Fuji GA645W Review - Photo Jottings

Fuji GA645W Review

The Fuji GA645W was a very modern and expensive camera for the professional photographer, or rich amateur back in the mid to late 1990s. This particular model has a wide angle lens, and covers about the same as a 28mm lens in 135 format.  There are two versions in this series, a wide angle as we have here, and a slightly longer version of 60mm, which covers about the same as 37mm in 135 format.  Both are very high quality fixed lens medium format cameras that are feature rich, including full manual operation, and fully automated controls for quick point and shoot snap shots.  And a side note here before I forget; with all the advanced features, I expected a lens cap warning device; but no, if you leave the lens cap on, the camera works fine, but you get no pictures(!)  A couple years later, Fuji introduced a new model (GA645Zi) with a 55-90mm zoom lens, which does have a cap detector.

People looking to step up to medium format from an automated 35mm camera like the Nikon 35Ti will love the simplicities of the Fuji GA645 models, they both function basically the same, of course size being another matter.  So you don’t know how to meter light, no problem, the camera does that for you.  And you don’t know how to focus rangefinder cameras, no problem, its auto focus system is very accurate, and there’s no rangefinder to fiddle with.  Do you like to write down your exposure settings for future use; well, you can keep your pencil in your pocket, the camera records the date and exposure settings along the film margins, not in the picture area!

With the pleasantries out of the way, let’s do a walk around of the Fuji GA645W, and see what the 1990s can deliver to our 5k screens today!

 

Name; Fuji GA645W Professional  “wide.”

Manufactured by; Fuji Photo Film Co., LTD., Tokyo, Japan.

Made in; Japan.

Date of manufacture; starting in 1995.

Price; hang tags indicate 165,000 yen, so maybe $1500 US in the late 1990s.  Current eBay prices range anywhere from $500 to $800 depending on condition and if it comes with the original box or is refurbished etc.

Build material; appears to be a mixture of metal and plastic.  Fit and finish are very good.

Box contents; camera, instruction manual, a softcase, neck strap, hood and cap.

Weight; my measurements ready to shoot; camera with hood and batteries, 30.2oz (854g).

Dimensions; my measurements; 6.5″ (169mm), 4.3″ (110mm) tall, and 2.6″ (67mm) deep.  All dimensions include protrusions.

Focal length; 45mm.  75° diagonal angle of view.

Aperture;  F/4-F/22 auto or manually set in half stop increments.

ISO; 25-1600 manually set in 1/3 stop increments.

Focusing distance; 27″ to infinity, or 0.7m to infinity.

Viewfinder; ‘portrait’ orientation illuminating window type bright frame finder with automatic parallax correction.  Manual states 90% coverage at infinity, 90% at 1 meter, with a magnification of 0.38x.

Light meter; TTF, through the finder center weighted light metering SPD photocell.

Approximate resolution; good film and technique will make very sharp 16×20″ prints.  See sample images farther down the page.

Distortion; none of my images show any discernible distortion.

Light fall-off; I see  only moderate “corner shading” when shooting at F/4; at other apertures I don’t see any.

Color fringing; none that I notice.

Back ground blur or “bokeh;” looks good when close to the subject at wide apertures, see picture below.

Lens; Fujinon Super-EBC (electron beam coating) 45mm F/4 multi-coated, 7 elements in 5 groups.  Uses 52mm filters, B&H, Amazon, eBay.

Shutter and speed; super quiet electronic auto exposure inter-lens shutter with buzzer so you know when it trips!  Speeds from 2 seconds up to 1/400 from F/4-9.5, and 1/700 from F/11-22, plus bulb mode.

Film; standard 120 or 220 roll, with a picture area of 56mm x 41.5mm.  The “6×4.5” picture area is 2.7x larger than 135 film.

Flash; built-in pop-up type, guide number of 12 at ISO 100, not user adjustable in power.

Power; two CR123a 3V lithium batteries, available at your local grocery/drug store, or these shops; B&HAmazon, eBay.  Fuji claims the batteries will last for 3000 shots with no flash use.

Accessories for this model; I’m not aware of any accessories for this camera.

Crippling features and omissions; nothing really bad, the only minor item would be TTF metering, and that means you have to manually compensate when using filters.

Good features; excellent lens, very accurate metering and focusing, auto parallax adjusting, self timer, auto first frame positioning, film advance and rewind, last shot beep, ±2.0 exposure compensation in half stop increments, and manual focusing via dial setting.  I also like the pop-up flash, which is rare for a medium format camera.

Quirks; you only get 15 shots per roll, not 16 as some information suggests; only the newer “i” models get 16.

Problems; most of these cameras seem to suffer a bit from erratic “jumping” or “skipping” when using the up-down wheel.  For example; when you want to go from F/9.5 to F/11, (which is one click), the settings may jump to F/22, or down to F4 etc.  Apparently, according to several internet posts, some sort of factory lubricant used near the up-down dial has crept about, and is causing the problem.  My camera has this problem too, but it really doesn’t bother me at this point.  It sounds like it’s a fairly straight forward fix even for an amateur.

Other versions; there is a GA645 with a 60mm F/4 lens, but everything else is the same.  There are also versions ending in “i” such as GA645Wi that have (among other things) two shutter buttons and a bar code film reader that automatically sets the film ISO.  There is one with a 55-90mm zoom lens called the GA645Zi.

Go here to see the owners manual for the “i'” version, and make sure you tip the site owner.

Product shots with descriptions.  Click pictures for larger versions.

The Fuji GA645W ready to go; the hood doesn’t cause any blockage of the flash.  The red indicator on the left is the self timer lamp.

On top we have a hot-shoe in the middle, and LCD panel on the right showing ISO, shutter speed, film type, shot number, aperture, focusing distance, AF or MF, flash ready, battery indicator, and other data.  The large up-down dial wheel is for adjusting settings like aperture, ISO shutter speed etc, oddly, it goes down when turned clock wise, that seems counter-intuitive.  The +- button is for exposure compensation, and holding it down while turning the dial adjusts the shutter speed in manual mode.  The AF dial is for setting either auto focus or manual focus; and last but not least, the large silver button at the top of the grip is for tripping the shutter.

On the left we have the battery cover that holds two CR123a lithium batteries, with access by coin screw .  The ¼-20 tripod socket is centered on the lens.  The small little button to the right bottom is for mid-roll rewind.  The two black circles are film loading knobs that you release via a red button inside the camera.  Just visible is the gray colored MF button located under the lens.  Press and hold while turning the up-down dial sets the focus manually.

The back of the camera is relatively uncluttered; the big square in the middle is a film reminder slot, the film box end fits nicely in here.  The viewfinder in on the top left.  You can use Nikon “F” style eye-pieces like these  Nikon FM, FE, FA  on this camera, and they’re interchangeable with the larger Fuji GW series.  Go here for the review of the wide angle big brother of this camera.  The next dial is for selecting either ISO, Program mode, aperture priority, and full manual operation.  The left gray button is for setting data such as date and imprinting on the film edges.  The middle button one is for the self timer.  The black button is for popping up the flash.

The gray lever type catch on the right side opens the rear cover.  On the inside of the back cover we have the film pressure plate, which can be adjusted from 120 to 220, and after doing so, it will show up on the LCD.  The two red buttons are for popping out the film loading knobs so you can load your film, then press the knobs up until they lock.  While loading the film you can jog the take-up spool for easier flap insertion into the spool slot by turning the up-down dial; the power doesn’t have to be on for it to work.

The right side of the camera reveals the back cover opening lever, and the small circular cable release socket; an odd place for that I think.

Scene through the viewfinder.  You can see the lens mounting panel and barrel in the viewfinder.   The red numbers are really hard to see in bright light, but you can hold your finger along the bottom of the viewfinder window to black it out, which helps in seeing the information.

Scene through the viewfinder when holding the camera horizontally; it’s the opposite of a ’35mm’ or 135 format camera.  Red numbers indicate; “4.0” with F/4 being the aperture, “8” or 1/8s is the shutter speed, and “15” is focus distance, in this case I have is set for ‘feet’ but it can be changed to meters in the menu.

This is the information you get on the margin of the film if you scan outside the picture area; I’m only showing one edge here, and you don’t normally scan beyond the picture area, especially if you’re using masks for flat scanning.  I set the data to show the date and camera settings, but there are other settings to choose from.  Reading from left to right, (or top down here), the date reads 18-2-20, or the 20th of February 2018.  ‘M’ is manual mode, ‘F8.0’ is the aperture, ‘1/60’ is the shutter speed, and ‘AF’ is autofocus.

The data info is red for a positive image, but it will be bluish green when viewed as a negative.  Also, the information is easy to read here, however, when you’re actually looking at the negative, it’s really small, and you’ll need a magnifying glass to read it.

Both prime lens models of the GA645 series.

The larger and much heavier Fuji GW series on the left, and our review camera on the right.

The much smaller Olympus 35 SP on the left.  Both lenses are very high quality, with about the same focal length, using a seven element design.

Sample shots below.

Here are a few samples for your viewing pleasure.  They’re about 5500 pixels wide.  Click images for a larger version.

Anglers hikers paradise, F/11.  Kodak Portra 400.

What’s beyond the rainbow?  Mexico, and that pot of gold, or maybe just some bottled water.  F/11, Kodak Portra 400.

Interior scene on a foggy New England morning, F/11 or F/16, about 5-10 seconds.  Kodak Ektar 100.

Sun causing some rainbow flare and acrs, with an arrow.  Kodak Portra 400.

Residential development with storm approaching.  I think this shot was about F/8.   Fuji Provia 100F

Ancient dwelling in the spring.  F/11, Kodak Portra 400.

Two trunks at Gates Pass.  Very sharp for wide open use in low light.  F/4 using Fuji Provia 100F.

Little two hearted river.  F/4, Kodak Portra 400.

Nice background blur at F/4. Kodak Ektar 100.

Test scene below.

All test shots are displayed at 5500 x 4125 pixels wide when enlarged, and that’s all the resolution included in the film.  Scanned on a Nikon Coolscan 9000 ED.

Here is our standard Mountain test scene, this time using Kodak Ektar 100 film.  A tripod was used, but no filters.

F/4.  Quite sharp with plenty of contrast here, even along the sides. Kodak Ektar 100.

F/5.6.  Contrast is maxed at this aperture, with the sides about the same as F/4.  Kodak Ektar 100.

F/8.  About the same as F/5.6. Kodak Ektar 100.

F/11.  The extreme sides are as sharp as the centers; I see no diffraction softening yet. Kodak Ektar 100.

F/16.  Here the image softens very slightly due to diffraction.  Kodak Ektar 100.

 

Conclusion.

The Fuji GA645W turned in a great review, although I knew it would as I’ve been using this camera for several years now and it never disappoints.  There are a lot of positives to mention for this wide angle camera:  the lens is very sharp with plenty of contrast, even when used wide open; the exposure metering system is excellent, which is a must for color reversal or “slide” film, and the focusing is dead-on in good light.  Having a pop-up flash on a medium format camera is a rarity, and I actually use it quite often for fill when photographing people.  I generally don’t use program mode, but it works just fine if you’re a point and shoot person.  Another real plus is the date and exposure imprinting on the negative margin, that saves me from having to stop and write down my exposure settings after each shot.

I don’t see any real downers for this camera, but just for fun let me mention a few items that could’ve been implemented or improved in the updated model.  Low light focusing is not always spot on, but only noticeable at wide apertures.  It takes two sometimes pricey batteries that may not be available at your vacation destination, so keep a spare set handy.  Filter use requires compensation (really easy to do though) as the metering is through the finder.  Also, don’t forget the camera will work just fine with the lens cap on, so don’t forget to take it off at the start of your picture taking session, other wise, no pictures for you!!  My last complaint is that the camera seems a bit larger than it really needs to be.  Check out the picture above that shows the very large Fuji GW690III next to the GA645W, which is not that much smaller, and has only half the negative size.  However, the GA645 is much lighter, and carrying it around for most of the day is tolerable.

I like the Fuji GA645W, it provides substantially more resolution than 135 format cameras, which will show up when making large prints, or looking at your images on a 5k screen.  The actual picture size on the film is also much larger than 135 format, (2.7x the area), which makes direct viewing of color transparencies more enjoyable.

Sometimes the very wide capture area of this camera can be too much, and quite often I end up using the GA645, which has tighter coverage, about the same as 37mm on a 135 format camera.

Anyhow, when it’s all said and done, the GA645W is a precision tool for the discriminating photographer, and ironically, equally suited for the novice because of the well implemented fully automated features.

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