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  1. #1

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    New-to-me Mamiya 645

    Thanks to a digression in a thread about the price of slide film, I went and bought myself a Mamiya 645 outfit, so as to have a metered MF camera that can take on some of the duties of my 35mm cameras. It arrived this morning and the smoke-test roll is currently drying in my darkroom, so I thought I'd report on first impressions.

    This thing is a freakin' tank; it handily outweighs my Rolleiflex or my 9x12 plate cameras, and handholding it will take some getting used to. It's sort of like trying to handhold a rhinoceros. The hardy souls who shoot RB/RZ67s handheld now have even more of my respect than they did before!

    I got the PD prism, which has a coupled meter but no autoexposure. That's the same thing I'm accustomed to in 35mm. The manual actually promises that this prism guarantees "perfect exposure everytime", which sounds mighty useful, doesn't it? :-) But the roll I shot actually looks like it lived up to it---just based on eyeballing the negatives, I don't see anything that makes me say "oops". It's Tri-X at box speed, so minor exposure errors wouldn't jump out, but it's enough to convince me that the meter is usable. (I'm not sure if it's pure-averaging or has some kind of weighted pattern; I thought it seemed pretty sensitive to bits of bright sky at the top of the frame, which most weighting patterns try to compensate for.) Nice bright image on the focussing screen, and a split-image circle in the middle, which my aging eyes always appreciate in a reflex camera.

    Focussing the lens (the standard 80/2.8) is a little fiddly; the ring is further back against the body than my fingers expect it to be. The aperture ring is *minute* and even more crammed against the body. I suppose I'll get used to them. The film insert looks a little strange and crowded, but it's well-designed and easy to load and unload in practice. The film advance feels weird, as if it's slipping a little bit before it stops, but the frame spacing looks perfect and I think it's probably working as designed.

    This camera has one of the weirdest warts I've ever seen: If you take the battery out, you can still shoot it (unmetered, obviously), but the mirror doesn't return until you press the battery-check button! My plan is to just accept this eccentricity as one of those inexplicable little aspects of life, like the fact that some people eat blue cheese on purpose...I don't have to understand *why* it's true to accept that it *is* true.

    The whole roll was handheld (except for one shot braced on a chair arm), since that's how I expect to use the camera most of the time. I'm curious what people find handholdable speeds to be with this camera; should I expect 1/60 to work decently, for instance?

    After shooting this one roll, I'm *very* happy with the camera on the whole. The little physical issues can, I think, be gotten used to; it'll never be *as* physically convenient as a 35mm rangefinder, of course, but I think it's clearly up to coming on vacation as the "family snapshots" camera, going out hiking, chasing the kid around the yard, and so on.

    -NT
    Nathan Tenny
    San Diego, CA, USA

    The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
    -The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_

  2. #2
    MattKing's Avatar
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    Nathan:

    Do I assume correctly that your camera is one of the earlier models, with a fixed back, rather than the removable backs usable on the Super or Pro models?

    If so, I'll agree that your camera is heavy!

    Mamiya made left hand grips for your camera with a built in mechanical trigger release. I find the left hand grips really helpful on my Pro model (and the Super models I had before).

    I also really like the focus assist handle that Mamiya made - it will fit on your 80 f/2.8 lens.

    And that strange feeling with the film advance - I think it is because the wind function advances the film and cocks the shutter at different parts of the wind.

    Have fun - the lenses are great, and the cameras are eminently functional.
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

  3. #3

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    Hello Nathan;
    Welcome to the club, and a few points to consider. I have a 1000s and a M645. Look for the accessory left handed handle with shutter release. Lose the prism and find a waistlevel finder and use a lightmeter. This will cut the weight. Mamiya also had a focus ring with handle. Love mine and you will too, Steven.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by snederhiser View Post
    Lose the prism and find a waistlevel finder and use a lightmeter. This will cut the weight.
    The coupled meter was my big reason for getting this camera, though. I've got meterless MF cameras with which I'm delighted, but the extra step of transferring the readings becomes a big deal when you're chasing after a small child, which I spend a lot of my time doing---as a result I shoot more 35mm slides than I like, and the idea is to try to get broadly similar handling in an MF camera. The grip might help, and in the end I'll just get used to the weight.

    I didn't know about the focus handle. It looks like there's one at KEH, if I have the right thing---it says "quick focus handle", and looks like it clamps around the lens and provides a lever that sticks out to the side. At seven bucks it seems clearly worth it. I've gotten used to the little focus tabs that a lot of 35mm RF lenses have, and it seems like the handle may have a similar feel.

    Even in a quick-and-dirty scan, I'm really impressed with this camera. Attached is my annual photo of a dying pumpkin vine, handheld at 1/125. I actually tried a (very careful) handheld shot at 1/30 and it was surprisingly acceptable; I don't expect to be able to reproduce *that* very often, but my guess is that 1/60 ought to be OK.

    -NT
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails last pumpkin 2012.jpg  
    Nathan Tenny
    San Diego, CA, USA

    The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
    -The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_

  5. #5
    fotch's Avatar
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    Nathan, you need to work out more.

    Heavy? That is a relative term. Lots of cameras that are fun to shoot, produce incredible photos, are both large and heavy. Speed Graphic, SLR Graflex, C330, and many many more. You will like the results from a larger negative as well of some of the other features of the larger camera. Have fun.
    Items for sale or trade at www.Camera35.com

  6. #6
    brucemuir's Avatar
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    That 80 2.8 will perform well. Most all the mamiya lenses in the M645 line are pretty darn good.
    Have fun!

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by fotch View Post
    Nathan, you need to work out more.

    Heavy? That is a relative term. Lots of cameras that are fun to shoot, produce incredible photos, are both large and heavy. Speed Graphic, SLR Graflex, C330, and many many more.
    I kid you not: This sucker weighs about the same as a Speed Graphic! (Shipping weight on the box was 6.0 lbs, of which I figure no more than half a pound was packing materials.) And I only get 1/4 of the image area.

    -NT
    Nathan Tenny
    San Diego, CA, USA

    The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
    -The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_

  8. #8
    fotch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ntenny View Post
    I kid you not: This sucker weighs about the same as a Speed Graphic! (Shipping weight on the box was 6.0 lbs, of which I figure no more than half a pound was packing materials.) And I only get 1/4 of the image area.

    -NT
    I know it weighs more than my 35mm SLR however, cannot comment on the Speed Graphic (also own) unless I get them out and weigh them both. I have used the 645 w 1.9 and finder w built in meter doing aerial photo graphs from small plane. Of course sitting in a plane and holding the camera is not the same as walking around, although I never gave the weight a thought so it did not bother me. YMMV
    Items for sale or trade at www.Camera35.com

  9. #9
    Roger Cole's Avatar
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    I have the Pro so I have interchangeable backs. I've never handled one of the earlier ones.

    It is certainly bigger and heavier than any of my 35mm cameras, and also than my Yashicamat 124. But compared to most 6x6 or any 6x7 camera it isn't. It's very hand holdable but you won't forget you have something around your neck.

    I totally disagree with the suggestion of losing the prism for the WLF. WLFs work best for square formats, or cameras like the RB/RZ 67 with rotating backs. For a non-rotating back rectangular format they are not very useful, make it almost impossible to shoot in portrait orientation.

    I don't have, nor have I used, one of the left hand grips. I have the winder grip, which is a right hand grip. The camera handles great with it, even if it is a bit big and heavy. I never noticed any problem or oddity at all with focusing the 80mm lens or any of my others. The only odd thing to me is that the aperture rings rotate backwards compared to all my 35mm lenses so going back and forth can be confusing. I also wish it showed the aperture in the viewfinder which both my LX and MX do. But those are minor quibbles.

  10. #10
    Roger Cole's Avatar
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    1/60th is pretty much always fine if I pay attention. I don't have much trouble with 1/30th either if I take time to brace my elbows, inhale deeply, exhale half, hold...same thing I learned shooting rifles.

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