Since starting with film and not only being digital all the way I found that there is much to learn and also much gear I had never even heard about. For me a film camera was a full-frame 24×36 mm camera – as my old Yashica SLR or Canon EOS 300. How wrong that impression was:)
Leaving the safe 135 film trail, I soon wandered off into various medium format cameras. Not only are there different medium format cameras, the film also come in many sizes, from 6×4,5 cm to 6×9 cm.
My first medium format camera was a Mamiya 645 from the 1980’s. It was kind of cool to have such (coming from 135 film) large negatives. Given the larger negatives I did not have to develop with perfection, the negatives scanned well and lent themselves better to digital postprocessing than the smaller 135-fomat.
Of course it didn’t stop there as my experiments were going for even larger negs. With an old Ikonta (1950’s) there was 6×6 cm and with an even older Agfa (we’re into the 1920-30’s here) there was the largest of the bunch, 6×9 cm! When it was in vogue, in the early 1900’s, contact copying was the easy way to get prints from it. Contact prints of 6×9 cm are of course of the same size as the neg and can easily be distributed among friends, be made postcards of – or even framed and put on the wall.
As soon as I stumbled upon the Fujifilm line of medium format cameras I of course also read about the biggest of them all, the Fuji 6×7 and 6×9. They sounded interesting but out of reach due both price and scarcity. From as far away as Japan I eventually found a Fuji GW690II. Here in Europe they are surprisingly expensive but through ebay I managed to get one even for my budget. The cost does not stop there as an entire roll of 120-film only yields 8 pictures in it.
From a distance the GW690II looks like any other camera, not so when it is close. It is HUGE! The sheer size and shape of it explains the nick-names “Texas Leica” (everything is bigger in Texas!) or “the Brick”.
While it is large it is surprisingly light, in fact, it feels sort of empty. In my hands it is a bit bulky but the low weight makes it easy to carry around anyway. Given the nice sharp lens and large negatives it is sometimes worth it. Unfortunately it has no light metering system so that has to be managed by some other means – presently I use a DSLR to determine exposure but that’s not an option in the long run (I need more training on the Sunny-16 rule). On the positive side it requires no battery.
The GW690II is somewhat (ahem!) bigger than the average 35 mm camera.
Handling is simple, after setting the exposure just look through the viewfinder and match two overlapping images for focus and press the shutter. On the web I have read lots of posts leading me to think it would make an awful loud “ka-tjung!”-sound. I find those views grossly overstated. No, it is not silent, but certainly less noisy than the Mamiya 645 I am used to. It says “click” (with a springy echo), but that is about it.
There are two shutter buttons, one on the top and one in the front. The shutter lock is a lever around the front button indicated by a small “L” in the picture above. The press itself is sort of soft with a barely discernable pressure point.
Lens hood fully extended. Retracted one cannot reach the shutter time ring or the aperture setting. It does make it somewhat smaller though.
Lens hood retracted for transport. From above the body we see the frame counter and the film setting. With todays 120-film one is limited to a mere 8 shots per film. Film loading and advance is simple. The advance lever needs two jerks (pun?) to fully move the film to the next frame. The 90 mm width of the film is quite a distance!
From behind there not much to see. The viewfinder is remarkably big with no diopter adjustment. As I am “right eyed” most of the body is on the right of my head when taking a picture! You’re right in assuming it is not the most inconspicuous of cameras.
On the bottom plate is a roll counter, indicating how many rolls of film that has been run through the camera. The actual number of film loads is not important, it is the number of shutter actions that is. I do not know if it counts a 220 roll as equal to a 120 roll. There is an ongoing internet lore that claims you should avoid cameras with a counter of about 500. Fuji apparently recommends servicing of the shutter every 500 rolls, but of course nothing says the shutter will stop working at roll number 501, it is not a built-in constant.
Since when it arrived here it has been autumn and winter with the traditional bad light so it has not been in extensvie use. Hopefully that will change during the spring and coming summer. Here are some photos taken with it anyway, I believe all are with Fuji Acros 100 in HC-110 (Dilution B):
Since this scan I noticed that the scanner performs better if the negative is laid flat on the glass and no holder is used. I really should re-scan.
The camera does colour too:=) Here with Ektar 100 devloped professionally but scanned with the Canoscan 9000f.
And one in much higher resolution (7778 x 5185):