Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Spotlight: Mamiya 7ii

The Mamiya 7ii is a medium format (6x7) interchangeable lens rangefinder camera that first came out in 1999. It's fully electronic, and requires a 6V PX28 battery in order to function. For a 6x7 camera, The 7ii is gloriously compact and easy to carry around; it's not any larger or heavier than a full frame digital SLR. If you need a big negative and enjoy rangefinder focusing, the 7ii could be the perfect camera for you, if you're willing to pay some big bucks (They sell for around $2,000 on Ebay with the standard 80mm f/4 lens). I lucked out and got to borrow this one from my university.

To me, the real selling point of the Mamiya 7ii system is that it uses leaf-shutter lenses. There is no internal shutter mechanism within the body, and being a rangefinder, of course, there is no mirror. The leaf-shutter is extremely discreet and causes essentially no vibration. This makes using slower handheld shutter speeds possible, and means you don't have to use a huge, heavy tripod to compensate for shutter/mirror slap. Plus, unless you're in a small silent indoor space, no one is going to hear you take pictures, which makes event and street photography much easier.

Speeds between 1/500th and 8 seconds are selectable, plus bulb. There is an automatic (aperture priority) mode as well. I used this exclusively during my time with the camera, and negatives came out well exposed. Exposure compensation between +/-2 EV is also available. Shutter speeds and metering are viewable through the viewfinder. Other features include a self-timer button, multiple exposure switch, and a locking mechanism to prevent accidental exposures.

The rangefinder/viewfinder is good. Not as nice as a Leica, but it gets the job done. The rangefinder patch can disappear if your eye is not totally centered with the viewfinder, which can be annoying. Also, it bares mentioning that the framelines do not automatically compensate for parallax error. Ergonomics are great. The grip feels like it was made for my long, spindly fingers!

The only bummer with this system is that none of the lenses (to my knowledge) are faster than f/4. I'm not sure why this is... Maybe to keep the size of the lenses down? This system would really tempt me if there was at least one f/2.8 lens in the lineup.

Here are some photos I made with the Mamiya 7ii. The 80mm f/4 lens was used for each one. The film was Kodak T-Max 400.