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Wednesday, 01 December 2021


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I can't imagine going to the trouble of roll film and foregoing the perfection of the square. Or if it has to be 645 maybe that Bronica RF645. It's beautiful and defaults to vertical. Just the thing to pull out of the inside pocket of a tweed jacket to shoot a portrait in an outdoor restaurant with Verichrome Pan, wait no, Panatomic X no, maybe Plus X? Oh never mind.

You couldn't get a shot of that airplane without all that silly foliage partially blocking it? \;~)>

1/2.5” compact cameras are 645. In mm. Try one and say you’ve done 645.

No longer accessible but I still remember you review one for Lula. And you like that 645 because it is vertical. I thought you are using that tim.

I dabbled. About 20 years ago I bought a 2nd hand Fuji GS645W. It used 120 film and the normal orientation resulted in a vertical format image. To get a landscape image, you had to rotate the camera, as if you were taking a vertical image, if you get the idea. I had no problem with that, I liked it, since many of my images are verticals. It had that neat wire bar protecting the lens.

A friend begged me to sell it to him when I got back from Singapore, so I did. He's still got it and I reckon he'd sell it back to me if I asked, but I've got too many cameras now.

The Bronica RF 645 might have suited you. It is a rangefinder camera which shoots in the vertical format. Auto in either aperture or speed priority, plus full manual. Very compact, ergonomically superb, great lenses if you like 28 and 40 equivalents, plus a 60 or 90 depending on being able to find one. Only f4, though, but therefore relatively petite. I still have mine and it still works well.

I have a Pentax 645N which I enjoy using. I could never have afforded one twenty years ago.

Been a busy year so not much film shot. Hopefully things will return to normal next year. I do all my own developing and scanning, sending it out is too expensive!

You should pick yourself up a little Zeiss Ikon Ikonta. I believe the 520 (Lcr) variant has a 645 aspect ratio in a natural portrait orientation.

They're cheap as chips (as we say over here) and there are loads of them about.

In 1997, my wife and I were in Japan for about three weeks. I took my Leicas, but also a manual focus, fixed lens Fuji 6x4.5. Its photographic frame is oriented vertically, and, as practically the whole camera was made of plastic, it weighed next to nothing. We are all allowed irrational love of our tools, and I loved this camera. It fit into a sweet spot as a single-purpose travel camera. Current examples are available at your own risk from eBay at about $650.

The grain quality of images shot with this camera was noticeably different than anything that 35mm could produce.* [*Maybe there's a caveat here for the old Tech-Pan in 35mm, but that film was so slow that it really isn't a fair comparison, IMHO.] So for me it ticked all the boxes. BUT. There were only two things that I didn't love about it. First, the lens was a bit slow unless you were outside. Second, close-focus was limited without a gee-gaw that fit on the lens. I still have the camera, but haven't shot with it much in the past 10 years.

I liked too that 6x4.5 and 6x7 both printed full frame to the dimensions of 11x14 paper without cropping. Ah, the halcyon days of yore . . .

Mine is the X-Pan format, cinema-like. Digital killed this wonderful superpanoramic proportions, breaking my heart forever.

The "flaw" in 645, is that if you have to do a "square" image for an advertising need, the film real estate is a little too small. If you're shooting square, like a Hasselblad, you can crop a 4X5 ratio image out of it and still be the same as 645. I was very interested in the Bronica 645 when it first came out, but was warned off by the sea of ETR bodies of all different models and numbers, flooding my local pro shops desk where they sent cameras out for repair. They were not dependable! Late series Mamiya 645's were far better...

Love 4X5 ratio, and still wondering if I should sell every film camera I own and find a clean old Linhof to shoot, I certainly have the lenses laying around.

Oh, yeah. I love classic 35mm rangefinders. I've got a beautiful Canon P in my watch list on Ebay right now. Put one of the nice LTM lenses I have for my Leica M240 on it and it would be everything that is a delight in film.

Except that it would be film. I've gotten spoiled in my older years and like you would need someone else to do the dirty work. There are no labs near here so mailing it would simply increase the cost tremendously.

In the end, it sits on that watch list. And the photos get taken with the digital camera instead. And that process I don't have to imagine enjoying; I just do it.

> for some reason I always cropped my pictures to a 645...vertical.

You were pre-saging the age of vertical video on tiktok, etc. 😃

As I recall, you really liked the the Bronica RF 645 when you reviewed it. I have one and it is a pleasure to shoot with with a set of wonderful lenses.

Decades ago, I bought a used Mamiya 645 with a couple of lenses (normal and wide - I've forgotten the exact specs), and loved it. As compared to 35mm the transparencies were smoother, richer, and just generally more appealing. The only drawback for me was the limited flash sync due to a focal plane shutter.

Kowa 6, 2 bodies, 3 lenses and a bunch of accessories. It required Schwarzenegger strength to carry, but in a crowd, people thought that you were a real photographer and gave you room to work. Some years into the digital era the system needed an overhaul which was beyond my finances. Today it serves as a conversational piece.

The system had some shortcomings, but I was blessedly free of “Johnston Perfectionist Syndrome” and was thus happier than a pig in it’s own excrement. I penciled horizontal and vertical crop marks on the focus screen, so 645 was always available. You’re right about fun in the darkroom. The Beseler and 6x6 negs were a perfect match.

Would I give it another try? Not a chance. My M4/3 with flip up screen and square crop in the viewfinder does just fine. My neck and shoulders are greatly relieved.

I went through a medium format film phase last year, perhaps pandemic induced. Never got to try 645. But then, one day, I was 'scanning' a contact sheet of (painfully expensive) slide film with my digital camera when the obvious hit me hard over the head: I was using a digital camera in order to use a film camera. Suddenly, as quickly as a light switch, I was over film. As much fun as the use of the film camera itself was, pretty much everything else about the process was a pain and ended up digital anyway. So, off it went to someone else.

"Pretty sure I'll never shoot film again..."

I know how you feel, except change "pretty" to "absolutely". Its just economically and logistically undoable now. But I too have my blast from the past medium format camera staring at me from a shelf in the living room. It's a RollieFlex f/3.5 F. The square negative was perfect. I just projected the image onto my 8X10 easel, and moved it around until I found the parts to leave off. Never thought about 645 because that format was already in the 6X6.

Seems a shame that this camera sits unused after I lusted after it all those decades ago.

There's always the 6x6 format that can be cropped to 645-


I spent the 90's and 00's playing with those former Soviet-bloc cameras--Kievs, Pentacons, and that Exakta 66 (which is really a dressed-up Pentacon Six). Fun cameras, and I still use some of the lenses, particularly the incomparable (heavy!) 180mm f/2.8 CZJ Sonnar, adapted to my 645z.

But my Exakta 66 could not reliably transport smooth, thin color film, even though it was supposedly the best of that whole breed. I still have it (of course) but if I'm going to bother with roll film, it's going to be at least 6x7.

Speaking of which, the Pentax 67 is everything those Second-World cameras strove to be, but weren't. It advances the film correctly, every time. No overlaps, no incomplete winds caused by slipper color film slipping over the star wheel on that Exakta, no light leaks, no funky smell, no wrapping tape around take-up reels to prevent frame overlaps, etc. I have three of them now, and still can't resist using them from time to time.

(Ten years ago, a used Pentax 67 was priced about the same as a new Kiev 60 from a decade before that. No longer--prices have diverged: lower for Kiev, higher for Pentax.)

So, would you shoot a Pentax 67 in conventional position, knowing that you could extract a vertical 645 frame from it? Or would you feel obligated to turn the camera sideways? It's an easy decision when using a waist-level finder.

Same 1.33 aspect ratio as 4:3. Seems to be a popular one.

I seem to waffle back and forth between 4:3 and 7:5. I used to pretty much go with 7:5, and then I started taking more photos with my iPhone, lol. Which of course is 4:3.

I've had two "coming back to film" episodes since 2014, after leaving film and photography for a decade.

I used to have a full blown darkroom for 4x5 work in my basement, but I tore it out in the mid-2000s when it had become a "chamber of sadness and melancholy" (i.e., I was storing junk in it instead of developing film and printing).

My first coming back to film in 2014 involved medium format. I went with a Mamiya RZ 67 Pro II and a Texas Leica (Fujifilm GW690). That was fun, but digital took hold firmly when I discovered that adapting lenses on mirrorless was a thing, and that tilt-shift adapters existed.

Coming back to film #2 was a return to 4x5 a few years ago. That lasted until early 2019 when my friend Jeffrey showed me a Toyo VX23D, and I realized I could have an actual honest to goodness digital view camera. Mind blown!

There will be no #3. Film and I are done. But I do get the nostalgia.... It's the actual doing of film that isn't worth it anymore for me.

I used a GS645 for many years for weddings and portrait work. It was a love affair with its big bright viewfinder/rangefinder, 220 film, and it folded into a clamshell that could fit into a coat pocket. So easy to use. Later when I was no longer doing weddings, I sold it on eBay for more than I paid for it. I needed the money to pay tuition for my daughter's first year of college. Such is life.

In 1979 I was hired as a yearbook portrait photographer, and the studio issued me a 645-format Bronica ETR-S, for shooting group photos and "candids". I worked with that camera for the two years I had that job, and enjoyed it; handled well, didn't break under hard use, and provided fine image quality. I was unable to shoot much with it for myself, and that job didn't pay enough to buy one of my own, but I always liked the format and the camera.

During the peak film camera dumping years (roughly 2005-2012) I was able to buy many of the 120 cameras I had lusted after but couldn't afford in the last century. That included 645 cameras from Bronica, Fuji, Mamiya and Pentax. I ended up keeping the Mamiya 645 Pro TL, but ironically the three lenses I have for it get used more on my Nikon D810 nowadays.

I thought you did own a Bronica RF645 for a short time. My memory is that you discovered some problem with one of the lenses but other than that I thought you liked the camera. It was a long time ago so my memory of it is probably wrong.

645 is 4:3 by another name, is it not?

I have a Pentax 645, a huge brick of a thing with a lovely viewfinder. It's a product of the early stage of automation, and therein lies its weakness: finicky electronics. I hauled it out of retirement a few weeks ago, loaded some HP5, installed new batteries, pressed the shutter...and nothing. It apparently went brain dead sometime between its last use and now. Had it been fully manual, it would still be totally functional.

Your 645 Mamiya system gracing this column is exactly like the one I have. I love it!

I have an ETRS with all the trimmings, speed grip, AEII metering prism, and a wider angle lens as an alternative to the standard lens.
To be honest I've been thinking of trying to sell it as there's a lot of camera to haul around, but then I keep looking at some of the shots I've taken with it and want to keep it for when I can use it again.

Hello.Long-time viewer and 1st time poster from the UK here.

A few years ago I purchased a Pentax 645 (Original-no AF) with a 75mm f2.8 lens from a friend who was selling up his film kit. Bit of steep learning curve with the mode controls resembling a 1980s calculator watch!

During a subsequent trip to the Lakes District here in the UK, I was taken by how the different film ratio compared to my "normal" 35mm film camera affected my pictures.

In particular I broke away from the usual "ooh ahh" left-to right sweeping landscape shots.

Have since added a few lenses via Ebay, which were surprisingly affordable (I don't think the system had many fans in the UK). Although I still have it and like using it, the current high cost of film here (esp. colour) means I ration my use carefully. My favourite film stocks were Kodak (esp T-Max 100), but I've now switched to UK-based Ilford as they're available and reasonably priced here. Through that, I discovered XP2 which seems oddly underrated by a lot-it's surprisingly adaptable for the often erratic light here and seems to do cloudy skies landscapes well.

To finish rambling....I liked the aspect ratio so well, that I've picked up a 2nd hand m4/3 system for lightweight travel. With the small/light lenses and near-telepathic IS it goes places the Pentax can't. I hope the system carries on despite the recent travails of Olympus/OMD and the increasing detachment of Panasonic-nothing quite like it.

I have the Bronica RF645 people mention and its 65 and 135, all thanks to the info from your review from way back. I bought it when I decided/thought home 6x4.5 scans would be a fun way to do film-based digital. For film I prefer rangefinders, and so the RF645 seemed to be just the ticket.

What ended up happening, though, is I took it and my Olympus EP-1 out to pit them head-to-head. Well, truth be told, I was using the EP-1 to help nail exposure on the Bronica. But then I learned, looking side-by-side at comparable images from each, that scanned color film and micro four thirds was kind of the same quality, at least for the pics I was taking. That cooled my jets a bit on my attempt to re-embrace film.

I like having the RF645 because it’s a neat, well-made thing. It’s just that I’d probably need to do darkroom prints to enjoy its filmic delights. Too bad I gave away my darkroom set-up with a move. I’d like to hold that camera more often, and not just to pick it up where it sits and then put it down again, even though doing only that still makes me marvel at how good a camera can feel, solid in hand.

Well if we’re going to talk about favorite cameras…that we almost never used … my own vote is for my Fujifilm GF670 folding rangefinder. It’s a primitive mechanical work of art that can shoot 6x6 or 6x7 with 120 or 220 film. I bought it brand new and only shot half a dozen rolls with it. Those negs are really something to behold. It’s been sitting in a drawer waiting for it’s next date … (which may never come)… for over a decade. If I ever try film again it will be the first camera I grab, with my Rollieiflex on the other shoulder.

I've only had the opportunity to use 3:2 35mm full frame. It works well for me, but if I had the money I would spring for a 4:3 format Fuji GFX camera. I find that 4:3 is quite pleasing.

The Mamiya 645 system was my medium format mainstay when I was doing architectural/commercial work, especially construction photography. It allowed for very high quality 8x10's and even quite good 16x20's in a lot of situations where 4x5 wasn't practical, although I did have a couple of Cambo Wides.

Aerial photography was a strength of of the system, since with the motor drive and prisms it was actually quite handy. The early metering system wasn't good though as the auto aperture worked on a trapped needle system, and the wind coming in through the open window and then the unsealed prism would cause the needle to flop around, causing erratic exposures. However, the insert system was brilliant as I could shoot 15 or 30 shots and reload a lot faster than I could with any 35mm system, and 20 or so preloaded inserts were an affordable luxury.

As far as 'format' goes, I keep seeing things like 'where biggest you can afford and will use should always win'. Most of my working life I was struggling to achieve enough depth of field, or struggling to cart all the camera and lighting equipment around. Shooting with film sizes larger than necessary or dealing with larger sensor sizes, both in area and megapixels than necessary can easily slow you down both in shooting and processing, and if it isn't easily discernible in the final image, why do it? If the picture from a 100mpx Fuji doesn't show its undoubted 'superiority' to a similar image shot on a 24mpx APS-C Fuji except when enlarged to 100% on screen, why use the larger camera?

[Speaking to one of your points, I remember a pro I knew telling a story about a client who wanted the very best. They wanted straightforward catalog shots of jewelry. They shot 8x10 chromes. When the photographer saw the final result, all the jewelry shots in the catalog measured no more than two inches across! The next time around, the photographer tried to convince the client to go with 6x6, as they would be reproduced almost 1:1 and wouldn't lose anything. Nope. The client wanted 8x10 chromes. So that's what they shot. :-) --Mike]

Many others here mentioning some of the choice 645 format rangefinders. They all are in portrait orientation due to how the 645 format gets carved from 120 film. I think you may enjoy (or may have enjoyed) a Fuji GA645 or GA645i. I bought one last summer with money from the first COVID stimulus. They have a fixed 60mm lens - your home focal length - that opens up to ƒ/4. Like all other automated compact cameras, using manual focus and exposure is slow and cumbersome but once you get the zone focus set it's quick to shoot! Only trouble then is that it's too easy so you're tempted to burn through all 15 or 16 shots!

As other commenters pointed out, before the GA645 series Fuji did make a series of 645 folders with mechanical rangefinders in 75mm, 60mm and 45mm configurations. The GA645 series came in 60mm, 45mm and a 55-90mm zoom configurations.

I remember first printing 120 negatives (aka “medium format”) when I worked in a pro lab and having fun and satisfaction doing so. At the time I felt that 645 was probably ideal, though occasionally we would have orders with 6x6, 6x7 and 6x9 negatives.

Once I got a Rolleiflex (first the SL66, now the K4A TLR,) I saw the beauty of square - for me, at least. I quite unexpectedly took to it because I could, somehow, “see” in square. Who knew? And waist level viewing is a real physical advantage for me.

Next is a Fuji 690 - giving me the largest non-panoramic negatives and a decent substitute for 4x5 when portability is preferable. Not to mention rangefinder viewing/focusing, which I generally prefer.

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