Mamiya 6 Review & Guide (2019) (vs Mamiya 7, Hasselblad..)
Tempted by the Mamiya 6 folding camera? A more portable version of a 6×6 Hasselblad (say for travel) . This Mamiya 6 review compares the camera to other popular 6×6/ 6×7 camera and includes –
- Hasselblad vs Mamiya 6
- Fuji GF670 vs Mamiya 6
- Mamiya 6 vs Mamiya 7
- Why to buy a Mamiya 6
- Mamiya 6 Portraits
- Wedding with a Mamiya 6
- 9 Useful Mamiya 6 facts / Specs
- Lenses for the Mamiya 6
- Mamiya 6 Mini User Guide & Common Problems
1. Mamiya 6 Folding Camera
This is my 1989 Mamiya 6 medium format analogue rangefinder camera, 6×6 film format. Some people call it a Mamiya 6 folding camera but in actual fact the lens mount collapses down flatter into the camera body rather than anything folding. (A true folding camera is something like a Fuji GF670).
2. 9 Useful facts about the Mamiya 6 camera
- Built in camera light meter (Centre weighted)
- Maximum flash sync speed 1/500 (Leaf shutter lenses)
- Hotshoe that works with standard speedlights and triggers
- Viewfinder gives 83% coverage + parallax correction
- 3 Lenses – 50mm / 75mm / 150mm (see below for details)
- Shutter speeds 1/500-4Sec (+Bulb)
- Weight – 900g (without lens)
- Battery operated – requires 2x LR44 or SR44 batteries
- Self timer (10sec) + cable release socket (+tripod socket)
3. Mamiya 6 vs Mamiya 7/ 7ii – Pros & Cons
When considering the purchase of a Mamiya rangefinder camera you may look at both the Mamiya 6 and Mamiya 7. If you prefer 6×7 film format you would probably opt for a Mamiya 7 and likewise the Mamiya 6 for square format.
Mamiya 6 advantages
If you have no preference with regards to 6×6 vs 6×7 then the Mamiya 6 might be more attractive. The 6 is cheaper and the lens mount retracts into the camera making it less bulky. Also all lenses operate with the built in camera viewfinder. (For the Mamiya 7 system the wider and telephoto lenses all require an additional external hotshoe viewfinder which adds both bulk and cost).
Mamiya 7 / 7ii advantages
The Mamiya 7 / 7ii does however offers a wider range of lenses – 43mm though to 210mm (see Mamiya 7 Lens Review). This gives both wider and more telephoto options vs the Mamiya 6.
4. Mamiya 6 vs Fuji GF670 (Voigtlander Bessa III)
It is worth quickly mentioning the lesser know Fuji GF670. The Fuji GF670 vs Mamiya 6 offers the advantages that (1) it is a true folder camera so folds flatter than the Mamiya 6 and (2) gives the option of both 6×6 and 6×7 film formats (in camera). The Fuji GF670 Pro is not a cheap camera and is harder to find these days unless you live in Japan. The Fujinon lens is fantastic though (as good as I have seen for any camera system). Perhaps a good investment if you can find one. If not the Mamiya 6 offers excellent value for money.
5. Hasselblad 501C vs Mamiya 6
Why I use both cameras
For me personally, and with my eyesight, I love to use a Hasselblad 500 series camera for portraits. To be specific, working usually within around 1m distance from the models for tight crop head shots to half body depending on the lens. For photos at a distance greater I prefer rangefinder cameras like the Mamiya 6 (or a Leica) to aid focusing.
Rangefinder cameras have the disadvantage that they cannot focus very close to a subject. The Mamiya 6 has the same issue as most rangefinder cameras in that it can’t focus super close (1m-infinity on the 75mm lens).
The world just looks amazing..
The world just looks so amazing through a Hasselblad (or a Mamiya RZ!) viewfinder. A Mamiya 6 can often take a similar looking photo (at a distance) but the process of making that photo is completely different. With a Hasselblad or the Mamiya RZ you see the final image through the lens (with all the shallow depth of field and all). With a Mamiya 6 rangefinder camera you are merely fitting the images into the square viewfinder frame lines. It looks the same as it does with the naked eye so you have to imagine it will look amazing before pressing the shutter.
Both cameras have there advantages but for fun factor the Hasselblad (or Mamiya RZ) will win every time I think.
Non-emotional benefits of a Hasselblad 500!
The Hasselblad V series or 500 system offers a wide range of lenses from 40mm to 250mm (and beyond!). The Hasselblad is a modular camera so you can use prism finders (holding the camera to the eye like an SLR/DSLR) or the classic WLF (waist level finder). Modular design also brings interchangeable film backs. This means you can load multiple film backs with different film stocks (say 1 colour film and 1 black and white film) and swap between the two. The Hasselblad has leaf shutter lenses the same as the Mamiya 6 but is fully mechanical so operates without needing batteries.
Drawbacks of a Hasselblad 500
The Hasselblad 500 camera system is bulkier than the Mamiya 6 so is less ideal for travel. Hasselblad cameras are usually more expensive than a Mamiya 6 (regardless of which Hasselblad camera model you buy). The Carl Zeiss lenses made for the Hasselblad 500 series are also much more expensive than Mamiya 6 lenses. A complete Hasselblad camera setup with multiple film backs, a prism viewfinder and a few lenses is both costly and heavy!
Mamiya 6 Wedding!
When using medium format film cameras some cameras are better than others. The Hasselblad and Mamiya 6 lenses are of a similar speed with f3.5/f4 aperture being quite common. The Mamiya 6 has the advantage of being a rangefinder so can be used at a slower shutter speed handheld. (Without the mirror slap vibration of the Hasselblad). Compared to a Hasselblad the Mamiya 6 is faster to use and more portable too. I have used both cameras for multiple weddings but currently my first choice would be the Mamiya 6. You need fast cameras at a wedding!
6. Reasons for a Mamiya 6 purchase
6.1 Leaf shutter lenses
Leaf shutter lenses give a fast maximum flash sync speed for strobist work. The Mamiya 6 like the Hasselblad will sync at 1/500 vs the Leica M6 that is only 1/50. This is a deal breaker as to which camera to use if using strobes in daylight.
6.2 Well built camera
Like the Leica cameras the Mamiya 6 seems well-built camera (if more plastic!) and pretty reliable (no problems so far). A Hasselblad 500CM is a good example of a well built camera but then the old Nikon F cameras can be dropped down a flight of concrete steps and they still work! Sadly i’m talking from experience ha. Leica M cameras are super solid but if knocked the rangefinder goes out of alignment and it will need re-calibrating.
6.3 Small and compact design
For travel the Mamiya 6 folding design (recessed lens mount) makes it perfect for overseas photoshoots. I have flown with my Hasselblads and a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II camera they take up most of the carry on luggage allowance. The smaller more compact Mamiya 6 will fit into a Billingham Hadley Digital camera bag (used normally for Leica cameras). All the Fuji film cameras I use (Fuji GA645, Fuji GS645, Fuji GF670) also fit in the bag with the GA645 being the smallest/ lightest option.
6.4 Decent rangefinder (can nail focus wide open on portraits)
An accurate (and hopefully big) rangefinder is a must if you shoot portraits at wide apertures. The best rangefinder cameras I have used are a Leica M3 (x0.91 magnification) or Voigtlander Bessa R3A (x1.0). Both cameras offer a big bright rangefinder patch for focusing. The polar opposite is something like the Olympus 35RC with a tiny rangefinder. The Mamiya 6 rangefinder feels reasonably big and bright and is better than the Fuji GF670. Even when using the 150mm lens for portraits it is possible to focus on the subject with confidence.
7. Mamiya 6 Lenses / 6×6 Cameras
Unlike many 6×6 camera systems such as a Hasselblad 500CM or Mamiya RZ (which I use with a 6×6 film back – Mamiya RZ 6×6 Film Back), the Mamiya 6 lenses are simple to choose as there are only 3! I usually carry the 50mm and 150mm pair of lenses and that covers me for most situations. The 75mm is the smallest lens though so for a compact one lens setup that would probably be the best choice, as the normal lens. For the Hasselblad I use 50mm, 60mm, 80mm, 100mm, 120mm, 150mm and 180mm. Yes it is nice to have options but you wouldn’t want to carry them all!
3 Mamiya 6 lenses –
- Mamiya 6 50mm f/4 G (58mm filter thread) (hood reverse mounts onto lens)
- Mamiya 75mm f/3.5 G (58mm filter thread) (smallest / most compact)
- Mamiya 150mm f/4.5 G (67mm filter thread) (largest esp. with metal hood on)
8. Mamiya 6 Sample Photos
When I bought the Mamiya 6 I shot a quick test roll before taking it overseas. Here is a photo I scanned in the earlier hours ahead of my departure to check the camera was calibrated and functioning correctly.
(Photo taken with the Mamiya 6 camera + 75mm + Off camera flash)
9. Mamiya 6 vs Mamiya 6 MF?
You might want to know the difference between the standard Mamiya 6 vs Mamiya MF (“multi-format” variant). The camera I use is the original Mamiya 6. The later MF version is a bit like the Mamiya 7 camera in that you are able to fit a 35mm film mask. The multi-format camera also lets you shot 6×4.5 format film rather than the standard 6×6. The MF finder is slightly different to accommodate these changes but otherwise the cameras are basically the same.
Mamiya 6 35mm photography
It is worth noting that you can still shoot 35mm film in a standard Mamiya 6 camera. I use the same approach as I explain in the Mamiya 7 35mm Photography article.
10. Mamiya 6 – User Guide, Problems & Getting Started
If you have just got yourself a Mamiya 6 camera here are a few answers to questions I had when I first got my Mamiya 6.
- How to load film in a Mamiya 6 camera?
- Why can’t I remove the lens to swap to a different lens?
- Why won’t the camera let me take a photo. It has film in ready to go?
- What battery do I need for a Mamiya 6?
- Can I use the Mamiya 6 without a battery?
- Mamiya 6 how to load film – See short YouTube video below which provides a good visual. (It will be easier to watch how than me try to explain it!). You don’t need to load the film exactly as shown.
- My personal tips are:
- Remove the tape surrounding the new film before loading into the camera
- Be more gentle with the film advance lever (I like to look after my cameras)
- Do close the dark slide (“dark cloth”) when loading film as it prevents dust landing on the inside of the lens (twist the dial on the base of the camera to close the dark slide)
- Do make sure you push in the 2 black buttons on the base of the camera to hold the film spools securely (the ones that pop out when you press the tiny red buttons to release the film spools
- Do line up the arrow on the film backing paper with the middle of the film back before closing the camera (shown in video)
- Remember to release the dark slide before planning to take your first photo
- Take off the lens cap! The Mamiya 6 is a rangefinder camera so you will not notice if the cap is left on as you view through the optical viewfinder / rangefinder “window” in the camera body, not through the lens as with an SLR camera
- Mamiya 6 lens stuck – You cannot change lenses/ remove a lens from a Mamiya 6 camera unless the dark slide is across (in place). (This is a safety measure to prevent light leaking into the camera wrecking/ exposing the roll of film that is inside).
- Mamiya 6 shutter won’t fire – One possible cause is the dark slide is still in place (it happened to me!) Release the dark slide (as in the video) and try again
- Mamiya 6 battery – the camera takes 2x SR44 batteries
- Mamiya 6 without battery – the camera has an electronic shutter so needs batteries to operate. Once the battery LED is blinking it shows low battery so it is a good time to replace soon.
How to load film in a Mamiya 6 video
Wait! Do you have film?
After reading this article hopefully you are now ready to get out and start shooting! Have you got film to load? Here are some of my favourite films that I use in the Mamiya 6 camera.
400 speed film is better suited to medium format cameras as the lenses let in less light that many 35mm prime lenses. For example a 35mm camera 28mm f2 lens @ISO 100 = 50mm f4 @ISO 400 on a Mamiya 6 camera.
- 120 Kodak Portra 400 – Amazon UK / US
- 120 Kodak Portra 800 – Amazon UK / US
- 120 Fuji Pro 400H – Amazon UK / US
Black and white film:
- 120 Kodak TMax 400 – Amazon UK/ US
- 120 Kodak Tri-X 400 – Amazon UK / US
- 120 Ilford HP5 400 – Amazon UK / US
Finally I reveal how I make my Portrait Images!
If you want to know the exact photography equipment I use to make my Mamiya 6 portraits, other than the Mamiya 6 camera (or other cameras I use) see the links below. I used to avoid writing about my non-camera gear but I thought it was time to reveal all! I detail the specific speedlights and wireless triggers I use together with the other photography gear needed for my portrait photography.
- See full details of my portrait photography lighting kit – HERE
- See full details of my portrait photography equipment kit – HERE
Through this post I added Mamiya 6 portraits taken on later photo shoots. See the links below for lots more Mamiya 6 photos with models in different countries –
More Mamiya Blog Posts
- How to Process Film through to Digital (Develop, Scan, Edit)
- Mamiya 6 vs Hasselblad 500
- Mamiya 6 – Polish Models
- Mamiya 6 + Leica M 240 – Polish Girls
- Mamiya 6 – Ukraine Girls
- Mamiya 6 – Tenerife Model Shoot (to follow)(Subscribe so not to miss it!)
- Mamiya 6 – Ken Rockwell (Full Spec)
- Mamiya 6 Wedding (sample) – Full wedding to follow
- Mamiya 6 50mm lens review/ model photos – to follow
- Mamiya 6 150mm lens review/ model photos – to follow