Thar she blows!

A whale of a camera is on her way to my briny mitts. Yessir. I will be the shooter of 4×5 film very soon.

I kind of went crazy with Medium Format film. It put a moratorium on all 35mm shooting. After I went to 120 film, I never looked back. And why should I?

Some people ask “why do you need* all of that resolution?” Well, in about 99.9% of the cases, medium format film is overkill. Posting a 35mm image online and comparing it with a 6×9 won’t give you substantially different results. And indeed, the resolution advantage is completely negated when you post online. Just think about it – take a 100mb image file and turn it into 500K. Sacrilege!

So why would I even want to go larger? Before I answer that, here’s the change I’ve made over the years:

Resolution Wars

1) 35mm

This is where I started and is what they deem “full frame” in the digital sensor world. It is 36mm x 24mm = 864mm^2.

2) 6×7

I started with a Pentax 67 (still love that camera). These negatives are 60mm x 70mm = 4,200mm^2. This is 480% larger than 35mm.

3) 6×9

I then moved to the Fuji GW690. I love it and won’t stop shooting with it. 60mm x 90mm = 5,400mm^2. This is 130% larger than 6×7 and 625% larger than 35mm.

4) 4×5

I am now moving to 4×5. This is in inches. So in centimeters it’s 10.1×12.7 = 12,800mm^2. This is 230% larger than 6×9, 300% larger than 6×7 and approx. 1500% larger than 35mm.

Yep. Every shot of 4×5 film is exposing 15 shots of 35mm.

But, you are probably saying, “Size isn’t everything! It’s the motion in the ocean!” And, to a large degree, you are right. Resolution has little to do with what the end photo looks like. It’s the photographer and his technique that makes the photos.

Well, one little thought experiment I have is this – let’s say I take the photo of a lifetime. That once in a lifetime shot. And after marveling at it, I realize I wanna print it big. And I’m talking 64×86. If I shot it in 35mm… I’ll be one sad panda. But if I shoot it in 6×9 (or even better 4×5) I’ll have a lot more to work with.

As I said on a forum the other day, I don’t expect to shoot a career altering photo tomorrow (heck, my career isn’t photography anyway). But if I do, at least I’ll be shooting it with something that I can be satisfied with then I do my printing. So that takes care of resolution.

Image Draw

But there’s another aspect you may have noticed when looking at my photos. The images on here look different than your 35mm ones do. And this has nothing* to do with resolution and everything to do with the design of the lens and size of the image circle.

Basically when you look at an image today, the likelihood that it was shot on a 35mm camera are about 80%. Many of the lenses for 35mm cameras have the same designs. Well, when you get to larger formats, they have to change the designs and this change changes the draw of the image on the film.

So my photos look different because they were shot on 6×9 film. You may have noticed or not. I hope you did because I love the look of larger format lenses. And when you go to large format (ie 4×5 and above), the lens designs change again. Hence there will be another drawing…


Large format cameras have the option to tilt, shift and swing to your hearts content. Some have more than others of course and since my camera will be a field camera, the movements won’t be extraordinary. But having them is going to open up my toolset in different scenarios. And I am excited to master this next toolset.

Slow Down

This next camera will be the slowest I’ve ever worked it. It’ll take at least 5-10 minutes to setup. And each shot will require me to change the film holder. Things are just going to slow down. I don’t have a choice here. But that’s ok. It changes my photography and I am excited to become more patient and meditate while I wait for the perfect shot.


It won’t be a panacea. I am not going to start taking amazing photos right away. But I am really excited nevertheless. I’ll post pics once I get her!

Different areas afford different photographic opportunities. I probably have some sort of photographic style. I haven’t given it much thought but there are certain elements that I love in a photo. India is one of those places that just keeps giving me those things that I love. We travelled from Mumbai to Kerala and this is a mix of them.

Image 25

Image 2

Image 37

Image 12

Image 6

I recently read Ebay’s “Common Mistakes When Buying a Film Camera”.

After reading, I was scratching my head wondering, “Did the author ever buy a used camera?”. I’ve purchased at least 15 (and sold many as well). So I figured I would write my own list.

1) Trusting that that old light meter works.

The Canonet is a cute lil bugger. It’s a small rangefinder with a fixed 40mm F1.7 lens (depending on the model). Even the name is nice; Canon with a feminine suffix. Apparently over two million were sold. Other manufacturers produced very similar cameras. Ebay is filled to the brim with them and they are less than $100. What’s not to love?

The fatal flaw! It’s aperture-priority only*. This means that for the camera to work and take photos, the light meter must work. No light meter, no camera. And guess what? These old light meter’s simply don’t last. I bought one with glee… only to find… a brick.

Just buy a fully manual camera! My recommendation is the Nikon FM with 50mm lens.

2) Not expecting a learning curve.

This isn’t so much an issue with a camera as it is with a person. Everyone should just understand that each camera will have a different learning curve. Medium Format cameras will be a different experience than 35mm ones (as will large format). If you’re a novice, start with a simple and inexpensive 35mm SLR. Then work your way up (if you want to).

3) Purchasing from a seller with questionable feedback.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Most of the transaction’s I’ve had have been smooth. But trust the feedback and stick to someone who has good feedback to avoid hassles.

4) Buying a Holga.

I’ve no inherent problem with the Holgas. I mean, I’m glad they are bringing back so much interest in film. But for the same price of that plastic thing, you can get a real engineering marvel along with some seriously nice glass. The Japanese made some great cameras from the 70’s that can go for a song. Why not get serious with these before the Holga?

5) Buying Wide Wide Wide.

It used to be a look that I went for. Wide angle and shooting close up. There’s something about that look… Well, nowadays, that “look” is everywhere. Wide angle lenses are everywhere. It’s getting boring! Why is everyone shooting so much wide angle?

How about a change? I shot a whole trip on a 135mm lens from Nikon along with my Nikon FM and I loved how the photos came out.

I suppose the real mistake is just copying the look everyone else has.

6) Not shooting Black and White. Not Developing yourself.

One of the advantages of film is the tonality and dynamic range of black and white film. Also, it’s cheap. Film is expensive in general so you should start with cheap black and white film (I recommend the cheapest film – Arista from Freestyle Photo). Developing yourself is also easy and makes the experience more intimate and cheaper. Highly recommended.

Let me know if there are mistakes you’ve had that others should know about.

I used to want to be featured on Hardcore Street Photography. Not sure if you’re familiar with it – it’s a Flickr group where people submit photos. Then an anonymous group of folks decides which ones make the cut. Any that are deemed to be a combination of “hardcore” and “street” then get accepted. I’ve submitted a few of my favorites but they never made it.

I used to get angry at the fact. I mean, honestly, some of the photos that do get accepted are awful. Of course there is some really great work as well, but it doesn’t seem consistent.

After some time I realized, I just don’t give a hoot. This is probably a natural reaction to things that at first make me angry. I cease to give the perturbation any power. Why should I really care if Hardcore Street Photography will feature my photos?

I feel the same way about this blog now-a-days. I want you to like it and it to reach millions of folks. It won’t. But who cares? This is about me and my own meditation.

This is what photography should be. It should be an exercise in solitude. A meditation with you and the world. Take any of the best street photographers (or photographers in general) and just look at the way they photograph. They could give a damn about their audience.

So, while I do love you and think highly of you (you amorphous blob of readers), I need to forget you. And you should forget me, at least for awhile :-).

Hey Gang –

Happiest of Holidays to you and yours.

Your humble narrator here, just checking in. A couple of things on the agenda:

All I wanted for Christmas was my two front teeth (and a pinhole 4×5 camera).

Every Christmas for the past three years, I’ve only cared about one thing: film cameras and photography. Last year my brother bought me my Nikon F3 :-). For my anniversary gift this year, my wife gave me a Rolleiflex 3.5. I am in love with these cameras. And even though I won’t stop shooting with them, I can’t get enough and want more.

I’ve been shooting with medium format very consistently for about two years now. And they’ve been getting bigger. I started with 6×6, then got very intimate with 6×7 (I still love that aspect ratio, maybe even more than 2×3) and now am shooting a lot of 6×9 with my Fuji. And oh boy do I love the Fuji. It’s almost a perfect camera.

I think though, it’s time to bring on the big guns. Hence the request for a large format pinhole camera to start with (and keep the costs down). Developing, scanning and all of that, will be tougher. But worth it!

My wife and I are traveling to India and Sri Lanka.

We decided it would be a good time to get away from it all in NYC and travel for a couple of weeks. I will certainly have my Fuji GW690 in hand, filled to the brim with Kodak Portra 220.

On a side note – I went this route when I went to Burning Man. I hate taking the time to change rolls. And 6×9 is so cumbersome when a 120 roll only gives you 8 shots. The 220 suits me really well and luckily for me, I found some good deals on 220 on craigslist.

I just can’t wait to sink my teeth into street photography in Mumbai, Kochi, and Southern Sri Lanka…

Wherever the Holiday season takes you, enjoy it to its fullest!