I recently took the MF dive a few months ago and regret nothing about it. I'll throw my 2 cents in and recommend a mamiya 645 system. The quality is excellent and it is one of the most prevalent MF systems around so you'll have less of a problem finding accessories and equipment at a good price. Interchangable backs are also something I would never be without when considering a MF system. (avoid the newer 645E if this is something you want) Some of the early model 645's also lack this feature. Being able to rapidly swap film midroll alows for great flexibility and experimentation. The Mamiya RB's, RZ's and other larger MF SLR systems are desirable for the even larger negative size but they are considerably more expensive (budget-dependent of course) and higher maintenance due to their leaf shutter design. The lenses are considerably more money and their shutters need to be periodically adjusted in order to be 100% accurate. The Mamiya 645's electronic focal plane shutter will pretty much stay accurate for eternity if treated with reasonable care. Either way take your time looking around and consider your needs and uses before committing to a system.
I've just printed my first roll of Ilford HP5+ from my M645 Pro, shot entirely with the standard 80mm f/2.8 N. Was blown away by the negatives. I've developed a reasonable number of 35mm black and white rolls, but the detail and tonality of merely the *negatives* was mindblowing. I think the larger negative size and the higher resolution and tonality that you get gives you more room for creative experimentation - and boy does it reward you when you get things right.
No more squinting at piddly little 35mm frames.
But in cases where you need to shoot off multiple frames in the hope of capturing that elusive moment, etc, or where every gram of weight counts, that's where 35mm fits I guess.
You should have signed up for the "MF Loaner Program". Cheapest way to find out if you like the format, although you will have to wait a couple of months now....
Those who don't think Photographers have the skills of REAL artists such as painters obviously have not had to spot my prints.
If you're going to go MF, why not all the way with a Bronica GS-1? They are great cameras and selling cheap on eBay and elsewhere. I bought my first GS-1 almost twenty years ago and it's been great. I picked up a couple of extra bodies on eBay in the last couple of years in case I lose one or need parts in the future. GS-1 PG lenses are nothing short of superb. With a Speed-grip, the GS-1 handles almost as easily as a 35 mm. A 6x7 cm negative is 4.5 times larger than a 35mm and you will be amazed at the quality of the enlargements you can make with a big negative.
"A certain amount of contempt for the material employed to express an idea is indispensable to the purest realization of this idea." Man Ray
I earned a BS using mostly my Mamiya 645. I have two lenses, 55, 80, 150 and Kenko 2x extender. I even used it at Brooks along with 35 and 4x5. I have a special feeling about the 120 format though, I guess it was the larger size over 35 when I first started. Now its a great freedom from my 11x14.
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I'm not sure if you're still in need of help, or if my answer has already been mentioned, but before deciding on a particular camera decide if you want to shoot 645, 6x6, 6x7 or 6x9. Personally I like the 6x6, but some people don't like the square.
If you do decide to try 6x6, I think a Bronica S2A is by far the best camera to start with; it's cheap (at least compared to a Hasselblad!), easy to find (on ebay at least) and just a great camera. You can usually buy a kit in nice shape on ebay for between $150 and $300, and the 50mm wide angle lens (roughly equivalent to a 28mm for 35mm) comes up often on ebay and usually sells for $100-$200. I think there's one for sale on APUG right now... it might be an S2 or a C; if you do think the Bronica is the way to go, try to get the S2A because it has stronger gears so it's a lot more reliable.
Anyway, the old Bronicas use Nikkor lenses; absolutely beautiful photographs, and personally, I think if you're going to shoot medium format, a 6x6 is the best way to go.
Another recommendation, if you decide not to go with a Bronica, is to get a camera with a waist level finder; in my opinion that's one of the things that make a medium format camera so enjoyable (it also isn't much fun to have to lift a heavy camera to eye-level over and over!)
Good luck with whatever you choose!
In the name of God, stop a moment, close your work, look around you. ~LEO TOLSTOY
Def give medium format a go. Even if it isn't for you, you can sell everything again for what you bought it for if you go for second hand gear.
The jump in quality was the reason I bought my RB67 but I've found that it has other benefits too. Having the camera on the tripod with the groundglass to look at while composing makes me interpret what I see and an image better than squinting through a small viewfinder. I feel a waist level finder and nicer to work with too.
Donít sell your 35mm stuff. With cameras itís all about the right too for the job and my RB67 really isnít the right tool for quick spontaneous shooting. I really really want a hassy H1 for thatÖ. If only I had the £ís!
go for it!
There's nothing strange about being drawn to medium format!
I've got a couple of Mamiya TLRs and 5 lenses,and I love using them-although I do still use my 35mm as well.
The larger neg gives a better resolution than 35mm-because a 645 neg is roughly 4 times the area of 35mm,smaller objects have much more definition.
Also,it requires less magnification to print an 8x10 from a 645 than 35mm,so grain is less noticeable.
And focusing a 35mm camera has to be ABSOLUTELY spot on-with 645(or in my case,6x6-Mamiya TLRs are square format)-you can be a LITTLE sloppier!
The only real disadvantage is the weight,but the results are worth it!
A common mistake people made when designing something completely foolproof was to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.
Computers are incredibly stupid,but they are capable of being incredibly stupid many millions of times a second.
Both said by Doug Adams
Only put off until tomorrow that which you are prepared to die having not done-Pablo Picasso
"IMHO, that one should start with a system that you can at least change lenses. Having a fixed lens medium format is nice, but sometimes, you want to changes lenses and you can't do that with a TLR or something like that."
There is something to that. But if one is just making the jump to larger formats, it is worthwhile to consider the construction of a frame once again. We are all too wrapped up in different lenses and zooms and this that and the other we sometimes forget that the photograph is only as good as we visualize it. Once in a while you have to get up on something, or run back. If the thing doesnt appear quite "right", then what would make the shot more interesting with the perspective that is available?
I love gizmos and gadgets. I got them for 35, 6x6, 4x5, and God help me am collecting for when I take the 8x10 plunge. But any and all of them can take away from the simple task of thinking through a photo with bare resources. A new "old" TLR has reminded me of that, and I am finding that there are a lot more "keeper" shots in the 12 exposures than the 36 that travels along with it.
When you come to a fork in the road, take it...