On my last photo trip, together with the Nikon D800E setup, I also brought with me the Fuji GSW690iii. This is a 6×9 medium format rangefinder camera. Before the Nikon, the GSW690iii was my main landscape camera.
The Fuji is actually a box with a stellar 65mm f/5.6 lens (28mm equivalent). No batteries, no light meter, a fully mechanical camera. It can produce amazing quality photos. Since I had not used this camera for months, I decided to shoot a roll in order to “keep it in shape”.
This is not by any means a film vs digital post. I’ve done a few comparisons between the two cameras in the past, but i have really move forward, beyond the never ending film vs digital wars. Each camera serves a purpose, and each one renders in a different way a subject. It is a matter of personal taste.
Just for the sake of argument, in my past comparisons I have found that in terms of resolution, the Fuji can easily match the 36 megapixels of the D800E. What differs is the color, the better tonality of the 6×9 negative especially when using black and white film, and the different look you can get when shooting with a 65mm lens at 28mm distance.
The film image was accidentally underexposed but two stops. Color negative film doesn’t like underexposure. Still, I managed to make a decent scan with the Coolscan 9000 and Vuescan software using the multi exposure mode. This is one of my last Portra 160VC films, it has expired one year ago, but was kept in the fridge, so it turned out fine. A great film, which unfortunately has been discontinued.
The images above look very similar, I could have used the 24-70mm on the Nikon and get better results, but as I said this is not a comparison. The D800E (body only) costs about four times more than a used GSW690iii, so I can say that the old rangefinder holds very well against a high end digital DSLR !
What is different between the two cameras, is the flexibility of digital. You can experiment without worrying about film cost, use high ISO, and many more things that have made digital camera prevail over film. With the Fuji, you have a different approach, make fewer shots, and generally you work in a more slow and careful way. Although I don’t take many pictures when I go out, its inevitable that with a Nikon will shoot many times more and the percentage of keepers is much less than the film. Still, this way you may get a shot you didn’t expect to, and it can sometimes be the best image you took all day !
I really enjoyed taking both cameras and it is something I will probably continue to do. The Nikon D800D serves my needs for great stills and video, while the analog camera will be for those few shots I consider worth shooting with film (especially black and white).
(The Nikon version easily wins here, I prefer its vivid look, the film looks more natural , but I probably didn’t make a good job when scanning , in terms of white balance and color. This is also one more aspect when shooting film, scanning is an art and sometimes I mess up !!)
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