Contax, Pentax, Mamiya, Bronica 645 SLR - why NOT?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Matus Kalisky, Mar 10, 2010.

  1. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

    Messages:
    610
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2006
    Location:
    Aalen, Germa
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I am just giving 645 SLRs a thought as they seem to be still relatively hand holdable (with decently damped mirror) with a TTL prism. Shooting style - from landscapes, cityscapes, macros, portraits. Hand holding is important to me - otherwise I could just get 6x7 SLR and some MF RF (if money were no objection). Also mirror lock-up is a must.

    It would be a camera for many things - often it would replace my 4x5 when time, space or speed constrains would not allow to use. Often with camera and 1 - 2 lenses in a shoulder bag ( lenses like 55 & 110-120 or 35-40 & 55).

    Longest lens I would probably ever need would be some 300mm [200mm in 35mm terms] (I do not plan a wild life shots with it)

    I DO keep looking at MF rangefinders too (Bronica 645 and Mamiya 7), but as those are completely different beasts, lets just look only at 645 SLRS here.

    Now - there are several options on the market (Contax, Pentax, Mamiya, Bronica) and while they do share many features - I am wondering what are the differences that would pull your decision from one to other.

    Apart from the price - I am quite attracted by the Contax. Is it better than the rest (optical quality, usability hand holdability, user interface ..) or not?

    What about the weight? While I have manuals for most 645 SLRs - I can not mange to get reliable number of a ready-to-shoot camera with TTL prism and 80mm lens. I would love to hear your input here.

    So - which camera would you choose from 645 SLRs as a "girl for everything" - or would you go with 6x6 or even 6x7?

    Why did yo choose the 645 SLR camera you have right now? Would you make a different choice next time?
     
  2. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

    Messages:
    2,914
    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2009
    Location:
    Southeastern
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I currently have a Mamiya M645 system. The older cameras, not the super and TL are what I love. They are superb cameras. They are made very well, have great acessories, and outstanding lenses. I am always amazed at how sharp they are. I choose this system after asking similar questions around here and getting the answers leading me the M645 and I will ceratainly say that it was not a bad decision at all! This camera is also suprisingly small I think as far as medium format goes when it is compared to a 6X7 Mamiya RB67. The system is very easy to use........
     
  3. peri24

    peri24 Member

    Messages:
    135
    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2008
    Location:
    Finland
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    i was in the same situation as you a month ago.
    I was in the market for a 645 slr, i needed something with ttl prism, handheld friendly, nice lenses and fast shooting flow (AF and motor wind)
    After reading tons of reviews on the net i was quite stuck between mamiya, pentax, contax. So i went to a local shop and ask them to allow me holding and playing with them, i tried bronica and mamiya (no AF) years ago and i knew they werent for me.
    Obviously any of these systems are excellent, so i needed to figure out small differences between them. Apart from Pentax not being able to change backs, all the rest is quite the same.
    Conclusion, I'm in heaven with my new Contax 645, why? optics are BETTER, you dont have that bokeh with mamiya or pentax and the user interface is perfect, shooting experience is awesome, seriously!
    I think that you should try all three and decide for yourself, my only regret with contax is that it behave and feels like a very expensive camera, nothing that i would carry all day long (quite heavy aswell).
     
  4. Pupfish

    Pupfish Member

    Messages:
    303
    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2008
    Location:
    Monterey Co,
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    The one niche that 645 does better for me than a DSLR or LF is the classic near-far scenic with high resolution, and maximum DOF, particular scenes for which I need high shutter speeds (e.g. stopping wave action in ocean scenes, or flowers in a slight breeze), or when I need to grab a shot in changing light or where a tripod isn't feasible (like when snowshoeing or XC skiing).

    I'm sure that there are other equally fine cameras out there, but I chose the Pentax 645N and the SMC-A 35mm f/3.5 because they were both incredible price-to-performance bargains. I really like the handling of the camera, metering options, and the big bright beautiful viewfinder, especially once I found and installed an AG-80 grid screen. The images I'm getting on Astia 100F and Ektar 100 are often nothing short of spectacular. The biggest compliment I can think of for any camera is that it doesn't get in the way of the image-making process. The P645N did that more rapidly for me after acquiring it than any other camera I've ever owned in the past 33 years.
     
  5. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,231
    Joined:
    May 9, 2005
    Location:
    Daventry, No
    Shooter:
    35mm
    This may not be important to you but as I recall it from reading a post from someone who had moved from a Mamiya 645 AF to a P645N and was a wedding photographer, the benefit he stressed was the P645N's ability for closer focusing. Maybe Pupfish who owns one can comment on this.

    pentaxuser
     
  6. DanielStone

    DanielStone Member

    Messages:
    3,107
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Pentax 645, great camera, great lenses, and super comfortable to hand-hold(at least for me)

    and if you look at the newer cameras(645n/645nII), you get AF, which can be helpful sometimes

    -Dan
     
  7. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

    Messages:
    610
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2006
    Location:
    Aalen, Germa
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Looks like there are only favorite cameras among 645 SLRs :wink:

    I am indeed looking into more modern cameras. While AF is no must for me - most of the recent models do seem to offer it.

    Some more thoughts:

    Contax:
    - While I keep browsing around - and argument for Contax being a dead-end (i.e. no further development) comes up here and then. Is this really the case?
    - What is the situation with service? How long it will be grated - or - will the camera be repairable via 3rd party service?
    - people rave about the design - what makes it feel "better" than other camera?

    Mamiya:
    - Concerning the AF models (AF, AFD, AFDII and the new AFDIII) - what do I gain in comparison to older, non-AF models. the AFD models do bring the possibility of a Digital back and while this sounds cool, it is out of my budget and need right now.
    - Are AF (or AF-D) new designs - should one expect more or are these merely AF versions of the MF lenses?
    - Is it possible to use AF lenses on MF bodies?
    - Do the older MF bodies offer MLU?

    Pentax:
    - I got across a statement that pentax 645NII is lighter than Mamiya or Contax counterparts - what is the weight actually?

    In general
    - I am putting together weights of lenses and bodies - do you have some good links? (apart from butkus.org - I know that one)
     
  8. Pupfish

    Pupfish Member

    Messages:
    303
    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2008
    Location:
    Monterey Co,
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    If memory serves, the Pentax 645N weight is 45 ounces for the body without batteries. (Because it takes only 6AAs it's very close to the exact same weight as my Nikon F5 at 42 oz that takes 8 batteries)

    The Pentax 645N II is no longer being manufactured (but neither are Contaxes. Pentax is still in business, however).

    The much more readily and cheaply available 645N lacks only mirror lockup and a few other subtle features via firmware customization like additional data imprinting choices on the edge of the film, and 15 shots on 120 film instead of 16 (the 15-shot function seems to me more about fitting 3 row of 5 neg pages, than due to any widespread film flatness issues, though there is one guy who mentioned this and it gets repeated endlessly via the web).
    One remaining less subtle feature might be 1/2 stops on shutter in Manual metering mode of the P645NII (note that shutter speeds are stepless in A priority and Program, anyway).
    A key point about all Pentax 645s is that they really don't need MLU, because the mirror is so well braked (unlike the 67's-- for which it could be crippling). My recommendation is to save yourself an easy $4-500 by buying a mint used 645N if considering Pentax. The other bargain hint is that if AF doesn't matter to you, the older but exquisitely well built manual focusing Pentax 645 SMC-A lenses can be tremendous bargains. Some like the macro 120mm have the same optical design as later AF versions. I don't find much to fault about my tack-sharp 35mm f/3/5 SMC-A which I bought for under $300. It focuses to one foot. The optics of the FA 35mm are reputedly slightly improved, perhaps more obvious with digital.
     
  9. r1ma

    r1ma Member

    Messages:
    35
    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2010
    Location:
    Sacramento,
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    After 25+ years of shooting 35mm, I got a M645 last month, so take some of my experiences with that in mind. But I did do some of the research you've done recently.

    I can only answer your last two:
    You can't use AF lenses on MF bodies (only the other way around)
    The M645, 1000s, Super, Pro, and Pro TL have MLU. The J and, IIRC, the e don't.
    The M645, 1000s, J, and I think the e don't have interchangeable backs, only inserts.

    I don't know too much about the e - they have the same features as the classic ones, at a higher price - and they are missing some of the features of the pro and pro tl.
     
  10. peri24

    peri24 Member

    Messages:
    135
    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2008
    Location:
    Finland
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Yes Contax doesn't exist any more, there will be official repair service until 2015 or at least that's what the crowd say on the net. Getting repair from 3rd party service will not be a problem unless there's something really messy that anyone can fix, a major problem with contax because it looks quite digital/electronic camera. If you have enough care it shouldn't break as it doesn't look delicate.
    About the feeling, don't know maybe it's ergonomics, maybe materials used, but even it doesn't feel like a glove to my hand (a bit smaller without the grip) you can feel something that no pentax, no mamiya have. Try it for yourself before purchasing any system.
    The strongest point with contax at least for me that i love normal lens (no wideangle, no tele) is that 80mm f2 zeiss glass.
     
  11. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    17,028
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have two Mamiya 645 bodies - a Super and a Pro.

    I like what I have, and prefer them to the older M645 bodies, primarily because of the interchangeable backs, but also because I prefer their weight, and the more modern prisms.

    In my mind, the biggest reason to choose the Bronica cameras is the fact that they use leaf shutters in the lenses. On the other hand, there are also good reasons to prefer a focal plane shutter (consistency of exposure, lower weight and simplicity of construction of lenses).

    There is a lot of Mamiya equipment available on the used market. My perception is that it is harder to find Bronica, Pentax and Contax (in that order).

    I find the ergonomics of my Mamiya equipment to be excellent. There are some minor irritations (like the proprietary straps, for instance) but I think that ergonomics is something quite personal, so I would strongly suggest handling the various options before buying.

    FWIW, here is an image I shot handheld using my Pro, with the 55mm lens. That lens is very good, and very reasonable.

    Matt
     

    Attached Files:

  12. Pupfish

    Pupfish Member

    Messages:
    303
    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2008
    Location:
    Monterey Co,
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Contax 645s were never very popular here on the West Coast (CA) so I have no point of comparison on the ergonomics. That is a worthwhile consideration as I'm not as likely to carry a camera that's frustrating or unpleasant to use. I can tell you that the Contaxes I've seen on eBay have tended to hold more of their original, as do the lenses. Pentax gear is dirt cheap by comparison and I find the image quality leaves little to be desired. (I'm a nit-picking pro, incidentally).

    If I was in Germany where they might be found in numbers, I'd add the Rollei Hy6 to the list of cameras to look at, myself.
     
  13. benveniste

    benveniste Subscriber

    Messages:
    140
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2007
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    It's hard to tell if it's temporary or not, but over the last day prices on used Pentax 645 lenses have spiked, thanks to the 645D announcement.
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Ektagraphic

    Ektagraphic Member

    Messages:
    2,914
    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2009
    Location:
    Southeastern
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Very nice MattKing!
     
  16. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

    Messages:
    610
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2006
    Location:
    Aalen, Germa
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have had a look at the Rollei Hy6 - man - that camera looks cool, but it also makes the Contax look cheap. Also very few on the used market. I guess the camera is not that old.

    For the Pentax - I already know that AF Mamiya work only is stop-down mode metering mode - how about the Pentax?

    For the MLU with Pentax - would you say one really does not need it even with 200 - 300mm lenses on tripod with exposure about 1/2s - 1/30s ? That would be rather surprising. As far as I know even with 35mm cameras this shutter speeds are sensitive to the additional shake induced by the mirror. Indeed - the point about the camera weight applies (the heavier the less shaky)

    In general - what lenses from Mamiya, Pentax and Contax do you consider the best within the lens line-ups?
     
  17. lxdude

    lxdude Member

    Messages:
    6,942
    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Location:
    Redlands, So
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Little has been said about Bronica. I have two 645 format ETR-Si's and really enjoy them. Prices are great, lenses are great, (I have most of them).

    www.tamron.com/slr_archives.asp The link will not work because posting it adds an underline beneath each letter, apparently negating the underline in the URL. To see the page linked to, enter the URL and put an underline between slr and archives (slr_archives).
    That lets you see the specifications on the ETR-Si; and for their 6X6 and 6X7 machines as well.

    Check KEH for prices and it's amazing. I have almost all latest PE glass, but the older MC glass is still very nice. The MC 150 has an excellent reputation.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 11, 2010
  18. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,525
    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2008
    Location:
    SF Bay area
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    For a hobbyist, the differences are subtleties.

    For a wedding shooter, a camera with leaf shutter lenses is a huge advantage, and only Bronica (among the 645) has every lens with leaf shutter and you get AE with every lens.

    The other brands besides Bronica only have a few lenses with leaf shutter, and since AE automation is linked to the focal plane shutter in those cameras, you lose AE when using a leaf shutter lens.
     
  19. Joachim_I

    Joachim_I Member

    Messages:
    247
    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2009
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Since you are also considering 6x7, Pentax could be a solution. You can use the Pentax 6x7 lenses with an adapter on the 645 bodies. Since you have asked, I would go immediately for 6x7. But I also use a tripod almost always. Best regards to Muenster, the city in which I grew up.
     
  20. raizans

    raizans Member

    Messages:
    130
    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2004
    i've been able to handle the contax 645, hasselblad h1 and h2, mamiya 645af, and pentax 645. i'm keeping an eye out for the pentax 645n/ii, the bronicas, and the older mamiyas.

    contax 645 - well balanced with 80/2. very solid feeling, heavy, reminds me of the late 90s. viewfinder is noticeably smaller and dimmer than the hasselblad and mamiya, with a warm color cast. a little harder to focus than the hasselblad and mamiya. the shutter sounds very nice. great controls.

    hasselblad h1 and h2 - very well balanced with 80/2.8, best of the bunch. solid feel, but plasticky. design reminds me of the common dolphin. viewfinder is large and bright, with a green color cast. odd shutter sound, like something is rattling around. it's supposed to be like that. didn't really like the interface.

    mamiya 645af - back heavy with 80/2.8. solid feel, but the contax is nicer, of course. prism looks like it has a heavy brow ridge and sloping forehead, just like a neandertal! viewfinder is a little bit smaller than the hasselblad, but just as bright, with a warm color cast.

    pentax 645 - well balanced with 75/2.5. solid feel, even though it's comparatively light. dim viewfinder, about the same size as the contax, with a warm color cast. didn't like the interface.
     
  21. suzyj

    suzyj Member

    Messages:
    42
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2010
    Location:
    Sydney, AUst
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I recently bought a Bronica ETRS (with AE-II prism) and a Mamiya 645 Super (also with AE prism). I couldn't decide which I prefered, so figured I'd just buy one of each, make my decision, and sell the other one on.

    I'd ruled out Contax, Hasselblad, Rollei, and Pentax mainly due to price or lack of availability. There are plenty of Bronicas and Mamiyas around the used market, and they're going at amazing prices.

    I subsequently found an older M645, which I bought for its 80mm f/1.9 lens. Sure enough, it turned out the M645 is the one I like the best. It takes all the manual Mamiya 645 lenses (including some leaf shutter ones, should I ever need faster than 1/60 flash sync), it's beautifully made from metal, whereas most of the newer ones use plastic covers. The winding mechanism feels wonderful, and it's just a solid, dependable, beautiful camera. Sure, it doesn't have interchangeable backs, but for the type of shooting I do, that's just not a problem.

    The Bronica was nice too, but the lenses for it top out at f/2.8, whereas the M645 has the 80mm f/1.9, which is gorgeous. The Mamiya Super is everything a wedding photographer's camera should be. Interchangeable backs, great AE prism, but clearly made to a price.

    I've since sold the Mamiya Super and Bronica (at a substantial profit, on account of cleaning them up and replacing seals etc), and bought a PD prism for my M645, along with a 45mm f/2.8 and 150mm f/2.8 lens.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2010
  22. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

    Messages:
    610
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2006
    Location:
    Aalen, Germa
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    - Joachim -
    Yes - I am fully aware of the Pentax 67, but I am also aware of the fact that this camera is for most cases a tripod camera. And one of my concerns is to get camera that is capable of decent hand-hold-ability (sure, nothing beats MF rangefinders for that) so In General I try hard to keep my self from 6x6 and 6x7 SLRs, even though there is often only rather small difference in weight (for example ETRSi versus SQA-i) Best wishes from cold rainy Muenster :smile:

    - lxdude -
    Indeed - I have somehow omitted the Bronica. In comparison to others I do not really see that the lenses would be considerably heavier than from others. What is your impression of the camera - how is the hand-holdability? What is your main use of the camera?

    - razians -
    thanks for your overview. H1 and H2 look cool, but out of the price range - especially the lenses. You say that you are looking for Mamiya (ETRSi I guess), 645NII or older Mamiya - what is steering your decision this way?

    - suzyj -
    You are indeed not the first that tends to prefer older Mamiyas to Later Pro or Pro TL models. Is it just the finis of the body or is there more to the difference? How do the newer and older Mamiyas compare? What is your main usage of the Mamiya M645 (weddings ..?)

    Mamiya In general - I would love to hear more comments on differences between Older "metal" Mamiyas , Pro/Pro TL and AFD models. It is quite confusing (apart from the AF and backs)

    On the Pentax - I found on several places that thanks to rather small and well damped mirror the Pentax 645NII actually does not really need the MLU unless one uses very long lenses (like 400mm or longer). Do the previous generations (645 & 645N) share the same well damped mirror?

    Pentax & Mamiya - I am looking for a reliable source of the weights of the lenses
     
  23. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    17,028
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Matus:

    I have several of the Mamiya 645 lenses, and could weigh them. Which ones do you need weights for?

    Matt
     
  24. eSFotos

    eSFotos Member

    Messages:
    38
    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2009
    Location:
    Sydney Austr
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    My Mamiya 645 Pro TL with back and AE prism weighs 1.4kg.
    Add 500g for WG401 power grip with batteries - I don't use it often.
    Add another 500g for 80mm F1.9 or 200g for 55mm F2.8.

    In comparison, my EOS 3 with power grip weighs 1.5kg. And my EF lenses weigh more than Mamiya Sekors.
     
  25. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

    Messages:
    610
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2006
    Location:
    Aalen, Germa
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    - MattKing -
    OK, before I went ahead and bothered you I went I again to butkus.org and this time managed to find the lens specifications for bot MF and AF lenses. Thank you for your offer. Still - one more general question - How do you find using the M645 hand hold? I mean like BIG 35mm SLR with pentaprism and winder.

    - eSFotos
    Thank you. But that sounds like about 2.4 kg ready to shoot a'la 35mm SLR .. :sad:

    .. Would the Mamiya AFD be any lighter?

    .. what about the Pentax 645 / 645N / 645NII or Contax 645?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2010
  26. raizans

    raizans Member

    Messages:
    130
    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2004
    none of them really grabbed me, that's all. i have a good feeling about the pentax 645n/ii, though. the bronicas and mamiyas seem a bit unwieldy with a prism and grip attached, but i don't want to count them out.