Leica cameras are my workhorse tools for all types of photography, both digital Leica cameras and Leica film cameras. I also use medium format cameras such as Hasselblad and Mamiya (+ 4×5 large format cameras) and develop my film in house. The majority of the blog content is either Leica camera related or film photography. I photograph people; portraits, models, fashion, lifestyle, wedding photography so most of my photography is portraits, experimenting with various cameras, lenses and films. The digital Leica M240 camera is my do everything digital M camera but I shoot film whenever possible.
I used to write technical articles for UK photography magazines so I just share the same information here. I hope you find the content as enjoyable to read as I find it is to document.
Best Leica travel camera!? Using the Leica CL as the ultimate travel camera, up against a compact action camera, the Yi4K+for an active winter training holiday in Fuerteventura.
Just writing this on the 4 hour flight back from Fuerteventura to make use of the time. My first trip away of 2019 and if you read my Poland blog before Christmas it gave a hint that change was on the horizon. (*Yes this was written before the last post I shared so sorry if any parts seem contradictory or confusing!)
Best Leica travel camera!? – Leica CL (+ Yi4K+)
What I learnt in Poland – Recap
When I was in Poland last November I took with me a just purchased GoPro type action camera. The lesser known Yi4K+ action camera which is similar to a GoPro Hero 6. I took the Yi4K+ camera with me when I went for a run and loved being able to capture whatever I saw. (I don’t normally carry a camera when I run, not even my phone as it’s too big)(*and I’ve always struggled with my iPhone 6+ for photography)(though since writing this have used it a bit more for photos for Instagram (*training profile not main model account)).
Planning for Fuerteventura
I’m not sure how I manage it but I always make the task of packing for any trip so extremely over complicated. It becomes a multitude of extended packing lists. Normally I blame the film cameras + lenses, filters, film types etc but I couldn’t this time. (Even with the juicy temptation of a just serviced silky smooth Hasselblad 501C to entice me!) I kept the camera setup super simple and lightweight.
Best Leica camera for travel?
In the past I’ve taken film cameras including the Leica M3, a Leica M4-P, a Voigtlander Bessa R3A (to save a few grams vs. a film Leica!) and a Mamiya 6 (blog still to follow). I still desired something smaller! I wanted the option of wide angle but also telephoto. The Yi4K+ certainly ticks the small box and is fantastic at what it does – carry anywhere, wide angle view and never miss a shot. It does distort easily though and can be a little too wide for my taste. I find only having a super-wide lens quite limiting.
Leica CL travel camera
You probably already guessed from the title but for me the best Leica travel camera is the Leica CL. The CL accepts interchangeable lenses so gives much more flexibility than a fixed lens Leica such as the Leica Q. Both Leica cameras have their advantages of course but I have a soft spot for telephoto lens photos so the CL works best for me. I also enjoy being able to use all my compact Leica M lenses on the Leica CL via the Leica CL-M adapter.
Telephoto landscape photography
So with the Leica CL packed I now needed a lens. I love how a telephoto lens lets you curate a scene. It allows you chose what the viewer does and doesn’t see through careful cropping in camera. For me this makes the task of taking a non-portrait photo much more enjoyable. I think I enjoy this more creative aspect of taking a photo vs. an iPhone or action camera where the wider view results in more of a point and shoot approach.
Best Leica telephoto lens for travel?
My number one requirement for the telephoto lens of choice was great image quality and compact, and ideally as long a focal length as possible! The chrome 135mm Leica Elmar lens is lightweight but physically quite long (in Leica M terms) and too big for my mini camera bag / pouch. The collapsible Leica Macro-Elmer-M 90mm f4 lens however is short. It’s roughly the same length as a Leica Summicron 50mm f2 from memory, so it’s short!). 90mm Macro-Elmer packed. Done!
Leica pancake lens or camera body cap?
Although I favour the manual focus Leica M lenses on the Leica CL (vs. Leica TL/SL or other Leica lenses), the Leica Elmarit-TL 18mm kit lens is no slouch! Image quality is excellent and it is both tiny and lightweight. Rather than pack a Leica body cap I just left the 18mm Elmarit on the CL. This would give me the option of wider Leica images if the desire arose.
Why go digital? What happened to film?
If you’ve read enough of my blog posts I’ve always written words to the effect of ‘for personal photo work it’s film or nothing’. Digital has never held much value to me for my taste and workflow. Digital works well for models to test before I shoot film but other than that I don’t really shoot digital, not even for family photos (perhaps on a few rare occasions).
Poland 2018. The little Yi4K+ camera opened my eyes to the benefits of digital. When the scenery (and light) is THAT good you that you could just use an iPhone or GoPro camera. Nature has already done all the work for you. As a photographer you just need to put yourself in the right places to capture these magical moments. A portable camera just makes getting to a location faster and easier (especially if off the beaten track). If the camera is fast to operate it just helps when the light is constantly changing. (This is the opposite of shooting with a 4×5 film camera!)(Big to carry and slow to operate).
The end of analogue?
Will the sudden appreciation of digital kill my analogue photography? No. For portraits I will still shoot analogue. I prefer the look (and editing process)(and capturing the image process when shooting film!) I will still shoot some film landscapes too (I have since this post)(to follow when I get time!)
Drawbacks of film
Film photography is great but when you stop it for a short period you realise quite how much time it consumes. Developing the film, scanning film and then editing afterwards (cloning out dust specs as a minimum). I do edit my film images to get the look I like, some more than others. After years of shooting portraits and more specifically pretty (I think) girls usually, it has perhaps become the reason why people view my images. When I know the interest is there it seems almost good use of my time to clone dust specs off a film portrait before posting on Flickr. (As shallow as that might sound, posting people photos to the expecting ‘audience’).
Film landscape photos and expectations
On past landscape photography photo trips I’ve shot film and the dilemma is two fold. If I shoot colour film it can take me seemingly hours (potentially) to colour grade a film scan. On top of that I will likely still have dust specs to edit from the images whether colour or black and white film. To then top it all off, the people that follow my work probably have zero interest in the resulting landscape photo. They came to see ‘boobs and bums’ not a pretty sunset, probably!*
Flickr vs Instagram followers
Just from my own experience, I would say Flickr followers tend to be photographers (no ****!) and my @MrLeicaCom Instagram followers is more social media friends and ‘appreciators of pretty woman’ (I think). I try to sneak in the occasional non-portrait photo on my Flickr and generally speaking they will get well received (if it is a half decent photo). I think us photographers tend to have a wider appreciation for a ‘nice photo’ than the non-photographers on Instagram. Just my 2 cents from the likes received on both social media platforms. (I like viewing portraits but I still like to see a good photo of literally anything if it’s really good. That is what makes a photo good I guess!)
Instagram drives creativity
On my MrLeicaCom Instagram profile I try to keep it mostly portraits. That means if it doesn’t fit the theme I’ll likely never share it. After returning from Poland I wanted to share more of my running adventures. As these photos didn’t fit the theme I decided to setup a completely new Instagram profile – @mrleicarunsbikesexplores. As the name suggests I tried to give it a generally theme of my training antics (for the endurance triathlons I do). In addition to this I can post all the none portrait images there. Having somewhere to post images drives me to create images. This is the same as I do with portraits but it fits the other half of my life when I’m out training/ exploring. I’m planning to do more and more adventures going forward. (I’ve caught the exploring/ get out and doing bug!).
Images for social media vs. Images to print
Shooting with the 4×5 film camera is an awesome process in itself but when the photos are posted to Instagram they probably look the same as digital. Flickr is better especially when images are viewed large on a monitor but on a smart phone film probably looks no different to digital. I’m too picky with what I like / want to print to the extent that I print almost nothing. Baring that in mind the speed and ease of digital suddenly looks quite inviting for non-portrait photos. Often my travel photos will be to capture personal memories from a visit to a destination as much as anything so digital is acceptable (even if I wish I’d shot film once I view the image at home!)
Why only share 1 photo when you can share 10?
One big advantage to me is by shooting digital I can batch processing them all though Lightroom. Just apply a quick MrLeica Lightroom preset then fine tune as needed, and done. The time it would take me to edit one film scan I can edit and export 10+ digital images through Lightoom. This means extra photos to post online whether it is a more visual diary of a photo trip via the blog or just for the usual Flickr and Instagram feeds.
Limited time – more digital?
2019 for me is more time pressured than ever. With an Ironman distance triathlon and my first 50K Ultra (marathon) booked in the diary I need to train. Rather than spend a whole day photographing a nice model, followed by days and evenings developing scanning and editing film photos I might need to cut it down slightly. Cut it down or change it up a little.
Less photos or just different?
It’s not all bad. I’ve taken the need for Ironman training as a great excuse to get out and see more of the world. Time on feet or time on two wheels all counts even if I’m out having fun exploring new places (and taking pretty pictures!). Digital photography for my travels should work well in terms of being more time efficient but I will still shoot some film too.
Model photography vs travel photography
Returning to the same cities multiple times a year, year after year, often to photo the same faces has started to become a little ‘samey’. I still push myself to improve on each visit and find new faces to work with but when I look at my @MrLeicaCom Instagram it is mostly just a long page of faces. I’m not sure how inspiring they are to look at? Don’t worry I enjoy the social aspect of model photography as well as keeping in touch with model friends so I will still do the model photography trips just maybe less frequently. Rather than visit Poland four times in one year I could visit just once then visit three new places instead. Travel photography for me ties in nicely with training and they both compliment each other. The photo aspect makes me want to get outside and the exercise endurance aspect lets me travel further distances at each location.
How I trained and carried my camera gear?
Ahead of Fuerteventura I’d bought various bags and devices to help carry nutrition and fluids when out and about. I also needed to carry my cameras! My setup for running differs slightly from cycling –
Bag 1: Lowepro Photo Sport 300 AW II – An Outdoor Sport Backpack
My go to backpack for cycling or trekking with a larger (DSLR size) camera is a Lowepro Photo Sport 300 AW II. Brilliant backpack that is a hybrid between a normal rucksack and a small camera bag. This is often the bag I use as carry on luggage for flights. There is a small well padded compartment in the side of the backpack to hold you camera and a lens (I would say the size is big enough for a pro level DSLR body (like my Nikon F5) and a normal lens, say my Tokina 100mm Macro f2.8). I have used it several times to carry my Mamiya 6 rangefinder medium format film camera together with both a 50mm lens and 150mm lens. Leica camera gear is obviously much smaller so you could easily fit in two Leica M bodies and 2-4 Leica M mount lenses. The rest of the bag acts like a generic high quality sports rucksack with a small top pocket for wallet and keys (or filters and lens cloth etc if a photo trip!). The straps are well padded so it’s very comfy to wear for a full day of trekking / exploring. There is also a space to insert a Camelbak bladder so you can keep hydrated while you shoot. (I use this option, adding it to the bag more recently).
Excuse the stock photos! I thought visuals would help and I forgot to take any bag photos during the trip. If you are interested in the full specifications of the Lowepro Photo Sport 300 AW II sport backpack you can find them on Amazon:
My preferred ‘bag’ or storage device for running is an Ultimate Direction AK 2.0 Race Vest. There are quite a few different versions but they all offer the same quality and function. The vest is designed to carry two water bottles on the front two chest pockets then there is a storage compartment on the back (and elastics to strap additional clothing too if you run out of space). The vest is designed to meet the needs of nordic walkers/ runners too and I fit my Leki running poles in the side compartments. I would not recommend this hydration vest for photographers using DSLR cameras as I dont think a DSLR will fit in. For Leica photographers however you are in luck! I have used the vest to carrya Leica camera in each chest pocket (with small lens attached)(tight fit), then extra lenses in the rear compartment, plus film, food etc. Like the Lowepro Photo Sport 300 AW II backpack there is a compartment to insert a Camelbak bladder (a feature I look for). This lets me carry my fluids in a Camelbak bladder and use the rest of the vest pockets for camera kit and other essentials. Being a vest rather than a standard backpack the design is quite form fitting so for running it is perfect as it doesn’t bounce around. If you have a small compact camera or an action camera this vest is a great option. For most non-Leica cameras though this will probably not be a great camera-running hydration solution for you.
Again if you want to see more info on the Ultimate Direction AK 2.0 Race Vest you can find them on Amazon:
When I was running / trekking I had the Leica CL camera and both Leica lenses in a soft pouch, inside a dry bag in the main pocket of my Ultimate Direction hydration vest/ or in the front pockets as described. (Salomon also make amazing hydration vests and with greater capacity if you like the idea of carrying your camera this way). I had the Yi4K+ action camera in my “Naked” running belt (I can’t link to it as they are not widely available but try Googling if interested). The mesh Naked band can be accessed on the move to grab a quick photo with the little action camera. The Leica CL normally involves stopped to take the vest off to get the camera out. When I was trying to keep moving I used the Yi4K+ camera but if I saw something extra pretty or eye catching I stopped to take out the Leica. These photo stops normally doubled as a quick food/ drink/ rest stop so it wasn’t all bad!
This is the closest product I could find to the running belt I use to give you an idea:
When riding with the Lowepro Photo Sport 300 backpack for a day out type of cycle I had the Leica CL inside the pouch in the dry bag. It is perfect for casual rides but as i’m supposed to be training too i’m also looking at my speed. This camera carrying solution is great but not very aero for windy rides. A backpack means it’s also always tempting to fill it! Spare clothes, food, drinks, selfie sticks, additional cameras etc resulting in carrying more weight! (Not great up hills!)
Cycling with a Leica camera (Option 2)
Half way through the Fuerteventura visit I had an amazing discovery. The Leica CL would fit inside the new Naked running belt (wrapping it in a small freezer bag). I could fit both the Leica CL (with 18mm lens attached) and the 90mm Leica Macro-Elmer in the rear section of the belt. #GameChanger! Woo this was big! (Good). For any fellow Lycra clad cyclists you may have found that most cycle jersey rear pockets are too small to fit a Leica camera in. That and / or they are already full with energy gels, inner tubes, pump, emergency gilet etc etc. By wearing the Naked belt under my outer cycle jersey I had the jersey pockets free for bike stuff and the belt free for the Leica CL free for other bits. If you are less brave or crazy than me it’s worth noting the belt has no secure zip or Velcro so the camera is just held between two layers of elasticated mesh. It worked fine for road cycling but I wouldn’t try it for running I think (haven’t yet). This means when I’m on my own bikes in the UK on a long ride I can now potentially take the Leica CL if I think I will see something worth photographing.
Yi4K+ lightweight option
For completeness it’s worth noting when I was trying to cover more miles and take less photos the Yi4K+ action camera was the perfect solution. For a mountain section I wanted to pack lighter and get round the route within a set number of hours. I had the Yi4K+ camera in my cycle jersey rear pocket and my gilet in the Naked belt round my waist. (I’m so glad I took the little action camera. The views from the top in the morning light were just stunning!).
Fuerteventura – Trip details
After babbling on so long already for anyone still reading I’ll try to make the remainder of the post a little more concise! In brief Fuerteventura was 3 nights, almost 4 days away thanks to the economic Ryanair prices. Geoff at Caleta Cycles kindly sorted me out with a Fuji Roubauix Carbon road bike for the visit. I stayed in an AirBnB just outside the main UK populated resort of Caleta de Fussa. (I prefer peace and quiet!). Each day involved cycling and running and I took a camera on every outing. Sometimes the light was better than others and I passed the same specific locations on a few outings so took photos with both the Yi4K+ and Leica. It might make a nice comparison if wondering how the images vary (if I ever get chance to review them side by side!).
Fuerteventura – Trip summary
My biggest oversight when it came to camera gear was not taking a polarising filter with me. I took a CPL previously when shooting with film cameras but completely overlooked it when thinking about a simple digital setup. In hindsight I should have trained (running and cycling) more before the trip to give me more miles in my legs each day (to cover greater distances/ see more places/ more photo ops!). Other than that I was pretty happy with my planning and really enjoyed the few days away. As soon as I got back to the UK I was instantly struggling with winter blues again. I’m not a fan of the cold dark and miserable UK winter months.
Did I miss film?
It would have been awesome to have a film camera with me for some of the photo opportunities but in practical terms it would be less easy. The Leica CL and Yi4K+ action camera provided a tiny setup giving the option of both wides and telephoto shots. To shoot similar photos with my Hasselblad cameras I would need my Hasselblad SWC/M as one setup for super crisp wide shots and then perhaps the Hasselblad 501C for longer shots. My longest Zeiss lens for the Hasselblad is the 180mm Sonnar which would give less compression/ range vs. the Leica M 90mm on the Leica CL. The Zeiss 180mm f4 Sonnar CF lens also weight over 1 kilo so is a bit of a beast! I could shoot the Hasselblad handheld vs. a lightweight 4×5 setup using the Intrepid large format camera which needs a tripod. Hmm. I often feel 35mm film doesn’t do a landscape justice in most cases but a Leica film camera would be the smallest lightest option (as I’ve used previously).
Medium format film – as a comparison
Here is a medium format film photo using a Fuji GF670 camera (in 6×6 film format) from my trip to San Francisco (that I still haven’t blogged). I was running/ trekking all day trying to see the city and get lots of photos. After waiting for the sunset at the Golden Gate bridge I had to run along the front back towards the city in the pitch black and managed to get a night bus once I got into the more populated areas. I was glad to get home after a tube back to Mission District where I was staying. The folding Fuji GF67o is perfect for travelling lighter and can give a photo similar look to a Hasselblad with the 6×6 format option. It is also more compact so fits in the LowePro rucksack easier.
Summary of my latest trip to Poland for model photography; Leica film cameras, Hasselblad 501C, Leica CL 35mm & 50mm portraits and an iPhone5! Yes MrLeica starts using an iPhone for photoshoots!..
Before I start I want to apologies for the lack of new blog posts this year. I was doing really well for the months leading up to Christmas but for the last 3 months I’ve not had chance to post anything. There are several blogs in the pipeline but I need to finish them so this jumps the timeline as it is my most recent trip.
Poland photoshoots recap
Flying home from 2.5 days in Poland for my first overseas model photography trip of the year. I’ve not shot as much recently as all my time has gone into Ironman training (endurance triathlon)(similar to my 2017). I can only focus at one thing at a time but luckily by the time I was due fly to Poland I had reached the point of becoming over trained (and sick). A photography break and catching up with familiar faces was just what I needed!
Hasselblad camera – time to show what it can do!
After getting my Hasselblad 501C serviced (at last – it’s been out of action since 2017 so I’ve been using 500CM bodies instead) I could finally use my super smooth fully refurbished Hassy again. I didn’t overthink the other cameras or lenses for Poland (for once). Based on some of my best previous work (in terms of image quality and personal favourites) I knew I wanted to use the Zeiss Macro-Planar 120mm f4 CF lens on the Hasselblad 501C with the Hasselblad 45 degree prism viewfinder plus the “normal” Acute Matte screen (not split screen). The Zeiss Sonnar 180mm f4 CF and Zeiss Planar 60mm f3.5 CF lenses have both also given amazing results in the past but the 60mm can be a little wide and the 180mm a bit long especially for indoors! The 120mm Zeiss Macro-Planar setup gives a great one lens setup for most portraits for me and I also find this lens/ setup the easiest to focus (up close). There was a little bit of space left in the camera bag so I chose the old 80mm Zeiss Planar f2.8 C lens as a slightly wider lens option and mainly because it is my smallest Hasselblad lens. (The older Zeiss C lenses are a smaller design to the Zeiss CF lens I use). I tend not to use the 80mm focal length favouring 60mm or 100mm on the Hasselblad but it’s nice to mix it up. I’ve never shot with the old Zeiss C lens so it will be interesting to see the lens results vs. the impressive CF lenses i’m used to.
Hasselblad camera film backs / accessories
For the Hasselblad 501C I took two Hasselblad camera film backs. A standard Hasselblad A12 film back that captures the classic Hasselblad 6×6 film format and also a Hasselblad A16 film back that gives a 6×4.5 film format. The A16 film back was also newly refurbished with new light seals so it would be nice to use it again. I find a rectangular crop sometimes suits portraits better than a square, especially vertically. Having the Hasselblad prism 45 degree viewfinder (in addition to the standard WLF) it would be easier to shoot the Hasselblad camera on it’s side for vertical crop portraits. If you work with 6ft catwalk models a prism viewfinder is also better than the WLF as you can have the camera at eye level vs. having to look down into the WLF (therefore needing steps!). I’ve just picked these things up from experience of shooting models with different Hasselblad kit over the years! To keep the camera steady I find the Hasselblad viewfinder prism eye cup pressed against my head plus the use of a monopod gives me the best balance between stability and speed of use. A Hasselblad on a sturdy tripod would of course be more stable but it is too slow for model photography in most cases.
Leica film cameras
This Poland trip was all about the Hasselblad camera so I packed the Leica M3 and Leica M4-P film cameras more as backup film options. I didn’t really need 2 Leica film cameras but the M4-P had film loaded to finish and works with off camera flash. The Leica M3 has the best viewfinder for 50mm portraits (for me)(magnified view for easy focusing). The original plan was to take the small and contrasty Leica Summarit-M 50mm f2.5 lens but experience has taught me you always need more light. As such I packed the Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH lens. My number one Leica lens (most used).
Digital Leica camera
For previous model photography photoshoots I have taken both the Leica M240 and the Leica CL. Mainly to do a comparison between the two cameras. This trip was less about testing gear and just trying to get some nice photos. (Mainly with the Hasselblad!). To pack light I therefore took the Leica CL as my digital camera and as the main lens I went for the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii. To me this performed as one of the best in my M lenses on the Leica CL photoshoot testing. (35mm on the Leica CL cropped sensor is about 50mm on the Leica film cameras so I could frame an image on the CL then shoot it on film without needing to move myself). Again I’ve learnt this the hard way! (Such as using the Leica 90mm Marco-Elmar-M f4 lens on the CL then having say a 35mm lens on the Leica M3. Completely different views so you have to walk back and forth closer/ further from the model between every photo. It doesn’t work for my style of ‘hybrid’ shooting.
As a list kinda guy I normally write down everything to take so I don’t forget. I can be very organised (you have to be trying to organise multiple models that you may never have met to meet in a different country) but also super relaxed and a bit dumb at times (“head in the clouds”!). When I took the Leica CL overseas last time I didn’t take a battery charger as I didn’t plan to use the camera much. It was just for the occasional travel photo (not for model photoshoots). Packing the Leica CL for Poland I completely overlooked the battery charger. Just as we were taxiing down the runway to take off my heart suddenly sunk as I realised! No charger! I’d spend over 3 months organising 9 trusting/ expecting models in Poland and now I was flying to meet them with a digital camera where the battery was likely to run out on the first afternoon! ****!
Luckily I had packed a fair amount of 35mm film for the Leicas and 120mm film for the Hasselblad. With only 2 Leica CL batteries to last me around 20hrs of shoot time I had to get smart. If you’ve never shot a model before they rarely produce the best images from the first frame. I couldn’t shoot film start to end of every model session as it would be a waste of film and I would run out. I had also planned to use the Leica CL to meter the light so hadn’t packed a handheld Sekonic light meter. That meant if the Leica CL died I couldn’t shoot any film camera confidently to get the correct exposure. (I probably could have guessed it within a few stops but it’s not ideal when working with professional models). For model photography I enjoy showing the girls the images as I shoot as it boosts their confidence. This is especially true for newer models/ non-models. After they see their photos on the camera LCD and they like what they see they seem to up their game and the photos really start to flow from there on (normally with the best towards the end of the session).
Real time photos
In line with keeping the Poland photoshoots pretty simple I wasn’t using any fancy camera settings (not that I ever do)(Leicas only have a few buttons!). There were no elaborate lighting set-ups using off camera flash (I took speedlights as a backup but didn’t use them). All the photos were with available light / continuous light and it was a case of what you see is what you get. This works well when shooting film as there are less surprises. That also meant I could use an iPhone! Using my old iPhone5 (my iPhone6+ recently died) I shot photos of each model to show them how the photos were looking. I would then juggle (use) the iPhone (set to B&W mode), the Hasselblad, the Leica M3/M4-P and the Leica CL and shoot a few photos with each.
iPhone portraits / photo advantages
One great advantage of using the iPhone is there is zero editing required and the model gets the photos straight after the shoot to use for their Instagram etc. It doesn’t get faster or more efficient than that! (Quite the opposite to shooting film but both have their benefits). What was more surprising is some of the iPhone photos were quite good and the models liked the results. I think to a non-photographer a photo is a photo. People don’t care how it was taken as long as it looks good.
Leica CL battery life – saving battery!
The Leica CL battery life is not as long as the Leica M240 I’m used too. To extend the Leica CL battery life I didn’t review any of the photos on the rear LCD other than the initial preview pop up to check my exposure. I turned the camera off between shots and I tried not to use it outside in the cold for long. By day 2 I realised the cold weather sessions on the hotel balcony drained the battery much faster so between shoots I had the Leica CL on the radiator to defrost! (*I’m not sure if it helped or not). The second and final charged Leica CL battery lasted just until the end of the 9th and final model shoot where we did a mini video montage of the photo playback and then the battery died. Timed to perfection or I must walk on water! I feel lucky doing what I do in life and this was another fortunate occasion. Phew! I played it cool throughout the trip so no one was any wiser as to why I was using what cameras / phone. I don’t think they care as long as they get photos.
Keep it short
I’ll try not to blab on for ages (sorry I’ve already doubled the word count above since first writing!)(this is why I have so many half written still to finish blogs!) like most of my blogs but it felt great doing what I do again. Making people happy with pictures and loving the process in between. Flying home with a smile.
Thanks to all the girls. A mix of new faces, models and never modelled (discovered and handpicked via Facebook and Instagram) and experienced pros /familiar faces too. Nobody cancelled last minute and I was so impressed with I think everyone’s efforts. Many photos far surpassed any expectations I may have had for each model. I really hope the Hasselblad photos come out as nice as they looked in camera! (Especially). Thanks again, it’s the people I meet and work with that make these trips so memorable and special. A big thanks to Monika too for having me.
Even with full days of back to back model shoots I still managed to run twice a day to get some fresh air and stop me getting twitchy! The perfect mix for me. (My tired feet need a rest now but I’m dying to get back on the bikes to put some more miles in!) (I’m pretty sure you are not interested but if you want to track my life outside of photography I setup an additional Instagram account to record my training – @mrleicarunsbikesexplores ).
After thought – get creative within the same 4 walls
During the trip I didn’t really think about it during the fast pace of one in one out model photography but of around 20hrs of photoshoots 19hr45 were shot within the same 4 walls and on a small balcony. Trying to make photos for 9 models within the same small space look different (especially when I’ve stayed in the same room before) was a tall order. Once I post enough pictures to Flickr and Instagram you might start to see the same background on different photos but overall I seemed to cope OK. The tight crop of my Hasselblad portraits was well suited to this type of scenario as a wider view would show too much of the same hotel room in every photo. It just proves that you don’t need grand locations (say Iceland!) or a fancy fully kitted out studio (with all the latest lighting gear) to make nice photos. (I do like the idea of shooting models in Iceland using massive lights but it’s far easier logistically to find a hotel room in a city location where there is a supply of potential models!).
As I always write, and it’s so true, looking forward to the next model trip!
Leica Lightroom preset – Digital photo editing
All the Leica CL digital black and white photos were edited by applying my MrLeica Lightroom Leica M8 B&W preset. I then tweaked with the contrast to suit each image to my taste. 8 of the 9 models received all their photos with the B&W Leica M8 preset look, 1 session I decided to keep in colour.
Film photos blog post to follow once I’ve developed the film. It normally takes a few months or more to develop, scan, edit the film photos but I will be sure to post individual images to Flickr and Instagram (@MrLeicaCom) as I process them.
Tamron 45mm review – Better alternative to a Nikon 50mm lens – sharp, fast and focuses close. Great portrait lens!
Tamron 45mm Review (f1.8 Nikon Mount)
I was never impressed with the fast Nikkor 50mm AF lenses and they don’t focus as close as dedicated macro lenses. It would be great if there was a super sharp fast lens that would focus close too! Meet the Tamron 45mm f1.8 AF lens and here is a quick Tamron 45mm review including sample portrait film photos.
Much better than the Nikkor 50mm AF lenses
In my Nikon days (pre-Leica) I owned the Nikkor 50mm f1.8 D lens and later replaced it with the Nikkor 50mm f1.4 D lens. At the time I thought they were OK lenses with nice bokeh but I didn’t use them wide open for paying client work as they were not sharp enough. I did have the Nikkor 35mm f1.4 G lens for a year or so and that was notably better than the 50s. (For completeness I also had the Nikkor 85mm f1.8 D which was replaced with the Nikkor 85mm f1.4 D lens. Neither was as sharp as the manual focus Samyang 85mm f1.4 lens wide open). (Awesome lens!)
Moving from digital Nikon to digital Leica
After moving from my Nikon D800 to the Leica M9 (at the time) I also developed a taste for film photography. I bought my first Nikon SLR 35mm film camera which was a Nikon FM. After the Nikon FM camera followed a Nikon F4 and then a Nikon F5. Both newer Nikon film bodies accept auto-focus lenses but the old Nikon FM gives me the most portable setup. I still had/ have most of Nikon glass so was able to give it all a new life using it on the Nikon film cameras.
Need sharper Nikon mount lenses
After getting used to the Leica lens performance on the Leica M9 and then on various Leica film cameras (Leica M2 and M3 to start with) my appetite for using great lens grew. Macro lenses tend to be the sharpest of any camera lens line-up so I bought 2 macro lenses to use on the Nikon film cameras. The first was the Nikkor 60mm f2.8 Micro AF. Next was the Tokina 100mm f2.8 Macro AF. These lenses are both excellent but being used to the Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH lens I wanted something faster yet still sharp (*faster than f2.8).
Eye sight issues
One reason I love rangefinder cameras like Leica cameras is I can use them without the need for glasses even though I am a little short sighted. If I use SLR type cameras such as the Nikon bodies or say a Hasselblad 500CM I am fine working up close but mis-focus when photographing more distance subjects. I bought a split screen for the Hassy so now I can use that accurately which is awesome. For the Nikon cameras however I now tend to reply on autofocus lenses for distant subjects. This is a little annoying as some of my best Nikon mount lenses are manual focus (Nikkor 200mm f2 for example!)
Tamron lenses for Nikon
After much research for an alternative to a Nikkor 50mm autofocus lens I discovered the seemingly not well known Tamron 45mm prime lens. I had owned these ‘cheaper’ Tamron lenses in the past and the performance always surpassed their lower price tags. I had Tamron short zoom lenses for the Nikon D90 DX body (Tamron 17-50mm f2.8) and Nikon D700/D800 FX bodies (Tamron 28-75mm f2.8) both which were sharp if just a little plastic feeling. I also had the Tamron 90mm f2.8 macro lens at this time.
Tamron 45mm f1.8 AF lens
The Tamon 45mm f1.8 lens ticks all the boxes for me. Here is a summary:
5 Reasons to buy a Tamron 45mm f1.8 lens
Does the lens have autofocus ? – Yes
Is the Tamron 45mm sharp wide open? – Yes to my eyes
Rather than me keep writing it might be easier just to show you what the Tamron 45mm f1.8 lens can do. Below are a series of photos shot with my Nikon F5 film cameras. (It got to the point at the end of 2018 that I was using this camera-lens setup almost too much considering i’m supposed to be MrLeica! I just like trying new gear whatever the make even if I then revert back to Leica eventually).
Tamron 45mm Portraits (35mm Film Portraits)
Most of these photos were shot during a trip to Poland (linked below if interested)
If you are looking for an alternative to the standard Nikkor fast 50mm lenses you might want to consider the Tamron 45mm f1.8. I have both lenses and I know which lens I will be using on on the Nikon F5 (especially). (My Nikkor 50mm f1.4D has no been used for many years).
How much is the Tamron 45mm f1.8 (Nikon mount?)
The prices online are constantly changing so click here to see the latest deals on Amazon – (UK) / (US)
Tamron 45mm vs 35mm?
It is probably worth noting that the Tamron 45mm f1.8 lens has a sibling, the Tamron 35mm f1.8 lens. If I had to choose between the Tamron 45mm vs 35mm I would pick the 45mm. Why? It is a focal length I felt I would use more for my portraits. 35mm at close range can add a lot of distortion to an image/ portrait. I use 35mm lenses on my Leica cameras but they don’t focus close (0.7m vs 0.29m!). (One reason why I shoot with SLR cameras sometimes – they let me do what I can’t do with a Leica).
Using the Leica M240 vs Leica CL on my latest trip to Poland for model photography. Article also discusses me shooting the new Kodak Ektachrome vs Fuji Provia film, testing a new lens for the Nikon F5, finally taking the 4×5 Intrepid camera overseas and having fun with the GoPro Hero 6 like new Yi4K+ action camera.
Back from another few days in Poland. My last overseas model photoshoot of 2018. I couldn’t resist the cheap flights! What an amazing trip it was. I saw more in 3 days than all my past years visits put together. I took my 4×5 Intrepid camera overseas for the first time (at last) and it didn’t disappoint. I shot my first roll of the much anticipated Kodak Ektachrome slide film and I took my new lens for the Nikon F5 to play with. On top of all that I also had my new GoPro style action camera (Yi4K+) with me to record some of the fun / sights.
8 Model photoshoots in 2.5 days
As with every trip I spent a lot of time before traveling to Poland organising the models to work with. 12 models across the 2.5 days, 5 a day on the full days and 2 on the first afternoon. A few models cancelled but luckily the 8 photo shoots I did do more than made up for the models that didn’t show.
I tried to work with as many new faces as possible to keep it interesting and feel this was one of the most successful visits to Poland so far. I was really pleased with how the photos were looking on the back of the camera to the most part. Thanks to Theo, Ania, Maria (x2 shoots!), Claudia, Anna, Teresa and Julia.
Cameras for Poland (& lenses)
Digital Leica M240 & CL cameras
My digital cameras were the Leica M240 and Leica CL. On the first afternoon I used the CL as it has just become habit to pick up this camera first. I found manual focusing too slow and not accurate enough when working quickly with fast moving models. For day 2 and 3 I used the Leica M240 almost exclusively and was more than happy. I noticed the Leica M240 limited dynamic range to be clipping the highlights in the bright light but the more I photograph the less I’m fussed about pixel peeping. It’s the moment or expression that matters more.
Leica M8 comparison
As a quick reality check, the Leica M8 only has a few shades of grey – black, grey and white (smiley face) and yet it still makes awesome photos with with limited dynamic range. I miss my black blacks and blow out white B&W JPEG images of the Leica M9 and M8. I find myself trying to retain all the detail in photos while editing which gives grey images if i’m not careful. I’m a high contrast kinda guy at heart so I often edit my photos with more contrast added, both film and digital images.
Leica M lenses
For once I tried to be good and packed less lenses. The truth was it allowed me to carry more running apparel and was me attempting to balance my obsessions! Most digital photos were shot with a Voigtlander 35mm f1.2 ASPH lens and the rest with the Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5 lens. I wanted to use the Summicron on the Leica CL to be able to share the resulting images as I hadn’t tried that setup yet.
Film and film cameras – testing
My last few overseas model shoots have all been about the Leica CL. Now the CL honeymoon period is over it was back to the real stuff! Film. I wanted to test and compare various film photography related products in Poland.
Kodak Ektachrome vs Fuji Provia
It seems ages now since I ordered and received my first roll of Kodak Ektachrome pre-release date. Life flies by so fast and I hadn’t yet had the right oppotunity to use it. In Poland I wanted to try the new Kodak Ektachrome slide film for portraits and shoot Kodak Ektachrome vs Fuji Provia to compare the results. The conditions were often too bright for slide film but I shot both rolls of film anyway and will share the results once the film is developed. For anyone interested I shot the Kodak Ektachrome in a Leica M2 (with 35mm lenses) and the Fuji Provia in a Nikon F5.
Leica M2 film camera
My most used focal length for Leica cameras is 50mm but some of my favourite images were shot on 35mm. For this reason I took the Leica M2 camera for the purest form of 35mm photography in Leica camera terms. No camera hot shoe so no flash photography and a clean viewfinder with the single 35mm frameline. I wanted the photos to be about the colours rather than super shallow depth of field so 35mm helps in the regard also. The new 35mm Kodak Ektachrome slide film is not cheap so I used this camera over 3-4 photoshoots. The Nikon F5 was my main film camera for the trip this time.
Nikon F5 film camera
For the Nikon F5 I took mostly black and white film plus half a roll of Fuji Provia to finish (unloaded from my Olympus Pen F). Normally at this point I write I wish I had shot more film but for once I did actually shoot more film. A big thanks to the models for this as good models = Matt shoots much more film! I will share a new blog post for the film images once I have time to process them.
4×5 Intrepid large format film camera
To date I’ve not used the camera as much as I’d like to mainly because I can’t find the right models to shoot in the UK. It is not a camera for every photo session. Luckily for me in Poland I got to work with multiple models that were just perfect for the 4×5. I just pray (and I’m not religious!) that I didn’t screw up all the images. See the Intrepid post for example images (link below) and yes I did screw up some but now know the reason so i’m all good for next time! (Intrepid ground glass was not sitting flush to the camera)
As the day finished earlier than planned on the last day due to cancellations I shot some 4×5 to finish the roll. The light was fading so they were longer exposure shots so I will wait to see the outcome. Once it was dark I was quite getting into the night photography (on film) so pulled out the Nikon F5 to shoot a few frames too. I’m not sure if they will come out ok or not but I enjoyed the process.
Running – Off topic (ish)
In the blog intro I mentioned I saw more this trip than ever before. Why? I have been starting to run more often in the last few weeks and this training allowed me to run further, for longer and more regularly. I ran each morning and loved every minute. The running can be fun in itself but for me it gives me access to a much wider area to explore and photograph. Buying the Yi4K+ action camera before flying to Poland was possibly my best timed purchase to date. Such amazing scenes on my morning runs that I would normally not be able to capture as I don’t run with my iPhone 6+. I was grinning ear to ear on every run I think and the only limitation was usually time (getting back to the hotel for the first model arriving or to get back ready to fly home!). If you need inspiring to get out and about get yourself a little action camera!
Yi4K+ photos from Poland
Model photography – Leica M240 vs Leica CL
As mentioned above I used both the Leica M240 and Leica CL. The Leica CL makes me try to work faster with fast models so I miss shots. The Leica M240 focuses quicker but always has the risk of calibration issues (so it looks in focus in the viewfinder but the focus is slightly out on the final image). Both cameras capture great photos. I do love the Leica CL for size and dynamic range and high ISO when needed and focsuing is fine for most subjects. As mentioned in the past I like the Leica M240 as there is no black out between photos compared to looking through the Leica CL EVF.
Selection of Leica M240 and Leica CL photos
Click the image see the camera used –
From day one I felt lucky in Poland. The first run I found an awesome new forest trail to play on. The first breakfast the waitress came and sat with me asking if I could email her some beach photos from my run, followed by giving me a pile of food and some cake to enjoy. I felt lucky to meet such great models and to make some new friends for future trips. The weather for the end of November was amazing, cold yes but bright blue skies much of the time. Monika who owns the hotel kindly gave me the biggest room in the hotel again (thank you!). Teresa had a late evening shoot but brought with her some homemade Polish soup in a Thermos flask, some Polish bread and a spoon from her Mum! Thanks Teresa’s Mum, so kind! Finally the icing on the cake as they say was the last morning. I went out before sunrise to run and was greeted by a crisp snow covered beach and clear skies. It became the battle of obsessions! Stop and take photos or keep running. Quite possibly the best run ever and I had the action camera to capture the magic! It just showed to me it’s not the camera that matters it is being in the right place at the right time. Running is now giving me that vehicle to get myself in such situations.
Happy New Year!
Looking forward to sharing more adventures in 2019!
Detailed Intrepid 4×5 camera review (large format film camera). Article covers 4×5 camera basics, common mistakes to avoid with 4×5 cameras, 4×5 camera checklist, how to load 4×5 film, 6×7, 6×9, 6×12 roll film backs, 4×5 portraits & more photos shot with the Intrepid.
Large format 4×5 Cameras
4×5 Photography Intro – My existing 4×5 film cameras
Although I haven’t used them enough I’ve owned a couple of 4×5 large format film cameras for a little while now. My first 4×5 camera was a modified 1940s Pacemaker Speedgraphic which I imported from the US. It is a custom build Speedgraphic with a Kodak Aero Ektar 178mm f2.5 lens attached and revolving cambo film back. My next large format film camera purchase was a 1980s Sinar F2 monorail camera. I bought the F2 as the Speedgraphic very has limited lens movements options (tilt and rise etc). Both of these 4×5 cameras are lovely but neither are very mobile/ portable. These cameras have rarely left the studio (a few occasions only) and neither have left the UK for overseas photoshoots.
I stumbled across some 4×5 film camera videos on YouTube last year when researching landscape photography ahead of my first cycling-photography trip to Fuertventura. Although I’m not a landscape photographer I am a big fan of some of the large format film photographer on YouTube. My favourites that come to mind are Nick Carver (brilliant and funny/ yet still techinical) and Ben Horne (Alan Brock is also a good guy).
Ben Horne landscape photographer
Ben shoots with 4×5 film cameras and more often 8×10 film cameras for his landscape photography. I appreciate more the film aspect of Ben’s work than the landscapes themselves but some of his images are truly stunning. (Why? I’m not a landscape photographer). On one of Ben’s videos he reviews a film camera called an Intrepid 4×5 camera (Mk2)(see the end of this review and I will link to Ben’s video).
A new 4×5 film camera!?
After watching Ben’s Intrepid camera video YouTube lead me to another bunch of Intrepid camera videos (as it always does!). Before I knew it I was on the official Intrepid Camera Co website. It turned out that the Intrepid Camera Co is a small startup company (at the time of buying my Intrepid camera) based in Brighton, UK and they specialize in making a very affordable very lightweight wooden 4×5 (*and now 8×10 also) folding film cameras. It sounded just what I “needed” and it was an exciting unplanned discovery for me.
Intrepid 4×5 Camera cost
The cost of the Intrepid 4×5 camera Mk3 (latest version – Dec 2018)(mine is the previous Mk2 version) new is less than the cost of most 4×5 camera lenses. The Intrepid camera is much more affordable than the more well known 4×5 camera brands such as the likes of Ebony, Toyo, Arca Swiss, Chamonix, Shen Hao and others.
You will also need a lens, film holders, tripod..
*Just as a note. The Intrepid 4×5 camera doesn’t come with a lens so that will be an additional cost. You will also need 4×5 film holders or a roll film back, a tripod and a few other essentials for 4×5 photography. Those “optional” (but most people have) extras include a magnifying loop, dark cloth and shutter release cable.
The latest Intrepid 4×5 camera (Mk3) spec can be reviewed (and purchased!) on the official Intrepid Camera Co website – £250. Once you start to research 4×5 camera lenses you will realise this is a bargain price for a brand new 4×5 camera! (I’m not being paid to say this it’s just fact!)
Intrepid 4×5 Mk3 vs Mk2
Since I bought my Intrepid 4×5 camera which was the Mk2 version the guys at Intrepid have now brought out the latest Intrepid 4×5 Mk3. The Intrepid 4×5 Mk3 is a more refined version of the Mk2. One of the key improvements that may tempt me to upgrade are the the tilt and swing movements on the back of the camera. On the Mk2 version the back of the camera can be tilted forward slightly but nothing else. The new Intrepid Mk3 is more similar to my Sinar F2 camera that allows for a lot of movement both at the front and the back of the camera. There is a sturdier base plate on the Mk3 but i’ve had no issues with my Mk2. The Mk3 has new improved double dials on the front of camera and a new improved low friction slider (I read). I have no complaints with the Mk2 but it is great to see that Intrepid continue to push forward striving for near perfection at a budget price.
Waiting patiently – Intrepid camera lead time
After placing my 4×5 camera order on the Intrepid camera Co website I then had to wait patiently wait for six week lead time to pass. (*Due to high demand I believe it is a now 6-8 weeks lead time). As soon as the package arrived I could tell the Intrepid 4×5 camera was going to be lightweight and compact. The box was not so big and very light considering there was a 4×5 camera inside!
Intrepid 4×5 camera – Arrival and first thoughts
Once my Intrepid 4×5 camera was unwrapped I was able to inspect it more closely. Being a Leica photographer and user of many different film camera brands I tend to know what I like and don’t like. I was really impressed by the simple Intrepid 4×5 (Mk2*) design, the light weight wooden construction and compact form when folded down. If you own other 4×5 cameras I think you really appreciate these portability aspects of the Intrepid. The small lightweight form of the Intrepid was the only reason to buy the camera for me as I already had my two other 4×5 cameras. Once I fitted a quick release tripod mount the Intrepid 4×5 was good to go and I shot a little teaser video for my Instagram feed. (If you’ve not seen it already it can be found in my Instagram saved “4×5” stories (@MrLeicaCom).
4×5 Intrepid lens boards
When I ordered the Intrepid camera I also purchased two Intrepid camera C1 lens boards. The 4×5 Intrepid lens boards are black anodized aluminium and come in 3 sizes to fit most lenses. C0, C1, C2. (The C# sizing relates to the size of the hole in the lens board. Larger lenses need a larger diameter hole in the lens board with C0 being the smallest). The Intrepid camera and lens board measure smaller than my existing Sinar F2 lens boards . (The Sinar F2 is a larger camera at the front end). I ordered two new Intrepid lens boards to mount my existing Sinar F2 4×5 lenses. As soon as the Intrepid arrived I transferred the Schneider Symmar-S 180mm f5.6 lens and Rodenstock Grandagon 90mm f5.6 lens from the larger Sinar F2 lens boards to the new smaller Intrepid lens boards. Now I was ready to shoot!
Intrepid camera – main lens
The Schneider Symmar-S 180mm lens from a Sinar F2 monorail camera will be my go to lens for the Intrepid. It is small enough to travel light(ish) and has all the sensible/ standard controls like shutter, aperture and pc sync port (for flash). (This statement lasted a few weeks maximum! I will share a follow up post with the different lenses I now use on the Intrepid 4×5!)
More Intrepid 4×5 lens boards!
Soon after getting the 4×5 Intrepid camera I was beginning to plan my next overseas photography adventure. The plan was to take the 4×5 Intrepid camera as I had never owned a portable 4×5 film camera. I used this plan as an excuse to buy more 4×5 camera gear and in particular find a smaller lighter lens. (See follow up 4×5 lens post).
Once the new 4×5 lens arrived I noticed it didn’t fit the Intrepid C1 lens boards I had purchased. Even after owning two 4×5 cameras already I still had a lot to learn! The new lens was a smaller design and required a smaller diameter hole in the lens board. Smaller than my C1 size Intrepid boards. I spoke to the lovely guys at Intrepid and ordered some smaller diameter hole C0 Intrepid lens boards for the new lens.
Intrepid camera – Quick setup
The Intrepid 4×5 camera sets up very quickly from a folded position (such as when packed away in a backpack for transportation). Once the 4×5 lens is clipped into place on the front of the camera you will be able to start focusing and composing your shot. I use the Intrepid camera with standard 4×5 film backs (slotted between the camera back and the ground glass) and 120 roll film backs. The Horseman 6×7 back utilizes the Intrepid graflok back and clips into place once the ground glass has been removed. The Cambo 6×9 roll film back is slimline design so fits onto the Intrepid camera the same as a 4×5 sheet film holder. The latter means the ground glass can stay in place when the film is inserted and is slightly faster to use for me.
4×5 Intrepid camera – Focusing / Ease of use
After using other 4×5 cameras previously I found focusing the Intrepid 4×5 camera via the ground glass very easy. Straight from the get go and usually without a dark cloth over my head I can get a subject into focus. With a portrait I can see every eye lash when working up close with a model which is much better than many 35mm and medium format cameras I use. To begin with I just focus by eye, viewing the ground glass at a slight distance. Once the focus is almost there I then use a 8x magnifying loop pressed against the ground glass. If there is no glare on the ground glass I can then fine tune the critical focusing without a dark cloth. Much of my 4×5 photography so far has been with models (and indoors) as that is what I photograph the most.
4×5 Intrepid camera – Blurry Photos
Talking from experience here are some of the reasons why I didn’t get sharp in focus photos using the Intrepid 4×5 camera
5 reasons for blurry Intrepid camera photos
Subject moves after focusing and before taking the photo (ie. models)
Camera moves after focusing – often when inserting film
Ground glass is not flat – ensure glass in flush to back of camera before focusing (my most common loss of images until I realised)
Motion blur – on a windy day a lightweight tripod can move if using slow shutter speeds
Tripod can move when forcefully inserting a roll film back behind the ground glass.
5 top tips to maximise the chance of sharp 4×5 photos
Use a large heavyweight sturdy tripod and ideally not fully extended
Lock down all the tripod dials and knobs once the photo is composed and in focus
Lock down all the camera dials and knobs (front and back) before taking a photo
Use a cable release to release the shutter/ take the photo to avoid touching the camera and introducing possible camera shake
Always double check the ground glass is flat before your begin to compose and focus an image (The elastic strings and metal clips can both get jammed between the glass and the back of the camera).
4×5 Intrepid camera – Common Mistakes
Again speaking from experience I think there are a few common mistake to try to avoid if you are new to large format photography. In addition to the how to avoid blurry images above my most frequent oversights have been –
Large format photography – Check list!
Is film loaded in the 4×5 film holder!? (Mark the film holders once they have film loaded)
Avoid double exposure images (Use the black/ white sided dark slide indicator to indicate if film is exposed or not (I use white side as unexposed / black side as exposed)
Close the shutter before removing the dark slide! (If you don’t the film will be blank (completely overexposed) from all the light hitting the film before you press the shutter to take the photo
Shutter doesn’t fire correctly (If you are using older 4×5 lenses it is worth test firing the lens before taking the actual photo)
Flash doesn’t fire (dry fire the lens before taking the photo to ensure the flash fires as desired)(flash is triggered from the lens pc sync port via a cable)(not an issue for most 4×5 photographers until you use flash like me!)(for portraits)
Testing the Intrepid 4×5 Camera
On the night the camera arrived I stayed up very late playing with my new “toy”. I opened my last pack of discontinued Fuji FP100C instant film to make a test shot. I used my Hasselblad camera as the first test subject but seem to have misplaced the resulting photo! (I used a 4×5 Polaroid film back which I use on the Speedgraphic and Sinar F2 cameras. The Intrepid 4×5 camera has a graflock back so accepts both Polaroid backs and roll film backs. Here is a later Intrepid 4×5 test photo using Fuji FP100C film –
4×5 Sheet Film
When I bought the Intrepid I already owned three 4×5 sheet film holders – Fidelity Elite and Fidelity Delux versions. Each holder is double sided so I can load six sheets of 4×5 film at a time for any one shoot without reloading. As you will see below that wasn’t enough for a good model photoshoot so I ordered another three Fidelity film backs so I can now load up to 12 sheets of film for a single shoot. My 4×5 film of choice based on the best value with pleasing results is black and white Fomapan 100 4×5 sheet film which I buy in boxes of 50 sheets.
See Fomapan film current prices on Amazon – UK / US
Large format film model photography
As my photography “matures” I find i’m getting more and more selective when it comes to shooting models. Multiple that ten-fold and that is how picky I am using medium format or in this case large format film with a model. If I can’t see myself using the final image in my portfolio (if it’s a keeper) then I won’t shoot film. 35mm is the middle ground between ‘disposable digital’ and medium format film for me. In addition to looking for nice models I also need a model that is suitable for film. Some models look lovely but if you ask them to hold a pose they tend to ignore you and keep moving in their own little world. Medium format film ideally needs a model to pause briefly while I take the shot, especially if using a wide aperture to blur the background.
Large format photography requires a model to keep still for perhaps 20 seconds while I focus the image on the ground glass on the back of the camera, then load film, open the dark slide and take the shot. Large format photography is certainly not for every model. Currently I shoot a lot less in the UK than I used to. Instead try to organise overseas models shoots every few months and shoot up to 5-6 girls a day while i’m there. (*Poland trip Dec18 to follow!)
For 4×5 portraits I try to work as fast as I can so not to keep the model waiting. The quicker I can focus and take the shot the better for me and the less chance the model will have moved.
6×7 Horseman 120 roll film back for 4×5
Soon after getting the Intrepid camera I managed to organise a shoot with Aneta. At the time I only had the three 4×5 film holders (giving 6 shots) so also packed my 4×5 Horseman roll film back. The Horseman 4×5 back lets me use standard 120 roll film to shoot 6×7 images on a 4×5 camera. It was the first time I had used the roll film back on the Intrepid so it doubled as a test run. I penciled the 6×7 crop markings on the 4×5 ground glass to help me compose the photos. Here are a few samples using the 4×5 roll film back on the Intrepid camera, loaded with 120 Fomapan 100 film.
6×7 Film back portraits
Cambo 6×9 roll film back
After starting out with the Horseman 6×7 roll film back I wanted something wider so I looked online for potential options. I found the Cambo 6×9 roll film back. The design is slightly different to the Horseman 6×7 film back as it can be inserted between the camera back and the ground glass like a regular 4×5 film holder. (The 6×7 Horseman roll film back requires the Intrepid ground glass to be removed to attach it). I’m loving the process of focusing a 4×5 camera but equally I enjoy the ease of shooting 120 roll film. Colour 4×5 sheet film is very expensive so shooting 120 film opens the doors to lots of exciting film stocks at more affordable prices!
6×9 Film Portraits
Some 6×9 film portraits shot in Poland recently –
As a comparison here are some 4×5 sheet film photos with Aneta using 4×5 Fomapan 100 when I first got the camera –
Intrepid First Thoughts – Summary
The Intrepid 4×5 camera very easy to setup from folded and once setup it is easy to focus. When photographing models I am focusing on the closest eye on the ground glass using a magnifying loop and I found it very easy to see each eye lash. The camera is very portable for a large format camera so I want to use it on location as much as possible going forward. It is early days but I’d like to think you will see much more 4×5 photography from me in 2019.
Below is a preview of my first 4×5 camera photo walk and getting to try the Intrepid camera on location for landscape photography.
Intrepid Camera Experience – Conclusion so far
As a guy who is already obsessed with photography and experimenting with lots of different analogue film cameras, I was quite surprised at how much I have taken to the 4×5 Intrepid camera. It has become my new favourite camera that I want to learn to master for almost every kind of photoshoot / genre of photography. I’ve even started photographing the occasional building which was unheard of for me before. I’ve done 4×5 macro, 4×5 still life, 4×5 portraits (in the studio and on location), and my wish list of other photo styles to try with the 4×5 Intrepid is equally as long again.
New 6×12 film back!
Quick preview shot of me trying out my new 6×12 roll film back!
4×5 YouTube Videos
Ben Horne Intrepid camera review (Mk2)
How to load a 4×5 film holder
Get inspired to shoot 4×5 film!
Poland Trip (Model photography)(Dec18) – To follow