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  1. #1

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    Recommendations for getting into medium format?

    I've been shooting 35mm film for just over a year and while I love shooting digital on my 60D I really can't get enough of film photography I love using the cameras and the process of developing film is great fun (I'm very lucky in that my school has a darkroom) However the inevitable has happened and I find myself seriously wanting to get into medium format too. This will also help for my A-level Photography course as I would love to do a project based around film, having a couple of different formats would help greatly.

    Anyway, I'd like to hear some different recommendations from those who shoot medium format, I'd like to get a camera, standard lens and maybe two film backs to begin with if that option is available, I'm not overly worried. I've done some research over the last few weeks and eventually decided the camera I would start with would be the Mamiya RZ67 Pro II however I'm often hearing a lot about it's weight and size, which could be a big drawback for me as I won't be shooting in a studio, (although I do have a good tripod) is it really worth lugging it around? So I figured the best thing to do was get some proper recommendations.

    6x7 format would be best but 6x6 would also be fine, I wouldn't like to go down to 6x4.5, and I would prefer to try and get newer cameras, and while I do really like them, a TLR is likely to end up too expensive if I end up with one that keeps needing to be serviced or repaired, however if there's one that's later or just has great build quality I wouldn't mind a TLR. Obviously a Hasselblad 500CM would be amazing however I would probably be pushing my budget at £400-450 ($660-750, to those in the US remember everything seems to be more expensive in the UK ) so a Hasselblad is probably out of the equation already!
    James

    My 500px Profile --> http://500px.com/James_EG

  2. #2
    ParkerSmithPhoto's Avatar
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    Bronica SQ gear is a great place to start. Affordable, easy to use, gives you the flexibility to shoot many crops without having to rotate the camera.

    The RZ is a bit of a chunk. It feels like 1.5 Hasselblads, but the optics are superlative. It has a spatial quality that is quite unlike any other camera.

    Might be best to see if you can borrow or even rent one cheap for a few days. I'm a big believer that your choice of camera will dictate the types of photographs you will make, and you need to find one that's a good fit for your style and personality.

    Case in point: I've had a 4x5 camera for 18 years that I've maybe used a few dozen times. It just isn't the way I see. It just doesn't feel right to me so, as a consequence, it never gets used.

    Anyone need a Cambo SC????
    Parker Smith Photography, Inc.
    Atlanta, GA

    Commercial & Fine Art Photography
    Portrait Photography

  3. #3

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    Thanks for the reply, I'll have a look at the Bronica SQ, I've seen it mentioned but I've never really looked at it before, although from what I can gather so far they do seem good. That's the thing about the Mamiya, I love the pictures made with them and I love the cameras, it's just the issue of weight! I'll look into renting one, never thought of that before and it sounds like a good idea
    James

    My 500px Profile --> http://500px.com/James_EG

  4. #4

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    If you are on a budget [at least until you are hooked] consider a Rolleicord if 6x6 format is an option. Only a few more $$ than the flimsier Asian copies, built like a tank, lighter than a Rolleiflex, and quite fixable if something should go wrong. Not to forget that any Rollei is worth repairing because it adds to resale value if you move on. I have both a Rolleiflex -these can get costly- and a Rolleicord and find the 'cord to be more fun to use in some strange way. The earlier Rolleiflex models with the Xenar lenses will service you well and can often be found at good prices just a bit over those of a Rolleicord.

  5. #5

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    Okay, thanks I'll have a look at them too but I have one other question, since TLRs are older and the lenses are less complex (particularly the more entry-level ones) does that mean to say that their image quality won't be as good as SLRs? I've seen some amazing images taken with TLRs but they always seem to be the expensive Rolleiflex cameras, I've also looked at the Flexaret VII, does anyone have anything to say about that?
    James

    My 500px Profile --> http://500px.com/James_EG

  6. #6
    MattKing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James-EG View Post
    Okay, thanks I'll have a look at them too but I have one other question, since TLRs are older and the lenses are less complex (particularly the more entry-level ones) does that mean to say that their image quality won't be as good as SLRs? I've seen some amazing images taken with TLRs but they always seem to be the expensive Rolleiflex cameras, I've also looked at the Flexaret VII, does anyone have anything to say about that?
    TLRs have a serious advantage - the designers didn't have to worry about complex moving mirror mechanisms behind them.

    I have and use a bunch of different Mamiya medium format equipment - Mamiya C330 TLR, Mamiya 645 Pro SLR (with focal plane shutter) and Mamiya RB67 SLR with leaf shutters in the lenses - and the TLR's lenses perform admirably.

    If you are moving up from 35mm, you may find the 6x4.5 cameras to be the most intuitive. They certainly are reasonably priced on the used market.

    I haven't used much Bronica equipment, but they would be worth your consideration in 6x4.5 as well (especially if you prefer leaf shutter systems).
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

  7. #7

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    Rolleiflex are not necessarily expensive - a T with a Schnieder xenar will be sharp enough to cut yourself on. At one time they were standard issue in the British military so good ones aren't hard to find. When i was at the same age and stage as you i used a folding 6x6 rangefinder. Again very sharp pictures and worth the latitude in b&w film you can afford to be a bit erratic with exposure.

  8. #8

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    Sorry with not worth. Blooming autotext.

  9. #9
    Regular Rod's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James-EG View Post
    I've been shooting 35mm film for just over a year and while I love shooting digital on my 60D I really can't get enough of film photography I love using the cameras and the process of developing film is great fun (I'm very lucky in that my school has a darkroom) However the inevitable has happened and I find myself seriously wanting to get into medium format too. This will also help for my A-level Photography course as I would love to do a project based around film, having a couple of different formats would help greatly.

    Anyway, I'd like to hear some different recommendations from those who shoot medium format, I'd like to get a camera, standard lens and maybe two film backs to begin with if that option is available, I'm not overly worried. I've done some research over the last few weeks and eventually decided the camera I would start with would be the Mamiya RZ67 Pro II however I'm often hearing a lot about it's weight and size, which could be a big drawback for me as I won't be shooting in a studio, (although I do have a good tripod) is it really worth lugging it around? So I figured the best thing to do was get some proper recommendations.

    6x7 format would be best but 6x6 would also be fine, I wouldn't like to go down to 6x4.5, and I would prefer to try and get newer cameras, and while I do really like them, a TLR is likely to end up too expensive if I end up with one that keeps needing to be serviced or repaired, however if there's one that's later or just has great build quality I wouldn't mind a TLR. Obviously a Hasselblad 500CM would be amazing however I would probably be pushing my budget at £400-450 ($660-750, to those in the US remember everything seems to be more expensive in the UK ) so a Hasselblad is probably out of the equation already!
    Have you considered 6x9? What about folding cameras? You could buy 3 folding cameras with your budget. AGFA Record III with Solinar (or the cheaper Apotar) Lens, Zeiss Ikonta 524/2 with Novar Lens, Voigtlander Bessa with Skopar lens are all easily within your budget, leaving you plenty of money left to buy film...

    You would find difficulty in detecting any inferiority of image compared with some of the expensive cameras mentioned thus far in this thread.

    RR

  10. #10
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    A lot depends on what you want (or think you want - it may change) to shoot and whether you'll eventually be looking to build a system. If you really want a particular system (Hassey/RZ67 etc.) then buying anything else is probably a mistake, but check out prices for extra lenses - Hassey lenses can be extremely expensive. The RZ67 is a big lump, the revolving film back makes it effectively a 7x7 camera in size, the lenses have to cover the 7x7 image circle and are therefore big lumps of glass.

    If you just want to try medium format I'd suggest a Mamiya C220/330 TLR which have interchangeable lenses. The Bronica SQ 6x6 is an affordable SLR option if you're looking to build a system, but if you really want a Hassey try to find one (or save a little longer).

    As you'll be lugging it (and tripod) about, I wouldn't recommend a RZ67 as a first medium format camera. With enough drive & perseverance you can overcome anything, if you're that committed I'm sure you'd make it work - but otherwise it might put you off before you really get started.

    Whatever you buy, try and get it from a reputable dealer with some kind of warranty unless you know what's good and bad. Medium format cameras operate differently from 35mm cameras, many won't fire the shutter with the dark slide in place or won't dry-fire without being set to multi-exposure etc.

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