Options for 6X9
After using a borrowed Fuji 6X9 rangefinder, I am interested in exploring the 6X9 format more. I really enjoyed the Fuji, but I would also prefer to avoid paying as much as what appears to be the common prices for them. So, I am interested in other options. What I have thought about so far are folders like Super and not Super Ikontas, Erconas, Agfas and Moskvas, Medalists, and the various view-type field and press cameras which can take 6X9 rollbacks. But, I would like the best compromise between price and image quality, and I have concerns about film flatness and front-cell lens focusing issues with folders. The field and press camera option will involve cameras that are larger in size than what I would consider optimal, and I am also concerned about film flatness issues with old rollbacks.
Which leaves Medalists. I know from reading about them that they are heavy, and there is the 620 issue, and I am not too worried about those variables. But from the photos I have seen, the viewfinder looks tiny. How easy is it to compose through one of those viewfinders? They also seem to be selling right now for not that much less than the older Fuji rangefinders.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
On my second year learning about 6x7 and 6x9, so far I have 3 cameras and the 4th is on the way.
Used prices are falling away.
Film Flatness is way down on my list of items I have to improve as a hobbiest and probably not even an issue.
Higher on the list for purchasing old equipment - shutter cleaning and calibration, and deteriorated light seals.
As far as focussing the folders, the issue is that modern films, say iso 200+, will force the thing to be ~ f/16 if outdoors; I found scale focus gives sharp results.
If you are going to do close ups / indoors, maybe you need an slr or (an older) camera with ground-glass focussing.
I explored this question pretty thoroughly a few years ago, and I came to the conclusion that there are about four options:
2. Fuji rangefinder.
3. View cameras and their close kin, either in 2x3 size or with a rollfilm back.
4. Monster SLRs like RB Graflexen and the Rittreck Optika.
...and I guess the Medalist, which I'd never considered because of the 620 issue.
I've owned all but the Fuji, which I handled in a store and decided against because of its size---in hindsight I'm not sure I was right.
You've pretty much constrained yourself down to a Medalist, among those options, but I wonder how solid all those constraints are. For instance, and with apologies for a kind of rude question, are you a good enough photographer on all the other axes that film flatness is a significant issue? (I'm not, and I suspect many of us aren't---of course some of us are, and for those people it matters.)
I think sheet film has fewer flatness issues than rollfilm in this size, which might actually argue for one of the smaller view cameras---a 6x9 plate camera isn't much bigger than a 6x9 folder and a heckuva lot smaller than a Fuji RF. Loading individual sheets is a bit of a pain, but then so is respooling to 120. I'd consider it in your position.
The Medalist viewfinder question I'm afraid I don't know about. It doesn't look that small to me in photos, though---remember that the camera is bigger than it appears!
In a recent thread, dehk was looking into what might be a great way to shoot 6x9 - a small Crown Graphic.
You would be able to explore many lens options, including Kodak Ektar. If you could find a small Speed Graphic with a working focal plane shutter you would have more lens options because you would be able to use barrel lenses.
I love shooting 6x9, and have two folders. I don't love the dust from bellows. But I enjoy the compact size, reasonable weight and the large negatives. Film flatness is a non-issue because the look you get is NOT a clinical perfectly sharp edge-to-edge image. You get areas that are sharp with a little softness on the edges.
When you get a folder like an Ikonta or Bessa, you get one lens - one camera. And that's fine, but you commit to the look in advance.
At least the Medalist doesn't have bellows to get leaky/flakey.
But it weighs three pounds and for that weight, I can use my 4x5.
I have a Medalist, and although I don't use it as often as my folders, mainly for reasons of weight and bulk, I do like its combined view- and range- finder optics, which work very well for me.
The folders that you (the OP) mention are what I would regard as 'premium model' ranges, as distinct from less expensive brands sold at the time for the 'family snapshot' market. I have had, or still have, 1930s Super Ikonta, 1930s Voigtlander Bessa(/Rangefinder), 1950s Agfa Record III and 1950s Ensign Selfix,. In all those I have found the design of film management to be quite adequate, and film flatness not an issue; I like to apply a little final tension to the film wind after opening the bellows.
Front cell focussing was good enough for the Super Ikonta and others of those models; if you want whole-lens focussing there is the Bessa Rangefinder, and its (more expensive) descendant the Bessa II.
Originally Posted by wombat2go
And it should not be assumed that uncoated lenses will give 'washed-out' colour pictures, just avoid flare by use of a hood or otherwise shielding as appropriate.
Good folders have air vents around the negative mask to prevent the film being moved by the bellows opening - my Nettar and Icarette both have this. In the summer, I use 100ASA film in my folders - this time of year I should probably use 400ASA.
Kinda big and heavy, but I love my Mamiya Super Press 23. Lots of options and flexibility, and always sharp (so long as you focus correctly).
Ebay regularly has lots of Baby Graphics with Ektar lenses. And occasionallly a roll film back to go on it. Seems like a good option to me. I have one.
I think the Medalist may be an excellent choice for you, given that you are OK with a fixed lens camera (I am assuming the Fuji you borrowed did not have interchangeable lenses either), and as you say you are not concerned about the 620 film issue or the weight of the camera. As far as I have been able to tell, film flatness is not any kind of issue at all with the Medalist. I find the viewfinder to be more than bright enough, and its automatic parallax correction is a nice feature too. The split-image rangefinder may seem relatively small, but it is a joy to use since it has a great deal of magnification and is therefore extremely precise. As for its lens, the Ektar on the Medalist is highly regarded, arguably offering better image quality than almost anything you will find on a folder.
Thank you for all of your advice. I expected it would be diverse, and it is. Since my earlier post I have done some more research, and it has allowed me to rule out some of the lower spec folders because I want a shutter that has at least a nominal speed above 1/200 (and I do know that leaf shutters on those cameras often are slower than promised). And I did look at Mamiya Universal Press cameras because I remembered they shot 6X9. I will investigate Baby Graphics, as I am intrigued by the possibilities of trying different lenses and having some perspective controls. But size-wise, these are my finalists right now: Mess Ikonta C, early Fuji 6X9 rangefinder or a Medalist II if I can find one that is fully functional at a comparable price. You've convinced me to stop worrying about film flatness. I had figured that if any roll-film format would be problematic in that area, it would be 6X9.