If you’re looking for an attention getting camera, look no further. This is surely my weirdest looking camera. It’s a rangefinder but it isn’t very compact. It’s rectangular shaped but the long edge goes vertically rather than horizontally. The film back looks like an ancient scroll and the grip sticks out way too far. Film advance is done with a standard right thumb lever on most backs but shutter release is left handed. Definitely an attention grabber!
The Mamiya Press is a unique camera by any definition. The first model was released in 1960 and as the name would indicate, was geared toward news and press photography. The much larger 4″x5″ Graflex Speed Graphic was the workhorse of the press corps in the 1930s and 1940s, so the Mamiya Press could probably be regarded as a next generation press camera. It is certainly a strange looking camera. It doesn’t look like a field camera or a folder with the trademark bellows right behind the lens. But it also doesn’t look anything like an SLR. It takes medium format film, both in sheets (which are no longer sold in that size) and roll (120 and 220).
Even though this camera is a rangefinder its designed to be fully modular. It can take a variety of film backs, has a removable grip and interchangeable lenses. It even has a tilt and swing function in the back for use with ground glass focusing screens. The viewfinder can display framing lines for three different lenses and the shutter release works by way of a traditional cable that runs from the grip directly to the lens. The film back for roll film looks very strange since it sticks out beyond the body at least an inch on either side. The system chart you see below is from the instruction manual.
My copy came with the standard 100mm f/3.5 lens and the 6×7 back. There are several other lenses in the system, ranging from a 50mm to a 250mm. I’ve also found a fairly beat up copy of the 6×9 back. I received this camera as a gift from a friend and co-worker whose father used it extensively, many many years ago. Imagine my surprise when I opened up the back and found a roll of film! It was exposed so I sent it in, but either there was a light leak or someone opened it because there was nothing on the film.
Look here for some samples of photos taken with this camera.