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Nick's Classic Corner - No 44 - Mamiya M645

Discussion in 'Classic Models & Marques' started by Benchista, Nov 17, 2013.

  1. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    In 1975, Mamiya introduced a new concept, the 6x4.5 cm system SLR. Sure, there had been cameras shooting in this format before - Rolleis with the 16-on kit, for example, but this was the first attempt to specifically target this image size with a system camera.
    There was a lot of debate at the time about the wisdom of such a thing - many considered the format far too small for serious use, and only suitable for gullible amateurs who couldn't go the whole way to 6x6. Of course this rather avoided the fact that most 6x6 frames were cropped to a rectangluar format anyway...

    The big advantage of 645 is that it's about 3 times the size of 35mm, so you can get better quality, yet it's still possible to make the cameras relatively compact (and cheap!) compared with 6x6 or even more so compared to bigger rectangular formats. Pick up an M645 with standard lens and WLF, and it's not that much heavier than a 35mm camera, and indeed the whole idea was to make a camera that was as easy to use as a 35mm SLR. The WLF gives a lovely big, bright view, but the biggest snag with the format is quickly apparent - switch to portrait format, and everything is upside down, which makes shooting very tricky. What that mean in practice is that you need a prism, which adds to the expense and weight. Two were available - a manual one, which required an extra battery, and an aperture-priority one, which rather oddly used the camera battery, I have the AE finder, for the simple reason that it cost me less than the manual ones were going for.

    The camera has an electonic cloth focal plane shutter, with speeds from 8s to 1/500, and X sync at 1/60. The following year's M645 1000s added a faster shutter speed of - you've guessed it, 1/1000 - and for fill-in flash, there are leaf shutter lenses available - I use a 70mm f2.8 LS lens as my standard, which gives 1/30-1/500 speeds that are all flash synchronised, as well as being able to use the focal plane shutter. The camera body has sockets for X and FP sync, and there's a hotshoe on the AE prism.

    On the right of the body is the windon crank, a multi-exposure switch, and a mirror-up lever. On the upper part of the RHS is a shutter button and the battery check button. The check lamp is on the other side, just above the shutter speed dial.

    The main shutter release button is on the right near the bottom of the front of the camera, and is designed to be used with the left index finger, the left hand cradling the base of the camera. There's a locking collar around it.

    Power comes from a 4LR44 battery in the base - this powers the shutter and the AE prism in my case, but in all the years I've owned and used this camera, I'm still on the second battery, something I find utterly incredible.

    Screen is interchangeable, but as mine is my favoured microprism spot, I've never wanted to.

    Backs are NOT interchangeable; you can have spare magazines preloaded, but you can't change films mid-roll; that came on a later generation of 645.

    Meter readout with the AE prism is a needle indicating shutter speed. Coupling with lenses is via good old rabbit ears, although I've found it a lot more foolproof than the Nikon version.

    The M645 was available with the fastest lens for medium format SLRs, an 80mm f1.9, and the lens range was - indeed still is - extensive.

    I used mine for all sorts of things - weddings, landscapes, even as a walk-around camera - it's a nice camera to use, and produces excellent results.

    So let's revisit the format question. Bronica quickly jumped in with the ETR, with leaf shutters and interchangeable backs; Pentax joined in, too, and eventually Contax and even Hasselblad added models.
    Bronica fell by the wayside, and of course Contax too no longer exists, but the Contax is still much sought-after for use with digital backs. The rest continue in some form or another, providing both digital and film options - indeed, the format has pretty much outlived 6x6, at least as regards sales. So I think it's fair to say it's been a success!

    It's one of the cameras I would love to use more - it's nice to use, produces great results, and makes me think about what I'm doing. Considering I always wanted an ETR-S, I'm glad I bought this when I found it cheap in a pawnbrokers, sold as non-working because it didn't have a battery... ;)
  2. Ambler

    Ambler Active Member

    I had the same experience with mine. The first battery lasted years and in the end I changed it because I feared it might run out in the middle of changing a film. The prism finders make the camera much more easy to use in my opinion.
  3. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    They do indeed, although if shooting landscapes in landscape format, I prefer the WLF - makes me take more care, and check all four corners.
  4. William Parker

    William Parker Well-Known Member

    I have one, really nice to use with excellent results. A relatively inexpensive way to get into medium format. I do find it awkward to hold but mine came with a lot of extras including the L grip holder which when attached makes it seem more comfortable to carry.
  5. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    I had in total over a period four bodies, finishing with a 645 Pro and two backs. I used them quite a lot, but disposed of the whole outfit in 2010, as I was increasingly using digital or 35mm, simply because I was finding it more difficult to carry it around. I have been scanning some of the transparencies taken with these cameras in the eighties, they certainly blow 35mm out of the water in technical quality terms.

    In fact I have recently ordered a used Pentax 645 from an Ebay seller as having seen the scans I was getting a yen for another mf film camera, but decided to try something more modern.
    peterba and William Parker like this.
  6. William Parker

    William Parker Well-Known Member

    I suppose my 'criticism' regarding the awkwardness in holding it could probably also be aimed at many other medium format cameras they have to be wide by the very nature of the film used. I used it today and managed to loose a frame by accidentally firing the shutter when iIwas changing the lens! I just have a habit of winding on immediately after firing a shot so it's ready for the next. I still love it though.
  7. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    I found that I lost far fewer shots to camera shake than with any 35mm SLR, even when handholding the 210mm f4 lens (about 135mm in 35mm terms). A mix of ergonomics and sheer weight.
    William Parker likes this.
  8. Malcolm_Stewart

    Malcolm_Stewart Well-Known Member

    I bought mine, a 1000S with standard lens & W/L finder, from the Potters Bar Camera Fair in 2010, just in time for my being able to capture my partner celebrating becoming a great grandmother, and recording this on B&W film was the obvious thing to do. I now have both viewfinders, and a few lenses, but sadly, I've never warmed to it. I imagine that if I'd found it a decade earlier and could have afforded it then, I would have used it much more.
  9. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    The prism makes life a lot easier, it is a camera that you tend to grow into over a period as you use it more. 2010 was the time when I sold mine for more than one reason, as stated earlier in the thread I have recently bought a Pentax 645, it does feel more modern, being a bit like a bigger heavier ME Super in terms of controls, with a big handgrip, which the Mamiya lacked, although I seem to remember something of the sort was available as an accessory.
  10. ascu75

    ascu75 Well-Known Member

    This thread sent me scurrying off to eBay WOW some crazy prices on there but a complete camera at £115 when I looked seemed cheap it has a bay and a bit to go https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Mamiya-645-1000s-Medium-Format-SLR-Film-Camera-with-80MM-F2-8-lens/332677264486?epid=103021716&hash=item4d751c3466:g:roEAAOSwKOJbF9-i Don
    I actually fancy a Fuji 645 but it is a dream that I have. I have just started listing stuff on ebay to buy a new Panasonic TZ 70. Thinning out my cameras will please the wife :(:(:):) Guess which face belongs to me?
  11. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Buy something reliable instead. Frances wore hers out.


  12. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Which model, Roger?
  13. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Nick,

    So long ago, I've forgotten. Will see if she remembers tomorrow. . . Just asked. No, sorry. "Quite early" (1980s).


  14. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

  15. ascu75

    ascu75 Well-Known Member

    LOL just been on ebay looking at Ikonta Rangefinders and someone reminded me I am selling cameras not buying them. Looks like I have been rumbled!! Maybe I could plead insanity ;)
  16. SXH

    SXH Well-Known Member

    Well, there is a name for it (Compulsive Buying Disorder), it's a recognised addiction and, judging by a quick Google, there are plenty of places willing to take money to help you get over it.

    'course, if you get addicted to anti-addiction courses... :eek:
  17. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    Or you could buy cameras and lenses with which you can take pictures of your fellow sufferers. Then you can sell the pictures to collectors (who are a subset of the similarly affected). :cool:
    SXH likes this.
  18. ascu75

    ascu75 Well-Known Member

    Knowing my luck I would become addicted to anti-addiction courses :(
    I am now going to Google them instead of trawling ebay all day. Do they have BUY IT NOW BUTTONS ? I hope not o_O
    SXH likes this.

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