This is the first shot I took with my latest film camera purchase, a medium format Mamiya M645 Super. This film was in one of the film backs, with 5 exposures left, so I shot it first. The tonal range may be influenced by the film having sat in the camera for many years.
It took me a while to get over inertia and actually take a picture and it did not happen until I was out on a photo walk a couple of weeks ago with Gary of FilmAdvance. He suggested, probably correctly, that I was reverting to type by making the first shot a detail from a First Nations totem pole. These three versions of the same shot include the full frame and two crops from the negative to illustrate the detail that is found on a medium format negative.
The camera is huge when compared to my go-to pocket camera, the Olympus XA/XA2. The film backs alone are bigger than those cameras, come to that so is the lens, so is the view finder and the you could probably fit two XAs into the body of the Mamiya. It is a very modular camera allowing for changing pretty much everything about it. There is a large selection of lenses still readily available on the second-hand market, several view finders, including a vertical one and one with light metering, a hand crank or a power winder, and backs can be had for 120 and 220 film, as well as Polaroid.
This pole is called Spirit of Lekwammen and this part can be found on Songhees, or Pallastsis, Point on the edge of the Inner Harbour across from the Legislative precinct. It was carved in 1994 by 11 artists as part of the Commonwealth Games and originally was over 180 feet tall – carved from a single cedar log. Later it was cut into shorter segments due to concerns about it being a hazard to the float plane traffic in the harbour, and nearby residents not liking the guy-wires obstructing their views. Some of the pole is erected at this location, the rest is at the Songhees First Nation community to the west. You can find out more about it here. I have added it to a map that I maintain of blog posts I make about First Nations markers and monuments in the Victoria area. You can find the map by clicking on this link and then click on the markers or legend on left to find the different locations which have links back to posts in this blog.
I have only shot a bit of medium format film, and none of it through a good quality camera, so this is a real treat for me. The camera was being sold locally for a price that I could not pass up on, comes with two film backs, one with a 120 film cartridge and one with a 220 cartridge. The local second hand camera store had a 120 cartridge, which I bought so that there can be both a roll of colour and of black and white in action at one time since the backs can be swapped mid-roll. 220 film is next to impossible to come by now. It comes with an 80mm f2.8 lens which is roughly equivalent to a 50mm lens on a 35mm camera. The camera is manual but this one includes a power winder for advancing the film. My version of viewfinder has no light meter but is very bright and clear and focusing is very easy.
It feels remarkably different to take a picture with this camera. It is a solid weight at all times and feels as if camera shake is going to be much less of an issue as the weight dampens it out. It only shoots 15 frames on a roll of 120 film, so the act of taking a picture seems to require more careful consideration and framing. I find I look through the view finder and then lower the camera without taking a picture far more than I am used to with other cameras. And I feel a strong urge to take portraits when holding this camera. Even though heavy, it is very simple camera to use for someone familiar with SLRs and other smaller manual film cameras. I have shot two other rolls of colour film through it, both long expired, and some of the results are very pleasing. You will be seeing more from this camera, that I can guarantee.
Mamiya M645 Super, 80mm/f2.8 lens, ISO400, Ilford HP5+
shot on remainder of film found in camera when purchased, age unknown, ~10 years