I sold a few things that don't get much use so I had enough guilt free cash to spring for a Mamiya 6 MF with the 75mm lens.
It was an agonising decision because I really struggled with dropping that kind of cash on an electronic film camera that it might be difficult to repair. I spent weeks looking at all the other options but nothing ticked all the boxes.
I came really close to getting a Fuji GS645 Pro or GS645S for 25-50% of the price, but the Pro doesn't have a light meter and the S has a slightly wider lens than I prefer. I know the 37mm equivalent is very close to the 41mm equivalent of the Mamiya lens, but I am happiest in the 40-50mm range and that extra 4mm makes a lot of difference to me.
So, for posterity, the reasons I decided to bite the bullet and get the Mamiya are:
- 6x6 gives 12 shots a roll - 2 more than my 6x7, and only 3 less than a Fuji 645. With the extra real estate I can afford to crop a bit more if my feet can't zoom close enough for whatever reason.
- The square frame is different and I think it's going to be fun and challenging learning to compose with it.
- It's very compact - not as compact as a folder like the GS645 Pro, but more so than other systems cameras or fixed lens options.
- I love how the 75mm renders. I know some people find it a bit clinical and I love a character lens as much as the next man, but this camera needs to work in any situation so I think it's going to be perfect as a one-and-done.
- I have the option of getting the 50mm later if I feel the need. Yes, I could have bought several fixed lens cameras in different focal lengths (like the complete range of Fujis) for the price of the Mamiya, but there would inevitably be a favourite and I would feel bad about leaving the others at home. It was very tempting though - Like many here I love collecting cameras and lenses, but I already have too many and I am forcing myself to simplify.
- It has a light meter. I love shooting meterless with my M4-P, but there are situations when a meter is convenient and helpful. I know I could use an external meter with any camera (I have a Voigtlander VCII and a Weston Master), but having the meter in-camera and coupled is a nice luxury. Also this means...
- It has aperture priority mode. I don't know how often I will use this, but since I was looking for a portable, quick, fun MF camera to use for travel, I can see many situations in which this could be very useful.
- The Mamiya 6 MF (Multi Format) model has 35mm panoramic guidelines in the viewfinder. Yes, I know many people prefer the less cluttered view of the original 6, and I've read Ken Rockwell's views on why he thinks it makes more sense to shoot 120 and crop to panoramic, but there are plenty of stocks that are only available in 135 and I don't want to pay for 120 then throw away half of it. I have wanted an XPan for ages, and hopefully this will scratch that itch. I don't have the official frame mask + 135 adapter and I don't want to spend $250 USD on them, but I have ordered a couple of cheap 3D printed 135-120 adapters from eBay to play with. I love the look of 35mm film exposed to the edges including the sprocket holes and I'm very much looking forward to trying some panoramas!
- The MF is newer, and so hopefully might last longer. Of course this depends on how heavily it was used and how well it was looked after by its previous owners, so I also payed extra for the cleanest looking one I could find.
There are many other cameras that equal or exceed the Mamiya in one or more of those areas, but I couldn't find any that I thought would be as complete a package for my personal needs and tastes. Now the difficult part - waiting for it to arrive from Japan!
Thanks again for all the suggestions folks, and happy shooting!