Medium Format

How the Plaubel Makina 670 Killed my love of 35mm – Guest Post by Ray Larose

Plaubel Makina 670 - Ray Larose

Many moons ago, Hamish approached me to write something for this site and I promised I would. I had several reviews I was contemplating but began to drift from the 35mm film world in favor of the medium and larger formats – so nothing was really fitting the soul of this website. Then Hamish asked me to write about what pulled me away from the 35mm world. What had such a draw that I was willing to sell my many 35mm bodies and a freezer full of 35mm Portra and FujiPro 400H stocks? This is the story of the draw of the Plaubel Makina 670.

The Plaubel Makina 670

The Plaubel Makina 670, in my opinion, is the perfect medium format rangefinder camera. Hell, I’ll go one step further and say it’s the perfect camera. So much so, that it ruined my long-time love affair with the 35mm film format as a whole. No other camera in any format has captured my heart quite as much as this one – including my long line of Leica and Zeiss 35mm rangefinders, Rolleiflex & Hasselblad medium formats and my Chamonix 45n-2 large format camera.

Plaubel Makina 670 - Ray Larose

 

The Plaubel cameras were first introduced in Germany in 1902 by Hugo Schrader. The first Makina was introduced in 1912 – known for it’s awesome scissor control of the bellows. In the 70’s, the company was sold to the Japanese Kimio Doi Group which eventually brought back the Makina series with the 67 (80mm lens), W67 (55mm lens) and the 670 (80mm lens, but accepts 120 as well as 220 film stocks). The killer Nikkor 2.8/80mm lens on my 1982 Plaubel Makina 670 is crazy sharp. One of the best lenses I’ve ever used. The Copal 0 shutter handles speeds of 1-1/500 + bulb which have never been limiting.

In the hand

Weighing in at 1345 grams, my Makina 670 isn’t exactly a subtle camera, but compared to other systems in this class it’s about as compact as you can get. For a medium format camera, the Plaubel Makina 670 with collapsible lens is a stealthy piece of equipment. It folds down to a body just 56mm deep – actually thinner than any 35mm camera (with the lens attached) I have used. Aside from the army of 35’s, I’ve owned a couple Rolleiflex TLR’s, Zeiss Super Ikonta’s (folder / rangefinder), MF box cameras and Hasselblads in the past and I sold them all because I never clicked with these bulky systems. For the longest time, I felt like only 35mm would offer me the rangefinder and compact body I desired. But with the Plaubel Makina 670, I get to use a fairly compact camera with my beloved rangefinder viewfinder in the wicked 120/220 format that creates the most amazing 6×7 images.

Plaubel Makina 670 - Ray Larose

This camera can do things that would be a struggle with other medium formats – like one-handed performance. Plaubel decided to wrap the focus knob around the shutter release, rather than on the lens allowing you to compose, focus and shoot with just one hand. The Makina 670 focuses by moving the bellows in and out through the unique scissor design. The knob is weird to get used to, and as you get close to minimum focus distance, it gets more difficult to rotate. (I’ll be CLA’ing the camera this summer which should smooth this out.) Caveat to note: to close the bellows, focus must be set to infinity to put the scissors in the proper position.

The body is quite comfortable to hold as it’s ribbed for easier grip (there’s a joke in there somewhere). I’ve held a smooth bodied 67 and do prefer the ribbed design of the Makina 670. The shutter release gives quite the satisfying CLUNK when depressed, leaving no question that you snapped a photo. If you want to be stealthy, the Plaubel Makina 670 isn’t the camera for you. Once depressed, double-stroke the advance lever or you end up with triple exposed overlays:

Plaubel Makina 670 - Ray Larose

Shooting the Makina

You can load the Makina 670 with either 120 or 220 film (10 / 20 shots respectively). Just be sure to set the dial on top to the right one (so your counter is accurate), and also make sure you set the pressure plate inside to either 120 or 220 to adjust the tension for the roll. You load the film by hitting the little release buttons on the bottom to lower the bottom film holders. Once the film is in, just click the buttons back into place and you’re ready to roll.

Though the lens is quirky as hell, performance, as I’ve said, is out of this world. Coupled with medium format film you’ll be completely spoiled. F-stop and shutter speeds are set on thin, dials at the front of the lens. No clicks, so unlimited range from 2.8-22. If you choose to use the built-in light meter, you need to set your film speed on the bottom of the lens, using a near-impossible to rotate wheel to select the speed. I don’t bother with it though as I use an external spot meter.

So, how has the Makina 670 camera ruined 35mm film for me?

Well, I generally used 35mm film for the compact size and wonderful rangefinder bodies. (Think Leica M’s & Zeiss Ikon’s.) I used medium format for its gorgeous negatives. Until I tried the Makina 670, nothing crossed these two lines. The Mamiya 7 was close, but not it. When I picked up the wonderful Makina 670, I suddenly had 1) The use of the rangefinder in medium format that I loved 2) a beautiful compact body 3) an amazing fixed lens and 4) the jaw-dropping results of medium format.

After I began using this camera, I found that my 35mm cameras became more and more idle. Every time I would reach for a camera, the Plaubel Makina 670 would be the body of choice. The Leica’s would just sit. A roll of 36 exposures would take me months to go through. For me, 10 exposures is the perfect amount. Just 10, methodical exposures with a near 100% keeper rate. I often found myself comparing similar shots taken with 35mm Leica’s and with the 120 Makina and to my eye, there was no contest.

After quite a bit of soul-searching, I realized I was so spoiled by the Makina 670 that the 35mm format was no longer the format of choice for me. I sent all my 35mm bodies off to homes that would appreciate them and have begun to concentrate more on this camera and what it could do for me. This doesn’t mean I am closing the door on other formats – not at all. I have since grabbed a large format camera and still want to play around (review / giveaway) with other medium format and 35mm cameras here and there. Though I doubt any of the 35mm’s will be part of a permanent collection – I don’t deny the awesome compact size of them. For me though, nothing will replace the Makina.

In the words of Ferris Bueller, “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”

Plaubel Makina 670 - Ray Larose

Plaubel Makina 670 - Ray Larose

Plaubel Makina 670 - Ray Larose

Plaubel Makina 670 - Ray Larose

Plaubel Makina 670 - Ray Larose

Plaubel Makina 670 - Ray Larose

Plaubel Makina 670 - Ray Larose

You can check out my latest work on my website, raylarose.com.

 


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55 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Hamish Gill
    June 3, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    Thanks Ray … for the post, and the hit of GAS!
    I have wanted one of these for years… one day!!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ray Larose
      June 3, 2016 at 12:55 pm

      Thank you for the opportunity to contribute here! It’s good GAS to have. 😉

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Eduardo Romero
    June 3, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    Very nice camera! The only thing keeping me from getting one is the price.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ray Larose
      June 3, 2016 at 2:03 pm

      Yeah, the $$ for this are pretty steep and not cheap to CLA / replace parts. But if it breaks, I know I’ll find another!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Tony
    June 3, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    Great write up! This camera seems a lot like my Fuji GF670 which at 1000g is actually lighter and more compact (and perhaps more reliable given that it is new). For me – the GF670 is the perfect MF travel camera and I especially like the ability to do both 6×6 and 6×7. My only criticism of the GF670 is the shutter release for which I would prefer a bit more feedback when it is released.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ray Larose
      June 3, 2016 at 2:04 pm

      Thanks Tony. I haven’t tried the GF670 yet, but on my list of ones to give a go. Knowing they are new and reliable is a nice draw.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hogarth Ferguson
      June 3, 2016 at 11:55 pm

      I have both GF670 and GF670w and they have done for me what the Makina did for Ray here. The cameras are so unreal, they are perfect. I would say that the makina is all mechanical which might actually be better in the long run. My GF670 eats batteries and I have about 100 backups in case. The glass on both is so sharp it is awesome.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Ray Larose
        June 4, 2016 at 12:03 am

        Man, that’s one awesome setup you have! I’ve heard that about the batteries though. Not a deal breaker, is it?

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Hogarth Ferguson
          June 4, 2016 at 1:17 am

          So, I have had the folder for 3 years, in the cold it goes through batteries quickly, in the warm weather it is fine. The GF670w I have had a few months, and shoot it all the time and i do not think I have changed the battery once. I prefer to shoot 6×6 and sometimes shoot 6×7. The I could never get onboard with that weird focus of the Makina, and the gf670 is so good because the lens actually folds into the body, unlike the makina where the lens is still out. If you can, use one, see what you think, I absolutely love them both.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Jan
      August 9, 2016 at 10:29 pm

      I haven’t tried the Fuji myself but I didn’t like the photos from it that I saw on the web: I mean the bokeh. The out-of-focus background looks pretty “agitated” and sort of “jagged”. Nothing like a mirror lens, of course, but still quite unpleasant. To me Makina’s great advantage is its incredibly silky smooth bokeh.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Blinx
    June 3, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Lovely camera. I have to say if a roll of 35mm film takes you months to get through, you aren’t shooting enough film! It takes me about a week to get through three rolls of 35mm and a couple of rolls of 120, plus some digital.

    I’ve looked at a Makina a few times but they’re a little hefty as an every day camera. The lenses are beautiful, though.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ray Larose
      June 3, 2016 at 2:08 pm

      Actually shoot a ton of film – but I was having no draw to the 35mm format. When I grab something, it’s the 120 or 4×5. The film flies through those. When I grabbed the 35mm, I’d shoot a couple frames then switch to one of the big boys. 🙂 This weekend was 5 rolls of 120 and a handful of sheets of 4×5.

      For the hefty, if it’s all you’re carrying it’s not too bad. I have a thick Crumbler strap and shove a half dozen rolls in my back pocket, nothing else. Granted, it’s not a 35mm lightweight. So I don’t suggest a 25 mile hike with it.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Vernon
    June 3, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    Beautiful images Ray. I’m not sure I found it but what film were you using for the images? It looks like Portra 400.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ray Larose
      June 3, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      Thank you Vernon. There’s a mix of Portra 400 and Fuji Pro 400H in these. The ones in NYC are Fuji. All the others are Portra 400.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Neilson
    June 3, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    Great review and images! I was wondering if you’ve ever shot with a Mamiya 7 and how it compares to the Plaubel. I have a Mamiya 7 and love it, so it’s unlikely I’m going to be lured away, but I’m curious.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ray Larose
      June 3, 2016 at 2:51 pm

      Thanks so much! I have only shot a few frames with the Mamiya 7, so I can’t give any kind of good compare. The body didn’t feel as solid as the Makina’s, but it did feel very nice in my hands. I did like that there was more to grip on to with the Mamiya – I also like focusing on the lens better with the Mamiya as it’s rare I want to shoot the Makina 1-handed and the scissors aren’t as smooth for me as a barrel focus. But I prefer the f/2.8 80mm lens on the Makina to the f/4 80mm on the Mamiya. The length is right, but I tend to play mostly at the 2.8 range. One day I’ll have to shoot a few rolls through each and give a proper compare.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Neilson
        June 3, 2016 at 3:48 pm

        Ah, I see. Yes, I don’t think any of the Mamiya lenses are faster than F4. Since I use my Mamiya for mostly daytime landscapes, this hasn’t really been an issue. I have the opposite problem, for really bright light I find myself using a neutral density filter, especially with snow and sand.

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Ray Larose
          June 3, 2016 at 5:31 pm

          Makes perfect sense! And yeah, snow is a tough beast. I shoot it at f/8 1/500 or at f/2.8 if still snowing. 😉

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Francois
    June 3, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    My two-cent for having used and compared Plaubel 67, Mamiya 6, 7 and Fuji 690. Amazing lens on Plaubel 67, the 670 allows you to shoot 220 film, but since they’re getting harder to find, the 67 is a good pick. Always remember to put the focus at infinity before closing the lens. Other point, a lot of them no longer have working meters, cables are running along the struts and tend to get loose over time. You can always put a Voigtlander meter on the hotshoe or Sunny 16. Once the lens is closed, this is a compact as you can find and put it in your coat pocket. Mamiya 6 would be a close second on portability. Lens quality is in my view, all excellent on those cameras, just by the size of the negative your getting more details on any picture. Also, check the lens internally with a loupe mostly on the edge, but then again this is more a way to negotiate a discount.
    Comes down to how you use your camera, medium format is slower than 35 and 4 X 5 even slower. Price point the Plaubel 67 is in the 1500-2000 US, which is around the cost of Mamiya 6 with 75mm, a bit lower than Mamiya 7 with 80mm and more expensive than a Fuji 690.
    Make sure you the seals are Ok on the Plaubel or replace them, those cameras were made in the late 70s early 80s.
    Repairs are in the range of Leica, you can still have them repaired by Plaubel in Germany, in the US there was a shop in NY that repaired them. In Canada, forget about it, as for the UK couldn’t tell.
    The other difference is that the Mamiya 7 (less the 6) and Fuji have a “plastic” feeling to them where the Plaubel feels solid, similar when you compare and M to Zeiss Ikon or Voigtlander, great cameras but with a different feel.
    At the end of the day, what counts is the result you print!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ray Larose
      June 3, 2016 at 8:25 pm

      FYI, Nippon in NYC will only CLA now. They won’t repair and the CLA will run you $900. I’m trying out LeZot in Vermont as they will do it for under $200. Like you said, Plaubel in Germany will still do it. Cost is in the middle.

      The “plastic” feel of the Mamiya is a good way to put it. Not quite as solid when you pick it up.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Neilson
    June 3, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    I agree about the plastic feel of the Mamiya. Still, it’s nice that it’s not heavier and the lenses are incredibly sharp.

    https://flic.kr/s/aHskiqu4yc

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Laidric Stevenson
    June 3, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    I think the Makina is the dream camera for a lot of photographers, myself included….until I can get my hands on one, you know when I have the means to possess it’s choiceness, I’ll just have to make due with my Mamiya 7…

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ray Larose
      June 4, 2016 at 12:05 am

      Nothing wrong with making due with that awesome camera. 😉 That can last you a life.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Saptarshi Guha
    June 3, 2016 at 10:22 pm

    I have to admit, I’ve been feeling the same.
    I have a Plaubel 67 and it has been my go to camera. I love the rangefinder and medium format feel combined. I’ve been toying with the idea of selling the 35mm leica m7 but the attached lovely zeiss 50mm Sonnar keeps me from selling it . I’d still shoot 35mm for the XPAN.
    Some Plaubel pictures at the bottom of the page: http://people.mozilla.org/~sguha/blog//2016/02/08/bangaloretravels.html

    and some more (in the middle of the page): https://people.mozilla.org/~sguha/blog//2016/02/06/xpancal.html

    and lastly: https://people.mozilla.org/~sguha/blog//2015/09/11/plaubel1.html
    Some plaubel

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ray Larose
      June 4, 2016 at 12:07 am

      Excellent selection of images!

      The M7 is a great 35mm. I had the M2, M3 and M-A. Wasn’t easy at all to dump them.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Daniel Fjäll
    June 3, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    It’s funny how I just yesterday read about the Makina on your page. It’s been at my grasp a few times but unfortunately you can’t prioritize everything.
    I really liked the pictures. That camera seems to have found a really nice home.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ray Larose
      June 4, 2016 at 12:09 am

      Thanks Daniel! If you get the chance to rent / borrow / steal one, it’d be a fun ride. 😉

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Todd Walderman
    June 4, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    I have the 670 I love it. I also have a mamiya 6 with the 50, that when collapsed fits nicely in a small bag with the Plaubel. It is nice to see your review and photos with the 670 here. It inspired me to load up some film and take my daughter strawberry picking today.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ray Larose
      June 5, 2016 at 10:34 pm

      Now that sounds like a good day. Would love to see the results Todd!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    jeremy north
    June 5, 2016 at 6:29 am

    Great review Ray, Subjective and objective in the right balance with no waffle.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ray Larose
      June 5, 2016 at 10:35 pm

      Man, that’s a perfect compliment. Thank you Jeremy!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Michael Rennie
    June 22, 2016 at 8:59 am

    Love the post and the photos, looks like the camera suits you well.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ray Larose
      June 22, 2016 at 11:03 am

      Thanks Michael, it fits like a glove. 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Federico
    July 28, 2016 at 11:58 pm

    Do you think the lens on the Makina is sharper than Pentax 67 glass?

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ray Larose
      July 29, 2016 at 11:03 am

      I am actually testing those two cameras back to back right now. Should have some comparative test shots back early next week.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Todd Walderman
        July 29, 2016 at 11:11 am

        I have all three systems. The Plaubel is not sharper than the mamiya. It’s rendering and sharpness is similar to Pentax 105 2.4 but it’s chracter is different. there is a yellowish cast to the images that is subtly. The Pentax and mamiya both are more true; the mamiya more so. I would keep the plaubel over the mamiya and possibly ove the Pentax although the Pentax offers many other capabilities that the Plaubel does.

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Ray Larose
          July 29, 2016 at 11:17 am

          I haven’t shot the Mamiya yet, and with the Pentax 67 I have the 90/2.8 lens. So my test is the Plaubel (Nikkor) 80 vs the Pentax 67 90. Never noticed a yellow cast with the Plaubel lens though.

          • Avatar
            Hamish Gill
            July 29, 2016 at 11:52 am

            RPL would no doubt correct that out though…?

          • Avatar
            Ray Larose
            July 29, 2016 at 11:57 am

            From what I have seen, the colors & character of tone produced by various lenses stays in tact with the way I have them scan.

          • Avatar
            Todd Walderman
            July 29, 2016 at 12:23 pm

            It is very subtle but to my eye, I know it is more yellow or “warm” than is the mamiya. I love the mamiya system. I have had it for 15 years and I also have the 6. The sharpness of the 7 is easily replicated by digital these days so as far as image quality goes, the mamiya system is the one that is easily replaceable with digital. The Plaubel and Pentax are not so easily dismissed. Although I don’t feel the need to pick just one of the lot, I feel the Plaubel is the one I would keep if I had to choose just one because of the image quality and portability of the camera. I know it’s output is unique and worth the expense of film. There is no question the the mamiyas are much sharper across the frame and the Pentax is better for composing. The Plaubel’s Nikkor lens has a quality that makes it stand out from other cameras. It’s a folder and that provides access and ease that the other 2 systems lack. Amongst folders, I think it is unique. I have not seen another with the same rendering, not considering the aspect ratio at all. The ikonta 2.8 is very nice but no where as sharp as the Plaubel, wide open.

          • Avatar
            Ray Larose
            July 29, 2016 at 12:30 pm

            Completely agree with your sentiments here Todd! (Again, no Mamiya experience, but for your thoughts on the portability of the Plaubel).

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Federico
        July 29, 2016 at 9:44 pm

        Thanks so much for your prompt reply Ray.
        I have the 75mm F/2.8 on my Pentax 67II and it would be great if you can have this glass as part of the test.
        I’ll be waiting for your feedback.

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Ray Larose
          July 30, 2016 at 3:51 pm

          I’m sure I’ll give that glass a go somewhere down the line (with the 105 as well). Just not sure how soon.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Todd Walderman
    July 29, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    I scan with an imacon and use color perfect in PS for correction. Colorperfect considers the emulsion and not the scene of course. The warmth of each lens comes through the workflow. To evaluate the lenses of cameras, I use Acros and Ektar. For negative film, i prefer Fuji 160S in the Plaubel and Portra or Ektar in the mamiyas.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Todd Walderman
    July 29, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    Overall cameras, the mamiya 6 with a 50 is still the most versatile and capable of all that I have tried. It is durable and easy to shoot. The Plaubel is durable as well, when folded. On any given day I have a seagull 203 and some other camera, usually a Ricoh Grd4.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    e m campbell
    October 21, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    hello there. can you say what batteries the camera takes please?

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ray
      October 24, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      This uses the SR44 battery (or equivalent)

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Bob Dungan
    July 14, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    Nice review. After I started using folding 620/120 folding cameras I fell out of love with 35mm. I have sent many of my 35mm cameras to new homes. I only plan to keep the ones I have had CLA’d. I go back a bit further in time and use older 120 folders. I have a Agfa Isolette III (6X6), a Kodak Duo Series II 620 (4.5X6), and a Voigtlander Bessa Rangefinder (6×9). I much prefer them to 35mm. The fixed lenses are not as big a hindrance as you would think, because, you can crop them and still have more negative to work with than on 35mm. They are compact and easy to carry.

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    Reply
    Konstantinos Besios
    October 1, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    Great review. I still use my Makina 67 , and it is definetaly my favourite camera.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    DAvid m Burke
    April 11, 2019 at 4:22 pm

    Thank you for the review!
    I own this camera which replaced my Mamiya 7II. I also have the hand grip which makes a huge difference holding the camera. The Mamiya 7-2 might seem sharper but at a f stop of 8 the Makita is amazing. I use the Monopod and hand grip with this camera to minimize movements. Medium format Film, in my opinion , “if you take into account the price of storage of data” is better than digital Medium format. One only high def scan the pictures ($10.00 each high def scan) to be used for printing and the rest of the negatives could be economically stored in a plastic envelope. Love the compactness, fits my vest pocket and easy to extend the lens for shooting. Thank you for this review!! D (The Mamiya 7II with its lenses is way to bulky when you travel.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Cheyenne Morrison
    June 3, 2019 at 8:26 am

    Great article, Rachael Pendragon is also shooting street portraits in New York on the Makina 670

    https://lanoirimage.com/rachmael-pendragon-faces-of-new-york/

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