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Recommendations for medium format SLR

Oren Grad

Member
I don't know the Graflex press cameras, but my old Linhof Technika 23 had the drop bed, front tilt and shift, a bit of back swing capability, and came with a rangefinder coupled and cam-matched 47mm ultra-wide lens (as well as two others). There's a complete set of the camera with all three lenses on Ebay right now for $1500 - all you need in addition is the roll-film back (A couple of those available too: Linhof 23 roll-film back "Rollex" around $156-200). It's a superb camera, beautifully made and finished. If I were buying this type of rig now, I'd snap it up in a second; I miss that camera a lot!
A quick note on this for tribal-warrior: keep in mind that the roll film holders for Linhof 2x3 cameras are not compatible with the Graflok standard used by most other medium format view and press cameras. Nothing inherently wrong with a proprietary system if the features and price meet your needs, you just need to be aware that you'll be limited to same-brand roll holders.
 
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FWIW, I can't recall ever using front tilt when shooting 6x7 and 6x9 with my Horseman VH and VH-R cameras. It's very difficult to use effectively with such a small ground glass. Mind you, I very rarely use tilt, or swing for that matter, even with much larger sheet film formats - for the kinds of things I want to photograph it usually causes more problems than it solves. But even discounting for my preferences, medium-format film is not an ideal choice if you want to make heavy use of tilt or swing.
Interesting. Thank you for sharing your insights. I didn't realise it was trickier doing such movements on a smaller ground glass area. I was mainly planning to do movements in certain situations with specific lenses - mainly the 90mm and possibly longer focal lengths (depending on subject to camera distances of course.) I doubt I would need movements with a 50mm or 47mm wide angle.

I'm just going by my previous experiences shooting landscapes on medium format with my existing gear. With the 80mm Yashinon lens on my Yashica TLR, I didn't really have any issues getting sufficient depth of field at f22. It was more than adequate. However, with the 90mm standard lens on my Koni Omega Rapid, I did struggle a little bit getting enough dof at times at f22. Sometimes it was only just barely enough to get everything from the foreground to the background sharp. Other times, it looked like I got everything sharp with normal viewing of the image (and also with enlargements as well) but when viewing the 6 x 7 tranny with a loupe, you could see some slight softness in the distant background. Yea I could shoot at f32 but I want to minimise diffraction.
 

Godfrey

Well-known member
A quick note on this for tribal-warrior: keep in mind that the roll film holders for Linhof 2x3 cameras are not compatible with the Graflok standard used by most other medium format view and press cameras. Nothing inherently wrong with a proprietary system if the features and price meet your needs, you just need to be aware that you'll be limited to same-brand roll holders.
That's true, but in practical terms, you only need one or maybe two roll holders (for alternative ASA films or B&W/Color simultaneous use), in general. At least I don't need more than that ... I'm sure someone else might, somewhere along the way. :D
 

Oren Grad

Member
Leaving aside for a moment the challenges of judging tilt effects on a small ground glass, the utility of tilt depends heavily on what kinds of things you are photographing and how sensitive you are to out-of-focus rendering in the picture.

If you like to photograph scenes that have things sticking up in the middle at close to medium range - trees are the obvious example for those who like to photograph landscapes - then tilting the focus plane just leaves you with the out-of-focus parts in strange places. Fine if you like that as a special effect, but I don't. I found from experience that I'm very sensitive to that, even if the effect is subtle - and once I see it in a picture, I can't "unsee" it.

As always, YMMV. My main point is that Scheimpflug is not magic. There are many depth-of-field problems - for my purposes, most of them - that it can't fix. Doesn't mean it's never useful, but newcomers to view cameras sometimes have unrealistic expectations in this respect.

And to extend my point about the ground glass, the latest high-resolution digital cameras used with tilt/shift lenses have an advantage over 35mm and medium format film cameras in that they have usable high-magnification live view, which makes it easier to judge the focus effects of tilt than a loupe applied to a small ground glass with the focal lengths typically used in medium format photography. Again, the exact point at which a user will find one approach easier than the other will vary from one person to another.
 
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Oren Grad

Member
That's true, but in practical terms, you only need one or maybe two roll holders (for alternative ASA films or B&W/Color simultaneous use), in general. At least I don't need more than that ... I'm sure someone else might, somewhere along the way. :D
On the plus side, Super Rollex holders are pretty robustly built. But the earlier (non-Super) Rollex backs have been widely reported to sometimes have problems with frame spacing because the mechanism doesn't allow for the thickness of current roll films.
 
If you like to photograph scenes that have things sticking up in the middle at close to medium range - trees are the obvious example for those who like to photograph landscapes - then tilting the focus plane just leaves you with the out-of-focus parts in strange places. Fine if you like that as a special effect, but I don't. I found from experience that I'm very sensitive to that, even if the effect is subtle - and once I see it in a picture, I can't "unsee" it.
Yes I have heard of the out of focus tree tops sticking out of the middle and foreground scenario when using forward tilt to make the plane of focus more horizontal. I think Jack Dykinger may have discussed it in his book. Yes indeed, the Scheimpflug principle does have it's limitations. Though I imagine it would be perfect if you're photographing a desert landscape with low lying scrub!
 
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I don't know the Graflex press cameras, but my old Linhof Technika 23 had the drop bed, front tilt and shift, a bit of back swing capability, and came with a rangefinder coupled and cam-matched 47mm ultra-wide lens (as well as two others). There's a complete set of the camera with all three lenses on Ebay right now for $1500 - all you need in addition is the roll-film back (A couple of those available too: Linhof 23 roll-film back "Rollex" around $156-200). It's a superb camera, beautifully made and finished. If I were buying this type of rig now, I'd snap it up in a second; I miss that camera a lot!

G
Thanks for the heads up. Another camera to consider. I'm not actually in a buying position right now. I'm just checking out and researching options for the near future.
 

Oren Grad

Member
Yes I have heard of the out of focus tree tops sticking out of the middle and foreground scenario when using forward tilt to make the plane of focus more horizontal. I think Jack Dykinger may have discussed it in his book. Yes indeed, the Scheimpflug principle does have it's limitations. Though I imagine it would be perfect if you're photographing a desert landscape with low lying scrub!
Yes, definitely more practical in that situation.

One other thing I should have mentioned: a few degrees of tilt goes a long way. So if you intend to make extensive use of tilt, one of the things to look for in evaluating cameras is how much finesse they offer in controlling the tilt movement - how easy it is to set the front standard for just a little bit of tilt, reliably and repeatably. Some cameras have zero-detents that help in setting up the camera in a hurry but make small adjustments very tricky - the standard keeps wanting to fall back into the detent. Some have designs with mechanical slop that make it very fiddly to lock the standard down without disturbing your setting a bit. Geared movements can help, but those tend to be found in high-end cameras that are heavier and more expensive.

Also pay attention to whether the camera offers base tilt or axis tilt - the latter is generally easier to use.
 
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Oren, thanks for the good tips regarding tilt on different equipment. As a newcomer, I thought hard stops like zero detents and mechanical stops would be a goo thing. Well maybe a good thing when making sure the front standard is zeroed when you want it to be. I notice that with the Intrepid 4 x 5, it looks like you have to rely on your sight a lot of the time when zeroing movements.

Ive just thought of another dilemma when it comes to the Scheimpflug principle. A fair bit of my future LF photography would likely be done on B&W film. And with that, I would like to use a red filter to darken the sky and create more contrast with the clouds. Though as one LF landscape photographer pointed out, clouds will often be a little out of focus when using the Scheimpflug principle. I know that the depth of field forms a wedge shape in this scenario with the lowest point in the foreground and the highest point in the distant background. Though I guess the highest point of the wedge will not reach the clouds above, even when the lens is stopped down considerably.
 

Oren Grad

Member
As a newcomer, I thought hard stops like zero detents and mechanical stops would be a goo thing. Well maybe a good thing when making sure the front standard is zeroed when you want it to be.
There are other ways to ease alignment besides detents. The Phillips field cameras have a little turn-button on the front standard that gives easy alignment in one position and unimpeded tilt in the other. At least some of the Chamonix field cameras have sliders that accomplish the same thing. I'm sure there are other examples.

I've just thought of another dilemma when it comes to the Scheimpflug principle....
In fairness, given my biases, it would be a good idea for you also to "talk" with other users who have more extensive field experience with tilts than I do. I'm sure that others will have practical insights that I have missed.
 

jdphoto

Active member
As this thread seems to have evolved towards cameras with movements. I'd suggest the Mamiya RZ with the tilt/shift adapter. Still a SLR, but an incredible camera with fantastic lenses, large 6x7 neg, APO and FLE lens choices. To use the RZ for long exposure you can use the "T" setting on the lens with a cable release which only uses battery to lift the mirror. Otherwise, it's all mechanical when shooting in this mode (B) using the "T" settings. Here's an article that can explain all the functions. Jump to slow exposures T and B mode for greater detail. I regret selling my mint RZ ProII, which can also take DB's, polaroid backs, finders, etc, but it does get heavier with the AE finder! There's a reason almost all pro's used these in the 90's and today. One thing to note is when shooting long exposures you have to slide the "T" button to disengage the shutter which could induce vibration. To mitigate this, simply cover the lens with a lens cap prior to switching the "T" mode.

 
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Giorgio

Member
When it came to medium format film cameras, I ended up using two systems.
The Hasselblad for its ease of use (mostly sans tripod) and versatility. Lots of lenses, lots of bodies and lots of accessories to choose from.
The Fuji GX 680 for the shear size of film that it produced, pleased every one that ever saw one of these images ( the polaroids are exceptional).
That is my take on the subject, you may have another point of view.
There are so many choices that it is possible to find your perfect system according to your needs.
 

250swb

Member
One other consideration when wedding yourself to the idea of camera movements is that you'll need the fastest lenses you can afford otherwise you stand a good chance of not being able to see the effect of the movement because it's too dark. For sure it's easy to focus without movements with a slow-ish lens, but as soon as you need to assess the whole area of the ground glass looking for one area coming into focus then also try to see other areas going out of focus a slow lens makes it a nightmare unless you are photographing out in the open under tropical sun. It gets worse with bellows extension. It's also a problem when looking at where ND grad filters are positioned.

I am basing that on 'landscape' because the OP has given few clues, but in the studio you have lights that can temporarily illuminate the corners and edges. Personally in over forty years of intermittent large format use I could count on one hand the number of times I've used the camera movements 'in anger', but some people use them all the time because their subject matter dictates it, and some just like the performance aspect.

Everybody finds what they like, I favour Fuji's 'Texas Leica's' for landscape, superb lenses, no batteries, and I can leave filters on the lens and they won't darken the view. So I'd say just buy something in medium format that isn't going to take much investment in time or money and go out and discover what you like and what you don't. Large format is as much about the whole procedure not just camera movements, and you need to know how much gear you are willing to lug, all before starting on a large learning curve that will be full of frustrations.
 
JDPhoto: "As this thread seems to have evolved towards cameras with movements. I'd suggest the Mamiya RZ with the tilt/shift adapter."

Ive had a bit of a change of mind. For camera movements, I think I'll get a large format view camera later down the track. With regards to a medium format SLR, I think I will probably be content without such movements most of the time.


JDPhoto: "To use the RZ for long exposure you can use the "T" setting on the lens with a cable release which only uses battery to lift the mirror. Otherwise, it's all mechanical when shooting in this mode (B) using the "T" settings."

That is very interesting to know that battery power isn't required to keep the shutter open during the T mode on the RZ. I didn't know that previously. From memory, I think there may have been another electronic Mamiya MF SLR that could do time exposures without a battery (possibly a 645 model unless I'm getting mixed up with another camera system.) Good to know and I read the relevant section in the linked article.

JDPhoto: "One thing to note is when shooting long exposures you have to slide the "T" button to disengage the shutter which could induce vibration. To mitigate this, simply cover the lens with a lens cap prior to switching the "T" mode."

The procedure for doing long exposures does look less awkward and fiddly compared to the Bronica cameras. Though even so, I'd prefer something more simplified. Good tips about covering the lens when sliding the button back but I'd feel that could be a little tricky when using the 50mm wide angle. From what Ive seen in photos of the RB67 lenses, it looks like they've got T and B without any kind of dedicated time exposure button from what I can tell. So it looks like with B at least on the RB67, you would just maintain pressure on the cable release to keep the shutter open and then release the pressure to close the shutter. And that's what I'd prefer. Nice and simple.
 
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One other consideration when wedding yourself to the idea of camera movements is that you'll need the fastest lenses you can afford otherwise you stand a good chance of not being able to see the effect of the movement because it's too dark.
Very interesting. As mentioned above, I will probably forego movements on medium format. Though when I move on to large format later down the track, I won't have much choice but to use slow lenses. I believe that the majority of lenses intended for 4 x 5 have f5.6 or f8 maximum apertures. I guess there might be the occasional lens that opens up to about f4.

I am basing that on 'landscape' because the OP has given few clues
Yes indeed, you are correct. It will primarily be used for natural landscapes as well as urban scenes at night.

So I'd say just buy something in medium format that isn't going to take much investment in time or money and go out and discover what you like and what you don't.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this thread, Ive done all that already years ago. Most of my medium format images were shot with a Yashica D TLR and a Koni Omega Rapid which were obtained fairly cheaply. And they served their purpose for the most part. And a long time before that, I bought a Russian made TLR for under $15 from a camera market as an extremely cheap way of getting into medium format. As for my next medium format camera, Ive already covered my needs / feature wish list.
 

250swb

Member
Very interesting. As mentioned above, I will probably forego movements on medium format. Though when I move on to large format later down the track, I won't have much choice but to use slow lenses. I believe that the majority of lenses intended for 4 x 5 have f5.6 or f8 maximum apertures. I guess there might be the occasional lens that opens up to about f4.

So have fun

Yes indeed, you are correct. It will primarily be used for natural landscapes as well as urban scenes at night.

So urban night scenes, slow lenses and camera movements are a combination made in heaven, have fun.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this thread, Ive done all that already years ago. Most of my medium format images were shot with a Yashica D TLR and a Koni Omega Rapid which were obtained fairly cheaply. And they served their purpose for the most part. And a long time before that, I bought a Russian made TLR for under $15 from a camera market as an extremely cheap way of getting into medium format. As for my next medium format camera, Ive already covered my needs / feature wish list.

I bow to your experience, I just imagined you started asking questions because you didn't know something, so knock yourself out, have a great time, have fun.
 
Ive just found out that ending a long exposure on the RB67 is similar to the RZ in that you have to rotate a ring on the lens to close the shutter. No biggie. I'll just have to place something suitably dark in front of the lens right beforehand as suggested above.
 
I'm late to the thread, but one thing to remember when buying any second-hand gear is...

1. How reliable is the camera.

2. If it goes wrong, is it able to be repaired or serviced (some camera manufacturers do. Some camera manufacturer's don't [assuming they're still in business]). By the way, if the latter, then go to a reputable third party service person/shop/thingy, and hope they have parts. Avoid the many dozens of fly-by-nights out there that will cause more harm than good (the so-called 'camera butchers').

3. Connected with 2 above - availability of parts (electronic or mechanical). This is a biggie for out-of-production cameras that are getting older and bits drop off (I suspect many DPI regulars will personally identify with this, and not just cameras!). As an aside, large format reigns supreme here based on their simple design and relative ease to manufacture replacement bits.

4. Prices are going up as film continues its not too insignificant resurgence. On top of that is that to placate point 3 above, the more astute are buying up second and third bodies to cull for parts when their main body needs a replacement part. In other words, get in quick when funds allow.


Cheers,
Duff.
 
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Duff, very good points about the potential service and repairs of old film equipment. There's a local camera store in my capital city which sells a lot of second hand film cameras and old lenses and one of the staff is very knowledgeable about the Koni Omega Rapid and other old cameras. They also send out camera equipment to a repair place (which is a separate business I assume.) I did have my Koni Omega gear 'fixed' by them but it still had issues afterwards. Like I mentioned before though, it's not exactly the most reliable camera system.

I hope that something like a Mamiya RB67 will be more reliable. And if an RB67 does need to be sent in to be fixed or adjusted, I hope it remains in a fixed state afterwards and the issue or issues don't return like with the Koni.

Yea good points about the wide availability of parts for large format cameras. I really like the simplicity of the view camera design. That is definitely an attribute.
 
Duff, very good points about the potential service and repairs of old film equipment. There's a local camera store in my capital city which sells a lot of second hand film cameras and old lenses and one of the staff is very knowledgeable about the Koni Omega Rapid and other old cameras. They also send out camera equipment to a repair place (which is a separate business I assume.) I did have my Koni Omega gear 'fixed' by them but it still had issues afterwards. Like I mentioned before though, it's not exactly the most reliable camera system.

I hope that something like a Mamiya RB67 will be more reliable. And if an RB67 does need to be sent in to be fixed or adjusted, I hope it remains in a fixed state afterwards and the issue or issues don't return like with the Koni.

Yea good points about the wide availability of parts for large format cameras. I really like the simplicity of the view camera design. That is definitely an attribute.
I think most cameras from the big/well known companies are generally reliable, the later the better. The RB67 was around for a while so the design has nicely 'matured' with time. There will also be more RB67 parts around than say for a Contax 645 (which I wish was still in production).

Might be worth familiarising yourself with things like service and repair manuals to see how they're constructed. If you haven't seen an example already, an RB67 repair manual can be found here. It will give you an idea of what to expect.

Cheers,
Duff.
 
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