Overwhelmed with choices for a first MF system.

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by keyofnight, Sep 10, 2012.

  1. keyofnight

    keyofnight Member

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    Hey guys! This will be my first post, so don't haze me too badly. :smile:

    So, I'm looking to get into medium format photography, but I want to do it on my own terms. I'm looking for a camera that: is entirely mechanical (no electronic shutter control), is built like a tank, has a bright viewfinder, has a nice selection of reasonably cheap lenses, and shoots something like a 35mm SLR would. The Kiev 60 and Pentacon Six would fit the bill perfectly if they weren't infamous for breaking. The ARAX branded/modified Kiev 60 seems right up my alley, though. A one year warranty, $36 CLAs after that… is there any reason not to buy these beside camera gear snobbery? I haven't seen many people on forums (and not just this one) have problems with the ARAX-branded Kievs, no more than I've seen people have problems with old Hasselblads. More than anything else, I see people say, "The ARAX didn't get much use, so I sold it."

    I've thought about lots and lots of other cameras. The older Bronicas and the Mamiya RB, RZ, and C330s seem awesome too, but I just don't know about box-shaped modular cameras—especially for shooting in a photojournalist style. There's something about the way they fit in the hands, the process, etc., that I'm not sure of. They seem more tripod bound than anything else. If that's silly, tell me and I'll reconsider. I'm looking for simplicity as well, and I don't think I'd want to fool around with multiple backs. The original Pentax 6x7s with MLU seem great, but I hear they don't work without their batteries (or film) and I hate that. I shoot on a Pentax MX, and I learned on a Nikon FM3a—it's nice to be able to shoot with or without a battery. I've even thought about the pocket folders from Jurgen at Certo6.com, but I'd rather have some resemblance of a lens system.

    It's all so overwhelming. Any ideas? Am I missing any cameras?
     
  2. CGW

    CGW Restricted Access

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    First, I'd stay away from the Kiev and Pentacon stuff. Much better, more reliable stuff available.

    If you want something fast-handling and more 35mm-like for PJ-ish shooting, then look at the 645 options, e.g., Mamiya 645(Super/Pro/ProTL bodies--skip the old metal bodies), Pentax 645(N), Bronica ETRS(i). Good glass for all and very affordable system cameras.
     
  3. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Subscriber

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    Get a Mamiya 645 pro with the wind grip. They're dirt cheap used, and handle much like a 35mm SLR. They use batteries. All the MF systems that are easy to handhold do, you'll just have to accept that. Its not a big deal, the 645 Pro's battery lasts a year or so even with lots of use.

    Another good one is Pentax 645. Also needs batteries.
     
  4. mcgrattan

    mcgrattan Member

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    If you don't absolutely need interchangeable lenses, don't dismiss a TLR. They are light and compact by comparison with the other options. A Rolleiflex is smaller than a lot of 35mm SLRs, never mind something like a Pentax 6x7 -- I can carry mine with a hood, a couple of rolls of film, and some filters in the sort of shoulder bag one would use for a smallish interchangeable lens 35mm camera. They don't need batteries. Although I'm with Chris, batteries aren't a big deal. They last a long time and a spare battery for most cameras takes up less space than a roll of 120. I've never quite understood the fetish on some forums for cameras that don't use batteries.

    re: folders -- the desirable ones are over-priced, I think. Although, for what it's worth, I get excellent pictures from a (6x.4.5 format) Super Ikonta. Not quite as good as my Rollei, but decent. However, they aren't remotely SLR like in operation, and they tend to feature small squinty dark viewfinders.

    Matt
     
  5. Bruce Robbins

    Bruce Robbins Member

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    The Pentax and Mamiya 645s are definitely the way to go for what you're after. Not only do they handle well and are reasonably portable but many of their lenses are top notch. Get the 80mm f1.9 for the Mamiya if you like shallow depth of field. Less in focus wide open than a 50mm f1.2 lens for 35mm and probably a lot cheaper as well!
     
  6. jnoir

    jnoir Member

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    I do love the Pentacon Six system. I think those who claim to forget about it, is either because

    a) they want this wonderful system to remain cheap

    or

    b) they have never used the system extensively, or if they have, they did it wrong, hence the bad experience.

    Buy a trustable camera from a reputed seller, and you won't regret it. Afraid of overlapping? Make sure to load the camera correctly. Need MLU? You can have it installed on your camera. Need a wide angle? The gorgeous CZJ Flektogon 50/4 is available, and there are russian made lenses even wider, with tilt and/or shift... Need a tele and the great Sonnar 180/2.8 is not long enough for you? You can go up to 1000mm, not practical but available. Choice of finders, the system is still easily serviceable, CZJ lenses, bigger neg size... without spending the cash needed for a Pentax 7 or a Mamiya 7II.

    [​IMG]

    Why turn down an excellent system without even giving it a try? :munch:
     
  7. PentaxBronica

    PentaxBronica Member

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    The Bronica ETR/S/i may have electronic shutters but it will handle as you want - you can pretty much configure it to choice. With a prism and speed winder it handles like a large conventional SLR, take those off, put the waist-level finder and winder crank back on, and it's a surprisingly discreet camera (mostly due to the shape and the pose you tend to hold while shooting with it). They're also very cheap for what you get.

    Try to find the best condition ETRSi you can lay hands on, these were the final version of the camera and usually come with a PE lens. All ETR-series bodies can use all ETR-series lenses, backs, etc. The only caveat is that the original ETR won't let you use Av mode on the metered prisms - the prism will meter when you press the button on it, but it won't set the speed for you. Not really much of a problem but a reason to buy an ETRS or ETRSi if you want to be able to shoot in a hurry.

    Do read the manual and play with the camera before loading film, it's very well thought out but also very easy to end up trying to press the shutter and wondering why it won't shoot. The camera is pretty good at stopping daft mistakes like forgetting to remove the dark slide from the back (it won't fire if you leave it in) or removing the back without fitting the dark slide (it won't unlock).
     
  8. Slixtiesix

    Slixtiesix Subscriber

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    Rollei TLRs are marvelous photojournalist tools. Many great photographers have proven this! As for the 6x6 and 6x7 SLRs, I have to agree that it is more comfortable to use them on a tripod, though it´s not a must. You should also have a look on rangefinders like Bronica RF645 and Mamiya 6/7.
     
  9. summicron1

    summicron1 Subscriber

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    if someone tries to sell you on a Kiev 88 system run, don't walk, to the nearest exit. If they are willing to give it to you for free, take it and use it as a doorstop.

    ditto on Rolleiflex/rolleicord recommendation for a beginner -- wonderful quality, amazing optics, light and versitile. Have it serviced at Essex Camera Repair or somewhere similar and you're set for a decade, at least.

    the really nice things about a rolleicord are that they are cheap -- $100 or so -- high quality optics which is all that counts, reliable, and fairly light and portable -- I carry one around in an old swiss gas mask bag. Larger cameras with extra finders and lenses will be a burden to haul around, making you rationalize not taking them and ended up not being used.

    so my suggestion: Go light and simple. A rolleicord or even yashica, the Zeiss super ikonta B models are good. If you just want to experiment with the film size without major investment, hell, go for a Holga. You could do worse.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 10, 2012
  10. dpurdy

    dpurdy Subscriber

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    I think the easiest thing would be to get over your aversion to a battery in the Pentax 67.
    If you have lots of money though a Rolleiflex with a prism is a lot like using a SLR but with the luxury of a quiet shutter and no slapping mirror.
     
  11. nicholai

    nicholai Member

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    I chose the rb67 for the exact same things you are looking for in a camera, and it fits the bill so damn well.
     
  12. snederhiser

    snederhiser Member

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    Hello;
    I have three kiev-60's, two m645's, and a couple of yashica tlr's. All are great camera's and have given me excellent service. I would consider an Arax k-60 kit with mlu and flocked interior. I use mine with the waistlevelfinder most of the time. Took mine out a couple weeks ago to shoot a car show with a mir45mm. Stay away from the k-88's, these are very finicky and hard to mantain. I would also consider a Pentacon that has seen professional service. Love the lenses that are available for these systems, Steven.
     
  13. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    TLRs are good choices(I love my Rolleiflex) RB67 is another good choice. I have to use a tripod for it because I have small hands for a guy.

    Jeff
     
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  15. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Welcome to APUG.

    One caution though - APUG may not be the best place to come if you feel overwhelmed by choice.

    The battery issue is actually not as important as you might assume.

    In most cases, due to the availability of batteries through the internet, it is usually very easy and inexpensive to always have backup batteries in hand.

    My recommendation would be one of the cameras I use - a Mamiya 645 Pro for 35mm like handling (with a grip), a Mamiya C330 (with both prism and waist level finders and a selection of lenses) for battery independent use and overall a smaller kit or a Mamiya RB67/RZ67 kit (with grip) for gorgeous large negatives and a rotating back.

    Of course, everyone else will recommend what they use too.

    At least in Seattle you have a couple of resources (Glazer's and Kenmore Cameras) where you can actually see some of the choices ahead of time.
     
  16. DSLR

    DSLR Member

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    If you like the square format and you are on a budget consider a Bronica SQA(uses 1 battery though), a Yashica TLR, or even a Kowa Six, which is Japanese and is probably going to be a lot more reliable than a Kiev.

    If money is not an object get a nice Hasselblad kit.
     
  17. amsp

    amsp Member

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    I'm pretty sure the (original) Pentax 67 only uses a battery for the light meter, the camera itself is all mechanical. It's a very nice camera and the 6x7 negative will make your jaw drop.
     
  18. tron_

    tron_ Member

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    Rolleicord, RB67, or Kowa Six would be my suggestions. There was a gorgeous Kowa on sale here a month or two ago that I almost scooped up.
     
  19. keyofnight

    keyofnight Member

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    Thanks guys!

    So…to clarify, I'm not looking for an expensive camera. I'm trying to get as cheap and reliable as possible. I was thinking bodies at $350 and lower. I'm not talking Holga cheap: my grandfather's Argus Super Seventy Five already does one hell of a job in that area. I'm really just looking for the equivalent of the tank-like, cheap Pentax MX and K1000 bodies. I'm not sure I'm looking for a "beginner's camera." I'm not a beginner and I don't have the attitude of one. I'm just looking for a robust first MF system.

    So far, my best looking options are the Mamiya RB67, the Kowa Six, the Rolleicord, the Pentax 6x7 series, and—still—the ARAX-branded Kiev 60. I still think K60 and the Pentax 6x7 fit me the best. I still don't want batteries, but maybe I'll compromise. :/

    So, here are two questions. First, have any of you owned an Arax 60 and had problems? Second, have any of you tried the older MF Fuji rangefinders?

    Alright! Replies!

    I'm a nerd, and I love electronics. The problem is that I've seen too many proprietary electronic systems fail or go obsolete. I know that mechanical components can also fail, but some electronic components reduce repairability substantially. (For example, a guitar amp with a hand soldered board will be easier to repair than an amp that has a printed circuit—it's easy to fry a circuit board, lift a trace. Newer electronics are even more of a pain…with those tiny SMD components. The repair costs go up and up and up.

    I also love how—on mechanical cameras—I can feel the components push back against me. That is: I can feel the tension of a film-advance lever when the spools have film on them, I can feel how stiff the shutter release (or MLU) button get once the shutter is cocked, I can feel the shutter speed dial click at each stop. The more electronics are in the camera, the less of that I can feel. It would take a lot more time to explain why that matters in the first place, and I don't want to derail this already excellent thread.

    Are you sure about this? I read different things about this online. One place says the only fully mechanical Pentax 6x7 is the non-MLU version. The 6x7mlu, 67, and 67ii use a solenoid for the MLU. Other places say there are no fully mechanical versions. Man. The Pentax 6x7 is my ideal camera, honestly. I've known my own Pentax to be a robust camera, and I'd like the same experience for MF.

    I agree, for the most part. Portability is extremely important to me. However, I typically make lens decisions before I leave the house—depending on where I'm going and the kind of pictures I want to take that day. If it doesn't fit on my hip or in my bag (which I carry everywhere), then it doesn't come with me. Even still, I'll consider the Rolleicord if I come across one for the right price.
     
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  20. jnoir

    jnoir Member

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    My only experience has been replacing bellows on GS645 Pro, their quality is on par (if not worse) than that of the (in)famous Agfa Isolette / Record. Not bad, but not my cup of tea either. It requires battery (like you, I prefer mechanical cameras, for the simple reason that I know how to fix them, not so with electronic components)

    This may help, then

    [​IMG]
     
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  21. LarryP

    LarryP Member

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    I'm thinking all versions of the pentax 67 require a battery and film loaded to operate but they are a tank . I will disclose my partiality to pentax it's my brand of choice.I use afilm kx and 645, the only reason I got the 645 over a 67 is I got it at about 1/2 the price of a decent 67.The fact the 645 needs 6 aa batteries to operate is no more an issue than the sr44 battery in the kx . I look at it this way 6 aa's take up the same room as 2 rolls of 120 if I don't have spare batteries the 2 more rolls of film are not going to be any use anyway. Having owned a rangefinder form the FSU as a rule i would not depend on anything made in the former soviet union to work reliably.Sometimes they do sometimes they don't pay your money and take your chances.:laugh:
     
  22. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    I had a Mamiya RZ and for handheld work it was not good. After an hour I got a little hand shake (actually a lot, I hate to admit). So that meant it needed to go on the tripod. Not what you are probably looking for. The Hasselblad is much more manageable in that regard and I like shooting it handheld. The Mamiya 645 Pro was also nice handheld, but I just found the square format worked better for me between the two.

    I haven't used either of the systems you've mentioned, but look at their weight and bulk to help you decide. That to me is much more important than whether the camera takes batteries. Spare batteries are cheap, so carry a couple in your bad at all times.

    The other thing I find with MF SLRs is the mirror slap really makes me flinch, so I find I don't get as sharp of images handheld as i could. I've tested this with mirror lockup and a tripod and I'm pretty sure it's the mirror making me move, not it vibrating the camera. In this regard a range finder is very nice. I love the Mamiya 7 and the Ansco Super Issolette (which may be in your price range) for this reason. So try the camera before you buy. Maybe consider a pair of fuji range finders, I hear they are excellent, and have different focal lengths available.
     
  23. amsp

    amsp Member

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    I take that back, I read the manual and it seems it has an electronically-timed shutter. Now that I think about it I used to have two replacement batteries in the bag, but In the years I owned mine I never had to replace the battery so I guess that's why I never thought about it. The manual stated the battery will last about 8000-10000 exposures. Honestly, you can't go wrong with a Pentax 67, they are total classics and I know fellow professionals that are still using them for documentary and street work.
     
  24. sharris

    sharris Member

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    ...food for thought..i have RB and P67 along with Rolleicord,Yash24, and GS645. The P67 should live with the fast 105 & 160 lenses on it for portraits and environmental shots; and its heavy to hold eye level. The RB held low and slow for wide and on tripod for landscape and long lens for portrait; amazing. But NEITHER work for me if portability beyond a few steps from car required. For that throw the Rolleicord/Yash and fuji folder in a bag. You get that low hold perspective that makes all the diff with the TLR and then can go landscape or portrait orientation with the gs645 for quick environmentals, landscapes etc with stunning resolution. the p67 was a gift and I thought the end to my TLR/fuji combo...but simply cant deal withh that weight for me. hope that helps.
     
  25. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    What!? You "hate that"? Steady on, mate. What's the problem??

    The battery (singular) weighs next to nothing, and most owners of the 67 carry a spare with them, not in the likelihood of ever needing it on a shoot, but as sensible insurance.
    In the 67, the shutter disengages if there is no film loaded. It's a good feature to prevent idiots fingering the shutter just for fun. The function also nulls all controls so there is no drain on the battery. Conversely, if the shutter remains cocked for a fair while, the shutter speeds will become inaccurate. A big problem with a huge number of used bodies where owners have put in film and left the camera in that state for months on end.

    Like electronics? Well the 6x7/67 might well disappoint you, really. A couple of resistors, potentiometer, lengths of coloured wire, a capacitor here and there and a solitary battery check LED... and rudimentary construction would probably make it easy for you to replace things ad hoc — no USARTs, decade counters, CMOS, EPROMs or other trinkets to trick up. The majority of bodies are still soldiering on literally in the era of the first Moon landing technology.
     
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  26. nicholai

    nicholai Member

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    To me it's a very principle thing. I like the way i know even if there wasnt any possibility for batteries. I like the primitivity of it.