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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35 Comments
Indy Thomas's picture

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.

marcgabor'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.

Indy Thomas's picture

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

Timothy Roper's picture

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).

Indy Thomas's picture

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.

Timothy Roper's picture

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.

marcgabor'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.

Jeff Hughes's picture

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!

marcgabor'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.

Mr Blah's picture

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.

marcgabor'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.

Michael Turk's picture

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).

Simon Cochrane's picture

Hi there James Madison, what's the ideal scanning resolution for 120 film photos taken with the GA645? Seems like nobody in the UK scans higher than 6400dpi but doesn't this defeat the point of scanning such large negatives?

James Madison's picture

I'm not sure I understand why you think that defeats the point. I'm not sure I understand what you mean that by that. At that resolution, you should be able to get a really big print - easily an 11x14 or a nice 24x36. I print 8x10s regularly and for that, you don't need anything even close to that.

Simon Cochrane's picture

It's probably just my lack of understanding as I am inexperienced with film photography.

Most scanning services I've found state relatively small file sizes for their highest quality 120 film scans e.g. 12mb. I'm confused because compressed RAW files from the Fuji GFX can easily hit 50mb and 6x4.5 images should be capable of containing much more detail than the sensor in the GFX.

I expect I'm missing something / many things when trying to find equivalence between digital images and scanned analogue images. Apologies if it's a stupid question.

James Madison's picture

It sounds like you may just want to pick up an inexpensive flatbed scanner or do some DSLR scans using a 1:1 macro lens so you can stitch the shots together. I know that if I scan at 4800dpi, the TIFF files are absolutely huge. Though I can't remember off hand as I scan JPEGs at lower DPIs, only big enough for what I need, I seem to recall the TIFF files were around 80MB even when I'm not topping out the resolution.

Simon Cochrane's picture

Perhaps this is the answer and the file sizes quoted relate to JPEGs - I'll shop around for TIFFs. Thanks for the response.

Spy Black's picture

How big do you want to print? It also depends on how they're scanned. Are they scanned flat between Newtonian glass and scanned in high bit? If scanned on a drum scanner, can the scanner focus and adjust aperture? Years ago I worked at an ad agency where we purchased a Heidelberg Tango drum scanner. I think it cost us something like $50,000. It was a complete piece of shit. It was a pre-focused unit with no aperture control! It compensated for out of focus imagery by applying obnoxious amounts of unsharp masking. Compositing with those images was a nightmare.

Stuff like that will give you total crap regardless of what res you scan your images at. I finally convinced the company to buy a Nikon Coolscan 9000 with it's glass carrier. It had a 4000 DPI scan "limit". However, it could focus, and the nature of it's scanning technology didn't require an aperture. The Coolscan blew the doors off the Tango, with no sharpening applied. We easily scanned 2-1/4 chromes to two-page spreads with plenty of bleed and had no resolution issues whatsoever. We relegated the Tango to 4x5 and larger chromes where the Tango's shortcomings were not as noticeable .

So unless you plan to print wall-sized prints, I wouldn't worry too much about your 6400 DPI "limit". Whatever that scanner may be, I sincerely hope it can focus on your film. ;-)

Simon Cochrane's picture

Thanks for the info, much appreciated. I guess I'm trying to understand the (theoretical) maximum amount of detail I can get in a scanned 6x4.5 image in case I wanted to edit the image extensively before eventually printing. Maybe I'm obsessing over something unimportant!

James Madison's picture

I can understand wanting to make sure you have the ability to pull out as much detail as you can - but almost everyone that shoots film starts off scanning every file to be as big as they can possibly be and then at some point, they realize that you really only need to scan at the resolution that matches your print size. Unless you're trying to fill an entire wall, it's unlikely 120 will let you down.

The reason you're not getting a straight answer is because there isn't one. To start, every film is different and capable of a different maximum resolution (measured in lines/mm). Slide film is typically the best for resolution but has the worst dynamic range. Other color films have good resolution with better dynamic range (i.e., Ektar, Portra family) but each film is unique. Beyond that, the scanner you use is going to have its own limits for resolution. I personally use an inexpensive Epson flatbed and while it's far from the best, I've never had a problem getting 11X14 prints and a couple times I printed at 24x36 and still had great resolution.

To add the previous (possibly confusing) statements on different films having different maximum resolution, B&W are an entirely different thing even then. The same film will have different resolution depending on the developer that you use. I personally prefer to use Rodinal diluted to 50 + 1 to get the highest acutance possible without stand developing and it works great for high resolution, low ISO films.

Simon Cochrane's picture

This makes sense and no doubt if I was faced with 200mb files I'd quickly learn my lesson. I'm just keen to see what's possible before I revert to what's sensible. Thanks for the info!

James Madison's picture

I just checked on my very first roll of 120 (note, these are 6x7 frames) - the JPG sizes range from 70MB to 82MB. Why? That's so big... Haha. I have no idea how big they would be had I scanned them in as TIFF files. Perhaps I'll get them out and rescan them at the max just to see what would happen.

Stay tuned!

Spy Black's picture

Well, for reference, the typical live area of a 2-1/4 square image is 56mm x 56mm, a 645 neg is 56mm x 41.5mm, and a 6x7 neg is 56mm x 67mm. Scanned at the 4000 DPI limit of the Coolscan I used to work with, that comes out to be 29 inches square at 300 DPI, a 645 is 29x21 inches, and a 6x7 is 29x35 inches. If you print at 200 DPI, which still yields acceptable image quality, you'd have 44x44, 44x32, and 44x52 inches, respectively.

At 6400 DPI that would yield 47x47, 47x34, and 47x56 inches at 300 DPI and 70x70, 70x52, and 70x84 inches at 200 DPI. That's roughly 4x4, 4x3, 4x5.5 ft at 300 DPI, and 5.5x5.5, 5.5x4, and 5.5x7 ft at 200 DPI scanned at 6400 DPI.

Are you in need of printing larger than that?

Simon Cochrane's picture

Almost certainly not - the biggest I've printed is A0 which is basically the 47x34 you mention above. That print looks great though and was taken with the Fuji GFX. Presumably 645 film is capable of much bigger prints, but I agree that isn't much use to me - my wife won't even let me hang the A0 print!

James Madison's picture

I just went a rescanned one of my favorite photos from before I started started using Negative Lab Pro since it's been on my list of things to do. The TIFF negative scanned in at 1.48GB and the inverted JPEG is 266.1 MB. I cannot fathom anyone would need anything that big very often. haha

Simon Cochrane's picture

Ha! Well that answers that. 1.5gb is ridiculous, if I tried to add local edits to a file that size in Lightroom I expect it would crash immediately! Thanks for confirming the results of this experiment!

Spy Black's picture

Do you have a glass carrier for your Epson? The weakest links scanning with flatbeds are that they are pre-focused units, and their film holders don't compensate for film curvature. Like the Tango I used to work with, flatbeds compensate by applying digital sharpness, which can generate a lot of unwanted artifacts.

There's a fellow who makes custom glass carriers for flatbeds, with height adjustments and Newtonian glass so your negs and chromes are truly flat and you can reach proper focus with your flatbed. If this interests you, check out his website: http://www.betterscanning.com/

James Madison's picture

I don't personally have any ANR glass though for a while I borrowed some from a buddy. I've been to that website and will likely hit it up when I upgrade scanners. At some point this year I aim to get a v800 or v850 which I will want the holders with ANR glass.