I'm in a bit of a quandary on where to go from here.
As you all know, I do lots of candid, on-location portraits, primarily of kids (read: moving targets). My vision has gotten sufficiently awful that I am going to have to give up on MF for these clients soon, because I cannot manage the manual focus. (My vision is estimated at 20/4000 or so, and can't be fully corrected.) I need autofocus, but I hate printing those tiny 35mm negs.
For those of you who have MF autofocus cameras (particularly Mamiya) what can you tell me about the autofocus? I've heard that it's way too slow and noisy, but have also heard that it's been greatly improved in the past few years. It's a scary decision for me, because I'd have to unload both my Bronica and my Canon 35mm to fund it, and I have to be sure I could do what I need with it.
I do intend to borrow one from my local camera store in the next week or so, if possible, but it's tough to get a really good feel for the camera in an afternoon.
Thanks in advance.
While I haven't been able to use any of the AF 645 cameras extensively, my initial impression with the Mamiya 645 was that it was slow, awkward, and tended to hunt-focus a buch. The Contax 645 wasn't much faster, but seemed to lock on better. The Hasselblad H1 actually seemed fast, but is rather outrageously priced so that takes it down a notch in my mind. Haven't played with the Pentax 645N, so I can't comment on that. Had I to choose between all of them, I thin I'd probably go with the Contax. The AF isn't as fast as on the Hasselblad, but you get an extra stop of lens speed out of the 80mm and that's enough to compensate in my mind.
I have played with it a bit, although I don't own one. My main impression was "It aint my Canon" Autofocus is slower, and it did tend to hunt.
Kind of a useless post, being that I don't own one...
I played some with the first version. In my short usage I found it was rather slow to focus (slower than the canon or nikons), and didn't hunt too much.
I felt the weight was good and the ergonomics were excellent. I have used Mamiy's 645s before. I think there lenses are as good or better than any of their peers.
I know two people who own or owned the newer version. One is a wedding and portrait photographer. She sold hers after the shutter curtin failed twice in the first 18 months. She claimed to love the camera, but couldn't trust it.
The other person is a 'hobbiest' who also loves his and keeps adding lenses.
I have had a lot of dealings with MAC (the us dist.) and find them to be very good. I also think the build quality should be good. If you decide on the Mamiya, I would strongly recommend buying from robertwhite.co.uk -- If not the body any accessories. White's prices are hard to beat, even with a weak dollar, you still get a warranty (although you'll have to ship it overseas for warranty work) and they are nice folks to boot.
There is a good thread on APUG (probably many) about the Hassy 645 AF. My personal take on the Hassy is it comes with the Hassy/Zies price without being a hassy/zies camera.
If you like the square format of your Hassy, then the Rollei AF 6x6 camera may be of interest. I have heard good things about it, especially the lenses. I am sure that it doesn't focus with the speed of a Canon or Nikon but I believe that it is the only AF 6x6 camera out there.
I found one on ebay with a picture
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Ellis Vener has made a few good posts on photo.net about the Hasselblad H1, which he's been using for a while. You might do a search over there and see what turns up or dig up his e-mail and contact him directly. If I were in your situation, this is probably the first camera I'd look at.
Have you tried a focusing screen upgrade for your current system? Sometimes a brighter screen and focusing aids like a split-image circle can make a big difference.
Sounds like you've got your mind made up about which direction to go Cheryl, but I'll just chime in briefly with my two bits on autofocus.
I use a Hassleblad 501c for MF and am starting to use the Graflex Crown for LF, but I still do at least half of my stuff in 35mm. One of the reasons is training myself to focus quickly/accurately enough with the MF & LF gear. The fact that I've just got a waist-level finder for the hassey makes it challenging for me to pull a fast focus during a quick-moving session. My uncorrected vision is something like 20/400, and as of a couple of months ago, the eye guy said I need bifocal glasses but am just short of needing bifocal contacts. This is a quandry for me, since glasses steam up sometimes, or get dirty, and contacts lose focus for the first half second or second after blinking. As I'm sure some of the folks on this site know, getting your eyes to cooperate while pulling focus is sometimes a high-wire act.
Unfortunately, I've found any autofocus to be disappointing. More often than not, it'll focus on the nose rather than the pupils or the iris where I think the focus belongs. As I'm beginning to learn, for anyone who wants a really sharp image, there's only one tiny plane of focus, and anything in the so-called depth of field or hyperfocal distance is just sorta close, but not as good as getting the very best from those blasted circles of confusion.
About the only thing I've found autofocus really good for is cranking the lens close enough that I can quickly and easily pull a good focus myself without waiting for it to hunt back and forth. My eyes are getting worse faster than autofocus technology is advancing, I suspect.
What I'd really like to do is rely on a really clean rangefinder in a Crown Graphic, Linhof or some other 4x5 rangefinderable camera, take about 5-10 6-sheet Grafamatic backs on portrait shoots and do nearly everything 4x5. Serious speedbumps to that approach include not enough bellows draw to get close to kids & babies, setup speed for each shot, and having the rangefinder and the paralax-corrected viewfinder be two separate things to look through.
I'm convinced that quick operation of manual focus is going to remain a preferable solution to any autofocus mechanism for at least the next many years. One of the reasons I found DSLRs to be frustrating was that the reduced frame area (by 1.6x, typically) also meant a smaller, dimmer focusing screen.
On my own hunt (no pun) for a good autofocus alternative, I suspect I'll either do one or both of a Hassleblad 501cm or better with a retrofitted brighter viewfinder and either a 90- or 45-degree finder or one of the above-mentioned crown/technica/wista cameras perhaps with a 6x9 rollfilm back for smaller subjects and 4x5 for the larger ones.
If I were to humbly offer up any autofocus suggestions for a MF shooter, I'd urge "don't do it" and ak if there were either a focusing screen upgrade available for their iron or a medium format rangefinder that would be useable for them.
I know it's sorta obvious, and really expensive, but fast glass helps both manual and autofocus.
[uh... okay. I guess that wasn't so brief. ]
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.
If you are comfortable shooting portraits with large format on the groundglass, having the rangefinder to double check focus makes things that much easier. Tricks that some people use for portraits with groundglass focusing are a string from the tripod to the nose to confirm focus distance or a projector with a slide to project a thin beam of light on the subject's ear not visible to the camera. I usually focus, insert the holder, and watch the shadows on the subjects face carefully, and when they are exactly as they were when I focused, usually the head is in the right position. Now if I'm using the Technika and an interesting expression arises with the filmholder in the back, that's when the rangefinder is invaluable.
If the subject is very mobile, then the solution is to use more light for more DOF.
There was a time when my wife Dianna was interested in switching from Hasselblad, maybe getting an AF rig, and we did read a bit about the Rollei. Impressive camera. If memory serves, it's got the same market share in Europe that Hasselblads have in the US.
Originally Posted by fingel
The main feature that sticks out in my memory is the really cool feature that you can pre-focus on a given distance, and when your subject gets to that distance, and in focus, the shutter trips. Obviously meant for brides and grooms coming down the aisle.
That reminds me of a neat trick with Canon autofocus, though I don't know if Nikon does it. I usually run with my autofocus moved to the (*) button on the back of the body. If I mash that down while I manually focus, the "in focus" indicator (at least in our 1N's) will light to indicate when I'm in focus.
Thanks to all for the input. Looks like I'm going to have to just try it and see what I think.
I can't afford to like the Hassey version, so that's out right off the bat. Kevin, I'd love to just get a brighter screen and continue to focus manually focus. The problem is, I could take all day to focus and still not know if I'm focused. And, since I very rarely do "hold still" type portraits, it's even more difficult. With 20/4000-ish vision, correctable only to 20/40 on a good day, it just isn't going to happen. I do just fine with AF on 35mm, but I'm spoiled by 6x6 negs.
Ugh. I don't like my choices.