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Mamiya RZ 67 II camera, like its brother, the RB67, has a couple of features that set it ahead of the field in medium-format cameras. The revolving film back and the close focusing bellows.
The revolving back allows you to switch from landscape to portrait without having to turn the camera on its side. It also does away with the need for a prism finder, unless you want the TTL metering. If the camera were turned into portrait mode using a standard viewing hood the picture would appear on the ground glass screen upside down. You can get used to working like this, but it's fiddly. Another point is that most tripod heads offer more stability in landscape format than portrait, where the camera is effectively hanging on the side rather than being supported from underneath. For these reasons the revolving back is a wonderful idea and easy to use - all you do is move forward a switch to R and turn the back clockwise. A mask in the viewfinder changes and you see the crop of the orientation you have selected. The film back has frame counters that can be seen in either format and it's little touches like this that make a camera easy to work with and therefore a benefit to the picture taking process.
Then there are those wonderful close focus bellows that offer you a reproduction size of 1:1 with most lenses. When I owned an old RB 67 I took them for granted and, being principally a landscape photographer, I almost ignored them. Having since spent time in the studio, working on concept and abstract pictures, I realise just how useful they are. There's no need to buy additional extension tubes or close focus filters, the bellows give you all the close focusing you are ever likely to need. The RZ 67II features an ultra fine focusing dial on the right hand side of the body for easy and accurate focusing. This is also very useful when using long lenses where focusing is more critical and you can go all the way to a 500mm lens in the RZ camp.
One of the things I really dislike about the RB 67 is the dim viewing screen. I replaced mine at great expense with a version from an independent screen maker, which was much brighter. The RZ67 II has no such problem as its own viewing screen is bright and arguably a touch too clear. I would probably opt for the optional grid screen to aid with composition and confirm that horizons are indeed straight. I currently use a spirit level to help as it's surprising how easy it is to be slightly skew when using medium or large format. As you're painting on a bigger canvas mistakes can be easier to see.
The RZ67 II incorporates simple technology designed to prevent you from making some of the more obvious mistakes that could easily happen. There are three LED monitors on the rear edge of the finder, a red light indicates that the dark slide has not been withdrawn and doubles up as a battery indicator. An orange light lets you know to advance the cocking lever before taking a shot and a green light indicates that a dedicated flash unit has been attached and is charged ready to use.
The camera also beeps to warn you of errors such as fitting a lens from an RB 67 and not selecting the RBL setting on the shutter speed dial. Being able to use lenses from the RZ67 II's mechanical brother the RB67 makes the two systems very compatible and reduces any obstacle of trading up to the electronic body if you already have a selection of mechanical lenses. Lenses attach with a locking collar system that is easy to get used to and is perfect for handling in cold weather.
The camera is well supported in the lens department. At the wide end of the scale there is a 37mm fish-eye, and the longest optic comes in at 500mm, which is a very impressive range for a 6x7cm camera. All lenses have a depth-of-field preview lever and all are leaf shutter lenses, which means the shutter is built into the lens and covers speeds from 8 seconds to 1/400sec plus a B-setting and T-setting. The B setting has a maximum duration of sixty seconds, so for anything longer you simply switch to the all-mechanical T setting.
Because all the lenses have leaf shutters, flash sync is available at all speeds. While this offers little value for a landscape photographer it's very useful for anyone wanting to take wedding photographs or other portrait work outdoors as you can balance flash with daylight at any speed. It's also ideal if you plan to photograph say flowers and insects in the wild, close focus bellows and flash sync at all shutter speeds. There's a scale by the camera bellows to give you some idea of the exposure compensation needed as the bellows extend. Rather a lot of information is squeezed on to a small plate on the camera which is difficult to read and understand, but at least it's there as a reminder to make some allowance.
The mirror-up facility is essential for sharp pictures at low shutter speeds with this camera, even when using a tripod. This is because the mirror is much larger than a 35mm version and causes much more vibration when the shutter is fired. Mamiya supply a double cable release to use this feature. One part goes into the mirror-up socket and the other in to the shutter release. The first pressure locks the mirror up out of the way and a second sets the shutter off with a quiet click rather than a great rattling chunk. You can use just a couple of normal cable releases if you don't want to splash out on the double-barrelled Mamiya version. Once the mirror is up you can't, of course, see the subject on the ground glass screen. This isn't really an issue for landscape photography as the subject isn't going to move and for portraiture you can look directly at your subject and keep eye contact before you fire the shutter.
One of the big differences between medium-format and 35mm is film loading. But there is nothing particularly difficult about threading a paper leader onto the take up spool and advancing until the arrow aligns before closing the back. The format does offer the opportunity through interchangeable film backs to use two types of film with the same camera simultaneously. You can also use a Polaroid back and preview your photographs using this instant film. This is ideal for checking difficult lighting in the studio or composition. The RZ67 II offers all of these facilities and more, you have a choice of 120 or 220 backs, or one that combines both lengths of film and offers 6x6cm format. There is also a 6x4.5cm format back.
The camera also has a choice of viewfinders, although the waist-level finder that came with the review model is really all you need. Its pop up 2.9x magnifier allows you to check focusing. If you prefer you can add the FE701 metering prism which offers three way metering and aperture-priority and shutter speeds in 1/6th-stop increments for really accurate exposure control. An accessories list that includes no less than seven interchangeable focusing screens will rarely, if ever, leave anyone wishing for something that is not available.
This camera is well built, well equipped and capable of producing the goods in any number of situations. It's large, it's heavy and it will require a tripod unless you work out on a regular basis. If your photography requires a camera with these characteristics then the Mamiya RZ 67 II is well worth a look.
Richard Lion heart statues Westminster
It really is like painting on a bigger canvas when using a 67 camera. There is so much detail in this picture, and you can see it in the transparency just on a light box with no need for projection. The one open window stands out right away. This picture was taken from across the main road running behind the palace of Westminster and involved waiting for a brake in the flow of pedestrians and traffic.
180mm lens 1/30sec at f/16
This is one of the classic scenes in the and the composition suits the ratio of 67 perfectly.
180mm lens 1/15sec at f/22
Polypro Harbour and Net Loft
Impact is everything with stock landscape photography and this picture has made an impact with several of the picture buyers who have seen it. The larger format has enabled one magazine editor to select part of the picture cropped out as an upright for use on the front cover.
50mm lens and polarising filter 1/2sec at f/22
Test by David Tarn