This camera has been called the workhorse of the photographic industry for many years with good reason. It has often been linked as guilty by assumption, with studio work, product and commercial photography only; due to it’s robust size and weight. The idea that this camera is unweildly outside the studio invironment is only true for those perhaps not prepared to utilize this baby to it’s fullest potential. That and they might lack moral fibre and upper body strength! I bought this camera as new a few years back from a Studio Portrait photographer with 40 years in the business. The camera came with a f3.8 127mm Mamiya Sekor lens, 120 roll film holder, pop up view finder with a 2+ diopter – and a speed grip for hand holding with top mounted hotshoe. My 35mm outfit barely gets a look in anymore because I always hike this beast everywhere I go. The big neg in 6×7 is so impressive that I have become totally absorbed by the MF culture and approach. I had a vision for larger formats that my 35mm images were not able to provide in results. So when I took my RB into the mountains and rainsforests shooting waterfalls and coastal scenics, what I got back in E6 jumped off the light box in a way I had never seen before. I was sold!
And now a quick run down of features of the Pro-S. Lens mounting is bayonet with safety lock ring. Viewfinder has horizontal index marks interlocked with the revolving back. Focussing hood is single action opening and closing, also interchangeable with finder magnification at 2.5x. Finders are also interchangeable. Focussing screen is an interchangeable fresnel lens. Revolving back adaptor exclusive to the Pro-S allows up to 90 degree rotary system. You have the benefit of R lock adaptors and G lock adaptors. Focussing is by way of a bellows with rack pinions whereby maximum extention is 46mm. Shutter and mirror cocking are single action (75 degree) cocking lever on cameras side. The shutter release button can also be locked to not allow firing of the shutter. Standard lenses are the 90mm 3.8 and the 127mm 3.8. The filter screw diameters are all 77mm so you can rationalise all your filters should you need to. Apertures have full automatic diaphragm (with dof preview lever). F3.8 to 32 with full and half click stop intervals, also with MLU. Shutter gives 1 to 1/400 with T for time settings, flash synch on all speeds due to the leaf shutter system -M-X full flash synchronisation. Image shows the Pro-S Roll film back. The red arrow indicates the red flag exposure system while the green arrow points to the multiple exposure lock. The lock in the image is in the safe position for standard photography. When the lever is pushed forward multiple exposures are possible. Pro-S Roll Film Holder – 120 roll film will provide 10 shots at 6x7cm format which will sit nicely with those most used to shooting 35mm. Film advance – One stroke lever film advance. Automatic double exposure prevention, film wind stop auto release and multiple exposure capabilities. Film counter – Auto resetting type with red index tags that disapears upon completion of film winding. Provided with dark slide prevention and memo clip. You can fire the shutter with no film in the camera by pulling the dark slide 0.5cm from the sheath. The RB67 Pro-S has a series of locking features which prevent you from making accidental exposures. Another charming feature is that the bellows system allows a macro function with nearly all lenses. This camera was ten years old when I bought it and it has behaved flawlessly since then, with nary a hickup. Shutter speeds may be a little on the slow side for some at 1/400th to 1 sec; but I have never needed anything above 1/125 for what I do anyway. If you are buying a new RB67 in the Pro-SD area then you are in for some fine lenses in the newer KL range which have undergone a redesign. Lenses available for the Pro-S are as follows. 37mm f4.5C Fisheye, 50mm f4.5C, 65mm f4.5C, 90mm f3.8C, 127mm f.3.8C, 140mm f4.5C Macro, 150mm f/4C Soft Focus, 180mm f/4.5C, 250mm f/4.5C, 360mm f/6.3C and the 500mm f/8C. In the past there were some manufacture tolerance issues with a couple of the old C and especially the non C lenses. Some people called them soft and others got a sharp optic. Those days are over and the new lenses, particularly the 50mm, which suffered the worst reputation over the years are now top quality and in line with the new design KL lenses. Some people still complain about lack of edge to edge sharpness regarding 50mm 4.5 lenses, but many have failed to understand or even realize that you must operate the floating ring which controls critical DOF.
…Getting the most out of your 50mm… There are a couple of lens’ in the Mamiya RB family which require you to manually adjust the select focus ring on the lens itself to correct for critical depth of field. “As with a standard lens, adjust focussing by turning the focussing knob on the camera body. Merely turning the floating ring will not produce accurate focussing. Next, read the distance to subject, set the distance scale of the floating ring to the center index mark (red dot), and then take a picture. Floating ring may be set either before or after focussing. When turning the floating ring, a portion of the lens system is shifted to the front and rear; however, no variations can be observed on the ground glass focussing screen.” “When placing emphasis on spur of the moment snaps, set the infinity mark (red) of the floating ring to the center index mark (red)when the distance to subject is from infinity to 7ft (2 metres).If the distance to subject is less than the above a sufficiently sharp image can be attained merely by setting 3.3ft/1m (red) to the index. In the case of close up photography nearer than 3.3ft, set the floating ring to 3.3ft then stop down the lens as much as possible. Distance to subject implies the distance from film plane to subject.” … Going off half cocked…. The Rb67 Pro-S requires that after each frame has been shot that you cock the shutter to drop the mirror then wind on the film, on the back itself. You can do this in any order you wish. Some people have suggested that this is laborious and slow, but it has never cost me more than 1.5 seconds, think about that! If the dark slide has not been removed you will not be able to fire the shutter, this is only one of the many useful interlocks and failsafes built into the cameras design. MLU is possible both with or without a cable release by turning the MLU knob at the barrel of the lens. For long exposures there are two ways of ending the exposure. You can cock the shutter lever forward by 17 degree’s, not my favourite option, or you can turn the shutter speed ring back towards one second; wait for the click and your exposure is completed. A tip for those who fear any form of camera shake is to use the black hat method. To get around all the fuss of MLU I just place my hand infront of the lens, fire the shutter, wait for 10 seconds for any vibrations to settle down, then remove my hand and begin timing. When I want to complete the exposure I replace my left hand and then with my right turn the shutter ring back towards 1 sec. I have yet to get an unsharp image.
Pros and Cons
Don’t be told that this camera isn’t meant for outdoor work or landscapes, this camera is a standard in the Landscape and Scenic photographic culture. If weight is an issue for you and you can’t stomach anything heavier than a 35mm camera then the Rb may not be for you. The RZ is a little lighter but then you have other issues of a non mechanical nature to deal with, such as batteries. The beauty of the RB is that it is a purely mechanical camera and requires nothing other than man power to operate it; no matter what the conditions or circumstances. Thats the reliability of an RB. As stated earlier this camera may not be well suited to the sports or action photographer the size of this system requires a more thoughtful approach and with the maximum shutter speed topping out at 1/400th you might be limited in your subjects. Image shows the two positions of the revolving back as displayed by the position of the back itself and the red index markers on the screen. This view shows the screen minus the focussing hoods.
Notes for those looking to buy with the aim of Studio and Commercial work… RB67 Pro-S and 127mm f3.8C You can easily shoot portraits with this lens but if you want to go for a longer focal length then you can. There are some lenses that are softer than others so depending on your purposes, when buying, be aware and try them out first as this could be just what you want or not the thing at all. I would suggest two lenses to begin with, but if you can only afford one, then you can’t go wrong with the 127mm which ought to come stock with an Rb. You have a choice of view finders which range from the pop up viewer or the PD Prism. With the pop up finder you have a choice of plastic diopters which serve to magnify the image on the glass. If you are mainly doing commercial and portraiture you won’t need to worry about the PD Prism which comes in either a plain standard or you can get a metered prism which requires a battery. You may well want the L grip which I myself have, this can come in handy when you want to move around and shoot freestyle without the tripod limiting your movements. The L grip has a hotshoe on the top for the flashmount and this works very well. Image displays the Polaroid Back adaptor for the Pro-S. Next thing you might need for portraits and commercial work is a Polaroid back which will allow you to pack mount polaroid film for proofing purposes, pretty important for this line of work. I do allot of landscape, nature, scenic and night photography and I’m getting one for myself so I can expand into studio work and the like. The Pola back is a very valuable tool indeed. If you get the RB67 Pro-S it is recommended you get yourself an excellent dedicated flash meter. What you choose is up to you but I would highly recommend something like the Sekonic Flashmaster L-358. I use this meter regularly and you couldn’t want much more from a meter, particularly for studio work. Get a solid tripod, you’re going to need one with an RB. Finally you may want to pick up a twin cable release for mirror up photography with this camera, this will give you greater control over the sharpness of your work and allow you to get the most out of your photography. The Rb67 is a beast of a camera but it is also an incredibly reliable camera which after 12 years of service has only needed the seals in the back and the body done once. I drag this thing allover gods creation and with no need for batteries and total manual operation it has yet to let me down or fall short of my greater expectations. More than that, this camera is just plain fun to own and run. You’ll get ten shots from any roll of 120 film and with a couple of backs and perhaps a 220 RFH you could be using two different types of film in any location and shooting 30. The RB stands for revolving back – and on location this is a godsend which takes you from vertical imaging to horizontal in a second flat! If you want to get into Medium Format you might as well be a maneater and grab an RB. The modularity of the RB is significant and the new buyer will find more add ons than they can shake a stick at, but it’ll have to be a big stick! If you liked this review or want to discuss any of the above feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org Kind Regards, Simon White