Rare Camera: 18 karat Gold Mamiya RB67 ProSD

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This camera is so heavy, had Indiana Jones been a photographer, the gold Mamiya RB67 would have been what he used instead of a bag of sand to weigh down the trap of the golden idol. According to Thorley, when the venerable RB67 is mentioned in on-line forums people start coughing up all sorts of stories about how heavy and unwieldy they are, how the mirror slap alone can cause a shock wave big enough to damage all the digital sensors in a five kilometre radius and that if dropped on your foot you’ll know the pain of so many cartoon characters who’ve had mishaps with an anvil. And guess what? It’s still worth it!

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Jokes aside, while the camera will seem hefty compared to modern DSLR’s, it is not unwieldy, because of its good ergonomics. Through the seventies and nineties medium format cameras were the top-tier professional tools, just as big, horizontal and vertical grip DSLR’s are today. Today the digital sensor technology is only just catching up, making cameras like the Pentax 645D/Z feasible for mass production. It is quite possible that in ten years time the old and elegant tools such as the Mamiya RB67 will no longer seem so big and heavy by comparison.

Made primarily for landscape and studio work, the RB67 (RB stands for “Rotating Back” – a very convenient feature that allows the photographer to twist the back instead of changing the orientation of the camera itself) was designed and built like the proverbial tank.120 Studio The moment you pick up one of these cameras, you know it was not intended for street photography or quick snapshots. Now, of course some of us are deliberately going to use it for that anyway, but one look at the RB67 and it’s clear that this is primarily a tripod camera.

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This very special gold RB67 ProSD was released 1990 in a limited edition of only 300 units worldwide to commemorate Mamiya’s 50th anniversary. It comes in a beautiful lacquered box with a custom anniversary logo. The box is opened by a special key and the first thing that one finds inside is a pair of white cotton gloves.

When released this camera cost roughly 15000 German Marks, or $9000 in 2017 money. It doesn’t surface very often, but it seems that its price as a collector’s item is dropping. One was sold by Bonhams in 2013 for as little as $1400. Think about it – for a fraction of a price of a new Leica you could get a camera with vastly superior imaging qualities, just as well made, and even more ostentatious.

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On the side of the camera there is a golden plate which reads “Mamiya 1940-1990 50 years in Photography”. According to Camera-Wiki Mamiya was founded in May 1940 by Mamiya Seiichi (間宮精一) and Sugawara Tsunejirō (菅原恒二郎) as Mamiya Kōki Seisakusho (マミヤ光機製作所, Mamiya Optical Works). It was based in Tokyo, Hongo, and its first camera was the Mamiya Six, a 6×6 folder with coupled rangefinder that was focused by moving the film plane. The original owner of a gold RB67 ProSD got a golden nameplate with their own name engraved.

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If you are interested in owning one of these rare cameras, here is the Mamiya RB67 ProSD Manual, and some good articles about the camera.

  1. Classic Cameras: 6 Photos and 7 Anecdotes from the Mamiya RB67 (by B&H Photo and Video)
  2. Mamiya RB67 Camera Guide (by Helluin.org)
  3. Mamiya RB67 Pro (by PhotoEthnography)
  4. Mamiya RB67 (by Thorley Photographics)

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Author: Matt

I am a fresh PhD in physiological optics, interested in all things visual – from video and photography through image processing to the inner workings of our human eyes. I am Polish, and have lived in Spain for several years before moving to Indiana. I’ve been shooting semi-profesionally with Olympus, and more recently Nikon cameras since 2009 and enjoy travelling, jamming to some blues and riding vintage motorcycles and cars.

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