I love the Hasselblad glass and, of course, they are extremely durable. But, the Bronica is way more user friendly. IMHO.
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I always liked shooting with my rollei 6008, just as sharp and contrasty but german engineered or you could always go old school with a sl66e and one of their tilt/swing lens. Had the Hassleblad 555eld digital and had nothing but problems with it, lens kept getting stuck in the middle of a shoot whitch required that it be sent back to service. When not shooting for clients, I always loved my twin lens rollei.
I've been a professional photographer for over twenty years now. Been shooting constantly since I was about six (1966). Most of my work currently is in Advertising and Photographic Illustration. If you're interested you can see some samples of my work on my website which is currently getting a facelift. I can tell you without any hesitation whatsoever that it is the person behind the tool, and not the tool itself that makes the pictures better or worse. I've seen absolutely brilliant and gorgeous photographs that were made with pinhole cameras, and absolutely horrible photographs made with the finest, most expensive 8X10 gear.
If your question is strictly about the quality of construction and reliability of the gear in question, in no way shape or form can Bronica gear compete with Hasselblad...at least the stuff I've seen and handled. Also, if you want to rent lenses, backs, digital backs, or if your camera breaks down and you want to rent a spare till it gets fixed, just try to rent Bronica gear all over the world. You ain't gonna find much of it, and for good reason: It will not hold up to the rigors of professional use as well as Blad gear will, and a few other medium format brands. The Zeiss lenses are also second to none. If budget is your primary consideration I would sooner go Mamiya than Bronica as the availability is more widespread on the rental gear, and the samples I've seen and worked with are better made and designed. In all fairness to Bronica, I have not handled the SQ-Ai, but have handled several of their previous encarnations and they'd have to come a long-mile to sell me on an improvement that large. If you are serious about it, spring for the Blad. Also, they're all going to require maintenence at some point and the Blad stuff will be easier to get repaired in most places.
Also, the reasons you quoted for getting into medium format are diverse; Architecture, Landscape, and Family Pictures. There are no hard and fast rules over which format to use for each type of photography, but if I may suggest some generalizations that you can take or leave for whatever they may be worth: In general landscape is often best accomplished with a wide, horizontal format. With architecture one also does find oneself depending largely on the wider angle lenses, though for architectural detail a normal to long lens and square format is quite wonderful. Family photos demand speed and spontanaiety to capture fleeting expressions, gestures, and moments. If you do choose the square format of the blad, you may want to also get one of their wide angles like a 50mm for your hankerings towards Architecture and Landscape. Experience will get you fast enough with it to use for spontaneous work, but it sure does take a bit to really get comfortable. It ain't no point-and-shoot, that's for sure. I can't recall if the 503CW has a metering system integrated into it or not, but even if it does it may be rather slow to follow through and be spontaneous with. I guess I'm playing devil's advocate here, but if someone came to me and told me their needs were those you cited, I'm not sure I'd steer them to a 6X6 (square format) SLR Medium Format camera at all. Have you checked out some of the rangefinder type medium format cameras like the Mamiya 7? Those take a bit of getting used to if you aren't used to rangefinders, but a horizontal format may be a good thing for you, and it seems they're a bit faster to use than a Blad. Lenses are reported to be outstanding. Also, if you don't need to go to medium format at all, the Hasselblad X-Pan is a brilliant camera and very versatile for some of the purposes you are after. Metering is very accurate. Lenses are brilliant! It is very fast to use if you can get used to the rangefinder aspect of it. Just a few things to consider, and I'm just rambling on here. An unusual place to be talking so much about photo gear too, but lucky for you (or not, depending how you look at it) but I don't post or read any of the photo chat sites as there isn't enough time in the day!
Good luck on your quest!
I am a professional photographer as well and agree with Marco (Jax2). I too use Hasselblad, own all the lenses from 40 MM to 180 MM.
I love my Hasse when people request medium format, but if asked what camera I would rather shoot (for my own use) it would be Nikon F5 loaded with Fuji Velvia.
No question the Hasse with Zeiss lenses is the superior medium format camera, but it is not spontaneous nor quick to focus. The Zeiss meter prism is very expensive and not accurate (still must bracket, unlike Canon and Nikon).
If your deliberate in your picture taking and have time to set the Hasse up on a tripod, get the settings correct, pull the dark slide and crank off a bracket to be certain the exposure is perfect, it's the camera for you.
I never regretted my decision to make Hasselblad my medium format camera. I've been shooting with them professionally since 1974. Maybe had two failures in all those years.
Since then I've owned Leica SLR and range finders, Canon, Pentax and Nikon. Settled on Nikon because of the way it handled and because of the excellent service provided by NPS (Nikon Professional Services).
Two months ago while shooting for Audi, I dropped a Nikon D1X digital camera and ask NPS for a replacement. Even though this was NOT a warranty issue, they loaned me a new D1X for two weeks while the special parts arrived and were fitted and adjusted on my broken camera.
The D1X body rents in Dallas for $100.00 a day. Two weeks would have cost me $1400.00 rental. The only request from Nikon was for me to properly care for their loaner and pay shipping. Obliviously I love them for bailing me out.
Here is my web site and samples at Portfolio.com.
If cost is no object, go for the Hasselblad. If it is, go fot the Bronica. By the way, the best pictures I ever shot were black and white, shot with a Practica MTL-5...... So it's not the camera, it's the man behind it who determines the quality. It's funny to see though that there's seems to be a link between audiophiles and photographers. Perhaps something to do with a desire to capture live? Sorry, I didn't meen to get philosophical :).
Like Albert, I prefer my Nikon(F100) over any other camera I have owned. Great handling, quality, and ergonomics.
But for big enlargements and tack sharp optics, I use my Mamiya 7II with a 43mm wide angle. Very light weight and dead quiet shutter. I use to have a Pentax 67 - great optics but if you did not use the mirror lock-up it kicked like my Sig Sauer 9mm!
Threads listed below are also "off topic" but are interesting to many members. I see no harm in sharing.
Cars. What does the typical audiophile drive?
Best drink while listening to your rig?
Any BMW Mechanics on the audiogon?
10 BEST MOVIES EVER?
Best beer made...anywhere?
Best single-malt Scotch...
What are your favorite web pages?
You beat me to the punch Albert! I think AudioAsylum has even got a "Wine" section on there now don't they? That "What Car do Audiophiles drive" thread has more responses than the majority of audio-related threads. BTW, I love my F5 as well, and would heartily recommend that camera, or the F100 if you'd be happy with 35mm. F5 has a slightly better metering system. Damn fast and dead-reliable. I've really been enjoying the D2H too. The D2H is utterly amazing to me. 4mb files that upsample better than the D1X files I have! When is a pixel not just a pixel? Canon's newest blow on the front promises to be a stunner too if they pull it off (the new 1D Mark II). That technology moves so fast at this point I just can't keep up. Files I've shot with Canon's 1DS exceed all expectations for 35mm and rival image quality of medium format from a 35mm digital body! Never thought I'd see the day come this soon!
As far as audiophiles and the relation to photography...or rather why are so many audiophiles interested in photography as well...I wonder? As has been suggested, each is about reproducing life in one way or other, for one of our senses to enjoy. One is a visual expression, while the other is aural. Both are about capturing time or life on some physical/tangible medium to share as a form of expression (at best). Both are pretty expensive hobbies and thus can be extended, though certainly not limited to, boys and their toys syndrome. I'd be more inclined to think it was something in the capturing of something beautiful on a tangible medium to enjoy whenever you like. Both have the potential of being quite eloquent and powerful in that way. Photography can express a powerful emotion in just the framing and capture of a moment in time, or a composition that is singular and solitary, much like a painting....all in one two-dimensional space. Music captures and fills moments in time with emotion that moves you through a different portal (or another sensory organ), and is no less powerful and certainly quite eloquant and often magical it would seem. Yet it takes up no space at all (well, I guess there is the source of the music)...and the sound waves....heck, I'm rambling here again. But I think the relation that someone suggested earlier is an interesting one. Certainly more direct than music and cars or single-blend scotches!
Just my opinion though.
Oh no, you guys beat me again!! BTW Marco, I was the one who suggested a link between photography and audiophiles. It's funny that, just as with audio, the equipment gets named. Maybe it's a little bit Freud? No offense guys, just jealous, 'cause just as with the audio-thing I'm not top-dog. What camera I do have? Well, let's say it's working good enough for me....