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Fuji GSW-690 iii OR Mamiya 7 ii

nelson guda , Jun 19, 2006; 04:31 p.m.

Hi all,

I need a question answered rather quickly. I am buying a medium format camera for landscape / fine art photography. I have found good deals on both a Fuji GSW-690 iii and Mamiya 7 ii (with 43mm, 65mm and 150mm). I'd like to know which camera people would recommend.

The Mamiya is clearly more flexible, because it has more lenses. It also has a wider angle lens than the Fuji. However, I've read some reviews that the Mamiya is difficult to focus particularly with the 43mm lens. I will be backpacking with this camera so I appreciate the rugged construction of the Fuji, and the light weight of both cameras.

I'd appreciate anyone's thoughts who has experience with either of these cameras.

Thanks very much in advance, nelson


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Sergio Ortega , Jun 19, 2006; 05:32 p.m.


You should post this question on the Medium Format site...you'll receive literally dozens of responses there. Also if you do a search on this topic there you will turn up hundreds of threads discussing the pros and cons of both cameras. I've owned both of these cameras: the Fuji 6x9/65mm and Fuji 6x7/90mm, and the Mamiya 7 II/65mm, though not the 43mm or the 150mm lens. Some thoughts...

The Fuji will be much, much cheaper. It is totally manual, uses no batteries and has no metering system. You're limited to one lens, but the GSW 6x9's Fuji 65mm produces outstanding images, equal to a 28mm lens on the 35mm format, with the same aspect ratio. It's a great choice for general landscape work.

The Fuji is not as compact or as finely made as the Mamiya 7, it's a bit crude in general feel and operation, but it's a very rugged camera. It's not particularly heavy, but it is a large camera, so if size is a major concern the Mamiya 7II would pack in a smaller space. There are some issues with the design of the Fuji's shutter that limit use of shutter speeds slower than one second, but it can be done with a little creativity. Using polarizing and graduated ND filters with either the Fuji or Mamiya can be a real challenge, but that's a problem with all rangefinder designs. Overall, the Fuji is a great camera, but with some limitations.

The Mamiya 7II is a great camera as well, the lenses are also outstanding, particularly the wide angle designs. The bodies and the lenses are quite expensive, especially the 43mm. I use the 65mm lens, which I find the most useful focal length for me, and it produces great images. I'd like to get the 43mm, but I cannot justify the prices. The metering system works well for me with the 65mm lens. The aperture priority exposure mode with exposure lock is also very useful for fast street photography and any type of work where you have to work quickly.

I have not read any reviews mentioning focusing difficulties with the WA lenses, specifically the 43mm, rather there are problems reported with accurate focusing with the longer lenses, a common issue with rangefinder designs.

I sold the Fuji cameras so I could get the Mamiya 7II/65mm. I don't regret it, as I prefer the Mamiya 7II overall, particularly for handheld work. Good luck with your choice.

John Crowe , Jun 19, 2006; 06:07 p.m.

When I considered these cameras the Mamiya was way more expensive. Sounds like that is still the case. The one lens system of the Fuji cameras would be a huge drawback to me so something like the Mamiya would be much more useful in my opinion. Depending on cost and weight it may be worthwhile getting two of the Fuji cameras. Perhaps the GSW690 and either the GW690 or the GW645 to give you at least two different focal lengths. Or if you can find one a 6x9 or even 6x12 with a fixed Schneider 47mm f8 lens to go with one of the Fujis.

I had considered all these cameras when I switched from a Mamiya TLR system to 4x5.

The other system I had considered was the Mamiya Universal which has some highly regarded but not too expensive wide angle lenses. Good luck.

Elliot N , Jun 19, 2006; 07:59 p.m.

If you can afford it, go for the Mamiya system - the lenses are better (ie. sharper and more contrasty).

Francois Gauthier , Jun 19, 2006; 11:50 p.m.

As said, the Mamiya is a better camera overall (sharper, more flexible and ... more expensive) but the obvious should not be overlooked : 6x7 vs 6x9 format.

Those Fuji answer the need for the large 6x9 film in a (relatively) modern camera. Landscape is their main subject.

If you intend to print in regular sizes like 11x14, the 6x7 makes more sense but if you want a 'larger view' like in 35mm, 6x9 is it.

About focussing the Mamiya : the 43mm has and needs a separate viewfinder, so maybe it is guess focussing. But it is as wide as it gets in medium format (with 38mm biogon in 6x6). 65mm is a great and easy to focus lens. 150mm has narrow depth of field that reveals the RF lack of precision but if you stop down it should not be a problem.

Also to consider : style of shooting. Large Fuji don't have a light meter. They are best on a tripod and with a good handheld LM. Slow and carefull shooting. The Mamiya 7 is more agile and mostly use hand-held but F4 lenses are a little slow for that in some situations.

Finally, fine art can be made with various material but some of it will be easier with functions like depth of field viewing, filter effect viewing, multiple exposure, etc. found essentially in SLRs.

Doug Smiley , Jun 20, 2006; 08:40 a.m.

I had the GSW 690 III and I did not like it. I did not like the build quality, the fact that it had no light meter, and the fact that even though the camera was tripod mounted for landscapes I was unable to get sharp negs more than about 60% of the time-I attributed this to the lousy film advance mechanism that did not pull the film tightly through the camera.

I have had a Mamiya 7 for several years and the only complaint about it that I have is, it doesn't focus closer than about 3 feet (but neither does the Fuji). Other than that, it is a much better camera than the Fuji in every way. The 43mm is not difficult to focus-maybe you are thinking of the 150, which I understand an be a bit touchy in that respect. The rangefinder can be knocked out of adjustment, but that would be the only real reason for any of the 7's lenses to be unable to focus accurately.

nelson guda , Jun 20, 2006; 11:51 a.m.

Thanks to all for your opinions. This was very helpful. Right now I'm leaning toward the Mamiya.


Anthony Oresteen , Jun 20, 2006; 10:52 p.m.

Have you considered a Rollei TLR? They are very rugged and don't weigh a ton. The 80mm f/2.8 Planar is a great lens.

I know it's 6x6 not 6x7 but for backpacking you can't beat a TLR.

Allan Jamieson , Jun 24, 2006; 06:40 p.m.

I've had a Fuji GSW690 II model for many years now and can honestly say that I cannot fault it quality wise at all. The lens can provide razor sharp images, even when hand held.

The downside is that you are stuck with only one lens, but it is a good one. Unlike some of the other replies, I've never had any issue with poor winding/ take up giving soft images. Maybe that person has/ had a bad example?

For flexibility I would probably go with the Mamiya 7II if funds allowed, just to be able to use more than one lens. But saying that, a 6 x 9cm transparency makes a 6 x 7cm one look very, very small on the lightbox!

Orin Jenkins , Dec 01, 2007; 03:52 p.m.

I would think my old GW690 with the 65/5.6 would have died by now, but it has liked it's baths for the last 25 years at Fuji on schedule and performs with much more ease and handling than my Mamiya 7. No special viewfinder, easy loading film (with technique), sharpness beyond critique, simple two-finger focus-aperture-shutter adjustments, and simple shooting without having to once take my eye from the parallax-correcting brightline rangefinder. It's actually easier and faster to use than any my 35mm cameras, SLR or not. And if you see the argument about service at 5k or 10k firings, just remember 10,000 shots is well over 800 rolls of 120. If you've shot 800 rolls of 120 through any camera you may want to have it serviced, too, professionally speaking.

My Mamiya has it's strengths, with multiple lenses and different backs, but those are mainly designed for studio work and not the rough and tumble of outdoor use; speed is not its forte. Sure, I use the Mamiya outdoors, but usually on a tripod both indoors and out. A 6x9 back is available for my 7, and is probably also for the 7II, so that should not be an issue other than the added costs (hooded focusing screen and other parts if yours did not come set up for various backs).

Check for deals Online, as you may find one of each in great shape for the price of a single new setup.

Remember: See it with your eyes before you capture it on film.

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