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  1. #1
    msbarnes's Avatar
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    Thinking of a Fuji 645 camera

    I'm interested in a 645 camera with a wide-angle lens; more specifically I'm interested the the Fuji GA645W, GS645S, or GA645. My top priorities is a camera that is portable, compact, durable, and inexpensive. I'm also considering a Mamiya 645 or Pentax 645 cameras as those seem to have better optics at a similar price but at the expense of portability and compactness.

    For the Fuji rangefinders:
    1) How is the bokeh? I don't care so much for sharpness but I do care about bokeh. I don't like very harsh bokeh. From browsing through flickr, it seems that the Mamiya has the best bokeh, but that also depends on the subject and photographer..
    2) How is the handling? I prefer landscape orientation. Do you users find the native vertical orientation annoying? This is probably more of a personal question.
    3) How is the shutter life? I've heard that the 6x7/6x9 rangefinder shutter life is low (500 rolls?), is this the same for 645 rangefinders? Is there anyone in the US that services them? Essex?
    4) How is the durability? I've heard that these cameras are very plasticy.
    5) How is the auto-focus? I don't care for autofocus, but it seems that it's the better option if I want a 45mm because the GS645W is scalepfocus and with a slower lens.
    6) How is the rangefinder/viewfinder? Is it decent? I have some 120 folders (S. Ikonta III and S. Isolette) and those, to me, are pretty good or atleast better than what I expected. Would I expect the Fuji RF's to be comparable? I've heard that they aren't that great.
    7) Is the shutter loud?
    8) Anything else I should know?

    I'm interested in the Fuji's because of their size/portability and rangefinder focusing; but my concerns are in the optics (bokeh) and durability.
    Last edited by msbarnes; 11-28-2011 at 12:06 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by msbarnes View Post
    For the Fuji rangefinders:
    1) How is the bokeh? I don't care so much for sharpness but I do care about bokeh. I don't like very harsh bokeh. From browsing through flickr, it seems that the Mamiya has the best bokeh, but that also depends on the subject and photographer..
    I used to intensely dislike the Fuji RF bokeh. I've mellowed a bit and after many years picked up another GS645S which I do use occasionally, but on the whole I still don't terribly care for the way they draw. They don't usually serve up the sort of harsh frizz that most people think of as the definition of "bad bokeh", but there's a distinctive look to distant OOF backgrounds that I find very unpleasant sometimes. OTOH, nearby OOF backgrounds are often rendered in a beautifully unobtrusive way. As always, this is such a subjective thing that you really need to judge for yourself.

    Quote Originally Posted by msbarnes View Post
    2) How is the handling? I prefer landscape orientation. Do you users find the native vertical orientation annoying? This is probably more of a personal question.
    I find the GS645S a bit awkward for horizontal use. Not unusable, mind you, but enough of a nuisance that I'm always conscious of wrestling with the camera. I've never used one of the autofocus GA series - perhaps those are less awkward.

    Quote Originally Posted by msbarnes View Post
    3) How is the shutter life? I've heard that the 6x7/6x9 rangefinder shutter life is low (500 rolls?), is this the same for 645 rangefinders?
    500 on the counter is the recommended service interval, NOT the design lifetime of the shutter.

    Quote Originally Posted by msbarnes View Post
    Is there anyone in the US that services them? Essex?
    You can check with the Fuji service center in the US to see whether they'll still accept any of them. Beyond that, many independent repair centers that work on mechanically-governed cameras will accept the manual-focus ones. I don't know about the AF models.

    Quote Originally Posted by msbarnes View Post
    4) How is the durability? I've heard that these cameras are very plasticy.
    The manual-focus ones are indeed very plasticky, but with care will hold up well to steady use. Weak spots for the GS645 folder include the bellows and the folding mechanism. A weak spot for the GS645S is the lens mount, which is fairly fragile - hence the "crash bar". A good whack to the front of a GS645S can do a lot of damage. Again, I don't know about the AF models.

    Quote Originally Posted by msbarnes View Post
    5) How is the auto-focus? I don't care for autofocus, but it seems that it's the better option if I want a 45mm because the GS645W is scalepfocus and with a slower lens.
    As noted, I've never used any of the AF models. You might look up Dante Stella's review of the GA645.

    Quote Originally Posted by msbarnes View Post
    6) How is the rangefinder/viewfinder? Is it decent? I have some 120 folders (S. Ikonta III and S. Isolette) and those, to me, are pretty good or atleast better than what I expected. Would I expect the Fuji RF's to be comparable? I've heard that they aren't that great.
    It's fine. The frame lines move to correct for both parallax and field size - I much prefer that to the fixed-size framelines in the Mamiya 6 and 7, and to the squinty little finder without any framelines in my Super Ikonta B.

    Quote Originally Posted by msbarnes View Post
    7) Is the shutter loud?
    Yes, at least in the manual-focus ones. Dunno about the AF models. If you want a quiet shutter, try the GF670/Bessa III, which is astounding in that respect. The Mamiya 6 and 7 shutters are pretty quiet too.

    Quote Originally Posted by msbarnes View Post
    8) Anything else I should know?
    Dunno, does the above raise any other questions?

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by msbarnes View Post
    1) How is the bokeh? I don't care so much for sharpness but I do care about bokeh. I don't like very harsh bokeh. From browsing through flickr, it seems that the Mamiya has the best bokeh, but that also depends on the subject and photographer..
    2) How is the handling? I prefer landscape orientation. Do you users find the native vertical orientation annoying? This is probably more of a personal question.
    3) How is the shutter life? I've heard that the 6x7/6x9 rangefinder shutter life is low (500 rolls?), is this the same for 645 rangefinders? Is there anyone in the US that services them? Essex?
    4) How is the durability? I've heard that these cameras are very plasticy.
    5) How is the auto-focus? I don't care for autofocus, but it seems that it's the better option if I want a 45mm because the GS645W is scalepfocus and with a slower lens.
    6) How is the rangefinder/viewfinder? Is it decent? I have some 120 folders (S. Ikonta III and S. Isolette) and those, to me, are pretty good or atleast better than what I expected. Would I expect the Fuji RF's to be comparable? I've heard that they aren't that great.
    7) Is the shutter loud?
    8) Anything else I should know?
    I have a GS645S, so the following is based on that:
    1) It's not beautiful, I have to admit. But it's OK. I'm probably not as sensitive to it as some people, but it's not as lovely as my Rolleiflex, definitely.
    2) Personally, I like portrait orientation, and even in 35mm I probably shoot more than half of my frames with vertical orientation. But I don't remember it being particularly problematic shooting landscape.
    3) My shutter has been fine.
    4) I broke part of the plastic lens surround on mine when I caught the bumper on something, and the bumper and cover are now loose. So yeah, it's not the most robust. The lens, however, is still fine, so it's more a cosmetic problem.
    5) N/A/
    6) On mine the viewfinder is excellent. Big, bright, and parallax corrected. The rangefinder patch isn't great though. It's usable, but faint compared to my 35mm rangefinders.
    7) Yes, very loud for a leaf shutter. Certainly much louder than my Super Ikonta, and my Rollei [which are the two other MF leaf-shutter cameras I have].
    8) I find the sharpness and image quality extremely high. The GS645S is a near-perfect travel camera, for me. Shame it's not a bit more robust, and didn't have a quieter shutter.

  4. #4
    munz6869's Avatar
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    I have a GA645zi
    1. Agree with above comments - prefer Rolleiflex
    2. I don't mind the portrait orientation, but use landscape probably just as much - I actually find it easier to compose in landscape
    3. No problems with shutter ever
    4. After dropping it on the floor of a Land Rover in Iceland, there is now a hairline crack in the back plastic film door - otherwise mine still looks minty, even after travels...
    5. Hate the autofocus - but it does mean I have got some shots I never would have with a ponderous camera like the Rolleiflex or LF - autofocus still seems like cheating to me, and this simple implementation takes getting used to...
    6. Viewfinder is great and clear.
    7. Not at all - I've left the "beep" on it's so quiet - the film wind is also really quiet - yes, it's louder than a Rollei, but most things are - it's not as loud as my Mamiya or Fuji 6x8 - those things would wake a hibernating bear...
    8. Great quick MF travel camera - still like my Rolleiflex better, but probably made more photos with it on my last trip because it does everything... The champagne colour of the zi is delightfully gaudy and bizarre.

    Marc!
    Marc Morel
    photographie argentique!
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    http://mrmarcmorel.wordpress.com/

  5. #5

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    I borrowed a 645 Fuji, straight to question 7 - earmuffs needed.

  6. #6

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    This is from my experience with 645 Gazi.

    1) How is the bokeh? I don't care so much for sharpness but I do care about bokeh. I don't like very harsh bokeh. From browsing through flickr, it seems that the Mamiya has the best bokeh, but that also depends on the subject and photographer..

    The Mamiya is very nice for close focus wide open photo. I feel the fuji is better for not so close focus f8. In this category of photography, the bokeh is nice.

    2) How is the handling? I prefer landscape orientation. Do you users find the native vertical orientation annoying? This is probably more of a personal question.

    Handling of Gazi is nice. Landscape is no big problem.

    4) How is the durability? I've heard that these cameras are very plasticy.

    Look plastic but overall quality of Gazi is good. It feels well in hand.

    5) How is the auto-focus? I don't care for autofocus, but it seems that it's the better option if I want a 45mm because the GS645W is scalepfocus and with a slower lens.

    Tha Gazi autofocus is good enough. I like it. The zoom is pointless compared to a simple 60mm in my opinion but this is not the subject of the thread.

    6) How is the rangefinder/viewfinder? Is it decent? I have some 120 folders (S. Ikonta III and S. Isolette) and those, to me, are pretty good or atleast better than what I expected. Would I expect the Fuji RF's to be comparable? I've heard that they aren't that great.

    Viewfinder is good. Information display is well thought and the viewfinder itself is fairly clear.

    7) Is the shutter loud?

    Not too much and film advance neither.

    8) Anything else I should know?
    close focus is 1m. Pictures are good. Auto exposure too.

  7. #7
    Richard Sintchak (rich815)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enrico Scotece View Post
    I borrowed a 645 Fuji, straight to question 7 - earmuffs needed.
    I disagree. I have the GA645 and the Zi and the shutters are quiet, it's the auto advance that buzzes though only noticeable in a quiet room not on the street typically. Now the GW690III? TH-WUNK!!!
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  8. #8
    Thingy's Avatar
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    I have a Mamiya 645 Pro TL with a shutter that is a bit of a shock after using large format lenses with leaf shutters By contrast my Mamiya 7 leaf shuttered lens is so quiet, with no discernable camera shake, I was convenced originally that it wasn't firing. This very fact makes it perfect for those times when one needs to do unobtrusive documentary work (admittedly rare for me these days).
    The Thing

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    Film Cameras currently used:
    Large/Stort-format: Ebony 45SU (field camera), Medium/Medlem-format: Mamiya 7, Hasselblad 503CW
    35mm/Små format: Nikon: F4, D800 (yes digital, I know)

  9. #9
    msbarnes's Avatar
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    Thank you all for your replys! This camera seems to be a great camera, so long as you can deal with it's limitations.

  10. #10
    Tony-S's Avatar
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    I had one but now have the Bronica RF645 and am much happier with it. Quite a bit more expensive, though.

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