My Love of Medium Format: Past and Present

My first true analog love was/is my beloved plastic Holga camera, which I used to carry around with me everywhere back in the early 2000’s. I absolutely loved its unpredictability and the fact that it used 120 film. There was just something about that medium format that made my soul so happy! Here are a handful of my favorite Holga shots from back in the day:

Anyway, I still love my Holga, but when I decided to jump back into film photography last year, I decided it was time to take things up a notch and invest in a professional-grade medium format camera. Without doing much research (i.e. none), I pounced upon the first reasonably priced Mamiya camera that I could find on Ebay, which was a Mamiya 645j. (I told you guys that I’m an “instant gratification” type of girl, right?) Well, as it turns out, this camera is nice, but it is not ideal because its fastest shutter speed is only 1/500 of a second. This means that I’m limited to using it in lower-light situations, which isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, but I definitely regret not taking the time to do at least a little bit of research so that I could have purchased a more versatile medium format camera.

With that being said, the Mamiya 645j DOES take some really beautiful photographs. I’ve only shot maybe three or four rolls with it so far, but here are some of my favorite results to date (the last four shots I just got back from the lab a couple of days ago, in fact):

About a month ago, I decided to look around on the Internet to see if I could find another medium format camera that was not only more versatile than the Mamiya 645j, but maybe even a little less boxy and less awkward to carry. After Googling “compact medium format cameras,” I realized that I would be holding my breath to find one within my price range (around $500). Still, I was feeling optimistic, so I searched for a few of those “compact medium format cameras” by name on Ebay, Craiglist, Offer Up, and the Facebook Marketplace. To my complete shock and amazement, my search for a Pentax 6×7 camera actually turned up a seller in Alabama (just three hours away from me) who had a whole Pentax 6×7 MLU kit for sale, including two lenses, extension tubes, filters, and even a Polaroid back WITH a pack of expired Polaroid film, for $800!!!! Yes, the asking price was more than what I originally wanted to spend, but considering all that was being sold for that price, I couldn’t help but get excited. In fact, I probably read that ad 50 times before I fully believed it was real. Finally, after several more hours of Google-based and Instagram hashtag-based research (all of which resulted in GLOWING reviews and beautiful example photos taken with the Pentax 6×7 camera), plus a heart-to-heart conversation with my husband about the cost, I bit the bullet and contacted the seller on Facebook.

Yadda yadda yadda…The seller came down $100 for me, and my husband and I drove to Alabama to pick up my “new” Pentax 6×7 MLU medium format camera kit two weekends ago!!!! I was so excited to test it out that I quickly blew through a roll of 120 film (mostly with selfies and photos of my handsome dog, Luke). Here are some of those test shots, which I just got back from Boutique Film Lab two days ago:

Nothing super impressive in this first handful of test shots with the Pentax 6×7 MLU, but as you can see, I can definitely shoot with it out in the bright, mid-day sun, and I’m actually quite pleased with the sharpness of the photos of Luke. (My selfie shot is not in focus, but you try manually focusing a selfie taken with a cable release cord!)

All in all, I could not be more excited about the Pentax 6×7 MLU, and I’m already working on setting up a shoot with a beautiful girl this weekend. Stay tuned!

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