Sunday, 3 July 2011

Mamiya Press Cameras

 Overall Camera view with its standard 100mm lens

 Rear view showing single sheet/rear viewing screen

 150mm Telephoto and some film holders

Lightmeters and a 6x7 film back

I’m really writing this for those who have a darkroom and are wondering what to do with it. Commercially, photography is mostly a digital world now, but a beneficial side effect is cheap and wonderful film cameras. These are not plastic and electronic devices but like letterpress equipment, made for many years of use. They are precision built of chrome brass, glass and metal. They make excellent photographs. This month............
The Mamiya Press series.
  This is an interesting rangefinder camera for those who want a cheapish medium format system and don’t mind a bit of a fiddle.  Its a classic design of the 50s and was made in various forms until the late 80’s (I believe). Its that ugly its cute! The interesting thing about Mamiya presses that inspired me about these cameras was the ability to have a 6x9cm camera that gave a beautiful negative, is buildt like a brick dunny, and is cheap on Ebay. It will also take 6x4.5cm, 6x6cm, and 6x7cm backs. Depth of field is determined by scales on each lens which also carries a leaf shutter.
  I already had a good enlarger and lens for these formats (a Durst 1200) and this is essential for any medium format system. I have since added the ability to scan this format, another plus. The down side is the patience required to get the most from this camera. It is easy to get a double exposure by accident. You do need a good lightmeter, and it is definitely manual focus! The negatives though are worth the wait. They are superb. I wouldn’t be alone in saying that many Mamiya lenses are little known masterpieces of lens making. I have a 65mm wide, a 100mm standard lens and a 150mm telephoto ideal for studio portrait work. I once owned a twin lens Mamiya system and it also had great optics.
A nice touch with these cameras is the availability (on Ebay) of lots of bits, like a single sheet adapter and focusing screen. This means focusing on the ground glass just like a view camera. It even has back movements. Of course you can’t get sheet film now but you can prepare it by making a jig and cutting it in the darkroom and loading the film holders. It's a simple matter to tray process in a little developer or you can load a spiral.
 My darkroom didn’t get used for a while while I drifted into inkjet printing and teaching photography. Like letterpress though, working with film is a nice thing to do and a silver print is now a reasonably rare and striking thing. I’ve always toned a little for archival purposes and to just warm the print a little. I always regretted the passing of Agfa’s Record Rapid, which was a beautiful Chloro-Bromide paper and creamy warm.
 I have used this camera in the studio and in the field. Outside, I use it with a Sekonic L-398 meter which is solid and needs no batteries. These are cheap on Ebay mine cost about $100 and came in its early sixties box with manual and accessories.  In the studio I use it with a Sekonic L-358 ambient/flash meter. this meter is an excellent device but hardly robust or waterproof. I wouldn’t like to step on it either. The downside? As mentioned earlier, its bit of a fiddle. Take care to have a procedure. Advance the film after every exposure. Remember to take the darkslide out, also to inset it when changing lenses.

1 comment:

Joanne said...

I love your photographs Den.