Getting Into Medium Format on a Budget: Fstoppers Reviews the Mamiya RB67

Getting Into Medium Format on a Budget: Fstoppers Reviews the Mamiya RB67

Getting into medium format is quite costly. It’s difficult to know if the investment is going to be worth it and if it’s going to match your current workflow. Medium format has a tendency to slow you down, kind of like film. When I tried my first Phase One, I couldn’t afford one. So I went with the cheapest alternative I could find, the Mamiya RB67 Pro-S. Here’s why I’m glad I made that move but also why it doesn’t replace a digital medium-format system.

If you are on B&H trying to find a brand new RB67, let me stop you right there: you won’t. The very first model was released in 1970, followed in 1974 by the Pro-S, and then the Pro-SD in 1990. The differences between the three are not major. The latter will let you use 8x6 backs and thus can take larger lenses (L mount). The Pro-S improved on the original one by adding a mechanism that prevents from releasing the shutter if the film is not advanced. It also comes with a few minor tweaks, but the reason why I went with the Pro-S is that I wanted the cheapest option but one that would prevent me from shooting double exposures without me knowing.

Build Quality

The build quality cannot be compared to anything recent. It’s pretty much all metal with a few touches of plastic. It feels extremely solid in hand. Only the viewfinder seems a bit flimsy compared to the rest. The downside to its ruggedness is the weight. At close to 6 pounds with a 127mm lens, it’s not your Nikon D810 or Canon 5D. Shooting handled is possible, but all day would quickly become a pain.

An important note regarding the RB67 is that it’s all mechanical. It’s one of the reasons why I chose it over the RZ67. No need to have batteries in your bag, you can grab your camera anytime and shoot. But no battery also means no integrated metering system. You’ll have to measure everything with a light meter or alternatively with a phone app. If you have never shot film, this may be a bit strange at first, but it’ll help you practice guestimating an exposure in a pinch.


I’m not sure we can talk about performances for a film medium-format camera. If you are looking for the camera with the highest frame rate on the market, the easiest to work with raw files, or the highest ISO range possible, let be honest, it’s not a camera tailored to match your needs.

On the other hand, if you want large negatives, the pleasure of hearing the big mirror slap after each exposure, the feeling of working to get a picture and not just snap away, this is definitely an option you should consider. 6x7 negatives are quite big and a bit easier to compose than 6x6. The waist-level viewfinder is incredibly refreshing and will make heads turn around when shooting in public areas.

Working with the RB67 takes a bit of getting used to at first, and this will hinder your working performances. The focusing has to be done manually as there are no electronics in this beast. The viewfinder is bright and large enough to make it easy, or at least easier than on a digital 35mm DSLR. But then, moving the camera around to frame your shot using the waist level viewfinder, you'll notice that the image is inverted as there is no prism. Finally, once your frame is done and the camera is focused because it's using a below system to achieve focus, you'll have to control that your settings are still working. When your subject is close, the below will be almost if not fully unfolded and less light will reach the film. Meaning, you'll have to manually compensate for the loss of light. For many, it will be more of a pain than anything, for others, it will feel like working to get the shot.

Can It Replace Digital Medium Format?

I personally didn’t buy this camera to shoot film, but rather to shoot medium format. I had tried a Phase One XF IQ2 50MP and loved the look I could get out of the larger sensor. Although it’s becoming cheaper every day to get into digital medium format, I didn’t want to buy a CCD system. I thought that a film camera could do the trick until I could splurge on a full-frame 645 CMOS camera.

Being a portrait, commercial, and beauty photographer, I didn’t shoot tons of paid shoots with it. First, because I don’t feel confident enough to shoot any commercial work on film yet, and second because I don’t feel it’s practical enough for my workflow. Because yes, it will slow you down, from start to finish. Loading film is easy but not as quick as a memory card, achieving focus and advancing film are done manually, and finally processing the film takes a while too. And then, you only end up with a negative that you must scan or print — and that is if the negative is any good.

So sure, the end result is sublime. I love the creamy transitions and bokeh I can get out of such large negatives, and the shallow depth of field is amazing. Although I do not regret my purchase at all, it’s just not the same as shooting digitally. The RB67 Pro-S is fantastic and helped me in many ways to grow as a photographer. Going back to the very basics of your photography is fantastic. However, it won’t take the place of my D810 or avoid me renting a Phase One XF IQ3 100MP for commercial jobs.


Pricing will vary widely between the RB67 you’ll find online. I bought my Pro-S with a 127mm f/3.8 and two backs for around $300-350. However, depending on the lenses and number of backs included, it may be a bit more expensive. Some RB67 also come with a prism finder instead of the traditional waist-level viewfinder. Just be sure to look closely at the pictures before buying and only get one from a trusted seller.

What I Liked

  • All mechanical camera
  • Affordable
  • Fun to shoot with
  • Waist-level viewfinder
  • Leaf shutter lenses
  • 6x7 negatives

What I Didn't like

  • Bellow focusing can be troubling at first
  • Heavy and cumbersome


I absolutely love my RB67. It’s a beautiful piece of equipment, one that I enjoy taking out at the end of a session just to selfishly shoot a roll of film without any pressure. Best of all, it’s not extremely costly, making it a good way to get into film photography or get that medium format so many rave about.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on shooting film medium format in 2017. Do you still shoot some film? Do you believe current digital medium format are good enough to compete with the look of film despite their smaller sensor sizes? Let me know in the comments below.

Quentin Decaillet's picture

Quentin Décaillet is a photographer and retoucher based in Switzerland specializing in portrait and wedding photography.

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I enjoyed reading the review. I don't mind being dependent upon a battery. The battery in an RZ67 could probably last a while without replacing. My Canon A-1 is dependent upon a battery for everything and it lasts a long while.
I have been coveting a Mamiya 67 after I bought my A-1 in 1980. One of these days ...

Great article! Pretty much exact same reasoning which lead me to grabbing one up myself! But I'm literally selling the oneI got. Its in Pristine condition, with 90mm F3.5, polaroid back, grip, etc. Super Cheap. Message me if interested lol

Had one. Exchanged it for a Canon Pro-wide printer. While a beautiful camera that helped me thru my degree in photo imaging. I was limited to only one sense since i couldn't afford a second one. Yes it was heavy and no you could not use it hand held for long periods or even a steady shot in low light (the mirror kick when taking a frame was comparable to the kickback of a 45 caliber pistol) But it was beautiful enough to always fire that love with medium format. When Canon made a mess out of its flag DSLR I spent all my hard earned money and jumped boat to Hasselblad and got a H1 which I still keep and probably will until the day i die because it lets me switch from digital to film just by changing the back.

Amazing ..... I had the great Mamiya RB67 over 20 years ago, built like a brick blockhouse, big bulky and reliable a great camera - shot countless book covers and stock shots with it. But above all being totally manual you slowed down when shooting and thought about each and every shot. Matt

Matt, I took a peek at your excellent work. Keep up the vision. Especially enjoyed the tight composition with those sheep framed by the foliage

Many thanks for that appreciated ........... much more at

I had one that I purchased in the 80s and it was nothing less than amazing. I eventually bought a Hasselblad 500 CM and gave my RB to my nephew who was a photography major in college in the mid 90s. I shot black and white TRI-X film as well as color. I've scanned some of my old negatives and they are amazing. A great camera.

RB 67 is a classic studio unit. A great alternative that is better in various ways (especially landscapes) is the Horseman 985 technical field camera. You get a 6x6, 6x7,or 6x9 neg via swappable backs. It is relatively light (compared to my 5DII & a lens), the lenses being very small gems that weigh very little (take 2-3 hiking!) It is compact in form when closed up like a clam. You get view camera movements (real landscape photography!) and ground glass, 45 degree prism, and/or a viewfinder/rangefinder that bright and quick to use hand-held. Very rugged Japanese-made, all metal with many accessories, no mirror slap or blackout, a fantastic camera in all respects for single-shot photography (you cock the shutters for each shot). No battery in camera, you use a hand held meter, which allows incident readings, the best for thoughtful work anyway.

I love mine very much!
bought mint in Japan with prism finder and 150mm, a killer combo!

I can't speak for the RB as I have the RZ, but I will say that one battery in my RZ has lasted 2 years now and that is with constantly forgetting to turn the knob over to battery saving mode! It is slightly lighter, but I actually use mine for nature photography and carry it around with me for hours on end, rarely using a tripod. With a good strap and backpack it doesn't pose too much of a problem. I recently acquired a Pentax 67 and I think that the Mamiya still wins out. The mirror slap feels smoother, I can shoot double exposures, change backs, and film loading is incredibly quick and easy. I primarily shoot medium format and can't get enough of it!

Same feeling here, I bought a pentax67 which I sold the next week to go back with a RB67SD system...

If you want to get a medium format camera nowadays they're all going for peanuts. :-)

The RB is a great camera. It's a heavy sucker tho, not that any medium format camera is a lightweight. When I was looking around for either a Mamiya RB or it's smaller 645 brother, I ran across what is apparently "the smallest and lightest 6x7 ever made", the Bronica GS-1. It too was going for peanuts and I decided to go for it instead. Turns out to be quite a good camera, and it is as small as these things are going to get. You can see it next to my Nikon D600 below. It also has a pentamirror eyepiece, a luxury for these cameras at the time, and handgrip with a release button.

The biggest problems I've had is scanning the film. Flatbeds are not really good for this job, inasmuch as that's what most people use nowadays, and the only available new 120 scanner is 'pre-focused", so it doesn't actually focus on the film plane, and it doesn't have a glass carrier to maintain focus across the live area of the film. Nikon Coolscan 9000s are the only game in town, and they are astronomically priced for their rareness today. I do wish a manufacturer would step up to the plate today and make a new scanner on par with the 9000.

So, here you can see how "tiny" the Bronica GS-1 is. :-) It actually is surprisingly small for a 6x7:

The Mamiya6 / Mamiya7 are much, much smaller and lighter than either the GS or the RB. And there are many other MF rangefinders that are similarly compact. One could also just pick up a Fuji GA645 AF camera.

You got that right except fixed lenses kill the deal. The RB is nearly the last best choice for most purposes in that format. Interesting here nobody seems to know the Horseman 985, it does everything, is light, a rangefinder etc WITH view camera movements. Because the lenses are super light and tiny, you can take a couple hiking, and I mean hiking uphill not strolling on the flats.

Mamiya 6/7 have interchangeable lenses and aren't a 'fixed' system. You might be surprised how the fixed normal lens on a Fuji GA or GSW looks and feels. The more I shoot with MF and LF, the more I like 'normal' focal lengths. For max IQ, I take my Wista 4x5 w/ full movements and huge image area. Haven't run into a Horseman 985, but I've got two 4x5's on the selling block now and may have to search eBay...

Thank you! I stand corrected. Yes the Mamiya rangefinder is absolutely gorgeous and very high precision, it's been a while and I am mixing the models in my mind. Thanks.

The 985 is a rangefinder, but can go 6x9 and you can look through an accessory prism eyepiece onto a ground glass to see the rise/fall and precisely frame. The lenses are very small & light jewels, because they have no focusing helical (it bellows focuses). So it's a compact folding steel box roll film view camera with a rangefinder. With three lenses, it's no heavier that my two lens 5DII setup.

The 4x5 is not a mountain hiker's tool as you would agree, it's all too large & heavy (lenses to holders) and a changing bag for film is too fussy in rough conditions.

Actually, I misquoted that quote I made. It should have read "the smallest and lightest 6x7 *SLR* ever made", which is true.

The Mamiya rangefinders are indeed smaller, lighter, and beautiful engineering works of art. It's no surprise they still command premium prices. The 6x7 SLRs, however, can be had for peanuts.

Lots of advantages to working with a reflex camera, I just love the lightweight and portability of my MF rangefinders and 'pro P&S'. I miss being able to do tighter/closer work like with an SLR, but can personally live with the tradeoff.

That Fuji GA seriously kills in IQ...I've got 11x14's scanned from an Epson 800 that are sharp and tonally smooth at the same time.

I also have a Fuji GS645, which is wonderful, but it's bellows has pinholes, an apparent shortcoming of these cameras.

Can cameras such as the fuji gs 645 and the mamiya rb 67 have their bellows repaired if they get holes in them? And how expensive is it to fix them?

I'm not sure how to get them repaired. I remembered reading about a fellow in New Jersey that repaired old bellows cameras, and thought to have him have a crack at the GS, but never followed through. I don't think Fuji has any more replacement parts, but one never knows, they made additional bellows cameras till about a few years back.

I bought mine about 35 years ago and still have it. I don't use it as much as I should, maybe two or three times a year. The other feature I like about it is the rotating back giving the ability to quickly switch between portrait and landscape mode.

Hasselblad for the win. Smaller. Lighter. More lenses. Faster shutter speeds. Much easier to take digital. The extra 1cm really isnt worth it IMO.

I have been using my RB67 for about 14 years and it is my go to camera when I want to maximize my creativity. I have a 65mm, 90mm, and 360mm lens. I am mainly a landscape and scenery photographer. I also have a Sinar F and a 1947 Speedgraphic pacemaker. I liked this article and hope that more and more serious photographers will start to blend the best of both the analog and digital worlds

I'm very fond of my RB 67.

But .... as a starter in medium-format I do think that the C220 or C330 are better bets. They are cheaper as bodies and the lenses are also cheaper.

There is something special about 6x7 (and larger). I find that I can simply look through the waist level finder and find myself enamored with the image there. It isn't that I can visualize what I want really well from the viewfinder, but what I see in the viewfinder is exactly what I want! It is kind of magical. If I want to capture this, my only real option is to shoot film. Now, when they make an affordable sensor that actually covers 6x7 it will be different, but until then...

A great article. I bought the Pro-SD model, and love it. While, like you, I prefer the ease of digital, I want to get back to my RB 67 for the reasons you state, and because the overall picture quality is amazing. Sure, film is more work in terms of the overall process, but there is something about shooting film that is seductive. Great for long exposures, soft bokeh, and shallow depth of field. Thanks for sharing this article.

I have a mamiya m645 1000s and 13 lenses and i like this camera more than my d750, lenses on the d750 are expensive and i will have to get a new body to shoot infrared on my mamiya m645 1000s i just buy rollei 400 infrared film and photos turn out fantastic. Next camera i will get will be a mamiya rb 67 and turn negatives into a digital disc. Even better. My teacher steve dzergian at fresno city college tought me to slow down is better and you can think and make better photos. Hey i love analogue and for the price of two or three digital lenses and the camera i can have almost all the lenses and the body in analogue. My exposures are usually right on so who can argue with that.

I’ve had an RB67 for 38 years. Still works like a champ. It weighs 5.133 pounds with a 127 lens. I’ve done photo shoots along with a Sunpak 611 flash multiple times. The weight was not an issue at all. By comparison I also have a Bronica SQ-A with prism finder and hand grip it weighs in at 4.12 pounds, and my Mamiya 330 Pro S at 3.13 pounds. The only thing annoying about the RB and the Bronica is the noise especially if your in a church. The 330 you don’t even know it went off.
Digital photography to me is way too new when you use a printer to see if they can the test of time. I highly doubt that they can stand the test of time to fiber selenium toned print. Ansel Adams prints are still beautiful to this day.
I’ll stick with my film over digital hands down. Besides where is the fun to shoot when your camera does everything for you but press the shutter

Failed to mention that I have 5 lenses up to a 360mm along with a Zone Vl wood tripod for my RB.. It weighs 16 pounds. I still can pack them around and I’m 72 years old. One other camera I have is a Kodak Tourist folding camera shoots a 6x9 negative. A absolute blast to shoot with a rangefinder to focus and tell you the distance in feet to set your lens. Drawback it uses 620 film and costs an arm and a leg. Also still use a darkroom.

Some of the most iconic portraits of the 20th and early 21st century were photographed using Mamiya RZ and RB cameras.