The square format is a favourite of mine; it’s a perspective different to our normal field of vision. There is no periphery to a 6x6 image which can be helpful in offering a slightly altered view of the world by default. I’d got used to shooting the Bronica in this way and the idea of trying some of the film backs that offer different aspect ratios began to appeal to see if it would nurture some new ideas, so the 120J and 135W backs were bought to try out. The latter is a great deal rarer, and 3-4x more expensive than the 120J but offers a panoramic aspect ratio, by using a much wider frame on 35mm film. It will be a subject of another post once I have finished my test roll.
6x4.5 is also a film saver, you can get 15 frames rather than 12 on a roll of 120 film and is slightly more square than the standard 35mm frame (4:3 compared to 3:2 aspect ratios). Clearly the upside of a 120J back is flexibility of 6x6 or 6x4.5 with one camera system. The main downside is if you do shoot the latter most of the time, you’re carrying a much bulkier system than necessary, you could get a Bronica ETRS for example instead, but you would sacrifice the 6x6 ability.
Onto the images: these were taken over the Christmas holidays in Shropshire. The weather was surprisingly good with some lovely winter sun on some days. It’s always a gamble with an eBay purchase, especially with a film back, if it will work correctly. This film back came in its original box and the light seals looked decent. However, I’d been burnt before so I was very relieved when the negatives came back showing only minimal light leaks in one place, that did not even reach the frame, and the film spacing being accurate. Bronica backs have a somewhat bad reputation for light leaks so I normally keep mine in my bag as much as possible to minimise prolonged exposure to light. Previously I had tried 6x4.5 with a 220J back; a mistake, whilst much cheaper (due to no 220 film being made anymore) and although they will work, the pressure plate is not calibrated for the thickness of 120 film so at the very least will put extra strain on the winder mechanism. If I recall correctly my copy was also damaged and resulted in frame spacing issues and so was promptly sold for spares/repairs.
Framing the images was straightforward, my split image focussing screen has frame lines for 6x4.5 on it, although it did take a bit of effort to remind myself that I needed to use them when looking down the waist level finder.
I’m very pleasantly surprised how much I enjoy these images. Perhaps the aspect ratio is just novel to me at the moment, but this back definitely seems like a useful tool in my Bronica system.