Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mamiya AFd II and Fuji Astia 100f

The Mamiya AFd II is a camera I want to love. I'm just not sure if I'll ever get to that point in the relationship. It is an old, big, and noisy hunk of metal and plastic that is capable of producing outstanding pictures. To my taste, Mamiya produces the finest medium format optics. Fuji, Ziess, and Schneider just don't do it for me like the Mamiya glass does. Combined with a fine grain film, Mamiya glass renders the world in an ethereal sharp but soft light. I love doing long exposures where I breathe on the lens with a few seconds left to add a little glow. 

So why aren't I enamored with this camera. Mostly, because I own the RZ67 and RB67. They have spoiled me with unparalleled image quality. If I'm going to carry around a 10 pound camera, I darn well better get world class results.  I've owned a Hasselblad 500c, and the AFd II just doesn't have the same feeling. That precise confident exactness of meticulous attention to detail and dedication to craft that those Swedes are known for. The AFd is somewhere in between. A big, fairly well made, camera that makes really great pictures. 

I specifically bought the AFd II because I wanted a digital medium format upgrade path. The AFd II offers that . Of course I knew it was electronic and required batteries and had MENUS (blech!). These are things I generally try to avoid in my cameras, but I'm dreadfully covetous of a P45+ digital back. I dream of hour long digital captures without noise.  However, I want to keep film in my workflow and being a landscape shooter who uses wide angles, I'm fairly limited in my choices. This camera is one of the few available, and it is definitely the least expensive way to go. The other choices are Contax, Rollei/Sinar, and Hasselblad systems. The bodies are roughly the same price for the various systems, but the other lenses are multiples of ten more expensive than the Mamiya (and I like the Mamiya lenses).

I'll keep running film through the AFd II and see if our relationship moves on to the next level. Perhaps, like in an arranged marriage, we will eventually develop a deep and satisfying love. And then again, maybe we part ways, remaining friends and remembering the good times we had. Hopefully, it doesn't end in a tempest of fury where one of us ends up hurt and broken. While I'm pretty sure I won't be the one laying in pieces on the sidewalk after being drop kicked in frustration, not being able to recoup my investment would put a damper on my photographic purchases for a while.

River bottom near our home.  Mamiya 45mm manual focus lens. Smallish aperture for increased DOF. Long exposure of many seconds. This was minutes after the sun had set. "Hot Breath" treatment at the end of the exposure.

Little creek running into Lake Tahoe. Mamiya 55mm AF lens. 30ish second exposure, probably around f/11.

Spontaneous capture of a couple of dudes having a rock skipping contest. 

Compare to picture above. This one has a 6 stop filter to remove detail from the water and sky. You can see the vignette caused by the filter holder. The camera was much lower to include the foreground rocks and focus was on the biggest rock. The Mamiya 45mm manual focus lens is extremely sharp. and provides a really pleasing mix of contrast and color.

Clearing storm over Lake Tahoe. I really like 30-45 second exposures of rough water. There is still texture and vitality to the scene, where a 2 minute exposure usually removes any movement and renders a more serene and soothing picture.

All the pictures were taken with Fuji Astia 100f slide film or Portra 160VC. Both have been out of production for a number of years and my film is all expired since 2006-2010. I love these emulsions and have begun hoarding on eBay. 

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