Panorama 135

Shooting panorama photos has always been tempting to me. I have had my eyes on a Fuji GX617 for a long time, but I never could convince myself that it would be worth spending the necessary money. I considered other panoramic cameras, but none felt as exciting as the prospect of a high-quality medium format 6x17 camera.

For example, there is the Hasselblad XPan, which offers a 24mm x 65mm panoramic frame. A beautifully made camera (as far as I can tell from the pictures on the product page). But that camera is (used) as expensive as the Fuji, and compared to the near 60mm x 170mm the frame is tiny.

Another problem with the cost of those cameras and my urge to own one is my drive and spare time that I have available for getting my behind out into the wild to take pictures. And I have a lot of other cameras that want to be fed with rolls of film.

Speaking of other cameras: I do have a couple of cameras that would be suitable for panoramic photography if they are used together with smaller film sizes. A strip of medium format film in an 8”x10” film holder could give a frame of 61mm x 250mm, which would even make the Fuji GX617 look like it is coming in short a bit. The problem with this is mobility: A 8”x10” large format camera needs a tripod and the camera, lenses and film holders consume a lot of luggage space. It is tedious to lug around. And if you put in all that effort, why not directly use 8”x10” sheets of the film?

A 6x9 medium format camera, on the other hand, is quite easy to transport. You can get decent pictures, even when shooting handheld. And there are adapters that enable the use of 135 film. These adapters can be found cheaply on “the bay” from individuals that 3D print them. I acquired two sets of them. That way I could directly transfer the exposed film into another (previously empty) 135 film cartridge. (Note: 120 film usually is transferred from one spool to another when advancing frame by frame, while 135 film is spooled back into the original cartridge when all frames are exposed.)

I took a Voigtländer Bessa 6x9 and loaded the 135 film with the adapter. It is a simple camera with only a viewfinder and no rangefinder. Advancing film is done by rotating a knob. When used with 120 film, the frame numbering on the backing paper of the film is shown through a small window. This does not work with the 135 film, as it does not have said backing paper. I had to guess how far to advance, and I guessed with way more safety buffer than was necessary. With a better guess, I probably would have gotten about 10 frames onto the film (instead of 7).

While I usually use my Nikon CoolScan LS-9000 ED, a (nearly) 35mm (including sprockets) x 90mm frame does not fit into the mask of the 135 film holder. Luckily, I recently acquired a Howtek Scanmaster D4500 with scanning 8”x10” sheet film in mind. That gave me the freedom to scan the whole frame (including sprockets, which was never an option with the Nikon CoolScan). Unfortunately, dust is the mortal enemy of any drum-scanned image, and my apartment is a paradise for dust.

5 Frames - Eibsee With A Leica M6

This is the fourth post in a series of duplications. It is the companion post to ”6 Frames - Eibsee With The Fuji GW690 III”, where I told you the story of a medium format camera that got dragged around a little lake at the foot of a tall mountain. But that story was incomplete until now. It is a story not just about a medium format camera, but about a 35mm camera, too.

As I already mentioned in ”5 Frames - Zugspitze With A Leica M6”, I went out with both the Fuji GW690 III and the Leica M6. The M6 was paired with a Zeiss ZM 21mm Biogon f/2.8 lens and fed with a couple rolls of Kodak Pro Image 100.

The lake is the Eibsee at the foot of the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in the German Alps. And this is as far as I will go with the description of the trip. Following: A little bit of photography philosophy.

Claim: Photography is best enjoyed with patience. Observation: The more time I invest into photography, the more I enjoy it.

With this, I do not aim at the time one may invest into the process alone, but also the time invested into waiting before looking at the results. For digital photography, the time between laying eyes on a scene for the first time and having a look at the result is way too short for my taste. It goes “Ah, that looks pretty!”, *click*, a quick look at the tiny display at the back of the camera and the subsequent disappointment that it does not look exactly like what your eyes can see, often resulting in the picture going to the bin.

Only when I had enough time to forget the beauty of the scene am I able to enjoy the pictures that I had framed so long ago. Photos age better than the memory of the past. And with that memory lost in time, I am finally able to look at the images with a sense of pride and joy.

5 Frames - Zugspitze With A Leica M6

The story has been told so many times before. It was a sunny day, no rain in sight. A young lad was climbing a mountain to bring back visions from a faraway land. Or something like that. This post is about the Zugspitze. Again. Just like in the ”5 Frames - Zugspitze With The Fuji GW690 III” post.

The same old story. A different camera: The Leica M6 with a Zeiss ZM Biogon 21mm f/2.8 lens. A combination that should be familiar to the avid reader, as I have introduced it in ”5 Frames - Nebelhorn Again”. What a coincidence, that I may refer to a post that is titled “Nebelhorn AGAIN” in a post that I could have titled “Zugspitze AGAIN”. And both posts are about pictures taken with the same camera.

One may wonder: Why bother running around with two cameras, if you end up posting the “same” thing multiple times?

The Fuji GW690 III may be called a “Texas Leica” (as I have explained in ”5 Frames - A Texas Leica In Sydney”), and it is a rangefinder camera, but it still is a different beast than a real Leica. For one, it only has a fixed lens that is roughly comparable to a standard prime on a 35mm camera. Another difference is the size of the negative: The Fuji exposes a frame that is close to a whopping 6cm by 9cm.

The Zeiss ZM 21mm Biogon is a wide-angle lens, which makes it suitable for wide sceneries like landscapes (which is what I was aiming for on the peak of a mountain in the Alps). The camera is small, and with a suitable camera strap length, it may hang around your neck without the two cameras colliding. Both together make for a decent combination.

6 Frames - Eibsee With The Fuji GW690 III

“What? 6 frames? SIX frames? But… but… but… it should only be 5! FIVE!”, you scream in horror. Well, maybe you don’t, but I’ll let my imagination run wild for a moment. As with every post, I started with the whole collection of images that I shot at the “event”, and then threw out the unlikely candidates. I ended up with these 6 frames and had a hard time to get rid of one more image. So I didn’t.

Following my adventures on the peak of the Zugspitze, I followed up with a walk around the Eibsee. This lake is at the foot of the mountain, and given the gorgeous weather, it would have been a waste to go home directly after reaching rock bottom.

Now that I have one more image than originally planned in this post, I need a bit more filler text to avoid overwhelming your eyes with all the colourful imagery. (You did not expect me to write all this so you have something to read, did you?) The avid picture viewer might have noticed a lot of lake-imagery lately. I am trying to do something for my physical and mental health, and I find walking around lakes calming and relaxing. There you have it: I am fat and insane.

Enough about me: The cameras that I took with me were the same as in the previous post (”5 Frames - Zugspitze With The Fuji GW690 III”), of course. A Fuji GW690 III and my trusty Leica M6. The pictures in this post are from the Fuji and were taken on Fuji NPS 160, a film stock I generally like quite a bit. Unfortunately it seems to be out of production and remaining stock is getting more and more expensive.

Now I am out of things to tell you. Maybe you are interested in learning, that walking around a mountain lake has its ups and downs

I still have the images I took with the Leica M6 on the Zugspitze and around the Eibsee in the pipeline. And I have to come up with more filler text. This will be hard.

Enjoy the images!


5 Frames - Zugspitze With The Fuji GW690 III

Since moving to the south of Germany, I wanted to get to the top of the Zugspitze and take pictures of the alpine panorama. And so I did. I packed my Nikon F5 that I got only a short time before the trip, and took the cog railway to the top to enjoy the view. There was just a slight problem: There was no view. The peak was in the centre of a huge cloud. Visibility was about 10 meters, it was freezing cold (something around -14°C), it was windy and it was snowing.

I tried again. This time during the late summer. I packed the Fuji GW690 III (and a Leica M6), drove to the valley station of the Zugspitzbahn and took the new (amazing) cable car to the peak. The view, as you can see in the pictures, was near perfect. There was a lot of tourist traffic, but the renovated platform at the top of the mountain offers a lot of space. Only the passage to the Austrian side of the peak was a little crowded. Of course a beer garden up there is absolutely necessary. And of course they had to put it right where the passage is. Genius! 

I filled two roles of Fuji NPS 160 while running around. While the view is breathtaking, there is not that much to take pictures up there. There are mountains in nearly every direction, and the platform can be explored in a relatively short time.

A neat detail is the restaurant with the corner where you have an unobstructed view of the Alps. Just walk into the restaurant downstairs and find the area with waiters. Sit down at one of the tables right at the window and relax with some decent food. Heaven!

A visit to the Zugspitze, in case you are no mountaineer who likes to hike up 2000m to the top, will set you back a whopping 58€ per person (at the time of writing). Make sure you get your moneys worth by checking the weather and the webcam. If the stars are all aligned, I feel that this place is worth a visit.

5 Frames - Schliersee On Rollei IR400

While having a walk around the Schliersee, I took the opportunity to grab a camera (or two, with the second one being the NOPO135) and shoot my surroundings. I had a couple of rolls of Rollei IR400 medium format film quietly degrading in my freezer, which should have given me a neat effect with all the foliage around the lake. Rollei IR400 is a black and white film that is sensitive up into the infrared spectrum (to about 795nm). Together with a suitable red filter, this film stock shows foliage as very bright, making forests look snowy.

Silly old me took the right camera (the Fuji GW690 III is a practical choice, as the focusing is not done through the lens), the correct red filter, but forgot to take the filter adapters with him. With a roll already loaded into the camera when I was still at home, I chose to push forward and shoot without the filter. “Well, let’s just see what happens…”, was what I thought.

What happened is, that the film behaved like normal black and white negative film. I am unable to see any hint of brightened foliage, which leads me to believe that the visible light spectrum was overpowering the infrared spectrum.

The resulting images, thus, are black and white negatives with fine, modest grain and contrast that is on the heavier side. Nothing that I could not get from other film stock, which makes using Rollei IR400 this way somewhat wasteful.

Next time I go outside with this infrared-sensitive film, I will be prepared: I found the filter adapters in my equipment closet and attached them to the camera. And they will stay attached. Permanently. Forever! Muhahahaha!

Presenting - Zorki 4

The Camera

The Zorki is a Russian screw-mount rangefinder camera based on first Leica designs captured after world war two. I am presenting here version 4 of this camera, paired with an Industar 22 lens. The Industar 22 is a 50mm lens with an aperture that opens up to f/3.5. It is, as far as I can tell, uncoated. Oh dear…

As the camera is a rangefinder, it is worth talking about the rangefinder patch: It is small, a bit dark and hard to see. At least that was my first impression. After taking it out and using it for a while, I got used to it and was able to focus adequately. I do not have any experience with the early (Barnack) Leica design, so I am unable to do any comparison on that front. Compared to later Leica M bodies, the Zorki 4 has a couple of “quirks” in its operation.


The first oddity that I noticed when loading film, is the double lock system that is used. On modern Leica M bodies, there is a single lock on one side and a pin and hole combination to hold the other side. The Zorki 4 has a lock on each side, which helps with balance when setting the camera on the table, as both locks are not flush with the bottom.

The next oddity is the film winding knob: There is a counter for the number of frames on top of it. Wind on one frame, and the knob is turned by 360° minus (or was it plus?) one frame on the scale. Unfortunately, I have not been able to align that knob correctly after loading a new roll of film. To get the number of shots I took, I have to read the frame number indicated on the scale and subtract whatever was indicated right after loading.

Speaking of winding: When you are done with the roll of film, rewinding is initiated by turning another, small knob around the shutter release. After turning that knob, the winding mechanism is disengaged and the film may be re-wound.

Shutter times are set by pulling yet another knob up, followed by turning it into the correct direction. This only works after the shutter has been cocked by the film winding knob. This, and pressing the shutter, rotates the shutter speed knob. So, aside from the fact that you are not supposed to set the shutter speed before cocking the shutter, you would not even know what you set it to. I guess, without having seen this in action, it is hard to picture what is happening. At least with all the knobs on the Zorki 4, I will dub this kind of camera the “Knobby”.

The Lens

The Industar 22 is a retractable lens design, which makes for a relatively compact camera in total. It locks in place with a turn when fully pulled out, but there is no mechanism to lock it in place when it is fully retracted. This means that the lens may move around when you tilt the camera. Another weird feature is the infinity lock: There is a pin on the focus lever that can be pushed out and locked in place on a notch. A nice feature if you want to focus at infinity for most of the time, but otherwise it blocks you from focusing “near” infinity. Aperture is set on a ring at the front of the lens. This seems okay, until you leave your fingerprints on the front element of the lens.


The images in this post were taken on Fomapan 100 using the sunny 16 rule. Mostly for laziness reasons, as I did not want to carry around a light meter. Some of the pictures ended up too underexposed to be usable. Most of them were fine, though. The lens is sharp enough for what it is (an old, uncoated design). I did not see any problems with flare, and the contrast is acceptable. I am looking forward to give the Industar 22 a test run with some colour negatives.


The camera, in comparison to what I have had experience with so far, is a quirky one. None of those quirks are real problems that would deter me from using it more. It does make the Zorki 4 quite a bit of fun to use. And the camera feels nice in the hand.

In conclusion: Will use again.

Presenting - NOPO135

The Camera

NOPO is a company that produces handcrafted wooden pinhole cameras. The NOPO135 is their 35mm film offering. I got mine as a birthday gift a couple of years ago, and after I went through the first roll of Fomapan 100, I tossed it into the closet and it sat there for a long time (with a second roll of Fomapan 100 loaded and a few frames in). The reason for that is its operation: While it is a basic pinhole camera that is simple to operate, there is one painful step.


The NOPO135 is divided into two segments that are held together by a magnet. The top has the holder for the 35mm film cartridge mounted, and loading the film amounts to “stick cartridge into one side and pull film out of cartridge until it can be slotted into to winding wheel”. Then put both pieces back together. Done.

Taking a picture is similarly simple: Wind the film on a couple of “clicks” (you start with 15 and reduce by one every 4-5 frames to use the film as efficiently as possible), rotate the shutter until it “clicks” open, wait until the exposure is done and rotate the shutter back until it “clicks” shut again. 

Exposure time is usually calculated by measuring for f/22 with a light meter and multiplying by 40. Easy. If only the winding knob would not be so stiff. Oh well… this is not much of a problem winding forward. But when you are done with the roll, you have to wind it back. This entails turning both knobs in the backwards direction. A lot. When you are done, you might notice that your fingers hurt. Those knobs aren’t very comfortable.


When you leave your house with the NOPO135, you will inevitably want to take a tripod, too: Exposure times, even in daylight, are around 4 seconds with an ISO 100 film. I went to the Schliersee and decided it is time to take my little pinhole camera out into the wild again. So out I went with a tripod and the tiny wooden camera loaded with Fomapan 100 mounted to it. I walked around the lake, and some passersby sure gave me some amused looks.

Taking pictures is a slow, deliberate process. And guesswork. Markings on top of the camera indicate the view angle, but that’s it. You have no idea what exactly is in the frame until you get a look at the developed negatives. You can’t be sure about the exposure times, either. But that is not that much of a problem: For the duration, you just count to the calculated exposure time and hope the latitude of the film does the rest. Turns out that works just fine.


As you can see from the images in this post, this pinhole camera for 35mm film is anything but sharp. Given that it is technology from the beginning of photography, this is to be expected. If a pinhole would result in a tack sharp image, nobody would pay thousands of dollars for lenses, would they? Well… then why buy this camera?

I wanted it because I love the design and the idea behind it. I like the craftsmanship and the wood. And I like the idea of having a working piece of the history of my hobby.

First Roll - CineStill B&W XX Through A Leica CL

My first “first roll” post on this blog. This is a “not a review” type post, where I ramble on about a specific piece of gear (or a collection thereof) and a first roll that was shot using said equipment.

The Gear

The Leica CL came to me as one of my many purchases on the bay. It looked great on the seller’s page and it looked decent when it arrived. It is a small and heavy camera. The smallest camera that I own. Together with the haptics, it gives me a feeling that it is indeed solidly built. Despite the size, I can get a good grip on it, which allows me to carry the camera with ease and at the same time I can reach all necessary functions without adjusting the position of my hand. The shutter speed dial at the front of the camera takes some getting used to, but the positioning does work quite well. The viewfinder and the rangefinder patch are bright, but small. The rangefinder patch shares the available space in the viewfinder with a readout of the selected shutter speed, the light meter reading and two labelled frame lines (no guessing, sweet!). The frame lines depend on the mounted lens. In my case, it shows the 40mm and 50mm lines.

Out of the box, the rangefinder needed adjusting: At infinity, it was impossible to align the edges in the double image. As I did not want to send the camera out for adjustment right after I got it, I went to work on it myself. There is a small plastic cap near the accessory shoe that hides a double screw which allows for horizontal and vertical correction of the secondary image of the finder. That plastic cap is easily destroyed, and of course, I did not manage to get it off without mangling it in the process. Instead of going through the cap, it is possible to disassemble the top of the camera with ease (just a few screws, the film advance lever and the shutter button need to be removed). I should have done that instead, as the film advance lever was sticky and needed some lubrication, too.

Operation of the light meter is annoying: You need to advance the film and cock the shutter. Only then, you can activate the light meter by pulling the film advance lever out until you feel the first bit of resistance. The light meter does work, but the readings are completely off. The reason for this is, that the mercury battery that is expected to be used is 1.35 volt. The replacement batteries provide 1.5 volts. There is a small modification that fixes the problem with the help of a diode that brings the voltage down to appropriate levels, but I did not yet get around to doing this.

The lens that I got with the camera is the Leica C Summicron 40mm f/2. It is said to be the smallest M-mount lens that Leica has ever built, and it certainly is a very compact one that complements the Leica CL perfectly. The screw-on rubber lens hood with the stick-on cap isn’t to my fancy, though. I managed to screw it on too tight, and in an attempt to get rid of it, I disassembled the lens: The focusing ring became one part, the optics with the aperture another. I ended up replacing the screw-on hood and stick-on cap with a cheap regular snap-on cap. Another weirdness is that the labels and markings are dissolving partially from a bit of sweat and water. It looks like the previous owner tried to fix the faded paint themselves, but chose water-soluble paint. For now, I will have to guess which aperture I have selected.


I was looking for a small camera that I can chuck into my bag or maybe even carry around in my jacket pocket. The Leica CL fits the bill: For me, it is a nice always-with-me camera. When I am on my way to work or back home, or when I am travelling somewhere, it is always with me. A quick grab and I am ready to shoot. And as already mentioned, I can get a solid grip on it. I have read reviews that say that focusing is a bit harder compared to other “full size” Leica rangefinders. The reason is the short effective range finder base length, but at least for the 40mm focal length, it works well. It should be mentioned, that I mostly used an aperture at f/8 and did not try any portrait photography with the lens wide open. Somehow nobody wants to play “willing subject”, and the unwilling ones run away faster than I can frame and shoot them. The light meter is useless to me as long as I have not done the diode mod to make the camera compatible with the battery voltage. That is not a big problem with my lazy shooting style thanks to the latitude of the film stock in use. I just go with an approximate ”sunny 16” rule. The shutter speed dial is sometimes hard to turn with one finger. Sometimes it is smooth. A bit hit and miss. The shutter speed reading in the viewfinder is nice and allows to fiddle with the dial while the camera is directly in front of my face. One more thing worth mentioning handling-wise, is the left-sided camera strap mountings: They are a bit problematic when you want to use a wrist strap on your right hand, as I usually do.


My first roll that went through the Leica CL was CineStill B&W XX. As I already mentioned in ”5 Frames - Alpsee On CineStill B&W XX”, the pronounced fine grain of this film stock makes judging the sharpness of the image harder than necessary. From what I can see, the 40mm f/2 is sharp at the apertures that I used. I have not done any exhaustive image analysis, and I have no idea which shot was taken at what aperture, anyways. This is just my overall impression. As is the observation, that contrast is better in moderate lighting. When the scene was brightly lit by the sun, the negatives came out of the scanner a bit flat. That might have been caused by my lax approach to exposure, though, with the sunny frames being overexposed. I often just run around with 1/250 as shutter speed.


I like the Leica CL a lot. It has its problems, and my copy is a mixture of “really nice” and “noticeable wear and tear”. The size does make it a good everyday camera that suits my needs. I am happy with the purchase.

5 Frames - Almdorf Seinerzeit On Rollei RPX 25

This is part 2 of ”Austria With The Nikon F5 And 50mm f1.2”, where I shared five frames taken on Kodak ProImage 100 with you. For this set of five frames, I gave a roll of Rollei RPX 25 a try at the same location and with the same camera.

It is the slowest film stock that I have used, so far, and it came out with strong contrast right out of the box. For all the images in this post, I did only minor corrections.

I like a bit of extra contrast in black and white images, but a flatter film stock would give me more headroom. It has been written (I forgot where), that it is easier to add contrast than to take it out.

A reason for me to use this film more, despite the strong contrast, is the very fine and subtle grain. My recent experience with CineStill B&W XX is the direct opposite grain-wise. It has fine, but very “in your face” grain. I prefer the understated variation of the Rollei RPX 25. It provides a better sense of resolution and makes it easier to judge the “sharpness” of the image.

I have tried out a couple of black and white film stocks over my short time as an analogue photographer, but as of now have failed to find a favourite. Rollei RPX 25 is a strong contender for that position, but I am not sure yet. There are more products out there to try. And try, I will.

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