Welcome to photo-i if you’ve just dropped in to read this review. I’m Murray Foote. I’m an amateur photographer with large-format experience and a frequent contributor to the photo-i forum. As far as I can tell, I’ve just become the first person outside China to purchase the new Gaoersi 6x17 panorama camera.
I purchased this camera for the quality of image that it offers and because I’m familiar with the processes it requires. I intend to use it with the new Fujichrome Velvia 100 which has very fine grain (and is not to be confused with Velvia 100F). I’m intending to scan the slides on a Canon 9950F using Silverfast AI Studio, use the Vignette filter in Photoshop CS2 as a substitute for a centre filter, correct for perspective where required using the Photoshop Lens Correction Filter and print to an Epson R1800 (A3+ roll). I’ll still have the film if I need a higher quality scan in the future.
A lot has been written in recent times about the death of film and the triumph of digital. For many the epitome of a high quality digital camera is the 16MP Canon 1Ds Mk2. Yet here is a film camera from China that can actually offer superior quality at a fraction of the cost. There are other 6x17 panorama cameras out there but the new price for this one is cheaper than the second-hand price for the others.
Sure, you can stitch panoramas together but it’s not a route that appeals to me for ultrawide images where objects may be moving and the apparent density of the sky may vary. To use even a Canon 1Ds Mk2 as a substitute for a direct image you have to throw away nearly half the image to achieve the aspect ratio which leaves you with a less than 9MP. Moreover the resolution of large format lenses will be much greater at this format that 35mm/ DSLR lenses.
Of course, the devil is in the detail. This is not a camera for everyone. This is a totally manual camera with no concessions to automation that is suitable only for experienced photographers who are also used to manual techniques. The camera comes as body only, including an adaptor and viewfinder for a lens that you specify and supply. It would help to have large format experience and it would be more economic to already have suitable large format lenses.
Large format? What’s that? Well just as digital sensors have different sizes, film comes in different sizes too. Nikon and many other film cameras use the 35mm film format (24x36mm), Hasselblad is an example of a medium format film camera (using 120 film at 6x6cm) and then there are the view cameras that look like they came straight out of the nineteenth century using sheet film with sizes of 9x12cm or 5x4 or larger. The Gaoersi uses 120 film but it is better thought of as a large format camera. This is because the 6x17mm film size is almost the same area as 9x12cm and because you need large format lenses to use it.
There’s really only one reason for buying this camera – and that’s if you want to have the capacity to print really big prints, because that’s ultimately where the advantage of a dedicated panorama camera lays.