Never tried MF before, where do I start?
I've recently decided to go back to my roots and build my own darkroom. I'm quite comfortable with 35mm cameras, but I've never tried medium or large format before. Having read quite a bit about both formats I've decided to try medium format first. I browsed the threads in this sub-forum, but I cannot find what I am looking for, so here is my question:
What makes and models of medium format cameras do you recommend given the following criteria:
- I would prefer a mechanical camera with as little electronic components as possible. Exposure meter is quite enough, I would also consider electronic shutter, but nothing more.
- my enlarger is Omega B600, so I am limited to 6x6 or 645 at the moment, with some preference for 6x6.
- I want to take the camera with me on our family trips, so something reasonably portable would be better. On the other hand my Canon F-1 is not very light either, so I can manage other cameras as long as they are good outdoor users.
- I am on a budget, so no expensive collector models please.
- ideally I would like a camera with changeable lenses
- I am going to use mostly B&W film
You are practically laying out the specs for a 1950's Zeiss Ikonta, or somesuch folder.
All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. Choose the one that has heart.
MF with interchangeable lenses isn't going to be cheap.
Inexpensive, Affordable, Light is going to be TLR territory; a Yashica-Mat with a 4 element lens is going to be budget and high quality. Rolleiflex Automats are also excellent quality but sometimes more expensive and somewhat collectible. I really don't consider the lack of interchangeable lenses for most TLRs a problem. It keeps them light and purposeful. Image quality vastly exceeds 35mm film because of the larger negative.
Up the scale the interchangeable lenses, the cameras get heavy and big and more expensive. You're looking at systems things like Pentax 67, Bronica, Hassleblad, Contax 645, Mamiya, Rollei sl66, and so on. I've got a pentax 67 and a couple lenses but it doesn't get used as much as the TLR.
Thank you. Perhaps I should approach it in two stages then - first get a cheap camera with a fixed lens and then save for something else?
I can recommend Rolleicord Vb...
OM-1n: Do I need to own a Leica?
Rolleicord Va: Humble.
Holga 120GFN: Amazingly simple yet it produces outstanding negatives to print.
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Depending on how flexible you are with the interchangeable lens clause, I would definitely consider a TLR of some form. Minolta Autocords and various Yashica Mat's are worth looking at in the budget department. Rolleiflexes are fantastic if you can stretch your budget a little more. I've also heard good things about Ikoflex's, although they may be more difficult to find in operating condition. I think TLRs are the best introduction to medium format, and they are really a different experience than shooting 35mm. Everyone should own at least one!
Mamiya C220/C330's is a TLR system with interchangeable lenses, but I find them a little clumsy and would go with a SLR system instead. Medium format SLRs tend not to be small, per se, but Bronica SQ series and Hasselblad V series are both reasonably sized. I personally prefer 6x6 ratio over 6x4.5, and the SLR sizes are not hugely different in this case. You can pick up Mamiya m645's with multiple lenses great prices though. 6x6 will feel more 'different' than 6x4.5, not just because of the increased resolution but because of the unique compositional elements.
Medium format rangefinders with interchangeable lenses such as the Mamiya 6 or 7 would fit the bill, but they are massively more expensive (even than high end SLRs). I've never used a MF rangefinder, so I can't speak to if it is worth it, but they certainly have their fans.
I have a Yashica A and Rolleicord III which I am pleased with. Also as mentioned, the Bronica SQ-A, I enjoy using but its no joy to pack around.. But for a walk around camera the TLRs are hard to beat.
“In the end, it's not going to matter how many breaths you took,
but how many moments took your breath away.”
― Shing Xiong
First, I would figure out a budget.
You want reliability, so ask about certain makes, such as Kowa. Mamiya made a 645 SLR system that should be available at a decent price, but you'll want to check to see if the camera will need to be serviced.
A TLR is a nice introduction to medium format, although prices for Rolleiflexes and Rollecords are high at the moment.
A folding camera is the budget way to go. Some like the cameras with triplets and lower-cost lenses, and they seem to be a good option, although you should shoot these at f/8 and smaller for the best results.
Prices for folding camera can run from $10 to $500 or more. The Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 6x6 camera with a Novar or Tessar is a nice place to start. The Novar is the budget lens, and the Tessar is the premium lens. These will run you about C$15 to C$150.
It's not unusual for one or all of these cameras to need service. After all, these will be anywhere from 50 to 80 years old or more, and anything mechanical should be serviced.
Another vote for a TLR like a YashicaMat (I have a Yashica D, Yashicamat EM) or Rolleicord (my girlfriend has a Vb) as an intro camera. Very nice transition from 35mm manual SLRs and will give you enough quality bump to see if you like the larger negative and slower style of working.
Sepia, I've recently gone down this road as well. About a year ago, I got a YashicaMat-124 and it was a revelation. A TLR will open your eyes to whole new ways of making photographs. More recently, I have acquired a Mamiya 645 Pro 1000S. This is a 70s vintage pretty rugged mechanical MF SLR, although there are more electronic doo-dads available if you like. I'd rather a 6x6 as well, but that seems to get into more expensive territory. Careful shopping should be able to find you one for well under $300. If you are patient, you may find one in what I guess is a wedding photographers kit, with aluminum case and usually one or more additional lenses and accessories. These WILL be well used, but normally not abused, and with a new set of seals or a full CLA should provide many years of service. Accessories and parts and pieces are available for reasonable cost, even new. My enlarger is essentially the same as yours (C700) and everything has worked out quite well. You will want a 70 or 80mm lens for your enlarger. Negative holders can get expensive but can be fabricated out of cardboard if necessary until you find a metal one at a reasonable price.
All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.