is a complete and large system with lots of backs, lenses and other parts readily available.

    Steve
     
  17. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Precise composition=SLR, compact=Hasselblad
    Soft release, leaf shutter, not as precise composition capability=Mamiya 7ll.
    Quality lenses=either.
    IMO the Hasselblad actually feels smaller than the Mamiya and with the pistol grip beneath the camera is very easy to handle.
    With the grip your left hand supports the camera and trips the shutter, your right hand adjusts speed, aperture and advances film.
    For use with moving subjects the Mamiya because the image is right side up. With the Hasselblad the image doesn't move the same direction on the screen when you move the camera. If you add a prism the camera becomes very heavy relative to the Mamiya.
     
  18. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    I just don't have the arm strength to handhold those RB/RZ/Pentax 67s :D
     
  19. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    You don't need arm strength! Hang it around your neck, let it rest against your chest, and use the WLF. My whole point was that when doing this, there will be no difference in hand holding ability between these cameras and a Hassy. Add a left hand grip with a hole for a cable release and you are even more stable.
     
  20. agfarapid

    agfarapid Subscriber

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    I guess I'm biased but the manual Mamiya 645 has produced prints for me that are 40 inches across with excellent sharpness. It's an inexpensive system with great glass (try the 45mm 2,8!) and excellent build quality. It's fast handling--I've personally found it more pleasant to use than a Hassy-- with a wealth of accessories. My next suggestion would probably be an RB. Excellent lenses, inexpensive (full kit for about $350) and huge negatives. You should just try renting a system for the weekend and see what make you happy.
     
  21. djacobox372

    djacobox372 Member

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    I agree with the 6x7 or larger suggestion... 6x4.5 just isn't enough of an upgrade over 35mm IMO. My vote is for the mamiya 7, as it's far less bulky then a 6x7 slr.
     
  22. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    Check the minimum focus for the lenses on this camera. How close are you planning to get. This system is $$$$

    My advise is to get an RB67, which will be a small amount these days, use it and see. Who wants to eventually build a system, why not have it sooner rather than later. Besides in this economy why over spend, a 6X7 negative is nothing to sneeze at. All this being said I think someone mentioned a 4X5 and I would say that a 4X5 with an international back so you can used roll film holders would be a very good choice. Graflex etc.. Then you would have a system that is really flexible.
     
  23. thegman

    thegman Member

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    Hmm, so many choices...

    Last night night I was thinking I *want* the GF670, but it's expensive and not really what I need in terms of focal length, also, maybe the lens is unproven. The Mamiya 7 is close to precisely what I want, but with a wide angle lens, very expensive. The Mamiya AFD can be had for less than £500 with the 80mm, and I've seen 35mm manual focus lenses going for <£300, that would make the whole package less than half the price of the Mamiya 7 I think.

    I probably don't need 40" across prints, just would be nice to have the option, 25 - 30" would likely be 99% of what I print, maybe smaller.

    Still lots to think about, maybe I at least need to narrow now if I want an SLR (would make a change, never had one before), or stick with range finders.
     
  24. guitstik

    guitstik Member

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    What about the Balda's or Agfa isollete both use 120 shooting 6x6 or 645 with a mask (high yo silver). If the OP wants to test the waters for MF then spending a lot of money ($100+) just doesn't make any sense to me. Any of the inexpensive folders can be had on FleaPay for a mere pitance of what he/she would pay for any of those suggested thus far. Do not snub your nose at them just because they aren't as fancy as the hussy's or the mammie's y'all are hot for. True they don't have the option of interchangeable lenses or through the lens viewing but these cameras are the fore runners of what we have today and besides you really have to know what you are doing to take good pics. Most of the older folders were produced with the casual photographer of that time and so are easy enough to use handheld. I have several that can fit in the palm of my hand, are light and easy to manage and with top quality lenses and shutters to match. I would put any of my Voigtlander's or my Rodenstock up against anything out ther today.
     
  25. fmajor

    fmajor Member

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    I dunno, if you're used to rangefinders and they've worked for you it seems good to me to stick with what you already like and know - unless you're really motivated to make base-level changes. I've *never* had/used any of the cameras you've mentioned or even used those big formats. However, i do know that a change in your general operating methods will require you to gain and maintain an attitude of a learner - otherwise you'll become frustrated.

    A learner-mentality will allow you to relax your expectations until your skill/familiarity/actual performance levels increases to what you're used to with your "old" operating method. This seem so obvious, but i've seen this phenomena work successfully enough times (it's part of my profession) that it's impossible to understate it's value - whether in photography, IS, business development/management, team-dynamics, etc.

    From my amateur perspective, i'd choose the Mamiya 7ii because it's a current system (i think?), is expandable (maybe you don't have to splash out for everything all at once), provides a large-enough neg (i think?), and is a range-finder so you'll already have a good working ability right outta the gate. All good ingredients for success!!!
     
  26. thegman

    thegman Member

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    I'm certainly happy to be a learner again (I'm still a learner now, only been shooting for about a year), I enjoy learning, and like to try to master new things, so getting an SLR as opposed to a rangefinder is a welcome and new experience for me. What puts me off is the size/portability. I think if the cameras were all around the same £500, I'd likely go for the GF670. But as it stands, it's the most expensive. The 7II is so highly regarded, with 6x7 negative, it ticks all the boxes except price (assuming I get a 50mm lens), with the 80mm lens, it's not too bad.

    So, while I know range finders better, the SLR approach appeals not just on practical grounds (see the actual image, not an estimation), but also from a learning something new point of view.

    Have to give it some time, sleep on it a bit, and see what I come up with.