Which Medium Format camera for a newbie?


TPF Noob!
Jul 7, 2003
Reaction score
Manchester, England
Hi - Having just got a job in a camera store and being entitled to a discount, I was thinking about buying a meduim format camera. My budget nevertheless is tight, and I was thinking about maybe the Bronica SQ-B or SQAI? Anyone know about these cameras or can recommend one to me? :D
The SQ Ai is the better camera of the two, but they both take the same lenses and they are very good. You need to ask yourself if you really want the square format. There are a few options. You should ask some of the people you now work with and get their opinions and learn more about them as you gain experience in the store. I wouldn't be in a big hurry to jump right in to medium format not knowing more about it.

What type of photograph do you mostly shoot?
Both of these cameras have leaf shutters.
Not good for action shots.
You can get blur in the center of the frame.

How mush film, do you shoot in a mouth or so now?

Is it mostly Color or B&W?

Do you Development and Print your film yourself?

What is the cost of film in your vicinity? 35mm 24 frame & 220

Cost of Development and Print film in your vicinity?

Film backs, does the camera package come with both a 120 & 220 back,
If not what is cost of another back, there are 4 options 6x6 and 645 in 120 & 220
Oh...I obviosuly haven't thought it through, because I haven't considered any of those things!

Well I mainly shoot architectural photos, and portaits of people and would like to do landscapes.

I use about 5 roll sof film a month and prefer black and white to colour. What does a leaf shutter mean? and what does 120/220 mean? why does it make a difference what 'back' you have?

I develop my black and white negatives but not colour. It says in the catologue that the camera Bronica SQAI let you choose a size? 6x4.5 or 6x6 or 35mm. Does that mean I can use different films in it?

Why does it matter what size, 6x4.5 or 6x6? Is it to do with quality?

Deeply puzzled in Manchester. :roll:
120 & 220 are film sizes, both are 6cm wide, 120 holds 12 6x6cm frames and 220 24 frames

6x4.5 and 6x6 are frame size in cm, there is not different quality.

Backs are the cartridges that hold the film and mount on the back of the camera, their size refers to film that they are design to work with and frame size they produces. If you put 120 film in a 220 back, or visas-versa the spacing between frames will be off, the frames may over lap or the last frame will be cut off.

In the US the cost of film, development and enlargement for 220 vs. 35mm 24 frame are about the same, for both color and B&W
Proof prints color 220 about .50 cents, 35mm between 5 to 25 cents, big cost different
B&W proofs about the same around .50 cents

The two type of shutters used in most cameras today are leaf and focal-plane.

Leaf shutter cameras have a curtain in the camera body that covers the film, the shutter is in the lens, works similar to the aperture.
How it works (very simple put). Your are look thru the camera, the curtain is closed - the shutter open, as you take the picture the curtain opens – shutter closes, next the curtain closes, you advance the film, the shutter opens, start over. The entire film is exposed immediately. You may get motion burr at a shutter speed of 60 with low speed movement

Focal-plane shutter cameras the shutter and curtain are the same and are located in the camera body. Them you fire the camera the shutter/curtain open a slit in itself, the slit is padded across the film. The film is only exposed when the slip is over it. Motion burr is less common. Low speed movement will not burr 99% of the time. High speed will and can be made to if you want to.

The only book I have on medium format cameras is for Hasselblads. “The Hasselbled Manual” 4th edition by Ernst Wildi
If your store has a copy of it the shutter info is on page 5 of it.
Try to get hold of a copy of the Medium-Format Manual by Michael Freeman, published by Mitchell Beazley, ISBN 0-85533-714-1. It gives an excellent introduction to medium format photography and describes several of the camera systems available.

If you don't print in a square format then consider either one of the 6x4.5 systems or move up to a 6x7 for the ultimate in medium format quality.

If you are on a tight budget then consider buying second hand. It's probably best to avoid equipment that has seen professional use but there is loads of gear that has only had light amateur use and is practically "as new".

One of the drawbacks with medium format is that there are no 3rd party lenses for the various systems and compared with 35mm and digital the market is small so the lenses tend to be expensive. However, the quality obtainable, especially from the larger formats, can be quite stunning.
check out the TLR Yashica Mat 124... I took some great shots with mine.
Another camera to consider is an incarnation of the Mamiya 645. You can get them used for about $400 on eBay. I have a catalogue here that lists the 645e new for $700 with an 80mm f/2.8 lens. I personally prefer the 6x6 format, but it's pretty good deal for a great camera.
Take this with a grain of salt, because I'm new to Medium Format myself...

But I just purchased a Kiev88 CM. It's a Hasselblad nock off from the Ukrane. A brand new 6X6 is only $500. Just to get used to the format without breaking the bank, I thought I would give this a try...

A good place to read up on them is on http://www.kievcamera.com/links.shtml.

Hope this helps...
Don't overlook vintage cameras as an inexpensive way to get into medium format. Here are a few that I have tried:

Norita 66: designed by the guy who created the Nikon F. It looks like a big, black 35mm SLR. It usually comes with a 80mm f/2 lens, and they go for about $350 on EBAY. There are other lenses and accessories available, but I've only tried the 80mm. It is super sharp and fast! This camera has the standard features found on a mechanical 35mm SLR without the meter.

Zeiss Ikonta: Available in "A" (6x4.5cm), "B" (6x6cm), and "C" (6x9cm) models. These are old folders. They can be no frills to fully stocked with such high tech features as a rangefinder and a meter. There are also several lens qualities; get a tessar design if you can. They range from $50 to $500 depending on quality and condition. I bought a mint condition "C" model with no frills (shutter, aperture, and focus ring only) for $150. It's one of my favorite cameras.

TLRs: New and used models abound ranging from $50 to $1000. Look for Compur shutters, and tessar(4 element) or planar(5 element) design lenses.

I love my old cameras and they produce great photos.

Most reactions

New Topics