Fuji Fujica GS645 Professional

Fuji GS645 Professional

Fuji GS645 Professional

Fuji GS645 Professional

Fuji GS645 Professional

Fuji GS645 Professional

Fuji GS645 Professional

This camera is a medium format folder with bellows that extend with the lens when the front is opened.  When not in use the front cover can be closed and the entire lens retracts into the body of the camera, making it very slim and portable. Currently Fuji makes the GF670 which is a similar design but the frame size is 6×6 or 6×7.

What young photographers (and other bystanders who happen to notice the weird looking camera in my hands) don’t realize is that this isn’t just a retro camera, its a retro-retro camera! It was released in 1983 which makes it retro by almost any definition. In 1983 I was in college, typing term papers on an electric typewriter and feeling pretty good about modern technology, what with the auto backspace/erase function and all!

But the thing that made this camera unique back in 1983 was that it was a wildly retro looking camera even back then. After all, folders were at their peak of popularity in the forties and fifties and by the sixties were on their way out. Fuji began making modern medium format rangefinders in 1967 with the G690 and released a whole string of different series and models through the seventies but the GS645 was the first folder in that lineup, and in fact the first folder for Fuji since the discontinuation of their first product ever released, the Fujica 6. That camera was a very basic, all manual 6×6 folder and it was first released in 1948. So when Fuji released the GS645 in 1983 it was a style and design that they hadn’t used since the forties and fifties; unquestionably retro! Of course, what made it cool was that it was thoroughly modern in many other ways, with a highly regarded, multi-coated EBC lens, a light meter, and various other “modern” functions.

This camera shoots the smaller 6×4.5 format. And what makes this story really interesting is that in 2009, Fuji took the market by surprise when they released yet another thoroughly modern, but beautifully retro looking folder, the GF670. The DNA trail between the GS645 and the GF670 is plain as day! I came across an interesting article about the similarities of these two cameras here. (In Japanese only) So when I found a GS645 in great condition for a great price I took the plunge! This is probably one of the most portable and compact medium format cameras out there. And the EBC Fujinon line of lenses are legendary for their sharpness. This camera sports a 75mm f/3.4 lens.

Even though this camera is almost thirty years old it features an exposure meter, greatly simplifying usage and making it very attractive for quick and easy shooting. Shutter speeds in the leaf shutter go from 1s to 1/500s and it also has a T setting for long exposures. The aperture goes steplessly from f/3.4 to f/22. The minimum focusing distance is one meter. With 120 film it shoots 15 frames per role, which was the standard back in 1983. It has a few other bells and whistles such as a timer, hot shoe and flash cable socket, and bright guidelines in the viewfinder that automatically adjust for parallax at close distances.

The camera is unique in that the film runs across the back horizontally, which in the case of 645 frame size means you have to rotate the body of the camera to the vertical position in order to get horizontal frames. Yes, I know that sounds backwards but it isn’t. If you just pick up the camera and hold like any other camera the picture frame is in vertical (portrait) orientation. That’s why most 645 cameras run the film vertically across the back to yield horizontally oriented picture frames.

I’ve posted some photos from this camera here.

24 Responses to Fuji Fujica GS645 Professional

  1. Gerd Neumann says:

    Mit dieser Kamera kann man sich verlangsamen. Das bedeutet Ruhe finden und das Bild vor der Aufnahme konstruieren. Gut wäre es, die Technik auch in Digital anwenden zu können.
    Eben vom Cip zum Bild am Computer. Aber das kann niemand bezahlen, leider

  2. revdocjim says:

    I totally agree! Slow photography is rich photography!

  3. I love this camera too. I bought one about a year ago and after some problems early on, they are a bit fragile, I find this a really good user camera. Yes the process is slow but revdocijim says that is a bonus

  4. I love this camera too. I bought one about a year ago and after some problems early on, they are a bit fragile, I find this a really good user camera. Yes the process is slow but as revdocijim says that is a bonus

  5. Michael says:

    As you have discovered, this camera has one of the best lenses out there delivering amazing image quality. Photographing with it is a slow process indeed but the images are so rewarding. You might want to look for a lens hood. That would also allow you the use of filters.

  6. Albin says:

    nice review of the GS645, though i take issue with one point. you write:

    “So when Fuji released the GS645 in 1983 it was a style and design that they hadn’t used since the forties and fifties; unquestionably retro!”

    granted that there is a tendency toward the “retro” aesthetic — a tendency to which, moreover, Fuji is particularly attuned (e.g. the recent NYT’s article on Fuji’s revisiting of RF design) — but I would caution against the use of the term here. IF there is a retro quality about the folder style of the medium format design, it is accidental — and i say this as someone who uses a 1931 Zeiss Ikonta 645 camera — and nothing more. There is NO physical way to achieve the proper image size on 120 film without a lens whose rear objective lies at a considerable distance from the film. combine that with the desire to have a compact (slim) RF profile, a collapsing bellows is the only way to accommodate this. so — while “retro” may be applicable to the perception of these cameras now, it is hardly so in 1983.

    • revdocjim says:

      Interesting point, and well taken. I am no historian and my grasp of camera technology is only minimal at best. But I would be curious to know how many other folder style MF cameras were on the market in 1983. My perception was that while practically everyone was making them in the 40s and 50s and even into the 60s, by 1983 folders were almost unheard of. If the GS645 was the only folder in that day, and it was a design that had not been seen on the market for 20-30 years, wouldn’t that make it retro by default? Remember, the 70s and 80s saw a significant repopularization of 50s themes. Just think “Happy Days”. So at least in some respect, “retro” was an immensely popular concept back then.

      Secondly I’m not entirely convinced that collapsing bellows are required to attain a compact (slim) RF profile. Just look at the rest of Fuji’s medium format RF lineup from that period and even now. The other two models of the GS645 series were not folders. None of the latter GA645 models (and there were several!) were folders and yet they were all relatively compact. And even now while the GF670 is a folder, the GF670W is not. So the GS645 and the GF670 really do stand out in the Fuji product lineup and in the entire camera market as two very unusual, and to my mind, intentionally retro designs.

      • Steve says:

        Just came across this post. It’s been quite a while since then but I’d still like share my two cents…just for the reference.

        What Albin said on lens design is true. Lenses, especially a standard lens (75/80mm-ish for a 6×6) for a 120 camera, had to leave significant register distance to the film plane for the image circle to cover the entire frame. The longer the focal length the longer the distance has to be. Thus if the lens is not rigid, some sort of collapsing mechanism had to be used.

        Collapsible designs, although mostly lacking a bellow thanks to the smaller format (thus shorter registry distance), were actually common among 135 cameras at the time – the Rollei 35 and the Minox 35 had inspired numerous copies, and the idea finally evolved into the auto extending lenses that became a standard feature in the automatic point & shoot cameras appeared later in the decade.

        So let’s be clear on it: the power zooming technology used on the GA645 (with a 65mm lens), circa 1996, was not available to the GS645 (with a 75mm lens) back in 1983. It had to be mechanical. Which means it had to be the bellow.

        On the other hand, I actually own a GF670W and would say it’s not quite a “compact” camera – the 55/4,5 lens is quite large. The reason of the lens being rigid is it’s a Biogon design, which allowed the rear element to be positioned next to the film plane for optimal performance. It’s a design for wide lens only, that’s why the GF670 had to use a bellow.

        Your observation was true, though: the once popular 120 folders went into extinction by the late 1960’s. There were two reasons: these medium format folders, most of which were consumer cameras, were no longer popular choices for average shooters as the improvements made on quality of smaller format film greatly reduced the need for larger formats; The pro shooters who still use the medium format didn’t mind their cameras being large and heavy, so the manufactures concentrated on producing SLR type cameras like Hasseblads, Bronicas and Kowas. The very small niche left, if one wanted a smaller 120 camera, was filled by TLRs. Even the those were growing larger though, with the very capable but heavy Mamiya C series TLRs. Fuji themselves made a series of 120 medium rangefinders (G/GM/GW670 and 690), dubbed “Texas Leicas” for their enormous sizes.

        What Fuji did with the GS645 was retro though, just that it’s not the bellow, but the idea behind it. It’s called “small camera, big negative”, originally coined to compensate for the low quality lenses or films used for budget photography, it’s revived in the new age, this time to push for great image quality without compromising portability. It was not Fuji, but the two other 120 folders on the market then that re-started the trend: the strut folding Plaubel Makina 67 and its wide angle variant, the W67, released in 1979 and 1981 respectively. Both are classics now, their styles imitated by the GF670 and the GF670W. The extraordinary 1989 Mamiya 6 was also a folding camera that actually had bellows: it’s just hidden inside its plastic shell.

        What seemed a simple statement turn out to be quite complicated, isn’t it. Hope I’ve made it reasonably clear…it’s bed time for me now.

      • revdocjim says:

        Thanks Steve, for a very informative response and breakdown of the technologies available at various points in time. And also, thanks for bringing up the Plaubel Makina 67, a camera that had completely slipped my mind when I emphasized the uniqueness of the folder design in the 1980s. I really appreciate the input from folks like you who know so much more than I do. I no longer have the GS645 but still do have the GF670 and absolutely love it. I understand that your W version is a bit larger than the standard version I own and can see why you hesitate to classify it as being compact. But I still feel that my standard version, when folded up, is a wonderfully compact 6×7 camera that actually will fit in a large coat pocket or easily hang around my neck, tucked inside a winter coat. I’ve even skied with it before, although the battery life doesn’t do too well in cold weather. Once again, thanks for filling in some big gaps in my knowledge of camera/lens design and history! :)

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  12. Erik Vos says:

    I have one for sale. In its original box and in top condition.

  13. I bought myself one of these yesterday as a Leica size 645 :) Can’t wait to add it to my travel bag. The RZ67 Pro2 is too big for that!

  14. Matthew Wilkens says:

    Just had mine repaired by Frank Marshman of Camera Wiz. Works like new now. I wouldn’t say the camera is delicate as much as there are a lot of people out there who don’t know how to work on them. Frank Marshman is the best. Also, need to read the instructions, it is important. Cock the shutter and set focus to infinity prior to closing. Don’t do that and you will be one of those saying it is a delicate camera.

    • revdocjim says:

      Glad you were able to get yours repaired. Certainly a worthwhile investment. As to the question of being delicate or fragile, most mechanical things don’t break when being used properly and within their natural life span. If they do they are more likely to be labeled “crappy” than “delicate” or “fragile”. But the fact is that lots of mistakes do happen. Very few of us have perfect memories; so we forget, we lose our concentration for a moment or what ever. Cameras that tend to break easily when that happens get labeled as delicate or fragile. I don’t know if there is any way around that. Of course it’s user’s fault, but the question is how well can a camera tolerate and withstand clumsy users. When dropped almost all cameras break or sustain damage. Likewise for getting doused with water, left in a hot car with closed windows during summer, etc. But beyond that there is a whole spectrum of sturdiness vs. delicateness. Personally I never had any problems with my GS645 and loved shooting with it. But I always remembers to handle it carefully; more so than I would with some of my other cameras.

      • Matthew Wilkens says:

        Absolutely. Just trying to convey the camera isn’t poorly built, just a bit temperamental in use perhaps. I have had this camera since the late 80’s and this is it’s third time around at the repair shop, last one for bellows. I have had digital cameras that have required more service than that in two years.

  15. revdocjim says:

    Yup! Treated properly and given the occasional service or repair, these gems last a lifetime! I bought mine used and it appeared to have already had the bellows replaced, for which I was happy since I’d heard that the original bellows had a tendency to break down after a few decades.

  16. Marc says:

    Nice article, thanks! I learned photograpphy with an SLR about 25 – 30 years ago. Then I observed the growing digital market and stepped in when these cameras reaches 1 MP. From then on I was fan of digital and never thought about going analog. I only saw downsizes. But a few months ago (after spending loads of money for several digital cameras from pocket to full format) I bought for 1 USD a used SLR. And I love it. The process, the slowing down, the kind the picutres look….and from this moment on, I am addicted to analog. Weird, aren’t? And since a few weeks I am reading and watching a lot about this camera. Think this will be my next buy.

    • revdocjim says:

      I enjoy both worlds, each having distinct advantages and disadvantages. Glad to hear of your rediscovery of the joys of chemical cameras! Enjoy!!!

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