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This isn't a review of the Ondu 6x12 Rise pinhole camera. I've owned it for less than a week, and so far I've only put two rolls of Ilford FP4+ through it. (Both developed in Ilford Microphen, for those who care about such things.) But I'm so pleased with the camera that I can't help but do a 'first impressions' kind of thing. Longer thoughts may happen later.

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My first photo, taken on the Monday that the camera arrived. And yes, I missed the top of the towers of Toronto's city hall. But instead of dwelling on that, look at the perspective that the camera could get with its upper pinhole while it was only a few inches above the ground. Just a slight tip upwards got almost all of the building, and the panoramic 5:2 crop that I like hasn't taken out as much of the foreground as you'd think. Next time I'll move the camera back a bit more, and see if I can find something interesting to put in the foreground.

And in case you were wondering, if you have a thing for film flatness, a 6x12 pinhole is probably not the camera for you.

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This is what the 'fall' pinhole looks like when the camera is on a stack of inverted picnic tables. In the twelve frames I've used so far, the upper pinhole scores nine, the lower took two, and center only one.

The Ondu is my third pinhole camera. My first was a 6x6 Zero Image which I ultimately didn't get along with, and my second was a plastic 6x9 from Reality So Subtle. (The name's a bit twee, so I usually abbreviate it to RSS, but Zero Image's calls itself a camera "made from dream and passion", which is worse.) "Ondu" is an archaic Slovenian word meaning 'over there', so already I like it better.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

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This streetcar photo was taken with the centre pinhole, largely to prove that it works. 

Before I even knew that Ondu existed I had been mulling over a list of things I would like my third pinhole camera to do. 

It had to be wider than my 6x9, so that I could choose between my favourite ratios, 16:10 – one mile by one kilometre – and the panoramic 5:2 that these photos are in. So that meant a 6x12. I also wanted rise and fall pinholes, and a flat film plane instead of curved. That ruled out the RSS 6x12. I also required a camera that would let me see the frame number and rewind the film if I missed it, so Zero Image wasn't an option.

Accurate framing lines, filters, and a decent built-in level are also very handy, so they were on my list as well.

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My Gitzo Mini Traveller is the nearly perfect blend of my favourite parts of so many other tripods that I've owned in my journey to finding the right one. So that's a good inspiration for my pinhole search as well. And the Ondu 6x12 Rise managed to meet everything on my wishlist, and added a bunch of clever magnets as a bonus. The bubble level is fully recessed into the walnut top deck.

Like the tripod, the Ondu Rise is also substantially more expensive than most of its similarly-sized peers, but likewise, it's absolutely worth it.

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Tree forts.

The Ondu 6x12 has about the same field of view as the RSS 6x9, which is close enough to 120 degrees that I can use the two forward tripod legs as a rough framing guide. But with the wider format this means that it also has a longer focal length. This might be what keeps the vignetting under control; I thought there would be more than this. But the longer focal length, and wider frame, also means that the Ondu is substantially larger than the plastic RSS. 

But it's also gorgeous.

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In his amazing 2003 lecture series on abstract art that became the book "Pictures of Nothing", Kirk Varnadoe said:

We need to look extremely closely at the particular things before us, because in art we do not make things any simpler by making simpler things. Reduction does not yield certainty, but something like its opposite, which is ambiguity and multi-valence.

Ondu's personalization service means that I'm reminded of this every time I frame a photo. The pinhole camera is a simple thing, and photographing with one is an act of reduction. But this doesn't mean that it's a simple act, or that its results are straightforward. 

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The Ondu 6x12 Rise really is almost everything I want in a pinhole camera. (A second long bubble level along the top-rear edge of the camera would be nice.) It's superbly made and cleverly designed, showing the benefits of a design that's gone through multiple iterations. Its narrower f/160 effective aperture even makes it easy to handle a faster film like FP4. 

Now that this week is done I'll try it out with my usual Ortho 80, and maybe my new pinhole favourite, Pan F. And I'll definitely be ordering some of the uncommon Cokin A-series filters that fit its clever magnetic holder.

This camera and I are going to have a long-term relationship.

And I've already picked out the quotation that I want for my next one. The idea becomes the machine that makes the art…