Technical Skills – 2nd October 2012

On Tuesday 2nd October 2012, I took part in a variety of different workshops that included learning about the two medium format cameras, the Mamiya 7 and Mamiya RB 6×7, and learnt how to use a typical light meter. In the following post are my technical notes that I took during these workshops and some small amount of background information on each piece of equipment.

Mamiya 7:

The Mamiya 7 is a medium format rangefinder camera that uses 120mm film. It was introduced in 1999 and has an updated version still for offer in 2012.

The Mamiya 7 is only made up of two parts: the lens and the camera body. Within the camera body is where the 120mm film is stored and this cannot be changed once you have started shooting with a particular roll of film. As the Mamiya 7 is a rangefinder camera, the viewfinder is actually found to the top-left of the camera so we don’t actually look through the lens. This makes it very easy for a photographer to simply shoot away with the lens cap still in place.

Working from the front of the lens to the camera body, I will list the main features and dials and anything that can be consididered as important information for each.

  • Lens cap – Must be removed before shooting (see note before)
  • Skylight filter
  • Lens Hood – Take of, turn round, place back on (use marks for guidance)
  • Aperture ring – f/4 to f/22
  • Focus ring – Within the viewfinder is a ghost image; when the ghost image and real image match up, it is in focus
  • Shutter speed dial (found on top of camera) – 1/500 to 4 seconds
  • (Automatic Mode – Discouraged from using but to do so, press button in centre of dial to move in and out of automatic mode)
  • ISO ring (found inside the shutter speed dial) – To change, lift the sides of the dial upwards and turn
  • Over or under expose (next to shutter speed dial) – To change, press in small silver button and move the ring around
  • On/off switch and shutter release (found on the front of the camera) – White dot indicates that the camera is switched on, and red dot indicates that the camera is switched off (the shutter won’t release if the camera is switched off)
  • Hot shoot flash attachment – Slide flash on to camera
  • Timer release (found on the front of the camera) – Long exposure (tripod needed), light will flash quicker and quicker until its a solid light which indicates that the shutter will go off
  • Lens release button (found on front of camera) – Press button, twist lens, lens will come away; to put lens back on, match up the white dot on the lens and the white dot on the camera and twist into place (do not force or cross-thread it – it will jam!)
  • Dark slide – Dual purpose: can change the lens without exposing the film, and keeps dust out of the butt of the lens when changing film; can’t release lens unless dark slide is slid across; to slide the dark slide across there is a handle on the bottom of the camera, twist it round to the ‘open pacman’
  • Dark slide release (found on the bottom of the camera) – Pull down and across to open the dark slide; the handle will move back round to the ‘closed pacman’
  • Back lock (found on side of camera) – Pull down to open the back (where the film is found)
  • Pressure plate (on the inside back of camera) – Can be changed to 120mm film or 220mm (applies less pressure onto 220mm film); make sure white dots are next to the correct film size that you are using (change by simply spinning the plate around)
  • Multi button (found on back of camera) – Allows for multiple exposure; wind on to next frame, put button onto multi, press shutter, use same winding latch, but instead of moving onto the next frame, it will stay on the same frame


How to load the camera with film:

  1. Take film out of packaging
  2. Don’t loosen film too much as we don’t want to expose it
  3. Take the left spool out by pressing the orange catch, then press one end of the spool and the other end will pop out
  4. Put the empty spool in the right by using the same principle; slot the empty spool into position then press the button on the bottom of the camera to lock into position
  5. Put film in the left by slotting it into position, being careful not to unravel the film, then press the button on the bottom of the camera to lock it into place
  6. Draw the film across the back of the camera and slot the end into the centre of the empty spool
  7. Keeping the film tight, wind the film on using the latch on the top of the camera, until the arrows on the film meet the arrows on the centre of the camera
  8. Close the back up
  9. Wind film on to take it to the first frame; it will stop you from winding on when you reach the first frame


Mamiya RB 6×7:

The Mamiya RB 6×7 is a medium-format single-lens reflex camera that uses 120mm film. This camera is mainly used for portraiture as it is much larger and heavier and often requires a tripod.

There are three parts to this camera: the lens, the camera body, and the magazine (where the 120mm film is stored)

Working from the front of the lens to the camera body, I will list the main features and dials and anything that can be considered as important information for each.

  • Lens with lens cap – Take off by pressing the two buttons either side
  • Skylight filter – Protects the lens
  • Lens hood – Simply collapses in and out of position; protects the lens and photographs from light flare which can reduce the contrast of the image
  • Depth of field dial – Rotates to select the appropriate depth of field
  • Shutter speed dial
  • Aperture dial
  • Lens release dial – Move dial round so that the white dot on the lens meets with the red line on the lens, the lens will come away; to put lens back on, the red line on the lens meets with a red dot on the camera body, then rotate the dial so that the white dot moves away (don’t secure too much)
  • Flip up top (found on top of camera) – Simply just pulls up; to put back down, push in the sides and it will collapse into place
  • Magnifier tag – Push grey tag to the left to release the spring-loaded magnifier; simply pushes back and locks into place
  • Focusing knob – Used to focus in on subjects; if photographing still life that will not create movement, there is a locking latch on the left hand focusing knob
  • 6x7cm Magazine – Produces 6x7cm negatives; can be changed to portrait or landscape by merely rotating the magazine (if it has not rotated fully, the camera will not allow you to shoot
  • Shutter release (found on the right, just under the lens) – There is a lock on the shutter release which can stop you from shooting; the other thing that can stop you from shooting is having the slide from the magazine in place (this stops light getting through the camera to the film), take this out and place in the back whilst shooting
  • Wind-up mirror latch (found on the side of the camera) – Use this after you have taken a shot
  • Wind-up film latch (found on the top of the magazine) – Use this after you have wound up the mirror as it moves the film along; if you don’t do this, the film will double expose, and the camera won’t actually let you shoot
  • Double exposure slot (found next to wind-up film latch) – Move this so that a red dot is showing; this allows you to double expose; make sure you shut it otherwise the film won’t move on to the next frame
  • Wind-off button (found on the back of the magazine) – Only use this when you have finished with this particular roll of film; press this then wind-up the film; do this continuously until you get to the end of the film where it will stop you from winding up


How to take the magazine off and load the camera with film:

  1. There are two locks, one on the top and one on the bottom of the magazine; switch these to ‘Open‘ by pressing down the tiny silver tags on the side
  2. The magazine should come away
  3. There are two black catches on the side of the magazine which need to be unhooked in order for it to open
  4. The inside comes away from the outside
  5. To release the take up spool, press in the silver button; to place the spool into the other end, press in the silver button and use the cross on the end of the spool to determine which way round the spool should be placed then release the silver button
  6. Place the film in the other end using the same principle – The emulsion release should be on the outside
  7. Draw the film around the back of the magazine and thread into the centre of the spool
  8. Hold the film gently whilst winding it through
  9. Continue to wind through until the arrows on the film line up to the arrow on the inside of the camera
  10. Place the inside of the magazine back into the outside cover – the thick roll of film should be by the hinge in the centre
  11. Close magazine and lock using the two catches
  12. (As a part of the roll loading process, make sure the silver slide is clean by manually removing it using the button on the side)
  13. Wind on the film until it stops
  14. To put the magazine back on (remember that the slide goes on the right hand side) put into position and lock, using the to locking mechanisms


How to remove film from the camera:

  1. When finished shooting, remember to put the silver slide back into place for good practise
  2. After winding off the film, as stated before, take the magazine off by using the same principle
  3. Take film out by pressing the silver button, making sure to keep a tight hold of it so that it doesn’t become exposed
  4. Fold edge of film under and wrap the provided tape around it
  5. Close the magazine as soon as possible to stop dust from getting in


Light Meter:

A light meter is a piece of equipment that measures light. When using a light meter, you select the ISO on your camera and set the same ISO on the light meter. You then hold the light meter up to the subject that you wish to photograph and press a button. This is when an infrared cone on the light meter gives and average light reading. We then receive a combination of the appropriate shutter speed and aperture needed for an exposure of Zone 5 (see Ansel Adams below) for the photo that we are about to take.

The following are notes that I took during my light meter workshop.

  • “Flag” – The “flag” is the black boards that are found within the studio
  • “Camera Obscurer” – A “camera obscurer” is a pin-hole camera; you can make one using a pitch-black room and having a tiny hole on one side
  • Every camera is a box with a shutter and a sensor or film


The three main aspects that we need to consider are:

  1. Aperture = f/stop
  2. Shutter speed
  3. ISO = light sensitivity of sensor/film


The Aperture:

  • A bigger hole lets more light pass through to the sensor/film
  • The smaller the hole, the larger the f/number, and the larger the depth of field


The Shutter Speed:

  • The slower the shutter speed, the more light reaches the sensor/film


Ansel Adams:

  • Created the ‘Zone System’
  • A photograph gives us a trace of the real world – it turns reality from 3D to 2D, it flattens the world
  • We want to become proactive photographers rather than reactive photographers – this means that we have to learn how to pre-visualise (we see the shot before it happens)
  • Zone 0 = pitch black
  • Zone 5 = mid grey
  • Zone 10 = brightest white


The Light Meter Modes:

  • Flash
  • Cable/connected
  • F/stop
  • Time
  • Ambient


Studio Task with the Light Meter:

  • Side light – took reading from nose
  • In front of ‘window’ (silhouette) – took reading from window
  • In front of ‘window’ (immersed in light) – took reading from nose