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Mamiya 645 AF or 645 PRO TL

Anjam Foley , Jan 07, 2002; 03:43 a.m.

I am a UK 35mm amateur photographer considering buying my first medium format equipment and am currently wrestling with the choice between the 645AF (or now 645 AFD) and the 645 PRO TL. As I can see the main difference is autofocus and flash sync at 1/125 as advantages for the AF version.

I am considering the equipment to assist in the move towards wedding photography work and magazine work neither of which probably need autofocus. However, I am concerned about the slow 1/60 flash sync for the 645 PRO TL and how this may limit day time fill flash. I would be grateful of anyone can "shed any light" on whether the 1/125 flash sync of the 645 AF or AFD is a huge advantage for fill-flash?

Also, and perhaps more importantly, I am concerned about the issue of FILM FLATNESS in the 120 roll film holder for the 645 AF - has the issue been resolved? I noticed on threads from 1999 and 2000 that many people have had problems with this - does anyone know if there has been a fix to the issue of film becoming curved going through the roll film holder for the 645 AF?

Thanks,

A

Responses

Steven Lust , Jan 07, 2002; 04:46 a.m.

You can use leaf shutter lens with the 645 Pro TL providing up to 1/500th second flash synchronisation. There are 2 or 3 available. I'm not sure if they allow for focal plane shutter use as well, someone else can answer that !

I have the 645 AF. I find the autofocus mostly annoying for portrait work as the depth of field is quite small. Unless your subject is perfectly still the autofocus is forever searching.

I've not had film flatness problems with either 120 or 220, but I tend to shoot the entire roll within a day or so. Perhaps if it stays in the RFH for longer periods you may experience problems, I can't say.

Regards, Steven

Filibert Kraxner , Jan 07, 2002; 05:25 a.m.

I have used the 645 pro tl to shoot a wedding using the 55 and 150 mm leaf shutter lenses. They provided me with 1/500 sinc time when needed (daylight fill-in!). In really harsh sunlight with a large aperture (nice blurry background), you may find that 1/125 is not enough. There is also an 80 mm l.s. lens. If weight is not a prime issue, go for the pro tl (body and lenses are heavier): it's a bit cheaper. With the leafshutter lenses, you will need the (heavy!)motordrive (not the winder). Otherwise, your leaf shutters won't cock automatically. Btw, you can always use the focal plane shutter instead, but that kind of defeats the purpose of an ls lens.

Best regards, Filibert

Edward C. Nemergut , Jan 07, 2002; 09:29 a.m.

I have used a 645 AF for several years now. I wrote a more complete revieew of the 645 AF in the ezShop section of photo.net if you'd care to take a peak. I personally find the 1/125 flash sync to be the one of the real advantages of the AF model. As noted above, you can always purchase a leaf shutter lens with the Pro TL; however, only a few (I think 3) focal lengths are available. I guess it depends on what is more important to you: to have 1/500 flash-sync some of the time and 1/60 the rest of the time (the Pro TL), or have 1/125 all of the time (AF). It's a personal choice I imagine.

As far as the film flatness thing goes, I have *never* had a problem in over 500+ rolls of film. I suspect that most people who experienced the problem were occassional shooters who would load a roll on Monday, and not finish the roll for several days (or weeks). This extended time might allow the roll to "loosen up" a bit and become "less flat." Just a theory. Anyway, the longest I have ever left a roll in the camera is overnight.

Elliot N , Jan 07, 2002; 06:39 p.m.

I chose to buy a 645AF (with 55, 80, 150 lenses) rather than the 645 Pro about a year ago. The extra stop sync speed was a significant factor as when I'm handholding 645 I don't like to shoot slower than 1/125 (to avoid camera shake). So for handheld fill flash the 645AF is a distinct advantage.

However, if you want to shoot the kind of environmental portraits (or fashion shots) where your flash is the main light source in bright daylight, you will need leaf shutter lens so you can shoot at 1/500 (you'll also need a lot of flash power). In this case you would be better with the 645 Pro.

You should of course hire both cameras (Leeds Photovisual in London). I used to hire the 645 Pro regularly. Then I borrowed the 645AF just once - and bought it. It just felt right.

I rarely use autofocus, and I always shoot on manual exposure, so I'm not really taking advantage of the camera's main features. But I find the data imprinting is handy. Shots are given an index number which is useful on big shoots. And the exposure info provides good feedback on metering techniques.

As for the film flatness isssue... I recently accidentally left a half exposed roll of Provia 100F in a back for 10 days. I tacked a newspaper to a wall and shot the rest of the roll at f2.8. In my judgement the second frame I shot (the frame that had spent 10 days bent around a roller) was totally unusable. There was a broad out-of-focus band right across the middle of the frame. I doubt that this problem would be fully resolved by shooting at a more usual, middling aperture.

I'm not too bothered by this as I always shoot film quickly. (I also wonder whether this effect is common to all roll film backs.) However I do intend to do an overnight test before taking my camera travelling.

Anjam Foley , Jan 08, 2002; 03:59 a.m.

Response to Mamiya 645 AF or 645 PRO TL [2]

Thank you all for your rapid and helpful responses - I am always impressed by the willingness of other amateur or professional photographers to assist those needing assistance.

I think Elliot's suggestion of hiring the 645 PRO TL and 645 AF before making a decision is an excellent one. This is probably the best thing to do next. It also helps to know that other users have become comfortable with the film flatness issue for the #2 frame with the 645 AF and how to avoid it.

I have a (probably!) a stupid question - is the difference between a flash sync of 1/500 for leaf shuttter and 1/125 for the AF camera just boil down to an issue of depth of field or is there a real difference in the power of flash required to fill-in in daylight between the 1/500 leaf shutter on the 645 PRO TL and with regular AF lenses on the 645 AF? Surely you can just narrow the aperture with the 645 PRO TL, increasing depth of field (which is not usually optimal for portraits)?

Thanks again for sharing your experiences!

Elliot N , Jan 08, 2002; 12:04 p.m.

Anjam, I'm not sure if I understand your question, but if you take as an example a large group portrait (let's say the group is 5 metres from the camera) taken outside on a sunny day, where you want to use fill flash to lessen the shadows (1:2 ratio)...

The meter reading of ambient light is 1/125 at f16 (at 100 ASA).

Using a camera system that has flash-sync of 1/125, you set the camera to 1/125 at f16. For your 1:2 fill flash you will need a flashgun that can kick out f11 at 5m. That is beyond the reach of most camera mounted flashguns

Using a camera system that can sync up to 1/500 allows you to set the camera to 1/500 at f8 for the ambient exposure. Then your flashgun only needs to put out f5.6 at 5m. This is within the capabilities of many camera mounted flashguns (though you'll need an external battery if you want to shoot at all quickly).

Kim Fullbrook , Jan 08, 2002; 12:58 p.m.

My friend with a 645 AF has gone through a long cycle with Mamiya's importers in the UK of trying to sort out problems. He's had several replacement "modified" backs, the most recent one with a whole roller stripped out. This was a little better than the others but still doesn't fix the flatness problem. Personally I would not touch a 645 AF. The Pro TL is immune to the problem because the film crease coincides with the gap between frames.

Elliot N , Jan 08, 2002; 01:40 p.m.

Kim, I'm interested in your friend's experiences. How long did he have to leave a film in the back before noticing significant film curl problems? As stated above, my experience has been that in normal shooting situations (film not left in a back overnight) there is no problem. But leave the film in the back for ten days and there is a significant problem. I've yet to test for shorter time periods.

Kim Fullbrook , Jan 09, 2002; 03:08 a.m.

My friend's flatness problems occurred with Fuji Provia 100F 120 film after only 20minutes or so. Certainly when using a loupe you could see a sharpness problem horizontally across the middle of the frame while the edges were fine. The problem was disastrous when left overnight. Just in case anyone reading this hasn't seen the earlier post the problem occurs with the second frame i.e. not the one actually behind the shutter, the one immediately after. Put another way the 2nd shot of the day after leaving the film overnight (or any period more than about 20 mins) would be unsharp to varying degrees. Mamiya in Japan have reproduced the problem and acknowledged its existence to the extent of providing modified backs to my friend to try out, although we don't have anything in writing. But the modified backs don't fix the problem.

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