ESR Portraits : Analog Photography

A Review of the Mamiya 645 Super/Pro

For the most part, the Mamiya 645 Pro and 645 Super are functionally identical. The major difference is that the Super allows you to shoot without a battery at a fixed shutter speed of 1/60 and the Pro has a self-timer. The self-timer makes the Pro more versatile, but I never cease to be amused at the ability to run in a purely mechanical mode.

Perhaps most notable is that they did not hold their value so they are inexpensive. This is a feature, because you can buy two of them!

Mamiya 645 Super with 55m lens

Comparing 645

The first notable feature of the Mamiya 645 is that it exposes 6x4.5 frames. The area for medium format is not quite 6cm wide—subtract a 2mm from each side to get the actual size.

35mm negatives are famously sized at exactly 36x24mm or a 3:2 aspect. The 645 format is 56x41mm which is very close to 7:5.

While artists such as Michael Kenna make superb use the square 6x6 format, I prefer composing with a rectangle. One of the subtle elements of style that a photographer develops is work in a particular aspect--and I am really fond of 5x7.


At this point I have used this camera system exclusively for a year. Here are it's commendable features:

There are several aspects to the design of the Mamiya 645 which are less than ideal, in my view:

While I would prefer a camera that is nicely damped like a modern SLR, those around me never seem to be distracted by the noise.

"C" and "N" Lenses

The two generation of lenses are also nearly identical, but with one important change: the older "C" lenses have a longer focus throw, and the newer "N" lenses are much shorter.

In 2000 Popular Photography tested some Mamiya lenses, and found that they are sharp at wide open and fully stopped down. Depending on the aperture they are able to resolve between 43 to 73 lines/mm. This closely matches the resolving capabilities of Provia 100F, which according to Fujifilm retains 1.6:1 contrast at to 60 lines/mm.

"L" Lenses

The leaf shutter lenses are an interesting feature in the Mamiya 645 system. It nice that these are an option, but the implementation is strange because the lens mount was not designed with them in mind. Here are some of the nice features about them:

To test flash sync, trigger the leaf shutter by flipping the mirror up (M.Up). This must be the only camera that employs a cable to communicate with a lens. Finding this cable can be is a problem. There are also some pitfalls:

This is a lot to keep in mind if you're just trying to take pictures! Still these are great lenses, and all shutter speeds (30, 60, 125, 250, 500) are accurate in my testing.


I always take incident readings with a light meter. One of these days I should try the AE Prism Finder . My understanding is that it can adjust the shutter speed in half-stop increments. The one case when this would be valuable is when lighting is shifting because of moving cloud cover.

Getting a Sharp Image

A major challenges with this system or any similar camera obtaining proper focus. It is possible to hand-hold this camera using a shutter speed of 1/125 or higher, but keeping the camera steady takes real dedication. Aside from a tripod, the RigWheels Magnetic Camera Mount is one of my most valuable photographic aids.

On one of my camera bodies I use the standard focusing screen with split image center, and on the other I use the Type A4 Matte. Both of focus screens work well as long as you slow down enough to place the focus where you intend.

Last updated on July 22, 2019