Large Format style movements on a Nikon DSLR body? yes we can!

30 07 2014
Frankenstein's Monster in all its glory

Frankenstein’s Monster in all its glory

Here’s a project that I have been working on for the last couple of years. My idea is to use a Fuji GX680 camera body, to take Mamiya 645 lenses, and a Nikon DSLR body. Why all the contraption? Well, back in the nineties Fuji made the GX680 medium format studio camera – this was the only 6×8 rollfilm SLR with camera movements, just like a large format camera. While in theory it is possible to mount a 645 format digital back on a GX680, I thought to myself ‘why not slap one of my existing Nikons on’ – just a proof of concept really.

So hacksaw in hand, I removed the camera body in its entirety. Just the front standard, twin rails, and wideangle bellows remain. The idea is to mount a Mamiya 645 lens in a custom lens board, into the front standard. The reason for the 645 lens? It’s totally mechanical, and will cover a 35mm sensor even with lens movements applied. The front standard offers lateral shift, rise and fall, tilt and swing. Some of these movements may not be as useful as one might think, because unlike a large format 4×5 camera, the film plane (or sensor, in a DSLR) can’t easily be made to mirror the position of the front standard…..but I can experiment, and that’s the real reason for building this monster.

So I’ve got the basics, and just need to source a custom lens board (the lens will be mounted in a Mamiya 645 extension ring, set into the board). And some means of attaching a Nikon to the rear of the bellows. I’ve got an old BR2 reversing ring, which will mount to the body just fine. In my gleeful ignorance, when removing the camera body, I did overlook the need to have the body mounted securely to the frame, but I think this is not too difficult to overcome.

All the Fuji and Mamiya parts were sourced from Fujiya Camera in Nakano. Can’t recommend this place highly enough. I’ve been shopping here for the last 16 years or so, and have seen a few changes (expansion). They now have 3 separate buildings, all within a couple of minutes’ walk. One store for used (and some new) cameras, lenses, and bags. The ‘Junk Store’ opposite – crammed with used accessories, and hundreds of ‘junk’ cameras and lenses. And now they have another store filled with tripods, and studio lighting gear. Most of the graded items have a 6 month warranty, and in all this time I’ve only needed to call on that warranty once. And that lens was back in my hands in under a week, and with a new 6 month warranty! Now that is service!

If you are ever in Tokyo, I highly recommend a visit to Fujiya in Nakano. I’ve seen buyers from KEH in there; every morning there is a queue of twenty to thirty dealers waiting for an hour, to snap up the bargains. But you can still source some fantastic deals. Bought my old Lowepro Trekker there a long time ago – three thousand yen – a bag that at the time retailed around ¥15000. So, happy days.

Under-10 Tokyo Soccer Championship

22 06 2014

Under-10 Tokyo Soccer Championship

…it was a little bit on the wet side. I had a JJC lens raincover in my bag though, first time to use it, and it did the job admirably. Even rotating the lens through 90 degrees for horizontal or landscape shots, as the cover attaches to the lens hood, didn’t make any problem.

a makeshift pipe wrench.

18 04 2014

so, this is a little piece about a problem I encountered with one of the numerous bits of photo gear that I own, and the simple solution that resolved it. 

I have this old rolling studio stand, that the wife insists must be kept in the garage. it’s a heavy old thing, probably steel, with aluminium sections. not terribly large, maybe 6 feet tall at full extension. the legs can be folded for transportation, and therein lay the problem. somehow I had managed to misthread the bolt in the base, that holds the legs in the ‘using’ position. so out came the toolbox and every wrench I own. you know what I am going to write next….yep, none of them had wide enough jaws to grip the head of the bolt.

but what occurred to me was this simple solution – MAnfrotto to the rescue. MA= Mechanical Advantage, right? who was it who wrote ‘give me a long enough lever and I will move the world’? Archimedes I believe, or one of those clever Greek blokes. 

I am, I guess, a bit of a Manfrotto collector. because their stuff works. it’s that simple. take one #122B Adjustable Pole for backlight stand, insert studded end into Super Clamp #035, and tighten. now you have a wrench with jaws opening up to 60mm, and a huge lever. without needing the extra leverage of the second extension, I was able to fasten the jaws of the clamp around the offending bolt head, and move it enough to allow the legs to be collapsed.

now I know you’re thinking ‘yeah, but the bolt is still misthreaded’ well true enough, but the legs can still be used in the rolling position well enough, without need to rotate that bolt. THANK YOU MAnfrotto


the baseball flyer

21 03 2014
shooting one picture for a flyer going to local Little League parents

shooting one picture for a flyer going to local Little League parents

making up a flyer for a local Little League team; we had to borrow the glove and ball, the guy who was going to lend us the bat pulled out. then my kids who promised to model for me decided to bring their friends along to the session. lesson learned: when using a human light stand please ensure they are at least 16 and not in the company of their mates.

used my D1x for this, knowing that the fence surrounding the bb field would have been pretty close to where Rex has to stand. so shooting 1/1000th at F2.8 on the 80-200 – the flash still syncs ok. processing in Perfect Effects. not sure if we’ll be using this one, really wanted a landscape format shot for the flyer

3Tides Tattoo, Harajuku

18 03 2014

3Tides Tattoo, Harajuku

one thing you might decide to pick up while in Japan is a tattoo. I went with my friend Jessica #shethatisnau on Twitter – to the Harajuku branch of 3Tides. she’s an illustrator and had co-authored a design drawing heavily on Lovecraft and the ukiyo-e style

there’s packaging, and there’s overpackaging

6 03 2014

living in Japan for the last 8 years, I have almost become accustomed to the Japanese habit of overkill on the packaging front. at the convenience store, the earnest and gushing staff attempt to bag every single item I buy. ‘would you like a bag for your can coffee?’ (that I will undoubtedly consume immediately, right in front of the shop, so that I can dump the container in their can recycling bin).

it’s overkill right? granted, if there are a few items, I might conceivably need a bag. but usually their bag goes right in the bin (for burnables). so more often than not, I need to protest and say ‘please, I don’t need a bag’. sometimes I might need to say it twice, as if those words don’t register. 

and then there are the overpackaged products. don’t even get me started on those! a packet of biscuits – it comes in a glittering film package….inside the sealed bag we can find another series of sealed bags, each containing a single biscuit! I know that the humidity can get a little overpowering in the summer but really? does the average biscuit buyer open the main bag and then eat a single one every day? 

I suppose that in a way, it’s ‘adding value’ to the product, by making each individual item seem more attractive. not to me! I just want to eat the biscuit…

but this seems to be a good parallel to selling any product – in my case it’s photography. I subscribe to various mailing lists from photographers here in Tokyo. photography ultimately is a product, and I firmly believe that a lot of consumers actually can’t tell the difference between products, so what differentiates one from another is the packaging. in one email I received recently, there was a whole raft of gushing text,  followed by examples of the product (example photos). it kind of turned me off; i thought to myself – there are too many words, what are they trying to hide? – there was nothing wrong with the photos, but the packaging seemed too fancy – perhaps there’s an inverse relationship between the amount of packaging and the quality/value of the product? perhaps not, the company from whom the email originated appear to be catering to ‘strictly high end’ customers, perhaps they appreciate the extra padding.

I looked at my own product and saw that in packaging terms, I was the equivalent of a small plain brown paper bag, or worse still, NO PACKAGING at all! horrors! so I’m wondering if I have made a terrible error. I would be the first to admit that my business skills are nowhere near the level of my photography skills, in all frankness. 

an efficient mass transit in an alien metropolis

1 03 2014


or so it might seem. the decidedly strange architecture of the Big Sight exhibition halls, coupled with the monorail of the Yurikamome Line, pretty much encapsulates Tokyo for a great number of visitors. an estimated 36000 poured through the doors this week, to visit the Smart Energy Expo. wind, solar, fuel cell and battery technologies were all represented.

Fuel Cell in a briefcase

Fuel Cell in a briefcase

solar panels aren't fantastically exciting but at least they have a reflective property

solar panels aren’t fantastically exciting but at least they have a reflective property

at least I know that the exhibitors share my unenthusiasm for black panel displays….they had this soccer guy liven up their display

at least I know that the exhibitors share my unenthusiasm for black panel displays….they had this soccer guy liven up their display

Full picture report over on my website


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