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mamiya 7ii vs rz67 for landscape, environmental portrait and portrait

Clara Pfeiffer , Apr 05, 2011; 10:06 a.m.

Could anyone tell me what would be best. I would like to buy one camera which is both good for portraits and landscape, with great quality, short of getting a large format camera. Two choices come to mind, the mamiya 7ii for its lightweight and great optics and the rz67 for its price and overall versatility. But I have a few concerns:
I heard mamiya 7ii isn't good for portraits outside of head to toe environmental portraits. I don't really want to do mugshots but would like to know if it is usable with tripod making head to chest/waist composition using some lights, and which lens would be best for that.
As I said I hesitate with the rz67 although the latter is said to be cumbersome and not ideal for use outside studio, the older models are cheaper with lens than mamiya 7ii. How heavy is it exactly? Is the rz67 ok with environmental shots and landscapes? How does it compare with the mamiya 7ii for quality of enlargements in relations to lenses or other.
I am not really looking for street photography, decisive moment kind of aesthetic, but I would like to be able to use the camera without a tripod sometimes when I know I won't be doing close up portraits. Also I don't want to spend five hours setting things up either. Can you actually handheld the RZ and carry it around your shoulder like the Mamiya 7ii?
My issue with the Mamiya 7ii is that it is a rangefinder and I am not familiar with shooting RF. But if Mamiya 7ii delivers for head to chest/waist portraits then I'll invest the time to get used to it.
Many thanks


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John A , Apr 05, 2011; 10:31 a.m.

Having had--and still having the 7--these cameras I would suggest a third option to consider--the RB instead of the RZ. Mostly because the RB is all mechanical and so you don't rely on a battery--which always seemed to go dead on the RZ. If that happens, you only have 1/400th of a second shutter speed, so the RB is really a much better field camera IMO as you never have to worry about it.

Consider that the 7ii has a meter built into it and you would have to have a handheld meter with the RB/RZ's, which isn't a bad thing, just another consideration. The ergonomics on the 7ii are very good for a rangefinder, I have had others that were great cameras but very difficult to focus and manipulate, the 7 is a good one in this regard. My favorite lens was always the 65mm, which could be a bit short for head to waist shots, but still workable. The parallax is the issue with a rangefinder and the closer you get to a subject the more of an issue it becomes.

The advantage of the RB/RZ systems is probably going to be that they are less expensive and a bit more flexible as to shooting, although beasts to carry. The SLR and rotating backs will make your life a lot easier while the weight might make you a lot stronger over time. Personally, I like the SLR feature for those things you mention you like to do(although having no large mirror to pop out of the way, makes it much more responsive to capturing that momentary expression) and although I have carried my m7 around a bit over the years, it was never really used too much as I preferred having the slr feature. But I was very good with external meters having shot mostly LF for 30+ years. It isn't an easy choice if you don't have experience with either, but there probably isn't a bad one but maybe just an interim one.

(I also liked the 65mm a lot on the RB and Rz's--the RZ body can use the RB lenses, which is how I used them since I had a full set when I got the RZ bodies--I shot as a pro, so I had a full set of lenses and only changed for a very specific need with one major client and wished I hadn't)

Mark Denton , Apr 05, 2011; 10:34 a.m.

I have both an RB and a Mam7. You seem to already be aware of the trade-offs of size/handholdability vs versatility between the two systems so I won't repeat these. In terms of image quality, I wouldn't worry about the difference between the two. The RB/RZ lenses will give you all that you need from the format and really are up there with the Mam7 optics in all real-world situations.
For landscapes (& i'm assuming therefore a tripod), either camera will excel. Only caveat is that using things like graduated ND filters on the Mam7 is certainly more challenging than on an SLR because you don't look through the lens.
I primarily shoot portraits. Out of necessity I have used the Mam7 for this on occasion and it is without a doubt less suited to head & torso stuff than the RB/Z becuse of the imprecise framing, but with some experience it is doable. You will find it hard to precisely frame & centre your subject, but this can be remedied with slight cropping & reframing post shooting.
I find the RB fairly hand holdable for environmental portait stuff; I carry it around with just one lens, a back and a meter in a fairly small courier-style shoulder bag. I can carry it like this all day long. You really need to try and hold an RZ for real in order to know whether this is going to be doable for you.

If I had to choose only one system I'd personally go for the RB/Z. It's huge versatility and superb image quality coupled with much cheaper used prices for me win out over the size/weight issue, particularly given that I mostly shoot tightly framed portraits. Try and get hold of an RZ to see if you can live with it for the occasional hand-held foray. If you can, then go for it as it'll be more versatile than the Mamy7 in most situations.

Craig Supplee , Apr 05, 2011; 11:00 a.m.

I have never owned a Mamiya 7II but did have an RB 67 for awhile. The optics are superb. Mine had the auxilary grip which made it a lot more user friendly for hand held shots and just carrying it around. A few other benefits are the fact that it is an SLR, and you simply rotate the back for portrait or landscape shots. The camera always stays in a comfortable shooting position.

David Henderson , Apr 05, 2011; 11:48 a.m.

For me the Mamiya 7ii proved to be a great second camera. The lack of precision in metering, composition, inability to see dof ttl, no close-focusing , no long lenses and so on meant that whilst I've never regretted using a Mamiya 7 for one moment, the reality is that more than 75% of the photographs I took in a decade of using two MF systems were taken with an slr. The Mamiya 7 has got me a lot of photographs I wouldn't have got with an slr, but the reverse is true also.

Of course your comparative set polarises the issue here. The RZ/RB are the biggest and heaviest MF slrs to carry around, and there are others that will give you an excellent performance that are lighter to haul around and would make the comparison rather less extreme.

Berhen Widjaja , Apr 05, 2011; 11:53 a.m.

Hi Clara,
I think everyone has provided great inputs. I would suggest that if possible, rent both cameras to experience it yourself. I have rented the Mamiya 7ii and found that while it is no doubt an excellent camera with huge negative, I did not like the ergonomics. Note that I do not shoot much rangefinder, but had experience using 35mm RF cameras.
Now I am using Mamiya RZ67 and found it to be wonderful as I tend to slow down and take my time taking the picture. For me, it is hand holdable using shorter focal length lenses (110mm or shorter). And I am on the smaller size of a person.
So if possible, go and try both and see which works better. However, if you do like to take portrait, I think you will be a bit disappointed with the M7ii limitations.

Eric Brody , Apr 05, 2011; 12:25 p.m.

Your first sentence contains the clue, "portraits and landscape." The M7, which I own and love (at least when I shot film), is a terrific travel camera, works well in the landscape, is lightweight with extraordinary lens quality but it won't get in close. If you really want one camera to do both, a reflex camera is the choice. The down side is carrying it in to the landscape. These cameras are quite different animals, really apples and oranges. If you get only one, you'll give up something either way. Only you can decide which is more important. What you should do, of course, is get both :-). Good luck

Allen Friday , Apr 05, 2011; 01:16 p.m.

Eric stated: "What you should do, of course, is get both :-)."

That was my solution to the issue. For my photography, I use the 7II when I travel and for most landscape photography. In the studio, I generally use the RZ. The only time I take the RZ into the field is when I know I want to shoot close ups/macro or if I need a tilt/shift lens.

When I travel, I generally take a tripod with me. The advantage to the 7II is that I can carry a very light tripod in my shoulder bag and I use the camera's self timer. For the RZ, you need a robust (heavy) tripod. So it's not just the increased size and weight of the camera, but also the increased size and weight of the tripod.

I can carry my 7II and a couple of lenses all day. Not so with the RZ. Of course, I'm 50+ years old and not as strong as I used to be. Do you lift weights on a regular basis?

Archie Alcantara , Apr 05, 2011; 01:54 p.m.

Hello Clara. After a brief hiatus using film, I started using medium format again including Mamiya 7II. In fact I just picked up my slides yesterday....oh the joy of looking at slides on a light table. Back to the subject, I have used Mamiya 7II for head and shoulder portraits using the 150mm lens. As others have mentioned, the results could be quite stunning as the contrast and sharpness of the Mamiya 7II lenses are some of the best. I also own Mamiya RZ67II. Likewise I have used this for head and shoulder work. My lens of choice is the RB version 127mm. As true with Mamiya lenses, sharpness is of no concern.
Pros and Cons --- Mamiya 7II with 150mm ---- when light is not plentiful, I sometimes have a tougher time focusing this lens. If it is with modeling lights, I could turn on modeling light to help me focus.
RZ67II ---- weight of the camera is biggest setback. I almost always have to use a tripod using this outfit. BTW, really love the RZ67II rotating back as you could shoot vertical and horizontal by twisting the back.

Jose Angel , Apr 05, 2011; 03:20 p.m.

Well, there are opinions in both ways, as usual. Here is mine, as an user of both Mamiya 6 (as you know, the former of the 7) and RZ.

Both cameras will let you to take great portraits. The issue is that reflex cameras are better for that task because the effect of apertures (DoF), can be easily "checked" on the screen, you can make more accurate and closer framings, use extension tubes to get even tighter face portraits, and the most important, you can clearly focus in any part of your subject. With an RF camera the framing is always approximate, no DoF previews, focus distances are limited (no extension tubes), and use a faith-asking two-dimensional focus sytem.

Hand holdability? To me both RB/RZ are tripod cameras, too heavy to be used hand held. There will be always an occassion where someone have used them without tripod; in my case it doesn`t happened even a couple of times.

Focusing with a Mamiya 6 is easy and fast enough to work hand held. To focus with the waist level finder on a RZ is almost impossible; you need a prism finder, increasing weight.

Weight is around 2,5 kilos with a small lens, near 3 kilos with a long lens and waist level finder. The Mamiya 6 is designed to be hand-held, with a large grip like a Nikon pro camera (maybe even lighter).

I don`t carry the RZ like my Mamiya 6. I carry with the Mamiya 6 like a Nikon DSLR, or a Leica. I carry with the RZ like a gim bag, or a pair of skates.

Having said that, if your main trouble is to shoot studio type half body portraits with a Mamiya 7, I think you can afford it with sucess, no doubt. Take a 150mm lens, put the camera on a tripod, close the diaphragm and shoot. You wil get a super sharp image. If you want a specialized tool for portraiture, forget the Mamiya 7 and get a RZ. Buy the Mamiya 7 later.

There are intermediate solutions; why not a Hasselblad? They are light enough to be used everywhere, by hand or over a tripod for maximum sharpness. I find them way more versatile. Image quality is at top. There are only two issues; 6x6 format and no electronics.

If you can live with 6x6, and without electronics, no doubt; go straight for the Hasselblad... ;)

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