for the past months I was looking for a fast hand-holdable eye-level larger-than-6×6 camera. I’ve had my fair share of medium format SLRs and I wanted a camera I could easily carry with me, fast to take out of the bag, fast to focus and shoot – a rangefinder medium format camera. ideally this would be the mamiya 7 or the plaubel makina 67, but they kept staying out of my budget, so I looked around to the fuji rangefinder cameras.
enter the fuji gw690iii – a 6×9 rangefinder camera with a fixed 90mm/f3.5 lens (considered normal to roughly wide-angle for 6×9), nicknamed “texas leica” because it looks like a leica rangefinder’s big brother, with cowboy hat and boots on, something the stranger from big lebowski would carry.
it’s a big beast (has to be, what with the 6×9 negative it’s producing) but still fits easily in my messenger bag, and it’s less cumbersome and heavy than my 6×6 SLRs. its leaf shutter and the absence of a mirror box means that I can get my shutter speeds as low as 1/15 without breaking a sweat. moreover, 6×9 means I get the same 3:2 image ratio I’ve been using on my 35mm cameras, and only 8 frames on a roll of 120 film.
but how does it perform, portrait-wise? well, I loaded it up with an expired roll of kodak portra 400nc and went out for a windy seaside walk with the dear sisters, miss d. and miss m. – the wind battled us in every step we made and I learned a valuable lesson: your camera, your clothes and your car can get really salty after a couple of hours walking next to the breaking waves, even if you don’t get a single drop of water on you.
this camera is definitely a different experience than SLR/TLR 6×6. the four-years-past-the-expiry-date film riddled the photos with streaks of discoloration, but I couldn’t care less. miss d. is starring in all of the following photographs.