Photography / Features

Things We Love: Mamiya 7 II

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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.

Mamiya 7 II Medium Format Rangefinder Manual Focus

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.

Yours truly,
Bjorn

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Had one for about 5 years with an 80mm and a 43mm. I sold it and regret it every day. This is a great camera (obvious since it has retained it's value even after all these years). Loved the complexity and how much thought you had to put into taking each picture - from focusing to raising and lowering the polarizer, etc.

Like others have said, I wish Mamiya would release a digital version, maybe a 7IID (wishful thinking).

Thank you for writing such a meaningful piece!

wish i still had mine. never owned more than the 65 f4, but what an awesome setup it was. if only someone would create a 6x7 sensor that you could buy for a good price and install into the back... haha

Bjorn,

I've been singing a love song to my M7II for about as long as you have.  It has traveled the world with me and rarely let me down.  These days it comes out mainly for the glory shots as I call them.  I snap away with a digital when I need the versatility, but when the light is shining down from heaven and you feel that tug on your heart this is the camera I use.  The lenses that impress me the most are the 65 and the 43.  They are prefection.  In fact, thier lack of distortion sometimes confuses the eye that is used to the typical wide angle aberations.  It just seems like you shot in a larger space rather than with a wide angle.  Light, sharp, quiet and the color of film.  Someday I hope they will make a digital body back that can take these lenses since my only real complaint is that I can't switch ISO mid roll.  I'm glad to hear this ode to the Mamiya.  It deserves it.

Beautiful love story.You mentioned the RB 67; the Mamiya RZ67 is on my camera bucket list to buy.

Thanks, Ralph.Yes, the RB67 was the first camera I ever bought myself, so it, too, holds a pretty special place in my heart. Coming from an obviously biased perspective, I always preferred the RB over the RZ due to its fully mechanical operation and the fact that it is practically indestructable.

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