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11-04-2020, 09:28 AM   #1
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6x6 SLR systems under $1,000 - Bronica S2, Kowa Six, Mamiya C220

I already have a Minolta Autocord now I am thinking of buying a complete system of 6X6 with wide and tele lens for portrait and a bit of landscape.

I have look at the following choices:

Bronica S2
+ Cheapest - body with 2 lens cost $400, complete with prism, additional back $600
+ Interchangable back
- I have experience with ETRS which have strong shutter vibration, does this earlier model have strong vibration?
- No mirror lock-up?
- On ETRS, the lens was only average in quality, not even as good as Kiev, maybe this earlier model is not good as well?

Mamiya C220

+ Cost slightly higher than S2, $500 for 3 lens, complete system cost around $800.
+ Reliable, lightweight compared to the rest.
+ No shutter vibration problems
- No interchangeable back
- Need parallax correction
- Lens of average quality, not sure how if compares to S2, but not as sharp as Kowa, maybe not as good as Kiev as well.

Kowa Six
+ Very good lens quality, comparable to Hasselblad C, maybe just a hair below C T*
+ Price similar to Mamiya, Super 66 cost higher though, complete system $750-$800.
- Heavy, and in some reviews not as durable as other 2 choices.
- Accessories difficult to find
- Super 66 with interchangeable back cost a lot higher.

I have look at Bronica SQ-A as well, a complete system would probably cost me around $1,300-1,400, it would almost be the more satisfactory option but more than twice the cost of the cheapest option, and I am not sure of spending so much money as a amateur.

Does anyone here have experience with any of these models, what are your thoughts?

11-04-2020, 10:30 AM   #2
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I have a Mamiya 220 Pro F with a 80mm normal, 65mm wide angle and 180mm Super Telephoto. These TLRs have quirks, but I've never had any difficulty with either the lenses or body and two of the lenses were bought used. I've had the body and the 80 since '85, the 65 and 180 since around '88.

I've been very happy with it. Use it mostly on my Leitz Tiltall tripod and use a hand held light meter...Sekonic L398 Studio Master.... with it.

As far as lens sharpness goes, all three lenses seem sharp to me. Remember, these Mamiya TLR's were around for years, were mainstays of many studios and wedding photographers. If the pics weren't sharp, I don't think they would of been used by pros.

I've never heard of that being an issue. But what do I know.

Last edited by lesmore49; 11-04-2020 at 10:36 AM.
11-04-2020, 11:10 AM   #3
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Do you think you will want to use a digital back in the future?
11-04-2020, 11:29 AM   #4
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Interesting discussion. I recently acquired a Mamiya c33 as my first medium format camera. Havenít tried it out yet but just got 2 rolls of cheap Arista film to try it out. Only thing Iím not excited about is the 6x6 which seems to be something you want. Iíd like 6x4.5 better I think. Just seems a little more versatile plus you get a few more shots per roll. Oh well.
Good luck.

11-04-2020, 11:34 AM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lhorn Quote
Interesting discussion. I recently acquired a Mamiya c33 as my first medium format camera. Havenít tried it out yet but just got 2 rolls of cheap Arista film to try it out. Only thing Iím not excited about is the 6x6 which seems to be something you want. Iíd like 6x4.5 better I think. Just seems a little more versatile plus you get a few more shots per roll. Oh well.
Good luck.
Advocates of square formats would say that this allows composition within the frame of whatever aspect you want.
11-04-2020, 12:03 PM   #6
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Why not a Cheap Versatile Bronica GS-1 ?

QuoteOriginally posted by Angelic Layer Quote
Bronica S2
+ Cheapest - body with 2 lens cost $400, complete with prism, additional back $600
+ Interchangable back
- I have experience with ETRS which have strong shutter vibration, does this earlier model have strong vibration?
- No mirror lock-up?
- On ETRS, the lens was only average in quality, not even as good as Kiev, maybe this earlier model is not good as well?
I have look at Bronica SQ-A as well, a complete system would probably cost me around $1,300-1,400, it would almost be the more satisfactory option but more than twice the cost of the cheapest option, and I am not sure of spending so much money as a amateur.
... Does anyone here have experience with any of these models, what are your thoughts ?
Hi Angelic !

Before buying a Pentax 6x7 in '81, I bought a Mamiya C220f with 3 lenses...
... But, they were So Soft, especially the 135 mm, that I brought it Back to the shop !
I traded it for a Pentax 6x7 with a 90 and a 150mm, both F/2,8
= Fantastic Colors and Contrast and Sharpness !!!
SMC-Pentax-67-TelePhoto-Prime-Lenses
SMC-Pentax-67-Normal-Primes

The only Limiting Specification of the Pentax 6x7 was its Slow 1/30s Flash Sync...
... So I searched for a ~similar Camera~ with Very Good Lenses...
but especially a Fast Flash Sync Speed, 1/500s ?

This is how I found the Bronica GS-1 : a Modern and Versatile Camera !
- its Excellent Lenses are said to be from Nikon Designers :
google.com/search?q=Bronica+GS-1+system
you just have to Swap 2 wires in the Speed-Grip to use all Nikon SB-Flash in Computer Mode

The GS-1 is not that much bigger than the SQ-A...
... and the SQ-A is not that much cheaper than the GS-1...
Bronica GS-1 versus SQ-A - Google Search

Just an annoyance... maybe...
I won't sell mine !

Last edited by geo444; 11-05-2020 at 01:09 AM.
11-04-2020, 12:31 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by UncleVanya Quote
Advocates of square formats would say that this allows composition within the frame of whatever aspect you want.
True, and you don’t have to rotate the camera, or the back, to change from portrait to landscape mode.


Last edited by mlt; 11-04-2020 at 12:32 PM. Reason: Spell error
11-05-2020, 03:18 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by UncleVanya Quote
Do you think you will want to use a digital back in the future?
Not really at the moment, I will shoot APSC DSLR for digital, film for medium format.
It won't be long for digital medium format to be affordable.

---------- Post added 05-11-20 at 06:20 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Lhorn Quote
Interesting discussion. I recently acquired a Mamiya c33 as my first medium format camera. Havenít tried it out yet but just got 2 rolls of cheap Arista film to try it out. Only thing Iím not excited about is the 6x6 which seems to be something you want. Iíd like 6x4.5 better I think. Just seems a little more versatile plus you get a few more shots per roll. Oh well.
Good luck.
I feel that 645 wasn't as drastic step up from 35mm, I would go 6x7 if I like that framing.
I would like one camera that can do both landscape and portrait, so 6x6 is pretty versatile on that aspect.

---------- Post added 05-11-20 at 06:30 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by geo444 Quote
Hi Angelic !

Before buying a Pentax 6x7 in '81, I bought a Mamiya C220f with 3 lenses...
... But, they were So Soft, especially the 135 mm, that I brought it Back to the shop !
I traded it for a Pentax 6x7 with a 90 and a 150mm, both F/2,8
= Fantastic Colors and Contrast and Sharpness !!!
SMC-Pentax-67-TelePhoto-Prime-Lenses
SMC-Pentax-67-Normal-Primes

The only Limiting Specification of the Pentax 6x7 was its Slow 1/30s Flash Sync...
... So I searched for a ~similar Camera~ with Very Good Lenses...
but especially a Fast Flash Sync Speed, 1/500s ?

This is how I found the Bronica GS-1 : a Modern and Versatile Camera !
- its Excellent Lenses are said to be from Nikon Designers :
google.com/search?q=Bronica+GS-1+system
you just have to Swap 2 wires in the Speed-Grip to use all Nikon SB-Flash in Computer Mode

The GS-1 is not that much bigger than the SQ-A...
... and the SQ-A is not that much cheaper than the GS-1...
Bronica GS-1 versus SQ-A - Google Search

Just an annoyance... maybe...
I won't sell mine !
Yeah, I like a few things about the Mamiya TLR except the image quality, the standard lens wasn't even as good as fixed lens Yashica, Minolta autocord etc.
There is a GS-1 selling for cheap near by but without back, I figure buying old accessories here and there would be more expensive, completed system would cost similar to SQ-A like you say.

The GS-1 is newer model with newer PG lens, I have experience with the ETRS which have older lens which I do not like so much, but I only tried their standard lens, S2 is an even older model so I doubt even I haven't tried an S2 before but look at the result pictures.


Would like to stay on 6x6 because I like to have 1 camera to do landscape and portrait at the moment.
But I will consider GS-1 if I wanted a 6x7.
11-05-2020, 04:03 AM   #9
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Revolving Tripod Adapter G for Bronica GS-1

QuoteOriginally posted by Angelic Layer Quote
... Yeah, I like a few things about the Mamiya TLR except the image quality,
the standard lens wasn't even as good as fixed lens Yashica, Minolta autocord etc.

There is a GS-1 selling for cheap near by but without back,
I figure buying old accessories here and there would be more expensive,
completed system would cost similar to SQ-A like you say.

The GS-1 is Newer model with Newer PG Lens, I have experience with the ETRS which have older lens
which I do not like so much, but I only tried their standard lens, S2 is an even older model so I doubt even
I haven't tried an S2 before but look at the result pictures.

Would like to stay on 6x6 because I like to have 1 Camera to do Landscape and Portrait at the moment.
But I will consider GS-1 if I wanted a 6x7.
.
I do understand your prerequisite...
Here is a Very Interesting Bronica Accessory for the GS-1 that could solve the dilemna...
search?q=Bronica+GS-1+Revolving+Tripod+Adapter+G&tbm=isch
keeps the target in the frame center when revolving

There is also an AE Rotary Finder G to hold the GS-1 to one's chest as a TLR :
search?q=Bronica+GS-1+AE+Rotary+Finder+G&tbm=isch
Incredible Bronica GS-1, indeed !

If you could find 1 of these Revolving Tripod Adapter G for Bronica GS-1 ?
Fingers crossed if this matches your prerequisite ?


Last edited by geo444; 11-05-2020 at 06:21 AM.
11-05-2020, 06:20 AM - 1 Like   #10
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I used a Mamiya C330 system for many years, and had five lenses for it. The only one of these which I found to be lacking in sharpness was the 135mm. The rest were all excellent, including the 80mm/2.8 blue dot, which doesn't have a great rep for some reason. BTW, I also have two Rolleiflex with Planar and Xenotar lenses (VERY sharp), and the Mamiya glass was no slouch compared to these. They compared very well to the Autocord too (which I also owned).

If you can cough up a bit more money, the C330 is worth looking at. It has some really useful features that the C220 does not have. It is heavier though.

Overall I found the ergonomics of the Mamiya to be quite awkward and bothersome after some years of using it, so sold it in the end. Putting on a grip really helped a lot with handling.

Otherwise the Mamiya system is wonderful. Very versatile camera, robust, easy to repair, outstanding image quality.

PS - an important factor should be availability of repair parts and a tech that knows how to service your camera. For that reason Kowa and Bronica may not be your best choices. I have read reports of owners having a hard time finding a service shop for their Bronicas now, for example.

Last edited by Viking42; 11-05-2020 at 10:31 AM.
11-06-2020, 02:40 AM   #11
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Original Poster
QuoteOriginally posted by geo444 Quote
.
I do understand your prerequisite...
Here is a Very Interesting Bronica Accessory for the GS-1 that could solve the dilemna...
search?q=Bronica+GS-1+Revolving+Tripod+Adapter+G&tbm=isch
keeps the target in the frame center when revolving

There is also an AE Rotary Finder G to hold the GS-1 to one's chest as a TLR :
search?q=Bronica+GS-1+AE+Rotary+Finder+G&tbm=isch
Incredible Bronica GS-1, indeed !

If you could find 1 of these Revolving Tripod Adapter G for Bronica GS-1 ?
Fingers crossed if this matches your prerequisite ?

Yes, I might consider Mamiya RZ as well for 6x7, both are a bit but not a lot more than the choices.
Haven't found one in more complete kit form that is cheaper, so I stay for 6x6

---------- Post added 06-11-20 at 05:45 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Viking42 Quote
I used a Mamiya C330 system for many years, and had five lenses for it. The only one of these which I found to be lacking in sharpness was the 135mm. The rest were all excellent, including the 80mm/2.8 blue dot, which doesn't have a great rep for some reason. BTW, I also have two Rolleiflex with Planar and Xenotar lenses (VERY sharp), and the Mamiya glass was no slouch compared to these. They compared very well to the Autocord too (which I also owned).

If you can cough up a bit more money, the C330 is worth looking at. It has some really useful features that the C220 does not have. It is heavier though.

Overall I found the ergonomics of the Mamiya to be quite awkward and bothersome after some years of using it, so sold it in the end. Putting on a grip really helped a lot with handling.

Otherwise the Mamiya system is wonderful. Very versatile camera, robust, easy to repair, outstanding image quality.

PS - an important factor should be availability of repair parts and a tech that knows how to service your camera. For that reason Kowa and Bronica may not be your best choices. I have read reports of owners having a hard time finding a service shop for their Bronicas now, for example.
Yes, C330 is a bit higher in cost and comparable to other SLR.
I like the Mamiya for the weight and weight of lens, and the filter doesn't change the way you look at the viewfinder,

Someone offered me a Bronica SQB in the end, which falls into my budget.
It is an all mechanical version of SQ-A, no metering, motor cannot be attached, the downside is that it cannot do exposure more than 8 seconds and no bulb mode either, but I can live with it.
11-06-2020, 03:49 AM - 1 Like   #12
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Bronica SQ-B

QuoteOriginally posted by Angelic Layer Quote
... Someone offered me a Bronica SQB in the end, which falls into my budget.
It is an all mechanical version of SQ-A, no metering, motor cannot be attached...
.
Good : it's the very Affordable and Reliable entry level model !

QuoteOriginally posted by Angelic Layer Quote
...
the downside is that it cannot do exposure more than 8 seconds and No Bulb Mode either, but I can live with it.
.
That is not a final problem !
Each PS Lens you'll buy later will work in Time (T) Mode
.
Attached Images
 
11-06-2020, 07:28 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Angelic Layer Quote
[/COLOR]
Yes, C330 is a bit higher in cost and comparable to other SLR.
I like the Mamiya for the weight and weight of lens, and the filter doesn't change the way you look at the viewfinder,
For sure. That's one of the reasons I like TLRs so much. Only polarizers are tough to use, but no big deal for me as I rarely use them.

Another very big plus for a TLR is the absence of a mirror. This allows handheld or monopod shooting at quite slow shutter speeds....a potentially huge advantage if you hate carrying a tripod. That said, some SLRs have well-damped mirrors, Pentax 645 being one of the best. Not sure if Bronicas or Kowas are like that.

But the SQ-B would be a great choice. I have read many glowing reports of their excellent lenses. I like the form factor of the SQ design. Very nice!
11-06-2020, 09:03 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Viking42 Quote
For sure. That's one of the reasons I like TLRs so much. Only polarizers are tough to use, but no big deal for me as I rarely use them.

Another very big plus for a TLR is the absence of a mirror. This allows handheld or monopod shooting at quite slow shutter speeds....a potentially huge advantage if you hate carrying a tripod. That said, some SLRs have well-damped mirrors, Pentax 645 being one of the best. Not sure if Bronicas or Kowas are like that.

But the SQ-B would be a great choice. I have read many glowing reports of their excellent lenses. I like the form factor of the SQ design. Very nice!
And then there is the Pentax 67 mirror sound (and vibration). Not quite a stealthy beast :-)
11-06-2020, 10:20 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by mlt Quote
And then there is the Pentax 67 mirror sound (and vibration). Not quite a stealthy beast :-)
Yup, pretty good thump when that goes off. Apparently there are some who get great results with the 67 handheld at slow speeds, so I guess it has a loud bark but soft bite :-). I've always wanted to own one of these. If only I'd bought one five years ago when they were cheap as chips :-/
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