RB67 - Is it really THAT bad?
With the prices what they are, I have REALLY been wanting to make the jump to medium format lately. And I can't help but notice that the Mamiya RB67 is about cheap as you can get in medium format without going with a Holga, Diana, or something by the Lomographic Society. This, of course appeals to me, along with the larger, detail-packed 6x7 frame (vs, say, 6x4.5). Of course, this can be increased to 6x8 as well with the power back. But it seems like most of what I see here about the RB67 is negative. I hear everything from stories of poor quality lenses to poor lens choices to the camera being SO heavy it is only suitable for studio use (I guess I've never seen one in person). Are all of these things basically true? Would I REALLY be better off spending a few hundred more on something else (because nothing else truly comes close when it comes to cheapness)?
I used one a while back and I want one. They're cool cameras, and they look much more official than some TLR. The lens does make the photograph, though, so I would focus on getting a nice lens (no pun intended) for the camera rather than obsessing over the camera body itself.
It obviously lacks autofocus or autoexposure (I'm pretty sure. I don't think the one I used had a meter at all) so it may not be good for some situations but I can easily do without that.
Originally Posted by StorminMatt
I would dissagree with that quantitative assessment. It is a quality pro system in every sense of the word and probably the best bang for the buck in the used market.
I suppose people have made "poor lens choices", but that is hardly the camera's fault. Maybe I'm not sure what you mean by that. Is it heavy? For sure. You do need to hold one in your hand before buying one. It's not for everybody.
They are great cameras! Some people hand hold them, but I personally think a tripod is the best way to go as they are a bit heavy. The lenses are first rate and at the prices these things go for today RB's are a fantastic deal.
I love my RB67 (Pro S is nice with the interlocks...) but if I leave home with it, you can bet my monopod is coming too!
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I would buy several of them while their value has tanked. They can't go all that much lower. Even RZs are cheap now. They are one of the greatest cameras ever made. If you can't make good pix with them, the problem is not the camera.
They are big cameras, but not heavy, IMO. They might seem a bit heavier if you wear them around your neck all day with a prism. If you do want a camera that you will primarily hand hold, I would not suggest one, unless you will always be shooting in the sun and don't need a lot of depth of field. If you want a hand holdable 6x7 bargain, I would use a Mamiya Press instead, due to the smooth leaf shutters and no mirror. They can shoot 6x9 as well.
Last edited by 2F/2F; 12-09-2008 at 07:49 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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I got one RB67 and i think it is an excellent equipment. in fact, mamiya was developing an adaptaer for use the new digital back on the RB. Heavy?? yes, you have to use the camera strap with it all the time, or use a tripod...
I've owned an RB for years, used it handheld, backpacking, studio situations, etc and have found it extremely versatile, and that I am more of a limiting factor than it is.
Respectfully, you need to get into the Galleries and view some RB67 photos to see for yourself. Finally, find or borrow one and see what you think.
You don't state what your photographic interest is, but maybe a leaf-shuttered Mamiya 6 (mine too) would better suit you. It's but a few hundred more. :-)
To address some of your specific concerns
1. poor lenses.
Remember this camera has been in production from 1970 so some of the lenses will be old and have been used hard to boot. I think the greatest reason for a poor lenses rep is sample to sample variation and the effects of hard living. (OK not always: the original 43-86 nikon zoom *was* crap...)
Having said that there have been improvements: the C lenses are generally held to be better than the non-C, and the latest KL lenses (only work with proS & SD bodies) are felt better yet. As a finale consider this: as a professional workhorse camera for 30+ years do you really think it would have remained afloat if the lenses really were *bad*?
2. poor lens choices.
Dont see this one. KEH right now has everything from 37mm to 360mm! If you specifically want a given lens you may not find it, but that goes for about every MF camera (not a lot of f2.8 APO 500 lenses out there in MFland)
Yep, 2.5kg give or take. Handholdable: many can. Its well balanced. Schlep around for hours on end: its going to get heavy (but shy of a mamiya 7 RF so are all the others to an extent: GS1 about 1.9kg, hassy and other 66s 1.5kg)
Big, most of the size of a loaf of bread. It is actually an 8x8 camera. Used at waist level moves very well. Couldn't imagine using it like a GS1 held to your eye with a prism though (the prism is also IIRC 1.5kg )
My 0.02: if you cant try (always the best solution: being a workhorse you may still be able to rent)for $300 you can get an Ex RB67 with a 90mm C lens, back and WL finder off keh: even if you find you dont like it handheld you should still get a few $ back, or stick it on a tripod and use it for other stuff.
Decide if it fits your needs...
I use an RB Pro-SD pretty much every weekend in the field. And yes, it is not for everyone, so if you are considering one yourself, you might want to at least hold one before buying. I can give you some of the knowledge I've gained about this system, because I have also heard some negative things about this camera:
Some say the lenses are not sharp - I cannot speak for every lens, because i have heard there are inconsitencies with earlier lens quality, but the lenses I own are nothing but tack sharp (50mm Sekor C, K/L 90mm L, K/L 180mm L-A). The RB can be very difficult to focus for maximum depth of field because of the bellows focusing and the different scale for each focal length lens on the body itself. You need to be careful that you read the scale correctly when setting your focus point and the floating lens element, if equipped. This takes some practice and "feel" and i think this is one of the reasons people say the lenses are soft. There are a lot of focal length choices; I would suggest at least a Sekor C or newer because of the coatings and optical quality.
The camera is big and heavy - this is true. It is also awkward to hand hold, but i use a tripod. This may or may not fit your needs. There are much lighter medium (and large) format cameras out there - different needs for different people.
Like you said, there are also different sized backs available, as well as a Polaroid back, and many other accessories. The RB is built extremely well mechanically and should offer years of trouble free service. It was designed for ~50k shutter releases without service, studio use all day every day, so it should hold up well in the field. It is also all mechanical so you won't need extra batteries, but will need to carry a separate light meter.
I have used my RB in hot and humid weather, and early mornings below 16 degrees F, with myself and tripod icing up on a waterfall, and it has yet to jam once. It may take some time to master this camera, but I assure you if used correctly it will not be a limiting factor in the quality of work you can produce.