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After all these years there are still interesting parts of the city that I don't know about. This is the view from Polson pier, which is this tiny little spot of public land between the Ports Toronto dock, an intermittently abandoned 'entertainment facility', and a parking lot. The area just north of where I'm standing in this photo – toward the city – is going to eventually be a river as the area transforms from industrial to residential. 

I was here looking for my mother – she took a photo of the skyline 'from the wharves' in December 1973, and I had been told that this might be where it was taken. (It was, but that's for another post.) So since I was going to be travelling to challenging area to take one single photo, I decided that I might as well bring four cameras with me.

Well, five, actually, but who's counting.

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I thought it would be fun and useful for me to take comparison photos between my different pinhole cameras, all as part of my ongoing efforts to delay needing to actually take decent photos by constantly testing and trying new things. So I had the 21mm-equivalent lens on the Fuji to establish the scene, and my little Sony camera to document the process.

My three pinhole contenders are:

A 6x9 from "Reality So Subtle", a name that's almost painfully twee but still quite accurate. It has a 118-degree field of view, which is about an 11mm lens on a 35mm camera. Critically it also has a filter ring, so it's wearing a yellow filter to tame the Ilford Ortho 80 film it's using.

A 6x6 from "Zero Image". This is a cooler, if somewhat self-negating name, but they say their cameras are 'made of dreams and passions' so they're still giving RSS a challenge on the twee front. It has a 90 degree field of view, so about the same as an 18mm lens on 35mm film. It's loaded with Ilford FP4+.

A "Rising Standard" pinhole body cap for my M-mount rangefinder. This is about the same as a 28mm lens, so I can actually use the Zeiss Ikon's entire viewing window to compose the photo. It also meters accurately, which is a treat. Like the other ZI in this comparison, the Ikon is loaded with FP4, which lets me compare the same film from different formats and different scanners.

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While I took each photo from the same position – which meant at least two of the three are at suboptimal framing and composition – I haven't tried to match their post-processing.

The RSS 6x9 with the yellow filter, which is darkening the sky and water, is my favourite. Ortho film really, really likes blue light, so without that filter the sky tends to go away. That filter might be adding some of the vignetting – yay! more things to test! – but it's also inherent to a lensless camera with a flat film plane. (Light simply has farther to walk to get to the far corners, and it gets tired easily.) But as part of the aesthetic I'm completely into it. It's not like I've been spending hours on the RSS website gazing at the 6x12 camera with a curved film plane or anything. No, not at all.

For the slideshow above I left the Zero Image in its natural square crop, but I don't particularly like the square format and I don't think it helps this photo. If I was trying for the best possible per-camera results, instead of matching the position to compare the field of view, I would have taken this photo differently.

So with the RSS 6x9 and yellow-filtered Ortho film being my clear favourite, it's time to look at the two cameras using FP4 and see what's what.

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Now I've cropped the Zero Image 6x6 square down to my usual 16:10 ratio, where it still has a wider field of view than the Rising Standard pinhole cap on my Zeiss Ikon. It's tough to glean meaningful conclusions from web-sized images, but from looking at the larger files on my computer it's clear that the 120 film is showing far less grain, but the 135 format is resolving more detail. Look at the construction crane near the centre of the skyline, or other roofline accessories. Not that detail is an important thing for pinhole cameras, so I'll usually stay with 120 film for its smoothness, but maybe the pinhole body cap isn't as pointless as I thought.

The catch is that I'm using two different scanners: the small-format film goes through a Nikon Coolscan V, while the medium format uses a Canon 9000F flatbed with a Better Scanning glass holder.

If I was really dedicated to refining the comparison I'd give both films to my lab so that they could go through the same scanner. But that's… beyond the level of effort that makes sense for me as a personal comparison. And in a previous comparison between the Noritsu at the lab and the 9000F at home, using a negative from the Zero Image, there wasn't enough of an improvement to be worth the extra effort of outsourcing. If I was using a camera with a lens I might feel differently, but for pinholes these results suit me fine.