Last week, I picked up a Pentax 6×7 medium format camera with the Pentax SMC 90mm f/2.8 lens, all of which appeared to be in excellent condition. The camera model dates back to around 1974.
I took the camera out for its maiden voyage over Memorial Day weekend alongside a rehearsal and a parade involving the Bushwackers Drum Corps (where I volunteer as the operations manager).
Even though many photographers claim the Pentax 6×7 cameras present difficulties for handheld shooting due to the bulky mirror and overall camera mass, I didn’t have a problem. I was aided by the fact the sky was very sunny; I was able to maintain a shutter speed where vibration and camera shake wouldn’t have a detrimental effect on the image, but the clear skies didn’t provide the best lighting.
I used a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 to put the new purchase through its paces. This proved to be a decent speed considering the brightness of the day. Until I have my own developing mini-lab, I’ll have to do with professional film development. Taylor Photo in Princeton, New Jersey did a perfect job as usual, but a few frames turned out to be underexposed.
I had been metering using an application on my mobile phone, which is always accurate when I use it correctly. The Pentax 6×7 has a pentaprism finder with a meter that indicates if a shot is underexposed, overexposed, or correctly exposed, so I used this meter in addition to the mobile phone light meter. When I relied more on the camera’s meter, the result was unexposure, and as I’ve come to understand, the camera’s meter has been known to lose accuracy over time. I’ll keep that in mind for future shoots.
Ektar is proving to be difficult to color-correct after scanning. Next time I use the film, I will shoot a color reference card or grey card to assist with color correction. I’m including the color photos here. Using Color Efex Pro, I converted the color shots to black and white, and the results are more pleasing to me than the color.
I’d like to use this camera for black-and-white portraits of some of the members of the Bushwackers. The next phase will be to see how the Pentax handles Ilford Delta 400.
Here’s a little bit more about this camera. I purchased it at Le Camera in Princeton (Lawrenceville), New Jersey, but not for the price on the sticker. I tested the shutter in the store, but I knew there was little else I could do to make sure the camera would work before taking it home. The store offered a 7-day return policy and a 90-day warrantee, so I felt comfortable enough to complete the purchase even though I didn’t expect to get the first roll developed in the first 7 days.
As you can see, besides the light meter in the finder, the camera works perfectly so far, and there are no light leaks.
Click on the photos to see them fill the screen.
Here are the black-and-white renditions of the above.