Searching for the perfect 'travel camera' - the ongoing mission...

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by munz6869, Jul 24, 2012.

  1. munz6869

    munz6869 Subscriber

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    For the last few years, I've been squandering all my money/annual leave, trying to escape the Australian winter, by going on travels - and every year I try to determine the best 'travel camera' (as well as dragging around a 5x4" field camera - 'cos I'm a masochist).

    My criteria are:
    1. As large a negative as I can get without breaking my back = medium format
    2. Something manual but quick to focus & easy framing
    3. Something 'cool', because I actually enjoy random conversations with other equipment enthusiasts (and people mystified about the equipment) on travels
    4. Quality - there is nothing like the delight of a super-sharp negative, but also you don't want to fret about finding a repair place in unfamiliar territory.
    5. Fixed lens - let your feet do the zooming + one less thing to think of compositionally.
    6. As few accessories as I can not regret bringing.

    So far I have tried:
    1. Miniature Speed Graphic - great 6x9cm negatives, but heavy, cumbersome and certainly not quick to focus or frame. Lots of fun to carry around though.
    2. Rolleiflex MX circa 1954 - great 6x6cm negatives, but often slow to focus in crappy light - nice quiet/covert shutter, can use as a periscope, gets lots of attention.
    3. Fuji GA645zi - surprisingly less impressive 6x4.5cm negs (other may disagree), and clunky autofocus system. Very quick though - which often means you can get a picture you would entirely miss with any other medium format camera...
    4. Fuji GW680III - astonishingly sharp 6x8cm negatives, easy/quick to focus, large viewfinder, LOUD shutter, and big without being heavy.

    Both the Fuji's have modern medium format film loading systems (the little red buttons to pop out the reels, etc), and so loading on the go is quicker.

    I know I suffer from 'the last thing I've done is the best thing' from time to time - but I think I'm slighty enraptured by the giant Fuji rangefinder - it was very easy to carry around and quickly frame and shoot stuff - perhaps moreso than any of the others. It's also a 'comfortable' camera to carry around on travels, which is important. I have processed 21 of 100 or so rolls (mostly Neopan, a bit of Tri-X) I put through it so far, and the number of shots-I-wouldn't-mind-printing is very high compared to previous years.

    Interesting, n'est ce pas? What are your travel-camera experiences, esp. in medium format?

    Marc!
     
  2. kerne

    kerne Member

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    I've been very happy with my Fuji GS645S. Simple meter and fully manual lens. The lens seems plenty sharp for the 16x20" enlargements I make. Although if I'm not walking very far I prefer my Mamiya C220 with metered prism just for the image quality and great bokeh of the 80mm blue dot lens.
     
  3. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Marc I think you have enough cameras to satisfy any traveller's fetish insofar as size matters. No idea if you cart all that stuff around but my personal choice is 6x7 for travel. Once all packed it carry-on size.

    You have not mentioned the Wista; I would have thought that would be the very best of the choices, even if it is fiddly and slow.
     
  4. Ian David

    Ian David Subscriber

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    A Blad with 80mm lens is an excellent travel camera. The lens is not fixed, but it is small and you can pretend it is fixed.
     
  5. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    So uh.....folding cameras perhaps? How bout a whopping 6x9 neg from a Color-Skopar or Heliar lens (Bessa II and III). Or maybe a Zeiss Super Ikonta? Maybe a TLR? I hear Rolleiflexes are quite nice...

    Just some thoughts.
     
  6. Kevin Caulfield

    Kevin Caulfield Subscriber

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    I would agree with Ian. A 'blad with an 80mm lens doesn't take up too much space.
     
  7. 36cm2

    36cm2 Member

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    No brainer - Plaubel Makina 67, 670 or 67W

    I've been down the path you're on. Rolleiflex is very nice. Blad with 80 is ok. Speaking strictly travel, Perkeo II is better than either if you're ok with low contrast and resolution and old style shooting. But the PM 67 family simply does it all in the right size package. Funnily enough, I also take my 4x5, because I too am a masochist.

    Leo
     
  8. whlogan

    whlogan Subscriber

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    Try a Voigtlander Bessa III.... gets you 6x7 and 6x 6 negs and great Fujinon lens and it is pretty small...check it out at Camera Quest... oh, and it ain't cheap...
    Logan
     
  9. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    I played with the Bessa II and the Heliar....some of the best negs I have ever had. Period. And it fit in my breast pocket!
     
  10. jayvo86

    jayvo86 Member

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    Probably a blad with a 80mm or the Bessa/Fuji Rangefinder.

    However, I think the blad may be more versatile down the road if you intend to do different things with it.
     
  11. munz6869

    munz6869 Subscriber

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    Gary, the Wista is great, but this trip I only exposed 98 sheets, which in turn is only 49 pictures (two sheets per pic), compared to 100x 120 rolls (9 frames each). I don't really see a field camera as a good travel camera (a press camera, or field with a rangefinder would be better (and I am trying to 'make one :smile:) This does not stop me taking it anyway - and the tripod has proven very very useful in hotel rooms for tying the other end of a clothes line to...

    Marc!
     
  12. Two23

    Two23 Member

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    Lower budget, the Rolleiflex MX-EVS f3.5. I have one and love it. Definitely gets noticed. Higher budget, the Plaubel Makina.


    Kent in SD
     
  13. Leighgion

    Leighgion Member

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    For medium format, I've tried traveling with an Agfa Clack, folding Baldalux 6x9 w/105mm f4.5 Schneider-Kreuznach and a Fuji GA645 with the basic 60mm f4 Fujinon.

    The Agfa is light, if blocky and somewhat awkward in the hands. Supremely simple with its fixed aperture, fixed focus lens, but the fixed system renders it very inflexible. Really only good for broad daylight when you have plenty of leisure time. Lens performs much better than you might think though.

    [​IMG]
    Local Citröen by Leighgion, on Flickr

    My Baldalux is the most compact 6x9 I've ever seen, but is a bit weighty due to metal construction. Easy to carry in a bag, but very slow to get into action being manual everything and scale focus.

    [​IMG]
    Behind Private Lines by Leighgion, on Flickr

    Fuji GA645 is a plastic fantastic lump with no sex appeal (my sister calls it the "anti-chick magnet"), but it's by far the most practical traveling MF rig I've ever had. The plastic means lightweight, and the motorized telescoping lens keeps the body flat and easy to bag when retracted. Access to full automation really speeds shooting on the go up, but the camera retains full manual options. Camera will also imprint your shooting data between the frames! The lens is sharp as sharp can be. Only practical downsides for me is that the metering its through the viewfinder, so it'll shoot cheerfully all day with the lens cap on and the sound of the motor is.. well, very motory.

    [​IMG]
    Class of '79 (GA645) - 01 by Leighgion, on Flickr
     
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  15. mcgrattan

    mcgrattan Member

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    For a long time my travel combination was a Fuji GS645S combined with a 35mm compact with fast film in it for low-light or pocket use. These days I tend to take two cameras on trips:

    i) a compact -- either a 35mm (usually a Rollei AFM35) or digital
    ii) a medium format camera -- usually my Rolleiflex, but sometimes a Super Ikonta (6x4.5)

    The last two or three trips I've done with just a 35mm camera (Leica or Hexar) but I've not been completely happy not having a medium format option so I probably won't do that again. If I had to just take one film camera, I'd take the Rolleiflex, as a couple of years of playing with travel camera combinations have convinced me that I get by far the best results from the Rollei. I have a Maxwell screen in mine which helps with focusing in low light; although is actually a bit slower in bright light as it has less focus 'snap'.

    The Rolleiflex is surprisingly compact. I can carry it plus film and accessories in the same size bag I'd use for any interchangeable lens 35mm camera [Leica, slr, etc]. The Super Ikonta takes nice pictures but it's not as quick in use as the Rolleiflex, and mine has an uncoated lens so the look of the images -- while very attractive for some shots -- isn't quite as all-round useful as the Rollei.

    Matt
     
  16. jslabovitz

    jslabovitz Member

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    I've been very happy with my Bronica RF645, so much so that I just bought another one for backup, as well as for having two types of film available w/o changing film. Now have the 45mm, 65mm, and 100mm lenses (as well as the polarizer and the flash), but just the 65mm was very suitable. It's got a fabulously sharp image. Can be fully manual, although I prefer aperture-priority; the meter is quite accurate. Very ergonomic and solidly built. "Interesting" enough to get some casual questions, but not so interesting as to be distracting. (This has actually been a real problem with shooting out in public with a Hasselblad.)

    --John
     
  17. coigach

    coigach Member

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    Sounds to me like you've got enough cameras :smile:

    A Mamiya 7II is a good 'un, the 80mm wide standard is a great lens. (Here's an example of a picture taken with it http://www.apug.org/gallery1/showimage.php?i=68003&catid=member&imageuser=12991)

    The camera centre-weighted meter is often way off centre however which can make it a fiddle to use. Mine is, and I often use a handheld meter. (To check positioning of 'centre-weighted' meter, measure against a single light in a darkened room!)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 25, 2012
  18. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    You already have the two best in my opinion: the Rollei and the Fuji Ga645Zi. My primary camera is the Hasselblad and it isn't a great travel camera compared to these two. I wouldn't consider it unless it was a dedicated phototrip. Aethestically, the Fuji is horrible...loud and ugly....the opposite of the Rollei. The Fuji is my go to travel camera, though, because it takes images as good as or better than my Hasselblad even with the short zoom. It is also very fast to operate meaning that I catch shots that I might not otherwise. 16 shots per roll with easy loading is a help too. I have a Rollei 3.5 that I am actually thinking of selling because I use the Fuji so much.
     
  19. thegman

    thegman Member

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    Mamiya 7 is highly functional and a great camera, not as pretty as the Fujifilm GF670 though, IMHO. If you like conversation with strangers, the GF670 is quite a looker.
     
  20. wietsedejong

    wietsedejong Member

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    I would consider the Fuji GW690 of GSW690.
    I own the type 1 version.
    Build like a tank and superb sharp images as the gx680 which I also own.
    and not to big for a 6x9 camera.
     
  21. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    Mamyia 6, not the new version, the folder from the 50s. Very compact, has a good lens, takes SVI hood and filters.
     
  22. graywolf

    graywolf Member

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    Many of the old folding cameras, especially those from the 1960's, take surprisingly good photos. However, the TOL ones are also surprisingly heavy. I have three folding 6x6 cameras myself: an Ansco B2 Speedex, a Hapo 66e (rebranded Balda Baldix RF), and an Iskra. That Iskra takes incredible photos, but weights in at 2.25 pounds. The Speedex is small and light, but has no focusing aid. The Hapo has an uncoupled combined VF/RF, but is easily pocketable (my only complaint is that it has a simple shutter that limits my range of exposure, I can get by with the 3 element lens).

    Of those my choice for a travel camera would depend on whether I photography or convenience was the most important to me. If photography the Iskra (the Zeiss Super Ikonta, Agfa Super Isoette, etc are equivalent), If convenience the Hapo (or equivalent from other makers).

    You know, vacationers were who folding cameras were designed for in the first place.
     
  23. Uncle Bill

    Uncle Bill Subscriber

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    I used a Rolleicord IV in my spring trip to NYC along with an Olympus OM-1 and three lenses all packed in a Domke bag.
     
  24. Heinz

    Heinz Subscriber

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    Another vote for the Makina 67. I like in particular its spot like light meter, which gives me a quick but also controlled way of getting the exposure for nice 6x7 slides.
     
  25. pgomena

    pgomena Member

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    If I'm going to throw a second camera in the travel bag, it's usually my Rollei. If it's too dim for your liking, you might have a brighter screen installed.

    I recently sold my Fuji GW690III. I found it light, easy to hand-hold, and it produced superbly sharp negatives. Its lens was a bit slow, it was big, and the rangefinder was not easy to focus in bright daylight. My only complaint about the rangefinder was that I felt like I was just kind of pointing my camera in the general direction of the scene instead of carefully composing each shot. Fine for street photography, but not so good for tripod work. I never "bonded" with it, but it was a good, dependable rugged camera.

    Peter Gomena
     
  26. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    graflex slr
    you can get a small one and use it with a roll back
    easy to load, easy to focus
    easy to tote, easy to shoot
    takes barrel lenses ...

    i've had a 4x5 series d since the 1990s
    probably the best travel .. and all around camera i own
     
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