5×4 without a tripod

No, it’s not click-bait. It means exactly what it says. I’ve been walking around Elland, making photos, whilst handholding a 5×4 camera. This week I’ve been out a couple of times with a 5×4 film camera in my bag, a couple of film holders and a Reveni light meter in my pocket. Not even a mini tripod hidden in the side pocket of my shoulder bag. This set up was lighter than pretty much every camera combination I own except perhaps my wooden pinhole cameras.


So, to what do I owe this lightweight and eminently portable large format set up? Well, in part to Andy Smales who lent me the camera so I could road test it before deciding whether or not to place an order. But largely to the Chroma Snapshot camera from Chroma Cameras.


But, let’s step back for a moment.

Whilst I’ve been playing with cameras for 50-years or so I only entered the realms of large format in the last three or four years. I was starting with zero prior knowledge and made a few mistakes early on in terms of kit purchase despite extensive reading. Most were small purchases but one, the purchase of a 65mm lens, still rankles. On my Intrepid camera it didn’t focus to infinity and more importantly it needed a recessed lens board, which rendered the cable release/shutter inaccessible. Despite being advertised as a 5×4 lens I eventually determined that it was intended for smaller formats so rather than being the advertised 5×4 inches it’s coverage was in medium format, 6x9cm territory despite its physical bulk. I’ve been looking for a way to use it ever since the penny dropped that I’d been sold a pup. Caveat emptor and all that.


Anyway, chatting to Andy on Twitter one evening the vexed topic of my unused lens came up. Long story short, the following morning his Snapshot was winging its way north and less than two days after that original discussion I was testing the theory that this thus far unused lens was usable with the Snapshot. I tested it wide open at f5.6, at f8 and f11 then finally at f32. A tiny, tiny amount of vignetting at f5.6 but less to be honest than I usually add myself. It was more than usable so the following day I was out with camera, four sheets of film and no tripod.

The other attraction for me was the potential for night photography due to the Snapshot’s zone focusing capability. More on this in a later post.

Now isn’t the occasion for a review. I need to use it for longer to provide a cogent and reliable review. Initial impressions are very positive. It has worked well both tripod mounted, and more importantly, hand held. Suffice to say, I exposed 29 sheets of film and my order is in at Chroma Towers.

Handheld and lens wide open

On being sociable

The flurry of posts here over the last few days didn’t go unnoticed in the land of the bird. “Are you becoming a Superblogger?” asked one, tongue firmly in cheek. Well, to give a serious answer to a not-so-serious question, no. Tried that, couldn’t keep up! Not just with coming up with something to say every day but finding time to write and post it. It was a bold experiment not least because I was working full time. But even noting that, I wouldn’t attempt it again even though I’m now retired.

This recent flurry, after a break of several weeks, does however serve to reaffirm that this blogger also has a life outside of social media. And outside of photography. My 365 continued, aided by the mobile phone and school run, but “serious” photography took a back seat due to unexpected and pressing family duties. It reminds me why I’m glad to be an amateur, without the demands of a professional practice. I could deal with real life without worrying about letting clients down.

For the record, I did briefly set up a portrait business soon after retirement. It was hard work albeit very enjoyable. However, the illness and death of my father, shortly followed by my uncle and then father-in-law meant that within six months I’d had to put the business on hold. When the time came to resume work I didn’t have the enthusiasm to start from scratch again, almost a year after pausing, that I took the pragmatic decision to return to strictly amateur photography – and the life of a full-time grandad!

One of, indeed probably the major, benefits of being resolutely amateur is not having to please anyone else. Not having to follow a brief, however vague, allows for full artistic freedom. I unashamedly make images for myself. Of course, if others enjoy an image then that is also fabulous; we all like to be appreciated and I’m not so self-centred that I don’t like applause from the sidelines. One thing that social media has done for me however is to introduce me to a group of people with similar outlooks, who appreciate the work that goes into an image and are always supportive even when work isn’t to their taste. I’m talking about the #believeinfilm community on Twitter of course.

I recently passed the 5-year marker on my picture-a-day (365) challenge. Belatedly I made reference to this milestone and amongst the responses was from Helen who commented on the mix of photographic methods I’ve employed over these five years:

“… mine was almost entirely digital – doing so many different types of photography along the way is just amazing.”

Helen H

It’s the type of support that we see daily from across the #believeinfilm community and means way more than any number of ticks, thumbs-up or heart emojis. Appreciated as these are its when people take time to engage that makes the time spent on social media worthwhile. And yes, any social media interaction worth having has to be worked at; you can’t simply post work then sit back and await the plaudits. The community works because people get involve, share ideas, provide feedback, encouragement and support. Like most things, the more you put in the more you get back.

“You are supporting my devious master plan of helping all photographers, across the world, enjoy their film cameras. I see you doing this too with your amazing blog!”

John F*

Another great thing about the community as I experience it is the diversity of experience and ways of working. From educators and authors through to complete newbies and every level in between, everyone within the community shares knowledge, ideas and even kit. I interact with photographers from around the globe and with such a diversity of photographic practices. Can you tell that I’m passionate about the #believeinfilm community?

So, I started by talking about the joys of being an amateur but this has ended up as an eulogy for the #believeinfilm community … I’ve even had to change the title of the post! If you are on Twitter please do come and say hello!

* The Art of Black & White Developing. John Finch

Five years of the 365

Pressing family issues meant that the 30th October 2022 went by unnoticed yet it was an important milestone in my picture-a-day, or 365, project. It marked five years since I started the challenge. So far I’ve clocked up over 1,840 consecutive daily images having not missed a single day over the last five years.

The one that started it all

My very first post, above, was taken with my Fuji X100T digital camera and I’m pleased to note that five years on it is still contributing to the challenge. I’ve used countless cameras over this period. Film, digital, instant cameras, glass plates and even a cyanotype. On the drawing board for 2023 are tintypes too.

If anyone is interested in checking out my daily images then head to Flickr where you will find monthly albums covering the whole challenge right back to 2017.

365-2023-083 #1972

Four little bits of Magic

Following on from yesterday’s post four more images from that first roll.

All of these were taken on the Rollei Magic using Ilford HP5+ which was developed in Ilford ID11, diluted 1+3 for twenty minutes at 20°.

Thus far I’ve put three rolls through the Magic and been very happy with the results. I’ve used several TLR cameras over the years but none have ever left me looking forward to taking them out again the way this little marvel does. Give me a few months and I will try to write a more balanced report! For now though there’s a fresh roll loaded and I’m waiting for a break in the wall-to-wall deluge to get outdoors.

Embrace the plastic

I recently dusted off the almost forgotten Lubitel 166B and popped a couple of rolls of Ilford FP4+ through its plastic goodness. I’m not going to write a review of the camera however as pretty much everything that needs to be said has already graced the online world and I don’t propose adding to the wordage (is that even a word?) afforded this delightfully quirky box.

The crop
The full frame

It’s a kinda magic

Or a Rollei Magic to be accurate.

The Magic, as I shall hereafter call it, is a medium format, twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera manufactured by German company Franke & Heidecke. It was Rollei’s answer to the demand for a TLR with an automated exposure control. The camera uses 120 roll film so there are no issues finding film. As is to be expected, twelve 6x6cm square images can be captured for each roll of film. By using a special mask set the camera can be adapted to produce 16 images of 4×4 or 4×5.5cm on a roll however that’s not something I have in my kit bag.

The Magic’s successor, the Rollei Magic II, has full manual controls whereas the Magic has very limited capability in this respect; it was designed to be quick and easy to use. Load, compose, click! A true point and shoot really even if it’s in a TLR body.

Automatic Perfect Pictures!

Rollei Magic brochure

I’d seen the camera several weeks ago in the local camera shop’s window. Compared to prices on a certain internet site it was very modestly priced so I did some further research. In a nutshell, if the meter is knackered then it’s an interesting paperweight – very nice to look at but very little practical use. So, when my wife went in to town again recently I asked her to pop in and ask about the meter, explaining it was a good buy if the meter worked. I fully expected her to return home with an answer, which she did, but wasn’t expecting her to have the camera in her bag though!

My first task was to check the meter. The needle reacted to varying light levels which was a good start. The shop, who I trust implicitly, said it worked and had even given a 3-month warranty to back up this assertion. I loaded a roll of HP5+ and headed out for a wander.

It works! Twelve evenly-spaced, properly exposed negatives. Result.

I’m looking forward to more time with this magic little camera and perhaps a few more blog posts too!