My Day with a Mamiya 35mm Camera

Mamiya/Sekor 500 DTL: This is a tank of a camera.

I acquired this camera from a thrift store last week. It came in a weird black box, with a beat up Vivitar 80-210 zoom lens and a near mint Vivitar 28mm f2.8 TX mount. It also came with a full barrage of filters and a set of nice Vivitar extension tubes.

I have come to be a big fan of these all mechanical cameras. I am a fan of this camera.

Specs

  • Film type: 35mm.
  • Weight: 1.5lbs (770g) without a lens.
  • Lens mount: M42 screw-mount.
  • Shutter: Mechanical focal-plane. Shutter speeds from 1 sec. to 1/500 in full stop increments, plus bulb.
  • Flash: Flash sync is at 1/60, X-sync and FP-sync PC connections. No flash-shoe.
  • Meter: Average and Spot. You have to push the lever to stop down the lens and activate the meter. (Assuming the meter still works.)

There’s not a lot going on. That is what’s so wonderful about this camera. The meter on my camera doesn’t work. This is nothing that a hand held meter, or even Sunny 16 can’t help with.

I think this camera really can go against the Pentax Spotmatic SP series cameras. It is built every bit as well as one of those. I have a Spotmatic SP F and while these two cameras are very different, they have a lot in common. Although I think the Mamiya/Sekor 1000DTL is closer to the Spotmatic, The 1000DTL has a cold-shoe and a 1/1000 top speed. I really like the way this camera looks with no shoe on top of the prism.

I don’t see too many of these around, but I picked one up one day at a thrift store and I wanted to buy it, I could tell it was a workhorse, but the one on the shelf was completely abused. When I found this one in such great shape, how could I say no? What I really love is the sound of the shutter and the positive film crank. It has by far my favorite film advance of all of my 35mm cameras, with a possible exception of the Nikon FM2n.

So, for fun, I recorded the sounds of some of my cameras for comparison.

Every photographer has their favorite camera. Some of us have several. I really like this camera. I carried it for three hours on a photowalk, without a strap. This is a heavy camera, but it’s easy to hold. Even better than that, it’s easy to use.

If you like mechanical cameras, then you’ll love this camera. It’s well built, it looks good, and it takes good pictures. Well, pictures as good as your glass and film.

This picture below is of the negatives from a few days ago. I developed and sleeved them. Notice how well spaced every frame is, no stray light leaks. Sample pictures are great for testing lenses, but to test a camera, you need to look at the negatives. These negatives are spaced beautifully, this is a testament to how well the camera held up over the years.

Final thoughts.

This is a camera for a photographer that loves the simple pleasures of film photography. These old film cameras are not made to sit on your shelf, they are made to help you create images. It doesn’t matter if they are good or bad, just make them.

If you have never shot film before, this might not be your camera. If have shot film, this still might not be your camera. If you understand the math of photography and you love it, this camera will definitely be right up your alley.

Gallery from the roll of Fomapan 400 I shot with the 500 DTL.

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