Seeking advice on possible Mamiya ProTL purchase

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by nishwish, Feb 14, 2012.

  1. nishwish

    nishwish Member

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    Dear All,
    Greetings from Mumbai.
    I have dabbled with a DSLR & FSLR, (Nikon system). I have an opportunity to pick up a Mamiya 645 ProTL with components/accessories as mentioned below. My observations are also typed. I did not have the manual with me, and just happened to chance upon this system. Hence a full scale check up was not done. (Not that I would know a lot to check, even if I had the manual)

    1. Body (duh..) with the film advance crank AC401 (Crank rotates, and then stops with a click, like something slipped. I would say it sounded like a tooth was missing in the gear, But it does stop, the shutter does fire. The shutter does seem accurate for all the speeds including bulb). The body caps are probably there.

    2. MAmiya 45 F2.8 with lens caps

    3. Mamiya 80 F2.8 (has slight fungus) again with lens caps.

    4. AE Finder FK 402 This seemed a lot dark. There was no waist level finder:sad:, A let down considering I flipped for Med-Form looking at those gorgeous WLF views from a friend's hasselblad)

    5. Power Grip Drive WG401 Seemed functional.

    6. 2 Backs for 120/220 film (as I understand, the 120 insert can be used in 220 back and 220 insert in the 120 back?). Come with Dark slides

    7. Polaroid Back with dark slides again.

    The seller/dealer has assured me that this kit will be serviced thoroughly (fungus cleaned from lens, and other CLA)
    Getting this for about US$500.

    Questions: Hoping for Mamiya ProTL folks to be generous with their time.

    1. What are the possible things I need to check, (besides the ones in the ProTl manual where they ask the user to see if there is something wrong.)

    2. An extension to the above, what problems did the users face over time with their ProTL system?

    3. What are the things that I should ask the Dealer who is also the technician (one man enterprise) to leave alone.. (for fear of misalignment) Won't have much freedom on this, since the dealer has no affiliation whatsoever with Mamiya. Just that his dad (now deceased) and him have been in the camera CLA and trading business for long. Please note that If this condition were to be strictly followed, I have to pick the system up as is.

    Thanking you in advance,

    NishWish
     
  2. Lars Jansen

    Lars Jansen Member

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    Hi NishWish,

    The Mamiya 645 ProTL is a very nice camera. For manuals I would check out http://www.butkus.org/chinon/. That guy has manuals for most cameras and accessories.
    4. About the AE Finder FK402, I do have it somewhere but never use it, as the regular AE Prism finder is so much better, with both averaging and spot metering and clever switching between them, auto -exposure and auto-exposure lock and a nice viewfinder on it's own.
    However, if you are looking into this camera because of the WLF experience, I would not go for a 6x4,5 camera. At some point in time you want to shoot in portrait mode and you need to switch to using a prism. If you want to use only a WLF you need to look at 6x6 cameras like the Hasselblad or Bronica SQ, or one of the Mamiya 6x7 beasts. I regularly use the camera with WLF but do feel limited then to horizontal images only. And switching between finders is not that practical.
    I can understand the appeal of the WLF, it's a different way of working and communicating with your subject, by not having that bulk in front of your face. Makes you look less aggressive.
    5. The power grip is very nice if somewhat bulky and heavy, and very noisy as well. On the plus side, it gives you the possibility to use an old fashioned threaded release. Due to the noise of it, people will notice you took a picture. Combines well with the prism finder to give a real SLR experience.
    6. Backs can be used for 120 and 220 film. The inserts are specific for the filmtype, although some say they have no issues using 120 film in a 220 insert. I don't bother with that and just bought extra backs with 120 inserts.

    Hope this helps you.

    Lars
     
  3. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Hi Nishwish:

    I have and use a Mamiya 645 Pro, which is essentially identical to the ProTl, save some additional TTl flash capabilities in the ProTl. In response to your points:

    1. The winding process with the 645 Pro is discontinuous - i.e. it makes different sounds and feels different at different parts of its revolution.

    2. Is the 45mm lens an "S", a "C" or an "N" lens? The newer "N" lenses are the best, and in addition they are smaller (67mm filters vs. 77mm filters).

    3. Is the 80 mm lens an "S", a "C" or an "N" lens? The newer "N" lenses are the best.

    4. I agree with Lars about the finders, although the FK402 does offer the advantage of being relatively small and light, and including an adjustable diopter correction feature.

    5. The power grip can be a useful accessory. I prefer the accessory left hand grips, but have both. On the mechanical cable release question, there are accessory adapters that permit using them, and they can usually be found on eBay relatively cheaply.

    As Lars indicated, with one exception, the backs themselves do not determine the film compatibility, the inserts do. So you buy 120 inserts for 120 film, and 220 inserts for 220 film, and you can use both types in the same backs.

    The exception is the 35mm back - it can only be used with its dedicated 35mm insert.

    The 120 and 220 inserts can be used in all models of the manual focus Mamiya 645 cameras - from the initial Mamiya M645 right throught to the ProTl. They too can usually be easily found on eBay, for reasonable prices.

    The newer, auto-focus Mamiya 645 AF models use entirely different backs and inserts.

    As far as things to check, I would recommend checking the film spacing on both backs and inserts, and the self timer function. If possible, you should try to find either an electronic cable release or one of the left hand grips with connectors to confirm that the electronic connection works as well.

    Hope this helps as well.
     
  4. nishwish

    nishwish Member

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    Dear Lars, MattKing
    Thank you very much for your replies. I have downloaded the manual from Butkus.org page. It is helpful to have it/

    1. The crank winder mechanism probably needs a recheck.
    2. The lenses are both probably C lenses.
    3. The finder is dark, and I need to find a WLF for the same. How do I check whether it is metering correctly? Comparing with my DSLR?
    4. Will take a look at the motor winder.. I have read that the motor winder is required if I use Leaf Shutter lenses. Yes Lars, the POwer Finder did indeed make me feel I was holding an SLR. Thank you for pointing out the noise issue.
    5. About the backs, I don't know which insert are presently used, but will take a look. The two of them probably mean one 120 & other 220 insert. I think there is no 35 mm back (or insert)
    Thanks for pointing out availability & compatibility of the backs
    I am intending to use this setup for still portraits (in good light) and mainly Landscapes. Developing this will be an issue, as most labs in India have stopped developing. There are a few, but its not at all as easy as it was 10 years back
    I have another opportunity to pick an RB67 (with landscape and portrait lenses) which the owner claims is in excellent condition. It gives me the option of using both 645 and 6 cm square format, but the owner wants to recover his investment. approx 875$ US. quite expensive.

    Matt, will check on things u mentioned.
    You both have been great.

    Best regards,
    NishWish :smile:
     
  5. EKDobbs

    EKDobbs Member

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    If the finder is dark, check that the aperture preview on the left side of the lens is on "A" and not "M". Simple thing, but I forget it all the time.

    Comparison with a DSLR aught to give you an idea of how accurate the metering is.

    You would know if it was a 35mm- the back is very differently shaped and has no insert.

    Also, the motor winder is not required for leaf lenses, but you will have to wind the film and cock the shutter if you're using it full manual. I'd watch out with the motor winder, it's known to burn out the winding gears with heavy use.

    edit: I just read your complaint about the manual winder, and as far as I know, that's completely normal. I had been using mine with the power winder, no issues, then switched to a manual because I didn't like the noise. I too got the weird gear-slip feeling, but it got much better with use. I think the last portion of the wind is what cocks the mirror.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 15, 2012
  6. nishwish

    nishwish Member

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    Thanks EKDobbs, for your reply

    Metering will be done with a DSLR. But I am wondering about the practicality of carrying two systems to a shoot (one of them a Medium format system). My wife freaks out at the bulk and weight of the D300 and 28-105 AFD when I want her to click my pictures. I figure a small and inexpensive light-meter would serve me better. No, I am not rich enough to hire a porter. I am my own porter for carrying both the essentials and the gear. :tongue:

    I suspect there is no 35 mm back in the setup I am offered.

    About winder: Then maybe I need to check the winding gears too.. Any idea if this is possible ? Also, if it is fine, then maybe I just pick it up for now, and baby it till I add some leaf shutter lenses. Of course I have to exercise the baby once in a while, or else she will misbehave, when I least expect it.

    Thanks for the reassurance over the gear-slip feeling. Comforting to know that you think its normal. And quite possibly, it may be exaggerated due to it being probably unused for a reasonable amount of time and me being used to the smooth shutter actions of Autofocus SLRs.

    You guys are great :smile:

    Thanks,
    NishWish
     
  7. snederhiser

    snederhiser Member

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    Hello NishWish;
    I own a Mamiya 645 1000s and can offer some help. To test the camera first check the battery is in good condition and maybe a battery check light on this model. Take the film back out and wind a 75mm piece of masking tape on the takeup spool on one side. Place the spool back into the insert with the taped side so the film counter wheel rides on this. Load back up and pull out the dark slide and start testing. In manual mode turn the shutter speed dial to verify the shutter is working on different speeds. Pull the lens to check. Put the dark slide back in to determine if the interlock is working. The 120/220 inserts are the same except the black plastic wedge on the 220 insert which can be removed for 120 operation. Turn the shutter speed dial to automatic operation and turn prism on and see if this is working. I believe this is a shutter speed priority system. The price seems right with a CLA. Good luck, Steven.
     
  8. nishwish

    nishwish Member

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    Thanks snederhiser,
    It was very nice of your to detail this.

    Best regards,

    NishWish
     
  9. Goacap

    Goacap Member

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    hi nish. I have a mamiya m645 super. Just bought it a couple of weeks ago. Love it totally. Mamiya optics are really good. I ran a couple me tri x and the results are really good . I'm glad to knows people in bombay still use film cameras. If you ever come down to goa, do give me a buzz .

    edson dias
    www.goa-cap.com
    www.edsondias.com
     
  10. nishwish

    nishwish Member

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    Hello Edson!
    Thanks for joining in. Very happy to know that you are please with your Mamiya. Ohh and there are a *lot* of folks in Mumbai who do use film cameras. Just that they are almost exclusively into 35 mm. Mostly old photographers who are used to film, and some new amateurs. But you are right, as a medium, Digital rules in Professional photography except for the informed Super Rich who can and do use films for their projects.

    Btw, thanks for your invite, I passed up a chance to be in Goa the last weekend. Had to save for this Mamiya system that I am referring to up there in the first post :tongue:

    Btw, I saw your site, it looks quite interesting, what you are up to.

    Best regards,

    NishWish
     
  11. Goacap

    Goacap Member

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    i co founded goa centre for alternative photography. Thats what i've been up to for the last 2 years :smile:
     
  12. nishwish

    nishwish Member

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    Hello Lars/Mattking/Steven/EKDobbs!
    I did a more thorough inspection of the camera and found a few things. In no particular order they are

    1. Both lenses are N lenses Mamiya Sekor C 45 f2.8 N
    2. Shutter speeds are correct, self timer works, battery check button works.
    3. AE prism FK402 works, (exposure changes panning from dark to right)
    4. Flipping between Depth of focus knob for aperture preview does make the view in the finder lighter /darker but no distinct difference..
    5. After punching the dark slides, the shutter locks when I have the back connected to the body.
    6. INserts are 120 mm ones in both backs.
    7. Mirror lock up works. checked the self timer along with the same.

    Two issues:
    1. The cloth shutter has some white spotss on it. Dealer claims it is fungus and it can be cleaned easily using an organic solvent. Can it? If i have to replace the assembly, how much would it cost. Could the shutter be damaged while this cleaning is done?
    2. How do I check the mirror box/ mirror itself.

    Best regards,

    NishWish
     
  13. EKDobbs

    EKDobbs Member

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    Do not touch the cloth shutter unless you have previous experience with camera cleaning. It's incredibly fragile to pressure that goes perpendicular to the cloth, meaning it's easy to tear out of the frame if you press on it. Have it cleaned by someone who knows what they're doing, it will likely not be expensive. Or, if the spots do not seem to affect the shutter's operation, leave them. I would have it cleaned, but then again I've never had to deal with shutter fungus.

    As for checking the mirror, take the lens off and just look at it. The mirror isn't too terribly important, but you may want to take a rocketblower to it, just to get residual dirt off. The mirror box can be seen by locking up the mirror and looking inside, although you may need a little light. You're looking to see that there's nothing flaking off, rotting, or otherwise in a state that it should not be.
     
  14. Lars Jansen

    Lars Jansen Member

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    I would not touch the shutter. If the dealer says it's easy to clean, let him clean it before any sale is final. For the price, the shutter should be clean and in decent condition. I don't know the price for a new shutter including labour, but I suspect it to be at least something like half what you pay for a replacement body with decent shutter. Also, the question is if you have someone nearby who can replace the shutter.
     
  15. nishwish

    nishwish Member

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    Ohh thanks guys.. I was waiting with a lot of anticipation for your replies.
    I am sorry I did not make this clear.. Should have typed, "Dealer claims it is fungus and he can clean it easily using an organic solvent.
    @ EKDobbs: I have zero experience in cleaning cameras. Also, I am clueless as to how much the shutter would be affected per se. I am more worried though of the fungus spreading to the lens/other parts of the body, and messing things up for later.
    @ Lars: When I saw your reply beginning with "I would not touch the shutter.." My heart sank.. Then It soared again when I read you asking me to get it cleaned by the dealer.

    You guys are so good. I hope to get this sorted and get some good images, just so that your time spent is worthwhile.

    Best regards,

    NishWish
     
  16. nishwish

    nishwish Member

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    Thank you guys, I have got the equipment. The 80 2.8 lens though could not be cleaned fully, and does have a few spots. will try and post the details with photographic evidence.
    I did notice that I can remove the prism finder, and look down on the focusing screen. I dont know if one can make an exposure without the same (composing and focussing using the screen alone, NO finder.)
    I know it sounds funnny, but if anyone has tried this, please let us all know. I may try it just for kicks.. :D


    Best regards,

    NishWish
     
  17. flatulent1

    flatulent1 Subscriber

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    The waist level finder has no optics itself, it is little more than a folding chimney to shield the focusing screen from light. Looking at the screen without the WLF means you have to cup your hand around it to see. There is no meter in the WLF or body, so you're strictly on manual.

    I have no experience with lens fungus, but I've read that a modest amount of fungus will not affect the image appreciably. My concern is that the fungus might spread to other parts of the lens, or indeed spread to other lenses and the camera body.
     
  18. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    There is a limited source of 220 film.

    Jeff
     
  19. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    I'm "an old photographer" who retired six years ago am not "super rich" but still shoot lots of 120 roll film, I.M.O it's medium format digital equipment you need to be "super rich " to use, or be a top professional making serious money from the sale of your work to afford.
     
  20. snederhiser

    snederhiser Member

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    Hello NishWish;
    A waistlevel finder could be a good accessory. I shoot cars and motorcycles and like to position the camera just above the ground. Would be a little hard with a prism. Load in some film and shoot and don't sweat out the details. Have fun, Steven.