Fuji GA645 – The Awesome Film Camera

pict3343.jpgIf you define a professional camera as one that actually says professional on it, then the Fuji GA645 was my first pro caliber photo tool. When first released in the early 1990’s it went for something near to 1500 USD. Now they are commonly found on eBay for 300-500 USD. For professionals it means a camera with near point-and-shoot convince and killer tack-sharp medium format “pop”. It really is point-and-shoot. You depress the shutter button half-way, it focuses, depress further, it takes the picture. Given its geometry and size, the GA645 is easy to hold steady in low-light situations. As I mainly do travel and landscape with this camera. The lens is a 60mm Fujion with an f/4 aperture. Many people have found fault with this design, complaining that f/4 is just too slow, the same people who have shot down the Sigma DP1, which sports an f/4 objective. Of course, numbers on paper are just that, in practice I haven’t found the f/4 lens to be limiting. Toss in some ISO 400 or 800 speed film and you have the ability to shoot in low-light situations, and since you’re shooting with a 6×4.5 film size, the quality of the resulting image will still be fantastic, especially for such a mobile camera design. The automatic focus however, can be a bit frustrating. Every camera has limitations, and the autofocus is what adds a rain-cloud texture to the overall fantastically sunny experience of shooting with a GA645. See, once in a while I get my negatives or transparencies back and find the subject was out of focus and blurry. For this reason, in general the GA645 is best used for static subjects. The focus distance is displayed in the viewfinder, so you can always look there to make sure it’s about right. It’s also possible to do manual focusing, which is nice because the focus was easily fooled when I traversed from Bettmerhorn to Eggishorn in intermittent fog cover in the Swiss Alps. Shooting into the rising sun can also screw with the focus system, and in such situations I set the focus to infinity. Despite the autofocus limitations, the metering system is dead-on and I rarely have any exposure problems.


pict3352.jpgThe Fuji GA line sports a few accessories, which one is still able to pick up if one is so inclined. A flash bracket and flash we produced, the basic GA bracket is shown here. Somehow I’ve acquired one bracket and two flashes, both of which I never actually use with my GA645. If you do use them however, the flash exposes very nicely with a butter popping sound. The bracket has a tilting head, so when you rotate the camera to shoot in landscape orientation, you can rotate the flash 90 degrees (similar to the Sony HVL-58). I sometimes use the bracket with my Minolta 7D. Since neither is produced anymore, they can be had on the used market for either reasonable or absurd prices. The one useful accessory I do use often is the tripod bracket. It lets you mount the camera and rotate around the axis of the lens, perfectly balanced and engineered. A macro attachment is also available, but doing macro work without being able to check the actual focus is bit hit and miss – and with medium format film, a tad expensive.

Zurich Night Limmatstrasse GA645

I mainly use my GA645 for travel and mountaineering. What does this mean? It’s been packed along on a month-long trip through Europe, throughout the American Southwest, in White Sands (New Mexico), sand dunes in Colorado, numerous trips in the Swiss Alps, atop Mt. Fuji in Japan, it’s been to the Zurich Street Parade, been used for night photography, and is my favorite camera when I stroll through Berlin. When you consider the quality of the Fuji EBC lens with the 6×45 format and a pack volume equal to that of a DSLR, it’s really a killer camera to take into the mountains. My GA645 has been all through Western Europe, Greece, the American Southwest, and is still taking kickass photos. Mine got a tad wet when I got lost on the Oberaletschglacier in Switzerland and slept next to a rock, but the next day it was shooting fine. The sand dunes of Colorado also did little against the durability of the GA645.


What place does a sweet film camera like the GA645 have in the digital world? A fair question, why does one need to shoot 6×4.5? Well, one doesn’t need to do anything but eat, sleep, and drink water. However, if you’re looking to capture a great deal of information on a photographic capture medium, the GA series is a fantastic answer when paired with something like the Nikon LS-9000 scanner. After three or four years of shooting with my GA cameras I rented the Nikon 9000 for a weekend to see what a decent scanner does with film from the GA. The raw files from the 9000 using Vuescan come out around 400 Mb. I also export a downsized tiff file to work with in Photoshop. Using techniques I’ve developed for portrait photography I manipulated the shadow tones and intensity to render a fantastic scene from a hike in the Swiss National Park near Zernez. The result is just fantastic.

Whispers of a Journey Into the Night


Berlin walk-way GA645The general risk with buying old discontinued Pro technology is that, if it breaks – you’re screwed. So it’s actually sort of cool that you can still send in the GA645 to Fuji for a tune-up. About two years ago I picked up some surplus GA645 parts from eBay, including some shutters and body pieces, so aside from Fuji, I’m somewhat confident I could fix basic problems should they arise. The Fuji GA line is just the start, you can also get into the GW and GSW cameras, which can be bough in 6×7, 6×8, and 6×9 versions, all offering jaw-dropping razon tack-sharp images. So getting down to Brass-Tax, in the age of digital sensors and megapixels the Fuji GA645 is a film camera which still rocks hardcore. If you have some spar funds I highly recommend picking one up.



Read more about the GA645 at dante stella.

33 thoughts on “Fuji GA645 – The Awesome Film Camera

  1. Spencer says:

    Seriously going to get myself a ga645 not the wide version as I feel that the 35mm would be wide enough and could apply it to other applications too.
    I think that the 35mm lens would be fine for landscapes though wouldn’t it?

  2. Mark says:

    Spencer,

    Yes, the GA645 is sweet for landscapes, I've used it for some of my favorite mountain captures. Plus the wide version is always more expensive and harder to find than the normal GA645 with the 60mm lens, plus it works better for the occasional portrait.

  3. Roach says:

    Nice one, couldnt agree more

  4. Wow! What a nice camera! Perfect for capturing every moments with your loved-ones, friends, families etc. Thanks for posting this and making a review. I’m considering to buy this, but is the price hefty? Anyways thanks!

  5. CJ says:

    Hey, could you explain how you do time lapse photography on the Fuji 645 to create the photo like the one above? Thank you!

  6. Mark says:

    Hi Cj,
    Basically I set my camera on a tripod and framed the shot. I have a long cable release, which screws into the little hole next to the shutter release button. The cable release is pretty cheap, basically it just has a small cord with a plunger, and allows you to trigger the shutter without touching the camera. I then took a few photos with the shutter speed set on Bulb, and counted out a few seconds for each image, and this image is one which looked the best.

  7. CJ says:

    Thanks Mark, what kind of film do you recommend to do this?

  8. Mark says:

    Well, most any film will do. I think I used Kodak 400 Portra for this shot. When you’re starting out with longer night exosures, the negative film will be a bit more forgiving if the exposure is off a little. I also use Fuji Provia occasionally. Also, if there’s enough light from the sky in the background, you can start by trusting what your camera meter says, and then use the Bulb setting to do a long shot, which I beleive is what I did here.

  9. Dude.. I am not much into reading, but somehow I got to read several articles on your blog. Its amazing how interesting it is for me to stop by you really often.

  10. ~manmohan~ says:

    Mark, you are an amazing guy, your blog simply awesome, I read lot of articles there and thanks to flickr through which I met your site.
    I have Nikon DSLR but your film camera is too good. Keep it up!!

  11. Arond says:

    I have one and love it, except mine is broken-ish. The mechanism for lens extension is muffed up. I can still use it, just not turn it off. Doing so causes it to glitch out and crash, which requires taking out the batteries several times to revive it. I asked a repair place if they could fix it. No problem! They just have to find the parts. Is it worth it…? Without a repair quote, it's hard to say. : (

  12. Mark says:

    Arond,

    I would go for it and get it fixed if the cost isn't more than half the cost of buying another one.

  13. Brilliant post, nicely done. And thanks for mentioning all that info – you have introduced to me to three new blogs and I love them all! Cheers

  14. Ruth says:

    So, you are basically not recommending this camera for professional candid photos of children (outdoors)? What camera (preferably medium-format) would you recommend for candids? Thanks.

  15. Mark says:

    Hi Ruth,
    As long as you pay attention to the focus when you are shooting, it should be ok. It also depends on how fast the children are moving. The issue is that the Fuji camera doesn't have an active focusing system like on a DSLR or a newer compact mirrorless camera like the Sony NEX or Pansonic GH2. If the people you're photographing are mainly slow moving and you check the distance read-out in the viewfinder you should be able to use the Fuji without any problems.

    You could also check out the Mamiya 645 manual focus system. You would need to manual focus, but it's a fast camera to operate. However, it's larger and heavier than the GA645. I think if know the limitations of the GA645 you can use it for photgraphing childeren outdoors with great success.

  16. Hey there! I'm at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone 3gs! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the superb work!

  17. Ed says:

    Great machine, saw it on TV in the hands of Sybille Bergemann, and seeing that I bought a Fuji myself. An old behemoth of a camera and not a slik as the 645 but hey, I don't have to lug the GX680 through the mountains since the highest Dutch mountain is the Mount Scenery at 877 meters (and that is at Saba in the Carribian). These camera are designed for one purpose only, to take pictures and that at the higest possible quality. Not designed by marketing managers but by engineers and that is a rarety these days.

    Greetings, Ed

  18. bobby says:

    Any suggestions on using Colkin type filters will this camera? Also, is there any wide angle lens attachments that can be used?

  19. Mark says:

    I've never mounted my Cokin filters on my GA645, but it could be done. You would need to test it to make sure the filter holder doesn't block the focus ability, but that's just a few minutes of testing. There was a macro add-on lens, but no wide angle lens attachments were produced for the GA645, the Fuji answer being to buy the wide version, the GA645w. But, I could imagine you could set the camera on infinity focus and then use a generic wide angle adapter screwed into the lens. I picked up the GA645w to shoot wider.

  20. Duncan says:

    I love mine. Here is some of my shots on Flickr. Its a great camera.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/schoolbookdepository…

  21. lainer says:

    I bought this camera a few years back and am just getting the time to use it. I just finished a roll of Velvia. I took some pictures of a community where I am having a house built. I just loaded this with B&W Tri-X Pan now. I also have a Rolleiflex TLR. I've heard so many good things and a few bad, (about focusing), but I really love the simplicity and mobility of this camera.

  22. Dear Mark
    Came across your blog when I was doing a search about my camera – the Fuji 645 zi . I have not used this camera for a few years but have dusted it off and I taking it with me when this weekend when I start the Haute Route in Chamonix ending up in Zermatt in about 10 days time. I am really looking forward to using it to take some great shots of the Alps. I will be using Velvia and have got about 30 rolls of film packed in my rucksack! I really hope I get some wonderful shots. I will post them when I get back. Thanks for inspiring me to take up this great film camera again even if it adds a bit to the weight of the rucksack.
    Kind regards
    David

  23. Peter says:

    Hello Mark, I have read your opinion from the Fuji Ga 645, i as looking for such a camera and finaly I have found a almost new (800 ) pictures Fuji GA645 ZI and I must say I love it, near to my Minolta CLE rangefinder these 2 camera;s I will use the most, it takes razersharp pictures, the only thing I must use to it is the strange portret viefinder to take pictures in alndscape i must trun the camera .
    Peter

  24. Eugen Mezei says:

    I bought this camera with great expectations thinking to use it as a big format snapshot camera for portraiture, friends, etc.
    As far as I’m happy with it for landscape and arhitecture it dissapointed for the original purpose I had in mind. Focusing at short distances (1,5-2,5 m) is a matter of luck. Read complaints from a guy who tried to use the camera for studio shots but he was not very specific about the distance (“short distance”). Guess he meant the same thing I experienced myself.
    Nice camera still, just not for closer range.

  25. Andrew says:

    I have a GA645Zi, similar to the GA645, and I’ve just had a few rolls back, only to discover that there are a load of shots with focussing errors. When this camera nails it, it really nails it, but often it just ends up focussing on the background, leaving your protrait subject looking blurry. I suspect I need to be more obvious withmy direction of the autofocus box (focussing on the person’s body, rather than head, recomposing and then triggering the shutter) Either that or set aperture priority and manually focussing to the hyperfocal distance (I have a handy iphone app that does ther sums, DOF master). I love the compactness of the camera (for a 645), but I suspect it is worthy of static objects long way away (landscapes) and set on P mode. It looks like I need to get myself a manual focus camera and leave the zi for landscape and long distance work.

  26. Serge says:

    Hello Mark,
    Thank you for the nice review! What filter do you usually use with this camera? Any protection filters? Cheers

  27. Mark says:

    Hi Serge,

    You’re welcome, generally I don’t use too many filers on the GA645, maybe a polarizer once in a while.

  28. Viki says:

    Thanks for this review! I ordered a GA645 last week and am expecting its arrival at any moment. I can’t wait to see what it can do. I see you are recommending ISO 400 or 800. I have some ISO 100 on hand already, but will using it be a waste of time and film? Any advice on the ISO front would be much appreciated.

  29. Mark says:

    Hi Viki,

    I shoot a lot of ISO100 as well, Velvia 100 is pretty awesome in the GA645. Really just depends on what you’re looking for. Since the lens is f4 maximum you would have more flexibility with 400/800 film. But the best thing is to experiment!

  30. Plamen says:

    Hello Mark,
    Is there are a multi exposure function on GA645, especially GA645Wi?
    I mean more than 2 frames, 7,8 or unlimited frames…
    Thanks
    Plamen

  31. Mark says:

    Hi Plamen,

    I don’t think you can do multiple exposures on one frame with the Fuji GA cameras, I just checked the manual again and didn’t see any mention of it.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/18005692/Fuji-GA645#scribd

    Mark

  32. Gerhard says:

    Hi,
    thanks for the great blog.
    I just got my GA645w, did the cleaning and a small repair and shot my first film today. Seems to be working fine …

  33. Excellent blog…Thanks for all the info, I ordered a GA645 from Japan on the strength of it just over five minutes ago…..Already impatient to try it out 🙂
    I often tend to under expose by a stop or so when I’m shooting colour negs and wondered whether this is fairly easy to do with the way the camera is designed?
    once again, great blog

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