Getting to grips with the Mamiya RB67 Pro SD

I’m so familiar with my Canon DSLR but I’m starting to adore this new camera – the Mamiya RB67 Pro SD. Getting to grips with the workings of a new camera is always tricky and this camera was without exception.

First off, this medium format camera is just plain big and really heavy (way heavier than any other camera I have used) …

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… and as the name suggests, the camera’s film back rotates (hence the RB). My initial experimental shoots were in landscape orientation but for portrait orientation you leave the camera on the tripod and spin the film back – how easy is that? Secondly this camera is about as manual as they come as it is 100% mechanical and you have to set everything…and I mean everything! As I am from the ‘digital generation’ this camera really made me think about how to set the shutter speed, aperture and distance settings. So I quickly learnt that the basic procedure for taking a photograph with the Mamiya RB67 is to remove the dark slide from the back of the camera and then:

  1. Get a light reading of your subject by using the correct reflective or incident metering reading.
  2. Adjust the camera to the correct distance, aperture and shutter speed.
  3. Make sure that the shutter is cocked and press the shutter release button.
  4. Recock the shutter using the lever and advance the film to the next frame. For double exposures, don’t do this until the second exposure has been taken.

Sometimes the only way to get to grips with a new camera is to use it and make mistakes along the way – and I made a few… On more than one occasion I forgot to remove the dark slide from the back of the camera and wondered why the shutter button didn’t work. I also got carried away with taking an image and forgot to take a light meter reading between shots thus using a previous shot’s setting. However, the biggest mistake I made was in my first ‘double exposure’ shoot. I had read articles on the internet and e-journals about taking double exposure shots using film and was aware that shooting double exposures will expose the same frame twice and therefore the negative exposure compensation must be used to avoid overexposing the film. For a negative to be properly exposed, the individual exposures for the individual images must be decreased for each image that is made i.e. for a negative that will have two images, the exposure for each must be half of the normal value meaning each image must be decreased by one stop. So what did I do? I had a blonde moment and only decreased the f-stop by setting the aperture to a lower number (i.e. f/11 ‘stopped down’ to f/8) but this just increased it by one stop and so imagine my surprise in the darkroom to see that my film was overexposed! To decrease the exposure by one stop meant setting the aperture to the next higher number (i.e. f/11 stopped down to f/16). Duh!!!!

To ensure the settings were correct next time I created a ‘double exposure’ shoot template in MS Word and wrote everything down…

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I’ve done 5 ‘double exposure’ shoots this weekend (thanks cousins and friends!) and can’t wait to see the results – after I get to grips with the C-41 colour developing machine.

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Mamiya RB67 Pro SD on location

By the way, I absolutely love the sound of the shutter going off on this camera and have definitely found a new love of my life!!!


  • FOHL, M.,2004. Multiple Exposure Before Digital. PSA Journal [online] 70(12) p20-21 [viewed 18 February 2015]. Available from: Art Source, EBSCOhost
  • MAMIYA LEAF, n.d.. Mamiya RB67 PRO SD Instructions [online] [viewed 21 February 2015]. Available from: http://www.mamiyaleaf.com/assets/files/documentation/RB67_Pro_SD_v7.pdf
  • PIROS, W., 1997. Multiple Exposure. PSA Journal [online] 63(12), p34-38 [viewed 18 February 2015]. Available from: Art Source, EBSCOhost
  • RICHES, H., 2009. Second-Long Fictions. Afterimage [online], 36(4), p29-30, 29-30 [viewed 18 February 2015]. Available from: Art Source, EBSCOhost
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