A few years ago, I bought a Yashica A for $15 on ebay (out of nostalgia -I had one 40 years ago). It only has a four speed shutter, but the results are stunningly sharp when the lens is stopped down to f8-11.
My point is that you can try medium format for a lot less than 300.
"I'm still developing"
If you want portable medium format AND flash synch at higher speeds AND interchangeable lenses AND a price around $300, there is really only one solution: the Mamiya C series. C220 or C330. Entry point price is low, you can expand lenses later as needed. And it is still reasonably portable.
Of course there are cheaper ways to get into the format, but all will cut into one or other of the options you mentioned.
You can also reduce grain effects and increase resolution in 35mm by using different films. Efke 25, Adox CMS20 and other such will give you much reduced grain and much higher resolutions, assuming your lenses are up to the task. Acros 100 used with a "small grain" developer will do a very credible job of increased resolution with less grain. But, be aware that "small grain" is not a synonym for "high resolution": the two are completely different concepts, not inter-dependent.
However, nothing will provide you with such a great jump in quality as increasing the negative size by going for MF.
Noons (Nuno Souto)
In your budget, with your stated aims, I'd suggest a TLR - despite the image being laterally reversed without a prism, there's nothing else out there that will truly let you follow the action up to, through and after the moment of exposure. Start off with a quality budget TLR (yes, santa, there is such a thing). The Yashica, Minolta and Rolleicord models that have already been mentioned are great. You can also find Olympus TLRs (yes, OLYMPUS TLRs - they made some very nice ones back in the 1950s). Another very inexpensive TLR that produces decent images is a Graflex 22 - they are also known by some other names, which I forget off the top of my head). The Mamiya C22 and C220 models are the smaller, lighter versions of the Mamiya TLR line. They offer the advantage of interchangeable lenses, but that advantage comes with a downside, increased bulk. Your best bet is to get yourself in to a dealer of equipment who has a range of choices for you to play with, and get your hands on them.
If one purpose to having a higher flash sync speed is to stop action (and not merely to balance outdoor fill-flash with medium speed ISO films at wider apertures than f/16 or f/22), then a MF SLR introduces a significant unintended consequence versus 35mm-- total shutter release propagation time. It's nigh impossible to hit peak of fast action with a camera that takes 1/4 sec for the mirror to swing up out of the way and the shutter to release. 35mm and DSLRs rule here with relatively tiny mirrors that allow total propagation times down to about 1/30s (not to mention fast motordrives).
In this regard, MF TLRs, rangefinders, or folders will prove faster than MF SLRs by an order of magnitude.
Again, thanks everyone. I have done more research, and that research, as well as pupfish's post, leads me to believe that hand holding a medium format camera is harder than I thought. It seems that the SLRs are hard to hand hold because the big mirror causes too much shake when it flips up. I read that one photographer complained that despite looking like a 35 mm SLR, the pentax could not be hand held, at least by him.
My understanding is that one can more easily hand hold a TLR or rangefinder. The Yashica 124G seems like a nice camera for me to start with. I see one selling on ebay right now for $75, but I'm not ready to commit yet, knowing too little. I think someone mentioned the Mamiya press camera.
I have used a waist level viewfinder before. I once owned an Exacta 35 mm camera, and yes, the image looking backwards really proved a problem at times.
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My first MF was a Yashica D back in 1976, purchased used for about $30. I was recently looking at some wedding pictures that I took at a relative's wedding back in that era. The hired pro (excellent guy with top-level gear) had a lab incident destroy half of his shots. The old Yashica shots helped to fill in the gaps and actually are hard to discern from his shots and I think that most people would be very pleased with them. Stop down a bit with one of the Yashica models and you'll get a good taste for the format with minimal outlay. I think that the viewing/composing of them actually helped me to become a better photographer. A Rolleiflex is more gratifying from a mechanical precision standpoint and the glass stands up well to modern day stuff, especially in the f8-f11 range. They come a bit more dear for a clean, well-functioning example but hold value quite well, so you're at little financial risk to try some of these things.
I mentioned the press. Its a leaf shutter and it has a nice big handle. I don't think people dig the Press very much. Its a really ugly camera when you get right down to it. I personally love it.
Originally Posted by phthenry
As far as hand holding an slr, I can man handle a pentax 67 no problem. That said I think i could shoulder fire a 4x5 view camera. So long as its less than 10lbs it isn't giong to offer me much trouble. lol
The problem with the 67 is it does not have removable backs. It also has only a focal plane shutter and its strobe sync speed is 1/30th.
In this price range it is hard to beat Koni's if your wanting a rangefinder camera and a big negative.
If you want to bust your budget a little and have a very hand-holdable rangefinder, I would suggest a Fuji GW67II. Great lens on it, nice negative size, flash sync up to 1/500 sec and I have hand-held it successfully down to 1/30 sec.
Two drawbacks (which I can easily live with) are no interchangeable lens or backs.
My $0.02 worth of advice.
Long live Ed "Big Daddy" Roth!!
"I don't care about Milwaukee or Chicago." - Yvon LeBlanc
I'm speaking from the perspective of a 6x4.5 SLR user, and not a 6x7 SLR user, but it seems to me that the results I get hand-holding my Mamiya SLR gear are quite similar to the results I get with my 35mm (Olympus OM) gear. By that I mean that mirror induced vibration is much less important than photographer induced movement.
Originally Posted by phthenry
There are of course other differences with medium format that flow from having slower lenses, and less available depth of field for the same magnification. In addition, the ergonomics are quite different, so I expect that factor may cause some photographers more problems than others.
My medium format cameras range between Mamiya TLRs that I've used for 30 years or so, through Mamiya 6x4.5 gear that I've used for the last three years, to some recently acquired Koni-Omega equipment that I am still trying to adapt to. It seems to me that some of my skills, strengths, dexterity and tendencies are better suited to some of my equipment (e.g. my TLRs) than they are to other equipment I own (e.g. my Koni-Omegas - I am still uncomfortable with their film winding and focus).
As a result, I think that I am more successful hand-holding the TLRs than the Koni-Omegas.
IMHO medium format equipment is more varied than 35mm. For that reason, it may be that the answer to your question about which equipment you should choose is to try to learn which equipment is best matched to you.