Followup to my Dear Santa essay, with my three picks for watches, I hinted at a camera being in the wishlist too…and indeed it was. And it has already been delivered by Santa. Presenting, the new, to me, Sinar X with Nikkor W 180mm f/5.6 large format camera.
TGIFridays: Santa delivers! New (to me) Sinar X with Nikkor W 180mm f/5.6
A brief one this Friday, as we prepare for the Christmas celebrations this weekend. I wrote about large format cameras some months ago, with my encounter using and shooting with a Sinar P at Crisp Contrasts Photography Studios, who represent me for professional photography. In that episode, I used a Sinar P with a Phase One digital back to photograph a watch, and attempted to use the Scheimpflug principle to ensure the entire watch is in focus. It was quite the exercise. One which took the entire afternoon. But one which was very much fun to do. Read about that in the linked article. At the end of the article, I expressed the germ to entertain the thought of buying a Sinar X which has become available in the Singapore market.
Like watches, the Sinar X kept popping into my consciousness. Even as I left for a family vacation to Japan, I kept thinking of the camera. As I was in Tokyo, I took the opportunity to visit the pre-owned camera stores, and had a better feel of the pricing that was offered to me back in Singapore.
When I returned, I bit the bullet, and made an offer to the seller. And I became the proud owner of the Sinar X large format camera. My Crisp Contrasts article has a fairly detailed discussion on the Sinar line of modular cameras. But as a short overview, Sinar began manufacturing the Norma as a modular camera in about 1948. This modularity concept pre-dates perhaps the most famous of modular cameras – the Hasselblad 1600F and 500C which appeared somewhere in the early 1950s. The Norma was updated in 1970 with the Sinar P, P for Perfection – a rather daring name selected for the monorail studio camera. But the P remained true to its namesake. It was perfect. Almost. It was revised in 1984 as the P2, which saw small ergonomic changes and a switch from a silver to black anodised aluminium for the body. The X was introduced as a strip down version of the P2 in 4×5 format somewhere in circa 2000. I have an B&H catalog from 1999 which lists the X. And the camera which I now own is probably from about 5 or 8 years into the model production.
The lens I have selected is the Nikkor W 180mm f/5.6 lens. 180mm is somewhat a medium long normal lens for 4×5 large format, roughly converting to about 60mm in full frame. A more popular focal length is perhaps 150mm, and sometimes a longer 210mm, which I used with the P in Crisp, is useful in the studio and can double up as an excellent portrait lens. My Nikkor W lens comes in a Copal 1 shutter, and has a widest open aperture of f/5.6 to the smallest f/64. This is typical of large format lenses, and f/5.6 widest open is considered fast. Shutter speed goes from 1/400s to 1s, and Time and Bulb. Electronic sync to studio strobes via the X-sync terminal is available at all speeds.
I performed a speed test on the shutter, and it is consistent, but not accurate. At 1/400s, the fastest shutter speed, it is slow by about a stop, clocking in at an average of about 1/250. It progressively gets more accurate till 1s, when it is only 10% out. Mechanical shutters are notoriously inaccurate, with shutter manufacturer Copal saying that +/-30% is within specifications for large format shutters when it leaves the factory new. Negative film is quite tolerant of over exposure, so it’s not too bad. Slide film is a bit more sensitive to incorrect exposure, but as long as the shutter is consistent, this can be managed. 1/400s is not a usual large format shutter speed. For example, the behind the scene shown below, the exposure was measured at 1m 3s at f/16, ISO 50. And after correcting for film reciprocity failure, the shutter was open for 3m 48s.
For now, I will be shooting 4×5 film. And to do that I bought 5 Fidelity Elite 4×5 film holders. Each holder has two sides for two sheets of film. Later, I intend to buy an adapter with bellows for my GFX 50S II, and can play with table top macros in digital.
So now, I already have my Christmas present for 2022, delivered by Santa two weeks before the 25th. I will leave the full review of the Sinar X for later. This is a very large, heavy and complicated system camera, and I need some time to familiarise myself with the operations, but the 20 steps outlined in my last article serves as a reference. For now, just this story on my acquisition. I am really excited about the new camera, and have taken it out for two photoshoots. A portrait session with my family with strobes, and a night cityscape shoot. Both sessions were taken with 4×5 film, and to date, I have just exposed 6 frames. As a practice film, I have chosen the inexpensive Shanghai GP3 black and white rated at box speed of ISO 100. I will attempt to develop the film myself, and scan it with my Hasselblad H3D-39 or GFX 50S II with HC 4/120 for digital consumption. I have just ordered the chemicals for film development as well as a Stearman Press SP-445 daylight development tank for this. And will share the process of shooting, developing and scanning here in due time. For now, let me go shoot some more film!