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Mamiya 6 versus Mamiya 7
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March 2010     More Mamiya Reviews

 

Introduction

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I prefer the Mamiya 6 over the Mamiya 7. This is because I need fast operation, and the 7 is far more clumsy than the 6 in actual operation. The optics are all equally excellent.

If you use either of these cameras as your prime camera for serious work then you may prefer the slower operation of the Mamiya 7 and it's larger format and wider range of lenses. I prefer ease of use, since I use a 4x5 view camera for my serious work. I use either of these cameras as fun small format cameras; for many people either of these might be their most serious "big" camera in which case the Mamiya 7 would be the preferred choice.

The Mamiya 7 has only one strong advantage over the Mamiya 6: the availability of wider (50mm and 43mm) lenses, but with the drawback of needing bogus external finders.

Overall, the Mamiya 6 is a blast to shoot, while the Mamiya 7 is more work due mostly to the finders and spot meter.

 

Formats

Comparing 6x6 vs 6x7 are like discussing religion. I won't touch that.

Each has it's advantages.

Ansel Adams preferred 6x6 because he didn't have to rotate the camera for verticals, he saw no loss in quality cropping slightly to a rectangle, and had no problem envisioning his final crop in the square finder.

 

Advantages of the Mamiya 7

The only advantage of the Mamiya 7 is the availability of wider lenses.

 

Disadvantages of the Mamiya 7

Stupid, clumsy external finders needed for the widest lenses.

Strap only works from the side, not top (Mamiya can fix this now and offers it on the M7II)

The meter is spot only, requiring you to revert to the zone system for each and every shot. Mamiya doesn't admit to this the last time I checked. If you just shoot and follow the meter you'll get wildly varying exposures depending on what the meter spot just happened to be seeing.

The spot meter points at an arbitrary area not marked in the finder. On most Mamiya 7s the spot metering area is the same size as the RF spot and just a little down and to the right of the RF spot.

Uses a harder-to-find A544 6V battery.

 

Advantages of the Mamiya 6

Easier to use averaging meter.

All lenses collapse into the body for easy carrying.

All lenses work with the camera's built-in finder.

Uses two common A76 cells for power.

 

Disadvantages of the Mamiya 6

The only disadvantage is if you need lenses wider than 50mm, which don't exist for the Mamiya 6.

I still hope that someone will adapt the Zeiss Biogon 38mm f/4.5 for the Mamiya 6, but with the electronics required, I doubt it.

 

 
Format
6 x 6 cm
6 x 7 cm
Film
120 and 220
120 and 220
Exposures
12 or 24
10 or 20
Lenses
50, 75, 150
43, 50, 65, 80, 150, 210
Finder covers
50, 75, 150
65, 80, 150
External finder needed for
none
43, 50
Colapsible?
Yes
No
Filter Sizes
58mm and 67mm
58mm and 67mm
Rear cap
same for all lenses
Wide lenses need deeper cap
Meter
average
spot
Colors
Black
Black, Titanium, Silver
Power
2 - A76
one A544 (6V)

 

External Finders

All lenses for the Mamiya 6 use the finder built into the camera for everything. This is normal and good.

The Mamiya 7 requires a bogus external finder for the 50mm and 43mm lenses. These finders may impress the casual camera collector as quaint, but really irk working photographers.

External finders are awful for at least three reasons:

1.) One has to remember to look through one finder to meter and focus, and another to compose. Heaven help you if you let go of the AEL button while you are composing; you won't be able to tell through the finder that the exposure unlocked and you will miss your shot.

2.) It's a pain to carry the camera with the finder on top.

3.) It's a pain to have to add and remove the finder from the camera every time it comes in or out of the case.

4.) Heaven help you if you look through the wrong finder to compose. There is no indication in the regular finder that you shouldn't be using it to compose with the wider lenses.

 

Metering

The Mamiya 6 meters the average of the entire area of the viewfinder, regardless of lens. For me this makes the camera very easy to use quickly.

The Mamiya 7 has only a spot meter, regardless of lens selection. This can give great results if you take to trouble to measure the exact location of the spot (it varies from sample to sample). Unfortunately for fast shooters a spot meter mandates use of the Zone System for each and every shot. This is not conducive to fast shooting.

The spot on my Mamiya 7 meters an area about the size of the rangefinder spot, a little below and to the right of the actual rangefinder spot.

Different samples of camera will have their spots pointed in slightly different directions. Test yours by pointing it at a bare bulb at night and noting how the meter reads as you point the camera around.

 

Rangefinders

I'm unsure if this is just my luck, or a trend. I've had much better luck with the rangefinder in the 6 than the 7.

My Mamiya 6 rangefinder was properly calibrated when I bought my camera used in 1995. It remained in proper calibration until I sent it to Mamiya for an overhaul, in which case it came back improperly adjusted. Mamiya cheerfully retried several times to adjust it, each time adjusting it very carefully to the wrong point. I finally corrected this myself and it has stayed properly adjusted.

On the other hand, every Mamiya 7 I have seen or bought has been off. Also, after having the rangefinder adjusted it seemed to drift off by itself over a couple of years and require re-calibration.

 

Collapsible Lenses

The Mamiya 6 can collapse all of it's lenses about 1.5" into the body. This is fantastic for travel; it makes my Mamiya 6 smaller than my Nikon!!

Mamiya saved itself manufacturing expense with the Mamiya 7, and therefore the lenses do not collapse.

This seems like a small issue, but owning both complete systems I can assure you that the ability to pop the lens in on the 6 makes a huge difference in portability!

 

Lens Caps

Yes, lens caps.

The Mamiya 6 wins here. All lenses take the same rear cap. Simple.

The Mamiya 7 loses. There are at least two different rear caps. The 80mm and 150mm take a short cap, and the 43mm takes a long cap. I'm unsure what the 50 and 65 lenses take; Heaven help us if they take a third and/or fourth size. Because of this you have to worry which cap goes where when you should be worrying about catching the light.

The long cap for the 43mm lens does fit all the lenses, but is at least an inch or two longer. The short cap won't fit on the 43mm lens.

 

Formats

This is like discussing cars, politics or religion. 6x6 vs. 6x7 has been argued for 50 years. It comes down to your personal taste.

Ansel Adams preferred 6x6. See his book The Camera.

6x6 is easier to file and proof. 6x7 does not fit on an 8x10 sheet for proofing, and when mounted in pages for filing is too wide to fit a standard binder.

6x7 requires moving the camera or tripod to shoot vertical or horizontal. 6x6 gives you both at the same time without having to move the camera at all.

With 6 x7 you have to keep rotating the proof sheets or file pages to see vertical vs. horizontal images. With 6 x 6 you never have to rotate things.

6x6 slide projectors are easy to find. This is because 6x6 was a popular amateur format for decades. I bought my excellent Kindermann used for $150. 6x7 projectors are extremely hard to find and expensive because 6x7 was never an amateur format.

When a 6x6 image is projected it fills the entire square screen. This gives extraordinary psychological impact. 35mm and 6x7 always leave the top and bottom or the sides of the screen black. The 6x6 image is always bigger when projected properly. This really impresses everyone.

 

Colors

The 6 always comes in black. This is good.

The 7 comes in three colors: The original Mamiya 7 came only in dark titanium painted plastic which looks a little amateurish. The Mamiya 7-II

comes most often in hideous cheap painted silver, or occasionally in nice black.

 

Summary

I prefer the Mamiya 6, but use the Mamiya 7 when I need the 43mm lens.

The only advantage to the 7 is the wider 43mm lens, and possibly if you prefer the 6x7 format.

I bought my 7 system because I wanted the same thing as my 6 system, except in 6x7. I didn't realize the greater inconvenience of the Mamiya 7 nor the filing and projection issues.

Again, the heck with me. For most people today either of these cameras represents a big step up, in which case by all means go for the 7 if it is to become your most serious camera.

 

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Ken

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