Fish and Chips. Kermit and Miss Piggy. Cheese and crackers. All classic combinations. Just like these, photography has its great combinations. A camera with a particular lens, a camera with a specific emulsion, an emulsion with certain development and so on. Welcome to a new series. Rather than a review of photographic equipment or emulsions, this series will concentrate on an example combination of either or both.
This time we will look at the magnificent Fuji GSW690iii medium format rangefinder camera and the superb Kodak Ektar 100 ISO colour negative film in 120 format.
The Fuji GSW690iii is a large rangefinder camera, with a fixed lens which shoots huge 6x9cm frames. It is the third iteration of this camera, and this particular model has the wide and super sharp Fujinon 65mm f/5.6 EBC lens. The great quality control of Fujifilm and the fact that it is a fixed lens which allows tightening of all tolerances for amazing results, has made this a very sought after camera. For further information on the GSW690iii, or the Texas Leica as it also known, you can see the review here. Since the article referenced was written, but hopefully not because of it, the prices for this camera have steadily risen and do not look like abating.
The film used is the super fine grained colour negative film, Kodak Ektar 100. In fact Kodak claims it is the finest grain in colour negative film. This film is very well known for the detail it brings out when scanned and the saturation in the colours with a tendency towards the red. Being 100 ISO, it is better suited to brighter conditions, though this can be overcome with a tripod. The latitude is not as wide as other well known negative films, like Portra, but not as narrow as what you would find in transparency film. It is available in 35mm, 120, 4x5in and 8x10in formats.
It is worth mentioning that Ektar is a film I have struggled to scan, and get correct colours. Performing a search on the internet shows that I am far from alone on this. I have tried all sort of methods, but the one I found to work the best is by scanning the film as a linear raw scan in Vuescan, and then using the very handy Photoshop plugin, ColorPerfect to apply the appropriate profile.
Back in May, as Autumn was finishing, and the weather was still very good, I took a couple of days off and decided that a trip out into the country side was in order. I went back and forth on which cameras to take, and finally settled the GSW690iii and Nikon FM2n. For film I packed Ektar for medium format, Portra and HP5+ for 35mm.
The location I decided to unwind in is Mudgee, a town in the central west of New South Wales, Australia. It is about four to five hours drive from Sydney. Mudgee is known for wine production, which is great for the evening, even though I am more of a whisky person. It is also a rural farming region which is one of the reasons it attracted me for a quick photographic break.
On the day, we got in the car and headed off west. In terms of weather we got very lucky as no rain was forecast, or transpired, and with beautiful golden light in the evenings. Being Autumn, the golden colour of the long grass accentuated this golden mood. The mornings were another matter, with heavy fog until well after 7am, which is not exactly the remit for Ektar, but as the combination had been set, it was to be so. I did have the Nikon with HP5+ for that, so all good there.
I enjoyed my few days in Mudgee, with the only aspect which I found a little disappointing was that access to some good locations is very limited due to the larger vineyards owning and fencing off the majority of the land. The Fuji performed admirably, which is a why it is a camera I adore. It is all business. Ektar is a great film, and now that I have a way to scan consistently, I look forward to the results every time. If you want to produce nice big negatives, with heaps of detail and colour, with the combination of the Fuji GSW690iii and Kodak Ektar you cannot go wrong.