If you haven’t read part 1 where I gave my initial impression of the RealitySoSubtle 6×12 (RSS 612) pinhole you can read it here.
With first impressions out of the way it was time to take the pinhole into the field and what better way to do that than to take it on a trip to North Wales. I went on a long weekend trip with some photography buddies, one of which has recently purchased a RealitySoSubtle 6×6 and I’ve seen some great results from that so expectations were already set high.
Before I set off for Wales I watched a video that James Guerin provided a link for that demonstrates the procedure for loading film in one of his curved plane pinholes (video shows it done on a 6×17). I decided to load mine with some Ilford Pan F as I love the fine grain and the longer exposures it gives during the day. Looking at the film path it follows it looks rather fiddly having to thread the film around and in between spindles whilst ensuring the film remains flat against the curved plane. I’ll admit my first attempt was rather fiddly, fortunately I have small hands so I found putting my fingers through the main chamber rather than the spindle sides was easier. I wouldn’t like to be changing this in the field with wet/windy weather as you have to make absolutely certain the film is flat against the curved plane and my first 2 rolls took me approximately 1-2 mins to change at home. I would guess with time I’d be a little more confident and efficient with my loading. The most awkward part of the loading procedure was coaxing the film leader around the first spindle, even when I bent it to help it was difficult. One idea would be a curved guide on the back of the front plate so when the leader hits this it is forced to bend back on itself and naturally come between the spindles. Once around the first set of spindles pulling the film along the curved plane is very simple and getting it around the last set of spindles was relatively painless as was seating the receiving spool. Next I approximately positioned the winding knobs to line up with the slots in the spools and placed the lid back on with ease and clamped it shut.
With the film in and the lid locked down I wound on to the first frame. The knobs turned smoothly and the back pressure from the supply spool didn’t cause any issues when lining up the number centrally in the red window. I will say I had difficulty seeing the number through the red window, possibly down to the window having a deeper recess compared to the 6×6, but it makes it darker.
The RSS 612 balanced nicely with my tripod, weighing ~800g a similar weight to a DSLR, it felt like a solid setup. Composing with the RSS 612 was a joy, using the etched guidelines on the body helps but I found the ones on the side to be a little obscured by the clamps. I much prefer looking through a viewfinder card as it helps with visualising and it also saves the inconvenience of getting out the pinhole every time I see something with potential. Here’s one I made earlier.
You’ll notice the 3 dots in the window, they represent the thirds of the frame and centre point so I know which shutter is better suited.
Using the spirit level I make sure the set up is level & parallel to my chosen subject before calculating the exposure. My method for starting and ending exposures may differ to how others do it, but I find this method ensures sharper results as there is less vibration. I carefully slide back the chosen shutter ensuring my finger blocks the actual pinhole as I slide it to the open position. When I’m ready to start the exposure I remove my finger and when complete I do the reverse. The shutter slides very smoothly and when returned it has a firm click due to the magnetic lock.
I knew I may have issues with winding on and I did. As I’ve mentioned above the visibility of the frame number is hampered by the deeper recess in which the red window sits and with the window being made of plastic it’s clarity isn’t perfect. A couple of times I wound past the number I needed and had to wind backwards which raised the question of which way do I wind it? The advancing knob has an arrow indicating the direction in which to wind to hit the next consecutive number, but there isn’t one on the supply spool side in the event of backwinding. Another arrow may cause confusion, but I think it’s better than unwinding the film in the pinhole. Instead I advanced it a little to check the direction it unwound from the supply side and then reverse wound to go back to the appropriate frame number I missed. With that experience I can say you have to wind it in the opposite direction to the arrow on the receiving spool. I only had this issue with Ilford Pan F as the font for the numbering is quite thin/light compared to the Fuji Acros I used later which is very bold and visible even in poor light.
As I approached the last 2 frames of the roll the pressure on the receiving spool increased, it didn’t cause any sticky moments I advanced the supply spool slightly to relieve some pressure and applied a little more pressure to the receiving spool and it wound on perfectly. The finished roll was wound in tightly and easily removed.
No camera or pinhole is going to be perfect, everyone has personal preferences and I’m no different. Here are the observations I made from my first couple of rolls run through it:
- Loading film – although I would chalk this up to experience loading around the first set of spindles is a little difficult as there’s not much space to get your fingers in to pull it back and through the gap between the spindles. Perhaps some sorted of guide could’ve been fixed to the inside, but of course it would increase the risk of scratching the film’s surface as it passes through. A removable solution maybe possible and if my technique doesn’t improve I will probably look further into it.
- Film counter window – I found this to be difficult to look through to see the numbers and on two occasions I wound past the required number. In one instance I had to shine a light on the window to see the number. However I did find the Fuji Acros font to be very visible through it. It may benefit from having the recess chamfered or having a clear window similar to what the Ondu pinhole offers.
- Compositional Guidelines – these are a little obstructed by the clamps.
I do believe these issues will improve the more I use it and they certainly don’t affect image quality.
The moment you’ve been waiting for is here. Below are a couple of images from my first roll. I will add some from the second roll once I’ve had it developed.
It’s interesting how the horizontal lines in the foreground bow even though the pinhole wasn’t tilted. I assume this is down to the curved film plane.
Given how close I was to the subject it’s amazing how much you can fit in the frame. One thing I’ve noticed though is you need to take care which pinhole you open because if you get a little too close you risk losing the top or bottom.
I thoroughly enjoyed using my RSS 612 and it’s reinvigorated my pinhole photography. Being restricted to a 6×6 frame can make some compositions very difficult to work and having the 6×12 gives me that flexibility and I’m able encompass sweeping vistas which I feel I’ve been missing from my pinhole portfolio. I think the next step for me is to try some colour film to see how it performs. My testing & experimenting of this pinhole will continue for some months so please do follow my progress. I will post results via Twitter & Flickr
Thanks to Andrew Atkinson for taking a couple of pictures of me using my RSS 612 in North Wales (see above).
Refer to the “caveats” section of the blog, I’ve since found that loading the film is considerably easier if you place the pinhole face down so gravity helps you get the leader of the film to the front spindle. If you fold over the leader rather than bending it is also easier to turn around the first spindle and grab before running it along the curved plane.
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