Affordable MF with WLF plus General MF Questions
Hello, this is my first post here (I'll try and make an introduction soon) and I have a few questions. I'm not sure if this was the best forum either, as it could work in the Street photography forum as well. Sorry if this is the wrong subforum.
Anyways, pretty soon I am hoping to start saving up for a medium format SLR or TLR. I wouldn't want to spend more than $250, and I'd want it in good condition (i.e. not something that would break easily or shortly and not something that needs repairs). A waist level finder (WLF) is also key, as it would be almost exclusively be for street photography (I have other cameras for other things). It is key because I've had issues taking peoples photos with 35mm (and digital) because the camera goes up to my eye and because I don't shoot with a telephoto, it is pretty obvious what I'm doing. I think a WLF would go a long way because most people wouldn't even realize that I'm taking their picture. That way, I could also feel more comfortable and get in closer for better candids. Initially, I thought of just getting a 35mm SLR with optional WLF, but I've heard the image projected is a bit small and the options are more limited (eg. metering). But please, correct me if I'm wrong.
With that, I've narrowed it down to the Bronica SQ-B, Mamiya RB67, and Yashica Mat 124G. What I am asking is if these would be good cameras for street photography as well as if you have any other suggestions (keep in mind budget and other prerequisites)? I am not interested in buying through eBay, and I have mostly been looking at KEH, Adorama, B&H, Kerrisdale, Henry's, as well as local shops. I've heard the Mamiya might be a little bit big to lug around. I want something that is portable and that isn't going to hurt me from constantly carrying a heavy weight. As an aside, the Yashica Mats I've seen are out of my price range ($300 and up) but I've read that if you look good you can find one for about $200 in good condition.
Also I have some more general questions about medium format. What do you guys do for a light meter? The three cameras as far as I've read, do not have built in light meters (wait...the Yashica might, I can't remember). I don't want to carry around a digital or 35mm as a light meter, so I'm wondering about handheld light meters. Are they reliable? Are they cheap? What are good brands? Would it seem strange and awkward to use on the street? Also, I'm completely an autofocus guy (though my FG should be coming soon, which should be fun to learn) so do you have any tips or techniques for a newbie at full manual focus (I did have a period years ago where I used autofocus cameras completely manual, but I wasn't doing much street then)? I would assume with a MF WLF camera I could take my time focusing on a person or other subject as they wouldn't notice what I am doing. I've also read about pre-focusing and just waiting for a subject to come into full focus and then snapping away. This may be a silly question to you regular 120 and 220 users, but does the film loading, advancement and rewinding work the same as a manual rewind 35mm or (perhaps less likely) an autorewind 35mm?
Thanks a bunch in advance!
The Yashica has a light meter. It's often dismissed as rudimentary and in a way I suppose it is, but while I don't rely on it, I'm surprised how often I carefully meter with my LunaPro SBC then find the in camera meter in absolute agreement - this is with my 124; the 124G meter may be better. If you can find one, I prefer the 124 to the 124G. The "G" stands for "gold" and has gold plated flash contacts. The other external differences is that it's almost all black where the 124 has a fair amount of chrome. The 124 is said to be more rugged internally too - I'm not sure of that, I mainly just like the way mine looks. I got a nice Yashicamat 124 for $160 on eBay. You could list a WTB ad.
Handheld light meters, good ones, are very reliable. They do take a bit of learning to use. I use a LunaPro SBC. It, and the flash meter enabled brother the LunaPro F, are superb meters and commonly available used BUT - if you've never seen one they may be surprisingly big. There are certainly smaller meters around. You don't say what type of film but in practice, for something like street shooting with black and white or color neg, you can take a general meter reading for the prevailing light (a small pocket sized gray card is useful too,) set the camera for that, and shoot away as long as you don't move into widely different light.
Don't count on people not noticing what you are doing. Some won't while some will. People tend to mind a lot less, though.
Focusing at waist level is not something I'm comfortable doing with my Yashicamat 124, and I've never owned an autofocus camera except my little digisnapper. I use the magnifier in the Yashica and hold the camera up to my eye (but looking down) - then if wanted I can close the magnifier and compose from true waist level. Other than making use of the depth of field scale on the focus knob for zone focusing (so you set it to be in focus from infinity back to a certain distance, then be sure your subject is at least that far away - in good light with a wide range of focus this is a very fast way to work) I can't offer much more. This kind of street shooting isn't really my area.
The film doesn't load, wind and rewind quite like a 35mm. The Yashica anyway is slower to load. You get better at it (get a manual or download one if you get this camera) and it isn't really difficult, but it's not as quick as 35mm. The film comes on a spool. There are two spool slots in the camera, one for the film you are shooting and one for the take up spool it winds on. After your last shot you keep winding and that winds the rest of the film on the take up spool. You open the back, remove the spool, fold the paper leader down and there's a piece of "lick and stick" or other paper tape you use to tape the paper leader down. I forget which film brands have which of different types as they're all pretty obvious. For your next roll you move the spool the last roll came on over to the take up side and put the new roll in the film side.
Film winding with the Yashica may seem odd compared to 35mm but is easy and almost as quick. After winding the film leader onto the take up spool with the film crank it stops at the first frame. You then turn the crank a half turn backwards to cock the shutter and you're ready. After each shot you turn the crank a half turn until it stops, which winds the film, then turn it back a half turn to cock the shutter. Sounds odd but in practice is very fast.
One thing to remember if you get a 6x6 camera is you're only going to get about 12 shots per roll, so you'll be doing a lot of changing rolls in alleys and doorways! It can take you by surprise the first few times as you're blasting away and suddenly nothing happens. One of the advantages of a MF SLR is that most of them have at least an interchangeable insert, so you can pre-load several rolls at home and change quickly in the street.
The RB is a magnificent camera but you might find its size and weight a bit daunting as your first medium format street camera (though there are some APUG experts here who use them for street work). I sometimes use a Mamiya 645 1000s for street. It's easy to hand hold and you can get a WLF for it and you get 15 shots per roll. Whether you can find one in your budget range I don't know; likewise (and even more so) an RB.
If your main issue is regarding bringing the camera up to your eye, there are are other ways of taking photos on the street with a 35mm camera. With a wide angle lens you can shoot from the hip and be pretty sure of getting something usable. I sometimes use a small camera (Pentax MX in my case, but there are many others) and just hold it in one hand by my side, zone focused and pre-metered, and just hit the shutter as I'm walking along. Some people have ingenious ways of hiding the camera - I'm sure you can find plenty to try. Might be worth looking into before you part with your hard-earned.
I would second the suggestion on the Mamiya 645 series. I have two of them, with a third body on the way to have as a back-up, and if you shop carefully you should be able to find something close to your price range. I checked keh.com and they have affordable examples, but I don't know what the shipping implications would be.
Nikon 35mm, Mamiya 645 & RB67, Leica IIIb, other bits and pieces
645 is a good format BUT not the best if you specifically want to shoot with a WLF. The 6x6 was used with cameras with waist level finders in part to avoid having to turn the camera. With a square image there is no horizontal or vertical orientation. Depending on the film path and the format, a rectangular format will either shoot a vertical or horizontal from waist level, but you will have to turn it very awkwardly to shoot the other.
12 exposures is not a huge limitation, at least for me. In fact I prefer it to the 36 exposure loads of 35mm, but that's me and I'm not that much of a street shooter. The comment about inserts or backs is on target as loading does take longer (without preloaded backs or inserts) and you get fewer shots. For specifically shooting with a WLF though I'd recommend one of the 6x6 SLRs if quick film loading is needed. That would be the SQ-B among the OP's original list.
This doesn't apply to the RB with its rotating back, but as mentioned that's a big monster of a camera for street shooting. If you haven't seen one I'd not recommend buying one for this application until you see one in person. They are seriously big for any hand holding, much less street shooting - but some people do make it work. I wouldn't count on being unobtrusive with one though, regardless of finder!
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Yes the RB67 is a monster of a camera, but you could use a monopod.
I've got an SQ-B and a Mamiya RB 67 Pro S and love 'em both for very different reasons. For street shooting, the Mamiya works best on a tripod or monopod. The Bronica is almost petite by comparison and works well handheld with a WLF or 45 degree prism finder. The manual speed winder grip really improves its ergonomics, too. Just be aware the SQ-B won't power Bronica metered prisms made for the A/Ai models. While Mamiya RB 120 backs are still fairly plentiful, 120 backs for the SQ series are hard to find and usually pricey. With only 10-12 shots per roll, a spare back or two is nice to have. Focusing on either with the WLF+magnifier is easy. The Bronica has a split image focus aid; the Mamiya screen is like a small plasma panel with the magnifier--bright and sharp.
Using a handheld meter is really the only way to go with these. A small handheld incident meter is really all you need--something like the Sekonic 318-328 or slightly pricier 308 are small, accurate and easy to use. Lugging around another camera just for its reflected meter will get old fast. You might want a spot meter later but an incident meter will get things rolling.
The medium format shooting style is slower and more deliberate, thanks largely to the gear itself. The jump in image quality over 35mm isn't subtle. You'll like it.
TLR. I don't understand it, but shooting in the street with a TLR is like putting on an invisibility cloak. I've stood right next to people, taken full-on face shots, and they look at me as if I am not there. And I am talking about typical MF slow work, needing to focus, frame, etc.
I've used a Bronica ETRSi with WLF in the same situations and people notice. Something about that large single eye compared to the two small eyes on a TLR? I've used a TLR with a 45 degree prism on it and it still doesn't get noticed as much as an SLR, so I do think it is the smaller lenses and different shape of a TLR.
You want a nice street TLR, get a Minolta Autocord. The way the focus lever sits at the bottom, you can cradle the camera in the left hand and focus with it, hold steady and fire the shutter with the right hand, I find it easier than a rollei-style focus knob on the side. A Rolleicord (another good option) before the type V series where they moved the focus knob to the left side is another good street shooter- left hand cradles and fires shutter, right hand focuses and winds.
Well, I'm partial to TLRs. Other people use SLRs in the street and it works for them. APUG's medium format forum has a lot of SLR users. Rangefinder Forum's TLR forum might be worth looking over to get more input on TLRs and street work- http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...play.php?f=108
Last edited by Dan Daniel; 12-05-2011 at 11:47 AM. Click to view previous post history.
If $300 is out of his budget, I'm not sure how he'll be interested in $1900.
Originally Posted by KarnyDoc
The TLR is your best bet. I, too, have stood right in front of a person, framing, focusing and shooting, and she never knew I was there. Your head is bent down, looking in the finder, and it just looks likle you're fiddling with something.
Good street pictures are made by finding a spot with the right background, framing and focusing and getting the exposure set, then waiting for someone to come along and complete the picture. Robert Doisneau did this quite often to good effect with a Rollei. He would stand there and shoot a whole roll over a period of time. You can see this technique at work in his "Doisneau Paris" book. Perhaps the best street shooter of them all. One piece of advice: Save a little longer. $250 is pretty slim for good MF photography. Oh, and check our the Sekonic L308s. Small, light, accurate digi meter that does reflected, incident and flash, with and without cord.