My recent post about the Mamiya RZ33 - Mamiya’s latest take on medium-format DSLRs - was followed by an unusually high volume of comments that can be boiled down to several key categories and a sidebar conversation with "euroblade," a reader who’s tearing his or her kishkas out trying to choose between the RZ33 and a BMW R100RT motorcycle, which cost about the same but satisfy opposing needs. (Feel free to cast your vote folks: the RZ33 or the motorcycle? And we expect spirited, lively debate on this one!)
The most-asked question about the RZ33 was “How much is it?” followed by a chastising for not including this important piece of information in the original text. There are several reasons we refrain from printing selling prices, mostly because prices change frequently, and updating older blog and newsletter posts would be a monumental task. What we do instead is hyperlink the product name (and product photographs) to the B&H product page, which displays the current selling price—including rebates. And for the record, the Mamiya RZ33 has a selling price that is neck-and-neck with the price of the BMW R100RT.
Z33. Even though the last of the RBs, the RB67 Pro-SD, was introduced back in 1990, the system continues to remain a hot topic for many shooters here and abroad for a number of reasons.
Often referred to as the poor man’s Hasselblad, the RB was (is) in truth an extremely able, fairly-priced camera system capable of filling the needs of portrait, wedding, corporate and advertising photographers alike. A wide selection of lenses—some better than others—along with prism finders, waist-level finders, sports finders and revolving interchangeable film backs, helped establish the RB as a true workhorse of a system for the masses.
Along with an appreciable number of Boomer-age black-and-white aficionados who first caught the photo bug back in their college days, RBs continue to be cameras of choice for portrait and studio photographers in smaller towns and cities around the world. This is because they remain quite affordable, and equally important, their mechanical innards are easy to repair even if it means cobbling together odds and ends from the parts bin. Improvising repairs on electronically-controlled components such as RZ lens shutters and almost everything on the RZ33, while not impossible, is a far trickier undertaking.
As for converting the RB for digital capture, RBs can be adapted for use with Mamiya DM-series digital backs via the use of an RB adapter, which means RB diehards can have their cake and eat it too, plus the cost of the RB Adapter. Mamiya DM-series digital backs, which can also be coupled to Mamiya's 645AFD, 645AFDII, 645AFDIII, & 645DF, RZ67 and most 4 x 5 view cameras, are available in the following sensor sizes: 22 megapixels, and 56 megapixels. Caballeros... inicia su laptops!
The last category of feedback has to do with a topic that's nearly as retro as the Mamiya RB, i.e., crop factors. I thought I'd finally heard the last of these discussions since most shooters now readily accept the fact if you shoot with lenses designed for a specific format using a camera with a smaller-format sensor, you're going to have a crop factor. This was a bigger deal before camera manufacturers began producing shorter focal length optics optimized for the smaller APS-C and 4/3 imaging formats. Medium-format DSLR manufacturers made fewer similar moves and never to the extent of "35mm" DSLR manufacturers.
The result is that if you need wide-angle coverage with an RZ or RB-system camera, short of stitching images, you're skunked. The flip side of the story is that for RZ/RB shooters who shoot portraits and weddings for a living, the loss of anything wider than moderately-wide will only be felt when shooting larger groups in tighter spaces. But then you can always switch to a film magazine, take your shot, and switch back to digital after you thin out the herd.
Now, if we could only figure out if euroblade is better off blowing his or her wad on the RZ or the bike.