There were two models of the versatile Mamiya Press medium format rangefinder
cameras in the 1960s and '70s, the Universal Press and the Press Super
23. These cameras were designed to be more compact and in many respects more
versatile than the bellows type 4x5 and 2x3 press cameras of that era, such
as the Speed Graphic, Busch Pressman, and Linhof Technica. The main competition
included the very similar looking Graflex XL and XLRF and the Linhof Press 70
rollfilm cameras, which also had interchangeable lenses and rollfilm backs.
The Mamiya interchangeable lenses all coupled to the camera's internal
rangefinder for accurate focusing and their bayonet mounts mated directly to
the large opening in the body, making a more rigid and rugged camera. To compensate
for the typically inaccurate viewfinders found on most rangefinders, the Mamiyas
had etched markings in the viewfinder that indicated the field covered. These
moved as the lens was focused to provide a more accurate representation of the
exact area that would record on the film.
The boxy shaped Mamiya Universal Press made a formidable medium
format camera with its removable rollfilm back and interchangeable
lens system. It's shown here with the accessory pistol side
grip that has a trigger shutter release via a cable release to the
front blade shutter and the wire sports finder in the accessory
shoe on the top of the body.
The Universal Press is basically a square metal box with a large circular
opening on the front for the interchangeable lenses and a large square opening
in the back, which accepted a variety of rollfilm backs or a Polaroid instant
print film back. The top of the box contains a built-in, eye-level viewfinder
and a removable pistol grip that attached to the left side. Put all the components
together and you had a formidable and versatile medium format camera, light
enough for handheld photography or use in the studio on a tripod.
There were 12 different Mamiya Sekor lenses, ranging from 50mm wide angle up
to 250mm telephoto. Since some focal lengths had 2-4 versions with varying maximum
lens apertures and either chrome or black finish, there were actually only seven
different focal lengths: 50, 65, 75, 100, 127, 150, and 250mm. Filter sizes
ranged from 40.5-105mm. The broad, impressive system included a selection of
120/220 roll backs, cut film and film pack backs, and, for the Universal Press
model only, a Polaroid pack film holder. The system included several very helpful
side grips, optical finders for the wider angle lenses, wire frame sports finders,
and mounting brackets compatible with common flash guns of the era. For close-up
work there were both extension rings for use between the lens and body plus
spacer sets to extend the back and a focusing hood with a ground-glass back
for the precise focusing and composition, needed when doing close-ups.
This camera came from the era when all cameras were completely manual in operation,
thus the user had to be knowledgeable and adept at making needed adjustments.
Metering was done either with a handheld light meter, or by estimating the lighting
conditions and setting the exposure. Fortunately, the black and white and color
negative films used back then were forgiving in exposure latitude, so some exposure
error still resulted in a usable negative.
large bayonet mount on the front of the Mamiya Universal Press accepts
any of the seven different focal length lenses offered. From left
to right in front of the camera body are the 150mm f/5.6, 100mm
f/3.5 (normal), and the 50mm f/6.3 wide angle. Each lens has its
own Seiko blade shutter.
Each of the bayonet mount, interchangeable lenses coupled to the camera's
built-in rangefinder for precise focusing. The camera's viewfinder had
internal masking adjustable for the more common 100mm (normal), 150mm, and 250mm
telephoto lenses; for each of the three wide angle lenses an external viewfinder
that fit onto a shoe on the top of the camera was needed for more accurate composing.
The actual size of the camera's viewfinder view never changed; instead
bright marks that vividly show in the viewfinder indicate the four corners of
the field of each lens.