Fuji GA645Zi

This is definitely the film camera I have had most fun with – ever. As the name implies it is a 6×4.5 cm camera with larger than normal (i.e. 35 mm) negatives.  What makes this one different is the ease at which it can be handled. It resembles more a traditional point-and-shoot camera for 135 film. In fact on the photos one can easily be mislead into believing it is much smaller than it is.

While the size is larger than normal, its weight is not. In fact it feels definitely plastic and almost empty, that said it is not a flimsy construction at all, just very light compared to what, I at least, expected. It fits well in my hands and does not feel at all cumbersome to use.

Fujifilm GA645Zi medium-format camera with its lens hood taken off…

The lens is an extremely sharp Fujinon and it is actually a zoom too! The range 55-90 mm is not that impressive, so while it technically is a zoom, the range is more of a slight framing accessory than a proper zoom. The zoom is in four fixed stages (the two widest being almost identical) so you zoom in either “in”, “middle” or “out”. For me a zoom really need a range of much more. I have found that I almost always use it at the wider angle of view.

…and with lens hood on. 

The viewer is kind of odd, as this is a rangefinder camera where one cannot see through the lens but rather through a hole above the lens. This can give all sorts of funny (or not so funny really) effects on framing since you simply do not see exactly what will be on the film, specially at close distances. In this camera the problem is solved in the viewer with projected bars that indicate what will actually be on film. The bars are put in place at a half-press of the shutter. It took a while to remember to check the framing this way but now it comes naturally. The framing bars move according to the zoom used so it is all automatic.

At full zoom the lens gets a bit longer. When power is turned off, the camera automatically retracts the lens. Without the hood a 52 mm filter can be fitted.

What is also automatic is the focus distance. At the half-press of the shutter the camera also sets its focus. Through the viewer you have unfortunately no idea on where the focus is set. The focus point is in the middle of the viewer and is fixed. Strangely enough this has not been of any trouble in real situations. It seems to focus where I want, and I am fine with that. For some scenes the focus probably will miss, I just have not had such scenes then?

The digital back in this case is a small LCD display. The display is essential in that this is where the ISO-rating and date are set. When using manual focus that distance is set by the rightmost knob and read on the display. It also shows current frame number and aperture. Furthermore it is used when the camera is set in all manual mode.

“Date”? Yes, actually it understands the concept of “date” and prints date, time, aperture and shutter speed in minutely small print just outside of the actual frame. Turns out to be very handy when sorting negatives!

As on my digital 5D2 I always exclusively use Aperture priority mode, where I set the aperture/depth-of-field and the camera takes care of the rest. And it actually will! The exposure mechanism works fine, and when needed an exposure adjustment of +/-3 (in half stop steps)  can be added. The lens is on the slow side of things with its f/4.5 at the wide end and a mere f/6.9 when fully zoomed. A film with ISO-rating of 400 is best for general walk-around, but running ISO 100 film is no problem with a bit of forethought. It can focus, automatically or manually, down to 1 metre. If the subject is closer the distance scale in the finder will start blinking.

In many ways I think this camera was ahead of its time. It certainly has many features we now expect in our digital cameras but which were true novelties at the time. I believe this model stems from first half of the 1990’s.

Film loading is not done in a jiffy, and certainly not while on foot. Have to sit down and preferably have it on a bench too. Talking about film loading, I have always thought I was pretty handy (well, I actually am both pretty and handy) but when it comes to 120-film I have found I really must be careful and go by the book, or some light will show up on the film edges. It has yet to appear on the frames but it has been close at times. Later studies have shown the light enters the film when I am unloading it, not when loading as I originally thought. Either way, caveat emptor!

The first rolls of B/W-film were “OK” I thought at the time, it is since I started shooting in colour I found it reveals its true power. The lens is extremely sharp.

For general holiday photos this is the one I bring should I want a film camera with me. And I often do bring this and the 5D2 as a holiday explorer kit. Some pictures taken with it can be seen in the gallery.

After heavy use a flat electronic cable at the hinge of the back door is known to break sometimes. This renders the LCD without power so the display goes blank.  You can actually set ISO without the display: Select ISO then turn the wheel clockwise (as seen from above) “a lot”, this will set the ISO to AUTO. Use AUTO if the film is coded, else turn the wheel counter clockwise bump by bump. The first bump sets 25 then come 32, 40, 50, 64, 80, 100, 125, 160, 200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800, 1000, 1250, 1600. The counter stops at 1600 and does not restart at the AUTO setting.

Apart from that, the LCD serves for setting the date and also selects auto or manual focus. I have no idea if these can be set if the LCD cable is cut, I imagine the switch information travels in the same cable, so probably not.

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3 Responses to Fuji GA645Zi

  1. Greg Heath says:

    This is the camera I almost purchased.. These Fuji’s lenses are fun. Clear, crisp and easy to pack. I purchased the older brother the Fuji GS645S. I love it. A little Velvia 100 or Acros 100 and I am still wowed by the results. Great writing..

    Greg

  2. jabcam says:

    Yes, it is a surprisingly portable camera. I have only heard good things of the 645S. Today I ordered 10 rolls of Ektar for the coming holiday in Romania. Cheers/Micke

  3. kevinallan says:

    If your subject is off-centre, you can focus on the subject with a half-press then recompose, with the shutter remaining half-pressed, to whatever position you prefer.

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