Most of my panoramic images have been captured using my Fotoman 617 Panoramic Film camera using Fuji Velvia 50 Slide Film. I’m often asked questions regarding my camera & the process of shooting film.
Wow. What is that Camera?
I’m often asked about my camera, either when people see photos of it online, or when they approach me while I’m out shooting. The public are generally surprised to learn that photographers are still using film to create images, they often say “Film, can you still buy film?”
Why do I shoot film?
Film has its own unique ‘feel’ and properties. Shooting film forces you to slow down your photographic approach. I have covered this question in more detail before. Follow this link. Why do I shoot film?
Fotoman 617 – Sum of all the parts
The Fotoman camera is basically a large light box and a medium format (manual focus) lens. The lens does all the work, but without the box to house the film none of the magic can happen.
The Box (The Camera)
The Fotoman camera body is basically a ‘light proof’ box fitted with two spools (to hold 120 format film), a read door and a pressure plate. The film is manually fed from right to left (by turing the spool on the far left). The frame number is shown in the small window.
The viewfinder sits on a cold-shoe mount and can be easily removed. The camera is completely analogue & features no electronics, the only moving parts are the spools and the back door. Operation is 100% manual, from loading to uploading film to metering to ‘cranking’ the shutter. Note: The lens cone is not shown here. The lens cone is paired with the lens used.
The Schneider Super-Angulon XL 90mm f5.6 lens is the heart of the Fotoman 617 setup, and is the same lens that ships as ‘standard’ with other more expensive cameras like the Linhof Technorama 617.Schneider Super-Angulon XL 90mm f5.6 lens is a favourite with medium format film photographers, the lens provides an angle of view on 4×5 which is similar to a 24mm lens in the 35mm (full frame) format.
The maximum aperture of the lens is f5.6, with a minimum aperture of f45. Generally I leave my aperture at around f22, this being not only the ‘sweet’ spot but also ideal for panoramic photography. The lens has a filter size of 95mm, and due to light falloff requires the use of a center spot filter (not shown here). Note: The lens is pictured here with the shutter.
The Fotoman can use a few different shutters, in most cases the shutter will be the same brand as the lens used. As above I use the Schneider Lens so I also have a Schneider Copal shutter. The shutter controls and lens aperture & the exposure duration. Inside the shutter is a mechanical timer. Note: Not pictured or described here is the Helical Mount which is used for focusing and attaches to the shutter & Fotoman lens cone (also not pictured)
The Fotoman viewfinder is a removal viewfinder, because it is debatable from the camera it allows me to walk around while searching for interesting compositions. I can setup the camera in the ‘general’ location and then fine turn my composition by looking through the viewfinder. Once I find the composition I like I can then move the heavy & bulky camera into position and start shooting!
The Fotoman 617 takes any brand and type of 120 medium format slide film. The film I mostly use is the very popular Fuji Velvia 50. Film comes in pro packs, which are boxes of 5 rolls. Normally you’d get 12 frames per roll of 120 film, but because the Fotoman is a panoramic camera each image captured takes up 3 frames, giving me 4 frames per roll.
From Film to Slide (Colour Transparency)
The process of capturing landscape photographs using film is very drawn out, from purchasing the film to scanning and editing the colour transparency.
For myself and all of the other film photographers I meet, the slow drawn out process is just what we’re looking for.
By slowing down the process I gain more creative control, I plan more, and I observe and appreciate nature more.
Good light is non negotiable when capturing landscape images using film. Without good light you are simply throwing away your money, at the current rate of about $5.00 per shot, shooting bad light adds up quickly.
You need patience, plain and simple. Waiting two hours to make one frame is not for everyone.
Respect is crucial, respect for the craft & respect for nature and the natural world.
Behind the Lens – Outtake Images
Below are some images of the Fotoman in action.
Below are some links to blog posts from friends and fellow film shooters.
Martin Canning Blog: My first experience with a medium format 617 film camera