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06-20-2013, 05:19 PM   #1
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contemplating 6x7 purchase

HI,

I am looking to start my journey into medium format and am seeking the advice of those who have gone before me.
I love film and the way you have to slow down and think about what you're doing to get great photos
(and the look on peoples faces when you tell them they CAN'T see the photo you just took on the back of the camera).

I've been reading everything I can about medium format but I am still new to the MF world.
I will be using medium format for landscapes, pretty much exclusively with some occasional architectural.
I've used 35mm rangefinders in the past, so I am probably fine with most aspects of the inevitable learning curve.

I [think] I've settled on a Pentax 6x7 that's available locally which comes with 75mm and 135mm lenses.
I understand that these particular lenses are not particularly wide,
so am hoping add a 55mm and 90mm to this collection as time goes by.

My questions are basically this:

Does this lens lineup sound reasonable for mostly landscape work?
Is there any particular lens I should be aiming for or avoiding?

Is there any non-obvious problem I should be on the lookout for with this setup?

Any other advice for a beginner would be most welcome.

Thanking you all in advance.
Bruce

06-20-2013, 06:39 PM   #2
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I started into MF in the last year when I found a bargain on a 6x7 and then a Hasselblad 500C/M for about the same cost. Both showed their age with inconsistent shutters, so I had Eric service the 6x7 and his equivalent in the Hasselblad world do the 500C/M and lens (shutter is part of the lens). Both work very well now - but the 6x7 cost for lenses and repairs is MUCH lower, thanks to Eric and the good supply of lenses. (Actually lenses for both are cheaper than used lenses for my Leica M9!) Yes, there is a look to the Zeiss 80 that grabs you, but the 105 Pentax is also good. I have the 135 macro and a 55 for the 6x7 as well, and extension tubes for close-up, which is what have focused on this spring. The 55 is a HUGE lens, but seems to perform well.
The 6x7 has an electro-magnet controlled shutter, and it collects metallic crud over the years, which Eric cleaned. The meter prism uses a fine chain linkage for the meter connection, and the chains are easily broken by attaching the prism with a lens already mounted, so check your camera carefully for the thin chain across the front under the prism. Eric has spares to fix these as well.
Being used to 35mm cameras for 50 years, the 6x7 eye-level use is easy, but with MF the waist-level finder is often easier to handle due to the weight. I have a 90-deg attachment for the 6x7, but will look for a WF finder as well.
06-20-2013, 07:36 PM   #3
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Given how low the lens prices are at the moment when it comes time to buy more lenses try to get the latest versions of whichever lens you want. Generally this will be labelled SMC Pentax 67 although some older lenses were discontinued before that designation was used. Some lenses, in particular the 55mm, were improved with each generation while others only had minor differences. The latest 55/4 is one of the best lenses in the 67 system.
06-20-2013, 07:44 PM   #4
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Landscapes come in all shapes and sizes. That is, a telephoto may even be needed for the shot besides the conventional wide angle. However, pretty much anything above 90mm on a 6x7 will be difficult to get both near and far objects in sharp focus when stopped down to, say, f19 without focus stacking. Of course a lot depends on the distance we call "near".

Here are a couple of case studies to look at. The first is a 90mm stopped down to f19. Some not so in focus foreground was cropped out of this image. So any lens longer than the 90mm in this case would make it difficult to capture in focus this amount of view. Of course you could shoot at f22 but f19 is usually my limit. So a 45/55/75mm lens would do this much near to far that much easier. Note both of these shots were focused by using the DOF scale on the lens.



DOF with a Pentax 6x7 and 90mm at f19





The same bridge using a 165mm lens stopped down to f16. Here obviously foreground was not a problem. The minimum focus distance was much farther out to ensure infinity was captured.



DOF on a 165mm at f16







Last edited by tuco; 06-20-2013 at 09:00 PM.
06-20-2013, 11:04 PM - 1 Like   #5
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Sounds good! But I take a detailed, forensic view of cameras, not unlike a SWOT analysis, and I've learnt that through 36 years of long, hard experience.

If architecture is your forté and widescapes are your scene, the SMC Pentax 45mm would be the bomb. Apart from being one of Pentax's finest, it is quite versatile, delivering beautiful contrasty shots whether with conventional focusing, or as this ultra-wide lens favours, hyperfocal; no need at all to stop down to f22: f8 to f11 is fine, f16 tops. It's great for street photography. The 55mm is just very slightly narrower and bigger, and I concur with Paul Ewin's assessment that this too is one of the finest lenses in the Pentax lineup.

Note the Pentax operates in 0.5 (half) stop intervals. lenses have unmarked click stops between marked apertures (on some lenses though, not beyond f22 if it goes down to f32).

Meter or no?
A 67 TTL meter is good, but not brainy: a rudimentary piece of electronic engineering with a time-honoured needle between a + and – sign, the entire range from bottom to top equaling 5 stops. The 67 meter will nail exposures in around 85% (my own estimate) of the time. A polariser is quite another story. If no meter, learn multispot./duplex/averaging technique accounting for polariser factor (var. +1.5 to +2.0). If there is a meter, it can be rather perplexed by full polarisation, tending to under-exposure. I never use the TTL meter for polarised photography: all that is done with a spot meter, and every exposure is perfect.

It's important to determine how much weight you are willing to cart around, or physically able. The 67 is a big camera, and some of the optics, like the 165mm LS for example, are quite big and heavy (need I say though, damned good!?). The 90mm is neither, being quite squat and very easy-going to handle. The 67 body, 90mm lens, 75mm and 135mm lens would be a reasonably weighty kit indeed. More lenses would make it more so. I could not possibly carry another lens in my kit (3); it is just too much on long walks.

Problems with old and well-used (e.g. ex professional use) bodies are numerous
Check the winding mechanism, preferably with a roll of film (a dud roll) loaded. Fire the shutter at all speeds, noting any obvious lags; wind on, again noting any clicks, rasps or loss of tension (with film loaded, there should be no tension lost until frame 10 is exposed, after which the pawls release all tension and the winding lever 'freewheels').

Getting under the pretty face
  • The shutter curtain should be inspected for any obvious misalignment, crimps, pinholes or rust
  • TTL prism meters can suffer age-related anomalies; some may have even fallen hard, been dropped or banged. None of that is particularly good for the insides.
  • The battery compartment beneath all 67 / 6x7 bodies is often found to be badly corroded in samples that have been left lying around unused for a long time then proferred for sale, in of all things, "mint condition" on places like eBay. Try and buy from a professional dealer who knows how to look at cameras inside and out.
  • The 67 bodies have idiosyncracies, particularly if there is a flat or weak battery; the shutter fires, but the mirror stops halfway, which can send new users nuts trying to figure out why. There is a reset procedure involved when a new battery is inserted. You certainly don't get a pair of pliers and wrangle the mirror back into its down position!! Some 67 bodies have a factory-fitted multiexposure facility; nice if you're into arty-farty photography and enjoy "layering" scenes much like digi users layer star trails for added punch.

Aperture coupling chainnow the interesting bit!
The 67 requires a specific process to be followed to avoid breaking/snapping the aperture coupling chain in that horizontal recess underneath the prism. This is a quite rudimentary and conspicuously frail piece of engineering; breaking it and the need to repair it is a fairly involved procedure. In a nutshell, you cannot just take the TTL prism off then put it on again. It's like this: remove the lens and put whatever other lens on/off in day to day use unrestricted — no drama. However, if you remove the prism: before refitting it: a) remove the lens b) remount the prism, and then c) remount the lens. This will allow the aperture coupling chain mechanism to return to a normal engagement position with no hazard of stress or breakage. It's important to stick to this process.

Now go and buy it and burn your first roll. Come back here for a good rant and rave at the beautiful images. I know you will!

Last edited by Silent Street; 06-20-2013 at 11:11 PM.
06-21-2013, 09:26 AM   #6
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For landscapes, 100% view is a nice feature. Use a WLF (aka Folding Hood) and never worry about the aperture chain again.
06-21-2013, 11:19 AM   #7
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I have used most of the lenses for this system and it is easier to say which ones I don't like, rather than the ones I do. I had issues with the 35mm and the 300mm Takumar. Please see our lens review section of this forum for more details. For many years of using this camera for landscapes and using the prime lenses, I found that my compositions were limited by the DOF of the lenses. I sold many of my shorter prime lenses and replaced them with the two zooms (55-100 and 90-180). They have much better DOF and I found they suited my shooting style much better. Be aware that these zooms with small stops are not for everyone. They should only be used if your shooting requires greater DOF than the primes. Greater DOF with the zooms, sacrifices image quality due to diffraction, so there is no free lunch. In most cases, that sacrifice is worth it to accomplish your shot.
06-21-2013, 12:00 PM   #8
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Not to send you in another direction but I'd suggest - if your goal is really to get into medium format - to consider getting a Pentax 645 first. Reasons:
1. they are generally newer
2. use the same film
3. have metering built in
4. you get 10 frames on a 120 roll on a 6x7 and 15-16 on a 645, doesn't sound like much but it is
5. film loading is easier on a 645

There may be a few more reasons too. I say this as I have both 645 and 6x7 systems acquired over the past few years. While I love the resolution of the 6x7 negatives, I reach for the 645 far more often to just go out and shoot. If you find you like medium format, then pick up a 6x7 and have at it. If you do go with that 6x7 + 75 & 135 lens you'll do well but would likely be wanting the 105 (normal) lens too.

06-21-2013, 03:18 PM   #9
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I've just bought a 67 + metered prism + 75mm f/4.5 lens. I also have a Mamiya 645 & Bronica SQ-B (bought when I thought I wanted removable film backs and a leaf shutter). Whilst I'm still finding my way round the 67 (two days in, one roll shot but not processed), I'm very impressed with it so far. I bought it because I wanted to slow down my photography (and I already had 645 covered). Having often considered buying a 6x7 in the past, I now wish I'd bought one years ago.

The difference between 10 & 15/16 shots per film is less significant the more effort you're putting into the shots, but 645 is great for shooting more mobile subjects. The 75mm lens is roughly equivalent to 35mm on 135 format cameras (24mm on APS-C?), probably not really wide enough for 'traditional' landscape work, but when buying used gear you have to compromise price/convenience/availability/condition etc. - which is why I ended up with the 75mm - a very useful focal length though (I'd have preferred a 105 myself).

My advice is to try it out, if you buy wisely there's no reason you can't sell any unwanted kit later for the same price you paid for it.

If you do go down the MF route I'd suggest starting off slowly, only taking the body and one lens out and preferably having a convenient/comfortable place to change film in mind. Carrying a full bag of kit, tripod and everything else will quickly tire you out and use up your mental energy you'll need for shooting. Likewise, trying to change your first roll of film 'in the field' could be quite harrowing. MF gear is necessarily big/heavy/awkward to handle, at least until you're familiar with it, until then take all precautions to make sure the camera is secure at all times (and make sure the strap/lugs are secure).

Regards,

John.
06-21-2013, 11:04 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by johnha Quote
[...]

If you do go down the MF route I'd suggest starting off slowly, only taking the body and one lens out and preferably having a convenient/comfortable place to change film in mind. Carrying a full bag of kit, tripod and everything else will quickly tire you out and use up your mental energy you'll need for shooting. Likewise, trying to change your first roll of film 'in the field' could be quite harrowing. MF gear is necessarily big/heavy/awkward to handle, at least until you're familiar with it, until then take all precautions to make sure the camera is secure at all times (and make sure the strap/lugs are secure).

Regards,

John.

LOL! A polite understatement!
I and friends have called it a 'fumblefest', 'Biggles-vs-The Beast' and even, 'you bastard'!
You can't do mid-roll changes, that's a shame, so you have to plan exactly what film you are going to be using. Two bodies would be a good idea, but only if you have a Sherpa to do the carrying for you.

Do master loading and unloading films proficiently, e.g. with a dud roll, so you can do it fluently in extreme heat, biting cold, torrential rain, a full moon or a New Moon...it's a great skill to tool up on. And one that digimon stickybeaks are rapt to watch — "gee, a film camera being fed! Wow...".
06-22-2013, 07:42 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Silent Street Quote
Two bodies would be a good idea, but only if you have a Sherpa to do the carrying for you.
I can usually get my wife to assist by carrying some equipment. It only costs be lunch after I finish shooting!

Phil.
06-22-2013, 09:27 AM   #12
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Instead of a second Pentax body, get a second camera that has hot-swapping backs. Extremely useful. And replace that anchor of a prism on the P6x7 with a light weight WLF.

Last edited by tuco; 06-22-2013 at 09:32 AM.
06-22-2013, 10:24 AM   #13
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I agree with what has been said above about longer lenses for landscape work. I use my 90-180 at the longer end quite a bit and also the primes from 165 to 600mm for landscapes. What is critical to watch for when using these, is shutter vib in the 1/2 to 1/30 second range. Even if the lens has a tripod socket, it will be subject to this vib. The 400 Takumar is a good example. You are taking the risk of softness by shooting it at 1/8 sec, especially when the tripod is high. Even the 300EDIF can be affected when used on a highly extended tripod in the bad speed range. This effect is not nearly as severe with the 150, 165 and 200mm though.
06-23-2013, 02:59 PM   #14
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Original Poster
Thanks everyone for the detailed info. this is exactly the sort of thing I needed to know.

I'm waiting for the seller to call me back, I'll be sure to post some photos when it arrives.

Bruce
06-24-2013, 06:45 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
Instead of a second Pentax body, get a second camera that has hot-swapping backs. Extremely useful. And replace that anchor of a prism on the P6x7 with a light weight WLF.
I have to agree with tuco here. I have a P645 and a P67 and I have found great ease of use with a Mamiya 645 pro body. Small, well built, changeable backs and if you use the manual crank, nearly silent operation (the Pentax 645's major failure, in my opinion.) There's a P67 to M645 adapter available as well. I got into a fully built-out Mamiya 645 with an 80mm lens for about 25 dollars more than I paid for my stripped 67 body.

Best of luck to the OP on his new purchase!

Last edited by germar; 06-24-2013 at 06:46 PM. Reason: Punctuation
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