Makina Plaubel 67
Before you start reading, this is what I’m writing about:
You don’t need a fantastic Leica to make beautiful pictures. You can make great pictures with a Canonnet. So why would I use one camera rather than another one? It is mainly a question of ergonomics, mood, light, taste, passion. Do I need a rangefinder because the light is low, or do I prefer to hide my face in a Hasselblad when taking pictures of a naked woman? Do I want to hear « click », « shloup » or « clock » when I take the picture – important dilemma’s as you can tell.
When it comes to ergonomics Mamiya 7II is the camera I prefer. I won’t enter into details.
But then I came across a Makina Plaubel 67, recently revised by Plaubel and in beautiful condition. I have wanted one for years. But they are rare in good condition and they are expensive too.
So, the one main advantage of this camera is that is is collapsible. Once collapsed it is very compact. You can travel the 7 sees with only this camera (and a lot of film). The second important advantage is that it feels nice and heavy. This is a solidly built camera. The third advantage is that it is beautiful. It is a very particular camera.
The aperture f2,8 is not an advantage. The Mamiya 7II, 80mm lens has an aperture of f4. That is only 1 stop difference and the depth of field of the Mamiya 80mm lens is quite narrow. It has beautiful bokeh – for those who like bokeh. I don’t. I prefer to close the lens and shoot in very hard sunlight in the summer. Generally speaking
And that is it!
At first, this felt like a very clumsy camera. The speed and aperture rings are both on the front of the lens. You must press a little button at the rear of the camera to turn on the lightmeter (not the same button for shooting); light meter has no memory so you need to keep that button pressed while turning the speed ring or aperture ring (don’t mixe them up, it easy in the beginning) and since the viewfinder only shows a green spot, a minus or a plus sign, you don’t know, by looking into the viewfinder at what speed you’re taking the picture.
But actually, it was a question of getting used to the camera. Let’s presume:
1/ You are an experienced film photographer. By knowing the sensibility of your film and the available light, you already know what speed-aperture you need, or mistake only 2 or 3 stops.
2/ You know that you get more depth of field as you close the lens.
So when it comes to ergonomics, you
1/ open or close the lens according to the depth of field you want;
2/ set a speed at approximatively what you think the speed should be;
3/ look in the viewfinder whilst pressing light-meter-button and touch only the speed-ring.
4/ focussing and shooting is done at the same place, quickly and nicely.
The camera goes « tric-tic » when you shoot. I’m fine with that.
Oh ! And last but not least, the depth of field at given apertures is not written on the lens (as Leica and Mamiya do). For a rangefinder, that is very clumsy !! When taking a quick shoot in the street, whilst you don’t want to have that camera in front of your face but keep it the the level of your belly instead, you know at what distance it is focussed, but you don’t know at f5,6 or f8 for example what the depth of field is.