Wow Alan! You've owned all three of the Pentax 645s. Impressive! And what a way to get the Nii!!!
I've been drooling for the 35mm and seen it in the store a couple times but never had the money for it. I really love my Mamiya 645 series 35mm lens and would love to have one for my Pentax as well.
As for ultimate sharpness in medium format I have no doubt the Mamiya 7 is good, but I suspect that Fuji GF670 might be even sharper. It continually amazes me!
If you go for the Bronica then try to find an ETRSi, you get mirror lockup and a few other tweaks over previous models.
If you want the prism then get the speed grip too, with those two on it handles like a giant 35mm SLR. The grip adds a flash hotshoe which may be useful to you - the body has a PC socket. There is a motor winder too, I've not tried it but judging by the photos and specs it would probably be heavier than the manual grip and these are not light cameras! There are three commonly available prisms - a plain one and two metered ones (AE II and AE III), the AE III has more features but I'm guessing you have a light meter already so you'd be better off with the plain one. There was a Prism AE for the original ETR but I've never seen one.
Major advantage over the Pentax is that you have interchangeable film backs. The gear is also much cheaper here than Pentax, I would have had a 6x7 or 645 but you pay almost as much for a bare 6x7 body here as for a complete ETRS or ETRSi kit.
I am a small time Ebay Seller of camera gear so I have had the opportunity of trying out a lot of equipment (I have to do something to afford film! ). I have owned three copies of the 35mm lens (one was my personal copy). If you like wide angles, it is a sweet lens!
Originally Posted by revdocjim
Yeah, the Fuji rangefinders are really sharp too. They are great cameras if you don't need/want more than one lens.
I would love to own the ETRSi too, but do you think mirror lockup is really necessary given the leaf shutter lenses?
Originally Posted by PentaxBronica
With regard to the AE-II vs. AE-III, the latter uses an LCD screen and thus has significantly lower power consumption and increased battery life.
Interesting note about the respective prices. In Tokyo the Pentax gear is generally cheaper or about the same. Old beat up 6x7 bodies are under $50 and with a little love and care they generally work well. Lenses are almost all under $100 if you are willing to settle for the Tak series. The 645 bodies are about $100 for the original, $300 for the N and a lot more for the Nii. Lenses are very reasonable too if you are ok with the A series. A used ETRS or ETRSi in decent condition with a standard lens will also run about $400. Fujiya has two of them listed today!
Re: medium format prism camera shooter (Pentax 645 vs Rolleiflex)
I'm playing with Pentacon six tl and (don't laugh too hard) Kiev 60. With a bit of luck and some reseaech, you can find a good one and using those Carl Zeiss Jena lenses with P6 mount, there's not that much left wanting.
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The Macro is the 120mm. Manual or autofocus, same optics. Indeed a lens that is incredibly sharp, but has a bit harsh bokeh. Still, the images are truly good.
Originally Posted by Alan Gales
The bokeh of the 150mm is excellent, that of the 75mm is good as well (it has never disturbed me in any case unlike other lenses). You might also consider the 135mm.
The 45-85mm FA zoom is a good alternative for the 35mm/75mm combo. This zoom is sharper than the 45mm/55mm primes.
I agree that the 645N is a much nicer camera than the 645, having had both, still having one 645N (next to a Rolleiflex 2.8C). Only thing that I did not like about it is the winder noise. Otherwise very dependable, and ergonomically it is (for me) the best camera I ever held. Lenses certainly hold up well in comparison to the TLR. The 645 lenses are very very good, only the 45mm is a dog they say (I never had one myself).
The 35mm FA is said to be sharper on film than the 35mm A—and known to be better than the Hassleblad or Mamiya 35mm—, but oddly, on digital is the other way around. Go figure. I have the A version and I'm very happy with it on film, although I do not use it all that often—I'd sell it were it not that I secretly hope I'll lay my hands on a 645D one day!
The lenses noted above are all quite good.
Even the 45, although it isn't the best choice for certain types of work like architecture, can still come home with some good shots like this one taken on Delta Pro 100.
I owned both versions of the 120 macro. It was a great macro lens but I didn't like it for portraiture. I sold the autofocus version because I always focussed it manually and the manual focus lens was much cheaper.
The 35mm that I had was really sharp and I prefer manually focussing a wide angle. I never owned the autofocus version to compare to it for sharpness. I never heard that the FA was sharper. You learn something new all the time!
The manual focus lenses do seem to be better built then the FA versions.
I did own the manual focus 45mm and 55mm lenses and also the 400mm FA but I flipped them and never shot film with them. I also owned both zoom lenses. I didn't like them because of the weight. I'm not really a zoom guy although I do own one for my digital camera for shooting sports.
I'd expect it to still make a difference - there surely isn't enough of a gap between the mirror going up and the shutter firing for any shake to settle down? I've only used it a couple of times for long exposures, the choice of an ETRSi over an ETRS here is really a case of "if you can find the later model for the same money...".
Originally Posted by revdocjim
I've paid £20 for a "spares or repair" ETR, then the same again for an ETRS body as I enjoy getting cheap and allegedly broken kit working again. The former was absolutely fine (the multi exposure lever was missing, and I don't think the seller understood that it won't fire without a film loaded unless you turn this). The ETRS had a weird problem with the lens release mechanism which wasn't too hard to sort out (I studied it for a bit, compared it to my good ETRSi, then used a small screwdriver to pop the part which had skipped out of sequence back in). Also now fine, so I have two spare bodies! Both have been film tested and seem fine, the ETR is kitted up with a plain prism and speed grip which looks brilliant with the 200mm f4.5 on! The ETRSi is more subtle with the WLF and shorter lenses.
I regularly see usable body/lens/120 back/WLF kits for £200 or less here, usually ETRS or Si. 120 backs are around £30-£40, lenses vary. I've seen the MC 150mm for £60-£70 up to £300 or so for a PE 40mm f4. I was lucky enough to find an MC 50mm for £60 a while ago.
Whatever vibrations come from a focal plane shutter or otherwise are overshadowed by that humongous mirror slapping around. Leaf shutters are not a substitute for mirror lock up.
Originally Posted by revdocjim
I own an ETRS without mirror lockup.