The Plaubel Makina 67 is a collapsible rangefinder shooting 6x7cm frames on 120 film. It dates from the late 70s/early 80s. When collapsed it is, I think, the smallest 6x7 camera available. Here it is collapsed:
I like the fact the cable release goes in the side of the body – makes it seem like somehow more sophisticated than screwing into the shutter button.
I have used this particular camera before, probably about ten years ago when Gerry bought it. It didn’t go too well, so it wasn’t an entirely random choice to try it now. I wanted to have another go and get it right this time. My previous attempts were with flash, and an obvious synch speed cock-up resulted in such an extreme level of vignetting there might as well have been the words That’s all folks! underneath.
The 67’s most famous user is probably Martin Parr, who shot some of his best-known work on it. So, with visions of producing my own south-coast version of The Last Resort, I headed off with the kids to Camber Sands. Parr used a Vivitar 283 flash with his 67, but I wasn’t going to risk that again. Natural light would be sufficient.
And an odd light it was too. It was November, sunny, with sea mist intermittently enveloping everything then clearing again. The temperature was all over the place.
The Plaubel is a solid looking camera, and I like the simplicity of it. Despite being small for a 67, it’s still pretty substantial, and the combination of size and simplicity do lend it a certain toylike appearance. I recently read an article by someone who’d appeared in a Parr photo, and she described being only vaguely aware of a man taking photos. Given the size of the thing, the blazing flash, and how close he likes to get to his subjects, this seems extraordinary. I’m amazed all Martin Parr’s photos aren’t of people pointing at him, mouthing “What the hell’s that?”
After setting up on a tripod, I tried a few shots of the sea. The mist and low sun gave a nice moody look. Pity about the wonky horizon though…
Then I thought I’d go more for Parr-like shots of the British at play. However, peering through the rangefinder it became apparent that I wasn’t going to be aping his style - I didn’t feel comfortable getting that close to people. So, here’s the sort of thing I got instead:
I quite like all the different things going on, but what I was really going for here was the fact that the two people in the deckchairs are both concentrating on their phones, and if I’d been closer that would have been more obvious. Still, it’s a 67 neg so I could always try printing it massive to bring out all the detail. I’m not sure, however, that scale is any substitute for composition.
Here’s another one pointing in the other direction:
This one’s a bit more successful I think. I like the people dotted around the dunes, and everyone facing in different directions.
The Plaubel is an easy camera to use, at least it was this time without worrying about flash. The rangefinder isn’t the best, but it’s not bad, and the speed and aperture controls are easily accessible. It is satisfyingly chunky to hold, which gives you confidence you’re not going to break it (just as well as they seem to be going for about a grand on ebay).
After putting two rolls of film through it, I discovered an ISO scale on the underside of the lens. On further investigation I found a battery cover – turns out it has a meter. However, on inserting batteries no joy, so it clearly doesn’t work. So, like with my F2, I’ll have to stick with the hand-held Sekonic. Like I said earlier, I think that gives me better results anyway.
I really like the Plaubel, and I'm tempted to hang on to it, but there are a lot more cameras to try and I have to be ruthless. Otherwise I'll just end up with Gerry's whole collection in my house...