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.