Continuing on from the Previous Post… Around about the same time I was struggling up mountains in the Icelandic Highlands with my crazy heavy camera bag full of the Phase One XF camera, IQ3-100 digital back, lenses, tripods and other ancillary items, Phase One released their third firmware upgrade for the XF camera and IQ3 series backs. Which amongst other features included the activation of a full electronic shutter in the IQ3 digital backs. Meaning the Digital Back could be used on a technical camera without the limitations of the clockwork mechanical shutters in technical camera lenses (shutter speeds of just 1 sec – 1/500 sec in full stop intervals).
It’s been a while between blog posts here, i’ve been really busy preparing for the upcoming Kimberley trip (for the 7 day photographic tour of the Kimberley and the 7day photographic tour of the Bungle Bungles) and renovating the house, and getting married…
you get the idea.
I got a little time this week to sit and play with some images, and since i’m leaving for the Kimberley in less than 2 weeks i thought i’d put up a new Kimberley image… new because i’ve never showed it before, but i actually shot it last time i was up in the Kimberley, last year.
I shot this image out of the window of a plane on the way back from the Mitchell Plateau headed to Broome. I don’t know the name of the river, but i figure thats not important anyway. I have many images from that trip last year that have never been seen. I hope to remedy that in the near future, plus there will be all the new images from this next trip. I can’t wait!
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Fuji GX617 Panoramic Camera
The time has come for me to sell the faithful Fuji GX617 Professional Panoramic camera kit. It is one of the best cameras i’ve used and i can’t say a bad thing about it… well that would be stupid, as i’m trying to sell it!
• Fuji GX617 body, with 2 Fujinon lenses.
• The Fujinon 90mm f5.6 lens.
• The Fujinon 180mm f6.7 lens with UV filter.
• Centre Graduated Neutral density filter for 90mm (original Fuji).
• Dedicated removable viewfinders.
• Lens sun shades for each lens.
• Ground glass attachment for through the lens viewing (original Fuji).
• B&W Extra wide stepped Circular Polariser (fits both lenses).
• Original Fuji GX617 bag.
The Complete kit is in perfect condition with no dents or damage, all lens glass is pristine.
The Fuji has been sold
So why am i selling it? Have i bought a Phase One, a Hasselblad H4? No, i’ve bought a Linhof Technorama 617… The same thing, but different.
I’ve used the Linhof Technorama before and they certainly produce lovely images, but no better than the Fuji GX617, and the Fuji is a much much nicer camera to use… Much much nicer! The Linhof Technorama is a primitive bit of agricultural machinery compared to the Fuji GX617, it’s clunky, heavy and clumsy, built like a piece of farm machinery really. Whereas the Fuji is ergonomically designed to fit well in your hand and it functions like a large SLR, complete with film wind-on lever. You can read a review of the Fuji GX617 here.
So why would i sell the lovely to use Fuji GX617 if it creates images of the same quality as the Linhof Technorama? I want a 72mm lens (about the 35mm equivalent of a 17mm lens), and while they are available for the Fuji GX617, they as rare as rocking horse poo. So I want a wider angle lens and the easiest way is to buy a different camera system.
*All images used here were shot by Bob Halligan and are used with his permission
Hasselblad Vs Phase One.
The Fuji GX617 was sold long ago, but you may be interested to read about my experiences with the Hasselblad H4D-60 and why I chose it over the Phase One DF+… READ MORE>>
This review of my Fuji GX 617 and my older Fuji G617, was written and Photographed by a good friend of mine, Bob Halligan. It appeared in its entirety in the Photographic Trader back in February 2006. The article is kindly reproduced here with the permission of the Author, Bob Halligan, and Nicole Chisholm of the Photographic Trader.
You may also be interested to read about
For more on the usability of large format panoramic cameras, including the Fuji and the Linhof.
my experiences with the Hasselblad H4D-60, which is also actually a Fujinon…
Why I Changed to the Phase One XF-100 instead of the H6D-100.
FUJI’S BIG SHOTS.
All words and images by Bob Halligan.
Adam Monk, recently showed me these Fuji 6×17 panoramic cameras at his Monk Art Photography Gallery in Fremantle, and that is how I got my hands on all this gear without winning Lotto.
The image above shows the Fuji G617 camera on the right and the Fuji GX617, its more sophisticated stablemate, on the left. They are designed in the 6x17cm format for 120 or 220 rollfilm (images size is actually 16.5×5.6cm), and while both use Fuji optics, the cameras show significant differences. The G617 has a fixed lens and an equally fixed viewfinder, but there are interchangeable lenses on the GX617 camera, each with its own interchangeable finder, and that is just for starters. The cameras are about 27cm long and weigh in at well over two kilos apiece, no matter which lens is in place. Even though the bodies have plastic mouldings to shape them for hand – held operation, they were never intended for casual snapshooting; you get only four shots on a 120 roll, do your own sums.
The Fuji G617 camera.
The fixed – lens G617 was introduced in 1982. The superb manual focus SW105mm / f8 Fujinon lens has a Seiko leaf shutter with speeds 1 – 1/500 sec and B, all mounted on a metal lens cone at the front of the camera. The fixed viewfinder covers 90 – 95% of the subject, but you have to squint a bit to see the edges if you wear specs, and there is no parallax adjustment; this is definitely a camera you have to get used to. I am told that there was also a G617 version with a Fujinon SWD.90mm / f5.6 lens, but I’ve yet to see one.
The all metal body (barring the plastic grips at either end) is very strongly built, and the protective ‘cage’ of metal tubes around the lens makes the camera a hefty 19.5cm from front to back. The cage carries a pair of strap lugs on loose sleeves around the upper side tubes, and there is also a spirit level incorporated in the upper cross member. While there is no bubble to level the camera fore and aft to avoid the deadly curved horizon shot, note the two accessory shoes to the left of the finder. These are not hot shoes, but presumably one is for a flashgun, the other might well be for a circular bubble. Fuji scrapped both shoes when they produced the later GX617 camera and put a circular bubble in the vacant space on the top plate. They’d have done a lot better to put it in the viewfinder, like the el cheapo Russian Horizon 202 panorama camera, in my opinion!
The camera layout is arranged so that all operations are right handed (even the latch for the camera back is on the right), leaving your left hand to look after the heavy body at all times. A big ratchet lever for the right thumb takes care of film advance, the circular window next to it keeps count of frames used, and the setting knob between window and finder selects for 120 or 220 film. You must match the film to the reversible pressure plate inside the back door before loading up.
To prevent accidental double exposures, Fuji has coupled the film advance by an internal lever linkage to both the shutter release in the top of the wind – on lever and the release button (no socket) on the front panel. However, like a view camera, the shutter has to be cocked by a lever at the shutter casing up front and there is also the usual cable socket next to it, but remember there is no interlock if you use that one. And remember to squeeze a body release to unlock the film wind after an exposure from the front.
Fuji GX617 Panoramic Camera.
The GX617, introduced in 1993, is clearly from the same ‘no nonsense’ Fuji design department. The two cameras look much the same,but the GX617 uses a strong metal chassis clad with ABS body panels, and also features important additions and improvements. The most obvious change is its interchangeable lens capability, and the lenses shown here are a Fuji SWD 90mm / f5.6 and a Fujinon W 180mm / f6.7, and I understand that 72mm and 300mm glass is also available as a special order.
Each of the lenses has a Copal shutter with speeds 1 – 1/500 sec and B. The release button in the ratchet lever connects electronically to the ‘ solenoid bump’ on the rim of the shutter through gold contacts on the face of the mounting plate. There are matching contacts on the rear face of each lens mount, they probably replaced the internal cable connection of the G617 with electric tripping as a better way to deal with interchangeable lenses.
The film advance interlock and associated song and dance is the same as on the G617 camera, film can only be advanced after the release on the camera has been tripped. A normal cable release screws into the tapered socket on the solenoid bump, in fact this is the only way you can make a long exposure; the electric body release does not work on the B setting; presumably to save batteries.
The wind – on levers and 120/220 film selectors are much the same on both cameras, but the GX617 frame counter is now in the square window between them. The GX617 top plate also shows changes to the left of the interchangeable viewfinder, where we find a small circular bubble level, a tiny red button to unlatch the viewfinder and a large, grey lift – up release lever that unlocks the camera back. Finally, there is a lithium battery for the electric shutter release under the raised plastic panel that says 6×17 PANORAMA, there is no longer a shutter release on the front of the body, and the camera strap is now attached directly to the body rather than the lens cage.
Things are also a bit different round the back of the GX617. When you lift the grey release lever on the top plate, the back door does not swing sideways, it hinges downwards to completely clear the camera back for loading. This simple arrangement also allows a special focusing screen and hood assembly to be fitted, you simply hook the unit into the small stainless catches between the hinges, then swing it upwards into catches on the camera back. This is best done with the camera on a good tripod, because the door is left hanging below the level of the camera body, even when the screen is in use, so be careful.
Once in position, the screen can be viewed for critical focus and framing for pictures like ‘vertical pans’, rigorous architectural work or tricky foreground situations. Adam tells me he has tried it, but Fuji’s modest lens openings mean the screen is pretty dim at full bore and very dark indeed at small apertures. And then, after all the eyestrain, you must remove the screen unit to load up the camera and get the shot… It is all a bit fiddly, Adam tells me, so the screen rarely leaves the neat storage unit you see alongside the camera in Photo 6.
The GX617 body and lens mounts are very strongly built, because these lenses weigh more than a kilo apiece. The mounting plate, lens cone and safety cage assembly of each lens mates with the solid front of the body, where four deep locating sockets and two screw – down lugs (Photo 4) give a perfect fit. The new suspended frame viewfinders are much more kind to spectacle wearers than the optical finder of the G617, and can also take a dioptre correction lens and a rubber eyecup if you need them; but there is still no way to correct for parallax.
The interchangeable lenses of the GX617 offer the photographer more flexibility, but note that lenses cannot be changed in the middle of a roll without some fancy work inside a changing bag. They are supplied with a dedicated finder and lenshood, but the 90mm lens needs a (very expensive) centre filter to equalise illumination of the enormous 6x17cm film area. If, in addition, you then want to use a polariser, expect to shell out on something special. You don’t need a centre filter for the longer lens.
Bits and pieces.
The image to the right shows the baseplates of the two cameras. The GX617 has the large square plate around the tripod bush, and note also the two stainless clips for the focusing screen between the hinges. Neat circular buttons at each end of the baseplate carry the internal spigots for the film spools, they pop out when you push the little red buttons inside the camera body as you can see in the image below. The folding butterfly catches on the G617 do the same job, simply rotate them to pop out the film spigots. Film loading is very easy with either camera, both systems work beautifully.
The small stainless catch at the left end of the G617 unlocks the side – hinged back door, and note also the small window in the baseplate. This three digit counter records every tenth exposure through the camera, allowing the meticulous photographer to keep his shutter maintenance up to scratch. There is no counter anywhere on the GX617 model, I imagine that with two lenses, that is to say two shutters, you’d need to be very meticulous indeed to handle the book keeping.
And there you have it, two cameras with excellent lenses and precision bodies that produce outstanding panorama images, but be very sure and very picky before you squeeze any release buttons. Both cameras eat film at four shots a roll; to put this in perspective, take a look at Photo 8, where a lonely 35mm cassette contemplates the cavernous back of the GX 617 . Frightening, isn’t it?
All my images are printed using leading edge digital technology; the original image however is shot on film, at least for now. For this I use a selection of large format panoramic cameras, mainly the Fuji GX617 (see a review of the Fuji GX617 here). The 6×17 denotes the negative (positive actually) size in cm, 6cm high x 17cm long, that’s dramatically bigger than a standard 35mm negative, in fact 11 times the area. That greatly enlarged image area combined with a fine grain high colour saturation film (Fuji Velvia) creates an image of superb detail that can be enlarged to enormous proportions without going soft or blurry.
So why Digital, and is there a difference between digital printing and digital manipulation?
Digital printing is making use of advancing technology, it now offers a quality surpassing older traditional techniques with many added advantages.
With a traditional process the photographic image is projected with an Enlarger onto light sensitive paper by shining a light through the transparency and focusing it with a lens, in fact a camera in reverse. The printer, a highly skilled technician, then adjusts various aspects of the image such as contrast, colour balance and density using a combination of lens tuning, coloured filters and exposure time. He/She also lightens areas that are too dark and darkens highlights that are too bright to bring the image into balance, this is the traditional printing method, not digital, and I spent many years working in printing labs doing exactly this. These procedures are to compensate for the fact that film has a much shorter contrast scale than your eye and the printing paper has one even shorter still, so some manual manipulation is required to bring the shadows and highlights back into balance. There is nothing worse than an image with all the shadows running to black and all the highlights burning out to paper white.
One of the essential problems with this kind of printing is the repeatability of the printed images. The results are very much subject to how much sleep the printing lab technician had the night before, what kind of day they’re having and the mood they are in. The results can vary to such a degree that it’s sometimes difficult to pick them as the same photo! This really becomes a problem when somebody sees an image on the wall and orders a print a different size or on a different media type, sometimes it takes 4 or 6 print attempts to get the image right. This is further exacerbated the bigger the image gets, due to the difficulty in handling huge pieces of photographic paper in the dark, and the light fall off as the distance between the enlarger and the paper platform grows. Printing huge images in a traditional darkroom with light sensitive paper really is a nightmare, in fact, prior to the advent of digital printers it was very rare indeed to see a 2m photograph, whereas i regularly print images that big and often much bigger.
The difference for me with digital printing is to add a step in-between the film and the paper image by scanning the 6×17 transparency into a very high-resolution digital file (980mb to begin with, a finished image will end up about 2.9Gb) on a high end Imacon 848 film scanner. All colour balancing contrast and densities are then handled digitally, the same processes as the manual darkroom but done using Photoshop and a high end computer (a Mac of course) with a colour-calibrated screen. Once the file is complete to my my satisfaction, i would then save the layered image into an archive and then flatten, resize and sharpen a version to be sent to the printer, usually as a smaller test print first for a hard copy confirmation. I have had various large format digital printers over the years, from an Epson 4000, to an Epson 7600, an Epson 9600 and now the latest model Epson 9900 (as of December 2010). These are technically inkjet printers, though that is a bit like calling a formula One race car simply “a car”. The Epson 9900 uses an inkset of 11 colours, including 3 varying shades of black (grey really), each ink cartridge contains 750Ml of pure pigment based ink and a full set of inks currently costs AU$4,000.
Contrary to a popular belief, the process of colour correcting an image digitally is not easy, nor is it fake. The job of digital technician is easily as skilled and demanding as a darkroom technician. In fact I would say considerably more so, speaking from the experience of having done both extensively.
I do all the digital colour correction of my own images and when out shooting I will spend many hours, sometimes days, waiting for the perfect light. I spend many months every year getting to these beautiful places and I spend many hours and many miles of walking finding just the right spot that conveys just the right feel so that the final photo will carry just the right impact. When I return I will then spend many more hours in front of the computer to ensure that what you see is exactly as it should be, every time.
So how then does this differ from digital manipulation? Definitions can be a little tricky, but lets say digital manipulation is the fundamental altering of a photographic image such that the final result does not truly reflect the original state, i think thats a pretty fair summary. We’ve all seen it or read about it in one form or another. An easy example is the fashion industry where models can be made to look slimmer, curvier, longer legs, bigger breasts even different coloured eyes! Yes that is all possible, but is it necessary or even desirable?
Thankfully I need to do none of that, nature is amazing enough just as it is. You just have to stop and look sometimes, look a different way. Stick around a bit longer wait for that special time of day, take a deep breath and open your eyes a bit wider. Get up earlier when it’s still cold and a little bit dark. Or stay till after the sun has set for the magic of twilight, the magic of the pre-dawn. At these times of day the light is soft, it allows the subtle colours to come through, the colours that are normally swept away by the intensity of sunlight. Then all you have to do is stand in the right place, point the camera the right way, don’t forget to focus- and push the button. Let God do the rest, whatever God you believe in, you want to see proof, watch a sunset in the Kimberley!
I don’t create the scenes you see here, I only record them. I couldn’t possibly take the credit for something so awesome, so overpoweringly amazing. Something that has been millions of years in the making, that would be ridiculous. The art of photography, my job, is to be able to see the infinite of nature and translate it to the finite of a photograph and still transmit the splendour of the original, to create a window out of a fragment that contains the essence of the whole.
Long Exposure Techniques
Many of my images are made using long exposure photography. That is leaving the shutter open for long periods sometimes hours at a time. I’ve been told on several occasions that this in fact is image manipulation because the result doesn’t truly reflect the original! I would argue that this is not the case; in fact the opposite is true. Long exposure photography more truly reflects the reality than an instant snapshot. These are not still life images, bowls of fruit on a table. Nature is fundamentally dynamic, it is constantly moving. Wind blows through the branches of the trees rustling the leaves, clouds skate across the sky, water flows ever downwards, oceans are never still even on the most tranquil day. I would say that an image that stops all this is more of a manipulation than the one that allows the flow of nature to be visible. Perhaps it’s not the way you are used to seeing it? Take another look, if I can help you see things a different way, a new way then I’ve achieved my goal.
What is Large Format?
Strictly speaking, large format refers to a film size of 5 x 4 inches or bigger, such as 5″x 7″ or even the huge 8″x 10″ (that’s in inches!). Panoramic 6x17cm also falls into this class as large format because, although it uses medium format film (120 or 220 roll film), it uses a big slice at a time, 17cm in fact. Making it the same length as a piece of 5″x 7″ film.
All this is technical; the reality for the viewer is amazing clarity of colour, depth and sharpness, even when enlarged to enormous proportions!
This is due to the large area of film used for each shot, more than 11 times greater than a standard 35mm negative… for example, a print 1m long from a 35mm negative is enlarged 28 times from the original, whereas a 6×17 only needs to be enlarged 5.8 times to achieve the same result… in reality a 35mm negative runs out of steam at about A3, the film grain becomes very prominent and the image becomes fuzzy. At that size the 6×17 is just starting, that’s hardly an enlargement at all! So, as you can imagine, the potential is huge! (See a review of the Fuji 617 cameras here)
Medium Format Cameras
Medium formats are usually considered to be the ranges of 645 (6cm x 4.5cm), 6×6 (6cm x 6cm), 6×7 (6cm x 7cm) or 6×9 (6cm x 9cm). These formats were always the choice when dramatically higher image quality was required but without the bulk and difficulty of using a large format camera. Most medium format cameras are able to be used hand held, and some of them even take the form of large SLR formats, like a big 35mm camera (the famous Pentax 6×7). These medium format cameras take 120 or 220 roll film with the ease of use that comes with roll film, rather than loading double dark slides for each exposure as with large format cameras.
Digital Medium Format
All these parameters changed with the advent of Digital cameras. The first digital cameras were prohibitively expensive, slow and of very low quality, but since then they have caught up and overtaken film as the premium choice, both for quality and convenience. The current range of professional and semi professional DSLRs, such as the Canon 5D Mk II, are capable of shooting images of medium format quality and beyond, while the more expensive medium format backs, such as the Phase One Camera and the Hasselblad, exceed even 4″x5″ film quality. Due to the clean grainless nature of Digital capture, digital images are able to be enlarged many times over with little degradation of image quality and sharpness, assuming of course the necessary ingredients are there in the first place. ie: correct exposure, image sharpness, lens and camera quality.
Digital Vs Film
I have heard it said many times that the clean grainless look of a digital image looks somehow fake or unrealistic, but i think this is just habit. We are used to seeing photographic images with grain, it has become normal, and the grainless look of digital is still quite new. But where to from here? Will film vanish completely?
Film cameras are already vanishing from the scene rapidly in front of the advancing tide of digital technology, film has virtually disappeared altogether from the consumer market, and the majority of professionals have long converted over. What I would expect to see over the next few years is a dramatic shrinking of the Film market supply, down to perhaps one or two suppliers making one or two types of film, that perhaps you would need to order over the internet. Processing labs would also diminish to very few options, it may come down to posting your unprocessed films interstate or even overseas to have them developed. Everything from that point would be scanned and digitally printed (see this Post and this post for details), as is already the case now (apart from some smaller operators). The best simile would be the vinyl record industry when CDs became common, you can still buy vinyl, if you know the suppliers, and there are still many people who use nothing but.
See this related article about Depth of Field in medium format cameras.
Kimberley Photographic Tour
Speaking of the Kimberley, my 7 day Photographic tour of the Kimberley and the 7 day photographic tour of the Bungle Bungles, with Nigel Gaunt, are rapidly approaching, May the 16th and then May 24th. Both of these tours are currently more than half full, so there are only a few places left. To help us get all our booking done early we have decided to offer a discount of $250 for each tour for everyone who books and pays in full by Feb 28th.
Both these tours are a great opportunity to see the real kimberley with 3 experienced professional photographers who love the Kimberley and have been there many times. You can read more about the 7 day Kimberley adventure tour here, and you can read more about the 7 day Bungles adventure tour here. Or you can download the information and booking pdf here.
On May the 16th we will be leaving Broome and headed out onto the Gibb River Rd for 7 days of awesome photography, hands on masterclasses, hanging out in magical wild places, swimming in beautiful waterholes and watching the sunset in the Kimberley sky. Then on May the 24th, we will leave Kununurra for the beginning of the second Kimberley Photographic adventure tour, 7 days camping in Purnululu National Park of exploring and photographing the Bungle Bungles.
Both of these photographic tours have a maximum of 8 participants with 2 professional Landscape Photographers. We are travelling in Air-conditioned comfort in serious 4WD vehicles. All meals provided and cooked for you, all camping gear is provided. We will be at the most beautiful locations, at the best time of day. The helicopter flight over El Questro station is included in the Kimberley tour, no extra cost. The helicopter flight over the Bungles is included in the Bungle Bungles tour, no extra cost.
If you would like to see more shots from the Kimberley Region, click here.
For all the latest Photographic Tours and Photographic workshops with Adam Monk click HERE>