5 frames with...

5 Frames with a Fujica GS645 Pro by Son Pham

The GS645 front

I am always curious about new things to do with my film adventure. Every day, there seems to be always something new to learn about the process and the medium. On one such particular day, I was looking for an affordable way to shoot 120 film.

Any SLRs that shoot 120 film was way too heavy and bulky for my needs. The idea of a TLR was tempting as well, but I found that it didn’t really suit my shooting style after trying out a Rolleicord. I even played around with one of the Lomo cameras, but didn’t quite like the results.

Then came the rangefinders. First I came across a Mamiya 7 at a camera shop (it was gorgeous but was out of my budget), then read a post about the Plaubel Makina on 35mmc. Some further digging online later, I stumbled upon the Fujica GS645 Pro.

The GS645 from different angles

The GS645 from different angles

To be completely honest, up until when I received the camera, I still wasn’t sure what I’d take photos of with it. The fixed 75mm lens is not quite what I normally shoot with (my go-to focal length is 35mm on 135 film, this lens is closer to 50mm). However, the sharpness and the very quiet leaf shutter on the lens have more than made up for it. I found myself doing a few of light random snaps with it at first to get a feel for what it is capable of.

Flowers on Fujifilm Acros 100

Flowers on Fujifilm Acros 100

Flowers on Fujifilm Acros 100

Flowers on Fujifilm Acros 100

Then a bit of portraiture…

The girlfriend on Portra 160

Walking around in Budapest on Portra 160

This camera has many little quirks. For example, the weird 40.5mm filter cannot be used without the proprietary hood. Besides, folding the camera without cocking the shutter and turning the focus ring to infinity first can also have devastating effect. That’s not to mention the bellow which is well-known to be prone to light leaks. At the end of the day, I think these quirks allow it to be neatly foldable and so compact while travelling. Since I roam and shoot in the streets a lot, this is both a great advantage and conversation starter!

Violinists on Kodak Tri-X

Violinists on Kodak Tri-X

Reflection on Kodak Tri-X

Reflection on Kodak Tri-X

I hope you’ve enjoyed these frames. You can find more shots with this gem on my Instagram at @famanson.

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13 Comments

  • Reply
    Art Tafil
    March 8, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    I had and used a GS645 many years ago. The lens was incredibly sharp and capable of isolating any subject from its background. You have to remember that this was back before bokeh was a term used everyday. I still have my trusty titanium finish GA645Zi. The 55-90 zoom seems like an insignificant range but it is the 35mm equivalent of about 35 to 60.
    You may find that this camera perfectly suits your shooting style. All your photos in your post were beautiful. Keep shooting.

    • Reply
      Kodachromeguy
      March 8, 2018 at 10:13 pm

      These rangefinder Fujis are amazing. And good old bokeh. Digital-only photographers are obsessed with this topic. And even if they have no idea what it is all about, they sure spend a lot of calories debating it and claiming that their lens XYZ has more or less of it. I do not recall film photographers having much concern about it back when Fuji, Hasselblad, and Rolleiflex lenses had 5-blade apertures. Another digital tempest in a teapot?

      • Reply
        Son Pham
        March 9, 2018 at 10:55 am

        I think it might come down to the style of shooting as well.

        On a rangefinders, we compose without even being able to view/preview the DoF so I find that when I actually need a thin DoF in the composition, I must have a good thought about it based on my understanding of how the light works in the first place. That’s not to mention half of the time I scale focus in the street, too.

        The SLR viewfinders changed that. Nowadays you even have (better and better) EVFs and whatnot – it’s all a different game. I agree with you that bokeh is overrated – but it’s understandable imo. On a related note, here’s an article you might find interesting https://www.35mmc.com/13/01/2018/slr-viewfinder-fundamentally-flawed-entirely-outdated-nikon-f75-project-part-4/ (unless you have already seen it!)

    • Reply
      Son Pham
      March 9, 2018 at 10:45 am

      Thanks, Art! Fuji indeed made a lot of interesting medium format cameras back in the day. I was so excited when they announced the GFX system recently, too. Seems like natural progression for them when you think about their history with medium format.

  • Reply
    Colin
    March 8, 2018 at 9:15 pm

    Very nice indeed. I’m looking at getting a fixed lens 645 film camera so this was very interesting.

    • Reply
      Son Pham
      March 9, 2018 at 10:36 am

      Thanks, Colin. I’m glad to hear that you found this useful. I would highly recommend this line of Fujica 645 cameras 😀 they are affordable and the image quality is top-notch!

  • Reply
    Stig Starr
    March 8, 2018 at 9:22 pm

    Bravo lovely images, I have the GS645S and enjoy shooting it very much, the lens performs really well for a wide-ish lens, I did consider the bellows version when buying but was scared of light leaks, but looking at your images I am jealous of the 75mm lens, apparently able to focus closer and produce greater separation, very nice well done !

    • Reply
      Son Pham
      March 9, 2018 at 10:32 am

      Thank you, Stig! Is the S version the one with the 65mm lens and protection bar? I have seen some photos produced from that elsewhere and absolutely love them.

      Even after owning this one for a while, I am still a bit worried about those notorious light leaks myself (gotta be mindful every single time I fold the lens in/out). I was told that the bellow could be treated with some leather conditioner to prevent it from going too dry and breaking – I might take a look into that next!

  • Reply
    Jacob
    March 9, 2018 at 10:08 am

    I have the same GS645; purchased cheap with disintegrating bellows. Luckily they are fairly easy to replace – took about 30minutes with a new set from ebay. My GS645 was replaced a Bronica RF645 and while I loved the Bronica, the Fuji is so much lighter and more compact. It slips in and out of a large pocket easily so it has had more frequent use than the Bronica ever did. I read a lot about the ‘delicate’ folding mechanism before buying but for me it hasn’t been an issue. Winding on the next frame/cocking the shutter and setting the focus to infinity before closing it becomes normal very quickly.

    • Reply
      Son Pham
      March 9, 2018 at 1:07 pm

      Ah, it’s good that you bring up the Bronica! I actually didn’t know about it until long after my purchase of the Fuji.

      Indeed, it does feel a lot more bulkier, but it has interchangeable lenses and all that, so I guess it’s more like a system and has a slightly different use case. I like that it has all of the very modern automatic features, but would feel a bit uneasy those electronic bits need repair (in the UK)

  • Reply
    Peter Boorman
    March 14, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    I have a GS645 and a 645S. The 75mm one needs the bellows replacing (I have a spare bellows, just have to get round to installing it) and the 65mm one needs a new meter circuit (not that that matters so much, and I do have a spare, again, just need to get round to installing it…)

    Before they both ended up in the ‘must-fix-when-I-have-a-spare-afternoon’ box, these were both very regular companions for me – either just the GS645, maybe with a Ricoh GR21 in my pocket, or else the pair of them, tucked into a huge bag along with some 35mm SLRs and Pentax lenses. I did so much work with them and was never disappointed – up until the roll that came back with light leaks from the failed bellows, of course. Loaded with a roll of 220, the 30 shots made these cameras almost as convenient, and just as quick, as shooting 35mm.

    I also have a couple of Fuji’s (old) interchangeable lens 6×9 rangefinders and really like them too. Back when I used to get transparencies drum scanned for exhibition prints there was a guy at the scanning place who would look at the slides with a microscope to assess the quality before starting the scanning process. Every now and then he would make a whistling sound sucking air in through his teeth and announce “Phew, that’s sharp.” After a while I got used to the fact that he would always say that when I brought him something I’d shot with the Fujicas, but not so invariably with other stuff, shot with ‘mere’ Zeiss, Schneider or Rodenstock glass…

    I like the shots in this article, especially the two on Tri-X. I really must get on and repair my two Fujica GS cameras.

    • Reply
      Son Pham
      March 15, 2018 at 3:44 pm

      Thanks, Peter. I’m glad you like them – the second Tri-X shot on the train was actually from my 2nd roll of film with this camera. I was very happy about it.

      I totally forgot that these also shoot 220 film 😀 I’ve never shot any but I totally see what you mean – having 30 frames on this camera would perfectly complement its form factor. I would love to try that now – except 220 films are so hard to find nowadays

  • Reply
    Jarrod
    May 2, 2018 at 2:16 am

    My dad has one of those, great little camera. I should dust it off.

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