Inexpensive Medium Format Camera
I am looking to buy a 120 format camera. I have been checking ebay for used cameras. What are some good "vintage" 120 cameras that I could expect to pay less than $100 for?
John A. Lind
Gary, you've put up a tall order, but it's not impossible. MF is the domain of professionals today and almost everything in MF is expensive as a result.
You will have to be patient to find one. In the under $100 bracket you are talking about a very old 120 folder (with bellows) or a plastic body TLR like the Lubital.
The Lubital is interesting because it has a decent lens in spite of the plastic body. A similar one you may find is the Holga which has a bad reputation for light leaks and a poor lens. The Holga does have a cult following though. I think because it is so cheap and so poor that the sheer challenge of dragging a decent image out of a Holga is a badge of honor for them.
The potential problem with the old folding cameras is possible light leaks in the bellows, but you can test for this easily and there are some home repair methods. The lens will likely be uncoated and not the best optically.
Be careful if looking for an old folder. A lot of them are 620, a film format not made any more. The truly sad part is 620 and 120 are exactly the same *except* the 620 spool is smaller in diameter (both spindle and flange) which means you cannot fit 120 into them. Those with access to a darkroom can respool 120 onto 620 spools, but this is tricky and takes practice. You also need to find empty 620 spools for this.
If you can up the price bracket to $100-250 you can get a Yashicamat TLR or a Rolleicord TLR, the lesser cousin of the *expensive* Rolleiflex.
One of the best and thorougly comprehensive resources on the web for medium format is Robert Monaghan's Medium Format articles page. He has specific section about doing medium format on a very tight budget
Balda Baldix 6x6
These are all fine folder cameras generally going for under $100, with COATED lenses that take beautiful photos. Like any older camera, they're at their best when CLA'd. Most people who haven't actually used a folder have no idea how good the pictures can be, but it can be as good as a Hassy.
Holgas come with dirt-simple plastic meniscus lenses, but also in a glass-lensed version (WOCA). They aren't as horribly made as some people seem to think, especially as they can be cheaply modified to produce very beautiful photographs (especially in B/W), which if not pleasing to the f/64 cult of critical sharpness, still manage to win photo competitions every year.
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