Buying Camera Equipment and What I've Learned Along the Way_Part II
Continuing on from yesterdays article I returned to study in 1989 to a degree level photography course. The previous 2 years study at the private college was not recognized so I had to begin again at year 1. I needed another camera so I purchased a 60’s vintage Rollei SL66 camera with an 80mm standard and, I think 150mm portrait lens. This was a medium format camera, producing 12 _6x6cm images on a roll of 120 film. The newer versions of the camera, 70’s onwards, were superb. Unfortunately mine was a dog and caused me some grief.
That year I also purchased a 4”x5” large format camera. Rather than the large, heavy and cumbersome monorail version, favored by studio photographers, this was a flat field camera that folded flat. It was lightweight and ease to carry. A beautiful thing all word and brass that I purchased with a secondhand wide-angle lens. It’s the sort of camera where you load a single sheet of 4”x5” film into the camera, composing the image on a similarly sized ground glass screen with a large cloth (ideally black on the inside and white, to reflect the hot sun, on the outside) wrapped around to cut back reflections on the ground glass screen.
Not being terribly competent with the camera I took it on my second overseas trip. Sadly, after arriving in Ladakh following a torrid journey through Kashmir and over the Himalayas, with numerous adventures along the way, the lens packed it in. Unable to have it repaired, I had to carry the whole kit around for the remainder of the 10-week trip. I did make several usable images, a few of which I may still have. I remember, in particular, some shots of a young Korean Buddhist nun I photographed on a rooftop in Leh, Ladakh. It was a romantic notion to be using that type of camera, much like the great early travel photographers such as Samuel Bourne, in India and the middle East, or Timothy O’Sullivan in America. The fact was neither me or the equipment was up to the task.
In 1990 I returned to another 6x6 medium format camera. I wanted a brand new Rollei SL66 kit but, being almost impossible to buy through the Australian agents at that time, I upgraded to a new Hasselblad 500CM. The blad was a good camera, though a little clunky with one or two really weird foibles that had remained with the camera since the original model several decades early. Once again I bought an 80m and 150mm lens. My old boss, John Noyes, was now National Sales Manager at the Australian distributor for Hasselblad cameras. That made the purchase of this expensive new kit somewhat easier. In case you’re wondering he’s retired and those days are long gone.