The search for a film camera continues.
Before I sold off my pentax 67ii, I started searching for my next medium format film camera. My focusing issues were inconsolable with the 67ii. Again, if you don't have glasses or eye issues, this might be the perfect system for you. The search lead me to many possible different cameras. There were rangefinders, SLRs, twin lens reflex, and folding cameras. Another consideration was the format size: 645, 6x6, 6x7, 6x9, 6x10, some crazy huge ones like 6x17 that eat up your film like no other. I also looked into some of the 35mm film cameras, but I really wanted a medium format film camera.
I decided I would like to stick with a larger format such as 6x7 if possible. I started looking all over the place for autofocus options for this format and I found none. So if anyone knows of one, please let me know. In a future blog post I'll be writing about the rolleiflex 6008AF and hy6.2 cameras, which boasts autofocus in a 6x6 format. Eventually I ended up reading about the Fujifilm GF670 and GF670W, which are manual focus rangefinders (there are also voigtlander bessa versions of the same camera). I've never even touched a rangefinder before so I wanted to check one out before I bought one.
I was in Manhattan in December of 2014 and my wife and I stopped by B&H. This was the 2nd time I've stepped foot into that store. It was just as amazing as the last. I went around and checked the backpack section for any cool new bags. I found none that day. It's actually quite a chore to find a somewhat style conscious backpack that doesn't scream 'I'm a photo bag'. I then went to the used camera section and asked to check out any rangefinder camera. I ended up holding a Leica M6. I racked the focus back and forth and it seemed easy enough to focus. This looked hopeful, especially since the viewfinder in the Fuji GF670/W is supposed to be much larger.
I browsed some of the internet forums and bought both the GF670 and GF670W used. I also read some good things about the Fujifilm GA645 series, which are 645 format autofocus rangefinders, so I bought a GA645i and a GA645w as well. I figured that since I'm buying them all used and if don't particularly love them, I'll be able to sell them a nearly the same price I bought them for.
The GF670 and the GF670W are newer film cameras. Unfortunately, it seems like Fujifilm just recently discontinued making the GF670. B&H marked the GF670 as discontinued, but it looks like you can still get the voigtlander bessa III, which is the same camera, just in a black color.
The GF670 is a really cool camera. It can switch between 6x6 and 6x7, making it versatile in that aspect. Even though it is large, it folds down to almost nothing. I was excited to use it. In regards to the ergonomics, I really liked the positioning of the dial up top and the manual film winder, but it took a little bit of time getting used to the focusing ring without touching the bellows. I went around and took some test shots, which turned out great. I did also still have some focusing issues because of my eye issues, but not nearly as bad as the pentax 67ii. This would be the top choice for traveling for many people.
The GF670W is also a great camera. It has basically the same ergonomics as the GF670 but it doesn't have any bellows to worry about, but that means it is also a thicker camera since it can't fold down.
The GA645, GA645i, GA645W, GA645Wi are autofocus 645 rangefinder cameras. I bought the GA645i and GA645w. The "i" version is a slightly newer version which featured minor upgrades and is slightly more expensive in the used market. These cameras are a lot older (circa 1995) than the GF670 series cameras and the copies you get from the bay could have some undisclosed issues. I was initially excited to use them when I relied on in-camera metering and they all offered autofocus. During this time, I switched over to using a light meter and found I really liked the look of exposing for shadows using incident light metering. It was fidgety to change any of the settings such as the shutter speed on the camera. It would have been nice to have a dial like the GF670. This series of cameras are really great as a point and shoot medium format film camera.
I ended up selling everything. The GF670, GF670W, GA645i, and the GA645w. If the GF670/W had autofocus I would have definitely kept them both. I even bought an accessory to make it easier to focus: the bresson 1.08x-1.58x zoom viewfinder eyepiece magnifier. I think this is one of the only magnifier pieces that is readily available for this system. It made focusing easier, but it also made the cameras bulkier, and with my bad eyes, it still took a long time to focus. The GA645i/w were too fidgety to use with incident light metering so those had to go too.
My search continued on from here to the Hasselblad H1 and the Rolleiflex 6008AF and Hy6.2. More in another post!
Photos were taken with a Fujifilm GF670 in Santa Monica, CA.