what is the best?

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Hi! I would like to start using medium format instead of just 35 mm. I have no clue about meduim format cameras but I would like to purchase one in the near future. Can you tell me what is the best brand and type? Any info on this would help a lot!

-- Alicia McMahan (ajmac@ioa.com), February 01, 2001


The one that you feel good with. If you cannot hold or don't like a heavy camera, don't buy an RB/RZ. If you need 6x7, look at Bronica or the Mamiya 67II. If you want square format, there is Hasselblad, Bronica ect. ect. This is not meant to be snide at all but there are so many things to consider. First you need to be less general. What do you want to shoot? Will you be using strobes? Do you want a range finder or a Prism... metered prism... waist level? Do you want zooms or fixed lens? Have you looked at 645's and what is your budget? First off, many people rent to get a feel of different cameras. This will let you "kick the tires" so to speak and when renting from a reputable pro camera place, they usually put the rental fees towards the cost of the camera that you finally purchase. Cheers

-- Scott Walton (f64sw@hotmail.com), February 01, 2001.

Alicia, the one thing about medium format is that, unless the camera is an older TLR, the format is not cheap. Have a look in Shutterbug magazine at the new and used equipment and you'll come to know prices. Most people getting into the format for the first time will buy a used TLR such as a Rollei, Mamiya etc and move up from there.

The previous responder also makes note of what your intended subject matter is, and this is a good question. Although it might change over time, get the format size that you feel best accomplishes your intention. 6x7, 6x9 for landscape; 6x6 weddings and portraits. Read as much as you can at www.photo.net and learn from others questions.

-- Wayne Crider (waynec@apt.net), February 01, 2001.

Alicia, I was sort of like you not long ago. I started reading everything I could get my hands on (including brochures for new products) and visiting larger camera stores. For medium format, it sort of boils down to this: do you like the square format (6X6), which the Hasselblad crowd swears by... or are you naturally drawn to a non-square format (nevermind how difficult it IS or ISN'T to turn the camera on its side for verticals). For me, the choice was clear: I hate square, just as I hate subject matter centered in the frame. So then it became a choice between the smallest of the medium formats, the 645s, and the larger models 6X7, 6X8, 6X9, etc. Well, the 645s offer the features of a 35mm at the price of a 6X7. For me, though, the idea of moving to a larger format was more about LARGE than it was about automation. The 6X8s and 6X9s seemed to be kind of esoteric, and the 6X7s seemed more "mainstream," with a LOT of enthusiastic users of three cameras in particular: the Mamiya RB & RZ 67s (which are the "box" format type, with changeable backs), the Pentax 67II (and earlier, similar models) which closely resembles a 35mm SLR, except it's, well, BIG. And then there is the Mamiya 7, which is a Rangefinder. I found myself attracted mainly to the Pentax 67 (because of my 35 mm SLR roots) and the Mamiya 7 (because it's so elegantly compact). Well, I ran into a friend who happened to have TWO Mamiya 7's. Long story short: I bought one from him, for $1450, with the 80 mm (standard) lense. Even for a used Mamiya 7, that's a pretty good price. I LOVE THIS CAMERA! I use it mainly for landscape stuff. The good: it is so lightweight and small, it feels and acts kind of like an older-model 35 mm SLR, except the shutter is so marvelously quiet. It's so sweet to listen closely as the shutter trips. It is aperature-priority automatic. It yields these big, big beautiful 6X7 negatives (and transparencies). The bad: I have only the 80 mm lens, limiting my compositions to what it will handle. Worse: lenses are HORRENDOUSLY expensive . . . and there's not too much selection, either. Besides the 80, there's 43, 50 and 65 mm wide angles, and a 150 mm telephoto (which ain't much of a telephoto in the medium format world). No zoom is available (it would probably cost the same as a Porsche: a new 43 with special finder is knocking on the door of $2,000!) Plus, with a rangefinder-type, you have to be concerned with all the little nits (like parallax) that go along with not viewing the scene through the "taking" lense. Still, I'm very happy I bought this camera, and I will probably bite the bullet for a 43 or a 50 sometime in the not-too -distant future. This will slow me down on my NEXT purchase, which will be the Pentax 67II (or maybe one of the older models which are almost equal). The main advantage with the Pentax, as far as I'm concerned, is the variety and relatively low cost of lenses. I can imagine building a system of interchangeable Pentax pieces, various lenses (there's a delicious 55-100 zoom), various finders (eye-level and waiste level), and maybe I can mix and match bodies like some people mix and match camera backs (an nice older model Pentax 6X7 can be had for around $600). I may be wrong (because you may be thinking studio photography, or ultimate convenience and automation as is available on the 645s, or you may be thinking "Gee, square is great", like the 6X6s), but I really think if you narrow your study to the Mamiya 7 Rangefinder series and the Pentax 67 SLR series, you will become a happy convert to the world of medium format. Both of these cameras, I feel, offer those of us moving on from the 35mm SLR format some comforting features, without sacrificing the reason we're moving on: Big, fat negatives! (and please, 645, 6X6, and box-style 6X7 afficianados: no offense intended)

-- dennis archer (Saturmino@AOL.com), June 22, 2001.

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