Wanting multi lens Medium Format system, on a budget.

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by trythis, Nov 1, 2013.

  1. trythis

    trythis Subscriber

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    Sorry, my post is kinda long, but I want to give people the info they need for useful answers. I tried to be thorough to prevent having to navigate my needs all the way through the thread.

    I am newish to medium format, and haven't really been shooting film very long (8 months), but I hope long enough to know a bit more about what I am looking for. I have been studying cameras and film nightly for my own enrichment.

    For medium format, I want to be able to shoot a few types of lenses, and really like having 2 or three lenses, nothing above 50mm, with me for my 35mm cameras. I just recently stumbled on a Tokina 17mm FD mount (for 20 bucks!) and that inspired me to upgrade from an AE-1P to the older EF body. I have a couple folders: an Isolette 1 6x6 (awesome) and an old Agfa 6x9 PB20 (was a mess of light leaks and has very limited exposure range, meh.) I enjoy using my YashicaMat 124 after fixing it.

    You can see that my current MF stuff is fixed lens. I take the Isolette and the Canon with 3 lenses if I am on foot, but with the stroller its like driving a truck full of cameras and a baby just happens to be there. I would like to be able to put a multi lens MF system together and just take that for foot travel.


    • I would love to get something that would let me shoot close to the 17mm equivalent Tokina but guess that is not possible, cheaply anyway. How about 24mm equivalent?
    • I am also fond of the ability to use 220 film as my developer charges the same money for 120 or 220!
    • 645 6x6 6x7 6x9 all OK with me.
    • Swappable film backs look great, but they are not a necessity.
    • Waist level finders are fine
    • larger format cameras with roll film backs are fine too because they fold up pretty small.
    I have seen in person:
    • C330, but they are too big for my needs, sheesh!
    • Kowa super66 seem a bit finicky and limited availability.
    • Hasselblad, $$$$$$$$$$
    • Mamiya RZ67 seems OK, a little big, and I dont know that much about the lenses

    Never touched, but seem interesting.
    • Praktica or Pentacon six cameras look big but have several lenses available.
    • Mamiya 23 multi lens system, weird looking but so what
    • Mamiya 6 or 7, I cant touch them for the money $$$$$
    • Busch pressman D or similar look very interesting!
    • Something 2x3 or 4x5 with a roll back would be fine, but I have no idea about wide angle lenses here.
    • A simple box camera (homemade even) with a lens would be fine too! I could carry 3 of them and get varying lenses that way. hmmmm...?

    I have my own small, low tech machine shop, and don't mind digging deep into a camera to fix something or making something up. I cant afford perfect, fancy and highly sought after equipment. However, I don't want to have to do this every time I put a roll through the camera; if I can fix it once and use it for a year or two, that sounds fine. Almost all my cameras have been through this anyway.


    What would you guys suggest. I am cheap, I cant afford a Hassy, I don't want some complicated electronic gizmo and an unrepairable, crappy Russian camera collection is not something I want.

    Thanks! I know its a lot to read through and think about!
     
  2. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Closest I can recommend is something from the Mamiya 645 system with a 45mm lens.

    It will not get you to a 24mm equivalent - closer to 28mm instead.

    And a prism finder is preferable, because a waist-level finder works poorly if you like to have the choice to shoot in portrait orientation.
     
  3. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

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    I second Matt on this one. I don't think that you could go wrong with a Mamiya 645 setup. I have one and I love it! The glass is great and the bodies are solid. They are battery dependent, but I always have a spare and have never had a problem.
     
  4. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    it's very hard to beat the Mamiya6 in quality and portability. as far as $$$ goes.. well photography never was a hobby of the poor, but keep in mind that Mamiya's resale values are great too
     
  5. Pioneer

    Pioneer Subscriber

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    The Pentax 645 with a 45mm fits the bill. Not sure how far your budget stretches buy you can pick up the entire package for under $350 at KEH. Of course you will still need six AA batteries and some film.
     
  6. trythis

    trythis Subscriber

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    I like your suggestions. A little research shows the Mamiya and competitor Bronica look like good contenders. I like using fill flash so I might glance at the etrs (?) for a bit. I spent all my time researching 6x6 and larger cameras because that is what I found in flea markets. Some KEH models of the Bronicas are in my price range so far!
    I also like how modular they are, offering a slow bargain hunting method for build up.

    SIX batteries! The functionality of the pentax looks nice, but its a bit of a brick with all the batteries and that handle you cant remove.
     
  7. Fixcinater

    Fixcinater Subscriber

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    Pentax 67 with a 105/2.4 and 45/4 would be excellent. Does 120/220, WLF (can even DIY to save money on that) or prism, and they are cheap if you can be patient.

    6x7 is a sweet negative size.
     
  8. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    I am not a muscular person, but I can handhold a P645N with its 75mm (and probably with a 45mm). It may sound like a brick, but AA batteries are easy to find and mine doesn't go through them fast (maybe a set every 2 or 3 years, though I don't use the AF much). It's very comfortable to hold and use. The 645N might be more than the original 645, but I'm very happy with it.
     
  9. ckpj99

    ckpj99 Member

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    I think you should decide on a format. 6x4.5 and 6x6/7 are much different beasts. From my limited impression here, I think you'd be happy with a 6x4.5.

    You could get a rangefinder type system, but they are typically expensive. So that leaves SLR style systems. There you're looking at Mamiya, Pentax or Bronica. Mamiya can be had in AF or manual focus (the AF is a lot more expensive). The Pentax system can also be AF or manual, and there isn't as big of jump in price between the two. Bronica is only manual focus.

    I think that Bronica will probably be the cheapest. Mamiya and Pentax about the same. All have a good range of lenses. All are about the same size. The Bronica is probably the most bare bones, the Mamiya the most refined, the Pentax the most modern-feeling.

    Don't worry about 220 film. There's only one type of film made in 220 anymore and it's Kodak Portra, and it's stupidly expensive. In most cases, one roll of Portra 220 costs more than two rolls of Portra 120. Stick with 120, it's actually going to be around for awhile.

    I like Bronica cameras, but I don't have a ton of experience with the other brands.
     
  10. adelorenzo

    adelorenzo Subscriber

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    Lithium batteries weigh very little. I'm still on a set of Lithium AAs that I put in my Pentax 645NII over a year ago, I'd say at least 70 rolls of film during that time. Many of the lenses can be had fairly inexpensively although the 645D digital camera has kept the prices of the autofocus ones fairly high. It's the best camera system I've ever used and the one I'd stick with if I had to keep only one.

    As others have mentioned it is hard to beat the Mamiya M645 if you are looking for a bargain. I had one for a while and it's a cool camera. I sold my entire system with multiple lenses (including the coveted 80mm f1.9), two finders, two film inserts and a whole pile of other accessories for less than $500. Keh prices are low and you can get much lower on eBay.
     
  11. Tebbiebear

    Tebbiebear Member

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    Another vote for the Mamiya 645. I am a Mamiya fan, have the RZ67 and will be adding a 645pro to the stable in the next few months. IMO Mamiya seems to have very well thought out systems and the lenses are fabulous and pretty inexpensive. I don't think you could go wrong with the three 645 systems mentioned. I have no experience with the Bronica 6x4.5 system but they have a good reputation as well.
     
  12. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    That's what I did when I acquired a 65mm Super Angulon lens (althouh it's slightly more than just a box).

    http://stevesmithphoto.webs.com/pano612.html


    Steve.
     
  13. bernard_L

    bernard_L Member

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    Indeed! Congratulations!
     
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  15. revdocjim

    revdocjim Member

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    There are lots of very affordable options, but I would agree with others and suggest the Mamiya 645. I recently sold my Pro TL and it was a great little system. There are tons of lens options and they are very affordable. I really liked the 35mm! Also this system has the fastest MF lens of any, the 80/1.9 and a great macro system with the spacer that gets you to 1:1. Also the Pro and Pro TL have a pretty modern ergonomic feel and function to them, with built in and very reliable meters, aperture priority mode, and the motor-drive. In my experience, at least here in Japan, the Mamiya 645 system is cheaper than Bronica, Pentax or Contax and more widely available than all but the Pentax.

    The others are good options too, so my comments are only a recommendation.
     
  16. Nuff

    Nuff Member

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    I will second that, sounds exactly what you will want. Also 45mm lens on 6x7 is much wider than on 6x4.5.
    The 45mm lens has the same diagonal field of view as 22mm lens on 35mm.
     
  17. BMbikerider

    BMbikerider Member

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    Go with any of the recommendations above but stay away from the Pentacon 6 models they almost always have serious issues with the film wind.
     
  18. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    Zenza Bronica made 40mm wide angle lenses for both their 6X4.5 ETR series and their 6X6 SQ series. Using 645, 40mm is equivalent to 24mm; using 6X6, it is equivalent to a 22mm.
    I have both the MC and PE versions of the Zenzanon 40mm lens for the ETR series. Both perform very well, and are not expensive, especially the older MC version. ETR series bodies are likewise very inexpensive. I bought an ETRSi several years ago just to see if I liked medium format while not spending much, and have found the Bronicas and their lenses much to my liking. Simple and capable, and these days, not expensive. The other wide angles were 50mm (very inexpensive now), and the 60mm. And a fisheye, 35mm I think. The 75mm E-II or PE normal lens is also very inexpensive.

    The one option wider than the 40mm is the Pentax 645 with 35mm lens-- equivalent to 21mm. A considerably more expensive setup, but with the older non autofocus lens, still not too bad. There is also a Pentax 33-55 zoom, which would give about a 20mm equivalent. They're kind of hard to find, and not cheap when you do, but FYI.
     
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  19. Charles Wass

    Charles Wass Subscriber

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    As a user of a multi-lens 6x7 system (RZ67) I suggest that for foot travel you would be better off with a 6x4.5 system, especially if you are looking to take the tripod too. I find the bigger system burdensome, though I concede that I am 69 and not all that big.
     
  20. trythis

    trythis Subscriber

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    Great info and insights, thanks. I do appreciate the help.

    I am leaning towards the Bronica for a couple of reasons. The flash sync speeds and price. Looking at an Sq/SQ-A series as well, as they are not that much larger and 645 backs are available for nice versatility. Not having to buy or use a prism sounds good as well in square format. Unfortunately, the lenses are a bit pricier in 6x6.

    As far as 220 film limited availability, I have no issues with expired film. I just bought 35+ rolls for less than $4 a roll. All my expired film has worked great so far.



    Are the 645 lenses the same as the
     
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  21. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

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    Another unmentioned option is a Kiev 88. If you think about going down that road, get one that has been overhauled by Hartblei, or one of the ARAX rebuilds. Then you'll have a reliable, functional camera, and a selection of lenses ranging from 30mm fisheye to 500mm telephoto. The real reason to buy this system is the lenses - the camera bodies may have been of questionable build integrity but the optics are every bit as good as their German cousins, at a fraction of the price.
     
  22. ggervais

    ggervais Subscriber

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    How about a Pentax 645 with a 35mm & a 75mm. The 35 is about equivalent to 21mm.
     
  23. SafetyBob

    SafetyBob Member

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    I will add my two cents since I was in your boat around 5 years ago.

    Mamiya 645 Pro......the TL is nicer for more modern options such as finding used Metz 45 or 60 flash you can use TTL with, but my Pro with even first gen CT60-1 flash gets great flash photos. I looked at every other option like you did but went with Mamiya mainly due to slightly better build factor and there is always a Mamiya 645 something or other available somewhere.

    I believe you can still get the Pro TL serviced by Mamiya still today, with all the others, you may be able to get service, but parts will be limited. That said, I don't know how hard by Pro was used, but I still have no need nor concern about a CLA or any other service issue with mine.

    One more thing......I have not been actively looking for some time, but when I did there always seemed to be at least one accessory or another available for the Mamiya 645 system. There is a huge chart somewhere that displayed all the extras they made for that system at mamiya's website or in the 645 manual somewhere......I found virtually every one of those "extras" for sale for my 645 years back.....like 4 years back. After you get the regular 3 lens setup you will get the fever and start wanting those little extras for your setup.....another reason I voted for Mamiya vs. the other guys.........and the other guy's cameras are all noteworthy performers too.

    Bob E.
     
  24. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Interesting discussion. There's medium format and there's medium format. In his book Field Photography A. A. Blaker makes the point that moving up in format isn't worth the trouble unless, if I recall correctly, both dimensions of the frame are at least doubled. If you buy that, well, twice 24 x 36 is 48 x 72, which is lower and no longer than 6x7. And if you buy that 645 and 6x6 are too small. 6x7 is the first step up from 24 x 36.

    Short lenses for 6x7 and 6x9 can be very costly. I shoot 2x3 (6x9 in metric) with Graphics and a 2x3 Cambo. My shortest lenses are a 35/4.5 Apo-Grandagon, a 47/5.6 Super Angulon and a 58 and and a couple of 60s of which I prefer the 60/14 Perigraphe. 24 x 36 equivalents are 15 mm, 20 mm, and 25 mm. Go price 'em. A 65 on 2x3's 35 mm equivalent is 28 mm, an 80's is 34 mm.

    If I were constrained to 6x7 and wanted to give up tinkering I suppose I'd go Mamiya 7 or, maybe, Pentax 67. Back when I passed on the Pentax because of its low flash sync speed.

    OP, since you're open to press cameras you might want to read this: http://www.galerie-photo.com/telechargement/dan-fromm-6x9-lenses-v2-2011-03-29.pdf As you'll read, I use Graphics. My first 2x3 camera was a Busch Pressman. Attractive, but for a variety of reasons including size of the front standard and availability of lens boards I much prefer Graphics. A 2x3 Speed Graphic can't use short lenses as you're interested in, its minimum extension is around 62 mm. If you go Graphic (think hard, I like 'em but they're not for everyone) you'll want a Century Graphic or a 2x3 Crown Graphic with a Graflok back. Learn more about Graphics on www.graflex.org

    Good luck, have fun,

    Dan
     
  25. mgb74

    mgb74 Subscriber

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    One comment about focal length comparisons with 35mm. Equivalency is typically measured on the diagonal. In theory, I suppose that's quite correct. But most of the time, when using wide angle lenses, my shots are horizontal. So the operative measurement might be the horizontal field of view.

    Horizontal vs. diagonal is a non-issue with 6x9 and almost a non-issue with 6x4.5. But could be a factor is 6x6 and 6x7 comparisons.

    Of course it all depends on your choice of subject and technique.
     
  26. Alan Gales

    Alan Gales Subscriber

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    I agree. This should be step one.

    After this is decided then ask about particular camera systems within the format of your choice. :smile: