Analog photography is making a comeback, like many others I’ve been inspired to try it within the last year! I started off with a Minolta X700, but it didn’t take long until I wanted to step up to medium format…
I got myself a Mamiya 645 Super a couple of months ago, a favorite for those that want to experiment with medium format! I’ve been going out with this oddly shaped camera for the last couple of months, struggled in the beginning, got some weird looks and taken some great shots!
What is the Mamiya 645 Super?
The Mamiya 645 Super is a medium format camera from the renowned brand Mamiya. The brand was one of the big players in the medium format market and offered fantastic products that rivaled the quality of Hasselblad at a more affordable price. They produced camera’s for all know formats, but they dominated the 645 SLR market!
The 645 Super is one of the 645 models that Mamiya released on the market and belongs to the series they produced in the 80’s. These cameras brought new features and were completely modular, nothing new at the time, but the 645 Super brought modular modern technology.
The number in the name stands for the size of the nagative that the camera shoots, which is approximately 6cm by 4.5cm. Medium format is the collective name for some film formats larger than 35mm and smaller than large format. Within medium format you have different sizes, ranging from 6 to 4.5 to 6 to 7.
Modularity makes it easy to customize!
Something that attracted me to the Mamiya 645 Super is the modular nature of the camera. Unlike many other cameras, you have different parts that you can release and replace with a simple button. This gives you the opportunity to make the camera perfectly to your liking, without tinkering.
Different viewfinders, film backs and grips
The best features of that modularity are the accessories that Mamiya has created for this line of cameras. Over the lifespann of the Mamiya 645 line different accessories where released. Some sought after items in today’s market are different focus screens, viewfinders and some rare film backs!
Mamiya released a couple of viewfinders for the 645 Super. I own two different viewfinders for my 645 Super that I use for different situations.
The viewfinder that’s on the camera most often is the FK402. This viewfinder is a metered viewfinder that allows you to meter in full stops without exposure compensation, unlike the more advanced FK401. I prefer this viewfinder for its built-in meter and it’s diopter. I wear glasses and using a viewfinder with a diopter allows me to shoot without glasses, which makes it a lot easier to shoot!
The other viewfinder is the waist level viewfinder, which is becoming more rare as it was the least popular option. I don’t use it that often because it isn’t the most practical viewfinder. One of its advantages is the magnifying glass and the unique perspective a waist level viewfinder offers compared to the traditional viewfinder. If you need critical focus, then the wlf is the one you want!
Exchangeable film backs
One of the features that makes the Mamiya 645 Super a great camera is it’s exchangeable film backs. Switching film is a necessity if you’re on the road all day… You’ll need more sensitive film later in the day and you don’t shoot finish your roll all the time.
Furthermore, you’ll also find different film backs for the Mamiya. I own 3 three film backs, two of them are 120 backs and another one is a Polaroid back. Another back that I’ve been eyeing is the 35mm back.
Cranks and grips
Another thing that’s modular on the Mamiya 645 Super is the grip, or lack thereof… When bought in its original package, the camera came with a crank on the side. Other options where a left-hand grip or a motorized grip that advanced the film.
I own the crank and the motorized grip, both of them are on the camera frequently. Whilst the crank is much more compact, the grip offers better usability when shooting in portrait orientation, or is easier when you’re on the go.
There’s some great glass for this system!
What makes the Mamiya 645 line so popular is its glass. Mamiya is renowned for their lens design, great coatings on their later lenses and overall performance of the lenses. Mamiya produced a complete lineup for the 645 system, going from an ultrawide lens to some telephoto lenses.
I own 3 lenses for the 645 system, the 80mm 2.8 N, the 110mm 2.8 C and the 150mm 3.5 N. The camera was sold with the 80mm lens, which is a great lens that has a very compact form factor. One of the best features of the lens is its overall sharpness. Color rendition is superb and the newer coatings provide great resistance to flaring.
The oldest lens of the bunch is the 100mm 2.8 C, it’s one of the older lenses for the system. Renowned for its portrait capabilities, this lens is comparable to a 70mm focal length on traditional 35mm. Overal sharpness is very good, with some loss of resolution in the corners. It suffers from flaring due to the older coatings, but color rendition is as good as the newer lenses.
The 150mm lens is the perfect portrait lens for the 645 system. On 35mm it would be close to a 90mm focal length. The lens is one of the sharper lenses in the line and it has great color rendition. Overall it’s one of the more common lenses and a must-have if you’d like to build a kit.
The 80mm lens spends the most time on the body, but the 110mm is a close second. Although the 150mm spends the least amount of time on the camera, it’s my personal favorite. The compression of the focal length combined with its wide aperture gives some incredible shallow dept of field.
Is this the camera for you?
The Mamiya 645 Super is a great camera for everyone who’s looking for a camera to step into medium format, or to have a smaller medium format camera for the road.
I chose this camera as the perfect way to enter the world of medium format. After a couple of months of using it, it’s still my go-to due to its user-friendliness and size. I own another medium format camera, a Zenze Bronica SQ-A. Whilst the Bronica is an excellent camera, it’s not the easiest to handle or to operate. The Mamiya 645 Super is the perfect camera for anyone, no matter what level, to get and start photographing with a larger negative!
Which Mamiya 645 should you buy?
I would advise to buy one of the later versions, meaning the Super, Pro or Pro TL. You can find these models for a reasonable price, whilst having more options available in regard to viewfinders and other accessories.
What film does the Mamiya 645 Super take?
Depending on the back you own, you could use 35mm all the way up to 220.
Does the Mamiya 645 have a light meter?
The Mamiya 645 Super doesn’t come with a build in light meter. Depending on the viewfinder, you’ll be able to use one inside of the viewfinder that’s powered by the camera battery. Only 2 viewfinders have a light meter build-in, with the FK402 being the cheaper one in general.