Fujifilm GA645 Professional
..Like an noisy ugly slightly overfed Leica!
Matthew Osborne Photography
The latest addition to my camera bag – a 20 year old Fuji GA645 Pro medium format film camera. Released in 1995, the Fujifilm GA645 Professional is a 6×4.5 format autofocus medium format film camera. The GA645 is fitted with a fixed lens, a Super EBC Fujinon 60mm f4 with a minimum focus distance of 0.7m. The camera has a leaf shutter lens that operates at upto 1/400 with apertures of f4-f9.5 and at 1/700 with apertures of f11-f22. The camera takes photos in a portrait orientation when held in the standard horizontal position. The GA645 has a pop-up flash, LCD display for camera settings, autofocus, auto film advance and auto rewind, auto exposure with centre weighted metering and imprinted data of camera settings onto the film.
Basically the Fuji GA645 is a heavyweight medium format P&S (Point and Shoot) camera!
For anyone that has followed me for a while might be thinking, the list above is everything I said I don’t like in a camera. For example I sold the Contax 645 as I said it was too ‘DSLR like’ and too automated. That was almost 2 years ago.
So why did I buy a GA645?
I am still in search of my holy grail camera. As my photography matures my desires list changes. In the past I would be attracted to the fastest lenses with the most shallow depth of field possible. For example the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1 lens. I did not consider camera size, the film format, the speed of the camera use, the reliability and to an extent the cost if it was of good quality.
Today the most important aspects of a camera for me are compact size, maximum resolution, sharp lens, speed of use and reliability. Tomorrow this may change.
Compact camera –
Leica cameras are compact hence I love them but I want a larger negative for maximum resolution in an image.
Maximum resolution –
The Mamiya RZ67 Pro II 6×7 and Rolleiflex SL66E 6×6 have sharp lenses but they are too big to take on my trips overseas. The Fuji GF670 is a folding 6×6/6×7 camera so is compact but I wanted 645 format. To me 6×4.5 format is the perfect mid ground between being 3x more resolution that a 35mm Leica film negative and giving 15 photos per roll of film vs, 50% less resolution than a 6×7 negative that only gives 10 images per roll of 120 film.
Sharp lens –
Many of my cameras are said to have sharp lenses but when a camera has a fixed lens the lens sharpness is a must have. The EBC Fujinon lenses are well regarded for their sharpness even wide open.
Speed of Use –
The more I do model photography and fashion photography the more I realise that as a creative team we just don’t have time to work at a slow pace such as with my large format cameras, Pacemaker Speedgraphic and Sinar F2. This was one reason for buying the autofocus Nikon f4 SLR 35mm film camera. I want to shoot film but do it at the pace of a modern photoshoot.
Reliability has two meanings. The perhaps obvious one that is mechanical reliability and the camera continuing to operate as designed during a shoot. I cannot afford to take a camera to Ukraine for a week only for it to stop working on the first day. Luckily this did not happen but I have a growing pile of film cameras needing some attention and are therefore not suitable to take away on trips. The second meaning and one that bugs me a little is reliable photo taking. I might have the perfect model in the perfect setting and the image looks focused through the viewfinder yet when I get the film back it is mis-focused due to a misaligned rangefinder or other camera related issue. My Mamiya 645 nearly always mis-focused beyond a certain distance and even up close the hit rate is not acceptable regardless of the lens.
Fuji GA645 – Recap
So to recap the Fuji GA645 is very compact considering it is a medium format camera so perfect to fit in my hand luggage. The lens is sharp and it has autofocus and auto film advance to allow me to work quickly if needed. The 60mm f4 lenses is roughly equal to 35mm f2.8 on a 35mm camera such as a Leica. With my recent film photography I often stop the lenses down to perhaps f5.6 to get maximum sharpness and also try to back up more to get an environmental portrait in my location rather than a tight head shot that could have been taken in my garden or studio. If I am to travel to these different countries I need to help myself in capturing some of the city in the photo and a 35mm lens is better suited to do this than my usual 50mm favoured lens choice. A good example of this was my model photography workshop in Zurich where I tried to capture the model within her environment for some photos.
As mentioned I already own a Fuji GF670 camera but I prefer the older Fuji GS645 camera due to the 645 format. I love the GS645 but the shutter often sticks so I decided to buy the more modern more automated Fuji GA645 that is a similar size and same format, but with a 60mm f4 lenses rather than the 75mm f3.4 lens.
Creativity with an F4 lens
An easy way to take a beautiful traditional portrait is to use a very shallow depth of field. The Fuji GA645 will not give me this so it will make me work harder for my photograph. I need to consider the background as the detail will be visible in the photo and then I need to somehow make the picture interesting without using shallow DOF. It will make me chose my light and composition more carefully and how they interact with the model . I think at worst an f4 aperture lens can only improve my photography and my work may benefit when I am using fast lenses on other cameras.
Time will tell
I don’t really enjoy taking photos with the Fuji GF670 as it is so quiet and soulless. That said the photos produced can be beautiful. In contrast the Fuji GA645 is very noisy so I just hope it is a little more engaging despite being so automated.
Size is key
Even though I am mainly a Leica shooter when I come to pack for model photography trips in Europe I find I have to pick my very smallest Leica M lenses. I like to take both a film camera and a digital camera. Film is for me and digital to give something to the models for their time. I hope to be able to take the compact Fuji GA645 on my next trip and return with high resolution sharp in focus images of stunning models in the city they live in. That’s the plan anyway!
Test photos coming soon once the camera is shipped.