Leica vs Mamiya: Budapest Models – June 2018
Here is the write up from my last model photography trip to Budapest in June detailing camera gear choices, film stocks used, models, locations and more. Which camera will suit me best – Leica vs Mamiya? It is quite wordy so you may want to get comfy and grab your favourite drink before starting (or just scroll through the images!)
June 2018 and I’m just on my flight out from the UK to visit Budapest for a few busy and hopefully fun packed days of model photography. I visited Budapest a lot last year but this is my first trip since Christmas so I feel it is well overdue. I haven’t been shooting a great deal in the UK compared to what I used to. Partly time constraints and partly getting too picky with the models I work with. Much of my free time is currently taken up with triathlon training. My second obsession along side photography. In good weather I much rather be out on the bike(s) or doing a long run in the sunshine that stuck indoors looking at computer screen. I have a lot of film still sitting in the fridge too waiting to be developed when I get chance.
Camera Bag – Leica vs Mamiya (s)
- Digital Leica M 240 camera body
- Leica M3 film camera body
- Leica M4-P film camera body
- Voigtlander Color Skopar 21mm f4 lens
- Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 lens
- Leica Summicron-M 28mm f2 ASPH lens
- Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 lens
- Leica Summarit-M 50mm f2.5 lens
- Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4 lens
- LUMIX Lx100 / Leica D-Lux Typ 109 (backup)
- Mamiya 7 6×7 medium format film camera
- Mamiya 50mm f4.5 lens (for Mamiya 7)
- Mamiya 645 Super medium format film camera
- Mamiya 80mm f1.9 lens (for Mamiya 645)
- Speedlight – My Lighting Kit
- Tripod + Mini tripod – My Gear Essentials
Budapest – Camera gear decision
I did my usual 6hrs or so of packing last night ahead of flying. Not much sleep afterwards, maybe 3 hours. It always take a me forever to pack. I have and use a lot of different film cameras so when it comes to packing for an overseas trip it’s always a struggle to choose.
When I was in Tenerife with Aneta last month I used 2 Leica M film bodies and switched between the two with one Leica camera loaded with black and white film and one with colour film. It worked well so my first 3 cameras packed were 3 Leica Ms. The digital workhorse Leica M240, a Leica M3 and a Leica M4-P.
The next camera to pack for me was a must as it is my latest camera purchase. I brought my new Mamiya 7 6×7 medium format rangefinder camera together with a 50mm lens which I also just bought and have yet to try out properly.
Leica vs Mamiya vs Fuji GF670
Rangefinder camera like Leica Ms and the Mamiya 7 are great and generally a compact size and I find them easy to focus but they don’t focus super close to a subject. For more intimate headshots and for medium format film with a more shallow depth of field I really needed a different style of camera. That ruled out my Fuji GF670 and Mamiya 6 which are both rangefinder cameras.
A Hasselblad 500CM is my usual choice but I think the location might be quite dark again so I wanted a faster than f3.5/f4 Hasselblad lenses I use. Hasselblad have the 80mm f2.8 lens but I’ve yet to become a big fan. That ruled out Hasselblad.
The obvious choice was then the Mamiya RZ67 Pro II with its amazing big and bright easy to use focus screen and with the 110mm f2.8 lens. Sadly it was just too big and heavy to bring in my limited luggage space. I then thought about an SLR 35mm camera like the Nikon F4 (smaller than my Nikon F5). 35mm film camera are better than medium format film cameras in low light as I can use f1.4 (or faster) lenses. My ‘problem’ was I wanted to give the models in Budapest better than 35mm film scans. The model standard there is generally very good (for my taste) so I wanted my best images of the best models captured on 120 medium format film.
I chose my Mamiya 645 Super as a compromise between the RZ67 and a 35mm Nikon. The M645 film format size is 3x greater than 35mm so I can capture more detail and better tonality verses 35mm film. The other reason for picking the Mamiya 645 is it has a 80mm f1.9 lens. This is very fast/ bright in the medium format camera world and it is lighter and smaller than a Hasselblad. The Mamiya 7 will be better for wider shots and then the Mamiya 645 for softer more dreamy close up photos. With the Mamiya 7 being my newest camera I really hope I can use it as much as possible but if it is too dark inside for the 50mm f4.5 lens then I can use the M645 with 80/f1.9 lens instead. The fast and small Leicas can then capture everything else.
Budapest – Choice of film
Again, as I expected dark conditions in the apartment I tried to pick film stocks that work better in low light. Black and white film includes 35mm and 120 Fomapan 100 (that I use at ISO 100-400 usually but can push to ISO 800 If needed), 120 Kodak T-Max 400 (to use at ISO 800 If needed), 120 Ilford HP5 400 which I have only just recently started to appreciate, to use at ISO 1600 and I might even try it at 3200 and lastly 35mm Kodak Double-X 5222 to use at ISO 1000 approx. For colour film I have 120 Kodak Portra 400, 35mm and 120 CinesStill 800T (excited to finally shoot the 120 Cinestill that I bought on pre-order when announced and had it shipped from America), 35mm Kodak Vision 3 200T, a real favourite of mine and then for outside a few other different films.
2 Days, 10 Models – 9:00-21:00 Photoshoots
I had a busy few days getting up early to do things before the first model arrived then photoshoots back to back 9:00-21:00, roughly 2hrs per model. I like to make the best of my time in a city abroad so I don’t mind going home tired! I wont detail minute by minute but below are my thoughts after the two days of photoshoots.
Conclusion – Summary
Writing this part on the 4am night bus to the airport and then on my flight home. I think this visit to Budapest was possibly my best yet. The weather was great, the apartment was fantastic, the models exceeded my high expectations and the cameras / lenses did all I asked. Very enjoyable and I didn’t want to come home.
Near perfect balance
On past model photography trips I’ve been guilty of booking myself up with models and then not seeing further than my apartment walls and perhaps a few surrounding streets (if weather allowed it). Since then I have enjoyed cycling photography holidays where I have hired a bike and taken a camera and then just go exploring. For Budapest this time I hired a bike and for the remainder of the first afternoon the day I arrived I just went cycling (and running). For the next two full days of model photography I set my alarm early and went exploring before breakfast. I love the derelict factories and railway and unlike often the case in the UK, I can get really close to take pictures. Having a bike meant I could cover a lot of ground easily and quickly so I felt I saw more of the city this visit than any other trips so far. Also as cycling is my number two obsession after photography, being able to enjoy my two passions was the perfect mix.
I found the apartment by trawling the internet for inspiring photos. I got lucky this time. Yes the apartment was quite compact and dark inside but the decor and styling was unique and really special. Not so much inside but outside in the courtyard which I was given full access too. It was a small hotel and restaurant and David who looks after the guests could not have been more welcoming. Considering a new girl kept arriving every 2 hours throughout the day for two days the hotel could have easily said no visitors or words to the same effect. A huge thank you to David and the hotel staff for being so welcoming and accommodating. For the first day I did most of the photos close to my apartment front door and balcony but on day two we were using every inch of the space we had available to us. As I used the same location for nearly all models there will be some over use of backgrounds but it was so pretty it might not be a bad thing and it ties all the photos from the shoots together as a common theme.
Cameras (and lenses)
Overall I was pleased with my camera choice although I’ve not seen the resulting photos yet. Fingers crossed!
The digital Leica M240 did great as usual and the photos on the camera LCD looked very promising. I took two Leica M film bodies but I shot nearly all black and white film on day one so the second body didn’t get much use. I shot a little 35mm colour film on day two but not so much. The Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH lens didn’t leave my Leica M3 for models and was perfect when I had less light to work with. The Voigtlander Nokton Classic 40mm was probably on my M240 75% of the time and the the Leica Macro Elmar 90mm f4 was used a lot especially on day two.
The Mamiya 645 Super is a nice camera to use and I think easier to focus than a Hasselblad 500CM for me. My only gripe with it is it the waist level viewfinder suits shooting a horizontal landscape 645 orientation but I normally seem to gravitate to a portrait orientation meaning it is quite difficult to compose and focus with the camera on its side. I tried to use the Mamiya 80mm f1.9 lens wide open a lot, especially on the first day so hopefully I nailed the focus. The 80mm f1.9 was perfect for the low light photos and I could use it more like a 35mm camera. Normally if I am using Hasselblad 501C/ 500CM I find there is often not enough light for the f3.5/f4 lenses I use.
The other camera I had with me was my newly purchased and highly regarded by many Mamiya 7, a 6×7 rangefinder camera. I had only developed one roll of film with it so far in the UK and I wasn’t particularly impressed by the results. To my eyes a Hasselblad 500CM produces much more pleasing images to my eyes. As for Leica vs Mamiya 7, the biggest observation I had was how the Mamiya 7 needed so much more light that my 35mm film Leica camera/ lens combination. I was using f1.4 lenses on the Leica but the Mamiya 50mm lens is f4.5 (over 3 stops darker) so if I was at ISO 400 with the Leicas (often the case on my Budapest trips) I needed >ISO3200 for the Mamiya. As such I used the Mamiya 7 camera less in the lower light areas of the hotel courtyard.
Leica vs Mamiya 7 (Size!)
I did take the Mamiya 7 with me when I went out exploring on my bike for the first two days to try the camera with non-model subjects. I shot a few rolls film of random scenes that caught my eye so I’m excited to see the results. When I last did a cycling photography holiday to Fuerteventura I took a Voigtlander Bessa R3A 35mm film camera as it is lighter than a Leica M3, M4-P, M6 etc. The Bessa R3A is very similar in dimensions to a Leica M camera body and with a Voigtlander Color Skopar 21mm f4 lens on it offers a super compact travel camera. To then try to fit the weighty bulky Mamiya 7 / 50mm lens combo in my same little cycling rucksack was a bit of a squeeze. By day two I was running low on 120 film so I took the Leica M4-P / 21mm Voigtlander combination for more urban photography. The Leica /Bessa size is certainly more suited to my cycling photography needs / demands but if the high resolution 6×7 film negatives of the Mamiya 7 blow the 35mm film scans ‘out the water’ then I will take the camera that gives me the results I desire.
Mamiya 7 50mm lens
With model photography the Mamiya 50mm (and 65mm) lenses have felt a little too wide so far but for buildings and scenes I think the 43mm could have been even better than the 50mm to capture the wide scenes my eyes were seeing. That said I use a 50mm without the external viewfinder (that’s why I bought the Mamiya 7 50mm lens not the 43mm). I would not like to have to carry an additional external viewfinder needed for the 43mm. (With the 50mm composition can be estimated by using the full area within the rangefinder viewfinder). Lastly on day 2 I was shooting some flat (model up against backdrop) but wide environmental portraits in colour and I think (and hope!) the Mamiya could have been perfect for the job. Fingers crossed as I have high hopes!
Most of my photos whether digital or analogue were shot at ISO 400. I shot Fomapan 100@400, Kodak T-Max 400@ 400/800, Ilford HP5 400@400/800/1600, Kodak Portra 400@400 and Cinestill 800T@200/400/800. I know I could have pushed some of the film more but for some of the shoots I was using mostly digital so I just didn’t bother with film. As with model photoshoots in the past some models I shot lots of film and some none or almost none. I normally try to use some film with most models as I want to capture their beauty forever on emulsion but the way some models pose just doesn’t work for juggling multiple cameras for my style of working.
All 10 models arrived as they promised and many fitting me into their already very busy schedules. One model flew in from Croatia at midnight the night before our 9am Budapest shoot the following morning. Some models came straight from their long day at work or a full day of modelling or fitted me in between jobs. Considering some girls have photoshoots all the time as that is their full time job, it is quite humbling that that want to meet me to stand in front of yet another camera for more photos, and seemingly be happy and excited with the results. I try to keep my expectations low to avoid my disappointment and I thought a few models might cancel but I was really thankful that everyone showed up to meet me for my very brief visit to their city. I was also happy to see two of the girls again from when I visited Budapest last December. When I worked with Aneta and Edina last time it was dark and the apartment was very limiting. It was great to offer them a daylight shoot, or some daylight for Edina’s evening slot! Aneta said something like you seem to have got better (looking at the LCD and screenshotting half the photos with her iPhone. It’s amazing how just a bit of light makes everything look better! 🙂
As with every shoot a huge thanks to the models. I can’t do it without you! You may recognise some of my favourites from my previous trips. After lots of messages in the build up to the trip, a big thank you to Franciska, Cynthia, Nora, Tamara, Edina, Lili, Anett, Boglarka, Sara and Lilla. You were all awesome!
Update – I have not had chance to work through all the Budapest film images yet (and have only used a handful of digital pictures). I will include some Mamiya 7 photos in the Mamiya 7 blog and I will try to put together a mini blog for more Leica vs Mamiya 645 Super film photos. I’m trying hard to get back to blogging more frequently like I used to a few years ago. I plan to get back to writing shorter posts more often rather than just these very wordy “blog diaries” once a month or so (which i’m sure hardly anyone reads anyway!) Thanks if you are still reading at this point! Hopefully some readers may find certain facts / thoughts shared interesting or of some use.
Past Budapest model trip articles
- Budapest Models – Dec17
- Budapest-Ukraine Road Trip
- Budapest Models: Leica M240+M3 & Nikon FM
- Budapest 2017(2)-Leica vs. Lumix
- Budapest Models – Leica Ms
- Budapest Models (II)
- Budapest Models – Hasselblad H3D-31
- Bike Hire Budapest