Ok, I know the SLR world pretty well, I've owned Pentax, Canon, and now Nikon film SLRs, from the '80s to the naughties.

But I know nothing about medium format cameras, so I need your advice!

My Requirements

  • it has be pretty cheap, I'm expecting to pay between $200 and $800? less would be better so I can spend on film / processing / lenses

  • I don't want a "toy" camera.

  • I'm trying Medium Format for the quality of the film, so I want a body that can take awesome interchangeable lenses.

  • I want the lenses to be relatively easy to find in 2nd hand camera shops, and I don't want them to be the most expensive lenses (i.e, Pentax lenses are more than enough, though better is always good!)

  • I need it to have a pretty reliable through the lens light meter.

  • it does NOT need any auto focus

  • it CAN be heavy and bulky

  • it MUST be a waist "look down" viewfinder.

  • I'd rather 6x6, but am flexible. I want to be able to put awesome low ISO film in there.. don't know if that limits me in the size?

  • I would like a pretty fast shutter... but I know in older cameras it's hard to go above 1/1000

One More Thing, Very Important

  • I do a lot of night time photography, so I need to be able to meter light at very long exposures, and of course set very long exposures.

5 Answers 5


The good news - all medium format gear is ridiculously cheap now that everyone switched to digital.

Cheapest hardware is probably 645, Mamiya was always cheapest and is lens compatible right upto their most modern digital models. Although most people used them as eyelevel SLRs you can get a waistlevel finder for $10

My favorite 6x7 was always Mamiya RB67 (or RZ if you like more electronics)

Then of course there is the famous Hassleblad - I've nearly been tempted to buy a Hassleblad just as a piece of art.

Whichever it's going to cost a fortune in film and you need a very high end film scanner

Check http://www.keh.com/ for used MF gear. (I have no link to the company other than being a long time very satisfied customer.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Never mind a digital Hasselblad... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 20, 2010 at 5:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ dude, great answer, thank you. Yeah, I'm thinking the RB67 will be it! it's crazy that it's so modular you can get a digital back for it! \$\endgroup\$
    – andy
    Commented Sep 20, 2010 at 23:39
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ Generally digital backs for MF are either small (not much bigger than FF 35mm), or so expensive you think they put the decimal point in the wrong place! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 21, 2010 at 2:58

I'm 10 years late here but... in case this helps anyone more generally:

Most medium-format cameras from Zenza Bronica would tick most (some even all) of the boxes on your list, and they also benefit from being generally cheaper (and having cheaper lenses) than the competition. Here's a non-exhaustive rundown:

  • Bronica S2(a): early, all-mechanical, nominally 6x6 though a rare 6x4.5 back also exists. Cloth focal plane shutter up to 1/1000. Both Zenzanon and Nikkor lenses available.
  • Bronica EC(-TL): basically, an S2 with an electronically controlled shutter. The EC-TL has TTL metering with a range of 4 to 19 EV at ASA 100 (source) and aperture-priority auto exposure.
  • Bronica ETR (several variants): 6x4.5, electronically controlled leaf (in-lens) shutters up to 1/500.
  • Bronica SQ (several variants): basically a 6x6 ETR.
  • Bronica GS-1: 6x7, electronically controlled leaf shutters up to 1/500.

Note that each of these cameras has its own lens system and lenses are not interchangeable save for the EC(-TL) which accepts S2 lenses.


The Mamiya RB67 will be a very good candidate for what you need.

The 6x7 is "almost" 6x6, you have the flexibility to crop.

Make sure to get a good back, preferably a pro-sd. I had 2 pro-s backs (ugly condition) and one of them has weird light leaks that I still have not been able to fix with seals. I just got a like new 120 pro-sd back and it should keep me happy.

Film cost is nothing compared to the enjoyment you get being out there, taking your time to compose and shoot. Digital takes that fun of "slowness" away somewhat.

Enjoy and report back what you chose and how you like it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 hey thanks dude. Yeah, I've been shooting quite a lot of 35mm recently on my "new" Nikon F3, and yeah, I'm just not even thinking about the money... it's just too much fun. I still haven't made the jump to the RB, but that will be my medium format camera I think... I'll definitely report back, thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – andy
    Commented Oct 24, 2010 at 22:36

Watch out for a Mamiya 645e to come up for sale with the rapidwinder. This is pretty much an all manual solution but you should be able to find one with an 80mm lens and rapidwinder for less than $500.00 USD. There are adapters to use some of the Arsenal Russian lenses on Mamiya bodies so you can wind up with a solid body and some built-like-tank lenses at a moderate cost.

You might be able to pick up a first generation Mamiya 645 autofocus body relatively inexpensively as well. I have one of these that I bought new in 2000 and have used it with lots of joy since that time. Advantages of the bigger camera (in addition to the autofocus) is the ability to make use of all of the different backs available (120/220, polaroid, 70mm, digital, etc...) whereas the 645e is pretty much a solid film camera.


If you want an first rate camera and are willing to only work with a normal lens try a rolleiflex TLR. They are built like tanks and the optics are first rate.


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