It’s a first and hopefully not the last, that we have a guest blog. Darren Rose is an accomplished creative with a penchant for film photography. His work is very distinctive and one day we would like to talk more about his photography, but for the time being let’s talk about his experience with the ‘Reality So Subtle’ . Without further ado here’s Darren’s review. Enjoy.
I’ve been looking to get a large format pinhole camera for a while, so when I saw that ‘Reality So Subtle’ (RSS) produced a wooden 4×5 Pinhole camera, I jumped at the chance to order one. I own a RSS 6×17 panoramic pinhole and have always been very happy with both the build quality and the results.
I had high expectations for the quality of the camera and I wasn’t disappointed. The wooden finish made a welcome change to the acrylic build of the other RSS cameras. There were some instructions included, but as with most pinhole cameras, this is only an A4 piece of paper – no 300+ page instruction manuals needed thankfully!
Handily, the 4×5 has 2 tripod mounts allowing for portrait and landscape orientations, as well as corresponding built in spirit levels. In addition to this, there are guide markers which can be used to help you when composing by showing where the edges of the frame will be. Again, this applies to both portrait and landscape formats. All of these little features add up to make a very high quality, functional pinhole camera.
The camera also includes additional pinhole for ‘rise effects’ which are ideal for photographing buildings etc… where you do not want your uprights to converge. For those familiar with large format photography, it is the equivalent of rising your front standard. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to put the rise effect to use for the purpose of this review.
Finally, the film holder is held into place by a bar across the back of the camera, which you tighten by hand using the bolts. Once you’ve done that, you’re good to go.
In the field
Using the camera is very easy, as you’d expect. Using the guidelines on the camera allows you to visualise what will be included in the composition. If you haven’t done it before, it takes a bit of practice, but soon becomes second nature. I find this way of composing in some ways comparable to using a rangefinder over an SLR, because you can see what’s outside of your current composition that much easier. Sometimes a shift left or right can make all the difference.
One quick note on composing with the 4×5 – Get close to your subject, then get closer. The camera is described as wide angle, and they weren’t wrong! Couple that with the ability to focus at extremely close range and I don’t think you can ever get too close. This definitely takes some getting used to, and it shows in some of my earlier pictures where I simply didn’t get close enough.
RSS recommend using a mobile app called Pinhole Assist for calculating the exposure times. I’ve been using the app for a while and it is excellent. The RSS 4×5 is listed as one of the built in cameras, then it’s simply a case of picking the film being used. The application also takes film reciprocity failure curves into account which is very handy indeed. Unfortunately, Pinhole Assist is only available on itunes, so it is currently not available for android devices.
The diminutive size of the RSS 4×5 means that it’s still possible to be discreet and unobtrusive whilst using it in a busy public space
I’ve only had the chance to shoot a dozen or so frames, but first impressions are that the RSS 4×5 is another excellent addition to their range of cameras. The build quality is excellent, and it has the signature ‘sharp’ pinhole look that seems to be a feature of RSS cameras. The extreme wide angle will take some getting used to, and this is why I don’t think it will replace my Ondu Multiformat as my main pinhole camera. However, having the option of a 4×5 camera this good, in a package that’s small enough to tuck in your bag, is too hard to resist.
If you would like to contribute to our guest blogs we would love to hear from you. We’re pretty open to just about anything as long as it’s pinhole related.
Fancy giving Pinhole Photography a go? Then why not join us on a workshop in October in Northumberland – Northumberland Workshop
(All images in this article are courtesy of Darren Rose Photography)