Contax 645 vs Mamiya 645

Contax 645 vs Mamiya 645

(Contax 645 + Zeiss 80mm f2 lens vs Mamiya 645 + Mamiya Sekor C 80mm f1.9 lens)

Matthew Osborne Photography

The Contax 645 was my first medium format camera and my reason to move into the world of film photography.  The portraits I had seen online from fashion photographers and wedding photographers seem to be unmatched by any other camera / lens combination.

I sold the Contax 645 as found it too automated for my liking.  It was just too DSLR like.

Recently I bought a Mamiya M645 1000s.  I haven’t used it as I wanted to get a waist level viewfinder (“WLF”) to replace the TTL prism viewfinder.  I then saw a good value Mamiya M645 Super on eBay with WLF yesterday and much preferred the look, controls layout, modular film back and the fact that it looks like a mini Mamiya RZ67 Pro II that I have. So safe to say I bought it.  I will sell the Mamiya 1000s.

Here is my purchase –

mamiya645

When I look at the Mamiya M645 Super and more so the Mamiya 645 Pro range they are so similar to the Contax 645 with the DSLR like grip option, film back and film inserts, prism viewfinder and the Zeiss 80mm f2 lens on the Contax 645 is very close to the Mamiya Sekor C 80mm f1.9 lens.  As such I think the Mamiya 645 cameras offer fantastic value for money when you consider the price of a Contax.  I sold my Contax and didn’t lose any money for about £1800.  I just bought a Mamiya 645 Super for less than 1/6 of that price!

Yes the Contax has autofocus but that killed it for me so the Mamiya 645 Super seems to offer the best of both worlds.  I keep wanting to shoot more 645 film but I don’t currently have a 6×4.5 format camera that I like enough.  6×7 film format is too big for film wedding photography whereas 645 format is the perfect combination of bigger negatives than 35mm yet 16 shots per roll off 120 film.

I will add Mamiya M645 Super sample images to my ever growing coming soon list!

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Author: matthewosbornephotography

Coventry, UK studio based Model and Wedding Photographer offering both Medium Format Film and Digital Images. 1-2-1 Photography and Lighting Tuition also available.

7 thoughts on “Contax 645 vs Mamiya 645”

  1. I don’t like to disagree with a fellow film shooter but I don’t understand any of the points you make in this post.
    The Contax 645 is an amazing system with the best lenses of any similar camera. Manual focus is as natural as on any camera, other than a very slight drag of the focus ring. The waist level finder is pointless on a 645 unless it has a rotating back, as portrait format is unusable. In any case the Contax has a WLF as an option (ok it is expensive on ebay). It is true that the Mamiya system is a lot cheaper but it is not as good. The lenses are very good but they are not Zeiss.

    After all, you shoot Leica, why are you talking about value for money?

    Don’t take this the wrong way. It is just that some camera/lens combinations are not about price but about results and pleasure to use. You can probably tell that I’m a Contax fan. The 645 and G2 are my favourite ‘modern’ cameras, especially as I detest shooting wearing spectacles. Autofocus and built in dioptre correction are wonderful features.

    Yes 6×7 is too big for weddings or for any other commercial applications. The Mamiya RB & RZ cameras are too difficult to use unless on a tripod. The one 6×7 camera I’d love is the Fuji 667 folder, but here in the UK it is available only as the rebadged Voigtlander Bessa III. Do you have any opinions on it?

    1. Hello, sorry for the delayed reply and thanks for your view. I guess we all enjoy different systems and that is what makes us individual. I use an RZ handheld for model photography on location without any issues and find it very easy to focus with the big screen. I have a GF670 (Bessa 3) but other than it being compact it does not do as I need for my portraiture on most occasions. I will try to share some recent samples when I get chance. It is good for a travel camera if I am shooting with models abroad. I just like bein able to focus closer with a shallow DOF as with the RZ bellows. Yes I shoot various Leicas but I still enjoy good value. Maybe I will buy another Contax 645 one day but for now I prefer less automated photography and the view from a WTF. I agree it is not ideal for 645 format portraits. My current favourite is a Rolleiflex SL66E but they can be unreliable (just had it repaired). Cheers Matt

  2. Hi,

    My name is Andrei Michailov and I’m a photographer from Romania.
    Thank you so much for your opinions. I’m also looking to get into medium format and I’m also interested in the Mamiya 645 Super or Pro. Unfortunately I cannot find a trusted one and in good condition.
    I will appreciate any advice that you can offer me regarding the pnline purchasing of a camera like this.
    Thank you,
    Andrei

    1. Hi Andrei, Thanks for your message. I think it is safer and easier to buy a M645 vs Contax online. My Contax had to be repaired due to an electrical fault. Mamiya are also cheaper and have less things to go wrong. I bought mine on eBay (from UK but buy cameras/lenses worldwide also). Buying from online dealer should be safer but might cost more. If you have a return option this can give you peace of mind.

      Good luck!
      Matt

    2. Sawasdee Andrei,

      On eBay there are a multitude of Mamiya cameras and items otherwise for sale by auction. According to the information provided, these cameras are ‘unused’.
      Perhaps of interest.

      Kind regards,
      Rich/Thailand.

      eBay url for the auctions is: http://tinyurl.com/zejtqkd
      Seller: beyrlbird2005

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