New to medium format -> need advice!

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by James-EG, May 31, 2013.

  1. James-EG

    James-EG Member

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    Hi, the last few months I've been looking to buy another 35mm camera, but in the last couple of weeks I've been looking more and more at medium format cameras and I've now decided after some research that it's something I would love to try along with 35mm.

    So my question is, what camera should I be looking to trying to buy? I would love to get a camera in the style of the Hasselblad cameras but obviously they are far too expensive, so I have been looking at ones like the Bronica ETRS and S2a, also the Kiev 88, these have had mixed reviews from what I have read so I would like to hear your opinions and suggestions on other cameras. I don't really want to get something like a Pentacon Six, as they work basically the same as a 35mm camera and I would like something new, but I would consider a TLR if that's the best way to go for MF. I would like to get the best possible image quality too.

    EDIT: After some more searching I have found a Bronica ETRSi, in almost new condition with 75mm lens, what are your thoughts on this?

    Thanks, James
     
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  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    see if there's someone in your area who shoots MF and ask if you can go out shooting with them. I've use MF since the early 1970's starting with TLR's then moving to SLRs (which I still have) and now shooing with a Yashicamat while in Turkey and Rolleiflex here in the UK.

    Both have their uses and it's worth trying both.

    Ian
     
  3. James-EG

    James-EG Member

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    Thanks Ian, I'm not sure if anyone in my area even shoots 35mm film... I live in a small village but I'll try my best to find out if anyone does use MF! Regarding TLRs, would it be worth buying one cheap just to try it out?

    Thanks, James
     
  4. Spicy

    Spicy Member

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    There are a bunch of cheaper options than the Leica of TLRs, the Rolleiflex, and most will give great image quality when stopped down. What you really pay for with the expensive options is sharpness wide-open.

    TLRs are great fun, but quirky to shoot if you're used to 35mm (but therein lies the fun). Some options you might check out would be the Yashica 124 or 124G (no real difference, but the G is more expensive), Yashica A or Yashica 635 (basically an A with an adapter allowing one to shoot 35mm film if you have the adapter). Another option that may be marginally more expensive would be the Rolleiflex's simpler (but arguably no less high quality optics) cousin, the Rolleicord (III, V, Va, or Vb). I've owned and shot with both a 635 and a 'Cord V and in terms of ergonomics, I vastly prefer the Yashica, whereas the Cord has quite a bit better optics when wide open. My 635 is an older one with the 3-element lens, so it gets that weird swirly bokeh that I rather don't like but some people love. Apparently the one with the later 4-element lens is quite nice, but I didn't know that when I was starting out my journey into MF.

    There are other options, but these will likely be the most widely available and both are a great blend of quality optics/build without being super expensive. Another issue might be servicing availability, but there are still quite a few people that will work on them, whereas some of the more obscure brands might be tougher to get fixed if something were to go wrong?
     
  5. John Wiegerink

    John Wiegerink Member

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    If you are looking to get into a larger negative camera that you can grow with then not all TLR's fit. If I were on a budget and didn't have all the camera's I already have I'd try to pickup a used Mamiya C33. The C330F professional is a little better, but certainly not "real cheap". I'd also try to get it with a 80mm f2.8 all black lens, but even the old chrome 80mm's were very good lenses. These camera's are a little on the heavy side, but not bad at all really. You can also do very good macro work (flowers etc.) with them. Not as easy as an SLR for macro work, but certainly good enough. I no longer have my Mamiya C33, C330, or C220, but it's not because they are inferior camera's. I have two Rollei's, two Yashica-mat's, Hasselblad's and a very large Pentax 67 outfit so no need for the Mamiya's. Like I said, tight budget C33 w/ 80mm! Later you might want a prism, 135mm, 55mm, para-mender....................? I think you get the drift of where you can go with the Mamiya TLR camera's. That said, like Ian pointed out, you can do very nice work with a cheap Yashicamat too. I still get a thrill looking at a well exposed 2 1/4 or larger negative 'cause my old eyes have a harder time looking into a 35mm one. JohnW
     
  6. jspillane

    jspillane Member

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    Hi James,

    There are so many great medium format cameras that it's hard to go wrong. I personally prefer interchangeable lens cameras, mostly because 75-80mm is one of my least favorite focal lengths. If you think you can be happy with a single focal length, it's really hard to beat a TLR, and I would look at Rolleicords, Minolta Autocords, or an older Rolleiflex model (the non-letter models can be find for reasonable prices if you are patient). People love Yashicamat's but I have had negative experience with their build quality-- probably just bad luck on my part, though.

    Have you given thought to 6x4.5 vs 6x6 vs 6x7 (or larger)? I personally prefer 6x6 because it is a unique ratio to work in that is specific to MF cameras, but it's really a matter of taste.

    If you secretly want a Hasselblad but think it is too expensive, I've heard nothing but great things about the Bronica SQ system.
     
  7. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    I can comment on the Bronica S2A. I got one in 1971 through a military base exchange at a great price. I had the Nikkor 80mm and Zenzanon 150mm lenses. I never had a problem and the lenses were very sharp. I used it for nineteen years an sold them for what I originally paid. Then bought Hasselblads. The point is that you would be getting a camera that is approximately forty or so years old so I would be cautious about the camera's history, condition and if parts are available should a repair is necessary. Also when buying used equipment I only buy equipment I can check out first and from a seller that has a good return policy.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  8. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    The ETRSi is a very good camera; I have two of them myself. The lenses are very good and inexpensive, and virtually all accessories fit between all ETR models. An excellent value.
     
  9. James-EG

    James-EG Member

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    Thanks for all of your replies, a lot of information there, I think I would prefer to get an SLR, has anyone had any experience which the Bronica ETRSi? As there is quite a few of them for sale. But if a TLR is better to start with I will see if I can find any of the ones mentioned.

    I'm actually a bit confused as to what those different ratios mean, is it just the shape of the pictures produced?

    James
     
  10. ToddB

    ToddB Subscriber

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    I'm digging the TLR camera. Small compact unit with usually superior optics that yield HD images. Awesome?

    ToddB
     
  11. Ghostman

    Ghostman Subscriber

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    Yes, 6X4.5 is a 6cm X 4.5cm negative. 6X6 is 6cm x 6cm negative. They all use 120 film. 6X6 will give you 12 frames per roll, 6X7 will give you 10, 6X9 will give you 8 etc...
     
  12. wy2l

    wy2l Member

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    MF Suggestions:

    Several. Keep reading the web (this site has a literal gold mine of data, take the time to read it). Make every effort to touch and feel the real thing, because personal choices are important.

    What's your budget? Do you want a built-in meter, or use a hand-held meter?

    My own opinion: I owned a Mamiya C330 TLR, and never liked it... others may disagree, but it never felt right. I have a Pentax 67 II and it feels right to me, Avoid the 645 format, it's just too close to a 35mm (yes, size matters... bigger IS better). If possible, avoid very old equipment, like Bronica S2 or folders. You have to make a decision: Very inexpensive (like a Yashica D {6x6 format}), or a expensive (Bronica SQ or SQ-Ai or Hasselblad). Check out the Fuji 6x7 and 6x9 rangefinders.

    A very useful accessory is a tripod. Doing a comparison between hand-held and the tripod will make you a true believer, even if you and arms of steel and shoot at 1/125 second.
     
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  13. jspillane

    jspillane Member

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    While (almost) all MF cameras use 120/220 film, they produce images of different size and ratio on the negative. 6x4.5 cameras are usually horizontal (landscape) in format and you will get 16 images per 120 roll, 6x6 are square and yield 12 images per roll, 6x7 will either be horizontal or have a rotating back and yield 10 images per roll. The larger the negative, the greater the resolution of the final image- and, in the case of SLRs, the larger the camera that takes it. Although all of these formats are a big step-up from 35mm. Some people look down at anything less than 6x7, others (such as my self) love composing with the square image of 6x6. 6x4.5 SLR's tend to resemble 35mm cameras in handling the most. I don't own either, but limited experience and reading has indicated to me that both the Bronica ETRS and Mamiya 645 systems are highly capable, versatile and light. Others with more experience using those systems could speak to the differences better than I, although I've thought about getting a Mamiya 645 at some point just to use the 80mm f1.9 lens, which is the fastest regularly available lens for any MF SLR.

    If you have a great price on a Bronica ETRSi, I'd say go for it. It's usually possible to resell equipment for little, if any, loss if you decide another system meets your needs better.
     
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  15. one90guy

    one90guy Subscriber

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    I have 2 tlr's, a Yashica A and Rolleicord III, and the Bronica SQ-A, each have plus's and minus's. I carry the tlr's more due to weight and mostly rely on "Sunny 16" but do check myself especial on some light conditions with a hand held meter. The tlr was my first medium format camera and they are hard to beat in the cost if you are wanting to explore medium format. Good luck, there are many good choices and sound advice here.

    David
     
  16. Noble

    Noble Member

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    How much?

    ETRSI complete kits can be had for less than $300. I would consider a complete kit a camera body, 75mm PE lens, manual speed grip, 120 back, and a prism finder. You can possibly get a metered prism finder in a kit for about $300. If all you are getting is a 120 back, body, and waist level finder I would be aggressive on the price. A waist level finder is a pain in the rear on a rectangular format camera. The speed grip does speed things up.

    If you get your ETRSI for a good price it will be relatively easy to sell it if you decide to upgrade to some Zeiss glass. I own one but mostly use a far more expensive Rollei 6008i for the square format, superior lenses, and electronic cable release (zero vibration). I have to say though the images from my ETRS kit are nice. Rollei TLRs can be very sharp but they are very different when compared to 35mm SLRs. They are not everyone's cup of tea.
     
  17. tron_

    tron_ Member

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    I didn't have time to read through all the replies but if you were to ask me, I would recommend a Bronica ETRSi or Yashicamat TLR for your first medium format camera. Both very durable with excellent image quality, while being affordable and "different" from the 35mm SLR-style handling.

    Edit: Even the Mamiya TLRs are very nice (C330 comes to mind here)
     
  18. James-EG

    James-EG Member

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    Thanks again for the replies, very useful! From what you have said it seems 6x6 or 6x7 seem to be the easiest to use or most versatile.

    wy2l: I do think I would prefer to get an SLR, mainly because if I bought a TLR then decided I still wanted to try SLRs then I wouldn't be able to afford it, so thanks for the help. I've been looking at the Bronica SQ series and I really like the look of them, but unfortunately unless I get lucky I don't think I will be able to afford one. And not to worry, I have a great Manfrotto 055CF tripod and 055 ballhead that I use with my 60D.

    Thanks jspillane, very useful information! But I'm still not entirely sure, would 6x4.5 be suitable? Or should I look to get something like 6x6?

    James
     
  19. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I have three different sets of Mamiya equipment - Mamiya 645 Pro SLR for 6 x 4.5, C330 TLR for 6 x 6, RB67 SLR for 6 x 7 (or 6 x 4.5 if I use those backs).

    If pressed, I could basically do everything I need to do with any one of the three.

    There are differences between the three though that make each set slightly better for certain things.

    If you would like an SLR, try 6 x 4.5. If you shop carefully, most likely you can get most of your money back on a re-sale.

    Each system has some complexities though, so read up before you purchase. As an example, the Mamiya 645 have a number of different models, and the feature sets vary a bit.
     
  20. James-EG

    James-EG Member

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    The camera comes with the speed grip and has started at £0.99 without a reserve but all the others on eBay are around the £200-300 price, but there are a couple around £100 without the speed grip too. From everyone else's replies, would the 6x4.5 format be good for me to start with?

    Thanks, James
     
  21. James-EG

    James-EG Member

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    Thanks Matt, I have found a few Bronica ETRSi cameras on eBay that start relatively low and they use 6x4.5, so would this be a good starting point?
     
  22. Noble

    Noble Member

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    Despite what some snobs say 6x4.5 is a big jump up in negative size from 35mm. In my experience 6x4.5 is a great place to start. It is the lightest of the commonly available MF SLR equipment. Also unless you print square you are essentially shooting 6x4.5ish with a 6x6 camera. So to get a rectangular size advantage over 6x4.5 you have to jump up to 6x7... and that is a whole other world filled with rangerfinders and SLRS that are better kept firmly on a tripod.

    The Bronica ETRSi is a good entry point because you can get it for a reasonable price and if you decide you want to upgrade you can sell it easily enough without taking too much of a hit.
     
  23. James-EG

    James-EG Member

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    Thanks Noble, I think I will go for a ETRSi, I found a couple which hopefully will stay at lower prices!
     
  24. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    The 6x4.5 and 6x9 come closest to the aspect ratio of the 35mm that you're used to. You may find composing the square 6x6 format challenging. I've been playing with it for about 3 years and am only now getting results I like. That being said, it's been a really enjoyable experience. I have been using a 1948 Zeiss and a Mamiya C33. They are both 6x6, but are about as different as 2 cameras can be. No other tlr can match the flexibility of the Mamiya C series and they are very high quality in design and manufacturing. They are pretty heavy to carry around, but can be had at bargain prices. The Zeiss design goes back to the early 30's and has a charm of it's own. Be careful - once you experience MF you may never want to go back to 35mm.
     
  25. Alan Gales

    Alan Gales Subscriber

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    For the budget conscious medium format SLR shooter I recommend these cameras:

    For 645 the Bronica ETR series which you are looking at. My first medium format camera was an ETRsi. Nice modular camera at a budget price today on the used market.

    For 6x6 the Bronica SQ series. If you like square this is a great way to go. If you are going to crop all your images to rectangles then save some money and buy the ETR series.

    For 6x7 look at the Mamiya RB67 and the Pentax 6x7. These cameras have fine optics and produce nice large negatives. The downside is that they are bigger and heavier which may or may not matter to you.


    I have also owned Bronica EC's and an S2a. They are fine cameras with some excellent optics at a budget price but like someone mentioned earlier they are getting pretty old.
     
  26. James-EG

    James-EG Member

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    Thanks Alan, I have now pretty much settled on the Bronica ETRSi, as you said it seems like a good one to start out with, and being on a budget I can't really consider anything like the SQ series. Also the ETRSi is a fairly recent camera compared to others.
    I think the ETRSi would be best for me right now, there are a lot of lenses and accessories around so I think it would be the most logical camera that has been suggested for a beginner like me!

    Thanks again