Everything’s bigger in Namibia

It’s been a while. I’ve been taking lots of photographs, thinking about my photography, and very gradually assembling a portfolio. But that is not what this post is about.

After a lot of humming and hahing, I have given in to temptation, and got myself a Fotoman PS45 large format ‘snapshot’ camera.

I’ve been meaning to explore large format for a while now, and after a bit of research, I decided that a compact 4×5, rather than a field camera, was a better bet for me at this time.

After poking around the internets, I found what I was looking for at Foto Impex in Berlin. After a long e-mail exchange with the helpul but very busy staff, this is what I ordered:

  • Fotoman PS45 body;
  • Fotoman Auxiliary rangefinder (which I can mount on anything with an accessory shoe, so no more guesswork with the Isolette…);
  • Rodenstock Grandagon N 90mm f/6.8 mounted on a Copal #0 shutter;
  • Heliopan Yellow #8 filter;
  • Two boxes of 4×5 Adox film, rated at 25 and 100;
  • Paterson 70x70cm changing bag;
  • Daylight developing tank for 4×5;
  • Developer and fix — I’m trying powdered chemicals for the first time;

The camera finally arrived yesterday, and I have to say it’s completely gorgeous.

Mounting the lens was straightforward despite the complete absence of a manual — a testament to what I’m going to call ‘honest’ design: nothing unnecessarily complicated, nothing there that doesn’t need to be there, and everything built so that it can be stripped down for servicing and cleaning. Love it.

I’ve been exploring the ergonomics of the camera, figuring out operating procedures, and I have to say that while it’s more involved than the smaller formats, it’s pretty straightforward. I envision two scenarios:

  • Snapshot mode: The external viewfinder (included) is mounted on the centre shoe, focusing is per the hyperfocal method (stop down appropriately, set focus for something sensible, and guesstimate), insert film holder, bang away;
  • Landscape mode: The camera is operated much like a conventional view camera — arrive the proverbial half-hour early, set up, use the (included) ground glass to focus, stop down, cock shutter, insert film holder and so forth.

I imagine that snapshot mode would be a lot of fun with one of those Graflex rapid-use film magazines, but finding one is not all that easy…

I had hoped to use Rollei R3, but Impex did not have it available. I’ll get myself some once I’ve built up a bit of experience and have a chance either to get it myself or to have it brought down.

An observant reader may note that I have not listed film holders, and to my disappointment it seemed that Impex did not have 4×5 holders in stock. After a quick e-mail to Monochrom.de, I found that they did have stock, and so I ordered 5 holders from them. Naturally, there was a luggage misunderstanding with the person bringing them down, so they’re currently touring South Africa for a week. Bummer, because I really want to get out and shoot!

Big props to the staff at Foto Impex for putting up with a no doubt fiddly order and delivering as promised, and props to Monochrom for once again offering fast, zero fuss service. Not cheap, but totally worth it.

Enough waffle. Camera-porn-type photos of the camera to follow once I have a chance to process the film.

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About lidlesseye

Mouthing off about photography, and occasionally important things too.

Posted on May 20, 2008, in large format, Photography and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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