Mamiya 7II medium format rangefinder camera system.

The Mamiya 7II film camera

Mamiya web site  Photography examples  Other Mamiya 7II reviews – Ken Rockwell  Other Mamiya 7II reviews – Tom Westbrook

The Mamiya 7II is a special camera. It shoots film and uses some of the most outstanding lenses ever made… and that’s about all there is to it.

Most camera reviews try and tell (and sell) you all the great features which a camera has. Well this film camera has very few features and yet the Mamiya 7II is one of the best cameras ever made.

In fact for many specific applications, the Mamiya 7II is most likely the best camera in the world. Its exceptional optics and  simplicity of use makes it a near perfect camera for ‘walk-about’ landscape and fine art photography.

The Mamiya 7II is a medium format rangefinder film camera. It makes a 6 x 7cm image on 120 or 220 rolls film.

Mamiya 7II film camera

 

What is a rangefinder camera?

The key characteristic of a rangefinder camera is that you don’t look through the lens, but through a separate window which has a range finding focusing mechanism built-in. This is coupled to the focusing movement on the lens itself. The benefit of this approach is that it allows for a more perfect optical design of the actual lens than has been possible in a ‘through-the-lens’ camera system. The result is the potential for a more technically brilliant lens, a very quiet shutter and a more compact overall camera system. The Mamiya 7II meets these objectives.

What is the benefit of a photographic film camera?

Film photography has some significant benefits. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with digital, film offers some unique advantages. I have written separately here as to Why I shoot film.

Mamiya 43mm f/4.5 lens

 

Benefits of the Mamiya 7II film camera

For me the perfect camera is no camera at all. The next best camera is the one that most gets out of your way… and the Mamiya 7II does this so well.

The Mamiya 7II is completely counter intuitive; less is more.

It is light, easy to carry, comfortable to hold, simple to use, very quiet and captures a spectacular image. It has no in-built smart software, few if any buttons and no complex menus. All it really offers you are a few simple basic exposure controls and a lens. There is nothing to distract you and the Mamiya 7II makes absolutely no attempt to make the picture for you. This camera is just a ‘dumb’ box with spectacular optics. If you’re a good photographer what more do you need?

I feel free and flexible when shooting with a Mamiya7II … this camera just gets out of the way and lets me be 100% in the environment I am shooting.

Whats more, by not having all the ‘smarts’ that most other cameras have, the Mamiya requires us to be good technical photographers.  We are completely empowered and made responsible.  What we don’t know we learn as we go.  Therefore we become a better photographers over time. What a truly smart camera!!

It is worth noting that the view finder is excellent, very bright and clear. And that the Mamiya 7II is quieter than Leica M cameras. A great feature for street and candid photography. The shutter is vibration free during exposure and film loading and unloading is quick and easy.

The Mamiya 7II does its job perfectly. The rest is up to you.

Mamiya 7II Lenses

The heart of the Mamiya 7II camera system is its truly outstanding lenses. I own and use the 43mm f/4.5, 80mm f/4 and the 150mm f/4.5. There are a few others; the 65mm f/4 and 50mm f/4.5 which I hear are equally brilliant, and the 210mm f/8 which I hear is not worth buying.

These lenses capture images which are sharp and clear with the right amount of contrast. Your images on film will ‘snap’ and ‘pop’. These lenses are as optically perfect as you can get. Point them into the sun, do anything with them you will be very happy.

Mamiya 7II 43mm f/4.5, 80mm f/4 and the 150mm f/4.5. lenses
Mamiya 7II with 150mm f/4.5 attached and 43mm f/4.5 to the side.

 

 

Built in light Meter 

The Mamiya 7II has a built in light meter. I don’t ever use this. For all practical purposes this light meter is only a spot meter no matter what you might read. It works very well as a spot meter once you get used to it. My personal preference is to use a handheld light meter because I find it easier and more flexible.  With a Mamiya you need to understand the zone system of determining exposure. This is worth learning. It is easy and it will help make you are better technical photographer.  The camera’s spot meter does not read through the lens but through a separate window on the camera body.

The meter works in AEL or A mode. I use neither.

The built-in meter only reads to fullstops. This is not an issue if you shoot negatives, but is a consideration if you shoot positive film.

Mamiya 7II film camera with camera level attached

 

Other things to consider about the Mamiya 7II film camera

Like with any camera there are a few quarks.

  1. The viewfinder is polarised, so it hard to see through with some sun glasses.
  2. For some lenses you will need to use an extra external view finder.
  3. Parallax errors will occur when shooting up close; what your eyes see through the view finder will be different to what your camera sees. This is common to all rangefinder cameras.
  4. There is no removable film back so you can’t change film half way through a roll.
  5. You need to close the film curtain when changing lenses. Adds a few seconds to the lens change experience.
  6. You will shoot the back of your lens cap sometimes as you can’t see through the lens.
  7. When using an extra external view finder you will need to focus with the internal view finder then frame your shot with the external view finder. Its a pain but you will get used to it.
  8. There is a film plate on the back of the camera door. You need to swivel the plate around depending of whether you are shooting 120 or 220 roll film.
  9. Using external filters such as hard or graduated ND filters is tricky because you can’t see through the lens. I use these filters for all my landscape work and I don’t have any problems. I hold the filter in its filter holder up to the view finder, make the adjustment and clip the holder back onto the lens. It is not a problem for me.

 

Mamiya 7II with film back open

 

Mamiya 7II Specifications
Camera Type 6 x 7 format rangefinder with interchangeable lenses
Format 6 x 7cm (56 x 69.5mm with 120 or 220 roll film)
Multi-formats Optional interchangeable panoramic insert mask yields 65 x 24mm (2.7:1) with 35mm roll film.
Lenses 43mm f4.5 w/optical viewfinder & lens hood, 67mm filter
50mm f4.5 w/optical viewfinder & lens hood, 67mm filter
65mm f4 w/lens hood, 58mm filter
80mm f4 w/lens hood, 58mm filter
150mm f4.5 w/lens hood, 67mm filter
210mm f8 w/lens hood, 58mm filter
Shutter Electromagnetic full flash synch lens shutter
4 sec. – 1/500 sec.
B X synchronisation at all speeds
Hot shoe
Synch-socket
Double exposure capability
Self cancelling self timer
Metering Built-in metering
SPD sensor in finder range:  EV3 (f/ @ 2 sec.) ~ EV18 (f/22
@ 1/500 sec.) with 80mm f/4 lens at ISO 100
Film Settings:  ISO 25 ~ 1600
Exposure Corrections: +/- 2EV in 1/3 step via Compensation Dial Aperture Priority AE or manual metering modes
Viewfinder Rangefinder coupled
Automatic parallax compensating
Automatic bright line selection (65mm, 80mm, 150mm)
Readout shutter speed LED indicator
Separate ultra-wide optical finder supplied with 43mm and 50mm lenses
Power One 6V PX28 alkaline or silver oxide (4SR44, 4LR44) battery
Dimensions/Weight 159 x 112 x 123mm (6.2 x 4.4 x 4.8″)
1210 g. (2.6 lbs.) with 80mm lens

 

Mamiya 7II with 150mm external view finder attached


Mamiya 7II with its lens off

 

Mamiya 7II with a Lee Filter Holder and 43mm view finder attached.

 

Here is a video on the Mamiya 7II:

 

 

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Here are some other posts I have written which may be of interest to you here:

  • What makes a photograph great?: here
  • Interview with photographer Huntington Witherill: Some very good insights on what it is to be a photographer: here
  • The importance of light in photography: here

 

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One thought

  1. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for the review. How would you rate its durability? I like going trail running, hiking and mountain biking in all kinds of weather extremes and shooting landscapes and my friends after the workout. Do you think it can handle moisture, cold, etc? What’s mostly to fail? Is it something easily fixed? My current camera is a Nikon fm3a.

    best regards,
    Alex

    1. Hi Alex,

      By modern standards I would rate its durability as low to poor. It’s not a weather proofed camera at all. Water and moisture will get in, and relatively easily. I’m not sure how easily fix the camera is any more. I have never had a problem getting spare parts from Mamiya but most of my servicing is done by a local distributor who uses local camera repair guys, who are all getting rather old now. That said most medium format or large format film cameras are not good in wet or moist weather, but that has never stopped many of the world\’s best landscape photographers using these cameras. They are just careful and look after their tools.

      If I were getting a new MF system I would build it around the Alpa platform and have no battery electricals at all. In terms of what is most likely to fail based on my own cameras; 1. the place you screw in the hand held shutter cord always comes loose and sometimes breaks. This has happened on both my Mamiya’s. 2. The area around the on-camera shutter release button lets in moisture and all the wire switch under this has needed to be replace. All were fixed by the distributor and all are currently working fine. You might also like to ask these questions of Bruce Percy in Scotland. ( Mamiya 7 – Good & Ugly. Bruce Percy )

      All the best and good shooting.

      Cheers, Steve

  2. hey Steve

    I’ve just bought a Mamiya 7ii which should arrive in the post tomorrow, the 43mm and 150mm lenses with the panoramic adapter arrived this morning and I’ve just bought the 80mm lens from someone in Tokyo so that should arrive either next week or week after

    Just googled reviews to send a link to someone I know and came across yours and found it very reassuring. I was planning on using the same technique as you do for metering with filters and it’s good to hear that someone else is doing this and getting results. Coincidence in that you’re using the same three lenses as I’ve bought

    I shoot mainly 135 film doing street work here in Glasgow, I also own an RB67 but my back and hips don’t appreciate walking around with it so the 7ii has been bought as an upgrade/downsize

    Very much looking forward to getting to know this camera and appreciated such a positive and informative review of it

    regards

    James Cadden

    1. It\’s a wonderful camera James. Only took me a short time to get to know it. It\’s an excellent camera for walk-about photography; not heavy and it\’s very comfortable to hold and use. The lenses of course are near perfect; small, lightweight and technically among the best ever made. Have fun. Let me know how you go. Cheers Steve

  3. Hello Steve.

    I recently acquired a Mamiya 7ii and 3 lenses – 43, 80, and the 150 all in near mint condition.

    Earlier this week I picked up a Lee RF-75 Deluxe Kit off of eBay in mint to new condition. I know that you shoot with the Lee unit – can you tell me what specific adapters I will need to use for my:

    43 mm

    80 mm

    I also have a Leica rangefinder M4 and M5 – what adapters would I need for the Super Angulon f/3.4 and summicrons.

    Thanks again – your website and your passion for film is inspirational.

    John Falloon

    1. Hi John, sorry for taking so long to get back to you. Your message got caught up in with the spam. Best person to talk to is Graham Merritt

      Technical Sales Manager at Lee Filters. Get onto their web site and send an email to him. Best if he give you the perfect advice. Cheers Steve

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