Today I’ll be reviewing the Fuji GA645Zi; a review that is not exactly typical. Let me explain, for me, a 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 as 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 came to the Fuji GA645Zi.
The Fuji GA645Zi is a 6×4.5 medium format autofocus rangefinder camera 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:
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.
If your goal is to document your family or a holiday, it might be the best one out there as long as you pick the correct film sensitivity. It shoots 15 frames in a 6×4.5 portrait 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.
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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!
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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