Mamiya RZ67 Versus Sony a7 III Shootout

With film's popularity on the rise, photographers shooting both film and digital is becoming more and more common. 

In this video brought to us by Sophia Carey, we see a fashion portrait shootout between a Mamiya RZ67 (loaded up with Kodak color negative film) and a Sony a7 III. Though the RZ67 has not been made for some time, it was widely considered one of the best portrait cameras of its time. The Sony a7 III has proven itself to be a modern workhorse, capable of meeting just about any photographer's needs. 

I found this particular video engaging since I own and regularly use a Mamiya RZ67 as well as a Sony a7 camera (an a7R II), and while I am a landscape photographer primarily, I take a good number of portraits and enjoy using both cameras for them. The Sony a7 series has a great selection of existing lenses for portrait work, and the selection is growing year by year. The Mamiya RZ67, however, has a fixed selection of lenses since they are not made anymore; the 110mm f/2.8 is widely regarded as one of the most legendary portrait lenses ever and is a real joy to use. 

Do you have any experience shooting medium format film and a newer full frame digital camera side by side? 

James Madison's picture

Madison is a mathematician turned statistician based out of Columbus, OH. He fell back in love with film years ago while living in Charleston, SC and hasn't looked back since. In early 2019 he started a website about film photography.

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Sadly tediously slow. Whole video far too self focused. The RZ67 is different from Sony - better but film too slow and too expensive for today but MF quality is obvious even on on iPhone.

I don't like criticizing people who try something different but this really isn't that good. She shot it all wide open, the 110mm needs to be stepped down to at least f4 to get something useful in focus when this close to the subject. I'm not even sure it's a good copy of the lens as mine seems a lot sharper than what I'm seeing here. As above said, it's also more about her.

It's pretty clear the RZ67 isn't very good for verite, action type shots. The ones she attempted all look very posed and stilted. The camera's just too big and slow. Which is why most fashion photography from pre-slr days looks posed and stilted, too (although some managed to rock a MF camera). You need the right tool for the job. And for fast, spontaneous photos, that means a smaller, faster camera. But for produced, meticulous shoots? Sure, be like Tim Walker and use the larger camera. But whatever you do, please, please, don't count down to the shutter press. That's just amateurish (at least in the fashion world).

Couldn't tell the difference, especially, since they weren't shot the same poses and framing. Also, I noticed she shot most of the digital further back while the film was more tighter framed.

If you gonna do comparisons, gotta have like for like as close as possible.

This is like comparing apples to rocks. First of all, if i hear "there is something special about film" i will get physically ill. As someone who spent countless hours in the darkroom i can honestly say that i do not miss it (i also did multiple tests where i took borders of portra, slap them on a digital file edited to fake a look of portra and posted them next to actual pics taken on portra but re-edited after scan just to hear "how film just kills digital" - get the point? Yes, there is something special about shooting film but it isn't "how they look" but rather about "how you shoot it" when you shoot mid format film you take your time - your posing, composition, framing is "thought trough" - meaning you take your time - after all you get about 10 (6×7) exposures from the 120 roll - digital photographers tend to "spray and pray" taking hundreds of exposures per session hoping that they get something good - i shoot digital same way i shot film - my average studio or location session will be 50-70 exposures, tops (tethered studio sessions are usually less since i know right away if i got a shot i was looking for per look) - just my 5 cents.

Really intersting points. I personally like the results from the combination of modern day lenses and Cameras with a film-style emulating look you could say. Especially for my films its just very pleasing to my eye.
Actually getting the same refined tones as Film can be rather difficult from a digital starting point tho.
But i would atill agree: too many modern instagram geeks that overhype film are just rather annoying. The colorscience that the film era has developed is really lovely tho.

Well, I'm spoiled because my primary system is phase one iq3 100 trichromatic , but i did similar tests with my d810 (i have some custom, created by me portra profiles for capture one) - trichromatic back is actually funny when noise is concerned - iso 800 will produce very plesant "film like" luminosity noise with very little chroma noise. If i want to mimic portra 800 i just shoot at iso 800 and do not do luminosity noise reduction in capture one.

Due to cost and/or time (if developing your own) with shooting film, there's also a huge negative reinforcement against taking "bad" shots, which has a big effect on the brain. You have to learn not to spray and pray, and film is, indeed, good for that. You can't just tell yourself not to do it (with a New Year's resolution or something). Not the way the brain works.

Thats why Polaroids were such cool thing - we literally tested perspective and framing before shooting


Call me crazy but i don't like to look trough 1k pictures from the session. I shoot mostly digital now but i still shoot like i would do film (btw, you will get 15 exposures from 120 film for 645 format)

Yeah digital gave rise to the mega high frame rate spray-n-pray crowd, but real photographers still shoot only 12 exposures, even on a D6/1Dx, or a 645. ;-)

Nah, you go through more than 12 per session (we use to burn trough up to 5 rolls usually - depends on how many looks) - session i just shot we took 55 total shots when we knew we got what we want (client made 8 selections from it) - remember, sometimes small pose variation will matter a lot - i think i actually shoot less now than with film since i know when i got the shot (tethered sessions rock)

It was a joke. ;-)

For whatever it's worth, I once set up my tripod and took a series of comparative test shots with my original Sony A7 and with a Fuji GW690 III loaded with Portra 160. I put the Sony's files through a Porta 160 film emulation preset, and I scaled the film scans down to the same 24 MP size (which I don't think lost any meaningful image detail).

The film emulation preset was not perfect, but it did get a generally similar look. (One commenter pointed to the "much better tonality" of the film scan. To my eyes they looked a little different, but I couldn't say better or worse.) Aside from that, the only really noticeable differences were the false color artifacts and moire pattern that the digital image suffered but was, of course, completely absent from the film scan. The false colors from tiny, in-focus highlights were only really noticeable when pixel-peeping, but the moire (on a car radiator!) required serious fixing.

Given the difference in size, convenience and cost of operation, routinely using the digital camera is an obvious choice. I only break out the film when I have an unusual, specific reason to. However, I should also note that mimicking the colors of Ektar 100 has proven tricky! And that's my favorite film stock.

Fuji GW690 is AMAZING, and fuji glass is just as good as schneider or rodenstock lenses (and rodenstock is the only reason I'm considering getting xt system)

I think we should be gentle in criticizing someone willing to show us some of her experiments. By their very nature, experiments may fail. I found the shoot interesting, although it's hard to know what to take from her results, since there were so many interacting variables.

I'd be interested in hearing what she did *next* with her 'new' Mamiya.

My experience with easing into a different type of camera, film, or focal length has convinced *me* that these first comparisons and experiments need to be followed by a drastic reduction in options/variables. E.g. one camera, one lens or focal length, one film/ISO/emulation, and maybe even a single aperture. You have to convince your brain to use the (limited) tools available. Then, with experience, your skill, talent and aesthetic sense will coalesce for those tools.

Agreed, my comments, as example, were more directed towards the "artists" who "shoot film" because "it is so special" lol