Sounds like you need to get a Pentax 67
There was a long discussion here in apug about which format is more suitable for macro work and many were biased to small format.
OM-1n: Do I need to own a Leica?
Rolleicord Va: Humble.
Agfa Isolette III: Amazingly simple, yet it produces outstanding negatives.
I chip in here with my knowledge, well it's mostly opinions really, you get the idea
The leap in quality is from 35 mm to 6x4.5. The cost of film etc at 6x4.5 is manageable also. As pointed out wide-angle lenses may be a problem. There are several SLR's that allow both landscape (the aspect ratio of 6x4.5 is wider than 35 mm) and close up work. Several have internal exposure metering which helps a lot. I have, and am very fond of, the Fuji GA645Zi. Easy to use and is there always. There is also the old Mamiya 645.
The 6x6 and 6x7 formats. Pentax 67 (and versions thereof) are bulky but have a number of lenses that may be attractive. I do not own one but have seen lovely images from it. The Mamiya 7 is a rangefinder, light and easy to carry, has sharp lenses and internal exposure metering. As a rangefinder it is really nothing to shoot flowers with. You get it for its sharp lenses more or less.
A Fuji GW690I/II/III is not that expensive and is a camera I would recommend you to try out, even though it is a rangefinder. Being of the same aspect ratio as 35 mm film it is perhaps easy to adapt to? The negatives are huge!
4x5"? Too bulky in my opinion. The tilt/swivel/other movements of the front and back standards are the reason to go down that road in my opinion. Those movements are a bit of a revelation in photography but also very time consuming to get right. I shoot it mostly for fun and mostly in B/W as the colour film is expensive. If you are into the meditative way then 4x5" is the way to go. It is great fun, but I would not recommend it immediately as a step up from 35 mm.
It is a slippery slope and you probably want to try LF at some point, but for now a simple 6x4.5 would represent a huge step up in image quality. If you are not happy with that then a Fuji GW690 would be my next choice (if landscape centered), or a Pentax 67 if you can take the extra weight (for more general work). If film cost is an issue then go for Pentax 67. Decisions, decisions...
Oh my goodness. It just gets crazier... ... I think I'm going to have to sit here a while and look at all these options and figure out exactly what I want.
Thanks for all the suggestions. This might take me a while to sort out properly!
Definitely seconding the suggestion above that you should handle any equipment first. The differences in size and weight can be dramatic, and you might decide that the larger gear is fine anyway.
I took an RZ, 3 lenses (65 MLA, 110, 180) & 3 backs on a 5-week lap around Eurasia in 2011 and it was no problem at all. It all (except tripod) fit in a backpack with room spare for a DSLR, though I had to keep the bulk of my film stash in another bag.
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Originally Posted by polyglot
This should definitely be at the very top of your list. A touchy-feely first.
.::Gary Rowan Higgins
One beautiful image is worth
a thousand hours of therapy.
"It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government
to save the environment."
I can see there are just so many options of not only different brands, but formats and shooting styles in MF, it's amazing. Coming from a 35mm SLR background where the only big difference is the brand, and almost everything is the same...
Originally Posted by Poisson Du Jour
Just saw the weight of a Fuji GA645zi is only 2lbs! From what I can tell, the 55-90mm lens would be like a 35-55mm equivalent of what I'm used to. If the 6x4.5 negative is a "good enough" step up, do you all think I would be too limited on the wide end? With the small footprint, light weight, and rangefinder (no mirror slap!) maybe this would be an ideal hiking camera?
If you're looking for nice bokeh, close focusing ability, and don't mind the bulk and weight, Pentax 6x7 sounds like the best option (with 2.4/105 lens to start with).
Mamiya RB67/RZ67 for close focusing on a tripod is fantastic. But if I needed bellows and hiking I would just take a 4x5. The whole "film is more expensive" thing is kind of deceptive, as you shoot far, far less, with a higher percentage of keepers. For what it's worth, I think the sweetspot with MF is 6x6, as a large percentage of the 6x7> cameras end up being bulkier than a 4x5. (Many) others will disagree.
I have a Hasselblad 2-lens kit (60mm CB and 120mm C) with macro tubes, and what I love about it is that even if it isn't the ideal for every situation, I feel I can do anything with it in an unrestricted manner. It's small enough to hike with, good for landscapes, good for portraits, great with a flash, great on a tripod, easy (in my experience) to hand hold... The whole kit, including filters and tubes, is probably around 6lb. If 6x7 is essential, I would recommend looking at a Bronica GS-1 set up. Having moved from a TLR to using interchangeable backs and lenses, I would have a very hard time moving back. The ability to move between different emulsions mid roll is a huge feature that would personally keep me away from the Pentax 67.
I third holding different cameras if it all possible. Liking the way a camera feels in your hands is more important than any other consideration.