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The Fuji GW 690iii is one awesome beast. Received from Japan for a modest $450, she is a very high quality piece. It looks plasticky, but don’t let that fool you. It feels and acts very solid. And it’s good looking too. I really like the sleek design. Some like the mark II version’s looks better and they may be right. But the mark III has a brighter viewfinder, which will be good for nighttime shooting.

Thar she blows:

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So why did I get it when I already have a few other MF cameras? Well, for starters, it’s gonna be great to travel with. It shoots 6×9 with a star studded lens. Not the fastest lens at a max f3.5 but it’s useable (and better than the f5.6 of the 65mm wide version).

But the real reason I bought the camera? BURNING MAN.

Yep, ol’ Jeremiah is headed to Black Rock City in T-Minus 7 days. And boy, I am really excited. This is going to present a lot of great photo ops. But there is a danger… this beautiful specimen of a camera is headed to the dessert… a dirty alkaline dusty desert that is hot and full of wild people.

I was really torn about taking my newfound friend. But after buying some gaffers tape, I started thinking this could be doable. I need to seal her up right and hopefully* she’ll come back in one piece and with minimal dust. Let’s break down the problems here and see what we can do.

Equipment

Gaffers Tape. Packing Tape, Painters Tape, Measuring Tape, Exacto Blade, Large bottle to cut tape upon, Pen, Coffee, Music, and a nice lady next to you.

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The bottle worked well. I would take the tape off the roll, apply it to the bottle and use the exact knife. We don’t have a good place to cut tape on and the glass is a very smooth/clean surface. The downside is that it is curved, so if you want to use a window or a bottle with flat surfaces, that may work better.

Lens

There are moving parts here so I can’t tape over them. The idea I came up with is a “seal” that simple sits over the moving parts and lets them move freely. Admittedly in the photo below, it’s tough to know what you’re looking at, but that’s the lens (completely covered in gaffers tape).

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What is that blue tape? Well, I had to tape over the focal numbers due to my seal, so I simply moved those to a blue piece of painters tape. I like zone focusing when needed so I thought this an apt solution.

Note: The least* sealed part of this camera will be the shutter speed/aperture assembly. There’s just no way I can do it with tape and still be able to change aperture/shutter speed. I will have to rely on just good practice to make sure I don’t get dust in here… Also of note is the front element of the lens. I have a good lens filter to keep her clean.

Here’s the folded over seal before applying:

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Rangefinder

I need to seal off the rangefinder. I could cover it in clear packing tape, but that would leave a crappy residue when I take it off. So, I first put down a layer of gaffers tape and then a layer of packing tape. This obviously reduces/distorts the light coming through which sucks. But it’s still useable and I want this camera to go miles after BurningMan.

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Viewfinder Window

The eyepiece got some treatment as well. I could’ve covered this in packing tape as I did the front, but it just made the view too blurry and I think this will suffice.

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Winder Assembly

This is probably one of the more difficult interfaces to seal. I simply am going with more of the seals I showed above that I used for the lens assembly.
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The Rest of the Camera

I taped over a number of crevices that I thought could be points of entry. Also, I added a bit of tape to the door latch, to make the opening between the door and the body more “snug”. Anything I can do to keep dust out, is a precaution worth taking so I’m not sparing any expense or tape here.

The Finished Product

When I go, I will put some temporary tape over the selector between 220 and 120 film (I’ll be switching frequently between the two). I have 20 rolls of porta 160 220 just itching to be burned at Burning Man. If only they still made black and white in 220, then I’d be able to change rolls less frequently! Both color and Black and white will be fun. I think I’ll shoot the first half of the trip in color and then switch to BnW on the second half… Either way, I can’t wait to get burnin.

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You can choose from a lot of different lenses and cameras combinations. One mean, lean, street-shootin machine combo was the Voigtlander R4M and Zeiss 21mm 2.8 Biogon. I sold them off earlier this year (the lens and body separately of course to increase the value). This was from a roll of film I found lying around that hadn’t been developed quite yet. Seeing these fruits makes me miss her.

She was sold to purchase the Mamiya RZ67 Pro ii; a massive studio-oriented camera that is antithetical to the rapid fire shooting that a small rangefinder will allow. This is also a bid to further remove myself from 35mm film and dive deeper into 120mm. My Hasselblad SWC should be able to provide some of the same types of images (almost same field of view but square format, shallower DOF and different ergonomics). This is making me want to go on a walk!

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I am still in the 35mm film world though. Below is my trusty Nikon F3HP with 35mm lens. A gift from my brother, she’ll never be sold.

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After shooting medium format for awhile (aka 120mm), you get a little weary of the workflow.  Let’s look at the list of inconveniences for 120mm in comparison with 35mm film.

  • Number of shots per roll.  120mm gives me 10 images per roll (6×7 format).  35mm gives me 36 images per roll.
  • This translates into a higher cost per image.
  • Scanning takes a long time.  I can scan 10 35mm images in the time it takes me to scan 3 120mm images.
  • 35mm scans are smaller and therefore don’t take up as much space as 120mm.
  • Medium format cameras are bigger, bulkier and heavier.  35mm cameras are more common, more mass produced, lighter and less expensive (speaking generally).

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Of course, inconvenience is all in the way that you look at it.  You could also say that these inconveniences are beneficial.

  • Only getting 10 images per roll makes every frame more important and therefore worthy of more work per image (WPI).
  • Film is expensive so there is more WPI.
  • Scanning takes a long time… so there is more… WPI.
  • Very large image sizes so very large image files… WPI.
  • Bulky and heavy cameras… WPI.

So the pattern here is pretty obvious.  Working in medium format makes you… work more.  And that can be a very good thing.  Not to mention some of the other benefits of medium format… which are shallower depth of field and larger image size (freaking awesome resolution).

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But of course, putting more work into every image changes the style of your photography.  You don’t see people wanting to shoot candid shots walking around with a big camera that shoots medium format do you?  Of course not and that all has to do with the fact that shooting 35mm is easy and quick.  Automatic modes take out all of the thought process in exposure and focus so you can quickly get that shot when it comes in front of you.  If you like classic street photographers then a few of these names come to mind – Garry Winograde, Henry Cartier Bresson, and Joel Meyerowitz.  These guys loved the Leica 35mm rangefinder because you could quickly compose, snap the shutter and capture what you need.

This kind of shooting opens up avenues that simply aren’t possible with medium format.  When you see an image that is the quick snap, the reflexive shot, the instantly composed frame, you feel all of that in the photo.

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On the flip side, photos that are painstakingly planned out down to the tiniest detail, when a lot of time and energy and patience has been sunk into that one image… you feel it as well.  Which style is better?  After soaking in the instant style for some time, I became convinced that the slower, planned out shots were the best.  But now, I have been shooting only 120mm in 2013 and have now soaked in the slow style for a spell.  So the pendulum is starting to swing back to the other side.  Really, both styles have merit and can make great artwork.

So here we have setup a loose dichotomy between 35mm (fast) and 120mm (slow).  But this portrait I have painted is not 100% accurate.  Of course you can work fast with a 120mm camera and you can work slow with a 35mm camera.  But what camera will allow you to work the fastest while retaining that buttery amazing DOF and resolution?

Enter the Mamiya 7.

I have yet to purchase this camera… and to do so would require disposal of some other pieces of kit.  But this is the fastest shooting 6×7 camera in the world.  And that is why I am seriously thinking about buying one.

Sure, I love my Pentax 6×7.  The lenses are great, its inexpensive, its a solid camera. (Further Pentax 67 sycophancy linked here).  But I would like the option of shooting faster, with automatic modes.  Of course, I say the word option, because no doubt I won’t be using the automatic modes all of the time.

So the question is this (the sacrifice!!!) – should I trade in my Pentax 67 with 5 lenses for a mamiya 7 with one lens and save up for another lens (I only really care about the 80mm and the 65mm)?

This will take some deliberation…

I’m not usually one for being negative. But a friend of mine tossed me one of his Popular Photography magazines and it reminded me of my deep seated dislike of it.

It all started innocently enough. I was a young lad filled with wonder and dreams. I would pick up Popular science as a tween and flip through it’s pages with delight. Over the years I started to notice something… Popular Science started to suck. The articles were about complete vaporware that never came to market and worse yet it seemed like everything was just a ploy to sell.

Crap!

I found my way to better material (specifically Wired, Nat Geo, The Economist and Discover). But I noticed that Popular Science had a new sister, Popular Photography. With a budding interest in photography, I decided to give her a go.

Unfortunately, I found it worse than Popular Science. This was just a complete wash. The articles show you some technique… but you just can’t escape the feeling from this magazine… it wants to sell me stuff!

Let’s start with the product reviews. Ok they are obviously getting paid for those. There are a few different sections with “what’s hot” that showcase different products. Then read the interviews of photographers. What do they talk about? Their gear! What the CRAP!

There is so little in here devoted to what matters… (taking good photographs). And the thing that irks me the most is that there is oodles and oodles of technique to be discussed, lighting to be pondered, and colors to be dissected. There is so much out there in the world of technique that it’s ridiculous. But… what makes money is what keeps things afloat. And Popular Photography seems to do that.

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Taking photographs is the best way to spend leisure time. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I have little time of leisure. My leisure suits have been hanging in the closet for some time now, untouched except by the occasional moth.

I took receipt of the Mamiya RZ 67 Pro II a couple months ago. I have one lens for it and it is a beautiful camera. I wish I would use her more. These are from the first roll that went through her (I still have a lot of BnW still undeveloped).

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So where oh where have I been? I’m still in Brookyn. Still at the same job. What has changed is that I am working (a lot) on a new website and a new company that I am moving toward launching.

At one point I thought I could make a profession out of photography. Many people do and do a fantastic job at it. But I don’t think I’ll be able to provide for my family in the way that I want by doing this. To accomplish that, I need to either go into real estate investment or become an entrepreneur (or both). The first route was open to me after college and I pursued it without much success. After leaving it, I realized that technology companies are where I want to be.

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That self realization led me to learning about HTML, Javascript, CSS and the myriad frameworks and libraries you can use. It’s a fun world and very applicable to my occupation. What is left is to start a company. I have a really smart partner in crime and I have the ability to write my own sites, why not?

Before I start counting my chickens, I still have a lot of work to do. We have thrown some things together but it’s going to take many more hours.

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Which brings me to us. I really love you. I do. I don’t want to leave you, and I know we will be good friends for a long time (unlike most relationships that claim to be able to do that, we really can). I’ll revisit from time to time, out of longing. But my focus overtime narrows on my career. It’s a consequence of being older, married, wanting children and to provide for them. In college, a day spent doing nothing was fine. But now, I need coffee and activity which will add to my professional portfolio.

Image_Adios amigos. I’ll try and give you an update in a couple of months. Until then, keep shooting.

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It came from the land of giants… it came from the land of geniuses… it came… to my doorstep today!  The Mamiya RZ67 Proii!!!

I wrote recently about how Vivian Maier had one TLR for 40 years and how that made her amazing at what she did.  She had the opposite of GAS (perhaps she took a lot of bino?).  Well, I seem to keep recycling through my gear and am always getting new stuff!

Does it make me a bad photographer?  I don’t think so.  Really the reason why I am getting this now is to fulfill an actual photographic need for a project.  (Herein starts the explanations which could also count as excuses).  But let’s not get into that – let me tell you a bit about the camera that makes it so cool.

  • Amazing lenses can be attached to this camera.  And most can be had for less than $300.
  • Did I mention these lenses have leaf shutters?  All of them?
  • A world of accessories.  Tilf shifting bellows.  Winders.  Grips. Prisms.
  • Rotating back!  Wowzers this thing is cool!  You don’t have to change from horizontal to vertical shots by moving the camera.  Instead, just turn the back.
  • Easily shoot multiple exposures (as many as you want).  This won’t be used often but it’s really nice to have.
  • Bellows focusing.  There is no internal focusing on the lenses which makes them simpler.  Bellows focusing also allows for closer focusing (the 110mm can get up to 1 foot away!)
  • Sturdy construction.
  • Smart design elements – if the dark slide is in, there is a light which tells you.  Two focusing knobs, a coarse and a fine.
  • Nice basic waist level viewfinder with adjustments for different eyes.
  • 6×7 format.  This is something I am used to, but the Hasselblads only come in 6×6.

Some of the cons thus far:

  • Size.  This is one big and heavy camera.
  • Plastic construction.  I’ve read that it is sturdy and it feels sturdy.  But when in comparison to other modular MF SLRs (Hassleblad of course), it’s a bit plasticky.
  • Hand holding is pretty terrible.  This goes hand* in hand with the first complaint.  But then, I doubt this was really designed for hand holding.
  • Lastly, the rubber grips on mine are… melting.  Literally, there is goo coming off from them.  I doubt this is just my own version of the camera.  This is more a common problem on older cameras and I have seen it from Nikons as well. I took some paint thinner to it and she looks like new. Not a big problem but just a good FYI.

So why do I have this camera?  Well, I sold my 35mm rangefinder along with the zeiss glass and decided I needed some more Medium Format goodness in my life.  And there is a specific purpose to this.

Update on June 23rd 2015.

I’ve since sold the RZ on Craigslist. Honestly, this is a fantastic camera. Very few complaints against it. The lenses on it are just downright superb and can be had for a song. The build quality is also superb. I couldn’t recommend the camera enough for tripod use. Hand holding as I mentioned is very tough and this is a tough one to get over in comparison to its competitors.

The competition is Hasselblad, Rolleiflex 6000 series, and Pentax 67 (among others). And when it comes down to it, the competition beats the RZ in hand-holding. This would be enough for me to make a decision. I love wandering around with a camera in hand. I do carry a tripod when I shoot my 4×5 but if I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t want to.

But then again, the costs of the Hassy and Rollei are incomparable. Those lenses are at least $500 and can be a lot more. But the Pentax is comparable in terms of cost. And it’s very high quality and hand-holdable.

Of course, by getting hand holding, you miss out on some cool features (rotating back, bellows focusing etc). So I really think this comes down to whether or not you’ll use this in the studio or not.