Rank Mamiya – What’s in a name?
The Rank Mamiya is a rangefinder camera from an era when camera manufacturers were establishing themselves in certain markets. Mamiya has a long and great history in medium format cameras but never really established themselves as a force in the 35mm market.
This camera is a bit of chameleon as it goes by a number of names, including Rank Aldis, Mamiya Ruby and Mamiya 4B. Also related is the Mamiya M3, which would never be confused with the namesake in the Leica world. Some of these models have a few differences but are essentially the same camera.
I have a great liking for Mamiya cameras, as can be seen in the quick review of the Mamiya 7. I also have a RB67, a Super 23, and a sub miniature 16 amongst my Mamiya collection. This is what led me to purchasing this rangefinder. This plugs a hole in the 35mm format, alongside the SLR.
Mamiya has been in the high end manufacturing of photographic equipment for a long time. The company was founded in 1940 by a camera designer called Seiichi Mamiya. Primarily the company focused on medium format equipment. It was not until 1949 when they introduced 35mm cameras starting with the well regarded Mamiya 35 series.
Rank Arena was an electronics, mainly television, manufacturer which was quite difficult to get any information on. They were incorporated into the NEC corporation and when NEC left the consumer electronics market, the brand ended up being used by some retailers for low end cheap electronics.
Exactly how Rank Arena and Mamiya got together is a mystery to me. I am quite sure it was these two as the Rank Mamiya logo is represented exactly as per the Rank Arena logo on the camera. That is here in Australia. Interestingly the other “version” of this camera, the Rank Aldis, has the logo of the Rank Group on it, which was a major UK film (movies) company but these days is mostly an entertainment company focused on gambling.
The Rank Mamiya is a rebadged Mamiya 4B and/or Ruby. It was released between 1961 to 1962. Again there is no clear evidence of exactly when. The Mamiya Ruby is a line of 35mm rangefinder cameras Mamiya made through the sixties.
The Rank Mamiya is a 35mm rangefinder camera with a fixed Mamiya-Sekor 40mm f/2.8 lens. It uses an uncoupled selenium meter, so it does not take batteries. It is housed in a chrome body with black fake leatherette covering for grip and wear.
The top plate has an Exposure Value (EV) indicator, where the selenium meter will suggest the exposure settings in EV numbers. These are then used when adjusting exposure on the lens, by adjusting the combination of aperture and shutter speed to show the indicated EV number.
Also on the top is the shutter release, with standard remote thread, and the frame counter which is around the film advance lever. The frame counter has to be reset manually each time you load film. A cold shoe and the rewind crank are also on the top.
As mentioned above, all the controls are on the lens, including the focusing, aperture and shutter speed. Minimum focus distance is 0.9 metres or 3 feet. Apertures range from f/2.8 though to f/22. Shutter speeds include Bulb and range from 1/250thsecond through to 1/4th second. A flash sync port is also available on the front of the camera.
The viewfinder is collimated and has parallax correction marks within the framing marks. The rangefinder patch is in the middle and in contrasted yellow.
Film is loaded from behind and very straight forward with threading of the leader on the right hand side.
I got the Rank Mamiya as part of my aim of having most of the different format cameras from Mamiya covered. As I also enjoy rangefinders, and it has a f/2.8 lens, for $10 it was a no brainer. The name Rank was a bit concerning. Depending on where you are in the world, the word “rank” usually means bad.
When I started using it I noticed the meter was a bit off, by about a stop and half. This is not surprising considering the age and it is a selenium meter. What was a little more concerning is that the rangefinder was a little off too. Not a big deal, as I zone focused for a lot of these shots. I believe the little screws at the back allow you to adjust it, but as I could not confirm it, I did not want to break anything. For most of the shooting though, it was fine as it seemed to only go out of whack mostly at infinity.
Using it was pretty intuitive. Once I adjusted the Exposure Index (EI) to cater for the meter it was easy. I looked at the Exposure Value (EV) indicator and then made sure the number on the lens matched up through the combination of the aperture and shutter speed.
The viewfinder is quite a nice one. Not the brightest I have used, but enough to make it comfortable. The same with the rangefinder patch, quite easy to see and did not get too lost in bright conditions.
Pressing the shutter is extremely quiet with the Rank Mamiya. From that point of view it is a really good camera to use on the street.
I tried a number of films in this camera, Kodak Color 400, Film Never Die IRO 200 (which is actually Fujifilm Superior 200) and Oriental Seagull 100. The results do seem to lack some contrast, but are very useable once adjusted. Sharpness is good, with some falloff in the wider apertures. Once you are down in the f/8 region it is gone.
Vignetting is noticeable in the larger apertures too. It does reduce as you move through the aperture range, but even at f/8 it can be seen, though it does not detract from the photo. I didn’t get too much flare through the three rolls I put through it.
I did enjoy using the Rank Mamiya, it is a nice camera. Especially of you take into account the price of picking one up. It works well, mine did have a couple of issues but they we overcome very easily. Overall it is a medium quality nice rangefinder camera with an unfortunate name.
Very interesting and kudos to the effort on your part to dig up all this info. It seems in the past is often so much more exciting. I am also into fountain pens, and the history of pens (manufacturers and brands) was also often intertwined.
It’s quite hard to imagine these companies deciding to co brand on a camera. You have to wonder on the logic which brought them to that conclusion. I’m glad you found it interesting. Thank you!
Yeah, I don’t know why they did it. Maybe to reach better economies of scale in production.
I got one recently and it has the Rank Mamiya badge. I remember J Arthur Rank and his company from my childhood in the 60s and 70s. Rank was into films, cinemas, TV, TV sets – all sorts. There’s a Wikipedia page about him, which also describes the use of his name as rhyming slang – something I remember my dad doing. Anyway, suffice to say that Rank was a household name in Britain and a firmly British brand. Given that the camera was made in Japan and being marketed only 16 years after the second world war, I wonder if the partnership was intended to help British consumers overcome a little bit of lingering anti-Japanese prejudice.
Here in Australia it was also quite a well known brand. I seem to remember the Rank Arena TV brand in the 70s and 80s. I think it was quite a progressive move to do business, tapping into an area of growth for manufacturing.
The leaf shutter has stuck open, probably needs a dab of alcohol to clean, the aperture shutters work fine, – How do I take the lens off ?? Rgds Richard Watt
I had a look at mine to see if I can see anything obvious, and I suspect it has something to do with that retaining ring, but I cannot see any way to undo it. It may be only accessible from the back of the camera once the top is off. Sorry, not much help on pulling them apart. Theo
J Arthur Rank was the biggest single individual player in British cinema history and was into vertical integration including cine projector manufacture. Rank Kershaw were stopped from making cameras to concentrate on projectors. Aldis was also a Rank company best known for slide projectors and military signalling lamps. Kershaw never made a 35mm camera and this was something that could fill a bit of a hole in their range, but there was a gap of a few years when no cameras were sold by Rank as far as I can tell. There is a Kershaw gallery on my website.
Thank you, this is really interesting info.
This camera and variations on it, was also sold in the USA by Sears under their Tower brand
Did not know that, thanks for the info!