In this video we’re going to take a look at something BIG! This is the Mamiya 23 Standard medium format rangefinder camera. These were made in the 1960s and geared towards press use. Lenses are interchangeable and connect to the camera via a breech lock type mount.
These range from a 50mm f/6.3 to a 250mm f/5. Nine has a 90mm f/3.5, which is the kit lens for this model. Shutter speed is selected with a dial on the front, ranging from 1 second to 1/500 of a second.
The shutter is manually cocked with this lever. Aperture goes from f/3.5 down to f/45, and is adjusted with this tiny little tab. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass to use requiring an uncomfortable amount of force on the wide end.
I will chalk this up to a greasy aperture. Note – not all of the lenses for this camera use this type of design. This model doesn’t have any rangefinder frame lines, just a piece that slides out giving you a mask for the 150mm lens.
The eyepiece can also be adjusted for parallax. I don’t have a lot of experience with rangefinders but i think they’re pretty self-explanatory. Being a modular system, different backs can be used for different frame sizes and formats.
I have the 6×7 back, but 6×9 backs as well as ground glass viewfinders that accept two inch by three inch sheet film are also available – and that’s why it’s called the Mamiya 23. Unfortunately i’m missing the dark slide on mine so that prevents me from changing lenses or film backs while there is film loaded, as doing so would expose and ruin the current frame.
The trigger is attached to the shutter release like this when the camera is not in use or when you’re changing lenses it can be detached and held in this little space here. Let’s load a fresh roll.
.. Before doing so make sure the knob is lined up with a little triangle. Pull these tabs out to pop the cover open. Take the core off the one end and move it to the take-up. Drop the new roll in, pull it across, slip the end of the paper into the new core, and begin winding.
Stop when the arrow on the paper lines up with the triangle. Close it up and keep winding until it stops at the first frame. Now it’s ready to go. OK, enough of that, let’s take it to the streets.
It’s a cool, quiet, somewhat sunny sunday morning, and it’s probably my last chance to take this thing out for a spin before the weather goes to complete shit. I did go yesterday when it was really really nice out and took a couple pictures.
Let’s take a couple more before the snow comes back. To shoot with this 60 year old camera, I brought a light meter of a similar vintage. So, what do I think about it? This is a completely manual camera, so you have to focus.
.. and not just the lens, but focus on the process itself. You’ll get the best results when you’re methodical with its use. Documenting myself while using the camera was kind of distracting and I didn’t get as many good shots as I wanted to, including a double exposure, oops! That said, I’m looking forward to experimenting with double exposures on this camera as it’s so easy to do.
It seems that the loading mechanism on my back is overwinding and leaving a pretty big gap between the frames. I was only able to get the full 10 exposures on one of the four rolls that I shot.
I’m planning on picking up the 6X9 back, and that should resolve that issue. lthough it’s rather large it’s actually quite balanced and relatively easy to lug around. If you’re ever going to need to use both hands you’re going to have to either hang this bad boy around your neck or find somewhere to put it down.
I found myself resting it upside down as I didn’t want to accidentally damage the shutter cable. In conclusion: if you want to get into a camera system that has a decent range of lenses, can shoot a 6×9 frame, and is considerably cheaper than the medium format SLRs that can do the same – give one of these a shot.
A word of warning though; you’ll find yourself wanting to wear a trench coat and a fedora with a card that says press sticking out of it. Thanks for watching, if you enjoyed this video I implore you to hit subscribe.
I try to get new videos up every Thursday, so hopefully I will see you then. Now, this is a one-way medium, so I guess hopefully you’ll see me then.