I was poking through my "old gear" -- you know, the stuff that started collecting dust as soon as digital SLRs became viable? -- and dug out my Mamiya 645AF. I forgot what a wonderful experience working with this camera was. Bright viewfinder, beautiful lenses, tack-sharp focus.

I felt betrayed by Mamiya for selling me this camera and within months coming out with the AFD because evidently digital backs don't work with the AF at all but will work with the AFD.

There is a question in here. What I'm wondering is whether anyone has had a success story attaching a digital back to a Mamiya AF body?


2 Answers 2


Some searching online seems to indicate that the Kodak Proback would work, but most places agreed that you are better off, both price and quality wise, to simply update to a newer body unless you can find a good deal on one of the very few backs that will actually work with the 645AF.

The cheapest I could find a Proback in my quick looks was several grand, used. On the other hand, the 645AFD is only $350 and you could then use a much wider selection of backs that are substantially more modern.

One caveat, note that this is all second hand information that I researched briefly since nobody else had been able to answer yet. Take it with a grain of salt for what it is.

  • They've made great strides in digital medium-format backs since most of the Kodak backs were made, IIRC. Chief among these improvements have been ISO performance, battery life, and transistor density. As you point out, the body does become a bit of a commodity in this equation, dwarfed by the cost of the lenses and the back. They might have kept me on as a customer if they'd offered their P1 back, but they pretty much left me in the cold. I think it's the 1DsMIII for me :(
    – Steve Ross
    Jan 9, 2014 at 17:46
  • Any particular reason you prefer the 1DsMIII over the 5DMIII (or even the cheaper 6D)?
    – AJ Henderson
    Jan 9, 2014 at 18:27
  • I have the 5DMIII as well. It wasn't available when I got the 1Ds. But... that said, the 1Ds has the vertical grip built in and better weather sealing than the 5DMIII. OTOH, the 5D has better high-ISO performance and a debatably better AF system. I say debatably because my experience is that AF is tied superficially to the amount of power in the camera system and the 1Ds has a ton more battery power -- just ask my shoulders! The 1Ds has also been a bit more reliable with flash sync. Hard to quantify, but I've had fewer flash misses with it than the 5D. I haven't tried the 6D at all.
    – Steve Ross
    Jan 9, 2014 at 18:39
  • @SteveRoss - yeah, I never use my 5D Mark iii without the battery grip attached. I was just asking because you said "I think it's the 1DsMIII for you." and was just curious why you mentioned that one. (1Ds3 has slightly less shutter lag too, though both it and the 5D3 are very fast).
    – AJ Henderson
    Jan 9, 2014 at 18:41

"Digital backs" in the broad sense do work with the 645AF, but only a very few specific backs were made to work with it. They're all quite old now and the experience, assuming you can even find one secondhand, is not seamless. The conversion to the AFD was primarily to enable seamless use with digital backs—it added additional contacts and communication.

Realistically, you would want to eat the upgrade cost of swapping your body out for an AFD or later. If you wanted something you could grow with, you'd want the AFD-III or later.

The AF would limit you to low-resolution, high-noise, slow-in-every-sense options like the Phase One LightPhase, H5, or H10, or the Kodak ProBack.

Stepping up to the AFD would open your options up to most Leaf backs, all but the latest Phase One backs (many of which are still quite good), and many of the Sinars.

The AFD-III adds Phase One's IQ and current IQ2 offerings to the mix, while the 645DF would additionally add leaf shutter support (at the cost of film back support).

  • Thanks for the info. I love the IQ offerings but the cost/benefit is a bit much. I was just hoping to resurrect some old gear, but it seems like a low likelihood of success effort.
    – Steve Ross
    Jan 9, 2014 at 23:59

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