Although I'm fond of my old Rolleicord, it's kind of like a wheezy old sheepdog - better left by the fire than dragged around and made to work. The finder is a bit dim, and yes I know it's improvable, but is it worth it? Also, last weekend I came back with a roll of slide film that had being totally blown away by a light leak. And so it goes on. Anyway, I've decided to get a second hand MF kit. I want square format, and interchangeable lenses, which narrows it down to Hasselblad, Mamiya 6, Bronica SQ or Rollei.
Bronica's are OK, but don't feel too nice, and given the choice between Rollei and 'Blad, then I'll take mechanical simplicity any day of the week. So, down to Mamiya 6 or Hasselblad.
The Mamiya 6 is an easy buy, as there's only one body and a few lenses, but I'm wanting to do some informal portraits and understand that closer focussing isn't the Mamiya's speciality. I borrowed one for a few weeks a year ago and liked it for general work, but don't feel it'll give me the flexibility. I only want to buy this camera once, then use it for the next N years, and don't think the 6 will "carry" that far.
So, 'Blad then. A 500 series seems the best choice, with 80mm, A12 back and waist level finder (I love WL) to start, but what else should I look out for? From which model onwards can I count on say another 20-30 years of useful life? I know that's pretty hypothetical.
Anybody got any other suggestions? Is this why every MF user seems to end up with a Hasselblad?
Well, having had a hassey and a Bronica....
the biggest difference I found between the two was that the hassey was heavier. Not an advantage in my book. I prefer my Bronica. Solid, very dependable, and you don't have to rent out the children in order to afford lenses and accessories. And the lenses are very, very sharp.
So, I suppose if you have your heart set on a hassey, go for it. But I think Bronica is underrated and is a better use of money.
For what it's worth, almost every image on both of my sites ( www.cheryljacobsphotography.com and www.cheryljacobsportraits.com) was made with a Bronica. There are maybe five or six hassey shots there, and I'm pretty sure you can't pick them out. ;)
So, I listened to Cheryl and went and played with an SQ-Ai on the way home. Couldn't play with a Hasselblad because it was locked in a display case with the Leicas - there's a lesson there somewhere. Anyway, I wrote down a few prices and am now in awe of the price differences, principally of the accessories like film backs, which are only 27,000 Yen compared with a kidney (over 3.3x Bronica) for a 'Blad A12. Yes, so new is a bad idea, but even second hand I presume the savings are in similar proportions. And lenses?! Like, wow. Sometimes I really wish I wasn't rational. I have loopy friends who'd have bought a 'blad by now and would be enjoying themselves with it, but oh no, I have to think it through. Bah!
I was using Bronica sq equipment until recently. It was my 1st Mf camera and I thought it was great. Then I bought an old and virtually decrepit Rollei SL66 with a Carl Zeiss 80mm planar lens and was blown away by the difference. The negative image is immediately visibly sharper. Needless to say, I have now sold the Broni gear and am slowly getting together a Rollei outfit, sure the backs and lenses are more expensive than the used Broni stuff, but the improvements in quality make this much more acceptable to me.
I use a Bronica SQ-a and am very happy with it. The lenses are affordable and of good quality. I bought it a few yearas ago, and I chose it over the 'Blad because of price. Now that digital is more popular the prices of used MF cameras have dropped so much, that if I were buying now, I think I could afford, and would go with the 'Blad.
You can't beat the Zeiss glass!!
I was going to have my rollei cleaned and repaired back to specs before I realized after taking it out of the closet that not only is there some sort of fungus between the lenses, the film transport is off, but the cable release thread is also missing :) (purchased cheap to play with). After receiving some inheritance money I test shot a hasselblad and a bronica with chromes and borrowed a high power schneider loupw from a friend (10x I believe). Using the latest bronica 80mm lens (the PS) and a one generation old hasselblad (the name eludes me at the moment, but it was a T something and it was black) 80mm lens I couldn't tell any difference at all in the center nor the edges once I hit f/5.6. At f/4 I thought I could see a difference, but I wasn't sure, but at f/2.8 the 'blad lens was sharper in the corners, but not enough to justify the price difference to me. I purchased the SQAi and have been loving it. If you'll check the prices at KEH you'll see that you can pretty much buy a 50, 80, 150, 250 lens set for the Bronica for the price a 'blad 50mm will set you back. I can outfit myself with the 4 lenses I anticipate using, 4 backs, a polaroid back, a WL and prism finder, and two bodies for under: $2500. That's even better than you can do in most 35mm systems! I purchased my initial set (SQ-Ai, WL finder, 120 back, and 80mm lens) locally from a gentleman who moved to digital and borrowed the hasselblad from the friend with the loupe. But all of my prices from www.keh.com where I buy a lot of my used equipment. Their used prices are near ebay's and you get a 60 day warranty and 7 day return window and the guarantee of actually receiving the product.
disclaimer: no, my test was not done in laboratory conditions nor checked against l/mm charts, but I don't shoot in a laboratory nor do I shoot charts for my normal photography. I just shot a roll each outside of a stationary object from a tripod with mirror lock-up on an overcast day through the range of apertures and subjectively looked at the results. In the end I knew I was going to buy the bronica just based on the $$$ factor, but I wanted to see how much quality I was going to give up and the answer is very, very little. At the sizes I hand print (11x14 and under, usually around 8"x8") I don't ever anticipate that any difference in quality could ever be seen--at least by me and that is what counts to me. In my opinion, with today's computer tested lens models any modern lens will perform well enough for 95% of people and 4% of the others shoot with older lenses for the je ne sais quois they bring to the image. When you add the increase in film technology you really shouldn't have a problem. If expenses are a factor and you don't care if people see you shooting with a bronica (some people HAVE to shoot with a hassy or a rollei and I'm not knocking those who actually use their equipment, but I'm sure we have all met someone who wields their gear as a status symbol: i.e. the colored hasselblad bodies or the special edition leica cameras) then I say buy the bronica with a couple of extra backs and lenses that the savings over the hassie will net your wallet and just go shoot. In a few months you will wonder why you even cared what camera you purchased, it's not about the gear, it's about the images. </rant>
I also a Bronica fan! I have my GS1 6x7 since about 15 years and never a repair action and only 1x in service in a bit more then 15 years.
It is a true workhorse and I use it with 4.5x6 and 6x6 and 6x7 backs and like to have the lightest 6x7 reflex!
I agree that the normal lenses for most systems are pretty much a dead heat for resolution. But it's all the other stuff that your analysis did not take into account, like contrast, color fidelity, bokeh (sp), repair record etc etc. that makes the difference. Also when you get into the wideangles especially, you will notice a huge difference between Zeiss and the rest. I don't have any axe to grind, I used Bronica for years, Rollei as well. But when push came to shove, when I wanted the best IMAGES I settled on Blad. I don't give a crap about names etc or trying to impress anyone with what I pull out of the camera bag. As you said "it's not about the gear, it's about the images". I couldn't have said it any better.
I actually used the normal 50mm lens on my 35mm camera 85% of the time which is why the 80mm is what I was testing. I want to shoot more with a wide angle, but to buy a 'Blad 50mm (my target lens) it will cost me over $1000 for the lens alone (not taking into account the chrome "C" lenses as I was told that these are the oldest and to get the T* lenses) plus close to another $100 for the hood. At my enlargement size I don't really believe there will be any appreciable quality difference. As for color fidelity, I just shot the chromes because I didn't want there to be any quality control issues in my test--I only shoot black and white in medium format and do color with a 35mm point and shoot and probably a (blasphemy!) digital in the future. As for contrast, modern multi-coating and a hood along with proper darkroom magic should suffice. For the bokeh, I haven't shot with either the 'blad or bronica 50mm so I can't say anything there, but this can also change sample to sample. Finally, to the repair record: I can by 3 bronica 50 lenses for every hasselblad 50mm so if it's not cheaper to fix it, I can just buy another and still be ahead.
For me and my $$$ situation Bronica made the most sense. If I had the money and could spare it I probably would have gone with the 'Blad, because as you say, they are the best. But if you're in the same money predicament as I am I think the opportunity for an entire system at the Bronica price point more than makes up for a slight quality difference, others may see it differently, but this is just how I played it.