Recommendations for getting into medium format?
I big vote for the SQ series from Bronica; a great system that's very affordable as well. I'm a student in the UK too and it's nice that I can occasionally afford to pick up bits and pieces for it (e.g., lenses, backs, finders, grips, etc.) without breaking the bank. I use my SQ-A for most of my photography (I also own an SQ-B for backup).
That said, I really enjoy TLRs as well. I'm always impressed by the images my Minolta Autocord can churn out and it only cost me 100 quid.
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An additional factor that is worth considering is whether the lenses you want are available with the same filter size. This reduces the cost of getting filters (contrast filters for B&W, light balancing filters for colour film, polarizing and ND filters for both). One of the reason I chose Bronica is because all the lenses that I wanted were available with the same filter size. In general, Bronica is good at keeping the filter sizes the same for all but extreme wide angle and tele lenses - 62mm filters for the ETR series (6x4.5) and 67mm filters for the SQ series (6x6). For example, for my ETRSi I can get everything from 40mm (24mm equivalent) to 250mm (150mm equivalent), and everything between, in the same 62mm filter size. This makes it cheap and easy to build up a filter collection using standard round screw-in filters.
Bronica ETRSi, Nikon F3 and FM.
Regarding a Rolleiflex, yes, many of them will need to be serviced. Once serviced, it shouldn't neeed service for another decade or possibly more.
It always depends on how you handle your cameras. If it is exposed to dust and rain, it probably will need to be serviced more often than one that isn't exposed to those conditions.
I agree wholeheartedly with Ian about a TLR having fewer moving parts and therefore less complexity. The simpler the mechanism, the less chance of problems.
So James forget specific cameras for a second.
Originally Posted by James-EG
What are the characteristics of the print you want?
For example; Square or rectangular? What I'm getting at here is that I find that the view the camera I have in hand shows me has a huge effect on how I compose. For me rectangular prints are in the majority. Rectangular normally fits the way I see a scene well, for me rectangular also works well for using the rule of thirds and the golden ratio. When I shoot square with the Holga I see differently and tend to want the subject centered in the print, of course part of that is the way the Holga lens sees too.
Next, what style of shooting will the camera be used for?
For example; Does a tripod really work in the situations you want to use the camera? Will a monopod work instead? Will you need to shoot handheld a bunch? TLRs are typically easier to handhold and carry, if you can use a "pod" though that doesn't matter as much. Personally whenever a shoot is really important I'm using at least a monopod even with my F5 on a bright sunny day at f/2.8 with 400 speed film.
And, what angle of view are you looking for?
For example; Just looking normal (80-110 range on MF) means most any MF camera can get you there. If you need long and short lenses too then a lot of the TLRs simply won't work. With that said though I find that as the film format gets larger the need for non-normal lenses is greatly reduced. What's happening here for me is that as the format size goes up the setup for my shots gets considerably more formal; I'm not normally shooting "Street" or "grab shots" or "snow leopards in the wild" with the RB so I'm less willing to compromise on the angle of view I want to get a shot. Normal lenses give viewers of a print a fairly normal angle of view, what that means that subjects tend to look normal, no overly flattened faces, no big noses, and the queues that our brains get from the context are normal enough that on occasion our subject seem to look 3D, like they might walk right out of the print. I find it tough to get this effect with longer lenses, there's just not enough context and the shorter the lens the bigger the print needs to be to get it. (I have a 24x36 print that was taken with a very wide lens that has this effect but you need to have a viewing distance of about 12-15 inches which isn't optimal).
Don't get too hung up on these questions because all the cameras suggested here can do good stuff, but it is nice to get the big things right on the first try.
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
When I made the switch from 35mm to MF, the Mamiya 645AF was the perfect transition. I have also done a lot of 60D work, and I must say, the 645AF was a simple transition that made plenty of sense. I still shoot with it all the time, though I use my RZ67 Pro ii a lot more these days. The 645AF gives you huge negatives, and it is so easy to handle. Check out some of those shots on my flickr if you want to see just how unlike 35mm that camera looks.
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Used Hasselblads are now quite inexpensive. They're a marvel of ergonomic engineering, built like the proverbial brick shithouse, take a plethora of superb interchangeable Zeiss lenses and they have an advantage that no TLR can boast - namely, you can put digital backs on them. That's the main reason I've kept my 'blad and lenses even though almost all of my film shooting is large format now. When I one day get a Phase One digital back for it, I'll have image quality that will blow away any full frame DSLR from Nikon or Canon. And of course I'll still be able shoot film whenever I want to.
I know many will laugh, but I used an old Ciroflex TLR to experiment with MF. I thoroughly enjoyed it. True, I'm not a professional, just shoot for my own edification, but I found that it's not necessarily the equipment that sees the photo. Here's a photo I snapped with an old Agfa Viking 6x9 folder that turned out pretty good. I used a yellow filter, 1/50 sec, f/22, Kodak Plus-X film.
Rich Reeder, Mesa, Arizona.
TLRs can help make some nice images, some even have a 35mm adapter as well, but I found them a little awkward to use.
You are using a WLF, so the screen needs to clean and bright - also, the magnifier being good helps.
If you can - and have stores selling or renting theses, I would hop over and have a look at them. It helps to have a feel of the camera and shooting method.
A friend's Yashica 635(i think) felt too light and uncomfy to hold and use - I was just shooting with a FG that day, so I wasn't comparing it to my RB67.
Hassies are okay - I dont quite like the helical focusing, but to me the bellows focusing of the RB is what has so far been the best of it. Along with a slightly larger negative, of course.
The bulk is actually comfortable.
You might have a completely different experience, of course. (My friend happily shoots with his Yashica, for ex)
Whatever you get - and if you decide you dont like it, can easily go back on ebay or here for not too much of a loss, I suppose.
I've shot with all three major systems you're inquiring about (Rollei, Hasselblad, Mamiya RB/RZ). I had a Hasselblad system for years - loved it. One of the greatest advantages to it is the fact that it is a system - you can, with time, patience and money, find all kinds of weird specialized accessories and lenses to do just about anything. I went through a phase where I was shooting mostly large format and the Hassy was sitting unused, so I sold it on to someone who would get more use out of it. Later, I swung back and started shooting medium format again. I bought a Rolleiflex 2.8E off of Ebay for $500. It needed a good CLA (clean, lube, adjust), and my initial experience with it didn't bond us, so it sat for a while. I picked up an RB67 thinking I would shoot portraits in the studio with it. I have shot with it sporadically, but it is a camera that does not encourage spontaneity. It is a huge chunk of camera. I have only two lenses for it, the 90 and the 180. But that and three film backs (one of which is the motorized 6x7 back) weighs at least as much as my complete Hasselblad system (500C/M body, three backs, 50, 80 and 120mm lenses, AND a Superwide with the dedicated 38mm lens!). Which brings me back to the Rolleiflex.
I had it sitting around, needing a good servicing. So I bit the bullet and took it in and had it given a complete once-over. Now it sings like a canary. My concerns over its issues dissolved. I shot a bunch more with it and found that it really complements my way of seeing and shooting. I was concerned about the "limitation" of having only one lens though. I asked around here about opinions of using it as a travel camera and some kindly folks pointed me to the work of a number of famous photographers with Rolleis. I realized that the "limitation" was mostly in my mind. I've since traveled with it extensively, taking it on trips to New York, Paris and Toronto, and shot with it extensively around town here at home. It makes a good portrait camera, it is fantastic for street photography, and is one of the most portable medium format cameras short of a folder. You're not going to shoot sports/action with it, you're not going to do 1:1 macro with it, nor are you going to shoot wildlife. If those are your interest, a different camera would be better.
If you're interested in a system camera but are on a budget, look at the Kiev 88 - it's a knock-off of the Hasselblad 1600F with a focal plane shutter. Lenses for it are excellent and dirt cheap. The most recent versions of it are not ergonomically horrid, and if you get one that has been rebuilt by Hartblei or ARAX, the quality and reliability while not up to Hasselblad standards will be quite good.
My money, obviously, is on the Rolleiflex (I actually now have a matched pair of them, 2.8E models... they're nearly 60 years old and still going strong). But they're not for everyone - you may not like the ergonomics, or the twin-lens way of working. But don't let the "only one lens" consideration make you think they're limiting in some way. Look through my gallery here on APUG - if it's square, then 99% likely it was shot with a Rolleiflex.