The Mamiya 654 1000s is an excellent camera and it is dirt cheap at the moment. Many professionals find the 645 to be an extremely reliable and competent camera system. I had the opportunity to shoot with a Mamiya 7 this year (thank you David) and I was amazed by the quality of its lens. Mamiya had always a great reputation among professional photographers. But rangefinders are not my cup of tea, neither the 6×7 format. I wanted to try something bigger than the 35mm and the other alternatives from Pentax, Bronica or even the Contax are just ugly. So I went for a “basic” 645 1000s with a waist level finder.
The Mamiya 645 does not have interchangeable backs, keeping it simple. The 645 Super and ProTL models are a bit plasticky for my liking. I like to work with more sturdy, kind of solid gear, and do not mind carrying it around despite it is not a light camera.
I found this particular model on eBay and it shot less than 50 rolls of film – as stated by the owner- back in the days. After that, it was kept into its original packing and properly stored. And I believe the seller: the camera is in mint condition, apart from some of the sealing foam going a bit crumbly. This is not a major problem, considering the camera is from the late seventies. The foam is “easily” replaced, but you need a bit of patience. I started with the morning light and finished on time to capture the sunset. I also wanted to be sure that no light leaks were going to happen during my first test with the camera.
Many people say that you must get a prism finder with your 645, otherwise you’ll find it very awkward to take portrait format pictures. And this is a reality: vertical framing with a waist level finder is a true pain.
After running the first test, I was very satisfied with the handling, format and sharpness of the system. Self-timer, depth of field preview and multi-exposure are some features I will probably not use frequently, but being able to do mirror lock-up is almost a must for the conditions I work with. The shutter is quite noisy, which I like. I can shoot at 1/60 without doing mirror lock-up. With the Rolleiflex I can go further down to 1/30 – handheld – without getting blurry images.
In terms of handling, compared to the Rolleiflex, the 645 is like driving an old Land Rover in the country side: it vibrates, it is noisy and a bit rough, but feels solid and durable. I like how it is constructed, the sound it makes and the overall feel to it while using it. And of course, the image quality. I got it with the 110mm lens, which is a plus, as it is a rare lens for portrait work.