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Two Years with the Mamiya RB67 Pro-S: A Photographic Journey & Reflection

It's been over a couple of years since the Mamiya RB67 Pro-S joined my collection of photographic equipment. In the time since I've captured memories and moments across 65 rolls of film with this steadfast companion. The Mamiya RB67 Pro-S has certainly established itself as one of my go-to cameras for serious photography work.


For those not familiar, the Mamiya RB67 Pro-S is an iconic mainstay within medium format photography, praised for its sturdy construction and superior image quality. As an upgrade to its predecessor, the Pro-S version introduced enhancements that cemented its popularity with both seasoned and amateur photographers. One of its notable features is the rotating back system, which facilitates easy switching between horizontal and vertical shots. This, coupled with an array of exquisite lenses, renowned for their clarity and distinctiveness, ensures the RB67 Pro-S continues to be a reliable option for anyone yearning for the incomparable depth and texture that film provides. Its versatility makes it perfect for a myriad of photographic genres, from studio sessions to sweeping landscapes and intimate portraits.



I imported my own Pro-S from Japan through eBay back in August 2021, investing roughly AUD$1,200, which included a Mamiya Sekor 90mm f3.8 lens. Upon its arrival, I encountered a bit of drama — the shutter speed was stuck. Thankfully, the seller exemplified typical Japanese integrity and assistance by providing a partial refund to cover the costs of a shutter service. It’s always a relief when honesty prevails in such transactions.


The Mamiya RB67 Pro-S, when paired with its lens, tips the scales at a hefty 3.5kg, not unlike a sturdy tank in its weight. Although it comes equipped with strap hooks, slinging it around your neck is scarcely an option due to its bulk. Instead, I find it best to carry it in my hands, feeling the weight and solidity as an extension of the creative process.


C: Ashley Pomeroy
C: Ashley Pomeroy

My preference for the RB67 over its sibling, the Mamiya RZ67, stems from its wholly mechanical operation. The RB67's shutter functions without the need for batteries, which inherently reduces the risk of mechanical failure — a significant advantage over the electronically controlled shutter of the RZ67. The mechanical nature of the RB67 not only lowers the chances of malfunction but also simplifies repairs. Finding replacement parts is less of a hassle and typically more affordable. Additionally, and perhaps most critically from a practical standpoint, the RB67 comes with a smaller price tag than the RZ67, offering considerable savings without compromising performance.


My kit includes only the 90mm f3.8 lens, and I've found it to be wonderfully versatile, adeptly serving all my photographic requirements. This lens has been my trusty companion for a multitude of portrait sessions, delivering superior optical performance time and again. Below is a portrait that represents one of my initial forays into capturing the visages of strangers. It was taken in the midst of the pandemic, a time when every shot taken felt all the more significant.


Mamiya RB67 Pro-S, 90mm f3.8, Kodak Portra 400, October 2021
Mamiya RB67 Pro-S, 90mm f3.8, Kodak Portra 400, October 2021

This portrait remains one of my all-time favourites. The crimson hue of her shirt melds effortlessly with the cerulean sky and verdant backdrop. I distinctly recall thinking, as I captured the shot, "This one's going to be special." Her subtle smile, bathed in sunlight, paired with those captivating eyes, adds a touch of magic to the composition.


Mamiya RB67 Pro-S, 90mm f3.8, Kodak Ektar 100, October 2021
Mamiya RB67 Pro-S, 90mm f3.8, Kodak Ektar 100, October 2021

Here's another cherished shot of mine. I approached the lady and humbly asked if I might capture a moment between her and her one-month-old baby. Graciously, she consented. I suggested a tender kiss on the baby's cheek. As I pressed the shutter, a serene moment unfurled. The mother's hair fluttered gracefully in the breeze, illuminated by the sun, crafting this enchanting portrait.


I believe these two portraits ignited my passion for shooting portraits. I'm drawn to capturing the genuine essence of humanity, a realm in which I feel I have a distinct flair.


Mamiya RB67 Pro-S, 90mm f3.8, Fujifilm Superia 100, October 2021 [Expired 2010, shot at ISO 50]
Mamiya RB67 Pro-S, 90mm f3.8, Fujifilm Superia 100, October 2021 [Expired 2010, shot at ISO 50]

I've put the Mamiya RB67 Pro-S through its paces, photographing a diverse array of subjects - from the spontaneous portraits of passersby to the poised stances of friends and models, and occasionally, the candid charm of animals. My kit includes just one lens, yet its capabilities astonish me every time; the results are always razor-sharp with a beautiful depth of field. The camera's construction is solid, designed to endure, though I've learnt to handle the bellows focus system with respect. It's a delicate part of the camera that I've seen suffer in others, leading to unwanted light leaks. A word to the wise: keep your fingers clear when adjusting the focus - I've had mine caught in the bellows before, and I assure you, it's an excruciating lesson to learn.


Mamiya RB67 Pro-S, 90mm f3.8, Kodak Portra 400, September 2021
Mamiya RB67 Pro-S, 90mm f3.8, Kodak Portra 400, September 2021

While the Mamiya RB67 has been a reliable companion, it's not without its quirks that can be mildly frustrating. For instance, its top shutter speed caps at 1/400, which can be a nuisance when shooting in bright sunlight and I'm aiming for a deeper depth of field. I often default to 1/250, as many modern light meters don't accommodate the 1/400 setting – although, truth be told, the practical difference between 1/400 and the next full stop of 1/500 is minimal. Nevertheless, it's one of those small gripes you learn to work around with creative solutions and a bit of patience.


Mamiya RB67 Pro-S, 90mm f3.8, Ilford XP2 400 Super, March 2023
Mamiya RB67 Pro-S, 90mm f3.8, Ilford XP2 400 Super, March 2023

The Mamiya RB67 presents a particularly versatile feature that allows photographers to switch film backs. This means one has the flexibility to explore different formats, from 6x4.5, 6x8, to even Polaroid options, or swap film stocks mid-roll for varied artistic effects. On paper, this sounds quite sophisticated, right? However, despite owning an additional film back, I've rarely found the need to exploit this functionality. The spare back, a bargain find from a store closing sale, remains unused due to its unresolved light leak issue, and truthfully, I don't feel the pinch. I prefer the simplicity of shooting through my 10 exposures before reloading – a straightforward and no-fuss approach. Still, the potential for creative flexibility is there, and it's a feature that might appeal greatly to other photographers.



I utilise a waist-level finder with my Mamiya RB67, a characteristic viewing component on many medium format cameras. The waist-level finder provides a reflective screen where the image is projected, enabling me to frame shots from a lower vantage point. This method can be quite beneficial for added camera stability and unobtrusive shooting. On the flip side, many 35mm SLRs are equipped with an eye-level finder, which offers a more naturalistic way of composing images, in line with the photographer’s direct line of sight—ideal for fast-moving subjects.


The RB67 series caters to diverse preferences, offering the flexibility to switch between waist-level and eye-level finders. It's a matter of personal choice, each with its distinct advantages. However, it's worth noting that the RB67 is traditionally a manual camera that doesn't feature an in-built light meter or support an AE (Auto Exposure) prism finder, so photographers need to meter light externally or have expertise in gauging exposure by eye.

Mamiya RB67 Pro-S, 90mm f3.8, CineStill 50D, September 2022
Mamiya RB67 Pro-S, 90mm f3.8, CineStill 50D, September 2022

The waist level finder on the Mamiya RB67, while not possessing the luminous intensity of Hasselblad's offerings, is crafted with exceptional precision. It is equipped with a magnifying loupe to aid in achieving critical focus, a feature that proves invaluable when fine-tuning the composition of a shot. What's more, it seamlessly synchronizes with the camera's rotating film back; when you switch to horizontal mode, two unmissable red lines emerge within the viewfinder. These lines delineate the exposure area, guiding you with clear visual cues on framing your subject. This thoughtful integration of design and functionality not only streamlines the shooting process but also enhances the overall photographic experience.

Mamiya RB67 Pro-S, 90mm f3.8, Kodak Portra 400, December 2021
Mamiya RB67 Pro-S, 90mm f3.8, Kodak Portra 400, December 2021

Carrying the Mamiya RB67 Pro-S for an outdoor shoot often feels akin to an impromptu arm workout, a true test of one's dedication to the craft – a bit of humour I often indulge in. In all seriousness, it may not be the quintessential choice for spontaneous street photography, not even for myself. Unless the project calls for its particular capabilities, I tend to opt for lighter alternatives, such as a nimble 35mm or perhaps the Mamiya 645 – a medium format camera that's more compact, offers a different aspect ratio, and yields 15 exposures per roll. The RB67, though, never fails to pique curiosity; its commanding presence garners inquisitive stares and a frequent, "What camera is that?" from passersby. However, the decision to lug this hefty beast along the streets is always a matter of considerable deliberation due to its substantial heft. After all, you don't wanna drop this camera on the floor.


Mamiya RB67 Pro-S, 90mm f3.8, Ilford HP5+ 400, May 2023
Mamiya RB67 Pro-S, 90mm f3.8, Ilford HP5+ 400, May 2023

Reflecting on the value of the Mamiya RB67 Pro-S, I can affirmatively say it's worth every penny. Admittedly, the current average market price seems to have dipped slightly since my purchase – a touch of bad luck, but that's the way the cookie crumbles. However, this doesn't eclipse the remarkable images I've captured with it. Over the past couple of years, my collection of cameras has fluctuated as I've bought and sold various models, but the RB67 remains a constant in my arsenal. Despite its age and occasional temperamental quirks – like the rare instance when the shutter falters, leading to a blank exposure – its appeal is undiminished. After half a century, one must make allowances for a bit of old-fashioned unpredictability. Yet, it's this very character, coupled with the camera's mechanical resilience and the exceptional images it produces, that cements its place as one of my most treasured photographic tools.


As I draw this post to a close, I'm delighted to share a collection of street shots captured with this formidable beast of a camera. Despite the earlier grumbles about its hefty presence on a street photography jaunt, I must confess there's a certain thrill in navigating the urban landscape with this camera in hand. The RB67 may be bulky, but it's a labour of love. The heft and the hassle fade away the moment I peer through the viewfinder and the world around me falls into that meticulously detailed frame. It's this enduring joy in capturing life's spontaneous moments with such a precise instrument that makes any extra effort utterly worthwhile.



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