I've shot a variety of formats and have some thoughts. I love my Chamonix 045n, but it can take 15-20 minutes to get a shot off. It's also harder to find a place to process the film. Color film for it is getting expensive. It's not heavy, but the set up time will definitely slow you down. Probably the very best bang for the buck is a Bronica ETRSi, a 645 body with mirror lock. It's compact, quick to use, and 120 film is in good supply. THe Bronica lenses are excellent. It all makes for a camera as fast to set up and use as a 35mm, with about 2.5 times as big a negative. I used one back in the 90s to give me an advantage in stock photo sales. A Bronica ETRSi with 40mm, 75mm, and 150mm is what I'd suggest. I too like to hike and am an avid outdoor photographer.
Kent in SD
I shoot mostly 6x7 (RZ67) but the drawback is that it's all but impossible (well, it's very expensive, i.e. $1k to $5k) to buy a projector+lens in that size. For B&W and C41, it's awesome. If you shoot and project chromes, 6x6 might be a better option since 6x6 projectors are readily available for ~$200.
Don't get something that requires 220 film, that market is over. There's 120 now and that's it.
My opinionated summary of the 6x7 options:
- RZ67: easy to do portrait+landscape, good lenses & availability, flash sync at all speeds (leaf shutter). Very bulky; prism is heavy. Interchangeable backs allow infinite film-changes in the field - I typically carry colour, B&W and IR all loaded.
- RB67: like RZ but notably heavier, shutters are mechanically timed so can be less accurate, no A-mode metering, some better lenses not available.
- Pentax: heavy, bouncy. You MUST get the MLU version and even then, the focal-plane shutter will soften your images at some speeds depending on your tripod damping. Requires L-plate to shoot portrait. Very good/fast lens selection.
- Mamiya 7: probably the ultimate portable landscape machine, especially for the 43mm lens. Stupidly expensive, limited lens selection, not much good for closeups.
- Bronicas: I dunno.
If I were you, I would definitely get something with leaf shutters. If you ever shoot portraits in sunshine you will appreciate the ability to sync at reasonable speeds (1/400 being max speed on RZ vs 1/30 being x-sync on Pentax). Leaf shutters don't vibrate so you can shoot MLU on the shittiest flimsiest tripod and get perfectly sharp results if you wait 15s for the mirror slap to damp out.
Definitely get yourself setup to develop film at home, even if only B&W for a start. Colour is eminently doable too with a little extra equipment.
By all means look at 4x5 in addition - I have a Toyo 45A for that purpose. It's much more powerful and flexible but the slowness means you will occasionally miss shots that you would have trivially got with a MF SLR when the light is changing fast. You know, that two minutes between when the sun appears under the edge of the overcast and then disappears behind the hill, when the light is best. You'll get one composition with the 4x5, but if you're careful and quick, you might get 3 or 4 notably different compositions from a MF system. 4x5 is also a huge amount more work to process; just loading and unloading film holders is a huge time-sink.
If you like shooting in colour, LF will make your wallet hurt. Think $4+ vs 80c per shot; worse if you're paying someone else to develop. The price differential is nowhere near as bad in B&W.
If you're willing to pay an extra $500 upfront, you can put a 6x12 back on a 4x5 camera and shoot (colour) rollfilm in it cheaply, getting most of the benefits of LF without the hassle of paying for and dealing with sheet film.
I shoot 6x9, 6x7 and 6x6, and all three formats are fun. But the format that really caught me in the first place, and in my mind really reveals the biggest quality leap from 35mm, is 6x4.5. It isn't the sexiest of the medium formats, and there are some who would like to make you believe that they are almost not worth the trouble, but those 6x4.5 images are magnificent. In reality the larger formats can sometimes be disappointing because they don't give that same sudden quality jolt that 6x4.5 can give. And fortunately that format is also very well served by some terrific cameras and is usually the least expensive to start with.
For a long time my next favorite medium format size was 6x9. To be honest, I am a folder freak and have dozens of them lying around, some working, others in various states of disrepair and repair. There are days where I have spent many enjoyable hours hiking through the mountains in my area with a 6x9 folder at hand. But I have to be completely honest, lately the 6x9 folders have been staying home and I have been carrying my newly purchased Fuji GF670. It may be a bit pricey, but I can't think of a lighter, easier to handle, camera for hiking that has the ability to produce the same high quality images. A late model Rolleiflex may provide the same quality images, I don't know, but the price of admission to that club is wayy higher.
All the medium formats are fun, but if I could give you one very strong piece of advice, it would be to buy the best camera you can afford to own, regardless of the format size. In addition, if you intend to move away from 35mm completely, then be sure to get one that allows you to exchange lenses, even if you start with only one. Finally, buy one that can still be repaired. Face it, we all try to buy the most reliable cameras we can find, but s..t happens.
Other than that, have fun!!
I'm with Rick A and Ntenny. If by reasonable you mean cheap, the only way to go is an old folder. Certo06 has a CLA'd 6x9 Ikonta on eBay right now for $119, buy-it-now. That is a screaming deal since a CLA alone will cost you $100. I would buy it but my annual gear budget is already shot due to moving into 4x5. For more serious work I also use a Mamiya tlr that you can get for about $100 per body or lens. With any of MF system you can still use the same lighter duty tripod and developing tanks, etc. as you would for 35mm.
And slim2 is right about 6x6. As a long time 35mm shooter, it has been near hell to get used to the square format. It's been 3 years and I am finally getting results I like.
There are so many ways to go. Really, none of the recommendations in this thread will send you very far wrong.
“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
One big question to take into consideration is weight. Medium format gear is generally heavy and bulky. If you plan to always shoot close to the road, then fine, go ahead with the Pentax 6x7, it's fantastic, but very bulky. Hasselblad lenses are 2 pounds each...
The other big question in my opinion is camera service. As much as I love Bronica, I find it more an more difficult to get them serviced. The GS-1 is awesome, very efficient, super sharp and somewhat small and light for this format. With a couple of lenses it can fit in your backpack. Pentax cannot, in my opinion.
Also, rangefinders (Bronica, Mamiya) are usually great, but have their limitations.
And finally setting up the larget format means less shooting, sometimes you will miss some shots. On my last visit to California, I had the GS-1 and a lightweight 4x5 set up.
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I have Pentax 6x7 and Mamiya RZ 6x7 systems. Of the two, the Pentax is definitely the better one for landscapes. For RZ, you have a 50 mm ULD and 37 mm fisheye to choose from. In Pentax, there are 37 fisheye, 45/4 and 55/4 lenses. The 45/4 is as close to ideal as possible. I would recommend that you get the P 67 II body, even if it is a bit expensive, as it has all the features that will make your life easier for landscape shooting. The RZ will of course work, but it is twice the size and the working method is quite different. You can put the AE finder on it, but that makes it only bigger and heavier still. As I have said in another thread, I fit a Pentax 67 II body with 45/4, 55/4, 75/4.5, 90/2.8 and 135/4 lenses, plus handgrip, set of extension tubes and a few boxes of film into a Lowepro MiniTrekker. It is relatively portable that way, if you are an average+ guy. I am not particularly strong and I can handle it. You will need a good tripod for either. In the case of the Pentax to tame the mirror slap and shutter bounce, and in the case of the Mamiya to put your mind at ease that the beast is not going to topple over into an abyss or mud pond etc. If you shoot verticals, the RZ67 and RB67 are great, as the back swivels through 90 degrees. For the Pentax, you'll need an L plate or a really good tripod head.
I use 645 Mamiyas too, and they would be great for portability for landscapes but I haven't got a really wide lens for them yet. A 35 would be good, and a 40 would have been perfect except that it doesn't exist. My widest is a 45/2.8 and it is okay stopped down but vignettes very badly wide open. The lens availability hampers their suitability for landscapes, but for most other general purpose photography the 645 is a sweet format indeed. One can easily print 24" and larger from it. If you want to, you could invest in a Pentx 645 and 67 combination. The 67 lenses are compatible on 645 via an adapter that allows full aperture metering etc.
Did you ever use Fuji Acros? Before using CMS 20, try comparing Acros with it. The Acros will develop perfectly in most if not all developers, including Rodinal, and is a ton cheaper in 120 format too. The grain from a 645 negative doesn't show up by 20" yet. How large do you want to print?
I use old fixed lens cameras, mostly a collection of folders or one of 3 tlr's I have, light to carry, no need for big outfit bags, which is a godsend with my old arthritic shoulders, and all bar one are 6/6, I have one 645 folder,
I guess mirror vibration might be a problem on a Pentax 67 if you don't lock the mirror up!
It is said that we remember the important things, if true, why photograph? I forget, so I photograph.
It's also the shutter vibrations that can shake the camera.
Originally Posted by markbau
I do still think the Pentax 6x7 is one of the best medium format cameras, the lens selection is amazing. 75 tilt shift. Enough said.
Man, thanks for all the thoughts so far, really making me think about what I want. I guess I am reluctant to go with less than 6x7 because in the final analysis I really just want to get away from the small negative and focus on getting the best quality. On the other hand, I'm not sure I'm ready for 4x5 - mostly because of the $ to shoot, I would have to find a 4x5 enlarger, etc - I just don't know how much I could actually shoot it at this point.
Regarding the 6x4.5 and 6x6 camera setups - Let's say the body, and 3 lenses - a wide angle, standard and medium telephoto lens - are they really that much smaller and lighter than a 6x7 setup? I mean are we talking a pound and a few fractions of an inch difference, or are we talking like 3 lbs lighter and several inches smaller all the way around?
When I shot 35mm it was usually with a Maxxum 7 or 9 body w/ vertical grip, and wide to medium zoom plus a tele zoom - so that's about the size/weight I was used to carrying. I don't think I would mind a little more bulk and weight for so much better quality at this point, but...then again, maybe I would on a hike?