Medium Format Point and Shoot? Yes Please

For those that are unaware, the Fujifilm GA645 is capable of 100% auto settings like a true point and shoot – autofocus, autoexposure, as well as autoadvance.

In this video, McDougall provides an in depth review of the Fujifilm GA645. The GA645 came out in 1995 and sports a 60mm f/4 lens that Kyle loves. On the 6x4.5 format, the 60mm feels like a 35mm in full frame (technically it would be equivalent to a 37.2mm) with a relatively shallow depth of field if shooting wide open and you’re relatively close to your subject (or if the background is quite far away!). With a fixed lens that isn’t particularly fast, I cannot fathom this camera replacing my Mamiya 645 Pro TL but rather, would be a great addition that would be super easy and fun to walk around with. 

One thing that I love about this camera that Kyle touches on a bit but I wish he would have explored more is the use of technological advances available with this camera. My personal favorite is the ability of the camera to “store” EXIF data. Crazy, right? The camera is capable of printing the time, date, camera mode (auto, aperture priority, manual, etc.), aperture, shutter speed, etc. on the border of the frame. This camera is not alone in this function I believe but it is an interesting add on to an already cool camera. 

As I touched on in a previous article, prices for film cameras are going up and up for better or worse. Kyle mentions buying his for $350 which he states this the going rate at the beginning of 2018. At the time or writing, this price for this camera starts around $500 depending on the model. The wide version (GA645w) is a bit less expensive and seem to be more available. After months of looking around, I picked up a version of this camera for an upcoming trip to Germany in a couple months and I paid $600 which was the best deal I had seen in months on the non-wide version. Once I’m back and I’ve put some film through it, I plan to write a review so stay tuned. 

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When I was shooting film, my friends and I were interested in MF ONLY for its tonal reproduction and lack of grain.
The shallow DOF was a weak point, not an advantage. Our goal was large prints 16x20 and larger. Any slight OOF areas were very obvious when in areas of importance.

Large format was even worse and required f11 (on 4x5) and smaller apertures to get useful DOF in portraits. Thus additional lighting or a subject that could hold still were mandatory.

When the 645 format emerged we really did not take it too seriously as the reduced size robbed the format of much of the characteristics we valued. The greatest advantage of the format, in our opinion, was getting more exposures on a roll.
Much as some denigrate the "mini-MF" of the Fuji GFX or Hasselblad X-1D, we too, disparaged 645 as "wannabe" MF.

marc gabor's picture

While 645 may not have the tonal range and clarity of larger formats like 6x7 or 4x5 it definitely doesn't look like 35mm.

True and it was useful at smaller print sizes but definitely lost out to 6x7.

But many people for various reasons cropped 6x6 down to 645 anyway, so it was really just reflecting reality. You can only do so much with a square format, and 6x7 cameras weren't all that popular or numerous (to suit different needs).

Except for the Mamiya RB/RZ bodies and the Pentax 6x7.
As for cropping, yes but many did not crop much and the 6x7 was quite popular.

James Madison's picture

If you're making 8x10 prints in the darkroom, 6x6 and 6x4.5 negs are pretty much the same for all intents and purposes. Sure, 6x7 negatives are approximately half again larger than 6x4.5 negatives... So are the bodies. After hauling around an RB67 on a 10 mile hike, anyone would appreciate the lighter weight and efficiency of a 645 camera. Plus - if the size of the negative was everything, we'd all be shooting large format.

The RB wasn't released until 1970, and the Pentax was only in 1969. For decades before that, it was mostly 6x6 cameras, with Hasselblad at the top of the heap. I mostly know fashion photography history, and to get on the thousands of Vogue, Bazaar, etc, covers and pages, a crop was needed. And wedding photographers making 8x10 prints did millions of crops, too. Don't get me wrong, I would love (love!) a Mamiya 7 for the format (I just can't afford one right now). My only point is, with so much cropping of 6x6 going on over the years, 645 wasn't really much different in the end result.

marc gabor's picture

So annoyed by people calling the viewfinder a rangefinder. If you think about if for even one second it doesn't even make any sense logically. You don't "find the range" aka distance using the frame lines you "find the view". I will say the frame lines on this camera are some of the best I've seen on any camera with a window.

If you focus on something, and then look at the distance markers on the lens, you are finding the range.

James Madison's picture

I've honestly never thought about the etymology of "rangefinder" but you bring up an interesting point. As it happens, the GA645 actually tells you the distance between the camera and what the lens is focusing on. But even that isn't a "range" as I would use the word. Older lenses that provide an estimated DoF range I suppose do this but I don't think that's a reference to "rangefinder."

Food for thought!

marc gabor's picture

True, the GA645 shows an approximate distance in the viewfinder but I don't think it's very precise and it's purpose is more to confirm that you are focusing on what you want to focus on. ie the person who is 2m away and not the mountains that are "inf" away. The "rangefinder" on the GA is the autofocus system itself. On a manual focus SLR the rangefinder is the focusing screen. Once you've made your subject sharp then you've found the range. And on a split image rangefinder like a Leica, the rangefinder is the split image thing. It's sole purpose is to find the distance as you aren't seeing the image come in and out of focus. All rangefinder cameras now have the the rangefinder coupled to the focusing mechanism on the lens but older, non-coupled rangefinder cameras display the focusing distance and require the photographer to transfer the value to the lens focus ring. This is also how movie cameras worked for a long time.

James Madison's picture

I finally got my GA645 in the mail and have put a test roll through it. One thing that's currently eluding me is an efficient way to focus on a subject not in the center of the frame. I've tried focusing on my subject in the dead center, holding the manual focus button and then reframing. If you've got some advice, I'm all ears.

PSA: the back LCD screen is the only way to change the ISO setting. And it routinely fails on those cameras. And it can't be replaced.

James Madison's picture

It was my understanding the LCD screen on the back was only on the GA645Zi model (the last of the 5 models). I've heard that those have a tendency to go out but I haven't heard anything of the sort for the other models where the LCD is on the top of the camera.

marc gabor's picture

yeah I have the fixed lens GA645 and the LCD is on the top of the camera to the right. You're right though that you can't see what ISO you are selecting without the LCD. But then again, without the LCD a lot of the camera's functionality would be lost. Fortunately this camera feels very well made and should still have many years of use left in it.

Spy Black's picture

I have the manual GS645. Lovely camera but it uses a bellows and it developed leaks. I prefer the longer 75mm "normal" focal length on mine over the wider FOV on subsequent models. Overall this series was an interesting concept by Fuji.

Fristen Lasten's picture

If it had a point & shoot price I'd be in.

James Madison's picture

Obviously it depends on the point and shoot you're referring to but it's cheaper than a lot of the highly revered 35mm alternatives.

I love my Fujifilm 645, easy to use, with its peculiar portrait / landscape orientation. BTW I also use a Fujifilm GW690III, completely manual, no batteries needed, for night photography.

I tried the 645 because shooting with the GW690III turned out to be quite expensive. With only 8 shots per 120 roll, it ended up costing me approximately $20AU per shot (1 roll of color film, development, scanning, printing).