Recommendations for getting into medium format?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by James-EG, Aug 15, 2014.

  1. James-EG

    James-EG Member

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    I've been shooting 35mm film for just over a year and while I love shooting digital on my 60D I really can't get enough of film photography :D I love using the cameras and the process of developing film is great fun (I'm very lucky in that my school has a darkroom) However the inevitable has happened and I find myself seriously wanting to get into medium format too. This will also help for my A-level Photography course as I would love to do a project based around film, having a couple of different formats would help greatly.

    Anyway, I'd like to hear some different recommendations from those who shoot medium format, I'd like to get a camera, standard lens and maybe two film backs to begin with if that option is available, I'm not overly worried. I've done some research over the last few weeks and eventually decided the camera I would start with would be the Mamiya RZ67 Pro II however I'm often hearing a lot about it's weight and size, which could be a big drawback for me as I won't be shooting in a studio, (although I do have a good tripod) is it really worth lugging it around? So I figured the best thing to do was get some proper recommendations.

    6x7 format would be best but 6x6 would also be fine, I wouldn't like to go down to 6x4.5, and I would prefer to try and get newer cameras, and while I do really like them, a TLR is likely to end up too expensive if I end up with one that keeps needing to be serviced or repaired, however if there's one that's later or just has great build quality I wouldn't mind a TLR. Obviously a Hasselblad 500CM would be amazing however I would probably be pushing my budget at £400-450 ($660-750, to those in the US remember everything seems to be more expensive in the UK :sad:) so a Hasselblad is probably out of the equation already!
     
  2. ParkerSmithPhoto

    ParkerSmithPhoto Subscriber

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    Bronica SQ gear is a great place to start. Affordable, easy to use, gives you the flexibility to shoot many crops without having to rotate the camera.

    The RZ is a bit of a chunk. It feels like 1.5 Hasselblads, but the optics are superlative. It has a spatial quality that is quite unlike any other camera.

    Might be best to see if you can borrow or even rent one cheap for a few days. I'm a big believer that your choice of camera will dictate the types of photographs you will make, and you need to find one that's a good fit for your style and personality.

    Case in point: I've had a 4x5 camera for 18 years that I've maybe used a few dozen times. It just isn't the way I see. It just doesn't feel right to me so, as a consequence, it never gets used.

    Anyone need a Cambo SC???? :whistling:
     
  3. James-EG

    James-EG Member

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    Thanks for the reply, I'll have a look at the Bronica SQ, I've seen it mentioned but I've never really looked at it before, although from what I can gather so far they do seem good. That's the thing about the Mamiya, I love the pictures made with them and I love the cameras, it's just the issue of weight! I'll look into renting one, never thought of that before and it sounds like a good idea :smile:
     
  4. Paul in Arizona

    Paul in Arizona Member

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    If you are on a budget [at least until you are hooked] consider a Rolleicord if 6x6 format is an option. Only a few more $$ than the flimsier Asian copies, built like a tank, lighter than a Rolleiflex, and quite fixable if something should go wrong. Not to forget that any Rollei is worth repairing because it adds to resale value if you move on. I have both a Rolleiflex -these can get costly- and a Rolleicord and find the 'cord to be more fun to use in some strange way. The earlier Rolleiflex models with the Xenar lenses will service you well and can often be found at good prices just a bit over those of a Rolleicord.
     
  5. James-EG

    James-EG Member

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    Okay, thanks I'll have a look at them too but I have one other question, since TLRs are older and the lenses are less complex (particularly the more entry-level ones) does that mean to say that their image quality won't be as good as SLRs? I've seen some amazing images taken with TLRs but they always seem to be the expensive Rolleiflex cameras, I've also looked at the Flexaret VII, does anyone have anything to say about that?
     
  6. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    TLRs have a serious advantage - the designers didn't have to worry about complex moving mirror mechanisms behind them.

    I have and use a bunch of different Mamiya medium format equipment - Mamiya C330 TLR, Mamiya 645 Pro SLR (with focal plane shutter) and Mamiya RB67 SLR with leaf shutters in the lenses - and the TLR's lenses perform admirably.

    If you are moving up from 35mm, you may find the 6x4.5 cameras to be the most intuitive. They certainly are reasonably priced on the used market.

    I haven't used much Bronica equipment, but they would be worth your consideration in 6x4.5 as well (especially if you prefer leaf shutter systems).
     
  7. Gunfleet

    Gunfleet Member

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    Rolleiflex are not necessarily expensive - a T with a Schnieder xenar will be sharp enough to cut yourself on. At one time they were standard issue in the British military so good ones aren't hard to find. When i was at the same age and stage as you i used a folding 6x6 rangefinder. Again very sharp pictures and worth the latitude in b&w film you can afford to be a bit erratic with exposure.
     
  8. Gunfleet

    Gunfleet Member

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    Sorry with not worth. Blooming autotext.
     
  9. Regular Rod

    Regular Rod Member

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    Have you considered 6x9? What about folding cameras? You could buy 3 folding cameras with your budget. AGFA Record III with Solinar (or the cheaper Apotar) Lens, Zeiss Ikonta 524/2 with Novar Lens, Voigtlander Bessa with Skopar lens are all easily within your budget, leaving you plenty of money left to buy film...

    You would find difficulty in detecting any inferiority of image compared with some of the expensive cameras mentioned thus far in this thread.

    RR
     
  10. johnha

    johnha Subscriber

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    A lot depends on what you want (or think you want - it may change) to shoot and whether you'll eventually be looking to build a system. If you really want a particular system (Hassey/RZ67 etc.) then buying anything else is probably a mistake, but check out prices for extra lenses - Hassey lenses can be extremely expensive. The RZ67 is a big lump, the revolving film back makes it effectively a 7x7 camera in size, the lenses have to cover the 7x7 image circle and are therefore big lumps of glass.

    If you just want to try medium format I'd suggest a Mamiya C220/330 TLR which have interchangeable lenses. The Bronica SQ 6x6 is an affordable SLR option if you're looking to build a system, but if you really want a Hassey try to find one (or save a little longer).

    As you'll be lugging it (and tripod) about, I wouldn't recommend a RZ67 as a first medium format camera. With enough drive & perseverance you can overcome anything, if you're that committed I'm sure you'd make it work - but otherwise it might put you off before you really get started.

    Whatever you buy, try and get it from a reputable dealer with some kind of warranty unless you know what's good and bad. Medium format cameras operate differently from 35mm cameras, many won't fire the shutter with the dark slide in place or won't dry-fire without being set to multi-exposure etc.
     
  11. klop

    klop Member

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    When I made the move to 120 film from 35mm, I started with a Yashica MAT 124 and I bought the wide and telephoto lenses from eBay... I was impressed with there sharpness...
     
  12. thegman

    thegman Member

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    Personally, if you've got the budget, I'd go Rolleiflex rather than Rolleicord, my brother has a Rolleicord, and if you don't like 'older' cameras, you're not going to like it, I don't think.

    You're in the UK, take a look at http://www.ffordes.com/, no association with them other than being a happy customer a few times.

    If you want small, some of the newer folding cameras might suit you, Zeiss Super Ikonta is not as old fashioned as it first looks. See what Fforddes can you in your budget, I expect a Hasselblad is completely possible:

    http://www.ffordes.com/product/14073116125931
     
  13. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I lug my RB around just fine. Yeah it's heavy, even heavier than the RZ. So what.

    I use a mono pod instead of a tripod most of the time.

    6x7is great.

    I will say though that my first foray into MF was with a Holga and it gave me a real appreciation of 6x6. I could see adding a TLR to my stable and a good CLA could make one very reliable. I have resisted though because I can crop.
     
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  15. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Subscriber

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    I had a RB67 Pro-S and enjoyed it immensely despite it's bulk and weight. I always wanted to try a Fuji GX680 III but never got around to it and if I ever buy another medium format SLR it'll probably be this one. I had a Horseman VH-R with 6x9cm RFHs that I really liked but I don't think the latter is what you're looking for because it's a big bulky rangefinder.
     
  16. shutterfinger

    shutterfinger Subscriber

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    Lens found on TLR's and large format cameras focus infinity roughly their focal length from the lens plane. The simplest lens is a single element akin to a magnifying glass. Some basic lens highly sought after for their soft focus to be used for portraiture are triplets, 3 cells. Other common types are 4 and 5 cell designs. TLR lens are usually less than 100mm in focal length so it is not difficult to get them to focus from 3 feet to infinity in a compact package.
    Now take the SLR's such as Hasselblad, Mamiya, Bronica, and similar cameras. To get the lens to focus from 6 feet to infinity at the position the lens is from the film plane, extra elements have to be added to equal the TLR 4 and 5 element image quality. By refining the lens design and coatings a sharper lens can be made. Top brand cameras and lens usually are produced with tighter tolerances but some budget brands occasionally hit the precision mark and are good contenders also so the camera or lens in its current condition is more important than its badge.

    The small end of Large Format in 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 commonly called 2x3 which is 57mm x 82mm called 6x9 cm. 2x3 press cameras are available from several manufacturers, can use a verity of lens, and can accept 6x6, 6x7, and 6x9 roll film backs. Many will have Graflok/international backs making switching between the ground glass and roll film holder easy. Many will have a rangefinder making point and shoot easy.
     
  17. Alan Gales

    Alan Gales Member

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    If you buy an RZ67 then make sure you buy the L grip for it. http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/33938-REG/Mamiya_212_550_L_Grip_Holder_RZ_for.html The L grip makes a world of difference. With the L grip, waist level finder and 110mm lens it's not bad. The prism finder is heavy. Adding additional lenses and backs to your kit makes the RZ real heavy. It's a great camera though and my favorite medium format camera for portraits.

    Shooting 6x6 is real nice if you like square images. If you are going to crop to a rectangle though you may be better off buying a 645 camera.
     
  18. Dan Daniel

    Dan Daniel Subscriber

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    The odds are that the first medium format setup you get will not be the last one. So don't sweat it too too much.

    The Bronica ETR series can be a good entrance point. Pretty cheap, nice quality. When something breaks you buy another one- lens, body, back, etc. I know it's 6x45, though. U

    There are two main problem areas in buying medium format gear- 1, the equipment was used by a pro week after week and is worn out, or 2, the gear has sat in a bag in a closet and the grease has dried out, etc.

    Whatever you end up with, I recommend getting one lens only at first. The change from 35 to MF is going to be a big enough jump; no need to make a mess of it with three lens choices or such. See how MF fits with what you want and then invest more.
     
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  19. DannL.

    DannL. Member

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    I have been using the RZ67 Pro (not II) and I am very pleased with it. I would not be concerned with the weight of this camera. Granted, having higher Density and taking up more Volume, you must expect that Mass would be more. This quantity can also be referred to as the Goodness (G) of the camera. G=(M=DV). A camera with more Goodness (G) should have more gravitational force acting upon it. That would be expected. Now, consider an average person with a weight of 160 lbs.; If they were fully clothed and carried upon them a wallet/purse, an average size hat, a light meter, and a pack of Tic-Tacs, they may have a total weight of ~170 lbs. The RZ67 with prism, lens, 120 back might have a total weight of 7.6 lbs. Since they are already hauling 170 lbs. around everywhere they go, this additional weight of the camera is only 1/22nd of the total weight in this equation. I would definitely ignore the weight of the camera here, as it is not large enough to be significant. What is significant is the Goodness (G) that can be found with this camera. Running and shooting with a RZ67 would require a background working with equations involving acceleration, gravity, mass, density, etc. And I must admit that I'm not an expert in everything. Just some things.

    :blink:
     
  20. aRolleiBrujo

    aRolleiBrujo Subscriber

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    mamiya rb67 pro s or the latest rb system, or a pentacon six tl,and we can be like brother's, only closer![​IMG]spongeindex by a.rodriguezpix, on Flickr
     
  21. James-EG

    James-EG Member

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    Thanks for all the replies, a TLR does seem like a good possibility then! One of the main reasons I wanted to get an RZ67 is the 6x7 format, I would be able to print nice big images from that for my course, but I doubt 6x6 would be much different and I don't mind square images. I'll have a look at everyone's suggestions. With what some people have said the RZ67 is still a possibility, I'd just have to buy a new camera backpack! That 500C from ffordes would be great, but unfortunately while it seems to be a good price I need to think of price of film etc.
     
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  22. skysh4rk

    skysh4rk Member

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    I big vote for the SQ series from Bronica; a great system that's very affordable as well. I'm a student in the UK too and it's nice that I can occasionally afford to pick up bits and pieces for it (e.g., lenses, backs, finders, grips, etc.) without breaking the bank. I use my SQ-A for most of my photography (I also own an SQ-B for backup).

    That said, I really enjoy TLRs as well. I'm always impressed by the images my Minolta Autocord can churn out and it only cost me 100 quid.
     
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  23. andrew.roos

    andrew.roos Subscriber

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    An additional factor that is worth considering is whether the lenses you want are available with the same filter size. This reduces the cost of getting filters (contrast filters for B&W, light balancing filters for colour film, polarizing and ND filters for both). One of the reason I chose Bronica is because all the lenses that I wanted were available with the same filter size. In general, Bronica is good at keeping the filter sizes the same for all but extreme wide angle and tele lenses - 62mm filters for the ETR series (6x4.5) and 67mm filters for the SQ series (6x6). For example, for my ETRSi I can get everything from 40mm (24mm equivalent) to 250mm (150mm equivalent), and everything between, in the same 62mm filter size. This makes it cheap and easy to build up a filter collection using standard round screw-in filters.
     
  24. elekm

    elekm Member

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    Regarding a Rolleiflex, yes, many of them will need to be serviced. Once serviced, it shouldn't neeed service for another decade or possibly more.

    It always depends on how you handle your cameras. If it is exposed to dust and rain, it probably will need to be serviced more often than one that isn't exposed to those conditions.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Ian about a TLR having fewer moving parts and therefore less complexity. The simpler the mechanism, the less chance of problems.
     
  25. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    So James forget specific cameras for a second.

    What are the characteristics of the print you want?

    For example; Square or rectangular? What I'm getting at here is that I find that the view the camera I have in hand shows me has a huge effect on how I compose. For me rectangular prints are in the majority. Rectangular normally fits the way I see a scene well, for me rectangular also works well for using the rule of thirds and the golden ratio. When I shoot square with the Holga I see differently and tend to want the subject centered in the print, of course part of that is the way the Holga lens sees too.

    Next, what style of shooting will the camera be used for?

    For example; Does a tripod really work in the situations you want to use the camera? Will a monopod work instead? Will you need to shoot handheld a bunch? TLRs are typically easier to handhold and carry, if you can use a "pod" though that doesn't matter as much. Personally whenever a shoot is really important I'm using at least a monopod even with my F5 on a bright sunny day at f/2.8 with 400 speed film.

    And, what angle of view are you looking for?

    For example; Just looking normal (80-110 range on MF) means most any MF camera can get you there. If you need long and short lenses too then a lot of the TLRs simply won't work. With that said though I find that as the film format gets larger the need for non-normal lenses is greatly reduced. What's happening here for me is that as the format size goes up the setup for my shots gets considerably more formal; I'm not normally shooting "Street" or "grab shots" or "snow leopards in the wild" with the RB so I'm less willing to compromise on the angle of view I want to get a shot. Normal lenses give viewers of a print a fairly normal angle of view, what that means that subjects tend to look normal, no overly flattened faces, no big noses, and the queues that our brains get from the context are normal enough that on occasion our subject seem to look 3D, like they might walk right out of the print. I find it tough to get this effect with longer lenses, there's just not enough context and the shorter the lens the bigger the print needs to be to get it. (I have a 24x36 print that was taken with a very wide lens that has this effect but you need to have a viewing distance of about 12-15 inches which isn't optimal).

    Don't get too hung up on these questions because all the cameras suggested here can do good stuff, but it is nice to get the big things right on the first try.
     
  26. LMNOP

    LMNOP Member

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    When I made the switch from 35mm to MF, the Mamiya 645AF was the perfect transition. I have also done a lot of 60D work, and I must say, the 645AF was a simple transition that made plenty of sense. I still shoot with it all the time, though I use my RZ67 Pro ii a lot more these days. The 645AF gives you huge negatives, and it is so easy to handle. Check out some of those shots on my flickr if you want to see just how unlike 35mm that camera looks.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/patrickjmccormack/