We Review the Mamiya RZ67: Medium Format, Modularity, and Fantastic Sharpness
Coming in at nearly five times larger than a full frame sensor, the RZ has resolution for days and can produce tack-sharp images, making it great for landscape work.
The Mamiya RZ67 is the younger brother of the Mamiya RB67, and though it is very similar in style, it boasts some impressive updates and improved lenses while maintaining the sharpness associated with the lineup and the huge negatives of 6×7 systems. Compared with the RB, which made its debut in 1970, the first version of the RZ debuted in 1982 and saw two updates — each one coming 11 years after the other. The second version of the RZ, known as the RZ67 Pro-II, was released in 1993, and the third version, the RZ67 Pro-IID, was released in 2004. The “RB” part of the RB67 stands for “Rotating Back” and the RZ is also capable of rotating the back to allow for changing from landscape orientation to portrait orientation without having to do anything but rotate the back.
I picked up the RZ67 in 2020 when the only 6×7 back on my RB started giving me trouble with pretty regular light leaks (though now I believe this was actually due to a mistake with the lab processing it, but that’s neither here nor there at this point) and the cost of a back for the RB was actually higher than a back for the RZ. This issue was only compounded by the fact that lenses, waist-level finders, and other accessories for the RB system are generally harder to come by and more expensive when you can find them. So, at the time that I started looking for a replacement back, I decided to just make the switch to the RZ system. In all honesty, I figured that one day I would want to make the switch anyhow since I could build out my RB kit and still make use of it on an RZ, while the converse is not true.
Already owning and loving a Mamiya RB67 and a Mamiya 645 Pro TL, the RZ67 feels like the perfect blend of these two cameras. It has the style, updated functionality, and format of the RB67 while boasting an exterior aesthetic as the 645 Pro-TL. It’s a little lighter than the RB67, and while it may be just as durable, it doesn’t give off quite the same level of confidence in its build quality. In an improvement in design, the film back does not utilize light seals, meaning that it is not susceptible to the same sort of issues that the RB67 (Pro and Pro-S models) had, although the RB67 Pro-SD had a similar design for the backs.
The Mamiya RB67 had so many accessories offered, but the RZ67 puts it to shame in a few ways. Most notably, the RZ has a tilt-shift adapter to make for some interesting portrait sessions akin to the capabilities of a large-format camera. With that said, however, there were only a couple of lenses made for use with the tilt-shift adapter specifically, while some other lenses could still be used for relatively close focusing, but I’m not sure what would happen in the way of vignetting. Though I don’t have the AE prism yet, it’s on my list to possibly pick up when I find one at a decent price, which would allow for shooting in aperture priority.
All lenses for the Mamiya RZ67 are fantastic. Plain and simple. They are sharp as a tack and quite contrasty. So far, my collection has only included the 65mm f/4 and the legendary 110mm f/2.8. Both lenses are quite lovely and are capable of making fantastic images. In addition, with the RZ, you are free to use RB lenses too, which is possibly the best part of shooting the RZ. As such, I can still use my 90mm f/3.8 C and 180mm f/4.5 K/L lenses on my RZ without a hitch.
What I Like
Slightly smaller and lighter than RB Updated lenses over most of the RB lenses (sans a few K/L lenses) Many of the lenses are considerably cheaper than their RB counterparts Accessories are more common and generally less expensive than the same accessories for the RB Increased functionality over the RB 6×7 format — easily my favorite of medium format Bellows focusing method
What I Don’t Like
Price: it’s considerably more expensive than the RB and costs a lot overall Not all mechanical (electronic leaf shutters) They have a habit of being troublesome in extreme conditions (mine has seized up on two separate occasions now when hiking in temperatures well below freezing)
Mamiya RZ67 Versus RB67
As you may have noticed, it is difficult to talk about the RZ without mentioning its sibling, the RB. Why? They are both made by the same manufacturer, had more than a decade of overlap in their production dates, and are built in a very similar style. Still, though, there are pros and cons for each of the two cameras that make it difficult to suggest one over the other for everyone. Not to be redundant with the above lists, but the RZ is substantially more expensive than the RB and without much to explain why. True, the RZ generally has better lenses, and oftentimes, it’s cheaper, and it even has the 110mm f/2.8. I rarely use the 110mm wide open because of the maximum shutter speed, so it doesn’t often matter how tastefully shallow the depth of field is. As such, for the added cost, which I would say is at least double that of the RB, do better and generally lesser expensive lenses make the added cost worth it? That, I cannot answer for you. Personally, I’m not entirely convinced that the RZ system is reliable enough to warrant even building up a kit of lenses, and given that I can’t use them on the RB, I think that if I were to invest anything more into either the RB or RZ systems, it would be a Pro-SD back for my RB67. If you’re in a position to be easily able to afford the additional upfront cost of the RZ67, I would say that it’s great. If that doesn’t describe you, though, I would highly suggest the RB67.
What about you? Have you used the Mamiya RZ67 before? If so, what were your thoughts? If you’ve also shot with the RB67, how do you think they compare?