Friday, 23 January 2015

Mamiya 65mm f/3.5

Today we're going to have a look at the Mamiya 65mm f/3.5, one of the two wide-angle lenses for the Mamiya twin-lens reflex system. The other was a 55mm f/4.5 that I've never used; the focal length seems very similar to the 65mm, and it's slow, and it doesn't appeal to me.

But then again lasagne never appealed to me when I was very young, and now I... I don't love it, but I can eat it. But the point still stands; I can change. I have learned to love lasagne, perhaps in time I might learn to love the Mamiya 55mm f/4.5.

In 35mm terms, a 65mm 6x6 lens is roughly equivalent to a 35mm, but taller, and the depth of field is about a stop depthier, so imagine that it's a curiously slow 35mm f/2.8 but you don't mind because you can hand-hold at 1/15th because the shutter - which is built into the lens - just goes snick and the camera weighs 2kg and you have to cradle it in your hands, which is good form if you ever have to lift things, because you're supposed to keep objects within your centre of gravity, and this is also why women don't have wombs on top of their heads - pregnant women would be unable to escape from predators because they would tip over, because their centre of gravity would be all over the place. Good job, evolution!

Mamiya TLRs have bellows focus, so the 65mm is actually a kind of 35mm f/2.8 Macro, because it can photograph bugs and things at or near life size. Close focus is surprisingly addictive:

The 65mm f/3.5 was one of the first lenses for the Mamiya TLR system. It was launched in the early 1960s and originally had a shutter speed range that topped out at 1/400; mine is a slightly later model that goes up to 1/500. The lenses were overhauled at the end of the 1960s and given updated bodies - the levers on my model resemble something from the pre-war years - and as far as I can tell production continued right up until the mid-1990s.

Perspective makes the TLR seem vast compared to the already-quite-chunky Pentax Spotmatic; the C3 is metal but mostly hollow, the biggest problem is finding a comfortable way to carry it.

The TLR range was discontinued in 1994, by which time it was an anachronism but still popular, because it was the cheapest way to get good-quality 6x6 medium format with several lenses and macro. 645 was popular at the time, but if you wanted professional 6x6 the other options were either expensive (Bronica SQ) or very expensive (the Rolleiflex) or astronomically expensive (Hasselblad) or much the same price but unreliable (the Kiev/Pentacon SLRs).

Charlotte Colbert's "In and Out of Space", which is really good and appears to have been shot on 5x4. Many years after writing this article - I wrote it back in 2015 - I realise that Dutch angles were fun in moderation but tiring when used all the time.

On a personal level I love 6x6. The square frame size means I have to think about composition; if I shoot square as I would shoot standard 35mm, I end up with pictures that seem to be empty at the top and bottom, so I have to fill the frame. Square format fell out of favour in the 1990s, and ironically it is now such a cliché of Instagram that it is in danger of falling out of favour again, although I still love it.

I edited this article in 2018. Auntie Karen has now been dead for three years.

Back once again with the renegade master

I never understood what he was singing. "Back once again with the renegade master / D4 damage with the ill behaviour". Was it a reference to the four-sided dice in role-playing games? Well, dammit, I need to know. Let's do some research.

The track samples "One For the Trouble", a 1994 hip-hop tune by ADOR. ADOR was actually a man called Eddie Castellanos, and ADOR stood for either Another Dimension of Rhythm or A Declaration Of Revolution presumably depending on how high he was. The lyrics of "One for the Trouble" went "back once again with the ill behave-ya, can you feel it / nothin' can save ya / 'cos the A for Allah / D for Damager / O for Outta Here / R for the Renegade / Master". Which spells out ADOR. Later on he wishes for power to the people. Wildchild took the vocals and cut them up. Now I can finally die, my mind is at rest. Thank you, YouTube.

The Mamiya TLR lens range majored on short telephotos, because it was aimed at wedding and portrait photographers. This is unfortunate nowadays - the telephotos are too specialised unless you really do plan to take lots of portraits with your TLR, which you'll probably only do once in a blue moon. With 6x6 I find that 65mm is basically a perfect walkabout lens, although the format is such that even 80mm feels a little bit wide. One for the trouble, two for hard times.

The focal length and aperture work against the typical medium / large format "3D look" - it's still there, but subtler

I used Fuji Superia. It was a cold day, and my lens had a peculiar thing where the shutter sounded as if it wasn't working properly, but in practice it was, perhaps because it was starting to gum up. My lens is half a century old, and probably hasn't been serviced ever. Despite this the speeds all seem accurate enough. Seiko obviously knew how to make shutters.

And that's the 65mm. You really have to want to carry around 2kg of camera; a Yashica Mat is much lighter and, by coincidence, a Holga has the same focal length, although you need a Mamiya TLR if you want 6x6 medium format and fine control and wideangle without spending a fortune.

Apropos of nothing, the actor and multi-talented modern cultural icon John Malkovich has recreated a bunch of classic portrait photographs, and yes you can see his bottom. The exhibition is called "Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich", and malkovich malkovich, malkovich malkovich malkovich malkovich malkovich. Malkovich malkovich malkovich, malkovich malkovich malkovich malkovich malkovich malkovich malkovich malkovich malkovich. Malkovich malkovich malkovich malkovich malkovich malkovich malkovich malkovich-malkovich multipass malkovich.

Malkovich malkovich malkovich malkovich