Review: Tomiyama Art Panorama 6×17

All images by Alastair Bird. Used with permission.

If you think that your full frame mirrorless camera is such hot stuff, consider this Tomiyama Art Panorama 6×17 camera. It’s a panoramic camera that gives you four frames for every roll of 120 film. Photographer Alastair Bird recently finished a video on the camera talking about how awesome it is. Previously, he worked on a conversion of a Polaroid camera to shoot 4×5 film.

The camera has a 90mm lens and has ground glass in addition to focusing. The lens starts out at f8 and goes to f64–which is fairly shallow considering the massive size.

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Essentially you need to focus using the ground glass and a loupe, focus, then load the film, then close up the back and finally go ahead and shoot. It’s kind of backwards in some ways but in other ways makes total sense when working with a camera this compact.

Actually, it was an interesting story – the camera belonged to a friend of mine who was retiring and had it in a Billingham bag in the corner of his studio. I asked what it was and he explained a little about it. I pride myself on knowing about obscure cameras, but I had never heard of this camera, nor had I ever had an opportunity to shoot such a large-format negative. He told me to take it away and try it out to see if I liked it, and I needed no additional prompting.

“One of the many reasons why I love shooting 4×5 and why I think that I get such a high hit rate of keepers when I shoot it is because of the care and attention you need to have when you shoot.” says Bird to the Phoblographer. “At $9 a shot (or more) for colour film, you don’t make too many mistakes, or take too many throwaway photos. Same goes with the Tomiyama.” Bird continued to stated that at 4 frames per 120 roll, one takes great care when one is choosing what to shoot. If you’re off of level when you’re shooting a landscaped you have to correct it means you lose a ton of the image.

“In the end it was a great opportunity to try it out, and I highly recommend shooting film panoramics, but it is a camera I would happily rent from time to time rather than have in my cupboard.”

His video is below, along with more sample images.

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