I’m pleased with my recently purchased Mamiya-6 Folder. I’m beginning to understand its little quirks and it’s starting to do a reasonable job for me. Here are my early impressions…

Mamiya-6 folder
Mamiya-6 Folder, side view – iphone image.

I have long wanted a medium format folder, particularly a 6 by 6, and have been looking at several options for about a year. There is something quite beautiful about a vintage camera, especially a folder. Perhaps my feelings were shaped long ago when I was a five year old kid in the backstreets of Rio de Janeiro in the 1950s, watching my Dad take pictures with his 35mm Contessa folder.

Many 6 by 6 types were made but my ‘short-list’ narrowed down the range to: Agfa Super Isolette, Zeiss Super Ikonta, Certo6, Voigtländer Perkeo, Voigtlander Bessa and Zeiss Nettar. In truth, I would probably have been happy with any of these.

The risks attaching to buying a 50 year old camera are obvious. What really mattered to me was the camera’s condition, although one with a rangefinder was a bonus for me. Hence the long wait, as there are many folders out there in terrible condition. I realised though that any very old camera would need some rehabilitation, and this proved to be the case. When it arrived the shutter was sticky and the rangefinder need adjusting – both issues were simply resolved by my local camera repair shop.

The Mamiya-6 Automat is 6 by 6 format, a rangefinder and has an excellent lens (Zuiko f3.5, 75mm). This particular one had a leather carrying case that was in good condition, a clear lens and light-proof bellows. It came in its original box with a filter and a light shield. The carrying case is important as there is no ready means of attaching a strap to the camera without one.

Mamiya-6 Folder, front view – iphone image.

Here are my early impressions of the Mamiya-6 Folder camera. A few things that I particularly like:

  • Inside the body there is a removable plate that keeps the film flat in its plane. A great touch!
  • Loading a new film is very easy and fuss-free.
  • The focus is operated by a thumb-wheel which comes easily to the right thumb when the camera is lifted to the eye. Lovely and fast! No fiddling with a ring on the lens body.
Mamiya-6 Folder, showing focus wheel.

Some quirks:

  • Like any folder with bellows, the lens adjustments for shutter speed and aperture are fiddly – and impossible with winter gloves on. Not a major issue though.
  • The lens adjustments have to be gauged by eye against the number marks on the lens – shutter and aperture stops do not ‘click in’, as in modern lenses.
Mamiya-6 Folder, top view – iphone image.

One of the nicest things about the camera is its compactness and weather-proofness in its folded state. This means that more often than not, this camera is with me wherever I go.

Mamiya-6 Folder, folded view – iphone image.

Finally, it doesn’t take a bad picture:

Thurstaston Heath, Mamiya-6; HP5
HP5 120; Mamiya-6

Conclusion: I hardly leave home without it!

5 thoughts on “Early Impressions of the Mamiya-6 Folder

  1. I have shot a Mamiya Six automat for about 20 years. If I could only own one camera, it would be between it and the Mamiya 7, what a tough decision that would be… The negs are just right for enlarging onto paper to make interim paper negatives… keep shooting!!!

    1. Not really. I would need to examine it. Focus is by the back plate so presumably some faulty mechanism between ficus wheel and backplate. Do you have a camera repair shop near you? Probably a simple adjustment

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