My real interest in medium format began during my visit to San Clemente, California, in March for the Film Photography Project Walking Workshop 2015. On the second day of the workshop, Mat Marrash covered medium and large format film and cameras. Up to this point, my experience with medium format, 120 film, was with my Holga, Debonair, and Yashica-A. After seeing some of the medium format cameras at the workshop, I added a few to my wish list, like the Pentax 645, Mamiya 645, and of course a Hasselblad. My heart wanted the Pentax, my eyes wanted the Hasselblad, but my wallet led me to the Mamiya.
The Mamiya m645 Super is a medium format SLR camera made in 1985 by Mamiya in Tokyo, Japan. It features a Mamiya-Sekor 80mm f/2.8 lens, and shutter speeds are bulb, 4 through 1/1000 second. Like other medium format cameras, it’s a modular system, meaning you can add different components like a waist-level viewfinder, prism viewfinder, manual winding crank, powered winding grip, 120, 220, or Polaroid film back. One of the great features about using a medium format camera like the Mamiya is the ability to change the film back at any time using a metal dark slide to block the light from exposing the film.
These are some photos I captured on Kodak Tri-X 400 Black & White 120 Film, developed at home with New55 R3 Monobath, and scanned the negatives with an Epson Perfection V600 Photo scanner. The photos were taken at the Ogden Union Station Restoration Shop in Ogden, Utah. For more information about the shop and the restoration of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway locomotive No. 223, read my guest post at IndieOgden.com.
I really enjoy shooting with the m645 Super. The camera and grip feel good, solid in my hands. What don’t I like about it? The shutter on this camera is loud. The mirror slap and powered film advance make a sound loud enough to set off car alarms and register on a seismograph at Utah State. Yes, I’m exaggerating, a little, but this camera is loud. And while the lens is sharp, stopping down makes it very dark in the viewfinder. On a roll of color film where I was shooting outdoors (100 ISO), I found the best solution was to focus, stop down (f/16 or f/22), check the meter, set the shutter speed, and then take the shot. Even outdoors in bright sunlight, f/22 is very dark through the viewfinder. Most of my images at the restoration shop were done at f/2.8. The 80mm lens is a great choice for portraits, which was my intent for this purchase.
There’s something very satisfying about shooting medium format film in an SLR. To me, I like knowing that my image is going to yield a large negative. I actually surprised myself, being new to souping my own film at home, the larger negative was easier for me to position and feed on to a Paterson spool than 35mm film. I’ll be sharing some additional photos from this camera in the near future.