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01-11-2012, 10:20 AM   #1
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Which medium format (film) camera for handheld use?

Hi everyone,

First off, a quick apology: This question is not really Pentax centric, but since many people here seem to use non-Pentax cameras in the film forum, I hope it's all right!

I bought a Pentax SV a while ago and found that film suits me better than digital. I am happy with it, but I have been very impressed by the resolution of medium format, and would like to give it a go. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem too easy to find the right camera!
Here's what I'd like:
  1. I should be able to carry the camera around my neck for extended periods
  2. I'd like to use it without a tripod
  3. I only need one normal lens, but it should be sharp.
  4. It should cost less than £300 -- perhaps a little more (so no mamiya 7, unfortunately...)
The first cameras I considered were of course the Pentax 645 and the 67. I really like the 67, but at about 2kg with lens and prism, I'm not sure I could wear it around my neck. Very subjectively speaking, I don't really like the look of the Pentax 645, and its digital-watch-like button interface seems awkward.
At the moment, my idea is to buy an old Rolleiflex T which uses a Tessar lens design. That should weigh about 1kg, which is about as much as my digital SLR with its zoom. Supposedly, the Tessar is inferior to the Planar versions of the Rollei in terms of resolution, though I haven't been able to find out just how good/bad it is compared to other medium format lenses.

All in all, I would love to ask you experts the following questions: 1. Have I overlooked an option I should consider? 2. Are there any drawbacks to the Rollei you can think of?
Finally, if anyone has come up with a way of comfortably carrying and using the 67 without a tripod, I'd be very interested!

Thank you for your help,
Best regards,
Martin

01-11-2012, 10:36 AM   #2
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I rediscovered MF a year or so ago and picked up the original Pentax 645 with the normal 75mm f2.8 lens. That plus a few film cassettes and other manual 645-A lenses got me in to MF photography at a cost in your budget. I felt that if I didn't like it, it wasn't a large outlay and I should be able sell it off. Well, I'm hooked now and a few months ago picked up a Pentax 6x7 - it's a tank with the 105 lens and not something I want to carry around a lot. The 6x7 wants a tripod a lot more than the 645. I find the 645 to be very easy on the neck and I often hike with it and my DSLR (ok, so I'm a bit crazy...).

Anyway, I think you'd find that the 645 might be more versatile than you realize. That was one of the selling points as I recall so long ago for the Pentax 645 design. All of the 645-A lenses I now own (45, 55, 75, 135LS, 150, 200) are quite sharp. The only and often pointed out drawback to the Pentax 645 is that is has no removable film backs (to change films in mid roll). Given that a 120 roll of film will produce about 15 frames, that hasn't been an issue for me. It is for some though.

I wish I could speak to other brands and designs but I have no experience there.
01-11-2012, 10:51 AM   #3
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I got my first medium format camera this summer a Yashica TLR. I discovered that I love the look of film! I love developing my own film! I love medium fomat! I do not love trying to compose my shots through the viewfinder of a TLR! The whole upsidedown and backwards thing through me for a loop. So I ditched the Yashica and got a Pentax 67 of which I am a great fan. I find that due to the wide back of the 67, it is easy for me to carry for 2 to 3 hours with a lens such as the 45mm, 90mm or the 105mm. None the less, as a travel camera it is a bit large, even for me!

So I've been considering buying a smaller, lighter MF camera to compliment the 67. I looked at the Mamiya 6 and 7 but as you mentioned they are quite expensive. Now I have my eye on the Fuji GA645 or the GA645zi. They both have outstanding lenses. The GA645 is also relatively cheap for MF. They have their limitations but the GA645 does seem to satisfy you four criteria, atleast to my mind.

Good luck in your search. No matter which medium format camera you get, I'm sure you will love the outstanding IQ that this format provides!

Doug
01-11-2012, 11:13 AM   #4
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Easiest to carry around the neck in the lower price range will be the TLR styles (yashicamat, Ricoh, rollei etc)
You might also find some of the fixed lens Fuji RFs in that range like the Various GA645 models (great little cameras). ILC Rf the lowest price will be the Bronica andi it is a nice camera but more pricey than your limit (and it shoots in a portrait orientation which is different)
Smallest System and easily hand holdable is the Bronica ETR setup (I have one and it''s easily hand holdable) if you prefer 6x6 there is thw SQ series from Bronica which is similar to the etrsi. The Bronica GS1 which is 6x7 will cost more than the budget but is the lightest 6x7 system non RF

01-11-2012, 11:16 AM   #5
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With a Rollei, you're paying up for the name and the build quality, and probably getting your money's worth. Other TLRs to consider would be the various Yashica Mats, the Ricoh Diacord, and the Minolta Autocord. I have these three and would rate the Autocord the best of the bunch, lens wise. But you really can't go wrong with a Rollei in good shape.

TLR drawbacks - these are fixed lens cameras, some people don't take to the viewfinder arrangement... and 6x6 is a + and a -, depending. But they are stable, light and reliable.

In general, past a very basic theshold, lens resolution isn't as big a deal in 120 as it is in 135.

Depending on your interests and so on, you may want to consider a folding 120 camera from the 50s. These of course fold up and come in 6x4.5, 6x6, and 6x9. If you need a rangefinder built in you're talking about more money again. But a good one in good shape does wonderfully.

The little Fujis are more modern and I've seen great results from these - haven't used one myself.

The 645 for me is a bit large to carry around all day, but that's just me. I like the lighter stuff.
01-11-2012, 11:30 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nesster Quote
With a Rollei, you're paying up for the name and the build quality, and probably getting your money's worth. Other TLRs to consider would be the various Yashica Mats, the Ricoh Diacord, and the Minolta Autocord. I have these three and would rate the Autocord the best of the bunch, lens wise.
Do you find the lens on your Yashica quite soft? I have to use mine stopped down to f/8 and even then its just "ok".
01-11-2012, 11:32 AM   #7
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if you want a good roundup on the various GA 645 have a look at the Dante Stella site

Fuji GA645 GA645i GA645W GA645Wi GA645zi Autofocus Cameras
01-11-2012, 11:35 AM   #8
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Good advise in the posts. MF film cameras are a series of compromises. As mentioned a TLR seems to fit your check list but a Rolleiflex brand can get expensive too.

A Pentax 67 with a WLF is a much lighter and smaller camera but again it can be a compromise if you prefer a prism. It seems light weight, inexpensive and quality are once again opposing attributes.

01-11-2012, 11:44 AM   #9
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based on your needs and wants, I think the YashicaMat 124/124G would be your best bet, and its one heck of a performer. one of my favourite yashicaMat users is a guy by the name of Oliver Rockwell. you can see a lot of his work here: Flickr: beetabonk's Photostream (he also uses a pentax 67, which he prefers over the TLR!) that being said, I myself use a 6x7 (with polaroid back!) and have no problems carrying the camera. but I use a very wide heavy duty strap. an army general purpose strap to be exact, that I wear like you wear a satchel) this makes carrying the camera very easy, and disperses the weight quite well.

Last edited by séamuis; 01-11-2012 at 11:51 AM.
01-11-2012, 11:45 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Vendee Quote
Do you find the lens on your Yashica quite soft? I have to use mine stopped down to f/8 and even then its just "ok".
I wouldn't call it soft, though I can see how it would be. On the borderline. But then again, on its own, the Yashica is able to do some sharp stuff, the other two cameras are just more reliably sharp and contrasty. The Autocord adds a bit of roundness - Rollei like - to the mix, the Ricoh tends to be more bitingly sharp.


I should add that the film scan is likely going to be the weak spot in a modern workflow, not the lens.
01-11-2012, 12:06 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Vendee Quote
Do you find the lens on your Yashica quite soft? I have to use mine stopped down to f/8 and even then its just "ok".
I would say your example, if indeed is that soft may not be an appropriate representation of at typical YashicaMat. although these are smaller resolutions, so they may not say that much, take a look at the flicker stream I provided in my previous post. a lot of those photos are taken with a YashicaMat 124G and none of them even at wide aperture exhibit any disturbing lack of sharpness. I don't own one myself, but I have used several YashicaMats, and I've never seen any lack of sharpness in my own photos. you could be taking your chances with something like a seagull, but I would say as a general rule, for a real everyday user, a YashicaMat is an excellent choice for a TLR.
01-11-2012, 12:31 PM   #12
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Thanks Jussi & Séamuis. Maybe I'm expecting too much. Jussi, my scanner can only do 35mm negs so I wet print my 6x6 shots.
01-11-2012, 02:27 PM   #13
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I agree a lot with the Yashicamat suggestions. Lovely camera and not expensive. But also the suggested older folders make sense: they are simply a lot of fun. Perhaps it depends on what you intend to use it for, and why? Some want the medium format for the increased 'sharpness' compared to 135 cameras. Some want the cameras because of the charateristics of 120 film. Some just for the square 6X6 format. If you like to play go for some simple cheap folder, and see what it does. There are also 'serious' folders, that have quite fast lenses and come with focusing, like the Certo 6.
01-11-2012, 02:47 PM   #14
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these are just random shooting, not everything's Extremely Carefully shot, but most are hand held and just walking around, to give some sense of the character of these TLRS:
Minolta Autocord - a set on Flickr
Ricoh Diacord - a set on Flickr
Yashica Mat - a set on Flickr

Also, I'm something of a folder freak, I don't even want to know how many I've accumulated. The first couple of times shooting with a no-focus-aid, no-meter, approximate-viewfinder camera is terrifying, but once over that hump you may be surprised how well you get along without all these modern gizmos

Here's a set that samples a '50s 6x9 folder - a Voigtlander Bessa with a 3 element Vaskar. Often 3 elements isn't such a bad thing in old folders; I have 4 element Tessars and clones that don't do as well as a good triplet. The Bessa has no focus aid.

Voigtlander Bessa I Vaskar - a set on Flickr
01-11-2012, 06:13 PM   #15
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Wow, thanks a lot for your very helpful responses -- this forum is truly fantastic!
Lots of very interesting recommendations, but I'm hooked on the Bronica ETRS(i). It looks light, nicely designed, below £300 and the SLR finder is probably a safer bet than the reversed TLR finder. Off hunting on ebay now, thanks again! :-)
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