The GetDPI Photography Forum

Great to see you here. Join our insightful photographic forum today and start tapping into a huge wealth of photographic knowledge. Completing our simple registration process will allow you to gain access to exclusive content, add your own topics and posts, share your work and connect with other members through your own private inbox! And don’t forget to say hi!

  • HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL OUR AMERICAN FRIENDS!

Recommendations for medium format SLR

So I haven't shot medium format film for a long time. In the past, I used a Yashica D TLR with Yashinon lenses and a Koni Omega Rapid. They were both obtained very cheaply and allowed me to get into medium format on a very small budget. Both cameras have produced some nice images but they do have their limitations. I had a large print of a landscape image produced by the Koni Omega that won Second Prize in a 2008 art exhibition and also sold at the same exhibition. That same image also won a competition in a photography magazine. Though I admit that I have sort of a love / hate relationship with this camera. I have had reliability issues with it which has led to some very frustrating experiences.

I am on the lookout for an MF camera that will offer me more versatility and is also reliable as well. I think Ive decided on an SLR. I would really like to make use of the 6 x 7cm format to have that edge with image quality (especially when doing enlargements.) The two obvious choices for SLRs with that particular film size would be the Pentax 67 and the Mamiya RB67. Unfortunately, the prices are still insanely high on the used market. So I may have to consider something else.

What other options would there be? I could consider 6 x 6cm. To be honest, I'm not very keen on 6 x 4.5cm because of that smaller frame size. Then again, when you crop 6 x 6cm to a rectangle, you'd end up with something very close to 6 x 4.5cm so maybe I'm being a bit silly. Even so, 6 x 4.5cm would be very low down in my preferences. Apart from the single lens reflex design, some of the other features I would like are a selection of good quality optics (interchangeable lenses), mirror lock up and a B or T setting with a mechanical shutter. I would also like a wide angle lens which has roughly the equivalent field of view as a 24mm in 35mm format. So for 6 x 7cm, that would be about 45mm and for 6 x 6cm, it would be about 40mm.

I have looked at the Bronica SLR cameras. Though a lot of them appear to have electronically controlled shutters. I would be happier with a mechanical shutter because I would be doing lots of long exposures and it would be nice to do so without batteries. I don't suppose there would be any Bronica models that would have a mechanical shutter in addition to mirror lock up?

I haven't really looked at Hasselblad because I would imagine they would still be crazily expensive. Regardless, I do realise that with whatever camera system I get, a MF wide angle lens with the equivalent fov of a 24mm is going to be fairly pricey. There is no denying that.
 

JoelM

Member
Best bang for the buck with great lenses is the Bronica SQai system with PS lenses. Another good one, but heavy, and with minor movements is the Fuji 680 system. If you want to leave the tripod at home, then the Mamiya 6, 7, and 7II is a nice choice though not SLR.

GL,
Joel
 
Best bang for the buck with great lenses is the Bronica SQai system with PS lenses. Another good one, but heavy, and with minor movements is the Fuji 680 system. If you want to leave the tripod at home, then the Mamiya 6, 7, and 7II is a nice choice though not SLR.

GL,
Joel
Thanks for the recommendations. I admit the Bronicas are really tempting. I'm certainly drawn to them. Though the only slight downside for me with regards to long exposure work is that they generally have electronically controlled shutters. Though for a lot of my night city photography, I would be using exposure times in the range of 8 - 30 seconds so not really much of an issue. However, if I was doing long exposures of star trails for several hours, I would definitely prefer a mechanical shutter. Then again, it's not too often when I shoot star trails.

Out of curiosity, why would the tripod be staying at home if I was using a Mamiya 6, 7 or 7II? I would mainly be shooting with a tripod. I did some reading about the Mamiya 7 ages ago. If I recall, it was quite a versatile rangefinder camera.
 
Ive watched a video on the Bronica SQ and it looks like doing time exposures is sort of an awkward process. It also sounds like not all the lenses have a T setting. And to end the exposures, you have to rotate a ring on the lens which could potentially create some vibration (though a black card in front of the lens would help here.) I think I would prefer an MF camera system where doing long exposures is more simplified.
 

ggibson

Well-known member
Take a look at Hasselblad--while most digital cameras are depreciating assets, some MF cameras are becoming collectible now. That's why I picked a Hasselblad when I bought into MF film a couple years ago--the 500 series is iconic! Even though it cost me more initially than some other setup, the camera is probably worth more now than when I bought it.

You had issues with reliability and Hasselblads are super reliable. Fully mechanical, no issues with electronics. Huge history of quality, parts availability/servicing, and continued usage for decades.

Not to mention the system is one of the most portable MF systems, is modular/flexible, and has great quality Zeiss lenses. The 40mm is expensive of course, probably starting at $1K depending on the version, but maybe on 6x6 you can live with 50mm. I've done star trails with my 50/4 from my backyard; easy with a remote shutter cable, no batteries needed of course :)


Star trails on film by Graham Gibson, on Flickr
 
Graham, the Hasselblads are truly iconic. Actually, the camera that I was having reliability issues with is also mechanical - the Koni Omega Rapid. Some very strange issues with that camera. Though yea a mechanical shutter is very desirable for me for long exposures.

Beautiful image of star trails there. Great colours and sharpness. I see that Zeiss lens really delivers the goods. And just by coincidence, I noticed you used the same film stock as the one I had planned to use for my next star trail sessions - Kodak Portra 160. Though I'm surprised by the grain that I can see in the frame. Obviously, blue skies would show up grain more but I thought Portra 160 would be very fine grained on 6 x 6cm film.
 

Oren Grad

Member
If you want a 6x7cm SLR with a mechanically-governed shutter, your only choice is the RB67.

You said you're mainly intending to use a tripod. If so, consider also a 2x3 view camera, either a compact monorail or a wooden field camera. That will allow a broad range of lens choices, down to some seriously wide stuff (35mm Apo-Grandagon on 6x9, anyone?). And the lenses will be smaller and lighter - often radically smaller and lighter - than the lenses offered for 6x7 SLRs. Yes, it will be somewhat slower in operation because of the extra manual steps required.

FWIW, for my taste, 6x4.5 doesn't offer much of an advantage in technical image quality over 35mm, and among SLRs you pay a disproportionate price in size and weight compared to 35mm for the extra format size you get. Even more so for 6x6, if you intend to crop to an elongated format all the time anyway.

Choosing a medium format system is tricky because compared to 35mm, every one has some substantial quirks that can be either tolerable or show-stoppingly annoying, depending on your taste. Think carefully about what features and handling characteristics really matter to you and where you're prepared to compromise. Good luck!
 

jdphoto

Well-known member
Consider a 4x5 ( Ebony, Chamonix, etc) and a 6x7 or 6x9 film back. Something like this...

https://www.keh.com/shop/large-format-4x5-horseman-10-exp-120-6x7-lever-model-452-664388.html


You'll have the mechanical quality of many Rodenstock, Calumet, Schneider, Nikon, copal lenses. Nothing is more mechanical and prices seem fair right now for large format lenses. Actually, I'm thinking of going that route too. I also own the Hasselblad 500CM and love the modular system it offers from a digital 16 mp CFV "fat back" to new film stocks like the higher contrast Kodak E100 (E6) which should be great for star trails.
 

ggibson

Well-known member
Beautiful image of star trails there. Great colours and sharpness. I see that Zeiss lens really delivers the goods. And just by coincidence, I noticed you used the same film stock as the one I had planned to use for my next star trail sessions - Kodak Portra 160. Though I'm surprised by the grain that I can see in the frame. Obviously, blue skies would show up grain more but I thought Portra 160 would be very fine grained on 6 x 6cm film.
Thanks, and your eye is keen to notice the texture, but I don’t think it’s grain. I had these odd textures on many of my shots on two particular rolls. I’m not sure whether it’s due to something the developer did or something happened with the film. Kind of comes across like jpeg compression online. It’s visible in blue skies mostly, some shots without sky you can’t see it at all. Otherwise though, I’m a big fan of Porta 160 color :)
 
Oren Grad, yea the Mamiya RB67 is tempting. And I really like that rotating back - great design feature there.
I have done research on 4 x 5 view cameras in the past. Though I admit I don't know a great deal about 2 x 3 view cameras. Same basic principles of course but are they more compact than 4 x 5 cameras? In terms of bulkiness, are they are a similar size to a medium format SLR or larger? And I guess you'd attach an MF back to it to shoot 120 film? Shooting 6 x 9 would be really something.
Though for mounting very short focal length lenses, wouldn’t you need a very particular type of bellows? From my research of 4 x 5 view cameras, I seem to recall that you’d need a bag bellows for some of the wide angle lenses.

A weight saving on the lenses for 2 x 3 would be nice. Regarding wide angle lenses, would they be less expensive than MF SLR lenses? 40 – 50mm focal length range would be where my interest lies. Wide angle lenses for MF SLRs are of course extremely pricey. Though I do have the impression that 120 roll film backs can be a little pricey.

And yes, very good points about the quirks of different medium format systems. My Koni Omega Rapid and Yashica D TLR didn’t have much in the way of annoying or cumbersome features. Though I admit I didn’t like the button I had to push on the Yashica while winding on the film. It required a fair bit of pressure and sometimes, I was a bit worried that holding it in might shift the camera’s position a little bit on the tripod. And as I mentioned above, the setting of long exposures on the Bronica lenses looks a bit awkward and fiddly and put me off that system.

I do notice that the Mamiya RB67 has a T setting on at least the 90mm standard lens. Would all the lenses in the RB system have a T setting? I admit Ive never owned a camera that has T. All of mine have Bulb instead. I believe that with T, you depress the cable release to open the shutter and then do exactly the same to close the shutter, right? Should work great in conjunction with mirror lock up.
 
JDPhoto, there was a time when I had a really strong urge to get a 4 x 5 view camera. And they certainly are versatile with their ability to take 120 roll film backs and everything else they offer. Though if I was specifically shooting medium format film, I would prefer a camera that’s more compact. Also handy when travelling interstate or overseas. Though I do admit that the Mamiya RB67 is a beast.

The other thing is in regards to night city photography, I really like to capture the so-called blue hour. And there are times where I arrive at the location extra early so I have a lot of time to set up (like you ideally would.) But there are also so many times due to certain circumstances where I’m late and really in a rush to get everything set up in time to capture that deep blue sky before it fades to black. With an SLR, I would have a decent chance of that (when I am in a rush) but with a view camera and all the multiple steps involved in the picture making process, I think it would be just about impossible.

Regarding star trails, I used to shoot those on 35mm slide film (the Fuji stocks were my preference.) Though I find it really tricky to capture the blue hour with star trails on transparency film. Easy to start the exposure too early or too late. Much more straight forward to capture the blue hour with night city photography and it's significantly shorter exposure times (I'll probably stick to slide film for that.) However, I'd like to make use of the generous exposure latitude of negative film for star trails this time around so that I can separate the outline of the landscape from the blue sky above it. I think I'd start the exposure earlier than normal so that I overexpose the negative.
 
Last edited:
Graham, so this texture was visible on the film before it was scanned? I thought it also may have possibly been noise generated by the scanner but I guess that is not the case. Yea I would be surprised to see grain on those big negatives. Very unusual. It was years ago when I viewed my Fuji Velvia 6 x 7cm transparencies with a loupe but I remember them looking ultra clean. And the same when I had enlargement prints made from them.
 

Godfrey

Well-known member
I dunno. I read your brief on what you were looking for and it seemed to just about define a Hasselblad 500 series camera, and then you say you don't want a Hasselblad even though it's a near perfect match to your spec.

Rather than thinking that Hasselblads are expensive, I tend to think they're a bargain. I've had Mamiya, Bronica, and Fuji MF SLRs. Buy them at a modest price, use them, fix them when they need service (if you can find someone to do it), sell them ... for practically nothing. Hasselblads: Buy them, use them, service them (plenty of shops repair old Hasselblads), sell them and you get almost all your money back. Sometimes you even make a profit.

I switched to Hasselblad as my medium format system gear back in the early '00s and have never regretted it at all. My entire kit of Hasselblad V system equipment (2x500CM, 4xlenses, 2xA12 backs, viewfinders, screens, other accessories) has cost me less than $4000. It's not perfect, but it keeps on going, produces super results, and I have two easy sources of service when something breaks. I have a Fuji GS645S Wide 60 Professional too ... it's a lovely fixed lens mechanical camera with that nice wide lens ... and I like it for hand-held, eye level shooting a lot, but it feels like a toy compared to the Hasselblad. I would never put it through the kind of abuse that the Hassies survive without even thinking about it.

And once you get into the Hasselblad V world, if you want to make the switch to digital capture, well, the modularity of Hasselblad has done a beautiful number there with the CFV digital backs and the latest 907x camera. That does get expensive, but if its something you're into and maybe making some income from, it pays for itself very quickly. I've gone in and found that for the cost of buying a 907x and a couple of lenses, I've enhanced the value of my V system kit by way more than the $4000 I paid for it ... and it's actually getting used; producing beautiful, satisfying results—stunning output from a 45 year old camera in a 50 Mpixel digital image. And it will for a long time to come.

What's worked for me may work for you, and it may not.
Consider carefully what you want, what you need. And good luck! :)

G
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
In defense of rejecting the "obviously best" solution, two systems I could never bond with were the Leica M and the Hassy V. I used an M9 as my exclusive (non iPhone) camera for a year. I never got comfortable with the rangefinder workflow. For f/8 landscapes, the results were fabulous. Lens character was the best. Got rid of everything but a few lenses. I inherited a Hassy 500 from my mother-in-law. I loved the TLR back in the day, so the waist-level finder wasn't the problem. Setting aperture and shutter speed and dark slides and film backs SHOULD have been easy to adapt to, but nope. Never took. Don't like the digital back cameras, either - Hassy or Phase One. Leaves me cold.

Here's a weird one: I got more and more annoyed with the X1D lenses - because you can't grab them to mount or unmount. They're perfectly smooth everywhere except the focusing ring. What the heck were the designers thinking? I should have asked someone on the forum before now....

I always liked the Pentax 67, and, surprise!, I like the Leica S and Fuji GFX.

You can't answer these questions by specs. (Try a Pentax 67 :ROTFL: )

Matt
 

Oren Grad

Member
Though I admit I don't know a great deal about 2 x 3 view cameras. Same basic principles of course but are they more compact than 4 x 5 cameras?
Some of them are.

In terms of bulkiness, are they are a similar size to a medium format SLR or larger?
There are some models that would be more or less a wash in terms of bulk but at substantially lower weight compared to a beast like the RB67.

And I guess you'd attach an MF back to it to shoot 120 film?
Swappable rollholders. 6x7 and 6x9 are readily available, other formats are possible.

Though for mounting very short focal length lenses, wouldn’t you need a very particular type of bellows? From my research of 4 x 5 view cameras, I seem to recall that you’d need a bag bellows for some of the wide angle lenses.
Depends on the camera.

Regarding wide angle lenses, would they be less expensive than MF SLR lenses? 40 – 50mm focal length range would be where my interest lies.
47mm Super-Angulon is widely available at affordable prices.

Though I do have the impression that 120 roll film backs can be a little pricey.
With a few exceptions, no, I wouldn't say that, though of course it depends what you mean by pricey.

I do notice that the Mamiya RB67 has a T setting on at least the 90mm standard lens. Would all the lenses in the RB system have a T setting? I admit Ive never owned a camera that has T. All of mine have Bulb instead. I believe that with T, you depress the cable release to open the shutter and then do exactly the same to close the shutter, right? Should work great in conjunction with mirror lock up.
You'll need to confirm this, but IIRC all of the RB67 lenses use the same system.

In defense of rejecting the "obviously best" solution, two systems I could never bond with were the Leica M and the Hassy V....
I took to film M's like a duck to water, still use them - though not so much the digital M's, at least the fat-bodied ones. I haven't had a chance to try an M10, though. On the other hand, I owned a 501C for a while and didn't like it at all. Same with a Rolleiflex 3.5E - never did find a way to hold and operate the thing that felt anything better than seriously uncomfortable and fatiguing. OTOOH, I did a lot better with a Mamiya C220 with the dedicated left-hand grip. though for most hand-held work I still prefer cameras used at eye level.

You can't answer these questions by specs
+1!
 
Last edited:
Godfrey, the Hasselblads certainly have a well deserved reputation. And those Zeiss lenses are superb. Indeed, these cameras are part of history with astronauts using them on the moon. Though I couldn't afford to invest in a Hassy system.
 

darr

Well-known member
I dated a guy that used a Kiev 88 and was happy with it.
They are pretty cheap when compared to Hasselblads and you can find them on the auction site.
We did not date long enough to share cameras, but he claimed it was just as good as any Hasselblad.
YMMV :D

What is your budget in US dollars?
I ask because I know a few student photographers that buy and sell gear.
 
  • Like
Reactions: med
47mm Super-Angulon is widely available at affordable prices.
Ive checked out prices on eBay for that 47mm lens. With the US prices, they are a fairly pricey but converted to AU dollars (my local currency) they are very expensive at over AU$1000. Don't get me wrong, a 47mm lens would be awesome to have for 6 x 9. That would be an amazing combination. And being able to make use of the Scheimpflug principle would be a great asset too. Though unfortunately, it's just too much $$$. By comparison, I notice the 50mm Sekor lens for the Mamiya RB67 often sells for a little over AU$300 and AU$400. That is a significant difference in price.
 

darr

Well-known member
Regarding Bronica's and mechanical shutters:

Bronica models
Bronica SLR system-cameras employed a modular design: The major components of the camera—lens, body, film-back and viewfinder were separate and interchangeable, providing options to match the specific photography or workflow needs of the photographer.

Classic models

Classic Zenza Bronica S2 with Zenzanon 100mm f2.8 lens
From its start, Bronica introduced a number of 6x6 cm medium-format SLR cameras with focal plane shutter, which used Nikkor lenses from Nikon,[4] until this line was discontinued with the introduction of the successor Bronica SQ-series. These models included:

Bronica Z (Zen-za), debuted March 1959 at the Philadelphia Camera Show and renamed Bronica D (Deluxe) in December 1959[6] with slight modifications; production discontinued March 1961[9]
Bronica S (Standard), introduced April 1961;[6] production discontinued April 1965[9]
Bronica C (Compact), introduced December 1964;[6] production discontinued May 1965[9]
Bronica C2, introduced May 1965;[6] production discontinued September 1972[9]
Bronica S2, introduced July 1965,[6] S2A (introduced 1969), S2A type 2 (introduced 1972); production discontinued September 1977[9]
Bronica EC (Electrical Control), introduced April 1972;[6] production discontinued December 1978[9]
Bronica EC-TL (Electrical Control with Through-the-Lens aperture priority automatic exposure), introduced June 1975,[6] EC-TL II (introduced October 1978);[6] production discontinued March 1980[9]

Notably, the Bronica EC was the first medium-format SLR camera with an electrically operated focal plane shutter (Japan Patent No.: 43/94431 24 December 1968; US Patent No. US3696727[12]), while the EC-TL was the first medium-format camera with Aperture priority automatic exposure (AE).

from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronica
I know the "S" models are mechanical, and it sounds like the C models are too.
 

darr

Well-known member
Best bang for the buck with great lenses is the Bronica SQai system with PS lenses. Another good one, but heavy, and with minor movements is the Fuji 680 system. If you want to leave the tripod at home, then the Mamiya 6, 7, and 7II is a nice choice though not SLR.

GL,
Joel
So true Joel.

My Mamiya 6 is the only medium format camera I can shoot handheld and the images are always tack sharp.
Today I tripod my Hasselblads, but in my younger days I did a lot of corporate and consumer special events with 500CM bodies equipped with 70mm backs, 50mm lenses, Quantum/Metz Flashes and Turbo batteries. Talk about carrying weight! But the pay and networking paid off well.

Kind regards,
Darr
 
Top