– My Favourite Nikon Pancake Lens + 40mm Portraits
Nikon mount Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2
Qu. Looking for the ultimate small lens for your Nikon camera?
>> Here I recommend my Voiglander 40mm f/2 pancake lens & share some 40mm portraits
My Favourite Nikon Pancake Lens
As “Mr Leica” I use Leica cameras for my photography but I also enjoy other film camera brands too. For each camera I try to discover the best lenses I can and here I cover my favourite Nikon pancake lens. The Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 SL II that I bought to use on my Nikon film cameras.
Small Lenses for Nikon Cameras
Are you looking for a small lens for your Nikon camera? Previously I used Nikon cameras before moving to Leica so I have collected quite a few nice Nikon F mount lenses, both Nikkor brand and other from other manufacturers. After getting used to the often very compact Leica M mount lenses, when I came to packing lightweight for a Nikon camera it was not so easy. My smallest Nikon F mount lens at the time was the Nikkor 50mm f1.4D. When I bought this Nikkor lens in my Nikon D800 period I liked the lens and used it a lot for wedding photography.
Leica M Mount Lens Effect
A few years later I bought my first Leica camera, a Leica M9. Having got accustomed to using various Leica M mount lenses and at the time none of the lenses were actually Leica brand I as couldn’t afford Leica glass! Instead I opted for Voigtlander and Zeiss Leica M lenses and loved the results. Coming from these lenses back to the Nikkor 50/1.4D lens, the 50mm Nikon lens on the D800 suddenly seemed too soft to use at f1.4.
The Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 Pancake Lens
After wanting to find a replacement for my 50mm f1.4 Nikkor I started my online research. I was looking for a small form decent optics Nikon mount lens in the ‘normal’ focal length range (usually around 50mm). After much reading I discovered the Nikon mount Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 SL II prime lens. It is a pancake lens so makes a Nikon DSLR / SLR look very compact when compared to standard lenses. I had a Nikkor 35mm f1.4 G lens which I had bought for wedding photography but it was huge in comparison. From day one I loved the super sharp results of the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 lens, even at f2. The poor 50mm f1.4D has never been used since! Please note that Voigtlander lenses like the Zeiss lenses for Nikon are manual focus. Don’t buy a Voigtlander 40f2 Ultron if you are hoping to use autofocus mode.
Nikon Film Cameras
Although I rarely use the digital Nikon D800 camera now I do enjoy the Nikon film cameras. My oldest is a Nikon FM SLR followed by the more automated Nikon F4. My most recent purchase is the later Nikon F5 model (see F5 review posted yesterday). Owning these cameras means I still get to enjoy the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 pancake lens. It is great if I want to pack light or perhaps want that slightly wider 40mm focal length.
Voigtlander Ultron 40mm Portraits
Digital Photos – Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2
Film Photos – Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2
If you are a Nikon photographer happy with manual focus and are on the market for a compact sharp lens, look no further! I rate the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 SL II lens (and I use nice lenses from the likes of Leica APO/ ASPH, Zeiss, Fujion and others)
>> In this review I explain why I bought the Nikon F5 & why it is the Best Nikon Film Camera for me
Nikon F5 SLR Camera
I bought the Nikon F5 35mm film camera last (2017) year but I didn’t get a chance to write about it. I won’t write a detailed Nikon F5 review here as I will only be duplicting the work of others before me. (Check Ken Rockwell’s website if you want camera specifications). Instead I will focus on a few key facts, some of my thoughts so far and finish off with a few of my Nikon F5 Flickr photos to show what the Nikon F5 can do.
1996 Nikon F5 – Brief History
The Nikon F5 SLR (“Single lens reflex”) camera was released in 1996 and replaced my Nikon F4 that was first released 8 years earlier. The Nikon F5 was one of the last professional spec Nikon film bodies (the last was the Nikon F6 I believe) before they switched to digital. When I look at the Nikon F5 it always reminds me of a Nikon D4 or something of a similar pro level today.
Nikon F5 Pro Level SLR
The Nikon F5 oozes quality and is a fine-looking camera I think, even coming from the Leica camp (where people think we can only appreciate other Leica cameras)(Not me). The Nikon F5 is very different to a Leica but still built well build. I would say a Leica is more of a precision tool, which is built to last but needs more care. I think the Nikon F5 could survive a drop down a flight of stairs and still work (my Nikon F4 survived this and it is less rugged than the F5).
Nikon before Leica (My history with Nikon)
I used digital Nikon cameras before I discovered Leica cameras and owned first a crop sensor Nikon D90, then a full frame Nikon D700 camera and finally a Nikon D800 that I bought on pre-release. It was not until a few years later that I bought my first Leica, a Leica M9. Having come from having digital Nikon cameras I still own some very nice Nikon F mount lenses. I can now use all of these lenses on the Nikon F5 so I’m glad I kept them. I also own two other Nikon film bodies, a Nikon FM and the aforementioned Nikon F4. I will compare my three Nikon film cameras in a separate article.
Nikon F5 Review – Top 3 features (for me)
1. Nikon F5 – Well built
As mentioned above it feels like the Nikon F5 is built to last and feels less fragile than a Leica. (By this I mean the Leica rangefinder calibration can be knocked out of alignment if easily if the camera is knocked). The Nikon F5 is not a light camera with the camera body alone weighing 1.2kg (without the 8 AA batteries) A Leica M3 bodies weighs less than half that of the F5 at 580g (and it still feels quiet weighty for it’s compact size). The added weight of the Nikon F5 gives a good solid sturdy feel but doesn’t suit packing light for overseas trips and model shoots!
2. Nikon F5 – Fast autofocus
I bought the Nikon F5 specifically as the Nikon F4 auto focus is unusable for moving subjects (for me). The F4 is so slow I missed almost every photo. I can focus a manual focus Leica much faster than the F4 autofocus. In addition to this, I wanted to enjoy using telephoto autofocus lenses on the F5. One example lens is the Nikkor 180mm f2.8 AFD which I bought in my Leica ‘era’. Using an SLR camera and long lenses is a different photography experience to using a Leica camera. With a Leica I tend to use shorter focal length lenses, often 21mm-90mm. My eyesight is not good enough to use a long lens without AF at a distance on an SLR camera so I appreciate the fast auto focusing of the Nikon F5.
3. Nikon F5 – Bright viewfinder
Lastly I enjoy the modern looking big bright viewfinder with focus confirmation. I use manual focus lenses on the Nikon F5 too so it is great to confirm if I have a subject in focus and can see accurately enough with just my eyesight.
So.. Is the Nikon F5 the Best Nikon Film Camera?
The answer is it depends on what camera features are most important to you when you think of the best Nikon film camera. If for you the smallest lightest Nikon SLR is best then you would prefer the Nikon FM (from the cameras I use). Perhaps you want your Nikon SLR camera to have autofocus and you mostly photograph static subjects then the Nikon F4 SLR offers autofocus in a smaller lighter camera body (vs the F5). If however you need a film camera to photograph fast action photography such as motorsport then the Nikon F5 could well be the best Nikon film camera for you. It is not small nor lightwight but it the Nikon F5 shoots 8fps vs only 4fps for my Nikon F4. Not only that the Nikon F5 focus seems much advanced that the Nikon F4, focusing faster, hunting less and seems to nail focus regularly. So for me yes the Nikon F5 is the best Nikon film camera when size is not an issue (even though I shoot portraits, fashion and weddings and not motorsport!).
Nikon vs Leica
I wrote a lot more for this review (over double the length) but it was going off topic comparing Nikon to Leica rather than the F5. Instead I have cut this post here and will share the less Nikon F5 specific part another time. On to the Nikon F5 photos!
Nikon F5 Flickr photos
*(Click any photo to see the lens/ film used)
Nikon F5 Colour film
Nikon F5 Camera Review – Note
I appreciate you probably didn’t learn anything new from this mini Nikon F5 camera review and I only cover perhaps 1% of the Nikon F5 features. Hopefully the sample images will give a taster of what the Nikon F5 can do using the most basic F5 camera setting. For me the final image is the reason I buy a camera.
The 2 comparison posts to follow will help cover more of the specifics and will help when deciding between buying a Leica or a Nikon and a Nikon F4 vs Nikon F5 (for example).
Wait! Do you have film?
After reading this article hopefully you are now ready to get out and start shooting! Have you got film ready to load? Here are some of my favourite / the best films that I use in the Nikon F5 camera for portraits.
Despite me often taking photos of female models you can also find me photographing men. I work with male models for UK model agencies and with agencies overseas such as Paris, Hungary and Poland. I also help with poses for men for guys looking for some new photos yet have no modelling experience. I do male portrait sessions in the studio and mens lifestyle shoots often on location. I also photograph for some mens fashion brands which you may have seen snippets from on my Instagram feed.
I photograph men whether a model, business man, DJ, fitness guy, artisan, fellow photographer or even average Joe looking for more swipe rights on his Tinder account! Like girls want to look beautiful, men just want to look cool.
Girls photograph better in certain poses and posing men is no different. I enjoy the variety of photographing men and woman as I can use different lighting and lenses. Not one setup suits every portrait or client and that is what keeps it fun.
Below are some mens photography ideas from my previous male photoshoots using medium format film, 35mm film, 35mm digital and medium format digital. I tried to include a wide variety of poses for men, with different experience levels and with me working with a range of cameras.
Photographing Men – Flickr
*(click any photo to see the camera/ lens / film /developing details)
Panasonic Lumix LX100 Review (Leica D-Lux Typ 109) (+ New Panasonic Lumix LX100 II!)
Need cheap Leica alternative digital camera? (2018)
Look no further! Lumix LX100 review – It’s a Leica with a Lumix badge on! (Really – The same inside as the Leica D-Lux Typ 109 but cheaper!
Sep18 UPDATE – Exciting times!! Lumix LX100 II has landed! See a first look video of the new 17MP LX100 Mk II camera at the end of this article.
Panasonic Lumix LX100 Review
If you read my Budapest 2017 blog post you will know that I just bought myself a new Panasonic Lumix LX100 digital compact camera! Now in 2018 Panasonic release the Lumix LX100 II (Speculated before release as the Lumix LX200!)
My Purchase! Panasonic LX100 price is cheaper than a Leica!
If you didn’t read it as a very quick recap I misplaced my Leica M 240 battery charger when in Budapest on a model photography trip so bought myself a replacement / backup camera. Here is an extract from the aforementioned post –
.. “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”.
and as part of the summary at the end of the trip I wrote –
“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)”.
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – First Impressions
After using the Lumix LX100 for a day including model photography with agency models and freelance models here are my thoughts so far. I tried to summarise into two simple lists, pros and cons (for me and my taste only)*
Panasonic Lumix LX100 Review – Pros
Macro photography – amazing! Can focus at 3cm distance to give a very shallow DOF
1/2000 flash sync speed! – at f1.7-f2.8 and 1/4000 speed at f4-f16 (leaf shutter lens)
Hotshoe – a must for my strobist work
Small form factor – perfect travel camera
EVF option – good to use in bright light conditions instead of LCD
Aperture ring – great to see on a compact (makes it feel like a proper camera)
Full manual controls – a must for me
4K video – same as the larger Lumix GH4 camera
24-75mm fixed zoom lens – 24mm is perfect for wider shots and 75mm for portraits
f1.7-f2.8 lens aperture – f1.7 at 24mm to f2.8 for 75mm. f1.7 perfect in low light
Wifi connectivity – great to transfer photos directly to my iPhone for Instagram
ISO 100-25,600 – Impressive low light ability and good results at ISO1600
13MP micro four thirds CMOS sensor – Sufficient resolution for A4 prints (for me)
Weight 393g – perfect lightweight camera to carry everywhere
Panasonic Lumix LX100 Review – Cons
EVF lag – a Leica OVF is much better than the EVF for me. EVF too slow
Startup lag – slow compared to a Leica but useable
Battery capacity / life – said to take up to 350 photos per battery if using the LCD
Position of the video record button – awkward (for me)
No tilt and swivel LCD – so not great for selfies/ videoing handheld such as vlogging
No external mic jack (input) for microphone such as a Rode Video Mic or Zoom H1
Doesn’t use full size of micro four thirds sensor – crop options 4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 1:1
RAW files are affected by in camera settings such as crop selection and filters
Note. Panasonic Lumix LX100 vs Leica D-Lux Typ 109
The Panasonic Lumix LX100 is near identical to it’s Leica twin camera, the Leica D-Lux Typ 109. Inside the cameras are extremely similar but with the Leica D-Lux using Leica software. On the exterior the Leica D-Lux has a much cleaner more sophisticated high end typical Leica look than the Lumix but the Lumix has a more practical and user friendly hand grip. For a lower cost I was more than happy to not consider the Leica D-Lux yet have knowledge that the LX100 uses the same Leica Summilux lens. Also the Panasonic LX100 price is a lot less than the Leica alternative!
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – For Me
I have only covered a small percentage of the Lumix LX100 features that are important to me. There are many other settings the camera has which may interest you more such as frames per second rate or the details of the video setting options. The LX100 is not a new camera, released in 2014, so all of the above has already been documented many times before if you want more details after seeing this post. I just covered the basics of my experience and thoughts so far and with a Leica M camera background as a comparison.
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Image Quality
After having time to review some of the Lumix LX100 photos from Budapest I can say that the photos were perhaps as good as can be expected. The LX100 image quality was sub-Leica M standard (because of the smaller sensor as an obvious reason) in terms of sharpness, resolution and clarity but the images are far from being offense to my eye. From the RAW images captured so far I would say as a sweeping statement, that the highlight detail is lost much easier, the images are rendered softer and the lens has more flare. The JPEG images look very good and have nice colour but the RAW files colours are less impressive when trying to recover in post. I took photos up to ISO 1600 so far and the results were useable/ good enough (even though there was less information to work with in post (without introducing too much grain).
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Ergonomics and Handling
I love the small form factor of the Lumix LX100 camera. The LX100 is smaller and lighter than a Leica M film camera and is more similar in size to my Olympus Pen-F half frame analogue camera. As a Leica photographer I find the LX100 camera has far more buttons than necessary and it feels a little cluttered but that said I was very thankful to see the aperture control ring and shutter dial. I think an ISO control dial instead of the exposure compensation dial would have suited me far better as a manual settings photographer. I really don’t like the position of the video record button and I found it very it extremely awkward but maybe I will get used to it in time. The camera is larger than a generic compact camera so wont fit into a small suit or trouser pocket but will easily pack into a larger jacket pocket or small camera bag.
As a rangefinder camera photographer I rely 100% on an optical viewfinder to focus and compose my photos. I have never been a big fan of an electronic viewfinder (“EVF”) so I was never tempted to get the Leica EVF for my Leica M240. The Panasonic Lumix LX100 EVF is better than a few I have had experience with but I struggled with the lag between photos. You really can’t appreciate how amazing an OVF is until you have used and EVF. With an OVF you can see everything all the time. I am reasonably particular when composing with a Leica camera but I noticed after seeing the Lumix photos on the computer that my composition (at the edges especially) was worse and less considered. I found with the LX100 that I started off using the EVF but later moved to using the LCD to focus instead. I guess I am now using the LCD to focus as if the camera was my iPhone rather than a ‘real’ camera. I found the LCD focusing approach more enjoyable than the EVF even if still a little foreign to me. It is early days with the LX100 camera so my preference may change.
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Macro Photography
I used to love macro photography prior to specializing in portraiture and before I moved to Leica cameras. I miss macro work. Even my iPhone never lets me focus as close as I would like. The macro ability of the Lumix LX100 to me is perhaps it’s strongest feature focusing as close as 3cm at 24mm and giving beautifully shallow depth of field and bokeh that you might expect from a DSLR camera rather than a compact camera. Very impressed.
Panasonic LX100 Sample Photos
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Flash Sync Speed
The LX100 camera with its leaf shutter lens boosts an amazing 1/2000 flash sync speed for apertures from f1.7 to f2.8 and 1/4000 flash sync speed for apertures f4-f16. I have yet to use this feature but it excites me a great deal. My Leica M 240 maximum flash sync speed is only 1/180 and even my digital Hasselblad is only 1/800. As a photographer that enjoys using off camera flash this is exciting stuff!
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Fills the Void
As I have quite a few cameras already, all of which are arguably ‘better’ and higher spec’d than the little Lumix LX100 how will it fit in. The Leica M240 is my main camera for everything, whether portrait sessions, fashion photography or Leica wedding photography. My other digital cameras are used from time to time, the Leica M8 at Leica weddings for example, the digital Hasselblad on bright days using strobes when size and weight is no issue and the Nikon D800 as a general backup camera. With a love for film cameras rather than digital I tend to use the Leica M240 to do a test shot and then often take the important photos with a film camera.
So the LX100. What can it bring to the table. Surprisingly a great deal for my needs. It might be clearer to list the uses I have in mind for my new Lumix.
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Uses for Me
More specifically detail photos of cameras and equipment for blogging and Instagram
Can take better photos than an iPhone and upload to social media without a computer
Test photos before shooting film
The LX100 is better than a light meter and smaller and lighter than a digital Leica
Behind the scenes photos/ videos
I can operate the LX100 camera with my iPhone to capture BTS footage
I enjoy teaching photography so will use the camera to capture more short videos
Whether of a model or otherwise it adds an extra dimension to my work
Small size so carry everywhere
I am more likely to carry this camera with me than any other because of the size
Great for my overseas trips where size and weight matters
Perfect for spontaneous and fun family photos that can be shared via Wifi
I will now use this as a digital backup camera for overseas model photography trips
A Leica camera is a serious piece of equipment whereas the Lumix is more a fun camera
The LX100 photos are to me good enough to use for my model photography shoots
The LX100 camera will now join me for wedding photography assignments too
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Summary
As you can see I am quite impressed with the Panasonic Lumix LX100. Yes it is not Leica M quality but then it is not Leica M cost either. Every camera has their strengths and weaknesses and I look forward to using the Lumix LX100 for when the Leica M camera is less suited. I will write a follow up review once I have spent more time with the LX100 camera but exciting times ahead and I think new and different work coming soon to my Instagram feed (@MrLeicaCom).
Non-model Test Photos (Lightroom Exports)
Film vs. Digital
Using the micro four thirds sensor Lumix LX100 camera really lets me appreciate my film cameras. The resolution of even a classic grain film stock such as Kodak Eastman Double-X 5222 still exceeds the resolution of the digital camera sensor at this level (from my own personal experience*). Don’t underestimate film if you have never used it! 🙂
Lumix – Full Circle
My first serious camera was the interchangeable lens Panasonic Lumix G1. I taught myself the basics of photography using the Lumix G1. I later bought a used Lumix G3 to try for a short period. Now onto the Lumix LX100!
Lumix LX100 II Specs & Preview Video
Lastly as promised here is a YouTube video gives more details of the new Lumix LX100 II (from Lok, the guy you will recognise from the old Digital Rev videos!)
Lumix LX100 Amazon (2018) + Lumix LX100 II!
(Update): With the release of the new Panasonic Lumix LX100 II 21MP (aka Lumix “LX200”) camera the Panasonic LX100 price should hopefully now fall. Grab yourself a bargain!
Panasonic LX100 Price vs Lumix LX100 II
Check out the latest LX100 prices on Amazon! (UK) / (US)
Check out the latest LX100 II prices on Amazon! US only currently – (US)
*The Lumix Lx100 price has hardly changed in the last 18 months which to me speaks volumes about how good this little camera is.
I was contacted by OutdoorPhoto, an online camera shop in Pretoria, South Africa towards the end of last year (2017) asking if I would like to answers some questions and feature on their blog page. The MrLeica interview piece turned out to be a much bigger task than anticipated but the final piece they put together looked nice I thought. If you are interested here is a link to the finished article as edited by OutdoorPhoto –
As the final piece was a very cut down version of the original content requested, below is the full article if intersted together with some of the photos they asked me to send them. It may contain slightly more detail / information but also me blabbing on more so it depends how much time you have to kill as to whether you may want to read it! (The finished article linked above is the polished highlights version!)
Q1) How and when did you first get into photography and when did it become a career?
My first digital camera was a Pentax Optio S4 in 2003 when I went backpacking to India but it wasn’t until I was given a Lumix TZ5 for Christmas in 2008 that my interest in photography started to grow. The next camera is where I started the huge learning curve of self-taught photography. I used a Panasonic Lumix G1 camera with an adapter and various legacy lenses I found cheap on eBay. Using manual prime lenses soon taught me about aperture, f stop, shutter speed and ISO and I became fond of doing everything manually, both manual focusing the lenses and manual camera settings for exposure. Over the next 3-5 years I progressed through various Nikon DSLR cameras (D90, D700, D800) to the digital Leica rangefinder cameras (M8 and M240) I use today. I became bored of the DSLR camera look quite early despite owning some amazing lenses (50mm f1.2 and 200mm f2 as examples). That lead to me searching Flickr for photos I liked and then checking what cameras people were using to make those images. I found the look I liked was analogue film not digital and in particular the super shallow depth of field of the Contax 645 film camera. I invested in a Contax and my love for film cameras began. I have and use many many film cameras from little 35mm half frame right through to large format film 4×5 cameras. It was the purchase of a Voigtlander Bessa R3A that lead me to buying my first digital Leica (M9). I loved this ‘new’ way of focusing using the rangefinder system rather than through the lens focusing like on a DSLR or any of my waist level viewfinder cameras. Although I still enjoy using a variety of film cameras for digital I use the Leica rangefinder system, hence my blog name MrLeica.com.
Q2) Your photography has a fashion-editorial, modern yet classic look. Could you please elaborate about your style as photographer.
In my early days I spent hours on Flickr looking at example photos but mainly to see the equipment that was used. I have probably picked up some photo ideas from images I see but my personal preference where possible is to create tasteful yet beautiful timeless classic images that don’t look like they were created in 2018. Shooting on film inspires me even more to create images that will hopefully still look nice in 50-100 years’ time. I often like to style a model with simple garments and poses to create the illusion of lifestyle even though they are 100% staged. I direct models into the light to try to sculpt the face and body with the highlights and shadows to maximise their best attributes. Each model has something different to offer and I tend to focus on what each model does best where possible. For some models I might concentrate on their eyes or lips and other perhaps their toned abs or long legs. I didn’t decide one day to pursue a particular look it just evolved with my photography over time.
Q3) Why do you enjoy shooting film and when did you start dabbling in analogue?
When I lost my love for the digital Nikon D800 CMOS sensor images I found myself applying basic texture layers in Photoshop to try to give the images a bit more life. When I realised film photos come of the scanner looking pre-photoshopped and with all the imperfections already in place I was immediately converted to analogue. For me imperfect is perfect so using quirky film cameras and different film stocks this is the best way for me to achieve this look. When I first started my film photography in 2012 I had my film negatives developed at a lab but it wasn’t long before I decided to develop my own black and white film at home. It was quite a few years later before I made the jump to finally developing my own colour film with C41 chemicals. Colour film developing was much easier than I had feared and I wish I had done it sooner. I don’t have a dark room yet and continue to develop 35mm, 120 and 4×5 sheet film in a Paterson tank in my kitchen sink.
Q4) Please list your photographic gear when shooting analogue.
It will depend what film camera(s) I am using on the day but for example for a 35mm Leica film camera it could be just the camera, a lens and a roll of film loaded if working with available light. I don’t use a reflector as much as I used to as like to keep it simple. If I was using perhaps my Hasselblad 500cm or Mamiya RZ67 Pro 2 larger medium format cameras I may use a monopod to help keep the cameras steady especially if working in low light and shutter speeds of 1/60. I also use a lens hood more with these camera for some reason. As both the Hasselblad and RZ67 are modular cameras I may load several film back magazines with film then once I have finished shooting one roll of film I simply switch it out to a new back with the film loaded ready to shoot. If it was a standard 35mm film camera I would need to stop the photoshoot to rewind the exposed film before loading fresh film. Large format film photography is a bit slower and less portable. I use my 1940s Pacemaker SpeedGraphic and 1980s Sinar F2 4×5 cameras on a sturdy tripod. I have to individually load each film holder with one sheet of 4×5 film in complete darkness in each side and load enough film holders to last the entire photoshoot. I normally use a dark coat or jacket over my head to view the image (which is inverted) on the ground glass on the back of the camera. I then use a magnifying loop pressed against the glass to check critical focus of the subject before taking the picture with a shutter release cable (a very simplified description). I may also use Polaroid film back to do test photos before loading sheet film to check exposure. If I am taking photos using additional lighting I may use continuous lights such as hot tungsten lights, daylight balanced low energy bulbs or LED lights. For strobe lighting they might be speedlights or studio lights and I will be using either flash triggers on the camera hotshoe or pc sync cables linking the camera directly to the light. If I was shooting only film I would also use my Sekonic lightmeters to check exposure as most of my film cameras don’t have built in light meters.
Q5) What film do you use? Could you please tell us how you choose the specific film to shoot with as well as list your favourite film.
I am an experimental photographer so love to try different film stocks. That said when I need results certain films are obvious choices for me. For greens and purples in a scene such as shooting in nature I would chose Fuji Pro 400H and over exposure slightly. For colour film where I need a lot of latitude such as a beach shoot I would use Kodak Portra 160 and 400. For capturing the most detail and colour I think number one colour film today is Fuji Provia 100 slide film but it has less latitude compared to colour negative film. For black and white film if there is enough light I think the best films are Ilford Delta 100 and Ilford Pan F 50. For low light Kodak T-Max 400 has fine grain similar to a 100 speed film and is also very good. For personal work I have been enjoying the unpredictable colours of Kodak Vision3 Motion Picture Film that I buy on bulk rolls then cut myself to use in the 35mm film cameras. All their films have amazing latitude, whether 50D for highlights or 500T for shadow detail. I think the Vision3 500T film rebranded (with remjet removed it so can develop in a high street lab) by the guys at Cinestill as Cinestill 800T is one of the few colour films you can shoot at maybe ISO 50-1600 on the same roll. To have the same luxury of wide exposure latitude for black and white film, the best I have used by far is Kodak Eastman Double-X 5222 film which again is a Motion Picture film that I buy on 400ft rolls from Kodak. I use many other films too but I just try to match the film stock to the light levels, colours and mood of the shoot. Film with fine grain can give a more digital smooth look whereas films with a classic grain structure (more obvious grain) give a more classic look. This is the beauty of using so many different films.
Q6) Do lots of clients prefer you to shoot film?
Often clients are not aware that my photos they like the most were shot film, they just like the look of the image. I much prefer film so will always try to persuade clients to have at least some film images as I truly believe the client will like the film photos more than digital once they see them. Film is much kinder to skin than digital so produces far more flattering portraits in my opinion. In the fashion industry today clients like to see the images real time appearing on a monitor from the teathered digital camera. I understand this but equally I’d love to shoot a big brand fashion campaign using only film. Some wedding clients trust film and request film only images and I even shot a university prospectus on film where the digital marketing company could see the benefits of using medium format cameras and slide film to capture the vibrant colours of the University campus.
Q7) And how does your style of work/photography differ when shooting film compared to when you shoot digital?
Shooting film is more important to me so I shoot less frequently and perhaps hesitate before taking the photo more so than with digital. I know with film there is an additional cost but also time ‘cost’ to roll film, develop film, scan film before I can use/ share a photo (compared to instant digital images). My style of work for digital and film is probably very similar as the modern digital Leica M240 and 1950s design Leica M3 film cameras are near identical to operate. I often use lenses on the digital Leica to get that less perfect look such as the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1 which renders the image quite soft and with heavy vignetting and interesting bokeh/ flare. If I can make a digital image not look clinical and modern (and potentially boring) I am happy. I almost always shoot digital and film side by side so use the digital camera to get a model up to speed then use the film camera when I like what I am seeing.
Q8) Do you use studio equipment when shooting or do you shoot using available light only?
Being an experimental photographer I have accumulated many lights and light modifiers on the market over time but I am equally happy to use daylight. The advantage of having and understanding multiple light sources is you can make any light anywhere. That said if I lived somewhere more sunny than the UK I think I would really enjoy using direct sunlight more in my pictures. None directional diffused light on an overcast day doesn’t excite me so in these situations I tend to use supplementary light sources to provide directional lighting.
Q9) Please explain to us how and when you decide between shooting colour, or black and white?
For my style of photography black and white often helps simplify an image and help create the potentially more classic look. Everyone and everything looks great in black and white but not everything looks good in colour. I’m still experimenting with my colour photography but my opinion is when colour is good it is really good. For me perhaps 7 out of every 10 of my colour photos would probably look better in black and white but that said when the colours in an image work together well the image really does pop. Black and white helps simplify a busy scene and removes the distraction of colours. Colour can add a mood to an image. Warm yellow and orange tones gives a completely different feel to cooler blues and cyan for example . My current frustration with colour film is it can take a lot of time to colour grade an image after the colour film is scanned whereas black and white film normally requires very little post processing.
Q10) Do you develop your film or you edit/process your own work in for example Photoshop?
I develop my own C41 colour film and black and white film at home but not E6 slide film. Once film is dry I scan every negative using an Epson v800 flatbed scanner. Any images I then want to use/ share I open in Photoshop. For black and white film I usually just adjust the contrast curves, increase sharpness and clone out are dust particles. For colour film I repeat the same process but then also colour grade the film scan if needed to get the colours back to how I remember the scene.
> Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions.