I have been wanting to own a non-TLR medium format camera for a while.
My first experience with 120 film was with a Lomography Holga when it was still a fad and I was still young and naive and shooting from the hip.
Then as I progressed and learned a bit more about photography, a Yashica 124G landed on my lap. The camera is a beauty but then being already a ditz its whole left-is-right up-is-down operation kinda put me off of taking it out and about as I would find myself looking a bit dumb trying to get my tilts and framing right. Yes practice makes perfect but then I moved on to my next goal, which was to acquire a Leica and it’s just been a 35mm ride ever since.
But the medium format was still on my mind. After having spent life savings on my Leica obsession, I just couldn’t make myself part ways with more abhorrent sums of money for a Plaubel Makina or Mamiya 7 (my dream medium formats).
The Hunt for a Mamiya Press
Then I found out about this thing called Mamiya Press. The look, the build, the whole ritual you have to go through before taking a shot, they spoke to me. I was going on vacation in London and I told myself I had to come back with a medium format. Off to Mr. Cad I went on my first day in the city. I was actually looking for the Universal model but they only had one fitted with Polaroid back. So I settled with the Original model and took it home.
As luck would have it, just one day before I was to leave London, Mr. Cad received a new shipment of cameras, one of which was a Super 23 model of the Mamiya Press. With a better viewfinder and 6x9 back as I originally wanted, and the apparent serendipity that it should be available to me just before I left the country, I traded in my original purchase.
It’s the most beautiful machine I own. I dare say it. Leicas are a beauty there’s no denying it but this one is a beauty and beast in one. OK it’s still not a medium format to be taken out and about; it’s huge, awkward to hold, needs a tripod most of the time, but it’s perfect. And what a better opportunity to test it out than at a friend’s beach wedding.
But then it wasn’t a sunny beach wedding. It was dark, wet and cold. What I had in mind, as a bridesmaid, was to be there at the altar, with the camera pre-position, and I would press the shutter just as it was announced the groom could kiss the bride. In the end, my dress was wet, I had to carry an umbrella in one had, the vow in the other, so the camera was left under the roof of a nearby restaurant. But I managed a few pre- and post-ceremony shots. Pushing HP5 to 1600 also helped brighten up a rather gloomy looking day.
Since it is such a process to operate this beast, I of course made a few errors. You have to remember to 1) take off the cap (duh), 2) pull out the lens, 3) pull out the dark slide, 4) cock the shutter, 5) advance the film (or risk double exposure), 6) meter the scene, 7) focus (duh) and THEN you press the shutter. Phew. Out of the two rolls, I only flubbed 4 shots out of 16, which is not bad for a first timer.
Since I no longer have a scanner that could scan 120 negatives, I had to resort to the old iPad/iPhone technique, which is not bad if you’re only posting on Instagram. But I plan to get them printed as a gift to my bride.
Just want to also give a big shoutout to @kikiewilkins whose post on Emulsive convinced me to buy the camera, and whose friendship and mentorship have since helped me figure out how to not suck at using it!