Mamiya – 6: First Look

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First, allow me to apologize for the crappy photos, which were taken with a digital point and shoot.

This is a “new” camera for me: After enduring nearly twenty minutes of temptation, I bought this Mamiya – 6 camera from Dan Kagle at The Darkroom @ Division 9 a week ago. Though the price was very good, it was a financially irresponsible act on my part. But I bought it, anyway. There were (at least) five reasons for my purchase.

  1. It shoots Medium format 120 film.

  2. It is a folder. When folded up, it fits in one of the front pockets of my leather riding jacket.

  3. The viewfinder was obviously a bit dirty, but even so, it was easy to see through it and line up the rangefinder patch (a little superficial cleaning took care of the dirt).

  4. There is no light meter. I seem to have pretty good luck judging lighting conditions and shooting using the “Sunny 16” rule with my TLR. I kind of like being the biological light meter.  

  5. It shoots Medium format 120 film.

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The “6” in the name of the camera indicates that it shoots “6X6” frames, so a roll of 120 film produces 12 square negatives. It has an Olympus-Zuiko 75mm lens, a “normal” lens for medium format, and uses a Copal shutter. After playing around with it for a few days, I’m wondering if it will actually get 13 frames out of a roll. I’ll have to see how that goes when I run a roll through it. 

Unlike so many rangefinder cameras, the Mamiya’s rangefinder is coupled to the film plane, rather than the lens. Focusing is accomplished by moving the film plane back and forth relative to the lens assembly. It is/was an interesting approach to providing focusing capability.

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120 film threaded under the pressure plate rails and into the take-up spool.

I found a set of instructions for a similar Mamiya here. Unfortunately, that particular model is the Mamiya 6-IVB, not the one I have, so the film loading instructions were not really tailored specifically to mine, and as a result, there are some rather vague areas. After a little experimenting, I think I have the loading process refined, though I may need to make adjustments as I continue to use the camera.

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The film pressure plate installed under the rails.

As near as I can figure after reading the sparse and often conflicting material on the Web, this particular camera is pre-1955. Nearly as old as I am. It was in need of a full CLA, a task that was accomplished over a period of several days with considerable advice and help from Dan. I could also use a full CLA, but that seems unlikely.

I cleaned the lenses, then soaked the shutter mechanism overnight in a bath of lighter fluid. After the shutter was dry, I reassembled the camera and loaded a roll of film.

I’ll shoot the roll over the next few days, which should tell me how well the camera is working. If I get technically good photographs out of the camera, you’ll see those photographs here in the future.