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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 (6×6) and a 6×7 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 6×7 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 (6×6) and Mamiya 7 (6×7). 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 8×10). First of all its much easier to compose than a traditional 4×6 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?


What say you?

mordechai - love it!!!!

J Berger - Beautiful pics!! I especially love the one with Mendel kissing Estee, and the porch scene.

zalmyB - Thanks Mordechai, how’s that 50 coming along?

Jason, thanks for chiming in. Yeah those are two of my favorites also (and the out of focus on of Chanaleh on the ground laughing)

huddy - Zalmy,
Beautiful family, and the shots are great too! The more I see the work of you and others with medium and large format film, the more I expect I will eventually break down for a 645 or RB67.

zalmyB - Yeah, medium format is the way to go. And the fun thing about film cameras is that there are so many to choose from and most for very reasonably prices.

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Goodbye Hasselblad (sniff)

It is with a little regret and much fanfare that I bid adieu to my short lived stint with my Hasselblad. I’ve recently moved on to different pastures with my film life. We leave on good terms and hope to remain friends. For all I know I’ll be picking up another in the future. But that future is not yet (futures are never yet).

What I’ll miss:

  • Lack of battery: Never need to worry about recharging, extras, leaks, age. And the weight.
  • Speaking about weight, for a medium format rig that thing was quite light and compact
  • Dunno what it is about those Western German/Swiss types but they sure know how to make things. The Hassy feels (and is) so well made. From the precise way the lens clicks into the mount (with a tiny fraction of a turn), to the smooth way the the waistlevel finder folds into the body, mmmm.
  • Metal and leather, metal and leather, metal and leather. That’s it.
  • Square format. It’s vintage, retro and modern. For indoors it absolutely rocks. And no worrying about which way to hold the camera.
  • Image quality. Although my new rig comes pretty darn close, it’s not the same.
  • Once you lock in the EV (exposure value on the lens (the aperture/shutter speed combo) changing one automatically changes the other. Neat.

So, ask you my avid reader, why am I saying goodbye? Because (as you must have learned in preschool, unless you’re a poor homeschooled child (that’s an inside joke, though I’m not sure how inside)) that’s what you do when you take leave of someone or something. And why am I taking leave? Ahhh now you’re asking all the right questions.

Why I’m saying goodbye:

  • Too hard to focus. I’ve tried both the waistlevel and the prism and A. it takes too long and B. I couldn’t even tell after taking all that time if my image was in focus or not. My hit rate was an abysmal 28%. And when you are paying for film, developing and sometimes scanning, that turns out to be quite a hit in the wallet (and depending on where your wallet is that might hurt quite a bit). And while I could of gotten a new ground glass, I just didn’t feel it would do the trick.
  • As much as Iove the old-schoolness of it, there are times when I’d like to have a meter in my camera.
  • Price. Holy Schmoly those Hassy’s command a price. Every back, hood, prism, cap, strap cost a finger or two. And while the lenses rock, compared to other medium formats they aren’t that much (if at all) better (though you wouldn’t know that from the cost).
  • Lens speed. The lens just aren’t that fast. Since each lens has a shutter in it it would be too complicated (and therefore expensive) to create a fast lens (larger shutter etc.). And while there is an F series (the “f” stand for focal plane shutter, where the shutter is in the camera, not the lens), with much faster lens (50 2.8, 110 f/2 (yummy), a 150 2.8 and a remarkably expensive 300 2.8), they aren’t supported anymore and are hard to repair (though I might pick one up eventually anyways).
  • Shutter speed. The max shutter speed is 1/500. Not much leeway if you’re going with a 400 film. (Again the F series goes to 1/2000).

What now? Stay tuned (next post).

I spent the last week scanning in a bunch of film. Many out of focus (see above) and most were underexposed. Why? Because I tend to underexpose. That’s why I wanted film in the first place to start nailing my exposures. And when I see that exposure after exposure is off, it makes me get my act together and start paying attention.

Here are a bunch of the semi-decent exposures (and some indecent ones) from my now-on-craigslist Hasselblad 500 C/M. Most of them were with generic B&W film (100 or 400), some with slide and other with color negative. Boy are those color negatives hard to scan! (hence all the color issue at the end)



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Silver Gan Israel – Summer Night (afternoon) Festival

Much changes in a year. Last year I documented the Silver Gan Israel Summer Festival. ’twas fun and all, but I remember leaving the event thinking “wow, I really have no clue how to meter”. I am proud to say that while I still have a long way to go before I’m a certified meter man (it’s the male version of a meter maid), I at least know generally what my camera is going to do in a given situation and use that to my advantage. I’m also more on the lookout for interesting compositions and waiting for the action to come.

I have gear issues (amongst others). More on that another time. And my sensor is filthy. My elbows creak and my beard is making strange noises.


chavi - a.MAY.zing! i’ve been following your blog for a while, and it’s apparent that you’re a force to be reckoned with. your composition, your framing, your use of light – wow! you can make just about any event sparkle. hatzlacha!

Devorie - Awesome! Love the pic of Chaim!

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Aron + Dani = ?

A long time ago, In a place not too far away (from me at least), there lived a young dork. His name was Zalmy Berkowitz. He wore oversized sweaters and tucked his pants into his sneakers (so everyone could see the “pump”). He was also a lot cuter than the adult version (and he actually had a chin!). He had two very good friends. One of them, David Goldblatt, lived close by in good ‘ole Huntington Beach, so they ended up spending quite a bit of time together.

Fast forward a decade or two and his younger brother is engaged!! Woopee!! So his dad (“Uncle Ken”), being a big “chassid” of my photography (his words, not mine) asked me to document the “vort” (engagement party).

It seems like I’m doing quite a bit of these nighttime events, I should probably learn how to do them properly (i.e. off camera flash). But then I’d have to charge more:)(just kidding).

And with a bit more ado, here are the photos:


And for some film (note: this was my first time using film at an event, and I was working quicker than I’m used to. Hence all the misunderexposures.)


Peace. Love. Harmony. & Coffee.

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It’s Scanning Day (not the more common scamming day)

Hope y’all are having an easy fast. Figured there ain’t no better way to spend a fast day than firin’ up the ole scanner and digitizin’ all them film and stuff.

Hope to be postin’ a bunch of ma film stuff to this blogeeo one of dem days. For now we is gonna have to suffice with this doozie.


That was ma first exposure from ma new picture takin’ device. I’ll be keepin’ y’all updated in the comin days.

Fast days oodle my mind and play with ma thiknkin (an spellin’).

Levi - Whats the name of your new picture takign device?? pls do share it with us

Will be waiting for more awesome photos to be posted!

zalmyB - I’ll get there. I can’t tell everything, then I’ll have nothing to blog about…

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