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120 / 220 film RF's 120 / 220 format rangefinders including Fuji, Koni-Omega, Mamiya Press, Linhof 6x7/6x9 cameras, Mamiya 6/7 among others, but excluding the 120 folders and the Voigtlander 667 cameras that have their own forums.

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Which MF RF should I get?
Old 03-19-2017   #1
Peter308
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Which MF RF should I get?

I thought I would never post such a question but after a lot of reading I am debating whether to go for a Fuji GS645S, a Bronica RF645 or Mamiya 6. I'm very keen to experience MF film having got back into 35mm film in the last year.

I understand that I am not comparing apples with pears and I think I have a good understanding of the differences between them. What is really on my mind is that all 3 cameras are no longer in production and servicing is problematic (not available?).

what are folks views / experience on build quality, fragility of the film advance mechanism and suitability for a first MF camera.

I currently use an M6 with 35, 50 and 90 lenses and Canon 5DIII for my digital fix, shooting is environmental, street and occasional portraiture, so which MF rangefinder would be the best fit to my current kit?
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Old 03-19-2017   #2
Phil_F_NM
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The Mamiya 6 MF with 50mm, 75mm and 150mm lenses would equate very well to your Leica kit with roughly equivalent focal lengths with regard to format. Problem is, the 50mm Mamiya lens blows everything Leica ever did out of the water. The only thing close is the 38mm Biogon for the Hasselblad SWC. You'll never want to go back and only the convenience of a small 35mm kit will draw you back to your Leica. At least, that's my experience. That 50mm lens is second to none. If you get the Mamiya 6MF, you'll be guaranteed a body that is slightly newer and has the "advantage" of being able to use 35mm film with a little cartridge thing that's extra. You'll get Hasselblad XPan size negatives. There is also an auto-up for close up use with the 75mm lens. The 150mm is the worst of the lot but it is still very good.
Nippon Photo Clinic in NYC services and calibrates the Mamiya 6 line.
I have two Mamiya 6 bodies, one is an MF model and the other, older one is "permanently" mated to the 50mm lens (I just don't take the lens off.)

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Old 03-19-2017   #3
benlees
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You can get 3 GS645's for the price of the Bronica and 4 for the price of the Mamiya. I know because I bought one recently. Lots of good ones available from Japan. Quality of photos will be similar.

It's cheaper to replace the Fuji than it is to fix it, I'm guessing. You might be able to get the RF645 repaired (Tamron?). Mamiya 6 is the biggest risk, in terms of repair.
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Old 03-19-2017   #4
Steve M.
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My experience shooting medium format rangefinders on the street is that the cameras are big, they're black, and people do NOT like them being pointed at them or their family. You could get a lot better shots (I did anyway) getting yourself a nice little folder like a Zeiss Ikonta III w/ a Novar lens, which you can usually pick up for around $300. They have strap lugs, are dead reliable, and take photos that are every bit as good as the cameras you mentioned.

Some other folders even have crank advance instead of knob wind, but on a 6x6 camera you are only going to get 12 shots on a roll anyway, so that's a moot point. If I remember correctly, the Ikontas only use the red window to get the first frame lined up, after that the camera has auto stop, so even w/ knob wind you can get to the next shot very quickly. The build quailty is incredible (which is why these cameras are still around), and they're small and silver and black, so they don't have that black-and-in-your-face quality when shooting. If I knew some shots might be coming up, I always carried mine open w/ a hood and filter on it. When you pointed one of these at someone, they would often actually smile. I remember the first (and only) time I tried to shoot street w/ a 'blad. Wow, was that a strange experience. The cameras are so big and boxy I think people thought I was pointing a video camera at them, until that shutter fired. THAT got their attention! You can fire off all 12 shots w/ an Ikonta on a quiet evening and no one will ever know you took a picture.
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Old 03-19-2017   #5
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Which format would you prefer? Personally I think the RF645 is the MF camera with the perfect user interface. Everything just falls under your fingers. The lenses are great but for me the range of focal lenghts is far too limited. But the biggest issue I have with mine is that the vertical aligment of the rangefinder gets out of whack by looking through it. The lightmeter takes some time learning.

Now the Fujis are excellent as well. But you cannot get longer than 65 mm on the 645 versions and if you want 45mm and 65mm you need 2 cameras.

Never used the mamiya 6.
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Old 03-19-2017   #6
Doug
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I have two of the RF645 Bronicas and one GS645S. I have to say the Fuji is extremely light weight and compact, and the RF has not only parallax correction but frame-size correction as well. Very nice, but it's delicately made of molded plastic (mine came with a broken plastic part in the lens mount, repaired by Camera Wiz). And a bit slow to use I think, but better with practice. Fixed 60mm lens. The 45mm option is a f/5.6 lens on a non-RF body, zone focus. I also have a GA645Wi, a later AF camera with 45mm f/4 lens.

The Bronica is a more solid quality-made rig with more conveniences like auto exposure and interchangeable lenses. However the lenses other than the standard 65mm are hard to find. Note there are two VF frameline sets to be aware of... The early model with ser# starting with zero had framelines for 135mm but focus accuracy was iffy so the lenses were withdrawn and replaced with 100mm, while the cameras were changed to 100mm framelines at no charge. But not all cameras got changed, so be aware. Most early cameras will have the change, but some will not. One of mine has 135, the other 100. All the later cameras have ser# starting with 1.

The Bronica is the same width as my Leica M2, and the same depth front to back with the 65mm and the 35 Summicron respectively, while the Bronica is taller. This camera seems like the medium format equivalent of the Minolta CLE, and both are favorite rigs!

I have no experience with the Mamiya...
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Old 03-20-2017   #7
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Can you stretch to a Mamiya 7ii? That probably bests all other MF rangefinders in terms of lens quality... and it's newer than the 6. The Fuji 645zi with the zoom is also excellent. If your portraiture is in studio, pick up an RZ/RB 67... they are cheap enough now. I think it comes down to what you will do with the images, what format is right for you, and budget. If I had to pick one of the three you offered up as alternatives, I'd go with the Mamiya, every time.
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Which MF RF should I get?
Old 03-20-2017   #8
Peter308
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Which MF RF should I get?

Thanks for the helpful input - the collective insight of RRF is a great thing!

So, reflecting on comments posted.

Steve's comments re a folder as a better street camera noted. However, the more I think about it the less I want to go down that route. I would always be worrying about the bellows and generally a fixed lens option. I did think about the Fuji RF670 / Bessa III - a lovely bit of kit but expensive for what it is.

Any other experiences with repairs on these cameras? Good to here of a repairer in NYC, however, I am in Europe so has anyone found a repairer for either Mamiya 6 or Bronica RF645 in the UK or Central Europe?

Am I being to simplistic to say that the Mamiya 6 as the older camera is less "electronic" than the Bronica so a safer bet or is it the case that being older electronics they are possibly more flakey in the M6?

Thanks, Peter
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Old 03-20-2017   #9
Peter308
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Bisakok, I would love to go for an M7ii but it is stretching my budget too much.

I think my dream camera is a 6x6 format, Bronica form factor, no external vf required for the wa lens, Leica M6 mechanical reobustness and Fuji GS645S price tag
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Old 03-20-2017   #10
tunalegs
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If you want to avoid electronics in favor of mechanical simplicity, there's always the Mamiya Press.
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Old 03-20-2017   #11
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i wouldn't even get a rangefinder. i'd get a mamiya tlr. they're reliable, you can get it repaired basically anywhere, and there are no electronics.

but if it has to be a rangefinder, i'd get the mamiya 6 for the reasons you mentioned.
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Old 03-20-2017   #12
J enea
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if you are so concerned with repairs, get none of them. otherwise, get one, enjoy it and shoot! find one that looks like it was well taken care of, treat it right and it will last a good long time hopefully. It took me months to find a good in shape mam 6. I paid more than the cheapest one, but that was 5 years and many hundreds of rolls ago and its still fine.

I have a fuji 645zi and its a great camera as well. I usually have slide film in one of them and B&W in the other. I once took the shame shot in the mam 6 cropped it when printing to match the 645 and after the prints dried had a hard time telling which was which camera. both have amazing lenses. the fuji looks strange, but the results are great. I find it to be a better street camera as its realla large point and shoot. auto wind, focus and much better metering than the mamiya. the 4 stage zoom helps as well. so with it i can just compose, choose the best aperture and shoot. but it is very loud
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Old 03-20-2017   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tunalegs View Post
If you want to avoid electronics in favor of mechanical simplicity, there's always the Mamiya Press.
Sure is, and the lenses are great, from 50mm to 250mm. But they are heavy to me these days, as are probably the 645's you are talking about. And me personally, I don't like 645 anyway.

I have a Mamiya Six. But it is a little heavy, and lacks interchangeable lenses. It is pocketable though.
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Old 03-20-2017   #14
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Fujifilm GA645zi is always a safe all-round choice. Even with the rigid lens shade in place, it easily fits into the front pockets of a Domke satchel.

I liked the Mamiya 6 when I had it but ended up using the 75mm almost exclusively because it was so convenient. Not a particular bargain at today's typical prices, IMO, whereas I think the Fuijfilm cameras tend to be great buys.
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Old 03-20-2017   #15
Kent
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First, of course, you need to decide if you need the possibility to change lenses and if you are ready to buy extra ones.

If no, the Fuji might be the most affordable choice.

If yes, forget the Fuji.
Then decide of 6x4.5 is big enough.

If yes, the Bronica probably is the more affordable one.

If no, you need to go for the Mamiya 6.
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Old 03-20-2017   #16
CK Dexter Haven
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I first had the Mamiya 6. Loved the build quality/feel, and the compacting lens mount. Didn't like the bokeh and difficulty in getting it with the normal lens.

I later had the Bronica RF645. Better bokeh—better camera for shooting people, for my use. I would probably still have it, except it developed an issue with the finder alignment. I sent it to KEH to repair (from where it was purchased). They returned it to me with a different issue—batteries would drain to zero while the camera was switched off. I sent it back to them, and they couldn't fix it, so they sent it to another service center (ToCAD?). Somewhere, somehow, it got lost (with my beautiful LUIGI strap attached! My mistake). Anyway, i never got it back, and didn't buy another one. But, i did like the results and ease of use.

Never had the manual Fuji, but i have owned the AF versions on three occasions. A Zi (zoom version), a GA645i, and later another GA645i. The zi needed AF calibration, which i didn't know until i had shot a bunch of film. I had tested it, but apparently not very well, as the DOF had covered up the problem. After that, i just didn't trust AF rangefinders... until results i saw here convinced me to try a GA645i. Bought one of those, and my first roll was also soft as a chocolate tea kettle. Returned that. Then, again, convinced by so many positive reviews around here, i tried again with a GA645i. Better results, but it's still not super sharp. So, it lies idle. I know others are thrilled with their AF fujis, but 3 substandard results for me means i can't recommend them. I still have my last one, and i need to shoot it more, but yeah, the manual focus versions are probably a better bet.

If you get a good, stable Bronica, though—that's the one i'd buy again, if i were looking for 645. After all that, though, i'm still pining for a Mamiya 7.
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Old 03-20-2017   #17
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I didn't mention the GA645Zi as I assumed you wanted a rangefinder. It is only AF. You can do "manual" focus" but without rangefinder it isn't more than guesswork. Looks like a Fisher-Price toy (certainly the champagne version I have) but a great little camera otherwise.

The Mamiya Press looks fun but has the ergonomics of a cinder block and the weight as well. One day I'll find the light leak but until then nothing more than a nice conversation piece. And you have to be daft to lug it around if you're not shooting 6x9. And even in that case a Fuji G690BL makes more sense.
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Old 03-20-2017   #18
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CK, bad luck with the 645zi... I've printed loads of 13x19 inch prints from mine and they look great. I also had a GA645wi and thought it was the sharpest lens I'd ever seen until I got by Mamiya 7. If price is a concern, any of the fuji will deliver good results in (smaller) medium format.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #19
DrTebi
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The Plaubel Makina 6×7 rangefinder cameras are still serviced by Plaubel.

I have one and love it, although it will go off to a second repair this year (film-advance mechanism). Image quality is amazing with the f/2.8 Nikkor lens. It is a folder (although quite a modern one), but that never bothered me—rather the opposite, it makes the camera very compact when hiking etc.

I also had the Fujifilm GA645i. It is very light, fully automatic (film advance, auto-focus), and I got quite a few good shots out of it. Only sold it because I am not much of an auto-focus fan...

When my Plaubel Makina broke, I bought a Fuji GW670III. It's big, and, despite it's outer "plasticky" appearance, it's heavy and solid. I really like the camera, because it is so featureless. Shutter-speed, aperture, focus, and ISO, that's all there is. You will need a lightmeter though to get perfect exposures. This is a bit of a downside if you like spontaneous photography, but for landscape stuff it's quick and easy. I use the Gossen Pilot, it's small and works great.

You can see all my medium format images here, there are many high-resolution scans for you to pixel-peep into:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/drtebi/tags/mediumformat/

If I would do it all over again, I think I would get a Fuji 6×4.5 or 6×7. Those cameras are great, and a lot less expensive than some of the other options out there.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #20
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Thanks again for all the input. Well I made a decision and went for the Mamiya 6. Specifically, I have found a body only in the condition I want.

Now the challenge is sourcing the lens! My acquisition preference (and budget) is 50mm, then 150mm and finally the standard 75mm.

If anyone has any views let me know.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #21
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You IMHO got yourself a great camera. Had mine for several years and just finally got the 50mm lens to complete the set. When I bought mine it was a advance purchase as my Bronica EC kit was getting to heavy for me to carry. My only challenge is viewing the viewfinder for shutter speed. Have overcome that some with removing sunglasses for clear lens and wide brim hat for shade. And getting more familiar with the finder. Good luck for your lens quest.

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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #22
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The 50mm lens is great! I had the Mamiya 7II with the 50mm lens for a while. Very sharp, a lot of fun.

Good luck with your hunt...
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #23
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Some technical highlights of the the Bronica RF645 system:

Not only does the lenses have built-in motors for self cocking, they also have electromagnetic diaphragms. No other MF RF use that - in fact it's basically unheard of in MF world, and in the smaller format scene Nikon is still playing catchup recently with this advanced feat Canon managed years ago.

The body automatically engage and disengages the dark slide as you dismount/mount the lens. Gone are the ungainly manually cocked dark slides on the Mamiya 6 and 7s that you always forget to disengage after mounting a new lens.

The flash, being hampered by the leaf shutter, is non-TTL. Yet they invented a unique protocol for the dedicated auto flash to communicate with the body for current ISO and aperture setting, basically making the little flash as advanced as a TTL one - just with the meter on the flash instead of behind the lens.

...

The list can go on for another page. The camera itself handles very well and reminds you all the time that it's "sculpted", which I found is just the word for the build quality.

Yet I still sold it. I mean, it feels a bit too advanced. None of these new gadgets got in my way - they are all very fine, intuitive innovations, yet they didn't inspire confidence either. It's not known to be an ultra reliable camera - many RF645 fail on the film advance mechanism as there too was implemented with some cutting edge staff of which the details I could no longer remember...but you know what I mean.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #24
brian steinberger
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I have 2 bronica RF645s and 2 Mamiya 6s. Both with full set of lenses. I use them for 99% of my work. Love both cameras. I prefer the ergonomics of the bronica yet I prefer the square format. So that's why I have both! I can shoot whatever I feel like.

As far as repairs go, one of my bronicas had the issue mentioned above where the battery's ran to zero with camera off. I had mine repaired by Tamron USA in NYC just over a year ago. So they are still repairing these. I've never had a winder problem on my bronica or Mamiya. I hear that all the time though. Just take it easy winding the film and you'll be fine. Bob at precision camera in Chicago is my go to repairer for the Mamiya 6/7 cameras. He won't touch the bronicas though. So I just plan to shoot them until I can't get problems fixed anymore. I love both cameras and hope that never happens. But if it ever does I'm just gonna get an old rolleiflex TLR and forget electronics for good!
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spanik View Post
I didn't mention the GA645Zi as I assumed you wanted a rangefinder. It is only AF. You can do "manual" focus" but without rangefinder it isn't more than guesswork. Looks like a Fisher-Price toy (certainly the champagne version I have) but a great little camera otherwise.

The Mamiya Press looks fun but has the ergonomics of a cinder block and the weight as well. One day I'll find the light leak but until then nothing more than a nice conversation piece. And you have to be daft to lug it around if you're not shooting 6x9. And even in that case a Fuji G690BL makes more sense.
Everybody is different. I personally found it surprisingly 35mm like in use, just not in weight.
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