How do Mamiya Universal Press Viewfinder Crop Lines Function?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by marco_deveer, Feb 20, 2019.

  1. I'm looking through my new (old) Mamiya Universal Press and I'm wondering how the cropping lines function. I notice they move when I focus the lens, but I don't see any change when I move the slider from 100 to 150 to 250. Am I wrong or should the crop marks in the viewfinder change when I adjust the slider?

    Mamiya Universal Viewfinder.jpg
  2. AJG


    The crop marks should change (get smaller) when you change settings from 100 to 150 and 250. Your image also doesn't show the rangefinder rectangle in the center of the frame that would indicate correct focus.
    marco_deveer likes this.
  3. I just bought a silver 1969 Mamiya Press Universal a few weeks ago: didn't need it, but couldn't pass up the bargain price asked for a complete camera in good working order (accurate rangefinder, good 6x9 back, clean 100mm f/3.5 with accurate shutter). The Mamiya Press cameras have a rather small circular dot-shaped rangefinder patch, as opposed to the more common rectangle used most in other RFs. Not the easiest thing in the world to see or use, but its effective enough.

    The framelines in your picture don't look quite like mine, marco_deveer: instead of little corner-shaped crop marks with broken vertical lines inside the main brightline frame, I have small dashes attached to the primary frame lines near the four corners. Also, there is a focal length number visible at all times at the top right corner (100, 150, or 250 depending on lens chosen). The entire frame changes as I move the slider on the back, getting smaller as I switch from 100 to 150, then 150 to 250 (the 250 frame is unmistakably smaller).

    Mamiya's press cameras went thru a rapid evolution. with four or five generations of development between 1960 and 1969. I suspect yours may be from the first Universal batch: these had somewhat different viewfinders than later production runs. Still, the framelines should get noticeably smaller as you cycle the slider on the back: if this is not happening, the linkage may need repair. All three sets of 100-150-250 framelines move as lenses are focused closer, to compensate for parallax. The crop marks indicate narrower framing for the optional 6x7 Press, 6x7 RB - Graflok, or multiformat film backs.
    marco_deveer likes this.
  4. These are the three frame settings of my Mamiya Press Universal (via cell phone aimed thru Mamiya eyepiece):
  5. The 100mm f/3.5 lens is supposed to be retractable for use with the Press Super 23 bellows feature, but I can't figure out how to make mine do that. It came locked in the normal forward position: twisting and turning doesn't budge it, and there doesn't seem to be a latch or button. When retracted, the rangefinder is supposed to turn half-red.
  6. Ah, that is great info @orsetto and a beautiful camera you have there! There definitely appears to be something wrong with my camera. The frame lines don't change at all when I slide the focal length indicator between 100-150-250. I opened up the top viewfinder housing and didn't see any broken or disconnected bits, but it did seem like there were some pieces plain missing. I think I might have to find an interior shot of the housing to figure out this mystery. By the way my camera is all black so definitely a different version than the one you have. I have a Graflex back, but otherwise it looks just like yours.

    The 100mm lenses were not all made to be retractable, some are fixed and are generally newer and better than the retractable variety. If you have the retractable version it should twist and pop in or out fairly easily. If it doesn't do that it's probably not the retractable version.
  7. Thanks, good to know. The focus area is in the photo but it's a small circle just above center, kinda hard to see. It does appear to function properly when I focus the lens, but I will have to run a test roll to know for sure.
  8. Since your Universal is black finish, its probably newer than mine: I think the black came out after the silver did in 1969. I've checked later instruction books for the black Universal and Super 23, and they both show the same finder framelines as mine, so your viewfinder does seem unusual: customized for a specific purpose, maybe? Hard to tell.

    My cell phone cam is weirdly flattering to vintage film gear (I wish it could work the same magic on me). While my Universal is intact and in good working order, it isn't quite as pretty as the picture above implies: it has a lot of corrosion on all the edges, and some nasty scrapes on top and bottom decks. I had to replace the broken grip it came with, and touch up a lots of scrapes on the magazine (not to mention clean off old gummy seals). The viewfinder is clear, but has tons of dust and a faint film of fog: usable, but not wonderful. I looked into cleaning the dust/fog, but it requires a total teardown (including separating the two halves of the body shell). So, I'm just gonna live with it: its an outdoors camera, anyway, and in bright daylight the finder seems much nicer than indoors.

    AFAIK, all the 100mm f/3.5 lenses were retractable: this is required for complete portrait to infinity focusing range when the Super 23 bellows back is deployed for movements. This is the only lens that can be used at infinity, all the others are non-retracting (will work with the movements but only for closeup studio product shots). My lens is the older version, and is marked with the retract>normal index, but seems locked in normal position. Could be a modification of the prior owner, as my X flash sync is also locked. I'll never need to retract it, since I specifically chose the Universal body over the Super 23, but it annoys me that a feature is disabled. Supposedly these old silver-barrel 100mm lenses were mediocre, but I have no issues with mine: its comparable to what I get from the 105mm on my C220 TLR.

    The killer lens for the Press system was the 100mm f/2.8, considered by many the 6x9 equal to the Planars made for the 6x6 Hasselblad. Unfortunately it is rather uncommon and pricey: the only examples I ever see on eBay cost $350 + shipping from Japan. Thats nearly $100 more than I paid for the complete camera above, so out of range for me. The Universal was more of a "want" than a "need" - I'm more of a reflex photographer (Mamiya TLR and Hasselblad SLR). Still, I wouldn't mind stumbling across an affordable 100/2.8 and maybe the elusive 50mm someday...
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2019
  9. AJG


    I sold my Mamiya Universal outfit last year since I hadn't used it in a while, but as I remember my 100 f/3.5 was a late all black version with the Seiko shutter and it didn't retract or show any signs that it should. It was a very sharp lens, though. I never had the f/2.8 version due to the added expense that you mentioned.
    While I share your feelings about people modifying equipment in ways that cause loss of function, I'm not surprised that previous owner of your lens would have disabled the M sync--that would be a potentially devastating error on a job, and it reminds me of why I permanently installed a PC cover on the FP sync terminal on my Pentax LX bodies so that I couldn't do something stupid when I was in a hurry.
  10. Hmmm... thats interesting, AFG! I wonder if the Universal model outlasted the Super 23 in production by some years? Otherwise it would have been odd for Mamiya to remove the retraction feature from the one lens they had that could make full use of the Super 23 movements. For that matter, the whole notion of having only the one standard Tessar design with this capability was strange from the get-go: you would think movements would be more useful at infinity with a wide angle. Fascinating, quirky system it was: heavy to carry, but a blast to shoot with!

    The glued M-X sync on the lens doesn't bother me at all: as you say, it prevents fatal flash mistakes. Also, its been my experience with Mamiya's TLR system that the older shutters tend to work much MUCH worse when M-sync is enabled: the delay is typically gummed up from decades of disuse, which seizes the entire trigger sequence. This was alarming until I realized the switch had drifted to M: when set back to X the shutters work fine. As I built up my set of six black lens sets from 55mm to 180mm Super, I noticed most had been glued into X position by prior owners. I kept one silver-face 105mm as a spare: came to me free in a random package deal, its very sharp, and M-sync actually works fine (I have some M bulbs, maybe one day I'll find a flash gun for them with intact wiring).
  11. AJG


    I think the Universal was the last model produced, and that it was the only one for quite a while. I had three lenses for mine--the 100 f/3.5 mentioned above as well as a 65 mm f/6.3 and 150 f/5.6. My 65 and 150 were older lenses in Seikosha shutters, with lots of chrome on the shutter like the 100 in your photo. My 100 was all black on the barrel and the f/stops and shutter speeds were visible from the top of the camera instead of the front of the lens. The screw in filter diameter for the 100 mm was 55 mm.The settings also had click stops, which I found very convenient since I was less likely to inadvertently change a setting. The other two lenses lacked click stops and had a 40.5 mm filter size. The prime attraction for me when I first bought it was the Polaroid back for exposure testing for medium format and 35 mm, although I later used it for 6x7 film industrial work where setting up a 4x5 was just too cumbersome and 35 wasn't going to be high enough quality. It always performed well for me, and since I shot lots of 4x5 I was used to remembering to advance film, cock shutters, pull dark slides, etc., things that someone using a camera like that for the first time could find a little intimidating.

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