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Ironclad Medium Format Cameras
Old 12-02-2015   #1
mfogiel
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Ironclad Medium Format Cameras

As my Contax 645 has started having hiccups yesterday, I've realised that I have various camera systems that are inevitably exposed to the risk of becoming no longer serviceable in a not so distant future.
It's not like I need to be planning for 50 years ahead - if I'm lucky I have 20-30 years to go. Still, I would be quite upset seeing some cameras I rely on to become unusable, also, because some of the lens lines are not easily adaptable within the MF. The prime example is the Contax 645 line, which is pretty much unique, and I have 5 lenses and an extender that are at risk of being stranded.
So, while my 35mm stuff is well covered by mechanical Leicas and Nikon F2 bodies, and in 6x6 I have several TLR's and Hasselblads, the formats where I'm exposed are 645 ( Bronica RF, Pentax 645N, Contax 645) and 6x7 ( Pentax 6x7 and 67II).
What would be in your opinion a really ironclad all mechanical camera, with good reliability record and hopes for serviceability long in the future in these two formats to think of?
Ah, if this is not yet clear: I'm not intending to shoot digital.
Thanks
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Old 12-02-2015   #2
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Take any Fuji 6x9 rangefinder. They are bombproof.

My Mamiya Press is also bombproof.

I used to have the Pentax 67 (a couple of them). They felt reliable. I also had a Mamiya RZ67 and it felt pretty solid. But I'd put money behind the first two cameras any day of the week.

My Rolleiflex TLR is finicky but I love it.
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Old 12-02-2015   #3
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Bronica 645 is so cheap these days, you could probably stock up a couple of decades worth. And the Pentax 6x7 is not far behind. But I suspect that within 10 years, no one will be fixing anything except Leica, Hasselblad, and Rollei TLRs.
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Old 12-02-2015   #4
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The Fujica 670, 680, and 690 cameras were originally made for hard professional use, and continue to be extremely reliable today.

I have 6 of them, and every one operates perfectly with actually no maintenance.

If you are going to shoot medium format, a 6X9 negative pretty much trumps the smaller 6X4.5, 6X6, and 6X7 cameras because you can selectively crop down to smaller dimensions to maximize image content quality.

The Fujicas are very reliable - and BTW, before anyone makes a mistaken statement - are lighter weight than Pentax 67 and Notita 66 cameras.

Texsport
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Old 12-02-2015   #5
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I got rid of all my medium format cameras except for the Rolleiflex.

For 35mm cameras, when they break you just get another one. They're that cheap. For example I recently got a Canon Photura for only $0.99 it it takes FANTASTIC photos!

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Old 12-02-2015   #6
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Alpa 12 TC with a couple of backs and Schneider lenses !

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Old 12-02-2015   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Texsport View Post
The Fujica 670, 680, and 690 cameras were originally made for hard professional use, and continue to be extremely reliable today.

I have 6 of them, and every one operates perfectly with actually no maintenance.

If you are going to shoot medium format, a 6X9 negative pretty much trumps the smaller 6X4.5, 6X6, and 6X7 cameras because you can selectively crop down to smaller dimensions to maximize image content quality.

The Fujicas are very reliable - and BTW, before anyone makes a mistaken statement - are lighter weight than Pentax 67 and Notita 66 cameras.

Texsport
Marek,

Plus one on the Fujicas. I own a GM670 and a GL690 with a 65/8.0, 100/3.5 and 150/5.6 so with three lenses I have 6 FOV's. Also bought a 100/3.5 AE with a dead CdS cell that I had Frank Marshman install the EBC multicoated glass into a chrome manual lens barrel to have a custom lens.

The Fugicas are overbuilt simple cameras with no electronics. Nothing like a big negative (6X9).

BTW I own a Pentax 67II also and it is bigger and heavier than any Fuji.

Cal
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Old 12-02-2015   #8
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Try a Kodak Medalist Marek, they are tough enough to use as construction tools and the 3.5/100mm is great. Ken Ruth (photography on bald mountain) converts them from 620 to 120 camera's.
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Old 12-02-2015   #9
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I see 2 options:
- you go with a very common system like Mamiya 645 that was made in large numbers and can be found anywhere for reasonable prices and has an enormous choice. They still even make new cameras and lenses.
- you go to a very simple camera like the old Fuji's 670/690 or Mamiya Press that use very common shutters that were made to last and can be serviced by a lot of people.

Something like the Mamiya Cxxx series sits in between those. Bronica RF is too fragile and lenses are not that common to find. I like the idea of the Alpa but not the price
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Old 12-02-2015   #10
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Another recommendation for the Kodak Medalist II. They were used by the US military for a reason!
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Old 12-02-2015   #11
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Linhof 612 PCII - mechanically simple , built like a tank :



LF lenses in focus mounts - 58,65 and 135 are commonly available.
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Old 12-02-2015   #12
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Marek,

I failed to mention that for a 21mm FOV for 6x9 I use a Plaubel 69W Proshift. Like the Fujicas a leaf shutter and a simple film transport. Fastest loading roll camera I own and it has shifts for perspective control. I love how the VF'er periscopes with the shifts and the film transport is a modified Mamiya Press 120 back. No electronics. The 47/5.6 is a Schnieder Super Augulon.

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Old 12-02-2015   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FrozenInTime View Post
Linhof 612 PCII - mechanically simple , built like a tank :



LF lenses in focus mounts - 58,65 and 135 are commonly available.
WOW. I love your camera.

Cal
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Old 12-02-2015   #14
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+1 Medalist,most of the mechanics are easily accessed.
+1 Fujica,another tough and easily maintained camera
However neither are in the suggested format. I'd love to suggest the ETR based Bronicas,but their default batteryless (sp) shutter speed of 1/500 pretty well eliminates that. And my fave 6x7 (Mamiya 7), pity it's only mechanical feature is advancing the film.
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Old 12-02-2015   #15
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Originally Posted by littleearth View Post
Alpa 12 TC with a couple of backs and Schneider lenses !

WOW. I did a little research on the Alpa 12. What a cool and expensive camera.

Cal
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Old 12-02-2015   #16
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Recently I learned the Contax 645 lenses can be adapted to the Leica S system.
Just so it does not go unsaid, your lenses need not become orphans if the cameras go the way of the dodo
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Old 12-02-2015   #17
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WOW. I love your camera.

Cal
Haha, I knew you'd like that one Cal.
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Old 12-02-2015   #18
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Get a few A16 backs for your Hasselblad and you've got 645 covered.

6x7... try a Mamiya RB67.
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Old 12-02-2015   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mfogiel View Post
As my Contax 645 has started having hiccups yesterday, ..... The prime example is the Contax 645 line, which is pretty much unique,.....
Thanks
Yes, it certainly is unique, and IMO not quite duplicable by anything else.. All told, if you like what it and the lenses do, nothing else is going to be the same. As I said, IMO.

I've got two Contax 645 bodies as a failsafe against having to switch to something else. The biggest reliability issue, in terms of not-being-able-to fix, seems to be problems with the electronic shutter. At this point Nippon Photo Clinic in NYC still has NOS replacements for those, as well as parts for other Contax 645 repairs. I've had one body done when the shutter acted up and I'm good for another 20-30 years. Camera, probably not me.

In the whole overall scheme of things, shipping to NYC from Europe not that big of a deal if you really love the camera. There are other options as others are pointing out, but this one certainly exists as well. Fantastic body and lens combo, no real reason to let it go if you don't want to.

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Old 12-02-2015   #20
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Haha, I knew you'd like that one Cal.
John,

What's not to like about the Linhof?

The 80/4.5 is about a 26mm FOV... I could see pairing the 80 with a 150/5.6.

The Alpa has Phase One capabilities... Achromatic back (monochrome)... hmmm.

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Old 12-02-2015   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mfogiel View Post
As my Contax 645 has started having hiccups yesterday, I've realised that I have various camera systems that are inevitably exposed to the risk of becoming no longer serviceable in a not so distant future.
FYI, I had my Contax 645 serviced in January through our forum sponsor Bellamy Hunt of Japan Camera Hunter. Nothing wrong with it, but wanted to get it checked before Contax stopped servicing these. When I got the camera back, Bellamy said that Contax gave all of the spare parts to a 3rd party camera technician, so it's still possible to have some things fixed (whilst supplies last).

Drop Bellamy a line, I'm sure he can help you out.
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Old 12-02-2015   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calzone View Post
John,

What's not to like about the Linhof?

The 80/4.5 is about a 26mm FOV... I could see pairing the 80 with a 150/5.6.
I have the 58mm and 135mm - tend to use the 135mm most frequently.
I would love the 80mm - but I think it is discontinued and not readily available used :-(
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Old 12-02-2015   #23
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I have a miniature Crown Graphic. Mamiya 645 back, Graflex RH12 6X6 backs, Mamiya 6X7 back, Horseman 6X9 backs (requires simple adaption) plus Grafmatics and sheet film holders.
I believe medium format is covered for me.
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Old 12-02-2015   #24
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Baby Crown Graphic, can't get simpler than those.

You can get several lenses new and old to work with them (with a bit of thinking, testing, tweaking), and the price looks pretty good.

B2 (;->
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Old 12-02-2015   #25
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Quote:
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John,

What's not to like about the Linhof?
In my opinion, it might be the sexiest looking camera ever made...
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Old 12-02-2015   #26
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^ Ironclad to begin with and sexy to end ?
Is this the same thread ?
Peter
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Old 12-02-2015   #27
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Thanks for the suggestions. My main type of photography is between a portrait and street, so very slow, heavy or difficult to focus solutions are not optimal. I think I will try to keep the current gear functional for as long as possible, and perhaps add a Mamiya 645 body eventually, as these seem to be still in production, and now with Phase One taking over Mamiya, perhaps this camera has more to go. In 6x7 land, every now and then I see great offers on Mamiya RB67 kits, but the bulk and limited shutter speeds put me off somewhat. Can someone share the experiences about the use of this camera outside a studio?
Thanks again.
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Old 12-02-2015   #28
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6x7?
Koni Omega
Larger, wider?
Brooks Plaubel Veriwide 100
Both fully mechanical and built to last forever.
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Old 12-02-2015   #29
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Old 12-03-2015   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mfogiel View Post
In 6x7 land, every now and then I see great offers on Mamiya RB67 kits, but the bulk and limited shutter speeds put me off somewhat. Can someone share the experiences about the use of this camera outside a studio?
Thanks again.
I've carried it across mountains. A RB67 with one lens and magazine is less heavy and bulky than the average cluttered DSLR bag or even a solitary pro DSLR with 10x zoom. The RZ67 is a bit less heavy, by the way - but it is harder to find them in a good shape, as most of the bargains there have been through hard studio work.

The limited shutter speeds aren't really an issue - ALL RB67 lenses have their sweet spot around f/11, and none are faster than f/3.8. And Delta 3200 is the only film left that is faster than 400 (and using ultra-fast film on a medium format camera with relatively slow lenses is not really a wise decision in any case).

"In production" is not really anything you can hope for, unless you go for boutique items much less complex than a SLR. As far as I can make out, ALL manual focus film cameras by Mamiya have been discontinued before 2010. Mamiya Germany were the last to distribute the remaining inventory, and still SELL bits and parts from the RZ67 system, but the M645 series has been out of stock for many years even there. Even the AFD (whose last versions were tailored towards digital backs) is long discontinued and the successor (Phaseone XF) appears to be incompatible and to have no provisions for film backs any more.
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Old 12-03-2015   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mfogiel View Post
Thanks for the suggestions. My main type of photography is between a portrait and street, so very slow, heavy or difficult to focus solutions are not optimal. I think I will try to keep the current gear functional for as long as possible, and perhaps add a Mamiya 645 body eventually, as these seem to be still in production, and now with Phase One taking over Mamiya, perhaps this camera has more to go. In 6x7 land, every now and then I see great offers on Mamiya RB67 kits, but the bulk and limited shutter speeds put me off somewhat. Can someone share the experiences about the use of this camera outside a studio?
Thanks again.
Marek,

Perhaps consider getting another Contax as a backup. Nothing wrong with being stubborn. LOL.

Also would be helpful to know for your use how wide you like to go, or if you tend to shoot "normal" lenses.

Cal
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Old 12-03-2015   #32
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Hasselblad 500 series. Very reliable. They are modular in construction, film back, viewfinder with or w/o light meter, great Zeiss lens selection and prices that are reasonable. Lots of them around to choose from! Dave Odess I believe is still in business and a great tech.

Just my thoughts from experience using them. I haven't sold any as I will exercise them every so often!

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Old 12-03-2015   #33
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I love the Hassy 500. And it is reliable. But I don't know if I'd call it "ironclad". I stick by the Fuji 690s and Mamiya Press as the most ironclad you can get.


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Old 12-03-2015   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mfogiel View Post
So, while my 35mm stuff is well covered by mechanical Leicas and Nikon F2 bodies, and in 6x6 I have several TLR's and Hasselblads, the formats where I'm exposed are 645 ( Bronica RF, Pentax 645N, Contax 645) and 6x7 ( Pentax 6x7 and 67II).
What would be in your opinion a really ironclad all mechanical camera, with good reliability record and hopes for serviceability long in the future in these two formats to think of?
Ah, if this is not yet clear: I'm not intending to shoot digital.
Thanks
For 645, just find a 645 back and mask for your Hasselblads, or continue to shoot 6x6 and crop them accordingly.
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