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How-to's Camera Reviews

FAQ - What Camera to Buy?

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp)

Keywords: nikon, camera, bodies, faq, film

Page 11/12 show all pages

The Medium Format became synonymous of quality pictures, with little effort and at very reasonable prices even for the casual weekender or occasional shooter, in the days of the TLR or Twin Lens Reflex which still can be found at reasonable prices. Rolleiflex, Rolleicord and Yashica Mat are brands and models still worth considering.

Now days the medium format is dominated by the modern SLR's and prices have gone up, but it is worth it. The larger negative size and the superb optics almost guarantee better pictures - I said almost because the photographer still counts. They now come in all flavors, fully manual or auto and you can put on them any dreamable accessory, including good (20 million pixels) digital backs.

Rolleicord Vb - Click for larger image

 Rolleicord Vb, 1970


Medium format SLR Cameras: 645, 6X6 or 6X7

These are the choice of many pros, at least for studio work. The 645 is a format that lends itself to compose pictures conveniently to be printed in the standard photo papers 8X10, 11X14, 16X20, because of its negatives proportions. The argument is being made that although the 6X6 negative is 33% larger it is seldom used at all, so it is wasted. This could be truth for full page magazine advertisements, but from my perspective only in those cases. In any event, the 6X7 negative would be better, as many professional photographers practice. A splendid compromise: the classic 6X6. Status wise? Any of them will give you plenty of status, but if you purchase one just for that reason, you will soon become tired of lugging it around.


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The Classic Hasselblad
Rolleiflex 6001HG
The outstanding image quality of the Carl Zeiss lenses, durable construction and proven reliability has made it the first choice among the world's leading photographers for half a century. The Hasselblad 500 series are mechanical, 6X6 medium format SLR cameras. With interchangeable lenses, viewfinders, film magazines and a host of other accessories. Designed for CF lenses with built-in leaf shutter and flash sync at any shutter speed. The 200 series, like the 202FA shown above, are the new generation of medium format cameras, with focal plane shutter and electronically controlled shutter speeds, designed to work with the large aperture FE lenses without shutters; they can also use the CF lenses. They feature TTL/OTF flash metering and can be equipped with a winder accessory. I own two 500 series bodies and 4 CF lenses, always enjoying, without ever regretting the high investment, although I am too lazy to carry them around for regular use, as I do with my high end 35mm SLRs.
This beauty carries on the Rollei Werke tradition. With a built-in grip, TTL flash (even with non dedicated units), DOF and mirror lockup. It also has a built-in motor for 1.7 frames per second. As the basic 500 series Hasselblad models, it does not have a meter, but it has motor driven automatic bracketing in manual mode. Other models worth considering are the 6001, 6003, 6008 and the 6008e and 6008i. The Rollei accept over twenty lenses of unparalleled optical excellence from the leading manufacturers of medium format optics, Carl Zeiss and Schneider Kreuznach. These cameras also are fully compatible with an extensive line of accessories.
Rollei is based in Braunschweig, Germany, with its United States marketing subsidiary located in Secaucus, N.J. 
Taking about tradition, Rollei has been designing and manufacturing cameras and lenses for over 78 years.
The Rolleiflex brand continues to be synonymous with high level of performance, reliability and value.

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Mamiya 645E
Mamiya 645AF
The Mamiyas have now an over 50 year tradition. Mamiya began making the Mamiya 6 rangefinder and later their famed Mamiya 7. Today they offer a host of models, either manual, auto and with optional finders and winders. The compact 645E model is a relatively 'economical' cost-effective entry into the world of medium format, basically because its film back is fixed, i.e. not removable. Nevertheless, it has a meter for aperture priority AE. It also has AE compensation in 1/3 of f/stop increments, multiple exposure capability and mirror lockup. Available Mamiya Sekor lenses range from 24mm to 500mm in focal length. The 645 AF and the 645 PRO TL are other interesting models as well.ailable lenses
This model is perhaps the one most resembling a 35mm SLR. It features: Metal focal plane shutter of max 1/4000 sec. High flash sync speed of 1/125 sec. Aperture priority, Shutter priority and full Program AE. A metered manual mode. Three metering modes: Center weighted average, Spot, and Auto A-S (Variable ratio). Auto bracketing function exposes three frames consecutively. The system has 7 new autofocus AF lenses and 22 manual focus interchangeable lenses. Both 120 and 220 roll film can be loaded in the magazines. And to top it, TTL direct flash control system.
Other models worth researching are the RZ67 Pro II, RB67 PRO SD, and the 7 II. For those interested in both film and digital, there is the newer model 645 AFD.

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Pentax 645N
Contax 645
The world's first Pentax 645 established a name for this medium format since 1984. The 645N model shown here, caused quite a stir in the marketplace as the next generation of the first high precision Auto Focus cameras of this format. It has surprisingly affordable lenses, four exposure modes, three metering patterns, AE compensation and exposure bracketing. The newest version is the 645 NII. 
The Contax 645 is a stunning machine, with a complete system of 7 Carl Zeiss T* lenses ranging from a very wide 35mm f/3.5 Distagon to a rather nice long 350mm f/4 Tele Apotessar, although the favorite of users seems to remain the 80mm f/2 Planar. It has the fastest shutter top speed for the format: 1/4000 sec and syncs at 1/125 sec. 

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Bronica GS1
Fujifilm GA645Zi Professional
I would fail not mentioning the well made Bronica. Shown above is the newest 6X7 model which also accepts multi format film backs (6x6, 6x4.5, 35mm, polaroid). 
Other models include a 6X6 (SQ-Ai) and a 645 (ETRsi). They are made and distributed by Tamron.
  This a great point & shoot medium format camera, with AF and AE capabilities, a Titanium body and a 55-90mm f/4.5-6.9 power zoom lens. Fujifilm has developed also other very interesting models as well in 6X7, 6X9 and even a panoramic 6X17.

Other medium format SLR options include the now rubber armored Exakta 66, Pentacon Six and the Russian Kiev 60

Arrow Medium Format Recommendation: 

Try them all, get whatever feels better; you are the one who is going to live with it. They are ....

  • All very well constructed, the least convenient to carry and expensive, but  
  • Give you the best possible negatives or slides sizes before going into view cameras. 
  • Have the highest WYSIWYG capability and  
  • Can include any automated feature you can dream of, including Auto Focus, Auto Metering and impressive digital backs of several brands 
  • If you are casual photographer, despite all of the advantages including the glamour and the status, you will soon get tired of lugging around one of these cameras. You might be better of with a compact 35mm Point & Shoot.  
  • If you are serious about photography but still hate the added size and weight of the medium format, buy a 35mm Single Lens Reflex
  • Now, if you really want to go for the Medium Format, again, try them all, feel them; if you can, rent one and use it, check if you are comfortable with it, see the results and then decide. They are not as popular as the 35mm format so trading or exchange is less easier. In any event you are on your way to outstanding pictures, at least as good as with a high end 35mm SLR.
(3 Votes )
Page 11/12 show all pages

Originally written on May 21, 2002

Last updated on December 19, 2017

J. Ramon Palacios J. Ramon Palacios (jrp)

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

San Pedro Garza Garcia, Mexico
Admin, 42382 posts


Larry Jones (Larry443) on May 4, 2014

Outstanding! Thanks so much for the overview and the recommendations. I enjoyed reading about each class or group you presented. I especially liked your closing comment as that's what it's all about for me. Thanks again! Larry

Zita Kemeny (zkemeny) on March 5, 2013

Very good points which we may check when we want to buy a new camera. Thanks.