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Bit of GAS with Mt. Fuji, the GX680
Old 08-09-2019   #1
Takkun
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Bit of GAS with Mt. Fuji, the GX680

The last couple years, now that I've thankfully returned to photography, have seen a bit of reorganization of my equipment. Selling/trading off most of my small format SLR gear, winnowing my RF kit, and finally getting my Bronica, a sort of white-elephant bequeathment, back into shooting shape—it had no functional finder, a cracked film back, and a focusing screen scratched to oblivion.

And with that, I've been bitten by the big-negative bug again. All that time spent building a small, light 3-lens kit only to drag around a metal beast that doesn't even fit in my bag. And now it got worse.

Walking home a few weeks ago, I spotted a gentleman shooting a 5x7" monorail outside my home and chatted him up (because every photographer loves getting interrupted to talk shop, right?). Got to talking about my past experience shooting architecture on 4x5" and my lamentation of the massive infrastructure needed for LF — film holders, bigger tanks/trays, bigger enlarger or scanner, etc.
He mentioned he'd shot with the GX680 before: a roll-film SLR with lens movements and motor drive. Best of both worlds. I'd seen them a handful of times online. He suggested I spring for one; they're stupid cheap on eBay.

So there I was yesterday, carrying 12lbs of camera under my arm like a football, wandering downtown Seattle for six hours. No strap, no handgrip (ha!), and my poor travel tripod looked like it was going to collapse. As the title alludes, I heard this referred to online as 'mount fuji' for good reason.


My arms hurt.


Oh, what a joy. I love square format, but it's a bit of a waste of film for tall buildings. 6x8 doesn't give you a lot of shots per roll, but it gives a lot of image per shot. Having shot 645 before, the revolving back, huge as it is, is quite nice, especially with the finder mask. Data imprinting too.

Though I've gone back to WLF on the Bronica, here a prism finder would be nice: standing tiptoe wasn't so much fun. But having lens rise/shift more than makes up for it for the time being. Most of the time it was on the tripod for some slow, contemplative setups, but I did shoot a few frames handheld at Pike Place Market. Surprisingly, nobody paid attention. I think everyone's used to photographers there. Huh.

Noisy as hell with the motorized winder, and with my flimsy tripod shakes like it's in a hurricane after a shot and the mirror comes down. Despite that, it's honestly pretty stable with mirror lockup and a cable release. Some of my long-exposure shots don't look to be noticeably degraded from it.

Only came with the basic, cheap 135/5.6. There's a handful of faster lenses in adjacent focal lengths, but this'll do for most things. It's far too long for landscape and architecture, my primary uses, so I've got an 80mm on its way.

Not a bad setup, and criminally cheap for what it is, lenses especially. It really ended up being a bit less than a used Wista, and FAR less than a PC/TS lens. I burned through 4 rolls, but that's still less than shooting LF. Maybe I shouldn't be divulging this well-kept secret.



Quick n' dirty scan.


Light Reading:

Bellamy Hunt's Take

A crew hand-holding a GX for street photography with a digital back

FSC Review
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Old 08-09-2019   #2
Abbazz
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Gotta love those big Fuji...

Cheers!

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Old 08-09-2019   #3
jsrockit
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Pretty cool... thanks for sharing
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Old 08-09-2019   #4
Emile de Leon
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Always wondered about that camera..movements and all..
Back in the day B&H..at the old location..had one sitting high up in there on a shelf...
Giant cam..lol..
I went LF & ULF instead..
If you are going to torture yourself..
Now you need a giant tripod..hahaha..
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Old 08-09-2019   #5
aizan
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Major props for taking the plunge. I want one of these someday when I have some money burning through my pocket.
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Old 08-10-2019   #6
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Now’s not a bad time to pick one up. Especially if you can find one shipped economy, since they’re seemingly a dime a dozen in Japan. Its a bit dangerous browsing on eBay as cameras I lusted over as a young photography student are within reach...

Words of warning I’ve gleaned from reading through old APUG threads: the Mk I/II are quote a bit cheaper, but only run off proprietary battery packs, an AC adapter, or an elusive AA holder. The packs are fairly easy to open up and replace with new cells, and a few people have adapted Nikon packs to fit them. The film backs have their own internal batteries theatre usually dead.
I ended up going with the MkIII (1997-2010), since it runs off CR2s, and the film back off CR123s. It’s lighter, the backs do data imprinting, and being newer, have seen less use (but mine still lists about 400,000 actuations).

It’s not as heavy as it looks, but it’s still straining my little MeFoto tripod. Takes up an entire large Stealth Reporter bag I had kicking around, which wasn’t very stealth to begin with. Fuji was better known for the Texas Leicas, and I guess you could call this a Texas Mamiya. Amazingly, out on the street I haven’t gotten any more than the usual number of lookieloos asking inane questions, and only one guy inquiring about how many megapixels.


Just got home from shooting a couple rolls of Provia of storms rolling in over the orchards of Yakima—can’t wait to get them back and post.
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Old 08-17-2019   #7
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I had gx680 brochures all around my house growing up, but never thought about it due to the sheer mass and the fact I mainly shoot hand held... If I ever go to tripod based work, I'm grabbing one just to mess with. Such a great value
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Old 08-31-2019   #8
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A few more images:








Still getting the hang of things. A couple times I've used the multiple exposure function to build up long exposures, only to completely forget about reciprocity failure (and that I needed a 2-minute long exposure, not a 30-second one). Another quirk is that there's no interlock with the mirror up on changing lenses; I don't think any other camera does, either, but the mirror doesn't automatically come down when the power is switched off. I've forgotten that, swapped lenses, and ruined my next shot.

Other things I didn't think about: tripod and filters. Necessary expenses for shooting in general but I'd been putting off and making do without.
My little MeFOTO wasn't cutting it, and went with one from the small startup Colorado Tripod. It was definitely needed even just for my other cameras, and ended up being lighter, to boot.
For filters, finding 92mm threaded to fit the enormous 80mm lens was next to impossible, and what I did find were several hundred dollars. I bought a small set of 100mm Hitech filters and holders from a gentleman on eBay for a good price, and got some contrast and warming filters that will be useful for my other MF camera. Until the proper adapter arrives, I've been rubber-banding it to the rise/fall knobs.

Lastly: trying to get every bit of resolution out of this meant building a new scanning rig, of course out of foam core, drafting mylar, and matte board. I think the results look good, but the big format is revealing some deficiencies in my developing....

It's a fun camera and definitely makes me shoot slower, as I barely make it through a roll on a day shooting. I'm very excited about photographing people with it, I just need to find some. Funny some have said about hand-holding—the brochure mentions the mk. III having a new handgrip, if you could call it that. This weekend I might load it up with some HP5 and try some street shooting downtown.
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