Mamiya M645 Super, Pro, Pro TL and E
The M645 Super, 645 Pro, 645 Pro TL and 645E are medium-format SLR cameras made in Japan by Mamiya from the mid-1980's. They make fifteen 6×4.5 cm images on a 120 roll film. Unlike Mamiya's 6×7 SLR cameras, they do not have bellows, but rely on helical focusing in the lenses. The camera bodies are made mainly from polycarbonate, in contrast to the metal bodies of the earlier M645 models. The lens mount is the same bayonet mount as that in those earlier cameras, and film inserts are also interchangeable between them. Viewfinders for the earlier cameras cannot be used with cameras from this series, and vice versa. The series was replaced with the auto-focus 645 AF series from late 1999.
The M645 Super was introduced in December 1985. It was designed by Tsuneaki Munakata, who also designed the Mamiya ZM and Mamiya RZ67. The camera represents a significant improvement upon the features of its predecessors (the original M645 and M645 1000S), in particular because of the extension of the modular construction to include removable film backs.
The camera has an electronically-timed focal-plane shutter with cloth blinds. These travel horizontally (the earlier M645 cameras had a vertical-travel shutter). It offers speeds between 4 seconds and 1/1000 seconds, plus ‘B’, on a dial on the top right hand side of the body (the earlier M645 models offer a timed speed of 8 seconds); there are also settings for aperture-priority Automatic Exposure (AE) and AE Lock (where an AE setting from a reading of one scene may be retained for use after re-framing, as long as the shutter button is held lightly). There is also one mechanically-timed speed, 1/60 second, so that the Super can be used with an exhausted battery. It is particularly convenient that this is the flash synchronisation speed.
The shutter release is on the bottom right corner of the front of the camera body. It has a lock position, a normal operating position, a position to select the mechanically-timed speed, and a position for the delayed action.
The camera has no socket for a conventional cable release, but has an electronic socket (under the sliding cover on the side, visible in the top picture to the right). This accepts any of several external/remote release accessories: an electronic cable release, infra-red or radio-frequency wireless remote releases, or simply a plug-in adapter to allow the use of a mechanical cable release.
As in the earlier models, 120 roll film is loaded onto a removable ‘film insert’ (essentially a pair of spool holders and a pressure plate with rollers), which makes loading film faster and more convenient than it otherwise would be (particularly for a user working with an assistant, such as a typical wedding photographer). Whereas in the earlier models, the loaded film insert is inserted into a film chamber integrated into the camera body, in the Super the film back is removable as a modular unit, allowing the user to switch between backs, and so between different types of film, mid-roll, or to pre-load a number of backs to allow very fast reloading. The 120 roll film inserts are very similar to those used in the older models (they are interchangeable). The camera also accepts backs for 220, 135 and Polaroid film. The 135 back gives a standard 24x36 mm image, and comes with a panoramic adapter, comprising a dark-slide with a cutout, giving an image 13x36 mm; a special focusing screen was supplied with it, marked for both formats. The Polaroid back is for 100- or 600-series 3¼x4¼-inch film packs (but the image is the same size as on roll film); Fuji film packs in the same size can also be used.
The film speed is set on a dial on each film back, and the backs have electronic contacts to communicate the setting to the camera body (that is, to the metering prism, if fitted). The backs have metal dark slides (the blue handle of the dark slide can be seen in the top photograph). There is an interlock to prevent the film back being removed from the camera without the dark slide, and another to prevent the shutter from releasing when there is a back attached with the dark slide inserted.
As with earlier models, several viewfinders exist for the Super and its successors. The most basic is a folding waist-level focusing hood, with an integral focusing loupe and ‘sports finder’ frame. There are also a plain (i.e. non-metering) prism finder, and two metering prism viewfinders (different generations of essentially the same item); the AE Finder N, quite angular in shape, and the more rounded FE401. Either metering finder offers three metering modes:
- Centre-weighted average metering
- Spot metering
- A mode in which the program selects automatically between the average and spot readings, on the basis of the light distribution (and shows in the viewfinder which has been selected). Some Mamiya literature refers to this as a 'matrix' mode. There is a magnifying eyepiece for the prism finders, and an angle finder (allowing the eyepiece to be viewed from above the camera).
If the shutter speed dial is set to its Automatic Exposure or AE Lock settings, the metering prism gives aperture-priority automatic exposure. There is a ‘compensation’ dial on the metering prism, allowing the exposure to be offset from the meter reading by ±3 stops.
The focusing screen is removable, and a number of alternative screens exist. The standard screen has split-prism and microprism focusing aids, familiar to users of many contemporary 35 mm SLR cameras.
The lens mount is the same bayonet fitting as that of the earlier models. The system components list below lists the lenses available.
A number of lens accessories exist, including extension tubes, a bellows and a reversing ring. The newer lenses offer an Auto/Manual switch, which serves as a depth-of-field preview switch (there is no DOF-preview control on the camera body, unlike some of the older models).
The camera requires one PX-28 6V alkaline battery (or equivalent 4SR-44 silver oxide or 4LR44 alkaline). There is a battery check button on the bottom left corner of the front of the camera; its lamp is above the shutter release button on the bottom right.
There is a hot shoe, and a PC socket, on the left hand side of the body. Several different grips and brackets exist to extend the flash capability. There is also a manual mirror-up control on the left-hand side. There is a tripod bush on the bottom of the body; the socket is 3/8 inch, but was supplied with a 1/4 inch adapter fitted.
The film is advanced either by a winding crank or a power winder. One or the other is mounted on the right-hand side of the body. There is a multi-exposure control on the right-hand side, allowing the winder to cock the shutter without advancing the film. The power winder covers this control, so it is repeated on the base of the winder. The winder incorporates a shutter release on top of the grip. The winder requires 6 AA batteries, and has its own battery check control and lamp integrated into the shutter release. The film may also be advanced using a winding knob on the side of the film back; this will not cock the shutter, however, so one or other of the winders is still needed.
The dimensions given in the user’s manual, for the Super camera body and a 120 film back only, are (width × height × depth) 91 × 87.5 × 116 mm, and the weight 895g.
|645 Pro |
Images by Dustin McAmera. (Image rights)
The 645 Pro was introduced in April 1992. The most important difference in the features of the Pro and Super is that the Pro does not have a mechanically-timed shutter speed, so the camera cannot be used at all with an exhausted battery. A number of other features are mentioned in the manual for the Pro which are not in that for the Super:
- When the shutter dial is set to ‘B’, and the self-timer is used, the result is a ‘T’ exposure (where the shutter button or cable release must be pressed a second time to close the shutter).
- Using the in-lens shutter of one of the three leaf-shutter lenses automatically sets the camera’s focal-plane shutter to 1/8 second.
- When used with any of the leaf shutter lenses, the power winder cocks the lens’ shutter as well as the camera's.
- The manual also mentions improvements to the film advance gearing over that on the Super.
Otherwise the same features as in the Super are only slightly differently arranged in the Pro. For example, the battery check lamp is at the top of the camera body, and the button to release the shutter speed dial from its AE position is in the centre of the dial, not beside it as in the Super.
The manual for the Pro gives the dimensions of the body and 120 back only as (width × height × depth) 124 × 102.5 × 124 mm, and the weight as 980 g. However, examination of the camera makes it clear that this width includes a film crank, while that given for the Super does not. The weight of the crank alone is 43 g so the camera is approximately 40 g heavier than the Super. In a typical usable state, with the standard 80/2.8 lens, a 120 film back and the AE prism finder, the Pro weighs 1545 g.
A simpler power winder WG402 was made for the Pro. The WG401 winder advances a newly-loaded film to frame 1 automatically, whereas with the WG402 this function is triggered manually (the 'Start' position on the winder's shutter button collar). The WG402 also does not have its own electrical cable release socket.
645 Pro TL
The 645 Pro TL was introduced in June 1997. The TL refers to through-the-lens, off-the-film (TTL/OTF) flash metering, which is possible with a small range of Metz flash equipment (the SCA accessory flash adapter is neccessary to communicate appropriately with the flash for this function). There are indicators showing (i) when the flash is charged, and (ii) the status of the dark slide (the Super and Pro simply do not release the shutter, with no other indication, when the dark slide is inserted). Otherwise, the differences between the Pro and Pro TL are trivial.
A small production run of the Pro TL was made, in various body colours, in 2008.
image by Jesse Yardley (Image rights)
The 645E was introduced in March 2000. It is a simplified model, with a fixed metering prism finder, with a Keplerian magnifier/dioptric correction eyepiece, and a fixed film chamber taking film inserts like the original M645. The shutter speed dial is moved to the left side of the body, and the hot shoe is on top of the prism. The finder eyepiece has built-in dioptric correction. The GN401 grip available for the 645E is a simple mechanical one, not a power winder. It has a thumb lever to advance the film, and the shutter release is a mechanical linkage that presses the release button on the camera body.
These components are usable with the Super, Pro and Pro TL; other than lenses, most are not usable with the E.
Winders and grips:
- Mamiya company history page (archived)(in Japanese) at Mamiya Japan website
- Shashin Kōgyō (Photographic Industries) 12/1984 p. 25
- Three lenses with leaf shutters exist: the A55mm f/2.8N/L, A80mm f/2.8N/L and A150mm f/3.8N/L; the L in the designation denotes the leaf shutter.
- This checks the winder’s batteries, not the camera’s; an occasional source of confusion to users.
- Mamiya company history page (archived); this was several months after the introduction of the 645 AF, which started the new series of cameras replacing this one.
- Manual for the WG402 grip at Mike Butkus' Orphan Cameras
User's manuals in pdf format, on the Mamiya Leaf site: