The Cameras that Got Me to Where I Am Today Part 2
June 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment
In 1984 I was visited by a career change. My photojournalism path and I parted ways and I opened a portrait and wedding studio called "Dusty Demerson's Portraits Plus". The Plus was my way of saying that I would take on just about any photography job that included a check. It did not take me long to figure out that larger format prints were much more profitable than 8 x 10s so I had to choose some new equipment. After much deliberation I ended up choosing the Mamiya M 645 with three lenses.
This camera system was fairly lightweight, reliable, and more affordable than the other options at the time. I did get the metered finder which never worked very well. I did like that it had a rectangular format instead of the square Hasselblad format. Eventually I purchased the motor drive which weighed a ton but provided a very useful handle and platform for a shoe-mount flash. This combination became my wedding rig for many years and resulted in my right bicep becoming about double the size of my left one.
A few years after starting the studio I purchased a photo lab in Crested Butte, Colorado. The combination of lab and studio has been my business model since 1987. New equipment became possible with this much-more-profitable business model. The first move was into a larger format camera.
The Wista 45DX was and still is a fabulous camera. I sold mine a few years ago but I still miss using it. My initial purchase included a Nikkor 150 mm lens which is a slightly wide normal for this format. Over time I added a Rodenstock 210, a Schneider 90, and a Schneider 65mm which is incredibly wide and very difficult to use well.
Shortly after adding the 4 x 5 camera I also upgraded the 120 cameras to the Mamiya RB67.
This system really required using a tripod unless you were a Mr. America contestant but the image size, sharpness, and shear intimidation factor of the camera should not be overstated. Add a few stools and two Quantum Qpak battery powered strobes and you had a complete outdoor portrait studio that would scare off all but the most robust competitor. Being able to create 40 x 60 family portraits with no hint of grain was a wonderful added bonus.
As my photographic challenges grew so did my quiver of cameras. My next investment was the true panorama format, Russian made, Horizon 202.
This was one strange camera. It used a slit shutter that panned over almost two normal frames of film. If you photographed moving objects they either got squished or stretched depending on their orientation to the moving shutter. It was kind of fun to play with that effect but as a landscape camera, it was a fabulous first step into panorama photography. My Horizon paid for itself many times over with unique wide format images. It did have its shortcomings though so I upgraded to the Hassleblad XPan.
The XPan is the most expensive camera I have ever purchased. It was based on 35mm film and I used the standard 45mm lens as well as the 90mm lens. The filter to even out the exposure for the 45mm lens was my second most expensive lens. Pretty scary! This camera taught me that Nikon lenses may not be the sharpest available. The Hassleblad optics are beyond compare and are easily the sharpest I have ever used. My XPan was also the most difficult to let go when I sold all of my film cameras. I still miss it sometimes. While I can capture more pixels by panning my digital cameras I still cannot capture a single frame instantly like I could with the Hassy. This wraps up the film cameras that have kept food on my table. The next installment will be the digital cameras.
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