Leica M240/M4P, Mamiya RZ67, Pen-F, LX100: Budapest Models
Budapest Models (2) 2017
After enjoying my model photography in Budapest at the end of 2016 I booked a return trip within a few days of being back in the UK for January. Unfortunately I then found a really cool apartment I wanted to stay in but it was full on those dates so I booked a second trip to Budapest in February 2017. January was fun (see my recent blog post) but like every trip I wanted to do it bigger and better which brings me nicely to February!
The low cost airline I use basic travel limit is one carry-on bag and no additional items. I bought a new Lowepro airline camera bag (to follow in later blog review) but it was too big for this airline limits. While researching bags I found the idea of wearing a gilet with multiple pockets to carry additional items on the flight. I ordered a cheap gilet online and managed to fit the entire content of my Billingham Hadley Digital camera bag into my clothing. (The beauty of the small form Leica cameras and lenses!) That gave me the equivalent Leica bag space in my carry-on luggage bag for more cameras.
I spent what felt like days thinking of different camera and lens combinations to take in additional to my Leica gear. The first choice was the Hasselblad 501C but it still needs repairing. I wanted to take a bigger form camera to use the opportunity so this excluded the more compact Mamiya 6, Fuji GF670 and Fuji GA645. All 3 cameras are rangefinders so produce results not so different my Leica cameras. I was then split between the smaller lighter Mamiya 645 Super or the big and heavy Mamiya RZ67 Pro II. I find the RZ67 the most fun to use, best viewfinder (biggest and brightest) and with bellows focusing every lens can do close up photos. The Mamiya Sekor 110mm f2.8 lens is pretty compact for this camera system and a nice focal length for portraits. I therefore picked the Mamiya RZ to take with me and this would be the first time I have taken the RZ67 overseas. The photos the RZ67 creates (like the Hasselblad) are very different to Leica camera images so I enjoy creating a different look even with the same model using different cameras. A problem I find when using a digital Leica camera next to a film Leica camera is both photos look extremely similar other than the effect of the film.
Final camera list – to take
- Leica M 240 camera (digital body)
- Leica M4-P film camera X1
- Leica Summarit-M 50mm f2.5 lens
- Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 lens
- Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 lens
- Leica Elmarit-M ASPH 28mm f2.8 lens
- Mamiya RZ67 Pro II camera body
- Mamiya Sekor 110mm f2.8 lens
- Mamiya RZ 6×6 film back
- Olympus Pen-F film camera
- Olympus 38mm f1.8 kit lens
Film – 35mm and 120
For medium format 120 film I packed a mixture of Ilford Pan F 50, Ilford FP4 Plus, Fomapan 100 black and white film and some expired Kodak Portra 160 film for colour.
For 35mm film I decided to take mostly colour film rather than my usual bias for black and white. For colour I chose mostly ECN-2 Kodak Motion Picture bulk film that I have rolled at home; Kodak Vision3 50D, Vision3 200T and Vision3 500T. I also packed a roll of Ilford Pan-F 50 for the Olympus Pen-F and my last roll of expired Kodak Plus-X 125. I packed film more that I needed but it’s better to be safe! I just hope I get to shoot more film than I did in January. Fingers crossed!
I booked myself up with 12 models to fill my 2.5 days in Budapest. The plan was some inside photos and some outside photos and to try to use and/ or create more interesting light than my recent images. I find it easy to get stuck in a rut where I place every model in perfect beauty style lighting before taking a picture but this can result in quite boring photos.
After all the planning the trip proved one of my most eventful..
For the first day two of the five models changed or cancelled their shoots so I had three girls left to work with. I got up early to start the first shoot at 7:30 after only 2.5hrs sleep. I had a late one not because of partying but from trying various lighting setups in the apartment. With that done and some ideas up my sleeve as soon as we started the shoot the sun came up and flooded the room with daylight overpowering any room lights. It totally threw all my planned lighting ideas and I just went with the flow instead. The first model was a girl I met on a business trip perhaps 5yrs ago or more. Not a model but naturally very beautiful and in my eyes could certainly be a successful model. Next I had a new model recommended to me from the model agency and lastly a local freelance model I met on Instagram. I used the Mamiya RZ Pro II all day alongside my Leica M240 and shot 5 rolls of film I think, both colour and black and white film. I also used the Leica M4-P and Olympus PEN-F shooting colour film in both cameras. A great start to my Budapest trip and some of the most beautiful girls I think I have photographed. I slept with a big smile.
I woke to the sound of rain outside and also realized I had not seen my Leica M 240 battery charger since arriving. I have two Leica M 240 batteries but I knew they would not last through the second day with five models lined up. I searched online for a Leica camera store in Budapest and found a camera shop that sold Leica equipment as my only option. The online website was difficult to navigate in Hungarian and I was not sure if they would stock what I needed. I then remember leaving my Leica M9 / M8 battery charger at a wedding once and seeing the high cost of a replacement battery charger. (I thought I remembered the charger being a similar cost to a modern compact camera but I checked online once home and a Leica M240 battery charger costs around £90 in the UK). My mind then started to wander away from Leica cameras and onto other alternative camera options. I thought aha I could buy a small but capable camera to finish my model photography in Budapest and then use it as a vlog camera or camera to use for making Instagram videos / photos and also as a digital backup camera for travel. I wanted a camera with full manual controls, a hoteshoe and 4K video in a compact package. I will write a separate full review but I looked at a Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) camera and that lead me to buying a Panasonic Lumix LX100 camera with an equivalent 24-75mm f1.7-f2.8 fixed zoom lens. I then found a local camera shop and ran there as soon as it opened to make the purchase prior to the model shoot. Mission complete and thank you to Digitcam, Budapest for the excellent customer service!
The models in the morning were completely different to yesterday and so too was the weather resulting in very different photos (probably completely unrecognizable as being the same location and photographer). I used strobes as the light levels were too low and I also noticed a pattern developing where in good natural light I shoot a lot of film and in bad (low) light I shoot almost no film. I like to see what I am shooting with film and with flash you can’t see until afterwards. In the studio it is a little different at I use larger light modifiers so light hits everything every time so is predictable.
I got to try my new Panasonic Lumix LX100 camera for part of the shoot with the second model and quite enjoyed it. Like with any new gadget I then wanted to keep using the LX100 so continued to use it for the rest of the day other than when I had to recharge the battery. I was shooting digitally at up to ISO 1600 and mixing flash and continuous light so didn’t shoot film. I accidently mentioned my excitement to one of the afternoon models that I had a new camera that shoots 4K video. She had featured in music videos before and is the face for many brands so replied with similar excitement to try out the Lumix LX100 in video mode. When a model has great vision and can do the job of a stylist, a model and an MUA single handed plus trusts the photographer’s ability with a camera and lighting the magic really starts. We started with our planned photos and then it just turned into a video production!
I have been part of a wedding video team in the past as a cinematographer, shooting short cinematic looking video clips with fast lenses and shallow depth of field on sliders and tripods using my Nikon D800 (and to a lesser degree a Nikon D90 when overseas for personal work). I was fortunate to work alongside some very talented fellow cinematographers who taught me the basics. Cinematography is a different world to photography despite often using the same cameras and lenses. What killed it for me was the time taken to edit video footage in the early years of DSLR video so it all stopped and I started shooting film instead. Since the early years of DSLR video smart phones have gained the video capability, vlogging has become a popular and Instagram now has a story feature (which often includes videos). As someone who teaches photography and runs 1-2-1 photography workshops I enjoy the opportunity to share some of my behind the scenes work when developing film and using analogue cameras. I would have shared much more ‘footage’ already but the iPhone video potential is not great for me and I have always shot any clips handheld. This may now change with the coming of the Lumix LX100!
I hadn’t expected to buy a camera in Budapest but it actually seems to ticks a lot of my to-do boxes and may well prove a very valuable and worthy purchase in my journey as an experimental photographer. My mind never stops when it comes to cameras and photography so I think I will also class myself as ‘experimental’. As you might imagine I slept with a smile again!
I had two models lined up before I needed to check out the apartment and go to the airport. The first model arrived, I tried to open the apartment door and the lock was jammed. It was an old central Budapest apartment and an old door and I kept trying but the key would not turn. The poor model could see me through the glass panes in the door but was stuck out in the cold. I passed a blanket through the window so she could keep warm and shared the Wi-Fi details so she could use the internet while I kept trying to unlock the door. After an hour the model left and went to sit in a local café to wait. I looked at every option to get out but the windows had metal security bars across so I couldn’t climb out that way. As time passed the first model was still waiting, I was still stuck at the apartment and then the second model then messaged me to say she was outside and hadn’t seen my message saying not to come. The apartment management called a locksmith but he arrived 2.5hrs later and both models eventually went home without photos. I missed out on two great photo shoots and wasted a fifth of my time in the city so a disappointing final day after such a great start.
I’m glad I used the Mamiya RZ Pro II on the first day as it got little use after that. I lost some photos where the cable release I was using stuck down so when I was working quickly I advanced the film and the camera automatically fired off another shot. I used the Olympus Pen-F camera and Leica M4-P roughly equally and again mostly on day 1. Day 2 saw me using the new Panasonic Lumix LX100 camera. I was learning on the shoot so there were more blurry photos than when I use a Leica due to the auto focus and lag. That said the photos will look different to the Leica M 240 so I am excited to see and hope the photo quality is up to my needs. As I am used to Leica lenses and Leica sensors and also the 36MP Nikon D800 and my digital Hasselblad I guess my expectations and ‘needs’ are quite high in terms of image quality, resolution, sharpness and clarity. The little Panasonic Lumix LX100 has a lot to compete with. One fact that gives me some confidence is that the Lumix LX100 is pretty much identical to the Leica D-Lux Typ 109 (inside) and I know Leica will not put their name on a bad camera. That said the Lumix LX100 has a smaller 13MP micro four thirds CMOS sensor so it would be unfair to compare directly to my full frame digital camera sensors. I used the LX100 in manual mode for shutter, ISO and aperture but I didn’t discover how to manually focus until after the day’s photo shoots so the auto focus caused for a few miss shots. I also noticed my composition was much worse using the LX100 verses a Leica (so far).
A big thanks to the models I worked with; Nora, Petra, Patricia, Lili, Luca, Flora, Viki and Kata and my apologies to Lili and Noemi that I was not able to photograph on day 3. Thanks also to NumberOne Model Group for recommending some of their models to me again. A real pleasure.
When packing to come home I found the missing Leica M 240 battery charger in my bag so I didn’t need to buy a new camera after all. As strange as it may sound, I’m quite glad misplacing the battery charger lead me buying a new camera. I think the LX100 will fill a void in my current camera line up perfectly!
Full Panasonic Lumix LX100 review to follow together with sample photos
I want to fly back to Budapest tomorrow to continue the fun I had but next I will fly to Paris where I will shoot with IMG Paris model agency. After that it is back to see all the models in Poland and then it is onto Ukraine for my first visit of 2017. Even though I was in Budapest last month I think these photos will hopefully be a little different. I hope. The new Lumix LX100 images will help create a different feel at least. More images coming soon