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SWC 903 6x6 and biogon alternative
Old 04-08-2019   #1
dd786
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SWC 903 6x6 and biogon alternative

Hey all,
thinking about the Hassy SWC. In fact, I've been thinking about it for years but never had the chance to try it. I have had a play around with one that belonged to someone trying to sell but he couldn't be convinced to let me use it for a test roll - fair enough.

What i wanted to know is if there is a cheap alternative to it that i can buy that would give me a flavor of 6x6 with such a wide angle, just so i can see what it would be like to shoot photos like that and if i could actually get my eye in to find good pictures in square and super wide like that. I'm thinking better try out something similar that's cheap and see if you like the setup first before rearranging finances and selling some stuff so that i can afford it.

So my question is this:
Is there a cheap 6x6 camera that i can get a cheapish lens for (that will be as close as possible to the wideness of the biogon)?
I don't care about how small it is or any other such details. I just want to see if i can get along with the superwide 6x6 format and don't mind lugging something big around for a few months to decide.
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Old 04-09-2019   #2
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Lomography L-CA 120 has a scale focus 38mm lens on 6x6
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Old 04-09-2019   #3
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Mamiya Universal with the excellent 50mm lens with the 6x7 back. Not 6x6 but close. And they are relatively cheap.
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Old 04-09-2019   #4
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There is a wide angle attachment for the Ricoh GR, the early versions are pretty reasonable. Not big, and not film, but a similar FOV (not quite as wide) and shoots squares.
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Old 04-09-2019   #5
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Dora Goodman open-source zone Camera.
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Old 04-09-2019   #6
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Unfortunately there isnít really anything that wide in 6x6 for much less. You can try lenses around 18-21mm to see if you like it that wide, try to find a symmetrical one as that is what the biogon is - the Leica Super Angulon is close (but not exactly cheap).
The reality is that the SWC still fetches good money because there really isnít anything else like it. If you canít borrow one then buy a cheaper one and sell it if you donít like it.
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Old 04-09-2019   #7
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Few cameras can give you the feel of a Hasselblad SWC in use. The special feel of this camera comes from its compactness, ease of hand-holding, simplicity, and the incredible quality of that Biogon 38mm f/4.5 T* lens. I have long sought to acquire a camera that was even remotely the same thing in an all digital body.

None of the film equivalents I've tried produce anything like it in photographs. It's not a matter of simply the field of view ... It's a matter of how the Biogon renders. The Biogon on 6x6 film is unique. I've gotten close with a couple of digital cameras ... the best so far has been a Leica SL fitted with a Leica Super-Elmar-R 15mm f/3.5 and set to make square-cropped exposures.


Leica SL + Super-Elmar-R 15mm f/3.5


Hasselblad SWC (Biogon 38mm f/4.5 T*)

Close, but not the same thing really.

I've owned two of these beauties: an early '90s 903SWC and a '78 SWC. There are specific details about each of them that I prefer; both were superb shooters. I just sold the '78 recently because I realize that, as much as I loved it, my photography has shifted to other bases, other ideas, and it wasn't getting any use. If you buy at the right price, you'll make a profit selling it (like I did!). So I recommend hunting for a nice one at the right price and just going with that rather than trying to simulate.

The Holy Grail of "an all-digital SWC" is still in my head. I think the solution is going to be a Hasselblad X1D body with their 21mm lens. The FoV-DoF coupling is still off by a little bit, it means I have to shoot at a wider lens opening to get a similar feel, but it should work. I consider once again trading off my Leica M-D kit to acquire this setup... The madness continues.

What price madness?

G
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Old 04-09-2019   #8
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Depends on what you mean by "cheap" but I use a Schneider 38mm f/5.6 XL lens (about $1000 normally, or as low as $800 if you keep an eye out) on a variety of cameras - including 2x3 Century Graphic, Mercury 2x3 camera, and even my 4x5 cameras with 6x12 back - this lens has enough image circle to shoot that size. So it's very flexible, and you can even do movements with it on appropriate cameras. It has excellent image quality but a bit sensitive to flare - so a good hood to cut down the image circle if you are shooting 6x6 is helpful.

I have a 13x19 print of this image taken with my 38 XL on 6x9 in my living room:

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Old 04-09-2019   #9
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Bronica SQ with the Zenzanon 40mm. I used this for a few years as the SWC was more than I was willing to spend.


The SQ series is very affordable and very good quality. I think I spent about $500US for a body, a couple of viewfinders, 3 film backs, and the 40mm.
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Old 04-09-2019   #10
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If you can afford a SWC, I suggest to get it, and then enjoy it. The lens is special and so is the fixed-lens experience with a compact MF set.
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Old 04-09-2019   #11
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6X6 negatives usually are cropped to 6x4.5 for printing. A Mamiya 645 with the 35mm lens would give the same results as a SWC. IMHO by the time you invest in another camera system you should just buy the SWC. If you end up not liking it your loss on reselling probably would be less than buying another system to try out.
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Old 04-09-2019   #12
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I would second the recommendation for the Lomo LCA-120. It has the same lens specs as the SWC - 38mm F4.5 on 6x6. It's a cheaply made camera - plastic build, crappy viewfinder, scale focus and program AE only. However, the lens is real, multicoated glass that is surprisingly sharp. It's also small and light enough that you won't mind carrying it around!
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Old 04-09-2019   #13
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Ok so the lumo seemes a good idea but its relatively expensive in my opinion for a plastic camera at £300 or so. Also i sort of wanted something in roughly same physical format/form factor as the swc to further attempt to emulate the feel.

I had just found a Bronica SQAI. It comes with a 40, 80 and a 150 (I think it was a 150, didn’t it too much attention to that one). Just left the house of the guy who is selling it. Everything looks clean but couldn’t test the cam with film. He wants USD 600 for the lot with I don’t know 4rolls of portra 800 and 4velvia from 2018.

Apparently it’s his uncles camera. He was a wedding photog... this worries me. I always read that buying cameras from pro photos who made money shooting was a bad idea because everything was probably HEAVILY used.

The guy was a nice enough family man. I met him at his house. He said he hadn’t used it for a year but only ever shot 1 roll through it. He said if anything didn’t work I could come back to him for a refund. I have no reason from Him to mistrust what he is saying but I am just a natural skeptic.

What do you guys think? A decent deal? Is there a lot that can go wrong with this model? Anything I could look for/test over a QUICK exchange next time I meet him if I’m going to buy it?
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Old 04-09-2019   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dd786 View Post
...... I had just found a Bronica SQAI .........
Apparently itís his uncles camera. He was a wedding photog... this worries me. I always read that buying cameras from pro photos who made money shooting was a bad idea because everything was probably HEAVILY used.
Years ago I bought a Bronica SQA which was represented as well used but working perfectly. When I opened the box, my initial thought was that of a 10 year old NYC taxi. VERY well used. But it worked flawlessly for 6-7 years. My camera repair guy said "don't try to fix what is not broken". He had a lot of Hasselblad customers but always said the Bronica's were more reliable. I only sold it after it has sat unused for 2-3 years as I was using a Mamiya 7.
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Old 04-09-2019   #15
Emile de Leon
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Why waste your $$ on iffy products..that are not going to cut it..
Just get the real thing and call it a day..
If you don't like it..the resell is pretty easy..
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Old 04-09-2019   #16
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Why not buy one of those wide-angle add-on lenses that go in front of your phone's camera, that would allow easy composition in square format. I see no need for it to be MF, native square format or film for the purpose of trying this. Then after a while, see how many good pictures you have, and if they aren't a whole lot, consider if you want to carry an extra camera just for these or if an extra lens for a camera you have would do - you could even consider how many pictures you missed due to the camera's limitations if you had carried only that, because it's heavy, but that's not necessarily a good road to go down.
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Old 04-09-2019   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dd786 View Post
Ok so the lumo seemes a good idea but its relatively expensive in my opinion for a plastic camera at £300 or so. Also i sort of wanted something in roughly same physical format/form factor as the swc to further attempt to emulate the feel.

I had just found a Bronica SQAI. It comes with a 40, 80 and a 150 (I think it was a 150, didnít it too much attention to that one). Just left the house of the guy who is selling it. Everything looks clean but couldnít test the cam with film. He wants USD 600 for the lot with I donít know 4rolls of portra 800 and 4velvia from 2018.

Apparently itís his uncles camera. He was a wedding photog... this worries me. I always read that buying cameras from pro photos who made money shooting was a bad idea because everything was probably HEAVILY used.

The guy was a nice enough family man. I met him at his house. He said he hadnít used it for a year but only ever shot 1 roll through it. He said if anything didnít work I could come back to him for a refund. I have no reason from Him to mistrust what he is saying but I am just a natural skeptic.

What do you guys think? A decent deal? Is there a lot that can go wrong with this model? Anything I could look for/test over a QUICK exchange next time I meet him if Iím going to buy it?

You don't mention viewfinders (waist level=$100 or unmetered eye level= $35-50, metered prism ~$150) or film backs. If the guy was a pro the backs might be 220- which you probably don't want. 120 backs can run $100 each; you want at least a couple of these.



Not a great deal, but ok. Worth negotiating. The 80 and 150mm lenses are not worth much (~$75 each). Do you really want them?. The 40mm will probably be the least used, something to keep in mind as the shutter is in the lens.
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Old 04-09-2019   #18
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Originally Posted by Beemermark View Post
6X6 negatives usually are cropped to 6x4.5 for printing.
?
Why? I have never done that, nor has anyone I know. The point of shooting the square format is for the square print.
You could crop it but then again you could crop any format into any shape.
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Old 04-09-2019   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dd786 View Post
Apparently itís his uncles camera. He was a wedding photog... this worries me. I always read that buying cameras from pro photos who made money shooting was a bad idea because everything was probably HEAVILY used.
My SWC/M came from a retired pro who bought it new in the '80s and used it professionally until a few years ago.

Yes, buying professional kit likely means it's been well used. But in my case it also meant that the body had been serviced to a strict schedule by the authorised Australian Hasselblad workshop. The owner's income was dependant on the camera working flawlessly and he looked after it as such.
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Old 04-09-2019   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Godfrey View Post
...
The Holy Grail of "an all-digital SWC" is still in my head. I think the solution is going to be a Hasselblad X1D body with their 21mm lens. The FoV-DoF coupling is still off by a little bit, it means I have to shoot at a wider lens opening to get a similar feel, but it should work...

G
The X1D / 21 combo is darn close in the final images, but not in handling of the camera at all. I could not agree more that the handling of the SWC is special.
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Old 04-09-2019   #21
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I've always used the C Series 'blads, I really like my 40mm C T* Distagon. I've borrowed an SWC, but I have one issue with it. Shooting a "near-far" composition, the finder did not provide accurate composition. I guess that's why they make the ground glass. Not critical on a "grab shot", I just prefer SLR viewing. YMMV.
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Old 04-09-2019   #22
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What about the Fujifilm GA645w. It also has a biogon-style lens, though not quite as wide and 645 format. I stopped using, and eventually sold my Mamiya 7 with 65mm after getting the GA645w.
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Old 04-09-2019   #23
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I think the only solution is to get the SWC. Getting a different camera that is kinda like it if you squint real hard in a dark room, won't cut it. You'll still wonder about the SWC.
Get it, if you don't like it, sell it.
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Old 04-09-2019   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huss View Post
?
Why? I have never done that, nor has anyone I know. The point of shooting the square format is for the square print.
You could crop it but then again you could crop any format into any shape.
Yes 6x6 !
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Old 04-09-2019   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huss View Post
?
Why? I have never done that, nor has anyone I know. The point of shooting the square format is for the square print.
You could crop it but then again you could crop any format into any shape.

I guess you could call me the odd duck. Then again, look at magazine spreads, pictures in museums, pictures on walls, pictures on buses and tell me the percentage of square formats vs rectangular.


Don't get me wrong, I love square pictures but the prints do get boring after awhile. Your telling me you never cropped a 6x6 negative to fit 11x14 paper under the enlarger lens?
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Old 04-09-2019   #26
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Very rarely.
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Old 04-09-2019   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beemermark View Post
6X6 negatives usually are cropped to 6x4.5 for printing. A Mamiya 645 with the 35mm lens would give the same results as a SWC. IMHO by the time you invest in another camera system you should just buy the SWC. If you end up not liking it your loss on reselling probably would be less than buying another system to try out.
(bolded) I can't speak for anyone else, but that's not how I print my 6x6 photographs except on rare occasions. When I crop a 6x6 photograph, it's because I framed it at the time of taking it for that crop. Normally, I frame for the full frame, square image.
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Old 04-09-2019   #28
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(bolded) I can't speak for anyone else, but that's not how I print my 6x6 photographs except on rare occasions. When I crop a 6x6 photograph, it's because I framed it at the time of taking it for that crop. Normally, I frame for the full frame, square image.
Likewise, the only time I've cropped 6x6 to something out of square is when I've shot with a certain composition in mind. I've never cropped to fit a paper size.
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Old 04-10-2019   #29
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This is my Hopper moment from a Rolleiflex. I shoot and print in 6x6 full frame. The square is very natural for street portraits. I have done a lot of street photography with the SWC and will scan them someday.

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SWC 903 6x6 and biogon alternative
Old 04-10-2019   #30
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SWC 903 6x6 and biogon alternative

The SWC is a fine camera. A joy to use. The viewfinder with the bubble level is perfectly engineered. The shutter is smooth as butter and the lens is stellar.

I sold her to move further into large format. Now that I’ve got a young one, I need either 1) more autofocus or 2) smaller circles of confusion (both in my photos and in my head).

The SWC gives you 2) but not 1).

Others have mentioned the Mamiya Universal 50mm Biogon. That too is a stellar lens but of course using the Press camera isnt as smooth as the Hassy. I use the 50 Biogon regularly.

Another option is the Rollei 6000 series and the Schneider 40mm f3.5. You do have half stop advantage over the SWCs 4.5 along with the other things you get such as auto exposure (and focus confirmation for the later models). Not to mention its an SLR. I’ve yet to shoot it but Ive got designs on it one day.


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Old 04-10-2019   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beemermark View Post
I guess you could call me the odd duck. Then again, look at magazine spreads, pictures in museums, pictures on walls, pictures on buses and tell me the percentage of square formats vs rectangular.


Don't get me wrong, I love square pictures but the prints do get boring after awhile. Your telling me you never cropped a 6x6 negative to fit 11x14 paper under the enlarger lens?
I'm not disputing that the majority of prints out there are NOT square.
What I am saying is people who use the square film format want square images.
I have never cropped square to something unholy.
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Old 04-10-2019   #32
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Like it or not..the SWC is a 1 trick pony..
It's 1 hell of a 1 trick pony though..
but..
The pics..are...can be..kinda..boring..as in...its very tricky to get a good composition within that WA square format..
As there are few people that can use that camera to full effect w/o the usual benefits of a rectangular format (as in square format zeroing in..ala Rolle TLR..75mm)..as SWC takes everything in..and pushes it away..
Thing is..the bottom and the top of the frame..what to do w/it??..as usually this is the SWC weak point in the photograph..
Like the size though...lol..cute lil thing..
For me...I would luv it as a down and dirty street camera..off the cuff stuff..move in as close as possible..let the chips fall where they may..
Or careful stuff on a tripod..but would rather 6x9 wide w/movements for that..or 8x10..
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Old 04-10-2019   #33
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What I am saying is people who use the square film format want square images.
No.

People who use the square film format don't want to rotate their cameras between landscape and portrait orientationsóbecause that doesn't work well with waist-level viewfinders. So they crop their rectangles out of the square after the fact ... maybe it should be "waste-level finder"

A few actually want square pictures but those are the minority.

My alternative to the Hasselblad SWC is the Mamiya 7 with N 43 mm L lens. But that's neither cheap nor square. I don't like the square film format. The diagonal angles-of-view of the Biogon 38 mm on 6 ◊ 6 format and the N 43 mm L on 6 ◊ 7 format are about equalóuntil you start cropping the SWC's frame to anything non-square; then the Mamiya wins.
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Old 04-10-2019   #34
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Way out of the box, but I use a baby Linhof with a 53/4.5 Zeiss Biogon.

Kinda heavy and big, but mucho flexibility. For 120 I have 6x7 and 6x9 capabilities. For 70mm I have 6x7 and 645 capabilities using Linhof CINE backs. I also have 10 2x3 graphmatics plus 6.5x9 sheet holders.

My friend Christian three-d printed a Polaroid back so I also have pack film capabilities.

Having a rangefinder is nice. The 645 CINE allows 120 shots from 15 feet of film, which from the 53mm translates into a 35mm FOV. A 6x7 CINE provides 53 shots using 70mm film. Pretty much I can shoot a baby Linhof like a Leica.

Anyways I get that Biogon look. Just saying if you are locked into that Zeiss Biogon look... Bonus is other possibilities, but not the same packaging.

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Old 04-10-2019   #35
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No.

People who use the square film format don't want to rotate their cameras between landscape and portrait orientationsóbecause that doesn't work well with waist-level viewfinders. So they crop their rectangles out of the square after the fact ... maybe it should be "waste-level finder"

A few actually want square pictures but those are the minority.

My alternative to the Hasselblad SWC is the Mamiya 7 with N 43 mm L lens. But that's neither cheap nor square. I don't like the square film format. The diagonal angles-of-view of the Biogon 38 mm on 6 ◊ 6 format and the N 43 mm L on 6 ◊ 7 format are about equalóuntil you start cropping the SWC's frame to anything non-square; then the Mamiya wins.
Incorrecto because using your assumption you can just crop any format into the shape want. Plus the giveaway is you mention u dont like the square. Other people who pick 6x6 do.
I could have used my Mam 645 ProTl w waist level finder that way. Native rectangle, crop to square or whatever whenever I want.

Bringing this to the current zeitgeist, why do u think the insanely popular instagram site uses the square format? Because that is what people like.
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Old 04-10-2019   #36
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I've wanted an SWC for years but could never justify buying one.
If you want a low cost alternative you should check out the Bronica S2 with either a Nikkor 40mm or Super-Komura 45mm
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Old 04-10-2019   #37
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... why do you think the insanely popular Instagram site uses the square format?
Because it's the easiest to handle. Same reason why 6 ◊ 6 format cameras are using it.
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