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I'm thinking of picking up a medium format film camera. Any recommendations?

Discussion in 'Other Systems' started by Tadgh78, Jan 14, 2015.

  1. Tadgh78

    Tadgh78 Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 25, 2013
    I'm thinking of getting into medium format film. The specific end I have in mind is I'd like to make old style slides to document a trip to Australia I hope to be taking later in the year. The idea came to me because I find that film has a sort of nostalgia-inducing warmth to it which I find digital seems to lack, at least without PP. I also like the immediacy and physicality of slides. I'll still be bringing my m43 camera along on the trip anyway.

    I can't/don't want to afford a Hasselblad, but I still want "good" quality and relative portability. Therefor I'm thinking of a twin lens reflex type camera maybe a Yashica 124 (near Roliflex quality but cheaper), or else possibility a Fuji GS645 (6x4.5 instead of 6x6 but has AF).

    Has anyone tried either of these cameras or a similar one? If so how would you rate them and what was your experience?

    Thank you,
  2. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    While I suspect you mean the GA645 as the GS series were completely manual rangefinders, I own and use a GS645 and it's a fantastic camera. The GW670/680/690 were also fantastic cameras however they're much larger.

    I've heard good things about the GA645, namely that it's more compact than the model I have and has far more automation (having automatic settings available for use at all). I can't think of any bad comments about it off the top of my head (it has a far better reputation than the later GS series which were known for a weak mount as they inherited the body from the original bellows, the body wasn't designed to have a lens rigidly mounted to it and thus often cracked). I suspect almost all of the Fujica rangefinders would equal the optical performance of mine however given their good reputation.

    I have the original folding bellows version and has a few downsides however it's performance is not one of them. The lens on it is amazingly sharp even wide open (it vignettes a little bit, however stop down even slightly and it's gone).

    While you likely won't be using the metering on the body itself with slide I've found it very accurate and fine for neg film for casual use. It operates in a sort of shutter speed priority mode where you set the shutter and move the aperture (it moves freely, no stops) until the meter is correct, while it isn't automatic as you have to move the lever it's very fast in actual use (it has more than 1 stop over, 1 to 0.3 stops over, 0.3 over, correct, 0.3 under, 0.3 to 1.0 under, and over 1.0 under indicated by various LEDs). If you want a different shutter speed but same exposure you can move both the shutter and aperture at the same time by putting your finger over both rings, however as it's a mechanical shutter changing to a higher shutter speed (mainly the fastest) requires more force, going lower is easy though.

    If you decide on a GS series body make sure it has the lens hood, they almost never come up for sale on their own and are required to use filters(I'm unsure about the later models, however it's true for early). The lens hood on mine is very well made and provides almost perfect coverage, the only issues I have had are to do with long exposures (10-30 minutes) where a bright light reflecting off the inside of the hood (not hitting the lens directly, hitting the inside of the hood) hits the front element and causes flare. I've only really noticed it during very long exposures as the amount of light is so small that the film doesn't normally react to it. A longer hood or a hood for the hood would fix this issue, however it's not normally a huge issue.

    A test shot to make sure infinity was at infinity after I replaced the bellows
    a crop of the above showing that it is indeed sharp
    Living dangerously
    Just because I could

    TLDR: Basically any of the Fujica rangefinders will produce amazing results as they're generally fantastic cameras. Most modern (as in multicoated lenses, the actual lens design doesn't matter all that much) medium format cameras will really, it's hard to name a bad one(maybe my memory is bad). If you're doing closer work I would probably look at one of the Mamiya 645's though, due to ever present parallax error it can be hard to predict framing with a rangefinder.
    If the rangefinder doesn't bother you and you can stretch for it the Mamiya 6 (the new version, not the older 1940/50s bellows...) is a fantastic camera with really good lenses (6x6 format), the Mamiya 7 is 6x7 and normally more expensive however also very hard to fault.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Feb 10, 2010
    Killarney, OzTrailEYa
    Have you got a medium format projector?

    Slides project well, but seriously as a film head myself I have not even used my leica projector for two or more years.

    I scan my film and use it that way.

    The neighbor has a big screen TV with their entire digital collection on a permanent random slide show (when not watching TV that is). Far far more accessible.

    I took a 6x9 folder with me to India with good intentions.
    Never loaded a roll. Far too time consuming. Too busy engaging with the trip :) 

    I use MF when I've got time to burn.

    Thake your m43 outfit and enjoy your trio to Australia instead
    • Like Like x 1
  4. ManofKent

    ManofKent Hopefully still learning

    Dec 26, 2014
    Faversham, Kent, UK
    If you fancy a TLR look at used Rolliecords - much cheaper than Rollieflexes but still capable cameras.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. zathras

    zathras Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 13, 2014
    Waikato, New Zealand
    Chris Nielsen
    • Like Like x 1
  6. RichardB

    RichardB Snapshooter Subscribing Member

    Nov 19, 2012
    Maryland, US
    I've been recently investigating medium format, too. Those links from eteless show off what a Fuji can do. My first MF camera is a Yashica-Mat EM that came without its (presumably dead) meter. I'll meter with my PEN until I get a proper meter. My first roll of film showed that the taking lens and viewing lens were focusing differently, so I'm trying to solve that problem before I shoot any more. The colors on Portra 400 were great, though, as was the sharpness in the (unintended) area of focus.

    I'd say MF is worth playing with, and it helps compensate for any "full-frame" envy that a Micro Four Thirds user may feel.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Feb 10, 2010
    Killarney, OzTrailEYa
    Hi again

    Just wanted to add

    Slides do project well, as that is their design criteria, but that's pretty much all they do well. I have been scanning film for 15 years and if there is one thing I have learned is that in Australia slides suck at capturing the tonal ranges here. Negative is much better.

    Negative is much better at not losing the highlights and at compressing the range. To me if you want washouts and impenetrable blacks use slide.

    Slide is amenable to profiling your scanner and negative less so. This makes consistent colour reproduction tricky with neg (which is why in motion picture you will see a colour specialist mentioned.

    Because they are projected people often assume movies are shot on slide, they are not. They are shot on neg for a number of reasons , which includes better contrast control.

    There is a long and steep learning curve on using film, more mystical and obscure than digital.

    My advice is to take your m43, shoot raw and have a more powerful image processing kit.

    Have you handled 120 roll film? Do you understand about the difficulties in preventing edge fogging from light leaks?

    I love 120 compared to 4x5 sheet, but 35mm is waaay more convenient to use.

    If you really must take a MF camera and your goal is slides find out what slide sizes your projector will take and then make a choice. Myself I don't like the tiddly 645 format, I don't see the point (too close to 35mm and has less versatile lens systems meaning more likely to crop and thus even closer to 35mm). I go for area, so I like 6x9 or 6x7 as a minimum.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    I quite like the Mamiya TLRs. I picked up a used, in perfect working condition, C33 for $150. Came with the 80/2.8 set.

    Portable, yes...but that metal construction comes with a price. It is not light! manual everything, so you'd need a meter of some kind or if you can eyeball exposure.

    I've got a Zeiss Ikon that I want to run some film through - just have not had the time. So compact and relatively light for what it is. Close up the bellows and you could fit that thing in the back pocket of a pair of jeans or in a coat pocket.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Sean Rastsmith
    Been looking at a Minolta Autocord TLR. Comes with a pair of 75mm 3.5 lenses, and they load the reverse of the rolliflex, so no issues with bending fresh film. Trying to find a body that does both 120/220 (the last 3 or 4 models made) for not too expensive.
  10. RichardB

    RichardB Snapshooter Subscribing Member

    Nov 19, 2012
    Maryland, US
    Just note that Portra 160 and 400 seem to be the only films still available in 220 rolls.
  11. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Sean Rastsmith
    I found some others on Amazon, by searching 220 film instead of just clicking through the filters. Fuji and a couple of others. All it takes on this model is to adjust the arrows on the back plate so it gives the right pressure, and can take either. There are few that don't have the CdS goggles (which I think just look weird), just a matter of getting one for the right price. Rather have the option than not...
    • Like Like x 1
  12. rbelyell

    rbelyell Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 15, 2013
    Mountains of NY
    i love and have used a fair amount of mf gear. the first thing i recommend you take some serious time to think about is format. imo 645 is not the way to go for either travel or your first mf foray. it is a vertical fov vs the horizontal youve always experienced. thats called the 'portrait' view vs the 'landscape' view most use for travel photos. it takes getting used to, and thats not what you want to do while traveling. you will quickly get disgusted with having to constantly turn the camera 'round to get the shot you see in your minds eye.

    6x6 is a favorite of mine and can go 'both ways' so to speak, but again takes practice because unless youve used it before you simply dont 'see' that way as a photographer. if you do choose this format, i suggest the mamiya folder which is rangefinder focus (vs scale focus) has a great lens and is relatively inexpensive and molto portable.

    my recommendation is 6x7 or 6x9. these are more traditional landscape views and really build upon the experience you already have vs demanding something new. imo they fit better into travel as well. get a cheaper zeiss 6x9 folder. they take insanely great photos and you won't break the bank in the event you end up not liking it. you could also try the fuji 6x7 or 6x9 rangefinders, which are large but excellent. let me know if you choose this route as i can give some specific advice.

    good luck.
    • Like Like x 3
  13. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    If you read the listings they're old and most only have 1-5 in stock. Most have been long discontinued.

    I actually prefer the portrait orientation as I find landscape unnatural... it depends entirely on the person however I find portrait works much better for the way I see images.
  14. DoofClenas

    DoofClenas Who needs a Mirror! Subscribing Member

    Nov 9, 2012
    Traverse City, MI
    How about a Mamiya 645?
  15. PacNWMike

    PacNWMike Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Dec 5, 2014
    Salish Sea
    I'd hate to be your wife twiddling her thumbs the whole trip while you fart around with film. :smile:
    • Like Like x 2
    • Agree Agree x 1
  16. JensM

    JensM Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 6, 2016
    Oslo(ish), Norway
    As screename
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2016
  17. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter Subscribing Member

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    I've only had a Pentax 645 which was nice to use. The vf was wonderful. I always wanted a 6x7 but these thinks are so huge.
  18. MoonMind

    MoonMind Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Oct 25, 2014
    The cheapest way into MF - but lots of fun - is through old folder cameras. You can pick one up for a song, though you run the risk of stuck shutters and holey bellows, so if you don't want it to be (somewhat more expensive) learning experience, I'd use someone like hhtp://certo6.com to get a fully working one. Even the most sophisticated ones will cost you less than a :mu43: camera - and even if you don't buy from him, the amount of useful information on the site is fantastic.

    Folders make MF portable - I just picked up (another ... :rolleyes: ) Zeiss Ikon Nettar (model II - 518/16) with a 75mm f/3.5 triplet lens for $25 that's considerably smaller (though heavier!) than my GX80 with the 17mm f/1.8 attached. The shutter's working, the lens is clear, bellows light-tight - I think I'll be fine in spite of internal colour pealing. My other 6x9 Nettars are both even more barebones - but one sports a gorgeous 105mm f/4.5 Tessar and Compur shutter capable of super-crispy images while still being jacket-pocketable (just ...). If you want something similar from more recent times, you have to pay five to ten times the money or more!

    If you have more money to spend and want serious cameras, I would recommend going after a Mamiya 6 or 7 (II) - fantastic cameras, technically sophisticated, but still reasonably compact (though about three times the size and weight of the folders!). The Fujifilm GS, GW and GA series are also great, as are the more recent Cosina Voigtländer folders (but those are huge and heavy - not at all like the old cameras). As you may have noticed by now. I'm into the rangefinder paradigm because it really makes things more portable. That's why I went for the Mamiya 6 myself - I got mine from Bellamy Hunt of Japan Camera Hunter fame (a great guy to deal with). If you've never shot with one: Think Leica, than scale up and add in helpful electronics - for the price of a reasonably well preserved M6 without a lens(!), you get a wonderfully sharp and clear 75mm f/3.5 standard lens with the sturdy body that has an excellent viewfinder and familiar controls.

    Finally, there's a recent entry into 6x6 MF that I think is way underrated - but it's also a bit of a risk when buying: If you can catch a good Lomography LC-A 120 (and not one that has one of the numerous quirks this model can exhibit), you get yourself a super-wide (21mm-e) camera with automatic exposure and zone focusing that's capable of fantastic images for the price of a GF7. It's mechanically on the lower end of what's available - but if everything works sufficiently well, the camera offers a great shooting experience. Chris Gambat called it the ultimate street camera - he's right IMO.

    • Informative Informative x 1
  19. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Legend

    Mar 21, 2014
    I wanted a medium format camera on a budget and ended up with a Koni Omega Rapid 200, and have never regretted it. It is an ugly beast of camera, and weighs a ton, but...it shoots big 6x7 negatives, the ergonomics are wonderful with its big grip and focus wheel on the side; the lens is razor sharp (some have compared it favourably to Hasselblad); the rangefinder is coupled and parallax corrected, easy to calibrate, accurate, big, and bright; and it's suprisingly clever and quick in operation, with nice little interlocks to prevent shooting blank frames or doing anything else stupid and wasting your expensive film. The only thing to worry about is making sure that the ratcheting mechanism in the film back is in good condition, since apparently these cameras were often used by working professionals as press cameras or for wedding photography back in the day, so they've lived hard lives.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    I think they're the best kept secret in medium format. I bought mine for under $100. I cannot imagine better value is possible anywhere.
    • Like Like x 2
    • Informative Informative x 2
  20. JensM

    JensM Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 6, 2016
    Oslo(ish), Norway
    As screename
    Just googled Koni, and you are right, that is one ugly camera! :eek-31:
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
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