View Full Version : Looking for a 617 camera

27-Oct-2011, 11:24
First post guys, I joined after looking for a 617 forum. I guess this is it !!!

I am a Nikon Digital boy for my day job and am now seriously considering the fine art element of using velvia 50 with a wet drum scan. I love the 617 format and am seriously confused about access to these cameras in the UK.

Apart from Linof, and some technical cameras moving into digital backs, everything else is out of manufacture. I understand this is a general move away from film, but I see a lot of comments on Gaoersi, Shen, Fotoman, Art, Fuji etc.

When I search the web or the world (ebay) there seems to be very little unless you want to risk a ship from China.

I am currently not interested in spending 1000's but rather would like a slow entry into the space, focusing on quality and learning. I am based in the UK can anyone offer advice, angles, shops etc that focus on this ?

I am going to be working closely with a panoramic shooter who is going to be training me, and of course he has an angle which tends to be Fuji, but £3000 for a camera seems a little steep on the entry level. or perhaps I am just being cheap and that is all the options I have.

I respectfully look forward to all the responses and views on the thread and appreciate in advance any advice.

Thanks T

E. von Hoegh
27-Oct-2011, 11:30
Why bother buying new, when there is a huge amount of perfectly good used stuff out there?

You might get some argument as to whether or not 6x17 is really large format. Roll film is not usually considered LF, not that that will prevent people responding.

27-Oct-2011, 11:35
I agree, would so prefer to buy second hand but in the UK I cannot find anything other than a sporadic item or two.

I do not know the LF dealers and appreciate Large Format is not roll film but it seems to be discussed here from time to time.

My apologies if I have posted incorrectly, perhaps I am in the wrong place ?

E. von Hoegh
27-Oct-2011, 11:48
Nono. Some folks define LF as 100 square cm. 6x17 is 102. You're good to go, most likely. :)

I've never used 6x17, and am unfamiliar with the cameras available. You can get a 6x12 back to fit a 4x5 view camera, that would give you the option of movements with a panoramic format. You can also get two 4x10 inch transparencies out of an 8x10 sheet, but you might not want to go there.

Sorry I can't be of more help.

Welcome, by the way.

Scott Walker
27-Oct-2011, 12:29
I recall one of the members here having a fuji in the for sale area a short while ago but I dont think you are going to get much if your budget is sub $1,000

John Schneider
27-Oct-2011, 12:41
If you're patient you might find an older 617 (they also made a 624) Art Panorama (usually with 90 Nikkor-SW lens) for around $1k or slightly more.

27-Oct-2011, 12:51
Basically it is massively cheaper to buy a sheet film camera and either use a roll film back or just crop the film. 4x5 (or 5x4 as you say in the UK) is wider than 6x12... and 5x7 is wider than 6x17. So buy a cheap 4x5 and crop for a while. You can even put some 6x17 backs on 4x5 cameras because they extend beyond the normal film plane... but not all 4x5 lenses will cover that much.

All this is MUCH more affordable if you do your own processing and scanning, which I daresay most do here. So access to a darkroom can be very helpful...

One of your classic MPPs in the UK will lay down the same image on film as a Linhof panorama. For pence on the pound.

If you want to use roll film then the 6x12 backs are often sort of affordable. Certainly way cheaper than panoramic cameras.

Check Badger Graphics for a very dependable source for what you are looking for. No risk at all when dealing with them.

27-Oct-2011, 13:53
Just a few other points:

If you plan to use roll film backs, make sure any camera you buy has a "Graphlock" (also known as Universal) back. The ground glass comes out and you replace it with the roll film back.

And, unless you have access to a very good scanner roll film may not give you much versus a great full frame digital camera. Even with a Epson V-700 you can get very good results with 5x7. 4x5 is in the middle... it is just large enough to barely tolerate a consumer grade scanner. Roll film coupled with such a consumer grade scanner is OK for web use and small prints, but not really top grade resolution wise. Back in the optical printing days roll film was often as big/good as you ever needed.

So while everyone has their own views mine is that you need to know you have a good scanning or darkroom printing option to choose roll film as a "better quality than DSLR" choice if all you are looking for is resolution and big prints.

27-Oct-2011, 13:56
I bought a really old Kodak 3A Model C folder from the early 1900s a few weeks ago at a flea market. After doing some research, a lot of people apparently have modded them to use 120 film as a 6x14 panoramic camera. You can swap the lens/shutter on them easily, the hole is correct for a Copal #0 lens.

Just a thought. I know you are overseas but if you find one already converted you might be able to get it sent over there. I'm guessing it would be much less than $1000 even with buying a used 90mm f/8 lens of some sort. You will have to calibrate it to focus at infinity and stop down for DOF (no GG!) but if you are going for cheap...

27-Oct-2011, 15:55
Guys thanks for tips so far. Perhaps I was sounding a little cheap. I said £3000 seemed high, I was more thinking £1500 to £2000 or $2000 -3000 in real money :-) given sterling is worth nothing at present.

The reason I want 617 and more portable is I am looking to travel with tripod camera a lenses so 5x4 is probably too big

Hopefully a little clearer now thanks

27-Oct-2011, 17:18
Then the Fuji is probably the best option. While I have not used the 6x17 the lenses on their 6x9 and 6x7 cameras may have been the best I have ever used.

There is also the Hasselblad X-Pan with smaller film size but greater convenience. It uses multiple frames of width on 35mm film.

Be careful of Velvia... it is a very hard film to tame. Make sure you have tried a bit of Kodak Ektra or Portra before you convince yourself that you need a transparency film. I would think that most fine art LF shooters are now using negative film.

28-Oct-2011, 02:38
ashlee thanks for the follow up input.

I think the fuji GX617 seems to be the top dog and at £2600 its a little over budget currently hence looking for alternatives.

That said to find a Fuji in the UK seems almost impossible and hence i guess they hold their price. Australia seems to have plenty and the price is even worse.

I looked to the US but similar to the UK but of course their are mechanical elements to these beasts that go wrong and so abroad shipment seems a little risky.

Then there is China with the Gaeorsi or something like that. $1000 seems too cheap :-)

I will continue to look and look forward to my training, but I am a little concerned about finding some expertise to chat through :-) Sad lonely life of the photographer.

Brian K
28-Oct-2011, 04:37
I shoot panoramic in a variety of ways. Using 6x12 roll film backs, 6x12 fotoman, and 6x17 Fujigx617.

The easiest way to shoot pano of the three above choices is the Fuji. It has easily and rapidly changeable lenses, unlike the fotoman and other chinese cameras which use a more primitive means, as well as excellent and accurate viewfinders. The work around that I have for the slow lens changing of the Fotoman, is to have 4 bodies each with a different lens attached. Needless to say this adds a fair amount of weight. The only true competitor for the Fuji is the Linhof 617 which is even far more costly.

As I tend to shoot long lenses more often, in spite of the advantages of the fuji, I shoot more with a view camera and roll film back. The longest lens on the fuji is 300mm, on the linhof it's 250mm, I often shoot with a 360mm or even a 500mm on a view camera. So for that reason, and that reason alone, I rarely use the Fuji.

And while it's hard for me to justify keeping the fuji's (I have 2 bodies, one of which has never been used, the 105mm, 180mm and 300mm lenses) because of their lack of use, I find them very hard to part with because they work so well and at this point are incredibly difficult to replace. I fear if I were to sell them, I'd never, ever be able to get them again. I think this is why you find very few available for sale. You'll run into the g617 model, which has a fixed lens fairly often because it is a limited camera, but the gx617 with it's interchangeable lenses are far harder to come across.

From my perspective the only way I'd sell my fujis is if I got offered a price that I couldn't refuse and that's the headwind that anyone looking for these cameras faces.

28-Oct-2011, 05:52
I have traded up from a Fuji G617 to a GX617, and I am very fond of them (I have two bodies, and the four lenses). two things are a bit of a bother: I cannot change lenses mid-film, hence the second body; and I am limited to the four lenses, nothing longer, shorter or in between. They are relatively light, but bulky, keep that in mind for travel.
The viewfinders on the GX617 are great, compared to the old G617, but also to a Linhof Universal or rangefinder viewfinders.
Used Fujis can sometimes be found at LeMoyenFormat in Paris, via their online list: http://lemoyenformat.com/MGWEBOCC.htm. I have done business with them once or twice, and found no reason to complain.

Not yet mentioned as alternative was the Horseman SW617, rare and even more expensive, but with shift and the possibility to change lenses mid-film.

I also have a Burke&James Panoram, a 6x17 camera adapted from WW2 military hardware, originally a "torpedo camera", very heavy and solid.

The 6x17 adapters offered for 4x5 cameras limit your choice of lens, mostly to 90-150mm. There is a 6x17 adapter for 5x7 cameras, but as one of the previous posters mentioned, you need a "Graflock"-style back. The back is 5cm deep, and the springback backs do not open wide enough.

Does anybody know of a metal 5x7 "Graflock" back, or a springback opening wide enough to insert a Shen-Hao 6x17? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Best regards

David Rees
28-Oct-2011, 08:54
There has been a lot of good advice here; however, let me add one extra point that is relevant to your choice of camera: movements.

The dedicated panoramic cameras, such as the Fuji G617 and GX617, do not offer the ability to either shift the lens up or down (to cope with converging verticals), or to tilt the lens (to alter the plane of focus such that objects near and far can be brought into focus simultaneously (depending on what you are photographing). In addition, the dedicated cameras do not easily allow for detailed composition on a ground glass, except perhaps before loading a roll of film.

I thought about this issue quite a bit before deciding what kit to buy. I wanted movements, esp. tilt, and being able to compose each shot on a ground glass was important to me, even though both choices probably mean I have to work at a slower pace (than with a GX617, for example). In the end, I acquired a 2nd-hand 5x4 camera (a Walker 54XL), which has a Graflock back, and a new DaYi 6x17 back (both from eBay). For less than £1,000, I had a system which works for me. Obviously you need lenses; I use Schneider 72mm XL, Nikkor 90mm f4.5, Nikkor 120mm f.8, and Schneider 150mm/180mm/210mm APO Symmar f5.6s. With this option, the choice of lenses is to some extent determined by the 5x4 camera you choose; I can use a 72mm with my Walker in 6x17 configuration, but cannot go beyond 210mm because it was designed as a wideangle 5x4, and has limited bellows draw. The DaYi back will work on any 5x4 with a Graflock back; I have used it successfully on an Ebony 45SU for example, and there could use 270mm and 400 tele lenses on 6x17.

The route I've chosen is relatively cheap to get into, and the kit is readily available. Certainly as one adds lenses, this approach becomes quite a lot cheaper than the dedicated 617 camera route (my lenses cost between £250 and £400, except for the 72XL). In addition, the lenses are much smaller and lighter, which helps my back quite a bit.

Disadvantages--the DaYi back is a solid chunk of metal, a bit rough in construction, and the focusing screen is not the best possible. For the outlay, however, I consider it extremely good value. It certainly works well enough.

I'm based in the UK, in central Scotland; if you would like to talk this over, and possibly view my setup, PM me, and I'll reply with my telephone number.

28-Oct-2011, 14:59
David what a lovely offer I certainly will ping you a PM to chat about this as I am interested in the process and workflow and of course quality rather than the cost. Have just travelled around India with a Nikon d3 and 45mm shift lens I have acknowledge the benefits of shift, not so much tilt yet.

Of course with no viewfinder or way of seeing the shift I am intrigued how this is achieved in the large format or pano?

Speak soon and thanks. T

David Rees
29-Oct-2011, 01:22
Of course with no viewfinder or way of seeing the shift I am intrigued how this is achieved in the large format or pano? [QUOTE]

I realise I neglected to mention something about the DaYi back--it is actually TWO backs! One holds the film; the other is a viewfinder, with a ground glass (?) screen in it.

The workflow is as follows:
1. Mount DaYi viewfinder back onto camera.
2. Compose and focus image, including use of rise/fall, tilts, shilts(left/right) and swing as needed (usually just tilt).
3. Replace viewfinder back with film back.
4. Calculate exposure; set lens controls to match; cock shutter, open dark slide on back.
5. Make the exposure; replace dark slide; advance film.

I hope this makes sense!

31-Oct-2011, 14:12
Thanks again David. I am looking at a Dayi 617, no experience of shipping from China wondered where you got yours ?

If so any pitfalls I need to worry about buying directly from bhcamera.us ??

thanks again

31-Oct-2011, 15:16
Thanks again David. I am looking at a Dayi 617, no experience of shipping from China wondered where you got yours ?

If so any pitfalls I need to worry about buying directly from bhcamera.us ??

thanks again

I'll chime in on this. Bought mine 2 years ago off ebay and shipping from China was easy. You get an EMS tracking # and "the last leg" is USPS so they deliver it to you.


31-Oct-2011, 15:25
Thanks again David. I am looking at a Dayi 617, no experience of shipping from China wondered where you got yours ?

If so any pitfalls I need to worry about buying directly from bhcamera.us ??

thanks again

Adaflex (www.adaflex.com) usually have them. Probably a bit more expensive than ordering from China, although you have to add VAT to the Chinese price including shipping.

1-Nov-2011, 06:20
Ron Cgrab please chime in anytime.

1. where do i get an EMS tracking number ? or is that me being daft ?
2. I look at the french site Ron and no mention of Dayi but the Gaeorsi link is broken haha only one.


Thanks for the comments on Fuji its looking like a lot of paths lead there, but i will need the 300mm for sure so I worry about the longer term format, but I guess I can always walk closer. !!

1-Nov-2011, 07:51
Sorry, I should have been more specific. This is the page: http://www.adaflex.com/pages/chambres_grand_format/accessoires_chambre.htm.

The 6x17 magazine is under the picture of the 6x12:
Dos roll film 6x17 (modèle jusqu'au 72 XL) = 599 €

This is the magazine for a 5x7/13x18 camera, but watch out, it is five centimeters thick and won't fit under many springbacks.

The EMS tracking number is automatically issuer to the sender of EMS mail items. He, in turn, will usually forward it to you by mail. On the EMS website, you can then follow your parcel. The same applies to DHL or UPS.


Steve Barber
1-Nov-2011, 08:52
I use EMS, every chance I get. Never had a problem. The Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers I have used have been very good to deal with. For tracking, this should work:


David Rees
1-Nov-2011, 10:22
Thanks again David. I am looking at a Dayi 617, no experience of shipping from China wondered where you got yours ?

If so any pitfalls I need to worry about buying directly from bhcamera.us ??

thanks again

This is what I bought. Takes a week or two to turn up, and it's been so long since I purchased mine, I cannot be sure who supplied it to me, but I've found buying from China fine in the past.