Mamiya 645 Pro TL revisited

It’s been a long time since I last used my Mamiya 645. I got so used to larger negatives (6×7,6×9,6×17) that the 6×4.5 frame just looked too small to use. My rangefinder cameras also were easier to carry due to their size, and I can easily focus with a rangefinder. Focusing the M645 (even with the rangefinder-like prism) is not easy for me.

On my last photo trip, I needed a longer focal length to make some different images than the ones I usually do, and the only telephoto lens I have for MF film is the Mamiya Sekor-C 150mm f/4. So, the M645 was back into action.

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(Mamiya 645 Pro TL, Sekor-C 150mm f/4, Kodak Ektar 100)

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(Mamiya 645 Pro TL, Sekor-C 150mm f/4, Kodak Ektar 100)

With the 150mm lens, I can take images like the one above. Its 35mm equivalent focal length is 90mm which makes it a great portrait lens and suitable for close ups. Shooting a 150mm at 90mm distance produces a quote different image than a full frame camera and that’s one of the things I like about medium format film.

Depending on the subject and lighting conditions, manual focus can be easy or hard. The good thing with an SLR camera is that you can frame your composition accurately and see the depth of field. Also, working with filters is easier (with the exception of a 10 stops ND filter of course).

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(Mamiya 645 Pro TL, Sekor-C 150mm f/4, Kodak Ektar 100)

The M645 has a mirror so it vibrates heavily. You can use the Mirror Lock Up function when on a tripod, but handheld you must have a steady hand and use faster shutter speeds, especially with a telephoto lens. I didn’t want of use a ISO 400 film, I find it too grainy on 6×4.5, maybe due to my constant use of 6×7 and 6×9. On a bright sunny day of course (like the one during my trip) things are easier.

On this trip, I also “made piece” with Kodak Ektar 100. It’s a film from which I had mixed results and difficulty in getting the right color when scanning, but this time I was very satisfied with the results. Vivid colors which I liked very much. I think the best images you get from Ektar are on a sunny day, its not a film I would use on overcast days or in shadows. It’s also a very fine grain film, suitable for large prints.

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(Mamiya 645 Pro TL, Sekor-C 150mm f/4, Kodak Ektar 100)

The image above is my favorite of the trip, unfortunately a combination of mirror slap and not 100% accurate focus lead to a photo not up to the quality I wanted to. With the Nikon D800E and a 90mm or 135mm lens I would sure had a sharp and good focused image, so sometimes MF can have its downs, but the fault is of course on my technique.

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(Mamiya 645 Pro TL, Sekor-C 150mm f/4, Kodak Ektar 100)

One very useful feature of the M645 is the ability to use film backs and change films mid roll. I had also loaded my second back with Kodak Portra 160VC and swapped them during my trip depending on my subject.

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(Mamiya 645 Pro TL, Sekor-C 150mm f/4, Kodak Portra 160VC)

The color of Portra 160VC is vivid and more to my taste than Ektar (it feels more natural). This is one of my last rolls (its a discontinued film) before I switch to the new Portra Professional.

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(Mamiya 645 Pro TL, Sekor-C 150mm f/4, Kodak Portra 160VC)

The image above is a 30 seconds exposure during broad daylight using the B+W 110ND which is a 10 stops ND filter. I also shot the same subject with 60 seconds exposure (trying to compensate for reciprocity failure). There was not much of a noticeable difference and the better exposure was the one I got from my Sekonic meter without the need to compensate.

Speaking about exposure, the in camera meter of the M645 is really fantastic, very accurate in all conditions. I rarely use an external meter with the Mamiya, there’s really no need to. It’s a camera with great automations. The film is automatically advanced after each shot, it has a double exposure feature, a timer, and a very easy to use Bulb mode. I could sure use the auto focus of the Mamiya AFD but then I would have to also invest in auto focus lenses, so we are actually talking about a whole new system. Maybe one day, when the price of MF digital backs comes to a reasonable price…

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(Mamiya 645 Pro TL, Sekor-C 150mm f/4, Kodak Portra 160VC)

So, this was rediscovery of the Mamiya 645, a wonderful camera which can be found in very reasonable prices used (and that also goes for its lenses). It’s a great system for entering the MF world and capable of producing beautiful photos.

Enjoy the rest of the images (all taken with Kodak Portra 160VC)

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(c)2013 Konstantinos Besios. All rights reserved.

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