It's Big. It's Square. It's Bronica!

A couple of days ago, I mentioned that I wanted to add medium format film to my "bag", so this morning, we headed over to the local antiques mall, where I knew there might be a couple of good options of cameras to look at. A couple years ago maybe, we met a fellow there named Kenny who had a stall with a number of great deals on old film cameras. His stall is still there, pretty much as I remembered it, along with the same two medium format cameras -- a Mamiya RB67, and a Bronica SQ-A.

Zenza Bronica SQ-A, Zenzanon-PS 50mm f/3.5, AE Prism Finder S, Speed Grip S.
Image made with iPhone 6s and Moment 60 telephoto lens attachment, in completely inadequate light, processed with Photos on the iPhone.

The Bronica is no longer in his stall. As you can see, it got parked in the spot I use to take pictures of fancy kit (our living room couch). Apparently, I was meant to own this camera (or the behemoth RB67), because it's been waiting patiently in the display case for me since I first saw it. So, for a whopping two hundred and forty American dollars (plus tax), I picked up the Bronica SQ-A body, a Zenzanon-PS 50mm f/3.5 wide-angle lens (one of the three that was on my shopping list), the AE Prism finder, and the Speed Grip. Around back is the film back with a 220 insert.

Our next stop was to Service Photo to pick up a fresh PX28 camera battery, a lens cap, and a few rolls of film -- and also to drop of Donna's Canon body for a cleaning. While looking around the store, I did notice that they had an original Canon 5D body at a very nice price. I'll admit I was tempted. As I've mentioned elsewhere, I think that's the nicest full-frame DSLR Canon's ever made.

I'm excited to be building this system; my shopping list, scribbled on a tiny Post-It note, is shown. I wrote the list last night, so it shows the SQ-Ai, but the differences between that and the SQ-A are minor. The SQ-Ai adds a 16-second and "B" shutter speeds, and the ability to do some sort of off-the-film TTL exposure metering when using some sort of flash that I'm sure I'll never be able to find. None of these are features I can't do without, and "dry" tests with my Yongnuo flash system show it works perfectly well.

My initial shopping list includes a couple more lenses to fill out "the trifecta" of a wide angle, a normal, and a short tele (although I think I'll substitute the PS 150mm f/4 for the 200mm lens). I'm going to try to hold out for all of them being the Zenzanon-PS lenses, as I've read that they have better coatings and builds. I also would like to get the waist-level finder in place of the prism finder -- I think I'll prefer that for portrait work, as it will get me out from behind the camera a bit and let me make eye-contact with my victim ... er, subject. I'll also need some 120 film backs/inserts. While the 220 should work okay with 120 film, it's not as convenient, as the wind mechanism doesn't release until the counter reads the correct number of frames -- I'll have to "shoot" a few frames past the end of the roll to get the film completely wound onto the take-up spool, instead of just winding it out.

The SQ system had some other neat accessories available -- the SQi 120J 6x4.5 film back/insert, and a back that allowed shooting panoramas on 35mm film in particular, and a wide range of excellent lenses. It looks like I'm soon to become "one" with KEH, Robert's Camera, and eBay...

What's This? Mirrorless Digital Medium Format? At a Reasonable Price?

The "big two" players in the digital camera space have got to be scrambling at this point, seeing their market being decimated by the likes of Fujifilm and Olympus and Sony and Panasonic. Fujifilm will soon be shipping their latest DSLR-killer, the X-T2, which I commented on Sunday evening.

Yet, as enticing as the X-T2 is, I'm more intrigued by the rumor of a Fujifilm mirrorless medium format camera. And Hasselblad have been quietly busy, and recently thrown down the gauntlet in this space with their announcement of the X1D digital mirrorless medium format camera with a street price of just under $9,000 for the body (one of the two bargains in the digital medium format market). Word on the street is that a Fuji product could be considerably less expensive than that.

Fujifilm GSW-690iii medium format rangefinder camera with 90mm lens

Fujifilm GSW-690iii medium format rangefinder camera with 90mm lens

Hasselblad have started development of a completely new lens lineup for the new camera, and will offer an adapter to allow use of their existing H-series lenses.

I would suppose the Fujifilm would take a similar approach, although they have some considerable experience with making short-flange-distance medium format film cameras that filled big frames -- 6x7cm, 6x8cm or 6x9cm, depending one the model. While these cameras had fixed lenses (typically a 65mm wide angle or a 90mm normal lens) it's possible that they could look back to those designs in a digital offering, though the resulting camera would be positively huge.

In each case, these could be medium-format digital cameras that are both smaller than a high-end DSLR (the Hasselblad is smaller), and come in at similar price points -- or lower (Canon's 18MP 1D-C body is $8,000 at B&H)! With these kinds of innovations in the mirrorless space, companies like Canon and Nikon really are going to need to get their collective heads out of their asses and get on the stick if they intend to survive, let along continue to dominate the market. It's no secret that Nikon is struggling, and while Canon is a larger, more diverse company than Nikon, they certainly can't be in a comfortable place right now.

I wouldn't count Ricoh/Pentax out in this arena, either. They're already the price leader in the more "traditional" digital medium format arena with their excellent $7,000 645Z, which was the first digital medium format camera to employ a CMOS sensor. Similarly priced bodies do not include a digital back, which add thousands to the price tag. Since Pentax also have a mature system in place, they could easily swoop in with a low-priced, mirrorless design and be up-and-running quickly, although I think it would take them longer to develop a lens line-up for such a camera.

Of course, while much of this is out of the price range of most mere mortals, it's all interesting food for thought.