Mamiya Press

Medium format rangefinders are a marvellous thing. If you’ve ever shot a quality 35mm rangefinder you are probably familiar with the smooth fast focus, the whisper quiet shutter and the excellent optics. Put all these things together and add the ability to use medium format film and you have a recipe for some seriously detailed images.

Mamiya Press 23 Standard

The Mamiya Press camera made it’s debut in 1960 and in the following years several variants preceeded it. The most popular being the Super 23 which incorporated bright frame lines in the finder and a tilt and swing bellows style back.

The Mamiya press is in essence a simple camera design that features interchangeable backs and lenses. The Standard lacked the tilt/swing back but as a simple well featured press camera proved itself in the field. Several accessories and backs were produced incl, 6×7 and 6×9 as well as a combination 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×9 back. Polaroid pack film backs were also available for the Press Universal model. Several other backs including focussing screen backs and cut film holders were also produced.

This camera is a bit of a beast to use hand held, fortunately it comes with a side mount trigger release handle. This greatly improves it’s useability. I prefer to shoot this camera tripod mounted for landscape work. the 6×9 negatives I get are packed full of detail, the Mamiya Sekor lenses are superb quality and really let this camera shine.

Foggy park

As the backs are removeable you’ll notice they require a darkslide, I keep mine in at all times until i’m ready to shoot. The light seals around the darkslide can become worn from use and I recommend maintenance yearly.

If you use the Press with the focussing screen back it behaves as a view camera and allows you to use any focal length lens without having to worry about frame lines and accessory finders. Beware though that using the camera like this will significantly slow you down so do this only if you are prepared to take the time to do it right. for street shooting and journalistic style shooting I recommend using the excellent range/viewfinder. It’s big and bright and has snap fast focussing in normal light conditions.

Rangedinders can become mis-aligned and I always recommend a calibration periodically to keep them in ship shape.

Reflective stream

Lenses from 50mm to 250mm were produced while the popular ones were generally 65mm f/6.3, 90mm f/3.5 and 150mm f/5.6. The lens design features leaf shutters which sync at any speed with flash via the pc sync port. as with large format lenses they feature a shutter cocking lever and a shutter lock pin for long exposures or for compsing on the focussing screen. the 3 lenses that I have been using (mentioned above) are well laid out and easy to use. each one has a threaded shutter release port for the handle release to screw into.

Despite it’s size I actually really enjoy handheld shooting with the Mamiya Press, it looks great and carries plenty of street cred. I have been approached numerous times by people asking about it. That said it can become tiresome and it’s best placed on a sturdy tripod. If you are on a budget and have a medium format rangefinder hole to fill I thoroughly recommend this fantastic system camera.

2 thoughts on “Mamiya Press

  1. Emanuele Nicoli

    Dear Sir,
    I read your review and I find it so interesting above lenses, backs, camera and….your description of the rangefinder that’s very big. It’s important to know for me, because I search a medium format camera and (although Mamiya 23 doesn’t have TTL metering) it offers the opportunity to shot with 3 formats and with 50 mm super wide angle for 6 x 9 format !!! I think that this camera could be really the right camera for me! I’m a photo amateur and I study photography self taught. I would to become a photographer. I love traditional film photography and I’m sure that’s better than digital (because the true color or black and white are correctly reproduced by film and not by digital, however digital introduced news in photography like the sensivity beyond 12.800 ISO and some semplifications in use, but I’m persuaded that if you want to learn photography you must study books and shot with film, because that’s the question I ask to myself: If I am able to shot with digital, am I able to do it with film?). One of my masters was (You surely know) John Hedgecoe (R.I.P.) from whom I learnt much of photography. Write me at my e-mail adress telling your opinion about my sense of photography and about other particularities about Mamiya 23 Standard. I would be glad to receive your comments.

    Yours Sincerley

    Emanuele Nicoli

  2. Dan Idoine

    I bought a standard 23 with 90mm lens recently and really enjoyed using it. Slide film looks great, the lens is sharp and the size and look makes you really stand out in a crowd. I used mine hand held but would use a monopod if I were going to hold it for more than a few minutes at a time. My copy isn’t in entirely perfect condition: the shutter speed works fine but when I trip the shutter, the mechanism may stick. Also the light seals might need replacing. The camera still take good pictures (I put some on my blog) but is not as portable as my Mamiya Super. Do you know anybody who is up to such repairs? If not, do you know anyone who would want this camera?


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