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. Currently the digital Leica CL camera is my do everything digital 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.
A short Kodak TMax 400 review / article to share some of my 120 and 35mmfilm portraits using this film. For me T-Max 400 is one of the best black and white films currently manufactured / available.
TMax 400 Film – Specs (The Blurb!)
“Kodak Professional TMax 400 is a fast, medium grain black and white film suitable for sports/action and lower light situations, sharpest 400-speed black and white film with Kodak’s T-Grain emulsion”.
“TMax 400 film has a high efficiency, multi-zone T-Grain emulsions, raises the bar for 400 speed black and white film performance. T-Max 400 has fine grain, high sharpness and delivers , a level of clarity previously only achievable from a 100-speed film”.
When people think of Kodak black and white film they probably first think of Kodak Tri-X not TMax. Kodak T-Max 400 film was revised in 2007 to the fine grain film that we know today. 3 years earlier, in 2004, Kodak celebrated 50 years of Tri-X which was first released in 1954. Kodak Tri-X has been around a lot longer than TMax and was popular with photo journalists and amateurs alike. For me however I prefer Kodak TMax vs Tri-X. I don’t mind 120 format Kodak Tri-X film but for my portraits I find 35mm Tri-X too grainy. Kodak TMax 400 however is amazing in both 35mm and 120 formats (*for my taste).
Kodak spotted my early TMax photography
It was merely coincidence but at the time I was starting to get into film photography Kodak had released their new T-Max 400 film/ formula. I was shooting Kodak TMax 400 film together with Tri-X 400 and other black and white films, enjoying experimenting with this new-to-me photography medium. I shot an image of a young girl/ model-to-be in Ukraine while there on business.
My camera at the time was a rebranded Kiev 88 called an ARAX-CM, also know as a “Hasselbladski” or a poor man’s Hasselblad. I shot an image of Julia on Kodak TMax 400 film and Kodak spotted it and got in touch. Kodak invited me to write a piece for their Kodak 1000 Word Blog and to share some of my work. At the time it was pretty amazing to be spotted by a big brand and it was all thanks to the TMax 400 film I was using.
Even though at the moment I shoot mostly Fomapan 100 Classic 120 film (due to the low cost and reliable results) I still shoot the occasional roll of Kodak TMax 400 120. (More so in the past but only because I currently bulk buy Fomapan film) Using 120 Kodak TMax 400 in my Hasselblad cameras and other medium format cameras (Mamiya RZ67, Fuji GF670 as two examples) has given me some nice images. I enjoy the fine grain and sharpness especially from TMax so for this reason I find 35mm TMax 400 particularly impressive/ useful (see more below).
120 Kodak TMax 400 Portraits
Kodak TMax 400 35mm film
I use Kodak TMax 400 35mm in the Leica film cameras (currently the Leica M4-P or Leica M3 mostly), the Nikon SLRs (usually the Nikon F5), the Hasselblad Xpan plus other 35mm film cameras. I love the sharp detailed images and TMax is quite forgiving when it comes to developing.
35mm Kodak TMax 400 Flickr photos
Favourite 35mm black and white film?
My current favourite film in 35mm format for when I need great results is Kodak T-Max 400. I’m still a big fan of Ilford Delta 100 (and Ilford Pan F 50 film) but when shooting in the UK often there is limited available light. T-Max 400 gives me a 400 speed Ilford Delta quality (to my eyes) and coming from shooting mostly Kodak B&W film I tend to go for TMax 400 vs Delta 400.
Kodak TMax 400 developing
My usual Kodak TMax 400 developing method is to use Kodal Xtol developer or to use a soup of Xtol and Rodinal. Most of the example images in this article were developed in Xtol. When I first started out with film photography I used to develop Kodak TMax 400 in the Rodinal developer. See below for a few older images and some Rodinal – TMax examples.
For Ilford HP5 Plus film I was a bit of a late comer. When I started out with film I was been using mostly Kodak black and white films, both TMax films and Kodak Tri-X. I wouldn’t consider buying 35mm Ilford HP5 today as I prefer fine grain films but for 120 Ilford HP5 I have started to use it, especially for low light. I would happily shoot Kodak TMax 400@800/ 400@1600 but I don’t think I would try it at ISO 3200 or ISO 6400.
For Ilford HP5 I shoot it at ISO 3200 and have meant to shoot it at ISO 6400 but haven’t had chance yet. HP5 is a low contrast film so is easier to push process from my experience. Kodak TMax 400 has nice contrast normally but when pushed too far I expect to lose shadow detail. (*I still need to do a write up for Ilford HP5 film – I will link it once available).
Here is a Ilford HP5 Plus Teaser as an example –
Kodak TMax 400 Pushed (400@1600)
Kodak TMax 400 price
As with all film stocks, sadly in the time I have been shooting film the prices seem to increase year on year. I buy multi-pack film as often as I can to try to get to lowest unit cost. Amazon stock both Kodak TMax 35mm and 120 formats. Click here for the current TMax 400 prices –
As you probably gathered from this article, I am a big fan of Kodak T-Max 400 film. I especially enjoy the 35mm TMax and just hope the price of film doesn’t keep increasing at the rate it has been doing. (The price of TMax 400 film today is 50-60% more than when I was buying it 3-5yrs ago).
The Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f2 ZM lens was one of my first lens purchases when I bought the Leica M9 camera. It was said to be sharp and cheaper than a Leica Summicron 50mm lens. Here is a short Zeiss Planar 50mm review with sample photos (from when I had the M9).
Zeiss Planar 50mm f2 ZM lens for Leica
If you want a compact reasonably priced (*in Leica camera terms!) 50mm lens for your Leica M camera then look no further! The Zeiss Planar 50mm f2 ZM lens is a compact sharp lens with good contrast. At the time of buying my digital Leica M9 I decided I wanted a “sharp” lens. My main lens was a Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 which is an awesome little lens but not killer sharp wide open. Once I got the Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm I then decided it was too sharp for my female portraiture. I can’t imagine ever saying that now about any lens as us photographers normally love sharp lenses (and nice bokeh)! This article is a bit of a retrospective post to fill the gap in my blog lens list and to settle my OCD issues!
Zeiss Planar vs Summicron 50mm
When looking to buy a 50mm f2 lens for a Leica M mount camera the first obvious question is Zeiss Planar vs Summicron 50mm? For me it was an easy choice as money was limited. A Leica Summicron 50mm f2 (non APO version) lens cost more than 3x the price of a Zeiss Planar 50mm ZM lens. I knew Zeiss glass was good from using Zeiss lenses on my other cameras so I happily purchased the ZM Planar 50mm f2 without concern. (*I did buy a Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5 and a Leica Summicron 50mm f2 DR at later dates – used condition and at seemingly bargain prices).
If you didn’t consider a Leica Summicron 50mm lens when being tempted by the Zeiss 50mm Planar lens then the other lens that probably caught your attention was the Sonnar ZM 50mm f1.5. When deciding between a Zeiss Planar vs Sonnar ZM 50mm lens I chose the ZM Planar lens as the cost was 2/3 the price of a Zeiss Sonnar. I already had the mentioned Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 lens if I needed something faster (with a wider aperture). (*I was later too tempted by the Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f1.5 lens so bought one but later sold it when I got my Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 lens).
More Zeiss Planar 50mm f2 Flickr Photos
Zeiss ZM Planar – Cheap 50mm Leica lens?
To my knowledge the cheapest new 50mm lens available for a Leica M mount camera is the Zeiss Planar 50mm f2 ZM or a Vogtlander Nokton 50mm f1.5. Both lens can be a similar price depending where you shop but the Voigtlander is usually a little cheaper. As I already have various 50mm lenses (see the 50mm Lenses Compared post) plus a few Voigtlander lenses I’ve never been tempted by the Nokton 50mm. I did use a Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.5 during one of my Leica workshops in London that a student brought along. I didn’t dislike the Nokton 50mm photos but equally I was not blown away by them either. (*Bare in mind I have quite a few nice 50mm lenses).
Leica M9 + Zeiss Planar 50mm Portraits
If you are only interested in Leica lenses and money is limited, and you only want a 50mm lens then you could consider the Leica Summarit-M 50mm f2.5 lens. The Summarit 50mm is smaller than a Zeiss Planar 50mm ZM lens but not as fast in terms of aperture. Being Leica glass it costs quite a bit more than the Zeiss but it is cheaper than a Summicron 50mm or Summilux 50mm. I love the balance of a small 50mm on my Leica M3 camera (especially) and the Summarit f2.5 is sharp and contrasty.
Zeiss Planar 50mm Bokeh!
Zeiss Planar T 50mm f2 Price
The Zeiss Planar 50mm f2 ZM lens is available here on Amazon.com if you want to see the price and lens spec details.
Zeiss Planar 50mm Review – Summary
The Zeiss Planar 50mm is one of the few lenses I’ve sold during my Leica photography days. Just by coincidence the other 50mm lens I sold was the mentioned Zeiss Sonar 50mm f1.5. While I’ve never missed the Planar 50mm (despite it being a good lens) I have missed the Sonnar on many occasions. I even bought a second copy of a Sonnar 50/1.5 but it was sub-standard/ expectation shot wide open due to focus shift issues so I returned it. Putting this post together the main thing I notice is the amazing vibrant Leica M9 colours! These CCD colours are unmatched by the Leica M240 or Leica CL. (Luckily I shoot mostly black and white so this is less of an issue for me).
35mm Ilford Pan 100 Review + Ilford Film Comparison (B&W Film)
Ilford Pan 100 review (35mm black and white film) plus Ilford film comparison: Ilford Pan 100 vs Delta 100, vs Ilford Pan F 50, vs FP4 125, vs Kentmere 100 AND vs Fomapan 100, vs Kodak TMax 100..
35mm Ilford Pan 100 black and white film – Availability
After shooting mostly black and white film for coming up to about 10 years now I only recently discovered Ilford Pan 100 film. It seems that 35mm Pan 100 film is less popular in the UK and I actually bought my fresh film stock from Germany. I was excited at my discovery of Ilford Pan 100 as one of my most regarded film stocks is Ilford Delta 100. (It is probably worth noting I enjoy using other film brands too. Kodak T-Max 400 always impresses me (especially 35mm) as does Fomapan 100 Classic (120 and 4×5 formats mostly)). (Links below)
Ilford Pan 100 film – Application (The blurb!)
“Ilford Pan 100 is a medium speed black and white film which offers outstanding tonal rendition, together with fine grain and high sharpness. It is suitable for most general purpose indoor and outdoor photography applications where good lighting exists, it is particularly suited to portraiture.”
Ilford Pan 100 Developing
For Ilford Pan 100 developing I currently favour either just Kodak Xtol developer or my homemade film developer soup which consists of Xtol and Rodinal developers. Of all the black and white film stocks I have shot I would say Pan 100 film is quite forgiving and quite easy to develop without losing detail. I have not yet tried developing Ilford Pan 100 film with other developers but I need to start experimenting I think (for all film stocks!).
Ilford Pan 100 Portraits
Ilford Pan 100 Flickr Photos (Non-Portraits)
100 Speed Black and white film comparison
Please don’t shoot me down for this completely non-scientific black and white film comparison! I thought some visuals from other film stocks I use might be nice to compare to my Ilford Pan 100 photos. Most of the films featured are a similar film speed to Pan 100 so could be potential alternatives when looking to buy a new film to test out. The film developing was roughly similar for all photos shared (and the film scanning too – Epson V800 flatbed scanner) but that is probably where the similarities end! The photos below include different subjects on different days in different locations and under different lighting conditions.
..It might just inspire you to try a new B&W film!
You might see similar film characteristics across a group of photos that might inspire you to try a particular B&W film stock. I bought and tried most of the black and white film I’ve used based on film photos shared by others on Flickr. Flickr taught me so much about photography in my earlier years and I still use it today to review photos from a particular film stock, camera or lens ahead of a potential camera gear purchase.
Ilford film comparison + Warning!
Warning! You might want to find a comfy chair and grab a cuppa before you proceed. As usual I got a little carried away and this post is now 4x longer than planned. Lots of photos coming up below! I’ve included 35mm and 120 film scans for a bit of an Ilford film comparison + a few other film brands.
Ilford Pan 100 vs Delta 100 comparison! Ilford Delta 100 was perhaps my favouite black and white film for quiet a while so it was likely that I would like Ilford Pan 100 film too. To my eyes Ilford Delta 100 film still has the edge in terms of sharpness and detail captured (and offers 120 format that I enjoy using) vs Pan 100 film but they are close enough for me to buy the cheaper 35mm Ilford Pan 100 film if I can find it.
Ilford Pan 100 vs Pan F 50 – both are Pan films manufactured by Ilford but different enough from my experience to use both. Ilford Pan F 50 is a high contrast film and it can be easy to clip the highlight detail if you are not careful with your developing. Pan F 50 film has slightly finer grain and a smoother look to my eyes. If you get Pan F 50 right it can capture some stunning detail. Pan 100 film is only available in 35mm format where as I enjoy shooting 120 Ilford Pan F 50 too.
Ilford Pan 100 vs Kentmere 100 – they could be said to be a close match as Kentmere 100 film is manufactured by Ilford films. From personal experience and shooting a 10 pack of 35mm Kentmere 100 film I would say Kentmere 100 is maybe slightly softer with a slightly more classic grain / less modern look and with less contrast.
Ilford Pan 100 vs Fomapan 100 – they may appear similar on paper but I would say they are quite different. Pan 100 offers increased sharpness and detail to my eyes with perhaps a more modern look. Fomapan Classic as the name suggests offers a more classic grain structure and look. That said, Fomapan 100 Classic is still a bit of a favourite of mine mainly because of the low cost!
Ilford Pan 100 vs Tmax 100 – these are quite a close match to my eyes. Both capture great image quality and good detail. In my earlier years of shooting film I shot a huge amount of Kodak TMax 100 film. I love the fine grain and high contrast (+ TMax black blacks). The TMax 100 blacks are darker than Pan 100 blacks in my experience. I stopped using TMax 100 film after several rolls failed to develop (at all) for no seeming good reason. (More than likely user error but until now i’ve still avoid this ‘risk’).
Ilford Pan 100 vs FP4 Plus – again both Ilford films but Ilford FP4+ is quite well known for the classic grain structure (which can be too much for me at times)(i’m a sucker for fine grain and detail!). I much prefer Ilford FP4 125 120 film to the 35mm format for this reason (less apparent film grain). I have shot 35mm FP4 in the Leica film cameras in the past but now tend to just use FP4 for the Hasselblad(s), Mamiya(s) and so on.
Ilford FP4 125 sample photos
Ilford FP4 35mm Portraits
Ilford FP4 120 Portraits
Favourite black and white film?
If you managed to get this far which was your favourite black and white film from the results above (and from personal experience)? I’d love to hear in the comments below. I forgot to include the now discontinued Fuji Acros 100 film which is also a strong performer for 100 speed film and the less popular Rollei Retro 80s film.
B&W film reviews
Are there other 100 speed black and white films you think I should try out? If so let me know and I will try to get some to review. (If you want to read more of my film reviews check out the “FILM” section of the blog and scroll down below the various film camera links).
Ilford Pan 100 Review Summary
To round up this Ilford Pan 100 review I would say I will continue to shoot 35mm Ilford Pan 100 black and white film because for me it offers a good balance of detail, sharpness, contrast, fine(ish) grain at a reasonable price. Some films are “better” for my taste but they usually cost more! (Current favourite is Kodak TMax 400 film).(*I will do a film review on that too when I get time and link it)
Ilford Delta 100 Review (35mm & 120 B&W Film Portraits)
A short Ilford Delta 100 review to share some example images using this impressive B&W film. Delta 100 black and white film is one of my favourites, both 35mm and 120 film formatand you will see why –
Ilford Delta 100 Film – About (What Ilford Say!)
Ilford Delta 100 – “ISO 100, medium speed, exceptionally fine grain, black & white film. Ideal for uncompromising image makers who want to capture maximum detail and sharpness”.
Ilford Delta 100 Film Developing
As with all the black and white film I shoot I currently develop Ilford Delta 100 film in Kodak Xtol developer (sometimes with Rodinal added to the solution). I’ve always been happy with the results obtained with the film /developer combination so have not looked to change.
Ilford Delta 100 35mm Film
For the 35mm Leica film cameras (plus Nikon cameras and others) I enjoy shooting Ilford Delta 100 35mm film. If I want to obtain as much detail as possible from a 35mm film negative then I usually consider Delta 100 as a strong contender. Ilford Delta 100 film gives me a near perfect balance of sharpness, detail and contrast for my taste. Ilford Pan F 50 film offers finer grain but it is easy to lose highlight detail (for me). Ilford Pan 100 film gives 80-90% of the Delta 100 quality for a slightly lower price (if you can find it for sale). (For my taste).
Ilford Delta 100 120 Film
If i’m using a Hasselblad camera or any of my other medium format film cameras I often go to Ilford Delta 100 120 film if I feel the subject is worth this premium priced film. The detail captured on 6×6 / 6×7 film negatives is amazing with 120 Delta 100. The Delta 100 film scans are a joy to edit. For much of my medium format film photography I now use Fomapan 100 Classic film. Foma 100 film gives the “best bang for your buck” performance (for me) but I do treat myself to Delta 100 film now and again.
Ilford Delta 100 Flickr Images
Here are a sample of some of my Ilford Delta 100 Flickr photos to give a taster of what this film can achieve. (Click each/ any photo to see the camera / lens / developing used).
35mm Ilford Delta 100 Sample Photos
120 Ilford Delta 100 Sample Photos
Ilford Delta 100 Review Summary
You may have guessed from this short Ilford Delta 100 review that I like this film. Definitely up there with the best black and white films available. If money is no issue and you have lots of light to shoot in I would recommend trying some Delta 100 film. It wont disappoint. If you wanted a cheaper option in 35mm format you could try Kentmere 100 film which is also an Ilford film.
Ilford Delta 100 Price
You can usually find the Ilford Delta 100 price on Amazon to be quite reasonable. Here are a few links to the multi-pack film bundles I normally get:
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.