I am an archaeologist and take several thousand air photographs each year. I have been trying to move from 35mm to MF to get greater detail. I have tried using my RB67, but find it too cumbersome to use and re-load quickly in the very cramped space of a light aircraft cockpit. I have been thinking of getting a Pentax 67II which has more of the handling style of a 35mm SLR + AE, albeit aperture, rather than shutter priority. Does anyone with experience with this camera have comments on its handling, lens quality and likely suitability for this role? Also, does anyone know of a 400 speed 220 B&W film other than Tri-X? I have been using HP5 Plus, but am close to the end of the freezer full I bought when it was discontinued in 220. Changing film is difficult in the air even with 35mm and I really want to avoid having to change every 10 frames as I would have to with 120. We have to use true silver, rather than C41 films, for archival permanence.
Good Afternoon, David,
The Fuji MF rangefinders might be a possibility if you can live with a fixed lens. My 6 x 7 has a terrific lens and takes both 120 and 220 film; there's also a 6 x 9 version. Also, don't dismiss the old Koni-Omega system which has quickly-interchangeable film magazines for both 120 and 220. The performance of the lenses is comparable to that of today's glass.
Many thanks. I did look at the Mamiya 7 rangefinder, but a 1/1000th shutter speed is pretty much the minimum in the air. The aircraft vibrates so much. Fixed lenses are fine, though. You don't even have to focus as everything is at infinity.
Mamiya make a 2 handed grip for the RZ intended for use from an aeroplane. I don't know if it would attach to an RB, but I am not aware of any reason why it wouldn't. The Mamiya web site also says you can attach stabilizers to it....
I can't comment on the relative ease of loading other MF cameras, but I agree that the removeable insert does make loading easier sitting down (I have both RB and RZ cameras). Have you considered extra backs or inserts?
I'm sure the P67 would do what you need (and have even read some threads about it's suitability for aerial photography) but I would caution that it doesn't have a reputation as an easy or quick loader. It's the only MF I've ever used, so I can't really make the comparison myself, but the talk is that it's slower in that regard than other MF systems. Anyway, I'd definitely check out if this would be a problem for you on a loaner or demo before purchasing.
The Koni-Omegas would be a brilliant solution. They have interchangeable backs so you can preload as many backs as you wish before leaving ground, then simply swap the backs in flight. I went from a Pentax 6x7 (old style) to the Koni simply for the reason that I found loading the old Pentaxes too fussy and fiddly even when on the ground...
You might want to contact Robert Glenn Ketchum as he's recently published photographs of Alaska taken from the air and I know he used to, at least, use Pentax MF cameras. His website includes a phone number and email addy. It's www.robertglennketchum.com. Good luck!
I would think one of the Pentax or Mamiya 645's with a pistol grip would be about right, if the negative size is OK. I use my M645 when I know I'll need to change rolls quickly and find the inserts to be simple. When I'm out walking I usually carry 2 extras plus one in the camera for a total of 45 exposures (or 90 w/ 220 inserts).