Advice for Used Medium Format Body/Lens/Back


No longer a newbie, moving up!
Aug 9, 2014
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Denton, TX
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  • My budget is about $600-800 bucks.
  • Need to have a PC sync for my pocket wizards to fire the speedotron.
  • Want to do mainly studio portraits at first.
  • I like the 6x6 square format but it's not a deal breaker.
  • For some reason I feel drawn to the Mamiya brand but I don't know why, maybe it's because I see so many of them?

I plan on shopping at KEH ... Simply because I've had such great experience with them. I'm not asking anyone to do research for me, just looking for guidance.

Also, an additional goofy question ... If I buy a 120 back will it shoot 220? Vice versa? If I have a 120/220 back must I look for film that says 120/220 on the box.
I can only speak for the RB67 (as well as the M645, but that may not be what you're looking for).

One huge advantage to the RB is it's interchangeability of all the parts. Not just different lenses, but focus screens, viewfinders and film backs. I really like the different film backs as I have 4 and can shoot b&w with the Zone System in mind, plus color. In addition, you can change film backs at any time. You can shoot as many films as you like as long as you're willing to buy a back for each one.

It also doesn't rely on batteries. And the things are damned solid. When you actuate it, you feel like you've just stamped out a car's quarter-panel.
Years ago, I went with the Bronica SQ-A system...Seiko electronically timed shutters in every lens, 6x6 format in 120 backs, 220 backs, 35mm panoramic backs, 6x4.5 "tall" backs...each back, or magazine has its own dark slide, and uses a pre-loadable insert, so the rear door can be opened, and a fresh, pre-loaded instert just popped in, and the rear door slapped closed, and then BOOM! no need for a magazine change. Or...if desired, the entire magazine can be pre-loaded by spooling the film on the insert, putting the insert into the back, closing the back door,winding to frame 1, and then using the entire magazine as a "back". These days, such matters matter very little.

I like the size and weight of the SQ-A system cameras, much smaller than an RB or RZ, and infinitely less clunky. Affordable these days as well. I shot at a Seattle area portrait studio with the RB67....OMG...what a dog of a camera. Almost Soviet-like engineering.

As far as I know, only the modern Hasselblads (the Fuji-blads!) can use 120 and 220 film interchangeably; every older camera "I" am aware of needed separate backs, or a different pressure plate, etc. But I am not an expert in 220 film. But in common, older MF rollfilm cams, 120 was normally the common back/magazine, 220 was for higher-volume shooters.
If you want ONLY 6x6...there are twin lens reflex cameras priced from $100-$3,999 from Yashica and Seagull at the low end, to Rolleiflex at the high end. Mamiyaflex C220 and C330 and C330Professional bodies offer interchangeable lens sets, wides, semi-wides, normals, teles, long teles, very simple interchangeable lens system. I allllmost bought a C330 kit with three lenses, paramender, prism, and handgrip at one time, back in '83. I ended up buying a Nikon instead.

Something simple like a Yashica-Mat 124G is a natural for simple portraiture using studio flash, has a PC socket on it, leaf shutter, works well. That would be the lower-cost, newer, probably less-worn-out option, rather than a 50- to 60-year-old Rolleiflex of vintage provenance.
With repair resources disappearing faster than pro labs, I'd try to source the newest/best condition MF gear you can afford. Mamiya RZ kits might be a better deal than RB series gear since so much of the latter can be old and smoked.
Square format options are very limited: Hasselblad or Bronica. I'm no fan of any of the holy relic TLRs, whether Yashica, Mamiya or Rollei, since getting a reliable example either at a fair price or refurbed affordably is dicey. Bronicas are nice. You might be able to find an SQ-B kit at a decent price in good shape--essentially a stripped-down SQ-Ai. I own one and like it for studio shooting. They were among the last Bronica 6x6 cameras made.

With respect, there's also 645. Options from Mamiya, Pentax and Bronica will cost less and deliver lots of what sets medium format apart from 35mm. Worth exploring.

In 2015, stick with 120. 220 backs and inserts are dirt cheap simply because there's so little 220 film produced now.
And yet, of my two Mamiyas, the post-2000 645 is the one with shutter problems while the 50-year old C330 has no issues. Older is not automatically better, but neither is newer. Judge it by the individual camera and your particular needs, not by using blanket generalizations.

220 film is the same size/spool as 120 but without the backing paper. Many film backs will come with inserts for either 120 or 220 to accommodate the slightly different thicknesses of the rolls (it's mostly about the placement/adjustment of the pressure plate to make sure the proper pressure is applied to the film to keep it lying flat.)
Ive got three RZ67s and love them. If you can find one for a good price, I would have zero hesitation picking it up.
Ive got three RZ67s and love them. If you can find one for a good price, I would have zero hesitation picking it up.

Way ahead of you ... just pulled the trigger. And if I don't like it ... Adorama has a 30-day return policy. Also got some ilford SFX 200 red-sensitive film I want to try ... and some 125

Wait ... I need a development 120 spool ... need to get that also
Awesome! you'll love it. I had a twin lens Rollei for a while and it was a wonderful camera, but it would not let me get in real nice and close like the RZ will, so off it went to a new owner.
A technical point: I don't need a darkslide, right? I just have to shoot the whole roll of film, then rewind, similar to 35mm?
Not sure the camera will let you remove the back with out a dark slide in place? Ive never tried this before so this is a good question. If no ones spoken up about it, ill try when I get home this evening.
Oh, one other thing ... Have you had any trouble getting the batteries? 4LR44/4SR44
Havent had to go looking for any yet but I know one of them needs a new one. They are everywhere online, so I would think a drug store such as Walgreens/CVS would have them. Walmart doesn't carry squat any more. Maybe HomeDepot/Lowes as well?
One does not 'rewind' 120 film. One rolls it onto the take-up spool.

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