Earlier this year, Kodak announced that they were bringing their iconic slide film Ektachrome back from the dead. I know, it seems this film thing isn’t going away anytime soon, and not only can you continue to sell films, but you can release new ones, or bring old ones back on the market!! Crazy….
We were hoping for a fall 2017 release, but according to this episode of the Kodakery, we should be expecting around a mid 2018 release, and to start we’ll only be getting 16mm movie film, and 35mm. Which hey, they have to test this thing out, they just can’t release all sizes and formats on us at once, so we shouldn’t be too critical (which for us photographers can be extremely tough…) of Big Yellow…
But what we can do is when this hits the streets, go out and buy some rolls…
I may be jumping the gun, but I think this an important tip of you’re trying to use modern flash triggers on not so modern film gear.
Non-TTL Hotshoes and Flashes/Wireless Triggers with TTL pins
Before the wizbang TTL flash technology we have now, camera to flash technology was super simple. There were just two contacts where the flash would touch the camera (in terms of communication). When the camera’s shutter would fire, the flash would fire at whatever setting the flash was set to by the photographer. There was no communication of ISO or f/stop setting to the flash, nothing. Continue reading “Return to Film, with Flash – Part One”
I’m sure by now everyone in the film photography community has heard the great news coming out of Kodak Alaris! They have decided to re-release Ektachrome slide film. This shows all of us in film land an extremely important thing that Kodak is listening to us. All the articles about people returning to film, about younger photographers ditching their DSLRs and returning to film, fashion photographers using film, etc, etc, etc, they were listening. And I know every time one of these articles popped up on Facebook, or in a photo forum, there was the groans about how “Nobody cares about film” and “film is dead”, yada, yada, yada…. I think that Kodak would disagree with that “film is dead” business. This shows our collective power, Ektachrome has been discontinued for 5 years! Who knew that when it was discontinued back in 2012 that one day Kodak would look at how many people are buying film cameras and seriously looking to film for something different in their photography, and that would influence them to change their mind, and un-discontinue a film stock??? Is un-discontinue even a word???
We here at Return to Film are anxiously waiting until we can get our hands on some of this E-6 goodness! Marc and I are planning on shooting a roll (or maybe more) each, and then putting some thoughts and impressions out on the interwebs! 3rd quarter of the year cannot get here fast enough!!!
I have not shot slide film since around 2008-2009, back then I had a film crush on Provia (I still do, I just can’t in principal give money to Fuji for film when I know that deep in their hearts they really don’t care about film…), and even when I did (give Fuji money), I shot them pretty sparingly. Mostly because slide film has always been more expensive then negative film, so I’d only mix in a couple of rolls of Provia in with my pro-pack orders of 160s and 400h (I LOVED Fuji color negative film…), and it was always a special treat getting your film back, holding the slides up to the light and seeing those beautiful rich, deep colors and contrast. There’s nothing like it in the film world!
Kodak will be dipping their big toe in the pool right by just bringing back Ektachrome in 35mm (I’m already trying to think of a project I can shoot with it!) on the release date, and we can only hope (well not really hope, we can go out and buy, shoot, and process as much of this film as we possibly can) that Kodak will then give us Ektachrome 120 (maybe if we’re EXTRA nice 220, pretty please!!!), along with some 4×5 and 8×10!!
I need to experience shooting my Mamiya 7 with Ektachrome, Kodak, I need some of that in my life!
And I’m sure all of you out there have a camera / lens combo that you would love to shoot using this film (for some reason I’m picturing someone out there with a Speed Graphic / Aero-Ektar setup pumping out some big, beautiful 4×5 portraits….)
Is this the start of something more? Is Kodak using this as a test, maybe they could re-release other films? If so, as a personal fav to me, could we get Plus-X back?
(EDIT Jan 11th) I was listening to the Kodakery Podcast earlier today, where Kodak was discussing the New Super 8 motion picture camera they are releasing (and if I was into filmmaking, I would be all over this thing…), Ektachrome was discussed, as well as hints that they are looking into what it would take to bring back Kodachrome!!!
Fast forward to the last 3 minutes to hear Kodak’s response to one of the most frequently asked requests they receive from film makers and photographers…
The least talked about model in a criminally underrated brand….
“Buying my first medium format camera, any recommendations?”
“I want a medium format camera, but I don’t know which one, help!”
“Going medium format, but I’m clueless, where do I start?”
Over the last 15 years or so that the professional market has moved to digital, medium format film camera prices have dropped dramatically, and photographers have been able to buy gear at fractions of what they cost new. Film loving photographers were eager to take advantage of these bargains, but they might have been confused by the various format options and cameras that were available, so naturally, photo internet forums provided a place for them to ask these questions. Experienced photographers chimed in, with cameras that they had personal experience with, and one name almost always is left out these conversations totally (that is until one or two lone voices chirp up and say “Bronica”), then conversations for some reason turn into complaints about accessories and availability of parts. System reliability issues or how some wedding pros may have trashed their cameras during the 80’s. Or the photographer who started their career with Bronica equipment, just to “trade up” to a Mamiya or Hasselblad system as soon as they were able to. Usually those photographers are talking about the SQ 6×6 or the ETR 6×4.5 systems.
I’m going to talk about the Bronica camera that rarely is talked about – The GS-1
The GS-1 was introduced by Bronica in 1982 and designed to be a compact and lightweight 6×7 SLR, to go up against the industry standard 6×7 SLR system – the Mamiya RB / RZ67. Bronica only released 9 lenses in this system; 50, 65, 80, 100, 110 Macro, 150, 200, 250, and a 500mm supertelephoto. Shutter speeds are electronically controlled from 16s to 1/500, with flash sync available at all speeds. Like most medium format SLRs, the GS-1 was made to shoot multiple formats, from 6×4.5 to 6×7, in both 120 and 220 roll film. A polaroid back was also available for image proofing, but unlike the Mamiya RB / RZ cameras, you get a 6×7 image (instead of their 7×7) on the 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 print:
The GS system has two teleconverters (a 1.4x and 2x) and two extension tubes (18mm and 36mm) available. The 110mm Macro gives you a 1:4 image without extension tubes. Adding the 36mm tube allowed you to reach 1:1 magnification. The tubes are also useful because of the relatively long MFD (Minimum Focusing Distance) of the lenses (as compared to other camera systems). There are 4 finders available (Waist Level, Standard prism, metered prism, and a special 90 degree Rotary prism that allowed you to shoot the camera vertically on a tripod, with the addition of the Rotating tripod adapter).
Let me explain a little further about the rotating pieces. Many photographers point to the Mamiya RZ system’s advantage over the Bronica is that the film back of the Mamiya rotates from landscape to portrait, so you don’t have to turn the camera 90 degrees to shoot in portrait format. Because the GS-1 was designed to be as small as possible, it’s film back does not rotate, so to shoot portrait, you have to turn the camera 90 degrees. Which is perfectly fine if you are shooting the camera handheld with a speedgrip, but what about in the studio on a tripod? Bronica’s solution to that was to create two accessories, the Rotating Prism AE (for auto exposure – the prism provides spot metering and allows you to shoot in Apeture priority) G and the Rotating Tripod Adapter G:
(While a creative solution to address this issue, be warned that these rotating accessories can be somewhat difficult to find (sometimes you can luck out and buy them as part of a lot of GS-1 equipment). Otherwise expect to pay around $100 for the Tripod Adapter and $200 for the Rotating prism.
What about the lenses? The GS-1 lenses were held up to be gold standard for Bronica, so much so after they created the coatings and formula for the GS-1’s PG series of lenses, they went back through their other camera lines (the 6×6 SQ and the 6×4.5 ETR) and re-released lenses for those cameras with the same formula. Which is why you have S and PS series lenses for the SQ series and MC and PE lenses for the ETR series.
Now, I’m normally a one lens type of guy, that is I buy a camera and usually I’m happy with only one lens, but I actually have four lenses for my GS-1! The normal 100mm f3.5 which one of the two fastest lenses in the system (the other being the rare 80 3.5, which was the last lens that Bronica released before the line was killed off by Tamron in 2004.) The Macro 110mm, then I have both wide angles, the 65mm and the 50mm. I’d like to get a telephoto lens (or two) to round out my system, then I’ll have a range of lenses to handle a wide range of shooting situations. Fortunately, because Bronica is so underrated, lenses won’t cost you an arm and a leg! The most expensive commonly found lens on the used market is the 50mm which can run you at the highest $300, the 65mm is usually a $100 or so less. The teles can be had for around $200 or so, with the 150mm usually the cheapest, I’ve seen some of those go as cheaply as $70!! Medium format 6×7 lenses for under a $100??!?! The only lenses that get expensive are the normal wide 80mm, and the ultra rare 500mm beast!
Interesting tidbit: The GS-1 also, is the only 6×7 camera that has the capability of shooting TTL flash! Using the Speed grip (which is equipped with a hot shoe) and the dedicated Bronica Speed Light G
So what happened with the GS-1 you might ask? Why don’t we hear about or see more photographers using them? I’m not sure, I did a search for old photography magazines to see if there were any advertisements or marketing on the GS-1.
Here’s what I found:
Seriously people?? How many other camera manufacturers during this time were offering a FREE EXTRA BODY when you bought a system setup (Body, prism, lens and film back)? Or if you bought a system setup, selling an extra lens for a major discount ($1300 lens for $250)??? Despite the above examples of advertising, this system was so under the radar, that now on the used market, finding some lenses & accessories can be quite a quest.(I spent months searching a combination of eBay, KEH, B&H, and Adorama looking for the 50mm before I lucked out and found an almost mint one on eBay). Unless you’re in Japan, the Japanese have tons of gear that seemed to never have seen any time out in the field – practically almost mint!
But seriously, after looking at those offers, I still wonder why we don’t see as much GS equipment in the second hand market. I guess it was difficult for the GS-1 to shine under the shadow of Mamiya. Although, I will put any of my Bronica PG lenses up against any Mamiya RZ lens (and a comparison of these two workhorse systems will be coming in a future Return to Film feature!)
Okay, how about some photos:
Lately, I’ve gotten interested in shooting at night, inspired by Patrick Joust of Baltimore, so I’ve been dragging the GS-1 through the streets of Dallas photographing interesting scenes. I hope to do a book of the images once I feel I have enough to complete an overall statement. The GS-1 is actually a pleasure to use at night, once you learn the dance you have to do with locking the mirror up.
Here are the steps that will get you a full 10 shots on a roll, because if you follow the directions in the GS-1 manual, you lose a shot after each time you wind.
Focus and compose your shot and set your exposure
trip the mirror lock up switch (on the bottom of the camera on the left side of the lens)
take the shot
move the MLU switch back to its normal position (I also re insert the darkslide at this point – not necessary, but I just like to do it anyways…)
trip the multiple exposure switch, to set the camera for a multiple exposure
wind the crank, this will lower the mirror
set the multiple exposure switch back to normal
wind the crank again, this will advance the film to the next frame
get setup for your next shot!
All above photos shot on Portra 160 + 100mm
Here’s some shots with the 65mm, also on Portra 160:
I haven’t gotten a chance to take the 50mm for a spin, so no shots from it yet, but I suspect the image quality will be a lot like these other three lenses! The only lens that I’ve heard some less than glowing things about is the 250mm, and that was in the sharpness category, but I don’t have one of those (and I’m not really interested in anything longer than the 200mm), and I would take any opinions (even mine!) with a grain of salt…
I’ve enjoyed my time so far with the GS-1 (about 7 years and counting), it was my first “real” medium format camera, and I can see using it for as long as it holds up!
*just be aware that it takes some time to build up a kit, unless you buy from someone selling a package deal.
The original idea I had for this article was to be about traveling / road tripping with non-photographers. Spouses, Partners, Family, Friends, basically anyone whose first thought when planning a trip isn’t “what gear do I bring??” But I decided to make it into an user review about the Minolta HiMatic AF2 as a perfect camera to bring when traveling with non photographer companions. Besides, not all of us are super neurotic about these things right?
These thoughts don’t sound familiar to anyone out there do they?
-I wonder if there’s space / and or time during the trip to bring the 8×10?
-Not enough room for the 8×10? Okay, okay, the 4×5 should be no problem right? It’s not a monorail, it folds up!
-What? We’re going on some guided tours when we get there? Well, alright, I guess one of my medium format kits should do the trick?
But maybe even the smallest, lightest medium format camera you own, is a no-go, and you start to look at your 35mm gear…
Not saying that I go through this checklist when I’m going on a non-photo trip (I don’t even own an 8×10….yet), but I did have some decisions to make this past August when a friend proposed a guys’ road trip to Birmingham, Alabama to attend an independent film festival. Being as I’ve never been to Birmingham, I wanted to have some gear that I would be comfortable with in any situation that I could possibly find myself in, and that I could work quickly with. I didn’t want to hold up everyone else doing photographer things, just want to be able to grab the shot and move on.
Looking over my stash of 35mm cameras, two jumped out as options:
-A Hexar AF
-And a recently purchased Minolta HiMatic AF2
Why? Well up to that point I had been using the Hexar to shoot a series of images loosely inspired by Lee Friedlander’s America by Car, just sort of my commute to and from work. I had been enjoying shooting with Hexar a lot up to that point, so I thought that I would have opportunities to use it on the road. The HiMatic AF2? Well, it was an impulse purchase from Hamish Gill of 35mmc.com, and I had only really shot one test roll with it. I really wasn’t all that comfortable with it yet. I’m not really sure what I was thinking, taking an untested camera on a road trip!
I grabbed a hand full of Tri-x and FP4 for the Hexar and about 8 rolls of Superia for the AF2 and packed for the trip.
While on the trip, something weird happened; the Hexar never left the hotel room. I never even took it out of my bag. Oh I meant to shoot some black and white, but I had been using both cameras without staps, and I wasn’t about to carry my backpack everywhere (I wanted to travel as light as possible), so I just carried the AF2 everywhere in my hand. After all it’s an extremely light camera (since it’s mostly plastic)
Background on the Minolta AF2, released back in 1982, it’s a camera that was caught in that in-between era of autofocus and pre-autofocus compacts. The era where it didn’t look weird to have a point and shoot consumer camera with relatively new tech like infrared autofocus with a manual film advance lever and rewind knob. It has (depending on how you look at it) a flexible 38mm 2.8 Minolta lens, that according to the manual has 4 elements in 3 groups (that is if you care about that sort of thing…). *PERSONAL NOTE** I actually love the focal lengths between 35mm and 40mm, those are walkin’ around lenses for me. Shutter speeds range from an 1/8 of a second to a respectable 1/430, and the lens goes from 2.8 to f17 (that’s an odd number, but that’s what the manual says!) The only disappointing thing in my opinion about the camera is that the min focusing distance is almost 3 and half feet. I like to get close with a moderately wide angle lens, it gives an interesting sense of space to a photo, and thankfully most lenses in this range can focus pretty close. So that this lens can’t is a slight negative in my mind, but that just means that you have to work around the limitations of the camera.
This camera is typical of the early 80’s era of compact cameras where it beeps at you if you try to photograph in certain situations; like if you’re too close (you’ll get a beep-beep-beep) or if you try to take a photograph without flash and the camera thinks you need flash, it will tell you (you’ll get a long beeeeeeeeep), and there’s a helpful sticker on the back just incase you forget what beep means what.
the camera has very few controls, you get a self timer lever in front, a switch that turns the flash on, and the film speed selector which is around the lens. The meter eye is right below the lens, so if you love to use filters, you don’t have to worry about exposure compensation since the meter will meter through the filter as well. I also almost forgot to mention that it takes two AA batteries. Common, found in pretty much any and every place on Earth AA batteries. No expensive lithium, or hard to find speciality batteries for this camera! Expect about 30-35 rolls before you need to replace them, although I’ve started doing it when the flash recycle times (around 7 sec) start to run a little longer.
Oh, if you do buy one of these, when you take a photo, the shutter lets out a wheeze, not a click, a wheeze. I’ve heard it referred to as a robot sneeze, that’s probably the best way to describe how it sounds. Weirdest sounding shutter I’ve ever heard.
The camera was a joy to shoot with during the trip:
A lawn elephant displaying Alabama pride:
I know that people talk about the lost art of reading maps and atlases, but the fact that we have interactive maps and GPS on our phones is nothing short of amazing, I could just imagine how turned around we could have gotten on this trip 15 years ago…
I didn’t know this before hand, but Birmingham has a strong mining and iron working industry. One of our stops was a closed iron factory, Sloss Factory:
I always like to keep my eyes open for little details like this that someone thought to write:
Birmingham also was ground zero during the Civil Rights era. I didn’t get a chance to visit the 16th Street Baptist Church, but I did run across this historical marker downtown:
Because of the photos from this trip, I now have made the HiMatic one of my daily diary cameras (the other being my Olympus Stylus Epic), these are cameras that I keep loaded with film, and I make it a point to photograph constantly around the house. My wife, my child, the visitors that we have, our dogs, whatever might seem to have a bigger meaning 5, 10, 15 years down the road, I’m making photographs of it. Sending the film off and getting 4×6 prints (and my negatives!) back. This is the perfect camera for this…
Oh, and the title of this post? While we were in Birmingham, one of my friends noticed the HiMatic, and he remarked that it looked ‘Analog as fuck’, to which I replied “Why yes, yes it is…”
PS – I’d like to give an extra shout out to Lance Camera Straps, I loved this strap so much, that I bought a second one, so I have one on the HiMatic and the other on my Leica M4P
Just a quick post to say that we had a busy 2015 outside of Return to Film, which is why there weren’t that many posts. The new year will bring lots of exciting things for all of us, and we plan on talking about them here!
These are my Holgas, there are many like them, but these two are mine…
You’re responsible for my first experience using film bigger than 35mm, you changed me forever, I want you to know that…
Before I met you, I was a different type of photographer:
I was uptight
I was dogmatic and rigid
I made my photographs a certain way, with a certain type of camera. It had worked for me for over ten years, and I hadn’t planned on changing anytime soon. Until I returned to college in 2004 to pursue a BFA in Photo, and you were a requirement for my intermediate photo class. You were boxy and plastic, you felt cheap, hell you looked cheap.
You were also uncompromising, you asked me to do a lot but you gave me so little to work with:
one shutter speed (1/100 of a second – which wasn’t always 100% accurate)
a wide angle plastic lens that I couldn’t change
and you weren’t light tight, all sort of weird leaks always made their way onto the film, so much that taping you up with black gaffer tape was just an excepted ritual to prepare a new out of the box Holga to shoot its first roll of film
You asked me to let go, let go of that sense of control, of those set in ways that I had. Besides, you didn’t have a range of 8 f-stops, you didn’t have a shutter speed of 1/2000, you didn’t need to make sure you were in perfect focus.
You weren’t about all that technical minutiae
You were about feeling the photo
The motto that was frequently associated to you and your similarly equipped brethren was “Don’t think just shoot”. I always hated that saying because it made everyone who chose you to make their work look as if they didn’t have a clue of what they were doing. And some didn’t, to them you were just an inexpensive toy to have fun with, and that’s okay. If there’s one thing missing in photography these days it’s fun.
But there were others, many others who saw the uniqueness of the photos you produced as the element they needed to create their statement to the world. Those hazily sharp / unsharp images could be interpreted as a dream, or a nightmare; there was always that additional layer of meaning that the viewer was confronted with. Maybe that’s why people either loved or hated the photos you made, you weren’t a tool that made literal photographs.
I bonded with you immediately, you were that fresh start that I didn’t know I needed. I was hooked from that first roll of Tri-x. Soon, you were all I wanted to shoot with. Maybe it was those larger negatives, maybe it was the freedom I felt when I was photographing with you.
Now the news is that more of you are going to be produced. The factory in China that manufactured you just up and destroyed and scrapped all their machinery. All retailers informed Holga fans that once their stock was gone, that was it. That’s a shame, you were the perfect teaching tool in today’s progressively digital world. Who knows how many more generations of artists you could have influenced… We had over 30 years with you, but that wasn’t long enough. Now, you’ve been relegated to a footnote in the history of film photography, a victim of the massive digital photo industry that won’t seem to stop until it’s consumed all that is analog, after all film is now a niche, and the Holga was the nichest of niches….
Me? I’ve neglected you over the past couple of years. When I load up to go shoot, I see you lying there, a thin layer of dust starting to settle over you. You’ve been waiting for me to load you with film. To continue working on that project we were so excited about years ago. And I pause for a moment, thinking about all the photos I’ve made over the last ten years with you.
I think that just two years ago, we were on our way to Chicago for me to attend my very first professional portfolio review, and the looks of some of the reviewers and fellow photographers when I opened my print box to reveal eighteen carefully selected 11×14 photos we had made together. We heard some positive feedback, and some negative. Of course that’s always to be expected, you’re an acquired taste and not everyone loves your flavor.
You taught me, to let go. Frame it loose. If I had second thoughts about the photo I was about to shoot, shoot it anyway. Film in the grand span of things, is cheap. I don’t often wonder about what kind of photographer I would be now if I never would have been forced to use you. Would I have eventually found my way to you?
I don’t think that they consider your film important enough for a Viking’s funeral, still from Youtube user Mukeybear
As film photographers in 2015, we get used to addressing a certain set of questions whenever we are out shooting:
What’s that? [Or as a current meme goes – WHAT ARE THOOOOOOOSE??!] (Since most people that shoot digital are used to certain camera body types, most common being a DSLR, they are naturally curious or confused when they see cameras like rangefinders, TLRs, Large Format cameras, pinholes, Polaroids)
You can still buy film? (Why yes, yes you can…some places you can even walk into a camera store and give a person behind a counter money in exchange for boxes of film!)
Why are you shooting film? (I, personally generally answer this question either sarcastically or snarky [which I know that I shouldn’t] depending on how my mood is that day. Maybe the person is genuinely curious as to why, not trying to attack your medium of choice, but sometimes they are trying to attack your medium of choice so maybe they need a little bit of snark…)
How are you going to see your pictures? Where do you get film developed? – Now, this is actually a question to be addressed…
Why do I say that? Dealing with getting film developed is seen by most non-film photographers as one of the major negative (no pun intended) reasons not to attempt the whole film photography process. As the years go by, we see lab after lab close down, labs abandoning certain processes (like developing slide film), or abandoning their film processing all together. Now there are film labs out there that are doing tremendous business, we all know them; Richards, Indie Film, The Darkroom, NorthCoast, Dwayne’s, FIND, and many others. And those labs are great, there’s a reason why they are doing the business that they are. But for those of us who don’t want to mail off their film all the time (or don’t live close to these labs), or don’t want to get their hands dirty developing themselves, there used to be another option if you shot 35mm only.
That option for 35mm shooters? The 1-hr photo lab.
Remember the drugstore 1-hr photo? Drop off a couple of rolls, come back in an hour to prints (if you wanted them), some decent low res scans, and sleeved negatives! All for a fairly reasonable price.
Why would you use drugstore 1 hour processing????
Maybe you’re doing a personal 365 day or 52 weeks photo project
Maybe you bought a used camera and you needed to test it out
Maybe you’re selling a camera and you need to test it out
Whatever the reason, the 1-hr photo lab was a nice way to experiment with different films, before you moved on to more serious shooting, or started using those same films in larger formats. Personally when I returned to film back in 2009, I was at my local Walgreen’s at least 2 to 3 times a week, adjusting back to my Nikon F3 and F4s, seeing if I liked 400H more than Portra 400, re-learning to shoot film. And that Walgreen’s got used to seeing me, the technician might say something like “nice photos” when I came back to get my negatives and scans. It was nice.
As the years passed, Walgreen’s (and other 1-hr photo places) began to stop developing film. Minilab equipment was stripped out of their stores (wonder what happened to it), and the ones that continued to develop film in store….their quality control went waaaaaaaaay down. Expired chemistry. “Technicians” that didn’t understand what film was and how it should be properly handled (I heard a story of a photographer seeing a photo lab employee using an un-sleeved negative strip to clean their fingernails).
Now many of these places are committing what to us should be the ultimate sin (even more than lab employees cleaning their nails with your negatives):
Film is now being sent out for processing, and you get a CD of scans, but…..no negatives.
They are destroyed, too much of a hassle (read: cost) to properly sleeve them and mail them back to you.
Throwaway culture has come to film photography.
But you’ve got the scans though right? Your photos are right there for you to view, and email them to your friends and family, post those suckers on Facebook, and hell if you wanted to print them you can do that too! You might be able to squeak a decent 8×10 out of those scans.
Photo CDs (even the archival ones) don’t last forever and since a lot of computers / laptops these days are dropping CD / DVD drives, you might not be able to even view them in 10 years.
Hello, today I’d like to talk about the Mamiya 7 medium format rangefinder camera. I guess I should start by saying that I like to photograph…..alot. Things like Resolution Charts, MTF curves, and all those quantitative lens performance measuring tools mean absolutely nothing to me, I just care about how a camera feels in my hands, and how I feel shooting it and the images I can make with it and its lenses. For me the Mamiya 7 is the one of the best options for when you want Medium format quality, but you want to carry a lightweight package, and you don’t want a TLR.
Personally, I’ve wanted one of these cameras for the past 7-8 years before I was able to buy one. Even with it being a film camera, the depreciation of film gear has still left bargain (or as I like to say shooter) grade cameras bodies + one lens still hovering around $1000-$1100, usually for the body + standard 80mm. If you want the newer 7II (which up to recently Mamiyastill sold brand new), be prepared to pay at least $1700-$2300 used depending on condition for the same setup.
What’s the difference between the two versions?
The 7ii came in two finishes, a champagne silver finish, or a flat black. The original 7 only came in a titanium finish.
The 7ii has multiple exposure capability.
Different dark slide controls, the original 7 has a dial that you turn, the 7ii adds a lever that folds out.
Strap lugs;the original 7 has its lugs on one side, so the camera hangs vertically on you. The 7 ii has the lugs in the standard position like any other camera.
Not worth the extra $$$ in my opinion, that money could go towards an extra lens. Speaking of lenses, it’s an oft repeated statement that the lenses for the Mamiya 7 (and 6) systems are some of the best lenses, not just for medium format, but for any camera system ever made. I only have experience with the 80mm, and it’s pretty damn good.
Okay, the important part; how does the camera shoot?
The Mamiya 7 feels like an extension of your hand, the grip is very well designed, with handgrip grooves in perfect place for your fingers. The film advance is smooth for having to advance the large 6×7 framesin a single stroke (or multiple small ones, if that’s your thing). The shutter sound registers a barely audible “click”, it is a great camera to shoot people candidly (once they ignore the camera’s size), landscapes, cityscapes, and environmental portraitsare this camera’s forte!
It also makes a good street camera* (if you are willing to shoot medium format on the street that is, 10 shots before changing film changes your rhythm – that is unless someone starts producing 220 black and white film again [Ilford, looking in your direction!], or you get some of the remaining color 220 that’s left out there…)
In all honesty, if you’ve shot any rangefinder style camera, the experience is the same, just a larger camera to hold.The first time I looked through the viewfinder, I was amazed at how bright and large the rangefinder patch is (having only shot with a Konica Auto S2 and an Olympus 35sp – both patches had dimmed over the years), the framelines move to indicate parallax error as you focus. And like any other interchangable lens rangefinder, the framelines change depending on what lens is attached.
Speaking of lenses, not many to choose from, not that you need a lot with a camera like this;
50mm Wide angle
65mm moderate wide
The 80mm F4 lens is a great walkaround lens, sharp and provides a slightly wider than normal field of view. It’s FOVis equivalent to a 40mm in 35mm terms. The only downside (if you can call it that), is that the Mamiya 7 + 80mm is considered a tad cliche because of it’s “look”, you know how certain camera / lens combinations (like a Leica + a 35mm Summicron, a Hasselblador Rollei + 80mm Zeiss Planar) give a distinctive signature? The Mamiya 7 + 80 has one of those distinctive signature looks to it.
Okay, enough talk, how about some photos?
after buying the 7 in December of 2013, it pretty much became my feature camera for all of 2014
I believe these three are all Fuji Acros
Just some images (okay, a lot of images) from my 2014 – the year of the Mamiya 7. In conclusion, this is one of those cameras that if you are able to get your hands on, you might not be able to let go of it. Highly recommended…