Mamiya 6 - Long Term ThoughtsMarch 1, 2018
Welcome to my first journal post! Apologies in advance for my poor writing…
I have been shooting the Mamiya 6 for quite some time now and I recently put a vote out on my Instagram to see if people were interested in my thoughts on the camera. There was quite an overwhelming vote in favour so here it is! Having previously owned a Mamiya 7 (RIP), I will make quite a few comparisons between the two cameras as they are very similar, but the Mamiya 6 has not seen the huge bump in popularity or cost that the 7 has recently gone through.
This is not going to be a full review as there are quite a few comprehensive reviews out there which I will link at the end of this, so I thought I would do a pros and cons list of the Mamiya 6:
- Size - The portability of this 6x6 MF camera cannot be underestimated, the collapsible lenses (Mamiya 7 lenses are not collapsible) make for an extremely compact system and it is also a very light build which makes it easy to carry out all day. Yes it is not as modular as some of it’s 6x6 SLR cousins such as the Hasselblads or Bronicas, but for travel you struggle to find better.
- Image Quality - The Mamiya 7 is held up as a beacon for image quality and for good reason, the detail from the 65mm and 80mm lenses I have used in the past is astounding. I would say the Mamiya 6’s 75mm lens is very close if not on par with the quality of the Mamiya 7 lenses and on a standard print size you will not be able to tell the difference. I have seen some comments online from people struggling to get sharp results from the Mamiya 6 but I can only assume that this is down to a poorly calibrated rangefinder. Speaking of which…
- It’s a rangefinder - It is definitely a love / hate topic of the camera world, but I am a big fan of rangefinders. The viewfinder in the Mamiya 6 is huge with a big bright rangefinder patch, which is perfect for a glasses wearer like myself. I do think that the rangefinder patch in my Mamiya 7ii was a little brighter but there really isn’t much in it. The 75mm frame lines sit nicely in the middle of the VF and even with my glasses on I can get a good view outside of the frame lines which is one of my favourite aspects of the rangefinder experience. I am yet to try the 50mm but am tempted to make the jump, if any glasses wearers could tell me their experience of using this lens it would be much appreciated.
- The Internal Meter - I mostly use an external meter so this has not been a major issue for me but if you like to utilise an internal meter when offered, there are some issues to be aware of. Unlike the spot meter on the Mamiya 7 (which I often used when shooting C41 as you could easily meter for the shadows), the Mamiya 6 has a centre weighted meter, “What’s the problem with that?”, I hear you ask. Well, the meter in the Mamiya 6 tends to underexpose scenes, especially when there is sky present in the frame. I have read on some forums that the meter was designed for transparency film and they were cautious to prevent blowing out skys etc… But this is not ideal for shooting C41 and my first roll of film was underexposed by a good couple of stops when I used the internal meter. There are workarounds such as pointing the camera down when metering and then recomposing, or shading the top of the camera with your hand, but these really aren’t ideal. Also with it being centre weight, the area being metered in the frame also depends on the lens you are using. When shooting the 50mm then it will be heavily centre weighted, but when using the 150mm lens it essentially becomes an average meter. All in all, if you are thinking about acquiring a Mamiya 6, I would recommend using a handheld meter for consistent results.
- Lens Selection - This is not a huge issue for me as I tend to only use focal lengths around the 35mm to 50mm equivalent range, but there are only 3 lenses available for the Mamiya 6 - 50mm (25mm equiv), 75mm (38mm equiv) and 150mm (76mm equiv). This is compared to 6 lenses available for the Mamiya 7 range. Personally, I wouldn’t shoot anything above 80mm on these rangefinder systems as framing/focussing becomes extremely difficult, but they are available if required.
- Electronics - As I have caught the film bug again over the last couple of years I have become increasingly worried about relying on aging electronic cameras. These cameras are only going up in value and I see them as investment purchases. I am not a super heavy user and take good care of my gear, but if a camera’s electronics were to fail on me and repair was not an option, it will become a very expensive paper weight! I have taken a shine to purely mechanical cameras recently and the seemingly limitless repairability of Hasselblads and Leicas as become a real draw for me. The Mamiya 6 is not known for electronic failure, but it is not unheard of and it will become more common as these cameras age.
All in all I would thoroughly recommend the Mamiya 6. You can still find the odd bargain if you are patient enough and they can come in at half the price of a Mamiya 7. If you don’t mind the 6x6 format it is definitely on a par with its bigger brother.
Will I be keeping hold of mine? Definitely! This is my go to camera and it is always in my bag at the moment due to its size and weight. The concern about the electronics is not a huge one for me yet and with them only going up in price it would be silly for me to sell at this point. 90% of the images on my website are taken with this camera so have a look around some of the images to see how it can perform.
If you have any questions just drop me a comment below and I will attempt to answer as best I can.