If you appreciate the benefits of big medium-format negatives and transparencies, but don't care to lug around a big medium-format SLR, the Fujifilm GA645Zi could be just the camera you're looking for. This autofocus 6x4.5cm-format non-SLR model is amazingly compact and lightweight considering the size of the negatives and transparencies it produces, yet offers a built-in 55-90mm power-zoom lens (equivalent to a 35-60mm zoom on a 35mm camera), built-in motor drive, built-in pop-up autoflash, and both programmed and aperture-priority AE, as well as manual control of everything when you want it. Available in both the original titanium-and-black trim and a new all-black version, the GA645Zi is a handsome, rugged, lightweight and efficient image-making device.
Focusing In AF mode, you just press the shutter button halfway down, and the camera will automatically focus on whatever you aim the viewfinder's AF target at, then lock focus there until you either take the picture or let go of the shutter button. Autofocusing is single-shot; there's no continuous AF mode, or a predictive feature. The GA645Zi employs a hybrid AF system, utilizing passive phase-detection AF for distant subjects and an active infrared system for nearby ones. The theory behind the hybrid system is that it gives you the strengths of both types of autofocusing: the infrared system can handle dim lighting and subjects lacking contrast, while the passive system can handle distant subjects.
Its relatively compact size and light weight make the GA645Zi easy to cart aroundunusual for a medium-format camera, especially one with a zoom lens and full automation. Photo by Ron Leach
Manual focusing is done by pressing the AF/M button and rotating the Up/Down dial atop the camera until the desired focusing distance is displayed (infinity down to one meter in 15 steps, or infinity down to 3.5 feet in 10 steps) on the LCD panel. This isn't a rangefinder camera; the viewfinder is simply a framing device, and the image always looks sharp, whether in focus or not. The focusing scale down the right side of the finder display shows the focused distance in both AF and MF modes, via an analog bar-graph. We set the focus manually to infinity for landscapes and aerial photos, but preferred AF mode for most other shooting, finding it quite accurate, even when shooting with the lens wide open.
Minimum focusing distance is one meter (39 inches). The LED at the bottom of the focus-distance bar graph will blink when you're too close to focus under most circumstances, but it's a good idea to keep aware of your shooting distanceon our test camera, the scale would sometimes indicate a satisfactory shooting distance when we were closer than one meter (and the resulting images did turn out unsharp).
A lever atop the viewfinder eyepiece lets you set -3 to +1 diopters of correction, making it easy to read the viewfinder information without glasses.
The GA645Zi's built-in wide-to-normal zoom lens provides compositional flexibility and more shooting capabilities than fixed-focal length cameras provide. The windowlight portrait above was shot at 90mm. Photo by Ron Leach
Exposure The GA645Zi provides three autoexposure modes plus metered manual. In P (programmed AE), the camera automatically sets both the shutter speed and the aperture. This mode is ideal for quick shooting. In A (aperture-priority AE), you set the aperture you wish to use (via the Up/Down dial), and the camera automatically sets the corresponding shutter speed for proper exposure (but won't set shutter speeds slower than 1/45 when the built-in flash is used, to prevent blurring). AS (slow-synchro aperture-priority AE) is the same as A, but utilizes the full range of shutter speeds, even with flash. It's a good idea to mount the camera on a tripod when using AS mode in dim light.
When you want to set exposures manually, rotate the Selecting Dial to M, and use the Up/Down dial to set the aperture and (while simultaneously pressing the exposure-compensation button dial) the shutter speed. The viewfinder display lets you know (via two triangles between the aperture and shutter-speed readouts) when you've set proper exposure according the the camera's built-in exposure meter. Of course, you can ignore this, and set the exposure as per a hand-held meter reading, too.