Mamiya M645 1000S – Ilford FP4 Plus

I had to re-familiarize myself with this camera since I haven’t used it in a while. It’s a bit cumbersome to operate and requires the full attention of both hands.

The shutter speed dial rotates only while a safety button is depressed. It’s a bit overkill as the detents are secure enough on their own. It’s a matter of using three fingers awkwardly versus the usual two.

Then there’s the shutter release; it’s very exposed. I unintentionally tripped it—twice—while handling the camera until I learned to keep the safety engaged. Consequently, disengaging said safety adds an additional step—one I didn’t always remember before framing the shot. Aargh.

The focus screen has a 45° split and when it’s not enough, a microprism collar surrounds it for assistance. I prefer these angled split screens over horizontal ones; they seem to be more versatile. The waist-level finder has a pop-up a magnifier for further aid in focusing. I always use these because OCD.

One thing I’ve never gotten used to is the physical and visual sensation of camera sway as the large mirror of the SLR swings up for exposure. I’m always certain the photos will display some shake but they almost always turn out fine.

For added stability, it helps to use the auxiliary shutter release on top of the camera. It’s triggered by a gentle thumb press which is braced against the fingers cradling the body from below. Whereas with the main shutter release on the front, I have to grasp the camera tight to resist moving the camera.

On this body the top two speeds are a stop too slow. From what I remember it’s fairly easy to calibrate; I had done it once. At the time I didn’t have a good way of measuring the fast speeds so I just matched it to 1 second. These days I can do better but I’m not about to disturb the glue to fix it.

The Mamiya-Sekor C 80mm f/1.9 was deployed for this roll. It’s sharp enough wide open and the bokeh is decent, perfect for shooting indoors with natural light. It also excels at taming high contrast scenes. My other lens option is a 55mm with a leaf shutter, and considering the location it would probably have been more appropriate.

I pulled the exposure two stops to ISO 32. I’ve only used FP4 once before; it was a similarly sunny day and pulling out the shadows worked for me then. Developed in Kodak Xtol. It wasn’t until I finished scanning that I noticed a line etched on the left side of each frame from something in the film transport.

For medium format, this kit handles well enough. I don’t have to match backs to bodies, mess with dark slides, or peek through red windows. It has all the right stuff; whenever I pick it up I’m reminded of that. A bit more familiarity wouldn’t hurt though.

Unfortunately I’m more likely to pick out a 6×6 or a 6×9 over this smaller format. If I’m going to shoot big, may as well go BIG. Well, you know what I mean.