Opinions on Mamya 645 Pro

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by GeoffHill, Sep 27, 2007.

  1. GeoffHill

    GeoffHill Member

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    Hello all,

    After shooting 35mm (mostly HP5 in a canon eos1n) I've decided to dip my toe in the world of medium format.

    A browse through ebay shows a bewildering array of different cameras, all for not a huge amount of cash, but I don't really know what I'm after. Would a 645 Pro be a good first MF camera, are there any gotchas that I should be aware of? Is it something I should stay away from completely?

    Cheers

    Geoff
     
  2. Erik Hartmann

    Erik Hartmann Member

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    I am using a Yashica mat-124 G for my medium format..... A rollei is better, but Yashica is almost as good.... and not a so great amount of cash......

    erik
     
  3. AZLF

    AZLF Member

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    Considering that you have been using a 35mm slr I think a Mamiya 645 would be a very natural and satisfying entry into the medium format. I bought one a few years ago when the prices started to fall and have found it to be the camera I use the most. Mine is a J model and does not have separate film backs which I believe the Pro series does have so the entry price for the pro series might be slightly higher. But in any case it is an excellent system. The Yashica and Rollie tlr's are also excellent cameras and I have one of each but the Mamiya 645 is the one I usually reach for when I decide to go out for a photo. I tend to use the 150mm and the 210 mm the most though I also have the 80 and 55 mm lenses for the system. My entire system only cost a little over $500.00 which I think is a lot of camera for the dollar.


    Good luck with whatever you decide.
     
  4. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    It's a fine piece and a great value, but I would strongly suggest getting it in your hands for a trial (true for any system).

    As I recall there is a really fast manual focus normal for the mamiya 645 system, and that alone sorely tempted me to get one of the 645s.

    Depending on your shooting style, you might consider also the Mamiya RFs. But as spectacular as they are, the mamiya RF lenses are considerably slower, so they may or may not suit your style.
     
  5. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    I recently dug my Mamiya Super out again after being less then satisfied with the bulk of a 6x6 SLR outfit and the prices of lenses to go with the prominent brands. I think that if you are going to invest, consider a TL body for fill flash. In retrospect if I had the chance to consider again, I might have very well gone with the Pentax 645 model and given up the interchangeable film backs for the Pentax incorporated metering and grip. A fixed back 645 with two lenses and a 6x6 Yashicamat makes for a nice light outfit to shoot two films while on tour.
     
  6. mawz

    mawz Member

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    The Pro's a good body, but I'd recommend getting the cheaper Super or the Pro TL with its TTL flash capabilities. Coming from 35mm, you'll want an AE prism and Winder as well. There's little difference between the Pro and Super in practice (it's mostly cosmetic, but the Pro does offer a more robust film transport and more integration with N/L leaf shutter lenses when combined with a WG401 winder).

    Unlike Waynecrider, I'd not consider going with a fixed-back 645 (in fact I do own one, the Mamiya M645, and upgraded to the Super mostly to get the interchangable backs). Also the Mamiya's handle better than the non-AF Pentax 645 does.

    The Mamiya kit is notable for having the fastest MF normal, the 80/1.9 and a wide selection of good, inexpensive glass available. You also have (limited) compatibility with the 645AF line (lenses mount and offer stop-down metering and focus confirmation, leaf shutters will not work, so L/S and N/L lenses have to be set to use the focal plane shutter). The 645 AF line offers the widest MF SLR lens (the 28/4.5) and higher flash sync's and max shutter (1/125, 1/4000) than the MF line.
     
  7. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I have a 645 Pro and two 645 Super bodies. The great thing is that all the manual focus lenses work with all the manual focus Mamiya 645 bodies.

    The differences between the Pro and the Super are small, but sometimes important. In particular, some of the smaller accessories differ slightly (and it can be quite difficult to determine which works with what).

    As an example, Mamiya makes a left hand grip that I really like, but the connector between the grip and the camera that allows use of the trigger and hot shoe on the grip differs between the Pro, the Pro Tl and the Super.

    The compatibility between the Pro and the Pro Tl is closer. The Super is quite a bit older than both. If I were buying now, I would probably try for the Pro Tl first, then the Pro. A Super does, however, make a usable backup body, provided you understand the small incompatibilities (such as with motor winders, and AE metering prisms).

    Matt
     
  8. Drew B.

    Drew B. Subscriber

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    I have the super also...but supposedly the Pro is a better machine. I guess the super had some bugs (which I have never encountered) and the Pro fixed them.
     
  9. Christopher Nisperos

    Christopher Nisperos Member

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    Geoff,

    It's a fine camera (my brief and slightly unqualified answer is based upon the limited information in your question, to wit: a "good" camera for what?).

    Well, here is some stuff you probably already know .. but as a reminder:

    -It's a battery-operated camera.

    -Rectangular format means rotating the camera for some shots and —if you use flash— either using a rotating flash bracket or having side-long shadows.

    -You need a special adapter to use a mechanical release (but I think there's an outlet for an electronic release)

    Having used the Canon, you probably already know what these aspects imply and can easily decide whether they are plusses or minuses. Anyway, hope this is helpful.

    Best,

    Chris


    .
     
  10. Greg_E

    Greg_E Member

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    My nickel's worth...

    I have a 1000s, 645 Super, 645 Pro. There are features that I like with all of them, and features that do not like with all of them. These lacking features are extremely minor! Overall I am very pleased with the system and have several different viewfinders for each system, several backs for the Super and Pro, several winders (manual and motor for each system) and a fairly large choice of lenses to use (including extension tubes for close up work). I even used the back from a Pro for my pinhole camera, so I can switch between speeds and/or 35mm back. You can even put some of the older digital backs on the Super and Pro(TL) bodies (I have a 6MP Megavision for mine).

    I would recommend getting the ProTL if possible, if not you will probably be happy with anything 1000s or newer if you take the limitations into consideration. One thing to note, the shutter curtain on the Super is a weak link. If the shutter is going, throw it in the trash. They revised the shutter for the Pro, and it seems to be very solid in the 1000s. I wouldn't buy an "E" body for any amount of money unless I knew the body was going to get trashed during the shoot, much rather have the 1000s if I can't have a film back.

    The Super and Pro with waist level finder and manual winder are extremely light weight, light as most 35mm cameras (or almost). The 1000s with the prism finder and motor drive weighs a lot! Makes good solid low speed handheld images though (Newton's first law coupled with F=m*a).

    I don't have a lot of the really fast lenses because until recently they were too expensive, but check out prices on the APO lenses now, very tempting. I prefer the motor drive that takes the 2CR battery because it is belt drive and much more quiet thant the other drive (the drive for the 1000s is loud and heavy).

    I will not buy an AF because I like to use a waist level finder, and on the AF bodies they decided that you can not remove the finder. It also does not meter with the older lenses, only with the new AF lenses. Also sometimes the motor drive needs to come off, and that is integrated with the AF too.
     
  11. GeoffHill

    GeoffHill Member

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    Thanks for your input.

    A few more dumb questions for you.

    Will the camera have a built in light meter, or some why of determining exposure, or do I have to use it in conjunction with a light meter. My history of cameras is digital (Eos 400d) to Automated electronic film Slrs in the EOS 1n and EOS 300v, so it's going to be a bit different to what I'm used to. I think going to a camera with no exposure meter,and fully manual may be a leap too far at the moment..

    Thanks

    Geoff
     
  12. AZLF

    AZLF Member

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  13. Silverhead

    Silverhead Member

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    I still use my 645 Pro for professional work, and it's great. I love Mamiya's right hand grip/motor drive...solid as a rock. The only thing is, it's quite noisy (if that's an issue for you). Mamiya's optics are first-rate, you'll probably never have a problem with them. Either the Pro or Pro TL should work fine for you in most situations.
     
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  15. Mark Mombarg

    Mark Mombarg Member

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    I have a Pro TL, and yes it has a light meter. Quite accurate, although I use my external light meter alongside. Just because i have one, I guess.. It has an automatic function as well..
     
  16. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    The metering function is "optional" in that it depends on which viewfinder you have installed.

    I have three - a metering eye level finder (which offers both AE and manual functions, as well as a fairly wide field spot metering function), a non metered eye level finder, and a waist level finder. You cannot get a metering waist level finder.

    The choice of finders is one of the differences between the Super and the Pro/Pro Tl. IIRC, all finders that work with the Super will work on the other models, but there are finders designed for the Pro Tl (and possibly the Pro) that don't work, or don't work fully on the Super.

    Matt

    P.S. If you just get a waist level finder, you will realize quite quickly that it doesn't work very well with vertically oriented compositions - that is unless you work well with everything appearing upside down :smile:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 28, 2007
  17. Marco Buonocore

    Marco Buonocore Member

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    I've had a Pro TL for about 6 years. It was my first step up from 35mm. It's a good, but not great, camera. I've done some wonderful work with it, and will still use it for certain projects. Even though I have the grip and the metered prism, I generally use it with the (albeit dim) waistlevel finder and the winder. I use this setup on a tripod and can carry it around quite freely. It's a light enough kit. I don't think the meter in my prism works very well anymore, and even when it did work, I don't remember liking it much. And the motorized grip makes such a racket, I found it unbearable.

    In recent years I've had my doubts about the lens quality. I regularly make 16x20 enlargements from Fuji Acros negs, and they look wonderful. Really, I couldn't be much happier with them. I remember though, shooting some band photos a while back. I was using an xpan, and I had my mamiya with me. I was shooting provia and made a few 'duplicate' shots. Apples and oranges, you could say, but one thing jumped out at me right away from the light box. Those xpan negs were significantly more contrasty, and had a sharpness that the mamiya lacked. The lighting conditions were identical, and both exposures were spot on. That was with the naked eye. Under a loupe it was all the more obvious. Certainly the xpan is a marvellous (expensive!) camera, but it was a bit disapointing to see the difference.

    I notice that lack of contrast when I'm developing B&W film as well. If the consensus is 10min with a particular film and developer, I generally tack on +25% to get a normal printing neg. I assume this has at least something to do with the lenses.

    Now I've more or less replaced my Pro TL with a Rollei 3.5 TLR. The difference in contrast, again, is staggering. The Rollei negs are quite amazing - I'm hooked on them. But I guess it's like comparing a Toyota Camry to a Maybach. Both do the job quite well, but the latter does it with style.

    Another gripe with the 645 is the aspect ratio. It's a bit too squat. Not as bad as 4x5, but certainly not as pleasing to me as 35mm.

    I also don't care too much for the film backs. I'm not convinced they hold the film flat enough. Certainly, it's an inferior method to something like the Rollei or a Blad.

    I'm not bashing. The camera has served me really well, and quite honestly, I've beaten the hell out of it. I'm not very gentle with cameras - and it's never failed me once, mechanically. I see the price these cameras go for now, and it's a steal - I saw a Pro kit for 350$ on craigslist not long ago. But the Hasselblad kits are cheap now too. I think if I was getting a medium format SLR kit, I'd get the Blad. May as well get the best. Or a 67 of some sort.

    No matter, you'll notice a difference in quality between 120 and 35mm film. It's unmistakable.

    Good luck!
     
  18. Photoe

    Photoe Member

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    I've been using a Pro model for over ten uears with absolutely no malfunction. Well, maybe some cockpit problems. I have two bodies and 7 lenses. All superb lenses. It was my step up from 35mm and I use for all my handheld work now. Use KB Canham and the 645 both when I'm on a tripod. They both help make me a happy photographer.
     
  19. mawz

    mawz Member

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    It depends on which prism you get. The meter is in the prism on metered prisms, while waistlevel and unmetered prisms are also available. I'd recommend the AE Prism or AE Prism N as a first prism (Metered, with Averaging and Spot metering, supports aperture priority and manual modes).

    The Pro TL does have a metering cell in the body, but that's only for TTL flash (yes, it does TTL flash with unmetered prisms and waistlevel finders).
     
  20. mawz

    mawz Member

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    Yeah, the drives are LOUD. I've scared the occasional pedestrian with mine.

    The N lenses are noticably higher contrast than the earlier C and S lenses. It's a coating issue. Also, depending on lens, the C versions may have different designs which may be inferior (the 45 most notably). My 55/2.8 N will give anything Zeiss a run for its money, my 45 and 80 C's, while nice lenses, will not.

    I'm assuming you've got C lenses here. Contrast shouldn't be an issue with the N lenses.

    The Aspect ratio of 645 is in practice very similar to 4x5. It's one thing I love about 645 (Printing to 8x10 or 16x20 involves almost no cropping). I'm not fond of 35mm's excessively rectangular format. And I also find the handling better than the Blads, which are seemingly designed to slow you down.
     
  21. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    Years ago I borrowed, on two separate occasions, from two different friends, their 645 to see if I liked the camera. I shot about half a dozen rolls of film in each. In one, the shutter jammed. In the other, the finder separated. I had them fixed. I bought a different system instead.
    John, Mount Vernon, Virginia USA
     
  22. mawz

    mawz Member

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    @Anscojohn:

    Which 645? The early (pre-Super) models were consumer-oriented and not as solidly built as the later pro-oriented models with interchangable backs. And finder separation is a known issue with the prisms on the early M645's.

    The later (Super, Pro, Pro TL) bodies are another kettle of fish entirely. Designed for pro use and much more reliable (Although the Super did have some teething trouble initially).
     
  23. Greg_E

    Greg_E Member

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    I disagree, the 1000s is a tank. The finders may have bad glue, but the 1000s body seems to be damn hard to break. Even survived a house fire when all my 35mm stuff died from the smoke.
     
  24. mawz

    mawz Member

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    @Greg_E: The 1000s and it's brethren are noted for having a rather fragile film transport system (which I've been subject to, had to get the film transport on my M645 replaced last month). While the body itself is tougher than the later bodies, the guts are not.

    It doesn't mean they fail often though, any camera that's been around for 30 years and still has a large fraction of the production working is definitely on the 'reasonably reliable' side, and that applies to all the Mamiya 645's.
     
  25. Greg_E

    Greg_E Member

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    What part of the 1000s fails, and is there a warning sign of the impending failure?
     
  26. mawz

    mawz Member

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    Usually the film transport fails, and the warning sign is typically either frame spacing issues or the failure of the counter to reset when loading. The latter is what happened to my M645. The film transport is rather lightly built, I don't think I'd even consider running a winder on any body prior to the Super (And even the Super's beefier film transport is known to have occasional issues with winders).