Medium format--who uses it? Which is recommended and why?

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by terri, Sep 28, 2003.

  1. terri

    terri Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I love my Pentax MZ-S and think it's the BOMB, but I do foresee a time when the limits of 35mm might start to get to me. I want to take a looooong lead-in time to study medium format.

    I would love to learn that there is a medium format camera out there that is relatively compact, lightweight and basically doesn't act like it's going to be cumbersome outside a studio environment. I'd like a nimble system with good lens selection.

    We can pretend that price is no object, but I dread hearing that Rollei and Hasselblad are the only cameras meeting this crieteria... :roll:

    So... any ideas? :D
     
  2. photobug

    photobug TPF Noob!

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    Here may be a good place to start looking.

    The one system they don't mention is the Kiev 88, which is a Russian Hassie knock-off.

    Medium format being less popular than 35mm, you may not be able to meet all your criteria, but you should be able to come close.

    I'm looking at the Kiev myself, for cost & the fact that it'll mount some really great older lenses.

    Jim
     
  3. terri

    terri Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    cool!!! Thanks for the link! :thumbsup:
     
  4. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    If price is no object then Rollei, Hassy, Mamiya, and Pentax all have modern med format SLR systems with an assortment of interchangable lenses and accessories. They are all a little different, and you'll find a wide range of opinions about each. They all do a superb job, although one system may be better for certain types of photography and photographers than another.

    It seems to me that "light and compact" is not usually heard with "interchangable lenses" in MF camera systems. You will find that the fixed lens rangefinders, folders, and TLRs are much smaller, lighter, and compact than any MF camera with interchangable lenses. I take the Pentax 67 on the portrait shoots, and the Rollei TLR on the all day hike.

    I have a Pentax 67II body with a 90mm leaf shutter lens and a 165mm leaf shutter lens. It is designed like a big 35mm SLR so the feel and operation is very familiar and easy. I've had pretty good luck using it hand-held, but I still use it with a tripod 99% of the time. It takes awesome quality pics; 16x20s and 20x24s look darn good with ISO 400, and look amazing with ISO 100. It is solidly built, and the weight reflects this; I mean, I don't think it's too heavy, but it's much heavier than a modern, plastic, 35mm SLR.

    Used 67II bodies seem to go for about $1000+. The lenses range from $300 - $800 used. Older models such as the P6x7 and P67 are cheaper ($400 - $800), and they all use the same lenses (good ol' Pentax). I think that the older models are a good deal, just make sure you get one with mirror lock-up.

    The two big criticisms you'll usually hear about P67s is no interchangeable film backs (okay for me, I shoot it with TMax 100 about 95% of the time), and some people think that the mirror and huge focal plane shutter move too much (camera shake). I use the mirror lock-up feature, and as I said, the pics are razor sharp. As in the 35mm market, Pentax gear goes for a bit cheaper than the other companies mentioned above(good ol' Pentax).

    Now I'm going to give you my vintage camera pitch. If you don't want to spend $2000+, and are willing to give up some (or all) modern features, then quality medium format can be yours for cheap.

    Norita 66: Designed by the guy who built the Nikon F; looks like a slightly smaller P67. Uncommon, but not rare, so there are some lenses and accessories on the market, and they can still be repaired by several folks around the country. Typically comes with a razor sharp, amazingly fast (for MF) 80mm f/2 lens. Built like a tank. I used one for about 2 years, and it was my first MF camera. I loved it. Then the shutter jammed, and I haven't gotten it repaired yet. Usually about $350 on EBAY.

    Rollieflex and Rolliecord TLRs: I am a new TLR convert; I love my Rollei. With a Zeiss Planar or Schnieder Xenotar lens I think that these TLRs easily compete with the latest modern MF cameras for image quality. Works great on and off the tripod. No interchangable lenses, but at 1/10th the cost of a modern MF camera and lens it's a deal. Most go for $150 to $350, with a few as high as $900+. If I were stranded on a desert island with only one MF camera, I'd choose my Rollei hands down.

    MF folders: MF cameras do not get smaller and lighter than the old folders; I carry one almost all the time. They can usually fit (snugly) in your pocket when folded. I've been using a Zeiss Ikonta 6x9 ($150) and an Ansco Titan 6x6 ($70) for a year now. The pic quality is not as high as the P67 or the Rollei, but it is still noticeably better than 35mm. The models I own have no modern features, only shutter, aperture, and a focusing ring(no focusing indicator, so I estimate the distance and have to hope I'm close, I usually am). Some models do have rangefinders built in. These cameras require a bit of old-school photo skill, but for the price and size they are hard to beat.
     
  5. motcon

    motcon TPF Noob!

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    no one mentioned bronica? egads.


    bronica.

    there.
     
  6. terri

    terri Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Thank you for mentioning Bronica, Will... :LOL: Have you used one??

    This is great info, ks....thanks. I don't want to be a slave to a tripod - that's for sure. Although finding one light enough that I can backpack, but still has enough weight to it that it won't blow over in a strong wind, is going to be the next challenge..... :?

    I still plan to be stubborn about finding something with interchangable lenses for now. You're right; I may go back in time and find a used system to build on. hmmm..... I have a lot of reading to do before I start to fondle them on a store counter, that's for sure!!
     
  7. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Oh yeah, Bronica. I didn't mean to slight them. I know many happy Bronica users. Fuji also makes a number of modern folders and rangefinders that get rave reviews; I want one. There really are a lot of MF options out there. Less popular doesn't always mean less quality, but it almost always means less money!

    Terri, don't fear the tripod. Embrace it, make it your friend. It will reward you.
     
  8. metroshane

    metroshane TPF Noob!

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  9. terri

    terri Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Oh, I don't fear the tripod - it has already proven to be a great friend. I DO fear my knees buckling from too much weight when I'm backpacking all my gear, however..... I AM just a girlie type thing, ya know?? :wink: I carry 2 35mm camera backs, my old Pentax ME (for infrared) and the MZ, with 4 lenses. The lenses are interchangable (yes indeed, GOOD old Pentax!!) so when I strap it all in my camera backpack, I'm good to march, even though I'm feeling it. Factor in an unwieldy four-pound tripod, though, and I'm begging to rest every half mile, depending on terrain. bah!! :irked:
     
  10. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    I was in Oregon on the Pacific coast in early August. I was packing my Speed Graphic, a couple of lenses, 12 film holders, the rest of the gear that goes with it, and my tripod (I don't know how heavy it is, but I bought it to handle everything up to 4x5 view cameras). I'd hiked down the long trail to the shore and photographed all day. The return trip up the hill had me considering whether a burro is large format gear. Halfway up I hear something in a tree 20' to my left. It was the cutest little black bear cub; about the size of my 15 month old daughter. It was exactly the situation the nature shows warn you about. Expecting mama bear to come roaring out of the trees to eat me at any moment I started double timing it up the hill. I kept telling myself that if a mama bear did charge I had to abandon the gear, but deep in my heart I wondered if i could.... Thankfully I never did see mama bear. I got to the top of the hill with my heart thumping out of my chest, and soaked in sweat. When I start pulling in the big bucks I'm buying a pack mule, or hiring a Sherpa.
     
  11. motcon

    motcon TPF Noob!

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    the bronica is an excellent machine. it shoots very well and feels good, though prolonged experience i can not give you as i have had no need for mf so no hardcore experience.
     
  12. terri

    terri Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    KS: you did the exact thing mama bear wanted you to do, which was to GIT ON OUTTA there. If you'd hung around trying to get a picture or something, she'd have made her presence known..... I had a similar situation on horseback, a riding trail in Tennesee. Coming up a rise, I startled two black bear cubs who were playing in the trail in the sun. I was enchanted, and froze, and my horse was interested but not panicked, and all was well UNTIL this little sapling on the side of the trail began to shake, and mama bear came lumbering down to look us over. My fellow trail riders were with me by then, though I was still in the lead. I think mama decided there were too many of us to bother with, and she urged the cubs away and they all disappeared in seconds. Within a minute, all sound was gone and you'd never have known they were nearby. A cool moment.

    Will: thanks for telling me what you do know. Bronica has a good reputation and they seem to have a nice system, but I've never even touched one!
     

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