UPGRADING TO THE MAMIYA 645 DF+

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

I’m the first to hate on photo blogs that obsess about new gear, pixel peeping, and how wonderful the latest and greatest new thing is, so let me immediately acknowledge that for a few brief moments I’m about to break my own rules.

Now that we have that out of the way I can share some really exciting news.

I made a big investment in my business and moved from primarily working with a 35mm SLR system back to primarily working with a medium format system again when I purchased a Mamiya 645 DF+ and a Leaf Credo 40 back at the end of 2014. I’d mainly been working with the Canon 5D series for the last couple of years and occasionally renting Mamiya/Phase systems when needed, but the more I shot with the medium format systems the more I fell back in love with the look of the images I was getting from them – I spent a good chunk of my film days shooting on the analog versions of the Mamiya 645 and the Mamiya RZ, so going back to that format actually felt really natural for me. I’d been looking into upgrading as far back as 2012, but from a business and financial perspective it wasn’t the right time to make that sort of investment, so I shelved the idea and decided to revisit it in the future. Thankfully, by the end of 2014 I had experienced quite a bit of growth in my business, been saving smartly towards upgrading, and was in a position where making the leap made a lot more sense.

I couldn’t be happier!

If you think you will ever be in the market to upgrade to a medium format system I highly recommend talking to the folks at Capture Integration in Atlanta before you do so. I agonized for well over a year before pulling the trigger on this new system, and lot of it was spent doing research, getting opinions, and trying to get my hands on various systems to test drive, but what locked it for me was when Chris Snipes from the CI sales team actually came to Buffalo for an event and made some time for me privately to answer a ton of questions and let me test drive a lot of different gear hands-on that really sold me. They’ve been great after the fact too, checking in with me and offering tons of support and optimization tips through their tech support and rentals manager Anthony Festa (a fellow Western New Yorker recently transplanted to the South). These are the people to talk to if you are serious about upgrading.

One of the first assignments I used the new setup on was this portrait of the late pro baseball umpire and actor Peter Calieri. He was probably best known as one of the field officials in Barry Levinson’s The Natural – maybe the best baseball movie ever. He was also a beloved part of the Buffalo, NY theatre community. Sadly, Peter passed away unexpectedly not long after he sat for this portrait.

Portrait of former pro baseball umpire and actor peter calieri
When I was in Seattle a few years ago at a workshop with John Keatly he joked that when he upgraded to a Hasselblad system he was disappointed that the images he took with the camera weren’t already retouched, and I totally get that now. These cameras are actually a little unforgiving, the files are so astonishingly sharp and crisp that you see EVERYTHING, but when you move past that and realize that the raw materials they give you to work with have so much potential and such a different feel from the 35mm format it changes the way you shoot and approach projects. I find myself working much more slowly and deliberately now. In general I’m capturing far fewer frames per project, and I’m certainly mindful of the quirks you encounter when moving to a new system. At first I was concerned about the weight and size factor, and it certainly is heavier than my MKIII, but at 6’2 it really hasn’t been too much of an issue for me. I’ve also found that I have to be extra mindful about nailing focus with this camera, as it’s much less forgiving that a 35mm in that regard – but when you see that perfect capture come in on-screen you are totally blown away by it.
UPGRADING TO THE MAMIYA 645 DF+

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