Never tried MF before, where do I start?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Sepia Hawk, Mar 25, 2013.

  1. Sepia Hawk

    Sepia Hawk Member

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    Hello,

    I've recently decided to go back to my roots and build my own darkroom. I'm quite comfortable with 35mm cameras, but I've never tried medium or large format before. Having read quite a bit about both formats I've decided to try medium format first. I browsed the threads in this sub-forum, but I cannot find what I am looking for, so here is my question:

    What makes and models of medium format cameras do you recommend given the following criteria:

    - I would prefer a mechanical camera with as little electronic components as possible. Exposure meter is quite enough, I would also consider electronic shutter, but nothing more.

    - my enlarger is Omega B600, so I am limited to 6x6 or 645 at the moment, with some preference for 6x6.

    - I want to take the camera with me on our family trips, so something reasonably portable would be better. On the other hand my Canon F-1 is not very light either, so I can manage other cameras as long as they are good outdoor users.

    - I am on a budget, so no expensive collector models please.

    - ideally I would like a camera with changeable lenses

    - I am going to use mostly B&W film

    Thank you!
     
  2. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    You are practically laying out the specs for a 1950's Zeiss Ikonta, or somesuch folder.
     
  3. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    MF with interchangeable lenses isn't going to be cheap.

    Inexpensive, Affordable, Light is going to be TLR territory; a Yashica-Mat with a 4 element lens is going to be budget and high quality. Rolleiflex Automats are also excellent quality but sometimes more expensive and somewhat collectible. I really don't consider the lack of interchangeable lenses for most TLRs a problem. It keeps them light and purposeful. Image quality vastly exceeds 35mm film because of the larger negative.

    Up the scale the interchangeable lenses, the cameras get heavy and big and more expensive. You're looking at systems things like Pentax 67, Bronica, Hassleblad, Contax 645, Mamiya, Rollei sl66, and so on. I've got a pentax 67 and a couple lenses but it doesn't get used as much as the TLR.
     
  4. Sepia Hawk

    Sepia Hawk Member

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    Thank you. Perhaps I should approach it in two stages then - first get a cheap camera with a fixed lens and then save for something else?
     
  5. baachitraka

    baachitraka Member

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    I can recommend Rolleicord Vb...
     
  6. jspillane

    jspillane Member

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    Depending on how flexible you are with the interchangeable lens clause, I would definitely consider a TLR of some form. Minolta Autocords and various Yashica Mat's are worth looking at in the budget department. Rolleiflexes are fantastic if you can stretch your budget a little more. I've also heard good things about Ikoflex's, although they may be more difficult to find in operating condition. I think TLRs are the best introduction to medium format, and they are really a different experience than shooting 35mm. Everyone should own at least one!

    Mamiya C220/C330's is a TLR system with interchangeable lenses, but I find them a little clumsy and would go with a SLR system instead. Medium format SLRs tend not to be small, per se, but Bronica SQ series and Hasselblad V series are both reasonably sized. I personally prefer 6x6 ratio over 6x4.5, and the SLR sizes are not hugely different in this case. You can pick up Mamiya m645's with multiple lenses great prices though. 6x6 will feel more 'different' than 6x4.5, not just because of the increased resolution but because of the unique compositional elements.

    Medium format rangefinders with interchangeable lenses such as the Mamiya 6 or 7 would fit the bill, but they are massively more expensive (even than high end SLRs). I've never used a MF rangefinder, so I can't speak to if it is worth it, but they certainly have their fans.
     
  7. one90guy

    one90guy Subscriber

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    I have a Yashica A and Rolleicord III which I am pleased with. Also as mentioned, the Bronica SQ-A, I enjoy using but its no joy to pack around.. But for a walk around camera the TLRs are hard to beat.
     
  8. elekm

    elekm Member

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    First, I would figure out a budget.

    You want reliability, so ask about certain makes, such as Kowa. Mamiya made a 645 SLR system that should be available at a decent price, but you'll want to check to see if the camera will need to be serviced.

    A TLR is a nice introduction to medium format, although prices for Rolleiflexes and Rollecords are high at the moment.

    A folding camera is the budget way to go. Some like the cameras with triplets and lower-cost lenses, and they seem to be a good option, although you should shoot these at f/8 and smaller for the best results.

    Prices for folding camera can run from $10 to $500 or more. The Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 6x6 camera with a Novar or Tessar is a nice place to start. The Novar is the budget lens, and the Tessar is the premium lens. These will run you about C$15 to C$150.

    It's not unusual for one or all of these cameras to need service. After all, these will be anywhere from 50 to 80 years old or more, and anything mechanical should be serviced.
     
  9. Fixcinater

    Fixcinater Subscriber

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    Another vote for a TLR like a YashicaMat (I have a Yashica D, Yashicamat EM) or Rolleicord (my girlfriend has a Vb) as an intro camera. Very nice transition from 35mm manual SLRs and will give you enough quality bump to see if you like the larger negative and slower style of working.
     
  10. kb3lms

    kb3lms Subscriber

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    Sepia, I've recently gone down this road as well. About a year ago, I got a YashicaMat-124 and it was a revelation. A TLR will open your eyes to whole new ways of making photographs. More recently, I have acquired a Mamiya 645 Pro 1000S. This is a 70s vintage pretty rugged mechanical MF SLR, although there are more electronic doo-dads available if you like. I'd rather a 6x6 as well, but that seems to get into more expensive territory. Careful shopping should be able to find you one for well under $300. If you are patient, you may find one in what I guess is a wedding photographers kit, with aluminum case and usually one or more additional lenses and accessories. These WILL be well used, but normally not abused, and with a new set of seals or a full CLA should provide many years of service. Accessories and parts and pieces are available for reasonable cost, even new. My enlarger is essentially the same as yours (C700) and everything has worked out quite well. You will want a 70 or 80mm lens for your enlarger. Negative holders can get expensive but can be fabricated out of cardboard if necessary until you find a metal one at a reasonable price.
     
  11. rbultman

    rbultman Subscriber

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    All good suggestions here. Also consider the Fuji GA645 with non-interchangeable zoom. It is more electronic than you want, is a rangefinder, and might be more than you want to spend. OTOH, it is light.
    Sent from my PI86100 using Board Express
     
  12. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    This is how I approached it and have been very happy with the process. After using the first one for a while, you'll have a pretty good idea of what you want in the second. Then there's the third...
     
  13. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I started with a Mamiya C330 and over 30+ years built it up to a system with 4 lenses and 2 bodies.

    I then got into a Mamiya 645 system, and built it up to a system with two bodies and several lenses.

    I then added a Mamiya RB67 with one lens, and after a fair bit of acquiring and trading (at one time 3 bodies) now have a single body and a good selection of lenses.

    So basically, I am saying: "Be careful what you wish for :blink:".

    All three systems have now been pared down somewhat (just a single body for each), and I have streamlined the lens choice. For example, my C330 is now accompanied by just two lenses, and the whole package (with waist-level finder) fits nicely in a very small camera bag - like one designed for a 35mm SLR with a single 28mm-85mm kit lens.

    The Mamiya TLRs are where I would start (again) if I was making your decision.
     
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  15. onepuff

    onepuff Member

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    For portability at a reasonable price, a 50s folder with rangefinder is a good bet as quite a few came with excellent lenses. I can think of the likes of the Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta or Ikonta M, Agilux Agifold, Agfa Super Isolette, Balda Super Baldax, Mamiya Six, Olympus Six, Adox Golf or the late model Voigtänder Bessa II with the 6x4.5 mask. This is far from an exhaustive list of good-to-use folders with capable lenses. If you like the sound of a folder, condition is paramount, check for light leaks in the bellows, skewed front panel and rangefinder misalignment, shutter operation and lens fungus or de-lamination before parting with cash. Prices for most of these are on a par or slightly less nowadays for equivalent condition Yashica-Mat or Minolta Autocord TLRs so you could try a folder or a TLR and if you don't like it, sell it on and trade on to another type. I used a Yashica-Mat EM for a while and liked the results (it had a surprisingly good lens) but found it a bit bulky to carry so sold it on. Most of the 70s and 80s era SLRs from Japanese and German manufacturers are vastly more adaptable machines but are on the bulky side and will require more of an investment in a system to take advantage of that adaptability so I would recommend a fixed lens camera so you can just try out MF first.
     
  16. Fast

    Fast Member

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    Good choice to enter the MF world. I did just that a few years ago and have enjoyed it a lot. My cameras don't quite fit your specs, (Pentax 645, Mamiya RB67) but I found that my photography changed dramatically once I started using these cameras. Or to put it another way, these cameras took me down photographic paths that I didn't know existed. Great discorvery!
     
  17. whowantstoast

    whowantstoast Member

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    One last vote for YashicaMat 124. For budget and quality it can't be beat. If you could waver a bit on the "no electronics" rule, The Bronica ETRSi is the kit I first put together. You can have a three-lens system for a few hundred dollars.
     
  18. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    I think that might be a good way to start. Get your feet wet and see where it leads you. I bought a Bronica SQ-A in 2006 and have added several lenses and viewfinders and .... having quite a few bucks invested. It's my goto camera for my most serious work, but it's a handful - and ideally used on a tripod. I then added a Voigtlânder Perkeo II, a 6x6 folder with the Color Skopar, the better of the two lenses that came on the Perkeo. It folds to pocket size and is quite impressive for what it is. There is no metering and no rangefinder -- but also no batteries! I later added an Ercona II which is an East German Zeiss Ikonta with 105mm f/3.5 Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar, quite a respectable 6x9 camera (but also totally manual, no metering, no RF). But then another GAS attack brought a Yashica Mat 124g into the collection which has proven to be a very capable device. The TLR gives you ground glass focusing, and the model I have has a meter, but at the age they are (made circa 1980) the meters may not work, and were designed for the no longer available mercury batteries, so an adapter, mod, or patience is needed.

    All that blather passed along, I agree that a TLR might be a good start. And it seems to get kinder reactions from the public!

    My "active" collection and links to some results are out on PBase for the two cents it may be worth.
     
  19. kb3lms

    kb3lms Subscriber

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    Dave, nice copy stand!

    Sepia, it didn't occur to me until I read a few other posts after mine, a 50s vintage folder can be a really cheap way to get started and many have excellent image quality. I used my father's Kodak Tourist exactly this way before I got the Yashica. Now one thing you have to watch out for with these is 620 vs 120 film. 620 film was discontinued nearly 20 years ago and is hard to get, but it is the spools that are different, not the actual film. There are a lots of ways to handle this detailed in the threads here or just Google. Another option if you are handy is to mechanically modify a 620 camera to accept 120. This is often not hard to do and in the case of the tourist was an obvious superficial mechanical limitation cured by a dremel tool in about 10 minutes.

    Now tell me how sad this is: when I dug the Tourist out of a box of other stuff in the basement in 2011, I found a fully exposed roll of 620 Verichrome Pan inside. I immediately recalled what was on that film, because I shot it in 1976 as a teenager. Once it was processed I was 100% correct. Talk about needing a life.
     
  20. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Well if you don't mind a bit of weight a Mamiya RB is a great choice and purely mechanical. The camera uses interchangeable lenses, interchangeable finders and interchangeable backs. Just treat the 6x7 frame as 6x6 (even draw lines on the ground glass) and if you want 645 get a 645 back.

    Here's a current example of one for sale right here on APUG.

    http://www.apug.org/forums/forum379/116975-complete-rb67-kit-sale-plus-access.html

    If you want a metered prism they are available but I'd suggest getting a handheld meter.
     
  21. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    Think about a TLR. Check out KEH used cameras.

    Jeff
     
  22. mr rusty

    mr rusty Subscriber

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    Lots of votes for the Yashica Mat, but don't forget there is the plain D and also the 635 which was basically a "D" with the option of a little kit so you could also shoot 35mm. (Bit pointless IMO). I have a 635 myself and its great. There are two lenses out there the Yashikor and the Yashinon. The former a 3 element and the latter a 4 element. Maybe there is a microscopic difference wide open, but the supposedly inferior Yashikor is still a great lens!. Nice ones seem to go for £60-£90 here in the UK.

    Also I see vote for the Mamiya 645. I have one of these too (GAS) I wanted to try MF in an SLR with interchageable lenses. Ended up with a 645J (the lowest spec with "just" a 1/500 shutter). Paid £150 for an almost mint with 55 & 80mm lenses and metered prism finder off the great auction site, so not expensive.

    The mamiya is quite a bit heavier than the Yashica, but is just about neckable to walk out with using a good padded (I have optech) strap.
     
  23. Alan Gales

    Alan Gales Subscriber

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    If you want interchangeable lenses you might look at the Bronica 645 ETR series. My first medium format camera was an ETRSI. They are nice cameras and their lenses are sharp and inexpensive. I sold mine because a good friend offered me a fantastic deal on a Bronica EC kit with 3 lenses that I couldn't pass up.
     
  24. Sepia Hawk

    Sepia Hawk Member

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    Thank you all very much. I will read about the models you've suggested and then get back to you.
     
  25. FL Guy

    FL Guy Member

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    Sepia:

    Welcome, and if you haven't learned yet asking for advice/opinions on this board does not get ignored.

    You could help by providing some guidance on the capital (money) in your budget, it would help steer the conversation. You mentioned that you currently own Canon gear, so you are used to handling quality goods, and in MF the price points pop up to a degree. Knowing your budget would be great.

    FL Guy
     
  26. FM2N

    FM2N Subscriber

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    I would second the Bronica etrs. They are great cameras. Easy to use. Easy to find. Prices are great. Nice starter kit would cost around $200.