My New Used Pentax 67II Medium Format Film Camera For Landscapes in 2015 and Beyond

August 22, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

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The Pentax 67II has long been out of production since 2009, but I have been wanting this camera for many years.  The original Pentax 6x7 was introduced in 1969, culminating with the 67II design in 1998.  I have collected and continue to use my fair share of medium format cameras over the years, so I think I have a good perspective on what I want for my landscape photography.  I plan to use this camera primarily for landscapes and the occasional wildflower.  

Before I jump too deeply into the Pentax 67II, I feel like I have to talk about a few of my other medium format cameras in order to set the stage for why I have wanted this camera for so many years.  

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I bought a Mamiya RZ67II brand new in the 1990's and I still own it to this day.  I love the camera, but it just isn't feasible for me to pack it in the field when I am hiking in the mountains and difficult terrain.  I love the RZ for floral still life work and even some landscapes.  The rotating back on the RZ is a dream come true, allowing me to flip the orientation of the image by simply rotating the film back.  The RZ Pro II is a studio photographer's dream in my mind.  The lenses are high quality and the camera is extremely reliable.  I only use it with the waist level finder, so I have to meter my subjects and scene manually which is my preference.  I am getting excited about this camera again while I am typing this paragraph.  I really love this camera, but there are times it is literally just too big and heavy to pack out into the wilderness based on other choices that I have available to me.  If it were my only camera, I could make it work.   

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I also own and love my Mamiya 7 Rangefinder for many reasons.  It is the same film format as the Pentax 67II, but it is a completely different tool and experience.  It is considerably smaller and lighter for starters and has a very accurate meter making it extremely easy to use in the field for landscapes.  The leaf shutter lenses allow handheld photos at amazingly slow shutter speeds too.  I have worked around the inability to see through the lens of the Mamiya 7 when using grad filters for landscapes, and for the most part that has worked out just fine.  I have to do the same for my Fuji 690 Rangefinder.  For many people, using the Mamiya 7 in that way is totally acceptable, but for me, I am working with complex compositions that require a more precise placement of ND grad filters, not to mention the ability to view the effects of the circular polarizer.  I love the Mamiya 7 Rangefinder, but I need the ability to look through the lens for many of my landscapes.  Again, if it were my only camera, I could make it work.  

I purchased a Pentax 645N camera and several lenses in the mid-1990's.  At that time, a medium format camera with autofocus was an incredible leap forward.  All these years later and the 645N still works as good as new.  While I love the 645N, I view it as a backup to my main camera mostly because of the size of the film surface.  The film surface area of the 6x7 is considerably larger than 6x4.5, which translates to more opportunity for cropping and larger images.  I also prefer the aspect ratio of 6x7 over 6x4.5 too.  The aspect ratio of 6x7 is fairly close to 4x5 large format, which is my absolute favorite aspect ratio for landscapes.  I also like 1:1 aspect ratio for landscapes and the ability to crop to 1:1 from 6x7 is very easy. 

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I should also mention that main reason I don't use 35mm for landscapes is because I find the aspect ratio very difficult to work with.  I find it to be too wide and narrow for most of my compositions.  I find it very difficult for me to get the spacial relationships in my landscapes where I want them.  Put a wide angle lens on this 3:2 format and you have your work cut out for you.  Plus, I actually dislike handling the small film.  I have no idea why I just don't like it.  I wish I did, but it is something that I just can't overcome.  The good news is that I don't have to overcome my bias.  If I want an experience close to a 35mm SLR, then I just use the Pentax 645N and enjoy the 120 film and its advantages over 35mm film.  

I tend to use one of two lenses in my landscape compositions, very wide angle or a mid-range telephoto.  On the Pentax 67II that equates to the 45mm and 165mm lenses and for the Mamiya 7 that means the 43mm and 150mm.  In terms of 4x5 larger format, I like the 75mm lens for my wide angle and the 240mm or 300mm for my telephoto option.  To complete the thought, I prefer my ultra wide 150mm on my 8x10 large format system and the 300mm or 450mm for my midrange lens choice.  The vast majority of all my landscape images are taken with these two focal lengths.  

My plan is to carry the Pentax 67II with the two above mentioned lenses with the 100mm macro lens for the times when I run into some wildflowers in the mountains that I want to isolate.  I will also pack the Mamiya 7 or the Pentax 645N as my secondary camera if I am able to pack a second system.  The other scenario will be to pack my 4x5 field camera (only weighs 3.5 lbs) with the 75mm and 300mm lenses (both lenses may weigh 1.5 lbs combined) with the Pentax 67II.  

I look forward to sharing in my journey with the Pentax 67II.  I have always wanted this camera, so I am excited to begin the journey and share my images as I create them. 

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Initial Impressions of the Pentax 67II

There are no "perfect" cameras, however, the Pentax 67II is as close as it gets for me and my style of photography.  As a reminder, my core focus is landscapes and wildflowers.  I have listed my initial impressions of the camera in no particular order.

  • The Pentax 67II simply feels good in my hand.  I like that it is substantial and the weight compared to the modern consumer/pro-sumer DSLR's are no issue to me. 
  • The ability to use ND grad filters and see their placement in the viewfinder is one of the core reasons why I got this camera for landscapes over using my Mamiya 7.  While my RZ67 Pro II has that ability, it is simply just too big and heavy for the kind of field work and exploring that I do.  If I were a young guy, it may not be as much of an issue.
  • I am using three lenses for my style of photography for now.  The 45mm, 100mm macro, and 165mm lenses are my staples.  I am searching for a 300mm with a 1.4 TC or a 400mm, but I am in no hurry for that at this time.  I will eventually need the longer focal lengths for compression of some mountain scenes and for the occasional wildlife or distant tree on the landscape.
  • I have found a new use for my Maymia 7 while using the Pentax 67II on the tripod.  I started keeping the Mamiya 7 around my neck at all times to catch those fleeting moments that I would otherwise miss.  The metering is so good on the Mamiya 7 that I trust it implicitly and the leaf shutter allows for very sharp hand-held images down to an amazing shutter speed of 1/8th.  In contrast, I keep the 67II at 1/125th or greater when hand-holding.  I expect 90% of all images created with the 67II to be on a tripod.
  • The metering is a little different than what I am used to, but with just 4 rolls of slide film, I have it dialed in for both landscapes and closeups/macro work. 

There is much more to follow as I continue my journey with this awesome camera.  I will continue to write new posts as I learn more and have more experiences in the field. 

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