Portable, reliable MF on a budget.

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by ChrisC, Jul 28, 2008.

  1. ChrisC

    ChrisC Member

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    I'm having a little bit of a brain freeze here. Pretty much, it all boils down to me wanting a MF camera with a budget of ~$600USD. The kicker here is I want something small (debatable though, and I really need some comparison photos!) but lightness is the other consideration, because this is a camera I'll be using for a lot of trekking, including a trip to Nepal and Everest Base Camp in November.

    Originally I was sold on a Fuji GS670/690 rangefinder, but a lot of it's use will be landscape and people photos, and I know how frustrating rangefinders are with ND grads. Now weight. I'm young and fit but also stupid, so I can carry some weight without much hassle, but I also don't want something bulky that's going to take up a ton of room in my pack, plus it needs to be hand-holdable, though it will have tripod backup too.

    The other two options I've been thinking about are Pentax 645's (some of their auto features will be handy for speed) and Bronica SQAi's. I'm not entirely sure 6x45 is really worth the hassle of lugging all that extra bulk and the initial cost over 35mm, and I'm not quite sure how big the Bronica really is (any MF is rare enough to find here in NZ) and how easy it would be to handhold.

    Basically I'm just looking for some advice. Am I going to have to make some sacrifices (bulk vs. grad possibilities) or am I thinking there's more to MF SLR's than there really is? If possible, I'd absolutely love some comparison photos of of Fuji rangefinders, Pentax 645's and Bronica SQAi's next to something universal (35mm SLR? can of Coke? Be creative!) and maybe some weights as they're hard to find too.

    I think that's all. Thanks a ton in advance!
     
  2. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    With all the toys [Prism,winder and back] my Bronica ETRSI is very similar in weight to my Nikon 4s. Strip off the prism and winder and it might be lighter. In a pack you can take the thing apart and carry it in pieces if you really want. Honestly if you're wearing a jacket you can slip the parts into your pocket.

    I bet some of the large 35mm are bigger then a Pentax 645. Problem is without batteries the Pentax is dead. The good thing is it uses AA which are very common.

    The SQAi is bigger then the ETRSI. I'm not sure it's worth it unless you want to print square. That's the advantage of 645. You crop less so the weight you're carrying is actually useful weight.

    Final thought. Many of these cameras were aimed at wedding photographers. They have to be hand holdable. Obviously if you go with a RZ it'll be harder then a Mamiya 645 but other then the extremes I wouldn't worry about normal hand holding.
     
  3. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    I am big Rolleiflex fan -- light ,portable and reliable (and no batteries!)...but if you want some flexibility with different focal length lenses, it won't work for you...and also you would have the same problem with graduated ND filters as you would with rangefinders. So it is probably best to ignore me. I just can't help recommending a Rolleiflex.:wink:

    Vaughn
     
  4. ChrisC

    ChrisC Member

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    The reason I was considering the SQAi is I've owled a TLR in the past and really enjoyed composing with a square. However having seen a video of someone handholding one on youtube I'm starting to think it may be a little too big and clumsy to handle while hiking and doing the climbing I want to take it on here in NZ.

    This photo: http://flickr.com/photos/androgynousectomorph/2419967335
    Is actually really making me fall in love with the Pentax, and the prices at KEH are very attractive. Do you know what their zoom lens quality is like? I'm guessing it's got to be pretty decent considering that it is a MF kit afterall.

    Haha thanks for your input anyway. Even if it's something I've considered and ruled out, sometimes it helps to hear the same thing from someone else.

    As I've said I sold a Yashica (my original MF mistress, if you will) and while I loved it for portraits and street shooting (and lugging around with it's minimal weight/size), I just don't enjoy them for landscape stuff. I think an SLR is the way to go (especially now I know Pentax sell zoom lenses) but still have the idea of rangefinder portability in my head.
     
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  5. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    My wife was going to do this trip last year. I managed to convince her to take my Nikon F601 instead of her digi compact. Unfortunately she got appedicitis a week before the trip and didn't go. A week later and she would have needed surgery half way up a mountain.



    I was looking at these a while ago. When I actually saw one I was amazed at how big it was. About 50% bigger than I was expecting.

    These three qualities can work together. After dismissing the idea of the Fuji 670/690 for size I went and bought an RB67. It is heavy but I find it fairly easy to hand hold with the left hand grip. I'm not sure if I would take it on an Everest trek though.

    You need to decide if this is a trek which you want to take some photographs on or a photographic trip with a lot of walking. I think it is very easy to decide to take too much equipment which you may regret once you are there. I think I would take a manual 35mm camera with lots of Velvia film or perhaps a Mamiya 6 or 7 or perhaps a Bronica ETRS (which I also have) which has already been suggested.

    I have also been getting into 6x6 folding cameras recently. These are very compact, you could take a couple in jacket pockets. However, they don't have any of the features you want like changeable focal length and ease of use of ND grads.



    Steve.
     
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  6. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    So, you are "young and fit but also stupid"...selling off an older beauty for something you thought might be sexier.:wink:

    In my younger, fitter and stupider days I rode a push bike thru NZ for a half of a year with a 4x5. I should have toss in the Rolleiflex too, instead of leaving it home all alone. Have a great trip!

    Vaughn
     
  7. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    Well, I have a Rolleiflex T and however I like using it, I would not recommend it for a hiking trip to Nepal - I just miss the AE. If you do not want to loose much time, a built-in metering helps a lot (AE even more). If you want to use ND grads, than SLR is probably tho only way to go. But otherwise you could consider a pair of GA645w (with 45mm lens) and GA645zi (the zoom model). Each weights around 800g - and you still have one camera left if the other one should die. Or just the Ga645 (60 mm lens) - that would be the lightest possibility. Or what about the Mamiya 6 or 7 or even Bronica rf645?

    I understand the preference for SLR, but it is also the heaviest option. Pentax 645 is nearly 1300g without a lens.

    The question is also which focal range you think you need to have covered?

    Whether 645 is large enough depends only on your needs and intended print sizes.

    I do not have an experience with ND grads, but how much time will it cost you to use one - even with SLR ? I guess you need a tripod for that. Do you plan to take one?

    Anyhow, just make sure you get enough time to get to know each other before your trip :wink:
     
  8. ChrisC

    ChrisC Member

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    I'm intending to be able to dedicate a fair amount of time for photography on this trip. The longest day's walking is around 4 hours, and although it'll be hard walking, it gives us a bit of time for other things (photography!) once we reach our lodge. This also doesn't bother me with taking and using some ND grads in case I need them. I would love a Mamiya 6 or 7, but being a student, I really can't (shouldn't?) spend that much money as this trip's already wiping my savings clean :smile:

    Weight isn't too much of an issue as we won't be carrying food. Just clothing and camera gear really. I'll be fine with under 3kgs worth of camera (thanks for the weight of the Pentax! I hadn't seen it anywhere) I'm traveling with a good mate (who I 'helped' buy a digital SLR 2 weeks ago) so we'll be splitting tripod duties and sharing photos when we get back.

    I see really well when I'm limited to one or maybe 2 focal lengths, so I won't be carrying a huge system in that regard anyway.

    Thanks for your input though. I was really stuck on the rangefinder vs SLR debate. I think I can safely say I've ruled out rangefinders now though, and the more I look into this the more appealing the Pentax 645 becomes (AE, fairly compact and quick to use, terrific prices currently).
     
  9. AlanC

    AlanC Member

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    Chris,
    You asked for the size and weight of a Bronica SQA. Well, I have the earlier SQ and it is about 4" square and 7" long , with the 80mm lens and back in place, and weighs 2.75 lb -(1.25kg), with nicely rounded corners for packing.

    I was given it recently by a friend and have found it to be a superb camera, and it is very rugged. You could knock tent pegs in with it if you lose your mallet.

    Alan Clark
     
  10. weasel

    weasel Member

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    There have been a lot of posts recently about the pentax 645. I have been using one with a 55 and 150 that makes a nice knock around combo that handles a lot like a 35, but with a much bigger negative.
     
  11. P C Headland

    P C Headland Subscriber

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    It's a shame you weren't looking a couple of months ago, as there was a Mamiya 645 AF-D on TradeMe that went for under about NZ$900, with lens.

    Of the 645 SLR cameras I've handled, I did not find they weighed significantly less than the Bronica SQ series. I'd be tempted to get the Bronica, and stick to a WLF. A small lightmeter would probably be better than a metered prism, and lighter. An 80mm, a wide and maybe a teleconverter and you'd be set. Oh, and a stack of flim!!

    If you can convince yourself otherwise, and could go for a RF, the Fuji GA 645zi would be a nice option. Certainly meet the small and light qualifications, and it has a great lens (even if it is a bit slow at the longer end).

    Enjoy the trip.
     
  12. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    Chris,

    if the weight is not an issue, then you might consider the Pentax 67 or Bronica GS1. They will both offer you 6x7 negatives in not that much heavier packages, though I would guess that shooting without a tripod would be less convenient.

    You will find the weights of the Petax bodies and lenses here:
    HERE and HERE. With of course much more other info.

    Bronica would allow you to heve more backs along - if you plan to use different films. You can find more about it HERE And the prices should be OK too.
     
  13. ChrisC

    ChrisC Member

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    There's actually a Bronica SQAi on TradeMe at the moment (ends tomorrow) with 80mm lens, prisim and a wast level metered viewer for $1,000 with no reserve. This is what ead me to making this thread, but I almost think I've talked myself out of it now :sad:

    http://www.trademe.co.nz/Electronics-photography/Film-cameras/Other-formats/auction-167187936.htm

    It's here in Wellington and really looks in good shape too.

    You've made me start second guessing my Pentax 645 choice now! :tongue:

    I think I've pretty much ruled a rangefinder out now. I really want to be able to see through the taking lens, because this will probably end up coming along with me to some rugged places, and the flexibility an SLR gives with capturing them is a big drawcard.
     
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  15. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    I like the Mamiya 6 or 7 system. Unfortunately I think this system is out of the price range mentioned.

    The optics of the Mamiya 7II is fabulous.
     
  16. Greg_E

    Greg_E Member

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    Even the Mamiya 6 is out of the price range for the body and a couple of lenses. The 7 and 7II are way out of the price range, one lens would wipe out the budget.

    Mamiya 645 Super or Pro with metered prism, 2CR powered winder (maybe), and waist level finder might fit the bill. They are a little big, but not too heavy if you keep your lenses to a minimum. Pick up a small light meter to complete the set. If money permits pick up extra film backs. Leave the prism at camp if you know you will not be taking portraits and use the waist level, it gets pretty light like this. One thing though, the Russain fish-eye lenses are HEAVY, they work OK but are on the heavy side. I'm not sure what the Mamiya 24mm weighs, but you can't afford it with that budget anyway.
     
  17. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Check the weight and the filter sizes. Memory tells me it's not exactly tiny. The big advantage of the Pentax is it's a single complete package. Builtin meter and winder. Downside is it's a single complete package :D It's also highly battery dependent. So plan on carrying spares. If you need daylight fill flash that 1/60 sync might be a problem.

    With the system cameras a bad shutter at worst costs you a lens. If you bring a crank you can always hand wind them.
     
  18. jime11

    jime11 Member

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    Just a suggestion but a Bronica ETRs with the 45-90 would allow a lot of flexability. Add the 150 & youre set. The only drawback is the size of the lens. 45mm is pretty wide (about equavilent to about 28mm in 35mm terms). The other consideration is that it is battery dependent.

    http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=6629650
     
  19. ChrisC

    ChrisC Member

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    I've come to the conclusion that battery dependency doesn't bother me, so long as the batteries aren't totally obscure and don't weigh a ton.

    I hadn't really thought of Bronica to be honest, but I do like what I'm seeing, especially with that 45-90 lens. Are they both yours? If so is there any chance you could post a photo with it next to a CD, or you just holding it or something? Knowing it takes 90mm filters makes me wonder just how massive the lens really is and how heavy it is. But it's focal range is almost perfect for me, as almost all my landscapes are taken from normal to wide.
     
  20. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Based on what you have said about weight etc., one suggestion is to abandon the MF idea altogether and take a robust Nikon, like the fm3a or one of its predecessors, and shoot slide and/or some of the new 35mm b&w superfilms. If you meditate on total system weight and overall reliability and film bulk, then you might find this decision quite logical.

    Another thing is that if you have a companion using 35mm then you might collaborate on lenses. There's nothing wrong with 35mm; for this kind of thing it can be very powerful. If faster lenses mean you won't need a big tripod or MLU or whatever, and light weight means you'll be able to explore interesting perspectives, then hey, take a 35mm kit, be happy, enjoy the scenery, and take a bunch of slides.

    You might also consider an xpan (what is the fuji equivalent? I forget the name) or contax g2.

    Frankly, I think I wouldn't launch into MF while restricting myself to that budget, just because of this one trip. I mean, if it were me, I'd pack two mamiya 6es and the three lenses, or one mamiya 6 and an fm3a. But unfortunately that's not going to come in anywhere near your budget.
     
  21. jime11

    jime11 Member

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  22. jime11

    jime11 Member

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    PS - KEH has 5 of them at just a little over your stated budget
     
  23. P C Headland

    P C Headland Subscriber

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    I reckon it's worth hitting the "offer" button, and seeing what they come back with!

    Problem is, you may find square really suits you (like me), then you end up having difficulty framing non sqaure shots .... :surprised:
     
  24. ChrisC

    ChrisC Member

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    No matter how hard I try, when I shoot 35mm I get into the 'digital state of mind' and shoot frame after frame most of the time without thinking, and my results reflect this too. I toyed with the idea of getting a 35mm rangefinder with a lens or two for weight reasons, but I just know I won't get results I'm happy with with this format.

    I considered the whole lens sharing thing too, but my mate bought EF-S lenses so they won't work with a 35mm camera.

    Though bulkier, a 645 SLR does seem to be perfect for me, and a Pentax 645 even with 2 lenses should be affordable. The other options are Bronica ETRSi's and Mamiya 645 Pro's, which while more expensive, do seem to have slightly more advanced metering systems from what I can gather, but I'm not convinced the price difference is worth it.
     
  25. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I understand :wink: and slowing down is often very beneficial. Those benefits will transfer to 35mm or other roll film systems too.

    However, if it's a once-[or rarely]-in-a-lifetime kind of thing then I would recommend two things.

    (1) beg/borrow/steal a robust and complete kit that has had a recent CLA;
    (2) consider the merits of having two identical bodies onhand;
    (2b) if you really and truly can only have one body then take the CLA very seriously and get to know the camera body as well as you know your own body;
    (3) do the total math on how much you will spend on film and processing and realize that a few hundred bucks is in the noise for this kind of venture!
     
  26. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    Concerning slowing down, I've found the best way to do that is to use a camera with no automation! If you have to focus and, especially, meter manually, then you'll slow down! Old cameras with no built-in meter (or at most a meter with no automatic coupling to the shutter or aperture) will really help in this respect. FWIW, I don't use such cameras all the time, but I do like to do so some of the time as a way to remind myself of the possibilities of creative control over the film I shoot.