Mamiya 7 II
A Medium Format Rangefinder
A Review by Jack Zyberk
The Mamiya 7II is the latest reincarnation of the original Mamiya 6 rangefinder. Users who are comfortable with a manual focusing rangefinder cameras and who want excellent portability and the highest quality optics in medium format will find M7II hard to resist. An optional 35mm film panoramic kit extends the camera capabilities.
The quality of the camera and lenses are impressive. They convey a feeling of a well designed and well made product. The camera balances very well with all of the available lenses and has good ergonomics. Film loading/removal is the first pleasant experience. It is fast and easy, even in the subzero temperatures.
The excellent viewfinder is one of the strong features of the M7II. It is big, bright and contrasty. The auto-indexed frames cover the 65, 80 and 150mm focal lengths. Users of the correction diopter lenses will discover the enhanced contrast of the viewfinder due to the polarizing effect. The 43, 50 and 210mm lenses have the auxiliary finders mounted in the flash shoe. They're bright and convenient. The 150mm lens has an optional auxiliary finder. A universal finder for 150 & 210 mm lenses was introduced with the 210mm lens. All finders have unobtrusive panoramic frame markings. The focusing is accomplished by superimposing a double image in the center of the viewfinder. Parallax compensation is automatic. The viewfinder accuracy is 83% and 100% at the minimum focusing distance.
The camera uses a simple SPD cell located in the rangefinder window. It has a center-weighted pattern and its angle of view is automatically adjusted to the focal length of the mounted lens. Despite its simplicity the meter is surprisingly accurate under most circumstances. The finder lacks an aperture display. Only the shutter speeds appear as a row of numbers below the viewfinder area. If the selected shutter speed differs from the correct speed, two numbers are lit by the LEDs. The steadily lit number shows the selected shutter speed, while the blinking one shows the meter suggested speed. This is a very effective way to show the degree of under/over exposure. Adjusting the shutter/aperture dials allows superimposing both LEDs. The correct shutter speed/aperture combination is confirmed by a single steadily illuminated shutter speed number. The lack of the aperture display in the viewfinder doesn't seem to be a problem. A minor, but a real initial distraction is a reflection from the RF window. It can be seen as a yellow light, on the left off the viewfinder area, whenever the eye is misaligned with the viewfinder axis.
The M7II offers two automation features on the shutter speed dial. Selecting the AE puts the camera in the aperture priority mode, while selecting AEL locks the shutter speed when the shutter release is partially depressed.
The mechanical and optical quality of the lenses is truly outstanding. The combination of the film size and optics probably yields the best results among medium format cameras. This is clearly visible in the superb texture and detail of the subject rendering. The lenses come with bayonet mount shades which are mounted on the lens in reverse for storage. Each lens has an electronic leaf shutter. Typically the lens minimum focus is 1m and the maximum aperture f/4. The 210 lens is an exception. Its minimum focusing distance is 7m. The maximum aperture is f/8, and it doesn't couple to the range finder. It is very light and balances on the camera extremely well. All these lenses are small and light. To compensate for temperature changes the lenses focus past infinity mark. Although the near focusing is not the rangefinder camera's forte, a shorter focusing distance on the 80mm lens would be welcome. Mounting a lens requires an extra step to prevent fogging of the film when the lens is removed. This is accomplished by using a shield lever at the camera base plate. After mounting the lens, moving a sliding switch next to the shield lever retract the protective shield and enables the camera controls.
Users who don't use tripods can use slow shutter speeds with confidence. The camera shutter is silent and there are no vibrations during exposure.
These include the shutter release lock at the release button, the multiple exposure slider switch on the back of the camera, the exposure compensation dial below the shutter speed dial allowing setting in 1/3 stops increments up to 2 stops, the 10 sec. delay self timer, the flash synch which works at all shutter speeds and the hot shoe, etc. These are typical items found on most cameras.
The 35 mm film panoramic kit will appeal to users who want to use the 135 format films. Others may prefer simply to crop the 6x7cm frame and enjoy a better quality of the image on the superior 120 films.
The Heliopan polarizing filter provide convenience to the RF users by marking the filter frame with numbers. However, the old Nikon linear polarizers seems to yield nicer results, comparable to a warm polarizing filter.
Size & Weight
For a 6x7cm camera the M7II is impressively compact and light. The body size is comparable to many 35mm SLRs and a M7II system including the body and 3 lenses is about 2kgs.
The Proverbial Achilles Heel and Some Conclusions
The Mamiya 7II hall of shame. The 210 and 150mm lens caps and shade — see text.
Some of the M7II's accessories show that even the best executed camera design can be spoiled by lack of attention to the small items. They exemplify the proverb: "The devil is in the details".
The biggest flop is the 150mm lens shade. In contrast to all other shades, which are excellent, this one is made of thin plastic, stays loose on the lens barrel, and is far too short for its intended function. It is also difficult to install when the Helliopan Polarizing filter is mounted, due to its small diameter. The only current solution is a screw-in shade from a 3rd party supplier. This however prevents the convenience of storing the shade on the lens.
As if to compensate for the poor shade, the 150mm lens is the only one with a well designed lens cap. All other lens caps are poor. The tabs are too small and too short. Unless the user has very long nails or slim fingers the caps usually end up on the ground.
The cold battery pack is a clear design afterthought. The only good news is that it is available. It requires removal of the battery from the camera. Once the dummy battery plug is installed, it prevents placing the camera on its base plate. The connector, in the middle of the cord, is easy to disconnect when the cable is pulled. The housing stores the camera 6V battery instead of AA rechargeable. Mamiya is yet another camera maker which adds unnecessary cost for the user and poison to our environment by using disposable and expensive batteries. The consolation is that M7II draws little power, so the battery life is adequate.
Although none of the listed problems is a show stopper the 150 mm lens shade and the lens caps are disappointments with otherwise an excellent camera. Improving both would be simple and it should be done.
In conclusion the Mamiya 7II is an excellent camera and highly recommended.
This review is Copyright 2000 by Jack Zyberk. All Rights Reserved.
If you live in the United States you may wish to consider purchasing your Mamiya 7II from outside the country. Mamiya America Corporation (MAC) regrettable has such high margins that Mamiya prices are typically double in the U.S. what they are elsewhere in the world. The Canadian Mamiya distributor does the same thing.
Robert White is a leading U.K. photographic equipment distributor and dealer who ships product all over the world. I also high recommend HarrysProShop, another reputable online dealer located in Canada. I have purchased equipment from both companies and know them to both be efficient and reputable.
A hands-on field report can also be found here.