I was first introduced to the Fuji GA 645 by my former film editor at the FIND Lab, Chris Kale. He loves his Fuji GA645 and would always post splendid images on social media that I would admire.
I am very susceptible to GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), so when a GA645 came available for sale in a Facebook Film group at the end of 2017, I snapped it up.
The Fuji GA645 is a compact (for a medium format) rangefinder film camera. I love this camera for travel because it is a medium format camera in a relatively small size compared to other medium format cameras and even some film SLR cameras.
The Fuji GA645 has become my go-to camera when I want the convenience of a point-and-shoot paired with the quality of medium format.
In this Fuji GA645 review we’ll go over the technical aspects of the camera, such as its controls, settings, lens, etc, and we’ll also go over tips for loading and shooting, using the in-camera light meter, and using it for specific genres of photography, such as night photography and portraits.
Fuji doesn’t make any of the GA645 cameras anymore, but you can find them at KEH Camera or on eBay. When I bought mine nearly three years ago, I paid $550, but because they are becoming more popular and increasingly rare, now you can expect to pay between $700-$900.
One of the many things that makes it such a unique camera is that it shoots in portrait orientation when the camera is held in a normal position. To take a landscape orientated image, the camera must be turned to what would usually be a portrait position.
The Fuji GA645 is lightweight for a medium format camera weighing in at just over 815 grams. It’s also compact for a medium format camera measuring 166mm wide, 110mm high, and 66mm deep when turned off. When turned on and the lens is extended its depth becomes 84mm.
Its body is made of hard plastic that gives it a sturdy feel with a grip that houses the batteries making it a comfortable camera to hold.
The strap lugs are on the opposite side of the camera on the top and the bottom rather than on each side of the camera. This means that the camera hangs from your neck vertically (but in the landscape shooting position).
This is a bit awkward because it means you must reach below the camera to grab it to shoot. Instead of wearing the camera around my neck, I carry it over my right shoulder. Then when I am ready to shoot, I reach for the grip which is right above my right hand and bring the camera to my eye.
Controls on the Fuji GA645
The controls on the GA645 are minimal with a mode dial on the back near the viewfinder. Beside it are three buttons—data for recording information on your film, self-timer, and the pop-up flash.
On the top of the body, you will find the shutter button, AF/M focus, exposure compensation, and a selector dial.
You can check how many shots your camera has taken by holding down the exposure compensation button and turning the mode wheel to ISO. The number shown equals the number of hundreds of shots taken.
For example, my camera reads 033, which means my camera has taken 3,300 images! (I’ve probably only shot a few hundred, and you can see from the image above that mine is a well-loved camera!)
It shoots 120 or 220 film in a 6×4.5cm (645) format. It requires two 123 3-volt batteries. I recommend carrying a couple of spares with you when you travel because they are not always easy to find. I speak from experience!
The camera has three exposure modes M (manual), A (aperture priority), and P (programed auto). The viewfinder is a “bright frame” and includes an AF mark, image frame, exposure indicator (up/down), shutter speed, flash indicator (on/off), and focusing distance (meters or feet). [You can change between meters and feet by holding down the AF button when the camera is off and moving the mode dial to ISO, either m or ft will be displayed.]
The Lens, Light Meter, and Other Technical Details
The GA645 has a Super EBC Fujinon 60mm (about the equivalent of a 35mm lens on a 35mm camera) f/4 autofocus (with a manual focus option) lens with a minimum focus distance of .7 meters. It has snappy autofocus and produces a very sharp image. The camera also has parallax error correction.
One of the many things I love about this camera is its reliable and accurate built-in light meter. It is center-weighted and uses a silicon photo diode. It is a TTF (Through The Finder) and not a TTL (Through The Lens) system that can use film speeds from ISO 25 to ISO 1600.
The viewfinder has a 93% field of view from 3meters to infinity and 91% field of view at closer distances and a magnification of .5x.
The camera has a leaf shutter with shutter speeds from Bulb to 1/400th of a second with apertures of f/4-9.5 and can go up to 1/700th of a second with apertures of f/11 to f/22.
The Fuji GA645 has a pop-up flash with automatic triggering and an unheard-of sync speed of 1/700th of a second at f/11 and f/22 and 1/400th of a second at all lower apertures thanks to that leaf shutter.
The built-in flash has a guide number 12 with ISO 100 speed film. The camera also has an accessory hot shoe for a larger flash. Fuji made a GA Strobe and a flash bracket for the GA645. Both are on my wish list!
Film Advance, Frame Counter, and Exposure Data
The film advance is automatic and easy to load without having to match up a start mark.
The frame counter is found in the LCD screen on the top of the camera, and the camera will beep before the last frame on the roll. It will also automatically wind the finished roll.
Exposure data and date/time information can be imprinted on the film between the frames. You can choose from the following options: Year/Month/Day, Day/Hour/Minute, exposure mode/aperture/shutter/exposure comp/focus, Year/Day/Hour/Minute and OFF. The year can be set from (19)94 to (20)25.
Loading and Shooting the Fuji GA645
The Fuji GA645 has become my travel camera. I used to travel with my Rolleiflex 2.8f because it isn’t a huge medium format camera, but the GA645 is quickly taking its place with its compact size and simplicity.
I literally put it on P, point, and shoot. I love that it encourages me to see the world vertically when I travel as well. But there are a few things you should know about the GA645 before you go out and buy one for your next holiday.
The camera can take 120 or 220 film. You’ll get 16 images with 120 and 32 images with 220.
Make sure you adjust the back plate on the door of the film compartment to 120 or 220. Do this by pressing it down and sliding it left or right to the correct type of film you will be using.
Loading the camera is pretty easy, but there are a few quirks. When you open the back of the camera by pushing down the light gray tab on the right side of the camera, you’ll see the lens in the center and two film compartments on either side. Make sure you have a take-up spool in the right compartment.
To take out and insert the spool and a new roll of film, you’ll have to push down the little red buttons below each compartment.
Insert the film in the left compartment. Be sure to push the button on the bottom of the camera back in or your film will not wind properly. I speak from experience!
Do the same for the take-up spool compartment. You’ll need to put the tab of the film into the take-up spool and use the dial on the top of the camera to wind it in to secure it.
There will be a little resistance when you do this, and it will make a little mechanical whining sound. Don’t worry. You are not damaging your camera.
Advance your film just until you see the start arrow on the left. The camera has a sensor and will advance your film to the correct point. When you close the camera back, be sure it snaps in place and the light gray tab is down.
Next, turn the dial on the back of the camera to the ISO setting. You’ll see ISO flashing in the LCD screen on the top of the camera.
Turn the dial on the top of the camera to the correct ISO setting or however you like to rate your film. Now you’re ready to shoot!
Turn the dial on the back of the camera to the mode you want to use. The lens will extend, and you’ll see information in the LCD screen on the top of your camera.
If you’re in Program mode, you’ll see your ISO setting, a data indicator if you’ve set it, the battery life, the film type (120 or 220), the frame counter, and exposure compensation if you’ve set it.
If you’re in Aperture Priority mode, you’ll see all of the above along with your aperture. You can change your aperture by turning the dial on the top of the camera.
If you’re in Manual mode, you’ll see all of the same things as Program mode except ISO and exposure compensation. Instead, you’ll see TV on the left to indicate the shutter speed, which you’ll see to the right, and to the right of that, you’ll see your aperture.
To change your settings in Manual mode, move the dial on the top of the camera to change aperture, and to change the shutter speed, hold down the exposure compensation button while turning the dial on the top of the camera at the same time.
It’s a little tedious to do this, so I only shoot in Manual mode when it’s absolutely necessary.
The Most Important Tip
Once you have all of your settings as you like them and the camera is turned on, you’re ready to go. But there is one more step, and it is the most important. REMOVE THE LENS CAP!
This is a rangefinder camera. That means it has a viewfinder that does not show you what the lens sees. The viewfinder is always unobstructed, so when you look through it, everything looks fine.
However, if your lens cap is still on, when you push the shutter button, your frame will be black. I have shot the first three or four images with the lens cap on several times when I first started using this camera.
While we are talking about the viewfinder and what the camera sees, be aware of your surroundings when you’re shooting. While your viewfinder may appear unobstructed, your lens may not be.
We were at the top of the tower of the Rathaus in Hannover, Germany, and I wanted to photograph the amazing view between the bars that were there for safety. The view was breathtaking through the viewfinder. Through the lens? Not so much.
As I mentioned earlier when discussing the specs of the Fuji GA645, the camera’s exposure meter is fantastic. When I have good light, I set the camera on P and shoot away.
When I am traveling, it’s wonderful to just be able to push the button and know I am going to get a great image. I am not juggling a light meter along with my camera or forgetting to meter or remembering to meter but forgetting to change the camera settings—all things I have done many times.
Instead, I get to enjoy the place I am visiting, make good memories along with good photos.
The meter on this camera, like many cameras, can be fooled. There will be times when you will need to have a handheld meter and shoot in manual mode or know your exposures well enough to know when to compensate.
Despite the clouds, the light on the Brighton Pier was quite bright, so the camera automatically compensated for that by lowering the exposure.
The resulting images are underexposed. That doesn’t mean I don’t still love them, but they were not intentionally shot this way.
The light inside this primitive house on Wormsloe Plantation near Savannah, Georgia was very directional and moody.
I wanted to capture that if I could, so I used my handheld light meter (which I always have with me) and metered for the highlights.
I put the GA645 in Manual mode and adjusted the settings like I would on any other all-manual camera to create these images.
This camera is so light-weight and compact for a medium format camera that I felt it would be the perfect camera to take snowshoeing during a winter snowstorm.
Knowing that the camera’s incident light meter would try to make the snow 18% gray, underexposing it, I knew I had to compensate for that to make the snow white.
I set the exposure compensation to +2 and went for a three-mile snowshoe hike in a local park.
We’ve seen that the light meter can be fooled. The autofocus can be fooled as well.
This camera performs best when there is some distance between it and what you want it to focus on. Super close ups don’t shine with this camera, and the autofocus will often miss focus if what you want it to focus on is too close or there is too much texture in the image.
Night Photography with the GA645
With its smallest aperture at f/4, you might not think this would be a good camera for night shooting.
Guess what? It is!
With its leaf shutter, this camera can be handheld at lower shutter speeds than you would probably use with curtain shutters.
When I shoot this camera at night, I put it in Manual mode and set the aperture wide open at f/4 and the shutter anywhere between 1/30th to 1/15th of a second and then point and shoot.
The 645 format is one of my favorites for portraits, but since I primarily think of this as my travel camera, I don’t take a lot of portraits with it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a great camera for portraits.
I rarely use flash when I shoot film unless I am in the studio, but the little pop-up flash on the Fuji GA645 is perfect for fill flash when shooting outdoor portraits.
Take a look at a portrait without fill flash and one with fill flash. The portrait without the fill is just fine, but the added fill light makes the second one just pop.
A Note About Lomography Film & the GA645
One more thing to note based on my experience. Lomography film and the Fuji GA645 are not friends.
I have tried several rolls of various Lomo films in this camera, and each time I tried them, when the roll finishes and the camera winds the film to the end, the film is not tightly wound on the take-up spool, and light leaks result.
And while these are still kind of cool, I was very disappointed when I got the scans back.
A Summary of the Pros and Cons
Quirks and Weaknesses of the Fuji GA645
The Fuji GA645 has a few quirks and weaknesses that you’ll need to be aware of. You can find more details about many these earlier in this review, but here’s a good summary of what to keep in mind if you want to pick up a GA645:
Since it’s a rangefinder, the lens doesn’t exactly see what the viewfinder shows.
You’ll need to remember to take off the lens cap before shooting.
The meter can be fooled in certain lighting situations.
It doesn’t seem to like Lomography film.
It is not a quiet camera. The film advance and even the lens extension when initially turned on makes a bit of a racket.
The batteries are not common or inexpensive.
The lens is a bit slow maxing out at f/4.
It has a rather high price point.
And using the camera in manual mode is tedious.
Pros of the Fuji GA645
No camera is perfect, but the Fuji GA645 is perfect for many situations. It’s great for travel, portraits, night shooting, and just all-around easy film shooting without a lot of thought or fuss.
It’s practically perfect in Program mode.
It has a sharp lens and a superb built-in light meter.
Autofocus makes it quick and easy to shoot.
It’s well-built and compact for a medium format camera.
The battery life is long.
Its built-in flash is perfect fill light for environmental portraits.
It corrects for parallax error.
It records exposure data on your film.
It keeps a running shutter count so you know how well-used the camera is before you buy it.
It’s leaf shutter makes hand holding at lower shutter speeds possible along with a higher flash sync speed
On-the-go portraits look great with the GA645.
This camera would be great for film beginners and professionals and anyone in between. If you have a Fuji GA645 or get one after reading this review, I’d love to hear about your experiences with it.