35mm vs 645 MF SLR for handheld use
I do not have an SLR nor am I committed to any brands, but I'm debating between a 35mm or a 645. I was initially looking into 35mm cameras but for not that much more I can get a 645 MF SLR that might meet all of my requirements. My intention is to use this camera handheld and with enough speed to be used indoors.
What matters to me:
-handheld use and ergonomics
What does not matter:
-size, weight, and noise to a reasonable extent
-any auto-features such as auto-focus, auto-exposure, auto film rewind
I'm thinking mostly of a 35mm Canon FD or a 645 Pentax or Mamiya; I'm aware of the key differences between the two formats and brands (and I'm open to more options) but I'm trying to weigh the pros/cons of the 35mm vs 645 slr first before deciding upon which particular brand and lens. I'm mostly interested in the 28mm and 35mm focal lengths (in 35mm equiv) and I might pick up a standard in the future but not interested in anything really wider or longer.
-Is it reasonable to shoot at the 645 SLRs 1/30s handheld? I can shoot at 1/30s on my C220 and 35mm FL rangefinders without much effort, but they do not have swinging mirrors...
-How does the noise and sound compare with the Pentax and Mamiya systems? I've heard that Pentax's are smaller and quieter but the Mamiyas bulkier and louder. Any pictures of the two side-by-side? I couldn't find any size comparisons online.
-Is the Mamiya ergonomic without the grip. I find that it adds a significant amount of bulk so I'd like to use one without a grip when I want to slim down.
A Mamiya 645 Super was my gateway into MF after almost ten years of 35mm only shooting. Ergonomically, it's not the greatest without a winder grip. Until I got one, I probably wasted at least 2-4 shots per roll fumbling with its odd boxiness and hitting the shutter button in the process when studio shooting with strobes. The grip makes a huge difference. The extra weight isn't that big a deal relative to the convenience. Drives are a bit noisy. That's their main drawback.
The Pentax 645 has a dampened mirror to reduce vibration. I have shot it as slow as 1/60th, but my elbows were braced. The Pentax motor has roughly the same noise level as other motor-driven winders I have. Noise level is subjective, though. The widest Pentax 645 lens is 45mm, so that should fit your target lens range. There is a 35mm, but it's a monster fisheye designed for the Pentax 67, and you'll need an adapter to use it on the 645.
Seems to be a 35mm for the Pentax 645, see ken rockwells page, and the last time I looked, there was one at KEH for $1100 or so, no adapter required. Oh there are even two right now. There have been more that one listed for sale here as well.
You can also use the ARSAT 30mm fisheye on most 645 systems with an adapter.
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I tried using a Mamiya 645 for the purpose you describe but even with a decent grip it was too clumsy and noisy compared to the 35mm alternatives. The biggest problem for me though was vibration from the large shutter that made sub 1/60 second shots very hard to get sharp.
35mm film is of such quality now that enlargements aren't really an issue -- keeping in mind sharpness, developer and ISO speed, etc.
Depth of field is relative with different sized negatives too -- f/8 in 35mm will have a greater zone in focus than f/8 in MF.
I think if you can get sharp negatives handheld on a big camera like a C220 then a 645 system will at least be the same.
Things like ergonomics are entirely up to you - my personal take is 35mm cameras are simpler and therefore faster, but it really boils down to whatever you get used to. A Pentax 645 in your hands for a year or three will be like second nature.
Thanks for your opinions.
I'm interested in 645 45mm and 55mm lenses which are equivalent to 28mm and 35mm; I'm not interested in a 35mm lens. Sorry for the confusion, I think mostly in the 35mm format lens equivalent, since this format is the most popular and I'd say the predominant format.
So it's a 35mm SLR with a 28mm and 35mm lens or a 645 SLR with a 45mm and 55mm lens.
As of right now, it seems that a 35mm SLR isn't so easily replaced.
Last edited by msbarnes; 12-06-2011 at 12:22 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Get both in one. Buy the Bronica ETR series body and you can have either the MF 6x4.5 back, a normal 35mm back and panaramic 35mm back. Excellent lenses and a very complete line of accessories. I've used my as both mf 35mm and mf system for several decades and never looked back or felt I was missing anything.
Do you do your own darkroom work? If so, you will really appreciate the larger negative that 645 gives you.
I think a camera with a waist-level finder is the easiest camera of all to shoot hand-held at slow shutter speeds. You can shoot 645 with a waist level finder, as long as your subject has a horizontal orientation.
IMHO the potential for camera shake arising from hand-held use is much greater than the potential contribution from a moving mirror.
The ergonomics of the camera, and how they suit you are, in my opinion, the most important factor.
I do shoot 35mm, and Mamiya SLR 6x4.5, Mamiya TLR 6x6 and Mamiya SLR 6x7 - hand-held when necessary, braced somehow when possible, with a mono-pod if that is what is available and with a tripod when I can.
“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