Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Upgrading a PowerBook G4 with an SSD


A while back I bought an Apple PowerBook G4. A late-2005 high-resolution 1.67ghz 17" PowerBook G4, the last PowerBook before Apple switched from PowerPC to Intel. In its day it was a mutha; nowadays its performance is leisurely and very little software is still maintained for it, although in its favour the case still looks awesome. The 1680x1050 screen is almost but not quite HD.

I use it mostly as a giant iPod - I've downloaded a tonne of podcasts - but with TenFourFox it can still surf the internet. Debate rages as to whether it's best to install OS X 10.4.11 Tiger or 10.5.8 Leopard on older Macintoshes. Tiger is apparently slightly faster than Leopard, but having tried Leopard I didn't notice much difference. Feature-wise Leopard wasn't a great leap over Tiger, although as you will discover later in this post the Time Machine backup utility was very useful.


No amount of tinkering will make a fifteen-year-old G4 run quickly, but there are a few ways to speed it up. The easiest is memory. All of the aluminium-bodied PowerBooks take a pair of PC2-4200 DDRs. OS X enjoys lots of memory but sadly the G4 motherboard only accepts a maximum of 2gb of memory (1.25gb in the early 12" models), which was a bit stingy even in 2005.


The other big upgrade is a new hard drive. The 1.67ghz PowerBook G4 originally came with a 120gb 5400rpm hard drive, which was very good for 2005 both in terms of capacity and speed. Unfortunately G4 PowerBooks used the Parallel ATA IDE interface, which is a problem because PATA drives were discontinued several years ago.

In theory the most fuss-free way to upgrade the hard drive would be to fit a 7200rpm PATA Hitachi TravelStar or similar, but they're only available used, and I'm wary of buying a used laptop hard drive. How hard was it used?


There are other options. A Compact Flash card with an IDE adapter seems like a waste of a good Compact Flash card. There are a couple of PATA solid state drives on the market, but the reviews aren't great. Amongst the PowerBook cognoscenti the most popular choice is to use a little tiny Micro-SATA SSD mounted in an MSATA-IDE adapter, viz:

A 128gb Toshiba MSATA drive (bottom) beneath an MSATA-PATA adapter (top). You have to screw the MSATA drive into the adapter otherwise it sticks out at an angle. What kind of QC did the adapter pass? Who knows.

Some laptops take MSATA cards naturally. Modern Lenovo ThinkPads often have an MSATA slot for an SSD boot drive in addition to a 2.5" drive bay. But the PowerBook G4 predates MSATA so you have to use an adapter.

What is MSATA? It's a type of tiny SSD that uses the SATA standard, but it's tiny. You can also buy 2.5" SATA-MSATA adapters if you want to put an MSATA drive into a modern laptop.

The SSD in its cradle. One day I will remember that Philippines has one L and two PPs. One day.

The adapters are available from China via eBay. They cost about £3. Just search for "MSATA PATA". We live in a world where people in China can ship little electrical trinkets half-way across the world and still make a profit from £3. Somewhere out in the ocean there's a container ship ploughing through the waves, with a container filled with little electrical trinkets from China. I like to think about that when I go to sleep at night. A container ship driving through a rough sea. Someone has just brought the captain a mug of coffee. The wipers are trying to keep the bridge windows clear of spray. The weather radar shows better weather ahead.

Ordinarily when I replace a laptop's hard drive with a newer model, I clone the original to the replacement then swap them around. That's not possible with IDE, because there's no way to power the replacement drive outside the computer. I have a special set of cables that can power SATA drives and connect them via USB to a laptop, but 2.5" IDE drives don't support external power:

This is all well and good, but it doesn't power the MSATA drive. USB doesn't deliver enough power and there's no separate power header.

There are a couple of ways around this. If you've just bought a PowerBook G4 and you don't care about retaining any of the data, or if the seller reinitialised OSX, or indeed if it doesn't have a hard drive at all, you can simply put the MSATA drive into the G4 and install OS X from scratch. Note that the brand-new MSATA drive will be unformatted, so you have to pop open Disk Utility and format it as e.g. Mac OS Extended (journaled) before OS X's installation routine will recognise it.

To dismantle the machine I followed these instructions from iFixIt, although there's nothing conceptually hard about taking the G4 apart. You need a T8 Torx screwdriver head as well as a standard Philips head.

The G4's interior is as fascinating as its exterior. The orange-and-grey colour scheme is very attractive. This is the trackpad cable.

The edge of the keyboard. Note that the lid of the laptop's base comes straight off, and also note that the final 1.67ghz models had a slightly different keyboard than earlier models - the backlight was modified - with a slightly different part number. 

The original 100gb Ultra ATA/100 hard drive, now fifteen years old. It's noisy but still works. I'm going to put it in a desk drawer as a backup.

The interior, with a big hole where the battery goes. This is a good opportunity to blow dust out of the fans.

The MSATA SSD is much smaller than the PATA drive. Have you ever heard about Kure Kure Takora? It was a Japanese children's show from the early 1970s about a greedy octopus and his pals. The characters were played by actors dressed in large costumes, a la the Teletubbies.

What makes Kure Kure Takora hilarious is the relentless ultraviolence. It's like Cannibal Holocaust but much less restrained.
Kure Takora and his pals suffer horrible injuries in almost every episode but remain upbeat.
In this clip his friends persuade him to commit seppuku(!), and he almost goes ahead with it(!!), complete with close-ups of the clearly terrified title character holding a katana to his belly(!!!). Meanwhile kids in the UK had The Clangers, which wasn't the same.

As you can see the MSATA SSD looks sad and lonely in the hard drive bay. I eventually lined the bottom of the bay with a couple of strips of masking tape so that the SSD wasn't resting on bare metal. A couple of pads of heat-resistant foam might help keep it in place. I could in theory tape the SSD in place, but I'm wary of covering it up in case it overheats.
In theory there's a risk that the SSD might bounce around inside the case and loosen the hard drive cable - or the sound card cable, which runs over the top of the drive bay. In practice I suspect you'd have to really bash the PowerBook before that happened.

I didn't want to lose my data and reinstall everything from scratch. It takes time to track down old PowerPC applications. So I used Time Machine to back up all my settings to an external drive. I then installed the MSATA drive, installed OS X (from a USB stick, using this handy guide), updated OS X until there were no more updates, and then used OS X's Migration Assistant to transfer my settings and applications from the external drive to the MSATA SSD. I suggest you budget at least two afternoons to do all of this formatting and data transfer.

Ordinarily I'm wary of using an operating system's built-in backup and data migration tools, perhaps because I grew up with Windows. I'm a Norton Ghost and latterly Macrium Reflect man. But OS X's combination of Time Machine and Migration Assistant worked flawlessly.


Or at least almost flawlessly. For some reason Quicktime wasn't transferred, so I had to update Quicktime to the latest version for OS X 10.5.8 before I could use iTunes. Also my installation of CS2 lost its licence information (I assume it recognises that the hard drive is different, and contacts Adobe via the internet for guidance), but CS2 is now available from Adobe basically for free, so I just downloaded another copy.

In this episode Kure Kure Takora tries to steal a book from a lizard, who fights back, so he challenges the lizard to a samurai duel - and kills him! Kills him stone dead. It turns out the book was a cookbook; the lizard was planning to pour salt over Kure Takora and then cut him into chunks and eat him.

I've never liked the default OS X 10.5 wallpaper. The 10.4 wallpaper was less dramatic but more tasteful; Leopard's wallpaper is surprisingly tacky for Apple. Begone!

All done. Compare this image with the PowerBook at the top of the article, which had the original hard drive.

Does the rigmarole of installing an SSD in a fifteen-year-old laptop make rational sense? My Toshiba MSATA SSD was designed to pump data at 500mb/s through a 6gb/s SATA III bus, but the Ultra ATA/100 interface in the G4 can only cope with 100mb/s, so four-fifths of the SSD's performance is wasted. XBench's figures for sequential block writes are no better than a good 7200rpm physical hard drive:


However the random write speed is much faster than a physical hard drive. Random write speeds measure a storage medium's seek time, which is where SSDs excel, because they don't have to move a head over a disc to pick up data. SSDs in general are faster at writing larger blocks of data than smaller blocks, and the figures above reflect this; SSDs are slowest when writing lots of tiny files.

I really should have measured the speed of the physical hard drive for the sake of comparison. I should have thought of that. Am I going to dismantle the G4, put back the physical hard drive, and test it? No.


Subjectively the G4 doesn't feel as if it's booting faster, although it is noticeably quieter. Applications launch quicker, but TenFourFox is limited more by the CPU and RAM than by hard drive access, which is unfortunate because TenFourFox is the application I use most. MSATA-PATA adapters apparently produce more heat than a physical drive, but the G4's fan seems to come on less; whether it's because I've blown out the dust, or because there's a lot more space inside the case for air to circulate, I know not. I have read that this upgrade interferes with the fan management of the 12" PowerBook G4, which has much less interior space.

A few years ago this kind of upgrade would have been economically iffy for what is essentially a novelty toy. There comes a point when the money spent on upgrading a machine would be better off put towards the cost of a replacement. However MSATA SSDs have come down in price and are now widely available on the used market, so for what amounted to £30 and an afternoon fiddling with a screwdriver I feel it was worth it. Just don't expect the kind of lighting improvements you get from replacing a physical hard drive with a SATA II or III SSD. Oh no.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Mamiya 55mm f/4.5: The Cumulative Power of Repetition

Mamiya 55mm f/4.5 / Velvia 100F

Have you ever thought about repetition? Sure you have. So have I. Some music achieves its effect from clever little twists and turns. It changes unpredictably in a way that delights the mind. Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". "Good Vibrations". "Happiness is a Warm Gun". "Paranoid Android". Almost everything by the Dillinger Escape Plan. I would include some examples from the last decade but I'm way out of date.


In general however most pop music is simpler than that. The typical pop song consists of a group of musical blocks that repeat for three minutes or so. Typically there's a verse-chorus group, with middle eights and pre-choruses for variation. Rather than having a series of individual musical ideas that play one after the other without repeating pop songs are instead composed of a simple pattern of musical blocks, each of which has a couple of ideas inside it.

Oh yeah, Mr Moon

There's also a kind of music that doesn't change. It has a single idea that repeats. On an extreme level there's OM chanting, which consists of a single note. On a more complex level there's Stellardrone's "Red Giant", which I listened to on repeat while writing this post:


I could have picked an Indian raga, or Philip Glass, or Orbital's "Halcyon+On", or any number of other examples. "Red Giant" isn't perfect. The drums straddle the uneasy dividing line between epic music and carpet warehouse commercial. But the song is a good example of repetition. It's essentially a fifteen-second chord sequence, with angel trumpets and devil trombones, repeated thirteen times, and it should be boring but instead it's a bird of rarest-spun heaven metal, or silvery wine flowing in a spaceship.

Some people spend their lives wearing headphones, either because the outside world is boring, or perhaps because they want to block out the horror. I find that repetitive music has a hypnotic effect. My brain craves the pattern. Small musical variations that would otherwise pass unnoticed achieve a monumental effect, because they stand out more.


Why does music affect us? Did it give us an evolutionary advantage over tigers? Would our distant ancestors have been able to hunt for food more effectively if they had heard Katy Perry's "Swish Swish"?

Or was music simply a form of drug that overwhelmed our fear of death, so that we could pluck up the courage to drive tigers away from freshly-killed caribou? Is our love of music just a quirk of our complicated brains, a side-effect of consciousness? One of those chaotic by-products that causes some men to become sexually aroused by rubber boots; that causes some people to feel a sense of satisfaction from a GIF of a drill making a neat little hole in a piece of metal?

This is how they refuel boats in Venice. It's a petrol station - for boats. Or, as Ferrari owners will attest, it's a "benzina" station. In Italy they have a type of petrol called benzina.


This, my dear and only friends, is called padding. Imagine if I got straight to the point. I would probably be higher up Google's search rankings. In the last post I had a look at the Mamiya 55mm f/4.5, a wide-angle lens for the Mamiya C twin-lens-reflex system. Here's what it looks like:


It's really sharp at f/11, not bad at f/4.5, needs sunshine or a tripod. The last post was illustrated with examples shot using Fuji 160. In this post let's look at some Fuji Velvia 100F.


Bomarzo. Yet again. They built it, I came. These two shots illustrate one of the problems of wideangle coverage with square format - you can fill the frame with buildings or have parallel verticals, but not both.

I've written about Velvia before. It's a slide film launched by Fuji in 1990. It was an immediate hit. Strong contrast, super-saturation, almost grain-free, more vivid than Kodachrome or Ektachrome. It was digital before digital. Landscape photographers in particular lapped it up.

But there was a downside. It was so popular that I now associate it with cigarette and car adverts. Adverts and Athena poster collections. Boring images of Miami's skyline. Boring but technically perfect images of North American mountains at sunset. Boring, slick, proficient. It was never used by news photographers so as a consequence none of the famous images you remember from the 1990s were shot with it. Instead posters, adverts.


Velvia wasn't universally beloved. The colour balance was no good for skin tones, particularly caucasian. Furthermore there was nothing subtle or arty about it. Over the last decade or so there has been a rise in Instagram filters that try and replicate the "film look", usually by pushing the blacks and washing out the saturation. That's nothing like Velvia. No-one of consequence is nostalgic for it.

In some respects the retro film movement of the 2000s was a reaction against the perceived slickness of Velvia; it was the kind of film used by professionals to make competent but boring images, the kind of film used by lawyers and dentists during their holidays to imitate the professional look, the exact kind of film that Photo.net's forum dwellers would have gravitated towards in the 1990s, and in that respect I can't think of it without also thinking of a man who has a custom-made shelf filled with Laserdiscs.


Velvia's colour balance was such that a polarising filter was almost unnecessary in the daytime. The film's version of sky-blue was rich and deep and slightly purply. In the shot above I used a polarising filter just for the heck of it. The result has something of the colours of Kodachrome, a mixture of cold blues, vivid reds and yellows, slightly washed-out everything else, dark shadows. Bear in mind that the Velvia I used expired about ten years ago.

During my trip to Venice I noticed that a lot of the locals were like this cat. Just lounging around in the sun not doing any work. What if they're right and we're wrong? What then?

What then. Oh yes. Exposure. The rule of thumb is that you're supposed to meter for the shadows with negative film. You don't have to care about the highlights because negative film is very tolerant of overexposure. Let the highlights fall as they may. With slide film however it's the other way around - it does blow out highlights - with the problem that shadows become pitch black, so if the situation exceeds the film's dynamic range you have to choose a compromise. In the shot of the cat above I metered wrong; the shadows are too dark. I brought them up with Photoshop but if the image had been just slightly darker it would have been lost. I would have to go back to Venice and shoot it again, which would be tragic.

There were different types of Velvia. Mark one was just called Fuji Velvia. It was ISO 50. Hardcore. And awkward, because long-duration exposures suffered from colour shifts. Velvia 100F was launched in 2003. It was less saturated, faster and fixed the colour shifts but there were grumbles that it wasn't really Velvia.

The original Velvia was replaced in 2005 by Velvia 100, which was apparently similar to the original look; a new ISO 50 version of Velvia called Velvia 50 was launched in 2007, which also apparently replicates the look of the original.


This is one of those shots that triggers my OCD. If only the pigeon had been facing the other way, facing into the image. The composition would be slightly better. As it stands I have a choice of cropping out the pigeon, erasing it with Photoshop (easy) or flipping it with Photoshop (too much work for too little gain), or leaving it present as a kind of visual speck of grit that forever irritates me.

Over the years I've shot all of the different kinds of Velvia. I can't pass judgement on any of them because the rolls I shot were expired and I'm not a scientist. Furthermore I run all of my film through Photoshop, leaving behind only a shadow of the original look.

My recollection from scanning Velvia is that the black border of the film is always slightly red and the film feels thick. The emulsion feels thicker than other emulsion - probably psychosomatic, simply because the film borders are solid black instead of translucent amber as per negative film - and I always have a mental image of the scanner trying hard to push light through it.





As of this writing Fuji still sells Velvia 50 and Velvia 100, along with the general-purpose / portrait-balanced Provia 100F, the latter two also available in larger formats. As far as I can tell they're the last slide films still on sale, so at least in terms of slide films the winner was Fuji.

What about Venice? Modern cities are often built on a grid pattern. Venice on the other hand is wonky and misaligned. The horizontals are all over the place; the verticals lean and sag. The paving slabs undulate in an organic manner. It's one of the few major cities that wasn't flattened by war or remodelled by town planners or crushed to death by its suburbs, with the result that it feels non-standard in the modern world.

Venice is incompatible, with visible gaps and areas of imperfection. Its parts are not interchangeable. And yet people flock there whereas the likes of Milton Keynes - with its beautiful miniature roundabouts - and the futuristic concrete perfection of Birmingham are shunned by tourists. I just don't understand it.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Mamiya 55mm f/4.5: The Phantom Itch


Let's have a look at the Mamiya 55mm f/4.5. It's a wide angle lens for the old Mamiya C twin-lens-reflex system. In the past I've used the Mamiya 65mm f/3.5, which was the other wideangle lens for the Mamiya C, and I was always curious about the 55mm. The focal length is very wide for medium format but the relatively narrow aperture bothered me, but I had to find out what it was like, so here we are.




There were several Mamiya C cameras throughout the system's life. I used a Mamiya C3, one of the earliest. The C3 shoots 6x6cm negatives on medium format film.

Medium format is a very different world in which the equipment is big and heavy, the lenses are slow, focal lengths behave differently and the photographers are angry men who despise you. In the medium format world 80mm is normal, 180mm is short portrait, 55mm is akin to 28-35mm or so, 40mm is about the widest you can get without straying into panoramic or fisheye territory.


In my experience 55mm feels like a narrow 28mm with more at the top and bottom on account of the square format. Contemplate the following image, which shows the full 6x6cm frame with a red box indicating the 3.6x2.4mm outline of a 35mm negative:


If I crop the negative down to that red box the result is a 35mm-sized film frame shot with a 55mm lens, which is what you'd get if you could somehow mount the Mamiya 55mm f/4.5 on a full-frame digital SLR:


Sadly it doesn't go the other way; you can't use 35mm full-frame lenses with medium format gear because firstly the lens-to-film distance is all wrong and secondly they don't project a large enough image circle to fill the frame. The exception is shift lenses, which are essentially medium format lenses made for 35mm full-frame cameras with a mechanism that allows the lens to shift around the frame, but I'm digressing here.

I like to think that Rick Astley never went away; we are the ones who strayed. He was there all the time. We just had to open our hearts and let him in.

I've written about the Mamiya C before. The system was launched in the late 1950s and remained in production right up until 1994. Uniquely for a twin-lens reflex it was a complete system, with interchangeable lenses, focusing screens, eye-level viewfinders, flash bracket-stroke-carry handles, a special parallax-correcting tripod mount, lots of other stuff. Most other twin-lens reflexes had a fixed lens, usually 75mm or 80mm, occasionally with an accessory optic that screwed onto the taking lens, but none of them were as well-thought-out or easy to use as the Mamiya C.

A 55mm f/4.5, sitting next to a 65mm f/3.5. My 65mm is one of the older, chrome-bodied models. The 55mm was launched later in the system's lifecycle and has a black body. The very last C-system lenses had a blue dot on the shutter cocking lever although I've never seen a photo of a 55m with this dot.

For the images in this post I used the Mamiya C3 on the right. It's over fifty years old but still works. On the left is a Mamiya C33 with the lens removed; the lens is held in place with a bent piece of wire. It's crude but effective.
In the shot above the 55mm f/4.5 is set at 1/125th and f/11, which is about right for ten-year-old 100-speed negative film in bright sunshine.

Mamiya TLR lenses had the shutter and aperture mechanism built into them, with focusing done by the camera body. You see the knobs at the bottom of the cameras in the picture above? When you turn them the whole front of the camera slides in and out. That's how the lens focuses, and it can focus very closely, almost as closely as a proper macro lens.

On a mechanical level Mamiya TLR lenses are easy to open up - the front elements usually screw right off - which is handy if you want to blow out the dust or un-gum the shutter. With I think just one exception the viewing and taking lenses were the same so if the viewing lens has a scratch you can just swap over the elements. In theory the lenses were calibrated at the factory with little metal shims but in my experience any impact on image quality that comes from swapping lenses isn't apparent.



I shoot a lot of film, but I'm not blind to its flaws and limitations. If I could take pictures by blinking my eyes I would do that instead of carrying a camera; the only thing that really matters is the end result.
This image does however demonstrate one of film's few killer features, or at least one of negative film's few killer features; it's very hard to blow out highlights. Even if you overexpose a lot, highlights retain some colour, which is terrific if you shoot backlit subjects.

The last and best of the Mamiya TLRs was the C330f, which was launched in the early 1980s. It had some plastic components and weighed less than its predecessors. By 1994 the system was an anachronism - it was an anachronism in the 1970s - but it still sold a trickle of units because there was a niche for it. If you wanted to shoot 6x6 medium format a Mamiya TLR was objectively better than a Holga or a Lubitel; more flexible than a YashicaMat; cheaper than a Bronica SQ; much cheaper (and more flexible) than a RolleiFlex; much much cheaper than a Hasselblad; more reliable than a Russian Pentacon / Kiev, I think I've covered all the bases.


My impression - and I have to say I have no evidence for this, it's just my hunch - is that 6x6 fell out of fashion with camera manufacturers in the 1980s in favour of 645 and 6x7, both of which fit more naturally into magazine pages and portrait frames. By the time digital cameras came along the majority of medium format systems were 645, and even today most medium format digital backs are 645, or cropped 645. I mention this because one thing the Mamiya C lacked was interchangeable film backs; a 645 or 6x7 back might have extended the system's life a bit.

Ironically the rise of Instagram has made square incredibly hip with young people, to an extent that Fuji actually launched a square version of their Instax instant film camera a few years ago, thus demonstrating that the universe is contracting, or that it's a rubber band or something.




What's the 55mm f/4.5 like? Pretty good. There's very mild barrel distortion, but it's easily fixable with Photoshop and invisible unless you're a fan of geometric purity. I tried to shoot at f/11 all the time. At f/11 it's basically razor-sharp across the frame.

I scanned these images with a plain old Epson V500 desktop scanner, by no means the last word in film scanning, so I can't pass authoritative judgement on the 55mm's image quality, but my impression is that wide open it's sharp in the middle with slightly murky extreme corners and from f/8 onwards it's sharp across the frame.


A crop from the top-left, shot at f/11.

f/4.5 isn't as big a limitation as it seems. Mamiya TLR bodies are heavy, and the leaf shutter just goes SNICK (it makes a metallic CHING! sound) and I had no trouble hand-holding it at 1/15th of a second. Weight is nature's image stabilisation.

Wideangle with 6x6 is however problematic. As mentioned in my article on the 65mm, square format forces you to think about framing; if you shoot square as you would rectangular 35mm, you'll end up with empty patches at the top and bottom of the image.

In the next two images I've tried to spread the scene across the whole of the frame, but in the third image there's a big empty space at the bottom, albeit that it would be easy to crop out. Cropping was one of medium format's killer features back when medium format was a thing.



This was shot at f/4.5 - the extreme corners aren't that hot but the middle of the image is fine.

I shot all of these images with some Fuji 160 that expired in 2009. I exposed at ISO 100 and then added a bit more exposure just for good luck. When it comes to negative film, light is a bit like wine - it doesn't hurt to have some more.

An example of cropping. This is a distant view of the Miramare Castle, plus some young ladies who paddled into view. As I stood on the jetty, peering through the viewfinder at a landscape I could never possess and some women I would never have, I contemplated the fact that as men age they become physically repellent, and that even when I was younger all of this was beyond my grasp. And yet I keep going because I am driven by a satanic rage.

This was underexposed. The negative was thin. A leaf has fallen on the car's bonnet. Just in front of the car is a heart-shaped leaf on the ground, aligned with the car's direction of travel. That's the great thing about photography. It's a lot more detailed than real life. You can savour it.

The big problem with the Mamiya C is its bulk and weight. It's awkward to handhold and takes up a lot of space in a bag, and furthermore you need to carry a separate lightmeter. In the 1950s and 1960s photojournalists used twin-lens reflex cameras for news photography but as soon as they were allowed to use 35mm SLRs they switched and didn't go back.

There's another issue as well. The 55mm f/4.5's relatively narrow aperture. Not because of its speed but for the depth of field. Medium and large format photography has a distinctive look. It comes from a combination of shallow depth of field, razor-sharp middle, and zero vignetting. All of this makes the subject pop out, as if it was mounted on a glass plate held in between the camera and the background - or as if the subject was poking his or her face through a wall of water.

Sadly this effect isn't very pronounced with the 55mm f/4.5. The depth of field is such that everything is usually in focus. Sized down to 1000 pixels you end up wondering why you didn't shoot with a digital camera instead, cropping the image square with Photoshop. It's interesting to compare the results with images shot with a Holga, which has a 60mm f/8 lens; the Holga's aperture is even narrower, but the extremely blurry edges mimic the out-of-focus look of medium format so Holga images often end up looking more "epic".

Vesuvius, shot with a Holga


Nonetheless the the 55mm f/4.5 is the easiest, cheapest, most reliable way to get wide angle coverage in 6x6 medium format today, just as it was in the 1970s. It was the widest lens available for the Mamiya C and commands a price premium because of it; the Mamiya C's lens range was small enough that it's not too hard to collect them all, and perhaps one day I will.