My One-Year Review of the Mamiya 645 1000s
s my first serious medium format film camera, the Mamiya 645 1000s served me extraordinarily well.
It's hard not to fall in love with the "medium format look," and the Mamiya 645 1000s was an amazing way to explore that. I picked this camera up in 2020 for about $500 in mint condition with an 80mm f/2.8 lens. I sold the lens after a short while in favor of a 55mm f/2.8 lens, the equivalent of a 35mm lens on a full frame camera. When I sold the camera nearly one year after having it, I made a $100 profit.
Here are just four of my favorite images on this camera (the last three were all on the same roll!)
You can watch the YouTube video to see me shoot my final roll on the camera before selling it, or I've listed out a few pros and cons here.
It's Light and Small
I've run into a few Mamiya RB67 and RZ67 owners while at film labs and while talking to strangers. Want to know the same thing that each and every one of them has said to me when they see the 645? "Man, I wish I could carry my RB67/RZ67 around with me as easily as you are with the 645. You literally have it strung over your shoulder casually."
You Get 15 Shots per Roll
Yes! You get 15 shots per 120 roll in the 645 format. Compare that to 12 shots on 6x6 format, 10 shots with 6x7, or 8 shots with 6x9. 645 is the most economical option when it comes to shooting medium format. For me, it costs about $10 per roll to buy and $7.50 to develop. I scan my negatives on an Epson V600, bringing the cost per shot on the Mamiya 645 to just over $1.
It's a Relatively Inexpensive Medium Format Camera
I say relatively because these cameras seems to go up in price every single day. I bought my Mamiya 645 1000s for $500 in 2020 and sold it for $650 in 2021. Absolutely crazy. Regardless, that price makes it a little easier to get into medium format vs. paying $2,000+ for a Hasselblad or $1,000+ for a Pentax 67.
Lenses Are Fast and Affordable
I sold the original 80mm f/2.8 lens that came with the camera for $250. I bought a 55mm f/2.8 lens for a little less than $200. On 645, an aperture of 2.8 is the full frame equivalent of approximately f/1.7 (check out mmCalc if you want to easily calculate full frame equivalents based on your sensor/film size). Most 6x6 and 6x7 lenses don't open up to f/2.8, making it possible to shoot in lower light conditions with the Mamiya 645.
It's Extremely Easy to Use
When it comes to ease of use, it just doesn't get easier than the Mamiya 645. Loading film into the holder is a breeze. As is focusing, changing the shutter speed or aperture, and ultimately taking a photo. All you do is spin the crank forward to get to the next photo, or, if you have the multiple exposure switch activated, then you turn the crank to get ready for your next exposure.
645 is Not a Massive Step Up From 35mm
While this isn't specific to the Mamiya 645, at just 2.7x larger than 35mm, the 645 format is only a slight step up from 35mm. It's certainly noticeable and definitely worth it in my opinion, but some may see this as a downside. As I mention in the video, it's easier to get the "medium format look" on 6x6 or 6x7 than it is on 645.
Check out this great video from Kyle McDougall if you want to hear more thoughts on 645 vs 35mm.
Lens Sharpness Varies
Depending on the lens you're using, sharpness can vary in ways that don't always follow the rule of getting sharper as you stop down the aperture. For example, on the standard 80mm f/2.8 lens that comes with many Mamiya 645 models, it has an excellent sharpness rating at f/2.8, f/4, and f/11, but its sharpness declines at f/5.6, f/8, f/16, and f/22.
Look at page 5 of this document to see the lens sharpness variation form the 80mm, 55mm, and 150mm Mamiya 645 lenses.
So, should you get the Mamiya 645? If you're looking to have a reliable, lightweight medium format camera that you can take anywhere, then absolutely yes!
If you're more concerned about getting the most amount of information possible and wanting to get the "medium format look" easily, then I would say save your money to get a 6x6 or 6x7 camera. The Mamiya RB67 is not wildly more expensive than the 645 at the moment, so it's a great option if you're on a budget of less than $1,000.