For the past couple of decades I’ve been blessed to do a lot of film photography. Although shooting has changed drastically during that time there are still many people who shoot film. And there are some who are just beginning to enjoy the experience. So in that light I’d like to share my favorites.
My favorite medium format (120 or 220 roll film) is the Fuji GA645. This gem has one thing going for it that no other medium format system has: The frame is in portrait mode (vertical) rather than landscape (horizontal). I’ve never enjoyed shooting people as much as with this camera. It uses a zone focusing system and has a built-in winder. The viewfinder acts like a rangefinder with its border and the border shifts position based on focus distance.
Large format is another matter. My 4×5 shooting was most wrapped around the Nagaoka 4×5. There were two variant bodies from Nagaoka, the “woody” which was quite hefty, and also this standard body. Though it was relatively fragile compared to others in the class it was also easy to handle and carry. When it comes to carrying around a 4×5 the lighter the better.
I’ve shot 8×10 as well. There’s nothing like a contact print from one of these. But alas I’ve never had the opportunity to shoot a variety of these cameras, so nothing to comment on in that format.
I’ve shot a lot of 35mm cameras over the years. Probably the most pleasing was the Contax T2. It has an odd brick shape but is surprisingly easy to hold. The lens is a quality Zeiss T* lens. I’ve not shot a sharper little camera. With a bevy of automation features it’s just a joy to use.
But the most practical 35mm was the Canon G-III QL17 rangefinder. It has a shutter-preferred automatic mode but for all other purposes requires manual operation. No winder. No AF. Oh, and the flash — because of the way it operates the camera automatically adjusts the f-stop based on focus distance. Nifty. It even fits in a coat pocket. And the 40mm f/1.7 lens is quite sharp. You will not be disappointed.
Yes, the tour has been brief. There were other contenders. Zeiss Ikon, Rolleiflex, Pentax MX & 6×7, Bronica ETRs, Olympus half-frame, Busch Pressman D, and others. But these are the ones that stand out to me as the most enjoyable that I’ve used.