My Mamiya RB67

The RB67 makes your eyes bulge out

Some months ago, I closed a stock photo sale and used the proceeds to add a new camera to my collection. I made the jump to medium format.

Right now, the Mamiya RB67 system is a phenomenal deal. You can get a decent setup for a few hundred dollars.

I've been showing it to folks and it has enough features to impress even digital users. For most folks, trying to have both a 35mm film SLR and a digital SLR is rather pointless. There's just not enough benefits to shooting 35mm film, most of the time, to make it worth having both. But medium format gear is going to have a clear advantage, giving you both a different feel and better image quality. I like to tell people that I picked up the RB67 so I wouldn't want to buy a Canon EOS 5D.

Through the RB67 viewfinder

The biggest perk is the viewfinder. It is mind blowing compared to what people are accustomed to. I got mine with a waist level finder, so you look down upon a huge piece of ground glass. There's also a diopter to magnify the view. Compared to the dim and tiny view from a digital SLR viewfinder, or even what some of the better classic 35mm cameras gave you, it's a breath of fresh air. It's the easiest camera I own for focusing in the dark.

Another perk, and mind you, it's pretty necessary given how heavy the camera is, is that you rotate the film back, not the camera. Mine is the oldest body, with no masking to let you know which orientation you are using. So you have both portrait and landscape orientations showing on the viewfinder at the same time, which I like. I find that I shoot a lot of scenery with portrait orientation, oddly.

I can shoot the finest grained 35mm film and compare it to what comes out of my RB67 loaded with famously grainy tri-x and the RB67 picture will have finer detail. It is depressing to scan 35mm landscapes now. It isn't easy to make a apples-to-apples comparison to a digital sensor, but I'm confident that a 6x7 slide is going to be higher resolution than anything but the best 645 digital backs.

My RB67

Other nice bits are the leaf shuttered lenses that will synch at all speeds (although the maximum speed is 1/400, which bothers some folks, but doesn't bother me especially much), the bellows focusing instead of helical focusing that lets me get awfully close to the subject without any additional hardware, I'm also quite fond of the way the shutter works. Instead of having a "Bulb" setting like most 35mm SLRs that requires a locking cable release, it has a "Time" setting, that holds the shutter open until you either twist the shutter ring or advance the film. I've found I can do long exposures with the "Time" setting without any cable release at all.

There are some downsides, other than the weight. On the Pro body, there's no multiple-exposure prevention, which gets me once in a while. There's not a built-in meter and metering prisms are hard to find. And on the Pro body, there's no shoe, hot or otherwise. I've worked around the lack of meters by using my A95 and transfering the settings, but the lack of a shoe still gets old. Eventually I'll get an L-bracket.

There's a few different versions of the various lenses, for the most part ordered by age.

The first series, with no letter, is the oldest. It's single-coated. They released some of them with slightly modified lens barrels for the "NB" series.

The next series, the "C" series keeps the same basic design but has multi-coated lenses. Apparently the shutters in this series are a little less durable than the older lenses, but the optical quality and lens-to-lens consistency is better.

Finally, there's the "KL" series, which has been redesigned for better optical quality. These are the sharpest lenses (although 6x7 film size makes even the oldest and cheapest lenses look awfully sharp).

So far, I've been using the 90mm C lens, which is about the same field of view as my trusty 50mm lens in the 35mm format, and it works out quite well.

The biggest adjustment is that there's only a few safety interlocks. I had some unexposed sections of film and whatnot until I got into a proper routine for using the RB67. This is not a huge thing, because black slide film is a great IR filter.

Posted by Jeff :
Posted by Colin :
Great summary. I just got one of these myself, and read your post a couple times both before and after receiving it. You're right on, of course - it's a blast to shoot with, and the results are amazing. Got to be the best deal in photography right now...

Oddly, even though he sold his, the review on is the primary thing that sold me on the camera. I understood the plusses and minuses and decided that, like throwing pots on the potter's wheel, the wrist exercises would help me keep my wrist problems safely in remission. It's very handholdable once you get used to the weight and I am quite comfortable shooting for a 2-3 hour studio shoot with the RB67 in my hands the whole time.

If you really want to see a great demonstration of the difference, you should read my blog article on grain and film size.

After all the search hits I got, I put up a Followup article with some more details.

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