The Texas Gulf coast covers a lot of real estate. Where are you? There are several of us in Houston with multiple MF systems. We get together from time to time & you could get some good touchy-feely time with the hardware.
You missed Wes Clavey's Mamiya TLR listings here and at the Rangefinder Forum or they were beyond your budget. Watch craigslist. A friend outside Dallas scored Pentax 6x7 & 645 cheap earlier this year. The stuff is out there. Beat the bushes.
Don't fret over your first purchase. It will be right and you will smile. It won't be perfect and you will sell it and try something else. Any MF camera is better than no MF camera.
Rapid Omegas with the killer 90mm Hexanon lens are selling for $100. You could do a lot worse.
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It's hard to imagine a better value for the money than a Koni-Omega or Rapid Omega. But it's a rangefinder camera. Do you like rangefinders, or do you prefer SLRs?
I also recommend a TLR. I had several in use, Seagull, Yashica, and - of course - Rollei. I finished with a Rolleiflex 3,5F, but that may outside of your monetairy reach. But the Rolleicords a quite good camers, especially the model series V. The most important difference is the taking lens, a tessar (instead of a Planar). If you use f/8 or smaller, image quality is outstanding. Rollei supresses very good the scattering light inside the camera.
Rollei quality is far beyond Seagull, Yashica or Flexaret. It is a joy to use. But you can take decent photographs with the other cameras too. Especial the lenses of Seagull and Yashica I found to be quite good, if you chose a 4 lens (Tessar) type.
I'm with jp498
Originally Posted by jp498
I was in the same situation as the OP, wanting to have a go at MF, but being put off by the asking price of some of the gear and the tales of woe told by some of the players, concerning their equipment breakdowns.
I considered (and looked over -in my hands) Pentax, Mamiya, Bronica and Pentacon.
(I ruled out Rolleiflex and Hasselblad on price alone)
The trouble was, a lot of the gear is decades old and much of it relies -at least to some extent- on electronics of one kind or another to do its thing, and it's often the electronics that gives way one way or another
Of course some of the mechanical bits (gear trains etc) have also proved to be quite capable of having their own problems, as well, not to mention element separation in glasses and prisms.
Well, I was set to pass on MF altogether, when I came across the Yashica TLRs.
Admittedly, they are a relatively low form of MF life, but -by the same token- they seem to be relatively free from many of the problems besetting the more advanced/sophisticated/alpha type MF beasties: and, everybody (who has owned one) seems to literally love them.
Since they are also relatively quite cheap, I too have invested in a "lowly" but effective Yashica TLR 635, just to have a go at MF.
I have -so far- only put two films through it, all shots hand-held. Waiting for the second film to come back from processing, but I have to say -so far- it has been a pleasant (and relatively inexpensive) experience (even if film, processing and printing are several times dearer than for 35mm).
Of course, I only have a single, 80mm lens and a close-up #2 diopter, so nothing outlandish: but it has been (and continues to be) a relatively cheap entry to MF 101.
So far, I have messed up only one frame (due to double exposure, by not winding on), but I'm learning.
Some of the shots (even those with the close-up diopter) have been excellent (IMO), and I'm finding out if MF is for me or not.
So far, so good.
Last edited by Galah; 10-18-2010 at 12:13 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Mamiya 645 or Bronica ERTSi.
Both cheap. Offer enough extra lenses and accessories to make sense.
TLRs are very limiting things, so maybe get one when you already have all you need. As an extra.
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I picked up a Rolleicord for $40 earlier in the year. It was my first MF experience and hooked me immediately - both on the format and on TLRs. I've since picked up an Autocord - budget priced as it needed some repair, but I handled that myself. Both have been great cameras. You'll can probably find a film tested one around for less than $100. Even if you don't pick one up now, they are worth experimenting with depending on what you photograph. I love them for street photography and for general compactness.
From there, I picked up an SQ-A and then a 50mm lens for it. I probably put about $400 into the camera by the end. Before I picked up the 50mm, I found myself almost always taking out a TLR instead as I prefer smaller, quieter cameras.
Moving towards the smaller, quieter side, I picked up a Zenobia. It is a small, 6x4.5 folding camera. I spent $70 on one. I only went that high because I bought it in person and could verify the condition of the camera (and the bellows in particular). This is the first scale focus camera I've really spent much time with. I love it. Wonderful sharp lens, tiny package. I can throw it and a rangefinder (or folding 35mm camera ) in small bag and have a compact little kit.
All of these cameras have different pros and cons. The Zenobia is great but the red window winding is problematic on bright days, particularly when using color film. I also avoid situations where the ability to rapidly focus is critical with. My TLRs solve those problems. They are great for street photography as people don't really react to them in the same was as other cameras. The fixed lens is a limit though. The SQ-A addresses the fixed lens at the cost of a much heavier, louder system. It also gives you through the lens composition which is nice when focusing close.
Over all, each of these options has trade offs. The best all around option is probably the Mamiya 7II but that costs about 5x what I've spent in total for just a body. Totally out of my price range. The TLR is still a unique option simply because you aren't pointing something camera-looking at someone, nor are you looking at them yourself. That is one of the reasons I still recommend at least trying a TLR to everyone; it can feel very different from most other camera experiences.
I have an old Agfa Isolette with a Solinar lens that is just a blast to shoot with. Stick it in a large pocket with an extra roll of b&w or C-41 and go. I leave the meter at home usually but I am planning on getting the Voigtlander VC II meter to mount on top. I think for less than $200ish you could be all set with camea and meter. Rollei has workable c41 processing kits and b&w is a snap to process at home.
Many good suggestions above. The 6x6 TLRs: Yashica MAT 124 G or Mamiya C3 or C330 -- were my very first thoughts.
The Holga (a 6x6 plastic rangefinder <$35) is extremely cheap and a lot of fun, but may not be what you had in mind because it has only exposure setting (somewhere around f8 and 1/60 sec).
The answer for you hinges entirely on what kind of images you want to make and on their final form & size requirements.
I wouldn't be deterred by old classics necessarily because you're going to benefit from developing a relationship with a good medium format support tech (for CLA) for any and all medium format cameras you should choose ... at any point. (Blue Moon Camera can fix almost anything people might come up with here.)
You might like shooting MF and move into more than one camera (especially if you start developing your own negatives) because there are so many approaches to shooting.
The 6x6 TLRs are a great start (and, accordingly, there are benefits and a strong case to be made for saving up for a Rolleiflex).
Whenever I'm curious about the kinds of results possible from a particular platform, I simply search flickr. (The film people there have way more fun!)
Camera choice is part of expressing your vision, but only part part of it. Don't fear a mistake here because you will learn a lot from whatever you do. Moreso from a mistake.
Last edited by Samuel West Hiser; 10-18-2010 at 10:40 AM. Click to view previous post history.
And if you buy one off ebay you'll probably have to budget for a CLA. But even with that it may still end up being cheaper than just about anything else that offers interchangeable backs and lenses.
Originally Posted by Chazzy
"People get bumped off." -- Weegee