Enjoy Very Long Exposures With Will Cheung And MPB

Be a Square, Man!


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
...Read More

Be a Square, Man!

28 Jun 2020 8:07AM   Views : 660 Unique : 428


There are two cameras that will always be associated with the decade that I caught the photography bug. And two iconic films about the decade (more or less) showcase them perfectly.
In Apocalypse Now, Dennis Hopper played a rather deranged photojournalist in a rather deranged war: hung about with Nikons (and they were the most Nikon of Nikons, the original F), he was a camp follower for the villain (or tragic would-be hero) of the piece, played by Marlon Brando. I’ve never owned an F, but they are durable (if not literally bombproof – though one did save its owner from a bullet in Vietnam).

The other film is Blow Up, the other camera the Hasselblad 500 (Nikons appear in the film as well – after all, it’s about excess and the hedonism of Swinging London). When I was buying a medium format camera in the late Eighties, I looked at one, and decided that you need three hands to use it, so I bought a Pentax 67. I’ve never regretted that – but when I saw a really nice-condition ‘Blad in a local dealer’s window… You know the story.

Let’s talk about the minuses first. There actually is a way to hold the camera that requires only two hands, and gives access to all the controls, though you’d be hard-pressed to shoot terribly rapidly: left hand below camera, focus with forefinger below and thumb above lens, then slide forefinger down to shutter release on the front bottom right corner: right hand supporting camera body and sliding onto lever wind. Alternatively, keep the left hand on the lens, and move the right forefinger onto the release… Simples? Not terribly!


The mirror doesn’t return until you wind on: no matter – by then, you’ve taken the picture. And for a rectangular print, you are always cropping the square negative.

But… the quality is superlative, and the camera is modular: you can change viewfinder, screen and lens in seconds. And the film is in a detachable back, with a stainless steel darkslide, so you can take one shot on colour film, than another on fast black-and-white. Interlocks mean that you can’t take the picture with the darkslide covering the film, and you can’t take the back off without putting the darkslide in. The darkslide is quite easy to put down and forget, though…


My ‘Blad has a waist-level viewfinder (just right for getting legs in perspective, as it moves the viewpoint down from eye level), and a lever wind, instead of the standard knob. Unlike my Pentax, it synchronises with flash at all speeds.

High point of ownership was in a studio with a dancer. I’d just shot twenty frames with a digital camera, and missed the peak of her jump with nineteen of them. Switching to the ‘Blad, with its laterally-reversed waist level viewfinder and blackout mirror, I shot a whole film with perfect timing. No AF to slow things down (this was well before I’d heard of focus lock and back button focussing).

Best description? In 2007, on a thundery afternoon, I was shooting a model in her flat in Preston, chatting to her and her boyfriend. He looked at the camera, held it, and said it was ‘camera porn’ – there is, simply, more of everything. More controls, more knobs to twiddle, more business-like decoration.

A classic!


Recent blogs by dudler

Focus scales

If you’ve been taking pictures since before autofocus arrived, you’ll be very familiar with focus scales – they are one of the primary controls on an old-school camera, and just one more of the things that you really needed to get right. With autof...

Posted: 27 Dec 2022 7:01AM

Porcelain processing

People commented on the look in my last post and it seems like a good idea to share the secrets for Christmas. I learned the technique several years ago: a model’s boyfriend told me about it, and a website that described it in detail: I tried it, l...

Posted: 23 Dec 2022 10:47AM

You develop your own films don’t you?

If you have your own darkroom, or if you use film cameras regularly, there are always a few people who mention the attic. As in ‘Grandpa’s cameras are in the attic. I don’t even know if they have film in them!’ This leads me to ask if I can have a l...

Posted: 16 Aug 2022 11:17AM

Choose your pond

There’s an old saying about being a big fish and a little pond. Do you want to be the most important person in a small organisation, or are you content being a relatively small cog in a big machine? It’s the same in photography. With relatively mo...

Posted: 3 Jun 2022 2:25PM

Graduated filters

This is for Hannah, and anyone else who has come across the casual way that a lot of togs talk about one or two types of filter that landscaper photographers use a lot: graduated filters and neutral density filters. A graduated filter is one that i...

Posted: 25 Apr 2022 12:18PM


PaulCox Avatar
28 Jun 2020 2:41PM
Never used one, but always felt that I should have, I assume they use 120 or 220 roll film, which I remember my Mother buying for her “Ensign Full View” in the 1950’s and she aways had them developed by a Photographer that had a shop across the the road from where we lived, and He contact printed, the negatives in Black and White, most of which I still have.
I was given by an elderly neighbour a Russian Kiev 88 and two lenses a 50mm and a135mm I think I will have to check to be sure, and I think 3 film backs plus a prism for the top. All of which I still have but have never used, perhaps I should try to use it at least once. I must also say that your Autistic Teaspoons would send my OCD into overdrive, but that’s another story, still following and enjoying your Daily Blogs. Paul.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
28 Jun 2020 4:40PM
You should definitely give the Kiev a try, but I VERY strongly suggest visiting Mike Butkus's website for an instruction book before trying to use it, fire the shutter, or even change a lens. It's a copy of the original Hasselblad, which had a focal plane shutter, and there are - I believe - a number of simple ways to wreck the mechanism!

At some future date, I'd be really interested to see it - I've never met one, and I suspect that if it works at all, it'll give very decent results.

That's the problem with being on the spectrum, of course: it often pushes other people's buttons!
pablophotographer Avatar
pablophotographer 12 2.2k 451
28 Jun 2020 9:28PM
Find a blackboard, and use white chalk;
write BI and below NG circled by a big O.
If you have a black and white film the board does not need to be black.

Read as Bingo not Obing. Some people
(not featured here) talk squares but can't come around how to make them work.

For someone who grew up in the years of the 3:2 format reign, 1:1 framing was "hell yeah" thing. Need no quirky lens filters, no post processing. Ricoh Caplio 5 I think was the first digital with square format option. and it somehow lead me to chose buying my first digital camera, which could shoot square frames. There are cases where the subject begs to be shot like that. And I am glad I am ready for it.

To be honest the current Covid situation has stopped my chances to shoot square with my 6x6 medium format camera, which is nothing as fancy as the Blad, the Arax or their humble nephew the Kiev.

You know the joy when you have the subject falling perfectly into the frame.


mistere Avatar
mistere Plus
10 38 8 England
29 Jun 2020 4:33AM
Distinctly different, quirky, and really worth coming to terms with.
And then there's the camera. Smile.
PaulCox Avatar
30 Jun 2020 6:47PM
“I was given by an elderly neighbour a Russian Kiev 88 and two lenses a 50mm and a135mm“ I got this all wrong the lenses are 65mm f3.5 and a 80mm f2.8.

I retrieved it from its storage case yesterday after a seed was planted from reading your blog, and also I thought you might like to see it.
This is all the Kiev Kit, that I was given, I think I will try and run Film through it just see if it works the focal plane shutter seems to be working fine but whether the calibration is still OK, only running a film will Help me find that out. Paul.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
30 Jun 2020 9:20PM
As long as the shutter speeds are consistent, it doesn't matter if they're a bit not accurately marked.

My experience of other cameras suggests that a few dozen actuations limber things up a bit, especially the slow speeds, which tend to have got a bit slow. And sticking in the middle range, at least to begin with (1/250 to 1/60, say) is playing it safe. They're the speeds you tend to need most, too.
pablophotographer Avatar
pablophotographer 12 2.2k 451
1 Jul 2020 3:41PM
80mm with an f2.8? You are a lucky man Paul! Thanks for sharing. I can't but of thinking that an extension ring could make the focal length usable for portraiture. What do you think dudler?
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
1 Jul 2020 9:11PM
ON 6x6, an 80mm lens is the standard - so going to the minimum focus distance (whatever it is, but I'm guessing 3-5 feet) risks distortion. A 150mm lens would be the normal sort of focal length for portraits.

But if you shoot more environmental portraits, no problem at all. f/2.8 is entirely normal, and a few medium format cameras offer an f/2 standard lens. Depth of field won't be that much at full bore...

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join for free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.