So I bought a Pentax 6×7 in May 2018. That was the year I felt it was time to be more serious with my photography and that meant a serious medium format set-up. Abandoning digital cameras, I returned to film five years ago and dabbled a little with 120 stuff through vintage viewfinders and TLRs. But nothing serious or expensive. Now was time for that upgrade.
Initially I considered the Pentacon Six as I had ‘cut my teeth’ with Praktica and assumed it was their enlarged version SLR. However, I soon got distracted away by tales of unreliability (I think I read too many reviews and others’ opinions) and onto the rangefinder series offered by Fuji. The large Fujicas looked rather cool, results posted everywhere looked sharp. Hence I coveted a GS645s and constantly checked them out on online auctions for months. I was sure I would get one at the right price.
A chance conversation with the owner of a 6×7, at the museum where I work, changed my mind. By the time she had bestowed all its virtues onto me, I was sold. I bought one soon after, taking a bit of a gamble as it had laid dormant for ten years. A new battery proved it worked, a test roll of Fuji Pro 400h (lovely film) proved it work great. This was June 2018. However, I didn’t use it again for several months with a random roll of Lomography 800 that was given to me, possibly expired.
The next two rolls to go through it would be b/w, namely Ilford Delta 400 (another fab film). This was March 2019. A trip to my fave testing grounds: the local graveyard and the local plant life nature reserve. By this time this time, I had added a 150mm f/2.8 to the set-up and a fridge full of Portra 400 and Delta 100/400. The idea was that I would do, say, more portraiture work for example, now that I had such great gear. This new lens would force me, nay inspire me, to make the 6×7 my go-to camera. Alas, this has not happened! Indeed, I tend to just grab one of my 35mm cameras if I get the opportunity to take photographs – just seems more convenient.
I did manage one more shoot in 2019, in October (and it was portraiture). The subject was my granddaughter. I had been meaning to take her photo for a while and got hold of another roll of Pro 400h for the occasion. Come the New Year in 2020 and the 6×7 is dormant again. In twenty months it has been used just five times. Hardly a workhorse of mine and probably a disservice to a great camera.
So why the lack of use? Two problems for me I think: convenience and predictability. I don’t really get many opportunities to actually do photography. More often than not I will have half hour in my lunchtime at work (London streets and buildings) or go for an ad hoc walk near my home (Kent fields and woods). I need to travel light, a camera ready to go.
The 6×7 is just too bulky, requires some prep and not at all ‘handy’. Don’t get me wrong, the Pentax is wonderful, the lenses are wonderful and will produce wonderful negatives. In some ways that’s the second problem. I take a lot of cityscapes and landscapes, and I don’t necessarily want super sharp, super defined images of the scenery – that’s kinda why I have rejected digital. Too pretty maybe? Not creative enough? I feel that I have been gradually developing a penchant for ‘imperfect’ photographs. I have always admired the work of Julia Magaret Cameron, technical flaws and all, and other early pioneers. Recent inspiration has come from the pinholes of Matt Lethbridge (www.nolenslanscapes.co.uk) and the home-made lenses of Erik Mathy (www.erikmathy.com).
In conclusion, I acquired the 6×7 set-up believing I needed it to make serious images and anticipating a certain work flow when instead my photography was going in a different direction. Here are a few more with this Pentax…..
Thank for reading, comments appreciated. Some of my stuff at www.rocksreflex.com
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