I've used a Contax 645 regularly since it first came out (1999). Medium format autofocus really works and reliably; for a subject that isn't moving or stops momentarily, like a kid, it will accurately and faster than you could manually. If the subject is moving at faster than parade speed, the autofocus won't keep up, simple as that. Additionally, most, if not all medium format cameras only have a central autofocus point, which , in terms of composition, isn't usually where you'd like the sensor placed. So they really won't do what you'd come to expect from 35mm autofocus. That said, I often find it to be helpful, but it isn't the answer to a maiden's prayers.
Luckily, my vision corrects to 20/20. I bought a microprism screen for my Contax and it's quick to focus manually for faster moving subjects and you do get a focus confirmation light, even when focusing in manual mode. You ought look at the Contax, as well. With the 80mm f2 lens, motordrive at 1.5 fps, very bright viewfinder, it's almost as good handling as 35 camera, with a real medium format size negative. The 140mm f2.8 lens is internal focusing and is a beautiful portrait lens. The Contax might be the perfect "compromise" camera.
I would go the 35 mm route or how large are you have the most pictures to enlarge for your business?
Or of course test also the Pentax if I remember correct it is the fastest Autofocus of the 4.5x6!
I'm a Pentax 35mm user. While I haven't used the Pentax 6x4.5 cameras, I understand they use the metering and focusing technology from their 35mm line. My 35mm equipment focuses really fast! The only downfall is the loud focusing motor.
The 645NII has only one big problem as far as I can tell - I don't think there is a waist-level finder option. On the good side, it has multi-segment, center-weighted, and spot metering, 2 frame/sec motor drive, predictive auto-focus, and mirror lockup. I think it would be worth investigating further.
I'm the owner of a Pentax 645N and quite happy with it. Have a look at it.
Cheryl, I'm somewhat surprised to hear of your vision problems. All of your work i've seen posted here has been stunningly sharp, esp the eyes. This makes them all the more impressive, knowing your as blind as a bat ;-).
Have you considered going down the rangefinder route, Fuji, Mamiya and Bronica all offer MF rangefinder models.?
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KwM: I sometimes do portraits with a Tech V, the rangefinder, and Grafmatics, and it is a fairly dynamic way to work in large format. You've got all the bellows draw you need on a Technika, but realize that the rangefinder only works over a relatively limited range. Still, it will get you close enough for most portraits, and the separate finder is not so difficult once you get the hang of it. If you get out of RF range, you can always switch to the groundglass.
The first test I did with my grafmatics seem to show some fogging, and I'm wondering if it's because I used the spring-loaded facility to hold it in rather than removing the back entirely and using the two clamps (what're the names of those two machinisms again?) The next set of tests, I'll put the grafmatics on the other way and see if I notice a difference.
Does anyone have any idea if there's a difference between the amount of travel between the Linhof and the Graflex rangefinders? Obviously, here, more is better.
If I get more than one reply on this LF RF stuff, I'll suggest we move this part of the thread to either the rangefinder or large format forum and post a pointer here to where I move it.
If the subject is very mobile, then the solution is to use more light for more DOF.
Yeah, but I still think there's a subtle and psychologically perceptable difference between something that has attained the smallest circles of confusion with a given lens, and something that just appears to come rather close by virtue of DOF.
It's like the difference between listening to a speaker that talks nicely about something, and someone that just nails it eloquently right on the head.
Not that I nail the focus exactly where I want it anywhere near as often as I'd like, but I think there's way too much dependence on autofocus in the trade. More often than not, I'll see a full-page face shot in a magazine and the focus is on the nose, not the pupils.
I wonder if one of the Mamiya rangefinders would work for you? 6x7 neg and sharp lenses too. Just thinking out load.
Thanks for all the info and feedback, everyone. I've got lots to look into now.
In the meantime, motivated by greed, lust, and wine, I bought a Speed Graphic on ebay. I don't know what I was thinking other than "that's cool" but maybe the comparitively huge ground glass will help me with my focusing issues. Not that I'd even attempt to use it for kids' sessions. LOL. That would be fun to watch, no?
I got a crown graphic, but that's because I wanted to eventually use wider-angle lenses. The crowns don't have a focal plane shutter, so you can pull the lens in closer.
One of the really neat things you can do with the Speed is use very old (100+ years old) portrait lenses without shutters, since you can use the focal-plane shutter.
Unless the camera's been CLA'd recently, I'd recommend that be first order of business -- especially if you find someone to clean up the rangefinder for you. Do you have a side-mounted rangefinder or a top-mounted one? The side-mounted ones are generally adjusted to one specific lens. You can re-adjust them, but you've generally got to pick which lens you want to use the rangefinder with. The top-mounted rangefinders use dedicated cams for each lens.
If you find you like the big 4x5 negs but the Speed isn't your cup of tea, you might consider a Littman 45 like blansky has (expensive, and I still can't wrap my conscience around modifying a classic piece of gear) or a 4x5 SLR. Graflex made several models, and there's a guy on the net (I'll dig up his site or someone else will if you're interested) whose really into them and uses them well, or there an outfit that advertises in View Camera magazine which makes contemporary 4x5 SLRs.
WRT kid shoots with 4x5, that's actually one of my goals, but I'm not quite there yet. I'm continuing to practice with our own 2 1/2 -year old, but it is a different type of shooting. With 35, I can explore a subject and think out loud with the shutter release. With 6x6, I tend to be a little more conservative and hold off if I see any nogos in the frame. With 4x5, a picture's got to WANT to be taken. I've got two grafmatic backs, each of which hold six sheets. Some folks here have close to ten. If you like the speed at all, I'd also recommend getting an eBay grafmatic or two. That'll give you about half the shooting speed and number of frames as a hasselblad w/120.
I'm probably sticking with my Crown Graphic until such time that I can afford a nice Linhof or two. It'll be a while.
If you really want to think cool Gowland made a twin lens 4x5 at one time. That with a Grafmatic could be used to take kid pictures with, he originally designed it to shoot models.