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09-16-2010, 12:30 PM   #1
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Advice on getting started in medium format

I'm a photography student in need of a film camera. I've already decided I want medium format over 35mm; however, even after plenty of research I'm still undecided about which direction to go: Pentax 67 or another brand (e.g. 6x6; not quite as interested in 645s because it seems if you're going to go medium format you might as well take advantage of the larger negative, right? Or not?)

Currently I use a Pentax K-x with 3 Limited primes and also the 360 FGZ flash, which I believe is compatible with Pentax 67. Beside that accessory I can't see much overlap between the two, though, making me more willing to go with something other than Pentax. But I also hear that despite the bulk, weight, size, etc, that the 67 is a great option.

Any advice? I'm open to any suggestions. Thank you very much.

Also, would I likely need a new tripod or would this SLIK PRO 700DX panhead be sturdy enough to manage the 67, or perhaps another brand's 6x6?

Amazon.com: SLIK PRO 700DX Professional Tripod with Panhead (615-315): Camera & Photo

09-16-2010, 12:54 PM   #2
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Go 67. Will blow you away. But 645 ain't shabby either. Great thing about the Pentax systems is that you can use your 67 lens on 645 with the right adapter and still get auto aperture.

Square is an acquired taste; I love it, so I have Hasselblads, Pentacon Six mount cameras, Norita, Rollleiflex (SLR and TLR). They're all great in one way or another. Ahh, decisions, decisions :-)

With that said, in terms of sheer impact of the images, there are few that can best the 67 with some awesome smc glass (45/4, 105/2.4, 165/2.8...)
09-16-2010, 01:01 PM   #3
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Thank you, RawheaD!

I'm most interested in quality over convenience. For convenience I'll stick with my DSLR. So it sounds like the 67 is a great choice. I've been very happy with Pentax so far (except the suspect auto-focus on my K-x).

As for the 67s, I know there are I think three different kinds that were made, the earliest of which does not include mirror lockup. I know for sure I want that, but what are the other things I should make sure I get when I'm looking at packages on eBay? I've seen things about waist viewfinders and prisms and other things that I'm not exactly sure what they are, how I'd use them, or why I'd need them. I don't want to buy a set only to realize I should've had this prism over that, e.g.

I don't want to cut corners on quality or even cost. I'm buying something to hopefully keep it and use it for a long time, for years, not just for my one-semester class.

Thank you!!!
09-16-2010, 04:45 PM   #4
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The best lens of the bunch IIRC is the 75mm semiwide angle. Rated as very sharp, light (by comparison) and sturdy as Superman. You will have great depth of field to cover those student mistakes. Best of all it requires the user to get close to her / his subject where you will be part of the action and not just some disinterested observer. Other than that it's heavy, tiring and bulky .... you're gonna love it. You'll be way out ahead of the other students. Good Luck and Kind Regards, Michael

09-16-2010, 07:46 PM   #5
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Well, if you can find one at a reasonable price for you, the 67II is worth the investment. As much as I appreciate full manual, sometimes you just want to shoot in "A mode" (with manual focus, of course) with center-weighed metering.


Prisms: you want a metered prism coupled with the shutter speed dial. You just turn the dial till the meter tells you you got good exposure and fire.

WLF: it won't be metered, but it's great for ground-level shots (e.g., flower macro) and street photography––the latter because it's just less consipicuous when somebody's peering down into the camera as opposed to that monster of a camera at eye-level and pointing at people on the streets.

If you can only have one and not the other, get the metered prism.

Wooden grip: it won't help you with composition or holding the camera steady, as some people think (you want your left hand on the bottom of the lens and the camera), but it will make carrying the cam in one hand much more pleasant.

hoods: if you can get lens hoods for your lenses, definitely do! They're hard to come by.


lenses: if you are going to have just one lens, think about what you want to do with the camera the most. If you want to do monstrous landscape photography, you really can't beat the 45/4. If you want to do street photography, shooting almost exclusively @ hyperfocal, then the 75/4.5 is a good in-between lens. Just remember, it's not a fast lens, so focusing with the viewfinder can be tricky.

The "normal" lens for the cam is the 90/2.8. I don't have any experience with that lens, so I won't comment, though why you would want to shoot anything "normal" with this cam is beyond me (that was tongue in cheek btw :-).

My personal fave: the 105/2.4. The shallow depth of focus with this combo is out of this world. If you want to go "artsy", this is it. It's also a focal length that is close enough to the "normal" lens so that if you felt like it, you can always stop down and use it for more "normal" photography :-)















135/4 macro: I've had some experience with this, and it's a solid performer with good close-up capabilities. 165/2.8 is another great one for shallow DoF and perfect if you want to do exclusively human portraiture.


Good luck hunting, and let us know how it goes! :-D
09-16-2010, 09:04 PM   #6
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A 6x7 is a good first medium format camera. Large lens selection, good prices and optional view finders.

I shoot with a compact tripod with my 67. I get away with it because I shoot with a waist level finder on it (makes it lighter) and you don't have to raise the tripod up to standing eye-level. Most the time it is waist level because you have to look down making it sturdy enough. I shoot my 67 more like my 4x5 instead of wanting it to be like a nimble 35mm camera. YMMV.

Last edited by tuco; 09-17-2010 at 08:50 AM. Reason: Oops, spelling
09-16-2010, 10:04 PM   #7
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Don't shoot at me but one thing that you might want to consider, is getting a TLR for about $150 in excellent condition i.e. Minolta Autocord, Rollei, Yashica 124...
It is light, gives some nice sharp 6x6 and will get you a lot of practice shooting in MF. By that time you will likely start developing your films yourself and have a better idea of what you would like next.
I am the worst offender as I have already too many cameras MF and 35mm...
This is my general use:
1) Autocord when hiking or when I do not want to carry anything = go to camera
2) Pentax 645 when traveling in not fully secure places, for shooting when the weather is likely to turn to rain... It is the closest to a SLR from my personal opinion
3) Hasselblad 500CM when I have the time to enjoy a session of shooting by myself, in no hurry and weight or bulk is not an issue. Something classic to enjoy quietly...

Now I do not have:
1) Pentax 67 system
2) Fuji rangefinder MF
3) Fuji/Bessa rangefinder folder (Fuji just announced the release of a 55cm wide that would get anybody salivating. That is anybody with a couple of grands to spare...)

Cheers,

Luc
09-17-2010, 02:22 AM   #8
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Well, the pentax 645 (any version, but the first one has significantly worse controls) is a very nice camera. And personally I find 645 to be enough bigger than 35mm to make a difference. (Contact prints are much nicer.) So I think you should consider it, it's a very hand holdable camera, much less vibration than the 67. (So you can get away with a dinkier tripod too. You don't need mirror up on the 645, and only the latest model has it.)

Of course the 67 is a better camera in several ways, and I certainly wish my 645N let me take the prism off sometimes, but I still think you should try to find a 645 you can hold in your hand and see how you feel.

Your flash should be compatible (including TTL metering) with any 645, but only the latest 67 (67II). It should also work as an "auto flash" with anything, not just pentax cameras. But auto flashes are cheap, so if you want to use flash I'd suggest getting a more powerful one. (And in a photography class you probably don't want TTL flash anyway.)

And as lbenac says, you might want to try a TLR. Again, find one to hold and see how you feel. (This is probably not the way to go if you don't like normal lenses though.)

09-17-2010, 04:52 AM   #9
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Go with a folding camera first.

I bought a Zeiss 6x6 one with a build in telemeter for 50€ on eBay.

They are cheap, compact, and "look old". With is a very good feature if you want to look casual.

The Pentax MF SLR are far superior is almost every aspect apart from weigth and compacity. I would advice to go first with a folding to get familiar with the format and buy after a "serious" MF system. You'll know by then if you need Rollei, Contax, Hasselbald or Pentax systems.
09-17-2010, 05:31 AM   #10
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With all due respect to people who are recommending TLRs and folding cams, I disagree.

They're nice; I have a Rolleiflex 3.5E, and have owned a Yashica-Mat 124G. The only folding MF I've had the experience of using is an old Bower-X 6x9 camera with a Schneider Radionar 105/4.5. They're all nice in their own right, but the problem is, they only give you "normal" photos. And unless you go for the top-of-the-line, like the 2.8 versions of Rolleiflexes, you have a relatively slow lens (f3.5 and slower). In general, those MF cams are meant to be shot stopped down around f5.6~f8, where they will excel in terms of sharpness, etc., but in exchange for DoF, which I think partially defies the purpose of shooting larger formats.

Stopping down is fine if you go wideangle, but again, TLRs and folding cams, for the most part, won't give you that option. Shooting macro is awkward at best, where you have to rely on Rolleinars and similar close-up attachments. Forget about any telephoto work. If you want to experiment with color filters, you will either have to pay quite a bit to use specific Bay 1/2/3 filters or rely on awkward Bay-to-screw adapters. And even then you won't be able to use, e.g., circular polarizers because it's not an SLR and it's neigh impossible to get the polarization correct with a rangefinder or a TLR.


What I'm trying to say, I guess, is that in short, folders and TLRs won't give you the "FULL" medium format experience. They're great for certain things, and definitely can substitute for SLR MF cameras in certain situations. But there's simply nothing that TLRs and folders can do that SLRs cannot do, whereas there are many things that SLRs can but TLRs and folders cannot do. Once one has all of that down, *that*, IMHO, is when they should consider a TLR or a folder, to act as a substitute for when the power of the SLR isn't needed.
09-17-2010, 06:08 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by RawheaD Quote
With all due respect to people who are recommending TLRs and folding cams, I disagree.

They're nice; I have a Rolleiflex 3.5E, and have owned a Yashica-Mat 124G. The only folding MF I've had the experience of using is an old Bower-X 6x9 camera with a Schneider Radionar 105/4.5. They're all nice in their own right, but the problem is, they only give you "normal" photos. And unless you go for the top-of-the-line, like the 2.8 versions of Rolleiflexes, you have a relatively slow lens (f3.5 and slower). In general, those MF cams are meant to be shot stopped down around f5.6~f8, where they will excel in terms of sharpness, etc., but in exchange for DoF, which I think partially defies the purpose of shooting larger formats.

Stopping down is fine if you go wideangle, but again, TLRs and folding cams, for the most part, won't give you that option. Shooting macro is awkward at best, where you have to rely on Rolleinars and similar close-up attachments. Forget about any telephoto work. If you want to experiment with color filters, you will either have to pay quite a bit to use specific Bay 1/2/3 filters or rely on awkward Bay-to-screw adapters. And even then you won't be able to use, e.g., circular polarizers because it's not an SLR and it's neigh impossible to get the polarization correct with a rangefinder or a TLR.


What I'm trying to say, I guess, is that in short, folders and TLRs won't give you the "FULL" medium format experience. They're great for certain things, and definitely can substitute for SLR MF cameras in certain situations. But there's simply nothing that TLRs and folders can do that SLRs cannot do, whereas there are many things that SLRs can but TLRs and folders cannot do. Once one has all of that down, *that*, IMHO, is when they should consider a TLR or a folder, to act as a substitute for when the power of the SLR isn't needed.
Well, speaking bout "complete experience" of MF cameras is a bit of non-sense for me, while you can do wildlife phtography with film MF (or the 645D) this would be the choice of a very experienced and wealthy photographer, film MF is in itself a statement that you are not looking for a complete experience. Dewey already owns an APSC DSLR and requested an advice for student apprenticeship. Apparently he had the choice between 35mm film SLRs and MF, so I guess the only constraint was "film".

While all types and sytems have their own "look" and field of application, there is certainly a "feel" that MF provide against 35mm SLRs. My advice was to get and know about that "feel" before going further. Most foldings can be found for cheap, not it would not be an investment. On contrary of the systems cited above.

Unless we know what Dewey will have as types of assigments, I can't give a better advice.
09-17-2010, 06:37 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by ghelary Quote
While all types and sytems have their own "look" and field of application, there is certainly a "feel" that MF provide against 35mm SLRs. My advice was to get and know about that "feel" before going further. Most foldings can be found for cheap, not it would not be an investment. On contrary of the systems cited above.

Unless we know what Dewey will have as types of assigments, I can't give a better advice.

Of course, a TLR or a folder will give you a different look from 35mm. Or else their presence makes no sense :-D

What I'm saying is simple.

A Rolleiflex 2.8F will give you great photos. You will get pretty much exactly the same looking photos with a Hasselblad 500C + 80/2.8 Planar. The latter will, btw, cost about half the price to buy.


However, with the 500C, one can also get the C 50/4 for superb wide angle photography. Or get the C 150/4 for beautiful portraiture. 120/4 Makro-Planar is one of the best macro lenses you can get.


So, if you already know that what you want to do with a medium format is to shoot with a normal lens––equivalent to a 50mm lens on FF or 31mm on APS-C, then a folder or TLR would be perfect. Of course, unless you can pony up for a top of the line folder/tlr with a 80/2.8 lens, you will lose out on DoF, because most budget MF TLR/folders have f3.5 or slower lens.


But if you want to do anything else––wideangle, telephoto, macro, super shallow dof, etc., TLR/Folders just don't cut it. And the killer is, a TLR or a folder is *NOT* an optimal camera to have in order to decide what you want to do with MF, because you either shoot with the built-in lens or you don't shoot at all! Worst case scenario, one might decide that medium format really isn't worth all the hassle because the cheapo folder really doesn't generate images that have an extra oomph over 35mm (or an APS-C DSLR for that matter).

With an SLR MF––whether it's a 645, 6x6, 6x7, whatever––you can always start with a standard lens, and then if that's not quite what you want, or if you want something extra, you can always exchange the lens (or add onto it) a wideangle or a telephoto. Perhaps after trying a few things, you'll settle down to a few lenses.

For my Hasselblad, I've owned the 40/4, 50/4, 60/3.5, 80/2.8, 100/3.5, and 150/4. After shooting with all of them, now I just have the 80/2.8 and 150/4 (and an SWC/M :-). Those are the only three focal lengths I need, I've figured out.

For my Pentax 67, I've had the 45/4, 75/4.5, 105/2.4, 135/4, 165/2.8, and 300/4. Now I just have the 45, 105, and 300.

These are decisions I could make because I have these modular systems. And because I know what these do for me, I now know exactly when it's optimal for me to take my Rolleiflex 3.5E instead of the Hassie or the 67II.

That's what I mean by a "full MF experience". If you can't experience the entire range of things you can do with MF, you really can't judge MF photography.


The good thing about all of these options, however, is that if you take care of them, they don't devalue. For example, if one has the money upfront, you could decide to buy the full range of lenses for a particular system, try it all, and sell off what you don't need, without losing any money in the process. Indeed, I've been very diligent about buying cheap and selling at market prices, so that whenever I sell off something, I'm actually making money in the process (which goes towards my next purchase) :-)))


Anyway, that's my 2c.
09-17-2010, 08:54 AM   #13
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You can summarize the differences between a TLR and, say, a Pentax 6x7 or Hasseblad is that the latter two you are buying into a camera system which is obviously more versatile.
09-17-2010, 02:38 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by ghelary Quote
Well, speaking bout "complete experience" of MF cameras is a bit of non-sense for me, while you can do wildlife phtography with film MF (or the 645D) this would be the choice of a very experienced and wealthy photographer, film MF is in itself a statement that you are not looking for a complete experience. Dewey already owns an APSC DSLR and requested an advice for student apprenticeship. Apparently he had the choice between 35mm film SLRs and MF, so I guess the only constraint was "film".

While all types and sytems have their own "look" and field of application, there is certainly a "feel" that MF provide against 35mm SLRs. My advice was to get and know about that "feel" before going further. Most foldings can be found for cheap, not it would not be an investment. On contrary of the systems cited above.

Unless we know what Dewey will have as types of assigments, I can't give a better advice.
I think assignments will be a bit of everything, but my interests (I think) are portraits, landscapes and macro. I like the idea of buying into a system and getting quality equipment I can keep for years. I also like the versatility of being able to do different types of shots, lenses, etc.

That having been said I wouldn't mind a second more portable option that was dedicated to street/handheld. Does anyone have experience <$1,000 rangefinders? I don't think I've read about any Pentax rangefinders, and the only other ones I've come across are Leicas obviously more than $1,000.

Thank you, all. All of your feedback is great. I really appreciate your time and responses!
09-17-2010, 03:34 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by DEWEY Quote
<$1,000 rangefinders
If you are thinking new and want great value, there is only one word you need to know...Voigtlander. A Bessa R3A with Nokton 40/1.4 comes in at just under $1000. If you want to spend more, there is the Zeiss Ikon. For used options there is a huge range of both fixed and interchangeable lens rangefinder cameras from multiple makers. Steve Gandy's Classics Page is a good place to get an idea of what is available. I personally have two Yashica rangefinders and have an irrational yen to get a Zorki 4K.


Steve
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