Hello Mamiya 645

In my last post I discussed my decision to sell my Hassy and pick up a new film camera. Mamiya 645 Pro is the name. Mamiya is a very respected name in the medium format camera world (recently they merged with Phase One to produce the most advanced and modular digital medium format system available). They've been around for quite a while and were for a while the most common name in the medium format camera world. 645 is the size of the negative. 6 cm x 4.5 cm, which is approximately 3 times the size of a 35mm negative. Mamiya also made a twin lens camera (6x6) and a 6x7 slr called a rb67 (later the rz67). The "rb" part stands for "rotating back" so you can just turn the back instead of the whole camera to switch from landscape to portrait or vice versa. The 67 was probably the most common studio camera, giving a huge 6x7 negative. The camera though was h u g e, so working in the field required either a bodybuilder or insanity. The 645 was (for many) the best combination of large negative and portability. Later on they also made a autofocus version and kept on updating it until its current incarnation as the Phase One DF. Mine is the Pro version. Has a metering prism (and even autoexposure!) and a power winder. Pretty nifty. Later on they also made two rangefinders, a Mamiya 6 (6x6) and Mamiya 7 (6x7). The Mamiya 7 is purported to have two of the best lens ever produced, the 80mm f/4 and the 43mm 4.5. Drool.

A while ago I wrote about my "normal" woes: Finding a fast high quality normal lens was causing ulcers of the mind. The Mamiya has a 80mm 1.9 which in 35mm terms is a 50mm 1.1875 and pretty sharp wide open. Yay!

The build quality leaves much to desire, reminding one of Canon's Rebel series. A lot of plastic, parts, screws. A huge step downwards in that department from the Hasselblad.

What I like:

  • Very Fast Normal Lens!!!
  • 1/1000 shutter speed
  • Metering prism
  • Well built lenses
  • Very easy to focus (more on that later)
  • Has a focal plane shutter, so will work with all of Hassy's F series lens (yummy) and a few others
  • The 645 format (pretty much the same as a 8x10). First of all its much easier to compose than a traditional 4x6 especially in portrait mode. I almost never shoot in portrait mode with my D700 but I find myself doing it quite often with the Mamiya. Also for printing purposes it just makes more sense.

What's not so cool:

  • Not all of the lens are top notch (the 35, 45 especially)
  • only 1/1000 top shutter speed (the AF version and the Contax 645 both have a top shutter speed of 1/4000)
  • No autofocus
  • Build quality (the later AF and AFD versions are made much better it seems), pretty much on par with the Canon Rebel series.
  • Flash sync is only 1/60 and slower (not that I see myself using flash with film anytime soon).

My hit rate has gone from 28% to 86%!! Yippee! For some reason even at 1.9 this baby is much easier to focus than both my Hassy and my Nikon D700.

Here are my first two rolls (the first was finished at an event so I didn't include that). Every single picture. The only one that's not a keeper is the last one, and that was due to my lens getting stuck (I thought it was sand, but I sent it in and they said it was an issue with the gears...), so I was focussing by moving the whole camera. Still having issues underexposing but i'm getting better. All are with 80mm, mostly at 1.9 with a few at 2.8.

The first roll is a generic B/W 100 roll developed @ Walmart and scanned by me. The second (Kodak Portra 160 NC) was developed and scanned by Richard Photo Lab in LA (I'm scared to scan color. See my lest post for why).

Not bad eh?

storyboard-comp-1.jpg storyboard-3.jpg storyboard-comp-2.jpg storyboard-comp-3.jpg storyboard-comp-4.jpg

What say you?