After recently acquiring my Pentax 6×7, I already had a pre-planned road trip in place so it was inevitable that I’d take it along with me to give it a full on road test. I had 4 days in total to shoot, and here’s how it all went.
Firstly, in relation to my other medium format camera, my Hasselblad 500CM, the Pentax 6×7 is a massive beast and boy does it weight something. 2.6kilos in fact. If I’m honest, the weight never really posed an issue for me – but shooting all day with it might be a little more challenging I guess.
I’d been given a lot of pre purchasing advice on shooting with the Pentax 6×7, all of which I took on board but there’s nothing better than getting your hands on it yourself to make a true judgement and I couldn’t wait to find the right one. After a lot of research on all of the various models still available out there, I opted for an early TTL version, Why? Well, I don’t use a light meter so the TTL made the most sense to me. Secondly, I love the earlier designed models with the addition of that retro wooden handle. That handle does add a further brutal looking element to its design looks as well as providing some further grip when required.
I looked through the normal UK online channels including the well known auction site first, but came up a blank. I was after a mint version. Just a personal preference thing…
So, I ended up looking where the best examples seem to live. The range and quality available from Japan was mind blowing. Without a doubt it’s the best place to get a mint one if your budget extends that far, but don’t forget the additional imports taxes will hit you hard. Think about an extra 20% or so on top of your purchase price. I paid a little more for mine but I got a totally mint example body.
I struggled to find a complete unit, i.e. body & lens together, as I’d set my list of requirements pretty high. I wanted the SMC 105mm f/2.4 lens which was super clean in every respect. No separation, haze, dust etc etc. Yes I know, a tough call, but I did find one in the end, and it was so pure and clean it looked like it had just come out of the box. Overall, in my opinion, I found the best example of both camera and lens out there and the time I bought.
The road trip
So, this was a trip that I’d planned for sometime. To some degree, I had the ideas of what I wanted to shoot already in the back of my mind. I was interested to see if bring the Pentax 6×7 along with me might add another element to the content alongside my Hassy and my M6. After viewing other related 6×7 imaging online prior to the trip, its was clear to see that the larger sized format did indeed add something extra, and the 105mm lens was killer-sharp. So sharp in fact I questioned how sharp. It was only until i began to shoot with it that I truly became aware of just how good it was.
The Four Points
The trip itself was for a project that I’d put together – “The Four Points” project. I travelled to the furthest four points of mainland Great Britain to capture all I saw. Armed with all of my kit over those three formats, I soon found myself looking for those shots that I thought the 6×7 might be better suited rather than my Hassy or the M6. This was mainly because it was a new camera to me and I needed experience in handling it and seeing how it really performed. You know how it is, if you get a new toy you’ve got to use it.
Were mistakes made?
Yes, is the answer to that! I did make mistakes and that was largely down to my inexperience with the camera and it’s functionality. Now, I’m the type of bloke who doesn’t read manuals and didnt have one either for my Pentax 6×7 so I guess I can only blame myself. Everyone makes mistakes but you learn by them.
Firstly, I wasn’t sure about the process taken at the end of a roll. A large number of cameras have that rewind button on the bottom of the camera or to the side of it that you use to rewind your film. The Pentax, as a 120 camera, was slightly different. I’m sure many of you know this, but I didn’t. After you’ve shot the 10th frame, you continue to advance the film and it winds itself fully onto the take up spool. You then open the back door on the camera and you’re done. I opened the door just before that, as I was unsure at that stage if I’d done it correctly. Fortunately when the film came back I only experienced a minor light leak on two frames. I won’t do that again.
The shots I found myself shooting on the trip were so varied. Ever changing scenery, subject matter, constant weather conditions and light conditions but the Pentax 6×7 was proving a dream to use.
It certainly didn’t take me too long before I really felt at home with it. Any old school mechanical camera of that age and size is clearly going to have a really connective feel to it. The glorious mechanical thud of the shutter which to me was so engaging. Don’t get me wrong here, the Hassy’s shutter sound is a killer too but the Pentax 6×7 seems to be on another level.
I’ve now been shooting with the Pentax 6×7 for a few months now and it’s become my favourite camera to work with. On the project front and on the commercial front too. It’s a killer unit. I love it