In Praise of the Mamiya 645, the Perfect Compact Medium Format SLR Camera

When it comes to shooting on medium format, you’d be forgiven for thinking that starting out involves a heavy investment. The Mamiya 645 Pro, by contrast, is refreshingly affordable and the modular design means you can tweak your setup to your heart’s content.

Shane Taylor of Framelines has put together this short video explaining why he chose the Mamiya 645 Pro for his latest street photography project,t which resulted in a printed zine. As Fstoppers' own James Madison will testify, the Mamiya 645 Pro offers medium format quality in a very compact body and, as Taylor mentions, it even shoots 35mm film. And if that’s not enough to get you tempted, be sure to check out the thoughts of photographer Nick Carver, who was looking for something smaller than his Mamiya RB67 but that wasn’t a rangefinder.

My first foray into medium format was with the Mamiya RB67 (since sold), and I truly wish I’d opted for the Mamiya 645 instead. It’s far more portable, and at the smaller end of medium format (56mm x 42mm negatives rather than the 56mm x 72mm of 6x7 cameras), it doesn’t feel like such a massive step up from 35mm film.

Two great videos singing the praises of this legendary camera in the last couple of weeks means that I'm now browsing eBay and second-hand dealers. Are you tempted? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

The article thumbnail features an image of the Mamiya 645 taken by Eric Gaba and is used under Creative Commons.

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12 Comments

Tony Clark's picture

The 654 Pro was my first medium format with the AE Prism, Grip, Polaroid back and the three LS lenses. It was a pleasure to shoot with but the RZProII was too seductive.

Michael Aubrey's picture

Until the mirror stop breaks.

Spy Black's picture

That guy needs more compression recording his voice. Listening to it late at night he just kept dropping out.

Thank you for the video. Having very recently viewed Nick Carver's take on the Mamiya 645, I was compelled to take out my 645 Pro out from my Dry Box and enjoy taking it apart, cleaning and toying with it! Unfortunately, that is all I can do with it, since no lab in Sri Lanka develops / prints 120 film anymore. I think one solution may be to get a 35mm back, as at least one lab I know, does develop and print this type of film. However, I wish some manufacturer would consider making an affordable digital back for this camera! Just read about the proposed 'I'm Back' digital backs. Are they available or still in production? Any feedback? Thanks and Regards.

So use B&W and process it yourself.

All these are studio camera, dont ever think you can hand held and shoot like 35mm cameras, you will set it on tripod all the time to get better result

Tony Clark's picture

You clearly have no experience with them. I shot all my medium formats outside of the studio, everything from the 645ProII, Pentax 67II and Mamiya RZProII produce beautiful images no matter where you use them. I would never confuse them with the Canon G15 point and shoot but it all depends on the purpose.

the Mamiya 645 Pro is not a studio camera it was the choice of many photographers who normally shot RZ in studio as their location camera because it was so easy to hold. I truly hated that camera it really is a flimsy piece of plastic that I finally got tired of and then went on to the Contax 645 system that I had for years and was just beautiful.

Have to admit, I shot hundreds of weddings per year for a few decades with an RB-67 Pro-S. All hand held with a bracket and Vivitar 283 flash units. Did use a tripod for the group shots in front of the altar after the service though. Used a 645 at the receptions when they came available.

Michael Holst's picture

The Super and Pro are pretty much the same camera. I picked up a great deal on my 655 Super about 10 years ago (before medium format film picked up in popularity again) and it has been an absolute tank.

I had a pro for a year .. as a side note I sold it for a hassie , to a young guy( early twenties) who was going to shoot music gigs with it . anyway .. yes it is under priced and unrated .. its a great little system . light , portable and very capable ... have thought about getting another one , however when I bought mine 2018 , people couldn't give them away it seemed , there were plenty on ebay uk, nowadays they seem to be fewer examples around , I guess people know about them know .. the 1.9 lenses of course as we all know is one of the fastest around for the 645 and can hold its own against the much trendier contax .. but for its image quality , price , size and value , you would be hard pushed to find a better deal out there .. only perhaps the bronica's are better value