I have two Mamiya 645 bodies - a Super and a Pro.
I like what I have, and prefer them to the older M645 bodies, primarily because of the interchangeable backs, but also because I prefer their weight, and the more modern prisms.
In my mind, the biggest reason to choose the Bronica cameras is the fact that they use leaf shutters in the lenses. On the other hand, there are also good reasons to prefer a focal plane shutter (consistency of exposure, lower weight and simplicity of construction of lenses).
There is a lot of Mamiya equipment available on the used market. My perception is that it is harder to find Bronica, Pentax and Contax (in that order).
I find the ergonomics of my Mamiya equipment to be excellent. There are some minor irritations (like the proprietary straps, for instance) but I think that ergonomics is something quite personal, so I would strongly suggest handling the various options before buying.
FWIW, here is an image I shot handheld using my Pro, with the 55mm lens. That lens is very good, and very reasonable.
Contax 645s were never very popular here on the West Coast (CA) so I have no point of comparison on the ergonomics. That is a worthwhile consideration as I'm not as likely to carry a camera that's frustrating or unpleasant to use. I can tell you that the Contaxes I've seen on eBay have tended to hold more of their original, as do the lenses. Pentax gear is dirt cheap by comparison and I find the image quality leaves little to be desired. (I'm a nit-picking pro, incidentally).
If I was in Germany where they might be found in numbers, I'd add the Rollei Hy6 to the list of cameras to look at, myself.
It's hard to tell if it's temporary or not, but over the last day prices on used Pentax 645 lenses have spiked, thanks to the 645D announcement.
I have had a look at the Rollei Hy6 - man - that camera looks cool, but it also makes the Contax look cheap. Also very few on the used market. I guess the camera is not that old.
For the Pentax - I already know that AF Mamiya work only is stop-down mode metering mode - how about the Pentax?
For the MLU with Pentax - would you say one really does not need it even with 200 - 300mm lenses on tripod with exposure about 1/2s - 1/30s ? That would be rather surprising. As far as I know even with 35mm cameras this shutter speeds are sensitive to the additional shake induced by the mirror. Indeed - the point about the camera weight applies (the heavier the less shaky)
In general - what lenses from Mamiya, Pentax and Contax do you consider the best within the lens line-ups?
Little has been said about Bronica. I have two 645 format ETR-Si's and really enjoy them. Prices are great, lenses are great, (I have most of them).
www.tamron.com/slr_archives.asp The link will not work because posting it adds an underline beneath each letter, apparently negating the underline in the URL. To see the page linked to, enter the URL and put an underline between slr and archives (slr_archives).
That lets you see the specifications on the ETR-Si; and for their 6X6 and 6X7 machines as well.
Check KEH for prices and it's amazing. I have almost all latest PE glass, but the older MC glass is still very nice. The MC 150 has an excellent reputation.
For a hobbyist, the differences are subtleties.
For a wedding shooter, a camera with leaf shutter lenses is a huge advantage, and only Bronica (among the 645) has every lens with leaf shutter and you get AE with every lens.
The other brands besides Bronica only have a few lenses with leaf shutter, and since AE automation is linked to the focal plane shutter in those cameras, you lose AE when using a leaf shutter lens.
Since you are also considering 6x7, Pentax could be a solution. You can use the Pentax 6x7 lenses with an adapter on the 645 bodies. Since you have asked, I would go immediately for 6x7. But I also use a tripod almost always. Best regards to Muenster, the city in which I grew up.
i've been able to handle the contax 645, hasselblad h1 and h2, mamiya 645af, and pentax 645. i'm keeping an eye out for the pentax 645n/ii, the bronicas, and the older mamiyas.
contax 645 - well balanced with 80/2. very solid feeling, heavy, reminds me of the late 90s. viewfinder is noticeably smaller and dimmer than the hasselblad and mamiya, with a warm color cast. a little harder to focus than the hasselblad and mamiya. the shutter sounds very nice. great controls.
hasselblad h1 and h2 - very well balanced with 80/2.8, best of the bunch. solid feel, but plasticky. design reminds me of the common dolphin. viewfinder is large and bright, with a green color cast. odd shutter sound, like something is rattling around. it's supposed to be like that. didn't really like the interface.
mamiya 645af - back heavy with 80/2.8. solid feel, but the contax is nicer, of course. prism looks like it has a heavy brow ridge and sloping forehead, just like a neandertal! viewfinder is a little bit smaller than the hasselblad, but just as bright, with a warm color cast.
pentax 645 - well balanced with 75/2.5. solid feel, even though it's comparatively light. dim viewfinder, about the same size as the contax, with a warm color cast. didn't like the interface.
I recently bought a Bronica ETRS (with AE-II prism) and a Mamiya 645 Super (also with AE prism). I couldn't decide which I prefered, so figured I'd just buy one of each, make my decision, and sell the other one on.
I'd ruled out Contax, Hasselblad, Rollei, and Pentax mainly due to price or lack of availability. There are plenty of Bronicas and Mamiyas around the used market, and they're going at amazing prices.
I subsequently found an older M645, which I bought for its 80mm f/1.9 lens. Sure enough, it turned out the M645 is the one I like the best. It takes all the manual Mamiya 645 lenses (including some leaf shutter ones, should I ever need faster than 1/60 flash sync), it's beautifully made from metal, whereas most of the newer ones use plastic covers. The winding mechanism feels wonderful, and it's just a solid, dependable, beautiful camera. Sure, it doesn't have interchangeable backs, but for the type of shooting I do, that's just not a problem.
The Bronica was nice too, but the lenses for it top out at f/2.8, whereas the M645 has the 80mm f/1.9, which is gorgeous. The Mamiya Super is everything a wedding photographer's camera should be. Interchangeable backs, great AE prism, but clearly made to a price.
I've since sold the Mamiya Super and Bronica (at a substantial profit, on account of cleaning them up and replacing seals etc), and bought a PD prism for my M645, along with a 45mm f/2.8 and 150mm f/2.8 lens.