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Roger Hicks -- Author of The Rangefinder Book

Roger Hicks is a well known photographic writer, author of The Rangefinder Book, over three dozen other photographic books, and a frequent contributor to Shutterbug and Amateur Photographer. Unusually in today's photographic world, most of his camera reviews are film cameras, especially rangefinders. See www.rogerandfrances.com for further background (Frances is his wife Frances Schultz, acknowledged darkroom addict and fellow Shutterbug contributor) .


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Half frame, Lomography and digital
Old 04-25-2014   #1
Roger Hicks
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Half frame, Lomography and digital

The classic objection to half frame is that there are "too many" negatives on a roll: that "no-one" wants to shoot 72 pictures.

Both digital and Lomography have shown that people are in fact willing to shoot enormous numbers of pictures. Why should this not presage a resurgence of half-frame?

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Old 04-25-2014   #2
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A good point Roger, may be the price of half frame cameras such as Pen might put people off, unless someone/company produces a new cheap half frame camera
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Old 04-25-2014   #3
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As it happens, I'm awaiting the first film back from processing from my recently acquired Chaika. Not 72 frames though, a 12-shot expired Superia from my 'fridge batch of 'tester' film .
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Old 04-25-2014   #4
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Unlike digital though, it's 72 shots before seeing the first one, rather than ongoing chimping or otherwise inspecting the results.

Also, I'm not really, truly satisfied with the image quality of 35mm, so I certainly would not be happy with half of that.
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Old 04-25-2014   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lxmike View Post
A good point Roger, may be the price of half frame cameras such as Pen might put people off, unless someone/company produces a new cheap half frame camera
Being recently a bit 'into' FSU gear, I find the Chaika not too expensive if you don't mind second-hand. The lens is quite decent, better than the lenses on the late-generation film point-and-shoots from the charity shops that I've tried out of curiosity.
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Old 04-25-2014   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thegman View Post
Unlike digital though, it's 72 shots before seeing the first one, rather than ongoing chimping or otherwise inspecting the results.
Agreed

Quote:
Originally Posted by thegman View Post
Also, I'm not really, truly satisfied with the image quality of 35mm, so I certainly would not be happy with half of that.
Yes, I'm really more usually into MF. However, having got myself equipped as I want for that, I'm indulging my GAS for compact back-up to slip into a small pocket .
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Old 04-25-2014   #7
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I don't have, and have never had, a half-frame camera (and, as someone has noted, there aren't that many of them around these days). My only thought about them was that holding the camera horizontally and getting portrait-oriented shots might do my head in! (And vice versa.)

Having lots of shots on a roll, though, might well have been an advantage for some. Lots of military guys of my father's vintage used half-frame cameras for the smaller size and having to pack and store fewer films while deployed in circumstances where size and weight were at a premium and everything shot had to be taken back from deployment before it could be developed.

This included more than the the obvious "war zone" thing: a good family friend was a pilot on an Antarctic expedition in the early '60s and took along a half-frame camera for those very reasons. I worked on cleaning up some not-especially-great scans from his Kodachrome 25 slides some years ago and they still looked pretty amazing. I have the results lying around somewhere (and Graeham's permission) so I might see if I can find them and post a few.

...Mike
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Old 04-25-2014   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thegman View Post
Unlike digital though, it's 72 shots before seeing the first one, rather than ongoing chimping or otherwise inspecting the results.

Also, I'm not really, truly satisfied with the image quality of 35mm, so I certainly would not be happy with half of that.
Well said. I recently developed a roll from my beloved M6/ Summicron combo after not using that camera for 6 months. Coming back to 135 format after Medium, Large and even modern digital, the results were very underwhelming....so much so that it has made me seriously consider the sale of my Leica/ Zeiss cameras.
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Old 04-26-2014   #9
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Can older generation, sub-10mpix digitals be considered as current half-frames?
Or using current digital cameras at low resolution setting?
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Old 04-26-2014   #10
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Quote:
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Can older generation, sub-10mpix digitals be considered as current half-frames?
Or using current digital cameras at low resolution setting?
I would have thought 4/3rds (micro or not) is digital half-frame, no matter the number of pixels. While I don't have anything in those formats, from what I can see it's doing much better than just rather well...

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Old 04-26-2014   #11
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Quote:
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I don't have, and have never had, a half-frame camera (and, as someone has noted, there aren't that many of them around these days). My only thought about them was that holding the camera horizontally and getting portrait-oriented shots might do my head in! (And vice versa.)

Having lots of shots on a roll, though, might well have been an advantage for some. Lots of military guys of my father's vintage used half-frame cameras for the smaller size and having to pack and store fewer films while deployed in circumstances where size and weight were at a premium and everything shot had to be taken back from deployment before it could be developed.

This included more than the the obvious "war zone" thing: a good family friend was a pilot on an Antarctic expedition in the early '60s and took along a half-frame camera for those very reasons. I worked on cleaning up some not-especially-great scans from his Kodachrome 25 slides some years ago and they still looked pretty amazing. I have the results lying around somewhere (and Graeham's permission) so I might see if I can find them and post a few.

...Mike
Well, if you want to avoid the orientation issue and still shoot half-frame, you can go for a Konica Recorder (also called a Konica AA-35). I don't shoot mine a lot, because ultimately I prefer interchangeable lenses and the step up in quality full-frame offers, but it can be fun to use. It's the closest I get to Lomography, probably, because I do increase my shooting rate with it, knowing I have to burn through 72 frames before I can develop it. That leads to a lot of the spontaneous fun vibe the best of Lomo-culture stuff has.
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Old 04-26-2014   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KansanTim View Post
Well, if you want to avoid the orientation issue and still shoot half-frame, you can go for a Konica Recorder (also called a Konica AA-35).
Very cool! (I had to google it to see what you were talking about.) The real trouble I have, now, is that I want one! I will control myself (I think). I will.

...Mike
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Old 04-26-2014   #13
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A loong time ago, there were 72 exposure rolls of XP2 film. I loved it, and it encouraged me to shoot like it was digital, way back in the 1980s.
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Old 04-26-2014   #14
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Quote:
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I would have thought 4/3rds (micro or not) is digital half-frame, no matter the number of pixels. While I don't have anything in those formats, from what I can see it's doing much better than just rather well...
I haven't compared, but I think m4/3 systems can be more compact than APS-C but quality doesn't differ as much as half-frame from full frame. Yet some APS-C compacts are as compact as m4/3 bodies.
Probably small sensor system like Nikon 1 and likes are closer to concept of half-frame?

p.s. I have wondered why Olympus on their digital Pen models didn't make vertically oriented frame mode to be enabled permanently, in menu or by physical control (that is, not lost after switching off/on). That would cost nothing extra but I see it as relevant reference to original Pen.
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Old 04-26-2014   #15
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I have a Bencini Koroll 24s which shoots 24 exposures on 120 film. That's half frames of 6x6. Neat idea, small camera, but unfortunately a slow and not very sharp lens.

I've only used one half frame 35mm and that was a Canon Dial 35. A cool looking camera but not particularly fun to use - getting through a roll was tedious and the resulting negatives are tiny.
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Old 04-26-2014   #16
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Interesting point Roger.

I've got to admit, I'm part of the (apparently small!) half-frame enthusiasts. I've had some brilliant results with my Olympus Pen D. I like the idea of "diptychs" - two pictures that work better together then they would do by themselves. It's a great way to tell a story through a mini series of photographs. And depending on what scanner you have, I like creating pseudo-panoramas, with 6 or 8 frames scanned together from the same viewpoint. Almost like digital stitching.

And as someone else has pointed out, it's great to take on holidays or short trips where you won't have the time to change rolls frequently, or film is difficult to buy wherever you are.

That said, using a 24 exposure roll reduces the frame count down to 48, which isn't bad at all.

If you've got a few minutes to spare, take a look through this flickr group.
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Old 04-26-2014   #17
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Whenever I shoot a roll I get impatient to see my first shot long before I get to the last one...72? Insane!
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Old 04-26-2014   #18
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I have recently purchased a Agfa Paramat (a half frame from the sixties) in perfect conditions: i can't wait to see the first results. Any comment on this nice camera?
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Old 04-26-2014   #19
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1/2 Frame? It's hard enough for me to get a good scan from full frame 35mm!
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Old 04-26-2014   #20
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I bought a Chaika 2 and loaded it with 12 exp. superia expired long time ago. Not bad results but it turned out that the machine lab cannot print half frames! As it is 39mm I was thinking of getting some 50 mm lens and the combo should give me a perfect portrait cheap machine.
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Old 04-26-2014   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Why should this not presage a resurgence of half-frame?
For me, and this is only for me... the advantage of digital over half frame is in how large I can print while still making a lot of photos. Half frame would have to be for a special project where I was going to print small or where I wanted a lot of grain. I am intrigued by it though. I've always wanted an Olympus Pen.
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Old 04-26-2014   #22
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I had no problem shooting 72 frames when in an urban environment. A roll of 24 (=48 half frame), exposures might be more reasonable for most people? I shot with my Pen W the other day and realized that my 1/2 frame days ended with the darkroom a few years ago. And so it's up for sale with an Olympus 1/2 frame enlarging lens in the classifiesd.
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Old 04-26-2014   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FredtheLlama View Post
I like the idea of "diptychs" - two pictures that work better together then they would do by themselves. It's a great way to tell a story through a mini series of photographs. And depending on what scanner you have, I like creating pseudo-panoramas, with 6 or 8 frames scanned together from the same viewpoint. Almost like digital stitching.
I played around making diptych-like full frames out of two half-frame shots, too. The thing that held me back from doing it more often is that I would make the whole roll, or almost the whole roll, paired shots, because I didn't want to cut my negatives to weird lengths to keep a diptych together. Keeping track of if my paired shots are properly spaced didn't fit into my more typical use, which was as a very casual notebook camera. Never considered doing a pseudo-panorama.
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Old 04-26-2014   #24
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Have no idea from where this "many frames in Lomography" is coming
My Holga 135 Pan was giving 12-14 frames. MF Holga isn't giving any more. Per film.

Digital - take picture, look at it, delete if not perfect one.
Once I have grown as photographer I don't keep a lot of pictures on my digital camera by the end of the day.

Yes, I gave up on Agat18k and put it on sale here, still loaded with film.
It is impossible for me to finish even 24x2 frames in it.
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Old 04-26-2014   #25
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Every so often I get curious about half frame, most specifically the Konica Recorder as mentioned above.

I tend to think I could take more diaristic shots with it.

And then I think "why don't I just do that with a 35mm compact and get the image quality as a bonus?"

I haven't quite managed to engage with that way of working yet, but it keeps me from really going for half frame.
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Old 04-26-2014   #26
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I have shot 35mm half frame for 40+ years. The appeal has been the not only the 72 frames on a 36 exposure roll but also the 4:3 ratio. That is just a personal preference of mine. It is true that it you crop a little less for 8X10 enlargments than you do for full frame with it's 2:3 ratio. But it is also true that 18X24mm is a very small negative to work with. My solution for small negatives is small prints. With half frame that is 6X8 inch on 8X10 paper.

One of the reasons I really like half frame is the lovely little Pen F. Although looking at the numbers may lead you to believe is is not that much smaller than the already diminutive OM-1 the lack of a protruding mirror box and prism hump makes it feel very much different in the hand. That and the excellent little interchangeable Zuikos make is a versitile and compact little beast.
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Old 04-26-2014   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FredtheLlama View Post
Interesting point Roger.

I've got to admit, I'm part of the (apparently small!) half-frame enthusiasts. I've had some brilliant results with my Olympus Pen D. I like the idea of "diptychs" - two pictures that work better together then they would do by themselves. It's a great way to tell a story through a mini series of photographs. And depending on what scanner you have, I like creating pseudo-panoramas, with 6 or 8 frames scanned together from the same viewpoint. Almost like digital stitching.

And as someone else has pointed out, it's great to take on holidays or short trips where you won't have the time to change rolls frequently, or film is difficult to buy wherever you are.

That said, using a 24 exposure roll reduces the frame count down to 48, which isn't bad at all.

If you've got a few minutes to spare, take a look through this flickr group.
Thanks for the flickr link. The last thing I need is another camera and camera format, but those examples are really cool. I like the idea of thinking about the different frames as part of a larger "story," so to speak. Hmm...
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Old 04-26-2014   #28
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Mercury Univex II (The II can use regular 35mm film - about 75 exposures per roll). They are prone to have the focus "frozen" as the thread was cut in alloy as was the focussing helicoid! Bonded nicely.
I assume that todays "nerds' programming the 60+ menu's in digital cameras saw the "exposure' guide of the Mercury and copied it.
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Old 04-26-2014   #29
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I think half-frame definitely has a place in my shooting. As others have mentioned, it encourages freer shooting (something I have issues with) and can be used to create interesting multi-frame compositions. I like the 4:3 format as well.

I'm lucky enough to own one of the better half-frame cameras, a Yashica Samurai Z handed down to me by my father, who bought it new. For those unfamiliar, this is an SLR that transports the film vertically, so you have the traditional landscape format in normal camera orientation.

All that said, I wasn't really happy with the results until I put it together with a fire-grained film. That gave me good enough image quality to be content with the smaller negatives. I've used TMax 100 and Ektar with really nice results (can't post samples, as I'm away from home at the moment). With the IQ problem resolved to my satisfaction, I recently went and bought a Pen D3 to have a more pocketable option.

To address the original question, I'd be a little surprised to see something new coming out in half-frame, but then I never would have guessed that Petzval or FSU wides in LTM would be put back into production either....
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Old 04-27-2014   #30
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I have quite a collection of the Yashica "Half..." Cameras.
I have about 8 different ones. Probably more like a dozen of them were made.
Very well made cameras, that can be picked up for a couple of Quid now.
Strange but the Fuji/Ricoh Half frame cameras seem to go for more.
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Old 04-27-2014   #31
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Because the quality of half frame sucks.
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Old 04-27-2014   #32
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Not really. I like using my Pen, and am looking forward to using the D when it's repaired. Excellent optics. Sure, a smaller frame size compromises the maximum enlargement, but just how big do you print anyway?
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Old 04-27-2014   #33
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Not really. I like using my Pen, and am looking forward to using the D when it's repaired. Excellent optics. Sure, a smaller frame size compromises the maximum enlargement, but just how big do you print anyway?
Depends on what qualities you are looking for. I dislike the limited control of depth of field available with such a small format (full frame 35mm is enough of a bother already). Beyond sharpness and grain there is also the issue of contrast and tonal reproduction. If you like to print with high contrast this is not much of a problem though.
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Old 04-27-2014   #34
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Because the quality of half frame sucks.
Compared to what? Full frame?

Both are very small negatives that require careful handling to obtain the best results. The linear magnifacation factor for an 8X10 print with minimum crop is 1.33X more than full frame.

Erik van Straten shows some excellent work using T-max 100 in a long running thread under the 'half frame' listing.
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Old 04-27-2014   #35
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I think half-frame definitely has a place in my shooting. As others have mentioned, it encourages freer shooting (something I have issues with) and can be used to create interesting multi-frame compositions. I like the 4:3 format as well.

I'm lucky enough to own one of the better half-frame cameras, a Yashica Samurai Z handed down to me by my father, who bought it new. For those unfamiliar, this is an SLR that transports the film vertically, so you have the traditional landscape format in normal camera orientation.

All that said, I wasn't really happy with the results until I put it together with a fire-grained film. That gave me good enough image quality to be content with the smaller negatives. I've used TMax 100 and Ektar with really nice results (can't post samples, as I'm away from home at the moment). With the IQ problem resolved to my satisfaction, I recently went and bought a Pen D3 to have a more pocketable option.

To address the original question, I'd be a little surprised to see something new coming out in half-frame, but then I never would have guessed that Petzval or FSU wides in LTM would be put back into production either....
To tell the truth, that hadn't occurred to me either. All I meant was a resurgence of interest in existing cameras.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 04-27-2014   #36
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Because the quality of half frame sucks.
You mean it's worse than digital?

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Old 04-27-2014   #37
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I like shooting a roll in my Pen-FV once in a while because it's different. Every digital gives you the same thing - a digital file. Every 35mm the also gives the same thing - a 35mm neg. The attraction of half frame is not to try to compare one tiny negative to another that is 2 times larger. Just like I don't compare a 35mm negative to a 4x5 negative which is many times larger.

The attraction is the different aspect ratio, the tiny little cameras, the fact you could take one roll on a week long vacation, and the excellent lenses. By the way, I've compared the Pen-F optics to most 35mm lenses, and they are sharper.
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Old 04-27-2014   #38
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To tell the truth, that hadn't occurred to me either. All I meant was a resurgence of interest in existing cameras.

Cheers,

R.
Half frame cameras from a given manufacturer are generally worth more than their full frame equivalents. There is a lot of interest in them, but as collectibles and curiosities rather than users.

There has been a new half frame made recently, the Golden Half toy which has (or had?) a pretty big following when it was still fresh.
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Old 04-27-2014   #39
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Half frame cameras from a given manufacturer are generally worth more than their full frame equivalents. There is a lot of interest in them, but as collectibles and curiosities rather than users.

There has been a new half frame made recently, the Golden Half toy which has (or had?) a pretty big following when it was still fresh.
Thanks for alerting me to the Golden Half: I had not previously encountered it. I take your point about "collectibles and curiosities rather than users" but of course we can rarely be sure why anyone buys any old camera. No doubt some people use them too. The only question is, how many?

Cheers,

R.
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Old 04-27-2014   #40
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I like using my Pen for a couple of reasons. I tend to take a lot of shots in portrait orientation anyway, and I much prefer 1x1.33 to 1x1.5. Besides, if I do print the photos, there's less lost in the crop to 8x10.
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