A 6x9 question

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by battra92, Jul 18, 2006.

  1. battra92

    battra92 Member

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    I love to shoot a variety of formats. Normally I shoot 35mm, 645 and 6x6. I've been thinking about giving 6x9 a try just for kicks and maybe to get a different perspective. Now my budget would be limited so most likely we're talking a folder. I do have a couple Kodak 6x9 folders but since they are 620, they get no use (I hate respooling.)

    I develop my own black and white and use super cheap Arista (Foma) so the price per negative is not a huge problem. My question is more, can a 6x9 folder give me a decent shot that I can then make a contact print of? Is it not even worth it when I plan on using a lower priced folder?

    Like I said, I like to goof around when I take pictures and the quirky cameras make it a bit more fun. I'm not really looking for a toy camera so some quality should be there.
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    When many of these folders were current, 6x9 was often contact printed, so there's no reason not to.

    Film flatness is often an issue with 6x9 folders.
     
  3. battra92

    battra92 Member

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    Considering the school enlargers don't hold bigger than 6x6, I would have to contact print. :wink:

    Same with all folders really. You just don't advance the film until you are ready to shoot, nor do you open the camera a zillion times. I'm sure some mods could be worked up too to keep it flat.
     
  4. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    Flatness is a bigger issue with 6x9 because the film is bigger. It's part of the reason that I've settled on a 6x6 folder after owning a 6x9.
     
  5. climbabout

    climbabout Member

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    I've got a 6x9 super ikonta with the zeiss 3.8 tessar and it takes beautiful pictures - no problem with film flatness that I've noticed. I generally only enlarge this format to 5x7 or thereabouts.
    climbabout
     
  6. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    With a contact print, it will be hard NOT to have an excellent print, presuming focus, exposure, and dev are in the general neighborhood of being correct. I typically scan my 6x9 negs on a 2400 dpi flatbed scanner - make prints based on that - and 6x9 can stand a great deal of enlargement; so a contact print should be dynamite.

    I have a number of Zeiss Nettars and Agfa Isolettes - all very inexpensive. The biggest problem is finding one that does not leak light, and in the case of the Agfa's, one that does not have a frozen front cell. But the image quality is excellent, primarily because the negative is so much larger than 35mm. A lens really doesn't have to be all that great if you're not going to enlarge much - in the case of a contact print, well, again, it should be fantastic quality even with a cheap folder.
     
  7. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    I've got a few 6x9 folders - in face, one of my better ones is making its way around the world right now in one of the "Traveling Camera" thingys.

    The best I have is a 6.5x9cm plate camera (or two). Used with sheet film they are "real LF cameras", with limited movements and perfet film flatness. With rollfilm holders the're more "Holgaesque", with light leaks in odd places, buckling film and all that. Sheet film for these is still fairly easily available.
     
  8. HerrBremerhaven

    HerrBremerhaven Member

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    I own and use several 6x9 folder cameras. Just had a tripod mount break off one, so now that is a shelf item. I managed to do my own repairs on these, unsticking the front lens element, cleaning and adjusting the shutters, and replacing the bellows with some NOS items trimmed to fit. The source folder cameras I started with were AGFA or Ansco folder cameras, several with a limited Vario shutter, and one with a Compur Rapid shutter. The Vario and Pronto shutter versions are the simplest and cheapest, with many working fine after a little exercise. The Prontor multiple speed shutters are complicated to get working nicely, and Compur shutters involve close to the same difficulty level, though both tend to hold up quite well except at the fastest settings. The shutters from many 6x6 or 6x4.5 folder cameras of the same era sometimes are exchangeable, though the lenses will not generally cover 6x9. Always a good idea to have spares or extras when working on these.

    Frozen front focusing lens group/elements seem to be all too common. I use a Sorathane rubber pad, 99% alcohol and gentle force with an art eraser to work these apart. Some old lubricant hardens and becomes like glue. A common mistake some people can find with a folder is that the entire front elements can turn in the mounting, rather than the front element actually moving to focus. The three element lenses are the easiest to work on, especially most of the AGFA, Ansco, or Balda folders. Most three element folder lenses focus by moving the first element closer or further from the second element. The third element is on the back of the camera, inside the bellows. On many of the simpler and lower cost AGFA, Ansco, or Balda 6x9 choices, the lens elements are located and not glued in place. This makes disassembly, cleaning, and reassembly easier, if you want to tackle this repair.

    Bellows usually leak light, and are easy to confirm with a flashlight shining through the bellows from inside the camera (try in dark room to make this easier). Replacement bellows are tough to find, though I got lucky with this item. Old leather bellows seem to hold up better than the more plastic bellows. I use ink for screenprinting (as in T-shirt printing) as a patch material, though there are numerous other methods and materials. If you try too thick a repair material, or something that does not flex, you can have problems like not being able to close the camera, or the repair flaking off (sometimes inside the camera).

    So if you want to try repairing a low cost folder, my suggestion is to buy two or three as spare parts. You can find lots of these on EBAY at really low prices; despite claims by many of working cameras it might be easier to assume a really low cost camera will not work properly. There are a few more expensive repaired or restored cameras on EBAY, so that is another option, and often only around two or three times what it could cost to do the repairs on your own.

    I found a funny issue on film flatness. Many of these folder cameras can pop open when triggering the clamshell release button. If you let it fly open, and the bellows is not full of holes, then the negative pressure can suck the film partially into the film gate. Open the clamshell slowly and in a controlled manner to avoid this problem. Besides that, it is a big area of film, though can produce some surprisingly nice image results. I have run transparency films through mine, and had very nice large prints made from those images, so your contact printing should work very nicely.

    I don't think you should spend lots of money on these, since even the cheap items can produce nice images when they are working as they should. If you have never done a repair on something this small, or not sure about trying that route, then spend a little more to buy a working folder from someone. Most of all, have lots of fun using these.

    Ciao!

    Gordon
     
  9. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    Some of my favorite contact prints when Azo was still available were shot in a 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 Speed Graphic - essentially 6x9. I matted them on the 8x10 cutouts left over from my larger mats. Some people are put off by the small size, but other folks seem to like a print they can hold in their hands.
    juan
     
  10. ChuckP

    ChuckP Subscriber

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    I think contact prints would be fine. I have a couple early Bessa 6x9 folders with uncoated Skopar lenses. They produce sharp small prints. Also the negative size with these is a true 9cm so the contacts will be even bigger. I known they don't fit my 23c carriers. But if you really want to play a 2x3 Graphic is pretty cheap. Then you can use all sorts of lenses to see what they do.
     
  11. MenacingTourist

    MenacingTourist Member

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    I also have one of these and absolutly love using it. At that size it's almost a novelty but then I see the results and wow. Mine has front shift and rise but all I've ever used is the rise. Now if only I could find more film holders...
     
  12. gordrob

    gordrob Subscriber

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    I use a Mamiya Press with a 6x9 back and like the 65mm wide angle lens the best. Wouldn't change it for anything. I have three 6x9 backs that allow me to change film types in a matter of minutes. Also a Speed Graphic that I am using to burn up some Tri X Film Packs from the 70s. Good quality enlargements from negatives that size.
    Gord
     
  13. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    Mamiya Press Rocks. Their late style S shaped lever wind backs solved film flatness once and for all. They're easy to use and cheap. But they're heavy and perhaps sort of ugly in a Leica on steroids sort of way.
     
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  15. elekm

    elekm Member

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    The regular Ikontas are very nice cameras. You can get a very decent photo with a Novar or Nettar lens. The preferred lens on the Ikontas came with Tessars.

    As stated, Agfa and Voigtlander also had 6x9 cameras, as did several others, including the Soviets and East Germans.

    My favorite cameras by far have been the Zeiss Ikon Ikonta and Super Ikonta with uncoated lenses.

    Keep in mind that these cameras are at least 50 years old and sometimes 70 years old. Certain Agfas used plastic-coated bellows, which develop holes faster than you can patch them. The Zeiss Ikon bellows are fairly durable. Of the ones that I've encountered (roughly 25), only one had bad bellows.

    Nearly all of these camera will need to be serviced. In fact, the only one that won't are those that have been serviced.

    But you can have a lot fun with the folders.

    If you want to try something really offbeat, you can try some of the 6x9 box cameras.
     
  16. battra92

    battra92 Member

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    Thanks for all the options. I have fixed some 6x6 cameras before so I may give a 6x9 one a shot.

    It looks like I can get a 6x9 fairly cheaply for a Anastigmat. I'll try and keep my eyes out for a Zeiss Ikon as I love my 515 that takes 645. I tend to shoot around f8 or so by default as it gives a decent depth of field for average shooting and thus that can be "sharp enough."

    One other question and that is ... color. There I will not be doing my own processing and printing. It would make more sense there to just skip the 6x9 folder and stick with my 515, right? Still a 6 x 9 chrome might look quite handsome on a lightbox. :smile: But one of the best things about folders is, they are so cheap and portable you can keep one for color and one for black and white and carry both with you at no bother at all. :smile:
     
  17. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    If you've got a professional lab nearby or don't mind sending it off, there's no reason not to shoot color neg and ask for contact sheets that you can cut up yourself, just like your B&W prints (or you can ask for projection prints, of course). Request that they print the negs with the emulsion directly in contact with the paper. Some labs contact print through file pages, and they'll never be sharp that way.

    Here's a scan of a color transparency from my Bessa II (Fuji RMS pushed one stop)--

    http://www.photo.net/bboard/image?bboard_upload_id=15416684
     
  18. HerrBremerhaven

    HerrBremerhaven Member

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    That is about all I shoot with my folder cameras, though I use my Sekonic L-358 for metering. What I did at first was to use some C-41 film, thinking that if my shutter repairs or the aperture settings were a little off, then I would be safe. What I found was the shutter and aperture settings were accurate enough for transparency films. So you might want to play it safe with C-41, but in the end a 6x9 transparency on a light table is pretty cool.
    :cool:

    Ciao!

    Gordon
     
  19. dmax

    dmax Member

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    I confess to being a hard-core 6x9 convert. I started with German 6x6 folders many years ago, and now have a number of custom-designed 6x9s that I had built and that I regularly use. Being over half a century old, lugging around my 8x10 or even my lightest 4x5 field kit is no longer fun, and just as any other older person will tell you, once the fun begins to go, you begrudgingly surrender the urge to go out and take pictures. I wish I had the same level of energy of Jim, who still heroically hauls his gigantic Circuit cameras up and down the Nevada hills! (And also the energy to tend to his inexhaustible mother lode of esoteric lenses.)

    I have a number of customized 6x9s with different lenses affixed up front, ranging from Agfas in standard configuration (original bellows, 105 lenses), to bodies that have 65 Angulons, a 65 Super Angulon, a 65 Mamiya, and 75 Mamiyas (from Polaroid 600SEs), and a 90/6.8 Angulon. I particularly like the combination of a wide film format combined with a wide lens. The portability of a lightweight but highly-functional 6x9 rig works great for walkabout shoots in either B&W or transparencies. I feel that they're a good compromise between the slower, more deliberate way of shooting large format, and the convenience and speed of medium format equipment - but without the bulk. At the very least, it keeps me shooting, and keeps my visual sensibilities working. Although I consider LF work most rewarding, I'd rather shoot with something than not at all.

    David has pointed out that film flatness may be an issue with old 6x9 folders. This may be true in some cases, but my own experience suggests that it may be due to a combination of factors, some more influential than others. The stamped-metal construction of older 6x9 bodies certainly leaves a lot of room for mechanical variances of every kind, and sometimes these things come together and announce themselves. Sometimes they don't. Annoyingly, there's an unpredictability to them. In a single roll you might end up with very sharp images, and some that have soft portions.

    I won't go into much detail here, but as a rule, careful use of good and serviceable bodies generally don't produce as much film flatness problems as generally thought. A bit of trivia: check the straightness of the nickel plated film rollers on either side of the film gate, and the extent of centricity (off-axis wobble) of the rollers in their seats. This simple check can tell you a lot about what to expect, and why. Other things come into play too, like the degree of tension/friction of the spring retainers at both film chambers exert on the film roll. Too loose or too tight, and you get film waviness. Imbalanced tension, same.

    As pointed out by another poster, allowing the bed of a folder to snap out, rather than being guided by hand to extend, is a definite no-no due to the vacuuming effect it has on the flexible film. To which I would add: wind film slowly and in measured turns of the film takeup knob. Zipping through the first turns then slowing down until you get to the frame number causes differential tension across the film. Sometimes the pressure plate can compensate for this, sometimes not.

    Jim is so right in praising the virtues of the S-shaped Mamiya film holder. I have yet to see a roll film holder that performs so superbly in keeping 120 film flat.

    And Jim, before my failing memory fails me any further: Any chance of you finally letting go of your 50 Mamiya yet? I've already got my most sophisticated 6x9 conversion already waiting for it! (I'd also like the same chance that you had to have my own 30x40 color prints from a 50 Mamiya hanging on the office hallway.)
     
  20. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Do you have any images of these in the camera builders threads or your own website?


    Steve.
     
  21. matt miller

    matt miller Subscriber

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    Take a look at the Kodak Medalist. It's got one of the best lenses I've ever used on it, an f/3.5 100mm Ektar. It's a 620 camera, but there are a lot floating around that have been converted to 120. Film flatness is not an issue with this camera. It's big and heavy though, but the negs are amazing and worth carrying the weight.
     
  22. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

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    I have heard that the Medalist II is an amazing camera. If one is going to look at that camera, it might also be worthwhile to look at the Fujica G690 rangefinder. All the modern conveniences, including interchangeable lenses, plus 120 film, no need to convert from 620. It is a real beast to carry around, though. I have one with the 100mm and 180mm lenses, and love it.
     
  23. Russ Young

    Russ Young Member

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    DMAX- thanks for the detailed explanation of the bellows-vacuum effect! That might explain a lot of my less than sharp negatives on the same roll with oh-so-sharp ones.

    Most of the discussion has revolved around triplets thus far. There are several 4 element lenses besides Tessars- I've had particularly good experiences with Solinar and Ross Xpress lenses. At one time the English optics were marvelous.

    Some of the cameras/lenses in this discussion are uncoated- those in particular will perform noticably better with a hood.

    Russ
     
  24. dmax

    dmax Member

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    Steve:
    I do not belong to any particular camera builders group, although I occasionally look at some sites to see what's going on. Despite my dozens of cameras (turn-of-the-century and earlier mahogany and brass plate cameras, ULF monsters, Agfa folders of every conceivable kind in 6x6 and 6x9 flavors, TLRs, 4x5s, 35s, and odd bits and pieces) I have yet to own a digital camera. My wife says that I may very well be the last surviving holdout. I am also barely computer literate. And so I have no website. This may change soon. Someone is working with me to rectify that situation. I will post images as soon as I can manage it.

    Russ:
    You're welcome. It takes quite a bit of working with folders to gain the necessary familiarity to get them to work with you. Sometimes it has to do with the inherent design of the camera, and sometimes it has to do with the peculiar techniques of shooting with folders. Oftentimes a combination of both. As to four element lenses: One of my earliest 6x6 Agfa folders came with an uncoated Solinar. Even after full teardown, CLA, bellows replacement, and other refinements, the camera still could not overcome the flare inherent to 6 air-to-glass surfaces. Hood or no hood, the images were some of the flattest that I have ever produced in any camera.

    I suspect that this particular camera/lens combination was responsible for sidetracking me into learning how to overdevelop 120 film in an effort to prove to myself that Solinars were worth the designation as Agfa's top of the line lenses. As I said, sometimes all the undesirable factors come together all at one time. In direct contrast (pun intended), my humble 3-element 105mm coated Agnar - which is considered the "economy" version of Agfa lenses - beats my very late 100mm Schneider (6 elements, 4 groups) by a mile in terms of definition and contrast, in both B&W and in transparencies. Why? I have no idea. In this case, the variables come together in a good way with my 105 Agnar in its original Agfa Record body.
     
  25. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Um, WW, ages ago when I first contemplated moving up to 2x3 the Medalist was high on my list of cameras to think hard about. Along with Mamiya Press, in its several models, and Graflex XL. I had a long chat with Ken Ruth about Medalists, was given much good advice. Ended up getting a 2x3 Pacemaker Speed Graphic and haven't looked back.

    Anyway, the Medalist's 100/3.5 Ektar is much like the 105/3.7 offered for 2x3 Graphics. I've had a 105/3.7, shot it a bit against the 101/4.5 Ektar that had come with my Speed, and sold the 105. My results were consistent with Chris Perez': 101/4.5 Ektar sharper across the field than 105/3.7 at f/8 and smaller.

    As long as we're pushing the original poster to spend more money than he intended, let's push him in the direction of greater flexibility etc. That is, away from the fixed lens folder he thinks he wants and towards 2x3 press and view cameras.

    And I'd like to second DMAX' comments about lenses. The only way to find out which old lens is ok is to try some.

    Cheers,

    Dan
     
  26. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    I'll "third" the lenses: Some old triplets are - just great! Others just stink...

    Even in the same line there are both, as the placement of the inner lens in a triplet is critical beyond the capabilities of mass production.