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Choosing a Medium Format Camera

by Philip Greenspun, 1999


Big Island, Hawaii

As editor of photo.net, I'm exposed to a constant stream of questions from people who can't decide what 35mm point and shoot or SLR camera to buy. Given that there is hardly any difference between modern Japanese 35mm cameras and yet folks are paralyzed with indecision, I sometimes wonder how it is that anyone comes to buy a medium format camera. Before you evaluate lens quality, brand reputation, included gizmos, electronic wizardry, or ease of renting accessories, you have to decide what size negatives you want!

Medium format cameras use 120 or 220 roll film, which is about 6 centimeters wide (2 and 1/4 inches). This size of roll film was introduced in 1898 by Kodak for its Folding Pocket KODAK Camera. It thus seems safe to say that the world has reached agreement on the proper height for a medium-format negative. On the other hand, nobody has ever agreed on the proper width. There are many standard widths for 120 camera frames: 645, 6x6, 6x7, 6x8, 6x9, 6x12, and 6x17. These numbers are ostensibly in centimeters although in practice a 6x6 camera such as a Hasselblad will expose a 56 x 56 mm frame.

My personal choice

Alex and Maddie. Harvard Yard 1998.

I like 6x6. I find that I take better photographs when I park the camera on a tripod, look down onto the ground glass, and evaluate the composition as though I were looking at a finished photo. This is known as "waist-level viewing" and it is only really easy with a square-format camera.

How good would your pictures be if you had to decide on the frame molding shape, frame material, mat size, and mat color at the moment of exposure? Being forced to make all of these decisions would probably distract you from making images. Part of the workload of a 35mm or 4x5 photographer is deciding whether the subject would be better served by a horizontal or vertical image. Personally, I find that my photography improves if I'm not forced to think about cropping and image ratio at exposure time. I experiment with cropping and horizontal or vertical presentation at night with the square chromes on a light table.

Some of my favorite images have turned out to be square. This is especially true when the photograph is of a pattern or a collection of objects. The viewer can see the pattern better if he or she is not hammered into thinking in one direction or another by a rectangular frame.

The folks who make Hasselblad argue eloquently for the square format in The Medium Format Advantage . One of their arguments is that you shouldn't lug around the weight of a lens that you aren't using. Lenses project circular image disks. If you park a rectangular section of film behind the lens, you're wasting much of this "circle of good definition". If you expose circular frames of film, you're wasting much of the film. If you expose square frames of film that fit exactly inside the image circle, you're not wasting any film and you're wasting as little image circle as possible. Thus the lenses for a Hasselblad (6x6) are much lighter than the lenses for any 6x7 camera.

Which 6x6 camera is best? If you're rich and strong, I like the Rollei 6008 single-lens reflex system. If you are traveling and want something light, the Mamiya 6 rangefinder system is wonderful. If you're poor, you might consider a twin-lens reflex such as the Yashica 124 or Mamiya. Boston, Massachusetts

In fairness to 6x6 detractors, I'll show this photograph of Boston from the banks of the Charles River by MIT. They would say "look at all that wasted space at the bottom of the frame". The truth of the matter is that this is a terrible picture, ruined by the lack of any foreground subject. It would have been a waste of film even with my Fuji 617 camera. If you can't fill a 6x6 frame with interesting stuff then you won't have a good picture. If you are able to fill a rectangle's worth with interesting stuff, then you won't mind cropping off a bit of film.

My other personal choice

The 645 format is the smallest, lightest, and cheapest roll-film design. Negatives are a little squatter than the standard 35mm frame (24x36mm) and therefore full-frame printing on standard paper sizes such as 8x10 need not require a cropping decision. What you get is a sharper deeper negative that enlarges beyond 11x14 with more grace and is easier to handle if you do your own darkroom work. Sadly, it is also vastly more expensive and difficult to scan than a 35mm neg, so keep that in mind if you want to stand tall on the Web with lots of photos.

George

Fuji has done great things to promote this format. They make 645 lenses that are just as good as Hasselblad's 6x6 lenses. They charge less than half the price. Then they throw in a perfectly good body behind the lens for free! Sometimes Fuji puts a meter in the body, something that apparently costs 'Blad about $5,000 extra. Sometimes Fuji puts in an autofocus mechanism (they were the first to do so in the medium-format world). Sometimes Fuji adds a wide-to-normal zoom lens! Whatever they do, the integrated camera, body, meter, and lens costs about as much as a Hasselblad or Rollei film back.

The most collectible Fuji 645 is the old folding model with a 75mm lens. I have a GS645W from this series that takes great wide-angle pictures with a 45/5.6 lens (equivalent to 28mm in a 35mm system). The modern Fujis that you can buy from the photo.net recommended retailers operate much like 35mm point-and-shoot cameras. (See Medium Format Digest's Fuji section for more on these cameras.)

If you want something with the flexibility and features of a standard Canon or Nikon SLR, consider the Pentax 645N autofocus system. If you feel compelled to pay double or triple Pentax's lens prices, the Contax AF 645 system is for you. The lenses have a Zeiss brand name, in which I'd put little stock, especially given that they're probably made in Japan by Kyocera/Yashica. What is intriguing is that the lenses contain Canon EOS-style ultrasonic motors. Pentax uses the ancient Minolta/Nikon-style screwdriver-blade-in-the-body method of autofocus.

6x7

Photographers on portrait assignment for magazines often use the 6x7 format. The weight isn't a problem since they have assistants, rolling carts, and advance planning.

If you don't have a flotilla of assistants, your only real options are the Fuji rangefinders (very cheap but no meter) and Mamiya 7 rangefinder (sort of cheap if you buy it in Asia; meter in the body and interchangeable lenses including a delicious super-wide lens). If you want to pretend to be a magazine portrait photographer, invest in the unbelievably heavy and clunky Mamiya RB or RZ67 system (see the archived threads in the Medium Format Digest). If you want to pretend to be a starving artistic nature photographer, throw a Pentax 6x7 II system into your beat-up full-size van. This is a huge 4-pound SLR body that includes a prism the result is what looks like an old Nikon on steroids. Lenses are sensibly priced.

6x8

Fuji makes a very interesting GX 680 III camera. It is similar in size and weight to the huge Mamiya RB/RZ system but you get modern electronics and the same perspective controls that you'd find on the front standard of a view camera.

6x9

Fuji makes a rangefinders that are remarkably cheap, light, compact, and high quality (as of 1999, you can choose between 65mm and 90mm lenses). Regrettably they don't include a meter.

6x12

6x12 is a panoramic format that is interesting because it is the largest hunk of roll film that will fit into a standard 4x5 enlarger. If your ambitions stretch to larger formats, you'll be limited to contact prints, digital imaging, or professional photo labs.

If you already own a 4x5 view camera, a cheap way to get into 6x12 is with a roll-film back. You're saved the hassle of loading film holders but the other operational annyances of the view camera will still slow you down. On the plus side, even with the very cheapest view camera and 6x12 back you get perspective control, something that will cost you northwards of $8000 in a Linhof 612 PC outfit (includes one lens, a Schneider 58mm XL that costs $1,213 in a view camera shutter).

With a rotating lens on a 612 camera body, you can get some very interesting photos. The Noblex is the most common example of the breed, producing a 146-degree photo free of distortion and light falloff.

6x17

If it pains you to take more than four pictures on a roll of film, a 6x17 camera is for you. Check my Fuji G617 review for some sample images. The right camera to buy in this size is a used Fuji G617 (the old one without interchangeable lenses). I got mine for $2200 in flawless condition. The things that it really could use are perspective control and the ability to focus closer. What the market has delivered instead are 617 cameras with interchangeable lenses and breathtaking price tags. For the same price, you could get a G617 and a 4x5 or 5x7 view camera system for the times when you needed a different focal length, a closer focus ability, or perspective control.

More

  • Internet's biggest, best, and best-archived discussion of medium-format cameras is Medium Format Digest

Inspiration

I'm going to try to keep tossing in photos here that show the advantages of various medium format cameras and image dimensions.

[ top]


Article created 1999

Readers' Comments


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Mark A. Brown , January 05, 1999; 11:51 P.M.

Danny Gonzales has a comprehensive comparison/review of medium format cameras and the pros and cons of different types on http://www.smu.edu/~rmonagha/mf/gindex.html. Danny's article is particularly worth checking out because it is based on first hand experience. I strongly recommend anyone aspiring to medium format to read this page.

erin o'neill , February 03, 1999; 01:49 A.M.

When I wanted to see if med format would suit my work I bought a lubatel russian twin lens plastic camera with glass lens. The quality is rather sketchy with these camera but my lubatel took pix just as good as the old mamiya I was borrowing with about a 1/4 the weight!!

I soon moved on to the hassleblad. I really love it & I can easily handhold it (my preferred style of shooting).

Recently I started a new series that needed to be med format (I was gonna print LARGE) but I wanted to get away from the "quiet", zen of the square. I started to price 645 cameras when someone told me to rent an A16 back for my blad & see how I like it. I LOVE IT!! Now of course I'll have to get a couple of those backs!!!

There is nothing like the quality of a blad! Ok I have an older 500 c/m so it's cheaper than the new fancy motorized ones (which I suspect are heavier).

Mattias Andersson , April 14, 1999; 05:38 P.M.

Wath about the Kiev 88, Kiev 60? I realy like the Kiev 88. Nice Hasselblad 1000F copy with some improvments bout less qoulity.

John Lind , July 11, 1999; 02:44 P.M.

I am a serious amateur who wants more than 35mm can deliver for some of my photography. When first exploring medium format equipment, there was considerable "sticker shock" at the cost (I'm not independently wealthy).

For the "poor" who want to try medium format on a budget, there are SLR alternatives to the Yashica and Mamiya TLR's mentioned (and to the Kiev 60/88 SLR's). Several 20-25 year old Bronica 6x6 (other than ones collectors are after) and Mamiya 645 models offer an entry level camera at relatively low cost. These are part of SLR systems which provides for some expandability later if you decide to seriously pursue medium format. Probably the least expensive of these on the used market is Mamiya's M645j, and what it lacks over the top end M645-1000s from its era won't be missed all that much by most users. No, they're not Blad's, Rollei's, or Contax's with Carl Zeiss glass, but the lenswork is good and the bodies are generally sturdy.

I found the 645 rectangular format a natural transition from 35mm provided the film travels vertically across the film gate. Looked briefly at the "overgrown 35mm SLR" style of 645 that runs the film horizontally and found it unnatural . . . continuously felt the urge to turn the camera sideways.

Some initial observations as a medium format beginner who shot 35mm (as a serious amateur) for over 20 years:

* It's not the same as using 35mm gear, due to size and weight, making photography in medium format much more deliberate most of the time. Medium format SLR equipment is made for professional use; its features cater to their needs. I'm using the tripod some of the time . . . for the first time in a long time shooting subjects for which I would have hand-held a 35mm. You *can* do some candid work with medium format, but it's much more difficult.

* The increased resolution cannot be appreciated very well if prints are the typical 35mm standard sizes: 3-1/2"x5" or 4"x6". It becomes noticeable with 5"x7" and more so as the prints get larger. I ask for 5"x7" prints to use as proofs when having negative films processed. It is very close to 645's 3:4 aspect ratio. The difference between medium format and 35mm is most dramatic with projected slides.

* Finding sources for 120/220 film and its processing can take some research as it cannot be done locally if you live in an isolated or rural area. I buy the film mail-order, the alternative being driving over 100 miles, and have started buying mailers with it. Kodak Premium Processing will process the film, but it takes *much* longer than 35mm and APS. On the upside, the cost of film and processing for 15 frames of 645 is not much different than the cost of 24 frames of 35mm . . . provided you find a good lab with reasonable prices.

None of the downsides, such as film availability or processing turnaround times, have been sufficient to discourage me. The main point is a beginner to medium format who has shot 35mm for a long time will find it a much different realm . . . and hopefully rewarding as I have. Don't trade in your 35mm gear for the 120 stuff, though. You will still want to use it on occasions when the size, weight and setup time required for medium format is too much.

Added the following about MF slide projection. If you want to project slides, you will encounter four issues:

(1) Sticker shock for new projectors. They are generally made for commercial, professional presentation use. They have features that cater to this and are priced accordingly. OTOH, because of this they also tend to be very high quality, both in mechanism and optics. If you're trying to keep it to a reasonable budget, Robert M. Monaghan has a *massive* web page covering new and used medium format projectors which helped me immensely. http://www.smu.edu/~rmonagha/bronslideproj.html Mentioned on his site is the least expensive new one I found, the Kiev.

(2) The bulk of MF projectors handle 645 and 6x6 format using 7x7 slide frames. There are a very few very expensive ones that will handle 6x7 format. Anything bigger, and now you're down to only a couple that cost literally a fortune (tens of thousands $$$). If projection is desired and you're not independently wealthy, you will be constrained to 6x6 and smaller formats or will have to crop a larger one (defeats having a larger format). Monaghan's site (URL above) has some information on larger format projectors.

(3) You will have to mount your own slides, or pay a (what I consider to be) high fee compared to the cost of slide mounts to have them mounted when the film is processed. Kodalux stopped returning "wide roll" reversal mounted (probably because many MF users want them sleeved, not mounted). This is good because Kodalux would undoubtedly use cardboard mounts which are not sturdy enough for transparencies this big and are notorious for jamming in nearly all MF projectors. The do come back sleeved. I cut the frames apart before removing the sleeve (to keep from scratching the film) using a miniature small guillotine paper cutter. There is controversy surrounding glass versus glassless mounts. On one hand, glass (anti-Newton) holds the slide flat and aids focus greatly. On the other, there are those who have had trouble mounting and with fungus (mold?) during long term archival. I found Wess' 3mm thick plastic glassless slide mounts easy to use. Others have recommended HAMA glassless also. After my 645 slides "pop" the focus is fine. Gepe seems to be king of the glass mounts, but have not used them.

(4) If you don't like having two projectors for two formats (I don't) the only new one I found was the Rollei P66 "dual" for $1500 (sticker shock). The rest are used and generally date to the mid-1960's. One of the best of these is the Rollei P11 (albeit finicky with slides being properly mounted and bulbs being correctly adjusted). Its optics are superb, bulbs are still manufactured, and it uses standard Euro trays. There are others, some good, some mediocre, and generally the average going prices on them reflect this. Of course your mileage may vary depending on how it was cared for.

john scarp , July 23, 1999; 01:09 P.M.

Just my 2c worth about projectors: Brand new "Kiev-66 Universal" will cost you $260 from Kalimex (http://www.dedal.cz/optics/medium_format_projectors.htm) or if you are able to travel to Russia - about $100 Quality is not up to Rollei standarts, but reasonably good. It will take both 6x6 and 35 mm mounted slides, but you have to switch lenses(both 80/2.8 and 150/3.5 are included in the kit)

Jim Gill , August 13, 1999; 03:48 P.M.

As a pro for twenty years I have used many of the well know medium format camera's inc. the Bronica SQ, Blad, RB-67,and Fuji 617. I find that my Bronica SQ with a speed grip and a non-metering prism finder is a great combination. I don't have to worry about horizontal or vertical when shooting, but if it becomes important like for a vertical mag cover the 645 lines are there in the viewfinder for me to see. I can hand hold it easily even at slower shutter speeds . It is a bit loud but I not shooting opera with it. I have even shot sports with it for some really big blowups. I also have used 'Blad system and an RB system. I am not as comfortable with the 'Blad and at normal print sizes don't find the lenses much different that the Bronica. The 'Blad is smaller, and lighter but it is hard to focus(for me) and doesn't seem as durable. The RB is huge but I often use it for portraits on a tripod with a 140 macro lens (works for me). I guess if I had to pick one I would go with the Bronica for it's lower cost and flexibility ie. 645 and panarama backs. In the end the camera should make little difference it's what comes out that counts!

Ron Dunnington , December 14, 1999; 12:35 P.M.


Can Cun ..., 35mm & 28-200 zoom

After more years of shooting 35mm than I care to mention, I added a used Hasselblad and several used Zeiss lenses to my collection. After using the 'Blad for a year now, mostly for scenics and candid portraits, I have come to a few conclusions:

1. The equipment is very, very heavy. If you are thinking of carrying a 'Blad + lenses + backs + finder + film + flash + tripod, etc. on a hiking trip ...., forget it unless you have a porter to carry the bag. I'm dead serious!

2. Compared to an AF 35mm, you'll miss a lot of shots while trying to frame, read the meter, transfer the readings to the lens and focus. It takes 2-4 times longer to get ready to shoot.

3. Is the quality of the pictures better? Depends. If (big IF) you have the time to set up a tripod and evaluate everything before you shoot, you will get better (sharper) pictures (of course if you did the same thing with the 35mm, you'd get better pictures there too!). If your goal is publication, or enlargements bigger than 8 x 10, MF is better.

4. If you like to shoot Fuji Velvia ..., good luck with an f4 lens. You'd better get used to speeds like 1/30th and 1/15th! Only a very few MF lenses are faster and the cost of these is exhorbitant.

For me, a MF camera is a studio tool, to be used outdoors only when your sole objective is to take pictures. For vacation shots, my 35mm with 28-200mm zoom is all I need.

Ron

Mark Barkasy , January 09, 2000; 02:09 A.M.

I just love my Bronica GS-1 6x7. With a speed grip it handles like a heavy 35mm camera (nothing that some wrist exercise can't cure). I put together my used system from 8 different Shutterbug dealers for the best prices on each part (if you like saving hundreds of dollars I recomend shopping, if not, buy all the system parts from one dealer). I will answer any questions on the GS-1.

M. S. , August 01, 2000; 10:54 P.M.

Hello, I'd just like to add my humble opinion about MF photography: I used my fathers Rollei 6002 for a long time to experience MF photography before I was to chose my own system or if i would inherit his Rollei. After a year and lots of rolls I chose the Mamiya RZ II. The reason is rather simple: A new wide angle lens for the rollei is about the price for a new RZ with lens, back AND wide angle lens. But more important was the rectangular format over the square format and the ability to focus very close. There are a few things you have to get used to, but using the RZ is easy (looking for bellows exposure compensation, using a handheld lightmeter, using a tripod all of the time). The most obvious disadvantage is of course there is the weight of the camera (2.4 kg w/110mm lens), but not much more than any 6*6 SLR. Bulk is another thing, since it's a 7*7 camera where you can adjust your frame horizontal or vertical in the circle of projection. Lens quality is outstanding and not vastly overpriced like other brands, the 110 mm(normal lens)has an aperture of 2.8. I've heard people saying that the mamiya lenses are better than rollei or hasselblad designs because of their more recent computer assisted calculations, but this might be a myth and is not meant to start a brand war.

A word of warning: It's a slow camera ... not as slow as a LF camera but much slower than any 35mm autofocus SLR. You have no inbuild meter (unless you buy the expensive metered prism) you usually NEED a tripod to hold the camera steady, you have only 10 shots a roll of 120 and loading is slow (unless you own more than one filmback). My skills greatly improved by this slow and deliberate style but it is something entirely different from the usual auto everything P&S photography style. I am not sure if I should have bought a LF camera instead for the disadvantages and advantages are the same - just more extreme. But on the other hand I usually shoot portraits for which I find this camera to be ideal... unlike the Rollei for example, whose lenses didn't allow to focus close enough to my personal liking.

I just wanted to speak up against the discrimination ;) of the 6*7 format by the author, it has it advantages and fits my needs: High quality studio and outdoor portraiture and even landscape if (and only then) I feel inclined to carry this beast around (since I don't have a flotilla of assistants)

M. S.

Gerald Pierce , November 06, 2000; 11:21 A.M.

I ditched my Mamiya 645's in favor of an RB because the 645 cameras are awkward to turn for vertical framing. The RB and RZ have rotating backs, so you turn only the back, not the whole thing. The RB and RZ also have 6x4.5 backs. Although it may be an elephant gun for a gnat as far as hand holding to shoot the smaller format, indoors on a tripod it will give you a rotating back and 5 extra exposures on each roll when you are shooting in volume. The RB has a 220 back in 645, so you can shoot 30 frames of the smaller format on one roll. A flexible elephant gun?

Vladimir Charchuk , February 17, 2001; 01:39 P.M.

I felt compelled to add my comments about my experience with medium formats. I started out 28 years ago with a Yashica 124G and loved the size of the negs immediately. I could not however get used to seeing everything backwards. I spent alot of time chasing my images. Guess it's something in my head I can't change.

Next came a Hasselblad C/M because virtually every professional photographer I saw had one so that's what I needed. I originally had a difficult time seeing in a square format. The Blad to me is not a comfortable camera to hold as well as being heavy. I have found that adding a after market motor winder that is available from APCAM made me like the camera alot more as I got used to seeing square. Focusing has always been difficult even with a focus lever. My biggest hardship with this system is it's cost, not just for lenses but for everything.

Next came an old Koni Omega Rapid 200. I love this camera. It's fast to use has interchangable backs and the optics are superb. It is a damn shame they are not still made. Not many different lenses where made for it, 60, 90, 135, and a 180. Best of all it's not expensive.

Then came a Pentax 67. It's heavy but works very nicely. Lenses are sharp, fast and varied. The system itself is not going to break the bank and the newer 67 II version has tremendous improvements and is much lighter in design from the original. I miss not having interchangeable backs!

My most recent purchase has been a Kiev 60. A very inexpensive Russian made 6x6 camera that has plenty of faults but the reason I purchased was simply for the 30mm fisheye lens. A monstrous peice of glass that takes excellent pictures. It's worth it to purchase this camera just for this lens. Although the other Russian glass is inexpensive and some is respectable you can also put nice Zeiss Jena lenses on also.

Which do I use know? All of them. I find that each one has it's merits and I can't seem to part with them.

Conrad Drake , June 16, 2001; 10:18 A.M.

It is necessary to point out that there are _other_ medium format sizes - particularily 127 - for which it can be rather difficult to find film for.

Tom Morris , February 15, 2003; 04:20 P.M.

How about Bronica? A nice cheaper Blad alternative? Plus the ETRS is rather nice...

Michael Sebastian , September 17, 2004; 09:05 P.M.

WHAT ABOUT KOWA? I came into possession of a Kowa Super 66 (I think it is), which I understand was called the "poor man's Hasselblad" back in the 60's when it was popular. I have since bought another body and a lens and a few other accessories on eBay. The camera is rugged and the lenses sharp. Anyone out there with any Kowa experiences to relate?

This would be a nice entry level med format camera.

Ted White , October 13, 2004; 11:00 P.M.

Michael:

I got a Kowa 6 back in the '70's and used it extensively in studio portrait work. It looked like a very well-done Hasselblad copy and it had a stunninly sharp lens. It didn't have interchangeable backs but I didn't care. It was so nice to be able to see through the lens instead of looking through the viewing lense of my Rollei. I got the prism eye level attachment so I could do eye-level sport shooting, but it made the whole thing too heavy. I also got the side grip with built-in cable release, which helped immensely for out-of-studio work. However, I ultimately went back to the twin-lens Rollei. It's lighter and very unobtrusive for outside work. An earlier poster didn't like because things were reversed, and I assume he couldn't follow action. Apparently he was unaware of the sport-finder. In the sixties I photographed motorcycle races for Cycle World magazine. After positioning myself at the edge of track, I would simply watch where the bike's tires contacted the track as they sped by, focus the camera on that spot, then pan with the sportfinder.

I am a fan of the square negative for all the reasons mentioned earlier. No decisions about whether to hold the camera horizontally or vertically. I am currently without a 6x6 and am looking. Does anyone know if the Yashica G is any good? I bang about in the desert much of the time, carrying a camera in a tank bag on a dirt bike, not the best treatment of a camera.

Bengt Ljungkvist , May 03, 2005; 06:31 A.M.

I am an enthusiastic amateur. For the last ten years I have been building an H-blad collection of second-hand lenses and accessories. The latest addition is the 503CW house and winder, instead of the older 500C/M and 500EL/M. All of it in black, the lenses T*-coated. Second-hand prices are not low or hardly even moderate, but the quality and durability is so extensive that I expect my Hasselblad equipment to last life-long (I am 56!). The digital revolution will make the prices go down even further. People in the Hasselblad Company, by the way, are doubtful about the longlasting effect of storing the digital files on CD-ROM and like media. Of course they defend their own cause, having only recently entered the digital playground, but nevertheless?

Jeffrey Davis , June 18, 2007; 05:15 P.M.

I am disappointed that you did not include the Koni Omega in your 6 X 7 section. Unlike some others you don't need a cart or assistants to handle the Koni Omega these cameras were designed as a press camera so hand held usability was very important. The Koni Omega is so good that wedding photographers often chose the Koni Omega over Hasselblad and all the others. All models have changeable lenses and models except the plain "Rapid" and 100 have changeable backs so you can change backs mid roll if you wish. Prices very affordable, however one should expect as with any camera of more than 10 years old that you may have to have a CLA done which most camera repair shops can do, and Webber camera even has parts. If you need more information on Koni Omega or repair contact information please let me know. Jay

Andy Andrews , June 26, 2007; 01:18 A.M.

I concur re the Koni-Omegas. I beat the heck out of mine some 25 years ago, doing celebrity photography and stock. None ever failed and the Hexanon lenses are superb, with very reliable Seikosha shutters. The film is larger than the 'Blads and lies flat in the gate, because of the articulated pressure plate that presses it against the aperture frame at the moment of exposure, then relaxes so the film can be quickly transported to the next frame. The Simmon Bros. out in Long Island City invented this design. I still use and LOVE my 1955 Omega 120, the father of the Japanese Koni-Omega. My Omega 120 weighs 2 lbs. 8 oz., has a big, bright viewfinder and wide-base rangefinder - like a Leica on steroids! Most people have never even seen one and that's fun too, especially when using it in heavily-trafficked areas. Tourists, especially Japanese male tourists, always give it a double-take and walk away smiling. Perhaps because it's not 'styled' but made to be functional, like a little Simmon Omega enlarger turned on its side.

Alexander Gordon , August 03, 2007; 12:41 A.M.

you forgot to mention the venerable Holga camera. The chinese made toy camera that is making an impression around the world!

Evgeny Zimin , September 06, 2007; 03:54 P.M.


AnPan

Hello guys!
Yashica D is really good camera too...
Above the picture of my old friend (1999, Yashica D, APX100)
I have some pictures at my opera blog as well.

Regards, Zimins@NET and everebody is welcome.

Andrew Prokos , September 08, 2007; 03:08 P.M.

Each of this formats has it's own appeal. 645 has caught on as it is really almost as portable as a 35mm outfit and you get a much larger piece of film from it. I find 645 the perfect format if you need a compact system for the field and use mine a lot for NYC location photography

Douglas Munsinger , October 05, 2007; 10:55 P.M.

Mamiya RZ67 Pro II. Right now I'm addicted to this camera. It's big, yes, but the viewfinder is bright and clear, the image sharpness is outstanding. Vertical or horizontal is a twist of the back. Winding and cocking the shutter is a single motion. With the left hand grip and an OpTech strap I find it totally usable hand held. A very precise elephant gun...

JD Rose (Glen Canyon) , May 24, 2008; 11:28 P.M.

I have been using a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II for three years now. Highly recommended. The format is just large enough to rival digital. Also, with the current, amazing rock bottom prices you cannot go wrong with this medium format camera.

Michael Seewald , May 28, 2008; 05:37 P.M.


DuckMan, LiJiang, Yunnan Provence, China March '08, Hassey 40mm

Went from a Yashica Mat 120mm twin lens reflex that I purchased in a Hock Shop in college (back in the early 70's) to a Nikon F 35mm (very advanced in it's day- 2,000 of a second shutter speed!). I kept that camera system for decades and it worked great.

Then to a Kowa 66 (as mentioned above and which I'd forgot about) for a few years to a RB 6x7 for studio work when -I finally went that route to keep my foot in the door as a photographic artist. Somewhere along the line I got a 4x5 speed graphic which I still have, to shoot magazine covers in San Diego.

I wore out the RB after 21 trips around the world (thank God- it was way toooooooo heavy for outdoor work) and many wedding and portrait jobs ( and way toooooooo heavy for wedding work) and went to a Hassey 500CM in 1992. Now, some 30+ trips around the world with it and four lenses I couldn't be happier. Heavy? Try the RB. The Hassey seems like a 35 after that. Time wise, it's worth the extra minute for the quality. I enlarge a lot of my work to 40x50", and with a $20,000 price per I want folks saying (and many photographer do) is this with a 4x5?

Get one and don't look back.

Mark Bristol , May 31, 2008; 08:04 P.M.

I have used the RZ67 for almost a decade now. Some feel that this rivals digital. Consider this: The highest of the 35mm size DSLRs give you 5616 x 3744 resolution. Makes some very nice enlargements. But a 6x7 chrome scanned on my desktop scanner goes about 12000x10000. This can make 30x40 inch prints at a full 300 dpi with detail that blows away ANY digital camera. Having a 6x7 chrome scanned on a drum scanner and printed on a lighjet or chromira printer is truly far beyond anything digital will be able to do for a long time. My DSLR body cost over 6 grand new. My previously owned RZ67 with AE finder and 6 mint condition lenses cost about the same. It all boils down to what you want to do with your pics. Many photographers only need to print about magazine size. Medium format won't give you anything that digital won't at that size. But if you are wanting the finest enlargements you have to be willing to give up speed and convenience for heavier and slower equipment. But the major advatage in quality is certainly worth the extra work.

Image Attachment: Hidden Beach RZ67.jpg

Richard Pike , January 21, 2010; 02:32 P.M.


One of my Team!

I have had the pleasure of using & owning several diffierent medium format cameras. The 1st ..an ELM 'Blad...super light...excellent optics..Sadly, I did not have the $$$ to properly equip myself. 3 yrs on, I sold my electric Blad for the exact same price as I paid! Next the Mamiya RB67ProS - Super heavy! Wide neckstrap or tripod required..excellent quality all round. Moved then to a Mamiya M645 1000s with 3 lenses. Great lenses, fast to use...had to go back to square format. Now happily using my Mamiya C330 ProF with 3 lenses & hope to pick up a good used 250mm tele. My other mediums? Speed Graphic 6 x 9 with 5 lenses, 3 backs and a lovely Agfa " Billy " 6 x 9 than I nornally load up with ISO 50 B&W Ilford film. Cheers all!

Antonio Montes , May 07, 2010; 10:39 A.M.

I tried many camers over the last 48 years. I used the Hassleblad (what a hassle).  Hard to hold, expensive to buy and noisy. The Mamiya 645 and Pentax 645 and 67 served me well for years. Then, the Rollies for fashion work. Went to Leicas and Canon F1 with Tri-X for available light stage work, and Koni Omegas for weddings.  Used 4x5, 5x7 and 8x10 view cameras (I still do) for formal portraiture.  My preference is for hot lights (spots and floods).  Karsh is my hero.    In the early to late 1960s, I used my Speed Graphics for almost everything. The quality was fantastic.  Lately,  I tired digital and gave them to my kids after missing the smell of photo chemicals  (I also love the smell of flashbulbs in the morning). I can not choose one camera.  I still have all my cameras and use whatever is appropriate to the shoot I have at hand.  If I had to choose one, I would chose the Koni Omega with the 58mm lens and finder. I discovered Fuji Acros 100, the best black and white film on this planet.  With the Koni and Acros, life is beautiful.  However,  I have a wedding coming up in June for a friend, and I promised him a retro look.  I will shoot it on my 4x5 Speed Graphic with flashbulbs.  My Koni Omega will be used for some  color shots at that wedding.  My Leica M3 will do the ceremony by available light.  I need many cameras.  Life is fun that way and I never get tired of my toys.  In fact, last month, I spooled a roll of 120 Tri-X on a 620 reel and shot it through my first camera, a Brownie Hawkeye which was given to me in 1951.  I was amazed that hat camera still works. 

David Martin , December 05, 2010; 03:31 P.M.

Hi Folks,

I'm slightly worried, I have paid a 200 euro deposit on a complete Bronica ETRS 645 system with 3 backs, 3 lenses, speed wind, waist and prism viewfinders, Metz flash gun and all its accessories, plus a range of effect filters, and all of this stuff has been kept in as new condition in a very beautiful silver case about 18"x12"x12" with velvet lining. All this for a total cost of 900 euro. Phew!

What i'm saying is that I would like to hear something good about the Bronica ETRS 645 camera so I can feel good about purchasing this equipment. This is my first Medium Format camera. and i'm thinking "should I have bought a 6x6 format camera" I have been shooting with Leica 35mm for the past 3 years. Before that it was Canon. I love my Leica cameras but i felt I should move on to the larger format.

Please reassure me somebody!    

Thanks David.

 

Antonio Montes , December 05, 2010; 04:22 P.M.

David, You made a great choice.  The 645 will blow away any 35mm camera. The 645 gives you a perfect 8x10, so you can actually see what the 8x10 will look like when you look thru your finder.  A 6x6 will have to be cropped. Not the 645.  You even get more exposures on a roll of 120 when shooting 645, which is 15, not 12.  Sounds like you have a great system.  Bronica lenses are fantastic.  Look them up on Google and hit images, for the particular lens you choose to look up.  YOu will see how nice the sharpness and color is.  Your worries will be over the first time you see your results. Good luck with your nice equipment.

David Martin , December 05, 2010; 08:28 P.M.

Thanks a lot Antonio, now all I have to do is get myself an enlarger for the Medium Format neg's. Up to now I am using a Leica V35 which I love using. It will be nice to have both enlargers in the darkroom when I get it.... Which enlarger do YOU recommend???

Regards David.

jeff steeves , May 24, 2011; 11:59 P.M.

May 24,2011

I recently acquired a used Mamiya RB67 Pro s w/ 3 lenses and a few other items for a decent price at a local pawn shop. Yes it is heavy but a sturdy tripod helps. After starting with a Pentax K1000 in the 90's I was itching for a MF unit and was eyeing the Pentax 67. Four years ago I finally went digital with a Pentax K10D and promptly hit a wall, photographically speaking. I stopped taking pictures. Since getting the RB I have rediscovered the excitement of photography in what I like to call the fundamental basics of photograpghy.  I love the large thumbnails when scanning and look forward to rediscovering a hobby that requires thinking about what you're doing when you set up for a shot. It's the technicality of it instead of just p&s and then fix it in photoshop. I want to have the shot first. The RB is far more versatile than the 67 as far as I know. My landscapes and wildlife are going to look better than I thought they did on 35mm. I havent disposed of my pentax gear as it helps to provide a reference for MF.

Jeff Steeves

Juan Caballero , May 25, 2011; 04:13 P.M.

I use almost all medium format camera cheap and expensive around there(Mamiya 645,Fujifilm gws67,Hasselblad ,Contax 645,Mamiya 7II) I sold all that cameras and i get a Mamiya C330 with 135 for $200 dollar and the 80mms for $225 dollar in great condition,is not that light but you can use for street photography too....i take nice picture with each camera but now in 2011 is time to safe money because not only expensive camera take the best photo,are you.

Zapata Espinoza , May 25, 2013; 11:24 A.M.

yep, the Holga is missing. Big time :-) http://tanzumsplagiat.wordpress.com/

Jeff Livacich , September 04, 2013; 09:25 P.M.

Strange that this was written in 1999, yet no mention of Bronica. At that time, they had for many years been producing cameras in the three most common medium formats- 6X4.5, 6X6, and 6X7.

They were well regarded and widely used. Yet not one peep about them. Strange.

A C , April 17, 2014; 01:15 P.M.

Danny Gonzalez's original article is here:

http://www.mflenses.com/medium-format-cameras.html

This is an excellent summary on most of the MF cameras.

The author of this photo.net article probably has never used the Bronica. So no opinon on the Bronica. For the performance/cost, Bronica is an excellent choice, from the ETR, to SQ or GS. Of course, not all gears were designed and made to the same quality.


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