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Fuji 617

by Philip Greenspun, 1997


The Fuji 617 is a big box with a 5x7" view camera lens in front and a pressure plate for 120/220 film in back. The angle of view from the 105mm f/8 lens is about the same as a 24mm lens on a Nikon but it is spread across a glorious 6x17 cm (2.25 x 6.5") of film. Load up some Ektar 25 and you can do a wall-size enlargement that will bear close-up scrutiny of any portion.

My number one complaint with this camera is that the focusing helical will only rack the lens far out enough for sharp focus at 3 meters. Thus, one can't do the kind of near-far shots that wide-angle lenses are best suited for. Even stopping the lens down to f/45 only brings objects at 1.9 meters into adequately sharp focus.

Sometimes a helical just isn't a substitute for a bellows.

Framing the picture exactly in the camera-top finder is tricky, especially if you are an eyeglass-wearing geek like myself. Fuji provides some clever mechanical alignment aids and a fluid level, but you still don't quite know what you have until you get back from the lab. I understand why some people get a ground glass for the back so that they can frame their images more precisely. You only get four shots on a roll of 120 so having to open the back to frame every shot isn't a big deal.

Results are incredibly sharp and detailed, however. Velvia looks glorious on a light table and even Fuji 400 negative film looks beautiful in 10x30" proofs. It is very difficult to get this kind of quality out of a view camera because the film is so much thicker and doesn't lie flat in the film holder.

I paid $2200 for mine "virgin used". It showed 5 on the shutter counter on the bottom of the camera, which means that 50 exposures had been made. (The big Fuji cameras have exposure counters because big leaf shutters like these need periodic service.) The price included a center filter, hard case, lens hood, cable release, and manual. I considered it excellent value because the new Fuji (GX-617) with interchangeable lenses costs more than $5000 for the body and a 105/8 lens.

Probably the toughest thing to figure out with the camera is what to do with the output. Magazines can reproduce from the big chromes with no problem. If they scan, they'll use a drum scanner which can handle the big negs or chromes. However, you can't even make prints yourself unless you have a rare 5x7" or 8x10" enlarger. One theoretically nice option is ABC Photo's develop and proof from C41 negative film. They've set up an automated line which keeps the cost per roll including processing to about $36. The 10"x30" proofs are impressive and they'll make machine reprints for $6-10 each depending on quantity. Call them at (703) 369-2566 and let me know how they work for you. I've had mixed results. A promising lab that I haven't tried is run by the folks who import Roundshot camera. Their Web site ( www.roundshot.com) says that they will proof 617 to 4x12" prints for $6 each (so the cost of developing and printing a roll of 120 is about $30). They will make 20x60 reprints for $95 (prices as of November 1998).

Don't plan on putting these images on the Web. Kodak's biggest scanner for making ProPhotoCDs can only handle up to 4x5" chromes. A drum scan will cost you $75. If you are going to go the desktop scan route, you'd probably be better off using a Nikon, 24mm lens, PhotoCD, and cropping.

Gallery

I'm still trying to figure out the best way to present the 600 MB scans I have from this camera. But to whet your appetite, here are a couple done in-line...

Readers' Comments


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BRUCE S. EDWARDS , June 04, 1997; 12:00 P.M.

IN THE 617 FORMAT YOU MIGHT LOOK FOR AN ART PANORAMA 617. THIS WAS SOLD BY HELIX IN CHICAGO WHEN I WORKED FOR THEM. IT IS A LESS SOPHISTICATED VERSION OF THE 617 CAMERA BUT IT HAS A BELLOWS SEAL BETWEEN THE BODY AND THE LENS MOUNT. I OWM ONE BUT I HAVE NEVER TRIED TO DO EXTREME CLOSE UP. THE FOCUSING RING IS MARKED AT LESS THEN ONE METER. IT COMES WITH A GROUND GLASS THAT IS BEST TAPED TO THE FILM RAILS BUT DOES ALLOW EXACT COMPOSING. MINE HAS A 90 MM NIKKOR LENS BUT IT COULD BE ORDERED WITHOUT ANY LENS IF YOU WANTED TO MOUNT ANOTHER LENS YOU ALREADY OWN. ONE CAUTION, IF YOU DO DEAL WITH HELIX, REMEMBER THE STORE IS NAMED AFTER THE SCREW THREAD !

Pll Stefnsson , November 27, 1997; 06:57 A.M.

The new GX617 is a BIG inprovement from the old one. To have lenses up 300mm opens a new kind of view to panarama photography. There is also a lot of improvements, the separete viewfinders. They are as good as a viewfinder can get. But the lenses does not have a film counter but i have taken more than 4000 frames on my 180mm lens and the lens is in perfect cond. Also you have a focusscreen to put on the camera to make a perfect focus special, useful with the 300 mm lens. What is the main use of camera like this, travelling even with 4 lenses it4s not heavy, differnt images for HQ magazines and BOOKS.

Even, that i like more the 6X12 formar. it4s more useful for use, i use my Fuji a lot mor than my Linhof. It have mutch faster handling, and the viewfinder in the Linhof camera is not as good as on GX617.

Alfonse Pagano , February 24, 1998; 07:58 A.M.

Phil I enjoyed your little ditty regarding the Fuji 617 I have been using mine for the past year, I am a wedding g photographer ( pretty non traditional I must say ) and the fuji has become an essential part of my repertoire and at times a bit insane to use. Basically. 75% of the time I have been hand holding the camera so light , shutter speed and depth of field of course are the issues. I guess the most frustrating aspect of using the 617 is zone focusing especially when trying to capture action shots ect. All in all when she works...... brilliant, when she don'e ah well.... anyway, thought I'd share all that with you. and any others that may be using the 617 in such an unconventional way. AP

Jim Behan , February 28, 1998; 01:37 P.M.

Using my Linhof 6x17 I have had no problems getting my pictures on the Web. I use negative film and have a contact sheet made. I then scan the images in with my own scanner. If you need the image in slide format shoot 120 negative film then re-load with Slide film. Any one who has a panoramic camera should join the I.P.P.A at panphoto.com

John Gateley , May 24, 1998; 12:23 P.M.

We've had no problems showing work from 6x17 cameras, Fuji, ArtPan, or V-Pan on our website. We use an Arcus flatbed scanner with transparency adapter and scan from prints, transparencies and negatives. If the final output requires it, a drum scan is sometimes required. Some of these images can be seen at: http://www.pansnw.com

John Gateley

Ben Jackson , August 24, 1998; 12:09 A.M.

Probably the best way to get web-quality scans of large negatives like those is with a transparency adapter for a regular desktop scanner. This is basically a lightbox that replaces the top flap and can instruct the scanner to turn off its internal light. HP makes some scanners (and adapters) that can probably get within a factor of 2 of the grain of the film. Even that will be far and away more resolution than you need for the web.

BTW, if you can get scans of your negatives, there's a clever technique that you can use to merge two shots with different focal planes (for near/far shots), see http://www.sgi.com/grafica/depth/

Liz Hymans , November 11, 1998; 09:34 P.M.

As a professional panoramic photographer, I like the Fuji 617 with the 105mm lens a lot. It is the main gun in my arsenal. When I want versatility, I use the afore-mentioned V-Pan, for which I have lenses ranging from 90mm to 720mm. The new 300mm lens on the new panoramic Fuji is just not long enough for some of those special shots of mountains and dunes.

If you want website scans, I recommend sending your 617 transparencies off to the New Lab, 651 Bryant, San Francisco, CA, 94107, 1.800.526.3165 and getting an 8" x 10" contact "Pictrostat" print for around $11. You can get 4 transparencies on such a page. Fast, cheap, good quality. Better if you lump together similar exposures.

Another good pan camera is the Noblex 150 U. It rotates 140 degrees and yeilds a 2 1/4" x 5" transparency/negative. 6 pictures per roll of 120. Shutter speeds from 2 seconds to 1/250, variable apertures and focussing. Max dof is about 1 meter to infinity.

If you're still interested in more panoramic information, see the International Association of Panoramic Photographers website at http://panphoto.com/index.html

The Fuji and Noblex are good for aerial work; the V-Pan is totally unsuited for aerials. No viewfinder, even.

Jim Chow , April 07, 1999; 12:14 A.M.

I use the Fuji G617 w/ 105/8 Fujinon and am happy with it. I did notice that a company in Tokyo makes Art Pan panorama cameras. They make 6x17, 6x24, and 6x17 filmbacks for 4x5 cameras. With their 6x17, you can use any LF 90mm lens. The 6x17 filmback has a filmplane 2-3 inches behind the 4x5 film plane. It only works with 90-180mm lenses, but at least you can use movements with these lenses unlike most panorama. The 6x17 filmback w/ groundglass is heavy.

Lakhinder Walia , January 06, 2001; 01:44 A.M.

The Linhof Technorama 617s, which is the counterpart of Fuji G617 is a bit different (from G617): the viewfinder comes off, and one can compose just using it, and decide when/where to shoot. The bubble does not align to the horizon, but it actually works perpendicular-- it helps in keeping the film plane vertical and therefore no lens tilting. The bubble is visible in the viewfinder. The lens is 90 f/5.6 --with 82mm filter thread, I was told. I think the camera has same film transport mechanism as the newer model with detachable lenses--Technorama 617 S III.

Chip Farris , November 03, 2001; 06:00 P.M.

As a professional panoramic photographer utilizing a 10" Cirkut and a FUJI G617 for 15 years I have found an incredible lab of whom I give all of my work to. $6.00 (10" X 30"s), 24 hour turnaround and super customer service. It's not my lab. I appreciate this forum photo.net has provided and don't want to turn this into an ad, but just thought others looking for procressing may be interested. If so give me a call or e-mail me.(602) 790-4840 Cell

Chip Farris/Signature Panoramics/ cbfarris@mindspring.com

Terry Wagner , February 26, 2002; 03:45 P.M.

I have just purchased a used Fujinon 6X17 and did so after much thought and comparison of the Fuji to other models. I couldn't afford the newest model of the Fuji with the interchangeble lenses and got my older model with the fixed f8 105mm lens for less than the price of the newest model body alone. Two comments:(1) I selected the Fuji model for the wide range of shutter speeds available, from B to 1/500 second and, also, an accetable range of f stops. As a long-time 35mm camera user, this was a natural application for me. (2) I am amazed at the viewfinder. I can accept the need to work with the composition of a planned picture, and realize that I am not blasting off a roll of 35mm flim with a motor drive, but for the life of me, I do not see why Fuji could not have improved the camera by supplying a viewfinder that shows the picture you take. I would even accept a portable viewfinder that adjusts for distance settings and paralax to approximate 100% of the picture to be taken without the need to buy a ground glass adapter. This viewfinder "flaw" (in my opinion) is not uncommon with cameras today. My Pentax 6X7 is a simple and great camera to use, but that "aprox 80%" viewfinder display drives me nuts when I compose!!. (Yes I do know that if I take off the viewfinder and look at the focusing screen there is the "real" picture, but I continue to ask myself, "WHY?!". I applaude Nikon SLR's and other models that have viewfinders that show 100% of the picture you take; "what you see is what you get", so simple it borders on genius. I do wish Fuji had improved the viewfinder, and think I can make my own viewfinder adapter to improve it. Also, I love the "level" seen in the viewfinder, but if you tape a white strip of paper below the level at the site of composition of the lower portion of the picture, VOILA, you can actually see the composition position in conditions of lower light, and with eye glasses on. Why didn't Fuji think of this? I still love the camera!!

Olivier Truan , September 11, 2002; 08:35 A.M.


Looking for the ultimate panoramic camera? Shift - tilt - groundglass? Interchangeable lenses from 47mm to 800mm? Multiformat from 6x6 to 6x17? http://www.gilde-kamera.de/

Fabian Gonzales , September 18, 2003; 11:41 P.M.

I have owned the Fuji G617 for two years now. It's a fine camera, but if you are thinking of buying one, be aware that the viewfinder is indeed very poor, as mentioned by Philip.

It's pretty much impossible to get an accurate idea of what the camera will record by using the viewfinder, especially when photographing at close range, when the camera "aims low", due to the lack of parallax correction in the viewfinder.

Since the camera is much narrower in the vertical direction than the horizontal, this tends to have a dramatic effect, as the margin of error is much smaller in the vertical direction, and I have had quite a few shots ruined.

Ed Araquel , April 17, 2007; 02:10 P.M.

I just picked up a Fuji G617 for a good price yesterday but it doesn't come with the lenshood or the center ND filter. Is there a third-party ND filter that I could buy for this beast? I see that there's a 77mm center ND filter from Heliopan but I don't know what the G617 actually requires. Anyone know?

Matt Abinante , July 11, 2007; 01:44 A.M.

Fuji provided a 77mm 1 stop centerfilter at the time of production.(nd 2x) Heliopan offers one but it's not cheap.

Image Attachment: fujind2x.JPG

Stefan Lindgren , July 12, 2007; 01:21 P.M.

If you fancy 6x17 photography but are on a budget, why not try to build your own camera. It could be as easy as putting the lens on a wooden box of the correct dimensions up to more or less advanced projects like this one: http://www.stockholmviews.com/diyphotogear/index.html [IMG]http://www.stockholmviews.com/diyphotogear/Diy_6x17_camera/diy_6x17_camera.jpg[/IMG]

Stefan Lindgren , July 12, 2007; 01:21 P.M.


If you fancy 6x17 photography but are on a budget, why not try to build your own camera. It could be as easy as putting the lens on a wooden box of the correct dimensions up to more or less advanced projects like this one: http://www.stockholmviews.com/diyphotogear/index.html

Andrew Prokos , September 08, 2007; 02:56 P.M.

No the Heliopan filters are not cheap at all, mine cost me $250 used and it took a lot of work to find. I still avoid using it at all costs as i find that while it corrects the vignetting it imparts a color cast to the center of the image which I don't like. Panoramic photography is quite expensive in both the cost of the equipment and the film consumption, but there's nothing like the razor sharp huge panoramic fine art prints that you can make from a 7" wide piece of film. I use mine to photography cityscapes, skylines and landscapes mostly using Velvia or Provia chrome film. Panoramic photography is very demanding and difficult to master but the results are often incredible.

Thakur Dalip Singh , February 10, 2008; 01:43 P.M.


Abstract

Pl tell is fuji 617 and Noblex 150 really hand holdable, particulary for aerial photography? There lenses are slow and shutter sped will also become slow which will create shake and unsharpness?

keith Hamlyn , April 15, 2008; 08:19 P.M.

I've recently bought a Tomiyama 617 Artpanorama and have been having issues with on both sides of the image about a quarter in from the edge, it seems about a stop behind the centre of the image. I presume this is vignetting. Is this common for the 617 cameras? And do they all need a centre If i can attach an image you'll see what i mean

Image Attachment: King of the sand castle.jpg

john rogers , January 08, 2009; 10:53 P.M.

Hi I am curious if anyone on this thread would happen to know what lab Chip Farris was talking about in his post on 11-03-2001. I know it is pretty dated but would like to find out whether they are doing business. Chip's email is obsolete but I will try his cell tomorrow and see if that is still active. Any help would certainly be an invaluable resource for me and maybe others. Thanks

Kris Pletan , January 12, 2009; 11:52 P.M.

I just got a system and am wondering if I need the focusing screen or not, it didn't come with it. Anyone have any opinions?

john rogers , March 23, 2009; 01:08 A.M.

Hi Kris, If you are speaking of the fuji, then I would have to say no, with one exception. If you are shooting some closeups, then I would want a focus screen. I have shot a good bit with the 90 and 180 lenses and have the focus screen but have only placed it on the camera to just see how it stays in place and to view a couple of scenes. I didn't need to focus with it though! If I had needed to do that, I know I would have had to use a focusing cloth as well!

Tom Aellis , November 12, 2009; 09:18 A.M.

As far as the labs are concerned for this you should send to Richards photo lab in Hollyweird. They are the finist and will dev/scan this neg.

Next, the newer Chrome Lab in D.C. is getting very good words.

A hasselblad scanner, even the orig. Flextight Photo scanner (which I'm selling now with a hassy wty) would scan this with the right holder.

yaal Herman , October 10, 2011; 10:09 P.M.

i am using a fotoman 617. this camera is very simple, but by replacing to a longer helicoid and adding back spacers i can use my lenses up to their recommended 1:3 ratio. take a look at: www.gallery.yaalherman.com

Bob Ross , January 05, 2012; 09:51 P.M.

I can't seem to find the definitive answer to this question....

Is a ground glass focusing screen available as an optional item for the G617?

Thanks,

Bob

Dan Nork , February 17, 2012; 12:05 A.M.

I have had a Fuji G617 for years. The viewfinder is 99% accurate for me (mostly landscapes) but when I need to know exactly what will be on the film (rarely but once in a while I do) I just put a piece of vellum paper into the film plane for a focusing screen and use a darkcloth to cut the light down enough to see. Works just fine to see what I need and is much much cheaper than the groundglass that hasn't been available since the 90s anyway.

joe casey , July 29, 2012; 05:28 P.M.

Bob, you can purchase a focus screen separate for the Fuji G617 and GX617.  They are available sometimes on Ebay or through Adorama or B&W out of New York.  Between $200 and $400 on average for the ground glass back.  Don't forget to pick up a focusing cloth.


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