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  #1  
Old 18 Dec 2009
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ALPA Cameras

I'm just curious to know what peoples views are on the ALPA medium format camera. I know this is a strange camera by contemporary standards but would you need to be almost professional to get the best out of it?

It's just that I might be going to some places only once in a lifetime and I only like film rather than digital so a medium format to capture some of these magnificent landscapes might be worth the investment if I could only figure out how to use it properly.

Any comments for better snappers than me?
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Old 18 Dec 2009
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ALPA is a nice sort of dream kit, but not a snap away camera at all, cost you the price for your live time journey, is heavy with all the added needs, even professional avoid this kind of kit unless you got some assistant !
(OK if you are in to high paid fashion shoots it's a kind of must have "toy" beside to impress the Art director but not the guys in the bazaar you may want to see)
I admit... if you like great lonely landscapes... well the ALPA is "one" of the kind to chose if you got the right size wallet.

If you like medium format cameras and the considerable amount of extra weight for film material, tripod and so on... and don't mind carrying the extra weight... well buy your self a 2nd hand Hasselblad 503 with a 80mm and 50mm lens one or two magazines for size 240 film and you will be set... oh yea don't forget a heavy tripod that set you down for some £700+head, a proper light meter... cost some £300 to £700 quit as well.
(ok the old eBay may help out... but be aware of dodgy and worn down cheap offered kit)

on the other hand, if you like the good old 35mm film like me... well get a 2nd hand Leica M6 for about £800 + a 50mm lens for some additional £500 quit and you have a nice quick and light shooter camera for on the bike... (well in case you want best quality in the 35mm range)
If you don't want to spend this sort of money... well a new "Voightlaender Bessa R4" may a camera of interest.... (2nd choice to me)

the question is, can you handle mechanical cameras or do you need this misleading an unpredictable automatic wonder machines ?

if you want to shoot professional pictures... well the camera is only a tool that will help to catch your imagination... are you up for that ?
A expensive camera is no warranties for good pictures at all... good pictures pop up in your head, coupled with knowledge of the photographic physics and light, don't underestimate the tiny bit called "luck" witch is the seventh son of a bitch.
Even the mater of B/W prints compare to colour slides will make a whole different class of it's own.
You have to know what you want first, knowing your photographic skills is important, a camera is only the right tool that will be chosen carefully for the job.

One more kick... learning to do good photos is like learning to drive a car or bike that requires a licence and to pass a test, at least it takes some time to study the matter but more important is it needs a lot of practice and experiences...

question your self... would you do a driving licence and get your self an Royce Royce in advanced ?

well I hope this will help you to safe up for your journey and not wasting your dosh for some thing you may regret.

spooky
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Last edited by spooky; 18 Dec 2009 at 12:34.
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Old 18 Dec 2009
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I can appreciate the engineering quality that goes into these cameras but if you were thinking of buying new a quick glance down the price list has a sobering effect.
As a pro snapper I've been using medium format cameras since the 80's but with names like Hasselblad, Bronica and Mamiya on the front rather than Alpa and unless you have very specific requirements I'd be surprised if you could tell the difference in the results.
You can get something like a 503 Hasselblad for around £1000 on ebay ready to go and that's probably the route I'd take if I didn't have one already.

You don't say how much experience you have with manual cameras and what kind of photography you're looking towards but clockwork medium format doesn't do point and shoot very well. It's more suited to a contemplative approach where you work out in your head in advance how you want the picture to look. That does need a degree of experience in knowing how the camera / film / light etc will respond and how you can blend them all together to get the picture you want. (With digital you can do that as well but you can also do "near enough and fix it in photoshop".) In short, you don't have to a professional but you do have to be professional in your approach if you want to get the sort of quality that medium format is capable of.

There are some downsides you should consider:

Medium format film is getting harder to buy and to get processed / printed.
This stuff used to be bread and butter for pro labs but loads have gone out of business in the last five years or so and you may have to resort to posting rolls of film to a lab. You'd be sending original unreplaceable material in the post. For me, never again after the Royal Mail lost a set of wedding negs en route to a lab.

If you want to do much more than just look at the results yourself you'll need to scan the negs / trannies. Medium format scanners only start to look cheap when you consider the cost of lab scanning.

These days I'm all digital and the medium format stuff gathers dust in the cupboards but there is certainly something about it I miss. I really ought to get the RB67 out and blow the dust off.
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Old 18 Dec 2009
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The timing of this question is good.
For many years I used 35mm using Nikon cameras and lenses. Have the standard 50mm and a70-300mm zoom. Problem is, when in holiday or travelling it just takes too much room and I have taken to borrowing my wifes compact 35mm. I have been researching and think a reasonable modern digital compact will suit me fine. Such as the Panasonic tz7 or Samsung wb2000. Sadly the Fuji finepix sd2000 is just too big to put in a pocket. I would rather have a lesser camera with me than a better one at home. A bit like spanners.
The other question is what happens if you lose it on holiday? Sometimes things cost too much to use or lose.

You have to ask yourself, "Do I want to live my holiday, or record it?"

Being a cheapskate I hope to buy one early January in the sales.
Will take a sensible price for all my Nikon gear, say enough to buy a modern compact.
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  #5  
Old 18 Dec 2009
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If you need a medium format camera to take travelling I have 2 suggestions.

A Mamiya 7II with the standard 80mm or a 65mm lens.

A Voigtlander Bessa III Medium Format Camera | I like the idea of this as a travel camera.

My favourite film travel camera is my XpanII, but I haven't put a film through it for over a year!

Last edited by Flyingdoctor; 19 Dec 2009 at 09:33.
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  #6  
Old 19 Dec 2009
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Thanks for your informed opinions. I will be spending about three years RTW in a Russian Zil 131 truck carrying my bike on the back so the size of the camera won't be a problem. My route is to take me through as many of the sand deserts as possible as well as Chukotka in winter and also across the Himalayas, the Andes too. Side trips will be done on my KTM and as much of the route as is possible will be done off road and thus I will have the time to capture some special places should I wish to. On the other hand I am still wondering, as someone said here if maybe just do the trip for its own sake and take no images! It is only a small part of the trip for me.

I bought my Minolta 7000 about 20 years ago when I thought it would be the last camera I could ever need! I use it mostly in manual but that ALPA WA is a different thing altogether! Incidentally, it is a handheld and doesn't require a tripod but it is totally mechanical, very robust, needs no batteries (my Minolta quits below freezing point) and can do "point & shoot" if you wish. I'm still trying to get my head around these "shift" lenses, I think that could be useful in mountains and deserts but I need to fully understand it more hten figure out which two lenses I should take.

Good thing about digital is that you can back up files to multiple sources but as someone pointed out, negs can be easily lost or stolen, as can the camera.

The ALPA price is hard to swallow but I'm selling my house (Gordon tells us the credit crises & recession is over so it will sell instantly...) so I will have the money but I am only "thinking out loud", this camera costs more than my truck! On the other hand, an ALPA will not go down in value and you're a long time dead too!
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Old 20 Dec 2009
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Second vote for the Mamiya 7II - with three lenses long portrait, standard and wide - 150, 80 and 65

The Mamiya 7II is an awesome travel camera, the essence is portability and image quality, and above all not far off the 35mm sizes, plus you can load a 35mm adapter for some wickedly long panoramic's.

G
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