Using vintage LF lenses on a Mamiya 7 ? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Hello, I am asking this for a friend who uses a Mamiya 7 and is interested in buying funky old uncoated lenses to create a pictorial or antiquated effect. I am not familiar with that camera so I couldn't help her, but figured someone here would know. The main question is whether the old lenses need to have a shutter, or should the shutter be removed, and what sort of adpater might be necessary to mount the lens on the camera. Does anyone have any insight into this?

Thanks, Sandy

-- Sandy Sorlien (, May 22, 2002


Hi Sandy,

Its not going to work. The Mamiya 7 is an electronic camera so those old lense won't work at all even if you could make a mount to attach them to the camera. I'd suggest trying some soft focus filters, maybe some vaseline smeared or edge sprayed filters on the Mamiya lenses. Or buy an old folding 6X6 or 6X9 camera with a funky lens.

-- Henry Ambrose (, May 22, 2002.


Save youself (or her) a lot of pain, just use special effects filters or Photoshop, or pick up a Diana or a Holga. The biggest obstacle for the M7 would be getting the lens-to-film distance correct while not damaging the camera's electronic contacts or rangefinder coupling. There also would be no way to focus because the M7 lenses use helicoid focusing and view camera lenses use bellows focusing. In addition, the viewfinder lines would likely not show what the lens is seeing. If you did manage to make a spacer/mount that would 1) not damage the camera, 2) be focused at some single acceptable point, you'd likely have more money in an almost unusable camera that just buying a Crown Graphic (about $200 for a decent user) and putting a roll film back on the Crown. 2-1/4 x 3-1/4 Crowns with roll film backs are common on e-bay for as little as $150.

BTW, most of those old uncoated lenses, unless damaged, are remarkably sharp for B&W, especially if sunlight doesn't hit the front element.



-- Steve Hamley (, May 22, 2002.

No, this would be very tricky. You wouldn't have a way to focus, aside from all the other problems mentioned.

You can use LF and other lenses with medium format SLRs if the camera has its own focusing mechanism and a focal plane shutter. I wrote a short piece on the topic of adapting lenses for medium and small format cameras, and there are links to further information there: p

-- David Goldfarb (, May 22, 2002.

Durn line breaks inserting spaces into the URL. Okay, click here for that article.

-- David Goldfarb (, May 22, 2002.

I use Pentax 6x7, and I have the macro bellows with a home-made LF lens adapter on it. Since it's an SLR, focusing is no problem.

Using a LF lens with the Mamiya 7 is tricky, as you'd first need to make a jig with a ground glass where the film plane on the Mamiya would be. The adapter for the LF lens to the camera would be two tubes (inner, outer) of which the outer would be epoxied to a body cap. Then you would first focus the lens way in the distance and mark infinity, and then draw it out, mark something else, etc. Once you were done marking distances, mount the new lens on the Mamiya and enjoy! :-)

-- Brian C. Miller (, May 23, 2002.

Much easier and cheaper to buy a funky old Kodak 5X7 with funky old lens already attached. The Mamiya 7 is too sophisticated to tamper with. When you start adding and removing lens groups to get stuff funky, you need a ground glass and bellows.

-- Jim Galli (, May 24, 2002.

I would recommend you to buy a speed graphic. You can find cheap and working ones at about 100 $ . Mounting one of these lenses to a medium format camera wouldn't really work not only for incompatibility between the lens and the camera, but also because these lenses are mostly for formats ranging from 4x5 to 16 x 20 and sometime over, and to really have the effect your friend is looking for you need to get a lens fit to cover the format of your camera as precisely as possible. Lenses designs like the Petzval have the very peculiuar characteristic of being very sharp in the center and abruptly showing some kind of distortion on the edges. You won't be able to focus in these areas, only in the center this will be done. So , to achieve this effect you need a film that will record the complete coverage of the lens. I don't think the aim is to have soft focus effects, and a filter smeared with grease is a simplistic answer that will not help your friend. I have been using this kind of lenses for years now and there simply is no substitute. If your friend needs inputs or places where to find them i can help.

-- domenico (, May 24, 2002.

Why are you asking us? Just because we use large format film, we don't all use brass and walnut antiques and sport handlebar moustaches you know.

Anyway, old lenses don't necessarily give an old-fashioned look to pictures. In fact, I think you'll find that most 'old' lenses will be disappointingly sharp and flare free. You've got to get real antiques (~pre 1890) to get a very noticeable drop in quality from modern lenses.
Try using just one half of a modern symmetrical lens, a simple magnifying glass, a lens from a cheap box camera, or a soft-focus filter. It'll save you a lot of bother.

-- Pete Andrews (, May 24, 2002.

Thanks everybody, I've passed your answers on to my friend Rita. Domenico is exactly right, Vaseline or soft-focus filters are not the idea at all. Pete, the reason I'm asking the LF gang is because I am already on this forum and not on any others, and as a former Holga user (like Rita) and current LF user I know the pictorial effects of certain lenses, and because on a general photography forum I think I would be more likely to get a snide answer like yours.

Many photographers who are interested in process understand that the inherent characteristics of a lens, or of a certain film, or of a certain printing paper, are something to be appreciated and exploited, NOT negated by covering them with something else or changing them in Photoshop.

Thanks for the technical advice, all... I think she's gonna go for the Speed Graphic.


-- Sandy Sorlien (, May 24, 2002.

PS to Pete --- Sorry to sound harsh. I do appreciate your suggestions about the magnifying glass and half-lens. I passed along to Rita. Thanks.

-- Sandy Sorlien (, May 24, 2002.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ