Mamiya 7 vs. 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.

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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47 thoughts on “Mamiya 7 vs. Makina 67 – Spoiler: the Makina Wins”

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. I agree with you too. I used a set of Nikon F100 for most of a decade and while they had so many features I didn’t use, the stunning viewfinder, compactness, film handling and TTL flash were so good, I didn’t ever bother with the rest. (Always used it in manual mode with TTL fill being the only “exposure automation”.

      I keep wanting to just get the Makina, but at this point I am worried it will be something I will just damage (if I manage to find a “mint” one that is a 7/10. I don’t know how the Japanese vendors call them Mint and EX+++ with brassing, glued on rubber grip material, and dirty looking numbering and body scratches. I’d but one in an instant (working) in those conditions (non working meter even) for $800 and just use it without regard for re-sale.

    2. Hamish is a willful contrarian. It gets clicks. A quick read across his posts on this site evidences some paradoxical contrarian views in carefully caveated ‘opinion’ pieces. Reading between the lines here, I think it is because he really wants to see himself as a ‘proper’ old school manual photographer, but like many of us, actually prefers the convenience of auto exposure… a Mamiya 7 is waaay too much of mainstream hipster camera for Hamish to actually like and auto exposure doesn’t make one look like a ‘proper’ photographer, hence the contrarian paradoxical ‘opinion’ expressed here.

      1. I always find comments that talk about me on my posts as if I’m not here strange. Why not just question me about my views directly…?

        There’s plenty of very popular/“hipster” automatic cameras I like. The Ricoh GR, Contax T2, T3, Olympus mju-ii. I think they are all too risky to buy now, but I’ve spoken highly of all of them before.

        I also have no fixed concept of what makes a “proper” photographer. Surely someone who can take great photos with a point and shoot deserves as much of not more credit than someone who can with a fancy camera like either of these…?

        The reality is, comparing these two cameras is daft. It’s always going to come down to slight subjective and personal preferences, which is exactly the point I was trying to make.

        In summary, I’m not sure your “quick read across” my posts has really given you enough of an insight into how I think…

        1. There’s a lot that would prove to this guy that he has misread the sort of opinions I hold. It’s often the case with people who chose to have a dig at me – they attack my views without really taking the time to understand them, or even bother to ask. It’s water off a duck’s back though.

  4. 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.

    1. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

    1. 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!

  7. 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?

  8. 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?

    1. 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…

    2. 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 ))

  9. 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

    1. 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

  10. 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.

  11. Years ago, in my previous career as an engineer i wanted to buy a new car. I did as i was taught in class and created an excel table of cars and their specifications. Every car-specification got a value and eventually every car got a grade. And then i went to the agency and bought the car that i loved the most, although it didn’t get the highest grade (and i did try to play with the results). You also went with your heart and this is the best way!

  12. Hard to take this article seriously as it isn’t even mentioned that the Mamiya7 has a spot meter. The author intimates a preference for landscapes yet completely misses this fact, which comes very much comes onto play when shooting such subjects.

    1. Hmm… it’s not really supposed to be taken too seriously. I thought I’d made my bias toward the Makina quite obvious.
      Also, it really does depend on how you shoot and how you meter. I don’t use a spot meter ever. Do any of my shots from either camera look like they would have benefitted from me doing so?

  13. The Plaubel Makina 67 is my favorite camera I’ve ever owned, so know this comment is not coming from a salty Mamiya 7 fanboy.

    With that said, the non ttl metering is identical on these two cameras. I’ve taken many pics on my Makina with the lens cap on.

    So while I agree that the Makina is a superior camera (I also own a W67, that 55mm lens is perfect), I can’t see how it’s fair to award the Makina a point for something that’s identical on both cameras.

  14. What you use mean is that for someone who prefers no choice in lenses this is a better camera. For everyone else it is not.

  15. Those images are just incredible. Not only because the cameras are powerful but because of your evident talent!

    I also need to note, in regards to the “non-landscape” photograph. That one is just hard to describe. Look at those colors, Look at the out-of-focus background rendering. Look at the dynamic range and the incredible way highlights and shadows are rendered. Look at the grain..

    And on top of that, the brilliant framing you’ve done. This image is a powerful reason digital sensors are a step backwards. Anyway, I bought a used X-E2s recently, I hope I can produce similar atmosphere with it. I cannot go for film at the current stage for many reasons.

    I wish if the media was filled with photographs like those in that article! Sadly, the beauty is rare nowadays and plenty are fascinated with ugliness.

  16. Next week, why a wadded-up used facial tissue is better than a Linhof Super Technika IV, including: much lighter and easier to carry around when I go out to not take pictures; no complicated rangefinder, ground glass, swings, tilts, etc. to confuse me when I’m not taking pictures; far less expensive; no worry about running out of batteries even though the Linhof doesn’t use batteries either, but it’s my review so sod off.

  17. Great comparison. I’d love to see where you would land in a comparison of the Makina 67 and a Fujifilm GW690iii. A big camera but so are the negatives!

  18. It’s fun reading about these beautiful machines – two masterpieces of medium format technology. But it feels almost ungracious to be comparing them in such a minute way. It’s almost like rating great artists on their qualities: Brushstrokes: Picasso 4 stars, Matisse 4.5 stars. Harmony: Ravel 8.6 out of 10, Stravinski 8.9 out of 10. :^D These cameras offer us something unique in our times, each with somewhat different qualities. Thank god they both exist, right? They make attainable to us images with qualities that are unique, in our current century. It’s up to each of us to choose which suits us better – same way it’s up to us to look at the art that appeals to us, or listen to the music we’re in the mood for.

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