A Classic Look Never Goes Out of Style
BY ANDRE COSTANTINI
TECHNICAL AND CREATIVE SUPERVISOR, TAMRON USA, INC.
Whether it's the simplicity of a classic camera design or the desire to possess a tool that will not become quickly outdated and is built to last a lifetime, remains to be seen. It seems the more digital technology advances, greater is the need for basics and simplicity.
AN OLD IDEA WITH A NEW TWIST
The rangefinder camera is a design that dates back to the early 1900s. It's the platform on which many of these new models are based. Many of these cameras utilize the latest technology to make the basics even better. And many of these technologies are integrated into Bronica's new Rangefinder 645.
More than just traditional manual functions and control, the camera has Aperture Priority and even a full Program mode. Features such as the LCD display in the viewfinder convey comprehensive information including shutter speed, aperture, camera mode, exposure lock, exposure compensation, shutter status, flash ready, and low-battery warning. And like all the Bronicas available, it uses electronically timed leaf shutters.
Rangefinders are known for being compact and quiet. In the case of the Bronica 645 Rangefinder, it is just under two pounds including the 65mm lens. In order to achieve this lightweight design, the camera's upper casing is made from magnesium thixomold alloy (a light yet extremely durable material). Another reason that rangefinders are lighter and smaller is that they have no mirror.
This not only makes them whisper quiet, it also means the camera body will not be affected by potential mirror-slap vibrations. So, as a general rule, you can hand-hold a rangefinder at slower shutter speeds without compromising image quality. This makes them great cameras for shooting under lower light conditions.
I had the opportunity to test this out when I photographed Anne on a rainy day in the outskirts of Cologne, France.
I loaded the camera with Fuji's Provia 100F Professional RDP III, with every intention of having the film cross-processed when I got back to New York. Cross-processing your film will change the color balance and increase the contrast and grain. It's a technique often used in fashion and commercial photography. It can add a sense of slickness or an antiquated feel, depending on the lighting and the direction you balance your color.
I had the film processed in C-41 (color negative) chemistry and pulled one stop. I have found that underexposing the film one stop (i.e., rating 100 ISO transparency film at 200 ISO with normal processing or rating the film 100 ISO and pull-processing one stop) creates a less dense negative that will still scan well.
Setting the camera to Aperture Priority Mode, I let the camera's meter set the shutter speed and kept the aperture set wide open to f/4. Depending on how close she was to the window, I got up to 1/60 second and as slow as 1/15 second. I was working with only available light from the windows in the room. The camera's meter did all of the exposure calculation and is consistently right on. The camera is also designed to shoot in a vertical format, which makes it great for taking portraits.
All of the shooting I did that day was using available light and shot wide open. At the time, all I had was the 65mm lens. Though slightly wide for this format (equivalent to a 40mm on a 35mm format camera), it's considered the normal lens for this camera.
For me it was ideal, because I generally shoot portraits with wider angle lenses anyway. It changes the look of the image and allows a different interaction with your subject. To me it seemed somehow fitting to shoot retro-styled images with a retro-styled camera. Of course you can also shoot more contemporary images should you choose to do so.
With a camera virtually the same size as a 35mm, you can now get medium-format size and quality. The image size is actually 2.7 times larger than 35mm. And the size of the camera makes it ideal for traveling or shooting on location.
With three lenses (45mm, 65mm, and the soon-to-be-available 135mm) and a compact dedicated strobe, traditional photography is definitely not a style of the past.