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Mamiya RB67 - appropriate beginner MF landscape camera?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by soft, Apr 20, 2017.

  1. soft

    soft Member

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    I finally went on vacation (to Japan, while the cherry blossoms were blooming) and came back convinced I should get back into film as a hobby, even though I only took a digital camera. Interested in medium format, 6x6 or 6x7--holding a huge Velvia slide sounds like so much fun. I would mostly be shooting while hiking around the LA area on weekends. From reading various threads and articles it seems like the RB67 would be perfect? Relatively cheap, heavy but not an issue since I'll be using a tripod anyway, durable, revolving back, used market is plentiful, repair service doesn't seem impossible to find, all mechanical (I'm sure electronics failures are not actually a huge problem, but it's appealing to imagine having to deal with "only" mechanical issues is better--maybe that's ridiculous though).

    Are there alternatives I should be considering more seriously? I was considering getting a Bronica SQ-A, which seems like another great option. Large format seems entertaining but intimidating and harder to start with, but I could be wrong on that. My goal is just to have fun with a new medium and make myself think about what I'm looking at instead of walking by and taking quick snaps on my phone!
     
  2. Leigh B

    Leigh B Member

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    But you won't be rolling the tripod along on skates. You have to carry it and the camera.
    The RB is a beast. Many folks like it. I don't number myself in that group.

    You might consider a Hasselblad 500C/M. That's my standdard MF camera.
    Excellent camera, light and compact, with superb interchangeable Zeiss lenses.

    Another option would be a twin-lens reflex (TLR) like a Rolleiflex or many similar makes.
    I've shot those numerous times and find them quite convenient.

    - Leigh
     
  3. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Welcome to APUG!
    RB67s are really fine cameras.
    It is, however, hard to answer the question whether they are a good camera for beginners.
    I had vicarious experience with them about ten years after I started using medium format, and I started using an RB67 about twenty years later, after trying out some other options.
    They are big! And if you have a full kit of a camera, lenses and accessories, they are both big and heavy!
    My enjoyment of my RB67 is supported by the fact that I have smaller and lighter medium format (6x6 and 6x4.5) and 35mm options also available to me.
    I started with 35mm. I started my medium format experience with a Mamiya C330, which I still use and enjoy. I think TLRs like the Mamiyas or some of the fixed lens options are a great place to start. The 6x4.5 choices are good too.
    One other point: if you like medium format slides, it is a lot easier to find a projector that will handle 6x6 and 6x4.5 than it is to find a projector that will handle 6x7. And with slides, projection is wonderful.
     
  4. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Welcome to APUG

    The Mamiya RB67 is one of many candidates that you could consider. Yes, it is on the heavy side. I like the Hasselblad which is lighter and more compact. Some say that the Hasselblad is expensive, however I found that it just takes a little longer between buying lenses. When I bought my Hasselblad most CF lenses were about $800 each, now it is about half of that.

    The most important things to consider are:
    1. How does a camera feel in your hands? Is it too large or too small? Is it the right weight with various lenses on it? Not too heavy? Can you see well enough through the viewfinder to easily compose? Are you comfortable with the controls and handling? It is all about you and what you think. Do not let others push you into something that is not right for you.
    2. Is the initial cost within your budget? What about the costs of additional lenses?
    3. Are additional lenses, accessories, parts and service readily available?
    4. Are you buying from a reputable dealer that will take it back, repair it or return your money if it arrives in less than operable condition? I recommend that you look in APUG classifieds and www.KEH.com.
     
  5. chassis

    chassis Member

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    Is the RB67 an appropriate beginner MF landscape camera? Yes. It is appropriate because it is reasonably easy to learn and produces nice 6x7 negatives which enlarge nicely, or make nice transparencies. It has many good accessories and lenses. As you mention, the used market is relatively fruitful.

    Other cameras? There are many. Budget is one way to narrow the search. Electronic vs. mechanical is another filter, as is twin lens reflex vs. SLR vs. rangefinder.

    My first MF experience was with a rented Hasselblad. I still have a photo of my 3 year old son hanging in my living room taken with that camera. He is 22 now. The rendering of the Zeiss lenses is great.

    But today I use an RB67 Pro SD system and like it a lot and have no regrets.
     
  6. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    These are also good things to carefully consider.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2017
  7. paul ron

    paul ron Member

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    For price you cant beat the RBs.. but consider the weight?

    Im a backpacker and I can tell you its a real hassle with my RB on the trails. Gotta keep it in the backpack till im ready to shoot, carrying it for miles on your neck is an anchor that just gets bigger n bigger as you go... Also stop for a shot?... that means dropping our packs n unloading EVERYTHING!... (prism, lens, spot meter, unhitching my tripod) getting to lenses under my food n stuff.... of course a real pain when trying to do 10 miles a day. But, for base camping.. its a different story. Its a heavy day pack but what else do you have to do today Ansel?

    Then I started carrying my Bronica ETRS. yeah Less weight, not by much, although in bulk its less space and it allows me to make up the difference with extra lenses n accessories. The ETRS strap rides on my side over my head and on a shoulder, nice wide strap for comfort, easy to get her up when I need. I hand hold it, but also did that with the RB with no problems. The ETRS fits in your hands much nicer and the winder is easy to advance. I thought I fell in love again.

    BUTTTTTT...... my all time favorite for backpacking, lessons learned over the years, a Yashicamat. Its light, easy to hand hold, easy to focus.. no fuss no muss. Negatives are beautiful 6x6. Can beat the weight reduction too. Don't need all those lenses and stuff to bog ya down. If I need to do a steady shot.. ill rest the camera propped up against a tree or whatever, and self timer it to reduce shake.




    E-2016080407.jpg
     
  8. Alan Gales

    Alan Gales Subscriber

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    I used to shoot an RZ67. I loved that camera. It was heavy, especially if you packed a bag with a few lenses with it. Slightly lighter than an RB67. Unlike the RB the RZ is electronic.

    I've also owned a Hasselblad. It's a great camera and quite a bit smaller and lighter than the RZ I had.

    I now own a Mamiya C220f TLR. Mamiya is the only TLR that takes interchangeable lenses.

    With large format most shoot it without camera movements at first and learn movements as they go. One big difference is handling sheet film and fighting dust. Here is some reading material from the Large Format Photographer's Forum.

    http://www.largeformatphotography.info
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017
  9. M Carter

    M Carter Member

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    If you go with the RB as your first film or MF camera - skip the original model "Professional" and get the later one at least ("Professional S" or "Pro S") - it has several features that make it much harder to screw up a shot.

    After that cam the Pro SD and the RZ - the RZ is lighter but requires a battery to run.

    Myself, that big neg is worth the weight and hassle.
     
  10. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I owned a Mamiya 330 with the 65mm, 80mm and 250mm lenses. The camera worked well and its built in bellows allow great macro photographs, however I was never comfortable using the camera and traded it in for the Hasselblad. See post #4.
     
  11. shutterfinger

    shutterfinger Member

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    Then there's the Crown Graphic http://www.graflex.org/speed-graphic/pacemaker-crown-graphic.html in 2x3 format and the Century Graphic http://www.graflex.org/speed-graphic/century-graphic.html .
    With graflok back roll film holders in 6x6, 6x7, 6x9 formats can be used on either and lens can be interchanged. These are press cameras designed for hand held work and can be used on tripods/monopods, light, and compact when closed, and very rugged.
    There is also Linhof technica in 6x9 that has more movements that you may never need.

    The RB is a nice camera but big, heavy, and a bit bulky.
     
  12. mshchem

    mshchem Member

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    I shoot a lot with Fuji 6x9 rangefinders. They are cheap, fabulous optics, light weight. 65 or 90 mm fixed lens models. I have a RZ II kit and a bunch of Bronica SQ-AI stuff. I love them for a lot of reasons.
    If you can only have one medium format camera there's no substitute for a Hasselblad, I would get a newer model and pay extra for condition. To start just a body, 1 back, waist level finder and a glorious 80 mm lens. It is seriously 1/2 the burden of a RB. RBs are studio workhorses. A nice 503cw in your hand, a ultra light carbon fiber tripod and a good light meter. You can crop a 645 image out of a square 6x6 image and make 11x14s all day.

    Back to the 6x9 I sold one of my extras to a vigorous young person, who took it out west with 40 rolls of Velvia, he had these drum scanned and made some enormous RA4 prints that are stunning.

    Short answer is consider a rangefinder or a 6x6, Hassy if you're loaded a nice twin lens if not.
    My humble opinion, or just buy a RB :smile:
    Mike
     
  13. mshchem

    mshchem Member

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    Two thumbs up for later Pacemaker Crown Graphic w top view finder. I love mine, I shoot a lot of handheld 4x5 using the rangefinder. It's a blast.
     
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  15. OP
    OP
    soft

    soft Member

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    Thanks for the welcome! I appreciate all the feedback. Y'all have me pretty convinced the RB67 might be too heavy--all that gear on one backpack makes for a long day hike. Price is the main reason I'm drawn to an RB67 over a Hasselblad. Dropping $1400 (before the cost of a tripod, a light meter, film) on a Hasselblad 500CM kit from KEH when I'm just starting out seems unwise... But carrying 3 less lbs in my pack might make it worth it in the long run. And being able to find a projector for slides.

    How big of an issue is parallax correction on TLRs? Ease of use is the main reason I'd prefer an SLR or a rangefinder over a TLR--I'm not wholly opposed to it though, and it seems like some have parallax correction built in. I'd prefer mechanical over electronic, but again, this might be absurd given that electronics in these cameras are much hardier than I'm giving them credit for.

    The Crown Graphic and Fuji 6x9s both seem very appealing too. I'll have to get out to a camera show and see what I can get my hands on and actually hold.
     
  16. Leigh B

    Leigh B Member

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    None.

    It only becomes significant if the subject is within a couple of feet.
    Some cameras correct for it anyway. I don't recall specifically which models.

    - Leigh
     
  17. Neil Poulsen

    Neil Poulsen Subscriber

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    I think that either an "S" or "SD" Rb67 would be a great choice. It's not expensive; yet, it can produce excellent quality results. If you decide not to engage in film, or that an RB67 is too heavy, then sell. Given their price, you won't have lost much.

    On the other hand, if you like medium format film, you can inexpensively expand into a really great system.
     
  18. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    You can do a lot with a TLR. The parallax issues essentially only matter if you have a subject to camera distance of less than ten times the focal length of the lens.
    This is from a Mamiya C330 with the 65mm lens:
    08c-2014-06-22-res.jpg
     
  19. shutterfinger

    shutterfinger Member

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    A Graphic equipped with a roll film holder will have the ground glass focus panel removed (slip off/on) so make sure the focus panel comes with the camera.
    The Graphic roll film holders are RH8 for 8 6x9 images per 120 roll of film, RH10 for 10 6x7 images per 120 roll of film, RH12 for 12 6x6 images per roll of film, skip a RH20 which is 20 6x7 images per roll of 220 film, Graphic 22 for 12 6x6 images per roll of 120 film, Graphic 23 for 8 6x9 images per roll of 120 film. RH series are rapid advance lever wind and the Graphic 22 and 23 are knob wind.
    RB67 backs will work on the 2x3 Crown, the Pro S and SD backs will need lockouts defeated to work. There may be other makes of roll film holders that will work also.
    There is a wide verity of lens available for 2x3 bodies and lens for 3x4 and 4x5 can be used on 2x3 bodies.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017
  20. Trond

    Trond Subscriber

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    I think that RB67 currently is the best buy for a professional level medium format camera system. Great camera and great lenses! If want a lighter camera, and ignore the fetishism associated with certain brands, you should really consider a Bronica SQ-A.

    Trond
     
  21. Fraunhofer

    Fraunhofer Subscriber

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    I second everything said so far. One thing to consider: the RB67 is virtually indestructable, and if you can confine yourself to one lens in your backpack and just use the waist level finder, the total weight is not a big deal. The prism OTH probably alone weighs nearly as much as a Hasselblad...
     
  22. Trail Images

    Trail Images Subscriber

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    I've had my RB67 SD unit for well over 25 years now. I also shoot 4x5 too. I backpack with one unit or the other weekly. However, admittedly I only go a mile or two in and back out. So, not day long trips. If you can remain within reasonable distance I find the RB & 4x5 unbeatable for my style of work. I use them both for either landscape or close up macro only. No street use or other more adventures moving around usage.
    Anyway, lots of choices out there no doubt. Good luck on your quest to find the best for your needs........Welcome to APUG too...... :cool:
     
  23. Mike Bates

    Mike Bates Subscriber

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    The RB67 is a popular MF camera, but I don't think it's the best choice for your only MF camera, especially if goal is to hike it around LA. It's physically large and heavy. It requires a relatively heavy tripod. Features like built-in bellows are great for studio work, but unnecessary for outdoor landscape work. Still, it will hold film and take pictures. People have carried them around. It can be done.

    Hasselblads are beautiful cameras. As you have observed, they are also rather expensive, especially the lenses. They are also 6x6 square format.

    If the goal is large negatives, the 6x6 format isn't ideal. Unless you print square, you'll be cropping at least a quarter of the negative out of every photo. On the other hand, you don't need to turn the camera (or the back) to switch between portrait and landscape modes. A 6x4.5 camera will be considerably smaller and lighter while rendering effectively the same printable negative size.

    Fuji makes some awesome 645 rangefinders for a good price. If you want a 6x7 or larger negative and modern optics, the Fuji 670, 680, or 690 series rangefinders are great for portable landscape photography on a reasonable budget. If you want more of a "system" camera with interchangeable lenses and such, the Bronica GS-1 with a speed grip is bigger than a Hasselblad, but much smaller than an RB67.
     
  24. tedr1

    tedr1 Member

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    I have an RB67 outfit, it is an awesome camera, but I am not sure that is the right beginner camera for medium format landscape work. Possibly the 6x6 format works better, enlargers are smaller, and slide projectors more readily available, and some cameras may be smaller and lighter than an RB.
    How do you feel about composing a laterally inverted image on the ground glass? All medium format TLRs and SLRs give this image format unless used with a large and heavy prism viewfinder. For a "correct" image orientation the medium format rangefinders may be the way to go.
     
  25. Alan Gales

    Alan Gales Subscriber

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    [QUOTE="soft, post: 1912749, member: 82252"

    How big of an issue is parallax correction on TLRs? Ease of use is the main reason I'd prefer an SLR or a rangefinder over a TLR--I'm not wholly opposed to it though, and it seems like some have parallax correction built in. I'd prefer mechanical over electronic, but again, this might be absurd given that electronics in these cameras are much hardier than I'm giving them credit for.
    [/QUOTE]




    My Mamiya C220f has bellows focus just like the RZ/RB cameras. If you rack the bellows out far enough to be in macro range then you have to compensate for bellows draw by increasing exposure. there is a metal chart on the side of the bellows showing you how much to increase exposure. Same thing with RZ/RB cameras.

    On my C220f the chart also shows parallax correction. There are two thin lines on the ground glass. You just tilt the camera to the appropriate line. The C330 series is a little more advanced and actually has a red line that shows you where the image is cutting off. Of course this is only for close focussing. If you never focus close then you don't have to worry about parallax.

    There is also a tripod adapter called the paramender. You compose your shot and then raise the paramender to adjust for parallax. Paramenders are easy to use and easy to find on Ebay. They are also cheap.
     
  26. Doc W

    Doc W Subscriber

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    I have used an RB67 for at least 15 years and it was my first MF camera. I also shoot 4x5 and 8x10 so the weight doesn't really bother me (and I am 67). If you get a decent backpack, the kind you can lay on the ground and open up completely, you will have no trouble. Fussing around with an ordinary backpack is really a pain with an RB. I have a Lowepro and I can carry the camera, 2 lenses, and accessories relatively easily. With a third lens it starts to get a little crowded in the backpack, but I can do that if I have to. Get the lightest tripod you can find and you will be fine.

    I cannot shoot square format so most of the other suggestions are out for me. Think about the format seriously. I just don't like squares and thus would have to crop every single photo. Not so with 6x7.