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Dearest Mamiya 7 II, We’ve been together since the fall of 2004, and now, going on a nearly 13-year relationship, I still love you just as much as the day I met you. I remember seeing you from afar in the early aughts, wishing someday you could be mine. Then, by pure luck, I saw you up for auction one day and, better yet, by a local seller in Manhattan and for a very fair price. I emailed the man and asked if he’d consider stopping the auction early so I could pick you up—payment in cash, no shipping hassles. He agreed and invited me over to meet you in his Chelsea apartment; he led me upstairs and told me not to mind the coffee stain on the wall (his French press had just exploded, so he said). You were still in the foam packaging, pink manual on top; everything original and intact besides the front lens cap. The seller said he was just never that into you. Luckily, I was there to save you from that morose tension, and brought you into a warm and fruitful relationship that continues to grow to this day. You were my first rangefinder, but my second 6 x 7—but always my desired 6 x 7, trumping my first true love with your elder, the RB67. Even though I still frequented the RB67 over the years, you must know you’ve always been my favorite, and I told you from the beginning that I’m just not a one-camera kind of guy.
I often think of all the traveling we’ve done together: we’ve been to Iceland and China, Peru and Sweden, Hong Kong and across the United States; hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands, of rolls with so few hiccups (not everyone’s perfect, I suppose). I remember the one time we were walking through the woods and we bumped into a tree—your eyecup fell off! I tried to replace it, but you rejected the new one. It’s the beauty inside that counts, right?
You’re the best to go out with: so light and petite, and you deliver on the goods with such simple operations and few controls to your heart. Electronic leaf shutter, easy aperture-priority shooting, intuitive AE lock with a half-press, and a fine-tuned spot meter to perfectly suit the meter-then-recompose shooting style I adore. You’re the perfect blend of minimalism and functionality—you have everything that’s needed, and nothing that isn’t. Your viewfinder is big and bright, and focusing couldn’t get much easier. Sure, you’re not the best at close range, but no rangefinder really is. Oh, and then there’s the ingenious way you allow me to switch lenses mid-roll… where do you hide that dark slide curtain that lets you go bare in broad daylight?
Speaking of lenses (or should we call them friends?), right from the beginning you were literally attached to the hip with your best friend, the 80mm f/4. I figured this was the last friend you’d ever need, with its perfect normal field of view, smooth handling, and extreme sharpness. You two are like peas in a pod. Alas, I grew antsy over time and invited another friend to mingle with us—the longer 150mm f/4.5—and you welcomed them with an open lens mount. More difficult to use, sure—but wow, is this lens something special. They call it an apochromat, I call it a perfect portrait-length lens; and I love the way it inspires you to make dainty little frame lines just larger than the rangefinder patch in your eye.
Where would I be without you? You’re the camera I compare everyone else to. As far as I’m concerned, you’re at the peak and everyone else is below. “Not as good as the Mamiya 7 II,” I say, or “I wish it had this, just like my Mamiya 7 II does.” Whatever it is you do, keep doing it. I couldn’t think of a better partner, and I’m looking forward to the next 13 years.