My problem today using the Graflex RH/10 back, and it is an ongoing problem:
I am still using 35mm slr and dslr, I just had a 5 week trip using nothing but a Ricoh kR-5 35mm slr
So on MF I keep forgetting to wind the film on !
I am OK first time I pick the camera up, but taking multi shots ( eg the kids riding bikes or playing soccer etc) I screw it up
It is frustrating , also a waste.
You need to try the Baby Graphic. Using interesting lenses is fairly easy, small cheap lens boards. Look for the best 6x9 back you can find, but with lots of movements it might not matter much. Still looking for a good wide for mine, and some older tessars look quite nice.
I have owned two Fuji 6x9's and they were great cameras, but for the fact that close-focusing wasn't it's strong point. The Mamiya 6x9's are versatile and have very good optics also. Folders can be very good or very bad. I have a "no name folder that looks like my Icarette, but has a 105mm f4.5 uncoated Xenar that takes really nice color and B&W images, but you really have to watch extending the bellows on that one and do it very slow or you'll see the difference in your negative. The Ikonta's , even with the Novar Anastigmat lens is very good. If you don't mind 620 respooling and it sounds like you don't, then find a Kodak Monitor 620 with the lens that has the word "special" on it in red letters. You will then have one of the best folders ever made and at a very reasonable price due to it being 620 film. The Russian Moskva camera is neat, but everyone I have owned had to have it's rangefinder sync'd with the lens and that's not an easy job. I no longer have any modern, high class. 6x9 camera's, but I do have three of the very best ever made. Two Kodak Medalist I's with flash added to both and one Medalist II, plus extension backs, ground glass back and 2x3 sheet film holders. I bought my first Kodak Medalist II in 1975 for $30.00 and have been hooked on the 100mm f3.5 ever since that day. Like Johnyh said, it's a little heavy and bulky so I don't use mine unless I plan on working slow and precise. Good folders win every time when it comes to mobility/ease of use, but that Medalist wins for end results. If you are handy you can work on your own( I do) and adjust what needs to be adjusted. First thing you better do is buy a repair manual copy of the big auction site, set the coffee aside and have plenty of time on your hands, but there's nothing your can't bring up to stuff unless it's broken. Or you could just send it to Bald Mountain for a CLA. Nothing like a big negative to make a person smile. Not to mention a chrome!
I would recommend holding a Medalist and see if it's a camera that you would enjoy using. It's a large and bulky camera, and I never really found a way to hold it comfortably. I'm a guy and have largish hands.
Much also depends on how you shoot. If you want the ability to change lenses, then you should think about the Horseman / Graflex / Fuji / press camera route.
I love my folders, but I realize that they aren't for everyone. And they have their own limits
The earliest Super Ikonta has a shutter release that is a small plunger near the shutter. Not really convenient. The later ones have a left-hand shutter release.
I have an Agfa Record III that is a very nice camera. It has an uncoupled rangefinder, as does the Zeiss Ikon Mess Ikonta 524/2.
The Agfas have their own set of problems, which include frozen lens helicals and plastic bellows, which can develop holes.
The Voigtlander Bessa II sells for a lot of money, especially those with the Heliar.
One thing to realize about any camera from the 1950s or earlier is that it will need to be serviced. There are some cameras that have been serviced. Just make sure that the camera is operating correctly.
In theory, a unit focusing lens should outperform a front-cell focusing lens. I would say that it depends on the lens. Personally, I haven't noticed a huge difference in performance.
My recent favorite is a Zeiss Ikon Mess Ikonta 524/2 with a coated Tessar.
I have some reviews on my site of some 6x9 folders that I own. I also have an older Bessa and the Agfa Record III, which I haven't written about.
You can find Ensign Selfix 820 cameras for reasonable prices, their coated Ross f3.8 Xpres is an excellent lens. There's a plain 820 with no rangefinder, a slightly more expensive 820 Special with an un-coupled rangefinder, and rarer and much more expensive Autorange 820. These all alow dual use as 6x6 or 6x9.
There is the DIY option for those with workshop access or capabilities.
Choose one of the high quality pro lens systems which had leaf shutter lenses.
Used ones are falling in price.
All the technology and image quality is in the lens.
From my searches, and as others are mentioning in this thread, used pro bodies are risky and costly, whereas used lenses are available for reasonable prices and in EX condition.
I chose a Pentax 6X7 90mm ls
The make a camera to suit.
(I put a thread on the Camera Building section, there are others doing this too, making cameras a lot smarter than mine)
I became really interested in this as a hobby and preparing to make another one, taking advice on the way
I use a Mamiya Universal. Very happy with it. Nice lenses and backs.
I have a fondness for Heliar and Novar lenses. A Bessa RF w/ a Heliar (or even a Skopar) would yield superb 6x9 negs. Or get one of the Ikontas w/ Novar lens. Actually, there are a variety of 6x9 folders that will give you excellent shots. Film flatness is not an issue w/ a red window camera. Just don't advance the film all the way after each shot, and snug it up the rest of the way after you've unfolded the camera. A service is a DIY thing. Clean the shutter w/ lighter fluid if it's sticking, clean the lens elements, and confirm and adjust the focus at infinity w/ a GG on the frame rails and a loupe. Very simple stuff.
Save yourself a LOT of grief and buy an inexpensive electronic shutter tester that runs on the free program Audacity. These testers can be had for under $40, or you can build one for peanuts. It's imperative to know at what speed the shutter is firing at, vs what it says on the shutter. A nice clean will nearly always get them up to spec (usually a stop slow), and if your tester shows that you're experiencing shutter bounce, it's better to sell the camera and start anew, as this is a difficult issue to remedy. Otherwise, even a nice under $100 6x9 folder will give you wonderful photos. Unit focus is better than front cell only if you're shooting portraits or up close.
Originally Posted by momus
And here is an actual example from my late-1930s Bessa Rangefinder, Heliar, Ektar 100, check out the detail on the blue tractor at 'Original' size on Flickr. And as momus says, the Skopar is also very good (and btw I have also found the Helomar triplet to be very good).
what is your budget? All in all the fuji rangefinders are probably the best all around bet. I had both the series-III models, they are superb. the GSW sells for more than the GW, for whatever reason.