Mamiya Press Flange Focal Distance Question

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by dustinbetterly211, Apr 20, 2019.

  1. I'm working on a project using Mamiya press lenses and I'm trying to figure out the flange focal distance, but I'm having a hard time since I only have the lenses and not a body.

    Another question, will the flange focal distance be the same for each lens?
  2. I don't have either, but the flange distance for any given mount should be the same unless you have something else like a reflex box added.
    dustinbetterly211 likes this.
  3. Mamiya Press expert Tony Sansone was asked this question on this forum 20 years ago, his response was that he had once seen an ancient manual for one of the early original battleship-grey press bodies that specified 53mm, but he could never get Mamiya to officially confirm the spec for the later Super 23 and Universal. Some have theorized a 100% accurate DIY measurement may be impossible, due to the tolerances involved in the large negative size combined with inherent play in the breech lock lens mount.

    I just did a quick 'n' dirty, not remotely scientific check of my own Universal body with an ordinary ruler. Just eyeballing it, I get approx 58mm from pressure plate to breech lock lugs. Accounting for film, backing paper, and how the lens actually seats when mounted, I think that jibes with Tony Sansone's quote of 53mm flange to emulsion distance. This also correlates with experiments I have done shooting Mamiya press lenses on Nikon DSLR: I can reach infinity focus on Nikon F mount by just adding one of the thin extension tubes from the old "K" threaded extension tube set. When I tried this with a Nikon>Hasselblad adapter, it pushed the Mamiya lens too forward, into macro territory.

    Others here have mentioned they used the Mamiya Press 150mm f/5.6 successfully on 4x5 cameras like Graflex, so adaptations are definitely possible. The Mamiya Press flange distance is appreciably less than any medium format reflex system like Hasselblad, RB67 or Pentax: you would not reach infinity focus on any MF reflex host body (it would need to be a thinner rangefinder or bellows type of body).

    Mamiya Measure.jpg
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2019
    dustinbetterly211 likes this.
  4. Appreciate the reply, that gives me a good starting point.
  5. Orsetto, I was wondering what do you use to connect the Nikon K extension tube to the Mamiya press lens when you attach it to your Nikon DSLR? Thanks!
  6. I haven't yet found a way to securely mount Press lenses to my Nikons, dinis_leal, so at the moment its pretty hit or miss. Infinity can be reached using one of the K extension tubes and a piece of cardboard or plastic cut into a light shield "donut" between the extension tube and the inner lens barrel. Extreme close-ups are a bit easier, simply holding the lens against a Nikon>Hasselblad adapter. Since nothing is truly aligned properly and nothing is actually holding the lens on the camera besides my hand, results are variable (to say the least). If I nail focus and my hand is steady, it works surprisingly well considering how sloppy the whole rig is.

    There's no compelling reason to ever use the Press lenses on a Nikon anyway. The focal length/aperture combos are unappealing on small format. Unlike the Hasselblad Zeiss lenses there are no special qualities that stand out (color, microcontrast, reasonable apertures) to make it worth the trouble. I only came up with the idea out of curiosity to see if a digital sensor could reveal anything interesting about the Press lenses (eliminating factors like film flatness and grain). Performance was pretty much the same, in the central crop area: nice focus transitions, typical medium format bokeh, etc. Resolution (within the limits of the dodgy mounting system) is good.

    The lenses maintained their usual decent but unspectacular reputation: Mamiya's primary goal was covering 6x9 without embarrassment. Other than that they are ordinary neutral Japanese optics of their era. IOW, using a Hasselblad Zeiss 50mm, 60mm, 100mm or 150mm on Nikon DSLR gives a different, interesting look compared to same focal length Nikon glass. The Mamiya Press 65mm, 75mm, 100mm and 150mm do not offer this: results are too similar to comparable vintage Nikon glass, while being much clumsier with far slower range of usable apertures. The Press system is what it is: a fun giant rangefinder providing huge 6x9 film frames. Used as intended it delivers what it promises, and more. The lenses make nice 6x9 film images, but offer no particular advantage when re-purposed to digital (for my purposes).
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2019
  7. Thanks for the reply! I have the 100mm 2.8 and was wondering if it would be interesting on my Nikons as a portrait lens. I couldn't quite come up with a way to attach it. I do have the Mamiya extension tube set, but I could never figure out the thread size of the tubes that are threaded. But that might push me out beyond infinity anyway.
  8. Ah, you've got a legendary 100mm f/2.8, the 'unicorn' of the Press system- I'm jealous! The 100mm f/2.8 is reputed to be the best lens Mamiya made for the Press, by some margin. Most owners claim it rivals the Zeiss Planar made for the similar Graflex XL rangefinder, and the 80mm Planar for the Hasselblad and Rollei SL66. Unfortunately it is scarce and costly (the lens alone typically sells for 25% more than a complete Universal body + film back + 100/f3.5 kit). Most of them are located in Japan, where the climate encourages a rampaging fungus strain with particular fondness for vintage Mamiya coatings, so I've shied away from the investment required.

    I imagine your 100/2.8 would be quite a nice portrait lens on Nikon FX, Canon FX or Sony A7, or even better an MF 33x44 sensor like Fuji GX50, if a sturdy well-aligned adapter could be cobbled together. If cost was no object, I'm sure a custom fabricator like SK Grimes could easily make one, but it probably wouldn't be worth it for just this one lens. Would love to try it, tho...
  9. I was lucky to get one for a good price. If I'm ever able to cobble an adapter together, I will post the details here.
  10. Interesting. You must mean Graphic, not Graflex, 'cos Graflex SLRs all have flange-to-film distances much greater than 53 mm.

    Might be possible on a 4x5 Crown Graphic (minimum extension 52.1 mm) with the right adapter, but the adapter won't be easy 'cos there are no recessed boards for these cameras. Certainly possible on 2x3 Century/Crown Graphics, also on 3x4 Crowns, impossible on all Speed Graphics.

    I've always been fascinated by the idea of using a 50/6.3 Press lens on a 2x3 Century/Crown Graphic. Not in its own mount, but with the cells reshuttered in a Compur or Copal #0. Never did it, the focal length is close to 47 mm and I have a 47/5.6 SA with center filter.
  11. As soon as I realized my editing window for posts had expired, I knew you'd flag my casual inaccurate use of "Graflex" as shorthand to mean "random 4x5 camera that isn't a $3000 Linhof of Sinar". ;)

    Of course you're right that the Press lenses won't work on a Graflex. I don't remember what 4x5 setup it DOES work on, actually: just that there were a couple old threads here (and elsewhere) re people being curious how large a format the Press lenses could cover in a pinch. A few adventurers theorized the Press lenses that cover Polaroid might also cover 4x5, and experimented with a few. They didn't specify which 4x5 host camera: perhaps it was a custom pancake device. Anyway, the 150mm f/5.6 apparently covers 4x5 decently, some of the others "tolerably" (i.e. not well). Curiously the image circle on some is wider than it is tall, so the 75mm f/6.3 covers a panoramic near-6x12 but won't do 4x5. The 65mm vignettes already on 6x9, so thats out. Not sure if anyone mentioned trying the 50mm on 4x5: I think they tried it for 6x12 and it wasn't as good as the 75mm, so didn't bother with a 4x5 test. It was chalked up to the somewhat retrofocus optics of the 50mm not being as flexible as the symmetric optics of the 75mm (which may not be an accurate assumption).
  12. I must not have been clear. I was interested in using a 50/6.3 on a 2x3 (6x9 in metric) Graphic, not on a larger format. And I have no interest in the 65.

    People often say that the 50/6.3 is a Biogon clone. It is in that family, ain't retrofocus. I take it that you don't know how well it does on 6x9. Using it on 6x12 would be a stretch. My 38/4.5 Biogon covers ~ 120% of its focal length. If the 50/6.3 Mamiya does the same it won't cover 6x12 ...

    The 75 is in the same family as Super Angulons, but with 7 elements in 4 groups, not 6 or 8 elements.
  13. Perhaps I wasn't as clear as I could be, either: for the record, I was summarizing comments made by other experimenters in other threads. There is a difference between an optical design spec and how a lens actually behaves: more than once, the Press/Polaroid 75mm performance has been described as "symmetrical Angulon clone". The 50mm has been referred to repeatedly as having "mildly retrofocus performance characteristics" (most commonly when compared to its 65mm "Topogon" predecessor, which despite its mediocre infinity performance has an excellent rep for closeup work with extensions). The 50mm is universally considered the gem of the Press lenses: right up there among the best wides ever made for 6x9 format. But its performance envelope is definitely tilted towards middle distance thru infinity: less stunning at its closest limit and poor extended toward macro. And performance degrades noticeably just beyond its specified 6x9 image circle, so movements would be no-go.

    I've personally only used the old chrome-faced early-'60s variants of the 65mm, 100mm and 150mm on my Mamiya Universals, not enough yet to form complete conclusions of all-round performance. So far, the 100m comfortably exceeds its "meh" reputation: its no Hasselblad 100mm Planar, but then it costs one-twelfth the price and covers 6x9 nicely. A rough approximation of Rolleiflex Tessar if the 'flex shot 6x9.

    The 65mm is average for an old medium format wide: not really good, not really terrible, but certainly usable if one keeps in mind what it was designed for (interior small groups of people lit by flash at f/8 or f/11). Capable of decent landscapes if the light is just right, and fine for street work. Following the suggestion of a tinkerer here, I removed the mechanical aperture limiter holding the 65mm to f/6.3: mine now opens to an unofficial f/4.0. This makes double-checking fine focus on the groundglass back a bit easier, tho performance at f/4.0 degrades to that of an early-'70s Diana retrieved from a dumpster.

    The 150mm is rather better than I expected: I thought I'd never use it due to the dead slow f/5.6 aperture, but it has a nice look wide open that isn't far off from my old silver Hassy 250mm Sonnar. Beautiful for outdoor portraits in natural light. BUT: very hard to nail focus closer than 20 feet due to the goofy Rube Goldberg rangefinder coupling. I've had two 150s, and focus indication was off on both to different degrees on several Press bodies. Given these lenses are as old as I am, its not surprising their clunky cams have drifted and need to be adjusted to the body I want to use them on. Adjusting is a PITA: you have to tear out an epoxied rear baffle to access an epoxied screw, then tediously see-saw the cam until you hit a usable compromise window of accuracy between infinity and 7ft minimum distance. Workable if you like the lens, but not confidence-inspiring.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2019
  14. Those of you who already have Mamiya Press lenses and are into using them on other formats might be interested in what Ethan Moses is doing here in this vid clip. The new crowdfunder is for the 3D printing files for a 35mm cam that takes the MP lenses, though he also has other designs for 120 film ...
    The CAMERADACTYL Brancopan
    orsetto likes this.
  15. Thanks for the link! Compared to a complete new 3D printed camera, I would think a Mamiya Press>Nikon F mount adapter would be a cakewalk for him. I'll try to contact him and see if he's interested, and at what cost. The Press 150mm is a really, really nice 150mm, I'd love to be able to use it on smaller format digital without three hands. Also makes the pricey acquisition of the Press 100mm f/2.8 more feasible if it can also be used on Nikon digital.
    Sandeha Lynch likes this.
  16. I must be missing something. On the one hand, I can see the attractions of shooting panoramas (negatives longer than 36 mm) on 35 mm film. On the other, I don't see how precise framing is possible with a viewfinder camera like the Cameradactyls.

    Since the proposed 35 mm Cameradactyl accepts the same lenses as the roll film ones, wouldn't shooting on 120 and cropping be preferable?
  17. These kickstarter engineers generally start building things to suit their own preferences first, then offer them to the public, after which the really clever inventors branch out to requested modifications.

    In this particular case, the guy has created a large number of previous cameras but has settled on this notion of 'panorama on 35mm film' as a likely hit. He may be correct: the Hasselblad X-Pan concept is still hugely appealing to many photographers (the stable high prices of used X-Pan is not due just to collectors). Cropping is widely considered undesirable if not outright repellent today: younger photographers esp are drawn to the "exact format for the job" concept. If they bother with film at all, they want to hold the precise end result in their hand: cropping is "too much like digital". Your really devoted hipster types might also argue "why waste the resource of precious film only to ignore 2/3 of the available frame, oh dear the environmental cost" etc.

    Could also be a practical/mechanical issue: transporting and keeping 120 roll film flat in a bespoke 3D printed camera body may be more difficult than perforated 35mm spooling from metal cassette. His suggested vintage Mamiya 65mm f/6.3 lens/shutter, while affordable, is mediocre on 6x9 film in landscape/infinity use (edge vignetting is very strong). The smaller 24x58 35mm panorama frame falls well within the Mamiya's sweet-spot non-vignetting image circle.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2019
  18. Colour rolls of 120 are difficult to get processed in some places. IIRC, no photo companies process colour 120 in Uruguay - they have to be sent to Buenos Aires, which is too costly and slow for the average shooter. 35mm is easier to get done and much cheaper.

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