Classic Medium Format Camera Solutions


The Bronica RF645 Rangefinder camera

Bronica or Zenza Bronica

Bronica was a Japanese brand of professional medium format roll-film cameras, including rangefinder and single-lens reflex models.

Bronica cameras first appeared in 1958, when the company's founder, Zenzaburo Yoshino, introduced a camera of his own design, the Bronica Z rollfilm camera, at the Philadelphia Camera Show. The Bronica Z and successor Bronicas, utilizing large-coverage, high-quality Nikkor lenses, became an instant success.

Bronica later introduced lenses of its own manufacture with its later camera designs. Zenza Bronica Ltd. was eventually acquired by the lens manufacturer Tamron. Zenzaburo Yoshino died in 1988.

Tamron discontinued the brand's single-lens reflex models (SQ, ETR and GS) in October 2004, and Bronica's last model, the RF645 rangefinder camera, was discontinued in October 2005.

Bronicas were workhorse cameras for wedding and portrait photographers for many years. Secondhand Bronica cameras are still widely used by professional and serious amateur photographers, in no small part due to superior image quality of 6x4.5, 6x6 and 6x7cm roll film over smaller film and digital sensor formats.

Bronica SLR cameras employed a modular design: the major components of the camera—lens, body, film back and viewfinder—were separate and interchangeable.


A historic camera: the East Germany Contax S of 1949 — the first pentaprism SLR

Contax

Contax was a camera brand noted for its unique, and sometimes odd, technical innovation and a wide range of Zeiss lenses, noted for their high optical quality. Its latest incarnation was a line of 35 mm, medium format and digital cameras engineered and manufactured by Kyocera, featuring modern optics engineered by Carl Zeiss, which has an outstanding reputation for high quality photographic equipment. On April 12, 2005, Kyocera announced that they would no longer produce Contax cameras.

The company name changed several times over the years as it was absorbed and then released by the Kodak empire, finally becoming a division of the Singer Corporation and then dissolved in 1973. The award winning Graflex plant in suburban Pittsford, New York is still standing and is home to the MOSCOM Corporation. Find Contax cameras and lenses on ebay

Graflex

Grayflex was a manufacturer, a brand name and several models of cameras. William F. Folmer, an inventor, built the first Graflex camera in 1898, when his company was called The Folmer and Schwing Manufacturing Company. Founded originally in New York as a gas lamp company. As the gas lamp market dimmed, it expanded into making bicycles selling cameras of other makers as accessories, then making cameras themselves, dropping the bicycle line. That firm in 1905 was purchased by George Eastman. In 1907, the company became the Folmer and Schwing Division of Eastman Kodak. After a few more interim changes of status and name, it finally became simply "Graflex, Inc." in 1945. Find Graflex Camera products on ebay


Kiev 60 modified for the 6×4.5 frame and MLU with Arsat 30mm Fisheye

Kiev

The low price of the Kiev medium format cameras has attracted many amateur photographers wishing to enter the medium format camera market on a budget. Some have reported that the prices of a Kiev camera setup with other Russian or Ukrainian components (e.g. lenses) can be 1/10th to 1/15th the price of a similar Hasselblad setup. However, the Arsenal plant is reported to have generally poor quality control and people often receive cameras with small cosmetic or functional defects. Sometimes brand new cameras are completely inoperable. It has been suggested that the Kiev cameras are not intended to be used "out of the box" like most Western consumer goods, but are instead more like pre-assembled kits that require some work be done on them before they can work reliably. One key issue is thought to be the rough finish on the gears of the internal mechanisms, causing the film advance to become stiff and sound like "grinding walnuts" according to some accounts.

For this reason a number of distributors have appeared offering Kiev cameras in safer forms. At the least they provide a closer contact for easier exchanging or returning of faulty items. However some have taken advantage of the Arsenal plant's variable quality to add value through varying levels of third-party rebuilding, modification, and testing of the Arsenal-supplied cameras.

The cameras however, still have a number of quirks that no simple servicing will remove. The most notable quirk is that the shutter speed on the original Kiev 88 should only be changed after cocking the shutter (spring-loading the shutter mechanism and advancing the film). Changing the shutter speed on an un-cocked camera will damage the timing mechanism, so it is recommended that Kiev users get into the habit of always cocking the shutter after taking a photo. This is not a problem with the Kiev 60 and Kiev 88CM variants. There are also mixed reports that the shutter speed dial should only be turned clock-wise, never anti-clock-wise. This is certainly known to be an issue with cameras modified by Hartblei to add a mirror lock-up (MLU) feature. Other cameras may or may not have this problem. Find Kiev Camera products on ebay

Leaf AFi-II

The Leaf AFi-II was designed and developed with Jenoptik and Franke & Heidecke, and the camera body is a version of the Rollei Hy6. The Leaf AFi-II camera system incorporates Schneider AutoFocus Digital (AFD) lenses, specifically created for use with 50+ megapixel medium format digital camera backs.

Capture is made to either CF cards or tethered via iEEE1394 (Firewire 800).

The Leaf AFi-II camera systems operate in both portrait and landscape orientation without turning the camera, by turning a internal rotating sensor.

The Leaf AFi-II camera systems (10 and 7) have a 6 x 7 cm tilting, touch screen, that allows viewing of RAW images at 1:1. Find Leaf AFi-II products on ebay

Omega

Omega is the name of various medium-format cameras and enlargers. The Simmon Brothers, known for their line of enlargers, built the original Simmon Omega cameras in the United States. These rangefinder cameras took 6x7cm photographs on 120 roll film. Later, Konica manufactured the Koni Omega line. The last models, including the Rapid Omega 200, came from Mamiya. This line had interchangeable lenses, including a 58 (or 60) mm wide-angle, a 90 mm normal lens, a 135 mm portrait lens, and a 180 mm telephoto. A close-up adapter was popular with wedding photographers.

Another line, the Omegaflex, was a twin-lens reflex camera. Its lenses and accessories were not interchangeable with those from the Omega line. The Omegaflex took 6x7 rectangular pictures on 120 roll film.

Backs: The Omegaflex film holder interchanges with the Omega M, 100 (Press 2 in Japan) and 200, and permits mid-roll changes on the Omegaflex, M, and 200. The earlier Koni Omega Rapid (Press in Japan) film holder is not compatible with the above, and does not permit mid-roll changes. Find Omega Cameras & products on ebay

Pentacon

Pentacon is the company name of a once-important camera manufacturer in Dresden, Germany.


Pentacon Six TL Medium format camera
The name Pentacon is derived from the brand Contax of Zeiss Ikon Kamerawerke in Dresden and Pentagon, as a Pentaprism for Single-Lens Reflex (SLR) cameras was for the first time developed in Dresden. The cross section of this prism has a pentagonal shape. Pentacon is best known for producing the SLR cameras of the Praktica-series as well as the medium format camera Pentacon Six, the Pentacon Super and various cameras of the Exa series.

In 1959 several Dresden camera manufacturers, among them VEB Kamerawerke Freital, were joined to create Volkseigener Betrieb Kamera- und Kinowerke Dresden, which was renamed in 1964 to VEB Pentacon Dresden. In 1968, VEB Feinoptisches Werk Görlitz was integrated into VEB Pentacon. Accordingly, the former Meyer-Optik Görlitz lenses were now renamed to „Pentacon“ .

After German reunification in 1990 Pentacon, as with most East German companies, came to be possessed by the Treuhandanstalt (the federal board concerned with the privatisation of East German companies) and was selected for closure instead of compete sale. It was deemed that company was grossly inefficient, employing six thousand staff when it could have sufficed with one thousand, and selling its cameras at a loss. Liquidation began on October 2, 1990 (one day before official reunification), and production ceased on June 30, 1991. By then it had shed nearly three thousand employees to retain a total of 3331 - the next day all but 232 were laid off.

Investor Heinrich Mandermann, who had previously been involved in resurrecting lensmaker Schneider Kreuznach, purchased the rights to the Pentacon brands and several portions of its assets, including the former military production building in Dresden. The company was re-established as Pentacon GmbH, a member of the Jos. Schneider group.

Production of cameras and lenses continues, but is now outsourced to South Korea.

Other parts of the former Pentacon company was sold to Noble and today belong to Kamera Werk Dresden, which, among other products, manufacture panoramic cameras under the Noblex brand, and cameras for industrial use under the Loglux brand. Find Pentacon Cameras & products on ebay

Praktica

Praktica is a brand of camera manufactured by Pentacon in Dresden in eastern Germany, formerly within the GDR prior to reunification. Pentacon is the modern-day successor to Dresden camera firms such as Zeiss Ikon, and for many years Dresden was the world's largest producer of cameras. Currently Praktica is the only brand sold by the company; previous ones included Zeiss Ikon, Contax (now owned by the Carl Zeiss company), Exakta, Pentacon and many more.

The firm collapsed after German reunification but was resurrected in partnership with Schneider, and produces many products under various brands such as car industry products, 3D LCD screens, and still cameras and lenses under their own Praktica brand and also for more known international brands.

One of the first inventions of the firm, which is still known today, was the roll film SLR camera in 1936. In the east block countries the firm's products are more known than in the western world. They produce both budget lenses (mostly small, not very durable and having manual focus, but good in optical quality) and higher priced products. They also produce optical equipment for the space programs of the US, Western Europe and the Russian Federation. Find Praktica Cameras & products on ebay

Sinar AG

Sinar AG is a Swiss company producing innovative medium format and large format cameras.

The Swiss photographer Carl Hans Koch invented the Sinar camera in 1947 due to his dissatisfaction with the imprecise nature of wooden view cameras and limitations of technical (i.e. Linhof Technika) and field cameras in general. His main aim was to produce a large format camera of high precision and simple operation, with a system of parts that were readily interchangeable. The name SINAR is an acronym for Science, Industry, Nature, Architecture, Reproduction, which sums up the versatility of the Sinar system. The versatility and anti-obsolescence of the Sinar system is unsurpassed—accessories as well as major components (rails, bellows, lensboards, and standards) made in the 1940s are still usable with currently manufactured Sinar equipment. The Sinar Norma, made from 1947 to 1970 is today hailed as a technological and industrial design icon (the Museum of Modern Art has one in their permanent collection) that ushered in the modern era of the view camera.

Topcon

Tokyo Kogaku KK launched their first 35mm SLR camera in 1957, about two years before the Nikon F and the Canonflex. This was the Topcon R that acquired the bayonet lens mount from the Exakta Varex camera from Ihagee in Dresden, successor to the Kine Exakta of 1936. It was also inspired by the Zeiss Ikon Contax S as well as the Japanese Miranda T - most obviously the body shape by the former, and the detachable finder prism by the latter. However, it was not until 1963 the Topcon name became famous by introducing the Topcon RE-Super, an event that took the entire camera industry by surprise: This camera featured through-the lens (TTL) exposure metering, and at full lens aperture at that. The RE Super was fully prepared for professional work supported by a choice of lenses and accessories to complement it. The United States importer was the Charles Beseler Company and it was sold as the Beseler Topcon Super D. Find Topcon Cameras & products on ebay

Voigtländer

Voigtlander is an optical company founded by Johann Christoph Voigtländer in Vienna in 1756 and As a result the oldest name in cameras. It produced the Petzval photographic lens (fastest lens at that time: f/3.7) in 1840, and the world's first all-metal daguerrotype camera (Ganzmetallkamera) in 1841, also bringing out plate cameras shortly afterwards. It set up a branch office in Braunschweig in 1849, moving its headquarters there later. The company issued stock in 1898, and a majority of the shares were acquired by Schering in 1925.

Over the next three decades, Voigtländer became a technology leader and the first manufacturer to introduce several new products which later became mainstream in the market. These include the first zoom lens (36–82/2.8 Zoomar) in 1960 and the first 35mm compact camera with built-in electronic flash (Vitrona) in 1965.

Schering sold its share of the company to the Carl Zeiss Foundation in 1956, and Zeiss and Voigtländer integrated in 1965. In 1972 Zeiss/Voigtländer stopped producing cameras, and a year later Zeiss sold Voigtländer to Rollei. On the collapse of Rollei in 1982, Plusfoto took over the name, selling it in 1997 to Ringfoto.

In the late 1990s, Cosina licensed the rights to use the Voigtländer name, and the names of Voigtländer lenses, for its own products. From 1999 it has used these brands for its lenses and camera bodies with Leica rangefinder thread and bayonet mounts, classic Nikon and Contax rangefinder bayonet mounts, as well as M42 (Praktica/Pentax) thread mount single-lens reflex (SLR) bodies, and lenses for M42, Nikon, and other SLR cameras. In Europe, Ringfoto markets these as well as cheaper film and digital cameras with the Voigtländer name.

Voigtländer-branded products manufactured by Cosina are sometimes referred to as Cosina Voigtländer products.

Yashica

Yashica company began in December, 1949 in Nagano, Japan, when the Yashima Seiki Company was founded with an initial investment of $566. Its eight employees originally manufactured components for electric clocks. Later, they began making camera components, and by June 1953 had introduced their first complete camera, the Yashimaflex, a twin-lens reflex (TLR) medium-format camera designed for 6x6cm rollfilm. The Yashimaflex and successive cameras used lenses sourced from the Tomioka Optical Works, beginning a relationship that would last for years. Also in 1953, the company’s name was changed to Yashima Optical Industry Company, Ltd.

In 1957, Yashima founded Yashica, Inc., a subsidiary arm in New York City to manage marketing efforts in the USA. 1957 also marked the introduction of a popular new TLR camera series, the Yashica Mat line. During the next year and a half, Yashima continued to grow, with 1,982 employees by 1958. Later in 1958, Yashima changed its name to Yashica Company, Ltd, when it acquired the Nicca Camera Company, Ltd. The Nicca acquisition was fortuitous, greatly expanding the company’s market into 35mm film cameras.

After 1983, all Yashica brand cameras were marketed by Kyocera (Kyoto Ceramics), which also made newer Contax cameras. By 1985, the company was facing intense market competition from other manufacturers, especially Minolta, which had introduced a competitively priced and advanced autofocus 35mm SLR camera. Yashica eventually introduced its own autofocus 35mm SLR camera line that was overpriced and poorly marketed in comparison to its competition. In response, Kyocera gradually repositioned the brand as a budget-priced 'Point and Shoot' line, moving production from Japan to Hong Kong, and discontinuing all high-end SLR camera production.

In 2005, Kyocera halted production on all Contax, Yashica, and other Kyocera branded film and digital cameras. In 2008, Kyocera sold the trademark rights of Yashica to Hong Kong-based MF Jebsen Group, and is under its subsidiary JNC Datum Tech International, Limited. Yashica's products from JNC Datum Tech International including digital cameras, digital camcoders, digital photo frames, portable DVD players, digital audio players, digital voice recorders, binoculars, mobile phones and SD cards. Find Yashica Cameras & products on ebay