Product review: Mamiya RZ67 pro II

Booya ! After the Canon Power Shot S90 / S95 review, time to go back to some hardcore gear an review an ol' classic yet still one of the finest machines around: the Mamiya RZ67, in it's proII version as it is one of the most recent (1995,  the 67D is the same but with less cabling to connect a digital back was introduced in 2004).

Who is this camera aiming at: 
Studio or photo shoot set up enthusiasts, aiming at ultimate picture quality, and I would say mostly portraits. It can do good at landscape but the widest available lens is a 50mm, wich correspond +/- to a 24mm on a 35mm full frame. I know there is a 18mm equivalent lens produced, but I've never seen one on the second hand market. So not the widest. A Mamiya 7 will be a better landscape camera, or a Pentax 67II, or a Fuji 680. An other reason why it's not for landscapes and street / candid shots : it's a tank. I mean, it's 6 pounds or heavy metal, the size of a brick. Once I shot around Brooklyn with it, carrying it on my shoulder...never again. And most people in the street think it's a camcorder !

Long Story short:
For what it's aiming at, studio portraits, I can hardly think of a better camera. It is considered as such by the profession. You can also adapt a digital back if you can afford it.

Image samples far below in the end.

Many use Hasselblads but I prefer the 6x7 format, it gives you a little more flexibility in framing than square, and mostly, you can just crop your 6x7 into a 6x6 if you want square. I also believe the 110mm f2.8 lens that comes with the Mamiya is exceptional.
Rolleiflex cameras are has good but you can't find them for less that $1500, when the Mamiya + the 110mm lens will be around for $900 in mint condition. FYI it's $4500 brand new (67D version, i.e digital back ready)... In line with that Mamiya used lenses are cheap.

Once again if you are talented, any premium MF film camera will satisfy you equally, differences will be a matter of personal taste, regarding ergonomics etc.

Presentation and main accessories:
The camera body itself is a nearly square metal cube of about 12x12 cm. Lens goes front (duh ! winning!), at the back goes a rotatif 120 film back. You can turn it by 90 degree to go from landscape to portrait, which turns out to be of the highest convenience ! Believe me you won't rotate the camera, it' must be on a tripod.

On top goes a classic waist level finder, in which the image is of course flipped horizontaly. It's very clear, superbly convenient for framing. You can replace it by a prismfinder that includes metering, but you loose clarity and brightness, as well as the ability to stand over the camera. I prefer the waist level finder, and I meter with....the superb meter of the Nikon F5 :p

Focusing can be done on the left and right side of the camera by 2 rings, but the right side ring has a scaled secondary ring for precise focusing.

All of this is rock solid, never jams. I took a sand storm with the camera, and it is still very much alive.

Flash hot shoe is on the left side.

Shutter can be adjusted by half EV steps when the RZI could only be adjusted by full EV steps.

Max shutter speed is 1/400sec.

Image quality:
Mostly related to the lens, but still this camera helps you get superb results. Focusing requires a little attention, and moving subjects...well forget about moving subjects.
However, the 6X7 format will give you huge negatives from which you can print very large (I bet it can take a 2X2 meter print easy, the most I did is a2 and it's superb). I tried the 110mm and 50mm lens, they are both superb and cheap is bought used ($300).
This camera does not get in the way of your images, very few things to set up (it's fully manual), if you have the elementary/academic photography skills, it'll be your best friend. Also it impresses models who have only been shot by people using a DX DSLR :p

Ratio performance / price on the second hand market: you won't get better images (unless you go large format), and for a ridiculous price. Your rich showy friend with his 5DmkII who decided to ignore film photography will keep wondering why his shots look so boring next to yours :) For $800/900 dollars, you get a camera that if it was a car, would be an Aston Martin.
Also, cheap lenses.

I forgot ! you can adapt a polaroid back too !

Bulky. If it was a vehicule, it would be an Aston Martin in regards to performance indeed, but it would be an M1 Abrams battle tank in regards to design...

Pulling the RZ67  of your bag in the street would be like taking that out of your garage...

No AF, no built in metering = 0 versatility. It's a studio camera. You can't only have this one. It sucks, but a sports car can't also be a van, and a van can't have the advantages of a sports car. Pick your fights.

6x7 means amazing images, but it also means only 10 shots per roll. 220 films is now a relic of the past and very hard to find.

If you want subtile super high def top quality studio or set up portraits or still life, then get one. This camera is a standard among pros. It delivers brilliantly. If you get one as your first non digital camera, you reach a different world that will make you somehow hate your digital camera (though having both is best).

You might want to also consider the Pentax 67II. I haven't tried it with its main portrait lens, but you wouldn't go wrong either. However if you include price in the equation, the Mamiya wins (notice the Pentax is not more portable, it's an different type of tank, yet it's a tank).

Don't go for it if you're into landscapes, or as a main camera. It's too niche.

For landscapes get the Mamiya 6 or 7 (highly portable), or the Fuji 680 (An other military piece...).

For a more portable system (still no AF and metering) and even bigger negative and a great lens, look at the FUJICA GW 690. But you can't change the lens, it's built in.

Photo samples:

1 comment:

  1. Very thorough review, thank you for putting it up. I found one setup, with the polaroid back as well. Looks brand new... they want $700 US.

    It would be my first film camera in some time. I like the idea of the polaroid/fuji instant film combo. How much of the image shows up on the instant film?