Two years with the Pentax 67 BY Will Hopkinson

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Two years with the Pentax 67

By Will Hopkinson

First off let me just show my appreciation for a great website. I have been following for years now, and it is always my go to for researching new gear or for general reading about photography. I am not a digital man to be honest so I like how you still post reviews about classic film cameras. I recently saw a post about the Mamiya RB67, and was inspired to write something about my own 6×7 behemoth – the Pentax 67!

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It is coming up on two years since I purchased the Pentax 67 (this is the 1990 version with mirror lock up) in an ancient camera dealer on a seedy back street in Seoul’s traditional camera district, Chungmuro. The owner sold the body with the SMC Takumar 105mm F2.4 for the (bargain) price of 300,000 Korean won (about $250). Body and lens were in great condition, I changed the light seals to be safe and I was away. I chose not to heed the warnings about it’s size and weight, brushing them off as exaggerations (“bunch of wimps” I kept telling myself). But NO it is in fact bloody massive and without a proper strap it would probably cause a hernia in a short space of time.

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Mercifully its ergonomics are brilliant, and using a black rapid harness strap can offset most of the weight (with the 105mm lens it is around 5-7 kgs). It is essentially an oversized SLR, like a giant Pentax Spotmatic, very easy to use and bound to be a familiar experience for the SLR shooter. Loading can be fiddly and tedious, but once you’re loaded it is just shoot and go. People talk up the wooden handles, but I’ve never had a problem without one, and find it’s ergonomics suit me fine. Another thing worth mentioning is the brilliant focusing screen, and I see myself acquiring a magnifier to take full advantage of it.

The downsides? Well obviously apart from it’s size and weight, the shutter slap – once eloquently described as a ‘norse thunderclap’ – can make shooting in low light challenging. A tripod is advisable if you want to go below 1/125, and using the mirror lock up is also recommended to avoid camera shake. However I like the approach this forces – the camera was never designed for the photojournalist or casual snapper. It forces a careful approach that demands you take your time with each and every one of your ten shots per roll.

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But on the whole I have found it to be a very versatile camera, certainly more so than the Mamiya RB or RZ thanks to it’s superior ergonomics. I have used it for portraits, landscapes and even the odd casual shot on the street with some fast film loaded. I have only two lenses, the wonderful 105mm F2.4 and the most recent model 55mm F4 SMC, another fantastic optic. All of this with filters and strap was assembled for less than $400. There may come a day when I would like a camera that requires less stamina (I find myself drawn increasingly to the Mamiya 7) but in terms of value, shooting experience and sheer image quality, the Pentax 67 system is for me the ultimate medium format experience.

Most of the sample images were shot with Portra 400, the odd bit of Velvia 100F and Tri-X or T-max 400.

If you like my work, please follow my Flickr stream: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jubalharshaw/

Thanks very much and keep up the good work!

Will

39 Comments

  1. I believe Thomas Mangelson used this camera for his large gallery nature and wildlife pictures. Tripod naturally, mirror locked up. But one glance told you MF not 35mm.

  2. James…you may actually live in the same democracy as I do! What’s with the rant? What does “spinny” mean?

    I simply asked to see some work so I could get some context on how you see the world. That’s it.

    My door is always open to criticism, both of mine or others. It’s what makes us stronger in photography. But that criticism I find more useful when it has some context. I now have that with Roy (but am still a little confused).

    Looks like I poked the hornets nest!

  3. I can’t resist commenting on the monochrome portrait. It defies so many conventions, and I find it grippingly, stangely beautiful. We can all take sharp portraits, but what you have done here is a whole different creative ball game. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to post. I shot the Pentax 67 and 67II for probably 10 years. Hauled around the 55, 90, 135 and 200 lenses. Camera never came off the tripod, since I was doing all landscape work. If anyone wants to try the system, don’t pass up a chance to get the 55mm – really a great lens.

  5. Beautiful images am looking at them on my phone but am reminded how really better they must be reality !

  6. Hello Will,

    i could not agree more. This system is a real bargain and the image quality is fantastic. I dont know of any other medium format lenses that are as good as the Pentax ones that cost so little.
    Image No.1 is my favourite one. Superb tonality and the sense of space this image creates is stunning.

      • Thanks guys – there are a lot of 6×7 options out there, and for me it was hard to select one. I guess like I said in the article the value of the Pentax system is what drew me in.

        4×5 is something I would like to try – and I think if i was working with one format, one system it would be a 4×5 camera.

  7. Thanks for the article. Great camera.
    I had two with several lenses including the 75 LS.
    My favorite was the 55. Just great images floated out of that camera. Always a joy to use it.

    • Thankyou. The 75mm LS looks great, but one of the pricier lenses. The one that baffles me is the 75mm shift lens, not quite wide enough for architectural photography.

  8. Nice photos. I think when your older it will be time to change to a mamiya 7. I prefer the square format so I did get myself a mamiya 6 and the user experience if just great. Still dont have time to use it much though.

  9. Will, as an ex shooter of the same camera (advertising and magazine work in the 70s) I’m interested in your workflow, too, especially the scanning. My favourite images are all the portraits and the second architectural one. “Norse thunderclap” 🙂 Hadn’t heard that one, but it’s real!

  10. The girl behind the screen and the one looking upwards – thank you – beautiful & love the “Norse thunderclap” analogy so I’m now trying to get a similar phrase for the marginally slightly more gentle (but only just) Hassy 503CW!

  11. Nice shots Will. I particularly like the one with the girl behind the screen.
    These pics need to be viewed at their full size to appreciate them – I had to click on them twice to do that. Then you can see the sharpness (which is lacking in the smaller versions) and the tonality.

    Best regards
    Huss

    • I would add morose, too.

      The tenements shot is better; did the people come out of these?

        • Even if someone would not have taken one single image, he (or she) could tell what they like or not in a photograph. Nothing wrong with that i think. In a way this negative critique is even constructive albeit not sophisticated executed 😉 Me i think the image are great but i am ok with people who think different.

          • Couldn’t agree more Elderin.

            I asked to see work some work as I’m interested, as photographers, how they see the world to add some context to those comments and thoughts.

            Roy added his link below and my response is below that.

            I was not being critical of James or Roy being critical or having an opinion but looks like James got upset with that.

            BTW I do think if criticism or a critique is to be given and you genuinely feel a certain way then it should be productive, it should be polite and acknowledge the photographer. Otherwise it just “dull” and “boring” criticism 🙂

            As for the attack on me being “spinny” (don’t know what that means…) it looks like I poked the hornets nest.

        • Andy, if you think looking at my photos will make these any better or worse then you may be disappointed.

          This same old criticism of any criticism has hairs on it; after I accepted the invitation to make a comment, out trots the praetorian guard in high dudgeon because he disagreed. Or wanted to earn positive brownie points.

          When you don’t like some work in the Louvre, I doubt you come back the next day with some of your daubs on canvas. Likewise criticism of music and literature does not require the critic to submit his/her works.

          And leave the snide, “be keen to have a look”, accompanied with the faux “thanks”, in the bin.

          • I didn’t criticise you. I simply asked where could I see some of your work? I have no issue with criticism. As long as it’s constructive.

          • No need to give your imprimatur to my or anyone else’s entitlements, spinny.
            I live in a robust democracy (and I support Steve’s right ruling on his blog).

            You might think my criticism is “unhelpful” and “boring” (don’t you love it :-), but how often do you support criticism?

            I did wonder whether Will was making a point about the tenements and its (possible) inhabitants with an overall air of moroseness pervading the shots. .Sorry it was not all Mary Poppins for you, spinny.

          • Thanks Roy. I don’t think your images are boring. They have ethereal sense to them and I like the shapes and shades you have in some of these.

            My point was I find it interesting to compare what one person finds “boring” or “dull” to how they see the world. Hence I was curious to see that. I am a bit confused though with your comments given the style of your work (black and white), some minimalism aspects to it, etc. Do actually think some of your own work is dull and boring if Will’s is? By the way that is not a criticism I find it interest how people view images and what they base any of those thoughts on.

            All in all though Roy we shoot for ourselves only and that’s the important thing.

          • Indeed they are, I just passed through your Flickr, how can you call these boring? These images are beautiful, I will have loved to take them… Actually I found these portraits to be full of emotions.

          • I didn’t find your images boring Roy. They have an ethereal sense to them. I just wanted to know why you and James found them boring and hence look at how they see the world.

            Now I’ve seen them I am a bit confused as to why you found Wills work boring and dull, given you seem to shoot in the style you do, with lots of black and whites and shades, etc…Moody images, just as Wills are though in colour for the most part. Is it because of portraiture?

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