645 with vintage optics vs 35mm with modern optics

Blackpool Pier

A
Blackpool Pier

  • 1
  • 0
  • 18
Linda

A
Linda

  • 1
  • 1
  • 65
I want to join the Circus

A
I want to join the Circus

  • 2
  • 1
  • 82
Lith on Bromide

A
Lith on Bromide

  • 0
  • 0
  • 92
Stone monoliths

Stone monoliths

  • 3
  • 1
  • 153

Recent Classifieds

Forum statistics

Threads
180,638
Messages
2,493,624
Members
95,122
Latest member
pulsa333
Recent bookmarks
1
Joined
Oct 2, 2020
Messages
45
Location
New Zealand
Shooter
Medium Format
I'm looking for a walk around camera to supplement my more 'serious' medium format gear (Rolleiflex & Bronica SQ) for some intentional street photography. Currently that's 35mm (Canon 7 & Olympus OM1), but I'm thinking of getting a compact 645 setup instead, namely a Konica Pearl folder because there's no way I can afford the Bronica RF645 I actually want, and I had the Fuji GS645S but didn't love the handling or fragility. If the RF645 wasn't destined to be an electronically dead brick one day I'd seriously consider selling everything and just getting one.

I know the "645 is no better than 35mm" thing is mostly rubbish, it's still a huge jump in format, but what about when you bring different quality optics into it? The Pearl has a decent Tessar, and apparently for a folder it's pretty good, but it's still an old folder. Alternatively I could invest more heavily in 35mm, maybe jumping ship to Contax to get my hands on a Planar, or really saving up and getting a Leica M2 and some modern Voigtlander glass. Would the resolution difference of 645 still be a big deal then?

My shooting style, even when doing street, is pretty slow and intentional so I'm not hugely fussed by the cost difference in film, it'd still take me a while to get through a roll of 16 on 645.
 

MattKing

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2005
Messages
40,516
Location
Delta, BC, Canada
Shooter
Multi Format
If you are comparing handheld vs. handheld, almost all of the advantages of modern 35mm lenses will be minimized anyways, so the larger negative size is worth it.
I would be more concerned about focusing accuracy and ergonomics.
 

momus

Subscriber
Joined
Jun 14, 2009
Messages
5,126
Location
Lower Earth
Shooter
Medium Format
That's a lot of decisions. It might be good to whittle it down a bit. I guess it comes down to: what sort of photos are you taking, and what sort of look are you after? I actually prefer the 3 element lenses in MF folders. The Novars and Apotars can be quite good, although the Triotar on the Rolleicords is better. I had a tiny 6x45 Ikonta w/ an uncoated Tessar that was darned sharp. Knob wind cameras are slow to shoot, so factor that in.
 
Joined
Oct 21, 2016
Messages
751
Location
Calexico, CA
Shooter
Multi Format
My thoughts exactly. I don't know of any 645 camera with ergonomics similar to most 35mm slr. That said, 645 is a great format I love and use commonly. My setup is a Bronica ETRS. I just use it as street camera on last weekend.

I would vounch for the etrs since it has a WLF. Does not handle as a 35mm but its not that bad. Also, with film back, WLF and lens, is pretty light.


Marcelo
 

wiltw

Subscriber
Joined
Oct 4, 2008
Messages
5,246
Location
SF Bay area
Shooter
Multi Format
Comparing 135 format vs. 645 format is 24mm:43mm using the short dimension of the frame. So 645 can provide 55% of the lens resolution and still equal the detail delivered to film for a given subject.

Unfortunately, while we can find historically the lens resolution and contrast from many 135 format lenses, via lens tests by Modern Photography or Popular Photography, we see few equivalent tests for larger formats, so it is difficult to get objective comparisons. A middle-of-road 135 format lens might fall into the 'Good' 64 line-pairs per millimeter range, an 'Excellent' lens fall into 80 line-pairs per millimeter, the rare 'Exceptional' lens might have 120 line-pairs per millimeter. So MF lens to be 'excelleint' might need to deliver only 44 line-pairs per millimeter (80 * 0.55); that was not difficult to achieve, and on-film tests would typically reveal more detail in the MF print. And then there was the fact that the same film used in both cameras had 55% of the grain size in the same 8" print due to the lower enlargement factor with the MF neg. And better tonal gradation due to 1.8x as much film grains in the neg (in each direction) to portray the same subject.
 
OP
OP
Madeleine Ostoja
Joined
Oct 2, 2020
Messages
45
Location
New Zealand
Shooter
Medium Format
I would vounch for the etrs since it has a WLF. Does not handle as a 35mm but its not that bad. Also, with film back, WLF and lens, is pretty light.

I don't think I'd want to use a WLF on 645 and be stuck with shooting landscape orientation personally, I have my Rollei for compact WLF fun (and I do looove the WLF, I crop most of my 6x6 to 4:5 anyway so it's almost a 645 camera anyway).

I would be more concerned about focusing accuracy and ergonomics.
I don't know of any 645 camera with ergonomics similar to most 35mm slr.

I'm actually more comfortable with rangefinders than SLRs anyway, and from everything I've read the viewfinder on the Pearl IV is excellent (for its vintage anyway). The portrait orientation is a little funky, but I got used to it with the few rolls I put through my GS645S.

And better tonal gradation due to 1.8x as much film grains in the neg (in each direction) to portray the same subject.

This is the sort of thing I'm thinking about — I prefer the rendering of a Planar (for example), but the biggest thing for me with 35mm isn't so much sharpness/resolution, but tonal graduation and such. I don't have the technical background to explain it, but to me most 35mm work looks a little flat or crushed? Especially when I'm shooting B&W, which I normally am

I know this is an apples to oranges comparison, but here's two shots taken the same day in the same location (just facing opposite directions) — The first with a planar lens design on my Konica IIIA, and the second with an early Planar on a Hasselblad I borrowed, both on HP5

2020-11-14-0023-Edit-Edit.jpeg MO10030_MO10030-R1-E005-Edit.jpeg
 

Dan Daniel

Subscriber
Joined
Jul 4, 2009
Messages
2,002
Location
upstate New York
Shooter
Medium Format
A Bronica ETR series camera with the speed winder and 90 degree prism is relatively small and handles like a 35mm SLR. In the US a common attitude to the ETRs is that if it breaks, you pick up another one since there were so many in use. But maybe recent price increases blows that out of the water. And New Zealand probably doesn't have the density of old cameras.

All in all, I would suggest you accept that if you want a particular quality similar to a particular lens and format, you use that lens and format. I've spent the last 15 years popping in and out of 6x4.5 cameras looking for what might be the same as you- pocket camera ease with medium format quality. And I accept defeat now. It simply won't happen. I carry a Kodak Medalist 6x9 or a Rolleiflex Planar in my bag almost all the time, and I know that I will not be let down by the camera whatever comes along. Sure, both are big and heavy. My 'sketchbook' days are over, as that was how I thought of the assorted 6x4.5, and often 35mm cameras, I've had over the years (and yes, 6x4.5 will look 'crushed,' less than 35mm but still).

I will suggest one camera to look at- the early Mamiya 6 folder. There are versions out there with built-in 6x4.5 masks (and automatic frame counters). I think that some models had 5 (6?) element lenses.
 

Mick Fagan

Subscriber
Joined
Sep 13, 2005
Messages
3,938
Location
Melbourne Au
Shooter
Multi Format
Going on what you are trying to do, which is to achieve a greater tonal range area for a given subject, then a 645 folder, or at least the 645 negative format, is certainly going to be better. That was my experience with using a Fuji GS 645 (Professional I think) which was Fuji's 645 folder with a 75mm lens. I was shooting it alongside my Nikon's to see exactly whether or not the tonal range had a better look; essentially it did so I bought it.

I looked at the then available versions of the Fuji 645 cameras and thought this was the pick of the crop as it suited my needs very well, quite robust, or as robust as any folder is and a wonderful focusing mechanism where you only need to put the pad of a finger into the ribbed recessed focusing plastic thingy and you were away and accurately focusing. I eventually moved it on as I became more focused on 4x5 cameras.

The 645 format enlarges almost perfectly onto Ilford's A4 B&W darkroom paper, the same as 35mm does. Positively minimum to no wastage if enlarging the full frame of either format onto that paper size. One can assume that if you are scanning the negatives and printing electronically, then the cropping, or lack thereof, would be the same as the darkroom version.
 
OP
OP
Madeleine Ostoja
Joined
Oct 2, 2020
Messages
45
Location
New Zealand
Shooter
Medium Format
Yeah the Fuji GS645 series has excellent glass, I had the GS645S version. Ultimately I sold it because I couldn’t justify keeping it considering how much it was worth, and how fragile it felt. In my short ownership it already started showing a few issues. I also really disliked the abysmal rangefinder patch. If I could find something more robust with a better rangefinder I’d be very happy.
 

btaylor

Subscriber
Joined
Dec 28, 2010
Messages
1,813
Location
Los Angeles
Shooter
Large Format
So you already have a Rolleiflex? Equip it with a Rolleimeter and now you have an eye level rangefinder camera. Done!
 

Helge

Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2018
Messages
3,052
Location
Denmark
Shooter
Medium Format
The tonal thing is malarkey.
If anything it’s something to do with scanning, or pure placebo.
If you take a minute to think about how film works, it makes absolutely no sense that tonal gradations should be somehow better on larger formats.
All the tonality possible can be contained in a small grain cluster.

Granularity and detail is better, yes.
Tonality no.

The human brain has a marvelous way of detecting “something” it doesn’t quite understand, and then come up with an explanation, that is often false, one the spot.

Get any vintage 645 folder and call it a day.
Doesn’t really matter too much which one, as long as you can find a couple of good reviews. And stop down generously.

Don’t walk around with it in your pocket all day though.
No camera really likes that.
A pocket is a terrible environment for a camera. It’s humid and far more bumpy than you imagine. Ask Donald what it does to leatherette in short order.
Your beautiful vintage folder is going to look like crap in a week or two.

Good photography can’t be fumbled into existence or happened upon.
That’s a popular myth.
I have litterally never taken a keeper when just strolling out and about. Or at least the ratio depending on how you define “out and about” is one to a thousand.
I can do “location scouting” and “sketches” with my phone and return later though.
 
Last edited:

Tony-S

Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2009
Messages
1,062
Location
Colorado, USA
Shooter
Multi Format
...because there's no way I can afford the Bronica RF645 I actually want, and I had the Fuji GS645S but didn't love the handling or fragility.
Yeah, I had a GS645 for a few days before sending it back. Camera failed shortly after it arrived.
If the RF645 wasn't destined to be an electronically dead brick one day I'd seriously consider selling everything and just getting one.
The biggest problem with the RF645 is that the screw that holds the film roll sprocket tightens over time and eventually gets so tight that winding the film can break the linkage to the film advance lever. Mine is getting tight and I need to remove and oil it before putting another roll of film in. But it's tough to get to that screw with enough leverage to loosen it. But you are right - it is a fantastic camera (although prices are really out of sight!).
 
Last edited:

grain elevator

Subscriber
Joined
Jan 31, 2020
Messages
751
Location
Germany
Shooter
Multi Format
So you already have a Rolleiflex? Equip it with a Rolleimeter and now you have an eye level rangefinder camera. Done!
This! I don't see what you need beyond the Rollei, you write "compact", but really that's only as long as the folders are folded, and when they are, you'll have them in a bag where you can probably also accommodate the larger size of the Rollei. TLRs also elicit positive reactions from people on the street.
 

drmoss_ca

Subscriber
Joined
Apr 25, 2010
Messages
462
Shooter
Multi Format
Before the great sell-off, I had a Fuji GA645, and I called it my medium format Instamatic. Auto-exposure and auto-focus, auto-wind on. It would make a good camera for street photography (and I believe that is what it's doing in NYC these days). Excellent lens. I hear they are not very repairable any more and some are beginning to fail. But when it works, it's a wonder.
 

Tom Kershaw

Subscriber
Joined
Jun 5, 2004
Messages
4,796
Location
Norfolk, United Kingdom
Shooter
Multi Format
If the RF645 wasn't destined to be an electronically dead brick one day I'd seriously consider selling everything and just getting one.

I had a Bronica RF645 for a few years before selling it to get a Mamiya 7ii. The Bronica is a solid and compact camera but mine needed servicing after a while to get the film winding mechanism working consistently. You are probably aware that the RF645 makes an odd "whirring" noise when the shutter is pressed which may cause a nuisance in certain photographic situations.
 

flavio81

Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2014
Messages
4,962
Location
Lima, Peru
Shooter
Medium Format
I know the "645 is no better than 35mm" thing is mostly rubbish, it's still a huge jump in format, but what about when you bring different quality optics into it? The Pearl has a decent Tessar, and apparently for a folder it's pretty good, but it's still an old folder.

Folders often have a very hard time keeping the film flat and the lens perfectly parallel to the film.

Better choose a 6x4.5 vintage SLR, and it will kick out the pants of 35mm.
 

flavio81

Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2014
Messages
4,962
Location
Lima, Peru
Shooter
Medium Format
If you take a minute to think about how film works, it makes absolutely no sense that tonal gradations should be somehow better on larger formats.
All the tonality possible can be contained in a small grain cluster.

Grain is always dark, there is no grain gradations. It is the size and density of the grains on an area the ones that make the gradations. Thus, for larger magnifications, a larger negative will give better gradations...

Just print the same shot from 35mm and from 6x7 at the same final print size, even better if it's a big size.
 

Helge

Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2018
Messages
3,052
Location
Denmark
Shooter
Medium Format
Grain is always dark, there is no grain gradations. It is the size and density of the grains on an area the ones that make the gradations. Thus, for larger magnifications, a larger negative will give better gradations...

Just print the same shot from 35mm and from 6x7 at the same final print size, even better if it's a big size.
No it’s not.
Though it’s a common fallacy.
Grain is not binary. It can be and most often is exposed and developed to any degree.
With a monodisperse emulsion, you can in theory have all the range in one grain. But overlap is almost always an important factor in reaching DMax.
 
OP
OP
Madeleine Ostoja
Joined
Oct 2, 2020
Messages
45
Location
New Zealand
Shooter
Medium Format
Good photography can’t be fumbled into existence or happened upon.
That’s a popular myth.
I have litterally never taken a keeper when just strolling out and about. Or at least the ratio depending on how you define “out and about” is one to a thousand

I think most street photographers would disagree with you. What works for your process isn’t a universal truth. I have plenty of “keepers” that I’ve taken on my lunch break, both the images I posted before included. This kind of weird gatekeeping is something that really gets to me in the film photography community.
 

Paul Howell

Subscriber
Joined
Dec 23, 2004
Messages
7,378
Location
Scottsdale Az
Shooter
Multi Format
I would go for Mamiya 6, the 50s folder, has a great lens, my version is still in alignment, I think the way is focuses internally works really well. Don't need to worry about orientation, just crop to 6X4.5, you even use a very thin grease penciled lines on the viewfinder to give both horizonal and vertical 6X4.5 lines. Prices are pretty good.
 

reddesert

Member
Joined
Jul 22, 2019
Messages
1,279
Location
SAZ
Shooter
Hybrid
I know the "645 is no better than 35mm" thing is mostly rubbish, it's still a huge jump in format, but what about when you bring different quality optics into it? The Pearl has a decent Tessar, and apparently for a folder it's pretty good, but it's still an old folder. Alternatively I could invest more heavily in 35mm, maybe jumping ship to Contax to get my hands on a Planar, or really saving up and getting a Leica M2 and some modern Voigtlander glass. Would the resolution difference of 645 still be a big deal then?

Just going to address this part of the question, since not sure anyone has yet. If you find a perceptible difference between medium format and your current 35mm kit, I don't think fancier-name 35mm lenses are going to make up the difference. Assuming you're using typical normal lenses for the kit you mentioned (Canon RF and Olympus OM), those are quality lenses that are the same basic Planar-type lens design as Zeiss/Voigtlander/whatever normal lenses. The qualities that you see in medium format may have to do with the lessened film grain, the lower depth of field, or just the lower enlargement factor that places less of a demand on the lens+film combo.

For any vintage medium format camera but especially folders, I think it's important to check the rangefinder and the lens to film plane alignment - you can do this by taking a picture of a grassy or treed slope, for example, and examining the negative to check that the sharpest area is where you expect and that it's even across the field of view.

There are posters on Photrio who are very insistent on their way or photographic practice being the correct way and on demeaning other approaches. It's unfortunate and there is little to be gained by engaging them.
 

Deleted member 88956

Zeiss Ikonta 521 with Tessar, great little soldier. Zone focusing or hyper focal and off you go. Not modern ergonomics, just good old solidity in a cute vintage package. Girls will be dropping their clothes off at first sight.
 

Helge

Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2018
Messages
3,052
Location
Denmark
Shooter
Medium Format
I think most street photographers would disagree with you. What works for your process isn’t a universal truth. I have plenty of “keepers” that I’ve taken on my lunch break, both the images I posted before included. This kind of weird gatekeeping is something that really gets to me in the film photography community.

Almost any experienced street photographer goes out with the intent of taking photographs, first and only.
Not as an additional thing to do while shopping or as a secondary thing to do on a social stroll.

Taking good photos, especially emerging/documentary/decisive moment style stuff, is quite hard work. Mentally and physically.

You might sometimes mask your photo taking as something else, to gain access or blend in, while really concentrating on the photography part.
For example I did some I’m quite happy with in a local store, not of customers or employees but simply of cooling cabinets and shelves and installations.
I would probably have been told to leave or stop, if I just came in and started to shoot.

“Gatekeeping” seems to have become one of those “power words” that you can instantly shame or cancel any stance or opinion out of existence with. To the detriment of the real meaning and intent of the word.

I’m not some grey eminence who has the power to keep you from attaining your life goals.
I’m merely offering some hard-won advice.

Look, I’m not saying you shouldn’t bring a film camera on vacation or occasionally bring it elsewhere for a casual snap.
Everybody has gotten some nice momentos from such outings.

I’m merely saying when I did try the “have a folder camera on me at all times” thing over a period, all I ended up with was a pocket polished, banged up, lint marinated camera with lose leatherette, that had been reluctantly pulled out a few times to take some pretty mediocre photos of things and situations I didn’t even feel that strongly about, or thought I had time to really compose right.
Waste of camera, film and most important time and effort.

Any “street photographer” you hear about, read about, watch a documentary on, or randomly spot, almost always goes out with the sole intent of photography.

Your mileage and luck may, of course, vary.

I’m not going to criticize your photos. That’s not something I feel comfortable doing. and they are truly good IMO, for what it’s worth.
But you got to ask yourself, “is it something I’d print and hang on the wall?”.
That to me, is the ultimate test to see if you are using a 120 roll right, and is making progress.
Just one truly good candidate per roll is very, very good.
 
Last edited:
Photrio.com contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.
To read our full affiliate disclosure statement please click Here.

PHOTRIO PARTNERS EQUALLY FUNDING OUR COMMUNITY:



Ilford ADOX Freestyle Photographic Stearman Press Weldon Color Lab
Top Bottom