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503cwwinderPM45 vs H1


New Member
Any feedback on the ergonomics of the above combo vs the H1?

Especially the viewfinder image. Does the PM45 hold up or outperform the H1 finder in size and brightness?

The comparison should be in the digital mode.

Apples and oranges comparison Don.

The H finder is an integrated part of the auto-metering, AF system, with thumb controls to alter exposure mode and metering compensation without taking the camera from your eye. The whole system is designed for speed (relatively speaking for a MF camera).

The 503CW/winder/PM45 is a non metered camera and requires a hand-held meter reading and then those readings transfered to the lens aperture and shutter rings. At it's fastest pace it is still a more studied way of shooting compared to the H camera (which can be a good thing).

The PM45 is pretty bright and is brighter appearing due to the larger surface than the smaller area of the 645.
Thanks Marc. That's exactly the kind of feedback I was looking for. I had a 503c which I had to give up, but now want to replace with another - or go H and re-enter the MF world - but digitally.

Unfortunately I never had the opportunity to use the 503 with the winder or finder. I'm fine with manual metering, but as my eyes have aged with the rest of my body, and I hate using glasses when using the camera, the concept of a viewfinder with an adjustable dioper (PM45)is attractive. To me it all starts with the finder that's why I was curious as to that comparison. I've never been a huge autofocus fan either, but maybe I should reconsider.

It appears the 503cwd/with PM45 and winder is about 2280g (without battery and card) - the H3D is about 2175g with batt and card. Any opinion handling the 2 rigs?

Don't mean to wear you out - I will be renting an H in a couple weeks, but doubt I'd be able to rent the 503 as described.

I will be renting an H in a couple weeks, but doubt I'd be able to rent the 503 as described>


I am sure you will be able to rent a 503 outfit. Also, there are diopters for the waist level finder.


Gilbert is right, diopters for the 503CW waist level finder are readily available and make a huge difference. I also use a metered prism and most of those come with adjustable diopters ... but for critical focusing I also use a flip magnifier on those prisms.

The difference in handling between the 503CW and H camera is best "hands-on" experienced. I grew up with a 500 series camera and am quite used to the handling. However, I also have used a SLR 35mm camera all those years which provided a similar shooting experience to the AF 645 cameras as they became available . So, it was fairly easy when migrating to a Contax 645, prior to then moving to the H system.

Like a 35mm SLR, the H cameras are swifter in use than the 500 cameras, and I am fast at using a 503CW having shot many weddings with one.

A key part of your question has of yet gone unanswered:

"The comparison should be in the digital mode."

IMO, based on extensive use of both systems in the digital mode, the H system is the over-all better option for digital work. The Lion's share of the development is being done via the H system. Software and Firmware developments are coming forth on a very regular basis which further the digital capibilities of these cameras, and the hardware itself is in constant flux to improve the performance.

Most any H2 can be upgraded to a H3 without having to buy a new camera. The H3 now offers a new finder prism with a magnified viewfinder. There is now a waist level finder for all H cameras ... it loses the metering ability, but alows very low vantage points. The HD cameras now allow use of film backs, and all of them now work on a view camera.

I have that little flip diopter as well , but I never could work with it in a satisfying way .
I have to wear glasses and feel unable to focus correctly . What am I doing wrong ? ? ?
Jurgen, I wear reading glasses and have a slight problem with near-sightedness also but do not need glasses yet.

I use a split rangefinder with microprism collar type screen ... on the 503CW as well as the 203FE ... (which I have a flip magnifier for also).

I adjusted the regular diopter on the camera first and locked it down, (my eyes are so bad that I had to adjust it to the maximum).

Then added the flip magnifier and adjusted it's diopter until the screen's split rangefinder circle was razor sharp.

You have to place your eye dead center on the magnifier, which may be your problem due to glasses ... which I assume are for nearsightedness.

I use the flip magnifier even when shooting weddings by getting the focus as close as possible, then flipping the magnifier into place to refine the focus, then back out of the way to shoot. Practice makes it work, and shooting weddings forces you to do a technique over and over until it become second nature.
Thanks Marc

for the given procedure . The glasses I have to use are bifocal gliding glasses . 3 diopters difference between near and distance . That makes using viewers difficult in general .
So I will try out with and without glasses .
I get along far better when focusing without glasses , but there is the problem . Where to put your glasses .
I will let you know , how I get along .
Thanks again .
Jurgen, I finally gave in and now just wear my glasses around my neck on a cord. I had to do this when shooting weddings to repeatedly check the LCD and Histogram. Works great.
> I have ( or had) a 553ELX/PME45 and a H1 until recently...( I just > sold the H1 and still have the 553ELX) maybe I can give you > some insight from my perspective.

> The H1 is a marvelous camera!. For eyeglass wearers ( like > ourselves) the viewfinder is absolutely marvelous being very bright > and easily viewable even with glasses still on. I also love the > dual 120/220 back. also takes GREAT pictures! The argument > of 6x6 vs 6x4.5 is a bunch of huey for the most part. One adapts > one's shooting to either format the same way you adapt your > shooting when you switch from a 150mm to a 80mm or to a 50mm.

So why did I sell mine? I am an AMATEUR shooter. I found the H1 as a store demo unit they were trying to move so the price was a once-in-a- lifetime deal ( it had < 100 activations). However in the last couple of years, I discovered I simply could not afford it. By that I mean I could not afford any of the additional lenses (other than the standard 80mm). For the classic V-series, I have 6 lenses from 40mm-500mm ( a C [the 500] w/ the others being a mix of CF, CB, & CFi), and if I added them all up along with the 553ELX ( which I bought used and which had been used solely as a store demo unit for digital backs) , I could purchase "today" an H1(used) with "maybe" one other lens, or perhaps a "new" H2 ( non-digital) if I added some more cash of my own.

As it turned out, I ended up auctioning an extra H1 magazine for 2X what I paid for it ( another store had an extra when a buyer bought a standard H1 kit and wanted a digital back so they sold the "leftover" 16-32 to me for a deep discount), and I made $1000 USD over and above what I paid for the H1 originally by going on Ebay with it.

"If" through some fluke I win the lottery, or get that once in a lifetime photo I can sell the tabloids for $500,000 USD, I'll get one again in a heartbeat.

Meanwhile, I am thinking now that a 120mm CF or CFi would be very nice......if I could find another store demo unit.....

I can't use the PME45 without glasses . The diopter adjustment just does not match with my eyesight . Looking through the upper part of my bifocal glasses , it works fine , but with the little flip diopter its getting a bit difficult . Something more to use with a tripod .
But using the RMfx , i can not use my glasses , but its perfect without . Strange diopter world .