I would wager that anyone serious about 35mm photography wants to try medium format at some point. A point-and-shoot plastic camera can do 35mm, but medium and large format—those are strictly big league. Medium format is not cheap, nor is it easy to get into. There are tons of books to help with 35mm photography. Yet, when I searched for medium-format books, few came up. Those I found assumed the reader already had a certain amount of photography knowledge and skill. After two years of 35mm, I decided it was time to jump in. I have TLR cameras, and while I like using them, they can be limiting.
While there are many medium format options, the Pentax 645 struck me as the best mix of affordability, flexibility, and quality. Hasselblad and Contax cost a fortune—no way I would buy either unless I could write them off as business expenses. Mamiya is more affordable, but I found the 645 to be scarce. Also, waist-level finders can be problematic on very sunny or rainy days. I discovered this while trying to shoot the Yashica Mat 124 on a rainy day. I like the interchangeable backs and all, but that feature alone was not a reason to buy into that system. That left me with the Pentax 645.
From the outset, I knew a macro lens would be in my bag. The 120mm f4 Pentax 645 lens was highly rated and relatively cheap, so it made the buy list. After the macro lens, a normal lens and a wide-angle seemed like the most logical choices, and that is where the cost shot up. No medium format lenses are cheap, even for Pentax. I watched eBay for over a year before the items I wanted appeared at a price I could afford. Fortunately, a pro photographer was unloading gear, and I got two cameras, a 45mm wide angle, a 75mm normal, and 150mm short telephoto lenses, for a little more than what two 75mm 2.8 lenses typically cost.
After three years, I have a much better feel for where I want to go with photography. Much of my journey has been focused on the VMLP and enjoying Minolta gear. That will continue, but I am also eager to explore art, not only through photography but also drawing and painting. The more I pursue each of them, the more commonality I see among them. Medium format feels like the natural next step for me. Being able to grab such a complete Pentax 645 set at such a good price means I no longer have to worry about what to buy or how much it costs— a blessing for sure.
I got into photography to document my garden and discovered that peering through the viewfinder changed how I see the world. The garden and the world are constantly changing, and I am learning new things every day. What’s next? I have no idea, but I have plenty to keep me busy.