A Great Big Learning Curve!

I recently purchased a Fujica GSW690, otherwise known as a Texas Leica as it is a rangefinder camera about 4 times bigger than a standard 35mm Leica camera.

Possibly the hardest selfie I have ever taken – the Texas Leica is a little unwieldy one handed!

I have fallen in love with Medium Format photography, I love the clarity, the sharpness and the size of the negatives helps achieve some stunning results.

The GSW has a massive 6×9 negative area which means you only get 8 shots on an entire range of 120 film. You have to be sparing with your shots as 8 shots a roll is expensive!

To put it into comparison, the negatives the Texas Leica produce are 4.5 times bigger than a full-frame sensor (or 35mm negative)!

I had some Kodak Portra 160 which I thought would be a good idea to try as my first roll. I realised afterwards this was probably not the best idea.

It’s a film that prefers bright light and I took it out in less than ideal conditions and also took some shots indoors. My light meter was not happy, giving me very slow shutter speeds which is not ideal for such a massive camera!

Of course, I was itching to try it and went out and took 8 photos in about an hour (I would say I have gotten better but I spent the day out with the Texas Leica today and shot 4 rolls! – probably a personal record (mind you that is only 32 photos!).

The photos came back today, I am not disappointed, I think I could have done better but know where I have gone wrong. I am also intrigued by the focus point of the camera.

As this is a range finder the view from the viewfinder is what you see, the view from the viewfinder. Not the lens. As the lens is to the right you have to adjust your composition accordingly.

Oddly that some of my shots were lined up and some were not. I am not sure whether I was conscious about my composition and this quirk when I took these but I know I was thinking about it today. I’ll have to see how the new films come out to see if I have learnt this particular quirk.

I took the tripod with me today for some of the shots but was not sure if the photos would be ok handheld with the GSW690. Most were shot at 250 or 1/500 and I needn’t have worried as they seem fine.

It’s not that I don’t trust the camera, it is because of the weight! This is a two-handed beast!

These photos won’t win any awards but, I wanted to share them to show what I have managed to achieve with a quick intro session with the Texas Leica.

My first photo had to be of Tilly, of course, this is dark… I used a film that likes bright light! However, the aperture (minimum aperture f/5.6 and a maximum of f/32) does give good separation from Tilly and the background.

Again an overcast day is not great for Portra 160 and I think this photo is underexposed.  I think I may have used my phone light meter app instead of my actual vintage light meter – maybe I should stick with the trusted light meter… I set it to the Fuschia on the right, it appears to have worked as the back of the garden is out of focus.

The appearance of some broken cloud and sunlight meant I could try the film. I set the lens to infinity and took this skyward shot. I think it came out well. Interestingly the print and the scan look fine but at the edge of the negative is the TV Aerial from the neighbours’ rooftop in the bottom corner! You have to be conscious of all of your image when shooting.

This very well may have appeared due to the offset between the lens and the viewfinder… One to note.

In hindsight, the subway to the meadow was never going to come out well with the low light and my film choice but it’s a shot I have taken with every camera I own and I couldn’t help myself!

The rear of the shot at the end of the tunnel is exposed correctly but I think the scanning may have had something to do with the muddy look of this image. 

This is a great example of the composition going haywire. I am sure the square at the end of the subway was in the centre but it clearly isn’t here.

I also remember having to rush the shot as I composed once and didn’t wind the film on. By the time I realised and wound on the film, people were behind me so this may very well be a result of me rushing to take this photo.

With the cost of the film and the development, each photo has cost nearly £4!

I have to learn this (and really wish I had thought about that earlier today before shooting 4 rolls!). ain, lesson learnt.

Now I am into the wood and I like the light coming through the trees. This is mid-afternoon sun and there is a fair amount of contrast.

I do like this photo.

The frame lines and composition come into question though as there is a flare from the sun in the top left corner of the photo.

A landscape shot with Colchester in the distance. The 65mm lens is an equivalent of 28mm in 35mm terms and this is illustrated in this and the next photo. Look at how much sky is in this photo! It’s huge!

Zooming into the original scan is a joy as the water tower in the middle of the shot (Jumbo), has so much detail. You get so much information on a 6×9 negative!

And finally a landscape shot of Colchester from the meadow. A great example of the width of the lens. It feels like I have captured all of the farmers’ field in this one-shot.

Again a little underexposed.

I did take one final portrait shot of Richard in the house but it was particularly dark and did not come out well. I also promised I would not post it so haven’t.

I wish I had seen these photos before I took the GSW690 out today as I may not have taken so many photos.

Who knows, I may have four rolls of great photos and needn’t worry.

I think I am worrying unnecessarily as these photos were not the right film and my first time using the camera (which I did in a hurry as I was excited). I also took some shots with the X100T to a company the GSW690 today and most were pretty crap. I think I need to concentrate on one camera at a time! Maybe I am being too hard on myself, we’ll see in due course.

I do have to find a new developer though as my usual “normal cost” developer is taking a break and the guys I used to develop the film above are expensive.

This was an interesting first roll of film from the Texas Leica. I probably have not gotten the best out of it just yet but I am sure I will in time.

I have decided to switch to 400 ISO film for the foreseeable future as this allows me to shoot around f/11 or f/16 with shutter speeds of 250 or 500. I think all of the shots I took today were with those settings (practically Sunny 16).

I shall just have to wait and see how the new batch come out but for now, I am happy with my purchase and look forward to using the Texas Leica again.


  1. I’ve been toying with the idea of buying a GW690 for the past few months now. Where did you buy yours from if you don’t mind me asking?

    There are lots on eBay from Japanese sellers, but I reckon I can add 20% to the price for VAT and import duty on those.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I got it from eBay. From a Japanese seller. Vivili-Japan was the seller. I have to say I was surprised. The camera is like new and arrived in around 2 days!!!

      Yeah you have to add about £80 for import tax!


      1. Thanks Keith. I’ll check that seller out and see if they have any other GW690s. I’m still having an internal debate whether I *really* need one, or if its just G.A.S. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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