The beast is back (partly)!

So yesterday I finally got out for a walk, to recce Whichford Wood with the Hasselblad, and I shot a roll of Portra 160.


I got back home and, after 10 months, Thames Valley police have recovered & returned my RZ67 Pro II – stolen from the boot of my car while I was out with the 8×10 at Wayland’s Smithy on the Ridgeway at the end of June last year.  I’d tipped them off after a week re. a suspect ebay site… I’m happy but frustrated – everything seems to be working, and a few of the accessories that I’d taken a while to collect for the camera – a spare Pro II back, covers for the backs, strap, cable release, rare but excellent Really Right Stuff QR plate – had come back with the camera.  Sadly a few key items were not recovered – the lens hoods and front caps, and in particular the 110mm lens.  I did though get the 50mm wide lens back, so that’s a start.


This allows me to directly compare the systems – and I have to say that the RZ comes out favourably.  Here are a couple of pics of them side by side, with the wide-angle lenses on both cameras (the 40mm CF Distagon on the 500C/M).




I never got to play with a Hasselblad before buying the Mamiya, and all the positives of both systems may also feel like negatives depending on one’s outlook.  But having now used both for quite a while independently and now bringing the two together for the first time, I do think the RZ wins.


It is unquestionably the case that the Hasselblad is more hand-holdable, and marginally more user-friendly; it’s also entirely mechanical, which still astonishes me.


However, the things on the RZ which I notice today are things that really make me love the camera more.  These are: focusing, lenses, and the back.


Focusing on the RZ is I find much easier than on the Hasselblad.  This is for two reasons: first, the bellows focusing, and second, the size and brightness of the viewfinder.  These are noticeably different.  The Hasselblad viewfinder feels a lot smaller than it is by comparison, and helical focusing on this kind of system feels really odd now that I have the RZ to compare it with.  The focusing on my 80 Planar is a bit stiff, and even with the 40mm I find this a bit unintuitive esp. when handholding – the fine-focusing side knob for the bellows seems so much more obvious.  The only thing the RZ doesn’t have which the Hasselblad does is the EV interlock.  The RZ stop-down lever is a much better design than the Hasselblad too.


Though I only currently therefore have the wide-angle lenses to compare, it seems to me that the 40mm Distagon is a bit too big for the V-system.  It’s bigger and heavier than my RZ 50mm, and unbalances the camera.  It’s probably a slightly better lens with better micro contrast (I have the standard 50 not the floating lens version) but this is offset by the size of the thing.  It’s pretty cumbersome, and comes with a massive front lens cap which is a loose fit, meaning that the whole lens has to be stored in its own pouch in my bag, adding further to the bulk.

Of course this feeling that the lens overbalances the body is partly because the RZ body is such a beast compared with the Hasselblad.  But this is for a very good reason – the rotating back system.  Loading film into each is very simple, but the RZ backs are so cool and the system is brilliantly designed.


I’ve noted down some weight stats to compare the two two-lens systems, and the Hasselblad comes out favourably, obviously.


Basic Hasselblad:

500C/M Body with WLF, 2 backs, 80 CF Planar and 40 CF Distagon = just over 3kg (NB 40mm lens weights double the body)

Basic Mamiya

RZ67 Pro II Body with WLF, 2 backs, 110 and 50mm lenses = 3.8kg


Why I originally felt that the RZ was such a beast was the bag I bought for it (also not recovered).  This was a lovely Billingham 307, but it was probably too big, and at 2kg by itself, this meant that a total weight of more than 6kg, which was no fun.


What I have to do now is fine a nice 110mm lens, and a replacement bag that weighs the same or less than the bag I use for the Hasselblad –  a Billingham Hadley Pro.  The Billingham bags are lovely designs and are waterproof – essential for shooting in Scotland, should that ever materialize any time soon – but they are expensive and heavy.  Something more modern might fit the RZ style a bit more neatly in any case.


In essence, then, I’ll be keeping the RZ I think.  What happens to the Hasselblad is not yet clear.



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