my ancient and venerable Minolta SRT-102 is having film advance problems and I'm going to take the opportunity to upgrade instead of repair.
I want to find a mid-price (or less) manual focus 35mm (or maybe medium format) SLR. Most of what I do is landscapes. I don't much care about motorized drives, autofocus, etc. I do care about availability of lenses.
Is Nikon necessarily the way to go? I've just a read a thread that suggests the FM3A might be just what I'm looking for. What others should I consider?
How would I decide whether to be looking at medium format instead? I've not ever used one, but I am working with 11x14 enlargements now and can see the advantage of more detailed negatives.
Ah, a fellow Rhode Islander! I'm down in Narragansett.
If you're working with landscapes I'm going to have to suggest you go medium format. To capture every detail of your scene you need more resolution than 35mm can offer you to really come out with astounding enlargements. Don't get me wrong; 35mm is great for it, but it's no 6x7 (or 6x6, or 6x4.5 for that matter)!
A nice inexpensive entry to modern MF is the Mamiya 645E. Sekor glass is hard to beat in my opinion.
Only you can decide if the move to medium format is worth it, but I'd say that if you're doing mostly landscapes then I'd say you should strongly consider the change. 35mm is a great format if you need to move fast or if you're travelling and just don't have the room or the willingness to carry a larger camera, but in the end the very best 35mm equipment can't give you the image quality of a decent medium format camera.
The price on used medium format gear has dropped dramatically. (I picked up a Mamiya RB67 Pro-S system last year for around $400 complete with lens, back, and finder.) There has been a glut of medium format equipment in the market as professionals have been dumping it for digital.
Your willingness to carry a camera based on the size of the system will help you determine which format is right for you. If you don't want to move up too much in size and weight, a 6x4.5 system is a good choice. Even at the smallest medium format size, you get a negative that's very large compared to 35mm...and that can deliver quality that's beyond the best 35mm equipment. If you're willing to carry something larger, I highly recommend the 6x7 format, as it easily enlarges to the standard paper sizes.
KEH carries a wide selection of used equipment, and they have a great return policy. Note that my RB67 system came from them, and was marked as "Bargain" condition. Other than some rub marks on the bottom of the camera near the back, the camera looked and operated as if it was nearly new. Check out their web site. I won't bother recommending specific systems, as the web is chock-full of sites with more information that I can possibly give you.
(I am tempted to mention that, if your shooting is generally slow and contemplative, you might consider a 4x5 system...but that's a whole other issue.)
Film is cheap. Opportunities are priceless.
Go to KEH.com and shop. They have a huge selection of used equipment that fit your needs. If you are only interested in 35mm and don't want to stay with Minolta, my advice is to go with a Nikon F or F2. They were built better than any subsequent Nikons and the selection of manual focus Nikkor lenses is astounding.
If you think you might be interested in medium format, there are huge bargains in nearly every brand. If your main interest is landscape photography, medium format may be something to look at.
Are you looking for new or used? On the new market the choice for manual focus 35mm is pretty slim.
I'd chime in on considering MF but you mention availability of lenses. How many do you want/need? What focal range? One advantage of the common 35mm systems is the wide range of relatively cheap lenses you can buy. With MF once you get beyond a normal lens you're choices will be fewer and more expensive. The stuff is out there.
If you're doing most of your prints at 11x14 then you really are at the MF or larger level. Unless you're looking for the look of 35mm enlarged that big.
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By all means, go to medium format if you can afford it, and want to! It's not just the cameras, you have processing issues and equipment, too. Just FYI.
Originally Posted by chaim
If you decide to stick with 35mm, others have suggeted Nikon, and that's hardly arguable. However, you can get another Minolta manual body for not much, and it will use all your lenses and accesories that you had with the SRT. If you shop carefully, there are tons of SRT's out there. Just be patient and wait for a good one. If you want to "upgrade: a bit, I would suggest an XD-11 or X700. You can use your "MC" lenses and still get auto exposure, just not all of the exposure options. Then again, "MD" lenses are hardly rare either.
It all boils down to personal preference. Medium format is a revelation if you've never done it, but it will be a small investment.
If you do decide to stay with 35mm, I can heartily recommend the FM3A. Bought one a couple of years ago. No regrets at all. Nice camera, pretty decent glass and priced within the means of those of us who have to keep our day job...
Assuming you don't want to get into large format, tops for landscapes and large enlargements is a 6 x 9. There are some great deals out there nowadays. I picked up a Horseman VR that was formerly a police unit, for $750 with lens, case and some accessories. The entire set would have run some $3-4k new. There's a unit right now with multiple lenses (ebay item 3873590578).
I second the X-700. It isn't the best sold manual Minolta for nothing. Very sturdy, very easy goes on forever....
David Goldfarb gave some compelling reasons to consider the Bronica line of MF SLR's. I have a zenza with a nikkor 75mm f/2.8 -- a really sharp lens. The many Bronica slrs' might offer the lens selection and a desirable price range. Others here have been celebrating the drop in Hassy equipment...
I my self don't shoot landscapes, but if I did I'd use a field camera.