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Pentax 645 vs Mamiya 645 Pro TL

A. Valerio , Nov 01, 2007; 07:27 p.m.

What is your opinion between these two camera bodies and their systems? I will be using it mostly for documentary and landscape photography. THe Mamiya system looks pretty solid, but the Pentax seems to have an ergonomic edge (and is less expensive on the used market). I'm strictly talking used.

The things that are important to me, among others, are:

Viewfinder: quality/brightness/snap/magnification and built-in diopter adjustment are the primary concerns (removable prism isn't needed); split- image rangefinder is nice

Power: AA batteries would be the best

Metering display: preferably a bar-graph type layout in the viewfinder

Noise level: Quieter is better, but I want auto advance (which is noisy by definition)

Lens selection: Not overly critical, but leaf shutter lenses are nice to have sometimes for flash (and maybe to reduce noise)

Finally, I understand there's been a debate that Michael Reichman apparently settled on the Pentax's lack of MLU.

I'd appreciate your experiences with one or both of these camera bodies and systems. i think the two are a fair comparision.

And how about pricing? Used.

Thank you.


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Mark Fisher , Nov 01, 2007; 09:46 p.m.

I had a Pentax which was the perfect camera for me...on paper. I simply could not get comfortable with the button interface to change shutter speed and mode so I sold it. On the plus side, it has a spectacular viewfinder...best I've ever seen for brightness and focussing. The lenses are second to none. It is not quiet, but the noise is sort of inevitable with the big shutter, mirror and advance. It also handled pretty well. If I ever got one again, I'd probably go with one of the autofocus versions simply to get the shutter dial rather than the buttons. MLU is definitely not an issue on this camera. Today, however, I'd probably choose the mamiya because I don't need auto-advance and I'd want removable backs for zone system development.

Sergio Agramonte , Nov 01, 2007; 10:31 p.m.

Both systems are great. I own a P645 and I am very happy with it It handles like a 35mm on the field and the viewfinder is big and brite very easy to focus. Also lenses are silky smooth when you focus. One advantage Mamiya has, is it can take digital backs.

At the renaisance fair.

Doug Miles , Nov 02, 2007; 12:45 a.m.

Have no experience with the Mamiya but do have the P645NII...

Pentax has diopter adjustment

Uses AA batteries

Digital f/stop & shutter speed display at bottom of screen

User-interchangeable focusing screen

Noisier than a motor-driven 35

Great lenses including 5 great zooms, in two series; manual focus A and autofocus FA compatible with any body

Indeed has a very capable damper on the mirror movement

For truth to be known... I do prefer the P67II to the 645NII because it has more familiar handling and doesn't stick out forward as far.

Philipp v. Roeder , Nov 02, 2007; 09:09 a.m.

As I know Mamiya does not offer leaf shutter lenses. Pentax offers two (75 mm and 135 mm) with 1/60 up to 1/500. Both are non autofocus lenses. Mark described his 645 with the push button dials, the 645N and NII have wheel dials (way better). If you'd like to have a look an some Pentax manuals (645, 645N, 645NII, LS lenses, FA lenses, all PDFs): www.onpact-canada.ca/645

John Golden , Nov 02, 2007; 10:24 a.m.

Mamiya does offer leaf shutters. 55, 70, 80, 150mm

Philipp v. Roeder , Nov 02, 2007; 10:46 a.m.

now I know. Thanks

David Littleboy (Tokyo, Japan) , Nov 02, 2007; 10:59 a.m.

Mamiya has shutter lenses. There was a 55/2.8 that was still in production until recently and (I seem to recall seeing) a 75mm used shutter lens as well. Also a 50mm shift lens. I really liked the (discontinued) 110/2.8 (a length missing from many systems), and the 55/2.8 was excellent. The 35/3.5 was my favorite, but film flatness was a bit of an issue: if you leave film mid-roll in the camera for an extended period, it puts a nasty kink in it, and you have a fuzzy stripe throug your image. If one simply wastes any frame that's been sitting in the standby position, the problem goes away. It's a pain to have to worry about, and it wastes film. But I understand it's a problem with the P645 as well. The only good news is that it's only really a problem with the 35mm lens; anything longer and depth of focus is adequate to cover it.

My impression is that the Pentax lenses are contrastier, but the Mamiya lenses have better bokeh. Over here (Japan), Pentax is by far the most common camera for landscape work, and Mamiya rules the studios. Before I had figured this out, I went Mamiya because I objected to paying for and lugging a motor drive, even though the weight difference was zilch<g>. It just grated philosophically; a landscape camera needs a motor drive less than a fish needs a bicycle.

Anyway, for the contrasty lenses (and the 33-<whatever> zoom), I'd recommend putting up with the egregious electronic excesses of the P645. (Of course recording the shutter speed and f stop is real nice, something the Mamiya 645 doesn't do.)

FWIW, just before I quit film and went digital I picked up a Mamiya 7, and was completely floored at how much better 6x7 is than 645. It's only 66% more film, but it feels like a whole different world. So if I were doing it all over again, I'd probably go with the P67 (or grin and bear the price of the Mamiya 7's 43/4.5).

Adam Maas , Nov 02, 2007; 01:03 p.m.

The Mamiya is the more flexible system, as it offers multiple prisms, backs and drives. The Pentax is generally a better value, and it will give you full compatibility between the MF and AF bodies, as well as better on-camera flash options (The Pentax 35mm/DSLR flashes do TTL on the 645's).

Best of the Mamiya? Wide range of lenses including 4 leaf shutter lenses, N/L leaf shutter lenses integrate with WG401 winder on Pro/ProTL. Interchangable backs. Supports older digital backs. Lenses can be used (in stop-down metering mode) on 645AF system, which allows for modern digital backs (including the current best value, the Mamiya ZD back), can be used as manual wind (quiet) and offers 2 winders (slow, Lithium-powered WG402, fast AA powered WG401), ultra-inexpensive 645E model offers a trigger-wind grip. Note the Mamiya has both a body battery and a winder battery, only the latter is AA's (The winder eats batteries, the body itself does not).

The Mamiya ergonomics are IMHO better on the Super/Pro/ProTL than the original Pentax 645, the N/NII are better in turn than the Mamiyas.

The biggest beefs I have with the Pentax system are the lack of interchangable backs (Once you have these, you won't go back) and the fixed viewfinder (a mistake Mamiya also made with the 645AF). Another advantage to the Pentax system is the 67 adaptor, allowing full use of the 67 lenses on the 645.

Personally, I went with the Mamiya (Super in my case). I like the Pentax's, but got rather annoyed with fixed backs when using my Mamiya M645 that I made the choice to go with the newer Mamiyas rather than getting the Pentax I was considering (Since I shoot with Pentax DSLR kit, I'd get a lot of kit interchangability by going P645).

A. Valerio , Nov 02, 2007; 01:57 p.m.

So far it looks like the Pentax is the way to go. What is a good price for the body, standard lens, and 120 insert? Cheaper than the Mamiya? Hopefully I am coparing the right models here.

One issue with the Mamiya that someone here can probably confirm or disconfirm is I heard that the viewfinder prism with the variable diopter adjustment uses a penta-mirror...?!

Does the grip/drive come off the Pentax? I saw one detached on ebay, and I can't for the life of me figure out why they would make it that way if there was no manual advance...other than maybe to change the batteries? I need to look at those manuals that someone pointed me to.

I just want to get my feet wet with something that doesn't cost much. There's also a possibility of one day getting a Pentax 67II, so the ability to share lenses sounds good.

Which digital backs work on the older Mamiyas? Are they any good? How much do they run?

Making an informed decision is always interesting. Thanks for the help so far.

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