For quite some time I have been enjoying the Mamiya 6 with its trio of 50/75/150mm lenses, alongside the Fujifilm TX-1 (aka Hasselblad Xpan) panoramic camera. I had recently returned to film photography after shooting digital since 2010.
I do mostly landscapes, scenery, travel and street photography. I enjoy shooting the 6×6 square and 1×2.7 panoramic aspects ratios interchangeably and the challenge of finding compositions that work for both. The compact size of these cameras and lenses helps when traveling, allowing for a smaller and lighter pack of gear.
“Pirate’s Tower” in Laguna Beach, California / Mamiya 6 Camera / Mamiya 50mm lens / Ilford Delta ASA100 120 film / Epson V750 Pro scanner
“Pirate’s Tower” in Laguna Beach, California / Fujifilm TX-1 (aka Hasselblad XPan) camera / Hasselblad 45mm lens / Ilford HP5 Plus 400 135 film / Nikon Coolscan V-ED (LS-50) scanner
Lately however, I’ve been finding my rangefinder cameras lacking and limiting in some landscape shooting scenarios, particularly when I need to use filters and a polarizer. I do have the circular polarizer designed for the Mamiya 6, but none for the Fuji TX1. It’s not that easy to use a circular polarizer or even graduated neutral density filters on filter holders with rangefinder cameras because you are composing with an optical finder and not seeing the effects of the filters through the lens.
One very good alternative that combines both 6×6 and panoramic formats is my Bronica SQ-B medium format camera with its wide Zenzanon PS 40mm lens. And what gives the Bronica the ability to shoot panoramas is the rare SQ 135W film back. Now that I’ve recently acquired one, it’s time to put it through its paces…
After a long lock-down hiatus, Descanso Gardens (in Montrose, California) finally re-opened and what better time to go try out the 135W panoramic film back! This film back enables the Bronica SQ series medium format film cameras to shoot 24mm x 54mm panoramic photos using 135mm film. The 1×2.4 aspect ratio comes close to the 1×2.7 (24mm x 65mm) pano of my Fuji TX1 (aka XPan). And shooting with the Bronica allows much easier use of a circular polarizer (used on all the color images here) because you are looking “through the lens” via a reflex mirror and into a waist level or prism finder, so you are actually seeing the effect of the filter! I excitedly loaded the 135W film back with a roll of Kodak Gold 200 for testing. The film back is a marvel of engineering, but careful attention has to be given in loading film. Once safely loaded however, the film advanced smoothly and I was ready to shoot!
I’m happy to report the 135W film back is fully functional and working as it should! For this outing, I shot the Bronica SQ-B alongside the Mamiya 6. The Mamiya will only shoot 6×6. The Bronica compliments it in two ways; with its wider Zenzanon 40mm lens, and multiple 6×6 film backs, including this 135W pano back, for the option to change film stocks and shoot panoramic images. While not as compact and “hipster cool” as my TX1 (Xpan), The Bronica SQ-B compliments the Mamiya 6 in many ways and offers more flexibility. It’s also fun to shoot! I have finally found a good landscape camera alternative to the Xpan!
These photos were with shot with Kodak Gold 200 135mm film / scanned in a Nikon Coolscan V-ED (LS-50) with Vuescan software / processed in Lightroom and Photoshop using Negative Lab Pro plug-in. Happy viewing!
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