What’s Medium Format, Compact, Modular, and Affordable All Over? The Mamiya 645 Pro-TL

The Mamiya 645 Pro-TL is an all-around great medium format camera for those in search of a something customizable, compact, and affordable. It’s not just me saying it. 
In this video, Nick Carver sits down with a gimlet to talk through what he says is his most frequently used camera — his Mamiya 645 Pro-TL. My favorite part of the video is Carver breaking down his camera into each of its components to demonstrate the modular (i.e., customizable) characteristic of the camera. I’ve found that for photographers who are used to traditional 35mm film cameras, this can be a foreign concept and not particularly easy to comprehend until it’s broken down and pieced back together. 

For those unfamiliar with Carver’s work, his reviews and kit include the Mamiya 645 Pro-TL from this video, a Fujifilm GA645Zi (younger cousin to the GA645), and the Mamiya RZ67 (the younger, more sophisticated brother of the RB67). For those unfamiliar with my kit, it is quite similar to Carver. With that said, I don’t always find myself seeing eye to eye with the people on YouTube when it comes to reviews or opinion pieces but for a camera I love so much, I appreciate another photographer having an appreciation for it and agree whole heartedly that it is a great camera. 

At the time of writing, the going rate for this camera has gone up considerably from where it was when I bought the camera. I would expect spending at least $500 for a basic kit. Because of the modular nature of this camera, it’s difficult to give an accurate “base kit” price since there is no such thing as a base kit for this camera. Some will have the power winders, some will have the AE-capable prism, some will have better (or no) lens – there’s just too many options. I would say that if you can get your camera outfitted exactly how you like and one lens (sans the 80mm f/1.9) for around $650-$700, you’re doing well. 

Have you ever owned or used a Mamiya 645 in any of its variations? If so, what are your experiences? What were your favorite lenses?

James Madison's picture

Madison is a mathematician turned statistician based out of Columbus, OH. He fell back in love with film years ago while living in Charleston, SC and hasn't looked back since. In early 2019 he started a website about film photography.

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I've used pretty much every Mamiya medium format model (exception being the 645J) - my favorite (non-rangefinder) is definitely the 645 Pro. The basic 645/645 1000s are great as well if you don't mind the non-modularity. The Pro is up there with the Bronica GS-1 and Pentax 67 for my favorite eye-level finder type SLR MF cameras (Hasselblads, Bronica S2, TLRs, etc being a different subject). But of course it's much lighter-weight than those cameras.

Never been a fan of the RZ/RB67 cameras. They're good for certain types of photography, especially macro and anything flash, but handheld isn't one of them.

Wow - on the same level as the Pentax 67? That’s high praise. I understand not liking the RB/RZ for handheld work - their weight and operation is not really conducive to portability.

On the same level in that both represent the highest levels of quality for their format sizes. Superior in a number of ways - portability, modularity, automation - less so in others.

Until the mirror stop breaks and it always does.

I had that happen to the first Pro-TL I bought. Fingers crossed it doesn’t happen to mine any time soon.

I still have my 645 Pro TL, and several lenses. It's great gear to use, very well balanced!

YES, a couple of years ago I bought the last brand new one in the US!

I have the 645 Super forerunner to the Pro TL. Exceptional in all respects. Good range of lenses. Good to have pre-loaded interchangeable 220 backs (30 exp). Unusual for the time and format, there were three zooms and a 300 2.8!