The Pentax 645

In part 1 of this 2- part series I gave an overview of why I enjoyed medium format film cameras. The overview of the first two cameras I compared  the Hasselblad 501c and Mamiya RZ67. While they are separated by size, format, and all mechanical versus some automation, there are definite similarities between those two cameras. Both are full system cameras where three major components can be swapped out: the film back, viewfinders, and lenses.

For part 2, I will be giving an overview of not only two different formats, but cameras with declining modularity. The first only allows swapping out lenses and the last does not even allow that.

I had a bit of a photography based windfall and I wanted to burn it acquiring a Pentax 6X7. After some thought I changed my mind since I already had a 6X7 camera, but after some research I stumbled upon the Pentax 645 camera I had not heard of before.

Where purchased:

The purchasing experience was a bit of a whirlwind on this one. I ended up on eBay and made a bid, which is rare for me. I had to let the first lens I bid on go once competition outstripped common sense among those bidding. The body came from the US Northeast and the first lens I ended up buying came from overseas.

How it is kitted:

Initially body and one normal lens.

What accessories have I added for it:

Intent on having matching lens set ups for each camera soon after I purchased a portrait lens from KEH.


Can't switch out viewfinder or film back mid-roll since both are integrated.

Diopter easy to bump so you must make sure to check it often.

Struggling on cons for this one. But here's one: No leaf shutter, so there is slower flash sync speeds than the others, but I typically do not shoot film with flash.

What makes it special?

In body, metering means auto everything minus AF including program mode, shutter priority mode and my favorite, aperture priority mode.

Economy. This camera gets 15 exposures out of a 120 roll!

Includes continuous autowinder shooting, as well as single shot autowinder. Tried it once to see if it works. Then turned it off. That could get expensive quickly.

Batteries. 6 AA batteries that can be bought anywhere go in the grip.

Small, lightweight, and will feel more familiar to many. Easily makes it the most portable and easy to use of the four. In some ways, this makes this the most fun camera to use of the bunch.

Sample Gallery (more samples):





Fujica GW690.

It has the nickname "Texas Leica". Come on! Want a Leica-like focusing experience and body style, but can't afford a Leica film or otherwise? Want 6X9 negatives that dwarf some instant pictures? All of this giant rangefinder goodness for fraction of the cost of a used film Leica.

Where I purchased:

KEH Camera 

How it is  kitted:

As is. Fixed lens. But a great one.

What accessories have I added for it:

None. Well, I did add a $13 cold shoe to sync port flash adapter that I may never actually use.


Can't change lenses. No internal metering. Big honking negative means only 8 shots per 120 roll. More than any other this camera prompted me to pick up a film negative scanner to save on processing. A great move by the way.

What makes it special?

Can't change lenses (pro). Saves the owner from GAS.

Big honking negative (pro). Sweet Mother McRee, the detail these huge negatives retain.

A wonderful manual shooting experience. Very satisfying to hold a comically large rangefinder.

Perhaps due to scale, the viewfinder is immense and I find this easier to focus than the few Leicas I have tried. I am not saying that focusing on Leica was hard, however I found this even easier. It is very apparent when the focus images converge.

Large, but light and a fantastic price considering the images it can produce.

Sample Gallery (more samples):

Still there? Great.

What camera is right for you? I have no idea. What camera do I prefer? Depends. Going out with the family or running errands? Pentax 645. Focus and shoot. Batteries can be picked up anywhere.

Feeling all old timey and want some back to basics rudimentary handheld action? Making portraits off location? Hasselblad all day.

Portrait session at or close to home or feel like a monopod garden stroll? Want some AE action? Mamiya ma'am or sir.

Want to get unbelievable resolution and answer a few questions when you pull out what looks like a movie prop? Fujica.

While each has relative strengths and weaknesses any of these cameras could be used interchangeably for the tasks listed above and are capable of great images.

If you’ve always wanted a Hasselblad and you are hesitant to pull the trigger, go for it if you have the means. You won't regret it!  And if you do regret it these are so popular and in demand still that you will have no troubles recouping your investment.

If you get one of the other three just make sure you pay a fair price, though still easy to sell usually.

If completely unsure go with a Holga. Mine was $50 for the fancy model with a flash. I predict good fun and great results with patience and practice.

Happy shooting!