One of my New Year’s resolutions is to use my Cambo SC2 4×5 Monorail large format camera more even though it is a pain to transport being a monorail camera and requiring the heaviest of tripods. The photos above were shot on New Year’s Day and I’m enjoying the process of Large Format.
A few weeks ago, just after Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, I picked up a Skink Pinhole Pancake Retro Pro Pentax 67 for my Pentax 67II camera. It has the standard mount so it will fit on the Pentax 6×7, 67 and 67II cameras no doubt and with the proper adapter, I expect that it can be used on a whole host of other cameras; I intend to try it out on my Pentax 645NII later this year.
Over a few weekends I have had the chance to experiment with it. I’m happy with the results, of course the images are soft but attractive in their softness. Before I started I was expecting a bit of vignetting but there was no sign of it.
There was a time that I thought that I would never need a tripod but when I bought my medium format cameras and wanted to explore long exposure and still-life photography, I bought a very sturdy Manfrotto 055XPROB that could handle my Pentax 67II and even my 4×5 Cambo SC2 large format camera. I think it is something each beginning photographer goes through: “I don’t need a flash or understand lighting techniques, I shoot everything with available light.” or “I don’t need a tripod, I shoot everything handheld.” Until you finally realize that these things actually can help to get better results when used correctly and that you’ve been holding yourself back for no reason.
I’m very happy with this tripod yet it was not something that I could take easily along on my travels because of its weight and size. I felt the need for a lighter tripod, yet a tripod that could support my Pentax 645NII medium format camera which is my camera of choice when travelling. So before my trip to Japan, I decided to buy a Manfrotto MKBFRA4-BH Befree as it had good reviews.
I had wanted to test the camera on the tripod but ran out of time. The new tripod certainly felt less sturdy than my main tripod and I felt a bit nervous as I started doing quite a few long exposures both in Tokyo and Hokkaido. To my relief the results were fine, the images sharp even with the longer lenses. I guess the moral of this post is: Test your equipment before setting off on an important trip as you need to know whether you can rely on it or not and not just hope for the best. 🙂
During my last trip to Japan I brought my trusty Pentax 645NII medium format camera but also my Pentax MZ-S SLR camera with just one lens and in a pouch so that I could easily carry the camera around in my coat pocket and have always something available even when bringing along the rucksack with the Pentax 645NII was too tiring. I had only brought Kodak TRI-X on 35mm and had started to shoot it at EI 800 to give me possibilities at night and for street photography.
As I said, I had only brought one lens for this camera and in that case I prefer to take a 50mm prime lens. I have a pretty good Sigma 50mm f/2.8 autofocus lens but this time I decided to take the SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7 lens that I had bought together with my Pentax ME camera back in the 1970s. The SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7 was really an amazing lens at the time and it still is awesome with great sharpness and contrast, and performing still acceptably well at f/1.7. See Ken Rockwell’s site for a review of this lens. The great thing with Pentax cameras is that even a modern SLR as the Pentax MZ-S will work perfectly fine with any old lens with a Pentax bayonet mount, no matter how ancient.
At first I was a bit afraid that a manual focus lens was going to be troublesome or too slow, but it was very easy to use and the focus indicator of the camera was a great guide to know when the focus was correct. I’m not really quickly sneaking photos of people, I prefer to engage them and then take their photo so it was not an issue at all. All in all, I think I made the right choice, the f/1.7 aperture was very welcome and the resulting shallow depth of field was really helpful making these photos work.
The S-M-C Takumar 6X7 105mm f/2.4 lens in its three different yet optically identical incarnations is probably the most recommended lens for both the Pentax 6×7 and the Pentax 645 series of medium format cameras. I never really understood this, the SMC Pentax 67 90mm f/2.8 lens that I already owned is on paper not that different if you only consider the aperture and focal length. Yet the 105mm at open aperture has an amazing and quite a unique bokeh which makes it great for portrait photography out in the field.
I’ve only tried out the lens on my Pentax 67II so far and I’m keen to use this lens on my Pentax 645NII via the affordable Fotodiox adapter I picked up earlier. I love all my other Takumar lenses, if it works out as well on my Pentax 645NII, this lens will be a keeper!
I really need a better scanner that can handle the large format 4×5 inch negatives that I’m working with now, but at the moment I have no choice but to use my Epson V500 PHOTO.
For the moment I found the following solution: I scan the negative in parts and use the Photomerge feature in an old version of Adobe Photoshop Elements to stitch the parts back together. Not a great way, probably not recommended, but so far it has done the trick. 🙂
Update: I’ve now obtained an Epson V800 PHOTO scanner and get much better results.
I bought a second-hand Cambo SC2 4×5 large format camera, see here for an image of one just like it, and a Rodenstock Sironar APO N 150mm lens, see here. The 150mm lens is on the 4” x 5” negative format similar to a 50mm lens on an 35mm SLR.
Not an overly interesting scene but important to me in any case as everything worked out. Large Format photography is quite different from using an SLR or a medium format camera: so many things can be adjusted. In this shot the camera is facing down a bit and I tilted the lens even more forward to increase the DOF. The back of the camera is kept vertically so the vertical lines wouldn’t fall ‘backwards.’
The image is composed on the ground glass with the aperture open using the dark cloth to actually be able to make out the details. When you’re happy, you close the aperture, meter the scene and set the exposure on the lens, insert the film holder, cock the shutter, remove the dark slide, release the shutter, reinsert the dark slide, preferably with the black side in front to signal that this side has been exposed and remove the film holder. That’s one photo done!
I posted it on Facebook and a bloke immediately jumped to the conclusion that the white reflections on the water was dust and treated me like a film newbie. So cute when that happens. 🙂
Ever since I bought my F&V K480 video light I had wanted to pick a dark location, light up just the model and create a photo with the model correctly lit but the rest close to pitch dark.
In the photo above, the light source is to the left in front of the model; I metered off her chin with my external lightmeter and used my camera in manual mode with an exposure of 0.5 seconds at f/2.8. The TTL tried to inform me that the exposure was way, way underexposed but as always, the incident lightmeter knows best. The video light is easier to use for me than an off-camera flash unit: The light I am using is available for metering and any shadows are visible while the shot is being set up, so it easy to make it work, etc..
– Pentax 645NII
– Pentax 645 FA 45mm f/2.8 (on camera)
– Pentax 645 FA 75mm F/2.8
– Pentax 645 A 150mm f/3.5
– Pentax 645 A 200mm f/4
– Pentax Rear Converter-A 645 2X (not shown)
– Fotodiox Pro PT67-PT645 adapter (Pentax 67 to Pentax 645)
– Pentax 645 extension tubes
– Extra 120 film insert
– AF-360FGZ flash
– F&V K480 video light
– Lowepro Mini Trekker bag that I have had for years
Going on a trip with my Pentax 67II is definitely different from travelling with my Pentax 645NII. The Pentax 645NII I can use like a 35mm camera, it goes everywhere and I can shoot it handheld at amazing low shutter speeds. I have brought it on my last two trips to Japan as my only camera.
The Pentax 67II, on the other hand, is too heavy to carry in a rucksack during our hikes so I found myself spotting for locations and then returning to these locations afterwards by car to actually shoot. A completely different experience for me and I came home with a very different set of my normal photos, far fewer snapshots, more thinking about the shots in advance.