First impressions of the Contax 645

Contax 645

Over the last month I have been experimenting with a new medium format camera (and film stock).

To date, my absolute favorite medium format camera is a Hasselblad 503cw. I bring it most everywhere. Day trips, long hikes, traveling and even just around the house. But there are some moments when the Hasselblad isn’t particular ideal. For me, that is with close up portraits.

The main reason is the Hasselblad has a waist level view finder. So to get at eye level (or slightly above) requires work. Usually it means climbing up on a chair or some other raised object. If that isn’t possible, I end up shooting 35mm.

So I decided to give the Contax 645 a try.

The Contax 645 is like a big SLR. You look through the lens and as a result it is relatively straight forward to create flattering portrait compositions. It is a large system but rather comfortable at the same time. If you have ever used a Canon 5D or Nikon D700/800, the Contax 645 won’t feel too dissimilar.

The Contax 645 differs from the Hasselblad in several other ways besides the view finder. It has auto focus, it has a meter, it automatically advances the film and rewinds the film. The Hasselblad has none of those things. And the Hasselblad shoots larger negatives (6×6 vs 6×4.5). I also find it easier to load film on the Contax 645.

But the lack of those features with the Hasselblad is what makes it so special to me. I feel like I am in total control of the photograph making process. With the Contax, I feel like the camera is doing much of the work for me. It’s a funny feeling especially when I don’t use the autofocus or the built in meter on the Contax. Maybe it’s just the lack of choices on the Hasselblad I find appealing. Or lack of batteries. I really don’t know.

But while I prefer the feeling of the Hasselblad, I am very much enjoying the output of the Contax 645 combined with Fuji 400h film. The combination is quite special.

Let me know if you have any questions about this camera in the comments. Happy to help.

After folding my first company (at 25), I did a retrospective and counted 32 different projects — most of them, whole new products or product variations — I’d started (and almost never completed) in the prior year. I realized this may have had something to do with my failure.

Evan Williams


I love Ev’s candor. So rare in our industry. 

I don’t care when people say we’re not getting on—it’s not fucking important. All that matters is what exists on stage and in our music. In that music is our relationship, is our love. He forgives all my foibles, and I forgive all his, and underneath all that I love him dearly.

Roger Daltrey about his relationship with Pete Townshend