Mamiya 645 Super Review – Cheaper Hasselblad Alternative?
Qu. Looking to buy a a cheap medium format camera? Have you considered the Mamiya 645? (It’s much cheaper than the Contax 645!)
>> Here I review my M645 as a cheaper / smaller / lighter Mamiya RZ67 or Hasselblad alternative together with some Mamiya 645 portrait photos
New Film Camera!
I recently bought myself a Mamiya 645 Super medium format film camera. When I wrote the last post “Contax 645 vs Mamiya 645” (link below) the camera had not yet arrived. Now I have had chance to run a roll of film through it what do I think?
Medium Format Film Camera – Mamiya 645:
Mamiya 645 WLF
My first observation is the 645 format is in horizontal orientation in the camera rather than vertical. As a portrait photographer I tend to shoot in the portrait orientation. For anyone used to a digital camera such as a DSLR you might think so what? Well I bought this particular camera as I wanted a waist level viewfinder (“WLF”). To focus you look down at the top of the camera and it will show a horizontal image on the glass. To take a portrait photo I have to hold the camera on it’s side and it is not quite as easy to compose when working quickly. You don’t have this problem with say my Rolleiflex SL66E or a Hasselblad as they are 6×6 format. I don’t have the issue with the Mamiya RZ67 either as it has a rotating film back. That said the WLF makes the camera smaller and lighter than with a prism view finder so I am happy to compromise.
Mamiya 645 Extension Tubes (for Headshots)
Some of the Mamiya 645 lenses will not focus as close as I would like to for film headshots. Luckily there is the option like with many camera systems, to use an extension tube. You can buy different thickness tubes which basically fit between the lens and the camera body. The thicker the extension tube the closer you can focus to a subject. I use the Mamiya 645 extension tube number 1 for some of my model photography headshots.
Cheaper Mamiya RZ67 or Hasselblad Alternative?
If you don’t mind the 6×4.5 film format vs 6×6 film or 6×7 the Mamiya 645 Super camera offers a cheap alternative to a Hasselblad or Mamiya RZ67. I use all 3 of these cameras (and more) and if you want a cheap medium format camera that is smaller and lighter than most medium format film cameras then look no further. The Mamiya 645, Hasselblad and RZ67 are all modular film cameras with WLF so all give a similar shooting experience. All three of these cameas have amazing lenses available so I think the choice of cameras comes down to film format. If you are happy with the 645 film format then the Mamiya 645 Super gives 15 frames (photos) per roll of film. In comparison a 6×6 Hasselblad gives 12 frames per roll and the RZ67 gives only 10 rolls of film. This makes the M645 a more economical choice when it comes to shooting film/ buying film.
Modular Design 645 Film Camera
The modular design of the Mamiya 645 Super means I can remove and replace the film back. For wedding photography it is good practice to have multiple film backs, for both speed and efficiency but also so you can load perhaps one film back with colour film and one with black and white. For that reason I bought myself a spare 120 film back.
Mamiya Sekor C 80mm f/1.9 lens
The Mamiya 645 Super comes with a Mamiya Sekor 80mm f2.8 lens as standard M645 kit lens. It is small and lightweight but the reason I bought the camera was to make use of the fast Mamiya Sekor C 80mm f/1.9 lens. the Mamiya 80mm f1.9 lens as it came on my Mamiya 645 1000S camera (link below) so the first task was to transfer it onto the M645 Super camera. (I don’t use my Mamiya 645 1000S I just wanted the lens from it!) The Mamiya 80mm f1.9 lens is amazing for portraits or low light photography with a medium format camera. (I believe it is the fastest medium format camera lens for any system. “Fastest” meaning it has the smallest f stop number so lets in the most light and gives the most shallow depth of field).
Mamiya Sekor C 80mm f1.9 vs Contax 645 Zeiss 80mm f2
The closest lens I have owned to the Mamiya C 80mm f/1.9 lens is my Contax 645 Zeiss 80mm f2 lens. That way a fantastic camera/ lens setup but you pay a huge premium for it. (See link below for my Contax 645 vs Mamiya 645 review) . The main difference with the Contax 645 camera setup is the lenses are autofocus where as the Mamiya Sekor 80mm f1.9 is manual focus. This is true for all lenses on the Mamiya 645 Super as it is a manual camera.
Mamiya 645 Wedding Photography
I bought the camera to use for analogue Mamiya 645 wedding photography. The 80mm f1.9 lens lets me photograph in low light conditions and the 645 film format gives me 15 photos per roll. The modular M645 design means I can also use multiple film backs. This means I can reload film faster during a busy wedding or use 2 backs with different film types. I now plan to use the Mamiya 645 Super alongside my 35mm Leica M3 film cameras for film photography weddings.
Mamiya 645 Portraits
My first chance to use the Mamiya 645 Super was in my Coventry studio for model photography with friend and model Roisin. Above is an iPhone photo of my first 645 Mamiya negatives drip drying above the bath. Below are a few samples of the resulting photos once the negatives had been scanned.