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Thursday, 02 June 2022


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My main experience with 120 film was with a Mamiya 6 in the late 90s and early 2000s. It was great to use when it worked but even then it broke a lot.

Too bad though. It was a nice machine to use.

Any thoughts about buying an old medium format film camera should be predicated on your ability to get it repaired locally or within reasonable shipping distance. Find a place that you like, inquire about what kind of cameras they can and will work on, and gets parts for, and get that.

Don't get something that when it breaks, it's a paperweight because you can't get it fixed. Because it will break, after all it's probable well over 30 years old. If there are no parts, it's as good as dead already. If it's cheap enough, buy as many of them as you can find.

Otherwise, use the same mindset you use for film with digital, and you'll find that the experience of making photographs is the same. Film is nice, and old cameras have their charm.

The end result has more to do with what's between your ears and in front of you than it does with the tool you use to record it.

Two things happened at about the same time for me. I realized, 9 years ago now, that shooting square with my Lumix gave me better results than with my Hasselblad's, and my local repair guy went out of business. Realizing that I wasn't going to be using them anymore, and not being able to get them repaired locally anymore, I sold my beloved Hasselblad system. No regrets.

I haven't shot a roll of medium format film in a decade, which is pathetic really, given that I have some cameras sitting on the shelf (an older Hassie 500, Rolleiflex, a Pentax 6x7 . . . all the goodies).

"Bricked" covers a lot of ground, but my general assessment is that as long as your buddy sticks to cameras without electronics (or minimal e.g. the light meter in the MF Fujis) he should be fine. There are still specialty repair shops working on this stuff: David Odess in Randolph MA for the Hassies, Frank Marshman in Harrisonburg VA for just about anything, Sherry Krauter and Don Goldberg for Leica (and now Youxin Ye too). This was pro gear, most of it, and pretty robustly made. It is stuff that was, in general, designed to be repaired. I'd say, "go for it!"

Of all of the cameras I've used over the years -- and there have been a lot -- the only one that brings me pure joy each and every time I use it is my Rolleiflex 2.8D Xenotar.

Having realized that, I'm about to send it off to Harry Fleenor and get a complete CLA complete with the installation of a new Maxwell focus screen. Based on what I've read about Mr. Fleenor's services, I should receive a camera that looks and feels brand new and will give me decades of good service.

The TLR experience isn't for everyone but for those who enjoy it, there's nothing like shooting a Rollei.

One of my favorite shots taken with my 2.8D:


I have a Yashica Mat 124 (TLR), a Pentax 645N and a Bronica SQ-B which are all great cameras that I enjoy using. There is always the risk of failure, but pretty much anything can be fixed, for a price.


The main problem now is that 120 colour film prices are really starting to climb. Oh, and Fuji keep discontinuing their stocks.

I would say second generation Mamiya 645 (Super/Pro/Pro TL), Mamiya 645AF (I think PhaseOne still services these), Mamiya RB/RZ, Yashica and Rollei TLRs, Hasselblad 500 series. There are enough of those out there, and people who will work on them, that you won't end up with a paperweight, or if you do, it's relatively economical to fix or replace.

"I'm on deadline today for the NY'er and..."
Humble-bragging at its best, Mike! If I were you ... oh wait, gotta go, the Nobel people are trying to reach me -- again. Where does the time go!?!

[I know, right? I still expect them any day to wake up and realize I's just a 'umble bloggah. I am not worthy! --Mike]

I have several TLRs that were accumulated not as collector items but to use. I picked each up because they were very clean and the price was cheap.

Two Rolleiflex'. An early version and a 3.5E. I also had a 2.8 needing repairs but unloaded that. The 3.5E needed a CLA that a local repair shop did at a reasonable cost.

Rolleis are very well built. Many are beat up pretty badly from commercial use so be fussy, Exoensive, overpriced today in my view. Hard to find a clean one at a good price in today's collector driven market.

I also have two Yashicamats. In some ways I prefer using these to the Rollers. No complaints about relative image quality.

Yashicamats may not be as sturdy as Rolleis or as 'sexy' but the majority were used by casual photographers and not beat up like many Rolleis. The costlier 'G' version is to be avoided because of flimsier mechanicals. Prices can be very favorable- a small fraction of Rollei prices..

A mistake was a Bronics SLR. Big, noisy & heavy. I paid way too much for it and don't like it. Image quality is outstanding though.

Yeah, wet-plate photography is probably the best bet. There's almost nothing in the cameras that can't be fixed without access to manufacturer parts, and you don't have to worry about the complexities of those pesky shutters (just take your hat away from over the lens for 7 seconds or whatever).

Well, I have a lovely Mamiya 6 three lens kit that I am having problems finding a repair person for. The Mamiya Repair guy (mamiyarepair[dot]com), Bill Rogers and I exchanged emails earlier this year about my repair needs, unfortunately he does not have parts for it any longer. I love the camera and will keep it going somehow. It is my lightweight walk-around medium format camera.

I have shot with a lot of Hasselblad cameras. Currently I have a 501CM, 503CXi and a Flexbody. I had a custom lens adapter made for using Hasselblad V lenses on my ALPA camera bodies. My film Hasselblad kit is the 501CM, with the CFi 60, 100 and 180 lenses. I have owned or rented most all of the V lenses over my career and there is not one I can complain about for film use. For digital use, I am more picky, and stay with the CFi 60, 100, 120 macro and 180. If someone is interested in staying with one classic system for film and digital, I have found this in the Hasselblad V system. Custom made adapters for V components are also available for use on other cameras (i.e., ALPA, Cambo, Linhof, more).

I have shot with Hasselblad my entire commercial career, and it started in the early 1980s. These are proven workhorses and you can still get them serviced with parts available. Recently Hasselblad USA (in NJ), performed a CLA on my CFi 60. If Hasselblad NJ cannot fix what I need repaired, David Odess does it. This is the problem facing photographers with a film hobby like myself; parts and repair people are scarce and getting worse. We need to encourage young folk to learn the trade and for someone to manufacture a medium format system similar to the Hasselblad or Mamiya 6, or to produce parts for what we need.

I believe the Hasselblad V system will be around for a longer time than other medium format film cameras because they were built for the commercial arena, and anyone like myself that has worked setting up studios on location and breaking it down and moving on to the next job knows quickly what gear was built to last and what could not compete with the gear that was. But, don’t assume all Hasselblads were used commercially. There is a lot of nice Hasselblad gear available that was not used in the commercial arena because hobbyist wanting a best medium format film system and had the cash to buy them, bought them and babied them. With enough patience and money, you can buy a very nice Hasselblad kit today.

UPS tells me they are delivering my Cambo Wide 650 from Bob Watkins of PCW today (precisioncameraworks[dot]com). It has been out of my hands for two months now in line for a CLA and a general going over. Next to go to Bob (with fingers crossed) is my Mamiya 6. Hopefully he has the necessary parts.

If your beloved medium format film camera is not a Hasselblad, I am happy you found your love! I can only speak from my experience and I have had a very long romance with Hasselblad that is never-ending. Best to all seekers of film cameras!

The only film camera I use anymore is my Fuji SW690 III, a 6x9 rangefinder that I purchased at B&H back in the mid-90s. I adore the simplicity of the camera, as well as the magnificent 65mm f/5.6 lens, which, like so much of Fuji's glass from the medium format days, is sharp. The focusing is smooth, with enough friction that it never feels sloppy. The rangefinder itself is bright and easy to use, but it does take work to master.

Shutter speed and aperture is set on the lens barrel. The primary oddity/downside is that there is no Bulb mode -- a T setting (for Time?) keeps the leaf shutter open until you repress the shutter button. Bizarre to be sure. I have a dark cloth in my bag to toss over the lens, but this is not the type of camera I would use for long-exposure stuff in general.

There's no metering in the camera; I tend to use the sunny 16 rule, or my old Gossen Luna Pro meter, which I put in the case with the camera.

The camera has a shutter counter on the bottom plate. Fuji said that the shutter should be serviced every 50,000 exposures, but I probably haven't shot more than 2,000 frames with mine, so I'm not worried about it -- the camera will outlast me. I would check the counter on any used model, however.

Up until three years ago, I also had a Mamiya 7 setup that I had scored on eBay in 2000. There was a lot to love about that camera as well (the lenses were also superb), but in the end, I loved the simple utility of the Fuji (as well as the 6x9 format), and I used it more, so the Mamiya went away.

I've found it to be a great, if a bit oversized, companion over the years.

Three mechanical choices, all of which can still be repaired in USA

1. The classic Hasselblad V series, such as the 501 CM. Still readily available. Hasselblad USA repaired mine in mid-2021. Filters for b&w are super expensive now.

2. Any Rolleiflex 2.8 or 3.5. It's getting harder to find a clean one, and prices are up. Quiet, unobtrusive, great for travel.

3. Fuji GW690II or III. Superb lens and not much to go wrong on the "Texas Leica."

I personally have avoided electronic cameras and lenses. Who will repair them? But a clean one may still work for years.

Disregard the crap about which brand has the "sharpest" lenses. With 120 film, who cares and what practical difference will it make?

I have considered this and came to the conclusion that there are three serious options:

1) A 6x6 folding camera from one of the serious makers - Zeiss most likely.
Pluses: There are lots, they're simple and easy to work on. Ones without a rangefinder are nearly bulletproof except for...
Minuses: fixed lens, pinholes in bellows that even well-meaning sellers miss, old oil in the shutters, best lens & shutter combinations are more expensive due to collectors.

2) Mamiya manual focus 645 series - either the earlier ones that put the film holder in the body or the later ones that used film backs.
Pluses: lots available, not too many collectors rather than shooters, non-metered finder cheap and easy to use (get a handheld meter instead or a meter app on your phone). Huge number of lenses available at acceptable prices. Camera bodies are almost cheap enough to replace rather than repair in case of problems.
Minuses: 6x45 format. I'd prefer 6x6

3) Mamiya RB67/RZ67 - the 645's bigger and still somewhat more expensive sibling. Modular, bring your own meter and start a weight training program.
Plus: huge 6x7 format, good availability, early models reasonably simple to fix, lots of very good glass available.
Minuses. Huge. Period - this was really intended as a studio camera, and it shows. Not quite as masochistic to hand carry as a Speed Graphic 4x5 but it is much harder than the 645.

If I decided to get serious, I'd probably buy the Mamiya 645. Even though I prefer 6x6, I'd probably just mask off the finder to that format and enjoy 16 shots rather tha 12 per roll while still being larger than 35mm film.

Hope these thoughts are of assistance.

I had a Pentax 6x7 and while I appreciated the ability to make better 16x20 photographs in terms of “enlargability”, what I most appreciated was that dust spots were not as enlarged. If you are converting film to digital, the ability to remove spots digitally means 35mm would work more economically than medium format. If you enlarge more than 20x30 your Q2 will exceed medium format film at much less cost than film.
But these days, when an iPhone can match medium format film, your question might be, “Which camera film or digital, gives you so much pleasure to use that you want to use it more.”
Choose that camera if affordable.

Forget my comments. Get the Mamiya 6x7; it will not brick. My Pentax did. The Mamiya is just a big film Leica M. Then let me borrow it for several months.

I went through a period about 15 years ago when I accumulated some of the film cameras that I had never had the time or funds to try when they were new. In relatively short order I found myself with a Hasselblad 500/C, an SWC, and an X-Pan, and a fresh set of metal tanks, reels and a changing bag. The only significant expense was the SWC. I got chemicals from the one photo shop in Jerusalem that had art students as customers, so they carried chemicals, but seldom the same brands when I came back for resupply. And I got a scanner. I quickly learned Carl Weese's dictum -- That this is not the way to shoot color, while it is a powerful toolset for black and white. The X-Pan required telling a story across the wide (2.5 to 1) frame and gave me a real appreciation of how Josef Koudelka fills his 3 to 1 frames. The scanner has died now, the tanks and reels are back on a shelf, and I have a digital back for the two Hassies, which get called out on formal occasions, like whole extended family portraits. I had thought that I could use the SWC, with access to a construction site something like what Lee Friedlander does with his southwestern deserts composing in depth, but with the digital back, it wasn't wide enough. So that project was eventually completed with a digital Leica and a 21 mm lens.

My favourite choice is my grey Rolleiflex T because it is the only Rollie that has the shutter release button in that unusual position perfect for a one handed operation for street photography. Costs under $1000 in the pre-loved market.

My next choice is my recently acquired Hasselblad SWC (1978) with its black T* lens and that easy to read red moving depth of field scale. Cost $2000 in Exc+ condition from a local store.

>> I'm on deadline today for the NY'er...

Woohoo! :-)

If you really want to use an older film camera, buy a few of the same model. Working ones substitute for your primary, when it breaks. Non-working ones are sources of replacement parts. Your repair person (if you can find one) will then have parts to scavenge.

If you look at the prices of desirable film cameras one might want to quickly run the other way. I remember picking up a used Mamiya 7II and a 65 mm lens for about $1500. I am seeing prices with a 80mm for 5k now. Remember despite being well rated in its day it is a plastic shelled camera with a not 100% reassuring feel to the film advance. Prices have also skyrocketed when it comes to Rollei, Hasselblad and Pentax 6x7’s.

Now the only working medium format camera in my possession is an ancient Minolta Autocord. Not quite a Rollei but an all metal camera that still works great, has a very sharp lens and @$250 it did not break the bank. I am at a stage in life where I can finally say “I am not going to pay a lot for that camera.” Understand that 6x6 negative will be of better quality than $5000 worth of film Leica gear. Just sayin.
(If I sound testy it is because I go in for a complete shoulder replacement on the 14th. I need to take my frustrations out somewhere lol.)

[Best of luck with the operation, Mike. --Mike]

I hesitate to call myself an expert in such distinguished company, but. In the last several months I've put just over a dozen rolls through a Fujica GW690, the original version. Ektar 100, Delta 100, Acros II, Gold 200, Portra 160, and Porta 400 so far. I LOVE the results I'm getting, and I'm still working on fine tuning the exposure settings for the light and the look I want to get. This is way more fun than digital.

Yes it's only 8 photos per roll, but the detail in the 6x9 cm negative with that lens is to die for. It's comfortable to carry around even on long walks. It feels great in my hands, and I don't even have particularly big hands for a guy. Everybody that picks it up thinks it's light for its size, and there's lots of metal in it. The rangefinder is easy (for me) to use, whereas I never really got the hang of a split prism in a Nikon SLR.

As for cost, who knows these days? The film market has gone crazy these last few years. A thing is worth what you're willing to pay for it. They aren't making them any more, or anything like them, as far as I know. Find a buddy that has one, ask nice and buy him or her a coffee or lunch, bring a roll of your favourite 120 film and see what you think. You might just fall in love.

Short of being dropped or abused, it will probably last as long as I'm able to get out looking for photos. As a mechanical thing, it can wear or break, but if you pay attention you can often hear a problem coming. At least it can be serviced and repaired. Unlike electronics, where it will work until it decides not to, for reasons unknown to man or beast, and there is essentially no way to repair it.

Is it perfect? Of course not. Macros or a tight head and shoulders portrait are essentially impossible. If you want other focal lengths (it's about a 40mm equivalent fixed lens) this camera is not for you.

My name just below this post is a link to a blog with more film results if you're curious. Which gives you a clue to finding me for that coffee or lunch exchange I mentioned.

Your friend may want to consider a Pentax 645. Lenses and bodies are cheaper than 67s, plus you get a full set of automatic exposure modes, plus TTL Flash (with the right auto flash).

You get a negative (or positive) with 4 times the area of a 35mm frame, plus 15 frames per roll instead of 10.

Also also, you have an upgrade path to digital with any lenses you buy.

So long as the battery chamber isn't rotted out by a leaky AA (did I mention it runs on AA's?) it should be fine.

Of the various cameras I have owned, the Mamiya 7ii is my favorite, mostly in terms of the pictures that it has allowed me to take. For me, the move from 35 mm to medium format let me take the pictures that I always wanted to, especially landscapes with lots of detail. I do most of my photography while hiking, and the 7ii (or original 7) may offer the most film area per volume or mass available in a modernish camera, especially with interchangeable lenses. And the lenses are superlative! There are some who complain about them being too harsh or analytical, but I like sharp. With Ilford Delta 100, the results are all I can ask for.

I bought mine used, in very good condition, in 2008, and it has served me well, with no problems. I am not a heavy user, and I take good care of things, but there have been falls and bumps while hiking, with no significant damage. The body is plastic on the outside, but there is a very solid magnesium chassis on the inside.

The 7ii is often faulted for its fragility, and it does give that feeling. The tab for closing the cloth dark shield is definitely a weak point, and there are numerous accounts of it breaking, probably when a user turns it the wrong way or when it is locked.

I actually own two 7iis, and the story of the second one may offer a counter to the perception of these being especially delicate cameras. It was tossed into the deal for 150 mm lens, because it had been damaged by being dropped into the Bering Sea! The lens that was on the camera when it was dunked was a loss, but the body actually continued to work (after a good washing in fresh water), at least some of the time! I sent it off to Precision Camera Works (PCW) in Chicago (www.precisioncameraworks.com) and they were able to get it back into good working condition. From their web page, it looks like PCW is still in business and repairing Mamiya 6s and 7s.

As Mike notes, the prices for 7s and 7iis have gone through the roof, and it's for the individual to decide whether they are worth the cost. But, I have no intention of cashing in on mine. (well maybe the second body) Even after moving to digital several years ago (with a Fuji X-Pro 2), I try to use the Mamiya some every year. I still love the simplicity of a film camera and the film process.

The current booming used camera market has upended a lot of old advice on this topic. I don't know if the often recommended Yashicamat 124G makes sense when KEH is selling a nice model for almost $700! That said, I think there are still some decent deals to be had.

  • Minolta Autocord: Similar to the Yashica, but goes for much less. I think I paid less than half the cost of the Yashica for mine
  • Mamiya M645 1000s: Has all the features you might want from a camera, has one of the fastest lenses ever made for medium format available for it and is pretty well built. There are a few downsides: the battery door can be a bit flimsy, the film back is built into the camera, waist level finders can be pricey (although this is true of pretty much any medium format camera system).
  • Bronica SQ-A: This is probably my favorite camera to shoot with, fun 6x6 negative, lots of nice lenses available, relatively affordable. Unlike the M645, this has film backs, both a blessing (you can switch films mid roll!) and a curse (film backs can cost as much as the rest of the camera combined). Much less expensive overall vs the Hasselblad 500 series for a similar system though. The various other SQ models (SQ, SQ-Ai, SQ-B, SQ-Am) are all options as well I would say.

I've also heard good things about the Mamiya C-series TLRs, but haven't used them myself.

I've got a Yashicamat 124-G which is a nice enough TLR but does have an occasional issue with the film advance, where occasionally you get overlapping frames. Not all the time, sometimes not at all, but will just occasionally ruin a shot. Seems to be the mechanism for counting frame advance can 'slip' on the backing paper so the advance goes out of whack. Seems more with some films than others so may be partly dependent on the backing paper perhaps being a bit more slippy?

I also have a Bronica ETRS kit with the speed grip, AE-II prism and two lenses. I really like that camera but it is a heck of a lot to lug around and I prefer travelling lighter.

A well kept Pentax 645 N seems like a good option in my humble opinion. A good, though a little slow, AF with the right lenses. Super simple dedicated controls for everything essential and various auto modes as well as manual mode. Different metering modes and a viewfinder infotainment system that is the very best.

I had one for years and then I sold it. I spent a few more years regretting the sale but a year ago a good looking one appeared on the ”used” shelf at my local, very good, camera store. I bought it right away and it was we two still again. I’m not selling this one, ever.

Even though I make my living writing software now, I used to work in advertising, and have broad experience in image processing.

I say this as a preface to give some context before stating that anyone who says: "an iPhone can match medium format film" just simply hasn't appreciated the difference in the richness of color, tonality, nuance, and even true detail in a well-scanned medium-format Portra160 negative vs even the best iPhone output.

As for the supposed frailty of film cameras - I'm always amazed at how often people seem to be sending them for CLAs or hearing they are potentially 'bricks'. I've bought far too many cameras since getting the film-bug around 15 years ago (including a Mamiya 6) and have had zero problems with any of them.

I have a Voigtlander Bessa III (aka Fuji GF670) and a Rollei 2.8c. The Bessa wins because of the spectacular viewfinder, and the ability to switch formats. My only regret is that it isn't completely mechanical, requiring a battery for the meter and shutter.

I'm tying to think of medium format cameras that will last a long time without the need for dwindling spares. What about a field or technical camera? Very little to go wrong with those. Not very quick to use, however.

Another problem, as has been mentioned before, is the mind boggling price of film.

I have a old rolleiflex 3.5 tessar that has come out of retirement. its 70 yrs old and made a few years before i was born. got it serviced in UK which incl a new mirror and new screen with a split image. works great. i was told by the guy that serviced it that it was good for another 50 years.!!! i used it for a studio shoot after nearly 20 years and i realised that with my age its difficult to focus even with a split image screen in a dimly lit studio, the DOF is much less than APS sensors and so need to work at f 8-16 for studio shoots to ensure enough sharpness wth the model. the results are superb. need a good lab and scanning facility. i will now use this for landscape work where it will be excellent. digital has spoiled us. made it easy. like Kodak said... "you press the button and we do the rest."...

Fujica rangefinders are all over ebay. Cheap, simple, superb lenses. I have owned a 645, 6x7, 6x9, and 617.
And, no, I will never shoot film again.

I have owned the following medium format cameras: Hasselblad 500cm, Yashica Mat 124g, Makina 67, 2 Rollieflex TLR’s, MAMIYA C330, MAMIYA RB67 and finally a PENTAX 6x7. I mentioned the Pentax 6x7 last because it was the most troublesome and only owned it for about a week which was bought new at the time. I decided to run a little experiment centered around camera shake when on a tripod with mirror lock up on the Pentax because my images were not razor sharp when using long exposures with slow film, (landscapes). I removed the prism and placed a small container of water, (small cup) on top of the ground glass assembly. I locked up the mirror and released the shutter via a cable release and the rings of water produced with the shutter opening and closing was very apparent. This was the cause of my unsharp images using the Pentax. I ran side by side vs the Hasselblad and the differences were dramatic, no ripples of water in the container on the Hasselblad. This was the reason I sold the Pentax immediately. I realize that many very good Photographers love their Pentax 6x7,s but for me my little experiment was an eye opener regarding that huge shutter and shutter slap when on a tripod. My advice is to do your research on all medium format cameras before buying a used one. I still own my Hasselblad 500cm after nearly 30+ years.

I second the call for the Yashica-D. I got mine back in the 60s at Baker Photo in DC for $70 and loved it for three decades until it got smashed on some granite on the coast of Maine when I slipped on seaweed. It was never the same after that. A simple, sharp, and sweet camera. If I was to get back into film, I might have to find one.

Hasselblad 500C. My 1968 model is still running...no problems.
My 1986 version is also working. Note of caution....your camera
has to be wound before changing lenses. Early models have a very dim non interchangeable focusing screen....for young eyes, not a problem..but for older folks you might consider getting a prism finder, which adds a bit of weight to the unit. Image quality is top notch...and bokeh with the 80mm f2.8 lens is a thing of beauty. An alternative is
the Mamiya 7 which I used for years doing travel photography for publication. Image quality is impressive...but it is a rangefinder, so
composition in the near range can be challenging.

I will gear towards Hassey, as it is my main system. If just one, SWC.

But 6x7 II is also good and I still wait for the digital back (the one using the back screen but really back, coming soon).

I started with Y 124G and they are good. Still got 2... And once again that screen back is still coming.

Fuji 6x8 the monster is not for everyone.

The Mamiya 645 Pro offers an easy to use system, and with a motor grip and AE prism, is pretty much like shooting a big 35mm SLR.

Pentax 67 or Fuji rangefinders would be fun - Pentax 67's are tough beasts, and run badly longer than many cameras run at all.

I did sell my 67, as it was a sin to let it sit unused for so much of the year, and now my main "medium format" film body is a Baby Technika with a rollfilm back, along with a Hassy SWC - having had too many lens jams with Hassys in the past i'd be leery of even older ones now, the SWC sidestepping that issue of course:)

A Minolta Autocord is a great introductory TLR. Lovely Tessar-style lens and, unlike Rolleis, the film is fed flat across the focal plane before it bends into the takeup spool (Rolleis load the other way around so the film bends first before it hits the focal plane, which some allege leads to less than optimal sharpness).

You can find CLA'd versions for $2-300. If not CLA'd, send it to Karl Bryan in Oregon.

I've gone through several old medium format film cameras over the past five years. I had a minty Voigtlander Perkeo IIIe, but when I sent it in for a tune-up, the shop inadvertently posted in on eBay, and sold it for 1/2 it's true value. I bought a few cameras from Japan, a Rolleiflex 6003 Pro and a Fuji Fujica GS645 Pro. The Rollei failed to advance the film so I sent it back. The Fujica shutter stopped working midway through the second roll of film, so I sent it back. I've gone through a few Rolleicords, all of which worked flawlessly. The main problem is that although the Xenar f/3.5 lens is very good, I required a higher degree of sharpness in the corners to accommodate 24" X 24" prints. I bought and sold a few Rolleiflexes, they were nice but needed to be CLA'd. My guy Dave at Key Camera in Longmont recently stopped servicing Rolleis due to scarcity of parts, so I ended up selling both. So, I've finally landed on the perfect solution: a Hasselblad 500 CM with 80mm Planar. I have a baby Rollei (4X4). It's a super little camera, and it's my go to for family portraits and snapshots.

For me, the first and most important key question is: What does the person expect from the change from film Leica to film medium format?
Please don't get me wrong,- I know what medium format can do,- I have successfully used a variety of medium format cameras of all formats over decades.
Nevertheless, it can make a very big difference in terms of image impression, image feel, whether you shoot with 4.5x6 cm or 6x7.
If you only want to make a clear phototechnical leap beyond 35mm format, then 4.5x6cm is really sufficient, because the difference is usually very clearly visible.
But if one is concerned with generous composition with selective focus, then the Pentax 6x7 would be unsurpassable.
So back to the key question: what exactly does the person expect from medium format,- then the choice of camera is relatively easy.

Background: I started in the early 50's when folding Kodaks were hand-me-downs to allow a kid to hurtle into the friendly fun of photography. All you needed was a 3x4 dark space under the basement stairs,a plastic tank, and some trays and … FLASH … you’re on the road to being a local Life/Look photographer. LOL
As I’m still enamored with B&W film & Prints!!, my decidedly biased comment is: “Go for it!”. If one don't prioritize weight, they are a pleasure to use, especially given their generally non-35mm (i.e., miniature!) shape.
Rollie, Koni-Omega, Hassleblad 500 CM, and others all had their quirks and idiosyncrasies but the results are spectacular . . . and addicting. My last jaunts were to a Mamiya 6 and then a Mamiya 7 - - I wanted wide and tele lenses. Yes, times have changed and the ones I bought, tho second hand, were all in good/great shape. The suggestion(s) to purchase another body to use for parts is good counsel.
A serious medical family illness has terminated my film-forays such that I’m seriously considering parting with my Mamiya 67 kit. Hope-on-hope, I’m not abandoning all B&W hope, as I shall still have my father’s Rolliecord (I know: THAT’S NOT a REAL Rollie) and my 5x7 Deardorff.
Wishing you all the best with your decision. Robt

Plus 1 Bill, for the Minolta Autocord. It doesn't quite have the same build quality as a Rollei but in my opinion is better in the hand. The focusing is easier, via a lever, and the wind-on is by lever too. The lens is sharp. Mine was serviced a few years ago and has not gone wrong since. Mind that focusing lever though. It should feel smooth. If it is stiff the camera needs servicing before the lever breaks.


Your friend would first need to consider whether or not he needs interchangeable lenses. Expense aside, the primary trade-offs are in weight and bulk. His current choices of gear would lead me to believe that he prefers a compact carry.

The Mamiya 6 or 7 systems are both low-weight, low-bulk, high quality systems, but the prices on them are quite high, likely several thousands for a body and a pair of lenses.

Pentax 67 system, he could do his body and 2 or 3 lenses for a grand or so. A bit more if he wants a body with mirror lock-up, much preferred if he will be using a tripod. Which he may because this is on the heavy side.

Pentax 645 could probably be done for about for about the same price as the 67 system, but with less weight and bulk. A good system, particularly the later N versions (beware, old electronics), though I always thought it too bulky for its smaller neg size. I used it on a tripod for shooting landscape, but it also was ergonomically very good as a hand camera.

More in line size-wise with 645 negs would be the Fuji GS series. They are all compact, with good glass, and a bit under 2 pounds. The later GA series are good also, but were auto-wind and auto-focus, so electronics; don't know if that has become problematic now or not. My own camera is the GS645S with a very sweet 60mm f/4, and although I haven't shot with it in many years, it will probably be my first choice if I ever shoot film again. They are plentiful in Japan; a clean example can be gotten for $5-600, and well worth it. Most common problem is a sticky rangefinder, also watch for cracks in the plastic body near the lens mount. A camera which may be worth poking the electronics bear for is the GA645zi, a 55-90mm stepped zoom with auto-focus and auto-wind. A very compact and versatile little package, $1000-1200 from Japan.

The Fuji fixed-lens 6x9 rangefinders are great cameras, not too large considering their big negs, and surprisingly light. Those seem to go from $600 on up, again from Japanese dealers. These cameras had "odometers" embedded in their bases indicating how many rolls had passed through, and Fuji recommended servicing after certain number of rolls. However, just like the odometers of cars from back in the day, these can be rolled back. An uneven row of numerals is the obvious tip-off that this has been done. Buy by overall condition rather than by shutter count. And don't worry about that clang when you hit the shutter button, it's just the normal noises.

The RB 67 can be found for small money, but I figure that's because anybody, such as myself, who used them in the 80's, would never want to lug around that beast again. And never, ever, shoot an RB on a small sailboat. The RZ was apparently better, with a needed improvement in optics, but electronics.

Saving the best for last...Rollei TLR's. A mid-to-late 1950's Automat 3.5 (Tessar preferred) is one of photography's greatest bargains and would pair incredibly well in the field with your friend's contemporary Leica M. Compact, rugged, and just abit bit over 2 pounds, he could have a dual format outfit in a modestly-sized shoulder bag.

A vintage camera such as this may well need a CLA, Harry Fleenor in Manhattan Beach, California has a reputation as the best. Then again, if the shutter has a steady crisp buzz at 1 second, the focus racks smoothly and quietly, and the wind lever operates smoothly, the camera may be good to go. Clean examples seem to be going for about $500 or so. Allow around $250 for service, $50 for a lens shade (don't leave home without it) and $75 for a Rollie Quick Release Tripod Adapter, absolutely essential (prevents damage to the L-shaped back/baseplate assembly)for tripod or monopod use. Also highly desirable is what I recall being called the RolleiClear screen, a fresnel screen that sat on top of the groundglass. There's one on ebay now, along with the groundglass for $48 plus shipping. Installation is a simple matter of removing some easily accessible screws, popping off the folding finder as a unit, and laying the fresnel on top of the groundglass.

If your friend is willing to up the ante to $1500/$2000 and on up he can enter the realm of the Planars and Xenotars. These machines are optical and mechanical marvels, I believe that there are none better. Many options here, rolleiclub.com is an excellent source for particulars of the various models. Ferdi Stutterheim's website at twinlensreflex.eu is also very good.

Just looked at Harry Fleenor's website and his prices have gone up considerably. Mark Hama in Georgia also is well regarded.

“…on deadline today for the NYer”

That is a sweet problem. I am so glad to hear it coming from you and look forward to seeing it.


[It is a sweet problem! And they liked the draft. Barring the unforeseen, it should be out in July. Watch these pages and I'll refer you to those pages. --Mike]

What? No Rollei SL66?
What a disappointment!
My beloved and enjoyable SL66...

[A great camera...it's what Ray K. Metzker used. But the shutter is delicate and if it goes, it can't be repaired. You obviously have good karma, so keep keeping your fingers crossed! --Mike]

A bit amused to read that the Mamiya 6 system is considered fragile. My pair and three lenses have have spent a couple weeks ski mountaineering in Italy, 3 weeks rafting the Grand Canyon, and three months on an expedition to the top of an 8000 meter peak. Still working.

Was never interested in the Mamiya 7 because they didn't collapse, the lens equivalents were dumb, and you have to rotate for vertical. So bulkier and less convenient for minimal gain in image size seemed to defeat the purpose.

So glad someone mentioned the Rollei SL66. It's a fantastic camera, so handsome, versatile and enjoyable to use. I have the SE version. It meters a reliable 2 stops over, which, it turns out, is almost perfect for Portra. The tilt-shift function is remarkable and of course it turns any lens into a super-macro. My only complaint is the weight, especially with the prism attachment. Ouch ...

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