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The GA645zi
Updated: I now have a more comprehensive review of the GA645Zi on my 'thewsreviews blog.

No, it's not the Fuji X10, but it's clearly related:

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This is my newest acquisition, and the last one for a while. It's a Fuji GA645zi, a circa-2001 medium format machine that has Program, Aperture, and Manual exposure modes but is otherwise essentially a point-and-shoot camera. Not only does it have built-in metering, it has auto focus and auto film advance. With sixteen exposures on a roll of 120 film, this is my new travel camera for long trips.

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The GA645 is small for what it is. As a 645 camera its negatives are 56mm high, in portrait orientation, while the Olympus XA captures 36mm in height when it's stood on end. The GA645's negatives are 41mm wide versus 24mm for the small-format camera. The "zi" model of the GA645 has a zoom lens that's about the equivalent of a 33-55mm; its aperture range is f/4.5-6.9, which isn't bright but is reasonable for a leaf-shutter camera. Remember also that medium format has less depth of field than smaller formats, so this camera is still able to play with selective focus even if it isn't its strength.

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While it looks bulky, the GA645 is actually just barely taller than the chassis of a 'prosumer' SLR like the D300/D700 or 5D/7D cameras; it's quite a bit lower than the D700's prism housing and has less obstructions to snag. It is a little wider, but not as deep as the SLR camera with even a modest lens attached. Naturally the Fuji's lens retracts somewhat when the camera is turned off. I need to add six rolls of film to the scale with the GA645zi on it to make it match the weight of the Nikon D700 body with no lens attached.

With the GA645zi I've accomplished two important things. The most significant is that I now have a medium-format camera that will disappear in the little $20 common-as-dirt MEC Pod sling pack that I use as a day bag – this image search not only shows the bag, but currently includes two of my photos in the first few dozen results. The camera's size and vertical-carry lugs also makes it one that I can comfortably carry without a camera bag if I do a longer road trip that would see me living out of a backpack, and it will still be useable when I'm half-blind from sleep depravation.

The other important thing about this camera is that I've finally been able to simultaneously own two cameras with the same name. My Zeiss Ikon rangefinder is commonly called the "ZI" and the Fuji GA645's "Zi" badge distinguishes it from the very different "i", "W", and "Wi" models. Granted, I'm not as good at duplicating names as Canon is – my scanner is the 9000F and my printer is the Pro9000mkII – but it's a pretty cool accomplishment.

And Zig, even though it's not one of the fuji 6x9 rangefinders, you are directly responsible for my owning this camera. (That's a good thing.)

Photos to follow next week – I'll be taking a test roll over the next day or two, and then going away over the weekend, so it will be developed and scanned early next week. • @matthewpiers | | @thewsreviews •

Exciting news - and while its not small, it looks extremely compact given the film format. Can''t wait to see some photos.
The more I look at this, the more exciting it becomes. One of the biggest drawbacks to MF cameras has always been the complexity of the shooting experience. We all like to fiddle, but its hard to take 10 minutes to setup a shot.

The Fuji here seems to streamline a lot of that into a more P&S experience - which isn't necessarily a bad thing - a bit of extra convenience I mean. 35-55 is also a smashing focal length range. It seems big at first flush, but its comparable to the D700 with a prime - and most of the time the D700 is seen in tandem with a 24-70 or some such behemoth.

I at first thought you were overstating to say that this was an ideal travel camera, but now I am seeing your point. Less is more sometimes.
That is a beautiful camera. I really think Fuji developed some seriously skilled optics from the 80s and into the 90s, and I'd warrant this camera to be a pearl of great price...and extremely light too, considering that we'd been used to Mamiya, Pentax and Bronica, the last of which I found bulky. I remember all these 645s being extremely crisp in ouput, but the Fujis for me had that special zing. Delighted for you Matthew! I've heard many times in my life that I've been "directly responsible" for several is thus a blessing to be told that this is in a good way. Wink Big Grin
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Robert, thanks, this is the most excited I've been about a new camera in weeks - possibly in months. Big Grin But seriously, I am really excited about it, and after reading what I could find about it online (surprisingly little) the reality seems even better than I expected. I was originally shopping for one of the older non-zoom models, but after just one basic test roll I'm already amazed at how useful the zoom lens is.

Having a travel camera that's essentially a big P&S really appeals to me. I can control the aperture and exposure compensation, which is essentially all I do with any camera, and there's really not that much more to it. All of the medium-format complexity disappears, so none of my scarce energy is drawn away from the basics of light, composition, and timing. I still stand by my Hasselblad as a travel camera for the times when I can bring a tripod and concentrate on the mechanical ritual of photo-taking. I could see that working if I went to Iceland with a group of like-minded photographers, or to visit my father in LA who lives just up the street from some very photogenic coastline, or for an early-spring trip to Coney Island when it's not too crowded. But there's no way I would use a Hasselblad in Italy, on the Atlantic coast in February, or on a multi-day/multi-city bus trip. The GA645 gives me a camera that's simpler than my Zeiss Ikon, easy to carry, needs no accessories, and I still have a 6x4.5cm negative at the end of the day.

Zig, your praise for the larger Fujifilm rangefinders struck a chord, but with their fixed lenses they're just too bulky for me.The 645 fire was lit when I was near an exceptionally nice Mamiya 645 SLR, but ultimately it's only about a centimetre smaller than my Hasselblad and that's not a significant difference no matter how many more photos I get per roll of film. (The Mamiya and Bronica 645 rangefinders are also wonderful, but heavier and well out of my budget.) Even with only one test roll developed, and not even scanned yet, I can tell that this is going to be an exceptional camera. So thanks again.

Photos to come soonish… • @matthewpiers | | @thewsreviews •
matthew Wrote:... if I went to Iceland with a group of like-minded photographers...
Is this something you have in the works, or are you trolling for volunteers? Wink

Glad to see the camera working out for you. It looks like a trim package that takes some of the tedium out of MF.

Robert, Iceland's on my to-do list, but not for the immediate future. Maybe a few years down the line… I had actually suggested it as a potential spot for my honeymoon last year, but while the idea wasn't dismissed immediately, it wasn't the ideal trip at the time. Big Grin

I scanned some of the very basic test roll this morning, and I wasn't expecting much. I have a few freebie rolls of iso800 film that expired in 2003, and give it to a very cheap lab to process. I ran through the roll by adding a few extra minutes to my morning walk to work on a drizzly day – absolutely nothing special. Yet I have to say that I'm quite impressed. At it's 'telephoto' setting the geometric distortion is well corrected, which is my most important characteristic. And I also took a set to check near focus and resulting background blur, and was really impressed by the sharpness of the near ground and the smoothness of the background. This little Fuji ZI isn't a replacement for my big Fuji GX, or my other ZI, but I never thought that my 'daily carry' camera could be a medium format. • @matthewpiers | | @thewsreviews •
Some quick sample photos, all in low light and very roughly edited:

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Quick, before reading any further: take a guess at the shutter speeds.

All are wide open (f/4.5) at 55mm, for about a 35mm equivalent. and exposed at the film's box speed of iso400. While none of them are crisply detailed, and I wouldn't use these shutter speeds for any image that depends on fine detail for its effect, I find them perfectly acceptable for street scenes where the intent is more evocative than descriptive.

The street photo was taken at 1/6s, the fountains is at 1/20s, and the subway is 1/15s. The first two were taken while also holding an umbrella on a windy evening. • @matthewpiers | | @thewsreviews •
1/6 sec you say? Bloody impressive.

Very nice work and a great demo of the Fuji's capabilities.
Now that's a nice lens: that precision in eliminating distortion is no mean feat. I'm guessing this to be Fuji film stock by the look of the contrast?
These must give you a spring to your step, thank you very much for letting us see them.
I remember the depth of field thang...really great that one can use apertures smaller than f16 with total trust about IQ but overall it necessitated me learning to focus hyperfocally. And distance scales too: a retro learning curve, really engendering a trust in the mechanics rather than software.
Er...edited..sorry, some of my comment will not make sense, as I just confused this with its earlier ancestor Tongue )
Fuji really had it cracked, with their skill in lens and shutter engineering, though I dimly remember that shutters were recommended to have a service at intervals we might find a little insistent nowadays. Is there an actuations-counter on this by the way?
All my stuff is here:
(Just click on the TOP RIGHT buttons to take you to my Image Galleries or Music Rooms!)
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I was expecting to see nothing but blobs and streaks on this roll of film, so I was amazed to see the results. Now I want to try out the little fuji in better light – and ideally with an interesting subject. While the 645 is a great travel camera, and easy to carry around the city, I can't think of anywhere to take it right now. Perhaps I'll have better inspiration this afternoon. Big Grin

One thing that I've noticed is how much faster I go through film with an autofocus camera. That's true of my small equipment as well; I can go through a roll of film in my Nikon F100 with ease, while my Zeiss Ikon generally needs a couple of outings before I send anything in to be developed. I'm not sure exactly what is making the difference, but I suspect that some of it is simply the faster focusing speed, while mostly it's the reduced mental workload from not having to concentrate so much on the mechanics. I'm not any more likely to take snapshots or extra frames with either focusing system.

My tester roll showed some barrel distortion on the wide end of the lens, but that was focused about 3-5 metres away. I'm not seeing anything to complain about in these frames, and I can pick some pretty small nits. I'm very happy with this camera.

The shutter counter on the GA645 reports only by hundreds, and when I received it it showed 400 exposures. Now, with two rolls of film (32 frames) and lots of dry firing, it shows 500. I don't know how many owners it has had, since the ebay person I bought it from is a reseller, but essentially the camera has just been checked to see if it's working a few times and then kept out of harm's way. The manual suggests having a service centre check it after 5,000 exposures, but the word on the internet is that 10,000 is what the people who actually do the work recommend. That is pretty frequent by our digital camera standards, but given this ones usage rate, it should be good for about a century.

The film for these photos is my usual MF standard, Kodak's The New Portra 400. Usually I over-expose it, but for these I kept its rated speed. I'm trying to find some Fuji 400H (née NPH) but none of the stores near me sell it. That's the next thing on my to-do list. • @matthewpiers | | @thewsreviews •

All my stuff is here:
(Just click on the TOP RIGHT buttons to take you to my Image Galleries or Music Rooms!)
My band TRASHVILLE, in which I'm lead guitarist:
#13 do you want to comment on the slow shutter speeds that you attained - seems like better results than you should have had while juggling an umbrella in the wind... D

Do you figure that is down to extra stability due to the size or what? When I took photos @1/6 - even with the string monopod - they were softer than that. I'm super curious.
I'm still amazed at the results from the slow shutter speeds. I even looked back at the other few photos that I took that night, to see if I had selected just the sharp ones, and while the rest were even less interesting that these they weren't particularly softer. I can only conclude that it's a combination of the weight of the camera (about a kilogram) combined with the tiny leaf-shutter and lack of a viewing mirror that gives absolutely no vibration.

These web-sized images do have the advantage of being tiny; the original scans are about 20MP even after being downsampled in the scanning process. But even when magnified on the screen it's still respectable, and could probably do an 8x10 or 11x14 without any issue with softness. I'll see if I can have some magnified crops to post. • @matthewpiers | | @thewsreviews •
Matthew, your new camera seems very appealing - a lot of quality in a relatively small package.
Please see my photos at (fewer, better image quality, not updated lately)
or at (all photos)
You can't ask for any more than that as far as low shutter speed. I'm super impressed - I didn't see that coming when you frist unveiled the new rig.

Wow.. those first two photos are stunning Matthew. The colour and clarity is superb, and the photographer didn't do a bad job either. Tongue
I'm really looking forward to seeing more from this little beastie.

I love the idea of medium format, and I love the idea of compact medium format even more. But I'm yet to stumble across a camera system within my budget that I just can't resist. I must admit to not researching them as much as I would like to though.

Good luck with your new toy. It looks extremely promising so far.
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"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Einstein.
Pavel, there's a lot to be said for good quality from a small package. This thing is near-hasselblad quality – and I say 'near' because my hasselblad would be on a tripod, fired with a remote release – but about the same size and weight as my Zeiss Ikon with the two lenses that this one's zoom replaces. I actually carry this camera on a long shoulder strap, so with a couple of rolls of film in my pocket I don't even need a camera bag. That could be very handy as I'm thinking of doing a multi-city bus trip that would have me living out of a small backpack.

Robert, there are only a couple of decent reviews of this camera on-line, and none of them mentioned inhuman hand-held shutter speeds. I'm going to have to experiment with this some more just to make sure I wasn't just extremely lucky. But my fingers are crossed: if I can reliably hand-hold down to 1/15s for suitable subjects, then that extends the available shooting time further into dusk, and is a huge win for a travel camera. With medium-format film. That's just madness.

There's even a cable release socket on the side of the camera, which could combine with the vibration-free shutter to let a small tripod produce good results. The catch is that the camera only meters down to a two-second exposure, and does "bulb" beyond that, so a hand-held meter or bracketing with solid guesswork will be required. But considering that I thought I was buying just a good-quality daylight camera, all of this is a huge bonus.

Adrian, thanks, and it's all the camera. I really got into medium format backwards, because the first camera I bought makes some 4x5" large format rigs look small and straightforward. It's all been simplification since then.

Cost is an issue with medium format; I spend about $15/roll of film. Of course this 6x4.5cm camera gets 16 frames on a roll versus a hasselblad's 12, and unless I really want square prints – CD covers, perhaps? – the extra area is wasted. So I've done the math, and my GA645zi will pay for itself after only 154 rolls of film.

Shuttertalk really needs a laughing-while-crying emoticon.

For what it's worth, this is almost certainly the best writeup of the GA645 online: • @matthewpiers | | @thewsreviews •
While the idea of a 100% crop is a fiction for scanned images, here are a couple anyway:

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There's certainly some camera movement in the first one (1/6s) but the last one (1/15s) is about as good as the few photos that I have from 1/45s or faster. I can't test these out as prints, since my Canon Pro9000mkII heard that the new Canon Pro-1 would be out soon, and simultaneously exhausted six of its eight inks.

More tests to come – and hopefully some real photos, too. • @matthewpiers | | @thewsreviews •
Excellent deep dive. Looks you have a winner, there.

I've honestly always thought that an MF workflow wouldn't work for me, but I think you might have changed my mind.
Because there's no such thing as an open circle, here are a few photos to bring this thread back to the beginning – the GA645zi alongside the X10.

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There's clearly a fair bit of common ancestry. And there should be: both cameras are compact but advanced point-and-shoots for enthusiasts who want the best image quality without needing more complex and cumbersome systems. There's a little more than a decade between them, and a huge shift in technology, but Fuji is still Fuji. • @matthewpiers | | @thewsreviews •

Part of my wedding was shot on a Fujifilm medium format camera - can't remember the exact model... Big Grin
Remarkable when you consider the difference in sensor size...
Julian, there's a very good chance that it was one of this camera's immediate family. Probably not this model, since the zoom lens is darker than the prime siblings, but the bigger cousins that create 6x7 or 6x9 negatives go through film very quickly. And with this camera's vertical framing orientation, it's a natural for portraits.

Hmmm… I have some cousins who are getting married next year… I'm lucky that there's an actual fashion/people photographer in the family who is both better than me and a closer relation, but I wouldn't object to being a second (third, fourth…) photographer with black and white film.

Robert, I hadn't actually thought about the different sensor sizes in these two cameras. The X10 uses a 2/3" sensor, which is a bit bigger than the LX5/XZ1, and almost double the size of the 1/2.3" sensor in the Pentax Q: fifty-eight square millimetres. The actual image area for a 6x4.5 negative is about 2300 square millimetres. So while the GA645 is bigger, it's not forty times bigger: despite its size, it's a very small camera. • @matthewpiers | | @thewsreviews •
One more family photo, just for fun:

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The camera on the lens is a Fujifilm Instax Wide; it's an instant film camera similar to the polaroid, and the only camera so far that actually has a bigger "negative" than the GA645zi.

I put another two rolls of film through the camera last weekend, and one of the things I was really interested in finding out was what the lower limits of hand-holding this camera is. It turns out that I was already pretty much there with my earlier photos: 1/15 is usually solid, but below that I really need to be careful. I have lots of soft photos to prove it. But when I'm very careful, and brace myself properly, the results can be good. This is a half-second exposure at 65mm (40mm-ish):

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Another issue that I wanted to check was flare resistance. This was wide open – f/4.5 – and 1/45s.

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And of course I'm always interested in how much geometric distortion a lens has, and how it behaves at different settings, so I photographed what would be an abnormally high number of brick walls if anyone else had done it. But for me it's pretty much my usual subject – this particular brick wall is one that I photographed with Big Fuji in the spring. (55mm, f/9.5, 1/100)

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The biggest thing that I've learned so far is that this isn't going to be a great camera for taking the kind of geometrically precise photos that I sometimes enjoy. The lens is very good, but the zoom can't rival something like the Zeiss primes that I use on my Ikon or Hasselblad, and the smallish finder with significant barrel distortion doesn't let me frame with the accuracy that I want. SLRs are unquestionably the best for that, so my Hasselblad looks like it will remain my "goldilocks" tradeoff for quality and portability. But of course I never really expected this little Fuji to be what I would choose for my most rigorously technical moods, and I'm still very enthusiastic about the possibilities it brings. • @matthewpiers | | @thewsreviews •

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