Options for 6X9

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by macrorie, Sep 21, 2013.

  1. macrorie

    macrorie Member

    Messages:
    120
    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2005
    Location:
    Maine, USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    After using a borrowed Fuji 6X9 rangefinder, I am interested in exploring the 6X9 format more. I really enjoyed the Fuji, but I would also prefer to avoid paying as much as what appears to be the common prices for them. So, I am interested in other options. What I have thought about so far are folders like Super and not Super Ikontas, Erconas, Agfas and Moskvas, Medalists, and the various view-type field and press cameras which can take 6X9 rollbacks. But, I would like the best compromise between price and image quality, and I have concerns about film flatness and front-cell lens focusing issues with folders. The field and press camera option will involve cameras that are larger in size than what I would consider optimal, and I am also concerned about film flatness issues with old rollbacks.

    Which leaves Medalists. I know from reading about them that they are heavy, and there is the 620 issue, and I am not too worried about those variables. But from the photos I have seen, the viewfinder looks tiny. How easy is it to compose through one of those viewfinders? They also seem to be selling right now for not that much less than the older Fuji rangefinders.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. wombat2go

    wombat2go Subscriber

    Messages:
    293
    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2013
    Location:
    Michigan
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    On my second year learning about 6x7 and 6x9, so far I have 3 cameras and the 4th is on the way.
    Used prices are falling away.
    Film Flatness is way down on my list of items I have to improve as a hobbiest and probably not even an issue.

    Higher on the list for purchasing old equipment - shutter cleaning and calibration, and deteriorated light seals.

    As far as focussing the folders, the issue is that modern films, say iso 200+, will force the thing to be ~ f/16 if outdoors; I found scale focus gives sharp results.
    If you are going to do close ups / indoors, maybe you need an slr or (an older) camera with ground-glass focussing.
     
  3. ntenny

    ntenny Member

    Messages:
    2,283
    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2008
    Location:
    San Diego, C
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I explored this question pretty thoroughly a few years ago, and I came to the conclusion that there are about four options:

    1. Folders.
    2. Fuji rangefinder.
    3. View cameras and their close kin, either in 2x3 size or with a rollfilm back.
    4. Monster SLRs like RB Graflexen and the Rittreck Optika.
    ...and I guess the Medalist, which I'd never considered because of the 620 issue.

    I've owned all but the Fuji, which I handled in a store and decided against because of its size---in hindsight I'm not sure I was right.

    You've pretty much constrained yourself down to a Medalist, among those options, but I wonder how solid all those constraints are. For instance, and with apologies for a kind of rude question, are you a good enough photographer on all the other axes that film flatness is a significant issue? (I'm not, and I suspect many of us aren't---of course some of us are, and for those people it matters.)

    I think sheet film has fewer flatness issues than rollfilm in this size, which might actually argue for one of the smaller view cameras---a 6x9 plate camera isn't much bigger than a 6x9 folder and a heckuva lot smaller than a Fuji RF. Loading individual sheets is a bit of a pain, but then so is respooling to 120. I'd consider it in your position.

    The Medalist viewfinder question I'm afraid I don't know about. It doesn't look that small to me in photos, though---remember that the camera is bigger than it appears!

    -NT
     
  4. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,984
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2010
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    In a recent thread, dehk was looking into what might be a great way to shoot 6x9 - a small Crown Graphic.

    http://www.apug.org/forums/showthread.php?t=122975

    You would be able to explore many lens options, including Kodak Ektar. If you could find a small Speed Graphic with a working focal plane shutter you would have more lens options because you would be able to use barrel lenses.

    I love shooting 6x9, and have two folders. I don't love the dust from bellows. But I enjoy the compact size, reasonable weight and the large negatives. Film flatness is a non-issue because the look you get is NOT a clinical perfectly sharp edge-to-edge image. You get areas that are sharp with a little softness on the edges.

    When you get a folder like an Ikonta or Bessa, you get one lens - one camera. And that's fine, but you commit to the look in advance.

    At least the Medalist doesn't have bellows to get leaky/flakey.

    But it weighs three pounds and for that weight, I can use my 4x5.
     
  5. johnnyh

    johnnyh Member

    Messages:
    25
    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
    Location:
    near Bristol
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I have a Medalist, and although I don't use it as often as my folders, mainly for reasons of weight and bulk, I do like its combined view- and range- finder optics, which work very well for me.

    The folders that you (the OP) mention are what I would regard as 'premium model' ranges, as distinct from less expensive brands sold at the time for the 'family snapshot' market. I have had, or still have, 1930s Super Ikonta, 1930s Voigtlander Bessa(/Rangefinder), 1950s Agfa Record III and 1950s Ensign Selfix,. In all those I have found the design of film management to be quite adequate, and film flatness not an issue; I like to apply a little final tension to the film wind after opening the bellows.

    Front cell focussing was good enough for the Super Ikonta and others of those models; if you want whole-lens focussing there is the Bessa Rangefinder, and its (more expensive) descendant the Bessa II.

    Exactly :smile:

    And it should not be assumed that uncoated lenses will give 'washed-out' colour pictures, just avoid flare by use of a hood or otherwise shielding as appropriate.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 21, 2013
  6. Peltigera

    Peltigera Member

    Messages:
    710
    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2012
    Location:
    Lincoln, UK
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Good folders have air vents around the negative mask to prevent the film being moved by the bellows opening - my Nettar and Icarette both have this. In the summer, I use 100ASA film in my folders - this time of year I should probably use 400ASA.
     
  7. bsdunek

    bsdunek Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,351
    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2006
    Location:
    Michigan
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Kinda big and heavy, but I love my Mamiya Super Press 23. Lots of options and flexibility, and always sharp (so long as you focus correctly).
     
  8. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

    Messages:
    2,057
    Joined:
    May 6, 2013
    Location:
    US
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Ebay regularly has lots of Baby Graphics with Ektar lenses. And occasionallly a roll film back to go on it. Seems like a good option to me. I have one.
     
  9. Denverdad

    Denverdad Subscriber

    Messages:
    274
    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2009
    Location:
    Superior, Co
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I think the Medalist may be an excellent choice for you, given that you are OK with a fixed lens camera (I am assuming the Fuji you borrowed did not have interchangeable lenses either), and as you say you are not concerned about the 620 film issue or the weight of the camera. As far as I have been able to tell, film flatness is not any kind of issue at all with the Medalist. I find the viewfinder to be more than bright enough, and its automatic parallax correction is a nice feature too. The split-image rangefinder may seem relatively small, but it is a joy to use since it has a great deal of magnification and is therefore extremely precise. As for its lens, the Ektar on the Medalist is highly regarded, arguably offering better image quality than almost anything you will find on a folder.
     
  10. macrorie

    macrorie Member

    Messages:
    120
    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2005
    Location:
    Maine, USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thank you for all of your advice. I expected it would be diverse, and it is. Since my earlier post I have done some more research, and it has allowed me to rule out some of the lower spec folders because I want a shutter that has at least a nominal speed above 1/200 (and I do know that leaf shutters on those cameras often are slower than promised). And I did look at Mamiya Universal Press cameras because I remembered they shot 6X9. I will investigate Baby Graphics, as I am intrigued by the possibilities of trying different lenses and having some perspective controls. But size-wise, these are my finalists right now: Mess Ikonta C, early Fuji 6X9 rangefinder or a Medalist II if I can find one that is fully functional at a comparable price. You've convinced me to stop worrying about film flatness. I had figured that if any roll-film format would be problematic in that area, it would be 6X9.
     
  11. wombat2go

    wombat2go Subscriber

    Messages:
    293
    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2013
    Location:
    Michigan
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    My problem today using the Graflex RH/10 back, and it is an ongoing problem:
    I am still using 35mm slr and dslr, I just had a 5 week trip using nothing but a Ricoh kR-5 35mm slr

    So on MF I keep forgetting to wind the film on !

    I am OK first time I pick the camera up, but taking multi shots ( eg the kids riding bikes or playing soccer etc) I screw it up
    It is frustrating , also a waste.
     
  12. RidingWaves

    RidingWaves Member

    Messages:
    816
    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2006
    Location:
    Hawaii
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    You need to try the Baby Graphic. Using interesting lenses is fairly easy, small cheap lens boards. Look for the best 6x9 back you can find, but with lots of movements it might not matter much. Still looking for a good wide for mine, and some older tessars look quite nice.
     
  13. John Wiegerink

    John Wiegerink Member

    Messages:
    506
    Joined:
    May 29, 2009
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I have owned two Fuji 6x9's and they were great cameras, but for the fact that close-focusing wasn't it's strong point. The Mamiya 6x9's are versatile and have very good optics also. Folders can be very good or very bad. I have a "no name folder that looks like my Icarette, but has a 105mm f4.5 uncoated Xenar that takes really nice color and B&W images, but you really have to watch extending the bellows on that one and do it very slow or you'll see the difference in your negative. The Ikonta's , even with the Novar Anastigmat lens is very good. If you don't mind 620 respooling and it sounds like you don't, then find a Kodak Monitor 620 with the lens that has the word "special" on it in red letters. You will then have one of the best folders ever made and at a very reasonable price due to it being 620 film. The Russian Moskva camera is neat, but everyone I have owned had to have it's rangefinder sync'd with the lens and that's not an easy job. I no longer have any modern, high class. 6x9 camera's, but I do have three of the very best ever made. Two Kodak Medalist I's with flash added to both and one Medalist II, plus extension backs, ground glass back and 2x3 sheet film holders. I bought my first Kodak Medalist II in 1975 for $30.00 and have been hooked on the 100mm f3.5 ever since that day. Like Johnyh said, it's a little heavy and bulky so I don't use mine unless I plan on working slow and precise. Good folders win every time when it comes to mobility/ease of use, but that Medalist wins for end results. If you are handy you can work on your own( I do) and adjust what needs to be adjusted. First thing you better do is buy a repair manual copy of the big auction site, set the coffee aside and have plenty of time on your hands, but there's nothing your can't bring up to stuff unless it's broken. Or you could just send it to Bald Mountain for a CLA. Nothing like a big negative to make a person smile. Not to mention a chrome!
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. elekm

    elekm Member

    Messages:
    2,059
    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2004
    Location:
    New Jersey (
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    I would recommend holding a Medalist and see if it's a camera that you would enjoy using. It's a large and bulky camera, and I never really found a way to hold it comfortably. I'm a guy and have largish hands.

    Much also depends on how you shoot. If you want the ability to change lenses, then you should think about the Horseman / Graflex / Fuji / press camera route.

    I love my folders, but I realize that they aren't for everyone. And they have their own limits

    The earliest Super Ikonta has a shutter release that is a small plunger near the shutter. Not really convenient. The later ones have a left-hand shutter release.

    I have an Agfa Record III that is a very nice camera. It has an uncoupled rangefinder, as does the Zeiss Ikon Mess Ikonta 524/2.

    The Agfas have their own set of problems, which include frozen lens helicals and plastic bellows, which can develop holes.

    The Voigtlander Bessa II sells for a lot of money, especially those with the Heliar.

    One thing to realize about any camera from the 1950s or earlier is that it will need to be serviced. There are some cameras that have been serviced. Just make sure that the camera is operating correctly.

    In theory, a unit focusing lens should outperform a front-cell focusing lens. I would say that it depends on the lens. Personally, I haven't noticed a huge difference in performance.

    My recent favorite is a Zeiss Ikon Mess Ikonta 524/2 with a coated Tessar.

    I have some reviews on my site of some 6x9 folders that I own. I also have an older Bessa and the Agfa Record III, which I haven't written about.
     
  16. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

    Messages:
    18,040
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    Location:
    West Midland
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    You can find Ensign Selfix 820 cameras for reasonable prices, their coated Ross f3.8 Xpres is an excellent lens. There's a plain 820 with no rangefinder, a slightly more expensive 820 Special with an un-coupled rangefinder, and rarer and much more expensive Autorange 820. These all alow dual use as 6x6 or 6x9.

    Ian
     
  17. wombat2go

    wombat2go Subscriber

    Messages:
    293
    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2013
    Location:
    Michigan
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    There is the DIY option for those with workshop access or capabilities.

    Choose one of the high quality pro lens systems which had leaf shutter lenses.
    Used ones are falling in price.
    All the technology and image quality is in the lens.

    From my searches, and as others are mentioning in this thread, used pro bodies are risky and costly, whereas used lenses are available for reasonable prices and in EX condition.

    I chose a Pentax 6X7 90mm ls
    The make a camera to suit.
    (I put a thread on the Camera Building section, there are others doing this too, making cameras a lot smarter than mine)

    I became really interested in this as a hobby and preparing to make another one, taking advice on the way
     

    Attached Files:

  18. Trond

    Trond Subscriber

    Messages:
    733
    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2004
    Location:
    Harestua, Norway
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I use a Mamiya Universal. Very happy with it. Nice lenses and backs.

    Trond
     
  19. momus

    momus Member

    Messages:
    2,713
    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2009
    Location:
    Lower Earth
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I have a fondness for Heliar and Novar lenses. A Bessa RF w/ a Heliar (or even a Skopar) would yield superb 6x9 negs. Or get one of the Ikontas w/ Novar lens. Actually, there are a variety of 6x9 folders that will give you excellent shots. Film flatness is not an issue w/ a red window camera. Just don't advance the film all the way after each shot, and snug it up the rest of the way after you've unfolded the camera. A service is a DIY thing. Clean the shutter w/ lighter fluid if it's sticking, clean the lens elements, and confirm and adjust the focus at infinity w/ a GG on the frame rails and a loupe. Very simple stuff.

    Save yourself a LOT of grief and buy an inexpensive electronic shutter tester that runs on the free program Audacity. These testers can be had for under $40, or you can build one for peanuts. It's imperative to know at what speed the shutter is firing at, vs what it says on the shutter. A nice clean will nearly always get them up to spec (usually a stop slow), and if your tester shows that you're experiencing shutter bounce, it's better to sell the camera and start anew, as this is a difficult issue to remedy. Otherwise, even a nice under $100 6x9 folder will give you wonderful photos. Unit focus is better than front cell only if you're shooting portraits or up close.
     
  20. johnnyh

    johnnyh Member

    Messages:
    25
    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
    Location:
    near Bristol
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    +1 :smile:
    And here is an actual example from my late-1930s Bessa Rangefinder, Heliar, Ektar 100, check out the detail on the blue tractor at 'Original' size on Flickr. And as momus says, the Skopar is also very good (and btw I have also found the Helomar triplet to be very good).
     
  21. EdSawyer

    EdSawyer Member

    Messages:
    1,101
    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2008
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    what is your budget? All in all the fuji rangefinders are probably the best all around bet. I had both the series-III models, they are superb. the GSW sells for more than the GW, for whatever reason.
     
  22. macrorie

    macrorie Member

    Messages:
    120
    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2005
    Location:
    Maine, USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Well, one thing is clear: there are many people out there who like what they are using for 6X9 format photography, and they are using quite a variety of cameras. For purposes of full disclosure, this won't be my first medium format camera, and I own a Perkeo II, so I know how good Color Skopar lenses on folders can be (I also have several Vito line 35mm cameras with the Skopar lenses, and I like their contrast characteristics, but I'm not sure I can afford a Bessa). I've now done some research on 2X3 Graphics, and getting one of those would probably be a step forward for me because I do not have any cameras with perspective controls. But I also like to shoot in vertical format, too, and a field or press camera would not fit that habit. Medalist owners seem to love them or hate them, and the vertical format shooting might not work out so well with those heavy cameras, either. I looked at Mamiya 23 cameras on ebay and they seem to go for a fair amount, but the ability to change lenses is attractive, and I have a lot of respect for Mamiya optics.

    Yikes, this is difficult. I think I am still leaning toward a folder with a four element lens, but I would like one that either has a rangefinder or can take an auxiliary rangefinder. I have a Voigtlander auxiliary rangefinder, but apparently they can get in the way of the left side shutter buttons on Ikontas and clones. BTW, I also have one of the Audacity iPhone shutter speed testing rigs. I appreciate all the advice here, apug is great.
     
  23. Pioneer

    Pioneer Member

    Messages:
    1,726
    Joined:
    May 29, 2010
    Location:
    Elko, Nevada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I am not a professional nor an expert photographer, but I have worked with triplets and tessar lenses on my folders and I can rarely see much difference between the two in my images. Based on my experience the Super Ikonta with the Tessar, the Bessa with the Color Skopar, the Billy Record III with the Solinar all produce great images within the f/5.6 through f/11 aperture range. Though not 6x9, even my old Agfa folders with Agnar and Apotar lenses can produce great images within that same range. If you enlarge to far they are all a little soft wide open. If you are not worried about that all of them will do a great job taking pictures as long as the lens is clean and they are focused properly. Although I do scale focus with some of these inexpensive folders I am very conservative, usually using the f/5.6 scale when shooting at f/11. I also usually don't enlarge the results much past 8x8.

    Though far from an expert, what I can tell you is that it is pretty easy to tell the difference in quality between my large format folder pictures and my 35mm pictures. Even an inexpensive 6x6 folding camera, used carefully, will easily show far more detail and quality than a comparative 35mm camera. I love my M-mount rangefinders but my Agfa Super Isolette will always shoot better pictures. Using the camera is certainly not as convenient, and you can't swap lenses, but if you have the time the pictures are always better.
     
  24. summicron1

    summicron1 Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,946
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2010
    Location:
    Ogden, Utah
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    a couple points i haven't seen mentioned yet.

    The Medalist II has a viewfinder that compensates for parallax -- it also is pretty good sized, considering how it looks on the outside. It's a good view, with the rangefinder window very close and directly below the view.

    One thing to consider with folders is how sturdy the front standard is. Zeiss cameras are very good for this ... the Super Ikonta C is rock solid. A sloppy front standard will make things look fuzzy quick.
     
  25. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

    Messages:
    4,136
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Macrorie, I went through the process ages ago when I decided to move up from 35 mm still. After a lot of thinking and making a pest of myself I settled on 6x9 (in the U.S., 2.25" x 3.25", 2x3 for short), looked into all options. I ended up with a 2x3 Pacemaker Speed Graphic, later got a Century Graphic (bargain version of 2x3 Pacemaker Crown Graphic). I also got an one of the Ensign 820s as recommended in this thread by Ian Grant; he and I disagree about 820s and the 105/3.8 Xpres, I wouldn't recommend either. And more recently, in geologic time, I was given a 2x3 Cambo View Camera.

    My present 2x3 kit contains my original 2x3 Graphics (Pacemaker Speed, Century), the gift Cambo, and assorted bits to make a Cambo view camera that will accept my lenses on 2x3 Pacemaker Graphic boards and a 6x12 roll holder, and many lenses (35 mm to 900 mm). You can read about my adventures with lenses for the Graphics at http://www.galerie-photo.com/telechargement/dan-fromm-6x9-lenses-v2-2011-03-29.pdf . I don't like fixed lens cameras, find them limiting.

    Along the way I tried to build a "Baby Bertha" long lens SLR around my little 2x3 Cambo, assorted bits, and a 2x3 Graflex RB Ser. B SLR. That project was a catastrophic failure. Read about it, if you're interested, at http://www.galerie-photo.com/baby-bertha-6x9-en.html
     
  26. gordrob

    gordrob Subscriber

    Messages:
    452
    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2005
    Location:
    Western Cana
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I use the Mamiya Universal or the Mamiya Super 23 with an assortment of lenses from 50mm to 250mm. The 6x9 backs I have hold the film flat and produce sharp negatives and transparencies. Some people consider them heavy but I don't find an issue especially if you have been used to using a Linhof 4x5. Cameras and lenses are reasonably priced and available, seals on the film backs are easily replaced and there are no bellows to worry about.