Medium Format

The Mamiya 7 vs. The Makina 67 – Spoiler: the Makina Wins

Last summer I finally bought myself one of my dream cameras, the Plaubel Makina 67. You might be wondering what this fact has to do with the Mamiya 7? Well, it all comes down to a conversation I had with a chap called Anais Faraj after I shared my Makina 67 review. He wanted to loan me Mamiya 7 so I could compare these two medium format giants. Over a year later, and that’s exactly what I’ve done.

Anais is someone I’d been chatting to for a little while on Instagram when he got in touch and asked if I’d like to try his Mamiya 7. Of course, it’s rare I get such offers, but despite his generosity, it still took me a good 6 months to take him up on it. It was at this year’s Photography Show when we finally met and he handed it to me. I actually had to force him to only loan me the camera and 80mm lens – if he’d had his way, I’d have been shooting it with a set of 3 lenses.

It might seem daft not to have taken him up on the loan of all three lenses, but there’s method in my madness. Shooting the Makina 67 proved a few things to me. The most relevant to this post is my view that I’m not really a medium format person. As I talk about in the Makina review, I find its size and weight only just on the right side of palatable. I like taking photos, but I don’t really like carrying cameras. The bigger they are, the less I find myself inclined to carry them… so I certainly wasn’t going to be happy carrying a bigger camera and two extra lenses.

As I remember it, Anais wanted me to try the Mamiya 7 for a couple of reasons. The first was that he thinks the 80mm lens is sharper than the Nikkor on the Makina. The second was that the rangefinder patch in the Mamiya 7 is excellent. One of my concerns about the Makina 67
is that the rangefinder patch isn’t all that great, so by this merit the Mamiya must have a better patch to focus with. I was intrigued to know if either or both of these factors could sway my opinion or preferences toward a Mamiya, or if my overall preference for smaller easier-to-carry cameras would win out.

Spoiler alert, the answer is the latter. The Makina 67 wins this battle in my world. And though the Mamiya put up a good fight, the reasons my preferences remain with my Makina 67, it didn’t just come down to size.

The lens and rangefinder patch

Despite the Mamiya 7 losing the battle, I suppose it’s only fair to first point out that Anais was seemingly right about the two things he asserted. The hard-edged more distinct rangefinder patch the Mamiya offers is definitely of a higher standard than the Makina. I say this fairly objectively, but subjectively I also much prefer this type of rangefinder patch and would actually go as far to say that I find the soft edged patch found in the Makina 67 and cameras such as the Canon P makes them quite a bit more difficult to use… at least as rangefinder cameras.

The reason it doesn’t matter so much to me when it comes to medium format gear is simply what I would choose to use these types of camera for. To me, medium format cameras are best suited to subject matter that’s suited to the fact that all that extra film brings more clarity to the party.

The subject matter I enjoy shooting with medium format cameras is landscapes. To me, landscape photography benefits from the extra clarity that medium format brings, but the benefit a distinct rangefinder patch brings is fairly nominal. In fact, for all but a few of the shots I’ve taken with either Makina 67 or Mamiya 7, I’ve scale focused, and where I’ve needed the rangefinder, I’m mostly been shooting at a reasonable distance where accuracy isn’t paramount anyway.

The Makina 67 veiwifnder

The Makina 67 veiwifnder

The Mamiya 7 viewfinder

The Mamiya 7 viewfinder

Of course, your mileage may vary. And if I’d borrowed the 150mm lens off of Anais and had pursued some portraiture then I’m certain I’d have benefitted from being able to focus easier. But that’s just not what I’m interested in shooting these cameras for, so it feels largely irrelevant to me.

So what about the lens then? Surly if Anais is right that it is higher resolution, I’ve just made a pretty good argument for a preference for the Mamiya 7 lens? In reality, to my eye, the difference is negligible, though looking at the detail rendered in this next image I suspect Anais might be right about the lens being higher resolution.

Longtown Countryside

That said, if asked to tell images from the two cameras apart blind, I’m fairly certain I couldn’t. The fact is, I don’t print much of my work – I mostly enjoy it on the computer screen where any resolution difference between these two lenses is going to be largely inconsequential.

What I appreciate when I view medium format images is the added clarity, and 3D pop that comes with it. The 3D pop that medium format brings to the table is very visible to me even when the images are viewed quite small on a computer screen. Both Mamiya 7 and Makina 67 lenses are modern enough that combined with the added real estate of the film, the results have an effortless 3-dimensionality to them.

Welsh Coast

And so with them being pretty much equal in that regard, actually the slim benefit of the Makina 67 lens being a f/2.8 swings favour it’s way anyway. Not that I’ve used it at 2.8 much, but all other things being equal, a 2.8 lens is going to have some slim advantage over an f/4 lens once in a while.

The Mamiya 7 shortcomings

So, at this stage being fair, I think we are essentially at a position of 0:0 draw. As I’ve said, I’ll concede that Anais was right about both the above factors, but for my personal usage case – and that really is all I’m talking about here – both “advantages” the Mamiya 7 brings don’t really add anything to my shooting experiences. And, unfortunately for the Mamiya, this early position of 0:0 draw is almost moot, as the rest of the game involves it getting a bit of a shoeing.

Makina 67 0:0 Mamiya 7

The size

There really is no getting past the fact that Anais’s Mamiya 7 stayed in my camera cupboard for a long time before I took it out. An element of this might have been due to a dwindling sense of excitement about cameras that I’ve suffered over the course of this year, but actually, more than anything else, as soon as the Mamiya 7 came home with me I had the sense I was going to struggle with taking it out.

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The collapsible lens of the Makina 67 swings an incredible amount of favour its way. To me, there is nothing particularly comfortable about the idea of carrying the Mamiya 7 – the lens just pokes out too far. In the end, I resolved to take the Mamiya 7 on a couple of holidays with me and even then had to almost force myself to shoot it. Unlike the Makina 67 that’s been out on a couple of dog walks and day trips with me and the family, the Mamiya 7 far from inspired a desire to shoot it like that.

The Makina 67 vs the Mamiya 67 - Size

The Makina 67 vs the Mamiya 67

Now, I should add, once I was out with the Mamiya 7, I didn’t really find its size too bothersome. This certainly wouldn’t have been the case if I’d been carrying it with the extra lenses Anais tried to force on me, but with the 80mm it was ok provided I was out by myself with the sole intention to shoot it. What I realised on the occasion I was wondering around the Herefordshire side of the Welsh border was that provided I am out by myself and don’t have a pair of kids, a pair of dogs or a Hannah with me, carrying a slightly bigger camera isn’t too much of an issue. Unfortunately, for the likes of the Mamiya 7, I rarely get out to shoot by myself like this.

The Makina 67 on the other hand is transportable in a small shoulder bag. This means that I can quite comfortably lug it around with the family in tow and just get it out when I need/want to without too much bother. Again, this means that for my personal usage case, the Makina 67 wins this round.

Makina 67 1:0 Mamiya 7

Battery reliance

The Mamiya 7 is a much more “modern” camera than the Makina 67. They both have a built in light meter, but the Mamiya has auto exposure, and with that one of my favourite features on the Konica Hexar RF (my current m-mount rangefinder of choice) auto exposure lock, or AEL. This allows the photographer point the camera at the subject for metering, half press and hold the shutter button to lock in exposure, reframe and shoot. I love this on the Hexar at the moment, just as I did on the Leica M7. It allows me to act quickly to get good exposure, compose and shoot with little thought.

I’m sure you know what I’m going to say next though…? This just isn’t a feature I need on a medium format camera that I shoot mostly for landscapes. It worked for me, I’m not going to deny that – all the shots here were taken with the AEL feature in use. But read back my Makina 67 review and you’ll find I didn’t even bother to put batteries in it.

Rest assured though, I’m not even going to pin this on the whole “if it runs out of batteries when I’m out shooting I’m screwed” thing that is often perpetuated about battery reliant cameras. For me, it’s more basic than that, I just prefer simple cameras that don’t do stuff that I don’t really need. I don’t need a medium format camera with AEL. In fact, I’d probably be happier with the Makina if it didn’t have a meter at all. But, its simplicity as a camera still wins it a point over the Mamiya 7 here.

Makina 67 2:0 Mamiya 7

Repairability and cost

It’s often said about the Makina that it’s a fragile camera. I mentioned this in my review. Personally though, despite me not being worried about a battery dying on me when I’m out shooting, I am increasingly worried about terminal camera failure.

My prized Konica Hexar RF is the only camera I’ve bought for a long time that I intend to keep that is also liable to irreparably fail one day. It cost my £500 which makes me really quite nervous. Without a lens, a Mamiya 7 goes for around twice that cash. With a lens – which incidentally are also electronically controlled, and only really usable on another Mamiya – you’ll pay a lot more. My Hexar feels like a risk, a Mamiya 7 would feel a lot more risky to me. Certainly more risky than a Makina 67.

Makina 67 3:0 Mamiya 7

A lens cap booboo

My final significant quibble with the Mamiya 7 is down to the fact that it allowed me to shoot half a roll of film with the lens cap on. Because I was shooting it in AEL and because it’s meter isn’t through-the-lens, the first frames I took whilst shooting it in Herefordshire were blank. I realised what I’d done quite quickly, and just went and shot them again, but it still stung.

The light meter sensor – top left of the RF window

Is this really the fault of the camera, or is it my stupidity? I’ll let you decide, but this is my game and I’m doing the scoring so:

Final Score: Makina 67 4:0 Mamiya 7

A few more photos

All these shots and a few more on my flickr here are from the Mamiya 7 – For photos from my Makina 67, see my review here, and flickr here

Welsh Coast

Welsh Coast

Welsh Coast

Welsh Coast

Longtown Countryside

Longtown Countryside

A non-landscape photo! (I missed focus)

Longtown Countryside

Longtown Countryside

Longtown Countryside

Longtown Countryside

Longtown Countryside

Final thoughts

I’m sure my “click bait” title will have triggered a few Mamiya 7 fans. I’m also sure my unfair scoring and entirely subjective opinions will have a few of them shouting at me through their screens too. I know I have flippantly disregarded most of the advantages the Mamiya 7 brings to the table – not least the whole series of other highly regarded lenses that it can be shot with. The point is though, this really isn’t about these cameras. This is about me, my photography and how/what I like shooting.

If you’re more of a portrait photographer, or even like your landscapes (or whatever) taken with a wider or longer lens, yes, maybe the Mamiya 7 would be a better choice. If you’re more like me though; you like simple cameras, are more happy with a single focal length, want some of the advantages medium format brings without the inconvenience of all the extra weight and size, and you worry about electronic failure in cameras more than mechanical failure, then out of these two, it’s gotta be the Makina 67.

Thank you very much for the extended loan Anais, very much appreciated!

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28 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Peter Wright
    November 4, 2019 at 10:27 am

    Interesting comparison Hamish. I love the “compactness” of my Mamiya 6 but the trade off is a square negative. I mainly use the 50mm lens for pretty much everything and find it a great camera to complement my Leica M6.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Julian Love
      November 5, 2019 at 6:32 pm

      I’m also a big Mamiya 6 fan and use it to complement my Leicas. I think it’s a wonderful camera but I certainly appreciate the collapsible lens mount. I hanker after a 6×7 camera and the size of the Mamiya 7 has also put me off a bit. However I’ve played with a Makina 67 in the shop, and the focusing, shutter and aperture controls drove me insane. So I left it on the shelf. The Mamiya is much more ergonomic and I’ll probably pick one up at some point.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Hamish Gill
        November 13, 2019 at 10:22 am

        For your type of work, Julian, I think you’re on the right path there!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Reinhold Graf
    November 4, 2019 at 11:34 am

    Thanks for sharing your opinion.
    Indeed it is quite biased … but that‘s ok, as this is your way of shooting and your viewpoint on all what the cameras deliver to you.
    If someone has other preferences, the outcome might differ.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Theo
    November 4, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    Hamish, thanks for a good read mate. Full disclosure, I love my Mamiya 7.
    Fully understand the preference based on your style of shooting, cameras are a very personal type of tool. The bit I don’t get in your rating system is you dropped points on the Mamiya 7 because it has a feature (AEL) that you actually like, but prefer not to have(!?!). Not sure I can get my head around that one, I can understand if it was something you didn’t like, but do like?
    I know you indicate you prefer simpler cameras, just not sure it justifies this argument as the feature does not get in the way of simple operation.
    Then again, I might be as biased on my preference and thoughts, but appreciate you admit that up front too.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Jeremy Keller
    November 4, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    Efendim! Practical considerations: Imagine that I am out on one of my favorite Balkanbiker rampages. 1) In the Levka Ori of Crete I step on a pile of goat leavings and fall on my camera–crunch! 2) In a cafe at Boka Kotorska I forget my camera on a cafe table on a trip to the men’s.

    In each case, my camera survives. In case one the strong body of my wonderful Zeiss folder absorbs the blow. In case two the camera stays on the table because it is obviously a worthless antique.

    Which is the better camera to carry about in the real world? P.S. My $100 Zeiss has all the resolution one could need.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      November 4, 2019 at 2:28 pm

      Here’s my tip to you then – don’t buy either of these cameras. It sounds like you’re happy with what you have already!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Yul Vázquez
    November 4, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    Outstanding

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      November 4, 2019 at 10:24 pm

      Cheers, Yul! 👍

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Eric Rose
    November 4, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    Sounds like your perfect camera would be the mini Graflex with a 6×7 roll film back.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      November 4, 2019 at 10:24 pm

      Yeah? How so…?

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Roger B.
    November 4, 2019 at 6:29 pm

    Very interesting and balanced comparo, Hamish. As a landscape photographer who often has to hike a ways over rough and steep terrain to get the shot, the Makina wins hands-down for one single reason: Its collapsible lens. Try putting the Mamiya 7 in a small backpack … then enjoy just slipping the Makina into a zippered vest pocket.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      November 4, 2019 at 10:23 pm

      Yeah, that’s it exactly!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    jeremy north
    November 4, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    I really enjoy your subjective (yet curiously objective at the same time) reviews. I think the score is 3-1 in favour of the Makina, but 4-1 in reality because it’s a much better looking hence cooler.
    Why’s that? I think rather than 0-0 the first part was 1-1. The last one about leaving the lens cap on is irrelevant, you could have done that on the Makina as you already said you prefer not using its meter. Of course if it’s TTL metered then if you did use the meter that would be a factor but you didn’t say either way.
    Just a point on when you bought the Makina, I’m pretty sure you brought it to the Birmingham meet up in March of last year which is a few months earlier than you said you got it. Not being pedantic but just filling in a gap and showing that it made an impression. Lovely camera.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      November 4, 2019 at 10:23 pm

      Yeah, sort of, because the Mamiya gives a meter reading with the lens cap on, it tricked me into thinking I was shooting without the cap…
      regardless, I was mostly trying to swing the score higher for the Makina 😉
      As for the dates, you might well be right!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Kate Johnson
    November 4, 2019 at 8:28 pm

    Darn! I’ve been looking at the Makina 67 lately and managing to hold off. Now you’re telling me that as a Mamiya 7 owner I can still justify buying the Makina 67? Hmmmm, giving it some thought now. I may use it as a reward for a project that I need to finish. How does that sound?

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      November 4, 2019 at 10:18 pm

      Perfectly sensible!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Bruno Chalifour
    November 4, 2019 at 10:06 pm

    Thanks for this documented, detailed and “subjective” approach to the Makina 67. It is always good to share experiences. I understand that if one likes to extend and push back a lens mounted on bellows every time one uses the camera, to focus with one’s thumb on a focusing wheel on top of the camera, to measure light through the viewfinder window (not through the lens), to set apertures and shutterspeeds manually on the lens as on a view-camera, not to use any lens other than an 80 mm (no 43, 50, 65, 150, 250 mm), not to have Automatic Exposure available (and I am not mentioning the possibility of using 35 mm film in panoramic format with a 6×7 cm camera), one may want to use a Makina. At least there is the comfort of knowing that the camera shutter is mechanical and does not require any battery. You also mention that the rangefinder and the lens are not quite as good as their equivalent on the Mamiya 7. Now that I mention and realize it, it is probably for those reasons that some 19 years ago I decided to invest in the Mamiya 7ii and not the Plaubel Makina (I have really enjoyed using the 43 mm as well as the 65 mm). But as you did mention it there are practical reasons and subjective ones for using either of these cameras. What matters in the end is feeling in harmony with one’s tools, that is always the greatest lesson to learn from these conversations, don’t you think?

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      November 4, 2019 at 10:18 pm

      100%. In fact, there is an effort on my part for that to be the subtext of posts like this. I was accused of bias on Instagram – I took it as a compliment. Of course I’m biased toward the things that feel right to me…

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Proper
      November 5, 2019 at 11:29 am

      But you can put plaubel in your pocket. That’s very good.
      So you can hike and shoot handheld till dawn because lens is fast also.
      So it is an excellent tool especially with 400 film. Imagine scaled up Ricoh GR ))

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Zvonimir
    November 5, 2019 at 9:32 am

    Why my 1950 Zeiss folder is better than either:

    1) I can drop it onto karstic limestone on a Balkanbiker mountain. No light meter, no electronics, no mirror (Amazing: there were mirrorless cameras 70 years ago!), and no damage done.

    2) I can leave it on a cafe table on my way to the men’s. I am risking $100. It will be there when I return. No one would take it.

    Sometimes the real world matters. Z

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      November 5, 2019 at 4:49 pm

      As I said to the guy that commented to this end before, it sounds like you should stick to the Zeiss then…
      My experience of both these cameras is real world

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Johan
    November 5, 2019 at 8:55 pm

    Gorgeous pictures.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      November 13, 2019 at 10:21 am

      Thanks

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Anais Faraj
    November 7, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    Fair dues Hamish. After all this website is devoted to compact cameras even if we are tinkering with 6x7s. Me, I prefer a bit more meat and tech on the bone. Having started with obsessive love of small Japanese gear and worked with rangefinders most of my life (Leica M & Contax G) I found it very liberating to use the M7. A grown up Leica M with enough Contax style (or Leica M7) automation to keep me happy. Frankly not very different from the Nikon F5 I recently bought and adore having once derided the idea of a big SLR. For “compact” medium format when travelling I take the Hassy 500C – bizarrely the ergonomics are great and while “only” 6×6 I never dread mechanical or battery issues which will eventually blight both of these Japanese beauties.

    We are so spoilt. First world problems or what.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      November 13, 2019 at 10:20 am

      Haha, yes indeed!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Sroyon
    November 7, 2019 at 11:00 pm

    Do you remember what film(s) you used? The colours look lovely. My guess would be Portra 160 but I could be wrong…

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      November 13, 2019 at 10:20 am

      It’s all portra 400

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