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  1. #1

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

    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. #2
    Ektagraphic's Avatar
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    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........
    Helping to save analog photography one exposure at a time

  3. #3

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    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. #4

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    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. #5

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    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. #6
    DanielStone's Avatar
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    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. #7

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    Looks like there are only favorite cameras among 645 SLRs

    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. #8

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    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. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by slnce-z-gsi View Post
    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?
    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. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by slnce-z-gsi View Post
    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?
    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.

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