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09-29-2009, 06:05 PM   #1
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Is the 645 hard to focus for a blind old guy?

So I'm thinking about taking the leap into a medium format camera. I am wondering if you all can give me some insight on how the manual focus is with these cameras. I have been thinking about a Pentax 645. I develop my own black and white film so as far as developing that shouldn't be a problem and I have a scanner that can handle both 220 and 120 film. I will have to figure out how to develop color if I go in that direction. I have been looking on ebay recently and am just about ready to pull the trigger on this. But the thing that is holding my back is my eyes not focusing really well. Is there anything on the 645 that would help me focus accurately? I have been shooting with a K20D for about 2 years and that is totally in manual mode other than the auto focus. I would greatly appreciate your alls input on this. Also what would you all suggest for the back, a 120 or 220 and what about lenses. I have seen quite a few auctions with either a 45mm or 75 mm lens.

Thanks
Jim

09-29-2009, 08:16 PM   #2
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You should not have a problem with the 645. It has a dipoter and a great screen; I used them for years. I had all of the lenses at one point in time and the 45 2.8 is superb as well as the 75mm. Backs are cheap..buy both.

I have K20D's, but I do miss the 645.
09-29-2009, 09:56 PM   #3
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I can throw in 2-cents in on developing your own color. It is not too hard. Much the same as BW except the temperature and the shelf life that sucks. You can get something like the Jobo or Unicolor C-41 press kit from freestyle.biz. It contains all you need. You can process it with a tank like your BW if you do it that way.

I put one of those small coolers in my sink and put hot water from the faucet in it. I place the pre-soak water, Developer and Blix in it with an accurate color thermometer to get it to 102°F (39°C). I remove the chemicals from the cooler and mix cold water in to get it to 102°F (39°C) also. I place the chemicals back in.

Then process per the instructions that come with the kit. When you get near the wash stage, turn on the faucet mixing cold with hot into a container with the thermometer adjusting the amount of each until it reads between 95°F (35°C) and 105°F (40.5°C). Leave the adjusted faucet running. When you're ready to wash just fill the tank, agitate several times, pour it out, fill again, agitate, etc for 3 minutes. Add the stabilizer at room temperature and your done ready to dry.

Doing color at home is best when you shoot a lot of it. My problem is I only do color now and then you waste your chemicals due to the short life after mixing. And the darn instructions won't go out on a limb and tell you just how many rolls you can safely process in a one liter kit. Some say 10 or so rolls or more if you rinse between developer and blix but I have never done that many within about a 2-month period where I'm too chicken to use the chemicals after that again and mix a new batch.

And, of course, my procedure comes with a disclaimer: your milage may vary ;-)

Last edited by tuco; 09-30-2009 at 09:16 AM.
09-30-2009, 03:01 AM   #4
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I'm an oldish guy with trouble on occasion focusing ... there are a couple of things going for the 645 view finder - first, it is LARGE, larger than any 35mm. Second, there's a good focus aid, and the matte screen has good snap. They say the next, af, model is brighter etc, but the plain 645 works plenty well.

09-30-2009, 05:23 AM   #5
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jbrowning:

If you can focus a K20D you should not have any problems with the 645 for the viewfinder is brighter and larger, the 645N is even brighter.
Depending on the screen there are focusing aids such as split image or microprism. I use the grid screen and find lack of focusing aids not a major issue.
09-30-2009, 06:05 AM   #6
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Thanks everybody for your help. I will keep my eyes open on ebay and craigs list to see what I can find. It seems the 645 and a 120 or 220 back with a 75mm 2.8 lens is going for about $300.00 including shipping. But man that 45mm 2.8 lens is quite out there on price. I will keep my eyes open though and will probably be back once I get one in my hands.

Hi tuco, that is what I have heard about color. That it is mainly temperatures that you have to be careful with. My developing is done in the bathroom and the water coming out of the tap. I will have to play with it some to figure it out I'm sure.

Thanks
Jim
09-30-2009, 08:52 AM   #7
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Jim,

The viewfinder is quite large, so that helps me with manual focusing. I did sell my Pentax 645 (original manual focus body) and ended up with a pair of Pentax 645N bodies. One of the main reasons was the brighter viewfinder compared to the original Pentax 645. For me this helps a lot with manual focusing. Another big boost for manual focusing is the focus confirmation with the 645N - there is a green LED dot in the viewfinder that comes on once the image is in focus (tied to the center focus point) as well as an optional, audible beep. This is great as it works with the manual focus as well as the autofocus lenses mounted on the 645N.

The price for a 645N body is equal to or greater than the price of a 645, 75mm lens and film back or two. So, it is a steep upgrade.

Having said all that, I still liked using the original 645 body. There are aftermarket focusing screens - Brightscreen - made for the original 645, which will give you significant viewfinder brightness, but the going prices for those are around $200 - 250, about the same you would pay for the upgrade to a 645N.

Yuri
09-30-2009, 02:08 PM   #8
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Stay away from the kit with a 220 back, there are less emulsion available in 220 format. Many times a seller will bundle a 220 back and sell the 120 back separately. If you are buying a kit with 220 back factor in the cost of getting a 120 back.

If you are thinking 45mm, the FA45 is sharper than the A45 by a lot.

09-30-2009, 07:15 PM   #9
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Thanks everyone for your input. To clear something up. I say I use a K20D, but that is in auto focus 99% of the time.

I have looked at the 645N but it is a little out of my price range. I sure would like it with the auto focus though. Maybe in a couple of years I can upgrade to that one.

I didn't realize that about the 220 film. Thanks for the info. I will make sure I look for a 120 back.

Thanks
Jim
10-01-2009, 03:02 AM   #10
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I used a 645 for some years and really enjoyed it, in part because it had the best prism viewfinder of any MF camera I'd used. Also, the remote battery kept in a warm pocket made winter shooting possible despite the battery-dependent automation. My diopter adjustment had a tendency to drift out of position, but that was the only complaint I had with focusing. The 35mm WA was not as sharp as the Zeiss Biogon on a Hasselblad Superwide but wasn't bad, certainly fantastic for the money.
10-09-2009, 06:00 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by jbrowning Quote
I have looked at the 645N but it is a little out of my price range. I sure would like it with the auto focus though.
The 645N is so far and away nicer than the 645 that I would recommend holding out for one if you at all can. Used kits come up on eBay with some regularity. Besides the brighter screen and auto-focus the controls are so much nicer.

QuoteOriginally posted by jbrowning Quote
I didn't realize that about the 220 film. Thanks for the info. I will make sure I look for a 120 back.
Actually, you can easily convert a 220 back to a 120 back. More info on this when I write it up for my blog.
01-31-2010, 02:03 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by rparmar Quote
The 645N is so far and away nicer than the 645 that I would recommend holding out for one if you at all can. Used kits come up on eBay with some regularity. Besides the brighter screen and auto-focus the controls are so much nicer.



Actually, you can easily convert a 220 back to a 120 back. More info on this when I write it up for my blog.
I have read your blog about photography and cannot find the article on converting a 220 film back to accept a 120 roll film. Why not just describe the procedure here in the Pentax Forums, in this thread, where the information would be more relevant and much more likely to receive better welcome than your blog whose subjects' range beyond photography?

Second question, Have you personally converted a 220 film back to accept 120 roll films, and have you verified the results by shooting some 120 roll films through the converted back? If this is possible, it would open doors to acquiring more film backs. I know Pentax 645 backs cannot be changed mid-roll but convenience of having multiple backs preloaded with film would be handy in situations where reloading film is bothersome.

Thanks,
01-31-2010, 05:51 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by excanonfd Quote
I have read your blog about photography and cannot find the article on converting a 220 film back to accept a 120 roll film. Why not just describe the procedure here in the Pentax Forums, in this thread, where the information would be more relevant and much more likely to receive better welcome than your blog whose subjects' range beyond photography?

Second question, Have you personally converted a 220 film back to accept 120 roll films, and have you verified the results by shooting some 120 roll films through the converted back? If this is possible, it would open doors to acquiring more film backs. I know Pentax 645 backs cannot be changed mid-roll but convenience of having multiple backs preloaded with film would be handy in situations where reloading film is bothersome.

Thanks,
Using 120 in 220 back/holders or self converting them is an urban legend. You will be compromising film flatness and spacing.Also not to mention the end of roll issue in 120 which is half the length of 220.
01-31-2010, 07:46 PM   #14
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It depends on whether the blind old guy stands still or not Jim.
01-31-2010, 10:33 PM   #15
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Urban Legend ???

The type of back is electrically coded. Therefor the length of the film.
No other difference! Lay them side by side and you will see different contacts.
(Since I have enough 120-Backs I've not tried to convert a 220-Back)

-Linus-
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