Three systems to choose from, new to MF

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by OldBodyOldSoul, Nov 21, 2011.

  1. OldBodyOldSoul

    OldBodyOldSoul Member

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    I apologize for another "please help me I am clueless" thread, but I am sure you've got used to it by now.

    I have been shooting 35mm since childhood and never thought about changing anything there, including the format. I love 35mm and that won't change. However, I have run into some equipment that made me very interested to try something bigger. I don't feel ready (and probably never will be) for LF but MF is a different story.

    Anyway, there are three options that I am seriously considering:
    1. Mamiya C3
      It's a like new looking, seem-to-be-fully-working system with four lenses 65/3.5, 80/2.8, 105/3.5 and 135/4.5. Various accessories too (hand grip, prism, plan film holders etc).
      I like it because it looks great and TLR is in so many aspects different from my 35mm SLRs. Too bad a 180mm lens is missing (there's a leather case for it).
    2. Pentacon Six TL
      Looks like new and there are two of them (one with problems could serve as a part source) with standard, WL and metering prisms, all kinds of accessories and four lenses: The standard CZ Jena 80/2.8 Biometar, Mir 65/3.5 and two Meyer-Optik Gorlitz lenses, Primotar 80/3.5 and Orestegor 300/4.
      Being what it is this option feels like the easy way into the MF world, except my Nikons are about 10 times smaller and lighter. I know it has to be handled very carefully, which on its own would not pose a problem at all. General quality is unknown to me. Its finders are worst of all three systems. I have no idea how its lenses compare to Sekors and I only assume they are better than what I have for Salyut.
    3. Salyut-S
      I took this one after realizing that the Hasselblad 500c had problems (flaps not working well). There are several of these cameras, all in fair to good condition (they all work though) and again four lenses: Vega 90/2.8, Mir 45/3.5 and 65/3.5 and Tair-33 300/4.5.
      Like I said, Salyut was a consolation prize (Hasseblad is what I grabbed first and didn't look around much until I realized it wasn't in working state) but it doesn't seem too bad at all. Hasselblad's focusing screen is about million times better, but Salyut's is not unusable.

    I like the WL finder, it's so big and fun to look in. Left being right and vice versa, not so much, but I believe I can learn to work with it. Finders, especially WL is a big plus for Mamiya and Salyut.
    I like how P6 feels, being in like-new condition. Besides the size, focusing and handling in general feels like my Nikon. That's a plus.
    I like that there are several Salyuts there and holding this type of camera feels just a bit more natural/simple than Mamiya. But Mamiya looks so interesting and fun... I have just run a roll of Ektar through the Salyut and need to get it processed to see what I've done. Working with it felt nice (though that Hasselblad was always on my mind).

    Everyone is different so I know it's going to be up to me in the end. Nevertheless, I would like to hear if you think one system or another has characteristics that often attract people new to this format, or make them give up.
    Basically, what would you start with?
    Any other thoughts and/or advice will be appreciated too.

    Thanks.

    edit: damn, that's a long post...
     
  2. OldBodyOldSoul

    OldBodyOldSoul Member

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    Ouch, I forgot to say what I like to shoot. So, mainly architecture, street and portraits. I am highly mobile with my 35mm. Don't expect to be so with MF but I am not going to be standing somewhere for an hour planning the shot either.
     
  3. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    Only have experience with the Mamiya (actually a C220) and they are solid, reliable beasts. The kit size and weight is great since the lenses are small and light. I never liked using it handheld though, but others do. There are prisms for the Mamiya (at least the later series). The lenses are quite good.
     
  4. OldBodyOldSoul

    OldBodyOldSoul Member

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    Thanks Mark. I have nothing against working with tripod, though I do expect to at least try shooting handheld because that's what I do 99.9% of time with 35mm. One of the things I like in WL finders is that it allows me to shoot low without having to lay flat on the ground (I am not 20 or 30 anymore). I do have a prism for C3.
     
  5. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    Mamiya - better quality, easier to find repairman when needed, better lenses and it will likely be working when the others are trash.

    Jim
     
  6. Ralph Javins

    Ralph Javins Member

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    Good morning;

    An interesting array of choices. I do not have the Mamiya, so I cannot comment there.

    I do have both the Kiev-88 and the Kiev-88CM, and I just missed getting a nicely reworked Pentacon Six TL. There are eight lenses from the Zodiak-8B 3.5/30mm lens to the Tair-33B 4.5/300mm lens

    The Pentacon Six is a solid performer once it has been checked and adjusted by a camera technician knowledgeable about the quirky FSU cameras. Trevor Allin at the www.pentaconsix.com web site is quite happy with his now. With the non-removable back, it does have an advantage over the Kiev Salyut, Kiev-88, and Kiev-88CM with its much greater resistance to light leaks. The frequent complaint about improper frame spacing can usually be traced to not following the correct procedure when loading the 120 film into the camera. The P-6 lens mount series is extensive, including tilt, shift, and tilt/shift lenses for architectural photography and wide panorama photographs, and there are tilt adapters and shift adapters for use with the regular lenses.

    The Kiev Salyut, Kiev-88, and Kiev-88CM are a little different. The first two use the earlier screw thread mount similar to the original Hasselblad 1600F mount while the Kiev-88CM uses the Pentacon-Six or P-6 mount. Most of the lenses by the Kiev Arsenal were available in both mounts, and the Kiev-88CM can use the entire range of P-6 lenses including the CZJ, with a couple of exceptions where there are some physical incompatibility with one or two certain lenses. Some careful work may be needed to keep the backs or magazines light leak resistant. It can be a challenge. Many Kiev-88 owners just accept it as a way of life and use good quality black electrical tape around the magazine-to-body joint or a black hair tie around the joint to keep the light out. It usually works. The reliability can be really improved with the Kiev-88 cameras by having them checked by a good Kiev camera technician. We have a couple here in the United States, such as www.mechanicalcamerarepair.com in New York, and in Europe there is Arax Foto, www.araxfoto.com in Kiev, Ukraine. Both of these are known to be good, and Arax Foto will also do upgrades to your camera. These are only two on the list of people and organizations who still work on these cameras. I have more I can provide. By the way, if you talk to owners of the original Hasselblad 1600F and 1000F, they will also speak of their magazines being "temperamental."

    Just as with the original Hasselblad view screen, there are other screens that are much brighter available for both the Pentacon-Six and the Kiev-88. In fact, if you want to, you can put a Hasselblad viewfinder screen and Hasselblad viewfinder onto your Kiev-88. They are interchangeable, and some Hasselblad owners have been known to put a Kiev Spot-TTL viewfinder onto their Hasselblad 500CM and other cameras. And, you can get some really curious looks from Hasselblad owners when they see you have a Hasselbland viewfinder on your Kiev-88.

    And, for your future reference, there is a group right here on APUG for the "Bolshie Blads" or the medium format cameras from the FSU. Go to the "Groups" tab on the left side of the row of tabs along the top of the screen and look in the Groups Listing for "Bolshie Blads." I will probably be adding a list to the Files Section there providing information on many of the things just discussed with you here.
     
  7. OldBodyOldSoul

    OldBodyOldSoul Member

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    Ralph, thanks for that. I'll run some rolls through Mamiya and Pentacon and then see how it all feels. Good thing is I am not in a hurry.
    Oh, and I will definitely check out the Bolshie Blads.
     
  8. guitstik

    guitstik Member

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    OBOS, Ralph is pretty knowledgeable on these things so you can trust him to give lots of info to confuse you even further :laugh: You will have to be a subscriber to view/participate in the group area tho, so you might want to consider that.

    As to what camera, well it seems that you have quite a collection to try from. Never having used either of those cameras myself I would suggest the Mamiya because they are a reliable camera. I do own several just not a TLR. as for the Pentacon, I have heard mixed reviews on them and there are several sites dedicated to them but again, I have never used one.

    Joel
     
  9. snederhiser

    snederhiser Member

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    Hello;
    Ralph jumped ahead of me, on the Kiev 88's be sure to wind camera before changing shutter speeds. The Mamiya would be a keeper, but I would take any of the camera's. Steven.
     
  10. BrianL

    BrianL Member

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    My vote would be the C3. Of the 3 as they age, I suspect the C3 will stand the test of time better and as it was more plentiful in the US probably any repairs needed will be easier, especially if parts are required. I do like the series and had a hankering for something like the C330 Professional and a set of lenses but the timing was never right.
     
  11. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    WL finders are great for handheld and shooting low. Not so great for tripod shooting as the camera lens ends up pretty low. I'm short so I probably have the problem worse than most. You have the prism so you can go either way. Personally, I'd stay away from the Salyut. Their reputation is a bit sketchy. The Russian cameras are a bit of a crapshoot... I have a great FED2.....and about 3 scrap screw mount Russian cameras!
     
  12. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

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    I have C330f and a Pentacon 6. I have in the past had a Kiev 60 (not an 88 or Salyut).

    My opinion is that the C330 is a very solid reliable first rate bit of professional kit. The C3 is similar, but with the added complication of separate shutter cocking. The lenses are pretty good. Now rather dated and not as easy to get repaired and serviced as it once was (it is officially out of support - although still probably easier to get repaired than a Salyut!)

    It is still fairly easy to get lenses and accessories and there are a lot of accessories available. It can tackle pretty much anything - but the TLR layout means parrallex problems unless you use a paramender, which is a bit of a quirky work around.


    The Pentecon 6 is less rugged and less reliable and also quite old, now. Get a good one and they are good. I'm quite fond of mine. It is possible to get them serviced by Pentecon or by a couple of independent technicians. The lenses range from reasonable to good for some of the Ukrainian ones to superb for the Carl Zeiss Jena ones. You can get better screens and also fit Kiev finders and prisms with an adaptor widget from Rolf Dieter (one of the service guys).

    Being an SLR - it might be more familiar and comfortable for a 35mm SLR user, at the expense of a bit less ruggedness and reliability of the Mamiya.

    If the Salyut is anything like the Kiev I had (and I think it is) then say well clear! They are cameras for enthusiasts more than photographers. Like a vintage motorbike or something - the appeal seems to be that with enough care and dedication, you can overcome all the difficulties and actually get it to work ;-)

    just my humble opinion.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 23, 2011
  13. JDP

    JDP Member

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    I have only ever have owned a Mamiya C330F from the cameras you list, but can support claims of reliability. I bought mine in the early 80's (used) when I was a student, and it is still going strong today (light amateur use). The lens' are good and take beautiful looking pictures (nice 'bokeh'?). The draw back for me is the widest lens is only 55mm. Otherwise I may never have bought another camera. Its my default camera for portraits these days and the 135mm lens will do an excellent job. The 105 is great for group shots, and the 65mm is a superb all-round general lens. I shoot mainly hand-held, and with the neck-strap tight and camera against my chest I can often get down to 1/15th sec without too much blur.

    Best of luck with your choice.
     
  14. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    The Mamiya is the conservative choice; sorta like choosing toyota over some unknowns. An interchangable lens TLR is probably the only tlr suitable for architecture.

    If the Meyer lenses that come with the pentacon are trioplans, those could be a real treat for portrait / street use. I have a trioplan for my 4x5 camera and it's buttery bokeh smooth wide open, and sharp and smooth stopped down. Lots of aperture blades, nice "from another era" look at the wider openings without being softish.
     
  15. Too old to care

    Too old to care Subscriber

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    I am a sucker for Mamiya too, I owned 3 over the past 40+ years. The C3 will give years of service with only basic service. I serviced mine a couple of times, including de-greasing the shutter blades and replacing the shutter main spring. I still use a C330f, but my C3 is still in service, a friend now uses it, along with my C220.
     
  16. Dr.Pain-MD

    Dr.Pain-MD Member

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    Mamiya will be the safest choice mechanically speaking, they were built much better than the other two. The optics will be great on all of them depending on the lens (most lenses are good, save for a few of them). Past that, it's up to you if you'll be comfortable with a 35mm-like SLR, an interchangeable lens TLR or a system SLR.
     
  17. OldBodyOldSoul

    OldBodyOldSoul Member

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    A lot of good advice here, thanks all.

    I have loaded the Pentacon (followed the strict procedure) so now I'll see how it feels in actual use.

    Mamiya scares me a bit because it's so different. On the other hand, it's also the most intriguing of all three systems. Oh, and I was wondering what that "rail" among Mamiya's accessories was for. Then Steven (maybe someone else as well) mentioned paramender... so I have that too. The horror of abundance!

    It's going to be fun, that's for sure.
     
  18. PaulMD

    PaulMD Member

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    One thing about the Pentacon Six is that it does not have an instant-return mirror. The mirror does not recover until you wind (with a very long stroke). This may or may not detract from the way you shoot. The optics are very good, the Biometar is a Planar-type and frankly is very hard to match at the price they sell for. The wide angles aren't necessarily expensive, but in my experience they are not particularly common. Watching a couple forums, I've seen maybe three in two years. The best name to look for here is Flecktogon. There's also an MIR(uncoated)/ARSAT(coated) 30mm fisheye that is very hard to beat for the price. I'm considering picking one up for this reason alone.

    The Mamiya TLR system is solid. The lenses are all good for their design. Very good designs are available including a Heliar-type normal lens. It's also probably the heaviest and most awkward type, and if you don't like TLRs in general you won't like this TLR either. It does have enough bellows to get the lenses to focus closely, this is useful for portraits and the like. However, parallax is a killer for macro and if you want to do this I'd get a paramender. SLRs are better suited for this.

    The Saylut is probably the best of the Soviet Hasselblad clones. It's still pretty finicky and the lens selection isn't as good as the Pentacon/Kiev. If I recall, parts like backs don't interchange with Hasselblad and are known to be somewhat fiddly. From what you mentioned it sounds like you won't really be happy with it. If you really want a Hasselblad, save and get one and don't waste your money now. If you really want medium format gear now, you could buy something else and eventually buy a H-blad too.

    You should also consider a Kowa Six. Very nice cameras with great lenses that go for lots cheaper than Hasselblads. There's also the Bronica SQ too.

    (disclosure: I have shot none of the above cameras, I'm speaking from reputation only. I shoot a Pentax 6x7, a Rolleiflex, and a couple folders)
     
  19. OldBodyOldSoul

    OldBodyOldSoul Member

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    Paul, thanks for advice.

    Two lenses I will most likely look for, if I decide to keep the Pentacon, are the Flektogon 50/4 and Sonnar 180/2.8. Not exactly cheap, especially considering the overall price of Pentacon equipment, but apparently very, very good. The Orestegor 300/4 looks nice (in brand new condition) and, from what I've seen, can produce very nice pictures, but that thing is HEAVY even for me (weight of my bag is something I think about only when I return home tired).

    I was actually surprised how solid Salyut-S feels in hands. I did pick it up from the pile only because I played around with the 500c and liked it so much, but it does not have that cheap feel many other cameras from USSR have. Like I said, handling it feels more natural to me than Mamiya C3. Primary reason for which I could decide against it is the lens selection and quality, though I could have a workable channel for that (getting the best from what exist, that is). Of course, at the moment all I say is what I hear so there is lots of shooting ahead for me before I come up with my own thoughts on quality.

    Thanks again.