Would like to try medium format - suggestions? Zeiss Ikon 6x9? Koni Omega?


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Feb 9, 2011
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Cincinnati, OH
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I'd like to try medium format and I was curious if anyone had any suggestions?

Here's my goals:

Shooting: lanscapes (wider than 80mm-35mm equivalent preferred)
Weight: preferably under 3-4 pounds (can take backpacking/hiking)
Budget: under $200 but under $100 even better - I know your Mamiya 7 is awesome, I just don't want to spend that much :)
Film: I'd like a camera that takes 120 film for convenience
Optics: don't have to be the absolute best, but good enough - the whole reason for med format is so that the images are better than 35mm, right? :)

I was thinking maybe a rangefinder like the Zeiss Ikon 6x9? Or Koni Omega? Or a graflex 6x9? Recommendations for these or other cameras?

Thanks for the suggestions!
35mm equivalent preferred
under $200 but under $100 even better
Optics: don't have to be the absolute best, but good enough - the whole reason for med format is so that the images are better than 35mm, right? :)

Just spitballing here, and I'd like to hear everyone else's suggestions, but I think that set of goals might be difficult to achieve. Something might have to give. The cheap 6x9s usually have a 105 mm or so lens (43 mm equivalent). If I have interpreted your angle of view requirement correctly you want something a little wider than that (80 to 85 mm on 6x9, ie 35 mm equivalent). If the 105 is acceptable you stand a much better chance, particularly with fixed lens, compact and light folding cameras. Personally, I'd suggest increasing your budget a little if you can, even if you are OK with a 105 mm. If you buy carefully on eBay you should be paying close to what you will get if you decide you don't want it.

I used an Ensign Autorange 820 for a long time (a folding 6x9 with a 105 mm lens) and now use a Bessa II. The Autorange wasn't exactly dirt cheap when I bought it, and it seems to have become more of a collector's item recently (I sold mine a while ago). I bought the Bessa II very cheaply because it had a lens in poor condition and then put a new-ish Nikkor into it. That would come within your budget and meet all your goals, but those 105 mm Nikkor-M lenses don't come up very often and not many other lenses have sufficiently similar physical characteristics. Fortunately not many people want them.

I don't know prices for the Koni Omega cameras. The equivalent Mamiya Press system could work for you - get a Super 23 or Universal body, cut the rangefinder off the top, and use a 75 mm lens, scale focused. (or keep the rangefinder on and accept the weight and bulk). You'll pay more than $200 because of the value of the 75 mm lens - it is a very fine lens, which covers the full size of Fuji 3-1/4 by 4-1/4 instant pack film (get the Universal if you want to use instant film as well as 120). The 90 mm Mamiya lens is still good, and cheaper than the excellent 75 mm. That could come close to your budget, and I suspect a Koni with a 90 mm might come close as well.

Good luck,
I love MF, and IMO, if you want to go cheap, go all the way and just a Holga. That will get you in to the game for <$50, and you will have a reason for missing most of the MF experience. There really is nothing better than looking at large, razor-sharp negatives. I would suggest upping the budget to something more in the $750 - 1000 range and look toward a Mamiya or Pentax 645. If you really want to stay with (or near) that budget, than head over to eBay and look for one of the many Soviet-era copies. Kiev would be my first choice (nice Hassy copy with pretty good glass), or maybe a Zenet.
Bronica SQ-A, 120 6x6 back, 80mm f/2.8 Zenzanon-S lens, 50mm Zenzanon PS lens,waist-level finder...immaculate condition...$299. Yeah, I bought that exact outfit for $299 in 2008. Quite a lot of value in that, considering that in the 1990's that same Zenzanon-PS 50mm wide-angle was selling for $1600 or so...

I think your $200 budget is unrealistic, unless you can accept something with a longer lens, and/or maybe a twin lens reflex with a 75mm or 80mm lens...$200 just isn't "quite" enough cash. For the money spent, the Bronica SQ or SQ-A system would be my suggestion for good lenses, low price, and availability.
Helen, Tired, Derrel, thanks so much for all the suggestions. Incredibly helpful considering I've never even seen a medium frame camera.

I guess I should clarify a little bit. I don't feel like I need to hVe interchangeable lenses, since I can just buy a different camera system for different focal lengths. I was thinking that if I wanted to do portraits I could just buy a seperate camera with a more telephoto lens. So I guess I'm flexible on the focal length.

I was thinking I'd potentially end up with two cameras, a 6x7 or 6x9 with a wide-ish lens, lighter rangefinder for backpacking and a maybe a 6x6 TLR or SLR that is more regular to telephoto focal length for portrait type stuff.

I just don't want to drop a whole lot of money on what is an experiment into medium format.

Tired, where you thinking something like this Kiev-6c? Helen, unfortunately the Mamiya press cameras seem to around $400 in working order. Derell, same with the Bronica, maybe end up there down the line if I fall in love with medium format.

Maybe Tirediron is right, start with a Holga and play around, then I think I might have a better idea what I'm looking for? $30 on ebay for the Holga 120N, is there any type of Holga that is better than another? Still considering the Koni-Omega Rapid 100? Also, I've read good things about the Yashica-mat 124, its just a little heavier than I'm looking for I think....

Thanks everyone for the info!
I'm guessing that like most of us, once you drink the MF Kool-Aid (after that first roll of BIG, clear, sharp negatives comes back), you will be hooked, and a single body/lens just won't cut it. Now, that's just a guess on my part, but... That said, there are many different styles of Kiev (and all the other Soviet bodies). The 6C wouldn't be a bad choice; much better than a Holga or the similar "toy" MF bodies, but my preference would be for the Kiev 88 (I know this one is a bit above your budget, but if you keep an eye on it, you can probably find one with an unmetered prism or waist-level finder, 80mm lens and one back for ~$200ish.

If you do go the Holga route, don't forget to budget for a significant purchase of gaffer's tape to seal up all the light leaks in the body! AFAIK, there really isn't a "better" Holga. They're a fun camera, but that's about it.
Buying a Holga will defeat your purpose of improved image quality vs 35mm. Holgas have very poor quality plastic lenses that produce fuzzy images. This is what some find appealing about them. Search Google Images for "Holga shots" and you'll see. If that is what you want -- that's fine. If not, your 35mm will give you better quality images than a Holga.

Kiev cameras have a poor reputation for reliability -- even some brand new Kiev cameras were broken. They are also hard to sell due to their reputation. The eBay item you linked to offers a warranty but the seller is located in The Ukraine and you'd have to ship your camera there for repairs.

You can get a very good condition Yashica TLR for less than $200. These can provide excellent image quality and most weigh less than 3 lbs. Just be sure it is in good working condition with clean lens. Yashica TLRs were made into the 1970s and early 80s so it's possible to get one that isn't ancient. The last 2 models were the Yashica-Mat 124 followed by the 124G. Mint 124Gs bring $300+ but less pretty ones and earlier models can easily be had for less than $200.

PS - I would avoid the "Yashica-24" as it is intended for 220 film and also any "Yashica 44" cameras as those are for 127 film.
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Compur and Tired, thanks for the response.

Just curious what people opinions are on the folding cameras, like the Zeiss Ikon 6x9? Prices seem pretty reasonable....
Bronica's are pretty awesome value/dollar, so are Mamiya 645's. Granted, the 645 negative isn't going to be as nice as 6x9 since it's half the size, but it's still much better than 35mm
I've always liked medium format folders for when I'm out for a walk (I guess that means hiking and backpacking). Although I have a couple of Plaubel Makinas, I still use my Bessa II. The 6x9 Zeiss Ikontas are similar quality, especially the ones with the coated Tessar. you don't really need a coupled rangefinder most of the time - uncoupled is fine.

Under $100? Rangefinders are out. I do have a Moskva5 folding 6x9 rangefinder I would be willing to sell you for $60, but "inflict" would be more accurate than "sell". Many good folders in your price range, but they have limitations and issues. The best deals for cheap MF might be TLRs. Simple ones with triplet lenses, "red window" film advances can deliver outstanding results. My Graflex 22 is a great camera. Plenty of others in that class can be had for $50 or less. Also, there is not much that can go wrong with these that can't be set to rights by an amateur with a few screwdrivers, some lighter fluid and a box of Q-tips.

$20 Graflex 22 with the much maligned (cheaper) Graflar lens stopped down a bit:

Gave under $100 for a Yashica LM TLR on eBay. You can grab one pretty cheap, but you have to be picky. It took me 2 months to finally get this one, because most of the others were going for above my budget. Here's a landscape that I shot at f22 1/2 second exposure. Kodak Ektar ISO 100. Actually a pretty good pic, but scanned in with my crappy 600dpi scanner.

f22 Landscape by kamelean, on Flickr
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Thanks again Kamelean, Proteus and Helen!

I'm leaning towards the graflex 22 or Zeiss Ikonta to start with, if I find one or the other that seems to be working well on Ebay.
Zeiss is nice! A 105mm in a 6x9 is much like a 50mm lens in a 35mm.

A post war 532 or 533 with the coated lens takes great photos. Then again the uncoated lenses are excellent too, you just have to wear a hat to use as lens hood. If you don't mind a slower lens then some of the older models are fine too just remember that if it has a red window on the back to tape it off with some gaffer's tape to guard against light leakage (the old film didn't mind red light so much as the newer). This may stretch your budget a bit but these things are built like Panzers and when folded fit easily into a pack or jacket pocket.

Whatever you get be sure to check the shutter speeds (you can use a computer and a mic with a freeware audio program). If you're using negative film being in the ball park (smallish park) is close enough but if you want to use chromes then you will probably need the shutter cleaned.

Good luck

Buying a Holga will defeat your purpose of improved image quality vs 35mm. Holgas have very poor quality plastic lenses that produce fuzzy images. This is what some find appealing about them. Search Google Images for "Holga shots" and you'll see. If that is what you want -- that's fine. If not, your 35mm will give you better quality images than a Holga.

BTW, I did seach Holga images and I see what you mean. And WOW, the vignetting is off the charts, looks like fun for $30 though...

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