Buying your first medium format camera can be confusing. I find it helps to point out that you probably will end up with more than one type of medium format camera over your photography career. For me, exploring and enjoying the different types and formats of medium format equipment is much of the fun of photography. By comparison, 35mm SLRs are boringly alike.
With medium format, your choices include SLRs in various formats, range finders (again, from 6x4.5cm to 6x7cm and up), twin lens reflex cameras, and even mini-view cameras and panoramic models. Phew!
Here is my personal selection criteria list:
over-riding photographic specialty need or general use?
Leaf shutter or focal plane shutter?
camera type - SLR, rangefinder, TLR, viewfinder, mini-view camera?
format - 6x4.5cm, 6x6cm, 6x7cm, 6x8cm, 6x9cm, or panoramics?
system camera or fixed configuration?
repairability, reliability, and availability?
overall system cost vs. available budgets?
Specialty Photographic Needs
If you are an experienced photographer and you have specialized needs, then you will find your choices more limited and pre-defined. For example, if you want to do long telephoto shots of birds, you will probably find such long lenses are available mainly on medium format SLR systems. If you want to do architectural photography, you will probably want to consider a mini-view camera with a full range of movements. If you demand modern electronics and autofocus camera operation, you are currently limited to 6x4.5cm camera offerings.
However, if you do have such a specialized photographic need, I presume you already know what those needs are and what features and camera types best fit those specialty needs.
If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there.
Fortunately for new photographers, most general photographs can be taken by nearly any type or model of camera. A study of contest winning photographs showed that most were taken with the standard or normal lens (78%) and at a modest f/stop (90% at f/3.5 or slower). In other words, practically any medium format camera from an older folder or TLR up to the latest autofocus models could have taken the majority of prize winning photographs. So even if you don't pick the exactly right camera the first time out, you probably won't miss many prize winning photographic shots regardless of what camera you pick.
Leaf Shutter or Focal Plane Camera
The choice of a leaf shutter or focal plane shutter camera is often a major issue. Our medium format features pages explore this issue in greater detail. If you need flash synchronization at any speed, the leaf shutter camera is the best option. Many medium format focal plane shutter cameras have shockingly slow flash synchronization speeds, ranging from 1/30th or 1/60th or at best 1/90th of a second, due to the large size and mass of the shutter curtains.
If you intend to do a lot of outdoor portraiture in bright light, you will probably want a leaf shutter camera to control or prevent "ghosts". These "ghosts" arise when the bright ambient light generates a second exposure during the long exposure time of the focal plane shutter camera set on flash or X-synchronization (typically 1/30th to 1/60th second).
Unfortunately, chosing a leaf shutter based camera usually precludes using lenses from other manufacturers (with miniview cameras being an obvious exception). Leaf shutters in each lens also add to the cost of an interchangeable lens camera system, since every lens has its own shutter.
On the other hand, you can sometimes find one or two leaf shutter lenses adapted for use with focal plane cameras, typically in the short telephoto range needed for portraiture work. So if you can live with just that available leaf shutter lens(es) focal length and a bit of inconvenience, you can still enjoy some limited flash synchronization on some focal plane camera bodies. As an example, the 105mm Nikkor LS leaf shutter lens is available for the older focal plane shutter Bronica S2A/EC camera line.
Medium format cameras come in a variety of basic types, including single lens reflexes (SLRs), twin lens reflexes (TLRs), rangefinders (RF), viewfinders (VF), and mini-view and press cameras being often cited.
Like 35mm, the medium format SLRs are very flexible, with the widest range of standard optics. They are excellent for both closeup and telephoto photography, and provide precise composition even with very wide angle lenses.
By contrast, rangefinders tend to have limited close focusing ranges, although accessory closeup diopter lenses may be available (with focusing bracket attachments). Rangefinders are also not usually equipped with lenses longer than 180mm or 200mm, which usually equates to circa 135mm or so on a 35mm SLR. Compared to most SLRs, rangefinders are quieter and easier to focus in dim light, and potentially lighter and simpler in use. Most medium format rangefinders are fixed lensed models, but a few such as the Fuji G/GL series take interchangeable lenses (when you can find them).
Viewfinder cameras range from $20 toys (Diana..) to the kilo-bucks Hasselblad Superwide with its legendary 38mm Biogon rectilinear very wide fixed leaf shutter lens. The better cameras will be light-weight, simple and reliable designs, often with fixed leaf shutter lensed optics.
The TLRs are mostly fixed normal (75-85mm) fixed leaf shutter lens models, usually 6x6cm, with some 6x4.5cm or 35mm film back options. A few pricey telephoto (Tele-Rollei) and wide angle (Rollei-Wide) models are also available. One unique line of interchangeable leaf shutter lens standard design from Mamiya (C2/C22/C220;C3/C33/C330 models) offers the ability to use a range of lenses from 55mm to 250mm is also popular. You will also find paramender and other closeup lens adapters, as well as wide angle and telephoto adapters (of variable quality and cost). While many beginners buy fixed lens TLRs as a low cost entry to medium format, they often upgrade to an SLR or other interchangeable lens model later on.
Medium format folder cameras are mostly older viewfinder or rangefinder models. Unfortunately, most of the better older folders with great optics and rigid mechanics are also highly collectible and outrageously priced for a user camera. Fuji has come out with a popular line of modernized folders with fixed leaf shutter lenses which are popular with some users, but with quirks worth checking into before buying. While folders are popular as a low weight traveling camera, they are mostly second cameras supplementing or backing up another medium format system.
A variety of "mini-view" camera models such as the Horseman 6x9cm models provide some unique view camera features while using medium format rollfilm. You can find press camera style models, field cameras, and monorail studio versions of large format (4x5" and up) cameras in the medium format rollfilm range. Naturally, most of these cameras are aimed at users needing the range of perspective control movements these cameras offer, with architectural and cityscape photographers being an obvious example. The electronic Fuji GX-680 series offers a 6x8cm format with a good range of movements and lens options, albeit at a substantial price.
Finally, there are lots of "odd-ball" cameras, including panoramics, which are clearly aimed at specialty needs. The panoramics range from 6x9cm and my Veriwide 6x10cm to 6x12cm and 6x17cm, with a few view camera or torpedo cameras in the 6x24cm and up range! Some specialty cameras also take rotating 360 degree images, while others feature ultrawide swinging lens designs. You will also find many stereo and 3-D cameras, some of surprisingly ancient vintage and design. Again, if you need or want one of these specialty cameras, I will presume you can find something to fit your needs from current medium format offerings or older used offerings.
Picking a camera type is fundamental. If you need movements beyond the very limited shift lens capabilities available in some SLR lines, you should probably pick a mini-view or press type camera. If you need a wide range of capabilities, including precise closeup, wide angle, and longer telephoto shots, then an SLR is indicated. If you need a quiet and unobtrusive camera, then a rangefinder, TLR, or viewfinder camera would be indicated (e.g., for street, cafe, church, or concert/theatre photography).
The range of available medium format SLR lenses is surprisingly limited from a 35mm SLR buyers viewpoint. You will find very few third party lens offerings for most medium format SLRs. You can also see major differences in costs between formats, with focal plane lenses usually being rather cheaper than their leaf shutter in the lens competitors. But you will find surprises, such as the relatively low cost of Pentax lenses in 6x7cm and 6x4.5cm formats, or the low cost of Zeiss Jena or Schneider lenses for the 6x6cm Pentacon mount cameras versus Hasselblad or Rollei SLR leaf shutter Zeiss or Schneider lenses.
Used lenses are even more limited in choices, since most older SLRs had more limited ranges of focal lengths than today's models. The Kowa 6x6cm SLR lenses are an exception, but the 19mm fisheye, 35mm rectilinear, and 500mm/2X long telephoto combinations are all very hard to find. On the other hand, over 80 lenses were produced or adapted for the Bronica S2/EC series thanks to their focal plane design. Between current and past lenses, the Kiev cameras have over 30 lenses available, including 4 shift lenses and a 30mm fisheye as well as some affordable long telephotos up to 1000mm.
Many 35mm SLR users arbitrarily eliminate square format 6x6cm cameras. This prejudice is potentially costly, since many of the classic medium format TLR and SLR cameras are 6x6cm models. Moreover, many 6x6cm models can easily be adapted to using a 6x4.5cm back (such as a Hasselblad 16/A16 series 6x4.5cm back) or insert (such as many TLRs, folders, and even "toy" cameras).
The choice between 6x4.5cm and 6x7cm is pretty direct, given the large increase in camera size and difference in exposures (15/16 versus 10). The quality difference is only 25% or so greater enlargeability of the 6x7cm format over 6x4.5cm and 6x6cm (per Wildi's Medium Format Advantage). While the 6x7cm slides have much greater impact on buyers, they are harder to project due to the rarity of of 6x7cm slide projectors. The Mamiya 7 series rangefinders are the main exception of a lightweight 6x7cm rangefinder with interchangeable optics - but at a high price in the USA market (less so overseas).
The 6x8cm format is mainly represented by the Fuji GX-680 series, which most competitors would have labeled a 6x9cm camera (really 56mm x 82mm). Most 6x9cm cameras are either folders (e.g., Bessa) or mini-view cameras such as the Horseman 6x9cm mini-view and related press camera models.
The specialty formats of 6x10cm, 6x12cm, 6x17cm and 6x24cm are generally associated with panoramic or wide angle specialty cameras. If you need a panoramic camera, you already know it, and your choices are rather limited among current offerings (and costly too!). Lots of people opt to build their own homebrew specialty cameras, using view camera lenses with the desired coverage and angle of view.
Personally, I am a fan of the square format composition from 6x6cm cameras. With a 16/A16 back on my Hasselblad 500C or 500 EL/M, I can take 16 (or 32) exposures in 6x4.5cm format. More often, I prefer to stick with the square 6x6cm backs, giving me the option of cropping prints horizontally or vertically (or both). I also own and shoot 6x4.5 and 6x9cm folders, a 6x10cm panoramic ultrawide camera, and a 6x7cm rangefinder (as well as 4x5" LF plus 35mm SLR/RF). As I have noted, shooting different types of cameras with medium format is not so much a matter of which camera, but rather having a range of camera types and formats to choose from.
Criteria - Implications (budget examples under $1,000 US$)
flexible - SLR system camera (Bronica S2, Kowa 6, Hasselblad 500C..)
quiet - rangefinder (Fuji 645), viewfinder (Seagull folder)
lightweight - 6x4.5cm SLR, rangefinder (Seagull), TLR (Rolleicord)
lens range - SLR (non-system body Mamiya 645..), Mamiya TLR, Fuji G series RF (G-690)
street camera - TLR (Rolleiflex..), SLR (6x4.5..), RF (Fuji 645..)
architecture - mini-view or press camera (Horseman 980, Galvin..)
aerial photo - motorized cameras (500 EL/M..), rangefinder (KoniOmega)
portraiture - leaf shutter if outdoors, short telephoto optics..
weddings - leaf shutter, interchangeable backs preferred
landscapes - lens range, interchangeable backs for zone system if used
From Leica Mailing List:
Date: Thu, 09 Nov 2000
Subject: [Leica] Re: Perfect for what is the question
>>I still think the Leica R line is better than anything else taken as a >>whole. The cameras rate no better than a B on the grade scale, and maybe >>that's being charitable; but the lenses are A+. I would rate all the other >>brands and lines being from A down to D (and I could grade them pretty >>precisely if I had to).
Having personally been doing this photography thing for exactly fifty years, going through Brooks, working as a commercial photographer, medical photographer, aerial photographer, and now a fine art photographer and teaching workshops, there is only one way to "grade" a camera system "precisely." And that is to live with is as a working system. To make money with it or at least be a hard core amateur/advanced amateur user. Hard core meaning hundreds and hundreds, perhaps thousands of rolls or sheets, and using it over a reasonably long period of time.
It is amazing how first opinions from casual use or merely fondling something (camera system in this case) can lead to many incorrect conclusions. What might seem to be a wart at casual glance will turn out to be a wonderful feature. What might seem to be a mediocre lens, might turn out to be stellar in actual hard use in the proper situations. Use a Noctilux for general everyday photography and you would hate the M system. Average photographs with a lens that blocks half of the viewfinder. But use it at f/1, f/1.4, or f/2 in available darkness, and a whole new world opens up. The lens/M camera becomes neither a pain nor average. It becomes stellar.
Real photographers don't care about connoisseurship or someone else's feeble attempt at grading a camera system. What one person fondles and dislikes, another will actually use over the long haul and love. And vice versa. This is why I find those magazine camera ratings pathetic and having no association with reality. Many writers/fondlers mercilessly panned the Alpa camera. I used one at Brooks for small format assignments and professionally after that and found it to be one of the easiest to use and most intuitive cameras available. I used to laugh at the critics... all the way to the bank.
So these folks that sit around and fondle, sit around and write articles and reports, are no different than the TV news talking heads. No experience with what they are yakking about. You should be listening to Ted, Donal, Harrison, Gary Todoroff, Henning, Eric, Tina, Tom K., Tom A., and all of those others out there who make a living by USING photographic equipment on a daily basis, to make photographs, to make money.
IMH and real life experienced O,
In all seriousness, I think this is rather silly. What are you going to shoot? Under what conditions? For what purpose?
Answer these and then pick the equipment that meets your expectations.
For instance, for people candids, there's not much better than the Fuji 645 rangefinders, esp. the auto-focus ones. For durability, a Blad. For studio technical work with movements, GX-680. For studio portrait work, RB/RZ. For a general-purpose, carry-around camera, Mamiya 7. For group photography under a variety of conditions, Pentax 645n. For fasion work where you move more than the subject, Pentax 67II.
Otherwise, just pick one. :)
It really depends upon what you mean by "versatile". A Rolleiflex TLR is a very versatile camera, despite its fixed lens. But if you're looking for an eye-level camera and automation conveniences like interchangeable lenses, auto-focus and auto-exposure, the currently available models are more likely what you're after. The SLRs (Bronica, Mamiya, etc) are very versatile with interchangeable lenses, finders, back, but they get bulky and fairly pricey. I've worked with 6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7 and 6x9 over the years. While I love the big 6x7 and 6x9 negs, I find the cameras too bulky and cumbersome for "party" use. Even the Mamiya 7, which is a fairly fast working camera, is just a bit cumbersome to me. My preference is a Rolleiflex TLR (6x6) or a 6x4.5 eye-level camera. Recently I bought one of the Fuji GA645s and last night I processed my first negatives from it. This is a camera that can truly be used as a point and shoot if you wanted to ... autofocus, program mode auto exposure ... but can also be used fully manually with focus by scale and manual exposure settings. The lens is just incredibly sharp, it has a small built-in flash unit and motorized film transport. I carried it all weekend, shot four rolls of film, and it never felt too big or in the way. It balances well in the hand and is remarkably unobtrusive in operation. Plus you can pick them up from Ebay for around $500-600. Mine came from there and was practically unused for $550. It may be only one lens (either 60mm or 45mm) but there's a lot of versatility right there for the money. I'd also be interested in the Bronica RF645 if you prefer a manual focus, manual wind rangefinder type camera. The Bronica's biggest asset is interchangeable lenses ... 65mm and 45mm available now, with a 105 in the works soon ... and it supports Program, AP-AE and manual exposure. Godfrey There are quite a few choices you will have to make besides the spool size. But first of all, remember that the medium format advantage is in the larger format, not in the camera you pick. Camera features only help you to use the medium format in the way most suited to you and your needs. So what format do you want, or need? Formats range from 4.5x6 cm to 6x17 cm. Most popular are 4.5x6 cm, 6x6 cm, and 6x7 cm. The choice of format also dictates what enlarger and slide projector (if any) you can/have to buy. Next, but connected, what aspect ratio? Do you want rectangular pictures? Or square? Rectangular formats make you decide what orientation to use, and you will have to tilt the camera to change orientation. This means prism finders are a must. Mamiya RB67 and RZ67 cameras have solved the problem by using a rotating back. And some medium format systems allow you a (limited) choice of formats by offering different backs. Then there is the choice of three quite different camera types: single lens reflex, twin lens reflex, or rangefinder. What type fits your particular style and need is something only you can decide. SLR's are the most versatile type (more choice of interchangeable lenses, interchangeable film backs, ditto finders, easier to use for close-ups), but that does not necessarily mean they are the best choice for you. Then there is the matter of automation. Though available in most (if not all) types and brands, exposure automation mostly is an add-on extra. The basic models come without. Which is not a bad thing, since using a handheld meter, though undeniably slower, makes determining exposure a more deliberate and thus precise excercise. And do you need or want autofocus? My advice would be to find a basic SLR (either 4.5x6, 6x6 or 6x7), with standard lens and a separate meter, preferably a system intended to be extended, so you can always add on to it if and when you need to. A Yashica TLR, for instance, is a fine and fun camera, but restricts you to one focal length. A Mamiya C220 or C330 TLR offers considerably more flexibility. And, indeed, buy used. There are a lot of "vintage" cameras on offer, most of which have a very long life still left in them. In my 30 year professional photo career, I've needed only 4 lenses for 4x5 to do most anything I've ever needed to shoot. 75 f6.8 Grandagon 90 f8.0 Fujinon SW 125 f5.6 Fujinon W 180 f5.6 Caltar II (Rodenstock) and once, I rented a Nikkor 360 T and a 65 SW. I picked the above focal lengths mainly for architectural work, which was a few years ago about 75% of what I did, with the 90 and 125 being used equally about 85% of the time. The 180 does the lion's share of table top product work, but I have used the 75 for products as well. For my holiday, fine art b&w landscapes, mostly I use the 125 and 180, but usually carry the 75 for when I need a really wide look. I leave the 90 at the studio. For portraits, which have mainly been 3/4, full length, or groups for clients, I usually use the 125 or 180. I bought a 503 CW kit last year. At a certain point I think the 501 CM would have been fine for me as well. Main difference seems to me the possibilty to add a 1000$ expensive winder which I don't plan. Most kits come with a 80mm lense which is about 50 mm in 35mm format. For landscape you may indeed want to buy a 50mm lense or a SWC. You may consider to buy a primen finder as well which I didn't do by now but I am thinking about. Soon you might want to add more backs. A good idea is to rent a kit possibly with another lense or a SWC for a weekend or so before you buy. I didn't do this with the body but with addtional lenses and the SWC I did before I made the decision what items to add. You only need to keep batteries for an external lightmeter if you don't want to spend another 1000$ for one of the fancier prismen finders. I sold some of my 35mm equipment and I think I will only keep a basic 35mm equipment. I barely shoot 35 mm any more. You are shooting way less and become much more aware what you are shooting. The actual film costs are going down. I hope that helps, Andreas I had my first three rolls of MF film processed today. I shot two rolls of Provia 100F, and one roll of Provia 400F. The cost of processing was ¤27.27 ($US 24.08); I had to go to a pro lab because I'm not aware of any ordinary one-hour places that do E6 120 where I live. The slides were returned as-is (neither cut nor mounted) in nice plastic sleeves (frosted on one side, clear on the front, and sealed). My observations: 1. It's great to be able to just hold up the strip of film and instantly see how the images look. They are nice and big and can easily be evaluated even from two feet away. Not really practical with 35mm. 2. As might be expected, images are very smooth, with no trace of grain, even in 400F (400F shows grain in 35mm, as well as a bit of softness compared to 100F). Being able to shoot at the higher speed without obvious grain is very nice. 3. Overall impression is extremely positive; definitely a considerable step up from 35mm. 4. I managed to expose most images perfectly; a few were just a tad off (I'm using a 501CM with a separate incident and spot meter). Spot meter readings seemed to give slightly better results than incident readings. 5. The lens (standard Zeiss 2.5/80mm provided with the 501CM kit) gives beautifully clean and sharp images. 6. Contrary to what I've been told here, shooting handheld did not sacrifice sharpness at most shutter speeds (1/60 and up). I shot on a tripod with prerelease and a cable release, and also handheld with no special precautions other than trying to hold steady. I can't see any difference in sharpness between the two at normal shutter speeds (1/250 or so for Provia 100F); this is true even when examining the slides under a microscope (yes, I actually did that). At lower shutter speeds, some camera-motion blur was evident, but not enough to make images unusable or even enough to be very noticeable. At 1/15, camera motion was easy to spot. 7. The square format is great because all my images are right-side up, so I'm not constantly rotating the slides. 8. A loupe for MF costs a fortune (¤185 for some mystery-brand loupe--a good loupe, it seems, but still awfully expensive). 9. It's nice to be able to shoot complex compositions and still have all the details clearly visible on close examination. The larger format and resulting greater detail seem to give the images a much more realistic and three-dimensional quality than 35mm. 10. This is all going to be very, very expensive for film and processing, even compared to 35mm, which was already expensive.
What about the DOF markings on the lens? What assumptions were made in calculating those? Do they also assume less enlargement for the MF image? Frankly, it's hard to see a lot of utility to MF photography if you aren't going to enlarge the images at least as much as 35mm, and if you aren't going to view them from a closer distance. As it is, 35mm photography already provides all the detail that the human eye needs in full-size (uncropped) images viewed at a "normal" distance (equal to the diagonal of the image frame, or more)--the eye requires about 6 megapixels, minimum, and 35mm provides 2-3 times that, easily. So if you go to MF, the implication is that you want the images to be examined more closely, otherwise you are wasting a lot of detail. If we assume that MF and 35mm are enlarged to the same degree, then, we can also conclude that DOF is the same in both formats; so a DOF of 60 cm with an 80mm lens is the same in both formats. The advantage of MF is that it provides you with an image that is nearly four times larger with the same magnification, and if the viewing distance does not change, you see a much bigger picture with more detail. If you are just going to increase the viewing distance to match the larger image, though, you may as well stick with 35mm. I was looking at a backlit photo in a fancy clothing boutique recently. It was displayed in several sizes. The small sizes (about 40x40 cm, viewed from 2-3 metres away) gave no clear indication of the format used. However, one size was floor-to-ceiling, and when you looked at that from less than 2 metres away, it became obvious that the original image was shot on MF, as the details were still smooth and clear. The thing to remember, though, is that this was true only because the viewing distance didn't change for the biggest enlargement; if it had increased in proportion, it still would have been effectively difficult or impossible to tell whether it was MF or 35mm. My interest in MF is that I'll be able to take pictures that will tolerate closer examination. I'll be able to print in A3, A2, or even A1 and still show no loss of detail at viewing distances of 40 cm or so, whereas a 35mm enlargement to those sizes tolerates close examination poorly (although a good scan looks fine at A3, at least). I really don't see much point in MF if the only enlargements will be snapshots or 8x10 enlargements; nobody can see details that small, anyway.
In terms of features Hasselblad 501CM is not comparable even with the entry-level Rolleiflex 6001 and the is more expensive (6001kit - $2700, 501 CM kit - $3200.00) A 6008i kit (body, 120 back, 2.8/80 Planar) will set you back $3000.00, plus 1100 for the master control unit for the grand total of $4100. A comparable Hasselblad 203 FE kit costs over $6200.00 (plus 1000.00 for the winder- total 7300.00 smackers!) and still falls short in terms of features comparing to the 6008i.) A 6001 (comparable to 555 ELD) kit costs $2700 vs. $3300.00 body only for the 555 ELD (+ $1800 for the 2.8/80 lens and another $900 for a back. Total? Close to $6000.00.) Even the 503 with winder is almost twice as expensive as the 6001. I'm not arguing with your choices of cameras, just with your quoted prices. I was very happy with a Hasselblad until I used a 6008 for a couple of weeks. ;-)
The orginal poster mentioned purchasing a used 2.8f or 3.5f Planar, or even a Rolleiflex T. None of those would cost thousands of dollars. Any of these cameras would work well with landscape photography. My primary interest in photography over the past 25 years has primarily been with landscapes (o.k, I've got a few photographs of my kids). I don't think my photography suffers when I choose to use one of my Rolleis. And I don't think I've shorted my landscape photography by skipping the purchase of a Hasselblad, although I certainly wouldn't mind having one. I do think the orginal poster's contention that he's "narrowed down my MF choice" is anything but narrow. Choosing between a Hassy and a Kiev, or two versions of a Hassy, now THAT would be narrowing down the choice. The choice between a TLR Mamiya, a Rolleiflex and an Ikoflex (see what a fixed lens, non-Rollei TLR can do at http://www.pomona.edu/ADWR/Museum/exhibits/9899/lastories/lastories.shtml) might be consider narrow. But the choice between a Rolleiflex and a 501 'blad and a Rolleiflex is like comparing apples and oranges. Dave Wyman One thing no one pointed out was how much you can learn and develop your "style" using a fixed focal length camera. It forces you to move around and look for the right perspective to get what you want. I'm GLAD I was forced to do this when I started in med format amd learned a bunch. IMHO for landscapes you will be using f11-f22 and at these f stop ANY rollei TLR from a xenar-tessar up will produce fine results. I'd also recomend thinking about a minolta autocord as these are cheaper and work as good or better for this type of work. If you can afford a blad AND the other lenses, there sure is nothing wrong with them as a tool. I knew I'd never be able to talk myself into spending $1,500 to $2,500+ for each additional lens so found other things to use. Just some things to think about. -- Stephe Really Affordable Medium Format Spent a few hours this weekend really trying to figure out what to do about medium format ... which I want to get into .. 1 - Contax 645 kit for $3300.00. Can share my TLA360 flashs and if I go w/ an N1 I can share the medium format lenses (which are pretty darn expensive!). A 35mm 3.5 Distagon lens sells for $2395.00 or a 55mm for 1475.00 2 - Fuji ... a 645W or a GA-645x (1889.00) or a GSW-690 III (1410.00). Ok different beasts but all pretty afordable and also offer the advantage that you will not be salivating all the time for another lens. They do not have interchangable lenses ... which in a strange financial way can be good! 3 - Mamiya 645 Pro TL for $1599.00. If you do not need autofocus ... look how "affordable" the lenses are: 55mm 2.8 for $665.00. Or a 35 3.8 for 1029.00. Compare tis to the C.Z. Distagon selling for 2395.00. Guess when it gets down to it: Can you live without autofocus. Are the lens quality of the Fuji or the Mamiya anywhere near the quality of CZ glass. Of course I love CZ glass, but when it gets down to it how great is it that CZ may make an incredible 350 mm , but when it cost close to six grand, does it really do you any good? Interesting: Price comparisons: Medium format: Auto Focus Mamiya: 45 mm 2.8 for $1069.00 for 645AFD Mmaiga: 43 mm 2.8 for $2599.00 for Mamiya 7II Rangefinder Contax CZ 45 2.8 mm for $2249.00 for 645N Pentax 45 mm 2.8 for $809.00 for 645N II Bronica 45mm 4.0 for $665.00 for Bronica Rangefinder Non AutoFocus: Rollei: 40mm 4.0 PQ Distagon $4700.00 for Rollei 6000 series Hassie 40 mm 4.0 CFE/FLE w/ hood $4324.00 Mamiya: 45mm 2.8 $839.00 for Mamiya 645 Pro TL Pentax: 45mm 4.0 $929.00 for Pentax 67 II Ok, I know some of these are 6x7 vs 6x4.5 but I thought the whole comparison interesting. What a HUGE difference in pricing. Comments? michael. Really Affordable Medium Format I got into MF awhile back on the cheap, and recommend it as the way to go for other hobbyists. I had been mooning over the Fuji GSW 690 in my local camera shop, but someone beat me to it. I waited. A few months later, while in Prague on vacation, I came across a Pentacon 6 camera, and was able to purchase it along with multicoated 80mm lens, and single coated 50, 120 and 180 lenses. All are Carl Zeiss Jena lenses, and all perform extremely well. I'm not clear on what the exchange rate was, but I'm pretty sure I didn't pay more than $350 for the total kit. I needed to have the camera CLA'd when I got home, and the camera has worked like a champ since. You can get these for only a little more on EBay. Is it the right camera for anyone else? Maybe, maybe not. What I like about the P6 is it has big film (6x6) and good lenses. For a hobbyist, it does what I want. A working pro wouldn't be able to depend on it. It is absolutely manual and has manual diaphragm lenses. That is, you focus wide open, stop down, then shoot. I've been looking at new MF cameras, but I really can't justify one in the sense that I can't, for all practical terms, get demonstrably better pictures than I can with the P6. Sure, I can get pictures faster and easier with a newer model, but not *better* (in other words, the limiting factor in improving the quality of my pictures, now that I can shoot 6x6 is me, not the gear). For fast handling, I have my Aria. I finally scratched the Fuji itch back in November, when I bought a Plaubel Veriwide 100 off of EBay. It is wider than the Fuji (47 vs. 65 mm lens) and shoots 6x10 instead of 6x9. I got it for $600. It is a viewfinder camera, not a rangefinder, but for that wide, isn't really an issue. Quality of images (when I remember to set everything ) is superb. In short, there are lots of interesting choices out there for one wanting to make the jump to MF, I guess before offering any advice on what to look at, I'd say try to articulate at least to yourself what you want to accomplish with it that you can't do now with 35. But my first instinct is to suggest something cheap, just on principle, before you spend large amounts.