The medium format rangefinder that everyone forgot about
There are some cameras that just rock my world, and the Bronica RF645 is one of them. I don’t know what the allure is, but it is a very handsome camera. It also seems to be a camera that everyone seems to pass by.
When it comes to medium format rangefinders, people seem to immediately jump to the Mamiya 6. But when they are looking for the in field usability of the the 6×4.5 format there are not that many options. But the Fuji GA645 is not your only option when it comes to 645…there is the Bronica! The camera that everyone seems to forget about.
But why do they forget about this awesome camera? Well, the Bronica RF645 was conceived during a turbulent time for camera makers and their products.
First released in 2000 this camera won the EISA and TIPA awards in 2002 for professional cameras. The thing is, during this time everyone in the professional market was starting to take notice of the commercial applications of digital cameras. No longer were they something of a gimmick, they were starting to show promise and the possibility that they might be a viable medium. This was the problem with the RF645, timing. It was released at the wrong time so everyone rushed past it to jump on the digital bandwagon. Had this camera been released in 1995 it would have blown everyone away and we would all remember it. Or had it be released in 2009 we would have thought of it a quirky and cool and it would have a massive price tag for being ‘different’. But it wasn’t, as it was released in 2000 we tend to forget it and instead look to the Mamiya cameras, which were released at exactly the right time.
This camera is beautiful and well designed. So well designed in fact that it won the good design award in Japan for its looks and layout. It has innovative features that set it apart from the field at the time, including a program mode, automatica dark slide and non mechanical leaf shutter lenses. This camera was a leap above the competitors, but it was too late. The camera was only on sale for 5 years before it was discontinued. Which was a terrible shame for us but an even more terrible shame for Bronica, as the brand was dropped after 47 years of business. Tamron had acquired the company some time back and they were in control of the fate of the brand. Another reason people overlook this camera is that they think that they cannot be serviced any longer, which is not true. Tamron have committed to servicing them until 2014.
The camera has a bright vertical viewfinder which has a great internal layout, with all of the camera modes and warnings featured in your view. It was parallax compensated for the 65mm and 100 mm lenses. And lets talk about them. The camera comes as standard with the 65mm f4 lens, but there were a total of 4 lenses released for this camera. The 45mm f4, 65mm f4, 135mm f4.5 and the 100mm f4.5. The 100mm was released later to replace the 135mm lens, as it was not a comfortable fit on the rangefinder and was hard to focus correctly. The lenses for this camera are very capable and have reports of very good results.
This is an immensely capable camera that has some great lenses, and it should not be overlooked. This may look like a simple camera, but it is not at all. Underneath that pretty skin is a sophisticated electronically controlled camera, featuring a program mode, AE lock and motor driven leaf shutter lenses.
So why not Bronica? Well, there is no reason other than they are hard to find. They don’t come up as often as Mamiya’s or Fuji’s, as they were not produced in large enough numbers. But, if you know where to look there are a few around…In fact, I have one for sale right now:)
So if you want one of these, drop me a line and I can make sure you have one of the best kept rangefinder secrets in your hands soon.