Category Archives: Fuji G617

The Last of the 617 and panorama composition

When I left for Australia I returned the Fuji G617 camera to owner Ivar Mjell (thanks again mate for letting me use it). Just before returning it I got in one last shoot on an August evening where the weather was very kind to me.

On this evening I finally got a big cloudscape at Lake Peblinge so I could use the 617 at my favourite spot in Copenhagen:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Søtorvet Sunset in Velvia 617
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This shows the massive view captured by the Fuji G617 with the fixed 105mm lens. I would have liked to zoom in a little, those buildings on the left are ugly.

Another option is rotating this massive camera! I have attempted a vertical 617 shot many times but this is one time where I feel it actually worked. To fill a 3:1 frame at such a wide angle view you need something very tall in the composition – in this case the gorgeous clouds.

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Søtorvet Sunset in 617 – vertical
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The 617 conclusion

If someone made an affordable practical 617 digital camera I would use nothing else. I really enjoyed shooting in the 617 format and being able to compose a 3:1 panorama in the viewfinder, no guesswork and no digital stitching. Nothing beats that. I am addicted to the creative power of the digital darkroom and the digital workflow so I didn’t enjoy the slow process of using transparency film again, getting them processed and scanned etc. But a digital 3:1 camera would be the best of both worlds. Note to camera manufactures: It does not need to be a 6x17cm sensor, just do 2 x 35mm sensors next to each other!

During my recent photo trip to Australia there were many times where I really wished I had the 617. Looking at some of my stitched digital panoramas I just know that on some of them I would have improved the composition (more about this later) a lot could I actually see the end product in the viewfinder. Then again; of course there are some shots I would have missed altogether because I would have been changing film or mucking with the manual settings etc. Some day when I can afford it I may end up carrying both a digital camera and an old 617 film camera.

Panorama composition

I read a lot of photographer blogs and books. I spend hours at every gallery I visit be it online or in real life. I view perhaps a hundred photos everyday for inspiration and enjoyment. Photos shot with everything from digital point and shoots to DSLR’s to 617 pano cameras to 8×10 view cameras. There are many brilliant photographers out there using whatever equipment they choose to use. No camera ever took a photo anyway. Photographers take photos! Not cameras! Is there a point coming up? Yes!

Based upon the millions of photos I’ve viewed and my own experience I generally find 617 panorama photographers do better and stronger compositions than photographers doing digital stitched panoramas. I know that’s a strong generalisation and it’s only my opinion of course. There are great 617 photographers out there; there are great digital stitched pano photographers out there.  But generally; I find the compositions stronger in true panoramas like the 617 (I don’t mean my own feeble attempts).

If you know how to work a composition you know one step makes all the difference. One step in the right direction makes all the elements line up in your composition. Or maybe you need to get down lower. Or up higher. This is much easier when you can see your composition in the viewfinder than when you’re stitching many vertical shots together. That’s why I find 617 shots have stronger composition. There are probably other reasons. The 617 photographers have probably been doing it much longer; more experience. Half the planet doesn’t own 617 cameras; only pro photographers and pano enthusiasts meaning the quality should be higher in general. Of course there are many boring 617 shots as well and many brilliant digitally stitched panoramas.
Still; in general the 617 pano compositions look stronger to me!

I usually shoot a cropped panorama of the same scene as I shoot a stitched panorama and often the cropped has better composition. That’s why an affordable digital 3:1 camera – like a digital Hasselblad X-pan – would be most welcome!


Return of the 617

I find I am developing a strong love/hate relationship with the Fuji G617 panorama camera…

I hate the size and weight of the camera, hate dragging it around Copenhagen…I absolutely love the view through the viewfinder, love the bright panorama in-camera wide view. There’s nothing like it…I hate that I can’t see and work on the results straight away…I love the big 617 transparencies, they’re magic…I hate that it’s a fixed lens…I love the viewfinder view…I hate that it’s 4 shots per roll and then I have to change film…I love the viewfinder…I hate there’s no built in light meter…Viewfinder! Me love it!…I hate that I have to wait for results to get processed by the lab, then I have to scan them…Finally…I love the view when looking through the viewfinder!

I am continuing my test of the 617 format; previous articles are here and here.  I am getting more comfortable exposing and composing with it, and I have a few new results that I found good enough to scan, click to see large:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Copenhagen Summer Skyline Contre-Jour Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

An against the light test at sunset in Copenhagen, this displays the gorgeous colours of Velvia on a Summer night and that it handles contre-jour fairly well. I have warmed the white balance, as the built in daylight white balance of Velvia is much too cold at sunset. This photo displays one of the advantages of the 617 camera compared to digital stitching – there is no distortion of any kind resulting in straight lines horizontal and vertical and that is very noticeable on cityscapes. This was a fun shoot with a bit of a crowd of very interested fans (okay so they were strangers passing by). The 617 certainly can draw a crowd!

The next shots are interesting as I shot digital as well allowing for a direct comparison:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Velvia Field of Dreams II Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Velvia Field of Dreams Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Again, white balance has been warmed in Photoshop. Compare the last photo to the digital stitched photo of the same shot, from the same position:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Wheat Field of Dreams Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The digital version has different colours, contrast etc. due to my post processing (read here). The 617 shot is not post processed at all apart from warming the colours. But if you compare the view it is quite similar and shows you can certainly replicate the 617 format with digital stitching. I was zoomed out a bit more when shooting digital and I chose to include more of the sky and foreground when I cropped the final photo. This is one of the advantages of digital, more creative options in post processing in the digital dark room. I do find the 617 shot to have a more realistic natural “human eyes” perspective due to very little distortion where as the digital version has some wide angle barrel distortion.

Lastly, have a look at how gorgeous the large 617 transparencies are – pictured next to a box of matches and backlit by the sun.

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080718-IMG_6239 copy

The gorgeous transparencies and looking through the big wide 617 viewfinder is magic. Pure magic. I just hate hate hate that it’s not digital and I haven’t yet shot a 617 photo where I wouldn’t rather have been shooting digital. I shot perhaps my best 617 shots last night but presently the rolls are next to the Ketchup in my fridge! Have to get them developed and then scanned, far too slow a process for me! So my love/hate relationship with this metal monster will continue with more results to come!

My first 617 panorama exposures are online

I finally got the first two rolls from my first experience with the Fuji G617 panorama camera developed and scanned. The first two rolls were basically just tests to see how my exposures were and if I remembered to remove the lens cap etc! Basically test shots to learn how this beast of a camera exposes and if I’m using it correctly.

So let’s get to it, what do they look like? Here’s 3 scans for you, click to see them large:

300508-01 - Søerne edit 1000pix copy 2

300508-02 - amager strand 1 1000 pix - warm

300508-03 Amager strand 2 edit 1000pix warm copy

They’re just test shots and very ordinary photos but considering they’re my very first shots with a 617 panorama camera I’m strangely excited about these photos! The learning process is great fun – never mind the totally shitty results 😀 There’s just something special about holding a 6×17 cm transparency – and then seeing it come to life on the monitor as the scanner works it’s way through the image. It’s also an extremely slow work process from exposure to file on screen and I wish the 617 camera just had a memory card slot!

The first shot is from the end of Lake Peblinge in Copenhagen looking towards Søtorvet. If you know this place you get a good feeling of how incredibly wide a view a 617 camera at 105mm (35mm equivalent is about 24mm) gives you! In this case I would have liked to zoom in a lot more. I do like how this wide view and a second and a half of exposure makes Lake Peblinge look like an ocean. The other two shots are from the beach at Amager Strandpark and the very first shots I ever took with the 617.

Both shots are shot on Fujichrome RVP Velvia 50 Professional color slide film and scanned on a Imacon Flextight 848 scanner at 8000 dpi. I didn’t save the scans at full resolution but still brought home tiff files that are 23,000 pixels wide!

You may wonder about the purple and magenta colour cast but that comes from using a daylight film (about 5400 Kelvin) at a sunset at 9PM here (where the colour temperature is much much warmer, almost twice as warm). This could of course be “corrected” (it’s an artistic choice) in Photoshop or by shooting with filters but I wanted to present the scans as they are. The files above have received no post production at all except for levels and sharpening and conversion from AdobeRGB to sRGB colour space.

Random notes about the first few 617 exposures and the scans

  • Using my Canon 5D as a light meter works fine, but I can see the slides are a bit underexposed. With the way I meter light I need to add almost a full stop to the exposure on the 617.
  • These were shot at around f/22.0. I can see I really need to stop down a lot more to gain more depth of field. The middle shot is composed with the camera close to the sand and the foreground is very soft (more noticeable in the 23,000 pixel version!)
  • I just lurrve the colours and saturation of the Velvia film!
  • The built in level works very nicely, I ended up with some fairly straight horizons!
  • I rented time on the Imacon scanner at Fotografisk Center in Copenhagen and what a nice Digital workshop they have and it’s cheap to rent time as well. Great place, recommended.
  • The Imacon is a world class scanner and the results are very nice indeed and the scanner was a joy to work with (the Flexscan software could be better though). I scanned a few 35mm shots as well just to test it and got some nice 13,000 pixel wide scans!
  • amager-strand-100-percentCompared to a super clean iso100 digital raw file from my Canon 5D the scans are of course grainy and soft. We forgot how much grain is in film, even a 50 asa super fine grained film. Of course I’m looking at a 8000dpi scan at 100% but still – a pro level digital raw file is soooo much cleaner. Click the photo to the right to see a small crop of a 100% view that shows you the grain (and also how large the scan is, this is a small boat on the horizon in the original shot)
  • Dust…at 8000dpi every single tiny dust spot shows very easily on the scan no matter how much I thought I cleaned it, a 100% view reveals some nasty dust.  Takes a LOT of healing in Photoshop to clean up the scans (fortunately I own Noise Ninja software but still you need to a LOT of cleaning).
  • I should have shot some digital shots on that first evening as well so I could really compare the exposures. Me and my mate Markus were just too busy with the 617 camera so it slipped my mind and the light was disappearing rapidly anyway.

So – first test process completed! I managed to actually expose something on the transparencies and my 617 panorama adventure can continue. Now I just need to figure out a way to carry all of this gear on my bike without being too much of a danger to myself and the rest of Copenhagen. If you see me out there on the bike paths keep your distance please!

EDIT: It’s actually also nice to know that I haven’t become 100% dependant on digital technologies. I can shoot a photo on a 100% manual camera as well and still have it come out alright.

My 617 Panorama Camera Experience – part I

The whole world (almost) knows that I love the panorama format and I’ve always wanted to try shooting with a true 6×17 medium format film panorama camera. Digital Stitching is pure magic but for pure resolution and capturing a 3:1 panoramic view in one shot (thereby avoiding all the problems of moving elements) nothing beats a true panoramic camera!

Thanks to photographer Ivar Mjell from Århus, Denmark I will spend the next months with two cameras in my bag – my trusty old Canon EOS 5D and a Fuji G617 Panorama camera!  A million thanks to Ivar for letting me borrow and use his 617 camera, I really appreciate it! Check out Ivar’s website here.

This is the first in a series of reports on my 617 panorama experience, I will keep reporting my experiences through the next months.

First impression of the 617

It’s an incredible looking camera! It’s big. It’s heavy (about 2.5 kilos). It’s built like a tank! It’s 100% manual and 100% mechanical. Aperture can be stopped down to f/64.0. Any exposure longer than 1 second is on bulb setting – hold down the shutter release and bring your own stopwatch! You have to cock the shutter yourself. It has a lovely mechanical shutter sound when you fire it. It has a fixed 105mm lens (you can’t change lenses) which is about the same as a 24mm lens in 35mm format. The lens has it’s own ‘roll bar’ (or should I call it a ‘roo bar for you Aussies!) ensuring that if you drop this you will definitely crush your foot but the lens will be fine and safe no worries!

And one last thing, it absolutely dwarfs my Canon 5D!

Canon5D vs Fuji 617
My Canon 5D with 17-40 L lens next to the Fuji G617 (shot with crappy camera phone)

Second impression of the 617 in the field

I want to see what this monster can create loaded with the ultimate landscape film, so I purchased some rolls of expensive Fujichrome Velvia 50 slide film. The 617 cameras use roll film of course and you get a total of 4 exposures on a 120 roll so you get really good at changing film really fast! My good mate Markus was my driver and assistant on my first shoot – thanks mate! We went to the beach at Amager Strandpark at sunset to just get in a few shots of some sand, water and sky so I could get a feel for the camera and the Velvia film and here’s some of my impressions from the first time in the field:

  • First off the good news: I remembered to remove the lens cap! This is not an SLR, you don’t look through the lens so it would be perfectly easy to shoot with the lens cap on and never notice it 😀
  • It’s just fantastic to be able to look through the large and bright 3:1 viewfinder on a camera like this. So incredible to have a panoramic viewfinder, so different to digital stitching where I can’t see the end result in the viewfinder.
  • I don’t have a light meter so I measured the light using my Canon 5D at iso50 and used this as a guide and added about ½ to 2/3rds stops of light to the 617 (Ivar told me this was necessary). Worked fine, at least I hope it did 🙂
  • Bugger did I miss the RGB histogram from digital SLRs like my Canon 5D! Any histogram for that matter would do. I haven’t shot film for years and with digital you get so used to be able to check the exposure, see if any channels were clipped or the exposure is too dark etc. With this camera….nothing. I click the shutter release and get the lovely mechanical shutter sound and then… nothing. I really really miss some sort of feedback from the camera telling me an image was exposed and here’s the histogram for you to check mate! But no, just a nice mechanical click and you’re done.
  • The built-in spirit level is very useful for aligning the camera and getting a straight horizon. With such a wide view even a 0.1 degree tilt is very noticeable. Sometimes my eyes didn’t quite agree with the level though!
  • Did I mention how much I looooove looking through the wide panorama viewfinder?
  • But as much as I like this I have to admit the viewfinder could be better. I can’t see the whole 3:1 frame without moving my head from side to side when looking through viewfinder so composition definitely takes a lot of practice.

And a few impressions from my second shoot

  • I need a bigger backpack! The other night shooting for the second time I had my own Canon 5D and gear + Gitzo tripod + Fuji G617 on my back as I rode my trusty bicycle around Copenhagen. Good exercise!
  • It’s wiiiiiiide. I actually reckon 105mm is too wide (or Copenhagen is too small) for cityscapes, probably ok for landscapes but for cityscapes they can often become really cluttered, messy and busy compositions if you can’t single out a building or two using zoom. Shooting across the lakes in Copenhagen with the Fuji G617 and I tend to get absolutely everything in frame, like half the city! Some of the other 617 cameras come with interchangeable lenses and something like 300mm on a 617 might be better for cityscapes. I can’t very well zoom with my feet when I’m on the bank of a lake. Reckon I need a boat for this as well!

First 617 panorama results

My first results…they’re just absolutely legendary masterpieces of 617 panoramic photography!!!!! Heh, at least I reckon they are but I haven’t seen them yet of course! You see the exposed rolls of film are safe in my fridge next to the milk and the Ketchup. I have to get them developed first and then get them scanned before I have anything to show you so it’ll be a while. I can’t wait to see the first shots to see what the hell I created using this mechanical beast and see how my exposure was, see the quality of the Velvia 120 slide film, see how the DOF is etc.

Fuji G617 at Amager Beach

For now you’ll just have to settle for a shot of the camera at the beach at Amager Strandpark in Copenhagen – see image above, click for large – and wait for my next report where I hope to show you some actual results! (if not you’ll have to settle for a shot of the exposed rolls of films in my fridge and the Ketchup!)

Read more of my 617 experiences: