Introduced in December of 1980, the Mamiya ZE-2 Quartz is definitely a child of the 80s. There’s lots of plastic and cheap material where the leather covering should be.
Mamiya has a storied past and a well deserved reputation for building high quality cameras with amazingly sharp optics. Adding that reputation Mamiya seemed to be more committed to getting their cameras into the hands of photographers which led to the price of their cameras being more affordable than many of their contemporaries like Rollei and Hasselblad.
The ZE-2 isn’t the most advanced, or the lightest or anything other than another relatively anemic 35mm film camera with few options. It’s a standard 35mm SLR with a quartz-controlled focal plane shutter with an AE Lock, automatic exposure setting that utilizes Mamiya CS, E and EF lenses. Given the uses of plastic in the body and lenses the ZE-2 is pretty lightweight but not built for the long haul. All of the adjustments dials, shutter button, film advance lever and a good portion of the main body is all plastic with the film door, lens bayonet and inner workings being metal; probably aluminum. It would seem that Mamiya had little interest in going toe-to-toe with Nikon and Canon in the 35mm film market so they aimed squarely on entry level users.
Features and Operation
There are no real surprises here, using the Mamiya ZE-2 is no different than any other camera, but it is missing as many a features as it has. The 50mm f/2 E lens that came with mine has a metal bayonet ring, but plastic inserts where the diodes are. The camera uses these to tell the meter what the aperture is set to, or if it is locked in Auto mode. With the lens in auto, and the shutter speed dial set to Auto, the ZE-2 just takes pictures, which can be handy if you don’t want to worry about it. There is no depth of field preview however.
The ZE-2 has a generous range of film speeds to choose from, ranging from 12 to 3200 ASA with 1/3 stops along the way. You also have a exposure compensation dial allowing for 3 stops of over and under exposure in 1 stop steps. Oddly enough the exposure compensation dial only locks in the 0 position, so it could be easy to accidentally change your selection since it doesn’t click or lock into place.
The Auto Exposure Lock (AEL) is probably the best feature. To you use it, just make an exposure reading then rotate the dial to AEL and it will use the last exposure reading until you change it. In addition to the TTL enabled hot shoe there is a pc socket which works with the X exposure setting; which fires the shutter at 1/90s.
The easiest way to use the Mamiya ZE-2 is in full automatic or aperture priority automatic. To use aperture priority simply unlock the aperture ring with the little white button on the lens. The camera will show you in the finder what your shutter speed is and it will beep if the exposure is slow enough to worry about camera shake. The ZE-2 uses 4 SR44 batteries and will not function fully with no batteries. Without battery power you are limited to 1/90s shutter speed and adjusting the aperture, otherwise you have speeds from Bulb to 1/1000s.
Just like the ZM Quartz, the biggest defect of the Mamiya ZE-2 is the tiny little battery tray. While this one is a bit more robust, but it’s an easily broken part that basically turns your camera into a brick once it’s been busted. The upside of the ZE-2 is that it is larger and easier to remove since it’s spring loaded and you don’t have to pry it out.
I’m a huge fan of Mamiya cameras. In fact I own nearly as many Mamiya cameras as I do Nikon cameras, but their 35mm film cameras were never really all that and a bag of chips. If you look at how they managed their medium format lines you can tell there was more attention to detail and a much higher standard of quality. They could have gone a hundred different ways with their 35mm efforts, in fact I think that if Mamiya had really committed to building a solid competitor to the Nikon FM or FE lines or the Canon AE-1 or F-1 and several other companies they could have done very well in this arena instead of languishing in entry level.
Having played with a few different Mamiya 35mm film cameras, I can safely say: save your money. None of them stand up very well to same era and earlier cameras. The Olympus OM10 is by far a better entry level camera, and the Nikon FM/FE lines are great, and the Canon FTb, AE-1 and F-1 are all better cameras and systems to invest in.
Mamiya ZE-2 Quartz
Type : SLR – Single Lens Reflex
Lens Mount : CS, E and EF lenses
Operation : Electronic
Format : 35mm
Shutter : Focal plane
Shutter Speeds : B, X, 1s – 1/1000s
Shutter Remote : Mechanical
ISO Range : 12 – 3200
Shutter Lock : Yes
Self Timer : Yes
Mirror Lock-up : No
DoF preview : No
Flash Mount : Hot shoe
Multiple Exposure : No
Strap Lugs : Yes
Battery : (4) SR44/LR44
Production : 1980 – 1984
Weight : 460g
Mamiya Winder ZE
Diopter lenses (-3 to +3)
ZE Rubber Eyecup w/adapter
Magnifier ZE (attaches to prism)
Angle Finder ZE (attaches to prism)
Close-up Lenses (No.1 and No. 2) 49mm
ZE Extension Rings (3 sizes)
Auto Bellows ZE
Slide Copier ZE
Bellows Stand ZE
Microscope Adapter ZE
Auto Macro Spacer ZE (Extension tube)