Zeiss Super Ikonta 531/A or Mamiya 7?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by steve_mareno, Dec 5, 2008.

  1. These were the first shots that I took w/ a Mamiya 7 w/ an 80 4.0 lens, and are from the standard el cheapo Photo CD scans. Whilst out shooting I brought along my 1937 Zeiss Super Ikonta 531/A w/ an uncoated Tessar 75 2.8 lens just to see how things compare. No hood or filters on either camera and shot w/ Tri-X. While the Mamiya is a tad bit sharper and renders the background more in focus, the Zeiss does as good a job in my eyes, and I prefer the more out of focus background. Both were shot at the same apertures and shutter speeds (I think). Hard to compare the two cameras as the Zeiss doesn't have a meter, has a separate rangefinder that you have to get your subject in focus with, and you have to cock the shutter. On the other hand it is positively tiny compared to the Mamiya and folds up to fit in my pocket. Shooting it is surprisingly fast once you get the routine down, and the thing just oozes quality and craftsmanship. The Mamiya is more like shooting a BIG Leica M6, but feels like what it is. Plastic. I had thought that the Mamiya would blow the Zeiss away, but it doesn't. It is sharper on quite a few shots, but I don't care for the way the images look so much like my Nikon shots, just sharper and bigger. The Zeiss shots more closely resemble my Leica's rendering of images. The Mamiya is going to a new home, and the Zeiss is going out for a CLA to see if it can produce even better images.
  2. Zeiss 531/A
  3. I don't want to give the impression that the Mamiya isn't a good shooter. It is. Here's a couple of crops from another shot that I took w/ the same cameras, and you can see that it's clearly sharper than the Zeiss. But considering that the Zeiss hasn't had the lens aligned nor it's RF adjusted, I sorta think that putting a hood on it's uncoated lens and giving the camera a CLA will show considerable improvement.
  4. Mamiya 7 Crop.
  5. Unfortunately the two last were taken at different times of day, so it's hard to compare absolute sharpness.

    Although my Mamiya 6 takes extremely sharp photos, I often prefer the look of my Bronica S2 and old Nikkor lenses.
  6. I can only compare my Super Ikonta 6x6 and 6x9 to my Hasselblad 501CM. Yes, the Hassy is sharper at full aperture but not enough to completely discount the quality of the negs from my Ikontas.

    Then when I see that I can stuff two Super Ikontas into my backpack and they take up about as much space as my Hassy I'm even more impressed.

    Use a tripod (yes that is difficult), and a lens hood with the Ikontas and the results are more than adequate.
  7. I had to reshoot the building shot because I realized later that I had, ahem, been shooting for a while w/ the lens cap on. But it's the same building, and the sun is always in front of it, just more to one side or the other depending on the time of day. Oddly, it looks like the same pigeons are in about the same place, especially the one on the far left. It's a quiet sort of town!
  8. If you shoot handheld, don't develop yourself and get photo CD scans, it is not that surprising that the Super Ikonta and
    Mamiya might look close...you are cutting down most of the performance gains you might make. But if you just don't like
    the look, that is totally reasonable as well.
  9. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    It would be good to see the differences after a better scan, but I guess its too late now. I think the process you describe risks masking the differences. That said if the Super Ikonta images make you happy, who is anyone to quibble? For me, I'm keeping my Mamiya 7ii. And I really don't care what its made of.
  10. I wouldn't expect the cla or the hood to contribute much to sharpness. Using a tripod would, and would likely benefit the lighter, less stable Zeiss relatively more.

    I love the folders and if you are careful to keep the lens standard aligned and ensure film flatness by tightening up the film with the wind knob just before shooting, they shouldn't give much away against a contemporary TLR with probably about the same lens. But I agree that with a good scan you will always see more of a delta against something like the Mamiya. That's why I still have my RB67.
  11. I think a CLA would help the sharpness, because that would (I guess) include aligning the RF and making sure the lens is in alignment. A hood would help too because I live in the Southwest and often the light is really bright & contrasty. My Nikon 8000 ED scanner is waiting in the wings, but it's much more convenient to just let my lab do the CD scans at time of development. It's a hassle to cut the film and scan on the Nikon, so I use the CD scans as proofs to see which image, if any, goes to the Nikon. Everyone says use a tripod, but I don't own one and won't. I shoot hand held. Won't own a flash either. At the high shutter speeds (relatively) I am always forced to use because I shoot 400 ISO film I don't expect to see any big difference. I carry a camera everywhere I go and can't even imagine dragging a tripod w/ me. There are too many tricks you can use to stabilize the shots w/o that, like tying a string to your foot and the camera and pulling it taut.

    This isn't meant to be an anti Mamiya post. It's a good camera. It's more to show that a camera made over 70 years ago can do a credible job, be a lot smaller to carry, and be more fun to shoot with. After 70 years of development, and as much as a Mamiya 7 and lens costs, I expect a bigger difference in the pics.
  12. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    "After 70 years of development, and as much as a Mamiya 7 and lens costs, I expect a bigger difference in the pics."

    And if you'd given the better camera a chance by using a tripod and using better scans, you might well see a bigger difference. All you've proved is that you, personally, are happy with the quality you get from the Ikonta hand-held. But even that would be better in absolute terms on a tripod and with better scans, and given what you've actually done you may not notice a huge difference from what you might achieve with 35mm film.
  13. The Mamiya is not made of plastic. It has a metal alloy frame and plastic panels to keet the weight down. I'd hate to carry about a 67 rangefinder that's made entirely of metal.
  14. This does show that lens technology has not really progressed that much since the 1930s, or even before.
    However, you might just be lucky, too, and have gotten a particularly good example of your camera.
    More rigorous testing might show higher resolution overall from the Mamiya lens -- you'll certainly get higher contrast from it because of coatings.
    But the real-world effects of these differences are going to be minimal at moderate enlargement sizes. That's always been a real-world advantage of medium and large format over the smaller negatives sizes.
    I love "folders" too! I'm not biased towards them in terms of technology, nor do I claim that the optics are better or even as good; I think I know better than that. But in terms of "how good does it have to be?", many of them are certainly better than sufficient.
    I definitely have found, though, that it's easier to take a light-weight, pocket-sized camera out with me, and so I've tended to shoot more with a folder even than with a TLR. So, if you factor in the question of "likelihood I will make a photo that day" given my camera choices, folders definitely often win.
  15. Steve, I'm missin' somethin' here-- you don't say what aperture you were shooting at. Or did I just not find it? Let me guess-- bright day, Tri-X-- how about f/16 at 1/250? Maybe f/11?
    At f/11 or f/16, the Tessar is going to absolutely sing, and it will easily give the Mamiya 80/4 (presumably a Gauss) a run for its money. But if you repeat the tests at f/4 or f/5.6, and examine the corners of the negative, I bet the Mamiya will win hands down. Not only will the edge performance of the Tessar diminish at large apertures, but the flatness and alignment issues of a folder will increase as depth of focus diminishes.
    Not dissing your Tessar-- I have several lenses of tessar design, and they're superb for what I use them for. But think carefully before giving up your Mamiya 7-- those who have 'em seem to love 'em.
  16. If you're going to worry mostly about sharpness and/or resolution, then hand-holding is a bad idea; a tripod would almost always make some improvement, and often a significant improvement. And if you're going to carry a reasonably sturdy tripod, then the size and weight difference between the Mamiya and the Zeiss doesn't seem like too big a deal. (I also agree with what others have said, that comparing hand-held shots at small aperture through low-end scans seems likely to equalize the cameras, and is therefore not a valid test of the cameras.)
    To me, the advantage of medium format when hand-holding is mostly grain in sizeable enlargements. And that, of course, doesn't tell you about the lens, or the quality of the image, but only about the film and the degree of enlargement (and to some extent the exposure and the processing of the film).
  17. "I'd hate to carry about a 67 rangefinder that's made entirely of metal."
    I carry about my Koni Omegas and Mamiya Press's with some accessories on bike rides every week.
    When I hike with them I just do arm curls while I'm walking.
    There's no chance I'd carry my Mamiya 7ii on nights like this: [​IMG]
  18. Greg, you are indeed The Man! The Koni Omegas are about as close to a solid metal camera that you can get. I also ride a bike and once you get the camera slung over your shoulder and centered it's pretty ok, but I wouldn't want to carry the Koni Omegas that way. You're a tougher guy than me. I've had a strange yen for one of those cameras for a while, and they are really, really cheap right now. Great lenses.
    Dave, the shots were taken at f22. W/ the relatively low top shutter speeds of these cameras, 400 ISO film, and the bright New Mexico sun my apertures generally stay there or at f16. I wouldn't dare compare the Zeiss w/ the Mamiya at anything below f8. While the Mamiya is really sharp, I think the Tessar is plenty sharp enough, and I love the way it renders images. That was my point, although I wasn't very clear about it.
    I still say the Mamiya is plastic because that's what it looks and feels like. Plastic. They are great picture takers, and the meter is swell. Don't take it personal here. It's just an inanimate object. But after shooting something like a classic Zeiss camera all day, picking up the Mamiya and using it just doesn't work for me. It sure won't be taking pictures 70 years from now. If it blew the Zeiss away then it wouldn't matter, but it doesn't. I have rolls and rolls of film that bear that out, not just the one sample image I posted, and I am sure other Old Folder shooters have much better shots in their portfolio. I just wanted to demonstrate that you don't need to buy the latest and greatest gear or spend a ton of money to get great images.
  19. I use a Tenba photo sling while I'm riding, it's pretty darned comfortable. I love the 60mm lens on the Koni Omegas, when I'm running around I don't mind having to crop a little, especially if I shoot from the hip. I love it so much I put it in the " Which camera do you 'always come back to'" thread.
  20. I looked around and found a shot taken wide open. Not bitingly sharp, but workable.
  21. That's a sharp lens Greg. Maybe that should be the next comparison shootout for someone. A Koni Omega vs a Mamiya 7. Or Koni vs Hasselblad?
  22. I've been meaning to do a Mamiya Press 65mm vs Koni Omega 60mm vs Mamiya 7 65mm but I just really don't have the time.
  23. Yes, the Zeiss Super Ikontas are great cameras, and in many cases just as good as more modern and more expensive cameras. I particularly like the 6x9 Ikontas because that wonderful format can't be easily or cheaply duplicated elsewhere. Other cameras, like the Rollie TLRs, are just as usefill in many ways as more modern Hasselblads. But let's face it, the Mamiya 7, like the Hasselblad, is a much more versitle camera with several great lenses to chose from and a choice of 120 or 220 film.

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