Medium Format on Digital Body

Among the cameras in the collection there are two Mamiya 645. It is a medium format camera from the 1970’s with a negative size of 6×4.5 cm. It was much appreciated at the time and when I meet older photographers they get a certain look in their eyes and start mumbling Mamiya, Rolleiflex, Yashica…  A medium format camera was something beyond what any ordinary photographer could afford back then. Nowadays you can find them at auction sites for much less.

The medium format lenses for the 645-format are intended to project an image onto a 6×4.5 cm rectangle. A full-format sensor of today is equal to a 2.4×3.6 cm rectangle. If one could use the medium format lens on a full-format body one would only use the centre part of the lens. As lenses go they are always better in the centre of the image and gradually grows worse towards the edges. “Worse” here is, of course, used in a very relative sense of the word. Opticians try, and succeed, in getting aberrations to very low levels even at the edges, but the image at the optical axis is easier to manage nevertheless.

I just had to try to use my 645-lenses on my camera and here Ebay came to my service, in the form of a Photodiox M645-EOS adapter:

The adapter is only mechanical so the camera has no idea what optics are in front of it. It appears solidly built and enables me to use my Mamiya 645 lenses in a sort of after-life fashion. The lenses are completely mechanical and manual so everything is down to the photographer.

In practice only “M” and “A” are the useful settings on the 5D2. With M (Manual mode) I have to choose aperture and shutter time and in A (Aperture priority) I set the aperture on the lens and the camera sets an appropriate shutter time. It is that easy.

A normal lens today is full open while composing the picture in the viewfinder. This guarantees that the image in the viewfinder is as bright as it possibly can be. As the picture is taken the aperture blades spring into action and reduces the amount of light that will be hitting the sensor according to the cameras automatic exposure setting.

With the Mamiya lenses the equivalent is to set the aperture to f/2.8 (full open), compose, set focus, change the aperture to satisfy the depth-of-field wanted and fire off. Almost always the point of using this old lens is its lovely bokeh and so it is usually always set at f/2.8. The process is then simplified to composing, setting focus and fire. After a while one gets used to it. It is of course noticeably slower than the “automatic firing” that is so easy to succumb to with a digital camera. Under certain circumstances I have grown to quite like the slowness of the process. It feels like a more serious activity is taking place that really needs your full attention. And quite often the shots are, on average, better than usual. If that is an effect of using a different lens and being more curious and open to possible images, I don’t know.

The Mamiya Sekor C 45/2.8 with the adaptor:

The adapter makes the lens a bit longer but that is of no real consequence I find, since the lens in itself is larger and the adapter is relatively small.

Some shots with its companion Sekor C 80/2.8 (a strange quirk is that EXIF claims this to be a 50mm lens, it does not know better):

There is a certain je ne sais quoi in the colors from these lenses that I like.

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