Shooting the Mamiya RZ67 handheld: how much sharpness one sacrifices (over a tripod and mirror lock-up)?

Setup: Mamiya RZ67 ProIID, 110mm f/2.8 lens, Kodak Portra 160NC; focusing via the waist-level finder loupe; scanned with the Nikon Coolscan 9000 at 4000 dpi (no infrared cleaning).

Scene (click images to open larger versions in a new window):

Comparison #1: handheld vs tripod, f/5.6 at 1/125s, using optimal technique (breath holding, tripping the shutter with gentle pressure) but nothing out of the ordinary…

The tripod shot on the right is clearly sharper (no big surprise, here). Now, how about…

Comparison #2: tripod vs mirror lock-up, with same exposure settings (f/5.6 at 1/125s)

The MLU shot on the right is essentially the same, as far as I can tell.

Comparison #3: handheld vs. tripod, with faster shutter speed (f/4 at 1/250 s):

The faster shutter speed does not seem to be associated with better sharpness, when handheld (obviously this is operator-dependent, though!).

Comparison #4: just for the sake of completeness, tripod vs. MLU at f/4 and 1/250 s:


This should be the optimal combination, and apparently is the sharpest.

The conclusion? Tripod use appears to be the most significant factor involved for this operator.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Kevin McGovern
    Mar 25, 2019 @ 00:44:05

    Much obliged for the comparison; I’m a new RB67 owner, but have been an avid amateur since the ‘70s. Basically, your fine work confirmed what I already believed on all counts, and saved me a roll of film, since I was going to do the same experiments, also.

    Even the Pro SD model with the extra use of plastic is a brick to lug about, but I have built a grip that helps, even for occasional street photography. I also carry a monopod I designed, essentially a long, wooden dowel rod, with a quick-mount shoe on top, that comes in three pieces that screw together for easy break down. Not as good as a tripod, but gets a sharper snap at festivals and such!


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