Mamiya 645 Super Review – Cheaper Hasselblad Alternative? (+User Guide!)
Looking to buy a a cheap medium format camera? Have you considered the Mamiya 645!? It’s much cheaper than the Contax 645 or a Hasselblad.
Mamiya 645 review listing 11 point about the Mamiya 645 camera including – cheaper / smaller / lighter Mamiya RZ67 or Hasselblad alternative, the amazing Mamiya Sekor 80mm f1.9 lens & some Mamiya 645 portraits. Also including a mini Mamiya 645 User Guide + Video.
1. New 645 Film Camera!
I recently bought myself a new 645 film camera, 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:
2. Mamiya 645 WLF (Waist Level Finder)
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 500 series camera as they are 6×6 format. I don’t have the issue with the Mamiya RZ67 Pro II 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.
3. 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.
4. 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 501C 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.
5. Modular Camera Design – Mamiya 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. Mamiya 645 Landscape Photography
I have also used the Mamiya 645 camera for some landscape photography but since getting a Fuji GA645 I now pack this camera if I want to travel light with a 645 format camera. Both 645 film cameras have the uses but I prefer the 645 Mamiya for portraits and the Fuji 645 for landscapes/ travel photography.
10. Mamiya 645 – User Guide & Getting Started
If you have just got yourself a Mamiya 645 Super camera here are a few answers to questions I had when I first got my Mamiya 645.
- What battery do I need for a Mamiya 645 Super?
- Can I use the Mamiya 645 Super without a battery?
- What is the Mamiya 645 Super flash sync speed?
- Why can’t I remove the film back?
- Why can’t I take a photo when I press the shutter?
- What does the “X” and “M” means on the lens?
- How to use a Mamiya 645 leaf shutter lens for flash photography?
- How to load film in a Mamiya 645 Super
- Mamiya 645 Super battery – 1x 4LR44 6V battery
- Mamiya 645 Super without battery – Yes it will work at 1/60 mechanical shutter speed only
- Mamiya 645 flash sync speed is 1/60 (though some lenses have leaf shutters so they can sync to 1/500)
- To remove the Mamiya 645 film back the dark slide needs inserting
- (i) To take a photo (with a battery inserted) the dark slide needs removing (ii) Ensure the shutter release lock is not on
- “M” stands for manual flash, “X” stands for electronic flash
- Attach a PC Sync cable to the lens terminal and set the shutter speed on the lens body to 1/8 or slower. The shutter speed setting on the lens itself controls the light not the curtain in the camera body.
- Mamiya 645 Super film loading – see video linked below at 10:05
Mamiya 645 Super Film Loading + Quick Camera Overview
This is a great video if you have just bought a Mamiya 645 or are tempted to buy one. It gives a good Mamiya 645 Super overview and shows how you load film into this camera.
11. Mamiya 645 Lenses
Best Mamiya 645 lenses?
I did a lot of research before buying the lenses I use. I can’t promise they are the best but they are certainly very good. In focal length order these are the lenses I use:
- Mamiya 55mm f2.8 N – standard lens for wider view
- Mamiya 70mm f2.8 N – leaf shutter lens (specialist lens for flash photos)
- Mamiya 80mm f1.9 C – fastest lens in the line up and best bokeh!
- Mamiya 80mm f2.8 N – standard kit lens (sharp and compact)
- Mamiya 110mm f2.8 N – sharp lens, great for headshots
Wait! Do you have film?
After reading this article hopefully you are now ready to get out and start shooting! Have you got film to load? Here are some of my favourite films that I use in the Mamiya 645 for portraits.
400 speed film is better suited to medium format cameras as the lenses let in less light that many 35mm prime lenses. For example a 35mm camera 50mm f1.4 lens @ISO 100 = 80mm f2.8 @ISO 400 on a Mamiya 645 camera.
- 120 Kodak Portra 400 – Amazon UK / US
- 120 Kodak Portra 800 – Amazon UK / US
- 120 Fuji Pro 400H – Amazon UK / US
Black and white film:
- 120 Kodak TMax 400 – Amazon UK/ US
- 120 Kodak Tri-X 400 – Amazon UK / US
- 120 Ilford HP5 400 – Amazon UK / US
Finally I reveal how I make my Portrait Images!
If you want to know the exact photography equipment I use to make my Mamiya 645 portraits, other than the M645 camera (or other cameras I use) see the links below. I used to avoid writing about my non-camera gear but I thought it was time to reveal all! I detail the specific speedlights and wireless triggers I use together with the other photography gear needed for my portrait photography.
- Portrait Photography Lighting Kit (Beginner or Pro)(What I Use)
- Essential Portrait Photography Equipment List (x5)(What I Use)
Related Mamiya camera / Film photography articles
- How to Process Film through to Digital (Develop, Scan, Edit)
- How to Develop Film at Home (Step by Step Guide)
- Rodinal Stand Development / Semi-Stand Development (Guide)