5 frames with...

5 Frames with the Fuji GW690ii – By Josh Sitoh

May 13, 2020

What strange times that we live in. With the world currently rearing its head and mobilizing its resources in facing of the Covid-19 pandemic, here I am in lockdown at my in-law’s farm writing a blog about a film camera. I’m sure there are other things I could be doing, but I am also keenly aware that now, more than ever, the arts are so vital in keeping our souls nourished. I hope you are all well, staying safe, and staying kind.

With that kind of introduction, let me bring forth what could be my ultimate medium format camera set up of all time; the Fuji GW690ii. I recently picked up this beast of a camera in March, and it does live up to the “Texas Leica” name. It’s HUGE. It covers half of my face and my wife often mentions how ridiculous it looks. I agree. It looks ridiculous!

However, after owning the Mamiya m645 for about 6 months, I realize I was missing so many moments because of the boxy and chunky nature of the camera. I have loved using a waist-level viewfinder, but the GW690ii gives me a simpler way of composing. It is much more portable as it feels lighter and less cumbersome to carry around.

With only getting 8 shots per roll, it’s a careful decision for every frame, but the 6×9 format is gorgeous in resolution that makes it’s so worth it if you catch the right moment. (Pro tip: take your flippin lens cap off before shooting!) I have fallen in love with this camera, and have long since sold my Mamiya 645, as well as a few other 35mm cameras. Currently, this MF setup and my trusty Nikon F2 are the main film cameras that I shoot. I used to be skeptical, wondering if 8 shots per roll was too high a price to pay. But I assure you, once you see the resolution in the negatives, it makes it so worth it.

Article - Josh Sitoh

Christy. Bergger Pancro 400.

Article - Josh Sitoh

Jordan. Lomography 800.

By nature, I am a structured and methodical kind of person. This camera lends it’s strength to how I shoot and compose. It works great for me. I am pretty sure I’ll remain quite content with this camera! Although I’ve always lusted after a Mamiya 7, I’m pretty sure those juicy 6×9 negatives will keep me in line for awhile.

Article - Josh Sitoh

Newmarket, Auckland. Lomography 800.

Article - Josh Sitoh

Tennis Ball. Lomography 800.

Article - Josh Sitoh

James. Expired Fuji NPL 160.

If you’re ever debating about picking up one of these bad boys, my recommendation is to heartily go for it. The ease of an all mechanical medium format camera, with negatives that boarder large format, this is a no brainer. And from my personal experience, its much more wieldable that a boxy Mamiya. I would say the same of the equivalent SLRs, your Hasselblads, Bronicas etc…

The only down side is that I think I’ll venture into large format and God knows how much more my wife can take from my camera splurges…

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15 Comments

  • Reply
    Jens
    May 13, 2020 at 10:12 am

    I love the shot you took of Christy – and my favourite is the tennis ball. And yes, the way to go from here is to large format. At least that is what I did, and no regrets.

    • Reply
      Josh Sitoh
      May 13, 2020 at 10:48 am

      I’ll stay here awhile until I get the wife’s approval hah! Thanks for your kind words. I know large format is another step forward, but just biding my time…

  • Reply
    Neal A Wellons
    May 13, 2020 at 12:00 pm

    I love my Texas Leica and have recently started shooting IR with it. Beautiful. I use Japan Camera Hunter Streetpan 400 film with a 720 nm filter. I like color too and it can be a hard choice. I mainly go with the light. Harsh is great for IR.

    I don’t let the 8 exposures/roll worry me as it is so easy to load. For film-eating, my 4 shot Fuji G617 is another world, and even more fun, if much slower to shoot.

    • Reply
      Josh Sitoh
      May 14, 2020 at 11:09 am

      Slowing down is always the better move for more keeper shots!

  • Reply
    Ross Attix
    May 13, 2020 at 1:15 pm

    Hey Josh, I love your intro. Exactly.

    Also, love these cameras from Fuji. The neg is half a sheet of 4×5 divided the long way, and a fairly easy camera to shoot hand-held if you stay with higher ISO film.

    The version you have is the 90mm f/3.5, so not too bad for lens speed. I like to shoot wider, and spent about 3-4 years with the 65mm f/5.6 GSW690II, and as much as I loved the perspective, that loss in maximum aperture was a killer for me. As much as I loved the camera itself, I sold it because I just wasn’t using it.

    What the experience did for me though was to remind me what a giant Fuji was (and is) in the camera design community. It was no coincidence that Hasselblad chose them to design and private label the XPan cameras. (Fuji version TX-1, 2).

    Anyway, it was great to see this.

    • Reply
      Josh Sitoh
      May 14, 2020 at 11:11 am

      Thanks for your kind words! Definitely love using this camera, and I can see the appeal of the wide version for tripod work & more landscape stuff. Wouldn’t mind interchangeable lenses, but nothing ever ticks all the boxes! Fuji glass is just exquisite though – no regrets!

  • Reply
    Mikey Kay
    May 13, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    The shot of Christy is phenomenal. The detail there is similar to that of my Makina 670, but obviously a touch smaller in film format size.
    Glad you love the Texas Leica. I’m pretty gassed out right now, or I’d be kinda tempted…lol

    • Reply
      Josh Sitoh
      May 14, 2020 at 11:12 am

      Thank you! I’d love to shoot 6×7 one day.

  • Reply
    Neil
    May 13, 2020 at 1:52 pm

    Great 5 frames! This is the camera I use for the most part now after being a 6×6 6×7 shooter for a long time, I wanted a Mamiya 7II but the prices of them now are horrendous as you make reference to. It’s a very basic, simple camera to operate but it’s a total wolf in sheep’s clothing, the look of the 6×9 images blow me away, every roll I get back is a revelation as to how good this camera is! I’ve not shot 800 speed film with it before mind, you I think I’ll try that based on your images.

    • Reply
      Josh Sitoh
      May 14, 2020 at 11:13 am

      Thanks! Definitely have a go at Lomo 800. I only had two rolls but both came out so good. Loved having that versatility of high speed film.

  • Reply
    Zvonimir
    May 13, 2020 at 4:13 pm

    Hi Josh! Excellent work. It’s encouraging to hear of another photographer who supports film. Re the 6×9,: didn’t Fuji produce an identical camera in 6×7? I haven’t seen these appear in the news for a long time. A 6×7 would provide me with all the negative size I need, and would yield more frames on a roll of expensive film.

    • Reply
      Josh Sitoh
      May 14, 2020 at 11:15 am

      Yes I’ve seen them but definitely out of my price range. They’re rarer and if I’m not mistaken, are physically almost equal to the 6×9 body.

    • Reply
      Kodachromeguy
      May 15, 2020 at 11:00 pm

      Hi Gents,
      Fujifilm made the fixed-lens Texas Leicas in 6×7, 6×8, and 6×9 sizes. The bodies were identical in dimensions; just the film gate and film advance gearing are different. I wrote about the models here in 2018:
      https://www.35mmc.com/25/10/2018/fuji-gw690ii-mississippi-texas-leica/
      The 90mm lens is an amazing performer.
      I love the portrait of Ms. Christi.

  • Reply
    Khaled_IM
    May 13, 2020 at 5:02 pm

    Josh, it would have been informative to have included a photo of a person carrying the Fuji to demonstrate the outlandish dimensions in relative terms. Of course, ridiculous can be very cool too.

  • Reply
    Roger B.
    May 17, 2020 at 11:36 pm

    Next stop: Sinar 4×5 ….

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