RE: Never tried MF before, where do I start?
All good suggestions here. Also consider the Fuji GA645 with non-interchangeable zoom. It is more electronic than you want, is a rangefinder, and might be more than you want to spend. OTOH, it is light.
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This is how I approached it and have been very happy with the process. After using the first one for a while, you'll have a pretty good idea of what you want in the second. Then there's the third...
Originally Posted by Sepia Hawk
“You seek escape from pain. We seek the achievement of happiness. You exist for the sake of avoiding punishment. We exist for the sake of earning rewards. Threats will not make us function; fear is not our incentive. It is not death that we wish to avoid, but life that we wish to live.” - John Galt
I started with a Mamiya C330 and over 30+ years built it up to a system with 4 lenses and 2 bodies.
I then got into a Mamiya 645 system, and built it up to a system with two bodies and several lenses.
I then added a Mamiya RB67 with one lens, and after a fair bit of acquiring and trading (at one time 3 bodies) now have a single body and a good selection of lenses.
So basically, I am saying: "Be careful what you wish for ".
All three systems have now been pared down somewhat (just a single body for each), and I have streamlined the lens choice. For example, my C330 is now accompanied by just two lenses, and the whole package (with waist-level finder) fits nicely in a very small camera bag - like one designed for a 35mm SLR with a single 28mm-85mm kit lens.
The Mamiya TLRs are where I would start (again) if I was making your decision.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
For portability at a reasonable price, a 50s folder with rangefinder is a good bet as quite a few came with excellent lenses. I can think of the likes of the Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta or Ikonta M, Agilux Agifold, Agfa Super Isolette, Balda Super Baldax, Mamiya Six, Olympus Six, Adox Golf or the late model Voigtänder Bessa II with the 6x4.5 mask. This is far from an exhaustive list of good-to-use folders with capable lenses. If you like the sound of a folder, condition is paramount, check for light leaks in the bellows, skewed front panel and rangefinder misalignment, shutter operation and lens fungus or de-lamination before parting with cash. Prices for most of these are on a par or slightly less nowadays for equivalent condition Yashica-Mat or Minolta Autocord TLRs so you could try a folder or a TLR and if you don't like it, sell it on and trade on to another type. I used a Yashica-Mat EM for a while and liked the results (it had a surprisingly good lens) but found it a bit bulky to carry so sold it on. Most of the 70s and 80s era SLRs from Japanese and German manufacturers are vastly more adaptable machines but are on the bulky side and will require more of an investment in a system to take advantage of that adaptability so I would recommend a fixed lens camera so you can just try out MF first.
" ... a cook who relies on nothing but a sharp knife has no guarantee of producing excellent dishes." - Yoshihisa Maitani
Good choice to enter the MF world. I did just that a few years ago and have enjoyed it a lot. My cameras don't quite fit your specs, (Pentax 645, Mamiya RB67) but I found that my photography changed dramatically once I started using these cameras. Or to put it another way, these cameras took me down photographic paths that I didn't know existed. Great discorvery!
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One last vote for YashicaMat 124. For budget and quality it can't be beat. If you could waver a bit on the "no electronics" rule, The Bronica ETRSi is the kit I first put together. You can have a three-lens system for a few hundred dollars.
I think that might be a good way to start. Get your feet wet and see where it leads you. I bought a Bronica SQ-A in 2006 and have added several lenses and viewfinders and .... having quite a few bucks invested. It's my goto camera for my most serious work, but it's a handful - and ideally used on a tripod. I then added a Voigtlânder Perkeo II, a 6x6 folder with the Color Skopar, the better of the two lenses that came on the Perkeo. It folds to pocket size and is quite impressive for what it is. There is no metering and no rangefinder -- but also no batteries! I later added an Ercona II which is an East German Zeiss Ikonta with 105mm f/3.5 Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar, quite a respectable 6x9 camera (but also totally manual, no metering, no RF). But then another GAS attack brought a Yashica Mat 124g into the collection which has proven to be a very capable device. The TLR gives you ground glass focusing, and the model I have has a meter, but at the age they are (made circa 1980) the meters may not work, and were designed for the no longer available mercury batteries, so an adapter, mod, or patience is needed.
Originally Posted by Sepia Hawk
All that blather passed along, I agree that a TLR might be a good start. And it seems to get kinder reactions from the public!
My "active" collection and links to some results are out on PBase for the two cents it may be worth.
Dave, nice copy stand!
Sepia, it didn't occur to me until I read a few other posts after mine, a 50s vintage folder can be a really cheap way to get started and many have excellent image quality. I used my father's Kodak Tourist exactly this way before I got the Yashica. Now one thing you have to watch out for with these is 620 vs 120 film. 620 film was discontinued nearly 20 years ago and is hard to get, but it is the spools that are different, not the actual film. There are a lots of ways to handle this detailed in the threads here or just Google. Another option if you are handy is to mechanically modify a 620 camera to accept 120. This is often not hard to do and in the case of the tourist was an obvious superficial mechanical limitation cured by a dremel tool in about 10 minutes.
Now tell me how sad this is: when I dug the Tourist out of a box of other stuff in the basement in 2011, I found a fully exposed roll of 620 Verichrome Pan inside. I immediately recalled what was on that film, because I shot it in 1976 as a teenager. Once it was processed I was 100% correct. Talk about needing a life.
All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.
Well if you don't mind a bit of weight a Mamiya RB is a great choice and purely mechanical. The camera uses interchangeable lenses, interchangeable finders and interchangeable backs. Just treat the 6x7 frame as 6x6 (even draw lines on the ground glass) and if you want 645 get a 645 back.
Here's a current example of one for sale right here on APUG.
If you want a metered prism they are available but I'd suggest getting a handheld meter.
Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
Think about a TLR. Check out KEH used cameras.