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Please help me choose a 6x6 camera

Adam P , Sep 26, 2009; 08:50 a.m.

Good afternoon (my time!),

I have been photographing for years now. I have lots of experience in 35 mm film photography, and recently in digital full frame. However, recently I find square format very appealing, and often end up cropping rectangles to squares in post processing. After a lot of thinking, I decided to switch from my current 5D to an analog 6x6 system.

Bearing in mind that I:

a) cannot afford a Hasselblad;

b) want higher quality and more features than a Holga can provide;

c) shoot mostly people posing, portraits, and streets with or without people...

...what 6x6 camera would you recommend? I have _almost_ decided on a Yashica D or a similar TLR system, but would love to know your opinions on this or any other 6x6 system, including SLRs. One of the very important factors in my bias towards an old TLR is that it draws attention. I have managed to get into many conversations regarding my current 35 mm Yashica GSN, which often ended in an interesting posed photo. A TLR would attract, I think, even more attention from passers-by, which is a good thing.

But much (really much) depends on your opinions, both regarding the choice of TLR / SLR, as well as individual models. I am completely new to medium format photography, so I would love to hear also any other advice, opinions, warnings, or absolutely anything that you think may be relevant in my current position.

Thank you!

Responses


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Mike Gammill , Sep 26, 2009; 09:00 a.m.

The Yashica D is likely least expensive among the Yashicamats because of its three element lens and separate shutter cocking and knob film advance, but still a decent enough picture taker. I find that my Yashica D delivers acceptable sharpness starting at f5.6 and by f8 it is very sharp. The other models, Yashicamat 124, Yashicamat 635, Yashicamat 124G all have 4 element lenes and a crank film advance that also cocks shutter at the same time. One caveat: for portraits these cameras do not focus close enough for really tight portraits. Also the perspective with their 80mm lenses is the same as using a 50/55 with 35mm. If you don't mind extra bulk, consider the Mamiya TLR system which has interchangeable lenses. The older C22 and C33 are the cheapest. The C330, which was the last model, also took interchangeable focusing screens. Therre is parallax compensation and lenses ranging from 55mm to 250mm.

Bruce Cahn , Sep 26, 2009; 09:24 a.m.

I have had the Yashica and Mamiya twins and did not keep either for long. The best twin I have had is a Rollei f3.5 from the late 50s. I still use it. It is especially good with natural light and a tripod. Other 120 favorites include a 60s Bronica with Nikon lens and numerous Hasselblads. My least favorite 120 cameras were anything made by Mamiya, including the RZ and the earlier 645. Their lenses were not as good for B&W as those from the German makers or from Nikon. I know there are lots of Mamiya fans and no offense is intended, lots of disagreement expected.

Stephanie Maks , Sep 26, 2009; 09:31 a.m.

I'm in a similar position as Adam - I would very much like to get a medium format camera that shoots 6x6. I had my first taste of medium format with a Holga and now would like something slightly more serious, yet I can't really afford much. I'm also a fan of mechanical/manual gear so an older camera would suit me perfectly. Sorry I don't have much to add, other than to say that I'm watching this thread with interest.

Wenhan Xue , Sep 26, 2009; 09:53 a.m.

I would recommend a Voigtlander Bessa-III 667 which can give you 6x6 or 6x7. Its price is $2250 per adorama. I do not have one, but tempting.

Gary Watson , Sep 26, 2009; 10:00 a.m.

The problem now is that "older cameras" are really old and increasingly fragile.Mix in the high cost/accessibilty issue with repairs and you're looking at diseconomy, not fun. If buying cheap and regarding busted TLRs as disposable makes sense, then go that route. If not, then I'd consider spending a little more and getting into the Bronica SQ series cameras. You can also think about going up to a Mamiya RB67--big, tough, mechanical, plentiful and cheap now relative all other medium format system cameras.

Frank Uhlig , Sep 26, 2009; 10:47 a.m.

Contrary to Gary's fearful statement, older cameras of good quality will last another 30+ years with another CLA in another 12 years or so. Good quality = Hasselblad or Rollei. I recommend a Rolleiflex 3.5E late , a digisix light meter, a CLA and Maxwell screen put in by Harry Fleenor, cost around $ 1000 total.

Russ Britt , Sep 26, 2009; 11:10 a.m.

For the $1000 suggestions and up you can easy get a Hasselblad. Elms are real cheap right now..... then you will have what you said you want to start with.
But if you are trying to stay under $200 then the twinlens reflex cameras are you best bet. Sometimes that are at flea markets etc for $30 and less.

Bob Tourdot , Sep 26, 2009; 11:37 a.m.

I have a Yashicamat 124G which I bought new in the 80's and recently had a CLA on. I find when I take it out in public now it generally gets some comments from people wondering what I'm doing with such an old camera. The SLR's don't get the same interest.
The pictures with this or my recently acquired Mamiya C33 can be very high quality - the limiting factor is more probably me than the cameras.
I went away from the Yashicamat to a SLR due to interchangeable lenses and the ease of using a polarizer or grad. (went to a Pentax 67, that gets some comments about how big it is, but not the same interest as the TLR)
Any of the tools can work fine - it's more a matter of getting out and using them.

Scott Cogburn , Sep 26, 2009; 12:42 p.m.


If you want to get a decent TLR without spending a lot of money, I'd say check the auction sites and look for a Walzflex, Wardflex, Beautyflex, Ciro-flex, Ricohflex, Yashica A, D, or 635, etc.. Those are all decent quality TLRs, and are fairly reliable (because they are relatively simple). Those kind of TLRs go for under $20 in decent condition.

They mostly have three element lenses. Yashicamats. Autocords, etc. have four-element lenses, which are better, and in decent condition they go for at least $60.

I have a couple of 1953 Wardflex TLRs (Taiyodo Beautyflex) which I use often.

Here's a couple site with some good reference info:

http://www.tlr-cameras.com/TLRs.htm

http://www.mattdentonphoto.com/cameras/box.html

In my experience, there are 3 things that can be nearly impossible to fix: 1. dents that are major enough to distort the shape of the door, or interfere with focusing. 2. lenses that have been over-cleaned, and made permanetly hazy. 3. focus mechanisms that is completely stuck. So it's worth asking the seller about those things- just ask them not to touch the lens. A few tiny scratches, however, won't make any noticeable difference in your photos.

Problems like the shutter being too slow or sticking on the slower speeds are fairly easy to fix.

Make sure you get one that still has the little fold-up magnifier in the viewfinder. That makes it so much easier to focus.

Also, make sure it can take 120 film. Some American-made TLRs need 620 film (same film, but smaller diameter spool).


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