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Tuesday, July 24

Mamiya Press update

Farmyard at Evelick

I've been having a whale of a time with the Mamiya Press outfit I bought recently. It's the first rangefinder I've felt entirely comfortable with because, for the first time, I can see all the of the frame lines with my glasses on! I grew to love the Leica M2 but that took some perseverance and involved a certain amount of guesswork when it came to the edges of the frame.

Old Library, Errol

The 100mm framelines in the Mamiya - that's the standard focal length for the 6x9 format - are big and fairly bright and make framing quite easy. As usual with rangefinders, they're a bit on the tight side so there's always something on the negative beyond what you think are the boundaries of the scene in the viewfinder but it's not a big problem.

The rangefinder focusing is a piece of cake as well, being both easier and faster than on any other medium format camera I have. I handle the Mamiya just the same way I would the M2 and it's every bit as easy as the Leica in terms of use but with a better viewfinder.

When I got the outfit - a Press Universal body, 6x9 back and 100mm and 75mm lenses - I thought the wide angle would see most use. It's early days yet but for the four films I've exposed the 100mm has taken all but a few of the pics.

Dilapidated farm building, Evelick

It seems a very natural focal length. I had a quick look on Google and it turns out that it's the same angle of view as a 43mm lens on the 35mm format. Like a lot of photographers, I've always found the 40mm focal length on the 35mm format to be about right and the 100mm isn't too far away. I found this on the internet:
Studies have measured the cone of visual attention and found it to be about 55 degrees wide. On a 35mm full frame camera, a 43mm lens provides an angle of view of 55 degrees, so that focal length provides exactly the same angle of view that we humans have.
That's possibly why I've taken to it so quickly. So far, I've mostly been familiarising myself with the handling and using up some out-of-date HP5 so that I can fine tune the development in Microphen. It's working out very well so far. HP5/Microphen seems like a great combination. I can't see any difference in shadow detail between HP5 at 800 ISO in Microphen and at 400 ISO in ID11 1+1.

A good, no-nonsense outfit. The Press Universal with 100mm mounted, 75mm
and 6x9 back. It hangs from the neck on an old Nikon F strap with a Domke US
Post Office shoulder pad.

The pics here are nothing special, just shots from early films to test the camera and lenses before sending the outfit off for a service. Fortunately, it's all good with everything apparently working fine. The lenses should improve with a good cleaning, though, and I hope the viewfinder and rangefinder spot become a little clearer as well.

For various reasons mainly relating to brighter weather conditions, lots of sport on TV and Cath's long summer holiday (she's a teacher), I tend not to do too much photography during the warmer months. I'm really looking forward to autumn and winter when I'll be able to take to the hills with a hand-held Mamiya Press and a few rolls of film for some big, moody negatives.


DavidM said...

A bit more sharpness is to be expected, but there's a certain clarity to theses images that is very attractive. Don't seem to be able to define it more closely, I'm afraid. Can you see what I mean?

Herman Sheephouse said...

Sits back, puts feet up on desk, takes a big swig of tea, swallows tea, and says . . . .


Bruce Robbins said...


Yes! That's sort of what I'm after. With 35mm I find that the level of grain I like tends to obscure some detail, especially beyond 10x8. With 6x9 I can have the grain but there's still all the detail I want. I had thought about shooting fine grain film in medium format and printing through a grain screen for a similar sort of effect but grain screens don't seem to be readily available now for some reason.

Bruce Robbins said...


You're entitled to that gloat. :)

Herman Sheephouse said...

Just try and stop me ';0)

DavidM said...

Times have changed. No doubt some neglected corner of a dusty cupboard in a remote retailer has forgotten carton of grain screens.
The difficulty for the all-wet photographer is that effects like grain are more easily done on screen with plug-ins. And the plug-ins do it better and more flexibly.
This is territory that might be better abandoned to the digiteers.

John Carter said...

I've told you I have a Super 23. I use the f3.5 100mm, and the 65mm f6.3. I like them both and the big negative in the 35mm format is heaven. I do have the instructions to adjust the rangefinder, if you want them I'll email them to you (if I can find them). It is easy to adjust; you just have to know which screws to turn. I'm always using mine but being cool is important in California so I get a lot of 'what the hell is that?'

normusarms said...

Have you tried an Op-tech neoprene strap on the Mamiya? I use Op-tech straps on my heavy cameras I find they are far more comfortable than the normal straps that come with cameras.

normusarms said...

I use the extra wide one

Mike M said...

Bruce, where did you send it for the service? I have a Pentax 67 that could do with a bit of life put back into it but don't know where??

Bruce Robbins said...

Haven't tried an Optech strap yet but I'll get round to buying one at some point. Thanks for the link.

Bruce Robbins said...

Hi Mike,

Miles Whitehead. Very reasonable prices and a good guy to deal with. If you get in touch through the contact form on the blog I'll dig out his details for you.