Moving to MF...probably Pentax...but 645 or 67??

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by enigmaphotography, Sep 19, 2005.

  1. Hi...I'm finally getting frustrated with the complete lack of Nikon
    service in Taiwan, and am also getting frustrated with too many blown
    highlights in the interest of shadow detail on digital and the
    inability to enlarge either digital or 35mm to the sizes that I
    envision when shooting some things.

    SO, the long and the short is that after a LOT of research, I realize
    that I need a camera that is a tank. One that basically requires as
    little service as possible, since service in Taiwan is spotty at best
    (okay, for cleaning film bodies its great, but I simply can't get
    CCDs cleaned in digital, which means moving to a 12-16MP digital to
    get the print sizes I want is kinda pointless if I'm limited to F1.8-
    11 because of a grimy CCD).

    I've pretty much settled on Pentax for their bulletproof build
    quality, and am pondering the 67 of the 645 system (probably new, as
    getting used might be tough here).

    I do people, mostly studio, but some location. I despise tripods,
    preferring to handhold (but can probably change). I'm drawn to the 67
    simply for the film realestate, I mean...its the size of a )@#$@$
    business card, BUT...I realize that hand holding is going to be an
    issue....which brings me to considering the 645, but I worry that I
    may not get the same tones and level of detail.

    I would be incredibly greatful for any thoughts or advice on this, I
    looked at Mamiya, but see that there can be some realiability issues.
    Bronica just isn't available here, that I've seen.....I'm in lust
    with Rollei and with Hassleblad, but their costs (I envision needing
    around 3 lenses also) are simply beyond my reach (okay, so I've
    proposed marriage to the Rollei 6008 with a digital back and a couple
    of film backs, but keep being told I'm trying to marry out of my

    Again, I do mostly people....portraiture and nudes, some studio still
    life. I'm a terrible street photog, and will continue to fail in that
    area with digital and 35mm....but I tend to be rather dynamic in a
    studio, prefering to handhold rather than use a camera stand or
    tripod, mainly because a particular pose and moment might trigger me
    to see an insane angle and that moment is lost with too much
    tripod/stand tweaking...
  2. What size enlargements do you expect to make? Color, B&W, or both? I've printed 16x20 with 645 negatives with excellent results.

    I use a Mamiya 645 Pro TL and I love it. It handles like a large 35mm SLR, but it delivers a negative that is 2.7x larger than 35mm. The lenses are excellent on many dimensions (sharpness, contrast, bokeh, etc.) and are very affordable used (take a look at for a benchmark).

    You can find posts questioning the reliability of any camera brand. If reliability is really important to you, then buy two bodies.

    The Mamiya does not ooze build quality in the same way as a Hasselblad or Contax 645 (I really like the buttery feel of the focus on Zeiss lenses). But it's thoughtfully designed and delivers good photos.

  3. Robert, thanks...both the Mamiya Pro TL and the 645AFDII got my attention, and held them for some time (errr, I'm giving this a lot of thought, not a quick decision because I'm going to end up married to whatever system I choose). I'd heard a lot of comments about needing a second body for reliability, and...errr...that's the thing, if it needs service in Taiwan, it basically isn't available.

    I have heard GREAT reports on reliability of the Pro TL, but when I got right down to it, Pentax is a known battletank....and I do tend to shoot in some locations that are rather hazardous to camera equipment (beaches in Taiwan are notoriously windy, and you can't change a lens without getting a certain amount of sand in the process, even when changing lenses inside of bags...the stuff is truly evil). I actually might have far too much confidence in Pentax, I shot a 1961 H1 from 1976 until it died a completely unrepairable death in 1994 (33 years with a LOT of film run throgh it, and virtually no service)(err, if I'd had it serviced, I might never have bought a modern camera, lol). But, the fact remains that having anything serviced in Taiwan is a serious hit or miss situation. A CCD cleaning (for example) consists of squirting compressed air on the CCD to move the dirt around. Pec-pads don't exist here. Car servicing isn't much better (I'll never forget the time they used an empty beer can to make a shim for my motorcycles front disk brakes)....

    Again, I've heard that the Mamiya 645 Pros have much heavier gearing than the others, so would therefore probably be as robust as a Pentax (errr, and definitely sexier)...

    BUT...16x20?? Hmmm. Well, its definitely in the ballpark. In all honesty, a couple of the headshots I've done recently really need to be big, and I envision them in the 20x30 range, but....errr....16x20 may be close enough.

    I guess what I'm really having trouble getting my head around is the difference in final quality between 645 and 67. My workflow for film is bascially camera-lab for film (no prints)-scanner-photoshop-16 bit tiff back to lab-prints. The scanner I'm using is an Epson 4870 (yeah, yeah...I know...sharpness issues on 35mm, but the way I do it works for me, but yep...there are definitely better scanners).

    Will I see a dramatic improvement in detail resolution of 67 over 645? I tend to shoot very little horizontally (actually prefering a square format for a lot of things, but that's a different thread). If it is just a minor improvement, then I think the ease of untethered use of a 645 might trump the increased detail of a 67...
  4. I've used Mamiya 645 since the early '80s, currently using the Pro and Pro TL, though as a hobbyist rather than a Pro, with no problems. For example, I've given up keeping a spare back, never needed it. <p> In the past year I've introduced the digital element by scanning my negs on an Epson 4870, to Photoshop, and then Epson R800 printer. <p> I've done some fairly critical subjective assessments of the digital print quality, and can't fault it for resolution. I believe the weak link in your arrangement will be the photo lab print quality, and not the film resolution. I've scanned my 645 negs at 4800 dpi, getting a half Gig file, still without seeing the film grain.<p> Cheers.
  5. Hi Enigma ...

    The math says that going from 35mm to 645 gets you a 237% larger negative in surface area. Going to 67 gets you a 55% larger neg over 645. So clearly your first upgrade from 35mm gets you the biggest bang and you retain the more flexible shooting style with the 645.

    By the way, I purchased the Pentax 645N when it first came out back sometime in 1998 and have been shooting weddings and ever since. The camera has been 100% reliable even after a few rather hard knocks. If I had to purchase MF film equipment today, without any doubt whatsoever, I would purchase the same camera.

    Whether you find large enlargements for 645 or 67 negs acceptable to you or not, I would suggest trying both. Get some enlargements made for comparison and make an informed decision.

  6. I had a P67 shortly and found it quite handholdable.
    I have P645 now (but not only), and the reasons are

    1. as it has been mentioned here, although 645 looks small
    compared to 6x7, it's large enough for most practical purposes
    2. factoring in the lenses, it's much lighter
    3. LOTS of 3rd party lenses are available w/ adapters,
    at any price point, from Arsat/CZJ/P6 to Zeiss/Hasselblad to
    pentax own 6x7.
    4. if there ever a digital solution from pentax, 645 is a
    much more likely target than 67
  7. Many variables... However, I tend towards the old hot rodders anthem, "There's no replacement for displacement." 6X7 is 42 square centimeters of negative... A 645 is 23.24 square centimeter... That is a factor of 1.8 times more negative area for the 6X7... The tonality of a print from 6X7 will be definitely visible even at 8X10.... Go for the most square inches is where I would lean for studio shooting... For field shooting, you have to work that out... I have carried a Mamiya TLR for 4 decades and don't even think about it... ymmv...

  8. it


    The 645N is the best money I've spent on a camera system. Tough as nails, easy to use and an awesome viewfinder. They are going for next to nothing on E-buy.
  9. The biggger 6x7 negative is tempting, bit 6x7 SLR's are HUGE. A camera is only useful if you are willing to carry it around.

    If you really want 6x7 9or 6x9), then look at the Fuji fixed lens cameras. Great lenses in a carryable camera. I didn't suggest it before, though, because you want multiple focal lengths.

    Good luck.
  10. jmf


    just my 2 bits, but I didn't think the jump from 35 to 645 was enough, particularly for landscape and arch. I did go with the battle tank of slr's, the RB67. I liked the bellows, the leaf shutters, the film backs. Size and weight need to be considered, but everytime I think about it, I remember the negs. Given that pro's have mostly left medfmt, there's a glut of decent used on the market for fire sale prices. I picked up an entire pro-s outfit w/90mm lens recently for what the film back alone would of cost me 5 years ago. Just insane. The secondary market sales has to be killing Mamiya and Hassie.
  11. The P67II is a really nice camera. Its heavy but i doubt the body is much heavier than a 645N. The crop factor of the 67 is a bit of a bummer. IE, if you like to shoot a 135 portrait lens you are talking a 300mm lens on the P67, and the only 300mm P67 lens which is really superb is the latest 300mm F4, at $3000 new, but it really is an awesome lens. The P67II is a hold over from the old camera, but it does have a good metering system. Bad mirror slap though. It is just a huge stout metal manual everything camera (except exposure)

    The P645nII is auto everything.

    I guess it really depends on what and how you shoot and how big you want to enlarge and what format. If you figure cropping a 645 to a 8x10 format and roughly a 10x enlargement, You could print a 645 up to 18x22. A P67 you could enlarge up to 24x30. A substantial amount but still not a massive difference like a jump from 645 to 4x5 LF.

    I shoot LF too and I always felt that when shooting 67 format, I really should be using my 4x5. The Pentax 67 although very hand holdable IMO if you have strong arms, really is at its best on a tripod with MLU.

    Personally just for the auto everything, I think I would go for the 645nII mostly for auto focus and auto wind, but then again I like LF for really big prints.
  12. For landscapes why would you even toy with a 645 as a primary camera? Get a 4x5 system. You mentioned you like to handhold, a Fuji ga645 zi can be handheld easily at 1/45 without blurring even you have unsteady hands like me (you might even go down to 1/15 if you're really stable) because it doesn't have mirror slap. I carry the the Fuji with me along with my 4x5 for those fast changing conditions that a 4x5 can't cover. I've owned several MF systems (RB/RZ67 and Mamiya Pro TL and GSW690) but none is as nice/easy/fast/convenient/excellent to use as the GA645zi. It's auto everything - exposure (very accurate), focus(fast but not as fancy as 35mm), film winding, data imprinting. Lens focal point is limited but it's perfect for portrait & landscapes. If you want wider you can always get the GA645wi - buy both and carry both because having the two cameras together weigh less than a 1DS or F5 body.
  13. I own both Pentax 645 (old MF version) and Pentax 67II, and use both for landscapes.

    The Pentax 645 produces a 56mm x 41.5mm frame, the 67II produces a 69.5mm x 55mm frame. Doing the math correctly, the Pentax 645 thus presents a 169% geometrical improvement (ie, in terms of image area) over 35mm, while the 67II presents a 64% geometrical improvement over the 645. If we prefer to talk in terms of linear enlargement factors, the 645 presents a 56% improvement over 35mm in the long dimension, while the 67II presents a 24% improvement over 645 in the long dimension. In any case, mathemtically, whichever way you look at it, the move from 35mm to 645 is somewhere around 2.5 times (give or take) more significant than the move from 645 to 67II.

    This bears itself out in my experience. I find that when I obtain 3200+ DPI drum scans from 645 and 67II transparencies (Velvia), and print (LightJet) at up to 20 inches long (ie 16x20 for 67II and 15x20 for 645), there is no consistent, discernible difference in printed image quality between the two different formats/cameras. I'm not sure how large I'd have to print to see a difference, though just going off it mathematically, I'd imagine a difference to set in somewhere in the mid-20's (inches long).

    Hope this helps,

  14. Enigma:

    Consider a Pentax 67 with 67 lenses and a 645 body. The lenses work on both cameras. The only disadvantage: 67 lenses are a little larger and not auto focus. At slow shutter speeds and/or handheld, my experience is that I often get better results with the 645 despite the smaller film size. My preference is always to use the 67, but at shutter speeds less than 1/30 s, the bounce of the 67 shutter can be a problem. In contrast the 645 has remarkably little vibration. A used 645 body is very inexpensive. The 645N and NII have better ergonomics and would have focus confirmation but cost more. The Luminous Landscape has an essay on just this combination, written before it went totally digital. Given your description of your style, I would think that the 645 with its motor drive would be ideal, using the 67 for more studied work. Hope this helps.

  15. If you want a tank of a camera, I would get Fuji GSW690. I owned one for a while, traveled with it widely and it is a TANK. Plus 6x9 neg gives you extra cropping space, or you can crop it to panoramic dimensions. All my Irish Panoramas series are done with Fuji GSW690. I print them up to 24 inch wide and they are as sharp as my other regular prints. NOTE: Trinity Lane Panorama is an exception, it was shot with Widelux and its not as sharp as others.

    Philip Pankov
    Pictures of Ireland - Fine Art Black & White Photography of Ireland
  16. I have a P67 and I fully agree that larger film is better. But if I started to put together a new system today I would certainly keep in mind the digital future. P67 may not be a completely dead horse in this respect when Pentax comes up with a 645 digital body. It is almost certainly able to use P67 lenses. But still, if I had to start now, I would get a well known and well supported 645 system with film backs, i.e. sadly today only either Hasselblad H1 or Mamiya 645. Separate film back makes it possible for independent digital back makers to offer alternatives at different resolution, image size and price points. Competition is always good. A compromise might be a 6x6 or 6x7 body with interchangeable film backs. But I do not foresee 6x6 or 6x7 sized sensors coming anytime soon. So it would be great on film but only mediocre on digital, compared with the new 645 bodies that have been built for digital compatibility from ground up.
  17. Wow, absolutely fantastic discussion and incredible information. Thank you so much.

    Errr, I don't do landscapes (can't find many in Taiwan without power lines and poles all over the place) BUT...I'm remembering one of the most incredible portraits I've ever seen, a simple shot of a woman next to a brick wall with a very detailed dress....and I swear that it felt like if I reached into the print that I would be able to feel the texture of the lace. It was shot on 4x5LF.

    As I'ver read the posts, I think that I may well tend toward a Mamiya or Pentax 645 for MF with the intent somewhere in the back of my mind to go to LF at some point in the future. In reality, for prints larger than 10x15 (because of my digital darkroom process) I have to send DVDs to the U.S. anyway, that's the largest that Taiwan can print. And I do have a GREAT lab that I've been working with, the owner is neurotic about calibration and keeping everything fresh. Unfortunately, paper larger than 10" wide rolls just aren't imported into Taiwan (errr, and I've been meaning to try Shutterfly, but can't get past the limitation that the image has to be JPG).

    What first hit my radar was a Mamiya 645 AFD, but I've heard of reliability problems, maybe people are just having trouble with the Chinese E series (errr, and I know I can get THOSE here....*cheap*). The appeal was that it seems best set up to at some point accept a full frame digital back *and* will let me do the things I want to with film. BUT, the availablity of service here is a serious issue, and I remembered my old Honeywell-Pentax H1 (h1, right? can't recall....made in 1961, no light meter, no battery, 55mm lens). I shot that from 1976 until roughtly 1993-4, and it suffered insane accudents (falling off a moving motorcycle was one, when I was young and dumb).....I also have to remember that when it died, I replaced it with a Nikon F80, expecting it to be less than reliable...have run a LOT of film through it, with only a single problem (high speed rewind scractches the film, and no one here can fix it....solution, low speed rewind). Hence my realization that if the body ends up with a major problem....

    errrm....any opinions on the reliability of the Mamiya 645AFD?
  18. Film size... definitely an issue that comes up quite often for me too. Anything bigger than 120 roll film is too much to carry though, and not very versatile for my use. The Rolleiflex SL66 setup I'm assembling should be nice enough for film use (mostly intending to do landscapes and nature macros), with the Canon EOS 20D being the generalist camera.

    I find the 6x6 to be an interesting size to work with. Also, there's of course the option of 6x4.5 backs for 6x6 cameras - don't forget that either. I sure wish I could get one for the SL66, but being rare, they're quite pricey (not to mention SL66 being more expensive than many other systems around to begin with).

    I'm also fond of handholding, tripods are usually too much of a hassle. A 6x6 camera like the SL66 is easy to handhold, and I would suppose a 6x4.5 even more so. I'm usually not all that willing to give up mobility for quality over a certain extent - the SL66 or 20D setups are still quite acceptable. A 4x5" I'd be willing to carry around only for very special occasions where I'd KNOW I'd want the absolute enlargeability.

    That said, digital really is nice to work with in many ways compared to film. I constantly struggle with myself over the SL66 purchases as to whether or not they make sense, since 35mm format digital is very good nowadays, and the 20D can produce quite nice 30x45cm prints. Therefore old film gear, even though being very nice to use, often seems a bit of a silly thing to spend on, given that my resources are rather limited, and that my 20D outfit is far from complete.

    Now, if they only made digital backs for the SL66... :)
  19. Portraits, inside or out, will be influenced more by your film choice and lighting than which MF camera you choose. They all produce fine grain, smooth tonality results.
    For handholding, I sure wouldn't want to hanging onto a boat anchor like one of the 67 SLRs but I am sure it can be done effectively. The most important thing is to find a good source of 2nd hand examples of the candidates you finally include on your shortlist. BTW, Taiwan is part of the developed world, is it not? There are pro photographers, aren't there? Maybe there some decent camera dealers within easy reach, maybe with a bit of travelling? HK looks pretty close on the map.
    As far as which format goes, for handheld work with human beings it won't matter, in roll film sizes. Try to get one that you just love using - to do that, you need to have a sound idea of what you need, what is important to you in the camera, and its functionality, ergonomics, its 'feel'. You might think of things like hand comfort, shutter release feel, viewfinder quality, information and coverage, vibration (if you insist on an SLR), weight, and balance.
    And speed of operation, which I guess may be important in your work.
  20. I have both the original Pentax 645 and a Fuji GSW 690III. The fuji's negative is twice as
    big as the P645 and the camera itself is a different shape, but actually lighter than the
    645. Of course the 645 has six AA batteries and a motor in it. The Fuji does not even
    have a light meter.

    I see differences in tonal reproduction even in black and white 5x7s with the 645 over

    I think if you're going to do a lot of walking aorund with the camera, I'd get the 645 over
    the 6x7. I also recommend you check out KEH for used prices on bodies and manual
    focus lenses. Cheap, cheap.

    I've never used a Pentax 6x7. I've only held an old-version body. Too big for my kind of

    Good luck.
  21. "errrm....any opinions on the reliability of the Mamiya 645AFD?"

    Not reliability as such, but I suggest you do a search on this forum under "645AFD film flatness". Might not effect you too much with your style of shooting (i.e. burning a whole roll at one go in the studio), but it would do you no harm to be aware of the known problem with the AFD in this respect. To be fair, other MF cameras including the Pentax 645N can also suffer from an inability to keep the film flat.

    I use a Pentax 645Nii and I can't recommend it highly enough. Great handling, features, reliability, viewfinder, lens choice, etc etc. I only wish I had bought mine earlier.
  22. Thanks for the heads up on film flatness, I actually ran across references to it, seems to be a common issue, and probably won't affect me much as I tend to not leave film in the camera (errr, even 35mm). I've done a bit of searching and found that older Pentax 645 (the manual focus system) and lenses can be had *cheap* (as in, body and 3 lenses for right arount US$1000). For that matter, I was really surprised to find that Hasselblad 500s aren't actually as expensive second hand as I thought (errr, but for what I do, I think that the Pentax 645 may be far better than the Hasselblad, no matter how sexy the darned thing is, lol). In any case, as I think about how and what I shoot, and although autofocus is really nice, I can't see how it could make a huge difference for me (errr...but it IS nice)...
  23. I find it impossible to believe that there are no wide format printers in Taiwan. None. I live in Shanghai and there are several in this one city alone. There are also seemingly tens if not hundreds of ink makers for wide format as well as domestic paper producers. And imported paper is freely available from many sources, including Japan, in reel widths to 44" at least. And there is laminating and slitting and sheeting services as well.

    There must be wide format printers in Taiwan. I am sure there are at least five in Taipei alone if you search for them. Otherwise it would be a huge business opportunity and you should buy one immediately. I am talking 24" and wider. It absolutely makes no sense to send DVDs to USA for printing and then shipping the prints back to Taiwan.
  24. Yes, a used Hasselblad can be a fine camera. But additional lenses are pricey, and it takes time to get used to a waist-level finder. There are prism finders available, though.

    One teason I went with a manual focus Mamiya 645 was price (quality was another reason) - I paid less than $200 each for 150/3.5 and 55/2.8 lenses.

    Lots of good choices. I know a few folks who shoot Penatax 645's and their results are stunning. Also, as mentioned above, the Fuji fixed lens cameras are very nice, too.

  25. The Mamiya 645 is really sweet. The Pentax 645 is not bullet proof. The Pentax 67 is bullet proof, heavy, slow and not the best for hand-held work. If you use strobes the P67 has a very slow sync speed.

    I prefer 'blads but beyond the 80mm lens most other lens are pricey. Take a good hard look at Mamiya 645. Besides my 503CX and 501C the Mamiya 645 is a camera that gets my attention. The Mamiya 7 is nice but at that price point I'd rather stick with my 'blads. Good luck. Paul
  26. I own both a Pentax 6x7 and Pentax 645.

    Handholding: The 645 is exquisitely hand holdable, but the 67 is a beast and the shutter slap will require fast shutter speed. I would recommend using at least 1/500 with the 67.

    Film real estate: I would only consider this to be an issue if you are going to be using fast film and large prints and you don't want grain. Otherwise, you are not going to see a difference between either camera with any of the modern asa 100 films. I have made a 4ft wide enlargement from a 645 frame with Kodak E100S. While the 67 would have been better, the 645 was up to the task.

    Batteries: The 645 does not eat batteries, and I'm not sure how long the battery in my 67 has been in there.

    Film loading: Since the 645 uses a cassette, you can have a couple of loaded cassettes ready to make a film change. Loading film is quick anyways.

    Lenses: 67 lenses fit on the 645 with an adapter. I use my 67 lenses on my 645. Its one of the reasons I bought the system.

    Noise: The 67 mirror slap is loud, while the 645's noise comes from the motor winder.

    Reliability: Both are quite reliable. I have never had a malfunction with either of them.

    The 645 allows for multiple exposures on one frame, it has an additional tripod socket on the side, and if the batteries run down then you can still wind the film with a little crank-wheel.
  27. Errr, actually, yes...there are wide format ink jets available here, but I really prefer chemical prints, and have had nightmares with injet color gamuts in the red-orange area (hence my going back to chemical prints, the tones for color can be killer with inkjet, but have had so many problems).

    And the solution just dropped in my lap in the form of a Bronica 645 with the 3 lenses I figured I'd need and film backs and viewfinders (waist level and metered prism).

    The price is perfect, and I know the seller very well...about US$1000 including a (Minolta? I think?) flash meter.

    As I look at how I work, I actually think I'm going to *LIKE* the 645 over the 6x6...
  28. Ah, yes, I've had such troubles too with ink prints, when getting prints from my digital concert photos that have colored spotlights hitting the smoke on the stage, producing a large variety of shades of the spots' colors. Often less than optimal results on print, which really is a bummer. And using the print shop's own profile to minimize this totally screws to colors of the shot :( Talk about lame.

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