Why the Mamiya 645 Is a Great Medium Format Camera for Beginners

Been wanting to get into medium format film photography but haven’t decided on a camera? This quick review might convince you to go for a Mamiya 645.

Choosing your first serious medium format film camera may not sound as daunting as picking out a digital camera today, but there are several choices you’d want to research. One of these is the Mamiya 645, a medium format SLR popular among those who aren’t comfortable with Twin-Lens Reflex (TLR) cameras. To help you decide whether it’s the camera for you, filmmaker and photographer Bryan Birks shared his thoughts about the Mamiya 645, which also happened to be his first medium format camera.

In his quick video review below, Bryan provided a rundown of reasons why he thinks the Mamiya 645 1000s is the best camera for beginners of medium format film. He paired it with an 80mm f1.9 lens, which became his go-to lens. He also has a 55mm, which he finds to be a good “walk-around” lens, and a 110mm, which is great for portrait work.

Among the reasons he got this specific model was the maximum shutter speed of 1/1000 sec – perfect for shooting wide open in broad daylight. This will especially come in handy if you’re shooting portraits using films like Kodak Portra 400. Another reason was the mirror lock-up feature, which allows for shooting handheld or long exposures at slow shutter speeds of 1/30 sec and below. Mirror lock-up reduces the vibration typically experienced with SLR cameras (more about that from Bob Atkins), to help retain image sharpness.

Bryan also found the built-in light meter to be extremely accurate. Pressing the exposure meter button on the side of the camera pops up the meter on the right side of the viewfinder for about 15 seconds to show overexposure or underexposure.

As for the cons, you won’t be able to switch film backs with this camera, as you would with a Mamiya RB67. While it feels sturdy, it’s also blocky and can be awkward to hold for some. Depending on your shooting style and preference, you may prefer the waist-level viewfinder of the RB67, but Bryan prefers the eye-level viewfinder. Also, the slight but still noticeable size difference between the 645 and the RB67 can be a deciding factor for those who have narrowed down their Mamiya choice between the two cameras.

Check out Bryan Birks’ YouTube channel for more of his videos about film photography.

Screenshot image from the video