If you don't care about weight and really want to spend 1500, I have a camera similar to the Mamiya Press: a Linhof Press, even including a built-in selenium meter :-)
As in parts of my travels i'll be in very secluded places and unlikely to be anywhere near a city or places that will be able to repair my camera, so really my most important factor is that it is reliable and built like a brick so that's it's unlikely to break however still has quality glass. Thanks for the replies so far.
Bring backups. That's a huge budget in todays world if you aren't buying new. You'd have no trouble putting together something like
a few film holders
a range of lenses.
If a body/film back breaks you'll have a backup. With a range of lenses you'll be able to work around a lens failing.
Well, it is going to be hard to beat a good quality Rolleicord or Rolleiflex for the simple durability. Get everything serviced before you leave so that you know it is working correctly. After that it is all mechanical and made out of metal, how much could really go wrong? Leave the old leather on until after the trip. If it looks all beat up it will not be much of a target for thieves. Cover everything that says Rollei with gaffers tape to make it look like it is held together with tape. When you get back get new leather put on and clean up the outside to have a really nice functional show piece.
A Mamiya 1000s body is a pretty strong camera, lenses are decent, etc. The Mamiya 645 Pro should give you a good life too. As with any camera, don't drop them and you should be OK.
All that said, I would try to get a Mamiya 7II system and would bring along a screwdriver and piece of ground glass and cheap magnifier to check the focus. Check it after each time you fly to make sure the focus on the range finder didn't drift, and you should be good to go. The only concern is that this will probably be at your upper limit in price (maybe slightly over or WAY over depending on lens choice).
People are going to hate this next suggestion... but here it goes.
Buy a $500 digital camera for back up. You can get a really nice Fuji one piece (lens does not come off) for that much, and they take really nice pictures if you learn to use them. It is better than coming home with nothing because your good camera got wrecked/stolen.
The obvious modern choice would be a Mamiya 7, and if you are careful, you may be able to get the body and a couple of lenses for your budget. Not too heavy, and a nice large 6x7 negative. That would be one body though, and battery dependant.
For a smaller sized negative option, a Bronica RF645 and a couple of lenses may do, although it may not satisfy the portrait requirements, with 100mm lenses being the longest (apart from the very rare 135mm). Again, this leaves you with one battery dependant body.
Another 645 option could be the Fuji 645zi. With these, you could afford to get two entire cameras, and still have enough money left over for a bundle of film. Load one with B+W, one with colour.
With any of the single body, battery dependant options above, you may well want a spare. So, how about a MF coupled rangefinder folder, like a Super Ikonta III/IV, Mamiya Six (folder), Certo Six or Iskra. These are easy enough to carry around all day - the Iskra was my travel camera while I lived in Europe. Then, if you are really paranoid and/or want something more pocketable, how about adding an Olympus XA, Minox 35 or Contax T to the mix? . This will give you access to easily available 35mm film as well. Just pack some spare batteries.
Enjoy the trip!
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Based on the recommendations, anything would do so let me add another one.
Get a Pentax 67II with 2-3 lenses. The 67II is the modern version, but no longer manufactured. It has matrix and spot metering, exposure compensation, mirror lockup. The lenses are excellent and very inexpensive used. The 67II body is a bit pricey still but you could get an older 67 MLU body as a backup for cheap.
I have travelled for months at a time through Africa in dust, rain, heat, humidity (with the older model) and no problems. It is a heavy camera, but built like a tank. Now I put the body with 165 mm lens plus either a 45 or 90 in a small insulated cooler to take as a backup for my 4x5.
For a year-long trip, you will burn through a lot of film. I suggest taking a lot, but finding places along the way to which you can ship film, either as needed or ahead of time so that it is waiting for you. I have not had any fogging problems with shipping film (have others?). I have not tried lately, but years ago you could receive mail/packages at American Express travel centers worldwide if you were an American Express cardholder. All of the major cities in Africa and South America had travel agencies that we could use (for free) in that manner.
You have gotten many answers to this question, and most of them appear based primarily on what the folks who are responding use or have used.
There may not be one single best answer to your question, but since you specify the importance of keeping weight down I would eliminate a priori some of the suggestions, including Pentax 67 and Mamiya Press. These outfits are feasible, but will weight three or four times as much as some other options.
My main question for you would be how important is close focusing? If very important, I think the Mamiya 645, or Pentax 645, would be good choices. And I would simplify matters by using just one lens, a moderate wide angle to medium tele, say something in the 50-100mm range.
If close focusing is not important you will get the highest quality image for the lowest weight with a rangefinder outfit like the Mamiya 7II, or even a couple of 6X9 Fuji bodies. I would also include in my list the highly versatile Fuji GA645Zi, which is an auto-focus, auto-exposure camera with a 55-90mm Zoom.
I have some experience with all of the cameras mentioned so far. For travel photography my emphasis is on maximum image quality for minimum weight, and I am generally not interested in close focusing. With that, my choices would be.
A. For prints over 16X20" in sizse.
1. Mamiya 7II with a wide angle (43mm or 50mm) and normal focus (80mm) lens, or a 65mm and 150mm.
2. A couple of Fuji 690 bodies, a GW690III (with 90mm lens) and a GSW690II (with 65mm lens).
B. For prints 16X20" or less in size.
1. Fuji GA645Zi.
2. Mamiya 6 with 50mm and 80mm lenses.
I believe all of this would fit into you budget, with the possible exception of the Mamiya 7II. If concerned about the cameras holding up to hard use carry a couple of cameras. Fuji GA645Zi cameras, for example, can be had for about $800 in EX+ condition and would be a very light weight and versatile system.
Finally, when doing travel photography working with 220 film is a lot more convenient than 120 film as you got get twice the shots per roll which I find a great advantage. This is especially true with 6X7 and 6X9 formats.
Originally Posted by Shakey
Last edited by sanking; 07-23-2008 at 05:27 PM. Click to view previous post history.
"...since you specify the importance of keeping weight down I would eliminate a priori some of the suggestions, including Pentax 67 and Mamiya Press."
...or grow some muscles and suck it up.
The simplicity and indestructibility of a system view camera are worth it even if it weighed three times as much, IMO. I have a variety of small and medium format stuff, and I trust none of it in the "field" like I trust my view cameras (which include my Mamiya Press stuff). Nothing ever goes wrong with them that is not fixable with a simple component swap and/or some gaffer tape. You simply can't beat a camera that is just a box to which you attach stuff at either end.
I have never understood weight concerns. I just don't get it. If weight is your worry, just shoot 35.
I am very partial to Mamiya 645 stuff as well, and I agree that something like that would be the most convenient. However, stuff breaks...all the time. Especially when you need it to least. But if it breaks, I don't know how to fix it. I don't want to be at the mercy of an unknown, possibly-sleazy repair person who knows how desperate I am. I guess we all have different priorities.
Last edited by 2F/2F; 07-23-2008 at 06:20 PM. Click to view previous post history.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)
How much have you traveled abroad? I have done a lot of it, usually five or six major trips of two weeks or more a year, and I can tell you that my biggest worry is weight, weight of the camera equipment as well as overall weight. Whatever steps I can take to keep the weight down without sacrificing image quality I will do. And by the way, I backpack a 20X24" camera with a couple of holders so I don't need to do any weight lifting or suck it up to carry MF equipment.
Originally Posted by 2F/2F
However, with medium format you don't have to sacrifice at all to combine great image quality and weight. The rangefinder cameras I mentioned, especially Mamiya 7II and Fuji GS and GSW 690 bodies, give outstanding quality, and they are both very dependable. The Fujis in particular are quite rugged as they are totally mechanical, and the Mamiya 7II gives better negatives than you can get from any MF system.
I am familiar with the Mamiya Press line of cameras as I once owned two bodies and most of the lenses. And I took this camera system with me on a trip abroad about 12-15 years ago. The system is a bit more versatile than Mamiya 7II or Fuji 690 but at considerable cost of weight and ease of use. And the Mamiya 7II and Fuji optics are without question better than the optics of the Mamiya Press line.
In any event, if cost is not an issue and image quality in print size up to about 30X40" is needed there is no question but that my Number One choice by far would be a Mamiya 7II outfit with 43mm or 50mm lens, 65mm lens, 80mm lens and 150mm lens. But that probably exceeds the budget of the OP so I offered the other questions, i.e. Fuji GW and GSW 6909, Mamiya 6 and Fuji GA645Zi. A backup body is always a good idea.
Last edited by sanking; 07-23-2008 at 06:53 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Originally Posted by sanking
Probably exceed the 1500 GBP? I think that is probably more like definitely exceed, at least at US prices. Unless prices have changed, the last time I watched prices on the 150 on ebay for used lenses they all went at near $1000 USD. I would very much desire that the prices would fall as I have a body sitting here with no lens that needs the range finder adjusted. and some cleaning to get tape goo off (from the last owner). It was significantly cheap because of all that and a bent strap lug. Straightened the lug, pulled some of the goo off, now it waits. Will probably cover it in leather if I ever get around to rebuilding it.