Mamiya 645AFD

Originally published: April 3, 2011

This camera was my first really foray into film photography. It is well built, easy to use, and produces some very good results. I have something against buying new film cameras at this point in time. It just doesn’t seem ride to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a aging technology. This is why I wait and I pick my shots for film cameras that are either demo’s or have never been shot but pre-owned. This one I got for a very good deal from my camera store, Camera Wholesalers in Stamford, CT. I got it with the 80mm f/2.8 lens, the 55mm f/2.8 lens and the 210mm f/4 lens so I had all focal lengths covered. Prime lenses are traditionally optically superior to zoom lenses. This is because in theory, prime lenses do one thing (one focal length) very very well; and thats all. However zoom lenses have to compensate for multiple focal lengths and consequently, although they are many excellent zoom lenses, if you pixel peep you will see that the prime lenses best zoom lenses in a side by side comparison and comparable focal lengths and apertures. This camera is well built and feels sturdy in the hand. This is one of my gripes with my Hasselblad H system, the grip just doesn’t feel sturdy; more on that in my Hasselblad H3Dii-39ms review.

Shooting film is an interesting experience. You can create some very nice images with digital cameras, in some cases better then film. However there is still something to be said for film photography. It just captures things in a way that digital cameras don’t. Shooting film on this camera is a breeze. Things couldn’t be simpler. You pop open the back with an easy dual direction button and take out the spindle. Then you load the film into a clearly marked space and wrap it around the pressure plate to the other spindle. Then you close the back, whip out the dark slide and you are good to go. Simply apply a little pressure to the shutter release and the camera will automatically confirm that the film is loaded correctly and that everything is ok. A word on changing the ISO, this is something that can be a little tricky, since with medium format 120 film there are no contacts for the camera to us DX coding to confirm the film speed automatically. What you must do is hold the right button on the film back (the up button) until the ISO number on the film backs display screen starts flashing. Then you use the arrow buttons to get to your desired ISO. All and all very easy and I haven’t had a single issue with it.

This is basically the camera that is the PhaseOne 645AFD, actually its exactly the camera. There area  few different iterations the 645AFD, 645AFD II, and the latest 645AFD III. In the end they all do the same basic thing while changing the ergonomics as well as allowing for new technologies like leaf shutter lenses. Anyway they are all very very well built and feel like they could survive a beating or two. They are of course weather sealed. and very sturdily built. All of the buttons feel quite solid and are very easy to use. Switching backs as well as film on the go is very easy to do, if you were using a neck strap (not really practical) you could change the film without having to put the camera down. For more comments on the build quality of this camera please view my PhaseOne P65+ and PhaseOne 645AFD Article.

All and all this is the most pleasurable film camera I have shot with. It lenses are well built, as well as its body and accessories. It opens up a whole range of different opportunities photographically. The great thing about the modular nature of this camera is that you can shoot digital and film on the same camera. This is one advantage that this system has over the Pentax 645AFD camera (rolling out in the US this friday) or the Leica S2. It has the ability to shoot film and digital on the same camera! if thats not magic I don’t know what is. Also I paid less for this camera, lenses and film back then a Hasselblad film back alone would cost! This is because I got a very good deal from my camera store. However I am happy that I purchased this system instead of a Hasselblad film back for a couple of reasons. One of these is I believe that this system is superior to the Hasselbald H system at this point. Another is that my digital back has never been removed from my Hasselblad. This means a few things, it means that it has never been exposed to the outside environment which guarantees that the sensor is in excellent condition. It also means that there is no chance of there being damage to the body as or the back alone. All in all this is my favorite medium format film system at the moment and I would say the best in the world.

Mamiya 645AFD, 55mm f/2.8 and Fujicolor Pro 160 S

 

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