Philosophical Gear Decisions

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joebusy

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Hey everyone,

Hope this is the correct forum to post in, but wanted to pick everyone's brain on a few philosophical gear choices I've been wrestling with (double negative?).

QUICK BACKGROUND
Recent convert, switching back after years of working in digital. Now that my day job pays great and I don't rely on photography 100% as income, I have the freedom to pursue the photography projects I would finally like to.

GEAR
Currently shooting with a Mamiya 7ii + 90mm + 43mm and a Fuji G617. I'm working on an on-going Panoramic project and the Mamiya was my way of getting probably one of the best camera/lens combos that felt as close to LF as possible without making the jump.

ISSUES
The gear its self is great. Flawless. The issue is me. I saw someone post the quote on here once before (I've forgotten exactly how it went) but something to the tune of - the best camera is the one you'll shoot with. Well the Fuji G617 is amazing. Those negatives, I mean wow. I've found for my project though the weight/size of the Fuji is a pain to take with me on all the locations I want to hit for my project. I tend to leave it at home more than I'd like due to this. The issue with the Mamiya is, as amazing of a camera it is - it's not the most stealthy / portable kit. I'm not big into Urban Landscapes, and If I'm doing something Landscape-esque I want to bring the Fuji or something LF based. I tend the leave the Mamiya at home as it required my Lowepro 180AW bag (which is quite big) and I'll just grab my Bessa with some 35mm as my daily walk around.

WHAT I'M THINKING
As amazing as the Mamiya and Fuji are, I feel like they may not be for me. My three needs are: #1 - Panoramic Camera for current Pano project (and absolutely love the format). #2 - Something LF based for my conceptual/pictoral projects (where I was hoping the Mamiya would play a role). #3 - Medium Format that is easier to carry around for those larger negs when not working in LF but say on a trip and want more negative power than the 35mm brings.

SO WHAT TO GET?
I feel like what would be best for me is the following combo. #1 - An X-Pan with 45mm to handle the panoramic project. The prints won't need to be as large as what the Fuji can produce (for now) and I feel like it can be traveled with much easier. Also, the X-Pan can easily switch to regular 35mm so that can handle my daily walk around needs. #2 - Hasselblad 500/501c - as my more portable walk around Medium Format device that can be taken on trips and anything where I'm packing a decent bag. #3 - Large Format Field Camera - (Toyo 45A?) that can handle my bigger more pictorial/deliberate landscape projects. I feel like between these 3 cameras, they'll suffice all my needs not only from an image/negative stand point - but matches the portability that I am looking for.

WELL IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU HAVE IT ALL FIGURED OUT JOE, WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM US?
Am I crazy? Have you done this before? Do you have experience with any of these cameras/systems? I'm looking for general feedback. I know one day I will lust after the Mamiya 7ii again, but it will be there one day when it makes sense for me. I need gear that I want to shoot with and wont just sit around because I make excuses on why or why not to bring it with him. I feel like part of my journey into the analog world and this is my philosophical part - is what camera fits me best? I can't figure that out unless I work with them and find what I really enjoy to shoot with. I took my years to find that digitally and I feel like it's kind of the same with analog. I also want to really start printing / build my first darkroom - so whatever can get me to start learning that process and making prints is so important to me. I don't want to output to the web, I want real prints and I want to start learning. So - phew, sorry that was a lot to read/type - and if anyone responds to this I am beyond grateful for any input you may have!
 

Klainmeister

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Did the EXACT same thing. I had both the Fuji Gw690III and the Mamiya 7II full kit. Amazing negatives...just never liked using the cameras all that much. I think the bodies and viewfinders just left me wanting something more.

I switched the a Zone VI 4x5 and a Yashica TLR. Never looked back. Love them! And most importantly, my photographs show that I love using them too: they have improved greatly.

Oh and BTW, forgot to mention. The Xpan is a lot of fun, but not something I can justify the cost of.
 

Andrew Moxom

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Your Mamiya 7 has some of the best glass available, and is sure capable of producing wonderfully sharp negs. I believe they do a 35mm pano kit for it too, or just crop your MF negs. The Fuji 617 is quite a beast to carry. While the negs are blisteringly sharp, the smaller pano from your mamiya7 is no slouch. It sounds like the camera hardware is getting in the way. It should feel right for you and your vision, and be transparent. By that, i mean intuitive to use so it does not take away from the moment, so you just concentrate on making images. It's a personal choice, only you can make.
 
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joebusy

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Did the EXACT same thing. I had both the Fuji Gw690III and the Mamiya 7II full kit. Amazing negatives...just never liked using the cameras all that much. I think the bodies and viewfinders just left me wanting something more.

I switched the a Zone VI 4x5 and a Yashica TLR. Never looked back. Love them! And most importantly, my photographs show that I love using them too: they have improved greatly.

Oh and BTW, forgot to mention. The Xpan is a lot of fun, but not something I can justify the cost of.

Phew - feels good to know other people have similiar thoughts. You read and read about systems and convince yourself something is perfect, but you really don't know until it's in your hands. I struggle with justifying the cost of an XPan as well, but I just watched one sell on EBay yesterday with 45mm + 90mm lens for $1400. Seemed like someone got a good steal there.. Thanks so much for feedback.

Your Mamiya 7 has some of the best glass available, and is sure capable of producing wonderfully sharp negs. I believe they do a 35mm pano kit for it too, or just crop your MF negs. The Fuji 617 is quite a beast to carry. While the negs are blisteringly sharp, the smaller pano from your mamiya7 is no slouch. It sounds like the camera hardware is getting in the way. It should feel right for you and your vision, and be transparent. By that, i mean intuitive to use so it does not take away from the moment, so you just concentrate on making images. It's a personal choice, only you can make.

This is definitely something I have been struggling with and read probably 9 billion posts about on every forum. I think you kind of nail two of my exact feelings in here. One -possibly using the Mamiya 7 + pano 35mm kit - but unfortunately that doesn't solve my main problem of taking the Mamiya 7 out - which was how cumbersome it felt as a walk around camera. The XPan gives me the pano viewfinder and format for the project I'm working on while giving me an almost Leica rangefinder feel and physical build to it. I feel like I may as well use a LF and crop that for my panoramic project (and use it for my pictorial work) and just buy a cheap M6 and some glass so I have a walk around. But then I don't get the pano framelines a smaller portability to carry these cameras to remote locations. Gah, GEAR why must you be so expensive and annoying. But you are so right, its truly a personal decision only I can make. I truly value your feedback.
 

jp498

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#3, I like the TLRs for this. Something from yashica or a rolleiflex automat are my choices for TLR.

#2, Speed graphic pacemaker. movements, focal plane shutter for old / odd lenses, inexpensive, lots of older people remember them fondly. If you want to extremely wide or extreme movements, look elsewhere. With a small normal lens, it's 100% self contained and portable. You could even carry it with a film holder or grafmatic in it and you won't have to carry much film separately.
 

Barry S

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I have a Hasselblad system and it's a wonderful camera, but the weight adds up quickly when you take it out with more than two lenses. It's certainly not going to be any lighter than a Mamiya 7 system. I'd say the choice is between whether you might prefer an SLR over a rangefinder. A 4x5 field camera is great for deliberate work and can weigh less than a medium format kit, depending on the camera.
 

Black Dog

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+1 on that- the Superwide is very dinky and great for landscapes though. Carrying a 4x5 kit didn't feel that much more painful....make sure you don't pick planet sized lenses though!
 

momus

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Yep, I've done something similar myself. It's called G.A.S. Nowadays (and it took a loooong time to get here), I prefer a smallish 35mm camera, and a 50 and a 90 lens. If I can't get it done w/ that, I don't need to be doing it. I've become a firm believer in the simpler, the better. Besides, I don't like toting heavy gear.
 

pbromaghin

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Yep, I've done something similar myself. It's called G.A.S. Nowadays (and it took a loooong time to get here), I prefer a smallish 35mm camera, and a 50 and a 90 lens. If I can't get it done w/ that, I don't need to be doing it. I've become a firm believer in the simpler, the better. Besides, I don't like toting heavy gear.

Wow, Momus. You have a lot of guts going small in this crowd.
 

thegman

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I can't help but think if you're used to a 6x17 camera, XPan negatives, will be, er, a little underwhelming.

I'd probably be thinking, "how panoramic do I need, really", and be looking at a 6x9 camera (and crop, if you want a more panoramic effect) or maybe 6x12 if budget permits, for something like a Fotoman DMax or Horseman SW612.

Once I went medium format, I knew I could never really return to 35mm "full time", so I'd probably be looking at more portable medium format alternatives than the 6x17. For me that would probably be a DMax, if wanted to spend the pennies.
 

David Allen

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As others have said, only you can really decide. However, with regard to the Mamiya 7, this is much more of a walk around camera than the Hasselblad. What's more, because the Hasselblad offers you the ability to change lenses, backs and viewfinders, you will find yourself ending up carting around a lot of equipment.

Perhaps it is something else that does not work with the Mamiya 7 for you? For my work (urban landscapes that you said you did little of) I find that the Mamiya 7 with the 65mm lens is perfect. Not particularly heavy, compact (well smaller than many DSLRs with a wide aperture zoom) and fantastically sharp. I would suggest that you think about whether you really need to change lenses. Before I bought my Mamiya combo, I was very tempted by the 43mm combined with the 80mm and so rented a kit to try it out. The 80mm was not wide enough for my purposes. The 43mm was fantastic but too wide and a real pain to use with the external finder (not accurate enough for me and adding to the bulk of the camera and, with the 43mm glass, that's a great lot of weight). In the end I chose the 65mm because it was wide enough, did not need an external finder and was a lot easier on the back/shoulder..

For my way of working I found out many years ago that I get better results by sticking to one camera and one lens. This way I know what I will get and composition is based on moving forwards / backwards rather than changing lenses. I also prefer using a rangefinder despite the fact that I generally zone focus. Maybe you do not get on with the rangefinder way of working with the Mamiya 7 (there are plenty of people who don't). If this is the case, a Rollei may be a lighter and more compact option for you.

Well hope that is of some help, I personally would stick with the Mamiya 7 BUT stick with just one lens when you are out and about.

Bests,

David
www.dsallen.de
 
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Strictly personal observations from knowing my own habits:
1. The bigger and more awkward the camera, the less I want to use it.
2. 120 is light years away better quality than 35mm, but I find that LF doesn't have the same wow factor over and above 120.

So if I wanted to do non-panoramic urban landscapes, I'd settle for ease of use and choose 120 most of the time, since it's the best of both worlds in convenience and negative quality. Whether rangefinder, SLR, or TLR is completely a matter of taste and inspiration.
 

ROL

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After reading your entire treatise, well laid out and cogent as it is, I feel that you will accept my take on you dilemma in the sincere spirit that it is intended: I absolutely agree with you that you need to decide on new philosophical gear.
 

Trask

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This past summer I made a trip to New York City. I could have taken 35mm RF with lenses, or 35mm SLR with lenses, or Bronica with lenses, or, or, or. I wound up just taking my Plaubel 67w, with 50mm Nikkor lens. I'm glad I did, as I quickly realized I wouldn't have had time to juggle lenses etc. while all that was going on around me kept right on going. I got everything I needed with the 6X7 negative: sharpness, and the ability to crop. And the fact that the Plaubel folds down makes it oh so easy to carry. The only other camera I considered taking was the Hassy SWC, which would have been an interesting alternative allowing me to swap backs. Simpler, in this case, was better.
 

lns

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My Hasselblad is my favorite camera, probably, but I don't think it will fill your desire for a portable or walkaround MF camera. I use mine on a tripod almost exclusively. My portable MF camera is a Rolleiflex. I had a Mamiya 7, which actually was even more portable, for me, but I prefer 6x6.

Have you thought about whether you'll like the square format? That's actually a big change. I wonder if you could rent a Hasselblad to try before you buy.
 

Black Dog

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Mamiya C330 for me-mine's accompanied me up many a Scottish mountain
 
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Maybe it's going to sound like blasphemy to most, but if you want a panoramic portable camera, have you considered either a horizon or a holga pan? They're really light, portable and cheap.
Otherwise you can probably get some cash to buy an Hasselblad X-Pan by selling the Fuji and a Mamiya lens.

An Hasselblad 500 is definitely less portable than a Mamiya 7! I agree with David Allen that it'd help greatly to just bring one lens and to ditch the external viewfinder and I also see his point about preferring the 65mm, but that's a personal choice. If it was me, I'd go for something longer because I prefer to shoot portraits, but since you're talking about landscape and photos on the go, I guess a wide lens would be best.

Since it's possible to get a panoramic kit to shoot 35mm panoramic images with the Mamiya, I think that keeping that camera with a wide angle lens and the kit would probably solve all your problems (it's light and portable as a walk around camera, it can shoot panoramic images and the quality is excellent for pictorial work too)

If you are keen to shoot square and get a walk around camera, then a Rolleiflex, or a Rolleicord, or even a Yashica Mat would be much better options than the Hasselblad regarding portability.

If you can't be bothered to carry a Mamiya 7 around, I highly doubt that a large format field camera would see much action.

Less is more, it's really easy to fall into the GAS tunnel and end up with tons of cameras that you never use, beware.
 
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Black Dog

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Strictly personal observations from knowing my own habits:
1. The bigger and more awkward the camera, the less I want to use it.
2. 120 is light years away better quality than 35mm, but I find that LF doesn't have the same wow factor over and above 120.

So if I wanted to do non-panoramic urban landscapes, I'd settle for ease of use and choose 120 most of the time, since it's the best of both worlds in convenience and negative quality. Whether rangefinder, SLR, or TLR is completely a matter of taste and inspiration.

Terry-agree with you re. LF, however contact prints definitely do have the wow factor, even on horrible RC paper. And a 5x4 or bigger tranny is a thing of real beauty [Scala in 5x4......pure magic]
 
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