The Leica Size – Fujica GS645 Professional
– a 6×4.5 Medium Format Folding Film Camera
My latest additional to the camera bag! A 1983 Fuji GS 645 Pro Folder 6×4.5 film camera with a EBC Fujinon 75mm f/3.4 fixed lens. This is roughly equivalent to to 50mm f2 fixed lens on a 35mm camera such as a Leica. The GS 645 is a rangefinder camera the same as a Leica however it takes 120 film rather than 35mm film for my Leica M2. One thing I like the most about Leicas are the small compact size.
Earlier in the week I took a trip to the coast so decided to pack my 6×9 medium format Russian Moskva-5 camera. Despite being designed in the 1930s it was a real joy to use. 6×9 is a bigger format than I need and the camera does not really suit portraits so when I got home I began reading up on 6×4.5 format folders. I decided on the Fujica GS 645 as it has both a hotshoe and PC sync cable port meaning I can use it with my lights. The GS645 has a leaf shutter lens with a flash sync speed of 1/500. This is faster than my Mamiya RZ67 Pro II (1/400) and Leica M9 (1/180) so great for me to control ambient light levels when using strobe lights. Even though I love the RZ67 it is often just too big to carry around easily as a just-in-case camera, whether on a day trip to the coast or for one of my London Photography Workshop outings. (I have tried and it was heavy! Photos to follow). By having a small camera like a Leica that fits into a large pocket I am much more likely to take it everywhere with me. What excites me moreso is the GS645 is a 120 medium format film camera so much more detail can be captured with every photo (vs 35mm). The lens is also well regarded as being super sharp so can wait!
I will get some sample images posted as soon as the camera arrives and I get chance to shoot a roll of film with it.
For those of you knowing about these cameras the biggest problems that are often seen are pin holes/ light leaks appearing in the camera bellows. This one has had the original bellows replaced by Linhof Germany. Another common problem is a sticking shutter but the seller tells me it works fine (for now!). The rangefinder focus system has a smaller focus patch that a Leica so is said to be less easy to focus. The Moskva-5 rangefinder has a very basic RF and qis uite possibly out of alignment so I always used it at f8-f11 to be safe. I will see how I get on with focusing the GS 645 wide open at f3.4 and also stopped. I now I have a love, and preference for focusing with a rangefinder system vs. through the lens focusing (SLR/DSLR).
Very much looking forward to her arrival! Even though she does not have the red dot Leica badge she will be a valued addition to my camera bag and I hope also it will let me do more film which can only be a good thing! 🙂
The plan is take the Fujica GS645 to weddings for some extra film photography. The camera is not really comparable to the Contax 645 film camera in terms of being able to create dreamy portraits due to the lens fitted however I will be sure to get the best I can from it.
If you want a visual for my expectations, I would say my Leica M9 + Leica Noctilux 50mm f1 v2 images are similar to when I used a Contax 645 + 80mm f2 T lens. The Fuji GS645 Pro will give a look more similar to my Leica M9 + Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO where the subject can look 3D yet the background can be identified and lots of detail is captured.
Film choice – for colour film photography I have always shot with Kodak Portra 16o, 400, 800 for my 35mm and 120mm cameras. I think my taste is changing as I now prefer the colours of Fuji Pro 400H so I plan to buy a 5 pack of 400H and see how I get on. Fuji 400H is very forgiving in tricky lighting conditions and retains highlight detail well if overexposed. Film is good at retaining highlight detail generally however most people shoot Portra at box speed but Fuji 400H 1-2 stops over box speed to get the creamy emulsion look of skin tones. By overexposing highlights I can exposure for the shadows for the maximum dynamic range and detail captured. For UK weddings light levels can often be low so this might prove very useful!
Coming soon! 🙂