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  1. #1

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    My first MF camera - Rangefinder or SLR?

    I am new here - signed up basically to ask the question shown in the subject line.
    I have been shooting Nikon DSLR's and after a hike into the Zion Narrows with a friend using a 4x5 view camera - I find my old interest in film being renewed.
    I was hot on the trail of a Mamiya 7 or 7II before that very same friend pointed out to me that for a new-to-film Landscape Photographer I would be better served with a through the lens viewfinder vs a rangefinder camera.
    So I started my online research again, this time with articles on the Pentax 67ii and as all good articles tend to do, by pointing out the pros and cons, I came away with more questions than answers.... camera shake caused by the type of shutter in the Pentax; a viewfinder that doesn't show 100% of the scene, etc.
    I am sure this has been discussed here before - but remember I am new here and have much to learn.
    Thanks in advance,
    Bob

  2. #2

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    I think your question is backwards. Forget the platform, what LENS do you want to shoot landscapes with?

  3. #3
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    Actually, it's not so much the shutter in the Pentax 67 that causes the shake, it's the giant honking mirror that slaps around inside the body that causes shake. It's a different animal than the Pentax 67, but I'd suggest looking into a Mamiya RB or RZ. The cameras are plentiful, the lenses are easy to find and inexpensive for the most part, there are tons of accessories, and they're easy to get serviced as they are still in production. My best advice though on what to buy is to find someplace you can rent one (even if it means calling up a rental house in LA, San Francisco or New York and having it shipped to you) and take it for a week long extended test drive. That will give you a much better idea of what that particular camera is like and if you really want that style of camera. If you think you want to shoot mostly or exclusively hand-held, and you do a lot of backpacking, I see no problem with a Mamiya 7 ii. If most of what you shoot is stationary, and you find your camera on a tripod 80%+ of the time, the RB/RZ is perfect. If you do a lot of hand-held (but in the studio), a Pentax 67 is a good option, because the use of flash will help compensate for the mirror slap. The 7 ii is a rangefinder; the Pentax is very much like a K1000 on steroids, and the RB/RZ is by default a waist-level finder camera, which lends to yet another style of shooting even though it is an SLR. Yes, you can equip the RB/RZ with a prism finder for eye-level shooting, but it is still never going to handle like a Pentax 67 (not that that's a bad thing - just different).

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    To Ratboy, my answer regarding lenses has to be generic - Sharp & Wide!

    To The Flying Camera, I will be shooting on a tripod most of the time. There will be hiking, but no backpacking. No studio shooting. What can you tell me about the quality of the glass for the Mamiya RB and the focal lengths available and finally - never used a waist-level finder - what are the pros and cons.

    Thanks for the responses

  5. #5

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    muaddib (or may I call you Paul?),
    A whopping big SLR will be fine if you never envision using it off the tripod. I'm going off to the city for a three day course, and I'm leaving behind the Leicas and the 35mm SLRs and taking a Bessa III. With Delta 3200 and a monopod I'll have fun in the evenings, and if things get too boring at the course I have some Pan F and some Tri-X, and I won't need the monopod. There's a certain pleasure in using MF as if it were a compact format.

    Chris

  6. #6
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    Here's my 2 cents. I've used the RB system for years, and have never been dissapointed with any of the Mamiya lenses. I do landscape, city buildings, studio, and in home portraits, and a little product work. I would probably suggest either the 65mm, or the 50mm lens. The 50 gives you approximately what you would get with a 28mm on a 35 film camera. I love it, as I am a true wide angle slut. Mamiya also made a 37mm(?) fish eye that I would love to own, but they are relatively rare, and when they do come up, the price is always waaay out of my range. The Rb is a big beast, and a tripod is almost always a must. As far as the WL finder goes, it does take a bit of getting used to, but it's a pretty minor thing. There is a eye level finder available too.

  7. #7
    ROL
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    Quote Originally Posted by muaddib View Post
    I have been shooting Nikon DSLR's and after a hike into the Zion Narrows with a friend using a 4x5 view camera - I find my old interest in film being renewed.
    I was hot on the trail of a Mamiya 7 or 7II before that very same friend pointed out to me that for a new-to-film Landscape Photographer I would be better served with a through the lens viewfinder vs a rangefinder camera.
    This was taken with the Mamiya 7II, 43mm lens, & Fuji Provia. You can compare with many other "takes" at this site by others (and one particularly egregious copycat) using 4X5's.
    Last edited by ROL; 12-01-2010 at 11:56 AM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: added lens

  8. #8

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    Minor correction.

    but I'd suggest looking into a Mamiya RB or RZ. The cameras are plentiful, the lenses are easy to find and inexpensive for the most part, there are tons of accessories, and they're easy to get serviced as they are still in production.
    ************************************************** *********
    Correction. The RB is out of production but the RZ is still very much in production. Mamiya probably has a few RB's still in stock, and places like B&H were selling them in the catalog as of a few months ago. I believe that with so many around they will be able to be serviced for years to come. (Yes, I'm a user of the RB.)

  9. #9
    Paul Sorensen's Avatar
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    Bob,

    The lens selection for RBs and RZs is very broad, they were among the most common MF cameras and the lens availability as well as the availability of other parts is fantastic. The mamiyas have lenses as short as 50mm, which is probably equivalent to roughly a 22mm to 25mm lens on a 35mm or full frame digital. The Pentax does go a little shorter, to 45mm, so if you want the widest possible lens, that is an advantage.

    I also find that the mirror on an RB is very well dampened, I personally haven't had issues with shake. Both the RB and RZ are full system cameras so you can use a waist level finder or a prism. The RZ also has some more modern niceties available such as an AE finder. I usually end up choosing the finder based on whether I need the camera up high, in which case I use a prism, or low using the waistlevel. When I first started using a waistlevel finder it was a revelation. The whole composition thing is different when looking with both eyes at the ground glass rather than looking through the viewfinder with one eye. I totally love it and it is one major reason I chose the RB. With its revolving back, one can compose for either landscape or portrait orientation with a waist level, which is just great to have.

    I know that the Pentax 67 is a fantastic camera, but I really love the way the RB and RZ systems work. If I were to start over, I would get an RZ because for whatever reason their lenses seem to be better values and are newer and generally considered to be better than the older RB lenses. (RB K lenses are based on the RZ glass and are great, but more expensive than either RZ lenses or RB C lenses.)

    As for rental, I think it is a great idea, but if you do not have a local rental place I would recommend getting the camera you are most likely to want from KEH and then returning it if it is not right for you. The lost shipping fee and return shipping cost will likely be a lot less than the rental cost and shipping from an out of town rental place. KEH offers returns for 14 days from receipt, so that gives you plenty of time to try something out. Their prices generally range from decent to extremely good.

    One other massive advantage of the SLRs over the Rangefinders is cost. With any of the Pentax or Mamiya SLRs you should be able to get a full kit with two or three lenses for less than the cost of a Mamiya 7 with one lens.

    Good luck!

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by muaddib View Post
    To Ratboy, my answer regarding lenses has to be generic - Sharp & Wide!

    To The Flying Camera, I will be shooting on a tripod most of the time. There will be hiking, but no backpacking. No studio shooting. What can you tell me about the quality of the glass for the Mamiya RB and the focal lengths available and finally - never used a waist-level finder - what are the pros and cons.

    Thanks for the responses
    I kind of naturally assumed it would be a wide angle lens. I think you would be very happy with the Mamiya 7 and the wide angle lens for it; the images are gorgeous.

    If you are hiking and using a tripod, let me tell you, the RB/RZ is FORKING HEAVY, so be in shape. You can eliminate the mirror slap with a mirror-up cable release, but I've never used one, I shoot exclusively with the RZ67 ProII. I hate the waistlevel myself, I use the AE prism, but I'm generally shooting kids running around. If I were only doing landscapes, I'd toss the prism without a second thought. It REALLY adds to the weight and it's EASIER to frame with the waistlevel, well for stationary subjects anyway.

    I think we have eliminated that you don't care which wide angle lens you're thinking of, so I won't haggle with you on that (even though I could). At this level of shooting, all the lenses are worth what you pay for them.

    $0.02: If it were ME, and all I were shooting was landscapes, I would get:
    Toyo field camera.

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