BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: Best Photographic Equipment to Buy : Film-Based Camera Equipment : 35mm Cameras : Comparing Camera Models

Photography Question 

Buying Medium Format Camera

I am strongly considering buying a Bronica RF645, but was curious if anyone has tried this camera. It looks well priced and I have heard it has good optics. I was also considering the Mamiya 7 II but wasn't sure if I want to go all out with price. I will be shooting primarily landscapes, and recommendations on what camera I should look into? Your personal choice?

To love this question, log in above
9/5/2001 10:34:32 AM

doug Nelson
  See for comments from pro users of both. The Mamiya is a little heavier, but you get a bigger negative. I've checked out the optics of both in magazines, and see no difference in quality. I'm told you can get a much better price in Europe; seems the manufacturers of both are soaking the Yanks and Canadians. I'd choose the Mamiya, but I haven't used it, just considering it.

To love this comment, log in above
9/5/2001 1:07:19 PM

Jeff S. Kennedy   I like the bigger neg so I would go for the Mamiya. Plus the Bronica requires you to turn the camera on it's ear to shoot a horizontal. Not a plus for landscape photography.

To love this comment, log in above
9/6/2001 12:58:06 AM

Stephen    What do you mean turn the camera on its ear??

To love this comment, log in above
9/6/2001 9:54:15 AM

Jeff S. Kennedy   Most cameras, when held normally, take horizontal pictures. 645 cameras when held normally are vertically oriented. So every time you want to shoot a horizontal landscape you will have to rotate the camera 90 degrees.

To love this comment, log in above
9/6/2001 10:57:32 AM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
  A clarification about 645 format:
Not all of them run the film horizontally (creating a vertical format). IIRC, it's the rangefinders that do. Most (all?? I haven't done an exhaustive check) of the 645 SLR's run the film through the back vertically which gives a horizontal format. Example: Mamiya M645. It's the reason I have a 645 SLR and not an RF.

Even so, if you use a 645 SLR with horizontal format, I strongly recommend a prism finder, not a waist-level finder. It's a royal pain to use a WLF sideways!

-- John

To love this comment, log in above
9/6/2001 2:08:16 PM

Jeff S. Kennedy   Thanks John, I'm afraid I wasn't specific enough in regards to rangefinders vs SLR's.

To love this comment, log in above
9/6/2001 6:12:07 PM

Stephen    I would hate to have to hold the Bronica on its side to shoot landscapes. I don't think I can afford the Mamiya 7II. Is the Mamiya 7, and Mamiya 6 about the same as the new one, both with built in meter?? Maybe I will get a Fuji GSW69 II.

To love this comment, log in above
9/6/2001 8:17:00 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
  The Mamiya 6 (6x6 RF) has built-in metering with both aperture priority and manual exposure mode. The only lenses for it are a 50mm f/4, 75mm f/3.5, and 150mm f/4.5 which would comprise a basic set of short, standard and modestly long lenses. (IMO it's a limitation, but for some users it's more than enough.)

There is also a 6MF version of the body; MF = multi-format. Of note among its several different formats is the 645 mask: it still only allows 12 shots per roll versus the typical 15 from a true 645. Some users complained about the complex sets of viewfinder lines for the various formats.

-- John

To love this comment, log in above
9/6/2001 9:10:22 PM

Stephen    So, which one do you feel is the best, the 6 RF or MF?

BTW, have your tried the Fuji GSW69II

To love this comment, log in above
9/6/2001 11:36:54 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
"Best" depends on evaluation criteria and how much they are weighted. If I were offered one or the other I would pick the "6" over the "6MF" body. Rationale: simplicity combined with not having a very real use for the other formats the "6MF" offers. Someone else would pick the other one if there is a need or valued use for the other formats beyond basic 6x6.

I haven't tried the Fuji. In looking at the specs, a consideration is lack of interchangeable lenses. It comes with a 90mm f/3.5, a "standard" for that format. This may or may not be important depending on how much you anticipate wanting to use the perspective of a short lens or long lens versus a standard length. Some MF users don't and some do. It's a question you must answer based on your photography.

A general (emphasis on general) observations about various frame sizes in medium format:
(a) Lens speed goes down and price increases with size of frame.
(b) Obviously, size and weight increase with size of frame.
(c) Obviously, resolution and ability to greatly enlarge goes up with frame size.
(d) If slide projection is a consideration, the easiest are 645 and 6x6 as they use standard 7x7 cm slide frames. There are a couple 6x7 projectors, but selection of make/model is extremely limited.

These are all trade-offs in your decisions as well.

-- John

To love this comment, log in above
9/7/2001 1:09:07 PM

Gerard FitzGerald   Hello Stephen,

I used to have a Bronica 645 ETRSi and found it a brilliant box of tricks. I changed to a Fuji 6X9 as most of my work in photographing ship's (marine industry). I find the Fuji very easy to use and focus, particularly in low light, also less fiddely bits when changing film (cant drop spare film back into the briney). The optics are brilliant and the results from the 6X9 neg ... well, what can I say.

Regards... Ger

To love this comment, log in above
9/15/2001 5:53:28 AM

Robert    Hi Stephen,

I hold the GSW690 in my camera bag as the third (to my F1 system) and the only medium format body. The format is natural and viewfinder precise. The landscapes come out real. Furthermore, surprise: it is great for portraits too as long as the film is very fast. For someone like me who already have invested a lot and is quite happy with performance of 35mm, the GSW690 adds to a range of possibilities. I consider fixed lens an advantage for medium format; the prices and the weights of telephotos are prohibitive.

To love this comment, log in above
9/17/2001 11:49:41 AM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.