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120 folder with decent lens

Discussion in 'Everything Film' started by Malcolm_Stewart, Oct 19, 2005.

  1. Malcolm_Stewart

    Malcolm_Stewart Well-Known Member

    For the last year I've had a rewarding time getting to know my MPP MkVI, buying decent modern lenses for it, and recently receiving some satisfyingly large Cibachrome prints made from a few of my better Provia 100F transparencies.

    I got to 4x5 from 35mm via some disappointments in medium format, and I'm wondering whether there is such a thing as a decent 120 folder. (i.e. One that can challenge a basic modern 35mm camera.)

    The few folders I've tried from an early, and scruffy Super Ikonta to a mint Baldix have all disappointed - big time. The Super Ikonta may well have had a lens element replaced wrongly, it was so poor. The Baldix failed because coating was in its infancy, and the rear of the shutter was shiny. So I'm on the lookout for a folder with an honestly coated lens, and with the prospect that the shutter still works.

    My hunting ground is camera fairs, and a few pointers based on personal experience would be appreciated. (I'm not interested in a twin lens or fixed box style at the moment.)

    Many thanks
  2. TimF

    TimF With as stony a stare as ever Lord Reith could hav

    Ivor Matanle's usual line on these is to ensure that any you look at is correctly aligned (lens to film plane), as its so easy to have one of the struts bashed slightly out of true after many years service.

    I recall Bert Hardy's take on the Super Ikonta with some amusement - "the silliest camera he ever had to use" (or words along those line). He was none to happy at being issued with one during the war.
  3. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    The thing about the folders is that they're almost designed to produce camera shake. Use one on a tripod, and you can get great results, but hand-held, I defy most people to get a decent shot. I have one with probably the best lens ever put on a folder, and it's English - but it's very hard work indeed to get results on a par with my Rolleis or even the Pentacon 6.
  4. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Incidentally, I reckon the only way to get decent hand-held MF shots is to use a TLR or a rangefinder.
  5. eryri

    eryri Well-Known Member

    Hi guys

    Don't Fuji make a 645 folder? The GS645 and the GW645? Should be good build quality, good lenses and reasonably cheap.
  6. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    They're not really folders, but more normal rangefinders.
  7. eryri

    eryri Well-Known Member

    I thought they folded i.e. the lens folds into the body :D
  8. snapperlondon

    snapperlondon Well-Known Member

    My Voightlander Bessa I (6x9) is fantastic, despite being around 50 years old! When I put an E6 test film through it my local lab thought I'd bought a Fuji GW690III, they could believe it when I told them it was the old Bessa (bought for £90 and with a 6 month guarantee).

    The camera is small and light, very easy to hand-hold. You need a separate rangefinder (which slots into the accessory shoe) and you have to set the distance manually (or their is a 'snapshot' setting marked on the distance scale, but you need to stop the lens down quite a bit to get the depth of field required). Accessories (filters, hood, etc) are fairly easy to track down on eBay, etc.

    If you get a good one I can highly recommend the Bessa I!
  9. Malcolm_Stewart

    Malcolm_Stewart Well-Known Member

    Thanks, I had wondered about a Bessa.

    I've had a Vito II with f3.5 Color-Skopar since 1960, and it worked well with B&W & colour back in the '60s. (Remember using Agfa CN17 which was interesting as it was without a mask. Sadly, the dyes have now faded almost to clear.)

    The dreary results I got with the externally pristine 12 on 120 Rangefinder Baldix (f2.9 80mm Baltar) have made me very cautious about spending more money in this area without advice. I suppose the C-41 processing might have been poor, and I'll probably try putting an E6 film through it.

    And if a tripod becomes necessary for sharp results, I have quite a selection to choose from... ...keep on bumping into them!
  10. snapperlondon

    snapperlondon Well-Known Member

    If you find one as good as mine I'm sure you'll be happy!

    The Bessa II is supposed to be even better, but are far more expensive...around £400-£500!
  11. Lordcroker

    Lordcroker Member

    I've found the Ensign Selfix 820 to be a great camera.
    They have a lovely coated Ross Xpress lens, are pretty cheap and are 6x9 format. Not the rather pointless 6x6 that some are. The 'standard' model has no rangefinder, so guesstimate focussing! The Selfix 820 special has a rangefinder, but they are heavier, cost a lot more and have the tiniest viewfinder window known to man, which makes them rather like an early Leica - usless for spectacle wearers.
  12. Malcolm_Stewart

    Malcolm_Stewart Well-Known Member

    I can remember seeing these cameras in the window of the shops at the seaside when I was just starting taking photography. I can remember being warned off them as Epsilon shutters weren't well regarded.
    My camera then was a very basic Ensign "Folding 20" with an ~11cm f16 lens, hidden behind its shutter, and stoppable down to f22 or smaller for bright days.

    The visibly large, for their time, lenses of the Ross Express made a very deep impression on this male teenager, and are probably responsible for my continuing interest and house full of what some would regard as junk.
  13. Steve_Bell

    Steve_Bell Well-Known Member

    The Ensign folding camera's with the Ross Xpress lenses were good in thier day, but are now a little overated compared to more modern designs. I've an Ensign 12/20 6x6 Ross Xpress 75mm F3.5 with a non coupled rangefinder. My father bought it new from Wallace Heaton and it was passed on to me when the Zenith SLR's appeared and he moved over from B&W prints to 35mm slides. I still have the Ensign, and last used it around 3 years ago, shutter still fireing accurately enough to expose a roll of Provia. I used to think it produced good images, but my Mamiya C220 with its 55mm and 80mm lenses is far superior (but also larger and heavier). I only keep the Ensign for sentimental reasons.
  14. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Have you tried the Ensign on a tripod? My 820 Special produces decent results that way, but otherwise it's Camera Shake Central - as I posted previously. The best compromise between quality and portability yet invented is a Rollei.
  15. huwevans

    huwevans Not Really Here

    Not that I think you're remotely biased, Nick :))), but I reckon there are a few other contenders worthy of consideration for that particular crown! Not in the TLR world, no doubt, but cameras such as the Mamiya 6, Bronica RF645, Plaubel Makina, some of the Fuji RFs (the 645s, mainly), for example, surely have to come into the frame, either because they are more portable (like the Plaubel), or more versatile. I doubt any of them would come very far behind - if at all - in the final image quality stakes. Build quality might be another matter - though speaking purely of the Mamiya (the only one of them I have used) I can't find any significant fault with its construction.

    BTW, how were the Lakes? And please don't say "wet"! :)
  16. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Me, biased? Perish the thought! ;) Yes, I would agree with all your options - I missed the "IMVHO" out of my previous post, and had mentioned rangefinders the first time round - biased I may be, but I hadn't intended to knock the rangefinder option in any way. Certainly all have excellent lenses.

    As to the Lakes - wet, very wet! My old boss always used to say "Where do you think those lakes come from?", and every time I replied "Glaciation!" he would give me an old-fashioned look which meant it was time to do some work...
    Thursday was actually very warm and a lovely day, but otherwise we had an awful lot of rain - I was grateful for the 10D so that I could boost the ISO settings and fire away handheld for speed. Still, a great break, and one day's walking turned into more of a landscape photography workshop with a friend - what we would shoot if we weren't out with our families and it wasn't raining heavily - quite a change for a solitary photographer like me.
  17. huwevans

    huwevans Not Really Here

    Ah well, one good day isn't too bad. I usually reckon that if I have one or two days of great weather per week in the Lake District then I've got my money's worth. More than two and I'm doing better than average. Of course, I do generally avoid high summer, so maybe it's possible to do better. I did once have five solid days of unbroken sunshine in late May, but that was a one-off for me, and if memory serves I don't think I even had a camera with me. The climbing was great, though. :)
  18. chillipepper

    chillipepper Active Member

    Fuji did make a folding 645, GS645. It's been out of productiona while but it was quite good, you can find s/h ones for £300-£400. Brilliant for MF street photography (IMO!)

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