Need advice on MF cameras / lenses . . .

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tmauser

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I've been shooting B&W film using Nikon 35mm SLR cameras (F3HP + F4s) for many years. While I still enjoy the world of 35mm B&W photography, I've been giving seriously thought for the past several months to expanding into the medium format world. I've been researching the Mamiya RB67 and RZ67 MF cameras as cameras that I might use, and I'd appreciate any and all advice from knowledgeable and experienced APUG Medium Format photographes on these two camera bodies, lens selections, accessories, etc. Thanks!
 

johnnywalker

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I recently bought a new RB67 Pro SB with a 127 lens from a store in Hong Kong for about half the asking price in Canada. I couldn't be happier with it. I've no experience with the RZ, but there are helpful people here who have both and I'm sure will chime in.
 

fotch

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Those big cameras are great in a studio, out in the field, I would use something lighter. TLR's are fun, and practical, or if money is no object, a RF in medium format.
 

Nicole

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Hi Tom, what will you be using the MF cameras for?

I use handheld the Pentax 645NII and the Hasselblad 501cm for lifestyle portraiture (non-studio). MF cameras have served me well for the past 6 years. I don't use a tripod as I find it too constricting. Also, I prefer to only have 1, max. 2, lenses per camera, which again suits my style of work.

I highly recommend you rent/hire a few different MF cameras to get a feel for what suits your needs best.

Good luck and most of all, enjoy!
 

Steve Smith

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I have no problem hand holding an RB67 with a left hand grip but if hand holding is your intention then I suggest you try one out first as it's not suitable for everyone.


Steve.
 

keithwms

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My advice is to take time to learn about the diversity of MF cameras. What most distinguishes MF from 35mm is the *huge* variety of gear... it includes rangefinders and SLRs just like 35mm, but also TLRs and folders and view cameras. What gear will best suit you may take time to determine. Or you could wind up with my predicament- a house full of everything! If possible, find APUGGers in your area and get some cameras in your hands and try 'em out.

The rb or rz are excellent starting cameras and are very modular. I have two rbs and an rz and I use them both very frequently, but almost always on a tripod. For handheld MF shooting (e.g. travel, hiking, street etc.) I much prefer the mamiya 6. Another camera that I like a lot for handheld stuff is the mamiya 645 pro... also a very modular and affordable system.
 

georgecp

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I strongly second Keith's post. The beauty and challenge of MF is that there are so many choices to fit so many shooting and subject needs. It is hard to know which one will work by looking at specs or even "holding" one in a store. You should ask yourself what you want to use the camera for - the difference between 6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7, 6x9 drives many things in addition to image quality: size, weight, lens selection, outfit size, etc. The only real way to find out which set of tradeoffs will work for you is to narrow down your choices and try a couple of them. One full day of shooting with each system on your subject matter with your shooting style will tell you all you need to know. The good news is that these cameras are available at excellent values today.

Regarding your Mamiya rb/rz idea - they are very versatile, have great lenses, but are large. If you are in a studio or "close walk" from a car you will be fine. For more field-oriented work, you may want to consider a Bronica GS-1 in 6x7 format or one of the many 6x6 slrs around (hassy, etc.)..

I have a Mamiya 7 system and a Bronica GS-1 system and use them for different shooting modes/needs. I have used them both for over a decade and they fit my needs very nicely.

Good luck in your search...
 

dwdmguy

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Keith gives good advice for sure. Where are you located?
I have a complete RZ system, I mean everything. It is an outstanding camera.
I use to use to for Handheld but now because of an issue my arms are becomeing weaker and I may have to trade her. She is indeed heavy and cumbersome. The viewfinder is just amazing.
 

keithwms

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Tom you have an afd too, right? If you find the rz and the afd becoming too cumbersome, let me suggest the 645 pro, which is much more compact than both. Bad news is that your mamiya af lenses will not go on the pro, for reasons I haven't yet figured out. Maybe there is a workaround but so far I haven't been able to get my 645 af lenses to go on there... but anyway, lately I am preferring my pro to my afd. AF and I never quite got along anyway, even in 35mm. I mean, I now have a Nikon with something like one or two dozen AF points and I'd like to get a refund on those because I prefer manual...
 

nc5p

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Whatever system you choose study the complete camera, backs, finder, lenses, winder, metering, and make sure it will fit your needs. Just purchasing the right things can be confusing at first. You will get different opinions on waist level versus prism, TTL metering versus non-metered, power drives versus hand winding. You might start with a basic camera and add the other items later. This all depends on how you will use the camera. Study the catalogs and Google to get PDF's of the old manufacturers' system brochures and manuals. Not everything works with everything else. You can often find a kit with everything to get started.

And don't forget KEH. Their website is up to date but a little hard to navigate. Get one of their printed catalogs, it's pretty good place to look at what's available and for how much. If you resort to ebay don't pay more than KEH. There are people on ebay who are clueless what their gear is really worth.
 

Pupfish

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You don't mention the subject matter that you'll be shooting and so much of equipment choices depend upon that and your style of shooting. Are you intending to shoot B&W portraiture, E6 landscapes, or C41 street grabshots? Or trying to cover it all?

Given that there are amazing film emulsions and lenses that can exploit them nowadays, there is much to recommend considering 645 format as the logical step up from 35mm for a very substantial improvement in image quality. Unless you routinely need prints larger than 20x24 the differences with 6x7 SLRs may not be worth the substantial penalty in weight and bulk (especially once you start tricking out an RB with accessory finders, etc).

My Pentax 645N, for instance, has an integrated prism that is very bright and beautiful, integrated matrix, CW, and spot metering, instant return mirror, 2 fps autowinder, and the widest array of lenses available in MF (being that it also takes the P67 lenses with full-aperture metering, with an adapter). It is eminently handholdable down to silly-slow speeds with virtually no mirror slap. With the exceptionally sharp 35mm SMC-A f/3.5, it weighs almost exactly what my Nikon F5 and 17-35mm weighs, but with a neg that's nearly 3X as large in area with less cropping for standard sizes. These bodies are now commonly selling for sub-$300 on eBay, providing amazing bang-for-the-buck.

There's a couple of sweet spots for 645 and I've found one with the 35mm lens (that is the equivalent of a 21.5mm in 35mm terms). The near-far DOF works in a way that's very hard to replicate in larger formats with 3-dimensional subjects. The lens resolves down to where it is mostly film limited in moderate contrast light with color slide film like Astia (something that is difficult to achieve with larger MF lenses). So at least for what I'm using it for, this combo is a near-perfect fit for a niche need in my array of cameras and optics. That all said it would really pale compared to my 35mm gear for fast action or event work.
 

Q.G.

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I've been researching the Mamiya RB67 and RZ67 MF cameras as cameras that I might use, and I'd appreciate any and all advice from knowledgeable and experienced APUG Medium Format photographes on these two camera bodies, lens selections, accessories, etc.

Instead of confusing matters by suggesting cameras not on your shortlist, i'd recommend the RZ over the RB.
Because i hate how with the RB you need to wind the film and reset the camera separately.
 

rternbach

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Those big cameras are great in a studio, out in the field, I would use something lighter. TLR's are fun, and practical, or if money is no object, a RF in medium format.

I have used several different medium format cameras--my first was a Rolleiflex tlr--which I traded away to my deep regret. Recently, after years shooting with different mf cameras, I got a tlr again (a Yashica 635 for a very reasonable price). As expected, the camera arrived needing a cla and a repair so I sent it to Mark Hama in Marietta, GA.

http://markhama.home.comcast.net/~markhama/index.html

Mark did far more than a cla and a repair--he restored the camera to like-new condition for $110 + $14 for shipping--with 6 month warranty included. It's great to know that there are still people like Mark who pride themselves on the quality of their work. And it's a good feeling to know that you can do good quality medium format photography without a big investment. So, as a first mf camera I recommend a used Yashica 635 tlr with Yashinon lens or a used Yashicamat 124G tlr for their afordability, quality, and ease of use. And, at the same time, I highly recommend Mark Hama's cla/repair/restoration services (he also sells Yashicas). You may decide to get a more expensive medium format rangefinder or mf slr after a while but don't part with your Yashica tlr--you're likely to miss the fun you had with it.

RT
 
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agfarapid

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After shooting with 35's for many years, I wanted a change to a more relaxed and contemplative medium. I bought a Mamiya 645 years ago and it has had an impact on my composition and it is a joy to use. I use MF primarily for scenics, and to expand on this I recently bought a used RB with the 90 lens. It's great for my style of photography and I love the large ground glass to compose on. I also have a Fuji 645 folder which satisfies my needs to travel lightly but still enjoy a large negative. I've started using a Mamiya C33 twin lens so that I could explore the square format as well. Your choice in a camera will really depend on your purpose...whether for scenics & still lifes, portraiture, etc. I use all four of my MF cameras for different reasons. Hope this helps!
 

EricO

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I purchased my first MF camera (RZ67) about 3 years ago. In a few weeks I'll be replacing it with another (rz67). I've been very excited about this camera and when I do an event I try to take a few shots with this camera. Amzingly it always produces the top 3 photos even though I only take about 5 out 100. I use a wide neck strap and flash (with LH grip) when I want to hand hold it. I have a 150mm and a 90mm lens.
 

Jeff Kubach

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I have an RB67, I like it a whole lot. It might a little on the heavy side, but still managble. Most of the time I use a tripod with it. Of course with me I use a tripod with my 35mm stuff! I never use the RZ67, but I'm sure it is a great camera also. I love those big negatives!

Jeff
 

rternbach

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If your budget isn't a factor then go for an RB67 or an RZ67 but for a fraction of the investment you can get a Yashica which you may find you like quite well. In any case, try before you buy. And, you know in the long run you're not going to limit yourself to only one medium format camera. You may find that a Yashica from
http://markhama.home.comcast.net/~markhama/index.html is a great starting point in medium format and you'll want to keep it as you move up the MF foodchain and acquire bigger, more expensive and heavier cameras which don't always justify their improvement in image quality over the less expensive entry tlr's.

RT
 

stradibarrius

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I have an RB67 and it is a professional level camera at an entry level price. It is heavy but not so heavy that you cannot use it hand held. QG commented that he hates the two lever system of cocking the shutter and advancing the film. For me that is a non-issue. Some of the REALLY nice things you will find are the rotating backs. Rather than having to turn the camera from landscape to portrait you can simple turn the film back. You can also change the film back in the middle of a roll. If you have two film backs, you can load one with B&W and one with color and take a shot or two in B&W and change the back in a matter of seconds to the color back and shot away in color. It is the equivalent of carrying two cameras. The viewfinder is absolutely outstanding!! You have a choice of focusing screens, a waistlevel, WL, or prism viewfinder. You have a choice of backs that let you shoot 6x7, 645, and poloroid.
Also the RB wil focus very close to the subject because the lens moves in and out with a bellows and the focusing mechanism is silky smooth.
IMHO the most important thing about a system is the quality of the lenses. The RB & RZ have true Pro quality lenses. Annie Leibovitz used, or maybe still uses , an RZ so that tells you at what level the cameras have found favor.
I have recently been thinking about trying a Hasselblad, only because it it is available at a good price, and if I got it and and didn't like it I could always sell it and get my money back. But the Hassey system still has not swayed me to actually buy it as of yet. Again IMHO the RB is a good intro to MF. Not because it is enry level gear but because it true pro gear at an entry level price.
If you are interested in shooting any type of action I don't think the RB/RZ would be a good choice. If you like to shoot landscapes, still life, portraits, even some types of street shots you can do it with the RB.

I am by no means an expert, if you look at my photos you will see I am mediocre at best, but have gone through this same decision making process in the recent past. This camera has put the fun back into my photography where with my very nice digital gear the fun seem to slip away.

I also agree with QG about answering the question that the OP ask but, I would consider a TLR as an entry to MF as well.
 

Pumal

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I have an RB6X7 Pro S. I can hand held especially with the handle, but they give the best performance on a Tripod. Have 2 bodies, 3 Backs, an Extension Tube and five lenses: 50mm, 90mm, 150mm, 180mm, 350mm. I choose carefully what I'm going to take.
 

adamc

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I have an RZ67 which I use for landscapes, along with 50mm, 110mm, and 250mm lenses and a polaroid back. I love it, and I have no reservations reccommending it! Never used an RB, but I'm sure you can't go wrong with either system. I might reccommend a prisim finder though...I don't have one, but when it's on a tripod, sometimes you need a step ladder to get high enough to see into the WL finder.

I always shoot with a tripod, which makes the whole setup quite heavy at times, but usually I need the exercise anyways.
 

bagdad child

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I am a Pentax 67 user. Looking at the photos and specs of the Mamiya RB/RZ I realize that they are the most versatile and complete 6x7 systems. What made me choose the Pentax was basically the lighter weight. It's an excellent system but has one or two quirks. If you can handle the weight you're all set. I lugged around my P67 with a wooden tripod for a month around Turkey which evoked my old leg injury. I am now leaning towards a Mamiya 7 or even a Rolleiflex.
 

Bruce A Cahn

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I am new to this site, and do not want to make any enemies, but I would advise against the RZ. I lusted after one for quite a while before getting a new one about 9 years ago. It was the biggest disappointment I ever had in a camera. It was too heavy and clumsy to hand hold (for most people). Everything depended on the battery. You can't even change a lens if the battery is dead or slightly misplaced within it's compartment. The lenses are good for color but terrible for BW. Overall, I was getting better quality in B&W with my Hasselblad, which is the camera I would recommend. I ended up trading the RZ for an old 8x10 Deardorff. 6x7 is a great format, but there is no great camera for shooting it, at least that I have tried. I would prefer a Pentax to an RZ.
 

Pumal

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I have an RB6X7 Pro S. I can hand held especially with the handle, but they give the best performance on a Tripod. Have 2 bodies, 3 Backs, an Extension Tube and five lenses: 50mm, 90mm, 150mm, 180mm, 350mm. I choose carefully what I'm going to take.
(mine has no batteries. Big Difference.)
 

keithwms

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Well, Bruce, you are entitled to your opinion! I'd be interested to know which lenses you tried and which rz body. I don't have any of the issues you mention, except that I have the rb and rz systems and I admit that I do prefer the batteryless rb... except that there are two very interesting lenses for the rz (50 uld and 110/2.8) for which there are no rb equivalents. These lenses can be depinned and put on an rb, but then you lose far focus. Still okay for portraits and such, but... no good for landscape.

As for the lenses and colour rendition etc., it's a personal thing. Personally, I get everything I want... and then some... from my rb/rz lenses. I use them not only on their intended bodies but also in 4x5 and 5x7. They are superb. There is one piece of advice I can offer, and that is to consider the really low prices for the newest KL rb lenses... I'd recommend going for those. The older rb lenses are also very good, but... if you can afford the KLs, they are the very best.
 
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