A Speed Graphic with a roll film back. Or maybe a Rapid Omega.
The Fuji and Mamiya cameras are reliable (no mirror to cause you problems), but I never cared for them too much. I know people rave about their IQ, but to me the Fuji gave very sharp, but very boring photos, and the camera was just huge. The Mamiya felt plasticy. Something about the way the body seemed to fit loosely on the inner frame. You may wish to consider 6x6 and buy a Rolleiflex/Rolleicord. Much smaller and lighter, and very reliable. They're made for carrying on a strap and using hand held, and the lenses are wonderful w/ lots of character.
That is a bad story. The bodies are getting quite old now, that's the problem with the 6x7 (especially) and 67 variant, but excellent specimens can still be found if you are patient and probing. The cameras, any sort, need to be thoroughly assessed and scrutinised by you, in your hands, not left to chance judgement by email or eBay. My preference would be to run a roll of transparency through any newly-acquired 6x7 /67 and let the camera speak. Other problems though, related to the rudimentary circuits (resistors, capacities), pawls, clips, cogs and clips that make up the shutter/mirror/damper/shutter release and wind on mechanism all add their own problems over time.
Of an alternative camera, the Fuji 6x7 series might be worth a look; it is something that caught my eye in early considerations. I don't see many of these on the second-hand market.
The Mamiya 6 x 7 is superb. I have used it with the 65mm lens almost every day for the past 12 years with no problems, no CLA and always great results. I would strongly recommend this camera unless you are wedded to an SLR way of working. I have, in the past, also used the Fuji 6 x 7 but quickly changed to the 6 x 9 as it was the same size and weight but gave a larger format.
If working with a rangefinder suits the kind of work you do then that is the way to go as the only moving parts are rangefinder (I actually rarely use this as I almost always zone focus), film advance and shutter.
A Bronica GS1? Love mine and it's easily handheld; lenses have come down in price since I put my kit together too.
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Buying any 20-40 year old camera of unknown history and expecting it to be reliable without having it serviced, re -lubed and the light seals replaced is a big ask. Having your equipment maintained instead of buying more and more is I.M.O. part of being a serious photographer.
Now that the usual suspects have been gathered, with both practical and anecdotal views given, I'll offer my take on this. Rangefinders as a group might seem to be more reliable than SLR's. The mirror in the P67 is legendary for causing issues, and I don't see how mirror mechanisms inherent in the type avoid the laws of complexity. But an all mechanical camera may also be viewed as more robust than an all electrical camera, which won't fire at all when the e's aren't there. Will an all electrical camera take a brief dunking or thorough wetting and keep on ticking? Presumably a mechanically based camera would still work fine, once the battery is dried out.
And then there's the matter of focusing. How reliable can rangefinding be with inexact focus patches and hyper focal inexactitude? Better know your camera and lenses well. Seeing through the lens does seem preferable. As far as metering goes, I'll leave that to others, as I favor a separate spotmeter with any camera, rarely taking advantage of on–board metering.
Anyway, those are considerations of reliability I would take into account. I just come from the school (KISS) that says that the least complication you can put between the subject and yourself, the better. For the record, I've used the M7II reliably for 15 years, almost exclusively in all weather outdoor conditions, but its all electronic build simply doesn't inspire confidence in its reliability – so I'm also really careful with gear I cannot afford to replace. Frankly, even though it's my favorite camera of any format to shoot with, I might look to the Fuji's if I needed to replace it.
P.S. Here's a brief corollary to the reliability issue. My M7II takes the same battery, as my (Pentax) spot meter, and my tiny Black Diamond Ion headlamp, all of which I carry in my kit (with spare). That kind of redundancy inspires confidence in the backcountry, both in the reliability of one's photography, and the ability to make it back without undue apprehension when the last of the golden hour or sunset finds you without waxing full moon, deep in a blackening forest, more than an hour distant from car or camp.
Last edited by ROL; 10-19-2013 at 01:15 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Originally Posted by David Allen
Mamiya 7 II owner, best system I have! Everything is superb, if you can handle RF's the. Again, you won't have that mirror problem
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~Stone | "...of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong." ~Dennis Miller
Got Pentax 67 II, film transport gear is broken.
Got a Pentax 6x7, after five shot it has short circuit or whatever, very hard to get it work again.
Got another 6x7, after one roll it can't stop winding the film.
Although I want to stick with this system, their problems make me scared. The lenses are very good actually. I love them.
My RZ67 works well, robust enough for me. Got some problems with dark slide but it is not serious and can't make the camera into a paperweight like Pentax 6x7.
A lot depends on what kind of subject matter you need to capture. SLR's like the P67 have a huge advantage when it comes to available focal lengths and types of lenses. Rangefinders are best with wide to normal focal lengths, have relatively little to offer in telephotos, and have parallax issues with closeup work. There are also significant weight differences between the respective systems. So when it comes to RF vs
SLR, you're really trying to make an apples vs oranges comparison, and not what is functionally "best" per category. There is also quite a bit
of image quality difference between the low end, size-wise, of MF @ 645 and the high end @ 6x9.