« TechRestore Matte Screens for Macs | Main | Lenses by the Label »

Tuesday, 01 December 2009

Comments

This observation/thought/prophecy of the rise of medium format cameras is bound to come true ... some day, maybe soon.
These cameras are cool, big, some times clunky, but always very different from the normal.
I myself bought five (!) medium format cameras (3 Mamiya, 1 Fuji, 1 Rollei) before I bought my first digital.
It just felt right! And still does :)

Got a 30 yr old Hasselblad 500 C/M this year after years of coveting. Couldn't believe the bargain as the new ones were so expensive as to be imaginary to me. Followed it up with a Rolleiflex Automat '54, mostly on a lark because I didn't think I could lose for $150. Couldn't be happier with the rush to digital by others. And all in for the maybe around $1500, including the 80mm and 150mm for the Hassy, as well as Odess service.

Of course, you still have to add in the MF scanner, handheld meter, etc. but nonetheless well worth it. Just the act of slowing down has been helpful alone.

Mike, Dwayne's in Kansas will develop and scan 120-format C41 film for a pretty decent price.

One factor to consider with any used-camera purchases is its age and likely state of repair. It's probably safe to assume that unless the seller has actually used the camera him- or herself and can attest to its working condition, it will probably need a CLA.

I myself bottom-fed in the MF market as a student, but then managed to snag a Rolleiflex 3.5E for a really low price. It's such a pleasure to use that I've pretty much given up on all my other film cameras.

I've had the medium format bug for a long time. Bought my first MF camera, a Bronica GS-1 brand new in 1985. When digital came into play I discovered TLRs. I've probably bought over twenty of various manufacture on ebay. Sold every one for a profit and kept trading up. I now have a minty Rolleiflex 2.8C.

My favorite medium format camera was also an ebay find, a Rolleiflex SL-66. You may see many images shot with these cameras here (see "quiet Pictures" and "Cemetery Book" sets):
http://bit.ly/medium-format

Oh, I bought a Minolta Autocord, like yours pictured above on ebay for $50. Razor sharp.

BTW, this post will make prices soar! Shame on you! ;)

I am a twenty year professional, now based in Portland, OR.

I don't know about cost, but here are Ken Rockwell's suggestions. He really likes NCPS.

http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/labs.htm

Great article, I've been wanting to get into medium format for a while now. Chromatics here in Nashville can process and scan those for a pretty reasonable price I'm pretty sure, I know they do a good amount of 120 work. Ken Rockwell speaks highly of North Coast Photographic Services, they do mail-order for sure.

Love the article. I work as a University Photographer. When school breaks come I always pick an unconventional film camera to photograph for myself over the break. This Thanksgiving break I used my Mamiya C330 w/ 80mm lens and waist level finder. I also took a Hasselblad XPan for 35mm film. I love the break from digital and using MF and waist level finding is as far from my D2X as I can get.

I did take your advice from the spring of shooting film with one camera one lens and one film and created what I called my Summer Film Project. I shot mainly with a Kodak Signet 35 with Kodak B&W C-41 film. I really considered doing that project with TLRs but the film developing was the issue. I now have access to a darkroom so I can develop my MF film.

Here is the link to my summer film project. http://summerfilmproject.shutterfly.com/.

If you start at June the 10th of this year on my blog you can read my blog posts on the Summer Film Project.

I think my next summer film project may be with MF and my Mamiya C330.

Well, there ya go again.

Last time you did this (in the post about press cameras) Graflex prices went through the roof out on the big auction site. Could you give us some sort of advanced signal next time you're planning a post like this so we have time to get our old gear out there for sale in time?

If the previous post was any indication--had I had a bit more warning--I'm thinking that early retirement would've been a possibility.

--Pete

P.S. Don't underestimate your power either--beat up old speed graphics were selling for more money than nice Super/Super Speeds, and a hard-to-get-film-for 3-1/4 x 4-1/4 Crown went really high.

Adirondack Pete,
Thanks, but I'm pretty sure that's coincidence!

I promise I'm not selling any medium format cameras on Ebay right now, though. [g]

Mike

Funny you mention this. A couple of years ago I came close to buying MF film gear only because someone locally was selling it so cheap (a working Bronica system for less than $500 or something). My reasoning was that I could get top-of-line DSLR equivalent resolution (more or less) at the price of some scanning hassle for those 3 or 4 times in the year when that resolution mattered to me. Yes there would be the cost of film processing but 3-4 rolls per year would not amount to much. I blow more on coffee. But I hesitated, the gear was sold, and I more or less forgot about the idea. But it seems to me that it still is a very cheap way, for some applications, to get high resolution.

I bought a pristine Super Ricohflex TLR for $40 this year. It has an 80mm/3.5 lens, and I use an old GE selenium meter (or a DSLR, or "sunny 16") to guess exposure. Then I develop the film in my kitchen & scan it.

I am really loving the experience. It's teaching me loads about exposure, focus, and composition. And square pictures are just cool somehow...and medium format has a "look" I can't define yet.

I took this one of my daughter a week ago. My favorite oak tree was on the same roll. Here are a few more:
My mother's greenhouse
A front walkway
A relaxing beagle

I have a Holga at home, too. Medium format is fun, and it's pretty cheap to dabble in as I do.

I've gone back to film with the 6x6 Zeiss Super Ikonta B.
You can see the results in the series, "Sumptin' Sumpter", at http://www.efn.org/~hkrieger/sumpter.htm

Herman,
I love the rush hour pictures!

Who says pictures don't need captions??

Mike

Mike,
for scanning, take a look at North Coast Photo Lab (http://www.northcoastphoto.com/Ken_Rockwell_Scans.pdf). Yes, it's that K.R.- maybe the only "big-idea-of-the-second" he's had that has staying power. I've gotten great work on color, not good on B&W.

Oh yeah, love the medium format!
My first was a Rolleiflex with the Tessar lens. Loved those big negs but got fed up with the single focal length, so I started buying Mamiya C33s. I ended up with two bodies, 55mm, 65mm, 80mm and 135mm lenses and once my collection was complete I realized I found the cameras to be too big and heavy and I wasn't having much fun, so I sold the lot.
Next I found a great deal on a Bronica ETR-Si system: two cameras, 55mm, 75mm, 150mm, 250mm lenses, two film backs, AE prism finder and waist finder, and speed grip all for $600 CDN!
Sure it can add up to a pretty big camera system too, but it was such a good deal and it has so many possibilities that I am keeping it and shooting with it, although not as often as I'd like.
In the meantime I picked up a really mean street-shooting machine. The Fuji GA645 autofocus, auto exposure rangefinder is still more compact than a typical 35mm SLR and gives me that MF quality. What a great lens too! I shot a whole wedding with just this camera and the images turned out fantastic!
Lastly I just started experimenting with a Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta folder camera with that familiar Tessar lens. The folder is a lot of fun and the rangefinder works quite well. It's kind of like the Rollei but more compact and easier to focus in poor light.
Long live medium format!

Sometime, in the dying embers of the 20th century, I bought an Exakta 66 with a Schneider 80mm. I vividly recall the frustrating weekend I spent trying to figure out why the focus was out, on the camera, until I realised that the screen had been installed upside down. Wonder if the same worker installed yours?

The camera could produce wonderful images and I loved using it. However, the agony of seeing too many overlapping images finally put an end to it all. Occasionally, I check out prices on e-bay...

Tomorrow, I'm going to try out a Bronica S with a 75mm f2.8 Nikon lens. At $350, the camera won't be much of a bargain but it is in great condition.

If I was awash with cash, I might splash out on a Mamiya 7 or the Bessa III.

I haven't shot professionally with a medium format camera since April but, for personal work, I think they're great fun.

I've recently dug out and rebooted my Fuji SW670 "Texas Leica", which I bought new just after they were discontinued.

It's about as basic as it gets, but the lens - and the image quality - are about as good as it gets.

I'd love a 690, but, unfortunately, Fuji rangefinder prices don't ever seem to have nosedived.

I can see medium format getting more popular... even film in general seems to be on the rise as the excitement of the digital era is starting to wear off.

I picked up a 1956 Minolta Autocord MXS about 1 or 2 years ago on eBay for around $150 and it's probably my favorite camera to use at this point. The old TLRs aren't just fun to use, some of them can produce amazingly high quality images.

Last year around this time, I took a photo of my Wife and Daughter with the Autocord and PanF+ @EI50. The photo is so sharp, I can clearly see individual pores on their faces on just an 8x8 print. Here's another sharp photo of a car I shot with PanF+ @EI25. The rest of my Autocord shots are on Flickr too.

As for scanning medium format, the cheapest way to go is to pick up the Epson or Canon film scanner. A lot of the film scanning services are so expensive that you could buy a scanner for the price of having them do 10 rolls. I use a CanoScan 8800F and it can pull some huge files from 120 (but they're still not as good as an optical enlargement). For printing, I use an old Beseler 67CS with Beseler-HD lenses. I also just picked up a dichro head for it and I'm hoping to start printing color soon.

I'm a dedicated B&W medium-format film user. Last year I got a Hasselblad SWC for about $1,800 at Blue Moon Camera in Portland, OR. Blue Moon specializes in film cameras. This year, I got a Sinar Norma on eBay for about $450. (Truly Bugatti quality for Buick prices, as Mike said elsewhere.) It was in great shape, but needed a CLA so I learned how to CLA the camera, and then published a guide to help others do the same. It's a sorta-medium format camera because I use 6x9 rollfilm backs instead of sheet film holders. I believe that the maximum beauty of B&W gelatin-silver prints surpass what's currently possible with inkjet technology. I believe this graph describes the difference.

--Philip.

Camera porn again! A friend recently asked me to do some still photography for a docu on the 80's using 6x6 cameras of the time. I wasn't sure my Bronica S2A could hold its own, it's become a bit quirky, so I borrowed a SQ system from a pro friend. I liked it so much (SQ-AM and Ai) that I've bought a couple of bodies (ebay, 150 euros inc s&h, incredible bargain) and I am now buying the lenses. Funny thing is that he hadn't used it for over 5 years now. Clients only accept digital these days.
I has a Yashicamat 24, a battered GS645w and a Mamiya 6, my fav. If I only had a wide angle for it... I just can't find one for a good price. Most get over 600 US$ at Ebay and locally they are even more expensive. Maybe I'm spoiled by now, but I am pretty sure I'll end up buying a Pentax 6x7, the macho camera. But after Ctein praises and your post prices may rise over what I can afford... ¿don't you guys know how to keep a secret?

Just to play devils advocate -- I've wanted a Mamiya 6 for years (it's not totally rational...I just love the idea of a 6x6 MF rangefinder), and every few weeks I check out the sales on eBay. I haven't studied the trends in any detail, but the prices never seem to decline signficantly. Of course, the market for that one particular camera might not be representative of MF as a whole.

you know, just a couple days back I was pricing Mamiya 6's and 7's, figuring I could finally afford one. I figured wrong.

I gave the last of the MF film out of my freezer to an old friend who's been doing digital, but is also doing more MF film these days. So it went to a good home. I'd moved the cameras along years back.

I've owned a Yashicamat 124G, a Fujica GS645, and a Norita Graflex 6x6 over the years. I was always on the edge of wanting serious medium format, and could never quite justify the money. I was more about recording things than shooting art, and the range of focal lengths and the fast lenses of 35mm kept my attention. Maybe if I'd gotten into studio lighting more seriously earlier, I would have been ready to get a Mamiya RB67 back when they were relatively new.

RP,
Yes, I agree, there are some cameras that just never seem to go down in price. Another one (35mm this time) that has held its value incredibly is the Minolta CLE, which has always been way overpriced and remains so to this moment. The Mamiya rangefinders likewise. They're good deals used, just not great deals.

Of course the Mamiya 7II can be bought new. And they've always been pretty expensive. I probably should have mentioned that cameras that are still available new often hold their value pretty steadily. The real bargains are usually cameras that are discontinued or were made by companies that have gone out of business.

Mike

Well, I'd guess that one reason is that medium format film cameras still represent a value proposition. If you only occasionally need a really high resolution image, especially with higher ISOs, you probably can't cost justify a FF dSLR, and certainly not a MF digital. A quality MF camera and a drum scan can produce the same level of image, maybe not as conveniently, but at a massively lower cost. Especially if you develop your own film, and buy a reasonable quality proof scanner. Assuming APSC won't cut it, for an investment of maybe $500 up front you can make images as good as it's possible to make, and it would take years of ongoing/consumables cost (or tons of shooting) to reach parity with the cost of the alternatives.

Out of all medium format cameras that I have (seven) one proves more and more to be the ultimate in this format: a 6x9 folder Adox Sport. It is so compact and fun to use! And the quality of the output is amazing. Now I prefer to take it with me when we go out instead of digital and yet manage to preserve http://community.livejournal.com/6x9_ru/25251.html target=_blank>family memories in a fashionable way - most of the scans are printed (Epson 2400) and exhibited at home and work. Mind you that I use with it Pentax spot meter, Olympus viewfinder VF-1 and laser distro range finder...

I just realized that I missed the part of your post about the Mamiya 7 and cameras that have held their value because it was after the jump...oops. Sorry about that.

I got into Medium Format after spending hours on the Luminous Landscape, about a month later the world went digital!
3 years later I picked up a mint RB67 with 127 & 50 mm lenses, 2 backs and an polaroid mag for less than the cost of a D90.

6x7 is just amazing, its so good I'm happy to haul the rig and Tripod across the moors for hours in search of good light.

I love digital, but heading out into the wilds with a mechanical camera and a couple of rolls of 120 is food for the soul.

Garden Acer, RB67, Velvia

My guess for the resurgence in medium format? The popularity of digital. This is a total guess on my part, but the ease and feedback of digital has caused a lot of more people to learn about photography and shoot casually. As that number has grown, I'm guessing a lot learn about how things really work, and yearn for higher resolution/quality (pixel races anyone?). This may drive them to explore medium format.

The best example I can think of is, me, actually. I hadn't owned a camera until about three years ago, but already I think I'd like to try medium format. I don't know if I can get past not being able to check a histogram or get instant feedback on a screen, but I've thought about it.

"I can see medium format getting more popular... even film in general seems to be on the rise as the excitement of the digital era is starting to wear off."

As I said above, I don't feel that "the excitement of the digital era" is wearing off at all. Saying it that way almost implies that digital photography is a fad. I think it's the other way around - digital and the number of photographers it created might turn medium format into a fad.

I recently put together a Mamiya 1000S kit for myself. I had two lenses (80 and 210mm,a prism/meter,power winder and a crapped out body;all given to me. After seeing the prices, I bought a new body, a 45mm lens and a bunch of other bits and pieces. The total cost of the additional items was less than another lens for my DSLR and a lot more fun to use. Part of the enjoyment is using equipment that I wanted years ago, but never could afford.

walmart sends out film to be processed, at low cost depending on your area, yeah i know support your local lab, but for people who dont have one this is a good alternative. i've heard prices anywhere from $1.00-$5.00

BWC Labs in Dallas do MF, I've used them for C41 and E6 but not scanning (I have an Epson 4490 for that). I get my stuff developed and sleeved so I can cut to fit the scanner film holder. First used a Mamiya RB67 that I bought from the Camera Barn in NYC back in the 70's - no coated lenses. Then a Bronica GS-1 bought new in Tokyo in mid-90'd followed by a used 500C/M that I still use, with 50/80/150 and the PM5 prism.

My first camera, bought in 1995 when I was 15 was a 1960-something Rolleiflex. I loved that thing, until it accompanied me on a windy day at the beach and kicked the bucket. My second camera was a '69 Hasselblad and Zeiss 50mm f/4 (the giant chrome version of the lens), which I still use as much as I can. That thing is a beast, but an amazing joy to use. I just develop and scan at home, which is easy and cheap.

Come to think of it, until I got a dslr I don't think I'd ever used a "regular" slr at all. Huh.

My daily driver remains a Pentax 645N, with a 645 body around for backup. I shoot mostly HP5+ and develop at home. When I work in color, I send out E-6 film to North Coast Photo. I've considered the jump to the 67 many times... just never made that particular leap.

Indoors, I shoot an RZ67 Pro II every-so-often. A great piece of gear and a joy to work with. Outdoors, I prefer my 4x5 wood field.

I print digitally, after a scan in a Minolta DiMage Multi Scan Pro or an Epson v750 (depending upon neg. size).

I just picked up a Mamiya C330 from KEH about 6 weeks ago for about $200. It has the 80mm f/2.8 lens.

I started shooting film about a year and half ago based on a comment I read here on TOP. After shooting with a Pentax K1000 for a while the draw of using a waist level finder was too much for me. I know it's not rational, but I really wanted to shoot with a waist level finder.

Aside from the shear heft of the camera, I've been very happy with it.

I've been developing and scanning the pictures myself. I have an enlarger (an old Omega D2) but I've been waiting until winter to start printing.

My personal favorite pictures:

Lily

Lucy

Stella

Norah

In my experience to date, you can't do better that NCPS for scanning. Expensive and worth it.

NOTHING I've ever done in photography has been as much fun as shooting MF over the past year.

I've bought a pentax 6x7 in Belgrade for 250 euros with a 105 2.4 lens and a non-metered prism. Here's my favorite portrait taken with it: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tamoneki/3973086042/
(shot on fuji pro 160c and scanned by snapping against an lcd monitor set to blue; i shot the negative with a pentax k10d)

It's surprising how useful for web can this type of 'scanning' be when using medium format (6x7 better than 6x6 because it fills more of the frame)

I also have a Yashica 124g tlr, usually is very cheap - I bought mine for 50 euros.
I also like using it for portraits, check out this one:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tamoneki/3894371076/
(ilford pan 400, scanned by digitally snapping the wetprint)

I really enjoy using mf gear, for me it is somehow more immersive than using a dslr or a 35 slr

Great blog, btw. I really enjoy reading it.
Great blog you're running

Mike,

I shoot a fair bit of medium format along with 35mm film using a combination of a Mamiya C330 and a few lens. (Bargain of the century for studio work.) An old Voigtlander folder and the obligatory Holga.

I'll usually send anywhere from a half-dozen to a dozen rolls of film to NCPS each week for processing and scanning and everything's come back great. B&W, color print film, slides. I get everything scanned there and do digital prints at home and I couldn't be happier.

Turnaround time from Boston is usually around a week for non-rush orders.

I bought a Mamiya 645 a couple years back. Good value, and it's fun to take out and about.

I go with a develop-only package at a local lab, which is under $10 / roll, and then scan the negatives myself on an Epson Perfection V500. Not drum-scan quality, but easily many more pixels than anything digital I can afford.

Reminds me that I need to take that out again soon.

Despite plunking down some heavy change on a Leica M9, I couldn't resist a deal on a Rolleiflex TLR coming to me from Singapore. I've never owned one before, never really used a TLR much at all, but am looking forward to getting my hands on this camera.

I still have a pair of Mamiya 6 bodies and all three lenses. As you probably know, the 50mm is nothing short of spectacular. These cameras have been down the Grand Canyon and to the top of an 8000 meter peak. Don't ever anticipate selling them though it's nice to hear they are holding their value. Mamiya screwed up by dropping them for the 7 IMHO.

Also have a Mamiya Super 23 with a 100mm f/2.8 lens and 6x9 roll back. It's a beast but takes a great picture. Of course I have bigger cameras too, a lot bigger, so it's all a compromise.

One of my favorite cameras is the Minolta Autocord-L I bought for $10 at an estate sale in 1978. Here is a picture from the first roll from that camera - Rigelsville bridge crossing the Delaware river.

Hi Mike -

Many times I've seen complete a Mamiya RB ProS (body, back, lens) go for under $350 on eBay. Completely unheard of prices back in the day.

I've got two Ricoh Diacords that I just love. The lenses are terrific, tack sharp. I still have a Mamiya 330f and several lenses that gets some exercise from time to time.

I recently picked up a Fujica GW690 (the first rev in the GW series). Makes fantastic prints (I scan and print), very lovely to use and always kind of freaks people out with its over-size Leica look. Less then $500.

Where I'm from you could get a used Mamiya RB67 with 2 lenses for less than 200 bucks, really medium and large format hit the bottom as far as second hand market goes.

I live in what you call third world country, digital invasion comes little bit later, now everyone disposes their bigger format cameras in favor of digital cameras

Just couple of days ago one of my regular camera shop sells a Sinar in mint condition with 3 rodenstock apo lenses for the same money of a new Nikon D40 kit.

Oh well if anyone is in the market for medium format, you should visit Indonesia

I've used a Linhof Technika 70 for a number of years, then bought a Mamiya 7 to lighten my travel kit. Although the Mamiya lenses were really sharp and contrasty wide open at f4 to f4.5, the lenses on my Linhof were just as good by f5.6 to f8. I typically used both on a tripod, and because I could use front tilt and rise, I preferred the Linhof. Ended up selling the Mamiya and buying a Canon 5D MkII for hand-held shots and telephoto work. I guess I'm lucky as a local camera store (Englewood Camera in south Denver) can process my 120/220 E-6/C41 and scan it, delivering tiff files of good enough quality that anything better would require a drum scan. I see a lot of used medium format outfit bargains in the local stores -kind of like visiting the dumb friends league animal shelter- if you could you'd take 'em all home!

Just in case someone gets the idea to buy an Autocord, that one on E-bay is pretty much un-usable since the focusing lever is broken off. Probably not so good for parts since the focusing lever is the part that you usually need.

Autocords are great, I have one and in a lot of situations it is preferable to a Hasselblad. The focusing lever makes it easy to pre-focus without looking at the camera, and it's inconspicuous both visually and sonicly. Made some 50" prints that looked pretty good.

If you are using a Leica with a focusing tab, the focusing lever on the Autocord really feels natural.

Two notes:

1. Bronica. As I've written before, my first serious SLR was a Bronica S2A, thirty-five years ago. Kludgy and clunky she was, but the Nikkors that came with her, 75mm and 135mm, 2.8, were beauties. Does anybody know when Bronica switched to Zenzanons, and who made them?
Scan quality of those Bronica 6x6 Ektachromes from 30+ years ago, on even a modest Epson flatbed, is astounding. When I manage to pry open the anti-Newton Gepe frames, that is.
But weight took its toll: a spine condition meant that I could no longer schlepp the S2A (with, Mike, a murderously thin and narrow, non-replaceable strap...).
In came the Olympus OM-1...

2. Leica R4s, which was desirable as a simplified, cheaper R4, is now more sought-after than the actual R4
My late camera dealer, an immensely seasoned former press photographer and a Leica man through and through, once told me: "The way Leica builds these SLRs these days, the less they put into them, the better they turn out. They ought to be selling the R4s at a premium, for actually working." I had ample opportunity to confirm his wisdom.

I forgot to mention the flip side of the medium format eBay experience. Any number of times I've seen an MF kit for sale at a high price, more like what it was worth pre-digital. It's usually listed by an eBay newbie (zero feedback and sentence fragments like it was a classified ad). The seller must have figured since he paid $2000 for the stuff, it should still be worth $1500, right? No way I'm selling for under $1000! Needless to say these auctions finish with no bids!

Picked up a Bronica ETRS, loved the big, fat neg and wonderful tonality. Liked using a waist-level finder, but not with a 4:3 ratio. So it's on ebay now and I have Harry Fleenor scheduled to clean a 1955 Rolleiflex 2.8 D.

Same leaf shutter & ground-glass focusing method, minus mirror slap and battery dependence. Can't wait to get it back, I love the view of a standard lens on a simple 1:1 ratio... lends itself to clearer and more considered composition.

I bought an old Rolleiflex Standard 622 at a yardsale this summer for $5! It looked like it had been kept at the bottom of a dingy swimming pool for 60 years, but it cleaned up nice and everything works fine.

Hi -

Started out with a used YashicaMat bought for $25 from a photo club, sold that 10 years later to a Yashica sales rep for $100. Then went to Mamiya C220 with the 80mm and the 180mm lenses, which got me started in weddings, leased Hasselblads when I started doing them professionally. Biggest mistake I ever made: when I got out of the business, I gave them up (500 ELM with T* 60, 80 and 250 lenses)...

After several years with Olympus 35mm, picked up a Fuji 645s rangefinder (which my brother-in-law still has and uses regularly). The quality was great, but then this Fuji GW690III rangefinder was at the local camera shop where I was working at the time (Basel, Switzerland) at a price too good to be true. Snapped that one up and put around 400 rolls of film through it. Fuji MF rangefinders ROCK in terms of lens quality. Sold it to finance a P67 with 45mm, 105mm and 300mm lenses as I felt that I had outgrown the fixed lens in terms of composition, never looked back.

I still have the P67 and the lenses. They've been put aside for a date later in time when the market stabilizes...and when I finally get around to scanning my MF work.

But using the Fujis did wonders for my compositions, as I was forced to learn how to relearn how to compose carefully, largely due to the sheer cost of MF...

JohnF

Scanning...I still shoot lots of Tri-X through a Pentax 645N, for a very long term project. But am printing it all digitally. My scanner is a Canon 5d camera on top of an old Beseler dual mode slide duplicator I bought at auction for $50. Quite a few people are doing this. The beast has light source, color filters, and bellows. Mine came with a nifty Nikon flat field lens. It takes Beseler 67 enlarger negative carriers. A 16 bit raw image for that price is hard to beat.

Medium format is all I ever really use nowadays. I bought a Yashica Mat 124G about three years ago and have been happily taking pictures with it ever since. I miss the rectangular format and the small size of slr film cameras, though.
Most of the pictures here (flickr) were taken with the Yashica.

In terms of price, I think it depends on the specific camera. I traded in a Mamiya RZ and a couple of lenses for a Contax 645 (best medium format camera ever made, in my humble opinion :) ) the day it came out. I've been following prices pretty closely, so as to buy a spare body. Lenses cost about half what they were a year ago and I have the feeling they will continue to tank. Prices for bodies have remained fairly constant, but the accessories have remained very close to original price. Had only I not bought the camera, but put all the money into Contax lens shades and extension tubes, I could have outperformed my 401K!

I've always been attracted to MF film cameras but as a novice/non-professional, up until now, I couldn't justify or aford the gear but now I'm seriously looking for gear.

A recent article in digitalphotopro.com concerning Full-format Digital vs. MF, convinced me to begin looking at what's available in the market.

Mike,

You took my breath away for a moment with the picture of that Autocord in your post today.

Having had a good fortune of being found by a number of TLRs I would like to share my observations about these wonderful cameras:

Rolleiflex 3.5E (1956), Zeiss Planar - this camera is capable of visual poetry unlike anything else I have seen. Flares easily. Manufactured to a standard that has to be seen to be believed. I often take it out of the bag in the evening just to hold and caress it. They are not cheap: about $1,000 for a clean working model.

Rolleiflex T (~1972), Xenar - a clever system of operating aperture and shutter speed via a single lever, lighter in construction than the Rollei 3.5E described above. Less prone to flare. Very suitable for quick hand-held work at apertures of f5.6 and higher (wide open not that great). Here is a quirk: Xenar’s depth of field is about 2 stops deeper than that of a Zeiss Planar (I.e. f5.6 on a Xenar extends as far as f11 on a Planar - great for street work) Not cheap: I paid $1,000 for mine in a mint condition… though I probably overpaid a little.

Minolta Autocord (CDS and Model 1) both with Rokkor lenses - two cameras, two different models, manufactured 1 year apart (1965 and 1966) yet when carefully tested they show IDENTICAL exposures at all shutter speeds…there is not even 1/3 of a stop of variation between equivalent exposures across all shutter speeds nor is there any difference between the two cameras. This suggests a very high manufacturing standard and accuracy of the Citizen MVL shutters. Very very flare resistant! Beautiful rendition of the out-of-focus areas. 8 blades in the aperture - nearly circular rendition of the specular highlights. Many of the Autocords on the used market have problems with the focusing levers (frozen or stiff) but often this is a relatively inexpensive repair. The focusing mechanism (a sliding lever under the lens) is rather delicate and I find it a bit less suitable for a quick hand-held work. These cameras sell for way too low: about $200 for near mint.

Mamiya C330 - interchangeable lenses, heavy, industrial in its look and feel. Focuses very close (½ of the distance of other TLRs). The camera is well balanced, thus I rather like the heft. Exceptionally bright and snappy focusing screen in conjunction with a fast-action focus knobs (both sides of the camera) make it suitable for a very quick hand-held work. Racking the focus back and forth to follow the action is really easy with this camera! However, for any focusing distance the bellows extends nearly 3x as much as the Rolleis or Autocords (it really sticks out there!), thus, when hand-holding the critical sharpness is quite elusive. Little more expensive than Autocords, but still a great bargain: with some luck a clean working model can be had for about $300.

BTW I haven't tried them yet but Scancafe.com offers 3000 dpi scans of 120/220 slides or negs at $1 each.

I like Bronicas too. I've had a Rolleiflex 2.8 GX, but I still prefer the GS-1, which is a real bargain at this moment. Medium format just looks better, you won't get that subtle rendering with a small digital sensor and short focal lengths.

I am still shooting regularly with my Fuji GX 617. Every wedding I shoot a large group panorama with it. Usually I just have time for one roll ie 4 exposures. It works. I scan the negs on my Imacon 343 which I picked up used. I make prints up to 2'x6' on an Epson 7800. Amazing quality. I also still have an RZ Pro II and a Fuji GSW690 III which beat the pants off my Leica in a large size print. See sample of my panoramas on my wedding photography blog.

I picked up a Ciroflex TLR a couple years ago from Pacific Rim Camera for like $25. I was replacing another cheap old TLR that didn't advance film quite right and always gave me overlapping negatives. Even some of those "ruined" negatives gave me some decent prints when I cropped them sufficiently. The Ciroflex gives me good results though. I haven't used it in a while now though. I had some expired tmax that I picked up for real cheap and started developing it myself. I think it's a pain to deal with mf film, I have a lot of trouble loading it into reels. I also ended up making a negative carrier out of matte board for mf film because the cheapest "real" negative carrier was like $150. But it works. I love using the square format. I should really use that camera more. I still have a bunch of that expired tmax (which still seems to give great results) sitting around. Those old TLR's can be cheap and fun and the negatives are amazingly huge when you're used to 35mm.

For years I had Voigtlander Bessa and Perkeo folders (6x9 and 6x6) and dallied with a couple of Yashicamat TLR's. The old folders were sentimental favorites but were not particularly convenient in use and the Yashicamats were OK though nothing exciting, so progressively I sold them all and concentrated on using the new generation Bessa 35mm RF's.
I now have a very nice Rolleiflex E2 f2.8 Planar with a new Maxwell screen and I'm waiting on the new folding Bessa III 667 to arrive for a two week trial as part of the Australian "Travelling Bessa" project.
My local lab still does 120 colour (plus scans) but I do my own B&W processing. (In fact, I have a deal going with them to do their B&W film processing and I run an account with them which I use to contra on stuff like film or colour processing. They find it cheaper and quicker than sending the films away for development at a pro b&W lab).

About eight years ago, most of my photography was done with large format gear. One day I was reviewing my past work, and I realized that my best photos were "people shots". I decided then I should get a medium format kit.

I had always admired a friend's Bronica S setup, but research suggested they weren't the most reliable cameras, and parts were getting rare. So I settled on the Bronica SQ. I was outbid on many auctions before I finally bought an SQ with 80mm lens and 120 back. I had so much fun with that camera (and produced a lot of wonderful images) that I eventually ended up with a complete SQA system with multiple bodies and lenses. A few years ago, they were very inexpensive, as wedding and portrait photographers went digital.

From time to time, I've looked for a modern (Mamiya, Bronica, Fuji) MF rangefinder, but alas, the prices aren't in my range yet.

These cameras are loads of fun, and 120 film isn't going to disappear anytime soon.

I own a Hasselblad 500CM which didn't get much action until I bought a polaroid back for it. I'm into instant gratification.

I have also recently purchased a No 1 Pocket Kodak that takes 120 film. Its more of an ornament than a camera.

No 1 Pocket Kodak

http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulophoto/4043502105/

I have run some film through it but I messed up the focus because I hadn't racked it out properly. Ironically the first photos I took with it used flash because it was too dark. I don't believe flash wasn't invented until a good few years after this camera was manufactured.

Thanks for reminding me to refind that replacement screen for my Autocord that I intended buying weeks ago...

Haven't tried their scanning but quick reliable film processing for UK readers is at
http://www.the-darkroom.co.uk/frames/

Cheers, Robin

I shoot almost everything with a DR Summicron on an M3, but if I know there's a landscape in the offing, the Pentax 67 is always first-choice. A friend of mine observed not long after I bought the thing that "A person doesn't really take that with them if they're going to do anything other than take pictures" and that's mostly true. Still, though, when the stars align...

One
Two

I've also gotten a few portraits that made me happy with a Pentax 645:

Three

I was using a lab in town here (SF) for E-6 processing; they closed. Now I mostly shoot HP5 and soup it in Pyrocat at home. I always just scan my own. Prints from MPix have always come back really nice for me.

Two years ago I picked up a Hasselblad 500c, with 2 backs (one automatic) and the 80mm Zeiss planar. What a revelation.The first batch of slides were like jewels. The body had some minor light leaks, however, easily cured in half an hour with a kit from Hasselblad.
Since that time I have been hooked. To the point I now use my fathers Kodak Tourist for walking around, using 620 rolls from Blue Moon.(great processing and friendly).
I took some portraits of my late father a month before his last illness with the Hasselblad. Those alone were worth the price!

Love my old Mamiya C220 and 80mm lens. I love the waist level finder and those big negatives. I develop and scan my own film. If I could have only one camera system, it would be 6x6 MF; and if I could have only one lens and finder, it would be 80mm and WLF.

Mike, unlike some who have commented on this subject, I'm glad you're telling the world about MF, as I want Kodak, Ilford, and Fuji to continue making 120 film.

I have been using medium format for b&w for years. The pentax 67 has been my favorite, great negatives to work in the darkroom. Pentax 67 bodies and the great lens are reasonable and durable. Once one fell off the tripod I was carrying and fell several hundred feet in the Grand Canyon but when found at rivers edge worked for the rest of the raft trip. Later spent $50 to repair filter threads and still use it today.It has handled the dust in Egypt and snow in the mountains of Turkey. Dollar to dollar probably best bet in medium format.

With cost of film cameras coming down with the switch to digital I have bought and used other medium formats such as the Agfa Super Isolette 6x6, the Zeiss Ikonta 6x9,Voigtlander Bessa I 6x9, Fuji 645 zi and now have my Kodak Medalist 6x9 off to be converted to 120 to save having to roll 120 film on 620 rollers. These old medium format with coated lens do great, just printed a 16 inch wide print from a 50+ year old Bessa that looks great and the camera will fold and fit in my coat pocket.

I was in Hampton VA last week and was surprised to discover a genuine camera store with all sorts of good stock. I stopped in to wish the owner well. We started chatting about what was selling other than digital cameras and he told me that he can't keep any inexpensive medium format cameras in stock. "The kids just snap them up," he said. This is especially true of cheap TLRs--he said any TLR he can price below $100 doesn't stay there long.

I love square pictures and 6x6 negatives. I've shot a lot the last few years with a Zeiss folder and lately have been using a borrowed Mamiya 6 (the more recent version rather than the old folder). I like them both a lot. The Mamiya is a beautiful, if eccentric, camera.

I've been shooting 400 film, processing and printing in my darkroom. I suspect, however, that MF negatives will scan pretty well in the current generation of flatbed scanners with overhead transparency adapters.

Here's a favorite

"We started chatting about what was selling other than digital cameras and he told me that he can't keep any inexpensive medium format cameras in stock. 'The kids just snap them up,' he said. This is especially true of cheap TLRs--he said any TLR he can price below $100 doesn't stay there long."

Robin,
Sometimes I wonder if this isn't part of the reason I love looking at galleries of pictures taken with old TLRs...because there are a lot of young people using them. You can feel that energy, or at least I think I can. Sometimes it helps not to have learned yet all the things you can't do with a camera (or all the things you supposedly need in order to do anything).

Mike

Mike, if you could please write an article on how shooting 11x14 sheet film is the next big thing, that would be great. I've got some very large Fidelity filmholders I'm trying to move along....

Affordability is relative of course. I bought a 3 lens Mamiya 7II setup for ~$2800, around the price of a full frame dSLR body but I have the legendary Mamiya 43mm lens which will EAT anything on the 35mm camera side for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I had a darkroom setup a few years ago, and I just sold the 6x6 enlarger and bought a 45MZT with a colorhead for $250!!! I am having a fun-o-times making darkroom prints.

I still shoot digital color of course, for things that need digital and color. My trusty HPZ3100 still churns out prints with no effort, but there really is nothing like seeing a silver gelatin print. The tonality just takes your breath away...

Try this for size:
http://www.dragonsgate.net/pub/richard/PICS/PtLobos09/

(yes, I have a neg scanner as well...)

Back in the pre-digital days I went through a lot of medium format cameras. Even though I did a lot of 35mm and 4x5 back then, medium-format was always the sweet spot for me.

The Pentax 67 was a favorite, as well as the big Fuji rangefinders. One of my favorite pictures was taken with a GSW690.

But the one camera I really clicked with is the 6x6 Hasselblad. I had several, but the one I kept and still have is the 501CM with an 80mm lens and chimney finder. For metering I still have my trusty Zone VI-modified Pentax spot meter left over from my large-format days.

The 501CM is a simple rugged camera. Mine's been through deserts and deep snow and just keeps on ticking.

Of course, I'm older now and a medium-format kit isn't the lightest thing to pack into the backcountry, so I stick with digital nowadays. But ever so often I get the Hasselblad out and remember how cameras used to be made, think about getting a roll of Tri-X to run through it, then remember the weight and pain of film, developing, and scanning and put it back away.

Still I wonder --, digital sure is easier, but I'm not sure it's an improvement, at least for a hobbyist such as myself.

Nice post and I too have noticed this trend as I am always looking for bargains. My brother and I have been using medium format cameras for years. Our late father was a pro photographer and left us a pile of very nice condition cameras; between us we have 3 Rolleiflexes, 1 Rolleicord, 1 Yashicamat 124G, 1 Mamiya C330, 1 Mamiya Press (with 3 lenses), various medium format folders, and a few 35mm slrs. We have since been buying all sorts, from Yashicas to Zorkis and SLRs. Always looking for bargains, and we write about our experience using traditional photography in a digital age.

I am still looking for that elusive Mamiya RB67 bargain. A 4x5 view camera is high on the list also.

Before paying for a Baier Fototechnic fix for overlapping frames on Exaktas and Pentacon Six cameras read this: http://www.pentaconsix.com/Loading.htm
You may just need to learn how to load your camera properly.

I just dropped of 7 rolls of 120 film at my local lab this very morning. Granted, this was all shot with a Holga, which would be the ultra-cheap-but-slowly-getting-more-expensive ($28 now versus <$20 a few years ago) way into shooting MF, though decidely more lo-fi (which isn't necessarily a bad thing).

This past summer, the lady at the lab warned me that they may have to stop processing 120 in 2010. However, today she was happy to report that the business has picked back up and they will be continuing for the foreseeable future. They've apparently also been put on a list by Kodak of places still doing development. I should find out where that list is located. So, there's some real-world data to back up your observation.

I only ever get my film developed there, but it's pretty reasonable at $2.50 per roll, I think. So, check out Pro-Lab in Clifton, NJ (http://prolabnj.com/), though I'm not sure if they do mail-order or not. As an added bonus for locals, there is always some kind of tasty muffin or cupcake on offer, as well.

A friend of mine has also recently professed his love for his Yashicamat 124.

Shouldn't the filter on that Autocord be on the taking lens, instead of the viewing lens?

In the past two years I have purchased two medium format cameras: a Bronica SQ-A and a Mamiya 7. I also picked up a Zeiss Ikon since then. I regularly shoot all three as they each have their own appeal and "way."

The Bronica was my second choice after Hasselblad, but the price of the Bronica made it too hard to pass up. It doesn't have the sheen of a Hasselblad but it has it's own charms and it's a fun camera to use. Looking down through the waist level viewfinder is a pure joy that never gets boring. Also, the square just makes you see differently.

The Mamiya is insanely sharp and, for me, works best in creating tableaus. It's also very light and easy to take hiking along with a tripod, which is maybe a bit counterintuitive.

I love both these cameras and I get results that please me in a way that I was never able to with my D300. Processing B&W is pretty easy so I do that. I like Rodinal and Clayton F76+ (no powders). I scan with a Nikon CS9000 and print off an Epson 3800.

With this setup, I get the kind of results I could only dream of back in my youth when I had a Minolta X700 and collapsible enlarger who's name I can't recall. I think the hybrid workflow gives you the best of both worlds. And 120/220 will be a high resolution format for some time to come.

I have a Rollei 3.5f and a C330. Used the C330 over the Thanksgiving weekend with i9ts 55, 80 and 180 lenses. Heavy, but fun to use. The Rollei is a gem. I have a darkroom with an Omega DII, so printing 2 1/4 is easy.

I am curious why the Minolta Autocord at the top has a skylight filter on the viewing lens. Was that a convenient storage solution prior to taking a photo? In any event, thanks for a nifty commentary.

Les in Maine

You see this trend in Japan too. Two years ago you could almost pick up things for free; now the most popular, better quality stuff is getting scarce and prices seem to be rising. This morning, on morning TV, there was a segment on the rise of young women taking up photography big time. Half the women they interviewed or showed attending a camera club discussion had film cameras - 35mm of course, but also MF cameras and instant film. There was also a section on new-style photo shops offering film, cameras and processing - cheerful, well-designed stores with cafe areas and comfy chairs rather than moldy, gear-filled basements.

I inherited a Voigtländer Bessa I 6x9 camera and a box camera a couple of years ago. They were a revelation after only having used digital, so I picked up a Yashica Mat 124. That's is a really fun camera, and great for street use (A gentleman and his lady, Low-light portrait).

As I used film more and more I started to miss the ability to use wider lenses. So I pocked up a Pentax 67 and 90mm lens, which now is my main camera (Salaryman, Picknick), and I've since added a 45mm to it as well. I use digital too, but now, frankly, it's become the backup for my film stuff, not the other way around.

I recently acquired a case with a Pentax 67, 55mm f/4 and 165mm f/2.8 inside. Damn cheap and I've great fun using it here in Australia - even developing my own B&W film at home now. As I build on my B&W collection I intend to learn contact printing.

Here's my Pentax 67 set for perusal.

Mike, you're killing me! Last week I reread your review of the Contax Aria and I have been dreaming of an SLR with a great viewfinder like that one (and that doesn't take mercury batteries). Now I read this and I want the Bronica RF645 again. Then I saw one pic on flickr taken with the Schneider Xenotar you mentioned and I want that too!

I have a 21-month-old daughter and I really want to take B&W photos of her before she changes more. I still feel scared about taking the plunge into starting photography (I've only been reading about photography for 6 years now!). Plus, I plan to develop my own film (no room for printing my own but I'll save the negs or join the local art school for a month or two). So what I did was this: I went and bought David Vestal's "The Craft of Photography" and "The Art of Black and White Enlarging" for about $9 total including shipping. So far I like his methods but I'm barely into the "Craft" book. As your featured comment says, MF format would be good since I don't have to worry much about printing skill and I don't plan to make prints larger than 8x10 anyway. Must hold out...I just need to keep reminding myself to spend my extra money on film, chemicals, a developing tank and reels and not some MF camera obsession. A "better" camera will not make me a good photographer. Experience will.

PS- I love using your comments to get stuff off my chest like a diary or therapist session. I'm sure no one is actually interested in my comments but me. Maybe I need a blog- "The Online Depressive." I love your blog even if I'm probably the only armchair photographer who reads it daily. I tried posting this and kept getting errors so if you get the same post multiple times, I'm sorry!

My MF camera story:
About two years ago you recommended a Rolleicord with a Tessar or Xenar to me (through that beginner site you started) because I love manual cameras, old mechanical things and the act of using a camera. I took a chance on an auction on ebay that was poorly listed and I got a Vb for $100 and it turned out to be in great cosmetic shape. It has the Rolleikin in it and the film advance seems to need work. It could probably use a CLA anyway. If I could get $500 for it like you say, then maybe I should sell it to fund an older, cheaper Rolleicord and the Bronica with Xmas and birthday money pitched in. Sheesh, I still haven't gotten around to getting that camera fixed! Having a child will do that to your free time.

Geez, the price on that Autocord is up to $62

in big letters...
"The shutter and the winding system is not working, focusing level broken. For restoration. Sold as is."

I do notice that the shutter release is locked in the photo, which could account for the shutter and the winding system not working.

The same seller has a pretty cool baby Speed Graphic 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 at a third of the price

Gee, those large formats have a look about them dont they? They were all a bit out of my league when I was snapper whipper... and I much preferred loading up 35mm film in the dark. That big film was bleedin awkward!

Can I risk mentioning 35mm here? I think the look my old 35mm Spotmatic 1.4 put out at large apertures was glorious - all that creamy, spotty bokeh. Hell - we didnt even have a name for it then?

What a buzz to see so much love for the art
(and the toys) here. Is there a rule that says most photographers will most likely be thoughtful, intelligent and likable? Perhaps they've merely all congregated here like fishes - or maybe I've had one too many cups of green tea this morning!
Denny F.

Just my lab recommendations:
AgX does a great job with processing E6 ($10 for 220) and scans with an X5 ($10).
http://www.agximaging.com/

I can also recommend Van Tuil ($5.99 for E6 220); haven't used their scan service.

http://www.vantuil.com/services.htm#p4

Tom

My first medium format camera was a Pentacon 6 that I bought while I was on a research fellowship in Poland in 1989. Polish złoty were very weak against the US dollar, so I eventually accumulated a camera body with 50, 80, 150, and 300mm Zeiss Jena lenses for around $135. I was doing a lot of street photography at the time, and I found I could blend in much more easily with the clunky Pentacon than I could with my exotic looking Canon New F-1, which was the camera of choice among a few professional photojournalists who could afford a Japanese 35mm SLR, since Canon had authorized service in Warsaw. Here's a Cibachrome from that era.

I eventually traded that kit at Ken Hansen's for about $500 toward a Norman strobe kit that they sold me at a very reasonable price, and which I used to shoot actors' headshots. They bought the whole kit mainly for that outstanding CZJ 50mm Flektagon.

Since then I've accumulated a fairly extensive Bronica S2a system, which despite its seeming clunkiness has some great features and options like easy adaptability of large format lenses, standard switchable 12/24 backs, a macro bellows with full view camera movements, and some fine Nikkor optics that can be had for a song. The real standout among them is the Nikkor-O 40mm f:4.0, which is the whole reason for the Bronica's complicated falling mirror design that allows lenses to protrude into the mirror box. Here's a sample.

Since we had a baby three years ago, I've been using a Linhof Tech V23b, which gives me all the functionality, if not the film size, of its 4x5" cousin in a smaller package, which is very handy for travel, since we're now shlepping a lot more stuff then we used to. I don't have too many shots conveniently scanned from this camera, but here's something from the neighborhood.

My go-anywhere camera is a 6x6 Voigtländer Perkeo II that folds into a package smaller than most 35mm rangefinder cameras. I call it the "pocketblad." Here's something from a short walk I took while I was otherwise attending a conference.

My most recent medium format acquisition has been a Noblex 150 swing lens panoramic camera. Man is that thing sharp! Here's one of the first images I made with it.

Mike, I shot my recent book, Double Exposures: Essays in Portraiture, mostly with Rolleiflexes. I still use the Rolleiflexes for most of my photography -- most recently, for photographing my wife and our newborn son. Happily, Charlie seems to likes Rolleiflexes too.

If I could afford one, I'd be very happy to purchase a used Plaubel Makina 67W and make that the significant other till death due us part. If I can't take the shot with it, I simply move to the next... My shoulders would love me, my uncramped mouse chopping hand would rejoice, and the world would be a better place.

The best thing about medium format is it brings you an inexpensive way to get beautiful out of focus backgrounds. My bokeh favourite after much testing is Hasselblad closely followed by the Mamiya 7, shooting 80mm lenses on both. I shoot Iflord XP2 as its chromogenic film so I can run ICE, as I don't care to spend my time dusting scans. Another plus with MF is that making the scans is much faster than 35mm.

Mike

In my opinion BWC in Dallas is a very very good lab. Jack Stoeckler uses and recommends them and I agree with his recommendation.

Try them and see what you find. The more data on such things, the merrier. We will all be better off

Woody Spedden
Fort Collins, Colorado

"Is there a rule that says most photographers will most likely be thoughtful, intelligent and likable? Perhaps they've merely all congregated here like fishes - or maybe I've had one too many cups of green tea this morning!"

Denny,
Nope, we do indeed draw a good crowd.

Mike

I recently bought a Minolta CLE off ebay and couldn't be happier. I live in Portland Oregon, where there are several shops that will develop and scan to CD a roll of 35mm color negative film for about $8. I love film and have zero plans to switch to digital. I found this post funny as I've been looking at dropping into a Hasselblad 500cm lately.

My Rolleiflex T (mk I) cost me c.£175 (second-hand, of course) in 1988. I've just seen advertised a near-mint example (later, mk II model) for the same price. Over the past ten years, they've been on the market for up to double that, which, given the quality of the results, still doesn't seem excessive when a tiny- sensored Ricoh GRDIII can set you back about £500. My 1961 Rollei will probably still be going strong long after a GRDIII purchased today has been re-allocated to paperweight duties.

Nearly two years ago to the day, my friends and I went to see I Am Legend in IMAX, simply because we knew that they'd be showing the opening scene of The Dark Knight (which, unlike I Am Legend, was shot in IMAX... that scene and a few others, not the whole feature) before the film. Seeing that large negative projection of Wally Pfister's fine cinematography (I'm a cinematographer) consumed me for weeks, and I knew that I wanted a camera that could shoot images of at least that size.

I explored tons of options. First I was pointed towards the Mamiya Press cameras, and I fell in love with the idea of them, especially because of the 3:2 aspect ratio. But these proved too unreliable to find from reputable sources, so I moved on. My love for that ratio led me to the Fuji 6x9 rangefinders. I've always wanted a rangefinder, so that seemed perfect, but the fixed lens felt too restrictive, and the prices were very high. I gravitated toward the Pentax 645 system, and really loved the camera, but in the end I realized it was just far too similar to my digital SLR in handling and ergonomics to really distinguish itself as a second camera. A Hasselblad 500 series was always on my mind, but it too was out of my price range. All along I'd read up on the Mamiya RB/RZ67 cameras, and I'd decided that they just weren't for me. They seemed clunky and bland for some reason.

My indecision finally led me to visit all of my local camera shops and give some cameras a spin. To my amazement, I loved the RZ67. The ergonomics that I'd predicted hating felt right to my hand. The bellows focus felt like a motion picture camera's follow focus system, and I rather liked how "dumb" the lenses were, featuring no moving elements. The consistency of control from lens to lens (focus is always in the same place on the body, shutter is always in the same place on the body, aperture is nearly always in the same place on the lens) appealed to me, and I've always liked waistlevel viewing. I grabbed a camera, a back, the 110mm/2.8 and 65mm/4.0 lenses for a song.

I really love using the camera and have a great time when I do, but in two years I've run 10 rolls through it. Worse still, I haven't printed a frame. I shoot slides, and love poring over them on a lightbox with a loupe, but I've never been able to afford scanning and printing anything from the camera.

This was made worse when I decided to sell all of my non-RZ gear so that I could take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime deal on a Nikon D700. I adore that camera, but it is so good in all regards, and shooting with it is (because I paid up front) free, that I don't feel motivated to invest the money to shoot with the RZ. Which I regret.

I've been thinking of selling the RZ to buy a GF1 that I could carry with me at all times, as opposed to the relatively bulky D700, which I have to commit to bringing out. As a photographer that wishes he could shoot more often, I think I'd be okay with it. But I just can't bring myself to part company with that lovely beast of a camera.

The recommendation of ScanCafe, however, has the worm turning yet again. If they deliver quality work at that price, even if one has to wait a long time to receive it, then they may have provided me with a way to make use of my RZ for more than just personal slide viewing.

I think it is time for me to bust out the lightbox and look at some more rich, detailed slides...

I bought a 67II, 45mm, 55mm, 75mm, 110mm, and 200mm for less than I paid for my Pentax K20D and two DA zooms. I hardly use the K20 nowadays except as an overweight P&S. I just don’t find digital rewarding anymore. Its relative ease and convenience feel like empty calories and I no longer derive from it any sense of accomplishment. The worst thing about MF is it’s given me an itch for LF.

been using a Hasselblad 500 C/M for some years now and I absolutely love it!
The way it forces me to slow down the photographing process and to fine tune everything is really rewarding. And besides, who can resist the amazing details on the negs? :)

Another thing I'd be interested in hearing from the Brain Trust: does anybody know of a really good lab for getting medium-format filmed and scanned for a reasonable price?

Well, this recommendation won't be of much use to you, but might help other shooters in the Netherlands:

I'm pretty satisfied with Color Utrecht (in Utrecht, obviously). They develop everything from 35mm to LF, can do push and pull processing, scans at three different quality (and price) points, etc.

There only drawback in my opinion is that their printing is done via the scanner=>lightjet path (I haven't asked though, maybe they do traditional enlarging on demand). While this means prints from slides cost the same as from negs, it unfortunately also means that prints from B&W negs get printed on colour paper.

Ah well, one or two months, and I'll have my own B&W darkroom.

The comments to this entry are closed.