Mamiya 7 vs. Leica M6
I recently bought a used Leica M6 "classic" with 35mm, 50mm & 90mm lenses. What follows are impressions and usage differences between it and the larger, medium format rangefinder, the Mamiya 7ii. The comparison is a sort of apples vs. oranges, so take this with a bit of salt.
The Leica M6 is about ¾ the size of the Mamiya and 60% of the weight. My Mamiya 7ii is about 1kg, the M6 a little under 570g. The M6 feels heavy for it's size, oddly. The more compact size gives the M6 an entirely different feel than the Mamiya 7. The resulting 6x7 image size of the Mamiya 7ii is about twice the linear size (or 4 times the area) of the 135 format of the Leica M6.
The film size difference it probably the overriding factor that pushes the Mamiya over the top, if your main criteria is image quality (by that I mean prints of the same size will have better detail with those made from the 6x7 negatives). There are obviously other concerns than mere image detail. Just look at photographs made by Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Gary Winogrand, Joel Meyerowitz (street photo stuff) and a number of others. For these photographers image detail was apparently not the main concern. I'd guess ease of operation (including film loading, processing, etc.), reputation, and the smaller size weigh in favor of the smaller camera.
|Mamiya 7ii||Leica M6|
|Image size||56mm x 69mm||24mm x 36mm|
|Lenses (current)||43mm, 50mm, 80mm, 150mm, 210mm*||21mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm, 90mm, 135mm|
Leica lenses are legendary for their quality and expense. People were shocked at the $2500 price tag for the 43mm lens for the Mamiya 7, but that's pretty much par for the course for many lenses in the Leica stable. See list at Badger Graphic Sales for a run-down on the currently available lenses and their new prices in the USA. As far as relative quality goes, check out the test results on Photodo. Those MTF tests indicate that the Leica lenses have a slight edge on the Mamiya's, but it's pretty close. Don't forget that the film size difference will push the Mamiya in front for resolution tests on film. For a real test, you need to compare images made with the two cameras. The Leica lenses produce a different 'look' on film vs. the Mamiya lenses. Your tastes in this area will obviously vary from mine.
After spending a small fortune for this lens used, I was more than a little dismayed to find that I was occasionally getting pictures with considerable light fall-off (natural vignetting). I did some tests on a roll of Tri-X 400 and found that wide open the lens does have quite a lot of fall-off. The following image is representative of several trials. Vignetting is acceptable at f/2.8 for most scenes where you need even exposure across the frame, but f/4 is a little better. Note how at the two smallest apertures, f/11 and f/16,the vignetting seems to get very slightly worse. There is a scratch in the f/8 shot--my fault--but doesn't affect general results.
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Page last modified: 16-Feb-2012