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Author Topic: Beginner MF question  (Read 2808 times)
Dheorl
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« on: October 31, 2012, 07:22:20 PM »
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Hey,

Feel free to skip to the end for a basic question without all the blurb****

I got directed here after posting a question on DPR regarding the possibility of getting a medium format camera.

Basically I don't really need a MF camera, I'm not a pro, I'm not that picky about image quality, I don't have the need to shoot tethered (infact most of the time I'd rather not), but one thing I do hate is holding a viewfinder up to my eye, be they big "beautiful" OVFs or little EVFs they make me feel more seperated from the scene than I'd like. The LCD screens on the back of mirrorless cameras is an alternative but it is just a screen. What I'd really like is a big, bright waist level optical viewfinder, which has led me to MF.

I really am lost in a very expensive world of digital backs though without any real clue as to what works with what. My wants are a waist level viewfinder and clean untethered ability. Don't mind about light meters or autofocus or anything like that. A secondhand P20/25 seems like a good introdcution, although if there are cheaper untethered back out there I'd love to know. I have no clue what camera to fit it to though. In the thread at DPR a Hasselblad V was metioned. I'd always had a love for the look of Hasselblads but have no idea how far back in the series I can go (with the assumption further back would mean cheaper). One thing I would like to retain is reasonably fast shutter speeds. The 503CW was said to probably be the optimum choce but I'm not sure I need all it's features.

****Basically I want the cheapest untethered back I can find, with a bigger sensor being nicer, and a camera with a waist level OVF and reasonably flexible shutted speeds to put it on. I don't mind about a cable trailing from the back to the lens if needed and would like to spend as little as possible.

Thanks
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ndevlin
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« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2012, 10:05:36 PM »
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Hi and welcome.

Let me hazard a response, because I too continuing to be, perhaps irrationally, attracted to medium format. That said, my first suggestion is a bit of a tangent: how about an older "C" or "ELX" series 'blad 6x6, with a WL and A12 back.  Go shoot a bunch with it an pay for hi-res scans on the best images. That might be the cheapest way to scratch the MF itch.

Ok, digital answers....if you're lucky enough to live near a good dealer, go and contact them and try lots of cameras out.  That's the best solution, because this is a situation where personal feel really matters.

What to look for? Well, "V" series cameras are cheap, but focusing can be a pain for digital.  Test whatever you look at very carefully to see if it's good enough for what you do.

"V" backs also remain stubbornly expensive, because, apparently, a lot of people still want them.

You can get into some 16 and 17MP backs for good prices. All of them are good, for what they are.  Personally, I'd stay away from the Ixpress image-tank based systems.  Hard drives are such old news.  Any of the early "P" backs are good, as are the Leaf products. These seem, for some reason, to be cheaper than the Hassy V backs. There's no really good reason why.

The 31MP backs are kind of a value sweet-spot, but you end up with a more cropped sensor. 

Personally, I would look for a 22MP back. Leaf Aptus or Phase.  But you're going to end up spending $10K on the package. So I strongly suggest a try-out with a dealer.

Good luck!

- N.

ps. all the 35mm devotees can now chime in with why a D800E is what you really need.  Wink  And I say that as someone who owns one.....yes, it's all you need, but it might not be all you WANT.  And these are our toys after all...   

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« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2012, 04:04:12 AM »
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I see that KEH has a Aptus back for the AF Haselblad:

http://www.keh.com/camera/Hasselblad-Autofocus-Backs-and-Magazines/1/sku-HA119991279580?r=FE

$3,650.00
LEAF APTUS 22 22 M/P WITH 20 GIG MAZAZINE, IEEE, CLAMP, BATTERY & CHARGER (CF CARD ), BACK

I always like buying from KEH as it seems safer than Ebay.

Bill
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Chris Livsey
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« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2012, 04:17:39 AM »
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If you are looking at spending on a say P20 back at say 2000 (translate at will into other currencies) and you will be lucky to find one at that there is a large, unsatisfied by short sighted MFDB makers, demand from the huge V user base for a digital solution, you should not be quibbling about getting a decent body to put it on where differences in price are in the low 100's of pounds. Look for a low use body, there are lots of threads explaining how to tell where the pro's have banged film backs on etc. have it serviced to ensure it is going to be within tolerance to "match" a digital back.
There are issues around accurate focus points and mirror shake when hand holding but if it isn't your living does it matter? If you get frustrated buy a film back, dirt cheap, and unlike a D800 or similar you can swop digital/film at will, for those of us in the game for FUN this is a big deal.
Personally I have a P20, bought S/H (from a dealer) some 4/5 years ago, which in cash value has lost much less than if I had bought a SOTA 35mm digital instead at the time and if you read opinion from those who know it is still competitive given file size limitations against current sensors. Bottom line, money well spent.

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Dheorl
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« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2012, 06:58:26 AM »
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Thanks for the help so far guys.

How bad is the focusing with the Hasselblads? Is there a different make that uses the waist level viewfinders that has easier focusing or is it that all waist level finders will be hard to focus. Are the no screens out there that make it easier?

Is there a list somewhere of which backs work with which cameras/table of camera features. Like I say, all I really want is nice manual focus and the ability to shoot untethered... anything else is a plus. Oh, and somewhere to put a flash radio trigger would be nice but I'm not sure how feasible that is with a waist level finder.
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WIFoto
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« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2012, 07:52:49 AM »
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Hi,
I still shoot film with my Hasselblad once in a while. My camera has a Hasselblad Acute Matte focus screen installed. Mine has the etched grid and the split image. You can find the screens listed here:
http://www.hasselbladusa.com/products/lenses-and-accessories/v-system-accessories.aspx

Mine is:
Focusing screen Acute Matte D Grid/Spilt-image
Part Number: 3042217
Grid providing format markings for 6x4,5 and 4x4 formats. The 6 mm diameter split-image rangefinder corresponds to the metering area of the 205TCC and 205FCC cameras.

I find this screen to provide a bright, but at the same time very crisp and contrasty image. The split image helps me nail focus when I am shooting with my fast F series of lenses at a large F stop. A screen like this may be helpful if you are using a digital back and need very precise focus.

Good luck,
Paul
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Doug Peterson
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« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2012, 08:41:29 AM »
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****Basically I want the cheapest untethered back I can find, with a bigger sensor being nicer, and a camera with a waist level OVF and reasonably flexible shutted speeds to put it on. I don't mind about a cable trailing from the back to the lens if needed and would like to spend as little as possible.

Here are your options that tick most (or all) of those "wants" without going very high in price (relatively speaking).

- Hasselblad 500 series
- Hasselblad H1/H2
- Contax 645
- Mamiya RZ
- Fuji 680

The price of the adapter for the Mamiya RZ or Fuji 680 will be significant, so don't forget to include that in your research comparisons. The price of lenses for the H1/H2 will be higher than the other systems mentioned. The max shutter speed of the RZ and Fuji 680 are the slowest of the group at 1/400th. The widest lens available in the group is the Contax 35mm, the other systems' widest lenses are all longer than 35mm which is fairly limiting. To see what that means in terms of other lens/systems you've used use our Focal Length Calculator.

Each of these systems has advantages and disadvantages. I really hope you live near (or can take a working vacation to) a good dealer so that you can feel each of these systems in your hand. Since you're doing this purely for the enjoyment what matters most is that you like the body/back combo, and frankly, no one can tell you what will feel right to you. The Fuji 680 for instance has a very very small percentage of users, but users like FredBGG here (very good photographer) absolutely loves it. The RZ is considered by many to be too large and too slow, but for other users you could not tear it away from their cold dead hands. Some users are scared away by the Contax being a discontinued system, while I know several users who have multiple copies of everything (e.g. three bodies, two of every lens) just to make sure they'll always be able to shoot Contax. These people are not being silly; they have simply found the body that fits their hands/eyes/workflow/soul and are sticking to it.

As for the back I'd suggest a P25 as the back that comes to mind with the highest reputation for reliability, easiest operation, and fits your requests of large sensor and low price, even when purchased from a dealer with a warranty/support/training. The Aptus 22, Aptus II 5, Aptus II 7, Aptus 75, Aptus 75s, DM22 and DM33 would be my next tier of choices; notably these choices would provide a good ability to check focus on the back of the LCD (the P25 LCD is only sufficient to roughly guess if you are in focus).

Note I'm very biased as we sell Phase One and Leaf backs but not Hassy/Imacon or Sinar.
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Dheorl
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« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2012, 10:04:41 AM »
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Here are your options that tick most (or all) of those "wants" without going very high in price (relatively speaking).

- Hasselblad 500 series
- Hasselblad H1/H2
- Contax 645
- Mamiya RZ
- Fuji 680

The price of the adapter for the Mamiya RZ or Fuji 680 will be significant, so don't forget to include that in your research comparisons. The price of lenses for the H1/H2 will be higher than the other systems mentioned. The max shutter speed of the RZ and Fuji 680 are the slowest of the group at 1/400th. The widest lens available in the group is the Contax 35mm, the other systems' widest lenses are all longer than 35mm which is fairly limiting. To see what that means in terms of other lens/systems you've used use our Focal Length Calculator.

That is a good point. I've been loiking through my images recently from my last trip and alot of them were shot at 28mm, which from you conversion tool would mean a focal length of 40mm if using a P25 back. The V system does have a lens of this length although it does seem very big and heavy (although I guess this should come as no surprise considering the image circle it's got to cover). I guess I might be stuck with using the 80mm lens because I would quite like to keep this system small enough I could go backpacking with it. To a similar end the V system does seem to be the smallest of the bunch (I much prefer the simple box design compared to the typical SLR style). I know trying to keep an MF system small seems kind of counter intuitive but I would like to be able to feasibly use it as my main camera. Is there any way to adapt lenses between systems or not?

Each of these systems has advantages and disadvantages. I really hope you live near (or can take a working vacation to) a good dealer so that you can feel each of these systems in your hand. Since you're doing this purely for the enjoyment what matters most is that you like the body/back combo, and frankly, no one can tell you what will feel right to you. The Fuji 680 for instance has a very very small percentage of users, but users like FredBGG here (very good photographer) absolutely loves it. The RZ is considered by many to be too large and too slow, but for other users you could not tear it away from their cold dead hands. Some users are scared away by the Contax being a discontinued system, while I know several users who have multiple copies of everything (e.g. three bodies, two of every lens) just to make sure they'll always be able to shoot Contax. These people are not being silly; they have simply found the body that fits their hands/eyes/workflow/soul and are sticking to it.

As for the back I'd suggest a P25 as the back that comes to mind with the highest reputation for reliability, easiest operation, and fits your requests of large sensor and low price, even when purchased from a dealer with a warranty/support/training. The Aptus 22, Aptus II 5, Aptus II 7, Aptus 75, Aptus 75s, DM22 and DM33 would be my next tier of choices; notably these choices would provide a good ability to check focus on the back of the LCD (the P25 LCD is only sufficient to roughly guess if you are in focus).

Note I'm very biased as we sell Phase One and Leaf backs but not Hassy/Imacon or Sinar.

I think I prefer the look of the buttom interface on the P25 compared to the touch screen on the aptus but I will certainly try to get to a store to try them out. I am a bit worried about this though. How will they react to a 22yr old student asking to try out such a piece of equipment? I know if I walked into a BMW dealer and asked to test drive an M3 I'd likely be smirked at and told no (happened to my brother) and am worried the same thing will happen here.

One other question if how would remote flashes work with such systems. I'd have manual flashes but with a waist level finder I see no hot shoe. I guess a trigger with a cord coming from the lens would be the solution?
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Doug Peterson
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« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2012, 10:52:06 AM »
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That is a good point. I've been loiking through my images recently from my last trip and alot of them were shot at 28mm, which from you conversion tool would mean a focal length of 40mm if using a P25 back. The V system does have a lens of this length although it does seem very big and heavy (although I guess this should come as no surprise considering the image circle it's got to cover). I guess I might be stuck with using the 80mm lens because I would quite like to keep this system small enough I could go backpacking with it. To a similar end the V system does seem to be the smallest of the bunch (I much prefer the simple box design compared to the typical SLR style). I know trying to keep an MF system small seems kind of counter intuitive but I would like to be able to feasibly use it as my main camera. Is there any way to adapt lenses between systems or not?

I think I prefer the look of the buttom interface on the P25 compared to the touch screen on the aptus but I will certainly try to get to a store to try them out. I am a bit worried about this though. How will they react to a 22yr old student asking to try out such a piece of equipment? I know if I walked into a BMW dealer and asked to test drive an M3 I'd likely be smirked at and told no (happened to my brother) and am worried the same thing will happen here.

One other question if how would remote flashes work with such systems. I'd have manual flashes but with a waist level finder I see no hot shoe. I guess a trigger with a cord coming from the lens would be the solution?

If you're looking for compact you might consider a Cambo Wide RC400 or Arca Factum tech camera. This is a VERY different kind of camera, but I mention it here because at the start of your search you should (ideally) be exposed to the broadest range of options prior to reducing down to the one that makes sense to you.

A tech camera is basically a pancake system most often used for landscape, architecture, interiors, and sometimes handheld zone focused street photography. It's VERY compact and offers REALLY great wide angle lenses but is very application-specific. It does NOT have a waist level viewfinder. Just thought you might want to take a peak before you go down any particular path to the tune of several thousand.

I can't speak for other dealers, especially the bigger "box stores" that do a lot of different things. But if you walked in our door (preferably calling ahead for an appointment) we'd take you as seriously as anyone else we meet. You wouldn't be the youngest of our customers.

For any of these systems there is a method to use flash. Sometimes on the sync port of the body, sometimes the sync port on the back (usually not the sync port of the lens because of the way the cabling/triggering works). I wouldn't sweat the details on that - all the systems work with strobe and the only difference is what flash sync speed they operate at. The Contax sync's at 1/90th (if I recall correctly); everything else on the list syncs at 1/400th or faster.
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Dheorl
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« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2012, 11:16:50 AM »
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If you're looking for compact you might consider a Cambo Wide RC400 or Arca Factum tech camera. This is a VERY different kind of camera, but I mention it here because at the start of your search you should (ideally) be exposed to the broadest range of options prior to reducing down to the one that makes sense to you.

A tech camera is basically a pancake system most often used for landscape, architecture, interiors, and sometimes handheld zone focused street photography. It's VERY compact and offers REALLY great wide angle lenses but is very application-specific. It does NOT have a waist level viewfinder. Just thought you might want to take a peak before you go down any particular path to the tune of several thousand.

I can't speak for other dealers, especially the bigger "box stores" that do a lot of different things. But if you walked in our door (preferably calling ahead for an appointment) we'd take you as seriously as anyone else we meet. You wouldn't be the youngest of our customers.

For any of these systems there is a method to use flash. Sometimes on the sync port of the body, sometimes the sync port on the back (usually not the sync port of the lens because of the way the cabling/triggering works). I wouldn't sweat the details on that - all the systems work with strobe and the only difference is what flash sync speed they operate at. The Contax sync's at 1/90th (if I recall correctly); everything else on the list syncs at 1/400th or faster.

The tech cameras do look quite cool, I have to admit. I saw them mentioned in another thread and if I ever want to do lightweight high quality landscapes then I'll definately look them up. For now though the main reason I want to get into MF is for the waist level finder though.

Good to hear about the flash, a sync speed that fast sounds very nice as well.

One other point I'm curious about that I guess is more likely to vary between companies is orientation. Looking at shots of last time I was in venice a large portion of them were shot vertically. When I'm going to quite dense cities it's the way a much prefer to shoot and I was wondering if all the bodys/backs had the option of rotating the back and how hard it was to do. Is it litterally as easy as clipping off one film back and clipping on another?
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« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2012, 11:21:59 AM »
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I think I prefer the look of the buttom interface on the P25 compared to the touch screen on the aptus but I will certainly try to get to a store to try them out. I am a bit worried about this though. How will they react to a 22yr old student asking to try out such a piece of equipment? I know if I walked into a BMW dealer and asked to test drive an M3 I'd likely be smirked at and told no (happened to my brother) and am worried the same thing will happen here.
Many of our partners deal with students and schools on a daily base and some have a fairly large "entry level" client base, made of amateurs and students that do exactly what you do i.e. looking for a back that'll fit their 30 yr old 'blad that's been collecting dust or that they've just picked up on eBay...

Quote
One other question if how would remote flashes work with such systems. I'd have manual flashes but with a waist level finder I see no hot shoe. I guess a trigger with a cord coming from the lens would be the solution?
The cord will come out of the back, which has a standard pc socket. The socket on the lens is used for triggering the back. See attached pages taken from the old Aptus Installation guide

Good luck and enjoy your search!

Yair
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« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2012, 11:25:03 AM »
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For the most viewfinder options the Fuji GX680 has more to offer.
However it is a large camera, but offers a big 6x8cm negative if you also shoot film and tilt shift functions on all lenses.

The Mamiya RZ67 is also a nice option. 6x7 negative and well integrated DB adapters.
One thing to keep in mind with the RZ is that you can get the wide angle you need, shoot with it with your DB, but switch to film
if you need to almost double your angle of view. An RZ film back as a "wide angle side kick" to your DB would not be expensive.

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Doug Peterson
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« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2012, 11:30:47 AM »
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One other point I'm curious about that I guess is more likely to vary between companies is orientation. Looking at shots of last time I was in venice a large portion of them were shot vertically. When I'm going to quite dense cities it's the way a much prefer to shoot and I was wondering if all the bodys/backs had the option of rotating the back and how hard it was to do. Is it litterally as easy as clipping off one film back and clipping on another?

All the Leaf and Phase backs do indeed simply remove-rotate-replace (2-4 seconds) to shoot vertically. Do be careful though as some alternative backs only mount horizontally which, when using a Waist Level Viewfinder is fairly inconvenient for vertical shooting.

There are also backs like the Aptus II 10R and Aptus II12R which have internally rotating sensor which is even nicer to use than a quick remove-rotate-replace. But these are out of your budget.
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« Reply #13 on: November 01, 2012, 04:07:25 PM »
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All the Leaf and Phase backs do indeed simply remove-rotate-replace (2-4 seconds) to shoot vertically. Do be careful though as some alternative backs only mount horizontally which, when using a Waist Level Viewfinder is fairly inconvenient for vertical shooting.

There are also backs like the Aptus II 10R and Aptus II12R which have internally rotating sensor which is even nicer to use than a quick remove-rotate-replace. But these are out of your budget.

Really not nice to have to take a back off to go from vertical to horizontal... in touristic spots like Venice this can easily lead to a scratched sensor glass.
The Mamiya RZ lets you rotate the back without taking off the back.
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« Reply #14 on: November 01, 2012, 04:31:06 PM »
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One other point I'm curious about that I guess is more likely to vary between companies is orientation. Looking at shots of last time I was in venice a large portion of them were shot vertically. When I'm going to quite dense cities it's the way a much prefer to shoot and I was wondering if all the bodys/backs had the option of rotating the back and how hard it was to do. Is it litterally as easy as clipping off one film back and clipping on another?

I've been shooting with a digital back for years and with a tech camera almost as long beginning with a P45+ then P65 and now a IQ160.

I'm a landscape photographer who's used this equipment in sunny, wet, dry, sandy, snowy, clear, dusty and windy conditions.  I've shot in the winter at the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Moab, Jackson Hole, Montana, Alaska and Florida Everglades. just to name a few.

I've never had a particular problem in changing the back from landscape to portrait and back so long as I'm careful.  The thought that changing the orientation in an environment other than a studio could "..easily lead to a scratched sensor.." shows a lack of knowledge.

I will readily admit that anytime you remove the back you run the risk of damage.  The back might slip out of your hands or you might become distracted when replacing it.  Shit happens. 

I'll have to take Doug's word on the timing as I've never felt the need to time myself.  All I know is that practice makes it easier and faster and it never has taken me longer than a couple seconds. 

Almost forgot to add that I always have my tech cam (Cambo WRS) sitting on top of a tripod when I do this.

So there you go - actual experience from a tech camera user.
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« Reply #15 on: November 02, 2012, 10:03:14 AM »
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If you end up using the Hasselblad V system and want something on the wide side, the 50mm CF or CFi is sharp (get the FLE version), well balanced and a good deal smaller than the 40mm. It's a great lens. On a 48mm x 36mm sensor it comes out around 55mm, which is a nice medium-wide focal length. If you end up wanting wider and get the 40mm (ditto -- get the FLE version), it's not as big and heavy as people say. I'm not sure what you're used to, but sometimes you just need to man up and carry a bigger setup on your shoulder. No big deal. Get a nice thick neoprene Optech strap.

I'd also suggest an HM2 chimney viewfinder. It has slightly less magnification than the standard pop-up waist-level viewfinder, but you can see clearly out to the corners with it. It's a pleasure to use. With the standard pop-up one, it's harder to focus clearly outside the center.

Don't worry about scratching the sensor when you briefly remove the back to change the orientation. That's ridiculous. I used my V system digitally (professionally) for a few years, and this never happened.

I think you should rule out the Mamiya RZ and Fuji 680. If you like walking around Venice and shooting handheld, they're too big. The Contax 645 and Hasselblad H system are good options as well as the V system. Repairs for the Contax will likely be harder as time goes on, since it's been discontinued for a while. The H system with a digital back (which is what I shoot now) might be out of your price range.
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« Reply #16 on: November 02, 2012, 01:02:03 PM »
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 Don't worry about scratching the sensor when you briefly remove the back to change the orientation. That's ridiculous. 
 

Exactly!
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« Reply #17 on: November 02, 2012, 03:11:32 PM »
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Hi Dheorl -

I've noted your bullet points from your responses through the course of the thread -

*Cheap as possible
*Un-tethered
*(large) WLF Viewfinder
*Fast shutter speeds
*Smaller size (rather than larger)

The one wild card is really quantifying "cheap as possible". Cheap or inexpensive are relative terms, so knowing what you mean by cheap is a factor.

But, assuming you mean as inexpensive as possible with the other criteria, your options would be:

- Hasselblad H or V or Contax 645 camera platform

Leaf Aptus 17
- Inexpensive, smaller sensor size, limited usable ISO range (slower shutter speeds)

Leaf Aptus 22
- Larger sensor size, limited usable ISO range (slower shutter speeds)

Phase One P21
- Smaller sensor size, expanded usable ISO range (faster shutter speeds)

Phase One P25
- Larger sensor size, moderate usable ISO range

Hasselblad CF22
- Larger sensor size, moderate usable ISO range

Imacon iXpress 132C
- Larger sensor size, limited usable ISO range, requires cabled portable hard drive

Sinar 54LV
- Larger sensor size, limited usable ISO range

The range of positive and negative attributes impact your desires in this manner -

Larger sensor size allows a bigger view in your viewfinder. This also potentially reduces costs for lenses, as you can buy longer - and typically less expensive - lenses for the same coverage that a smaller sensor would provide.

An expanded ISO range would positively impact your shutter speed.

As always, your solution will be the combination of the best compromises.


Below is a listing of our current pre-owned inventory (as of Friday afternoon 11-1-12):

http://forum.getdpi.com/forum/commercial-vendor-sales-services/41528-updated-ci-pre-owned-digital-back-inventory.html#post464325



Steve Hendrix
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