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Camera review: Fuji GA645Zi – by Svein Olav HumbersetCamera review: Fuji GA645Zi – by Svein Olav Humberset

Camera review: Fuji GA645Zi – by Svein Olav Humberset

Today I’ll be reviewing the Fuji GA645Zi; a review that is not exactly typical. For me, the camera is a tool that is supposed to do whatever I want it to do. I am constantly searching for the perfect camera, but I’m slowly realizing that it probably doesn’t exist.

I have tried several different cameras with different films (negative- and positive sides), as well various different formats. The one thing they all (almost) have in common is that they are all medium format cameras. There is something about that 120-format that makes me inspired to shoot. It’s fun to develop, easy to scan and in my opinion, the perfect format.

So, in my search for the perfect camera, I have come to the Fuji GA645Zi.

 

 

The camera

The Fuji GA645Zi is a 6×4.5 medium format rangefinder camera which has an autofocus lens with a zoom range of 55-90mm and aperture range from f/4.5-6.9. This is not a fast lens, which makes choice of film pretty important. Now, I am not that used to autofocus, zoom-possible, aperture priority, program mode medium format cameras, so my hope for this camera wasn’t all that high to be honest, but I wanted to give it a go since I was given this camera from an unlucky seller who sold me a Mamiya RB67 with a broken lens.

It was very generous of him to mend my pain by gifting me this camera, but even still, I’m almost 100% sure I will not keep it. I will explain why in my conclusion. Here’s what I cover:

 

 

In use

When you are out and about with this camera there are several positive things worth noticing. It has a fantastic build quality, the grip is great (much better than on the Fuji GS645S, which I also own), the autowinder is pretty awesome, the autofocus works as it should, and it is very easy to load/unload. In fact, it feels a lot like shooting a 35mm camera; like I’m out with my Nikon F100, or equivalent Canon EOS something.

Fuji GA645Zi - Dials - Svein Olav Humberset

Fuji GA645Zi – Dials – Svein Olav Humberset

If your goal is to document your family or a holiday, it a might be the best one out there as long as you pick the correct film sensitivity. It shoots 15 frames in a portrait 6×4.5 format, the lens is sharp as a tack and program mode works like a charm. But if you want anything other than snapshots, this is probably not the best camera out there. In fact, it might even be one of the worst.

There is no way to manually focus. I mean, there is a way, but it involves dialling in values in meters on the LCD screen on the back – so in practice, there is no way to easily manually focus. If you want to change shutter speed, you need to be in manual mode, hold the +/- button down and rotate the main wheel….the same wheel that changes aperture without holding the +/- button down. In order to change ISO, you need to turn the main dial beyond «OFF» and set your ISO before turning the camera back on.

Fuji GA645Zi - Rear Closed -Svein Olav Humberset

Fuji GA645Zi – Rear Closed -Svein Olav Humberset

So, as you might suspect, this camera is supposed to be used in Program mode or Aperture priority mode and then left there. And that is the biggest issue I have with this camera.

When I’m out shooting I want to soak in the world around me, spot compositions, take my time to find the best aperture, angle, focus, the best shutter speed, consider the weather and how long it would take for it to change. I might even want to be on a tripod to slow me even more down, cable release for extra sharpness. With my RB67 that means I might not even take the shot at all. But you can be sure that with the Fuji I have already taken 3 shots. For me, the Fuji makes it too easy to snap off a shot or five. In other terms, this camera is a borderline digital camera in actual use. And don’t get me wrong – that’s not the cameras fault!

 

 

Sample photographs

 

 

Conclusion

The Fuji GA645Zi is not for me. This is mostly because it made me use it like a point and shoot (which is what it’s probably meant to be used as).

For me, photography is slow, it’s pain, it’s sweating, it’s self-doubt, it’s thinking that your shots are no good – so you skip taking that shot. If you have a Mamiya RB in your hands, you don’t shoot until you are 100 % sure of it. You don’t shoot until there is a good chance that the image will be liked by your self when you are finished developing the roll.

When you shoot an RB, you can not WAIT to develop the roll to see all those shots you so desperately wanted to take. With a roll from the Fuji GA645Zi, it does not even matter if the roll gets developed at all. And to me, that’s the reason why I wouldn’t recommend this camera to those who think like I do.

~ Svein Olav Humberset

 

 

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About The Author

Svein Olav Humberset

I am a 36 year old photograper from Norway. Started out shooting sports with digital gear, and slowly but surely the 4-500 shots I came home with after each game started eating parts of my soul. So to counter my souleating, I started looking towards analog cameras and the slow process that makes you feel that YOU took that shot, and not the camera. The last 2 years I have shot as much film I could and have been on the search for the perfect camera for me. So far the RB67 (or RZ67) are in the lead.

3 Comments

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  1. An interesting article, and I understand where you’re coming from. Have you tried a Fuji GW690 or similar? It is quite a size but not too big compared to many cameras, you only get 8 shots off a roll and it certainly slows you down, with manual everything. You don’t need a big heavy tripod for it, you can also comfortably, albeit slowly, shoot handheld with one and the lens is sharp as it gets. It’s a camera that requires discipline but when you nail it those big 6×9’s are really hard to beat. It’s also a very reliable and simple to use camera. I think it strikes a great balance between slowing you down when you want but you can also grab shots with relative ease in the right conditions, if you want to.

    Reply
  2. If you’re that in to the pain and suffering when it comes to image-making, perhaps you should send me your Fuji 645zi and start shooting with an 8×10 view camera. I’d be happy to take it off your hands and I’m sure it would give you even more time to meditate on each image that you make. After all, that RZ67 uses roll film and with its electronic shutter and single action film advance, you can take 10 frames in the time you could get set up to take one with an 8×10. I mean that’s just SO WASTEFUL!

    Seriously — what kind of review is this? Why bother writing one, if you’ve basically decided the camera isn’t for you and you’re not adding anything to the conversation? I use a Fuji GW690 and would love to add a 645zi to go with it — it’s much more compact and easier to travel with than the 6×9 (much as I love being able to contact print kallitypes with those bigger negatives).

    Others elsewhere have understood what you perceive to be the limitations of this camera and have still written highly praising reviews of it, creating strong and convincing images along the way.

    Let us not fetishize the use of film and demonize digital simply because the use of the digital allows us to make images quickly; rather, let us understand the unique qualities that each brings to the images we make.

    Reply
    • It’s an opinion piece and I would suggest you take it as such, Alfonso. Happy to feature your own writings here if you feel they’ll add to the conversation!

      Reply

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