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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.

View Poll Results: MF Rangefinders and Alternatives
Fuji GS645x 39 12.62%
Fuji GA645x 54 17.48%
Rob a bank, get a Mamiya 7 76 24.60%
MF SLR-s are not heavy. It's all in your head! 23 7.44%
some TLR 43 13.92%
that 1950's folder X is so great (I will ignore these, I think) 14 4.53%
It's all madness, just shoot with what you have. 60 19.42%
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Comments on Fuji rangefinders, alternatives in MF?
Old 10-16-2010   #1
ottluuk
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Comments on Fuji rangefinders, alternatives in MF?

Hello all,

For starters, I will have to apologize for the long and rambling post. But bear with me if you can.

I already have a decent pair of digital cameras that work well for me (Canon 40D with a bunch of primes and a much-loved GRD III). I abandoned shooting film a few years ago. Lately, I've had the nagging feeling that I'm not really doing justice to some of the places that I visit, both by not being deliberate enough and by the gear's limits in quality, especially tonality in B&W conversions and dynamic range.

As a possible solution, I have been researching various options in medium format. My requirements are roughly as follows:

1) Modern (sharp wide open, no excessive distortions or field curvature) lens in 28 - 40mm equivalent range. A fixed lens camera is ok if the lens is good.

2) The camera should be relatively lightweight and compact. Hand-holdable. Light weight is really important. I've had some scary problems with my back and I cannot lug around a tripod + several kilos of camera gear everywhere.

3) The camera needs to be tough and dependable. It will definitely be used in cold (-25 Celsius if needed) and will travel in various backpacks all year around.

4) the hard part: $400.

Here's what I've come up with so far:

* Fuji GS645S - most affordable of the rangefinder bunch, as far as I can see, but gets mixed reviews for build quality and viewfinder usability. What about that rangefinder, then? The scale focus, 28mm-equivalent GS645W is rarer and more expensive.

* Fuji GA645 series - good reviews, but still, what about focus accuracy? Good examples are pushing my budget, again with the wide versions being considerably more expensive.

* Fixed-lens Fuji 690's - good reviews, reliable, BUT big, heavy and meterless. too expensive, when in good condition.

* Mamiya 6/7 and Bronica RF 645 - Excellent but Expensive. I could only afford terribly battered examples, especially regarding the Mamiya 7

* SLRs - Anything bigger than 6x6 is big and heavy. I would prefer a rectangular format to square and using a waist-level finder only is not good for verticals. Prisms are big and heavy even for 645 SLRs. On the plus side, manual focus Mamiya 645's and Bronica ETRSi's can be very cheap. I'm not sure about the quality of the wider lenses though.

* TLRs - generally 6x6 only and not wide enough. Cheap, though. Don't know much about them.
* Vintage folders - Not my cup of tea, I'm afraid.


I guess the best contenders so far are the Fuji 645 bunch for functionality/mobility and something like a Fuji GW690 for image quality and foolproof dependability? Is there sound reasoning in my considerations or just sheer madness?
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Old 10-16-2010   #2
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Consider, carefully, a Century or Baby Speed Graphic especially with a modern lens such as a Nikkor W 105mm. If you prefer 6x7, a 80mm Xenar/Tessar performs well while f2.8 Planars and Xenotars do exist at a cost. Past generation short focal length view camera lenses are easy to find used at low prices.

A good alternative is a Graphic XL.

http://graflex.org/articles/XL.html

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Last edited by FPjohn : 10-16-2010 at 08:34. Reason: correction, add
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Old 10-16-2010   #3
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I am debating the same issue. I love the Fuji 690's, but there is such a run-up on the prices on HayBay. Every bit of logic in me says Mamiya 7, but when I add up the price of the Mamiya 7 kit I want, it eclipses the price of other gear I would use more often for my other photography needs.

Who knows...by the time I decide, it might be the new Fuji folder...or the next Fuji folder.

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Old 10-16-2010   #4
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Save up, and get the Hasselblad SWC/M , a different angle alternative would be the Hasselblad Xpan with the 45mm lens.
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Old 10-16-2010   #5
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RB/RZ 67 is heavy enough but amazing quality for the money.
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Old 10-16-2010   #6
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I've owned several of the GA645s Fujis. They're basically a plastic camera w/ loud shutters, and all of mine had to have their shutters repaired. No new parts are available for this either. I've also owned a Fuji 6x9 rangefinder and a Mamiya 7. Didn't like them. The Fuji is HUGE. Wow, it's big. The Mamiya felt fragile (the film transport actually is), the rangefinder wouldn't stay aligned, and I didn't care for the image quality of either, although others like them.

Just buy a Rolleiflex or a Bessa II or Bessa RF w/ a Heliar or Skopar lens. By any standards you wish to use, they have the best image quality in MF photography, and are built to a much higher level. Let me tell you what I've seen w/ my own eyes from large prints-the older German medium format lenses will blow away any modern medium format camera except the Bessa III by a considerable margin. I even had to sell my 'blad because it wasn't up to the Rolleiflex Planar I used.

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Old 10-16-2010   #7
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At $400 probably your only bet is a Graflex XL or Koni-Omega. Otherwise there are baby Linhofs, Mamiya-Press and Polaroid 600SE with roll-film adapter.

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Old 10-16-2010   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FPjohn View Post
Consider, carefully, a Century or Baby Speed Graphic especially with a modern lenses such as a Nikkor W 105mm.

A good alternative is a Graphic XL.

http://graflex.org/articles/XL.html

yours
FPJ
This is an interesting direction to look at, but reason tells me that a camera with no interlocks to tell me that I haven't pulled a dark slide or cocked the shutter will cause a lot of grief, especially in adverse weather. To say nothing of the lack of meters. I guess I should have listed idiot-proof in my requirements... But I'll think about this.
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Old 10-16-2010   #9
ottluuk
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Originally Posted by mfogiel View Post
Save up, and get the Hasselblad SWC/M , a different angle alternative would be the Hasselblad Xpan with the 45mm lens.
SWC? Awesome. But saving up to a point where I could comfortably spill something like $2000 on what is essentially a wide-angle lens (excellent as it may be) with a shutter and detachable film back... I just don't see it. I've got to eat, you know. Seriously.
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Old 10-16-2010   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
At $400 probably your only bet is a Graflex XL or Koni-Omega. Otherwise there are baby Linhofs, Mamiya-Press and Polaroid 600SE with roll-film adapter.

Cheers,

R.
Hm. Currently, KEH lists a Fuji GS645S (EX) and a GW690 (BGN) for $399. Obviously, there are shipping and taxes after that but still...
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Old 10-16-2010   #11
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You did not mention what is the main use of the MF camera, but I guess it would be for "that film feeling", so here is what I would choose with the set of limitations you have metioned:

1) low weight - simply forget the SLRs. The is no free lunch and even if some of them produce rather little vibrations by the mirror (Pentax 645N comes to my mind) none of then is light. Truth to be told there are very good lenses available - I would not be concerned about wide open sharpness of Hasselblad or Contax 645 lenses. Far from $400 as well.

2) if TLR are not wide enough with their 75 or 80 mm lenses, you could still consider Mamiya C models TLRs as these have exchangeable lenses starting from 65mm. However these are larger and heavier that classical TLRs. I had Roleiflex T which is a very fine machine and perfect for portraits and moody shots wide open and very shrp when stopped down. it was not really that scarry sharp wide open (but still more thab good ebough) and none of TLRs for under $400 will (Rolleiflex F models cost much more)

3) classical folder cameras - none will be that sharp wide open and there are no folders with wide lenses.

4) Modern RF cameras. I have recently got Mamiya 6 with all 3 lenses. It is pretty much perfect sharpness wise. I gave a long thought to Bronica RF645 and Mamiya 7, but Mamiya 7 costs even more and the lenses do not collapse which is a very nice feature of Mamiya 6. RF645 is said to be very good and at the same time it is cheaper than Mamiya 6, but still not under $400. If you thing that you could put together more money AND you do not really like/need long lenses than the RF645 would be a good option as the wide lens (45) has rather reasonable price if you would want to add it later to the 65.

5) the large 6x9 Fuji RF are said to have excellent lenses, but are rather large and heavy (about twice as heavy as GA645). Should definitely be usable hand held, but for full performance a tripod would probably be advisable. I have never owned one though.

6) The GS645 & GS645W - I would probably skip in favor of GA645. The AF is very good. One sample image (4000 spi scan) can be seen HERE (bottom of the page) to get the idea about the performance. If you do not mind the AF, than this would be the cheapest ticket to 645 MF camera with very good optical performance. It would probably be also my choice if I were price limited. Also the closest focus distance is 0.5m - none of the RF cameras will get you that close.

Still - if you need fast lenses (f/2.8 or faster) or close focusing than SLRs are the only way to go. In that case I would probably choose Mamiya 645 system as it is affordable and very modular.

Should you decide for a rangefinder - than try to get your hands on one before buying - it is completely different animal than an SLR.

good luck with your choice. The good point is - most of used MF cameras can be sold for nearly the same you have paid for them few months ago, so you can change your mind later.
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Old 10-16-2010   #12
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if its pure out and out high image quality then a GW690 will deliver. And if you are scanning then there is no substitute for neg real estate. But if its portability then one of the 645s will be good.

My only concern with the now older Fujis are that they were mostly used by pro photographers and have likely been very well used.
The GA645ZI looks like an interesting possibility but I worry about reliability as its got a lot of automation.

If money was no object then the Mamiya 7II would be the way to go or the upcoming new Fuji GF670W (55mm lens) which seems to have been forgotten in the excitement over the X100

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Old 10-16-2010   #13
ottluuk
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matus View Post
You did not mention what is the main use of the MF camera, but I guess it would be for "that film feeling", so here is what I would choose with the set of limitations you have metioned:

---
Basically the reasons why I would like to shoot 120 are:
1) Getting better resolution and tonality in B&W than I can get from my digital cameras. This should not be impossible with low to medium speed films, right?
2) Film grain. Every now and then I like to shoot some high ISO/available darkness stuff for a gritty look but digital noise never looks right. Banding is a terrible thing. 35mm would do OK for this, but I've shot my share of 35mm and the negatives are just... unimpressive. My grandfather's old 6x6 negs from a now-dead Ljubitel TLR are so much nicer
3) Separate the workflow for "serious" personal work from casual snaps and work-related documentation. Right now, everything I shoot just pours straight into Lightroom. No order, just chaos!
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Old 10-16-2010   #14
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For a lightweight and affordable option I think the Mamiya 645 is the best bet. Body plus wide lenses are plentiful and cheap, can be very light and easy to carry with just a folding wasitline viewfinder.
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Old 10-16-2010   #15
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The folding GS645 would be my pick. Likely the most portable and travel-friendly of the bunch. Actually, I wonder why I went for the GA over the GS sometimes. The GA is nice and the lens is a peach, but it seems noisy while shooting (other say it's pretty quiet).


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Old 10-16-2010   #16
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some of these options are as big and heavy as some medium format slrs.

the fuji ga645 is within your budget.
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Old 10-16-2010   #17
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The Mamiyas are very nice, but Fujis are great value for money. I own two. I'd say go for the GS645 folder. It's a great performer and folds down small. Great for travel, though it is surprisingly heavy for it's size.

I've recently got a GA645zi which I can only describe as a MF contax G1, but I think you'd appreciate a more basic experience.

Some people complain that the bellows can split and the shutter cable can snap, but with you budget you should be able to get a top notch one and not worry.
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Old 10-16-2010   #18
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I have the GW670III, Bronica RF645, GS645S, and GA645Wi. Of these, I just cannot get fond of the big clunky 670. I like both the 645 Fujis, different as they are. The GS is very light and compact, with an excellent 60mm lens and lovely range/viewfinder with field-size correction as well as parallax. Noisy shot counter though. GA is quiet, and you have to like the auto-everything p&s character. Favorite of all is the Bronica, smooth, quality, quiet, great lenses, compact, what a sweetie! It does not feature field-size correction though, and the 45mm includes an accessory viewfinder, though I just use the whole window as a close approximation.
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Old 10-16-2010   #19
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GA645's can be had for less than $400. They regularly pop up around here for $300. I have one and have had a GW690ii, which $400 is unlikely to be enough. The GA is a great camera. Quite small, great lens, very light. Great value, overall.
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Old 10-16-2010   #20
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If weight is really that big of a concern, then just use your 40D and spend the money on good stitching software (Autopano Pro).

A few frames of stitched digital can easily beat MF for static subjects. The workflow is kind of a pain, but the same could be said for scanning film.
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Just some thoughts here.
Old 10-16-2010   #21
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Just some thoughts here.

I've never seen a Fuji GS645 folder with an original bellows that did not have light leaks. The original bellows was a synthetic material that failed frequently. When I find one of these, I try to buy it cheap enough to allow for bellows replacement ($125 to $150-CameraWiz)

I quit buying them when I found out the GS series shutters were all subject to malfunction in extreme cold.... the folder, the GS645S and the GS645W.

OTOH, I had a GA6454Zi with a shutter count of 34,250 and running well up til I sold it. I've had three of the Zi, and consider that camera the best of all the 645s from Fuji.

The dilemma with the rangefinder 645's including the Bronica is the portrait mode vs landscape mode of viewing. Takes a bit of getting use to.

Someone mentioned the Mamiya 645 SLR, which I have had a number of and find them quite durable, with great glass.

But before I would buy another 645 Mamiya, I would buy a Bronica SLR ETRSi.... for two big reasons. Leaf Shutters and there are backs for that MF camera allowing you to shoot panoramic 35mm at 56mm long, and to shoot 35mm film in the conventional landscape mode.

The Bronica ETRS or ETRSi, is lighter and slightly smaller than the Mamiya. The pricing for the Bronica's is low for excellent rated cameras. The glass is exceptional. Have had four of these in the ETR, ETRS and ETRSi models. They can be had within your budget. The unique accessory (35mm film) backs come up on eBay more frequently than one might imagine.

Do not buy the GS645 folder unless it has a documented replacement bellows, and even then, I've been told nothing can be done IF you get one that suffers in extreme cold. In fact, the extreme cold issue should be a consideration on any older leaf shutter lens. Old lube and cold weather do not cooperate well together. (Besides... who shoots in weather as cold as you mention.... Oh... OK, you do.)
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Old 10-16-2010   #22
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The Kodak Medalists are big, but have a fixed Ektar lens that istoo good to believe for a 1940's camera. Rangefinder is a bit quirky but will not even misalign when you hit a streetrobber over the head with it. A good one can easily be had under 400 USD.

A Horseman VH-R sometimes is very cheap on eBay. Get a Kodak Ektar lens from a Baby Graflex for it. The Horseman 970 is nice as well.

Or, you can contact fellow RFF-member Ezzie to ask directions in building your own lightweight wide-angle scale focus 6x9. He's done that and the lens was the most expensive part of it.
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Old 10-17-2010   #23
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pentax 645, mamiya 645.... I had both.... both great camera (I prefer mamiya)
.. why not hasselblad 500C .. you can find (sometimes) on ebay for 400$ (sometimes less)... if you prefer 645 add a mask.
or koni omega if you prefer 6x7..... (around 2 Kg I think......)



noone of my solution is really compact.....sorry!!

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Old 10-17-2010   #24
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Quote:
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I've never seen a Fuji GS645 folder with an original bellows that did not have light leaks. The original bellows was a synthetic material that failed frequently. When I find one of these, I try to buy it cheap enough to allow for bellows replacement ($125 to $150-CameraWiz)

I quit buying them when I found out the GS series shutters were all subject to malfunction in extreme cold.... the folder, the GS645S and the GS645W.

- - -

Do not buy the GS645 folder unless it has a documented replacement bellows, and even then, I've been told nothing can be done IF you get one that suffers in extreme cold. In fact, the extreme cold issue should be a consideration on any older leaf shutter lens. Old lube and cold weather do not cooperate well together. (Besides... who shoots in weather as cold as you mention.... Oh... OK, you do.)
This sounds bad. The colder days of winter are probably my favourite time to shoot (aesthetically, I mean. Physically it is quite unpleasant as you can imagine).



Lake Peipus after sundown, something between -25C and -30C. GRD III, cropped.
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Old 10-17-2010   #25
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The Kodak Medalists are big, but have a fixed Ektar lens that istoo good to believe for a 1940's camera. Rangefinder is a bit quirky but will not even misalign when you hit a streetrobber over the head with it. A good one can easily be had under 400 USD.

A Horseman VH-R sometimes is very cheap on eBay. Get a Kodak Ektar lens from a Baby Graflex for it. The Horseman 970 is nice as well.

Or, you can contact fellow RFF-member Ezzie to ask directions in building your own lightweight wide-angle scale focus 6x9. He's done that and the lens was the most expensive part of it.
Having read through the thread again, rolling my own starts to look like a good idea. Food for thought, here. At least I'd know who to blame when I end up with a lemon .
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Old 10-17-2010   #26
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I've not used the Fuji 645s but I do use the Bronica RF645, Mamiya 7 and the Fuji 6x9s - all good cameras, but I agree the Mamiyas are expensive. The 6x9 Fujis are large for an RF but smaller than many of the MF SLRs being discussed and are quite light for their size. The negs are very large and they are easy to use and very solid.

I'd also suggest looking for a bargain on a Bronica RF645 - there are a few on eBay now for 350-600 GBP - more than you mentioned but a lot less than a Mamiya 7, and the Bronica is a wonderfully compact and light camera for medium format, with compact and excellent lenses.
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Old 10-17-2010   #27
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I vote none of the above. Just get a Fuji 6x7 II (the II has a silver focusing patch, better for low light) and be done with it.
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Old 10-17-2010   #28
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+1 (The Fuji or Bessa 6x7 folders are probably good for you.)
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Old 10-20-2010   #29
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Lake Peipus after sundown, something between -25C and -30C. GRD III, cropped.
Great mood to this shot...

My vote is Fuji 6x4.5
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Old 10-20-2010   #30
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Well, the best match for your specs, but way outside your budget would be the Makina 67 or 67W...
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Old 10-20-2010   #31
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I've used the Fuji folder as well as the Mamiyas. My suggestion: get the Mamiya 645. I've used it in cold weather with no problems. The Fuji is great and compact but might not be the best for cold weather. Consider a solid M3 or Barnack for sub zero work.
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Old 10-23-2010   #32
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Mamiya 7 hands down. I cant be more happy with mine, I travel a lot and its a pleasure to hold it and shoot with it. Maybe you can find some systems for 600-700usd (I bought mine at Ebay for 700$ with lens in perfect condition).
If bucks are an issue, then the RB67 is a great value for money, but its super heavy not only to carry it but also to hold it while shooting.
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Old 11-02-2010   #33
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What's the fuss with winter and cold weather ? If you carry your camera under your coat and take it out only when wanting to take a picture, I always works at a temperature close to your body's. I use various MF folders when skiing and carry them in the inner pocket of my anorak all the day long. I also had a Minox 35 with me sometimes and got no issues either.

A fuji GS645S could be used too, but maybe would bulge a little under the coat (a Pentax 67 would be out of question ).

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Old 11-02-2010   #34
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Originally Posted by polka View Post
What's the fuss with winter and cold weather ? If you carry your camera under your coat and take it out only when wanting to take a picture, I always works at a temperature close to your body's. I use various MF folders when skiing and carry them in the inner pocket of my anorak all the day long. I also had a Minox 35 with me sometimes and got no issues either.

A fuji GS645S could be used too, but maybe would bulge a little under the coat (a Pentax 67 would be out of question ).

Paul
I take my time shooting. So, the camera will inevitably cool down to outside temps. Bringing a freezing-temperature camera into a warm place (inside your coat, car with heat on) means instant condensation/frost on and inside the camera, leading to corrosion later. Very bad idea.

I always shoot my cameras "cold" and let them warm up in the bag over several hours. No problems so far. But I currently only use new/modern cameras that don't have 20-yr old lube in their shutters
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Old 11-02-2010   #35
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Ott, I would definitely think of first getting a TLR to get an idea what you can accomplish with larger negatives. TLR lenses are in most cases absolutely first class (if you can live with a 50mm equivalent). I live a bit north from you and use a TLR in all seasons, I've had absolutely no problems in cold weather or rain. A Yashica 124 or a Rolleicord V or even a Rolleiflex T would definitely fit in your budget. Just get one that has been used and serviced. Attic finds from *bay are usually no good.
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Old 11-02-2010   #36
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If you were buying in the USA, for $300 you could get a Rapid Omega with a great 90mm lens AND a 58mm lens AND the 58mm finder. You could do a lot worse.
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Hi Steve
Old 11-14-2010   #37
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Hi Steve

The Rolleiflex is one MF TLR I'd like to try. I want something non RF like that will intentionally slow me down, like 2 or 3 shots a day/outing max.

What model has the best IQ?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve M. View Post
I've owned several of the GA645s Fujis. They're basically a plastic camera w/ loud shutters, and all of mine had to have their shutters repaired. No new parts are available for this either. I've also owned a Fuji 6x9 rangefinder and a Mamiya 7. Didn't like them. The Fuji is HUGE. Wow, it's big. The Mamiya felt fragile (the film transport actually is), the rangefinder wouldn't stay aligned, and I didn't care for the image quality of either, although others like them.

Just buy a Rolleiflex or a Bessa II or Bessa RF w/ a Heliar or Skopar lens. By any standards you wish to use, they have the best image quality in MF photography, and are built to a much higher level. Let me tell you what I've seen w/ my own eyes from large prints-the older German medium format lenses will blow away any modern medium format camera except the Bessa III by a considerable margin. I even had to sell my 'blad because it wasn't up to the Rolleiflex Planar I used.
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Old 11-14-2010   #38
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The Fuji II & III 120/220 are big but they are not heavy, I don't think it weighs much more than my Meica M7. I've had a few in the past and have a GSW690 right now. I don't know what is supposed to wear out on these on cameras but I've never had one let me down yet. Very simple robust mechanism. Leaf shutters are very dependable also, and very easy to service. No different than a view camera. $400 a stretch but find one heavily used and you'll be happy. Of course mine is heavily used and I wouldn't let it go for less than $600.
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Old 11-14-2010   #39
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Well I have both a GS645S and GS645W and have had to have the 645W repaired for advance problems when I purchased it used. If you treat them nice after that I have had no problems. Also picked up a Koni with the 90, 58, 180 must be the most under appreciated camera out their. It's big and heavy but the lenses are great, I also picked up a Linhof 220 6x7 vertical RF a dream to use but big and awkward to carry around, and any time it needs service you get to pay for the camera all over again.

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Old 11-15-2010   #40
Debusti Paolo
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another vote for bronica rf645 &903swc foe wides.........
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