Last week on AnalogRev, Warren and I brought two old stalwarts of the fashion world up to Victoria Peak—the Mamiya RZ67 Pro II and the Pentax 67.
Both, of course, are classics and wholly justify their reputation as industry workhorses. But which one is better for you as an enthusiast (or even as a professional)?
Since there are many excellent articles online that go into tremendous detail for each of these cameras, I’ll give my impressions in this article rather than a thorough analysis of each model.
Mamiya RZ67 Pro II:
What I love about the RZ67 Pro II is its modularity, and I had a lot of fun with the Polaroid back that we had attached.
This aspect wasn’t featured in the video due to time restraints, but the Polaroid back was essential for portrait photographers to test lighting and exposure before the age of digital. For contemporary users however, it was just fun to use, and if any photographers want a high quality Polaroid, this is almost as good as it gets.
On that same note, if any photographers want a digital back to use on an old medium format camera, they can consider the RZ67 PRO IID, which came out in 2004.
The RZ67 Pro II is pretty fun to bring out on shoots if you have a tripod, but it’s not as compact as a Hasselblad 500CM for example, or the Pentax 67.
I felt very reassured using the RZ67 Pro II, and the lenses from Mamiya are beyond reproach—there are few systems that are sharper, and the bokeh of Sekor lenses is also extremely elegant.
Since this particular model isn’t too old, all the parts in the camera I had were in great condition, but if you are buying a RB67 take a little more care.
I do have one caveat though, as the RZ67 has a maximum shutter speed of 1/400, which doesn’t offer a lot of flexibility when shooting with slightly fast film such as ASA 400 in broad daylight. I often wanted to shoot the portraits wide open at f/2.8, but had to settle for f/4 or f/5.6.
The best part about this camera is how easy it is to use, and how intuitive the design is for SLR users. Many medium format cameras like the Mamiya RZ67 use a waist-level finder, and while that does have its advantages in terms of framing, it naturally limits perspective.
That’s not to say that the Mamiya RZ67 can’t be positioned higher, but with the waist-level finder it’s hard to focus at such a height. An obvious solution to this issue is for photographers to buy a variety of prisms, since Pentax and Mamiya users have the option to use either a waist-level or standard viewfinder.
However, even though Pentax can change their prism, the camera isn’t as modular as the RZ67—which is both an advantage and disadvantage. While it can’t change backs or use Polaroid, it does gain increased portability.
I found it far easier to carry around when shooting, and it took less time to set up and prepare.
The Takumar lenses are also known to be extremely good, and I have absolutely no complaints about the 105mm f/2.4. When I used ASA 400 film I could routinely shoot wide open while maintaining a fast shutter speed for sharp handheld work.
It’s all about shutter speeds and handling between these two bodies.
The Mamiya RZ67 Pro II uses a leaf shutter which makes it better for using flash, but it only has a max shutter speed of 1/400 for outdoor use. The Pentax 67, on the other hand, can go up to 1/1000, but isn’t as flexible in terms of flashes, since it has an awful flash sync of 1/30.
In terms of handling, both are heavy, but the Pentax 67 is far easier to transport and carry due to its design.
I’ve been a Mamiya user for a decade, but if I were to pick up a new camera today I’d personally go for the Pentax 67 with a TTL prism. While both are excellent, the camera that you use the most is the one you should buy, and I think I’d be bringing the Pentax out more.
Cover image: Mamiya RZ67 Pro II with Sekor 110mm f/2.8 and Ilford Delta 400.