Return of the 617

I find I am developing a strong love/hate relationship with the Fuji G617 panorama camera…

I hate the size and weight of the camera, hate dragging it around Copenhagen…I absolutely love the view through the viewfinder, love the bright panorama in-camera wide view. There’s nothing like it…I hate that I can’t see and work on the results straight away…I love the big 617 transparencies, they’re magic…I hate that it’s a fixed lens…I love the viewfinder view…I hate that it’s 4 shots per roll and then I have to change film…I love the viewfinder…I hate there’s no built in light meter…Viewfinder! Me love it!…I hate that I have to wait for results to get processed by the lab, then I have to scan them…Finally…I love the view when looking through the viewfinder!

I am continuing my test of the 617 format; previous articles are here and here.  I am getting more comfortable exposing and composing with it, and I have a few new results that I found good enough to scan, click to see large:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Copenhagen Summer Skyline Contre-Jour Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

An against the light test at sunset in Copenhagen, this displays the gorgeous colours of Velvia on a Summer night and that it handles contre-jour fairly well. I have warmed the white balance, as the built in daylight white balance of Velvia is much too cold at sunset. This photo displays one of the advantages of the 617 camera compared to digital stitching – there is no distortion of any kind resulting in straight lines horizontal and vertical and that is very noticeable on cityscapes. This was a fun shoot with a bit of a crowd of very interested fans (okay so they were strangers passing by). The 617 certainly can draw a crowd!

The next shots are interesting as I shot digital as well allowing for a direct comparison:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Velvia Field of Dreams II Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Velvia Field of Dreams Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Again, white balance has been warmed in Photoshop. Compare the last photo to the digital stitched photo of the same shot, from the same position:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Wheat Field of Dreams Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The digital version has different colours, contrast etc. due to my post processing (read here). The 617 shot is not post processed at all apart from warming the colours. But if you compare the view it is quite similar and shows you can certainly replicate the 617 format with digital stitching. I was zoomed out a bit more when shooting digital and I chose to include more of the sky and foreground when I cropped the final photo. This is one of the advantages of digital, more creative options in post processing in the digital dark room. I do find the 617 shot to have a more realistic natural “human eyes” perspective due to very little distortion where as the digital version has some wide angle barrel distortion.

Lastly, have a look at how gorgeous the large 617 transparencies are – pictured next to a box of matches and backlit by the sun.

080718-IMG_6236 copy

080718-IMG_6239 copy

The gorgeous transparencies and looking through the big wide 617 viewfinder is magic. Pure magic. I just hate hate hate that it’s not digital and I haven’t yet shot a 617 photo where I wouldn’t rather have been shooting digital. I shot perhaps my best 617 shots last night but presently the rolls are next to the Ketchup in my fridge! Have to get them developed and then scanned, far too slow a process for me! So my love/hate relationship with this metal monster will continue with more results to come!

15 Comments on “Return of the 617”

  1. I would love a pano viewfinder.
    Couldn't you buy one and look through it just to put your basic composition together before you shoot a digital pano?
    I would also love to do the same little experiment that you are doing but I think digital would win hands down for me!

  2. Dylan, I've toyed with that idea before, getting a separate viewfinder just to have something to help with composition. They're fairly expensive though.

    Digital has won for me, no contest – but it's still a great and fun experiment.

    James, know what you mean, I find it so frustrating and a creative killer to not be able to just go home and view the results straight away. Digital sure has made us impatient 🙂

    I know about the Seitz camera, juuuust a tad expensive though!

  3. That Seitz make the Fuji look like frigging Porsche design.
    Hands down the ugliest looking digital camera, I've yet to see.
    Paying that kind of money for something designed by – well, somebody who obviously should have been in the janitor business or something instead… ;o) – I would't even consider it, no matter the 160Mpix

  4. Flemming I don't know how you managed this but I can see stitching errors on the velvia shots! haha jokes.

  5. Flemming, why dont you shoot 220 film instead of 120. Your G617 should be able to take it and I dont know about where you live but here in Australia it is more economical to have 1 roll 220 processed over 2 rolls of 120. I find your love and hate reasons funny… as I cut my teeth on shooting slide on this camera.

    What you have to love about the 6×17 camera is the reliability. You will never get a flat battery, no sensor on the dust, the model wont be outdated in 3 months. Sure it sucks you cant see your shots after you take them but once you are a confident slide shooter you dont need to see the result to know you nailed it.

    When ever I pull out my 6×17 in Sydney in a crowd it's hard to answer all the questions from passers by when your trying to shoot.

    Ps. Dont keep your exposed film in the fridge you will leave it open to getting moisture damage. Only do that with the film still in it's plastic wrapper. Just keep it in a dry dark place.

    Dylan as for wanting a 6×17 view finder to set up shot compositions. I have a trick you can do to to replicate the view.

  6. Hi Matt and thanks for all your help, really appreciate you sharing your many years of experience with the 617. 220 film is hard to find here in Denmark, they only seem to stock 120 film.

    I can live without the histogram now that I'm comfortable shooting with the 617, that's not the problem. What I hate is not being able to go home and have a digital file available straight away. I don't have the patience to wait at least a week for the lab, and then have to scan them after that. Far too slow a process for me. I want patience and I want it now 😀

    I did keep the exposed film in an airtight plastic bag, but I see your point and will store them elsewhere.

    Matt, please share the viewfinder trick! Does it involve walking around with a cardboard mask glued to sunnies?? 😀

  7. Flemming… I buy all my slide film from B&H photo from the US. Here in Aust it will cost me $110 (Aust) for a box of 220. Where from the US it is $37 US. Crazy difference.

    Even if you keep your film in an air tight bag it still leaves it open to damage from any moisture in your roll to develop. Seeing you get your film processed so quickly there is no need. I have had rolls that were three months old and there is no problems at all.

    I think where you will really see slide kick the ass of digital is when you get one of those blood red sunsets and your digital will be washed out in the red but the slide will have captured what you saw.

    As for the trick basically what you do is this:

    1. with your left and right hand form two pistols with your pointer finger and thumb. Point both pointer fingers to each other (thumbs up).

    2. Now on the hand of your non master eye spin it 180 degrees and join top of tumb to top of pointer finger and you will create a rectangle.

    3. Now place the back of your non master hand to the top of your forehead to the side of the non master eye and close your non master eye and you will roughly have the view of 6×17 through your master eye. Then adjust your fingers to widen or tighter the rectangle.

    So easy, but very effective. I came up with this as I was sick of pulling my G617 out of the bag to set up and see if a shot was worth taking and best of all it costs you nothing and you cant even drop your viewfinder in the water… haha.

    Let me know how you go with it.

  8. From where I currently still stand, both mediums have their pro's and cons…Like you or most though, I do just love getting those big bad ass transperancies back and holding them in my hands ! There is just something special about that.
    I can concur how much attention the camera demands when passers by or other photographers are about…

    tone 🙂

  9. Flemming I know this is an old post, but I have to agree with the guys on a few comments that have been made.

    As I am sure your aware already there is nothing like getting your slide back from the lab. I am shocking as soo as its in my hand from the post man, forget everything that is going on around me and focus on see the slides and how good they look.

    Also there will always be questions about your camera, I took my camera out at sunset last night and a guy remembered me from then and pulled me up this mroning as I was walking along the beach. Its a real head turner and I have met some great people because of it, so for that reason I look forward to chatting to people who are intereseted.

    So I hope you go from borrowing one to buying one, you will never look back. I will be keeping mine until film is dead or they stop processing.


  10. Hi Casey. I may very well buy one some day as I've mentioned there certainly were many days in the Kimberleys and Kakadu where I missed having a 617 camera.

    But digital stitched panoramas also work amazing and I am addicted to that instant creative process of shooting, downloading and developing in Lightroom. Having to shoot trannies again, waiting for the lab, then scan them etc…just too slow for me now, frustrates me. The results can really be worth it I admit, but I have no patience 😀

    I know that feeling of getting slides back but I do actually get a bit of the same rush seeing a raw file come alive in Lightroom.

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