Considered a “professional’s” camera, the Mamiya RB67 is a bellow-focusing, leaf shuttered, single lens-reflex, all mechanical, fire-breathing, mostly meterless design that exposes film in removable backs in three different medium formats–6×4.5, 6×7, 6×8. It also exposes pack instant film (Fuji FP-100c, FP-100b, FP-3000b). The camera system was first introduced in 1970 and with some minor improvements is still being sold today. It truly constitutes a system, with many different lenses, finders, focusing screens, film backs, grips, motor drives, etc.
While they sold new for thousands of dollars, a complete and well-maintained RB67 Pro-SD can be had for less than $400. Some may argue that the dated system cannot compare with modern DSLR, but its merits have remained exactly the same for its entire life. Rather than focus on the merits, I’m just going to assume you are already interested in medium format film and I am going to focus on the details of the system, the different generations and what lenses and accessories are available.
What constitutes a complete camera?
- A body
- A revolving adapter, usually still attached to the body, but you need to be sure, these almost never come attached to the film back
- A film back
- A screen and a finder, waist-level are the most common
- A lens
The operation of the camera is bit more involved than 35mm mechanical SLRs and it can take some practice getting comfortable. I’ve collected some tips on using the camera. Some noteworthy differences
- Bellow focusing: Rather than the internal, helical focusing on 35mm cameras, the RB67 moves the whole lens to adjust focus. Pro: you can focus most lenses pretty close. Con: you have to keep track of bellows factor adjustments by hand (using the mechanical calculator on the side of the camera.)
- Lens leaf shutters: Rather than a focal plane shutter, the shutters are actually in the lens itself. One advantage is that the camera can flash sync at all shutter speeds.
- Shutter cocking and film advance: After taking a picture you have to recock the shutter and mirror and advance the film.
- Waist level finder: If using this finder, which is the most common, everything is reversed left to right in the finder. If you move the camera to the left, the apparent motion in the finder is to the right. One trick is to lift your gaze out towards your subject, adjust the camera position, then look down into the view finder.
- I have written a page describing instant film (FujiFilm, now that Polaroid is no longer making pack film) and the RB67.
Having light leak problems? There are numerous foam pieces and bits that help seal parts of the camera. These foam seals wear down with age. For instance, every single Pro and Pro-S back I’ve bought needed to be stripped and re-sealed because the foam lost all of its resiliency and, in some cases, was completely worn away. I have had excellent service (and reasonably quick shipping) from here; pre-cut replacement foam