Mamiya 6 Review & Photos – 7 Reasons Why to Buy! (+User Guide)
Tempted by a Mamiya 6 folding camera? A more portable version of a Hasselblad (say for travel) yet still a 6×6 camera giving big negatives!
This Mamiya 6 review covers 7 reasons why I bought it, the 3 lenses, Mamiya 6 vs Mamiya 7 comparison, mini user guide and video, sample portraits and more!
1. Mamiya 6 Folding Camera
My latest camera purchase is a 1989 Mamiya 6 medium format analogue rangefinder camera. 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 to me is my Fuji GF670 which folds out to use). The Mamiya 6 6×6 camera (film format) came with the 75mm f3.5 kit lenses. There are 3 lenses available, 50, 75 and 150 and all use the built-in camera viewfinder with rangefinder patch.
2. Why did I buy another 6×6 camera?
I had overseas model trips fast approaching and I wanted to take a medium format film camera with me. The Hasselblad 501C 6×6 camera continues to be perhaps my favourite camera to operate and the results it gives but I use it with a prism viewfinder so it’s not as compact as it could be.
I have smaller medium format cameras already, Fuji GF670 (6×6 & 6×7), Fuji GS645 and Fuji GA645. I tried to love the GF670 again recently as it ticks most of my boxes but didn’t really work for me. The GS645 shutter sticks so needs repair but is otherwise a nice camera. The GA645 is too automated for me but that was the camera I had planned to take as it is super compact yet has the crazy sharp Fujion 60mm f4 lens. The camera however also recently died on me and had an electrical fault preventing the camera from finding focus and therefore letting me depress the shutter to take a picture.
The Mamiya 645 Super is a slightly larger camera but smaller and lighter than the Hasselblad. Upsettingly I seem to have fell out with love with the M645 also as the results have not been good enough recently.
I have always been tempted by a Mamiya 6 or Mamiya 7 camera so I think it was just a matter of time. I nearly bought a Mamiya 7ii when I bought the 35mm Hasselblad Xpan to take to New York in December and then resisted.
3. Mamiya 6 vs Mamiya 7/ 7ii
When considering this purchase I looked at both the Mamiya 6 and Mamiya 7. I am still not a big fan of 6×7 film format. To me it is almost a waste of film as the resolution is far higher than I need for online use. I shot the Fuji GF670 in 6×7 format a few weeks ago but found I still prefer 6×6. The Mamiya 6 was therefore the obvious choice, partly due to the film format but equally because the lenses retract into the camera body making the camera only slightly deeper than the Fuji GF670 folding camera.
The Mamiya 7 lenses don’t retract and it has the 6×7 format. Some people prefer the Mamiya 7 / 7ii as it can accept a wider lens 43mm lens but for my model photography that is not something that interests me (at the moment). The Mamiya 6 and 7s are highly regarded to be well-built with sharp optics so they hold a higher price tag compared to the Fuji 645 medium format camera range. I was tempted to get another small Fuji to try but decided to pay more and get a camera that will hopefully last me a bit longer.
4. Hasselblad 501C vs Mamiya 6
As written above, I do love the Hasselblad 501C especially when working within 1m distance of my models for tight crop head and shoulder (or closer) images. For photos at a distance greater than say 1m I prefer a rangefinder like my Leica M cameras to focus. Rangefinder cameras have the disadvantage that they cannot focus very close to a subject. The Mamiya 6 has the same issue and will only focus from 1m-infinity on the 75mm lens. As such, if I pair up the Hasselblad 501C and Mamiya 6 I get the best of both worlds and all the photos would it theory blend seamlessly with the same 6×6 format.
If I was covering a wedding with medium format film cameras this will now be my go to set up I think. The Hasselblad and Mamiya 6 lenses are of a similar speed with f3.5/f4 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. If I get the 50mm lens for the Mamiya 6 I think I would use that setup for wider and the 120mm / 150mm lenses on the Hasselblad for telephoto. I have no interest in getting the 150mm lens for the Mamiya but others rate it highly.
5. Requirements list for my Mamiya 6 purchase
5.1 Leaf shutter lenses
Leaf shutter lenses give me a fast max flash sync speed for strobist work. The Mamiya 6 like the Hasselblad will sync at 1/500 vs the Leica M6 of only 1/60. This is a deal breaker as to which camera I will use if using strobes in daylight.
5.2 Well built
Like my Leica cameras I want a well-built camera that is hopefully reliable and fun to use. The Hasselblad 501c is a perfect example. Leica M cameras are great too as long as the rangefinder is correctly calibrated. The Fuji GF670 is not fun to use (for me). The Fuji 645 camera range are both not reliable enough and some are too automated for my taste (Fuji GA645).
5.3 Small and compact
For travel, small and compact (as possible) means I can take the camera overseas reasonably easily. I have flown with my Hasselblad 501C but a smaller medium format camera to fit in my Billingham Hadley Digital camera bag is ideal. All the Fuji film cameras I own fit in the bag but the Mamiya 6 somehow looks made to measure and easily fits in the bag with a Leica M body and 2 Leica M mount lenses. I actually pack two Leica bodies and the Mamiya 6 camera but it is
5.4 Decent rangefinder
I need a good/ accurate rangefinder so I can focus accurately at wide apertures. I am used to Leica rangefinder cameras like the amazing big and bright Leica M3 so I then struggle to use a less capable rangefinder viewfinder such as the Olympus 35RC. The Fuji GF670 is a little small and not my favourite to use. The Mamiya 6 however feels big and bright and gives me confidence when focusing. As long as it is correctly calibrated I should hopefully get in focus images every time.
6. Mamiya 6 Lenses / 6×6 Cameras
Unlike many 6×6 camera systems such as a Hasselblad 500cm (or my Mamiya RZ67 which I use with a 6×6 film back), the Mamiya 6 lenses are simple to choose as there are only 3! (Quite different from the Hassy where I don’t have all the lens (by far) but still use 50mm, 60mm, 80mm, 100mm, 120mm, 150mm, 180mm focal lens!)
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)
7. Mamiya 6 Sample Photos
I shot a quick test roll before my trip overseas and here is the photo I scanned in the earlier hours before the flight rather than sleeping than night!
Mamiya 6 + 75mm lens + Fomapan 100 / Model – Elle
(Photo taken with the Mamiya 6 camera + 75mm + Off camera flash)
Mamiya 6 – User Guide & 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