The 6×4.5 format is extremely popular with professional and amateur landscape photographers and so competition has always been sharp in this category. Mamiya, Bronica and Contax, all made very good 645 cameras but at least here in Japan the Pentax 645 was the clear winner. Even today all you have to do is pick up any Japanese photography magazine that includes landscape photos shot on film and you will probably see some version of the Pentax 645 listed more often than any other. So how did I end up with one?
After only a few months of having the Pentax 645 original (the second time around for me), I found the even better 645N at a great price… and just couldn’t resist. It meant trading in my 645 but they bought it back for more than twice the price I paid for it so it was an exceptionally good deal for me. I ended up paying about $175 in cash for the 645N, which is just such a steal!
So what’s the big deal about this camera? Rather than trying to describe it myself I’ll just copy the description from Jafa Photography.
“The 645N was the first autofocus 645 camera with interchangeable lenses and full automation. With focus lock and predictive AF and built-in motor drive for up to 2 fps this camera can be used for fast action photography such as wildlife and sports. Built-in metering modes can be used with Program, aperture, and shutter priority, plus manual and leaf shutter modes. +/- 3 stops of exposure compensation can be adjusted in 1/3 increments. Three metering modes are available, a six-segment multizone, Centerweighted, and spot metering plus OTF-reading flash meter. Shutter speeds range from 30 to 1/1000 sec. and bulb. Film inserts are made for 120 , 220, and 70 mm films. Viewfinder displays shutter speeds and f-stops, exposure modes, focus indicator. ISO, frame number and battery check are shown on the top panel. Other features include multiple exposures, self timer, PC terminal, 1/60 sec. flash sync. and data imprinting of f-stops, shutter speeds, exposure compensation, lens focal length, and metering modes can be recorded out of the image area.”
The only features Jafa Photography left out are exposure bracketing in increments of one third, two thirds or full stop, and a mid-roll rewind button. This was one of the first 645 bodies to squeeze 16 frames out of a roll of 120 film and 33 frames from 220 film.
My favorite features are the big, bright viewfinder, the extremely user friendly ergonomics (a dedicated knob or button for every setting), the focus confirm light and the incredibly cool data imprinting on every frame!
It was released in 1997 and the follow up 645Nii model only added MLU and a couple other minor functions. While the 645 Original is completely retro-looking, everything about this camera looks modern. When it comes to medium format 645 SLR film cameras this is just about as good as it gets, at least in my price range!
I won’t be buying any AF lenses for it as my A series manual focus lenses work just fine. I only shot 4 or 5 rolls of film with the 645(original) and the results were good. But as great of a camera as that one is, I am expecting to have even more fun with this 645N!
Here are some photos taken with this camera.