Sharpest 120 Folder?

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Alex Varas

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No, I’m with the camera already... it seems I focused on the rangefinder as the camera came but the shutter and collimation need to be done again, I started with shutter and I will try rangefinder myself once again before giving up.
 

Neil Grant

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...taken with Agfa Isolette 3 and 75mm f/3.5 Solinar lens. HP5+, ID11 1+2. Focusing at this distance is usually unreliable.
tree trunk+daffodils_cr.jpg
 

David A. Goldfarb

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The trick to close focus with these, I’ve found, is to use a shoe mount rangefinder. Set both the lens and rangefinder at the desired distance; check framing in the viewfinder; then look through the rangefinder without losing the framing and move the camera back and forth until the rangefinder patches line up.
 

blee1996

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A bit late to the party. I found the Mamiya 6 Automat folder with fully coated Zuiko lens (Tessar formula), properly adjusted, can produce very sharp results. I did need to work on the camera, even replacing the de-silvered rangefinder mirror. But during the process, I was able to properly adjust vertical and horizontal alignment. Here is a test shot in the backyard.

Strong foundation - img001 by Zheng, on Flickr

And Voigtlander Bessa RF 6x9 folder with uncoated Skopar lens, can also produce excellent color slides. I was foolish enough to sell that camera, only now try to find another copy in the WTB section.

BessaRF_EPP100003 by Zheng, on Flickr
 

JPD

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An alternative is a 6,5x9 or a 9x12 plate camera with roll film back. They may not fit in your pocket, but you can focus on the ground glass and not have to worry about parallax. Some of these cameras have very nice lenses, like dialytes you will never find on 1950s folders. Then there are Dagors, four element double Gauss lenses that are cool.
 

henryvk

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Rodenstock Ysar 105mm f4.5 on a "Clarovid" 6x9 folder. It's Schloss Türnich near Köln, Germany.

This was Fomapan 100 or 200, handheld at 1/100 and probably f8 or f10 or so. (Only just now noticed the crow sitting on the main chimney).

gaR3ovs.jpg
 

pbromaghin

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All of these impressive photos prove that folders are hard to beat.

I tested my new Bessa 1 with scotch tape over the film plane and a tape measure and found that the lens marks were just a little bit off. I carry a note with the indicated vs actual distances. Shooting mostly landscapes at small apertures it doesn't matter that much, but it's good to know.
 

flavio81

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All of these impressive photos prove that folders are hard to beat.

I disagree.

What i see, for example by examining the last photo, confirms my own experience after buying many folder cameras and selling almost all of them:

Due to the big negative size (i.e. 6x9), they are capable of getting a sharp 4x6" or 8x10" print, no problem.

However they are almost never able to compete with a pro medium-format camera. On the shot above you can see, doing a close-up, that image detail is not resolved crisply to the grain level. The lens is not taking advantage of the film resolution.

So, yes, they're good for getting actual nice images on paper, but on ultimate resolution and crispness they can't really compete with a pro machine like a good Rolleiflex with a Planar/Xenotra, a Bronica, Hasselblad, etc...
 

Donald Qualls

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on ultimate resolution and crispness they can't really compete with a pro machine

This is at least partly true. For one, few folders have lenses beyond the Tessar and Heliar formula (the cost of those lenses would have pushed these upper end consumer cameras out of their market). Also, it's hard to be sure the front standard isn't warped or to straighten if it is.

Then again, few of these are used with intent to make wall-size prints or zoom down to the grain -- and for reasonably sized prints or scans, many/most of them do a fine job for a fraction of the cost of a professional system camera.
 

henryvk

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On the shot above you can see, doing a close-up, that image detail is not resolved crisply to the grain level. The lens is not taking advantage of the film resolution.

Of course. It’s only a fancy triplet after all.
 

Steven Lee

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@flavio81 agreed. Your experience matches mine. Except I was never sure if that's the nature of folders' lack of rigidity or simply the fact that rangefinders just aren't accurate enough for pixel-peeping at large negatives. 80mm is a challenge to critically focus on a Leica, why wouldn't it be on a medium format camera? The newest MF rangefinder I've tried was Voigtlander Bessa III circa early 2000s. The lens was pretty good but focusing was often slightly off, both front/back so I concluded this wasn't a calibration issue and moved on. Since then I'm not touching medium format rangefinders, folding or not.
 

Helge

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I disagree.

What i see, for example by examining the last photo, confirms my own experience after buying many folder cameras and selling almost all of them:

Due to the big negative size (i.e. 6x9), they are capable of getting a sharp 4x6" or 8x10" print, no problem.

However they are almost never able to compete with a pro medium-format camera. On the shot above you can see, doing a close-up, that image detail is not resolved crisply to the grain level. The lens is not taking advantage of the film resolution.

So, yes, they're good for getting actual nice images on paper, but on ultimate resolution and crispness they can't really compete with a pro machine like a good Rolleiflex with a Planar/Xenotra, a Bronica, Hasselblad, etc...

The Ysar is not a very good lens. Sorry.
A fifties triplet is generally quite a bit better than a thirties triplet.

A 66 or 645 folder can often achieve higher resolution, both overall and per sqr-mm, because everything is more rigid and the lens has to cover less with the same speeds.
 
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I disagree.

What i see, for example by examining the last photo, confirms my own experience after buying many folder cameras and selling almost all of them:

Due to the big negative size (i.e. 6x9), they are capable of getting a sharp 4x6" or 8x10" print, no problem.

However they are almost never able to compete with a pro medium-format camera. On the shot above you can see, doing a close-up, that image detail is not resolved crisply to the grain level. The lens is not taking advantage of the film resolution.

So, yes, they're good for getting actual nice images on paper, but on ultimate resolution and crispness they can't really compete with a pro machine like a good Rolleiflex with a Planar/Xenotra, a Bronica, Hasselblad, etc...

Flavio81, do you think it is an inherent issue with the folder design itself (as in the concept itself not on X brand folders) or is just that nobody has created a umm, let sey a Leica/Hasselblad quality folder?

Have readed most of the post on this thread and many people have a similar mindset about folders than you and I'm curious about that.


Have several folders (ranging from 35mm to 6x9) but havent used them enough to say there is an issue with the folder concept or if they are just cheap build.

I prefer a TLR vs a folder myself.

Marcelo
 

Helge

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@flavio81 agreed. Your experience matches mine. Except I was never sure if that's the nature of folders' lack of rigidity or simply the fact that rangefinders just aren't accurate enough for pixel-peeping at large negatives. 80mm is a challenge to critically focus on a Leica, why wouldn't it be on a medium format camera? The newest MF rangefinder I've tried was Voigtlander Bessa III circa early 2000s. The lens was pretty good but focusing was often slightly off, both front/back so I concluded this wasn't a calibration issue and moved on. Since then I'm not touching medium format rangefinders, folding or not.

My mantra is always: Avoid build in rangefinders. At best use them in a pinch.
For “action” photography stop down and cultivate a keen sense of distance. I can second guess a laser rangefinder from one to five meters down to within a margin of 10 cm.

On a tripod use a laser or old fashioned measuring tape.
Newer phones has a LiDAR build in that is very well suited for RF, plus light meter apps.

Apart from being hard to use in less than ideal light, build in RF are often, dirty, de-silvered, maladjusted and impossible to get right at all distances.
They also make it hard to get a good one of a given model, if you insist on RF, because they are rarer, more hyped and has often seen “power use” by people who were “Users”, “not collectors”.

It’s far, far preferable to get a solid, well kept scale focus folder.
 
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Fragomeni

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I haven’t read through the whole thread so may be repeating some others but for folders, the old Zeiss folders are very good albeit older often uncoated lenses. Still very sharp. The older Bessa folders were an evolution of the Zeiss essentially and offer about the same size with coated lenses. They are very good as well.

Probably the sharpest in technical terms is the modern Bessa / Fuji folders. They were sold under both names. I believe Fuji GF670 is the same as the Bessa III 667. They are absolutely tack sharp and are exceptional cameras but the price point for these is several times your budget. The Wide versions (GF670W and Bessa III 667W respectively) are also incredible albeit non-folding.
 

warden

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My mantra is always: Avoid build in range finders. At best use them in a pinch.
For “action” photography stop down and cultivate a keen sense of distance. I can second guess a laser rangefinder from one to five meters down to margin of 10 cm.

On a tripod use a laser or old fashioned measuring tape.
Newer phones has a LiDAR build in that is very well suited for RF, plus light meter apps.

Apart from being hard to use in less than ideal light, build in RF are often, dirty, de-silvered, maladjusted and impossible to get right at all distances.
They also make it hard to get a good model, if you insist on RF, because they are rarer, more hyped and has often seen “power use” by people who were “Users”, “not collectors”.

It’s far, far preferable to get a solid, well kept scale focus folder.

I've never heard of Lidar before, so thanks. Time to read up.
 

MattKing

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I'm always wary of enquiries about which camera/lens/whatever is "sharpest".
In my experience, I've rarely encountered a properly functioning camera/lens of at least moderate quality where the limiting factor for obtaining good, usable results in almost all usual circumstances is the camera or lens itself.
Admittedly I don't print murals - 11"x14" enlargements are greatly satisfying to me. But to my mind, within normal constraints, it is the usability of the camera and lens that matters as much as the mtf analysis.
From my 6x6 "Baby Bessa" - ideal for the left eye dominant, left handed photographer who can figure out how to precisely follow the directions for the frame counter:

 

flavio81

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Then again, few of these are used with intent to make wall-size prints or zoom down to the grain -- and for reasonably sized prints or scans, many/most of them do a fine job for a fraction of the cost of a professional system camera.

Yes, they do.

But very close results could've gotten with a good 35mm camera. At a lower film cost.
 

flavio81

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Of course. It’s only a fancy triplet after all.

Triplets can be great, however what I mean is that the folders, and moreover the 6x9 folders, have some mechanical drawbacks -- it's very very difficult to keep a perfectly aligned front standard when the front standard is so massive and so far from the film plane, yet the machine needing to be light and small.

Moreover they don't seem to be very good at film flatness.
 

flavio81

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@flavio81 agreed. Your experience matches mine. Except I was never sure if that's the nature of folders' lack of rigidity or simply the fact that rangefinders just aren't accurate enough for pixel-peeping at large negatives. 80mm is a challenge to critically focus on a Leica, why wouldn't it be on a medium format camera? The newest MF rangefinder I've tried was Voigtlander Bessa III circa early 2000s. The lens was pretty good but focusing was often slightly off, both front/back so I concluded this wasn't a calibration issue and moved on. Since then I'm not touching medium format rangefinders, folding or not.

This is interesting. I guess one would have to evaluate RF base length and magnification.

A 50/1.5 and even 50/1.1 can be critically focused with a rangefinder like a Contax or NIkon, where the base length is big. Those are lenses with small DOF.
 

flavio81

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The Ysar is not a very good lens. Sorry.
A fifities triplet is quite a bit better than a thirties triplet.

A 66 or 645 folder can often achieve higher resolution, both overall and per sqr-mm, because everything is more rigid and the lens has to cover less with the same speeds.

Aha!
This is also what I was thinking. The only folder I kept, after having many, was a 6x4.5 folder with a tessar-type lens. Also,it has true film rails.

It did give very sharp results.

So from my point of view this is due to a combination of (1) better aligned front standard, (2) flatter film, and maybe other factors.
 

baachitraka

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henryvk

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I find this axiomatic and technical mindset somewhat overlooks the aesthetic, haptic and not least kinetic experience that is unique to using a folding camera.

If I wanted a perfectly resolved, reproducible and predictable image, I'd use an SLR.
 
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Donald Qualls

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This could be an option...

I've got one of these. It does in fact produce very nice negatives -- and the dial-set Compur goes to fast enough speeds to be comfortable in Sunny 16 conditions with 400 speed film (and handles color well, too). I had to add a couple strips of velvet ribbon at the ends of the frame gate to stop light from the exposure leaking under the rollers and fogging the film loose on the spools, but with that minor attention, this is one of my best folders. Not bad for 95 years old...
 
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