The Mamiya 7 is an easy-to-use and optically superb medium format camera. Does it take the perfect photos? Yes, I can say with a great deal of satisfaction that I found a camera that fits my needs as a photographer. If you are serious about medium format photography, this camera should be on your radar.
The Mamiya 7 is a medium format, 6x7 rangefinder camera. The biggest advantage of this camera is its portability. Most medium format cameras are big and bulky. You can't just strap one of them around your neck and walk around for hours. Even worse is having to stop and dig a camera out of your bag. The engineers over at Mamiya got it right with the Mamiya 7. It is extremely portable and light. The camera is smaller than most DSLR cameras. It can hang around your neck all day and won't give you a bad back. It is the first medium format camera I've used that is small and portable enough to take with me everywhere.
The Mamiya 7 produces wonderfully large 6x7 negatives. Some consider the size to be the ideal format. I personally prefer it over the square, 6x6 format. Coupled with a good scanner, this camera can produce an image superior to any digital camera. I've seen incredible prints made at 40x50 inches with camera. Considering how small and portable the camera is, that's an incredible size.
The camera is easy to use. Loading film can be tough, especially medium format. Backs and loaders are cumbersome and take time. This camera opens up and loads like a 35mm camera. I can change film in less than a minute.
The camera's optics are very impressive. There are a variety of excellent interchangeable lenses available for the Mamiya 7. A lot of people prefer the the wide angled 43mm lens. I prefer the 80mm, which is the equivalent of a 50mm on a 35mm camera. The 80mm lens is close to perfect. It's sharp at every aperture and no light falloff. It's one of the best lenses I've ever used.
The Mamiya 7 is a rangefinder camera, and focusing takes some getting used to. Its lenses are all manual focus. I often wish I had automatic focus for those candid, close up moments.
The Mamiya 7's mechanics leave a lot to be desired. It is made of plastic and feels like it could break if you're not careful. The engineers were aiming for portability and less weight, so plastic makes sense. Its shutter is incredibly quiet. Most of the time I don't even hear it.
This camera has gotten a lot cheaper over the years. A new unit starts at around $3,600; however, you can find a used one on Ebay for under $2000. It's a great value considering the optic quality and incredible sized prints this camera produces.
If you're looking into the Mamiya 7II, you should also look at the Mamiya 6 as well. The lens retracts into the body making it even more compact and portable than the Mamiya 7. It also produces 6x6cm negatives, unlike the Mamiya 7's 6x7cm negatives.
This camera is a lot of fun. Medium format, film photography captures light in such a wonderful way. I'm still blown away by the photos this camera takes every time I get my 6x7cm negatives back from the lab. So give a try, I can guarantee you won't be disappointed.