35mm vs 645 MF SLR for handheld use

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by msbarnes, Dec 6, 2011.

  1. msbarnes

    msbarnes Member

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    I do not have an SLR nor am I committed to any brands, but I'm debating between a 35mm or a 645. I was initially looking into 35mm cameras but for not that much more I can get a 645 MF SLR that might meet all of my requirements. My intention is to use this camera handheld and with enough speed to be used indoors.

    What matters to me:
    -handheld use and ergonomics

    What does not matter:
    -size, weight, and noise to a reasonable extent
    -any auto-features such as auto-focus, auto-exposure, auto film rewind
    -mirror lockup

    I'm thinking mostly of a 35mm Canon FD or a 645 Pentax or Mamiya; I'm aware of the key differences between the two formats and brands (and I'm open to more options) but I'm trying to weigh the pros/cons of the 35mm vs 645 slr first before deciding upon which particular brand and lens. I'm mostly interested in the 28mm and 35mm focal lengths (in 35mm equiv) and I might pick up a standard in the future but not interested in anything really wider or longer.

    My Questions
    -Is it reasonable to shoot at the 645 SLRs 1/30s handheld? I can shoot at 1/30s on my C220 and 35mm FL rangefinders without much effort, but they do not have swinging mirrors...
    -How does the noise and sound compare with the Pentax and Mamiya systems? I've heard that Pentax's are smaller and quieter but the Mamiyas bulkier and louder. Any pictures of the two side-by-side? I couldn't find any size comparisons online.
    -Is the Mamiya ergonomic without the grip. I find that it adds a significant amount of bulk so I'd like to use one without a grip when I want to slim down.
     
  2. CGW

    CGW Member

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    A Mamiya 645 Super was my gateway into MF after almost ten years of 35mm only shooting. Ergonomically, it's not the greatest without a winder grip. Until I got one, I probably wasted at least 2-4 shots per roll fumbling with its odd boxiness and hitting the shutter button in the process when studio shooting with strobes. The grip makes a huge difference. The extra weight isn't that big a deal relative to the convenience. Drives are a bit noisy. That's their main drawback.
     
  3. Brian C. Miller

    Brian C. Miller Member

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    The Pentax 645 has a dampened mirror to reduce vibration. I have shot it as slow as 1/60th, but my elbows were braced. The Pentax motor has roughly the same noise level as other motor-driven winders I have. Noise level is subjective, though. The widest Pentax 645 lens is 45mm, so that should fit your target lens range. There is a 35mm, but it's a monster fisheye designed for the Pentax 67, and you'll need an adapter to use it on the 645.
     
  4. Bob-D659

    Bob-D659 Member

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    Seems to be a 35mm for the Pentax 645, see ken rockwells page, and the last time I looked, there was one at KEH for $1100 or so, no adapter required. Oh there are even two right now. :smile: There have been more that one listed for sale here as well.
     
  5. PaulMD

    PaulMD Member

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    You can also use the ARSAT 30mm fisheye on most 645 systems with an adapter.
     
  6. trapd

    trapd Member

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    I tried using a Mamiya 645 for the purpose you describe but even with a decent grip it was too clumsy and noisy compared to the 35mm alternatives. The biggest problem for me though was vibration from the large shutter that made sub 1/60 second shots very hard to get sharp.
    Steve
     
  7. Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    35mm film is of such quality now that enlargements aren't really an issue -- keeping in mind sharpness, developer and ISO speed, etc.

    Depth of field is relative with different sized negatives too -- f/8 in 35mm will have a greater zone in focus than f/8 in MF.

    I think if you can get sharp negatives handheld on a big camera like a C220 then a 645 system will at least be the same.

    Things like ergonomics are entirely up to you - my personal take is 35mm cameras are simpler and therefore faster, but it really boils down to whatever you get used to. A Pentax 645 in your hands for a year or three will be like second nature.
     
  8. msbarnes

    msbarnes Member

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    Thanks for your opinions.

    I'm interested in 645 45mm and 55mm lenses which are equivalent to 28mm and 35mm; I'm not interested in a 35mm lens. Sorry for the confusion, I think mostly in the 35mm format lens equivalent, since this format is the most popular and I'd say the predominant format.

    So it's a 35mm SLR with a 28mm and 35mm lens or a 645 SLR with a 45mm and 55mm lens.

    As of right now, it seems that a 35mm SLR isn't so easily replaced.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 6, 2011
  9. BrianL

    BrianL Member

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    Get both in one. Buy the Bronica ETR series body and you can have either the MF 6x4.5 back, a normal 35mm back and panaramic 35mm back. Excellent lenses and a very complete line of accessories. I've used my as both mf 35mm and mf system for several decades and never looked back or felt I was missing anything.
     
  10. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Do you do your own darkroom work? If so, you will really appreciate the larger negative that 645 gives you.

    I think a camera with a waist-level finder is the easiest camera of all to shoot hand-held at slow shutter speeds. You can shoot 645 with a waist level finder, as long as your subject has a horizontal orientation.

    IMHO the potential for camera shake arising from hand-held use is much greater than the potential contribution from a moving mirror.

    The ergonomics of the camera, and how they suit you are, in my opinion, the most important factor.

    I do shoot 35mm, and Mamiya SLR 6x4.5, Mamiya TLR 6x6 and Mamiya SLR 6x7 - hand-held when necessary, braced somehow when possible, with a mono-pod if that is what is available and with a tripod when I can.
     
  11. PaulMD

    PaulMD Member

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    Hate to say it, this is a really terrible idea. It's the worst of both worlds. Not only do you deal with the increased shutter+mirror shake of a 6x4.5 compared to a 35mm, he said he wanted a 28mm or 35mm wide, and 30mm's as wide as MF gets even if you're willing to mess with a fisheye (35mm otherwise). After all that, you only get a 35mm negative to boot.
     
  12. CGW

    CGW Member

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    "Not only do you deal with the increased shutter+mirror shake of a 6x4.5 compared to a 35mm..."

    FYI, Bronica 645 SLRs have leaf shutter lenses and decent mirror dampening which cut down considerably the likelihood of softness from the shakes. Can't say the same for the Mamiya 645.
     
  13. narsuitus

    narsuitus Member

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    I once shot 35mm and Mamiya 220 cameras. I primarily used the 35mm for action, macro, and available light. I primarily used the 220 for weddings, portraits, weddings, posed group shots, scenic shots, black & white work, and architectural shots that did not require perspective and depth-of-field adjustments.

    When I was unable to replace my worn out 220 bodies because Mamiya had discontinued them, I was forced to go through a decision-making process similar to yours.

    I say similar because I had to decide which medium format to use with my 35mm system. You, on the other hand, are trying to decide if you should use a 645cm system or a 35mm system. If I had to make that decision, I would have to select the 645 system because I have never been satisfied with 35mm black & white image quality.

    I took a hard look at the Mamiya and Pentax 645. I had used Mamiya TLR cameras and Pentax 35mm cameras and was very satisfied with both brands. After I talked with an Alaskan landscape photographer who did a lot of great work under very harsh conditions with a pair of Pentax 645 bodies, I was convinced that the lower-priced Pentax would meet my needs. However, if price were no object, I would select the Mamiya 645.

    Bottom line, if I were in your position, I would select the 645 over 35mm and I would select the Mamiya over the Pentax.

    However, for my actual position, I decided on 6x7 and 6x9cm rangefinders instead of SLRs for the following reasons:
    1. I liked the 6x6cm image of my Mamiya 220 and preferred the larger 6x7 and 6x9cm image instead of the smaller 6x4.5cm image of 645 camera.
    2. Medium format rangefinders are quieter than medium format SLRs.
    3. It is easy to focus a rangefinder with a dark filter on the lens compared to an SLR with a dark filter over the lens.
    4. Rangefinders have less vibration during exposure than SLRs.
     
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  15. Pioneer

    Pioneer Member

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    It all depends on what you want to do with the medium format camera. I have shot the Pentax PZ-1p, the Canon 1V, the Nikon F100, and the Pentax 645Nii medium format. From a size perspective, using typical lenses, they are quite similar while you are actually using them. Obviously, packing them in the bag is different but when you are out taking pictures there is not a lot to differentiate them. Ergonomically I preferred the Pentax 645Ni and ended up selling the Canon and the Nikon after about a year. (I still have the PZ-1p, but for different reasons.) I can handle the 645 handheld very easily and I am not a particularly big guy nor do I have big hands. Remember, this thing was one of the top wedding event cameras for a very long time, so it has some very good ergonomics.

    For my purposes I love the Pentax 645Nii and the images I get can truly be stunning. However, it is a much noisier camera than the Canon was using the the motorized lenses. Lens focusing and film advance on the 645Nii are all noisy. But, amazingly, you quickly get to the point where you don't even notice when you are working with them.

    I use the 645Nii for landscape, events (birthday parties, kids school plays, etc.) and macros. I do not do sports so I have no idea how it would work for that but it does seem just a bit slow. The image quality is great and I do not have to worry about computers at all (which suits me perfectly.)

    Now, the bad. Medium format film is typically expensive, and developing is a lot more expensive, unless you do your own. 35mm is a lot less expensive per frame and you can usually get color negative stuff developed for very little money. As for using the Pentax 645Nii to completely substitute for 35mm...I don't know. I like both for different reasons. Besides, I absolutely love my results from my Pentax PZ-1p and my FA 31 and 77 Limited lenses and am not interested in giving them up.
     
  16. thuggins

    thuggins Member

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    I've wonder this myself over the the years, and here is my thought process.
    1) Standard lens for 35mm format is 43mm, for MF it is 85mm. That is essentially one stop when it comes to hand holding. Moderate telephotos become impractical.
    2) Shutter/mirror vibration is going to be greater in MF, further reducing the hand holding speed. (But I shoot OM's, which colors my opinion of acceptable noise and vibration.)
    3) The overall kit (lenses, body, etc) is going to be be bigger and heavier. (See note above about OM's.)

    The solution? Folders!!
     
  17. msbarnes

    msbarnes Member

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    I shoot B&W primarily and color once in a while; I develop my B&W and I'm no Winogrand shooting 3 rolls a day so running costs isn't an issue for me. I plan on using both formats; I just don't know which format I should develop. I have 120/35mm folders in the 50mm focal length but now I want wide-angle lenses. I'll probably pick up an XA or epic because they're cheap and pocketable, but I'm not 100% happy with any of my budget wide-angle fast lens options like the Eletro 35cc and Auto S3 which is why I wanted a 35mm SLR for quality optics and full-manual control. But then I started thinking that I can get 645 SLR instead...
     
  18. msbarnes

    msbarnes Member

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    I asked about handholdability because everyone has different views. I understand that it depends on the user, camera, and what is acceptably sharp, but I just wanted to hear the views from the users. Some argue that they can handhold them slower because of the larger negative; I have no idea because I've never handled one. I have no friends who have 645 SLR's nor a place to rent them, so I don't know either.

    I know the kit is going to be bigger and heavier, but I don't know if it will bother me or not. I figured that If I'm going to be shooting with a camera that isn't compact like a folder/point-and-shoot, then might as well bring home the best negative possible while staying practical (no 4x5!'s)

    I have 120 folders and I love them. But unfortunately there aren't any cheap wide-angled options that I'm aware of.
     
  19. wblynch

    wblynch Member

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    I have Olympus OM for 35mm, Mamiya m645 and an Autocord TLR

    It could not replace my 35mm for travel and casual photography but the m645 is a blast to use and you get great portraits with any medium format camera at family events and holidays.

    Truly though, 35mm SLRs are so cheap you can have both 35mm and MF.
     
  20. F/1.4

    F/1.4 Member

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    I've got a Mamiya 645 AFD that I bought to try and replace my 35mm system with and honestly, Like what's been said it's too slow and clunky. The AF sucks, it's heavy as hell, 16 shots/roll (typically), and the lenses are slow in comparison. But good lord the scans look amazing.

    I use the Mamiya for more conscious, posed, or slower things. If it moves, if it's snapshots, or it's starting to get dark, out comes the F100.
     
  21. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    If you're looking for a 645 with the feel of 35mm, look at a pentax 645 n2. I would suggest also considering some medium format RFs- there are a number of fixed-lens Fuji 645 RFs that perform very well and are comparable in feel to 35mm. Also consider a mamiya 6/6mf/7/7ii, the 6 is my favorite camera overall, no question. It really evokes 35mm in term of handling.

    As a former mamiya 645AFD and current mamiya 645 pro owner, I prefer the modularity of the latter. There are many fantastic lenses too. But it annoys me somewhat that the pro is almost impossible to work with in portrait orientation, without the finder and grip. And although it is a very sweet little bundle without the grip and finder, I would not compare it to a 35mm camera. I did treat the 645 AFD a lot like a 35mm system, and did sports and low light stuff with reasonable success. I just didn't care for the AF system and couldn't justify carrying the body around with me when I was almost always focusing manually. The newer AFDs should have much improved AF, if that matters to you.

    Anyway, the best thing about the mamiyas is the lens availability- you can't go wrong there. Huge selection- old and new.

    There are several leaf-shutter Mamiya 645 lenses.
     
  22. BobD

    BobD Member

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    I have a Fuji GA645Zi. It's basically a point&shoot 645 zoom camera with very good ergonomics and quiet operation. There are plenty of 35mm SLRs that are more awkward to use than this camera. I don't know about using it with slow shutter speeds though as I haven't tried to do that particularly. There are also simlar Fuji models with a prime lens instead of zoom if you prefer that.
     
  23. benveniste

    benveniste Subscriber

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    There's also a 33-55mm zoom for the Pentax 645.
     
  24. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    I've had a Mamiya 645 Pro TL for the last few years, and I have enjoyed using it as a handheld SLR. With the metered prism and the motor winder it really is a pretty good handheld camera, on par with my Nikon as far as feel. It is however louder than the Nikon. The motor makes the most noise, but it's not bad at all if you use the hand crank. But the motor grip makes the camera much easier to use handheld. There are two winders for the Pro TL, I use the smaller one and it hardly adds any weight.

    I have had plenty of good shots at 1/30th or slower, as long as I brace my body. For me no SLR is as good as a rangefinder/TLR with slow shutter speeds (I must twitch as the finder goes dark).

    I listed it for sale a month or two ago. There are some pictures of it here, but none comparing the camera to the Pentax.
     
  25. LarryP

    LarryP Member

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    I have a pentax 645 and a couple of 35mm's. I can not consistantly shoot 1/30 handheld without bracing against something with either system. The 645 is bulkier but I find the ergonomics good, and from eveything Ive heard the 55mm for it is wicked sharp. As an aside I'm thinking about getting rid of my gsn and perkeo 1 w/ vaskar lens to finance a spotmatic. Reason simply ergonomics
     
  26. emjo

    emjo Subscriber

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    The Mamiya m645 is much much easier to hold by hand if using the grip accessory. It is on all the time here.