The Camera Gear

Since this is a photo blog and I am in fact a photographer, I must talk about my photo gear. Now, just to warn you, I am not a ‘true’ gear head and I don’t believe in owning all of the newest and brightest gear. However, if you want to bring the best gear you can carry while traveling, by all means do it (at your own risk). I am only here to tell you what I bring with me when I travel, not necessarily what you yourself should bring.

First of all, I shoot film AND digital. Yeah, I know what you are thinking. I know I’m old school but let me explain why I still use film. I love my cameras for one. I mostly use two film cameras when I travel. The film cameras I bring are a Rolleiflex TLR, and a Sputnik 3D camera.

Both use 120mm medium format film (which I should mention was invented in 1901). I currently only shoot with Fujifilm Fujichrome Provia 100F film, but in the past I have used Kodak Portra 160, and Ilford HP5 400 as well. I still occasionally use the other types of film, but I have come to realize that the image quality I get with slide (transparency) is better, and most of all it’s good to be consistent.

At home, I scan with an Epson V700 Photo Scanner. When I get access to one, I prefer to use the Hasselblad Flextight X5 scanner.

Currently for digital, most of the images you see are from a Canon ELPH 300HS point & shoot (now discontinued), mainly for capturing candids and video. On my latest trip I also brought a GoPro HD HERO2 camera to wear while snorkeling, scuba diving, climbing, etc. to capture video hands-free. Both come in handy for when I just need a good quick snap shot or a rough edited video for the storyline.


 

My beautiful Rolleiflex TLR, built in the 1960's.
My beautiful Rolleiflex TLR, built in the 1960’s.

 Why Film Cameras?

The Rolleiflex is a work of art. Let’s face it, it’s a wonderfully machined German made bundle of mechanical genius. And because it is what it is, people react to it differently. People from all over the world that I have met all seem to have a positive reaction to it. They are either curious, nostalgic, or dumbfounded. Besides peoples’ reactions, I mostly use my cameras because of HOW they photograph.

With a TLR (Twin-Lens-Reflex) style camera, like the Rollei, it’s an ‘indirect’ way of approaching my subject. You look down into the camera versus holding it up in front of your eye to compose your shot.

Because of this, people tend to relax in front of my cameras. Also, they may even feel honored to have their picture taken (I’m only guessing with this one) due to the fact that it isn’t your traditional SLR (Single-Lens-Reflex). They are also mechanical, (fully manual), and requires a separate Sekonic L-308s Light Meter. Therefore, this forces me to stop and take a picture slowly, not just burst off a million shots to have to edit later. And since it is film, every shot costs money. And money should be the next topic, since most people ask about that most often.

How much does film (and cameras) cost?

A pro-pack (pack of 5 rolls) of 120mm Fuji Provia 100F slide film is about $35. My last trip I bought 20 pro-packs or 100 rolls. So that’s about $700, before tax. Processing for me was about $4.50 per roll. I shot 80 rolls, so that’s $360, before tax. So without tax, it cost me over $1100 to shoot film. So, is film expensive? I would have to say, yes. Is digital more expensive? In some ways yes, and in some ways no. It’s expensive if you buy the latest greatest gear and base it upon quality.

For example, a camera body could run $3500 or less, not to mention high-end lenses for digital cameras can easily cost over $2000 each as well. It really depends upon what camera model you buy and what format, etc. When you include taxes, memory cards, and other accessories, you could spend thousands or more very easily over time.

Digital would be cheaper than film in that you are saving money on the overall cost of processing and film purchasing. But if you are frugal (like me) and don’t shoot a ton of images, your cost stays low. By the way, I should mention that my Rolleiflex cost me $350, with a tune-up cost of $120. That’s a far cry from the thousands spent on high-end digital gear, and it works great.

My point is, film is actually cheaper in some ways than shooting digital due to the costs of high-end digital cameras. I keep mentioning ‘high-end’ because I feel that to achieve good photos, one must have ‘high-end’ to get good results. Over time, that bar has been raised for cheaper cameras (which is a good thing).

I must also say that digital cameras degrade in value over time, and need to be replaced every few years. Granted, this has slowed down to a trickle compared to the earlier days of digital. Whereas most (but not all) film cameras hold their value and are sometimes easily repaired if parts are available.

Is film better? Yes and no. And I say this because it is time consuming, and definitely less convenient than digital. However, it is another form of media (analog), therefore not just sitting on a hard drive somewhere, but also on a shelf and can be retrieved if the digital file is lost. But is it rewarding? I’d say yes because it has a certain feel to it, and a sense of mystery that digital doesn’t have.

All in all, film should not be necessarily be balked at as being ‘expensive’. Should you shoot film? That’s entirely up to you…and I’m not sure I’d recommend it for everyone. I for one, shoot both film and digital. I see the positives (and the negatives) for both formats. In the end, they are all just tools for the artist to capture the world around them.

As an added bonus, watch a time-lapse video I created with my last purchase of film back in early 2014.


 

My 3D Sputnik travel companion.
My 3D Sputnik travel companion.

What do you mean, 3D film?

I mentioned earlier that I have a 3D camera. Just a little back history here…3D photography was invented as early as the 1830’s, around the time of the invention of photography itself. There are many types of 3D photography, but I mainly use the stereoscopic method and the anaglyphic method. I use a Russian camera called the Sputnik, which uses the stereoscopic method of using two lenses simultaneously to capture an image.

The anaglyphic method is the use of the red and cyan glasses to view an image that has been converted to have those two colors create the 3D effect with the two layers. (You will see these throughout my blog posts, so get your 3D glasses ready if you got ’em!)

I typically prefer the 3D stereoscopic method myself, however it is not really possible (at least cheaply) to share this with you digitally, hence the conversion of these images to anaglyph makes this possible. 3D photography, as some of you may know, seems to be a trend that fades in and out of history. Hollywood and 3D photography and/or 3D cinematography, were most popular during the 1800’s and in cinemas in the 1960’s.

As many of you remember, the Viewmaster was a hit for many years and is still around today. With the recent use of 3D polarization, 3D made a comeback thanks to movies like Avatar, and Disney/Pixar films. I wish I could share my 3D stereo images with you all, but for now, keep both eyes open for an anaglyphic image or two! Enjoy!

Arianna in 3D. Myanmar 2014.
Arianna in Anaglyphic 3D. Shot with my Sputnik in Mandalay, Myanmar 2014.