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  1. #1
    ChrisC's Avatar
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    Portable, reliable MF on a budget.

    I'm having a little bit of a brain freeze here. Pretty much, it all boils down to me wanting a MF camera with a budget of ~$600USD. The kicker here is I want something small (debatable though, and I really need some comparison photos!) but lightness is the other consideration, because this is a camera I'll be using for a lot of trekking, including a trip to Nepal and Everest Base Camp in November.

    Originally I was sold on a Fuji GS670/690 rangefinder, but a lot of it's use will be landscape and people photos, and I know how frustrating rangefinders are with ND grads. Now weight. I'm young and fit but also stupid, so I can carry some weight without much hassle, but I also don't want something bulky that's going to take up a ton of room in my pack, plus it needs to be hand-holdable, though it will have tripod backup too.

    The other two options I've been thinking about are Pentax 645's (some of their auto features will be handy for speed) and Bronica SQAi's. I'm not entirely sure 6x45 is really worth the hassle of lugging all that extra bulk and the initial cost over 35mm, and I'm not quite sure how big the Bronica really is (any MF is rare enough to find here in NZ) and how easy it would be to handhold.

    Basically I'm just looking for some advice. Am I going to have to make some sacrifices (bulk vs. grad possibilities) or am I thinking there's more to MF SLR's than there really is? If possible, I'd absolutely love some comparison photos of of Fuji rangefinders, Pentax 645's and Bronica SQAi's next to something universal (35mm SLR? can of Coke? Be creative!) and maybe some weights as they're hard to find too.

    I think that's all. Thanks a ton in advance!

  2. #2

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    With all the toys [Prism,winder and back] my Bronica ETRSI is very similar in weight to my Nikon 4s. Strip off the prism and winder and it might be lighter. In a pack you can take the thing apart and carry it in pieces if you really want. Honestly if you're wearing a jacket you can slip the parts into your pocket.

    I bet some of the large 35mm are bigger then a Pentax 645. Problem is without batteries the Pentax is dead. The good thing is it uses AA which are very common.

    The SQAi is bigger then the ETRSI. I'm not sure it's worth it unless you want to print square. That's the advantage of 645. You crop less so the weight you're carrying is actually useful weight.

    Final thought. Many of these cameras were aimed at wedding photographers. They have to be hand holdable. Obviously if you go with a RZ it'll be harder then a Mamiya 645 but other then the extremes I wouldn't worry about normal hand holding.

  3. #3
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    I am big Rolleiflex fan -- light ,portable and reliable (and no batteries!)...but if you want some flexibility with different focal length lenses, it won't work for you...and also you would have the same problem with graduated ND filters as you would with rangefinders. So it is probably best to ignore me. I just can't help recommending a Rolleiflex.

    Vaughn
    At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can still be a good day of exercise.

  4. #4
    ChrisC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Zentena View Post
    With all the toys [Prism,winder and back] my Bronica ETRSI is very similar in weight to my Nikon 4s. Strip off the prism and winder and it might be lighter. In a pack you can take the thing apart and carry it in pieces if you really want. Honestly if you're wearing a jacket you can slip the parts into your pocket.

    I bet some of the large 35mm are bigger then a Pentax 645. Problem is without batteries the Pentax is dead. The good thing is it uses AA which are very common.

    The SQAi is bigger then the ETRSI. I'm not sure it's worth it unless you want to print square. That's the advantage of 645. You crop less so the weight you're carrying is actually useful weight.

    Final thought. Many of these cameras were aimed at wedding photographers. They have to be hand holdable. Obviously if you go with a RZ it'll be harder then a Mamiya 645 but other then the extremes I wouldn't worry about normal hand holding.
    The reason I was considering the SQAi is I've owled a TLR in the past and really enjoyed composing with a square. However having seen a video of someone handholding one on youtube I'm starting to think it may be a little too big and clumsy to handle while hiking and doing the climbing I want to take it on here in NZ.

    This photo: http://flickr.com/photos/androgynous...rph/2419967335
    Is actually really making me fall in love with the Pentax, and the prices at KEH are very attractive. Do you know what their zoom lens quality is like? I'm guessing it's got to be pretty decent considering that it is a MF kit afterall.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vaughn View Post
    I am big Rolleiflex fan -- light ,portable and reliable (and no batteries!)...but if you want some flexibility with different focal length lenses, it won't work for you...and also you would have the same problem with graduated ND filters as you would with rangefinders. So it is probably best to ignore me. I just can't help recommending a Rolleiflex.

    Vaughn
    Haha thanks for your input anyway. Even if it's something I've considered and ruled out, sometimes it helps to hear the same thing from someone else.

    As I've said I sold a Yashica (my original MF mistress, if you will) and while I loved it for portraits and street shooting (and lugging around with it's minimal weight/size), I just don't enjoy them for landscape stuff. I think an SLR is the way to go (especially now I know Pentax sell zoom lenses) but still have the idea of rangefinder portability in my head.
    Last edited by ChrisC; 07-28-2008 at 02:24 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  5. #5
    Steve Smith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisC View Post
    this is a camera I'll be using for a lot of trekking, including a trip to Nepal and Everest Base Camp in November.
    My wife was going to do this trip last year. I managed to convince her to take my Nikon F601 instead of her digi compact. Unfortunately she got appedicitis a week before the trip and didn't go. A week later and she would have needed surgery half way up a mountain.


    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisC View Post
    Originally I was sold on a Fuji GS670/690 rangefinder

    I was looking at these a while ago. When I actually saw one I was amazed at how big it was. About 50% bigger than I was expecting.

    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisC View Post
    Now weight. I'm young and fit but also stupid.
    These three qualities can work together. After dismissing the idea of the Fuji 670/690 for size I went and bought an RB67. It is heavy but I find it fairly easy to hand hold with the left hand grip. I'm not sure if I would take it on an Everest trek though.

    You need to decide if this is a trek which you want to take some photographs on or a photographic trip with a lot of walking. I think it is very easy to decide to take too much equipment which you may regret once you are there. I think I would take a manual 35mm camera with lots of Velvia film or perhaps a Mamiya 6 or 7 or perhaps a Bronica ETRS (which I also have) which has already been suggested.

    I have also been getting into 6x6 folding cameras recently. These are very compact, you could take a couple in jacket pockets. However, they don't have any of the features you want like changeable focal length and ease of use of ND grads.



    Steve.
    Last edited by Steve Smith; 07-28-2008 at 03:02 AM. Click to view previous post history.
    "People who say things won't work are a dime a dozen. People who figure out how to make things work are worth a fortune" - Dave Rat.

  6. #6
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisC View Post
    As I've said I sold a Yashica (my original MF mistress, if you will) ...
    So, you are "young and fit but also stupid"...selling off an older beauty for something you thought might be sexier.

    In my younger, fitter and stupider days I rode a push bike thru NZ for a half of a year with a 4x5. I should have toss in the Rolleiflex too, instead of leaving it home all alone. Have a great trip!

    Vaughn
    At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can still be a good day of exercise.

  7. #7

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    Well, I have a Rolleiflex T and however I like using it, I would not recommend it for a hiking trip to Nepal - I just miss the AE. If you do not want to loose much time, a built-in metering helps a lot (AE even more). If you want to use ND grads, than SLR is probably tho only way to go. But otherwise you could consider a pair of GA645w (with 45mm lens) and GA645zi (the zoom model). Each weights around 800g - and you still have one camera left if the other one should die. Or just the Ga645 (60 mm lens) - that would be the lightest possibility. Or what about the Mamiya 6 or 7 or even Bronica rf645?

    I understand the preference for SLR, but it is also the heaviest option. Pentax 645 is nearly 1300g without a lens.

    The question is also which focal range you think you need to have covered?

    Whether 645 is large enough depends only on your needs and intended print sizes.

    I do not have an experience with ND grads, but how much time will it cost you to use one - even with SLR ? I guess you need a tripod for that. Do you plan to take one?

    Anyhow, just make sure you get enough time to get to know each other before your trip

  8. #8
    ChrisC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slnce-z-gsi View Post
    Well, I have a Rolleiflex T and however I like using it, I would not recommend it for a hiking trip to Nepal - I just miss the AE. If you do not want to loose much time, a built-in metering helps a lot (AE even more). If you want to use ND grads, than SLR is probably tho only way to go. But otherwise you could consider a pair of GA645w (with 45mm lens) and GA645zi (the zoom model). Each weights around 800g - and you still have one camera left if the other one should die. Or just the Ga645 (60 mm lens) - that would be the lightest possibility. Or what about the Mamiya 6 or 7 or even Bronica rf645?

    I understand the preference for SLR, but it is also the heaviest option. Pentax 645 is nearly 1300g without a lens.

    The question is also which focal range you think you need to have covered?

    Whether 645 is large enough depends only on your needs and intended print sizes.

    I do not have an experience with ND grads, but how much time will it cost you to use one - even with SLR ? I guess you need a tripod for that. Do you plan to take one?

    Anyhow, just make sure you get enough time to get to know each other before your trip
    I'm intending to be able to dedicate a fair amount of time for photography on this trip. The longest day's walking is around 4 hours, and although it'll be hard walking, it gives us a bit of time for other things (photography!) once we reach our lodge. This also doesn't bother me with taking and using some ND grads in case I need them. I would love a Mamiya 6 or 7, but being a student, I really can't (shouldn't?) spend that much money as this trip's already wiping my savings clean

    Weight isn't too much of an issue as we won't be carrying food. Just clothing and camera gear really. I'll be fine with under 3kgs worth of camera (thanks for the weight of the Pentax! I hadn't seen it anywhere) I'm traveling with a good mate (who I 'helped' buy a digital SLR 2 weeks ago) so we'll be splitting tripod duties and sharing photos when we get back.

    I see really well when I'm limited to one or maybe 2 focal lengths, so I won't be carrying a huge system in that regard anyway.

    Thanks for your input though. I was really stuck on the rangefinder vs SLR debate. I think I can safely say I've ruled out rangefinders now though, and the more I look into this the more appealing the Pentax 645 becomes (AE, fairly compact and quick to use, terrific prices currently).

  9. #9

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    Chris,
    You asked for the size and weight of a Bronica SQA. Well, I have the earlier SQ and it is about 4" square and 7" long , with the 80mm lens and back in place, and weighs 2.75 lb -(1.25kg), with nicely rounded corners for packing.

    I was given it recently by a friend and have found it to be a superb camera, and it is very rugged. You could knock tent pegs in with it if you lose your mallet.

    Alan Clark

  10. #10

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    There have been a lot of posts recently about the pentax 645. I have been using one with a 55 and 150 that makes a nice knock around combo that handles a lot like a 35, but with a much bigger negative.

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