After taking out the Sprocket Rocket camera for a couple of rolls, it was time to employ another one panoramic camera, the Fotoman 612. Of course there’s no comparison between them, the Fotoman is a “serious” panoramic camera with a fantastic large format lens.
My model is fitted with the Nikkor 90mm f8 SW, a great large format lens with stunning image quality and sharpness. I got it used since Fotoman ceased production of its cameras a couple of years ago. Basically as almost all panoramic cameras it’s a large box with a cone to mount a lens. Every lens requires a specific cone, so in practice I am stuck with the 90mm (which is all I need for this camera). The film is loaded as any other medium format is and advanced by turning a knob. A good thing about the Fotoman 612 is that there’s a second knob for film rewind so you can move the film forth and back. If you turn the knobs in opposite directions it basically tightens the film, and that’s great for achieving film flatness.
There is no ground glass on this camera, the viewfinder is very good although not 100% accurate (as expected). I am using the Fotoman auxiliary rangefinder to focus which is superb and precise. The 90mm lens is about 30mm equivalent in 35mm format, so it’s more of a walk around lens (for landscapes I usually prefer wider focal lengths). That means I can use the camera for everyday images and even street photography (of course theres no discretion when you raise this beast on the street, its Iike a Hasselblad XPAN on steroids !!)
The 6×12 format is considered to be panoramic , but it’s easier to find subjects than the true 6×17 format. That combined with the 30mm equivalent focal length was my reasons for purchasing the camera.
These cameras are meant to be used on a tripod but the last time I used it (on my summer vacations) I pretty much shot a roll of Kodak Portra 800 handheld and the results were great. So on a recent trip I also decided to shoot it handheld to evaluate more it’s use as a walk around camera. 6×12 means that you get a very narrow depth of field, fast lenses for these cameras are useful basically for framing through a ground glass, you must set the aperture to f16 or f22 to achieve a large Dof. So a fast film is a must. I used the Ilford Delta 3200 and Kodak TRI-X 400 (pushed to ISO 800) films, and I very happy with the results. Even on heavy overcast I could easily take images at f16 and f22 with speeds between s1/30 and s1/60 (even faster on sunny conditions). The huge negative this camera produces means that even on Delta 3200 the grain is not disturbing (as it may show on a 35mm frame), and since there’s no JPEG noise reduction (!!) the sharpness and details are great.
There is not a mirror on this camera, pushing the shutter release lever even without a cable release creates minimal vibration (in fact I think it’s better without a cable release !!) so I believe that I could easily shoot even at f1/8 without any problems. It’s a large camera but not so heavy so I didn’t have any problems carrying it all day (add a small mirorless or point and shoot camera in the bag and you also have a digital option for snapshots or use it a light meter, although I much prefer my Sekonic Meter for calculating exposure).
You can also use filters on the Nikkor lens (67mm size) so you also have the easy option for a polarizer or a filter for black and white film (orange or red for example). Being a 90mm lens on 6×12 format, there really no need for a center filter, light falloff is minimal (and you don’t lose 1.5 stop which is very important for handheld shooting).
So, that’s all about my experience with this lovely camera. I will sure continue to use it as a walk around camera from time to time, since the lack of the tripod makes it easy to carry it around and the image quality of a 6×12 negative is really superb.
Enough with words, here are the images shot with Delta 3200 and TRI-X 400 films.
(c)2011 Konstantinos Besios. All rights reserved.