Hi there! I’m still alive and thought what better way to resurrect this blog than to write a camera review.
I’ve been loaned a rather hefty Fuji GW680III medium format rangefinder. This thing is massive which probably comes as no surprise as it shoots 6 x 8 medium format negatives (9 exposures on a standard roll of 120 film). At the time writing, I’ve put three rolls of film through it. One roll of Kodak Portra 160 and two rolls of Ilford HP5. I managed to get a completely blank strip of of acetate when I developed the first roll of HP5 (it turns out that Rodinal does expire) and on the second roll, I fogged the film when loading it onto the developing reels in too small of a changing bag by a sunny window. Film developing mishaps aside, there’s something quite magical about looking at big negatives.
It’s a good looking camera, it has a timeless, retro look to it. Ergonomically, it’s quite nice to hold even if it does look comically massive in my diminutive hands. When it comes to actually shooting with it, I’ve found it quite awkward with the double stroke film advance and for a leaf shutter it’s very loud. You’d definitely have a tough time trying to be discreet if shooting street with it.
There’s a shutter lock mechanism on the front which I both love and loath. I love it because it prevents accidental misfires when you’ve cocked the shutter and I loath it because I forget it’s on and will miss shots. Having said that, there is a second shutter button on the lock lever so you could go from locked to shoot quite quickly, but I’ve found it quite fiddly in practise.
The rangefinder patch is quite clean and bright so focusing is no problem but there are no parallax correcting frame lines. This isn’t necessarily an issue unless you’re shooting close-up (the minimum focusing distance is 1m).
The best thing I like about this camera is that when you pull the integrated lens hood out, the shutter and aperture settings are revealed. I prefer to be able to see the exposure settings together when shooting manual so this is a great plus for me seeing as this is an all mechanical camera without a light meter or any semi-auto modes.
Film loading is helped by these red buttons which pop the pins holding the film out. A rather nice feature, no more frustration with trying to pry reels out with your nails.
Rather unusual for a film camera, it has a shutter count window on the bottom which I thought was a nice touch.
Here are a couple of test shots on Ilford HP5 and Portra 160. As mentioned earlier, I’d messed up developing the HP5 so they’re a bit on the ‘creative’ side.
Now, would I get one for myself? Probably not. I’ve found it quite awkward to use (for the reasons outlined above) and it’s too impractically large for me to carry around. I can’t see myself taking this travelling or shooting around town, but boy are those large negs lovely.
I haven’t been able to find any official tech specs or manual for this particular model, it seems the closest is for the GW690III (here).