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Friday, April 06, 2007

Please Don't Make Fun of Me, Please

Okay, now for just a second, pretend you're me. (No, you don't have to be a left-handed freethinking introverted artistic Socialist. Bear with me here.) Let's say you had grown up shooting black-and-white film. Even though you like digital, accept digital, and acknowledge that most of your shooting in the future will be digital, you just have this annoying nagging sentimental attachment to film that you keep wanting to indulge—as an add-on, a secondary thing, a sideline. Which of the following would you get, if you had to limit your choices to only one of these three?

• A Zeiss Ikon rangefinder with a Voigtländer 35mm ƒ/2.5 PII lens. It's quiet, portable, discreet, a pleasure to use, you can use your favorite film with it, and you're very fond of the lens. On the other hand, 35mm doesn't scan all that well, and even excellently crafted prints from 35mm negs aren't seen as too terribly special out in the broad World.

• A cherrywood Wista 45DXII with a Rodenstock Apo-Sironar-S 150mm ƒ/5.6 lens. Another very pretty and distinctive camera, fun to use; a tiny little lens that's basically the best you've ever tried in any format; but of course you have to use it on a tripod and your favorite film doesn't come in this size. Then again, your scanner has a 4x5 film holder.

• A Pentax 67II with an AE finder and a 105mm ƒ/2.4 lens. Kinda splits the difference. Loud, pretty bulky, but a very nice viewfinder, and it has the diopter adjustment you need to use SLRs, and you can use your favorite film with it. Plus, the bigger neg means some nice opportunities for craft-oriented printmaking.

I'd love to hear any thoughtful opinions. The rest of you, don't make fun of me, please.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you go through the next week or two, imagine which camera you would want in your hands, the camera that's the most fun, the camera that you will pick up and use. That's the camera that will get the best images. Film, scanning, printing, all the rest is secondary to me. The camera you use is the camera that gets the shots, and the camera that's fun to use, that gets you in the right mindset for shooting, that's the camera that gets the BEST shots.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Apprentice said...

Crikey, the rangefinder, hands down. You'll get photos with that in situations where you couldn't get with anything else, it's not comparable with the other two really. The best fun you can have with your clothes on.

That Pentax is armbreakingly heavy, I can't see what benefit to be gained from having that over a nice 5x4 system, really.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Josh Hawkins said...

You've skipped a couple of important points here.

1. Is this going to be your only camera? If not, what other camera(s) are you going to have?

2. What are you looking to shot with this camera? What is the intent of the final product, your happiness? Nice gallery prints? What size?

3. What are you missing? What can't you do now that you this new camera is supposed to supply? You kind of mentioned it, but more would be useful.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Bryce Lee said...

For doing the photography the slow, methodical way, the cherrywood
camera enclosure. If nothing else
if the camera isn't your bag, you can always polish the device and use it
as a piece of stand-alone furniture.

Practicality it's the Pentax each and every time, the split in size between too small and too large, and with the knowledge you made the
best choice for your film based

Digit all; what's that? I have digits, five on each hand.

Five on each foot if you're getting
fussy. How many do you have?

5:59 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Hmmmm. Tough one. As much as I'd like to try 4x5, I don't have the patience.

The Pentax sounds interesting, but to me a 645 or a "box" MF camera would be easier for me to handhold, which I guess leads me to my choice, the Ikon (though my wallet would be more inclined toward a Bessa).

6:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


As a B&W shooter myself, I understand your plight and honestly all of the cameras sound lovely. However, your question starts with the gear rather than the subject matter. What do you want to take pictures of and which of these cameras will help you do that best?

6:03 PM  
Blogger WCrosby said...

It seems to me that a Mamiya 7 rangefinder is the best of both worlds. You get the film choice, medium format, quieter than everything except the large format, some of the best lenses around and small enough to handhold on occasion.

6:04 PM  
Blogger John Friar said...


I think that you may be asking the wrong question. And the question that needs to be asked only you can answer. I can pretend to be you (I'm a free-thinking, introverted, artistic, socialist but right-handed), but I don't think it would help too much.

I own various 35mm film cameras but always wanted to get more out of my scans. I then built a 4x5 large format camera (Bender) and put a nice 90mm Schneider lens on it. The problem is, it just doesn't suit the way I like to photograph. I must have exposed about 10 sheets of film in 10 years!

I came to the conclusion that the way I approach photography requires a small camera and I used a Contax G2 for years. In the meantime, I developed (pun intended) a liking for digital and, having used a DSLR for a while, I recently bought a Leica M8 and a couple of Zeiss lenses and I'm lovin' it!

From the photographs I've seen, I would guess that you're also a small camera type of guy. I would go with the Zeiss and have a set of lenses that can be used on both film and digital cameras.

I'm sure this has been of no help to you at all, but there you go!


6:12 PM  
Blogger arne said...


May I suggest a Rolleiflex 2.8F? No need for a slapping mirror, the shutter is very quiet, you get a big negative to work with, and you might even consider having slides made (dr5). In addition to that, this camera is very useful for candid street shots (you can pretend to fiddle around with it all day long).

That said, if I could only chose from the three suggestions I would go with the view camera. I dont want to get into Paul's "contemplation discussion", but I believe that a view camera makes you think harder about your shot, which is -in my case- a good thing. Besides that: Size Does Matter!


6:18 PM  
Blogger Awake said...

Different beasts for different purposes.
Need portability and speed? The 35mm
Need camera movements? The 4x5
Need resolution? The MF.

It's a matter of the right tool for the job... there really is no 'right' choice from the choices given. They are all excellent tools.

Personally, if I were given a free choice of the three, regardless of $$$ value, I would probably pick the MF system. Good selection of lenses, good portability, decent choice of films.

But without knowledge of the purpose, advice should not really be considered valid.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Robert Meier said...

You have chosen three absolutely delightful film and camera combinations. For me, at least, the anser is easy: all three! Use them on succeeding days, mix and match, enjoy life!

6:33 PM  
Blogger Gerry Morgan said...

The best reason that I can see for using film is to have a much larger negative, thereby allowing bigger enlargements. That rules out the Zeiss. I think it boils down to which of the other two you can be bothered to cart around with you. The Pentax would be more convenient than the Wista. But the Wista has all those cool camera movements -- I hope they have a left-handed version of those ;) -- and you already have the scanner for the 4x5 negs. If you *really* want to use film, my vote is for the Wista.

6:33 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"That Pentax is armbreakingly heavy"

It's not THAT heavy. It weighs about 80 oz. with that finder and lens. A Canon 1Ds with a 17-55mm f/2.8 is about 70 oz.


6:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To answer your question with a question, how much similar equipment do you already own? If I already owned a couple of 35mm rangefinders with quality wides, I would probably choose the Pentax for a change of pace.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Ira Crummey said...

Henri Cartier-Bresson made great images on 35mm film so lets not get to pixel-peeping on this. I would love the Pentax but the portability of the Zeiss Ikon wins for me.

6:37 PM  
Blogger Hank said...

I'd propose some alternate camera's:

Mamiya 6 or 7, Plaubel Makina 670 or a Rollei TLR, any would give spectacular quality with film and make great substitutes for a 35mm RF and won't have the mirror slap and bulk of the big Pentax. Or if funds allow a Littman 45s, 4x5 + rangefinder in a package smaller then the Pentax.

Sorry for not picking between your 3 but they don't share much in common and I feel my lot do a better job of spliting the difference between the Wista and Zeiss.

6:37 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Of course everybody works differently, but the Pentax sounds like the best bet to me.

I'd be worried that while 4x5 is fun, it's too much of a niche thing that can only be used under fairly limited circumstances. Add in the fact that your favorite film isn't available, and it seems like the sort of thing that makes you feel better just knowing it's there--that you could use it if you wanted to--but that doesn't actually get much action. Going out to shoot 4x5 takes planning.

As you say, 35mm handles great but doesn't scan so well, and if you're not ready to commit to wet printing again, this doesn't seem like the best choice in terms of getting what you want out of it.

The Pentax seems like a happy medium. Yes, it's big, but not too big (to me) to stick in my take-everywhere camera bag and not have a problem. If you end up with something you really like, you have plenty of flexibility for quality results with either scanning or wet printing. Also, lenses are relatively cheap, and you can get your favorite film, which is cheaper, smaller, handles easier, and can make 8 exposures instead of one before having to change it.

But really, I think it boils down to what works for your goals and how you shoot. What may be perfect (or a good compromise) for us may be horrible for you. All the usual right-tool-for-the-job stuff comes into play: if you want to shoot stealthy candids in low-light, stick with the rangefinder, and all the stuff you probably know better than I do.

6:39 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"You've skipped a couple of important points here.

1. Is this going to be your only camera? If not, what other camera(s) are you going to have?"

My DSLR. Of course I have The Motley...all the cameras that have accumulated without being resold. You know how it is.

2. What are you looking to shot with this camera? What is the intent of the final product, your happiness? Nice gallery prints? What size?

I think the camera would determine what I'd shoot. Not too sure what I could do with a view camera these days--haven't tried it in a long time. Making really nice prints is really the main impetus.

3. What are you missing? What can't you do now that you this new camera is supposed to supply? You kind of mentioned it, but more would be useful.

I suppose, just exercising the knowledge that I accumulated between 1980 and 2000. I really know film photography well, better than I know digital, and still imagine that I feel more at home with it...but we'll see about that.


6:39 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

tI think you could also split the difference by finding a 4x5 converted Polaroid 110b. I think I've seen a couple of people who do the conversion and are willing to put a the Sironar on it as well (with all necessary adjustments to cam and rangefinder).

6:48 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Henri Cartier-Bresson made great images on 35mm film so lets not get to pixel-peeping on this.

Yeah, but HCB printed everything in a darkroom because he had to. If Mike is going to scan, because that's what works for him, it changes the discussion.

6:49 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The Pentax comes closest to a "logical" choice, but let's face it: this is an impossible decision! For me it would be the ZI because I am in an obsessive rangefinder/nostalgia phase right now (Canon P, M4 and Minolta Hi-Matic E just like the one I bought when I was 16) but in the back of my mind, I know I'd like to go to MF someday and I don't mind tripods and and and...

6:52 PM  
Blogger Stan B. said...

Basically it comes down to the maximum size of prints you'll be happy with, that'll decide the small versus larger format. If you definitely want to go with large, high quality prints, then the tripod becomes the major issue.

And for what it's worth, I read (from a rather respected photographer, yes, whose name I forget) that 6X7 can actually achieve sharper results than 4X5 due to the latter's thicker film base and the diffraction that can cause- or some such...

PS- Some people think I'm sick too.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

XPan-II or the Fuji TX-2 of course:

7:01 PM  
Blogger CH said...

I think you need a Mamiya 6. Medium format, great lenses, quiet, almost as small as an M8. Best of all worlds, IMHO.

7:46 PM  
Blogger Olaf Ulrich said...

Seems you want to take a look at a few medium-format range-finder cameras, like for example the Mamiya 7 II, the Fuji GX-690 III, or the Fuji GSW-690 III. The Mamiya has changeable lenses, however with poor minimum focusing distances. The two Fujis have built-in lenses---90 mm in the GX; 65 mm in the GSW.

Of the three cameras originally mentioned, I think I'd go with the 35-mm range-finder.

-- Olaf

7:48 PM  
Blogger Olaf Ulrich said...

... and oh, by the way---if you don't like the results from scanned 35-mm B/W film then maybe you should try the Minolta DiMAGE Scan Elite 5400. The original version, not the Elite 5400 II. In my opinion that's the best machine to scan traditional (silver-based) 35-mm black-and-white film ... well, apart from industrial devices like e. g. drum scanners. And for colour film it's pretty good too (albeit slow).

-- Olaf

7:58 PM  
Blogger Josh Hawkins said...

"Making really nice prints is really the main impetus."

I would think you'd want to go medium format then. If you want nice prints, make really nice prints.

At this point I'm with WCrosby I think. Mamiya 7, or similar. Maybe one of the Fuji 6x8 or 6x9 rangefinders.

It mixes some of style that you enjoyed with the M6 with the larger neg size. I'd bet you'd only need one lens, so the Fujis become an option (and I've always heard good things about them), but if you think you'll need multiple those are out.

My concern with the the Pentax is the weight and size. I can't see you carrying that around much. I can't see me carrying that around much either (carrying around a D2h a few hours a day has taught me that lesson to well), and if you don't have the camera with you, how are you supposed to take pictures with it?

Whatever you decide, make sure that you get a decent price so that if you change your mind a few months later you're not out that much. Also ask, "how am I going to scan these?" I'm assuming you don't have a darkroom or room for one currently.

I find it interesting that you've never gotten comfortable with digital. When I first made the switch to digital I loved it, I've never looked back in many ways. I've also never gotten totally comfortable with, and I've got a well worn and refined workflow. Only in the last year have I gotten more happy with my digital images.

The change made at that time was switching my main camera to a 5D from my D2h. I was never comfortable with the look of the 24mm on the Nikon. On a 35mm film camera though I love, absolutely love, the equivalent 35mm lens. Maybe it was more mental block then anything else, but a 24mm has look it's supposed to have, and so does a 35mm, but on digitals they never had that look. The whole crop factor was just killing me. (Maybe that's a weakness in how I think and work, but I have to work with it.) Making the change back to the format size I was comfortable with has made my finished imagery much closer to what I expect when I pre-visualize an image.

The other thing I did when I switched bodies was to move from using zooms mostly back to mostly primes. When I was shooting film I was shooting all manual focus, manual exposure bodies with primes. I've basically worked on recreating that in the digital age, and have been happier since I've gone down that path.

I realize the whole world loves zooms, but there is something to be said about being limited, technically, in how you can create your work and then making that work. With a zoom you might decide the best framing is at 28mm, set the zoom and go. With a prime you might decide 28mm is still best, but all you got is your 35mm, now you have to find a way to make that work. That extra obstacle for me is what pushes me make that composition go a little bit further. I'd like to be wider/tighter but this is what I got, how can I find some other way of making this work?

I wonder if digital has opened to many options up for some photographers. That ability to do anything has resulted in photographers accomplishing less? I know this isn't what is happening looking at current photography, but I do think some creative types work better with all the options available and others work better with limits and figuring out how to make those limits work for them.

Well there may be some technical issues between film and digital that are causing your nagging attachment to film, I also wonder if there are some mental blocks as to how you work? Just a thought.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Max said...

I'd go for the Wista. I think digital replacements for the Zeiss are plenty in terms of results, and you eliminate the scan quality problem (it would be a delightful 35 to use, that's for sure). For the Pentax to give all it has in terms of quality (the main reason for the big neg, I guess), especially if you care about DOF-challenging shots, you end up needing a tripod most of the time. I feel tempted to press it every time and shoot handheld, but the good picture is the one were exposure time is not a constraint, almost always (the Wista also forces you to accept/apply this "rule"). A wideangle on the pentax could make a difference. And the movements in the Wista is something I'd love to have. Not having your preferred film is a big minus, but being able to scan your own film helps.
I'd say, being able to get the look you want from other films through good scanning and editing would make or break the deal, but if that can be done, I'd stay with the Wista.
It's a question of focus, I think. The Pentax sounds as the do-it-all tool, but, as you said, the camera is a big part in defining your approach, the Zeiss or the Wista are much more specialized players. Does that bother you? It does bother me, its about having a specialized camera that sees a few golden oportunities to be used (in the Wista case), or a far less restrictive one that might end up turning out a lot of mediocre stuff.
I'm confused now.
But I'd go with the Wista anyway.

8:32 PM  
Blogger mr.david said...

A great non-bs review of the Zeiss Ikon. :-)

8:33 PM  
Blogger Michael P said...

I would strongly suggest the Pentax as the better choice. As you say, 35mm does not scan well, and 4x5, esp. Cherrywood, does. I find that I either shoot w/my dslr, or my 6x7 most of the time. With the Pentax I have my choice of good scans or great wet prints. Good luck with your choice.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Max said...

Just a little addendum, If film is going through a scanner, the difference in the effort required to make an image look good between 35mm and the two other formats is HUGE!
Quality, grain,focus, dirt, If you have the means to scan the big ones, when you get your file scanned and into Photoshop you feel like superman from the start.
This might sound obvious but it is a big thing to take into account. When aiming for print quality working with these is a treat compared to 35mm scans.

8:50 PM  
Blogger Luis R. said...

Your posted Blog has touched a chord on me: It is not difficult for me to become you in this very important matter. I am one of those amateur photographers that are still holding to their film cameras and enjoying shooting B&W film with my Nikon F3 and Minolta SRT 201 with 28 mm and 35 mm lenses. I have been looking also to buy a rangefinder (a Voigtlander for exmaple) with a 35 mm lens. I would invest on a camera that allows you to take the shoots without being noticed. Scanners are getting better, as well as the software to handle scanned film. Hey, you have the right to have fun in life. Go and buy the rangefinder and enjoy shooting film while it lasts !!! Life is too short to be second guessing or procrastinating on such important decisions.

9:07 PM  
Blogger David A. Goldfarb said...

I think of the main difference between these three as rangefinder vs. view camera vs. SLR more than I do 35mm vs. 4x5" vs. 6x7, so I don't really think that the Pentax splits the difference between the other two.

If your other camera will be a DSLR, than you've already got an SLR. I suspect the motley includes something like a 35mm rangefinder. The Wista will do things the others really can't do.

What would really split the difference? A Linhof Technika 23 medium format rangefinder camera with view camera movements, of course. I've been shooting with a 4x5" Tech V for a few years, but I picked up a 2x3" model about a year ago, and sent it off today to Marflex to have three lenses cammed for it. Compared to my larger cameras, the Tech V 23 feels so light and nimble, and still it has all the Tech moves if I need them.

9:23 PM  
Blogger tim atherton said...

"That Pentax is armbreakingly heavy"

It's not THAT heavy. It weighs about 80 oz. with that finder and lens. A Canon 1Ds with a 17-55mm f/2.8 is about 70 oz.

Frak, that pentax is only a few ounces lighter than my 8x10...

forget the others, get the Wista

9:30 PM  
Blogger tim atherton said...

plus, (for now anyway) you can still get Tri-X in 4x5

9:31 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This is supposed to be a fun camera for exercising your old photo chops, right? Not sure a 4x5 is right -- though that cherry wood camera is a thing of beauty. My 4x5 has been sitting in the equipment locker for 5 or 6 years now, with a couple of boxes of film in the fridge maybe that far out of date. Not a fun camera for me.

The 6x7 just seems too much like a compromise. "Well, it's a larger negative, which is good, and it's more portable than a view camera, which is good, so it must be the best choice." This ignores the basic fact that a compromise is that course of action which makes no one happy. I loved my MF cameras, but they sat in the locker long enough that I finally gave them to our art department.

(That said, I kept the two Fuji 6x9 rangefinders. Lousy cameras, but *great* lenses. The 90mm is sort of fast enough at f/3.5 -- and did I mention it's a sweet, sweet lens? I might have to drag that thing out and make some pictures. On Tri-X. If I can remember how to load film.)

That leaves the 35mm kit. The little camera with the slightly wide lens has always suited my style of shooting more than anything else. Easy to carry, easy to use, discreet, quiet -- and small enough that I almost always have it with me. Okay, at work I fake it with an EOS 1-D Mark II and a 28mm f/1.8 lens -- not small, and not quiet, but way less obvious than the monster zoom lens -- and the small, fast, sharp lens makes me really think about camera position and composition. Oh, and nailing the focus. My pocket camera is a Canon G-7, which renders pretty nice b+w files, and it gets used mostly at the default 35mm equivalent. A little fussy about exposure, but it keeps me on my toes.

So if it were my decision, I'd go for the rangefinder 35. (I realize that it doesn't scan as well -- though I would probably solve that by shooting one of the C-41 process b+w films, which can scan very nicely in my experience.)

Good luck with this one.

9:34 PM  
Blogger akikana said...

The Zeiss Ikon - keep it simple with intimate results.

9:42 PM  
Blogger Carlos Loret de Mola said...

Hi Mike
I promise I'm not making fun of you.

"Even though you like digital, accept digital, and acknowledge that most of your shooting in the future will be digital, you just have this annoying nagging sentimental attachment to film that you keep wanting to indulge—as an add-on, a secondary thing, a sideline."

This kind of reasoning is bull. There are better reasons than sentimentality for using film. No need to be an apologist. Please rethink the above and start over.

"...and even excellently crafted prints from 35mm negs aren't seen as too terribly special out in the broad World."

If you really believe this then one could probably make a similar point about inkjet prints from a digital camera. The new homogeneous standard.

Yesterday you posted about not shooting as much nowadays with your digital gear than you used to with film. I found that very weird. Even disturbing. Yeah I know keeping track of all those digital files can be a drag, but really It's no worse than dealing with film, contact sheets and proofs. Just different. Once you get it going it can actually be easier. These days all my "contact sheets" are digital flatbed scans.

Maybe, like some posters have mentioned, you are getting older. Or maybe part of you resents digital. You obviously miss Tri-X but there are all those excuses, I mean good reasons, for doing digital these days instead. Maybe you're bored with digital. Maybe that's it: digital can be really boring. All those hours in front of that computer screen cannot take the place of seeing your image slowly appear on your print floating in the developer tray.

You have given all the camera buffs out there a generous opportunity to banter about which film camera you should get. You'll get loads of comments for sure. Here are my 2 cents: since you're shooting mostly with a DSLR, then forget the 35mm rangefinder. Not too terribly special, like you said. The Pentax 6x7 would be interesting and almost practical, if you're that way. But life is too short for softcore, so I would go for the 4x5, if you can handle the labor it requires (definitely worth it, of course). Read Shephen Shore and you'll go 8X10. But if this is really all about Tri-X, then the 6x7 is it, but do consider the Mamiya 7.

My point is one does not need to apologize for using film these days because film offers an experience and a final result that differentiates itself from what one gets with digital photography. Many ignore the fact that some of the differences can be intangible. The fact that you are not shooting as much these days speaks volumes. You're probably off-balance. You need to find a happy medium, as Gil Scott Heron once told us. Go listen to "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" and it will all come back to you.

Digital does not cancel out film. Use both and all will be good.


(Sorry for such a long post. I'll go back to lurking now.)

10:06 PM  
Blogger aizan said...

i have a bag with names of cameras written on slips of paper. it's a nice little gauge to measure what i'd really like. this is what came up for you.

gandolfi variant 5x7 lv3

that's out of a bag containing an a la carte leica mp, linhof technikardan 45s, arca swiss 4x5 f-metric, mamiya rz67 pro ii, mamiya 7ii, my dream dslr and/or dmd (if they're ever made), fuji gx617, and ebony rw810.

try it with your three ideas, see which you'd most like to get as a present. =)

10:39 PM  
Blogger Dibutil said...

Wow! How many comments in just one hour of my RSS feed reader cycle..

I would have posted some tech thoughts too if I would be among the first five. My collection of cameras is big and growing and they don't rust, lucky me, so I have something to say...

But reading through the whole thread I realized that initial statement is not about the hardware or ways around it. It is about love and passion. It so happens that Mike loves his cameras and wonders if anyone shares his attraction to specific subjects.

Yes, I do digital. Yes I would like to have ZM35 but for my 35mm the QL19 works just as fine. Yes, Pentax is great but I admire the square and glass of Hassel. Yes, Wista is in my wish list but I am not morally ready to go for it yet.
I love my cameras. I love changing formats and media. I love making pictures. This allows me to express and materialize my love and passion to my subjects and I am lucky being able to do that.

There is nothing funny here, it's funny for those who envy us!

10:48 PM  
Blogger Dave Sailer said...

Arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf, arf.

Oh, sorry. I just got too excited there for a moment.

Of the three options given, it seems that there is only one reasonable choice. And that is the view camera, for these reasons:

1 - It will allow you to wallow, because " just have this annoying nagging sentimental attachment to film that you keep wanting to indulge". And a large format will give you that.

2 - It's gonky. A wooden box with a lens on one end and a piece of glass on the other. To use it you put a rag over your head and bend over. After spending half an hour setting up. And then you discover that you're in the wrong place, or there at the wrong time, and have to start over, or come back next week, so you sit down and have a smoke, or a sandwich, or a cup of coffee from your thermos bottle, and look at the sky and think about your third grade teacher -- it's life itself.

3 - Even if film goes away, sheet film will likely be the last of it to go. Some idiot somewhere will set up a small factory in his garage and make it, and sell it in secret to his friends. And of course you will be one of those, so you will still be able to get film. Then again, even if he croaks unexpectedly and you have no more film from anyone, anywhere, you can still mix up emulsion and paint it onto glass plates, or sheets of paper, or something, and keep on shooting.

4 - Your camera is a box with a lens on one end and a place for some light-sensitive material on the other. Say something happens, like the mailman running over it with his government-issue van. Poop, you will say. But you will be able to go and make yourself another, as a last resort, something you cannot do when Zeiss and Pentax stop making and repairing their cameras, and eventually they will.

5 - Because it is " add-on, a secondary thing, a sideline". Which describes view cameras, unless you are John Sexton or Ansel Adams or David Muench, or someone else who is completely hopeless, and you are not, so it will be a pleasant diversion. You will feel in the mood one day, and heft the beast, lift it up onto your shoulder and stagger out to the car. You will spend half the day loading the car just to go out for one shot, or maybe two, and it will be a grand adventure and you will love it and feel ever so terrific when once again you return home, and that will be it for a while, because no one, no one at all, can stand to have too many of those moments in his life.

And that is why.

Because there is a surfeit of joy in doing completely useless things at will, whenever the mood strikes. And that is just too grand to miss.

Dave Sailer

11:00 PM  
Blogger Geoff Smith said...

Looking at a lot of your pictures posted on the blog over the months, I'd say you could probably do a fair amount of damage with that Wista. One of the things I love about having a view camera and a DSLR is using them together. I have the same quick release plate on both bodies so I can use them serially.

Here's what I mean -- I set up the tripod and put the DSLR on it. I know from experience what posimion I need to set the zoom at to emulate the focal lengths I have in 4x5 and I know, largely through trial and error, the exposure conversion factor. Turns out My DSLR is about ~1/3-1/2 of a stop more sensitive than rated so if I want to expose, say, a Fuji Pro 160S 4x5 Quickload at ISO 100, I can meter the shot and take a range of exposures with the DSLR at ISO 100, using mirror lockup and whatever else if needed, and see from the LCD on the back about what the shot will look like. Then, I can mount the 4x5 in the DSLR's place and set the lens for the exposure I liked best (opening up 1/3 of a stop to account for the difference between the DSLR's sensitivity and the film at the speed I'm rating it at).

Then I can take a deep breath and make the exposure, or as happens just as often, decide it's not quite worth burning a piece of film on. I still have a pretty pristine low-ISO RAW file on the memory card of the scene if I decide that I want to work with it later (composed within 4x5/8x10 crop marks in the viewfinder courtesy of a replacement focusing screen).

This works pretty well for me, no stinky Polaroid chemicals and at this point I'm getting better exposures than I was when I was using a dedicated light meter in incident mode (the DSLR also has a tight spot meter if I decide I want to get all zone-y with it).

But, I'm not making many traditional prints these days, mostly scanning and printing digitally. My (cheap) scanner will produce a file with enough usable detail for a 16x20 from a 4x5 negative. The RAW files from the DSLR print nicely at up to about 13x19. Since I can't print any bigger than 13x19, and I usually compose for the 4x5 aspect ratio anyway, so it's kind of a wash. But I always know I can go "big" with the 4x5 negs. if I want to.

11:06 PM  
Blogger h said...

Mike, you don't need a new camera, you need an enlarger.

"Making really nice prints is really the main impetus" and you "dislike dealing with large volumes of files on the computer."

Why mix chemicals, process and spent hours scanning just to get to the same point that digital gets you to with a quick file copy? You're still left having to do all the same work on the computer afterwards, and still end up with the same inkjet prints.

Rescue anything from The Motley pile, slap in some Tri-X, black out the windows in the kitchen and remind yourself what a silver print can look like.


12:25 AM  
Blogger Stan B. said...

"...and even excellently crafted prints from 35mm negs aren't seen as too terribly special out in the broad world."

After seeing Henry Wessel's B&W prints recently, the broad world looked very special indeed- at least in his prints!

12:41 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Interesting, my list would be similar, but I would switch the Pentax for a Mamiya 7, and think about a different view camera.

I love rangefinders. I learned how to make a photograph with my Dad's Nikon S. That Mamiya 7 has called out to me for a long time, but the price is too much for me. If money was no object, it would be my second most used camera. I think, though, based on your desire to "indulge," you can go in a different direction.

Since you have a digital SLR, you can use it to come somewhat closer to the rangefinder experience than you can with the other cameras. I know, it is bigger, feels way different, and makes a ton of noise compared to a rangefinder, but you can use it to do much of what you can do with a rangefinder. So, skip the rangefinder.

The Pentax is an excellent camera that gives you a big piece of film, but it is quite similar to your DSLR in many respects. It is also probably just a big version of something you already own. If you feel the need, pull out your old Spotmatic or K-mount Pentax. (You do have one, don't you?)

On the other hand, a 4x5 is a completely different animal. Yes, it is heavier. Yes, it is slower. But if you are interested in making photographs, its the way to go (unless you just have to be a street photographer). The view camera allows so much in the way of crafting an image. Working with a view camera intensified the entire photographic experience for me. The view camera photographer feels like a photograph maker, as opposed to a "taker."

I know, your version of Tri-X is not available, but the 320 version is, and there are still plenty of other nice films out there too. If you want to "indulge," a view camera is the ultimate indulgence.

However, I would suggest an alternative to the Wista. I know the Wista is a pretty camera, but my recommendation is a Walker Titan SF. Its not made of cherry, but it is pretty cool looking.

The camera has all the movements to take advantage of that hunk of Rodenstock glass, and if you ever want to add to that one lens (I know, its not cool), the Titan allows you to add a longer lens to your kit, and can use a bag bellows if you want to go wide. Its a lot of camera for the money (about the same as a Wista). You probably already have a tripod that will work fine with it.

Plus, if it gets messed up, you can wash it in the sink. And Mike Walker is a cool guy. Other than industry insiders, how many of us get the chance to talk to the guy who designed and builds our cameras? Mike even made his own tooling for the parts!

Of course, everything I said is wrong - or right. Its right for me. How about for you?

1:13 AM  
Blogger andres racz said...

It's very simple:

1) I have what i have:

Zeiss Super Ikonta IV,Plaubel Veriwide 100,Konica Hexar AF.

That is what I use on any given day,depending on mood,subject matter,instinct.I use them all.I love film.

2)I am looking for a P&S digital camera to carry in my pocket everyday,like I did with my long gone Olympus XA,Ricoh GR1,Rollei 35 .A camera for all moments.

No nostalgia.Just being practical with my equipment.I make images with it.

1:15 AM  
Blogger dst said...

I don't know any of the options you mentioned so I'm in no position to give recommendations.

But follow your feelings, not just reason. All professionalism aside, I believe you don't mind just enjoying photography, right? So if you feel like you'd like that "horribly outdated" equipment... so what, go and buy it.

I'm 28 and happen to shoot a lot more with digital than I have with manual focus film-cameras but I absolutelly believe that the world needs people who keep using the old crafts so they won't be forgotten.
Be it large format cameras, cyanotype or other "printing" techniques. Be it businesscards with hand-set types and printed on handmade paper.

The megapixel race aside, we need to remember the old ways.


1:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few years back you gave an enthusiastic review to the Bronica RF645, which is one of the reasons I bought one (with all three of its lenses). It's now my main camera and produces superb results. Medium format quality with (almost) 35mm ease of use -- and a far better choice than the Pentax, IMO.

1:34 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

Hmmmmm! What a dilemma.

When I was a keen cyclist I used to say that you can't have too many bikes. At a minimum I'd need a bike for every day of the week and then something a little bit special for when the mood took me.

With photography I kind of have that same approach. My main work horses are 2 DSLRs, they're what earn me my bread and butter. Like you although I work digitally I have a lot of film years under the belt and I don't want to loose them. So I have kept my old 35mm system and still use it. The 645 gets a trot out every now and then. Then I went a bit retro and bought the Voightlander R2 with 35mm Skopar and 75mm. I have a couple of pinhole cameras for when the alternative processes bug bites hard. Oh I forgot to mention all the little 35mm compacts that were bought over the years in the quest for the perfect pocket camera. A point and shoot digital that goes everywhere.

Man it all looks so bewildering, except that its not. On the days which aren't assignments its any camera that takes my fancy. I make sure I have a good supply of XP2, NPH, and Velvia in all the required formats in the freezer .

So my advice, buy em all. You can't have too many cameras. (Hopefully my wife won't see this)

1:36 AM  
Blogger Objective said...

I was told there is a movie where you first see Ansel Adams getting ready to go make some photo's. An endless stream of boxes go into the boot of his huge car. All sorts of camera's, spare camera's, lenses, tripods. Until the car is completely filled up. He is ready ! Then the scene changes to the house of Edward Weston. He also is getting ready to make some photo's. He puts his 8x10 with one lens mounted on tripod over his shoulder. Pick's up a bag with some cassettes and walkes out the door. Ready.
There darkrooms where just as different.

In some way the modern digital life feels more like the A.A. story. To much possibilities.
I sometimes long for the simple E.W. life. One large camera with one lens and a darkroom that has a lightbulb for printing. Simple stuff to make wonderfull prints.
So the 4x5 would be my camera. Or even better: the new Ebony Wholeplate.

Just dreaming offcourse. I have used different big camera's and different darkrooms. In real life I won't go back. Not yet ;-)

3:43 AM  
Blogger Oliver Oberdorf said...

I'd skip the Pentax since you have a 4x5 on the list. The Pentax is kind of handholdable, but not really.

If 35mm isn't quite enough, maybe one of the Fuji RFs? the 645s look like toys, but if you can get past that make a great shooter for any RF fan. Or if you really want to go big, one of their 6x9s.

Also, I like the Voigt' 35C over the pancakes - it's smaller but same image quality.

Any of them sound like fun, though. I miss my rangefinder.

3:49 AM  
Blogger stephen best said...

I skipped over the gazillion previous replies so maybe this has been covered already. If you go for the Wista, consider getting a 135mm instead as this will fold up inside the camera ... at least my APO Symmar does. However, for my style of shooting, if I had to pick only one lens it would be 180mm.

About four months ago I bought a roll of Neopan for my Contax G rangefinder. I've gotten through 2 frames so far.

4:34 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I would go for the Pentax. I worked with it and it is a really great Camera - more universal than the "Big Ones" and almost as vesatile as a 35mm SLR. Although it is a little bit heavy it has excellent Lenses and it has all the advantages of an SLR.

4:54 AM  
Blogger Hugh Alison said...

I would strongly suggest the Pentax - not sure why you need the mark II version however. I have the original mirror up version, and it makes a nice single lens outfit with either the 105 or the 165mm lens - I have happily taken holidays with just the Penax and one lens (Thailand, Paris), and not regretted it.

The Pentax will give you great bokeh for pictures of people with limited depth of field (which is the single biggest problem with reduced frame digital cameras). It scans well enough with a good flatbed to print to 13x19 inches.

A 5x4 will mainly be good for landscape with large depth of field - you can already do that with the digital unless you are wanting to do very large prints.

5:03 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

One problem I always have when considering new cameras is finding a balance between joy of use and quality of results. When I head out to take pictures I instictively reach for my Nikon FM even though I have other cameras that have consistently given me more "keepers" (even my Canonet). But I like the FM's simplicity and viewfinder. If I were to shot digital I'm sure the same would apply: more keepers but less fun. I am always envious to hear of photographers who have found both joy and quality in the same camera.

5:41 AM  
Blogger Player said...

Mike, I think you should just get a Nikon F2 and call it a day. For tripod work, slap on a waist-level or meterless prism and break-out the hand-held meter. You could add a grid screen, and use a cable release. Mimicking the 4x5, you could attach the fantastic Nikon 28/3.5 shift lens. Also, it will do just about everything you would expect to do with a 67II. If you can live with 35mm film.

For handheld work, no need to worry about batteries unless you're using a metering finder, but it still takes pictures even if the meter dies. Certainly not a RF, and the mirror kerplunks, but unless you're shooting operas or court dramas it shouldn't be a problem. I prefer the meterless prism for this application as well.

One camera to almost take the place of three. ;)

6:13 AM  
Blogger Dr Hiding Pup said...

I'd go for the Zeiss Ikon myself. Then again, I'm waiting for the full-frame digital version they said they were going to make... Not much help today, am I?

6:25 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wow Mike, I kind of have these very same thoughts often. During my 20 years making my living as a photographer my 35mm system grew up to and including MF and LF. I used what the job required.

But to make a long story short, I'd take the Zeiss.

When I left the business, over the next few years I sold it all off except for 35mm. My darkroom was left behind in a move 3 years ago and MF or LF scanners just werent't going to happen. A 35mm scanner did happen,a 5400 Minolta and through you I discovered BO (black only) printing.

I love the look of scanned 35mm film printed with BO process. I also now print with QTR for a different look. But the look works for me and the best thing is I print. You gotta print.

As for cameras, for 3 years I didn't touch a Nikon, only Leica RF. I'd been a Leica shooter/owner since '79 and they were how I made my living.

Now? I HAD to go and try digital capture didn't I. A D70S (I had Nikon glass) grew into a D2HS (so much better than people think).

Now, I'm sucked into this. The M sits lonely.

Again thanks to you and Carl Weese I got sucked into the K10D, 43,50 and 77 lenses. I like it, small, good quality. Hell, very very good quality. Very "M" like in size and weight and easier to carry around then a D2 Nikon. I'm a prime lens guy so read that to say D2 and several lens.

An M8? Lets not talk about it now.

So an Ikon for me, or my M6 and a 35 lens could do me fine.

I very strongly admire one lens shooters. I wish I could and I try to get close.

Check out Antonin Kratochivil (sp) is a one lens guy. 28 and nothing but 28. You may not like his style but few people get that much out of one lens.

Thanks for posting this question Mike. I need to consider it again.

6:54 AM  
Blogger matt~ said...

I can't think of a better time than now to start shooting B&W film, either again or for the first time. The wealth of B&W information on the internet dwarfs what I learned 15 years ago in a highschool darkroom. So many more experts are available to you now than ever before.

For the experienced B&W shooter, although scanners seemed to have hit a high point, printers are improving rapidly. There's a lot of fun left to be had with B&W in a digital, and I suspect it will be many years before my digital output outstris my B&W output.

7:16 AM  
Blogger tsj said...

I’m a little late joining this, but since I have two of the cameras allowed, I’ll add my $0.02. I use the Pentax 67 most of the time. A big piece of film with the versatility of a 35mm. As Mike pointed out it is about the same weight as a Canon, and about the same dimensions. Remove the prism finder and replace it with the waist-level and you lose about 16 oz (I’m guessing, but it is a big hunk of glass). Although 35mm is easier to carry around and great for snapshots, I always find myself wishing a had taken a good shot with the Pentax, The 4x5, well it’s really hard to walk around with that.

7:53 AM  
Blogger witek said...

DSLR you use, Zeiss Ikon RF, Pentax 67 are three different words, but 4x5 field cammera is the only one, that will force you to stop for a moment, and look at the world with different eyes.

You're "capturing a moment (tm)" photographer (I suppose), so there is a straight way to the "straight photography" with your perception and 4x5 (or 5x7 -- contact prints!) field camera.
This recommendation is given, assuming you will still walk around with your (D)SLR for daily use.

(besides the scans from 4x5 will be breathtaking)

best regards,

8:21 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"After seeing Henry Wessel's B&W prints recently, the broad world looked very special indeed- at least in his prints!"

Henry Wessel. Henry Wessel is part of my problem. I want to BE Henry Wessel. (g)


8:34 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Get the best of both worlds. What about the Mamiya 7 II?

8:47 AM  
Blogger DAM said...

I can only speak for myself. In the last 35 years, I have used Leica, Nikon, Canon, Pentax 6X7, Mamiya 2 1/4, Plaubel 67, Tachihara, Calumet and others in most formats. I found I carried the Pentax 6X7 for 18 years--with four lenses, filters, etc. consistently over the others. I traveled all over the U.S. with that kit without too much trouble. For me, the Pentax 6X7 was a superb picture-taking machine. If I had to pick one lens for it, it would be the 90mm F/2.8. It gave me the portability that I wanted as well as a negative that gave me the fine tonal gradations that I never completely found in 35mm. I'm not sure why but I never had an issue using it handheld. Maybe I was just more steady than most in my younger days. I was discouraged from consistently using the 4X5 due to its inconvenience for the type of photography I mostly do.

Digital seems to excel for color but I still will choose medium format film for black and white, whether printed traditionally or scanned digitally.

But Mike, only you can choose...

8:48 AM  
Blogger witek said...

>to "straight photography"

I have to quantify that.
I didn't incited to back to the roots (Group f/64). I was thinking of modern "straight photography",

see George Tice, Alain Balmayer..

8:50 AM  
Blogger witek said...

With Pentax 67 camera shake is so big, than even at 1/250 one cane see double image under the loupe (even MLU doesn't help much).
I do not know if the things changed with mkII though.

9:11 AM  
Blogger Brambor said...

I would go for the Ikon. It would be a camera that would make me shoot the most.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Hi Mike,

I'm really in kind of the same boat as you, with one exception. I don't know anything about traditional B&W processes, and want to learn.

I kind of had a similar list of possibilities. It looked something like this:

1) Go the Rangefinder route...except I'd be getting a Bessa, or an old M3 or such. As lovely as the Ikon is, it's simply out of my price range.

2) Go Medium Format. I probably would have gotten a Pentax 645 instead of the 6x7. Smaller negs, but theoretically someday we'll have a 645 Digital. While I probably won't be able to afford that, it would be nice to pick up some dirt cheap Pentax 645 glass right now, and watch it all appreciate when the 645D is out (like 35mm Pentax glass did when the K100D and especially the K10D hit the shelves).

3) Go the LF route. This is the option I decided on. For starters, I picked up cheap Monorail, and plan to sink a little bit into lenses. I think the LF modus operandi is something I've been craving for awhile. And those negs (or chromes!) are something to behold. At the moment, I'm scared that I'll be adding an 8x10 in the future.

If I were in your shoes (and take this from a right-handed, arch-conservative, anti-socialist), I'd go the LF route. And here's the reason why: The LF system offers the most potential to do things that your digital can't.

Sure there are T/S lenses out there, but they don't offer nearly as much control as a LF system. I think this is a huge benefit of LF.

Or how about the lenses available? Sometime in the future, I hope to pick up a Petzval lens for my LF system. There is a truly vintage look to Petzvals. Show me a small format lens that offers "swirly" bokeh!

Keep your digital (or keep waiting for the DMD...Sigma DP1 maybe?), and do anything with it that you would do with the Ikon or the 67. When you really feel like going "retro" with film, break out the 4x5 and enjoy the experience that only LF can bring!

Best of luck to you with your decision!

10:29 AM  
Blogger kevin said...

Zeiss Ikon with any rf lens. i have used the CV Ultron 35mm f/1.7 and liked it a lot. all of the CV lenses are incredible value.

i wouldn't worry about limitations regarding scanning of 35mm or print sizes etc.

i don't shoot negative film, i shoot 35mm color slides, but with a high quality scan you can easily go to 16x20 with great results.

digital technology has made this a great time to be into film.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

It's wise to ask what company the prospective camera will be in, as you don't really need to duplicate either an existing format or purpose.

That said, I have a D200, a Hassie 501CM, and a Shen Hao 5x4 (and a miscellany of 35mm and olde 6x9 folding toys). Of the 3 serious ones, I'd hold on to the Shen longest, because in my case my favourite films (Ilford FP4+, HP5+, Classic Pan) *are* available in the format, and of course movements are such a distinct feature of LF.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Ed Z said...

I second the recommendation for the Mamiya 7 MF rangefinder... In fact I'm half thinking of getting one myself to go along with my dslr.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Shawn Gust said...

If you want to be descreet, use a Canon G7 or something. It'll do an outstanding job for what you'd use 35mm for. I use both a wood field camera (Shen Hao) and a Pentax 67. I primarily use the Pentax for most of my projects and serious photography. It's quick and inexpensive to operate and the image quality is amazing. Yes, it's big and loud, but if image quality is a must, I recommend the Pentax. The Shen Hao is a fantastic alternative to the Wista at 1/3 the pice! (Compare the specs) The Shen Hao is impressively built for the price and easy to operate. It is slightly heavier than the Wista, but that also means that it is more rigid. If your considering the 4x5 at least check it out. Good luck with your decision!

11:56 AM  
Blogger CH said...

Wow! I think the most interesting thing about this thread is the number of responses. People (including me) just LOVE to give advice.

11:59 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'd save my money for a better scanner. A number of the high end scannners do well with 35. Then I'd hope I didn't get rid of my M6.


12:15 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Mike, the choice is clear: the Bronica RF645.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Mark Roberts said...

Funny you should pose this question as I went through the same thinking process a while back. I chose the middle ground and went with a Pentax 645. OK, I know that wasn't one of your options but I suppose the Pentax 67 is close enough. I really like the 3:4 aspect ratio of the 645 format - better than the "too square" 67 format or the 2:3 of 35mm.

1:47 PM  
Blogger David Kelly said...

The rangefinder, because you will be wearing it when the shot is there. the first rule of gunfighting is "Bring a gun."

1:49 PM  
Blogger Hoover said...

I found a review of Henry Wessel and thought this may be of some help.

“As long as I can still get film and paper, I’ll use them,” he said. “What differentiates a photographer is not the equipment, it’s not the quality of the print, but the distinctness of the insight that is manifest in the photograph. It’s about establishing a connection and having that present in the work.”

This was also in the review.

" Wessel still shoots with a Leica film camera, just like the one with which he began his career. He doesn’t object to digital photography and has tried shooting with a digital camera, but said he prefers making photographs the way he always has."

1:57 PM  
Blogger mikepeters said...

PENTAX!!! If you must have a rectangle. Great glass, easy to hold, very affordable and they are still in business.

I shoot on the street with a hassy, so it's possible to use a MF like a 35 if you wrap your mind around it properly. Fuji Z800 is great for this camera, I've made 30x30 prints and they are fantastic, little grain, great tonal range, and it converts to b&w nicely. Just get a film scanner, not a flatbed. I use a Mictotek 120tf with excellent results.

3:43 PM  
Blogger John said...

I'm inclined to say the Pentax. Combination of *some* level of portability and the larger negative. I can understand film for the better tonal range (particularly b&w) but not so much if the final product may be inferior to digital (35mm color). Although I'm sure the view camera produces superior negatives and I agree there is some value to being forced to slow down I think (for me - maybe not for you) the camera itself is so nice (and so heavy) it would rarely get used ... and, although i'm no expert on this, don't you really need an expensive drum scanner to do justice to these big negatives?

5:00 PM  
Blogger Fabien Penso said...

I love my Mamiya 7ii / 65mm lens myself, but it's not the camera I would get if I had to choose one only.

For that I would choose my Leica M7/35mm lens. It's small, it's quiet, and 35mm films scan very well on the LS5000 coolscan nikon scanner, mostly if you have the right accessories. Then you can scan film as a whole, and it goes quick.

I owned a Pentax 67 for a while, it's great, but too big to get that only.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Eric Hancock said...

If I were me, I'm sure I'd grab the Ikon, with the Wista a close second.

The Zeiss is usable and portable. The Wista would just be great fun.

The Pentax is the least useful of the three. Heavy enough that you really want to put it on a tripod but can't really shoot polaroid in it, etc...

5:44 PM  
Blogger Clint said...

Bronica GS1? 6x7 neg but not quite as...ogrish as a pentax 6x7.

But really, like my grampa used to say if youre going to be a dog, be a big dawg. Go for an 8x10.

6:04 PM  
Blogger Peter Williams said...

The Pentax 67II, but I'd have to swap the lens for something much wider if this was to be my only camera/lens.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Dean Tomasula said...

I feel your pain Mike (literally).

I just picked up a bunch of Pentax 67 equipment: a P67 body, a P67II body, the fisheye, 75mm and the 200mm lenses, TTL and standard prisms (I'm still looking for an AE prism for the 67II), hand grip.

After spending about 20 years shooting film, I went fully digital about 3 years ago. But I still miss shooting film and do it for "fun" every chance I get.

8:37 PM  
Blogger Dave M said...

I'm not you Mike (and you should be thankful for that!), so all that I can offer is some advice based on my own experience.

I own similar equipment to the options that you've provided. For me the 4x5 wins, hands down. Working with large format brings me the most joy. A field cameras is easy to pack up and hike with and provides quality that's unmatched. I enjoy the methodical, "back to basics" discipline that large format requires.

Ultimately, when I want to enjoy the experience of making photographs, nothing beats 4x5 for There have been many good points made in this thread, but my experience tells me tht (for me) the LF system will bring me the mose joy.

Good luck with your decision Mike. Hopefully I've contributed a little something to the discussion.

4:39 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Rangefinders ... alternative tool for
street photography - that's my choice.Zeiss Ikon is legend - go for it!
Regards, Vlad.

4:28 PM  
Blogger Joseph Szymanski said...

Go with the Ikon, rangefinders are the most versatile. Besides, Ikon's are a work of art in themselves.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

I would go with the 4x5 Wista, even though it's probably not the best bargain if it costs the same as the other cameras. Mike, I think "favorite film" should never be the deciding factor. Some of the joy in a new camera is finding out the new ways in which it makes you approach subjects and printing. You've said that as much yourself many times. And I often think to myself that the heuristics of handheld cameras depends largely on the experience of trying to take a picture as quickly as possible. Life is short, but that's not a reason to limit yourself over and over again to 35mm. These reasons, and the loveliness of cherrywood, is why I would jump on the Wista.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Duffy said...

I have to say that the name Zeiss Icon brings back fond memories of my mother's old Camera, for that reason alone I would go with that one, but also, the size and ease of use in everyday situations would lead me down that path as well. I use only digital but I've been thinking of late about the new Leica just for that very reason. I suspect I would rarely even use the other ones if there were a choice between them.

4:55 PM  
Blogger kathleen fonseca said...

I used to shoot digital exclusively but have gone film 99% of the time. I use Bronica SQAI, 6x6 cuz i love the big square negs and the entire system is extremely thrifty these days. i have a Bronica 645 system but have never even used it. That's how much i like the square. I use a Nikon 9000 scanner which is a terrific scanner for MF (but the glass neg carrier is a must with MF)or 35mm. The scanner's not cheap but the Bronica is so it's a trade-off.

One thing i don't see mentioned here and it turned out to be a factor that figures heavily in my shooting is the way i am treated by people depending on what camera i carry. When i'm out with the Bronica people accord me a great deal of respect and more importantly, space. The attitudes of those nearby--and there's always someone nearby--is significantly improved when I am shooting with a larger, old fashioned camera that is perceived by the general public as a serious photographer's camera. And not just a larger D/SLR either. I have a D200 and an F100 and believe me, parents are dragging their kids into protective custody when i appear with one of those. There is a huge difference between shooting when those around me are hostile and evasive and when they're wide open and respectful. And this difference both suprised, shocked and delighted me.

Good luck with your choice, Mike. As with other important decisions, go with your heart. And unlike other important decisions, if you don't like it, you can always resell it on E-bay!

1:27 AM  
Blogger John Banister said...

Hello Mr. Johnston,

I didn't run across this notion in the previous comments so I thought I'd mention it. If making wet darkroom prints is an essential part of the joy for you, then this probably won't matter much. If I had to limit my choices to only one, I'd get the 4x5 camera, reversal process the film, and give the ones I like some wall time in a light frame. As I look at the image, part of my mind would also be thinking "that's the piece of film that was there with me in front of the light, helping me capture it." Thinking this would give me a good feeling and enhance my viewing experience. Just a thought.

11:06 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...


One way of thinking about this is to plan backwards.
Spend some time scanning and more importantly printing some 35, 6x7 and 4x5 negs and see which process best fits what you are hoping for. Then choose your tool. Falling in love with the tool can happen after you know the heart of the matter.

Fun question!
-Steve Cifka

7:54 AM  
Blogger ctyankee said...

Wow - can't believe I haven't checked TOP in quite a few days ! The link to the Josh Bell experiment and your followup commentary was very interesting. And this ... what keeps sticking in my mind is that the subject matter will be determined by the camera; the point is making beautiful prints. Partly interesting as it's prerequisite knowledge for a reply, but mostly interesting because it's just so different from how I would ever think about my photography. It seems that to get much out of it, you have to have a certain passion for some aspect of it; whether a passion for the gear, artistic vision, or subject matter ... a passion for "prints" seems unique (but unsurprising).

Anyway, with few to no qualifications (well, I am an "internet expert" ;) for advising you, here goes.

Given the goal, I'd have to believe you want medium format or larger. Given the other two choices, I have to believe the 67 is too big, bulky, loud & clacky. I'd lean toward the 4x5 but would switch back to medium format if you substituted a Mamiya 7 or a Rollei TLR. Or just to throw out something different ... any thoughts of an XPan ?

1:56 PM  
Blogger Ctein said...

Well, Mike, you know what my choice was, so I won't belabor that. I might suggest two alternatives to the Pentax 105mm lens to consider --

First, if you prefer shorter focal lengths, I am told that the 90mm f/2.8 is just as good a lens, all-around. I haven't tried it myself, leaning towards the long end.

Second, is the 100mm f/4 macro I reviewed here ( ). If you can afford the price difference and don't need the faster maximum aperture, it's definitely superior.

Important caveat-- I am quite boke-blind, so I can't say how the three lenses compare in that respect.

My experiences with camera shake don't agree with Wicat's at all. With the 105mm lens, I have no trouble getting tack sharp negs handheld at 1/125th second (without using MLU). Often I can do it at 1/60th, but I wouldn't count on it; 1/125 is utterly reliable. Shorter lenses seem disproportionately easier to handhold: I can sometimes manage 1/30th with the 75mm and 1/60th's a snap (ahem), but I can't reliably handhold the 300mm at less than 1/500th sec; 1/250th is only good about half the time.

MLU improves the situation considerably, but there's a resonance or vibration peak circa 1/15th sec. Even with a tripod, this is a tough speed to work at. It actually gets better at slower shutter speeds.

pax / Ctein

=============================== -- Ctein's Online Gallery
-- Digital Restorations

8:27 PM  
Blogger Martin Winter said...

Hi Mike,
if you don't mind me asking (and I hope I didn't miss a post where you said this) what did you decide on in the end?

It's an interesting discussion, and I'm sure a number of people have agonised over a similar decision.

1:58 PM  

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