At the beginning of 2009 I tried to get down with the golden 6×6 format but neither TLRs nor Bronica SLRs did it for me. My interest in high quality square pictures wasn’t worth the monetary cost of a Mamiya 6 and so after little deliberation once the chance came up I swapped the Mamiya C330 and some other articles of gear for a Fuji 645GA. Mr. Stella has taken the time to write up a very informative piece on this series of cameras so for technical details please check out what he has to say here. The 35mm film canister is there for scale, and the 120 roll of Kodak Verichrome Pan is there for style.
I did own the earlier manual focus version- the Fujica GS645s- for a few months the year before and found it to be an interesting switch from my usual horizontally structured cameras. But in the end my Mamiya 7 won out and rather than see it sit in a box I sold it to a friend who is putting it to great use. The MF version is usually about the same price as the 645GA in Tokyo camera shops and having shot both I’d say that if you want a quick and responsive camera for street work, the manual one is great since it lacks any delay once you release the shutter. The rangefinder patch on mine was dim on all but the sunniest of days but scale focusing worked well. The 645GA has both a shutter delay and slow autofocus which sounds like it would be a problem but it also has Auto Exposure which makes it easier to shoot. Plus it has a built in flash. The biggest trouble with this camera is the seemingly random selection of focus points. 95% of the time it is on target, but that leaves 5% for frames which make you furrow your brow as you come across pictures totally out of focus when going over contact sheets.
You might also mutter “what the hell?” as you do this.
Physically it is just about the same size as a Mamiya 7 body without a lens. It’s compactness makes it the go to camera if I am in a meduim format kind of mood when headed out for a day when the main purpose is not shooting.
Acoustically the shutter itself is quiet, but each exposure is followed by chirps and beeps and the whine of the camera advancing the film to the next frame. It’s not something I’d use in the subway.
Over the year I’ve shot a few dozen rolls with this camera, and it takes some getting used to but this is the fun part. For now I’m still trying to figure out where to stand with it. And also where to point the lens. And at what moment to trip the shutter. And then whether or not to print the negative and then if I do, how to use the photo I made with it.
Actually, that is how I am with every camera.
The lens is sharp as one might ever need, and it resolves images very nicely. At an 8×10 print the sharpness is as good as any 6×7 neg you might get, and has several times clearer detail than a frame of 35mm film.
Overall it has been a very interesting camera to shoot with. Unlike my “on a non-committal whim” 6×6 experiment I have already purchased a new 645 format negative carrier for my enlarger and that investment of about eighty bucks means I won’t be too quick to get rid of this camera anytime soon.
As I slowly fill a box with prints made from it I’ll learn more- hopefully some more pictures will end up here to be shared.