The Biggest Negative: A Fuji GW690II Story [Film]

When I sold my old Mesa Boogie amplifier, I hoped to put some of that cash into photography, in a unique way.  I picked up a Fuji GW690II, a MASSIVE rangefinder camera for a specific project, which I will explain a bit more in a future post.

The experience of using a camera this large has been incredible so far. The negatives are massive and the handling is brilliant.  Focusing using the rangefinder system is unique to the design of the camera, but typically you line up the central area superimposed image with the real image and you're in focus.  You don't need to have good vision to correctly focus this camera either, which is wonderful for anyone with corrective lenses. Here's what the viewfinder looks like:

Yeah, sorry about the clutter in my apartment, but you get the idea.  The frame in the viewfinder acts as the guideline for the final image.  
 Here are some sample images that I've developed, all shot on Tri-X film and developed in Ilfotec DD-X.  I actually digitized the images by placing them on a light table of sorts and snapping the photo with my iPhone. A quick inverting filter, black and white conversion and bam!   The quality isn't even close to a proper scan, but the idea is to proof the images.

Ellen, lit by studio lights while modelling fashion from Vivacious Vixen Apparel. 

The camera's focal length is 90mm, but because the negative is almost 6cm by 9cm, the 35mm equivalent is close to 45mm, giving me a pretty 'normal' field of view.  The large negative means my depth of field is exceptionally narrow, especially at the wide open f/3.5 aperture.

I haven't shot much street photography with this camera, primarily due to size, but also because I only get 8 photos per 120 roll.  That's all.  The beauty of the rangefinder is that there's no mirror, only a leaf shutter.  This means hand-holding is possible at very low shutter speeds, like this shot taken at 1/15 of a second.

My Mom's Christmas Tree, slightly underexposed.

I took this beast with me over the holidays, back to New Brunswick where I knew we would be without power.  Since the camera is manual, mechanical and has no electronic components, I figured it would make sense.  I also got a couple rolls of Tri-X for Christmas and wanted to shoot them.

For the unfamiliar, most of New Brunswick was hit with a huge storm on the 22nd and 23rd of December, coating the roads, trees and power lines with a thick sheet of ice.  A large fraction of the population (45,000 people) were without power for the early part of the week, and almost 20,000 spend their christmas in candle light. The winter wonderland Christmas has its price.

We had to stop on the highway on our way to visit family in New Brunswick.  The ice on the trees and low temperatures made for some breathtaking views.  This was shot on Christmas Day.
A view of the area behind my old home in Welsford.  I spent a good part of my childhood wandering the woods and exploring, either with friends or to seek solitude.

My brother and Dad's dog Thor, on our hike behind the house.  

As always, it's up to the photographer to find good light, and regardless of what camera you're using the quality of light reigns supreme in image quality.  I'm very fond of using window light, for it's softness and directional nature.

Cats + Camera = Photos of cats.  It's pretty much inevitable.

But so far, the best negatives I've gotten with Tri-X have come from shooting it in bright conditions.  There's more of a spark to the shots, a real contrast.  

I will be looking to do some proper scans of these photos soon, however the biggest issue I'm running into is that my scanner is designed do do 35mm only.  Enlargements or prints may be my only avenue to getting to see these photos in their best state.

In review, I'm very happy with this camera.  My initial plan was to complete my project, then decide whether to keep or sell the camera.  In any case, I plan to keep shooting medium format as long as my budget for personal work allows it.