Pentax 67 portraits + Printing negatives in the darkroom!
In this article I share some Pentax 67 portraits and how I printed a few of the negatives in the darkroom. We discuss printing vs scanning and Pentax 67 alternative cameras if you are looking for a 6×7 medium format film camera. Mamiya RZ67, Plaubel Makina 67 etc. YouTube videos linked below.
The famous Pentax 67 camera
If you saw my recent YouTube video, you’ll know I got to shoot a Pentax 67 film camera for the first time, during a workshop I was teaching in The Netherlands. Thanks to Patreon Hidde for letting me try his nice camera! The Pentax 67 is a medium format film camera that shoots 6×7 negatives giving you 10 photos per roll of 120 film. These cameras are well known for their hefty weight but also for the amazing Pentax 67 portrait images. I was keen to try it out!
Pentax 67 portrait lens – 105mm f2.4
If you know anything about Pentax 67 cameras you’ll know of the legendary Pentax 67 portrait lens. The SMC Pentax 67 105mm f2.4 lens. This is the fastest lens available for 6×7 cameras and people list it in the top 3 best ever lenses. Another favourite lens is the Mamiya Sekor 80mm f1.9 lens for the Mamiya 645 system. (I own this lens and still have my Mamiya 645 Super camera. Perhaps now is the time to dust it off for some photos!)
Model photoshoot on film
If you follow my work here or say Instagram you’ll know I’m a hybrid shooter meaning I use both digital and film cameras side by side. Digital photos are my currency that I use to pay models and film photos are my primary interest and for personal work. I don’t shoot film on every shoot but when I don’t I normally regret it after.
When it comes to shooting film with models not every camera suits every model. Some models are happy to do static poses and others prefer flow posing (Ie. they can’t stand still haha). 35mm film cameras such as my Leica M3, Leica R cameras or say a Nikon FE2 are best suited to faster paced work. If you have a patient model that can hold a pose it’s fun to shoot medium format film cameras (or even large format film cameras). I need to get out my 4×5 cameras too!
Pentax 67 portraits
During my Leica workshop in Rotterdam I had a chance to shoot 2 rolls of 120 film in the Pentax 67. 10 photos per roll meant 20 images so I had to make each click count. No pressure! Here are a few of my Pentax 67 portrait images, captured on expired Ilford film. (Note the backing paper mark on some photos).
Photoshoot with the Pentax 67
Watch the YouTube video to see my Pentax 67 photoshoot and all of the resulting photos.
How I work with a model – BTS
To see more photoshoot behind the scenes videos showing how I work with models check out my Patreon. That said, when I was with Peter Coulson he recorded me shooting with Bec for YouTube. You can see that here –
Printing my Pentax 67 portraits (in the darkroom!)
You may laugh, but despite me shooting and developing my own film for over a decade I’ve never printed an image in the darkroom. I’ve just never had access to one and didn’t think I had the space to make one at home. Strangely, I moved from a full sized house in the Midlands to now a small London borough apartment and now I think it’s the right time to make my own darkroom (haha).
Let’s first step back a bit. During my second trip to The Netherlands (more teaching and more photoshoots) Patreon Thomas invited me to bring some negatives to print in his darkroom. I wanted to see how my recent Pentax 67 portraits would look printed so I took those.
Contact sheet prints
One thing in particular that excites me about having a darkroom is making contact sheet prints. I think once you start to shoot larger formats such as 6×6, 6×7, 6×9 and 4×5 you can make nice contact prints of individual images too. A lovely gift to give to a model, family member or a loved one (and potentially small enough to fit in a wallet, handbag etc). I could even print some off as business cards if I stop a stranger in the street and offer to take their photograph! Very cool!
Here are my Pentax 67 contact sheet prints (thanks to Thomas). As I’d shot with expired film the exposure is not great but it gives me a starting point to improve from. I just love the small details too like how you can see the frame numbers next to each image. Something I never really look at when I scan negatives.
My first darkroom prints!
Here are my first darkroom prints! Well they don’t really count as Thomas did the printing not me but it’s the closest so far. These prints were enough to get me excited about making my own darkroom prints so I’m sure I’ll share more as I learn going forward.
First impressions of dark room printing?
Why didn’t someone force me into seeing darkroom printing sooner!? Yes people say how rewarding it is (or not if they’ve moved on to digital only!*) but it’s not until you experience seeing your own negative come to life on the paper that you can really appreciate it. Long before I found photography I was always very creative. I would paint with water colours and acrylics (My late Grandpop taught me, he was an amazing man and so talented), draw, build stuff (scenes and building for Warhammer games) and even make photo greetings cards (one of my earliest attempt to make money with my camera!)
Seeing how you can use your hands to change a photo in the darkroom really excites me (dodge and burning). It’s like a happy hybrid between taking a photo and painting a picture. The difference for me is you make physical art in a darkroom and not just something on your computer screen.
Do you have fond memories of spending hours in your darkroom?
I’m sure many of you reading this could teach me a thing or two about darkroom printing. Feel free to share your best stories/ tips in the YouTube video comments section. One of my recent Leica workshop students just reached out to me and shared this great memory! Thanks John!
“It’s good to see you getting some darkroom experience. I ran a really nice darkroom during my college years and was able to use it when the photography classes I supported weren’t in session. I had it all to myself during the famous blizzard of 1978 in Boston (I had to walk home over 7 miles during the storm when the public transport failed due to the high volume of snow that fell while I was in the darkroom).” – John, United States
A special shout out to Greg Spantelides too! He’s also a whiz in the darkroom. I met Greg via one of my 1:1 zoom calls a few days ago, helping him decide what lens to buy for his Leica M camera. He gave me a few darkroom tips!
Scan or print film negatives?
Print or scan, that is the question? In the online world we live in today electronic images make more sense. If I want to share photos on Flickr, Instagram or YouTube I need to scan my images. Shooting film then scanning afterwards is an analogue-digital hybrid process. In the past I used the Epson v600 scanner but I moved up to a Epson v800 scanner once I started shooting 4×5 negatives. Until now I’ve never printed my negatives in a darkroom so I’ve never enjoyed the full end to end analogue experience.
Now is the time to start (but I do worry where I will find the time to do this in addition to making YouTube videos, writing blog posts teaching workshops etc!) I will continue to scan negatives for sharing on social media but I’m excited by the prospect of mastering darkroom printing and creating one off pieces of art.
See inside the darkroom
If you see my latest YouTube video I share a brief overview of what happens inside a darkroom and printing my Pentax 67 portraits. Thanks again to Thomas for the opportunity. I’m not sure what you’ve started but I think you just opened a big can of excited worms!
Tempted to get a film camera?
Check out the new Buy / Sell Leica page where you can buy and sell Leica including Leica film cameras and other film cameras.
Pentax 67 alternative
I think most people would agree, the best Pentax 67 alternative would be the Mamiya RZ67 (or Mamiya RB67). With the Mamiya Sekor 110mm f2.8 lens you have a similar size and weight camera and similar lens. Other 6×7 cameras to consider include the Plaubel Makina 67, Fuji GF670 and Mamiya 7. All 3 cameras are less suited to shallow depth of field portraits but they do offer a much smaller setup (yet the same large 6×7 film negatives). Click any of the links for sample photos/ full reviews.
I will try to shoot some new film portraits with my Mamiya RZ67.. I’ve not used it for several years.