The 52 Project, Week 34: Make it a Mamiya!

This week, I'd like to discuss a VERY real issue that affects millions of photographers worldwide. Gear Acquisition Syndrome, GAS as it's more affectionately called, is a truly debilitating disease. It starts off much like any other addiction, with that first purchase. Be it toy camera or serious SLR rig, that first purchase never seems to be enough for GAS's insatiable appetite.

"I'll just go ahead and get one more lens for that Canon AE-1", you say.

It's already too late! Soon the "absolute" statements start becoming more and more ridiculous, all to fuel the never-ending GAS.

"But if I never try that Hasselblad 503CX, I'm sure there's something in photography that I'll be missing!"

And if there's still a shred of money left in your bank account, large format sets in. 0__0

"Wow! That 4x5 rig costs less than the Hasselblad. See? It's not that bad, I'll just go ahead and buy that too."

Little do you know, that film, paper, enlargers, chemistry, and a home darkroom are lurking right around the corner. At this point, it's best just to committ yourself now and save family and friends the pain.

Seriously, though, when one takes the next step by purchasing new photographic equipment, it's VERY easy to let the commercial interests grab hold of you and never let go. Got a photography magazine handy? Just open it up and look around; read an article or two. It becomes apparent through this magazine that the only conceivable way to become a better photographer is to buy whatever they're selling. And they're selling A LOT! Instead of dreading over what you don't have, how about going outside, having fun, and maybe take some fun pictures? You'll learn way more about photography doing/shooting what you love, and have more fun while doing it!

So after all this preaching about the GAS and its horrible consequences, why would I got out and purchase new gear? At the moment, I keep telling myself necessity, future weddings, commercial gigs, etc. Deep down inside, though, I know the answer is that it's just plain cool and "I can't live without one" >__<. I now present to you, the Mamiya 645AF

A few quick things about this newest acquisition:

  • It takes 120 film, like the Hasselblad, but also takes 220!
  • It produces a negative of 6x4.5cm, giving 16/32 shots per roll 120/220
  • It has spectacular autofocus, metering, and shooting modes, sometimes better than my Canon 1D!
  • It auto-winds the film from start to finish. A lifesaver in higher pressure environments such as weddings.
  • It accepts manual focus lenses from the long legacy of Mamiya 645 lenses.
  • It's future-proof. Should the future of film somehow turn grim, I can slap a digital back on this baby, assuming of course I can afford a new car. x__x

But enough about the camera, let's get onto some samples!


Pretty standard outdoor test shot.

This first roll of 16 through the Mamiya needed to be done with a pretty well-known, baseline standard of all films. Therefore, I had no choice but to use good 'ole Tri-X. Everything was shot at ISO 400, with a +1/3 stop compensation, just personal taste with this film. The film was later souped in D-76 stock for 7.5 minutes, making for results ANYBODY, even photo students, could expect from this camera.



The indoor test shots were surprisingly sharp!


Moving indoors, the camera performed quite well under low light conditions. The AF assist beam, also known as the moment-spoiler, does a pretty good job finding a subject quickly and accurately. Once the light falls below a 1/4 second exposure, however, it seems to hunt forever. The shot to the right was taken at 1/15th second, a pleasant surprise beckoning back to my days of silly slow hand-held digital exposures.



High contrast indoor scene? No problem.


Around the same time I started testing this camera out, I got the bright idea to make a few how-to videos in HD for both the Mamiya 645AF and the Hasselblad 500C. You can view the Mamiya 645AF video below, and you can find the Hasselblad 500C video here. Lauren, to the left of this paragraph, was kind enough to be my lovely production assistant for the day. We made it easy by agreeing to do one-takes only. x__x





Something Good: The Mamiya's meter is fantastic! Light readings were always spot on a variety of different light.

Something Bad: The shutter release noise and auto wind noises that the camera makes can be a little loud/annoying if in a sound sensitive environment. Just something to keep in mind.

Something Learned: I need to stop cutting my head off in future videos. For some reason, it sounded like a good idea at the time of recording. Now I know better.

Next Week: Back to the 'Blad + B&W.