During the past weeks I have gone back to film, especially medium format. My favorite two cameras for landscapes and travel are the Plaubel Makina 67 and Fuji GSW690iii. The combo of 28mm and 40mm (equivalent in 35mm) cover the 90% of my needs, both of them fit in the same bag (mostly due to the very thin body of the Makina) and although it’s not a light weight combo, I don’t have any problem carrying them around.
Shooting film (especially medium format) makes you very selective about your subjects. Gone are the days when I was shooting hundreds of photos on a day trip and I don’t miss it a all. It’s quite liberating for me to walk, observe and choose my subjects carefully without the “need” to take images of pretty much everything and spend my time in front of my computer to choose the good ones. I prefer to filter my chosen images at the field even with the possibility of “losing” a good photo. The ways I enjoy more my travels and also get a few good images.
For this post I chose images taken with the Fuji GSW690iii and Velvia 50, a hard to beat combo for landscapes and scenery. This camera is fully mechanical, no batteries needed for the shutter, no meter, just an advance lever and a shutter button (actually there are two!). I take light readings with the Sekonic 308 and although a spot meter would do a better job especially with a difficult film like the Fuji Velvia 50, it gets the work done.
I have rated my last two rolls of Velvia at ISO 40 and I can say that I am getting better results with this setting. The very limited latitude of the Velvia makes it difficult to capture a high contrast scene but I do like the colors and contrast of this film. The use of graduated filters helps a lot although using them with a rangefinder camera like the GSW690 is not an easy task. Also, the use of polarizer with Velvia can create a very dark blue sky which is not always what I want to see on a photo. So, the whole procedure can be quite tricky but when you get a good image you are rewarded (it’s part of the whole “ritual” of shooting film !!).
One thing in which Velvia excels, is resolution. Combine that with the size of 6×9 negative and the stunning quality and sharpness of the Fujinon lens and you can easily top quality large prints.
The GSW690 can be shot handheld even at low speeds since its a rangefinder camera but I prefer to use a tripod since this way you get the maximum quality. For handheld shots I have observed that if I use the front shutter button (there are two shutter buttons on this camera) I get more sharp images, so I work this way when I don’t use the tripod.
The only thing I miss on this camera is the Bulb mode. Instead of that you get a “T” mode but it doesn’ work like a large format lens, you have to cover the lens with the cap and then move the shutter dial in order to close the shutter. Now, for long exposure images that’s not really a problem, but for an exposure of two to three seconds for example it gets a little frustrating. Nevertheless, I haven’t missed a shot yet, so it’s not a big deal.
I get about six keepers with every roll shot the Fuji (you can take 8 frames per film with a 6×9 camera), sometimes even more, and that’s due to the fact that with this camera you spend the time and thought needed to make an image. Scanned with a Nikon Coolscan 9000 you get a file larger than 100 megapixels (now,i t’s not really 100 megapixels if you compare it with an equivalent digital file, but still there’s a huge amount of detail and information in a 6×9 frame enough for very large prints).
So, these are my thoughts for this superb combo, the Fuji GSW690iii with Fuji Velvia 50. Here are the images…
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