Mamiya 7 Review: 5 Reasons Not to Buy! + Mamiya 7 User Guide
Are you looking to buy a Mamiya 7 film camera? You might want to read this Mamiya 7 review/ article first. The blog title is not click bait. This is just simple facts and my opinion. Includes:
- 5 Top Reasons to Buy a Mamiya 7
- 9 Types of Photography using the Mamiya 7 camera
- 5 Factual Reasons Not to Buy a Mamiya 7 and –
- 5 Alternative Film cameras compared to Mamiya 7. Pros & Cons of each
- The Best Film Camera for Your Needs
- Mamiya 7 User Guide & Getting Started
Firstly, let’s flip the question in the title to appreciate both sides of the argument:
5 Top Reasons to Buy a Mamiya 7 Camera
- You are a hipster (I’m not but I was called one as soon as bought my 7!)
- You believe all the hype around this camera (“best film camera ever”)
- You have used a Mamiya 6 and want 6×7 format
- You want a 43mm wide angle lens rangefinder camera
- You shoot mostly landscape photography and don’t want to step up to 4×5
Why did I Buy a Mamiya 7?
Talking from my own experience I can confirm that I bought my Mamiya 7 because of reason #2 & #3 above (mostly #2) and quite liked the idea of #4 also. I convinced myself this was THE pinnacle of film cameras for a guy who likes great image quality from analogue technology. I already have a Mamiya 6 camera and many of the other highly regarded film cameras but I was looking for better. I tend to shoot portraits but I also do wedding photography and the occasional building or landscape photo so I thought maybe the 43mm lens would be useable and useful for some of my photography work.
I blame Ken Rockwell!
I love the Ken Rockwell website and appreciate the effort he puts in documenting the specifics of many of the popular cameras (especially those that I use like the Leica cameras). I have used Ken’s website a great deal over the years for research. (I tend to use Flickr to research example photos). Despite my positive remarks about the website Ken wrote things like this and now I feel a little mis-sold!:
“The Mamiya 7 has been the world’s best camera since the 1990s”
“Highest real-world resolution available in any hand-held camera”
Most of you are probably saying to yourself “Well Matt it’s your fault for be stupid and believing all you read!”. This is indeed true and a fair comment but I had seen other glowing reviews about the camera on other websites too. When digital cameras were starting to catch up film camera resolution one of the benchmark tests seemed to always be the “Mamiya 7 vs Nikon D800” (etc). It always seemed to be new camera vs the 7.
My high expectations of the Mamiya 7 would always result in disappointment
After reading all these rave reviews I bought the Mamiya 7 camera with high expectations. It seemed common opinion across the internet that the 7 will produce higher resolution photos than all my other film cameras. Even if this is true on the chart data I have not seen it with real world photos. Again perhaps stupidly, I think I assumed high-resolution equals better apparent sharpness and a more pleasing photo. I can confirm this is not the case. Apparent sharpness can be affected by factors such as contrast and I would argue many of my other cameras produce visibly sharper and certainly more pleasing photos to my eyes. The 7 can have it moments though. The photo below is perhaps my sharpest 7 image to my eyes though light plays an important factor (as with every photo!)
What genre of photography will you use your Mamiya 7 for? 9 Types of photography explained:
1. Mamiya 7 Landscape Photography?
Perhaps the number one reason you would consider buying a Mamiya 7 camera. Mamiya 7 landscape photography! The camera is much more portable than a 4×5 camera and 120 film is easier to process and cheaper to buy. I feel it is best suited to packing lightish hiking up mountains landscape photography or like me, travelling by bike travel photography. It allows you to capture lots of detail and is not too heavy to carry around. As there are multiple lenses available you don’t need to stick to the 43mm lens. I opted for the 50mm lens I can guesstimate the 50mm framing with the viewfinder without needing to carry the additional 43mm external viewfinder that mounts on the hotshoe. I found my Hasselblad SWC/M 38mm Biogon lens often too wide for landscapes scenes I was seeing. It is fixed lens so the Mamiya 7 is better in this regard with interchangeable lenses.
2. Mamiya 7 for Portraiture?
I bought the Mamiya 7 mostly for portraiture as that is what I do. Is the Mamiya 7 good for portraits. I struggled with it to be honest but I was using the wider 50mm and 65mm lens. I think the Mamiya 7 150mm lens would be the best lens for portraits but I read that photos with these lenses are often blurry due to the camera and or lens being out of alignment (needing recalibration). That stopped me from buying this lens.
Mamiya 7 Portraits
Here are a few of my Mamiya 7 portraits with the 50mm lens and 65mm lens:
Mamiya 7 + 65mm Portraits
Mamiya 7 + 50mm Portrait
After making these Mamiya 7 portraits I liked the idea of a longer lens so decided to buy the Mamiya 6 150mm lens instead which is cheaper, to try.
Mamiya 7 Fashion
I also tried Mamiya 7 fashion photography when working with a fashion model in Budapest. Mixing buildings and people for wider environmental portraits suits the camera better I think for the lenses I was using.
3. The Mamiya 7 for Street Photography?
The slow Mamiya 7 lenses with at best a maximum aperture of f4 are not bright enough for serious available light street photography. I think the most popular street photography camera is a 35mm Leica. 35mm cameras offer faster lenses like f1.0, f1.2, f1.4 and so on so can work in darker conditions more easily.
4. Using a Mamiya 7 for Anything Photos?
The 6×7 film format is quite expensive to photograph scenes of anything and everything (though I know people use it for this a lot). The Mamiya 7 only gets 10x 6×7 photos from a roll of 120 film. I think 35mm film is more suited to shooting these “anything” photos and something like a small Leica film camera, whether an M2,M3, M4P, M6 or otherwise. Here is a 6×9 photo of nothing special using a 4×5 camera as an example. (Pretty but a bit of an overkill!)
5. Mamiya 7 for Architectural Photography?
The 43mm lens of the Mamiya 7 makes it well suited for interior photos and working in confined spaces. 6×7 film negatives capture high-resolution and lots of detail. While in Budapest I explored the city on a hire bike and used the Mamiya 7 to photography some of the old buildings. From the cameras I have used I much preferred using my Hasselblad SWC/M for this. I shot some interior building photos while on a model shoot in Tenerife and made use of it’s super wide 38mm Zeiss Biogon Lens (linked below).
6. Mamiya 7 for Fast Action Sport Photography?
The Mamiya 7 is a manual focus rangefinder camera so is less suited to fast action sports photography. If you want to shoot sport with a film camera something like the 35mm Nikon F5 SLR would be ideal with its super fast and accurate auto focus and faster frames per second. Firing off a series of 35mm film frames is also a lot cheaper than doing that with 120 film!
7. Mamiya 7 Wildlife Photography?
The Mamiya 7 is not generally recommended for wildlife photography. Wildlife photography is often done with a telephoto or zoom lens. The Mamiya 7 does have a 210mm lens but the aperture is f8 so this is not suited to freezing a moving subject nor working in anything other than bright conditions.
8. Mamiya 7 Macro Photography?
The Mamiya 7 lens line up doesn’t include macro lenses. The Mamiya 7 is a rangefinder camera which are not designed for close focus. The typical Mamiya 7 lens minimal focus distance is around 1m. My Leica cameras are also rangefinder cameras so are less suited to macro too. For macro I would go towards something like an 35mm SLR camera like my Nikon F4 or Nikon F5 and pair them with a dedicated macro lens like the Tokina 100mm f2.8 Macro lens.
9. Mamiya 7 Wedding Photography?
If like me you enjoy using rangefinder cameras the Mamiya 7 might be a tempting choice for a wedding photographer. I used it for one wedding shortly after buying the camera but since then have switched back to using other film cameras. At my last wedding I used a Leica M3 and Nikon F5 SLR for film but I change from week to week depending on my mood. If I wanted to shoot medium format film wedding photography I would choose the Mamiya 6 as it packs small and gives more frames per roll of film. Arguably the best film camera for wedding photography is the Contax 645 but I sold mine. Here is a Contax 645 wedding I did).
Mamiya 7 Lenses – 6 Lenses Available
- 43mm f4.5 lens (requires additional external viewfinder)
- 50mm f4.5 lens (has an additional external viewfinder)
- 65mm f4 lens
- 80mm f4 lens (kit lens)
- 150mm f4.5 lens (150mm/210mm external viewfinder)
- 210mm f8 lens (150mm/210mm external viewfinder)
5 Reasons Not to Buy a Mamiya 7
Here are 5 very real reasons not to spend your money on a Mamiya 7, based on fact. If you still want to buy a Mamiya 7 (‘7) after this at least you will be well-informed prior to your purchase. (I could list more but I tried to select only the cameras that I own closest to the ‘7. If I included one more camera it would be the Rolleiflex SL66E. An absolutely fantastic camera! (Just quite fragile)).
5 Good Reasons to Reconsider buying a Mamiya 7:
Camera Comparison vs the Mamiya 7
Here I detail each of the 5 cameras listed compared to the Mamiya 7 for real world photography. I own and use all these cameras so the facts are based on experience of using each camera system and seeing the results they produce. I am passionate about making the best possible photos so I write from that viewpoint together with practical reasons why I use each camera.
1. Fuji GF670 vs Mamiya 7
4 Reasons the Fuji GF670 is a better camera
- The Fuji GF670 offers the choice of 6×6 or 6×7 film formats (in camera)
- The GF is a true folding medium format camera so much slimmer that a ‘7
- The GF670 Fujion 80mm f3.5 is one of the sharpest lenses I ever used
- Using 6×6 format gives an +2 photos per roll of 120 film (10 vs 12 photos)
3 Reasons the Mamiya 7 is better than the GF670
- Fuji GF670 doesn’t have interchangeable lenses, ‘7 does (incl. 43mm wide)
- GF670 are less common and not as easy to find to buy (outside of Japan)
- The Fuji GF is usually more expensive depending on condition
2. Mamiya RZ67 Pro II vs Mamiya 7
13 Reasons the Mamiya RZ67 is a better camera
- Can do close up / macro photography with its bellow focusing (any lens)
- Amazing camera for portraits with lenses like the 110mm f2.8
- Better for architecture / landscapes using tilt/shift short barrel lenses
- Modular camera so can use multiple film backs, say colour & B&W
- Waist level finder and prism finder options for a variety of views
- Mamiya RZ67 camera is much cheaper than a ‘7
- RZ67 has 21 lenses available and many are very affordable vs ‘7 lenses
- RZ is a SLR so avoids all the common issues associated with a rangefinder
- Mamiya RZ lenses to my eyes are as sharp as the ‘7 (esp. stopped down)
- The RZ can create artistic background separation and bokeh easily, 7′ can’t
- The Mamiya RZ accepts different film backs, 645, 6×6 and 6×7 film formats
- Mamiya RZ has a good 6×6 RZ Polaroid film back to shoot instant film
- The RZ is modular so if something breaks it is easy to replace one part cheap
2 Reasons the Mamiya 7 is better than the Mamiya RZ
- Mamiya RZ67 is big and heavy and less portable than a ‘7
- If you want a medium format rangefinder camera the RZ is not, it’s an SLR
3. Mamiya 6 vs Mamiya 7
6 Reasons the Mamiya 6 is better than the 7
- The Mamiya 6 camera is cheaper than a ‘7
- Mamiya 6 lenses are cheaper than ‘7 lenses
- Mamiya ‘6 lenses don’t require additional external viewfinders
- The ‘6 lens mount is collapsible making it much slimmer/ more portable
- If you prefer to compose squares the ‘6 6×6 negatives will suit you better
- 6×6 film format gives an extra 2 photos per roll of 120 film (10 vs 12 photos)
2 Reasons the Mamiya 7 is better than the Mamiya 6
- The ‘7 offers 6×7 film format if that is what you want
- The ‘7 has the 43mm lens on 6×7 whereas the ‘6 wide lens is only 50mm
4. Hasselblad vs Mamiya 7
13 Reasons the Hasselblad 500CM is a better camera
- Can do close up / macro photography with macro lens / extension tubes
- Amazing camera for portraits with lenses like the 80mm f2.8, 120 & 150mm
- Better for wide-angle architecture / landscapes if get the Rolleiflex SL66E
- Modular camera so can use multiple film backs, say colour & B&W
- Waist level finder and prism finder options for a variety of views
- Hasselblad cameras are cheaper than a ‘7
- Hasselblad cameras have 13+ lenses available, 30mm-500mm
- Hassy is a SLR so avoids the common issues associated with a rangefinder
- Many Hasselblad lenses are sharper than the ‘7 (60mm, 100 & 120mm esp.)
- The Hassy can create artistic background separation and bokeh easily
- Hasselblad accepts different film backs, 645 and 6×6 film formats
- The Hassy is modular so if something breaks it is easy to replace one part
- 6×6 film format gives an extra 2 photos per roll of 120 film (10 vs 12 photos)
2 Reasons the Mamiya 7 is better than a Hasselblad
- Hasselblad cameras are is big and heavier than a ‘7, (esp. with long lens)
- If you want a medium format rangefinder camera the Hasselblad is not
5. Intrepid 4×5 vs Mamiya 7
12 Reasons an Intrepid 4×5 wood camera is a better
- If you want high-resolution photos shoot 4×5 film not 6×7 film
- A 4×5 camera can do close up / macro photography
- The Intrepid 4×5 camera is wood so lighter than the ‘7 (with lens!)
- The rise, fall, shift options of a 4×5 Intrepid gives selective focus
- 4×5 offer shallow depth of field for artistic portraits – Aero Ektar lens!
- 4×5 it much better suited for landscapes and architecture as tilts
- The Intrepid 4×5 camera is very very cheap and lenses are affordable
- A 4×5 camera is a creative tool that can’t be matched by smaller cameras
- 4×5 film photography offers a totally different and immersive experience
- A 4×5 camera accepts different film backs – 6×7, 6×9, pano, Polaroid
- More lenses are available for 4×5 cameras. The list is near endless!
- The 4×5 camera can shoot 120 film or 4×5 film so can be affordable
3 Reasons the Mamiya 7 is better than the Intrepid 4×5
- The ‘7 is better as a point and shoot camera, less setup time required
- The ‘7 can be used handheld. Most 4×5 camera are used on a tripod
- A ‘7 requires much less skill and knowledge to use. Pick up & click
Summary and Recap
The Best Film Camera for Your Needs:
Another way to look at what is the best film camara for you is to look at it from the what type of photography will you do? To recap the detail above here are the best cameras for each photography genre (from my experience).
- Landscape Photography – 4×5 Intrepid (resolution + tilt)
- Macro Photography – Mamiya RZ67 (has bellows)
- Architecture Photography – 4×5 Intrepid (resolution + tilt)
- Portraits – Hasselblad or Mamiya RZ67 (to personal taste)
- Travel Photography – Fuji GF670 (Folding MF film camera)
- Rangefinder Photography – Fuji GF670 (Sharpest, 6×6 + 6×7)
- Anything Photography – Hasselblad (6×6 Instagram ready!)
- Wedding Photography – Mamiya 6 (Different lenses, small & fast)
Mamiya 7 Review – Conclusion
So as you can see when you put it on paper there are many cameras that are “better”alternatives for most types of photography. I’ve used the above mentioned cameras for all of the photography styles listed. I’ve shot weddings with my Mamiya RZ (and Hasselblads), I’ve done 4×5 macro photography, I travelled to San Francisco with my Fuji GF670, I shoot portraits with any and every camera and I even occasionally photography buildings (which I loosely class as architecture).
The Mamiya 7 is all Hype?
I bought my ‘7 based on the hype. I think the people who have written rave reviews about it obviously haven’t tried a lot of the other cameras readily available. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate the ‘7 camera (not at all). It is a good camera with great lenses. I just feel there are better camera options available for most photographers. I find it much easier to make pleasing photos with my other cameras. Perhaps I just expected too much but my film negatives don’t lie. I rate my cameras from the negatives that come off the scanner no matter what expectations I had beforehand.
Mamiya 7 6×7 vs 35mm Film
If the ‘7 was the first and only medium format film camera I had tried and I had moved up from 35mm film, it would be the best camera in the world to me. 6×7 film negatives capture a huge amount of detail (just less than 4×5 of the cameras detailed here!) so it would amaze most people used to seeing 35mm negatives. The step up from 35mm to 6×7 is HUGE! (*You can actually shoot 35mm film in a Mamiya 7 camera – see Mamiya 7 35mm photography).
So to close..
Who is the Mamiya 7 camera best suited to?
If you need / love the 6×7 film format AND you prefer rangefinder cameras AND you want to use wide lenses (43mm to 65mm) then the ‘7 is the camera for you. No question. I think if you shoot mostly landscape photography too you will love the ‘7, especially if you don’t want the hassle and cost of buying and developing 4×5 sheet film. 4×5 sheet film is crazy expensive! I have not given up on my Mamiya 7 and I won’t sell it but I think it is just suited to the very niche “climb up a mountain with minimal kit to capture stunning wide-angle landscape photos”. If you don’t need the wide lens get the Fuji GF670. You won’t be disappointed!
It’s just my 2p’s worth but I thought I would share as I seem to be in the minority with this opinion.
Mamiya 7 – User Guide & Getting Started
If you have just treated yourself to a Mamiya 7 camera here are a few answers to questions I had when I first got my Mamiya 7.
- How to load film in a Mamiya 7 camera?
- Why can’t I remove the lens to swap to a different lens?
- Why can’t you close the dark slide to remove the 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 7?
- Can I use the Mamiya 7 camera without a battery?
- Is there a Mamiya 7 battery check?
- Mamiya 7 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 7 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 7 lens stuck – You cannot change lenses/ remove a lens from a Mamiya 7 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 7 dark slide (curtain) wont close – need to advance the film after taking a photo before you can close the dark slide / remove the lens.
- Mamiya 7 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 (*also make sure the film is advanced!)
- Mamiya 7 battery – the camera takes one SR44 or 4LR44 battery
- Mamiya 7 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.
- Mamiya 7 battery check – if the shutter speed LED (bottom left of the viewfinder) is blinking the battery is low and needs replacing.
Mamiya 7 How to Load Film – 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 7 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 35mm* f2 lens @ISO 100 = 65mm f4 @ISO 400 on a Mamiya 7 camera (Approximately 35mm* = 65mm is closer to 32mm in 35mm terms).
- 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
More Mamiya 7 camera related articles
See the links throughout this post +
- Mamiya 7 35mm photography
- Mamiya 6 vs Hasselblad
- Hasselblad vs Mamiya RZ67
- Leica M6 vs Hasselblad
- Mamiya 7 Specs (With thanks to Ken Rockwell)
- Mamiya 7 Manual PDF
More Film Photography Articles (Cameras/Lenses/Films) –
You may also like… What Gear I Use for Portraits!