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Silvestri H: the 6×12 ultracamera


Imagine what would happen if a HAL9000 mated with a Graflex XLSW. The Silvestri H (and as earlier models are designated, the “Hermes”) is designed to be a hand-holdable architectural camera for travel.

Why 6×12: The 6×12 format (or really, 55×114) has a 2.07:1 aspect ratio, which is wider than 16:9 and well into the range of widescreen cinema formats. It is a format that, when used horizontally, provides a field of view not unlike your own binocular vision. The natural question is what this format can do when the negative is in the vertical orientation. Having a very tall top-to-bottom frame (and particularly being able to shift the lens) allows you either to create a 6×12 image or a very perspective-corrected 6×9 image. If getting the verticals on your building (or other subject) straight requires the subject to be near the top or bottom of the frame, you just crop the rest out. Large format users have been doing this for years.


Configuration: the Silvestri H (previously called the “Hermes”) is basically a camera body that appears as a tall hexagon from the front. It consists of a foot with dual tripod sockets, a main section, and a Galilean viewfinder (reversed telescope type). The camera body is a substantial combination of substantial aluminum castings. It is not light or flimsy. And do note that when the Silvestri specs give a weight for the camera, that doesn’t include film back or a lens. In other words, this camera will not flutter away with a light breeze nor will it disintegrate or misalign itself if you look at it wrong. It will probably give you scoliosis. Here is a stock photo marked up to show the various parts (the lens mounted appears to be a 75mm Super Angulon XL). Normally, the crash bars would be present.


Lens units: various lenses are available for the H, from 35mm to 100mm. Note that not every lens works with 6×12 backs. Only the 47mm XL, 58mm XL, and 75mm XL Schneiders and 65 and 75 Rodenstocks do. You you can use any lens from 35mm to 100mm with the 6×9 or 6×7 backs and the appropriate spacers, etc. Here is a table showing just how complicated the permutations are:



Here are the Rodenstock combinations:


Lenses are generally packaged in helicoid mounts that bayonet on and off the front standard. Mounts feature both focusing marks and depth of field (DOF) scales. Some configurations come optional “crash bars” to prevent the lens unit from being knocked sideways. This camera was tested with a Schneider 58mm XL Super Angulon in a Copal shutter, which is designed to cover 4×5″. Note that the H is a scale-focus camera, the catch being that it does require you to focus (longer than 58mm, you are well advised to use groundglass focusing). Remember, in a 4000dpi scan at 100%, it’s still a 58mm lens being scale focused – so be conservative in your use of the depth of field scales.


Media: the Silvestri has a four-pin rotating connector built into the camera. It rotates with click stops in 90 degree increments. To this you bolt on either (1) the rotating rollfilm/groundglass adapter or (2) the Polaroid adapter that is integrated with a 3×4 pack film back.

  • The rollfilm backs are similar to Horseman Graflok backs in most ways – except that they are taller top to bottom at the adapter plate.
  • The rollfilm/groundglass adapter has two bullseye levels – one operative when the back is in horizontal orientation and one operative in vertical.
  • The Polaroid adapter/back has one bullseye level – since it can only be used horizontally.
  • The 6×12 and 6×9 backs have mechanisms made by Horseman, which really means Mamiya. They are quite smooth in winding, and the spacing looks perfect with TMX and TMY.
  • All film backs come equipped with dark slides, which you must remember to remove and store before shooting. If you lose one, it may not be the end of the world; this camera shoots 6 frames per roll of film. So it may not be difficult to just finish the roll of film before changing backs.

Note: although it is outside the scope of this article, the Silvestri H body also came configured for 6×7, 6×9, or 4×5. These configurations use totally different rotating back adapters, and rollfilm holders and groundglass units for those adapters do not fit the 6×12 rotating back adapter (they are standard 2×3 rollfilm holders similar to Graflex/Mamiya/Horseman – the 6×12 uses a different adapter plate). In lieu of bullseye levels on the top of the rotating back adapter, these other configurations have considerably less convenient linear bubble levels on the side and back of the camera “foot.” The 6×9 Polaroid film back has an interesting feature: it does not rotate; instead, it shoots a plus-shaped frame that does vertical and horizontal simultaneously.

Shift: The raison d’être of the H is easy shift capability, operable in either film orientation. Shift lets you move the horizon line up 15mm or down 10mm on the film frame. This is the equivalent of changing the effective shooting position of the camera up or down by several meters and allows the user to take pictures of taller objects with fewer converging verticals – or to move the horizon at will. A thumb wheel on the front of the camera raises or lowers the lens standard. There is a scale on the front that shows the amount of shift, and the finder automatically shifts its frame mask up or down, There is also an external gage on the back of the finder that shows the shift amount. There is no issue with lens coverage, since most lenses sold for Silvestri cameras are 4×5 inch lenses.

Viewfinder: The H has a fixed Galilean viewfinder. Framing is achieved via interchangeable masks that drop into a slot and engage a ball detent. Stock masks consist of the same frame vertically and horizontally (for example, 6×12, 58mm, looks like a plus sign). They are also available in strict horizontal orientation There is a bullseye level (visible via a mirror) at the bottom of the finder picture. As the front standard rises or falls, the mask moves to match. Look at the bubble level, not the apparent convergence (or divergence) of tall objects in the frame. Framing using the mask generally works; the user should watch out for parallax at close range.

Ergonomics: The ergonomics are mostly good, and the H is surprisingly pleasant to use. Here are some notes:

  • There is no natural place to mount a cable release. The former owner of mine taped a short cable release to the right side of the lens cage. Consider a Vivitar PG-1 pistol grip with integrated shutter release.
  • There is the question of where to put your left hand – probably best directly under the camera.
  • With a 6×12 film back mounted, it can be challenging to see both the bubble level and the frame at the same time. This is not a problem with the much thinner Polaroid back.
  • It is easy to bump the rotating back counterclockwise a degree or two out of position (imagine the tremendous leverage of a 6×12 back). This does not really show up on film, but you should keep the lock lever in the up position at all times.
  • With a rollfilm holder in a vertical orientation, where the open-close lock for the film back is at the top, you might pop open the film back with your thumb if you are not careful with your grip on the camera.

Optical Performance: because there is not very much to the camera, the optical performance is primarily defined by the lens unit selected and film flatness. All of the lenses are excellent. Testing with scrap TMY and looking through the film gate on a detached 6×12 back, you can see that the film should probably have a minute to settle before being shot. That said, the depth of focus at the film plane is fairly large, and any distortion of such a wide piece of film is negligible. The shutters are all bullet-proof Copals. The 58mm XL tested with this camera had extremely low distortion, extreme sharpness when focused correctly, and reasonably little light falloff on a 6×12, unshifted negative.

Focusing: as already noted, precise focus is rewarded. Consider a Leica FOKOS if you work close-in; otherwise, a Nikon Aculon rangefinder provides precise distance measurement if your typical subject is 6m or more away.

Center filters: most wides sold with this camera come with center filters. The unit examined came with a Schneider IIIB, which has a compensation of approximately 1.5 stops at the center. Rear threads are 67mm; front threads are 86mm. Then there is the question of whether to use the center filter at all with negative film – on 6×9, it’s pretty much unnecessary, and on 6×12, it’s marginal. That said, it’s better to have the center filter on hand to test for your particular application.

Output: this might be tricky. You have these alternatives:

  • If you are only using a 6×7 or 6×9 section of the negative, any 6×9 enlarger or medium-format film scanner should be usable. Depending on your scanner, you may need to cut filmstrips into individual frames.
  • If you need the whole frame, you need a 4×5 enlarger, a flatbed like an Epson V750, a stitched output from a medium-format film scanner, or a Flextight scan. A 2000dpi scan yields a ~156mp image when stitched, which is plenty for any but the most gargantuan outputs.

The Polaroid Sprintscan 120 is one of the best options for scanning and stitching, since its medium-format carrier can take a strip of two 6×12 frames (you have to rotate the film to do the second frame; the 6×24 carrier just relieves you of having to cut the negs apart). You can also contact Focal Point in Florida and get a 3mm AN glass that replaces the top frame of the standard frame of the medium format film carrier. This makes for very flat film without an extra dust surface.

Choice of film: if you use a tripod, you can use any 120 film you like. For b/w use handheld, count on using ISO 400 film all the time.

Contrast filters: You can screw an 86mm contrast filter into the front threads of the center filter with no vignetting. The alternative is to use a 67mm contrast filter behind the center filter; however, this will vignette at extreme shift settings. B+W makes a series of EW (extra wide) contrast filters that have 67mm rear threads and 82mm fronts. These cannot be used with the Schneider center filter. If you are really feeling lucky, you could use a 67-86mm step up ring and screw in an 82 or 86mm filter (which may or not be economical).

Starting points for setting your meter with 400-speed film:

  • Center filter only: ISO 160 (+1.5 stops)
  • Center filter plus 023 deep yellow/orange or 060 light green: ISO 50 (+3 stops)
  • Center filter plus 040 orange: ISO 32 (+3.5 stops)

What kind of bag: the Crumpler December Quarter is about the only bag available with the right combination of vertical size and an inside that accommodates the 6.5″ depth of the lens/camera/back. Even so, it’s best to turn the back vertically before stowing. A photo backpack would seem ideal; however, depth is an issue.

Versus some of the competitors: every 6×12 camera is an orchid. The Silvestri has the unique touch of being able to shoot a vertical 6×12, with shift, while allowing an automatic shift-corrected view, while viewing the bubble level. No other camera really has that complex of features. But here are some competitors and where they place in terms of features:

  • Linhof Technorama 612 PC II: This is wonderful and tiny (relatively), provided that you have $10,000 to create a basic camera setup. The Linhof cameras have a single-axis level that works in two orientations (so it cannot measure roll, just pitch), beautiful Albada finders with reference lines (much better than the Silvestri optical finder) and parallax insets, and a range of high quality lenses. Note, though, that the Linhof shifts but 8mm, cannot shift in the vertical orientation and does not have interchangeable film backs (if you feel daring, it has a tripod socket on the top of the camera so that you can mount it upside-down and turn that 8mm of rise into 8mm of drop). The Linhof does not have interchangeable backs or ground glass capability. Note that the widest lens available with this camera is 58mm.
  • Horseman SW612 Professional: This is the closest to the Silvestri in concept, since it is a lens unit-body-film back configuration (backs come in 6×12, 6×9 and 6×7). It comes with Rodenstock lenses down to 35mm. Its back does not rotate, but the camera does have  +/- 17mm vertical and +/- 15mm horizontal shift. The viewfinder is similar to the Silvestri concept, but it does not show shift and its bubble level  (visible through a peephole in the finder but not inside the finder) does not work for vertical shots. This camera costs $7,700 complete with a 65 APO-Grandagon, finder, and 6×12 back.
  • Horseman SW612: The non-professional(?!) version lacks any type of shift capability. It too is very expensive.
  • Noblex 6/150. This 6×12 panoramic camera shoots without normal geometric distortion (making objects at the sides of the frame larger). But it does create its own cylindrical distortion and flares strangely when the sun is in the frame. Some models have shift; some have variable focus; some can take a slow-speed module; none really has a realistic leveling capability. It’s a fun camera with a 50/4.5 Tessar, but it is not in the same league as a conventional 6×12.
  • Fotoman Dmax. This is a nicely designed 6×12 with interchangeable lenses on cones. It shifts in two directions, but the viewfinder does not shift in either. It does have a roof level that is operable when the camera is in its horizontal orientation.
  • Fuji G617 and GX617 series: These cameras go wider in terms of format (6×18) but have much narrower angles of view from top to bottom of the frame (due to the shortest lens being a 90mm) and lack shift capability.

At the end of the day, a purpose-built 6×12 shift camera is going to be a compromise. The Silvestri is a workable if heavy handheld camera that is suitable for fast shooting.

Conclusion: the Silvestri H is one of those cameras that, due to the decline of the film camera market, has become almost affordable. It is fun to shoot, is not afraid to play hard, and it produced great pictures without a tripod or clumsily switching between a groundglass and a film back (the exceptions being close-focus work, special filtration, and initial calibration of the various levels). If you find one, jump on it.

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Mamiya 6 vs. Fuji GA645


Part 1: Configuration and Basics

I chose to compare these two cameras because when I borrowed a Mamiya 6, I figured out that although they have different feature sets, they are aimed at the same types of applications.

Generalities: the Mamiya 6 MF is a 6×6 cm (55x55mm) camera that takes 12 shots on 120 film and 24 on 220 film.  It has manual focus, manual wind, and both manual and automatic exposure.  It has three available lenses, a 50mm, 75mm and 150mm, all of which fit in a collapsible lens mount.  Each lens has an electronically-timed leaf shutter and couples to the rangefinder in the camera.  The 6 MF with its 75mm f/3.5 lens runs about $900-1200 used.

The Fuji GA645 is a 6×4.5cm (55x42mm) camera that takes 15 shots on 120 or 30 shots on 220 film.  It comes in two variants, one with a 60mm f/4 lens (corrected for angle of view and film grain, it would be a 35mm f/2 on a 35mm camera) and one with a 45mm f/4 lens (like a 24mm on a 35mm camera).  It has autoloading; auto or manual zone focusing; program, aperture and manual exposure modes; a built-in data imprinter; and built in flash.   These sell used for $500-600.

Build quality: despite complaints about its “plastic feel” seen on the internet, the Mamiya is a pretty solid camera, quite a bit heavier than older-style 6×6 rangefinders like the Super Ikonta A.  It has a metal chassis and black plastic covers.  All markings are done in paint, including (incredibly) lens distance and aperture markings.  It feels like a very substantial camera, and there is no play in the lens. Focusing is smooth and solid.

The Fuji GA645, which is of almost identical size (except front to back) to the Mamiya, is much more lightweight.  Its covers are a dark grey and they are reasonably tough. The camera’s frame, lens barrel and focusing mechanism are metal.

Design influences:  The MamiyaÕs collapsing lens mount looks a lot like the one on a Retina IIc, right down to the internal bellows.  The grip and shutter release feel a lot like the one on a Nikon MD-4, albeit a tiny bit rounder. I don’t know where the huge shutter speed dial came from.

The Fuji GA645 came in on the same alien satellite that brought the Andromeda Strain to earth.  Actually, it appears to have been carved from a single block of soap. I have had this camera for four years, and I still could not tell you what it is supposed to look like.

Loading: On the M6, the pivoting pressure plate (rotates 90 degrees) sets the film plane and the counter for 120 or 220.  It also activates a window on the camera back which shows you what type of film you are using.  You pop out the spools by sliding two rectangular levers.  Film loads from left to right.  You line up the arrows on the paper backing with metal arrows in the film chamber by advancing the wind lever (one stroke per frame).  You then close the back and advance to frame 1.  Note: you cannot dry-fire a Mamiya 6 Ð if you want to play, you can wind discarded paper backing onto a 120 spool and use it that way.  Or you can pop the back open. After 12 frames with 120 or 24 with 220, the camera will keep winding.  The Mamiya is slightly harder to load, because it has a key-slot spool for the supply side Ð this provides extra tension on the film (supply side), apparently to prevent light leaks.

On the Fuji, you slide the pressure plate off its two pins and flip it over.  The camera then shows 120 or 220 on the LCD panel and sets the digital counter accordingly.  Loading is exceptionally simple.  Two red push buttons pop the spools.  Bring the backing over left to right, turn the control wheel to wind on, and as soon as it catches, close the back.  The camera detects the film start and winds to frame 1 accordingly.  There is no tensioning mechanism other than the spring on the supply spool, but I have had no light leaks from this arrangement. Film winds automatically with each exposure.  At the end of 15 or 30 exposures, the camera will wind up the film automatically (there is a button for doing that early, too).  You can set the camera to beep on the 14th or 28th frame to warn you that you will soon be out of film.

Viewfinder: The Mamiya 6 MF has an approximate 0.7x magnification and has aluminized (color-neutral) beamsplitters).  It features a rangefinder spot with vernier (hard) edges, a red LED shutter speed scale, and a warning light which comes on when the darkslide is closed or the camera is not cocked.  The 6 MF (as opposed to the 6) also has internal frame markings for 6×4.5 (horizontal) and 24x55mm panoramic.  These switch sizes depending on which lens you have mounted.  Framelines are parallax-corrected (position) but not field-corrected (image size). The Mamiya 6 viewfinder (except for the shape and the particular framelines) is identical to that on the Hexar RF.  The viewfinder is about the brightest, clearest I have seen on a medium-format rangefinder.  The shutter speed scale tends to get lost when you are shooting in bright light (just like it does on the Hexar).  This is a little problematic, since shading the VF affects the metering.  So the trick is to set the aperture for something you know will work if you have the camera on AE.  Camera reads exposure from the viewfinder.  Diopter correction is via supplemental lenses which push into the generous rubber eyecup. Like Leicas and Hexars, the Mamiya 6 finder is a little bit sensitive to eye position.

The Fuji GA645 carries forward the gold-beamsplitter rangefinder from the GS645S (“crash bar”) model and the GS645 folder.  It has framelines that shrink to show the parallax- and field-corrected view. I suspect that if this is like older Fujis, the framelines show 100% of the field at the closest focus and something like 85% at infinity.  It also has a central crosshairs for the AF system.  Across the bottom of the field is a segmented LED display which shows aperture (f/4 to f/22), shutter speed (slow to 1/700 sec), distance, flash (if enabled) and over/under indicators for manual metering.  The Fuji finder is not as bright, in part because the meter cell (as it does in other Fuji 645s) reads off the reflection on the front of the beamsplitter.  This makes the meter fairly sensitive to yellowish light and makes the field look bluish.  Diopters are standard Nikon FE/FM/FA size Ð not that you really need dioptric correction on an AF camera.

Both cameras have ample eye relief for glasses.

Shutter release: both cameras have both an electromagnetic shutter release and a standard cable release socket on the side. The Mamiya shutter release has far less travel (because it is a 2, not 3 stage switch).

Flash: both cameras have an X-synch hot shoe.  The Mamiya also has an X PC terminal on the back, right under the flash shoe.  The Fuji has a built-in pop-up flash that while wimpy, is pretty handy in a pinch. I am not sure if either camera would be fried by high-voltage synch, but I seem to remember sticking a Vivitar 283 on my Fuji at some point.

Lens: Aha!  Here is where the fun starts.  The Mamiya standard lens is a collapsible 75mm f/3.5 with 6 elements in 4 groups, multicoated.  The incorporated electronic leaf shutter has speeds to 1/500 sec.  Filter size is a massive 58mm (consider that a 28mm filter covers a RolleiflexÕs lens of equal size, coverage and speed).  This lens is the equivalent (horizontally) of a 45mm lens on a 35mm camera.  With a 1m minimum focus, this reaches 0.081x on film.  If you consider this lens on a 6×4.5 image, as you can with the optional mask, it is also a 45mm equivalent.

The Fuji has a 60mm f/4 lens with 7 elements in 6 groups, multicoated.  Maximum shutter speed is 1/400 sec, with 1/700 sec at f/11 and f/16.  Filter size is 52mm.  This lens is the equivalent of a 35mm lens on a 35mm camera.  With its 0.7m minimum focus, this lens reaches 0.093x, or 15% bigger than the Mamiya, despite the wide-angle lens.

Ok, time for an editorial.  With any interchangeable lens medium-format RF,  the highest-magnification lens there is is the normal lens.  Telephotos for these cameras never exceed the coverage of an 85mm lens for a 35mm camera, and even then they tend to focus at 2m or more at the closest.  So if you pick up a telephoto, you might consider it primarily a landscape lens. You might want to consider that apparent distortion picks up closer than about 1.5m, so you might consider enlargement as a better way of “zooming-in.”

Part 2: Operation

Collapsible lenses: both cameras feature collapsible lenses.  These make the cameras more compact, but even then it is a tight fit for the Fuji in a pocket.  The Mamiya is about 1 cm bigger, which makes it easier to fit in a bag but just about a total loss for a coat pocket.

Focusing: the Mamiya has a wonderful coupled rangefinder that is very bright and very clear.  That said, it is somewhat slow to focus because the grip on the focusing ring is quite small.  It does have a lot of snap, but when you are focusing on human eyes at the minimum focusing distance, you need to turn the camera 90 degrees to focus on an eyelid.  This is mainly a feature of the magnification, which has to be low enough to accommodate 50mm framelines.  The rangefinder does not work when the lens is collapsed.  In practice, the Mamiya is quick to focus and shoot.

The Fuji finder is not as bright and not as clear, but it does not need to be, since it is a framing aid only.  There are three focus modes with the Fuji: auto, manual and auto with hold.  Manual focus lets you set predetermined distances with which you can hyperfocal-focus (as I do 99% of the time).  The AF mechanism uses both active and passive elements and in more than 150 rolls of film now has missed maybe once.  The viewfinder display indicates distance and confirms where the camera is focused.  The Fuji is quick to shoot if you have some idea of what you are doing.  I think that the AF is most useful for low-light situations and it is pretty accurate.

Exposure: On the Mamiya, you set the exposure mode (AE or AE lock) or shutter speed via the large (yeah!) shutter speed dial.  You can also set film speed and exposure compensation (+/- 2 stops in 1/3-stop increments) via coaxial dials.  Aperture you set yourself on the lens.  There are over and under indicators for out of range, you match-diode by matching indicated shutter speed with the flashing one, but there is no exposure compensation warning.  In essence, if you can hack a 70s SLR or a Hexar RF, you can handle this one.

On the Fuji, the exposure mode (P, A or M) is set on the back of the camera.  In A, you turn the control wheel to set apeture and in M you press the Tv button down to change the shutter speed.  Exposure compensation (+/-2 stops, half-stop increments) is set by pressing the +/- button and turning the wheel.  There are up and down arrows in the viewfinder.  If the shutter is out of range, the speed flashes.  The EV compensation warning shows up on the LCD panel.  This takes some getting used to Ð unless  you are already an EOS owner.

Shooting: the Mamiya has no shutter lag and is very, very quiet (a lot more quiet than a Bessa-R).  Winding feels a little rougher than a Nikon F3, but it is similar in feel.  Single stroke advance is a welcome innovation for someone like me who is used to huge double-stroke Fujis.

The Fuji has some shutter lag if you have not already focused, and its winding mechanism and focus can be loud (although they are not obtrusive indoors).  The Fuji advances about 1 frame per second, single shot only.

Focusing: the Mamiya has interlocks to prevent you from focusing or shooting with the lens retracted or with the darkslide activated (the farbic internal darkslide is well-engineered not to be activated or opened by accident). The Fuji has no interlocks because when the lens is retracted, the camera is off, and it does not have a darkslide because it has a fixed lens.

Part 3: Format wars

One reviewer has called the Mamiya 6 MF’s multiformat finder “idotic,” “stupid,” and “cockamamie” and has decried the viewfinder as being full of “distracting blips.” His conclusion is that “Smart people just shoot the full 6×6 aperture and crop later.” This is something of an overreaction.

First, starting with the 6MF finder, the “blips” are small marks along the frame edges. They do not intrude into the frame by more than 1mm, viewed in the “virtual” size of the finder. These are actually quite useful, because the horizontal 6×4.5 frame defined in the viewfinder shows you what can be cropped into a 6×4.5 aspect (or more practicaly, an 8×10 print). While some people can apparently shoot a 6×6 frame and crop it perfectly down to 6×4.5, it helps to have some indication of how much scene fits into 6×4.5. So framelines are good.

Second, on the format adapters, I have to agree that any 6×4.5 mask that doesn’t increase the number of frames per roll (i.e., is not vertically-oriented) is not very useful. One aspect which should not be overlooked is that most 6×4.5 enlarging masks have the long side of the frame perpendicular to the length of the film. So you would have to use a 6×6 enlarging mask (or glass carrier) to print 6×4.5 negs turned out by the Mamiya 6 MF. Contrast this to the Rolleiflex T 16-frame adapter, which converted the Rolleiflex’s 6×6 frame to a 6×4.5, giving normally-oriented 6×4.5 negatives. The Rollei was a far more practical setup. Nor am I certain whether or not the 24×55 adapter is very useful. Although it has been pointed out that 35mm film, when shot in 55mm widths is just as expensive as MF film, there are a ton of 35mm films that do not come in medium-format (Kodachrome, Supra and Neopan 1600 being notable examples). The panoramic format does not look too terribly wide, but to each his own.

On the greater issue of 6×6 and 6×4.5 (Mamiya vs. Fuji), I think it is something of a wash.

If you anticipate that your final output will be rectangular, 6×4.5 has just as much usable film area as 6×6 and requires an equal amount of enlargement to reach a given size. Against this, the shorter lenses used on 6×4.5 cameras provide more depth of field. Film cost is something of a non-issue if you do black and white work, since TMY is $2/roll at B&H.

On the other hand, 6×6 is good if you like square compositions. You can, with a lot of discipline, compose so that it can be “cropped either way,” but in my experience, you will back up too far from the subject in an attempt to leave room for cropping. This means that the on-film image will actually be smaller than it would be on 6×4.5. Moreover, most subjects I have seen just don’t crop both ways. Head shots in square format can look really good.

Part 4: Optical Performance

Above is a shot taken with the Mamiya’s 75mm f/3.5 from the second floor of a parking deck across a street from Comerica Park in Detroit. Exposure was on Verichrome Pan, f/8 and 1/500 sec. Below is the tiny section of the negative that shows a batter, the catcher, and the umpire (visible as dots right above the center of the five statues). As a section at 4000 dpi brought up to 1:1 on screen, this is more than a 50x enlargement. Not too shabby, and you almost have to wonder if with a finer-grained film (is there one?), the Mamiya would be even better.



Part 5: Bear vs. Shark – Mamiya 6 vs. Fuji GA645

Ok, kids, this is what you’ve been waiting for. The $1200 Mamiya 6 vs. the lowly $450 Fuji GA645. The test shot is on Verichrome Pan 120, shot at the same mid-aperture (f/8), developed in Aculux 2 and scanned on a Sprintscan 120 with a glass carrier. The differences in comparison pictures are due to the different viewing angles of the lenses. The Mamiya 6 is the equivalent of a 42mm lens; the GA645 has the equivalent of a 37mm lens. Black point was set to the film base; white point was set to the imprint.


Above: Lower end of the tonal scale. Mamiya 6 (left); Fuji GA645 (right). No advantage either way – both cameras are resolving details as small as the film grain. The Mamiya has a slight edge in the stone seams.

Above: Highlights. Mamiya 6 (above); Fuji GA645 (below). Fuji has a slight edge in separating highlights, but it may well be that the Mamiya is giving marginally more exposure, putting the film over its shoulder (admittedly taking a lot of exposure to do that on VP).

Above: High-contrast object. Mamiya 6 (left); Fuji GA645 (right). No palpable advantage either way – the Mamiya looks more contrasty, but this may be an exposure difference (more) or even a higher magnification.

So what’s the call? Hard to say. It’s a dead heat between the two, and it may boil down solely to your personal preference in terms.

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