Mamiya 7 – Rangefinder Giant

Mamiya 7 II,….Medium Format God?

Like many people, I’ve been to the mountain, (digital), and it’s just not for me. Oh, when I have to do web stuff, (party pics), and such, it’s fine. But when I’m involved in serious projects, especially my own, I get no greater satisfaction than with film cameras. And the Mamiya 7 II is on top of that wish list. While I love my Contax and Nikons, there’s no equivalency to a 6×7 negative/transparency. (except large format)

I do still keep a D3 for those digital moments, but sadly, it gets used less and less. In fact, I’m thinking about selling it and just using my old D2hs, since those images mostly go to web, and 4.1MP is still too big in most cases. And just rent when a big, (money), job requires it. I think it’s called regression, but I don’t care about the labels. I know what I like, and I know what images were shown at my last show and how they were made. But I digress.


mamiya 7
Mamiya 7 II Landscape


The Mamiya 7 II is a 6×7 medium format rangefinder camera system with 6 system lenses. It’s one of the best cameras I’ve ever owned. Many say the 6×7 cm format is the perfect aspect ratio. I find this to be probably true in my experience. While the lenses are sharp and exceed expectations in any format, (including MTF), the fact that the negative is so large probably negates the sharpness of any 35mm lens. Yes, I know Leica and Zeiss are spectacular in many cases, but the Mamiya brings it to another level. Due to the size of the negative. 6cm x 7cm is humongous compared to 35mm film.


Mamiya 7 II


Hand Holder

This is really a camera made for hand held work. (no mirror slap)  It has a set of the best lenses in any format (as far as MTF measurements go, anyway). It’s light, (2.6 lbs with 80mm lens), so you can carry it around all day with ease. While not as light or inconspicuous as a Leica M6, I’ve never found it to be imposing to subjects. I believe Martin Parr uses a Mamiya. (and Plaubel Makina 67)

It is simple to use, well laid out, and feels like a well crafted precision instrument. (which it is) No extraneous gizmos here. No digging thru menus, or reading long, complicated manuals. Image making reduced to its’ essentials. It’s easy to see why a Martin Parr and others use this over all others.

Still Listed

I find the Mamiya site a little sparse, but there’s a plethora of info there that is of great use if you are considering owning this gem. Of course, Mamiya is mostly promoting Leaf products these days. I guess we’re just a group of crazies. Oh, well.

Dials control film speed and shutter speed. (remember simple analog controls?) However, there are not one, but two auto modes. It’s a very familiar half press of the shutter button that gives you your heavily weighted center metering. I aim at the spot I’m metering, then recompose,….same as all cameras. (my method) If you’re using a tripod, manual shutter speed and aperture are the way to go. Either way, the metering is very accurate.


Mamiya 7 II


Remember, with 120 film you only get 10 exposures. (220 is 20 exp @ 6×7)The camera accepts either. Also, all the standard add-ons are accomodated. (cable releases, etc,)


What can you say. There’s not a bad lens in the system  The only distortion you’ll ever see is the normal and expected, wide angle kind with only the widest of lenses. (43mm, etc.) They are razor sharp lenses, with pretty much no distortion in the moderately wide to moderately telephoto range. Photodo is a good site to get all that technical measurement info from, if that’s your bag. For me, the image is great or it’s not. I really have an aversion to charts. But to each his own.


Rangefinder Camera



Now this is the part that may turn you off. It’s a rangefinder! To our Leicaphile friends, no problem. But if you’ve shot nothing but SLR’s all your life, there is a small learning curve. Like making sure the lens cap is off! Oh, and if you’re a telephoto kind of guy, (or gal), forget it. But that’s pretty normal for MOST medium format. (notice I said most,….Hassy and some others have longer lenses if you have a spare $20,000+ hanging around,….I advise sticking to 35mm if you’re a long lens shooter,…and NOT a rangefinder!)


While the Mamiya has a “coupled” viewfinder, as with all rangefinders, this coupling only goes so far. There’s  something inherent with all rangefinders called “parallax”. Depending on lens used, that means the object is not exactly framed as viewed thru the viewfinder. If you’re just using “normal” range lenses, this is much less of an issue. But getting really wide or long, it is. So, talk to your Leica friends. They’ll explain it to you. That said, if you shoot all your pics in the 65mm to 100mm range, (medium format), it’s really not a problem. I tend to shoot EVERYTHING normal or slightly wide. (in 35mm parlance, 35mm-50mm lenses) So it’s not an issue for me.


Rangefinder Camera
Photo: Shruthi Nair



Filters are 58mm or 67mm, and are widely available. As with all rangefinders, polarizers and gradient filters are problematic, since you are not actually looking thru the lens.


It has a very bright viewfinder, lighter than any Medium format SLR, precision built, (like a Contax), no mirror slap, (you can shoot handheld at slower shutter speeds), extremely accurate meter, viewfinder is polarized, awesome lenses, takes both 120 and 220 film, leaf shutter syncs at ALL speeds, (4 sec – 1/500 sec), hot shoe, VERY quiet. Mamiya 6 is square format version, (6x6cm), and is MUCH cheaper in the used market. And comes in silver. Excellent prices in the used market, for obvious reasons.


Changing lenses is a PIA, meter is good in normal lens range, but kind of becomes a spot meter with wider lenses and just the opposite on longer lenses, no TTL flash, takes battery for meter, no auto advance, loading, or rewind. No autofocus. (a pro to some) Find Mamiya 7II


mamiya 7 II
Mary Ellen Mark with her Mamiya 7


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