I’ll admit my bias upfront: I adore the GA. I love the character of Fuji EBC lenses, and I love the 6×4.5cm (645) format for what it is. I love this camera in spite of its power-drill voice, Fisher-Price ergonomics, and right down to its clown-shoes street presence. This camera delivers sharp, perfectly exposed negatives with a minimum of fuss and worry.

It is small enough to take everywhere but just enough trouble to make you think twice (right up until you see your results). It’s cheap enough to buy on a whim, but not so much to toss if it goes wrong. Take these words at face value, because unlike many reviewers you’ll find online I’ve owned and used a GA645 for years and hundreds of rolls of film. I’ve often been elated and on occasion bitterly disappointed. Here’s my Fuji GA story.

This camera delivers sharp, perfectly exposed negatives with a minimum of fuss and worry.

I’m a product of a generation that’s paralyzed by indecision from access to the sum of human knowledge at all times. The internet makes any purchase possible, plausible, and vehemently dissuaded concurrently. Look hard enough, and you’ll find a detractor to match every cheerleader on any subject. I’d waffled on buying this camera for a few years, always just short of approving a sale because of some discussion-forum photography expert in his grandmother’s basement decrying the GA for its shortcomings. It’s too loud, it’s too big, 645 isn’t worth the effort, it’s not a Hasselblad. I say: hang all haters.

Let’s address some of the gripes first and foremost.

It’s plastic. Yup

The camera is clad completely in plastic and the skin of some exotic rubber lizard for grip. Unlike the pimpy Champagne GA645Zi it’s dark gray. The frame of the camera is certainly some alloy but the face it shows the world is the same plastic that lines the inside of your 1988 Honda. Would it be cool if this camera were shod in titanium or magnesium? Oh heck yes. Sign me up. But it couldn’t possibly make better photos in a fancier frock.

It’s too big to be practical: BS

The GA645 is the same size as a Canon 5Dc with the plastic 50 F1.8 and hood. And it’s a slimmer package to boot.

It’s loud: Yup.

Wow, that sure is a terrible noise the lens motor makes when you’re engaging AF. Keep in mind that since you have your face up against the camera it sounds a lot more dramatic to the shooter than the subject. True, when I’ve given the camera to others to photograph my family it’s nearly inaudible. Of course, it’s also the noise of the quick, reliable 900-step autofocus. So by the time you’ve nailed manual focus with your beloved Superior Brand Purist Camera, I’m 30 paces closer to the pub to talk smack and enjoy a beer with you. Hurry up.

645 Isn’t worth the effort: BS.

645 is the perfect format for shooting 120 on a budget. It’s 3.4 times the size of your 135 negative. On the other hand, at 15-16 frames per roll of 120, 645 is 20% more economical than shooting 6×6, 27% more again if you’re a 6×9 shooter. If you print a well-exposed 135 negative and a similar 645 negative, every layman you ask will be able to pick out the difference. So for the “why not just shoot 6×9” naysayers and Only-Large-Format-Will-Do Luddites, be my guest. It’s your money, There’s room for all of us in this game.

It’s not a “internet-darling-camera of the week”: Yup.

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What do you compare the GA against to make it a fair comparison? Do we set the metric on price? For the $300 you can steal one of these up for, what compares? You’re in off-brand 35mm SLR territory here. Lens performance? I’ve owned Hasselblad, Contax, and Canon pro-level gear. Under a loupe in terms of clinical sharpness, lack of flare, fringing, and clean high-contrast transitions the EBC reigns. As craftspeople, we have to choose our tools based on the job at hand. For what I’ve asked it to do, the GA645 has delivered consistently better results for a bare fraction of the price of other cameras I’ve owned and used. The GA gets no love because it’s ugly, it’s plastic and it has no sexy pedigree. For those of us who love them, they remain a bargain and for that I’m thankful.

F4 is just too slow on a fixed-lens camera: BS.

Nope. It’s 120 behind a leaf shutter, just work it. The DOF at F4 is just shallow enough without being a handicap. Push your 400 to 1600 if you need to and go make photos.

OK, I’ve gushed. If you’re still with me, I thank you. Now, what about the caveats, because there have to be some at this point right? I can only speak for myself, (since I’m smarter than an AF system) but I have never had any of the “commonplace” out of focus images I’ve read about. It’s amazing how many people online have no idea how to use a single AF spot, and that we got by without 199 of them in our viewfinders for years. I’ve had my example to the mothership at Fuji Repair in NJ twice. Once was for a loose shutter release that was on its way to breaking completely and the other was for a stripped film advance gear almost 5 years later that was giving me incredibly creative (nevertheless unwanted) double and triple frame compositions.

When I received the camera back the first time, I am happy to report that Fuji Repair inspected all mechanisms and replaced the entire shutter release assembly, as well as performed a preventative silent recall service (from decades ago) on the LCD. The second repair was unsuccessful due to a lack of parts anywhere in the supply chain. Not content to roll over and let my old pal waste away, I got in touch with the Fuji doctor, Frank Marshman at Camera-Wiz. His advice was to pick up another one since they’re cheap enough to be disposable.

So I own a dead camera. I keep it with the sincere hope that I can have a replacement part 3D printed, or find a cheap parts camera in the future. The Fuji owes me nothing, but I feel as though I would be letting go of an old friend to junk it or sell for parts. I tend not to form attachments to equipment; the camera and lens are simply tools to make an image. The GA is a different case for me. We’ve traveled together. I’ve watched my little girl grow up through its finder. It has recorded holidays, Christmases, milestones good and bad. Don’t judge me, we’ll be together again someday.

Now, what can I tell you about the GA that you haven’t already read 13 times elsewhere online?

  • The vertical lugs are lovely, and the camera hangs comfortably from a shoulder or around the neck.
  • When you take a photo in a quiet place you can keep the shutter release engaged until you’re at a better moment to wind on. Advance the film when the dirty looks from the AF motor have died down.
  • While loading film, to take up slack you can use the top control dial to advance the film take-up  1/4″ at a time. Handy to eliminate the fabled “GA645 fat roll” myth (which is really just sloppy loading).
  • The GA will take 120 or 220 film, of you’re in possession of a time machine.
  • The camera is as simple to use as any point-and-shoot on the market. Perhaps easier because of the monster, coated viewfinder. Give this to a stranger to take your portrait at Disney, and you’ll get a keeper in one shot providing they’re not legally blind.
  • The GA will imprint the date, shooting mode, shutter speed, and lens aperture in the margins beside every frame. It’s very convenient.
  • The Fujifilm Strobe GA is a forgotten gem of a flash, designed to cover the portrait orientation 645 frame. Enjoy full sync flash at any speed since the GA uses a leaf shutter.

The GA isn’t the high school valedictorian. The GA never ran for student council, wasn’t Prom Queen and never got elected most-likely-to-do anything. The GA is the kid you sort of knew through a friend and lost track of after graduation. What you don’t know is that they’ve quietly become a rocket scientist, orthopaedic surgeon or deep sea welder. They’re the sort that doesn’t talk about their income and is happy for the work to speak for itself. The GA645 brags only on its resume. Results talk, BS walks.

My conclusion, don’t bother. The GA645 is certainly not worth your time. They’re big, noisy, funny looking and people will laugh at you when you go out shooting. Fuji? Didn’t they make film once? Spend your money on a proper camera, like a Hasselblad. Ugh, and 645? Such a waste of effort.

It’ll be our secret.

~ Matt

Note: This article originally appeared on Matthew Thompson’s Twin Lens Reflux blog in June 2016 and has been recreated here as part of a digital archive of that website.

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  1. Another excellent, informative, very enjoyable article. Yes, the GA645 can be addictive – you will love it to death, literally!! and go on shooting and shooting with it until one day it will expire suddenly all of a sudden on you, kaboom!! and that will be it. No repair available.

    So what will you do then?? Go out and buy another GA645, I reckon. As I did.

    In my time I’ve owned three of these beasts (and yes, they are), all bought secondhand via Ebay sellers, so no guarantees. Unlike you lucky Merkins, we poor suckers down here in Ozzy have to pay top dollar for them – nowadays they go for $1000+++ on Ebay, even from Japanese sellers who seem to push them out to overseas buyers who (yes, I’ll be frank here) read articles such as this one and immediately want one, so they go online and up pops a dozen or more Japan sellers, so they order one. Which will arrive meticulously packed and may or may not work when you put batteries in it and turn it on. Which happened to me once. Fortunately, the seller in this case was ethical and refunded my money – it did help that he had insured the package from Japan and was able to claim a full refund from their post office.

    My other two were bought from Australian sellers who in both cases were trying to flog the ‘i’ model (a later version, supposedly improved, which among other fringe benefits gives you 16 shots on a 120 roll and not 15 like the older models) but didn’t know what they had on their hands. The last one I bought in 2016 for A$370 from a seller who packaged it very badly and literally just threw it into the hands of his local post office to be sent to me via parcel post, uninsured and without signed for delivery (I suspect he rather had the ‘poos’ as I was the only bidder and obviously that GA645 was worth much more than what I got it for, but he was the one who put it up for auction with a low price and I got it for that, so boo hoo for him!!)

    I did some marvellous work with my GA and I can say t never flubbed or missed a shot until it suddenly passed away in the middle of a shoot (which I had to finish with my Nikon D800, but this is a film article so let’s not go digital, okay??). I took it in for repair and was told too bad, so sad, no replacement parts are available and it’s now either a shelf queen or a door stop. This piece of advice cost me A$40 and wised me up no end. I sold it to someone who wanted it for parts. He mayor may not have revived it, I’ve not bothered to check. I hope he did. That wonderful Fuji lens was worth some effort which sadly for me, I wasn’t prepared (or let’s face it, technically able) to put in the work to bring back to life.

    I now use a Rolleiflex T I’ve owned since the ’90s with an accessory 16 exposure kit. This antique piece has one decided advantage over the GA, in that it lets me shoot horizontal images and not have to tilt the camera sideways to get landscapes or street shots.

    GAs are wonderful for portraits and (again with an optional close-up kit) macro work or images of our cat’s tonsils. For landscapes or anything resembling street photography, well, meh.

    All the above now said, I can finish this by admitting that I’ve loved those GAs of mine as much as the author of this most entertaining and informative piece. But the fact remains they are old cameras now and buying one has to come with a caveat, it will have a shorter lifespan than new cameras and when it konks out, that’s it.

    Again, most excellent work. I’ve greatly enjoyed this article and look forward to more of the same. Good one, Emulsive!!

    From Dann in Melbourne

  2. Sold listings on Ebay on 11/1/21 show GA645 sells for $900-1300. There might be one “for parts” that sold for under $400. Where the heck are you finding decent usable GA645 for $300???

  3. Where are you finding inexpensive GA645s?? The prices on eBay are pretty high…

    (That being said, yes, an eminently portable 120 camera would be lovely, and I’m jealous of yours.)

  4. just think – before the steamship, men could die while rowing a ship in a gang
    and sails could rip, leaving hundreds to starve as their boat just sat in calm waters

    and then someone put a reliable motor in a boat, and everyone switched

    just like photography
    we used to drip chemicals all over the basement floor
    we used to send film to process and hope it didn’t get lost in the mail

    film was fine
    but it’s history

    1. People still use row boats and sail boats for fun. Most people do photography for fun, Film is not history, it’s an option.

    2. Sorry to pour (whatever) on your cynicism, old boy – but film is not yet dead. Actually, not quite deceased. It will be soon. Give it another five years (pessimistically) or ten years (optimistically), it will be so far gone and so expensive, and mostly made in China as the West with its high-profits-for-everything credo will have given up on it, this and the global environmental situation will be so desperately bad by then, that nobody will care whether or not all our old cameras can still get film to be loaded into them and shoot – what? – eight, ten, twelve, twenty, thirty-six images, when a halfway decent digital camera can do ten times better and at far less cost.

      Alas, this is the elephant in the room – film has had its day, and to this extent, I do agree with you. But not quite yet. A few last gasps, and that will be it. Time enough for those of us to shoot film to enjoy it – and maybe put all our cameras up for sale on Ebay at exorbitant prices, before the market bottoms out and they become almost entirely worthless.

      Sadly, that is the reality of the 21st century – time passes, things change. Welcome to real-world life in the pre-apocalypse era.

      Good post, though. Respectfully read and digested, if rather agreed/disagreed with. Mostly agreed. I felt I had to have my say, but in the summing up, you are entirely right, if somewhat too blunt about it.

      So I do think we are on the same page, everything said.

      Again, most respectfully,

      Dann in Melbourne Australia

    1. You are so right – they are great cameras, so convenient to use, with such sharp lenses. I had the GA645Zi and I was amazed at how sharp the lens was. The only downside for me was I could never get used to the vertical framing (the picture is portrait, not landscape – unlike almost every other camera on the market – which caught me off guard me every time … but that’s just me being dense).