Well - your preferences are rather wide. There is a big difference in handling of a TLR, rangefinder or SLR. You may just try to be a bit more specific on the usage (landscapes, portraits, macro, etc.). For example rangefinders and TLRs are the lightest way to MF, but will bring some limitations (close focus, lens speed, light metering). On the other hand a camera like Mamiya 645 or even RB67 will give you nearly unlimited amount of options, but will weight much more.
I personally found that a TLR offers a very unique way of looking at the world around - the images (in particular portraits) look different (lower vantage point). Cameras like Yashica 124, Rolleicord, Minolta Autocord, Rolleiflex T (and many others) would not only deliver very nice image quality, but leave you with quite some cash for film. TLR also mage great traveling cameras as even for long exposures a table top tripod is all you need.
For the RF do not overlook the Bronica RF645 - you should be able to get one with 65/4 lens for under $900. Reportedly very nice camera to use with excellent lens and good handling. Later you could add 45 lens for reasonable money.
SLR - many. 645, 6x6, 6x7 and even the Fuji monster GX680 (but I am not sure about the price). You will need to search a bit, but pretty much all what is available are good cameras.
The older Fuji GW6xx feel much less plasticky, because the metal body is not covered by plastic parts. My GW690 (first model) feels very solid and has the same lens as the newer models. The old ones are cheaper, too.
And the sign said, "long haired freaky people need not apply"
I agree that to be better able to make suggestions we need more information. While I also reccommend the Rolleiflex for a TLR, for a component system and a SLR I'd vote for a Bronica. You do not mention what size in the MF 6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7 or 6x9 so again do you have a preference? For your budget you can get the 6x4.5 ETR series with a pretty complete kit. These are brute workhorses and used by so many that units are very plentiful. Today, the resale value is quite low and several nice basic kits have been listed in the classified section here in the $210-250 range. The lenses are 1st rate and the camera can be configured so most users can find one that feels good. Several viewfinders including waist level, prism, average metering, spot metering, rotating. Backs include 120, 220 and 2 35mm. Lenses go fom 30mm through 500mm, have several zooms and a shift lens for achetectural photography. Bellows and extension tubes for closeup through macro work. Most lenses take the same filter size, a plus. Need motor drives, 3 available and a speed grip so it feels like a 35mm slr, if you want. I bought mine decades ago to try MF and found it to be so good that I ended up using it as my primary camera and have a fairly extensive system. I use it as both my MF and 35mm slr system.
You can move up to one of the SQ series 6x6 that has pretty much the same flexibility. With an accessory back, it will also yield a 6x4.5 format.
While these were not inexpensive in their day, in fact because the shutter is in the lens, the lenses were more than some of the competitors' today they ar absolute bargains. There were several series but even the earliest are excellent.
If you are looking to photograph people, especially strangers, there is something about the vintage cameras they are more apt to be comfortable about. I alternate between two TLRs and it's lots of fun. I have a Yashica-C (with 3 element lens), and a Rolleiflex automat mx (with a 75mm tessar). The first was free but needed about $100 of work to be nice. The second camera was $200 ready to go. A newer TLR will get you a meter, more plastic, perhaps higher shutter speeds.
Wow everyone! Thank you, thank you, thank you! You all gave so many great recommendations.
I apologize for not being more specific in my original post. I mentioned that I had no preference in format because I've owned 6x4.5, 6x6, and 6x7 cameras before. (Just not 6x8 or 6x9 or wider). I used to own a Mamiya RZ system and I was quite fond of that camera, but it is rather enormous! I also have owned a Bronica ETRSi kit which I also liked, but I don't know that I'd go back to that system. Something just didn't click for me. The Hasselblad H1 has also been a system I've owned but it was too expensive to expand, I sold that kit to fund my digital gear a long time ago.
Anyways, what I'm saying is: I enjoy all the various formats and I am not particular to any specific one, I also have experience with both waist-level finders and traditional prisms, as well as rangefinders. (Even 4x5 which is upside-down and backwards!)
I have long been a "landscape" or "environmental" photographer, and I'm trying to break away from this. I looked into pursuing architecture but even that wasn't where I need to be. Taking portraits of people, particularly strangers has long been a challenge for me so I am trying to spend my time focusing on this genre.
So, to sum up my response: I prefer robust, well-made cameras, I am accustomed to WLF, VF & RF, I am willing to shoot any format. Main usage of the camera will be for portraits and street scenes.
Again thank you all for chiming in. I really appreciate it!
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Yashica TLRs, some of the Ds and all the earlier MAT and MAT-124 models have Yashinon lenses. The Ikonta folders are great for their relative pricetags (triplet models are cheap and usable, Tessar models are great and somewhat spendy). The Koni Omega is great and can be had cheaply every now and then. The cheaper Tessar Rolleiflexes are also great, but really could use a repair to brighten the mirrors and screen up. Kowa Six or Bronica SQ are cheaper alternatives to a Hasselblad that produce some great results.
For your budget you could get a start in any system you want. The Pentax 6x7 is great, particularly the wideangle lenses. The Mamiya RBs are best suited for studio, but work fine outdoors too.
e: For that kind of stuff, I'd say the P67, a Koni Omega, or Hasselblad/Kowa/Bronica style SLR would be good options.
I'm going to go out on a limb on this. Your response provides a lot of information. It sounds like you are going to carry the camera and street shooting or something similar. A small, light and easiy to use camera would work best. I'd suggest looking for an excellent 35mm as these are really made for this type of shooting. I love my Bronica but after close to a days worth of carrying it, it does get heavy. For the shooting you describe, I pull out my Leica CL. The stock 40mm lens is excellent as well as the 90mm. You can also fit on a 50mm as it has the frame lines. I like it better than the M series that is larger. Also, a screw mount Leica user with Leica glass is very good and closer to the CL than M size wise. The CL while looked down on by Leica fanatics is every bit a Leica. The shutter is not quite as quiet as the M and SM bodies but the results ar just as good and the meter is really right for portrait work as it is a spot meter. No battery for the shutter, only the meter. True the meter has to be calibrated for a non-mercury battery or use a Wein cell or a CHRIS converter and the meter is better than the M6 led metering system imho.
Mine fits nicely into my jacket pocket with the 40mm lens. I have a small shoulder bag also to carry it, the 90mm lens, a flash, film, camera and lens hood. The complete kit weighs less than say my Rolleiflex or Bronica body, back and prism before taking into consideration the lens.
Another nice carry camera is actually currently for sale in the classifieds. An EXA. The one for sale has a waist level finder and a couple of very good lenses, is small and an easy carrier. Yes, again 35mm. Some really great lenses were made for the Exacta mount and a number of others can be adapted with the Adapt-all converters for several lenses.
I appreciate the insight, however I am plenty happy with my EOS 1n for 35mm work. It's not small or light, but I've got a few great lenses available and I'm happy with it. If I am to buy another film camera I would like it to be medium format. I am well aware that they are not as compact as 35mm, but it's really no different than something like my 1D with large L lenses.
While I will use it on the street, that won't be the only place, I just want to focus on both candid and posed portraiture.
All signs point to------------------------>>>Mamiya C33 (or C330)
-Heavy metal (I've disassembled one and everything is solid cast or machined metal)
-Charming (seriously, strangers are disarmed by TLR's--I've even had multiple compliments from the TSA)
-Full system (full range of lenses and accessories, easily obtainable)
-Inexpensive (lots of gear out there available at good prices--the C330f (or s) can be a little pricey, but C33's and C330's are still very reasonable.
I don't know Barry. My C330 is an unbelievably, awesome camera but heavy as a hay bale...
M645's are really cheap and readily available and I love mine ... and if you like 6x6 and a cheap TLR I would recommend a Yashica A.
Good luck with your hunt.