Analog photography, here we come

A portrait of the abbey’s new Mamiya RB67 single lens reflex camera.Click here for high resolution version

Sentimental as some of us may be about older, high-quality professional cameras, analog photography is not obsolete.

There’s no longer a camera shop in every town. But good film is still made by companies like Kodak and Ilford. To get the film developed, one mails it off to places like Though one can of course make prints from the film, most people have the negatives scanned and then use a digital workflow from that point on. That’s what I plan to do.

Having worked for newspapers all my life, I’ve long been around excellent photographers and good cameras. Taking pictures was never one of my responsibilities, but many times, when on an assignment that was too far away or too unimportant to send a photographer, I took my own pictures and did a pretty good job of it, if I may say so myself. One of the most remarkable cameras I ever used was a Mamiya C330. It is a twin lens camera, somewhat older than the RB67. Unlike the C330, the RB67 is a single-lens reflex camera with a mirror that flaps when the shutter fires. I could easily have bought a C330 on eBay, but the RB67 was the natural next step up. When the RB67 was new (Mamiya made them from the mid-1970s until 1990), they cost a fortune. They were a workhorse camera as studio cameras. There’s a good chance that your old school portraits were taken with a Mamiya RB67. They are totally affordable now on eBay. They’re completely mechanical and don’t even use batteries.

For a long time, I’ve been tempted to buy a classic analog camera. I fell over the edge after a friend posted some beautiful old portraits on Facebook of some European relatives. The portraits appeared to have been shot in the early to mid-1960s. The lighting was elegant, even glamorous. That kind of work can be done only with film, by someone who knows how to set up the lighting.

The Mamiya RB67 is a “medium format” camera. That means it uses 120 or 220 film. Each negative is 60mm x 70mm. A negative of that size contains far more information than a 35mm negative, which is only 24mm x 35mm. Not only that, but the tonal range that film can capture is wider than the tonal range that digital cameras can generally achieve.

The camera is huge. It weighs 5.5 pounds. Because of the size and the un-automatic nature of the camera, it’s not exactly easy to use it as a handheld camera, or for shooting any kind of action. Rather, it’s a camera that belongs on a tripod, either in the studio or in the field. It takes time to measure the light, set the exposure, focus, and shoot. It’s more a landscape and portrait camera. The only medium format camera that might be considered a step up from the Mamiya RB67 would be a Hasselblad. I have never seriously used a Hasselblad and can’t compare.

I’ll shoot the first roll of film this week. It probably will be at least a couple of weeks before I can post photos here, since the film will be mailed to California for processing.

One thought on “Analog photography, here we come”

  1. Anticipate seeing photos shot with your new camera. Judging by pictures posted in the past, I would say you have well above average photography skills.

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