Going Square : Hunting for cheapest medium format cameras

So you went to flickr and were fascinated by medium format. And now you want a new camera but can’t spend much. No worries, Constellation Cafe brings you the guide to the top 5 cheapest medium format cameras to start with. I personally have used almost all of them and trust me, the experience of shooting medium format is just so much fun with these cameras.

Yashica D By Suguru Nishioka

Yashica D
My first TLR which made me fall in love with medium format. The Yashica D is as simple as simple can be and its simply beautiful. The camera sports a 75mm f3.5 lens which wide open too is sharp enough to make beautiful exposures. And the best thing about them is that you can get your hands on one for less than 100$ in great condition (along with a leather case).

Pro
– Easy to find
– Rugged metal body
– Simple and easy operation
– Easy to open and service

Cons
– Heavy, I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for something super portable
– Doesn’t have any lock to protect you from multiple exposures
– Tough to find hoods locally for TLRs

Diana F+ By Roger Lim

Lomography Diana F+ (almost 95% similar to Holga 120)
Yes, I recommend it. Many people don’t like what the Diana does but frankly it has its own iconic style. The camera is cheap, easily available and it has the ability to charm because of its very vibrant looks. And frankly shooting with it can’t get any simpler.

Pro
– Light, extremely portable
– Cheap and easily available
– Lomography has great support with respect to warranty
– Many attachments available like wide angle lens, pinhole etc
– Charming style, available in many many colors

Cons
– Delicate because of plastic body.
– Limited controls with aperture and shutter speed
– High vignetting and distortion due to plastic lens

*I could list last two in pro also, Diana’s design is good and bad too depending on taste. I would write about the Lubitel 166+ also but I think the Lubitel 166+ brand new is quite expensive.

Kiev 60 By giulius

Kiev 60
The Russians might have taken the optical designs from the Germans but hey, if the camera is great then who the hell cares. Kiev 60 is a copy of the Pentacon Six. I can’t afford the pentagon but I surely can work with the Kiev. Built like a tank, it does what others can, gives you a fully working medium format, eye level finder SLR. And all that for under 150$.

Pro
– Works like a conventional SLR
– Cheap and great lens quality
– Has a metered prism so no more taking around a light meter
– Built like a tank
– Large viewfinder, sharp and bright

Cons
– Super heavy, by the end of the day your shoulder will be hurting
– Super big, the lugs don’t make for a stable strap

Zeiss Ikon Nettar by Alessandro Reginato

Zeiss Ikon Nettar
If you’re looking for a pocketable medium format camera and you don’t want to spend your entire life savings on a Mamiya 6/7, then Zeiss Ikon Nettar is the camera for you. Incredibly popular in its day, they made up to 12 versions of the same camera. And ranging from f6.3 to f4.5, these cameras make incredibly sharp images.

Pro
– Super portable and light
– Amazingly sharp lens

Cons
– Bellows can be damaged easily and are tough to repair
– Slow lens

Seagull by Reilly Lievers

Seagull
If we’re talking cheap we can’t really ignore the Chinese, and Seagull is as cheap as they come. But don’t mistake cheap to be bad, its a great camera to have around. Easy to use,

Pro
– Cheap but still well built
– f3.5 75mm lens
– Lighter than other TLRs

Cons
– Optics are not super sharp
– There is a international version for the camera which is black and fantastic but expensive.

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4 thoughts on “Going Square : Hunting for cheapest medium format cameras

  1. My primary shooter is a Mamiya c330. A great camera with interchangeble lenses. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great TLR with quality optics that weighs slightly short of a ton.

    1. Suresh, surely a great camera. I got a chance to have a look-see about two days ago. Its built like a tank and very heavy but totally worth it because of the interchangeable lenses and the sharpness. Only con, a good condition camera will start at about 200$ / 10,000 INR

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