This is my first foray into medium format. I was looking for a camera that offered the flexibility and ease of use of advanced 35mm SLRs, but also provided larger film area and better lens quality. I purchased the camera from CameraWorld of Oregon.
This camera is a breeze to use. Loading the film was about the only aspect of this camera
that felt unfamiliar, and this was made fairly simple by the explicit and well illustrated
instruction manual, as well as the reminder graphic printed inside the film holder.
The autofocus works reasonably well, albeit not as quickly as my 35mm SLRs. At a family wedding I was recently photographing, I found that the autofocus would often hunt in lower lighting situations. It is trivial to override the autofocus by simply turning the focus dial (no switches). There is also a convenient button right under your right thumb that locks the focus. A switch is also provided to turn autofocus off and to switch between single shot and continuous focus tracking. The viewfinder also has a diopter adjustment build in, making it easy to tune for your own eyesight.
The view through the finder is nice and bright. Illuminated viewfinder info includes the aperture, shutter speed, frame number, focus indication, metering mode, exposure compensation, and battery and flash status. There is no external LCD display as found on many 35mm SLRs, although all this information is available on various dials. I would have preferred to have this info centralized on an external display, however.
The built in motor drive worked fine for advancing to the first frame and completing the film winding at the end of the roll, as well as advancing between frames. I haven't had an opportunity to use the continuous motor drive. The camera is quieter than my Nikons, but a little louder than my Canon A2E. A small dial on the upper left of the camera selects between single shot, continuous, or 2 and 10 second time delays. As with my Canon, the mirror locks up at the start of the timing cycles, making the 2 second mode ideal for landscape shots on a tripod.
I ended up using aperture priority mode for most of the shots I took since it was easier to turn the aperture dial while looking through the viewfinder than it was to turn the shutter dial. It is a little hard to reach the exposure compensation dial when looking through the viewfinder, but I'm sure I'll get used to that.
The depth of field preview worked great. The button to stop the lens down is located just below and to the right of the lens while holding it up to your eye, so it can be engaged easily by the right ring finger. The viewfinder was so bright that I found I still had enough light to gage depth of field even when stopping fairly far down. I have not found this to be the case with my 35mm SLRs.
The built in center weighted averaging and spot meter are both dead on
although obviously much less sophisticated than the matrix metering in the 35mm SLRs. It's
not a point and shoot, but with appropriate exposure compensation for backlighting, very
light or very dark scenes, it's pretty easy to get a good exposure. I've probably been
averaging one bad exposure (off more than a stop) for every two to three rolls of film
The camera feels fairly well balanced, and works well for hand held shots, although I did find that I accidentally turned the motor drive dial to 2 second delay once which resulted in a lost shot. On the tripod, the camera worked great aside from not having an external LCD display. As expected, it was a little easier to take horizontal format images than vertical.
The camera feels solid, but not too heavy. It is well finished in a matte black. There are many parts that appear to be made from polycarbonate. Those that are used to all metal cameras may be a little disappointed by this, but I've had great luck with my Canon SLRs which also use polycarbonate extensively. Metal is used for both the lens and tripod mounts - the two most delicate points on the camera.
The camera also has interchangeable backs and viewfinders. I ordered mine with the standard 120/220 back and later added the vacuum back. A Polaroid back is also available. Focusing screens are also interchangeable, and I believe a waist level viewfinder is available. The camera takes 32 exposures using the 220 back, and I assume 16 with the 120 back.
The camera also includes built in data imprinting. It records the shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, exposure mode, type of lens and type of film (120/220) on the edge of the film for every shot. Since I am too undisciplined to record this info on my own, I find this an invaluable tool for understanding what I did wrong with the images that don't turn out.
Along with the 80mm F2 lens that came with the camera package, I purchased a 35mm F3.5 and a 210mm F4. All three lenses appear to be of extremely high quality. The aperture and focus dials feel very smooth with no sloppy movement. I could see no geometric distortion in the wide angle lens.