Photokina 2012: Hands on with New Phase One Mamiya 645DF Medium-Format Camera

September 19, 2012

By Dan Havlik

Though new digital SLRs seemed to “steal the show” at photokina, with early announcements of full-frame models from Canon, Nikon, and Sony, there was plenty going on in the world of medium format. We stopped by the Mamiya Leaf booth and got try out the new 645DF+, a medium-format camera platform being sold under both the Mamiya Leaf and Phase One brands.

Though it looks nearly identical to the previous 645DF model — aside from the added “+” designation — the new 645DF+ camera body has some several key upgrades.

For one, while the 645DF+ has the same phase detection-based three-point autofocus system with dual focal plane and leaf shutter switching as the previous model, the AF’s electronic algorithm has been completely rewritten and feels a notch faster and more precise.

While it can’t keep pace with, say, the blazing speed of Canon or Nikon DSLR’s AF, the 645DF+’s autofocus was brisk and had no trouble locking in on an array of subjects at the booth. (And, as is usual in these booth settings, lighting conditions were a mix of shadows, black backgrounds and dim convention hall and studio lighting, i.e. not ideal.)

Another big change is improved battery life. With its new Li-ion rechargeable battery, the camera can now fire off up to 10,000 shots on a single charge. Best of all, the new battery does not seem to have any significant impact on the weight and design of the 645DF+. Hold both this model and the previous version in your hands and you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference.

The 645DF+’s firmware has also been rewritten and the shutter’s durability has been upgraded so it will last longer. Again, while none of these changes were noticeable while shooting with the camera, they’re appreciated.

Despite the overall upgrade, the 645DF+ is retailing for the same starting price as the previous model: $5990.

The real key to this revamped platform though are the digital backs that integrate with it and, with this model, there’s a variety to choose from including the Leaf Credo 80 (80MP), Credo 60 (60MP), and Credo 40 (40MP). The 645DF+ supports 50 different medium format digital backs and 80 different lenses from a variety of brands.

We also got a chance to check out the new Schneider Kreuznach 28mm LS f/4.5 Aspherical leaf shutter lens for the 645DF+ and it’s a real beauty, offering equivalent to a 17mm lens in 35mm format. Photographers who shoot interiors, landscapes, cityscapes and architecture are going to love the wide angle reach of this lens. It’s priced exactly the same as the 645DF+ platform: $5990.

If you want something with a much longer range, Mamiya Leaf was also showing off a prototype of a new 75-150m f/4-f/5.6 LS D leaf shutter lens at their booth. The lens had no price but was expected to ship next year.

An image of this monster for medium format is below.