Newbie looking for first MF gear - opinions please

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tkamiya

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I apologize for posting so many this-mode-that-model questions. I'm trying to choose my first MF gears. With no experience of my own and entry price being rather high, I really want to be careful.

My favorite subject is land-scape and nature. As such, portability is important. Also, my goal in entering MF is higher quality negatives as I like large prints, 16*20. Being rather small built (me), weight of the gear is important.

Currently, I am looking at Mamiya M645 series (later ones) and Bronica GS-1. I am aware they are different format/size.

Would anyone like to share experience in either of the cameras in my intended use?

Things I considered so far:
1) weight - both are said to be lighter with use of plastic
2) maintenance - repairs are expensive but both are highly modular. For the cost of most repair, I can just get another and replace.
3) GS-1 is not that common but K&H seems to have a few in stock (would this be an issue?)
4) both have grips that will make hand-hold use easier
5) both can be purchased with metering prizm - good for newbies like me!

Thank you!
 

PhotoJim

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So many choices and so many things to consider, but here's how I made my decision a couple of years ago:

- I decided I wanted 6x6. It seems the sweet spot of value (6x7 stuff is more costly and heavier, besides) and gives a larger negative, with the option to crop for a rectangular image without rotating the camera.
- Hasselblad was high on the list but the cost for 'blad gear is significantly higher than the alternatives. You can work around it by getting older gear but then reliability is more of a question.
- Bronica was the second-most-popular medium format brand and very popular with professionals, and the prices were very reasonable (and still are).
- Interchangeable backs are really convenient - you can shoot multiple film types by merely exchanging backs, without needing more than one camera.

Thus, I settled on the Bronica SQ-A (the SQ-AI is slightly more but permits TTL flash metering). A speed grip is available (I don't have one yet), lenses are terrific (I got a 50, 80 and 150), you can get both prisms (metering and non-metering) and waist-level finders (some subjects seem easier to shoot with a WLF, for me at least), and the bodies are inexpensive. Weight isn't low but it's reasonable.

The only real down side to the Bronicas to me is that each lens has a leaf shutter, but this doesn't seem to make used Bronica lenses more expensive than the alternatives. Of course, it gives you the advantage of being able to shoot with electronic flash at any shutter speed.

I have no regrets. The results I'm getting are terrific.
 

borisdeswan

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Pros of the mamiya 645 are that lenses abound, are extremely reliable optically and mechanically,and can be found for small amounts. Also the line-up is very extensive. The con is that compared to the 6x7 negs of a GS1 they pale.
Pros of the GS1 are the also outstanding quality of lenses ( with the shutter built in, good for outdoors flash photos ) the delightfull quality of 6x7. The cons are shorter supply of lenses and gear, a slightly steeper price.
As for the metered prisms I would strongly reccomend the use of a separate light meter. The metered prisms of these cameras have drawbacks. The mamiya is IMO not as reliable as others, such as the one in Pentax 6x7. the one for Bronica GS1 is scarce and usually expensive, allthough pretty good. In conclusion the Bronica will give you better end results specially if you are not looking for an array of lenses so huge. If you want many lenses, shooting with mamiya 645 is fun and I guess better suited for fast paced subjects.
 

glbeas

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I second the Mamiya 645 for light weight and speed. It compares well to 35mm for handling ease and it's not very much heavier than a motor drive 35mm. My AFD has the metering prism integral and I think that cuts the weight some too and seems to be pretty darn accurate and consistant looking at the rolls of film I've put through it already.
I also own a Bronica SQAi system so I have a good basis for comparison.
 

RalphLambrecht

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I apologize for posting so many this-mode-that-model questions. I'm trying to choose my first MF gears. With no experience of my own and entry price being rather high, I really want to be careful.

My favorite subject is land-scape and nature. As such, portability is important. Also, my goal in entering MF is higher quality negatives as I like large prints, 16*20. Being rather small built (me), weight of the gear is important.

Currently, I am looking at Mamiya M645 series (later ones) and Bronica GS-1. I am aware they are different format/size.

Would anyone like to share experience in either of the cameras in my intended use?

Things I considered so far:
1) weight - both are said to be lighter with use of plastic
2) maintenance - repairs are expensive but both are highly modular. For the cost of most repair, I can just get another and replace.
3) GS-1 is not that common but K&H seems to have a few in stock (would this be an issue?)
4) both have grips that will make hand-hold use easier
5) both can be purchased with metering prizm - good for newbies like me!

Thank you!

If you are doing it for negative quality, I would not go smaller than 6x6. A Hasselblad is expensive but a lifetime investment. Alternatively, I can recommend the Mamiya 6 and 7 rangefinders. Their optics are top class, and bit better than Carl Zeiss in my opinion. All are good for landscape photography but the Mamiyas are easier to transport.
 

KenFretz

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Mamiya and Bronica MF Choice

I recently had the same choice to make, getting back into MF after years of Nikon only. I had owned Bronica equipment primarily because of the Nikkor lenses.

I ended up going with Mamiya because of the long history of upward compatibility and current availability. Lenses and accessories for the M645 line start in the mid 1970's and come up to current equipment. Bronica changed lens mounts and backs every major model change. I guess I am too use to mounting a 40 year old Nikkor lens on a brand new digital body and going off to make photographs. Most significantly, Mamiya is still in production and of course Bronica is gone.

Ken Fretz
 

reelrock

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Hi There,
Did you get yourself a GS-1 yet? I have a complete outfit that I barely used and am now wanting to sell it. Everything is almost new. If you're interested please let me know and I can give you more info of what I have.
Cheers.
Bill.
 

CBG

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Open ended questions like yours lead to two kinds of useless answers. I can tell you what works for me, or I can give you a bland sort of "everything is good for something" reply. But, what you need is what kind of camera system that will work for you. So, I answer your question with a few questions of my own.

Are you totally new at this? If so, the best way in is a super cheap middle of the road camera that will get you started.

But, if you have done photography before and have experience, habits and preferences , then ...

Have you shot with any other cameras? Like 35mm or digital etc???? How do you like to shoot? Do you like long lenses? Short lenses? Normal lenses? Have you ever shot with a waist level finder? If so, do you like them. since WLFs add greatly to the range of workable possibilites.

I see you are thinking of working hand held with a grip. Not everyone thinks grips help. I have a couple and decided they get in the way for me. Have you ever worked on a tripod, and if so, is that a possibility for your MF adventures. (By the way, a tripod is seriously part of the picture for much MF work, if you seek high technical quality. And tripods are both a pain and oddly freeing.)

Tell us more of where you are coming from, and we''ll give you better responses.
 

Mike1234

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I would give some consideration to the Fuji GX680 which is nice for the built-in front movements.
 

Leighgion

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I can speak for the quality of Mamiya 645 gear. I own a 645 Super, AE prism, several lenses and a power winder grip. It's a quality setup that I'd defy anybody to show is somehow inferior raw quality to a 6x6 kit. Unless you just like squares, 645 is after all, just a rectangle instead of a square.

However, I would caution that once you've stacked all the parts together, it's not exactly light. There's far heavier kits of course, but a medium format SLR just can only get so small. I've found (being a smallish fellow myself) that my Super rides fairly comfortably if I confine myself to a compact lens and use a wide padded strap, but once I start trying to carry options, the mass stacks up fast.

The medium format rangefinders is where the real lightweight is, but those can really wound the pocketbook.
 

redrockcoulee

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I would give some consideration to the Fuji GX680 which is nice for the built-in front movements.

The OP said portabilty was desired and the GX680 is anything but: huge and heavy. The one I have upstairs I am not even sure I will try it out in the landscape before I return it to its owners.
 

photomem

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I will vouch for the 645. I have the 645AF and carry it everywhere. The negatives enlarge nicely and it is quite portable. If you get the 645af, make sure to get the back with the 120/220 insert. Gives you a bit more flexibility when buying film. I bought my entire kit for about 700 usd from keh in August.
 

pollux

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get the fuji GX617 if you want pure sharpness. however it gobbles up film with just 4 shots per 120 roll. probably look at an rz67 as there is a 6x6 back for it, albiet rare.
 

Ektagraphic

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I have a Mamiya M645 and M645 1000s and they are both stellar cameras! They are everything I hoped they would be and more. The acessories are great and lenses are fairly inexpensive. Some of them are starting to age but buy one that appears in great condition and is already working well and bring it in for a CLA to make sure it good. You also end up getting 15 exp per 120 roll. That's pretty good for MF.
 
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tkamiya

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Thank you very much everybody.

To CBG:
Thank you for your input. No, I am not totally new to photography. I shoot digital for color and analog for B&W. I was in film photography 25+ years ago and recently came back. However, I am new to Medium Format. I like landscape and nature photography. I am physically small, so portability is very important. I tend to see my world in wide angle view and in rectangles, a bit wider than the standard 8*10 aspect ratio. Does that help??

To everybody:
With so many people vouching for M645, I am confident that Mamiya M645 series won't be a wrong choice. Actually, I knew that by reading many posts here. I've considered Fuji range finders as well but lack of choice in lens and body is a negative, although extreme portability is a big positive. Hasselblad is too pricy for me. I would like to get a little more comments on GS-1 if I could....
 

darinwc

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6x7's

Dont kid yourself.. ALL 6x7 pro cameras are oversized except one- the mamiya 7. I went through the same thing you did, lusting after a big 6x7 negative but wanting the same satisfaction from walking around with a 35mm.

If you want portability but more quality than 35mm can offer at a reasonable price, the mamiya 645 is absolutely your best bet.
 

Leighgion

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Having thrown down my support for the Mamiya 645's, let me present a dark horse candidate:

Fuji GA645

Dante Stella has an excellent review of the camera. Rather than retread too much ground well-covered there, I'll just emphasize a few points.

The GA645 a plastic, motorized, autofocus 645 camera with a 60mm f4 lens that retracts into the body when powered off, making a relatively flat slab.

The lens is fixed and the motors a little loud, but the worse single flaw about it is that a GA645 will cheerfully allow you to shoot all day with the lens cap on since it meters through the viewfinder. I've lost my fair of frames this way. MUST make sure to remove cap before shooting.

Beyond that, it's awesome.

The lens is sharp, the AF and metering very accurate and the plastic shell plus retracting lens makes for a very handy package. I toss mine into a sling bag and can carry it all day without thinking about it. You give up flexibility, but gain immeasurable amounts of portability.
 

Sirius Glass

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Since it is out of your price range for now: Victor Hasselblad was a small man and he designed his camera to be held comfortably in his left hand with the left index finger on the shutter button. You will like the ergonomics better than the other contenders.

Steve
 
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tkamiya

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Yes, I am actually familiar with Dante Stella's review. I am just not sure if I'm ready for a fixed lens camera. Zoom version (zi) looked interesting though. Here I go again... I *thought* I narrowed down the candidate to just two!
 

RalphLambrecht

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Thank you very much everybody.

To CBG:
Thank you for your input. No, I am not totally new to photography. I shoot digital for color and analog for B&W. I was in film photography 25+ years ago and recently came back. However, I am new to Medium Format. I like landscape and nature photography. I am physically small, so portability is very important. I tend to see my world in wide angle view and in rectangles, a bit wider than the standard 8*10 aspect ratio. Does that help??

To everybody:
With so many people vouching for M645, I am confident that Mamiya M645 series won't be a wrong choice. Actually, I knew that by reading many posts here. I've considered Fuji range finders as well but lack of choice in lens and body is a negative, although extreme portability is a big positive. Hasselblad is too pricy for me. I would like to get a little more comments on GS-1 if I could....

It sounds like, deep down, you've already made up your mind and your just looking for verification. That's fine, nothing wrong with that. I predict, you'll be happy with a 6x4.5 camera. The quality increase is significant. However, I also predict, you will be back for more, because MF can offer more than 6x4.5. Make sure, you won't have to invest twice.
 
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tkamiya

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Ralph,

No, actually, I have not made up my mind. If you can read into what I said something I don't know, I really like to know.... (if my subconcious is telling you more than telling me...) I feel very much confused and over-whelmed with number of choices, in same format and different. Yes, I am thinking I won't stop at one size and will have more. Yes, again, my fear is needing to invest more than once. That's why I'm having this much trouble choosing my first one. As in 35mm where I chose Nikon (and quite happy), a choice in system pretty much ties one down to one manufacturer/system without starting all over again.
 

stradibarrius

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I have gone through this same process. Wanting to be able to carry the compact 35mm with a 6x7 negative. For me the best compromise has been the Mamiya 645. Great lenses and a versital system. I also agree with Ralph that once you get into MF you will probably want other cameras. I have had a Hasselblad 500c/m (6x6), Yashica 124g (6x6), and RB67 and a Mamiya M645. I still have the RB67, heavy but wonderful, and I still have my current new love Mamiya M645.
Another camera that I still am lusting after is the Mamiya 7.
For me the M645 is very portable and versatile. GREAT glass and relatively cheap. Good selection of lenses and accessories. With some of the newer versions you even have the option of going digital I think.
What I am saying is the 645 is a good place to start and you also have something that if you want to sell it there is a market. I have found that if you want to experiment you need to protect your investment and buy something that has a good resale market. That way you are protecting your investment if you decide to sell for whatever reason. Something to think about....
 

RalphLambrecht

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Ralph,

No, actually, I have not made up my mind. If you can read into what I said something I don't know, I really like to know.... (if my subconcious is telling you more than telling me...) I feel very much confused and over-whelmed with number of choices, in same format and different. Yes, I am thinking I won't stop at one size and will have more. Yes, again, my fear is needing to invest more than once. That's why I'm having this much trouble choosing my first one. As in 35mm where I chose Nikon (and quite happy), a choice in system pretty much ties one down to one manufacturer/system without starting all over again.

You may just have to get started somewhere. In today's market, buying second hand allows to try for relatively little money, and if you don't like it, or want more, you can sell it at any time without significant loss (some even make a profit). Try a 645, may be it will wet your appetite for a Mamiya 6 or 7, or it may have to be a Hasselblad and nothing else will do. Who knows, me might be taking about large-format cameras before you know it? That's how I ended up with twelve cameras, and I don't want to part with any one of them.
 

nolanr66

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It comes down to a few basic choices.

645: Mamiya, Mamiya AF/AFD, Bronica, Pentax AFD. (medium weight)
6x7 RF: Mamiya 6 or 7, Fuji fixed lens auto focus (lightest weight, limits the use of filters)
6x6: Hassleblad (quality and expensive, medium weight)
6x7 SLR: Mamiya RB/RZ (a wonderous tank)
misc camera's: Mamiya C330 etc. (light, inexpensive start up)

Other stuff that I did not think of.
 
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