Film Negatives to Digital (My Workflow / How To Guide!)

Film Negatives to Digital (My Workflow / How To Guide!)

People often ask me on Flickr how do I process my film negatives to digital images to upload for social media and what is my film photography workflow.  Here is my simple 4 step guide to how I process film from camera to a digital image and the equipment I use.

(*I process maybe 50-70 rolls of film at home a year so this is based on what I have learnt along the way)

Film Negative to Digital – 4 Step Process

  • STEP 1: Shoot film (any film format, 35mm, 120, 4×5 ..)
  • STEP 2: Develop film (at home or outsourced to a film lab)
  • STEP 3: Scan film (at home or outsourced to a film lab)
  • STEP 4: Edit Film (Lightroom/ Photoshop workflow)

Film Developing Kit List – What you will need!

This is the main film developing equipment I use to develop all my film + Amazon links to help you find it.  I also have an Epson v600 scanner but upgraded to the Epson v800 and find it much better.  I started out with the smaller 2 reel Paterson developing tank (UK) / (US) but would recommend a 3 reel tank if you regularly shoot film or if you use 120 film rather the 35mm. (I use 2x 3 reel Paterson tanks side by side  (link below) and have the 2 reel tank as a backup).  I detail the chemicals I use but there are lots of other options available too if you want to experiment.  (For now I just enjoy the safety net of using tried and tested chemicals I have experience with).

Film Developing Kit – Film developing specific essentials
  • Epson perfection v800 – film and photo flatbed scanner – (UK) / (US)
  • Film changing bag / darkroom bag (to develop film in daylight) – (UK) /(US)
  • Paterson developing tank (3 reel developing tank) – (UK) / (US)
  • 4×5 MOD 54 insert – for Paterson tank (for 4×5 film) – (UK) / (US)
  • Kodak Xtol developer (5L) (B&W film developer) – (UK) only
  • Adox Rodinal developer (alternative B&W film developer) – (UK) only
  • Kodak T-Max fixer (for B&W film) (I can’t find listed, sorry)
  • Tetenal Colortec C-41 kit (C41 colour film developer kit) – (UK) only
  • Seagate External Hard Drive (final step: save your film scans!) – (UK) / (US)

Alternative chemicals that are also available in the US and are popular are:

  • Kodak D-76 developer (Xtol alternative) (B&W film developer)  – (US)
  • Unicolor C-41 power kit (Tetenal alternative) (colour film developer) – (US)

Rodinal 1:100! Coming soon! :)

Film Developing Kit – Common items you will need

In addition to the film developing specifics listed above you will also need some common kitchen ware / household items.

  • Thermometer (for liquids)
  • 1 Litre plastic  jugs (I use x3)
  • Timer or stopwatch (you can use your phone)
  • Pair of scissors (To cut film)
  • Pegs to hang film (I use clothes pegs)
  • Empty bottles to store film chemicals (I use 1 litre pop bottles)

Fuji GF670 + 35mm Film

STEP 1: Shoot Film! (The Basics)

  1. Buy a roll of film – this can be 35mm or 120 film (or 4×5 sheet film!)
  2. Load film into your favourite analogue camera
  3. Take photos (by exposing the film to light)
  4. Make notes on camera settings used / conditions
  5. Finish shooting the entire roll
  6. Rewind the film (in camera)
  7. Unload exposed roll of film
  8. Store exposed film until ready to develop

 

Negative to digital scan - picture of film cameras and rolls of film

STEP 1: Shoot Film! (My Top Tips)
  1. Buy film in bulk (multi-packs) if possible to reduce unit cost or bulk load film  from a 100ft-400ft roll using a 35mm bulk loader
  2. Make a note on your phone or a notepad what film you loaded (especially if you use multiple film cameras like me and if the camera doesn’t show you what film is inside via a small viewing window
  3. Note the camera settings and lens(es) used when taking the photos (I detail the lens, the f. stop used, shutter speed and anything else useful to me)(if I remember – sometimes I am changing cameras and lenses so much I forget)
  4. Ensure to make note if you expose the film at any ISo different to box speed such as Fomapan 100@800
  5. When film is unloaded number the film to tie to list on phone or notepad or write details on film itself like “Model – Aneta @400”
  6. For 35mm film I fold the end of the film over several times as a clear visual that the film is exposed (120 film will already have “Exposed” printed on the film backing paper when you unload)
  7. Refrigerate exposed film in an air-tight sealed bag until I am ready to develop it (freezer bag or zip-lock bag to prevent moisture)(If I shoot half a roll of film it might be in the camera 1 month – 1 year before I finish the roll but I don’t worry unless work for a paying client (where I will shoot the entire roll of film where possible).

 

#blackandwhite #film #filmdeveloping

STEP 2: Develop Film! (The Basics)

  1. See my Colour Film Developing Process (for C41 film or Kodak Movie film)
  2. For B&W film developed with Rodinal see my Rodinal Stand Developing / Semi-Stand Developing process (if you plan to use the Rodinal film developer)
  3. Here I will detail my current black and white film developing process – B&W film developed in Kodak Xtol developer
Kodak Xtol Film Developing
  1. Make up Xtol solution from the powder mix
  2. Load exposed film into a Paterson film developing tank (in complete darkness)(if daylight use a darkroom changing bag to load film in complete darkness)
  3. Make up diluted mixture of Kodak Xtol developer
  4. To make litre of solution I use 250ml Xtol + 750ml water
  5. Use thermometer to check temperature of diluted Xtol. I use 20-25 degree Celsius normally
  6. If too cold stand diluted Xtol in warm water bath until the needed temperature (I have Xtol in 1 litre plastic jug and sit in pan of warm water
  7. Once correct temperature pour diluted Xtol into Paterson tank
  8. Start the timer
  9. Agitate as desired during the needed time period (agitate more for high contrast effect, less for less contrast)
  10. Extend the normal developing time you use if you want to push the film (say if you expired Kodak TMax 100 at ISO 400)
  11. Less agitation will give shadows time to de below as highlights develop first (for semi-stand developing)
  12. After time period empty diluted Xtol out of Paterson tank into a jug (store for 1-2 days to re-use)
  13. Fill Paterson tank with tap water and empty, to rinse
  14. Pour the fixer into the Paterson tank (I use Kodak T-Max fixer)
  15. Agitate every minute or so for around 10 minutes (you can do less but I play it safe as the-use my fixer)
  16. After 10min or so empty out fixer to re-use
  17. Fill Paterson tank with tap water and agitate for a minute
  18. Empty tap water out and repeat process (I do this quite casually with no exact times)
  19. Add a few drops of washing up liquid to tap water, make up a litre and add to empty Paterson tank (prevents water marks)
  20. Agitate tank a few times and after 1 minute remove Paterson tank lid
  21. Remove the film reels and unload the film
  22. Use your fingers (clean them first) to pinch the film and run down the length of the film to remove excess liquid
  23. Hang film to dry in area away from dust or excess heat
  24. Wait a few hours and film should be dry and ready to scan

 

Film negatives

STEP 2: Develop Film! (My Top Tips)
  1. Wait to accumulate (normally) a minimum of 4 rolls of 120 film, 6 rolls of 35mm or 12 sheets of 4×5 (but ideally 6x 120, 9x 35mm, 18x sheets 4×5)
  2. Make up a 5 litre batch of Kodak Xtol developer from the powder packet mix (If I already have Kodak Xtol developer made up I use this instead)
  3. Transfer the 5L of Xtol developer into 5x 1 litre bottles (filling to the top for minimal air inside)(I use old pop/squash plastic bottles and crush them as I use the liquid inside to keep any air inside the bottle to a minimal)
  4. Label and date the bottles of made up Xtol and store in a cool dark cupboard
  5. Hang the film to dry in my kitchen using an old light stand + horizontal support + pegs to retain the film
  6. Allow the film to air dry – no special treatment
  7. Wait 2hrs approx until the film is completely dry (or when I get time)
  8. Aim to scan the film as soon as possible after it is dry (where practically possible (it might be 1-2 days later if I am busy)  Scanning the film sooner minimizes the risk of excess dust landing on the film
  9. You can also remove the film and scan later (I do this if will be away for a few days) – I cut the film and place in a plastic wallet but you can use film negative strip sheets

Epson V800 Scanner arrives!

STEP 3: Scan Film! (The Basics)

  1. Plug in and turn on the Epson V800 scanner
  2. Ensure the film and scanner glass is free from dust (I use rocket blower)
  3. Select the needed Epson film holder – 35mm, 120 or 4×5
  4. Load the developed film into Epson film holder (try to hold at the edges)
  5. Using your computer open the Epson Scan software
  6. See my settings used in the 3 screenshots below (just my way of working)
  7. Once you have selected 48-bit color or 16-bit greyscale click preview
  8. Open the preview in thumbnail view and rotate images if needed
  9. For clipped highlights in the preview I select the histogram adjustment
  10. Histogram adjustment lets me make basic corrections to avoid lost pixels
  11. Scan film as a TIF file (I do)(so to retain maximum detail)
  12. Name scan as “Camera type + lens used + film used
  13. Save film scans to external hard drive: I stack  2TB, 3TB & 4TB HDs!

*Please note this is only how I scan my film.  There is probably 100 different ways to do it in terms of settings used etc so I just detail what works for me.

 

STEP 3: Scan Film! (Epson v800 Screenshots)

Negative to digital scan - epson v800 settings

Negative to digital scan - epson v800 settings

Negative to digital scan - epson v800 settings- saving

STEP 3: Scan Film! (My Top Tips)
  1. I use Epson V700 film inserts in my Epson V800 scanner (bought them online)(I didn’t find the Epson V800 film holders that great for mass scanning)
  2. 35mm film – 35mm Epson film holder can hold 6 frames for scanning (per line x4 lines) but I cut my film into lengths of 5 frames to avoid part of the 6th frame being cropped by the film holder
  3. 120 film – 120mm Epson film holder can hold 4x 645 frames per side (8 in total) , 3x 6×6 frames per side, 2x 6×7 frames per side
  4. 4×5 film – 4×5 Epson film holder holds 2x 4×5 negatives (in total)
  5. I try to scan my film all the same orientation so to minimise rotating film once scanned
  6. I usually try to scan film dull or less shiny side (when in scanner) but have not noticed a difference either way
  7. If you film looks sharp to the naked eye but the scan looks soft experiment with raising and lowering the little “feet” on the film holders.  Default height works best for me but it is worth checking if all your scans look soft
  8. To avoid light leaks across film negatives (usually the frames on the ends) block out any gap in the film holder side not filled with film with black card.  I don’t do this as like the imperfections of film but that is how you can
  9. For scanning resolution I used to use 4800 dpi for all negatives.  Now I tend to use 3200 dpi for 120 film and 2400 dpi for 4×5 film to avoid the files from becoming too huge
  10. I name my film scans as such so when I come to edit at a later date I can share the camera type, lens and film used to make the image

 

Negative to digital scan - epson v800 35mm film scan preview Epson v800 scanner preview of 35mm prior to scanning

STEP 4: Edit Film! (The Basics)

  1. Photoshop – used to edit single film scans (perhaps a model portrait)
  2. Lightroom – used to batch edit film scans (film wedding photos)

 

STEP 4: Edit Film! (Photoshop – The Basics)
  1. Open the film scan in Photoshop
  2. Make duplicate copy of photo layer
  3. Clone out dust spots
  4. Add curve adjustment layers to correct contrast
  5. Make duplicate copy of photo
  6. Apply any simple localised adustments- dodge, burn, sharpen
  7. Straighten and crop scanned border (if needed / distracting)
  8. Add border to photo (if I think it helps)
  9. Save as full size JPEG
  10. Done
STEP 4: Edit Film! (Photoshop – More info)

That is my usual process for 95% of the film images I process via Photoshop. A clean well exposed film scan can sometimes be edited in less than a minute. A dusty film scan can take over one hour to clean up so the time taken to process a film scan varies a lot. The larger the film negative the less apparent the dust so 35mm film shows any dust much more than a 6×6 negative. Some film scans might need more sharpening if the lens is not great or if the film gives a softer look. Other scans will not need any sharpening (Hasselblad photos commonly!) I find colour film is usually slower to edit than black and white especially if the colours from the scanner need colour correcting.

STEP 4: Edit Film! (Lightroom – The Basics)
  1. Import film scan folder into Lightroom
  2. Crop and rotate photos if needed
  3. Use Lightroom sliders to make basic exposure adjustments
  4. Adjust colours if colour film scans
  5. Clone out dust
  6. Export from Lightroom as full size JPEG (if for myself)
  7. Export from Lightroom as reduced size JPEG if for client
  8. Done
STEP 4: Edit Film! (Lightroom – More info)

As with Photoshop, this is my usual process for 95% of the film images I process via Lightroom. I don’t apply presets or plugins to any film photos ever). Lightroom is used very little for my film editing but that is my process when I do use it.

Negative to digital scan - 35mm slide film

35mm E6 slide film – lab developed, home scanned

 

Example film scans – developed, processed, scanned & edited at home:

35mm Film

Ilford Delta 100 Portrait

Hasselblad H3D Film

 

 

120 Film Scan

Fuji GF670 Camera 6x6

Mamiya 6 150mm G

 

4×5 Sheet Film

Large Format Wedding

Fomapan 4x5 Film

 

I hope this proves useful to someone

Thanks

Matt

Related Posts

You may also like… What Gear I Use for Portraits!
  • See full details of my portrait photography lighting kit (2018) – HERE
  • See full details of my portrait photography equipment kit (2018) – HERE

 

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Instax Mini 90 Review (+Why You Need Instax in Your Life!)

Fuji Instax Mini 90 Review (2018)(+Why You Need Instax in Your Life!)

As this is a mini camera I thought I’d do a mini review to explain why we should all have a Fuji Instax Mini in our lives!

  • Part A is written for anyone, photographer or just a normal person!
  • Part B is more photographer specific and goes into more detail+2 videos!
Fuji Instax Mini 90 Camera and Photos
Fuji Instax Mini 90 with me for my last photoshoot in Tenerife! 2018

> PART A: Why you need a Fuji Instax Mini!

 

Fuji Instax Mini 90 Review – About

Flagship model

The Fuji Instax Mini 90 (“Mini Neo 90”) is the flagship of the Fuji Instax Mini line in 2018 coming in both black and brown.  I bought the black (and silver) version to match my Leica M240 and other cameras but the brown version probably looks more cool in hindsight!

Small enough to carry everywhere

The Instax Mini 90 is small, super lightweight and easy to carry with you everywhere.  You can fit it in a jacket pocket, handbag or wear it using the strap supplied like a fashion accessory.  I’ve seen people wearing them on multiple occasions and they do look pretty cool!

Instax Mini cameras are cheap vs digital cameras

Instax cameras in today’s world are pretty cheap and probably cost about the same as what some people spend on a night out or on a new pair of trainers.  Compared to you “main camera” that you use (your smart phone!) Instax cameras are super cheap!

Instax Mini 90 vs Fuji Instax Mini 9

The Instax Mini Neo 90 has the most features of all the Instax mini cameras in 2018 which was the reason I bought it.  I used to own the original version of the now called Fuji Instax Mini 9 which is the most basic model.  All Fuji Instax cameras do a similar job to the most part so if you are not bothered about having a nicer looking camera with more features you might prefer the Mini 9 and can save some cash.

*See review at the end of this article for a full guide to the Instax Mini 90

 

Fuji Instax Mini 90 Review - blue skies
Loving how vivid blue skies look with Instax film!

9 Fuji Instax Mini 90 Tips / Common mistakes to avoid

  1. You don’t actually need to shake it “like a Polaroid picture” (just wait)
  2. Blue sky photos look great but you need the sun behind you (not at the sun)
  3. Don’t get too close to your subject (your can’t get as close as with a phone)
  4. Use landscape model (if using the Mini 90) for sharper photos
  5. Make sure the flash is on in low light otherwise blurry photos from hands
  6. Low contrast scenes photo better (Instax can’t do bright and dark together)
  7. Vivid colours really “pop” well with Instax film, especially blue and red
  8. You can do double exposure photos with Instax cameras if you read up on it
  9. Carry a spare pack of film!  Film always runs out at the wrong moment!

Fuji Instax Wedding!

A Polaroid Wedding

Fuji Instax Wedding Guest Book

I’ve been using Fuji Instax cameras since 2013 and I think year on year they keep getting more popular for weddings.  One of the most popular ways to use an Instax camera at a wedding is for guests to take a photo to add to the guest book.  Here is proof from a wedding I shot back in  2015.

Leica M2 Wedding

Fuji Instax Models

I sometimes take one of my Fuji Instax cameras on a model photoshoot.  I have not scanned any of my recent Instax photos but here are some of my very first Instax pictures, taken with the old Fuji Instax 25 (Now the Fuji Instax Mini 9).

Fuji Instax mini 25

Fuji Instax Mini 25 (2)

Instax Mini 90 Film  – Colour & Monochrome

I found the most economical way to buy Instax Mini 90 film was to buy the 40 packs  (for colour film).  Fuji also released an Instax Mini monochrome (B&W) film which looks cool but you can only buy it in 10 packs so it works out a bit more expensive.  I like the timeless look of the Instax monochrome film and I used that for one of my recent weddings.  (It is worth noting for geeky photographers like me – Fuji Instax monochrome film is not true B&W tones but instead desaturated colour film which to most people looks the same as B&W).

 

Why do you need a Fuji Instax camera if you have a smartphone?

When I say to people you should get a Fuji Instax camera the most common reply is why? I have a smartphone.  Here are 3 benefits of each option:

Benefits of a smartphone camera
  1. No additional cost – I already have a camera on my phone
  2. No additional baggage – a smartphone fits in my jeans pocket. I would have to hold an Instax camera if I bought one and carried it with me
  3. Unlimited photos – With digital cameras like a smartphone, if you have enough memory capacity you can take near endless photos for free!
Benefits of an Instax camera
  1. You get an instant photo – you can hold / gift to someone
  2. Fun to stick on your fridge / wall as a daily reminder / smile from seeing the picture / happy moment captured
  3. A lasting memory forever – Unlike digital photos that never get printed then get lost when you upgrade your laptop or computer, a tangible (printed) photo lasts forever.

#3: A Lasting Memory: The main reason to buy an Instax camera (for me)

I am old enough to have seen old photos being passed down from Great Grandparents and Grandparents that are no longer with us.  The special photo that they kept safe in that little box lasted 2,3,4+ generations or more is now the only memory or record of that person.  My parents are getting older and my brother and sister have young children who are growing up fast.  I’ve made it my mission to photograph family life as much as I can on film or Instant film to provide a record for future generations.  It sounds sad but a simple instant photo (print) that most people never take might be the only record if your computer hard drive blows up one day.  I can’t remember the last time I printed a digital photo, nor when any of my family members did but luckily we have a few Instax cameras between us (and I shoot roll film so have all the negatives).

 

Large Format Family Portrait

This is a very large Instant photo taken for the reason mentioned above back in 2014 when my Grandma was alive.  4 generations in 1 photo – Grandma, Mum, Sister, Niece!  (Shot with a 4×5 large format camera + discontinued Fuji FP100C film (bleached negative)

What I Use

  • The price of Instax cameras seems to change daily depending on who has what offers on.  Here are a few links to the cameras and film I use to see the latest prices on Amazon:

Instax Mini 90 NEO Classic Camera(UK) / (US)

Instax Mini Film (40 Shots) Multi Pack (UK) / (US)

Instax Monochrome Mini Film, 10 shots (UK) / (US)

 

  • The camera like my first Instax camera:

Instax Mini 9 Camera (Cheaper version)(UK) / (US)

 

  • If you love the idea of square Instax photos you now have that option too with the latest camera from Instax.  The film is the same stuff so will give the same results as my photos, the only difference is the film shape is square and a bit bigger than the Instax Mini:

SQUARE SQ10 Hybrid instax camera(UK) / (US)

Mery Polaroid

 

That’s it for part A but skip to the end to see the all you need to know video on the Fuji Mini 90 or feel free to read part B too!

 

Fuji Instax Mini 90 Review

> PART B: Camera Geek Stuff + 2 Videos!

I thought most people might not care about this stuff so I spilt the review into 2 sections.  Here I look at Fuji Instax film vs Polaroid film and how to get creative with Instax film as a photographer with existing film cameras.

Polaroid vs Instax Cameras

When I was researching to buy another instant camera I loved the idea of buying a Polaroid camera.  That thought of shooting the classic looking square images that just somehow look so much cooler than a rectangle photo.   There are a lot of old Polaroid cameras for sale on sites like eBay that can be found pretty cheap but the film is more expensive than Instax film.

*Polaroid have also released their new instant film camera to compete with Fuji Instax called the Polaroid OneStep2.  For me the most important feature than would make me buy one camera over the other was the image quality.

Polaroid vs Instax Film – Why I Buy Instax!

Fuji Instax film has a very different look to it that Polaroid film.  There are now quite a few different films available for Polaroid cameras but they all have similar traits.  That being Polaroid film tends to capture a less accurate, less perfect, more creative representation of a scene.  Usually with muted colours and tones.  Some people love this Polaroid film look.  Personally I wanted the sharpest most colourful photos possible.

Fuji Instax Film vs Polaroid Film (Side by Side Comparison)

Like with all my purchases I searched every source I could find on the internet.  I stumbled across this video that compares the Polaroid OneStep2 vs Fuji Instax 300.  What interested me was not the cameras featured in the video but the very useful comparison of Fuji Instax vs Polaroid film

 

Get creative with Fuji Instax Mini film – A Teaser!

I will keep this for a future post but just as a teaser.. here are two photos of my bike, both with Fuji Instax Mini film, but with two different cameras!

Fuji Instax Mini Mamiya RZ67
Left : Photo with Instax Mini 90 / Right: Photo with Mamiya RZ67!
Fuji Instax Mini Mamiya RZ67 camera
On Left : Photo with Instax Mini 90 / Right: Photo with Mamiya RZ67!
Fuji Instax Mini Mamiya RZ67 camera
Right: Photo with Instax Mini 90 / Left : Photo with Mamiya RZ67!

 

To finish:

Ultimate Fuji Instax Mini 90 Tutorial / Guide – All You Need to Know!

When I spent ages researching all the various instant cameras prior to buying my Instax Mini 90 I found this video. It was the best of those I found and I still remember it!  Rather than me write a list of things you should know about the Fuji Mini 90 here is the video that persuaded me to buy the Mini 90!

 

Happy Shooting …Instax!

 

Related Posts

  • Fuji Instax Wide 300 – To Follow
  • Fuji Instax Film in Medium Format & Large Format Cameras – To Follow
  • Mamiya RZ67 Polaroids

 

Mamiya 7 Review: 5 Reasons Not to Buy!

Mamiya 7 Review: 5 Reasons Not to Buy!

Are you looking to buy a Mamiya 7 film camera?  You might want to read this article first.  The blog title is not click bait.  This is just simple facts and my opinion.  Includes:

  •  5 Top Reasons to Buy a Mamiya 7
  •  9 Types of Photography using the Mamiya 7 camera
  •  5 Factual Reasons Not to Buy a Mamiya 7 and –
  •  5 Alternative Film cameras compared to Mamiya 7.  Pros & Cons of each
  •  The Best Film Camera for Your Needs

 

Mamiya 7 Review - Portrait of girl smiling B&W
Mamiya 7 + 65mm f4 lens + Fomapan 100 @200

Firstly, let’s flip the question in the title to appreciate both sides of the argument:

 

5 Top Reasons to Buy a Mamiya 7 Camera

  1.  You are a hipster (I’m not but I was called one as soon as bought my 7!)
  2.  You believe all the hype around this camera (“best film camera ever”)
  3.  You have used a Mamiya 6 and want 6×7 format
  4.  You want a 43mm wide angle lens rangefinder camera
  5.  You shoot mostly landscape photography and don’t want to step up to 4×5

 

Mamiya 7 Review - Photo

Why did I Buy a Mamiya 7?

Talking from my own experience I can confirm that I bought my Mamiya 7 because of reason #2 & #3 above (mostly #2) and quite liked the idea of #4 also.  I convinced myself this was THE pinnacle of film cameras for a guy who likes great image quality from analogue technology.   I already have a Mamiya 6 camera and many of the other highly regarded film cameras but I was looking for better.  I tend to shoot portraits but I also do wedding photography and the occasional building or landscape photo so I thought maybe the 43mm lens would be useable and useful for some of my photography work.

I blame Ken Rockwell!

I love the Ken Rockwell website and appreciate the effort he puts in documenting the specifics of many of the popular cameras (especially those that I use like the Leica cameras).  I have used Ken’s website a great deal over the years for research. (I tend to use Flickr to research example photos).  Despite my positive remarks about the website Ken wrote things like this and now I feel a little mis-sold!:

 

“The Mamiya 7 has been the world’s best camera since the 1990s”

and

“Highest real-world resolution available in any hand-held camera”

 

Most of you are probably saying to yourself “Well Matt it’s your fault for be stupid and believing all you read!”.  This is indeed true and a fair comment but I had seen other glowing reviews about the camera on other websites too.  When digital cameras were starting to catch up film camera resolution one of the benchmark tests seemed to always be the “Mamiya 7 vs Nikon D800” (etc).  It always seemed to be new camera vs the 7.

 

My high expectations of the Mamiya 7 would always result in disappointment

After reading all these rave reviews I bought the Mamiya 7 camera with high expectations.  It seemed common opinion across the internet that the 7 will produce higher resolution photos than all my other film cameras.  Even if this is true on the chart data I have not seen it with real world photos.  Again perhaps stupidly, I think I assumed high-resolution equals better apparent sharpness and a more pleasing photo.  I can confirm this is not the case.  Apparent sharpness can be affected by factors such as contrast and I would argue many of my other cameras produce visibly sharper and certainly more pleasing photos to my eyes.  The 7 can have it moments though.  The photo below is perhaps my sharpest 7 image to my eyes though light plays an important factor (as with every photo!)

Mamiya 7 Review - Portrait of girl B&W film

What genre of photography will you use your Mamiya 7 for?  9 Types of photography explained:

 

1. Mamiya 7 Landscape Photography?

Perhaps the number one reason you would consider buying a Mamiya 7 camera.  Mamiya 7 landscape photography!  The camera is much more portable than a 4×5 camera and 120 film is easier to process and cheaper to buy.  I feel it is best suited to packing lightish hiking up mountains landscape photography or like me, travelling by bike travel photography.  It allows you to capture lots of detail and is not too heavy to carry around.  As there are multiple lenses available you don’t need to stick to the 43mm lens.  I opted for the 50mm lens I can guesstimate the 50mm framing with the viewfinder without needing to carry the additional 43mm external viewfinder that mounts on the hotshoe.  I found my Hasselblad SWC/M 38mm Biogon lens often too wide for landscapes scenes I was seeing.  It is fixed lens so the Mamiya 7 is better in this regard with interchangeable lenses.

mamiya 7 review landscape photo B&w
Mamiya 7 + 50mm f4.5 lens + Fomapan 100 @400
2. Mamiya 7 for Portraiture?

I bought the Mamiya 7 mostly for portraiture as that is what I do.  Is the Mamiya 7 good for portraits.  I struggled with it to be honest but I was using the wider 50mm and 65mm lens.  I think the Mamiya 7 150mm lens would be the best lens for portraits but I read that photos with these lenses are often blurry due to the camera and or lens being out of alignment (needing recalibration).  That stopped me from buying this lens.

 

Mamiya 7 Portraits

Here are a few of my Mamiya 7 portraits with the 50mm lens and 65mm lens:

Mamiya 7 + 65mm Portraits

Mamiya 7 65mm Portrait

Mamiya 7 Portrait

Mamiya 7 + 50mm Portrait

Mamiya 7 Portrait

After making these Mamiya 7 portraits I liked the idea of a longer lens so decided to buy the Mamiya 6 150mm lens instead which is cheaper, to try.

Mamiya 7 Fashion

Mamiya 7 Fashion

I also tried Mamiya 7 fashion photography when working with a fashion model in Budapest.  Mixing buildings and people for wider environmental portraits suits the camera better I think for the lenses I was using.

 

3. The Mamiya 7 for Street Photography?

The slow Mamiya 7 lenses with at best a maximum aperture of f4 are not bright enough for serious available light street photography.  I think the most popular street photography camera is a 35mm Leica.  35mm cameras offer faster lenses like f1.0, f1.2, f1.4 and so on so can work in darker conditions more easily.

 

4. Using a Mamiya 7 for Anything Photos?

The 6×7 film format is quite expensive to photograph scenes of anything and everything (though I know people use it for this a lot).  The Mamiya 7 only gets 10x 6×7 photos from a roll of 120 film.  I think 35mm film is more suited to shooting these “anything” photos and something like a small Leica film camera, whether an M2,M3, M4P, M6 or otherwise.  Here is a 6×9 photo of nothing special using a 4×5 camera as an example.  (Pretty but a bit of an overkill!)

Intrepid 4x5 Camera

5. Mamiya 7 for Architectural Photography?

The 43mm lens of the Mamiya 7 makes it well suited for interior photos and working in confined spaces.  6×7 film negatives capture high-resolution and lots of detail.  While in Budapest I explored the city on a hire bike and used the Mamiya 7 to photography some of the old buildings.  From the cameras I have used I much preferred using my Hasselblad SWC/M for this.  I shot some interior building photos while on a model shoot in Tenerife and made use of it’s super wide 38mm Zeiss Biogon Lens (linked below).

mamiya 7 review - architecture photography - chimney b&W

6. Mamiya 7 for Fast Action Sport Photography?

The Mamiya 7 is a manual focus rangefinder camera so is less suited to fast action sports photography.  If you want to shoot sport with a film camera something like the 35mm Nikon F5 SLR would be ideal with its super fast and accurate auto focus and faster frames per second.  Firing off a series of 35mm film frames is also a lot cheaper than doing that with 120 film!

 

7. Mamiya 7 Wildlife Photography?

The Mamiya 7 is not generally recommended for wildlife photography.  Wildlife photography is often done with a telephoto or zoom lens.  The Mamiya 7 does have a 210mm lens but the aperture is f8 so this is not suited to freezing a moving subject nor working in anything other than bright conditions.

 

8. Mamiya 7 Macro Photography?

The Mamiya 7 lens line up doesn’t include macro lenses.  The Mamiya 7 is a rangefinder camera which are not designed for close focus.  The typical Mamiya 7 lens minimal focus distance is around 1m.  My Leica cameras are also rangefinder cameras so are less suited to macro too.  For macro I would go towards something like an 35mm SLR camera like my Nikon F4 or Nikon F5 and pair them with a dedicated macro lens like the Tokina 100mm f2.8 Macro lens.

 

9. Mamiya 7 Wedding Photography?

If like me you enjoy using rangefinder cameras the Mamiya 7 might be a tempting choice for a wedding photographer.  I used it for one wedding shortly after buying the camera but since then have switched back to using other film cameras.  At my last wedding I used a Leica M3 and Nikon F5 SLR for film but I change from week to week depending on my mood.  If I wanted to shoot medium format film wedding photography I would choose the Mamiya 6 as it packs small and gives more frames per roll of film.  Arguably the best film camera for wedding photography is the Contax 645 but I sold mine.  Here is a Contax 645 wedding I did).

Mamiya 7 Review - 6x7 Wedding Photography B&W
Mamiya 7 Wedding Photography (65mm lens)

Mamiya 7 Lenses – 6 Lenses Available

  1. 43mm f4.5 lens (requires additional external viewfinder)
  2. 50mm f4.5 lens (has an additional external viewfinder)
  3. 65mm f4 lens
  4. 80mm f4 lens (kit lens)
  5. 150mm f4.5 lens (150mm/210mm external viewfinder)
  6. 210mm f8 lens (150mm/210mm external viewfinder)

 

Mamiya 7 65mm Distortion

5 Reasons Not to Buy a Mamiya 7

Here are 5 very real reasons not to spend your money on a Mamiya 7, based on fact. If you still want to buy a Mamiya 7 (‘7) after this at least you will be well-informed prior to your purchase. (I could list more but I tried to select only the cameras that I own closest to the ‘7. If I included one more camera it would be the Rolleiflex SL66E.  An absolutely fantastic camera! (Just quite fragile)).

5 Good Reasons to Reconsider buying a Mamiya 7:
  1. Fuji GF670
  2. Mamiya RZ67 Pro II
  3. Mamiya 6
  4. Hasselblad 500CM/501C
  5. Intrepid 4×5   (I still need to write the review- to follow)

 

Mamiya 7 65mm lens

Camera Comparison vs the Mamiya 7

Here I detail each of the 5 cameras listed compared to the Mamiya 7 for real world photography. I own and use all these cameras so the facts are based on experience of using each camera system and seeing the results they produce.  I am passionate about making the best possible photos so I write from that viewpoint together with practical reasons why I use each camera.

1. Fuji GF670 vs Mamiya 7

#fuji GF670 #mediumformatfilm #6x6 6x7 #camera #photography www.mrleica.com

4 Reasons the Fuji GF670 is a better camera
  1. The Fuji GF670 offers the choice of 6×6 or 6×7 film formats (in camera)
  2. The GF is a true folding medium format camera so much slimmer that a ‘7
  3. The GF670 Fujion 80mm f3.5 is one of the sharpest lenses I ever used
  4. Using 6×6 format gives an +2 photos per roll of 120 film (10 vs 12 photos)
3 Reasons the Mamiya 7 is better than the GF670
  1. Fuji GF670 doesn’t have interchangeable lenses, ‘7 does (incl. 43mm wide)
  2. GF670 are less common and not as easy to find to buy (outside of Japan)
  3. The Fuji GF is usually more expensive depending on condition

 

2. Mamiya RZ67 vs Mamiya 7

Mamiya RZ67 Pro II

13 Reasons the Mamiya RZ67 is a better camera
  1. Can do close up / macro photography with its bellow focusing (any lens)
  2. Amazing camera for portraits with lenses like the 110mm f2.8
  3. Better for architecture / landscapes using tilt/shift short barrel lenses
  4. Modular camera so can use multiple film backs, say colour & B&W
  5. Waist level finder and prism finder options for a variety of views
  6. Mamiya RZ67 camera is much cheaper than a ‘7
  7. RZ67 has 21 lenses available and many are very affordable vs ‘7 lenses
  8. RZ is a SLR so avoids all the common issues associated with a rangefinder
  9. Mamiya RZ lenses to my eyes are as sharp as the ‘7 (esp. stopped down)
  10. The RZ can create artistic background separation and bokeh easily, 7′ can’t
  11. The Mamiya RZ accepts different film backs, 645, 6×6 and 6×7 film formats
  12. Mamiya RZ has a good 6×6 RZ Polaroid film back to shoot instant film
  13. The RZ is modular so if something breaks it is easy to replace one part cheap
2 Reasons the Mamiya 7 is better than the Mamiya RZ
  1. Mamiya RZ67 is big and heavy and less portable than a ‘7
  2. If you want a medium format rangefinder camera the RZ is not, it’s an SLR

 

3. Mamiya 6 vs Mamiya 7

Leica CL & Mamiya 6 :)

6 Reasons the Mamiya 6 is better than the 7
  1. The Mamiya 6 camera is cheaper than a ‘7
  2. Mamiya 6 lenses are cheaper than ‘7 lenses
  3. Mamiya ‘6 lenses don’t require additional external viewfinders
  4. The ‘6 lens mount is collapsible making it much slimmer/ more portable
  5. If you prefer to compose squares the ‘6 6×6 negatives will suit you better
  6. 6×6 film format gives an extra 2 photos per roll of 120 film (10 vs 12 photos)
2 Reasons the Mamiya 7 is better than the Mamiya 6
  1. The ‘7 offers 6×7 film format if that is what you want
  2. The ‘7 has the 43mm lens on 6×7 whereas the ‘6 wide lens is only 50mm

 

4. Hasselblad vs Mamiya  7

We have been busy! 😊 Hasselblad after a model photography location shoot #hasselblad #hasselblad501c #hasselbladlove #120film #mediumformat #film #filmcamera #6x6 #kodakfilm #fujifilm #ilford #fomapan #lovefilm #believeinfilm #filmisnotdead #filmfas

13 Reasons the Hasselblad 500CM is a better camera
  1. Can do close up / macro photography with macro lens / extension tubes
  2. Amazing camera for portraits with lenses like the 80mm f2.8, 120 & 150mm
  3. Better for wide-angle architecture / landscapes if get the Rolleiflex SL66E
  4. Modular camera so can use multiple film backs, say colour & B&W
  5. Waist level finder and prism finder options for a variety of views
  6. Hasselblad cameras are cheaper than a ‘7
  7. Hasselblad cameras have  13+ lenses available, 30mm-500mm
  8. Hassy is a SLR so avoids the common issues associated with a rangefinder
  9. Many Hasselblad lenses are sharper than the ‘7 (60mm, 100 & 120mm esp.)
  10. The Hassy can create artistic background separation and bokeh easily
  11. Hasselblad accepts different film backs, 645 and 6×6 film formats
  12. The Hassy is modular so if something breaks it is easy to replace one part
  13. 6×6 film format gives an extra 2 photos per roll of 120 film (10 vs 12 photos)
2 Reasons the Mamiya 7 is better than a Hasselblad
  1. Hasselblad cameras are is big and heavier than a ‘7, (esp. with long lens)
  2. If you want a medium format rangefinder camera the Hasselblad is not

 

5. Intrepid 4×5 vs Mamiya 7

intrepid 4x5 camera photo - red bellows

12 Reasons an Intrepid 4×5 wood camera is a better
  1. If you want high-resolution photos shoot 4×5 film not 6×7 film
  2. A 4×5 camera can do close up / macro photography
  3. The Intrepid 4×5 camera is wood so lighter than the ‘7 (with lens!)
  4. The rise, fall, shift options of a 4×5 Intrepid gives selective focus
  5. 4×5 offer shallow depth of field for artistic portraits – Aero Ektar lens!
  6. 4×5 it much better suited for landscapes and architecture as tilts
  7. The Intrepid 4×5 camera is very very cheap and lenses are affordable
  8. A 4×5 camera is a creative tool that can’t be matched by smaller cameras
  9. 4×5 film photography offers a totally different and immersive experience
  10. A 4×5 camera accepts different film backs – 6×7, 6×9, pano, Polaroid
  11. More lenses are available for 4×5 cameras.  The list is near endless!
  12. The 4×5 camera can shoot 120 film or 4×5 film so can be affordable
3 Reasons the Mamiya 7 is better than the Intrepid 4×5
  1. The ‘7 is better as a point and shoot camera, less setup time required
  2. The ‘7 can be used handheld.  Most 4×5 camera are used on a tripod
  3. A ‘7 requires much less skill and knowledge to use. Pick up & click

Mamiya 7 Portrait

Summary and Recap

The Best Film Camera for Your Needs:

Another way to look at what is the best film camara for you is to look at it from the what type of photography will you do?  To recap the detail above here are the best cameras for each photography genre (from my experience).

 

  • Landscape Photography – 4×5 Intrepid (resolution + tilt)
  • Macro Photography – Mamiya RZ67 (has bellows)
  • Architecture Photography – 4×5 Intrepid (resolution + tilt)
  • Portraits – Hasselblad or Mamiya RZ67 (to personal taste)
  • Travel Photography – Fuji GF670 (Folding MF film camera)
  • Rangefinder Photography – Fuji GF670 (Sharpest, 6×6 + 6×7)
  • Anything Photography – Hasselblad (6×6 Instagram ready!)
  • Wedding Photography – Mamiya 6 (Different lenses, small & fast)

 

Mamiya 7 50mm lens

Conclusion

So as you can see when you put it on paper there are many cameras that are “better”alternatives for most types of photography.  I’ve used the above mentioned cameras for all of the photography styles listed.  I’ve shot weddings with my Mamiya RZ (and Hasselblads), I’ve done 4×5 macro photography, I travelled to San Francisco with my Fuji GF670, I shoot portraits with any and every camera and I even occasionally photography buildings (which I loosely class as architecture).

 

The Mamiya 7 is all Hype?

I bought my ‘7 based on the hype.  I think the people who have written rave reviews about it obviously haven’t tried a lot of the other cameras readily available.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t hate the ‘7 camera (not at all).  It is a good camera with great lenses.  I just feel there are better camera options available for most photographers.  I find it much easier to make pleasing photos with my other cameras.  Perhaps I just expected too much but my film negatives don’t lie.  I rate my cameras from the negatives that come off the scanner no matter what expectations I had beforehand.

Mamiya 7 50mm lens

Mamiya 7 6×7 vs 35mm Film

If the ‘7 was the first and only medium format film camera I had tried and I had moved up from 35mm film, it would be the best camera in the world to me.  6×7 film negatives capture a huge amount of detail (just less than 4×5 of the cameras detailed here!) so it would amaze most people used to seeing 35mm negatives.  The step up from 35mm to 6×7 is HUGE!

So to close..

 

Who is the Mamiya 7 camera best suited to?

If you need / love the 6×7 film format AND you prefer rangefinder cameras AND you want to use wide lenses (43mm to 65mm) then the ‘7 is the camera for you.  No question.  I think if you shoot mostly landscape photography too you will love the ‘7, especially if you don’t want the hassle and cost of buying and developing 4×5 sheet film.  4×5 sheet film is crazy expensive!  I have not given up on my Mamiya 7 and I won’t sell it but I think it is just suited to the very niche “climb up a mountain with minimal kit to capture stunning wide-angle landscape photos”.  If you don’t need the wide lens get the Fuji GF670.  You won’t be disappointed!

It’s just my 2p’s worth but I thought I would share as I seem to be in the minority with this opinion.

Fuji GF670 Camera 6x6

Matt

Related Posts

See the links throughout this article +

More Film Photography Articles (Cameras/Lenses/Films) –

FILM

You may also like… What Gear I Use for Portraits!
  • See full details of my portrait photography lighting kit (2018) – HERE
  • See full details of my portrait photography equipment kit (2018) – HERE

Leica CL with M Lenses (+3 Film Cameras!): Budapest

Leica CL with M Lenses (+3 Film Cameras!): Budapest

 

Back from Budapest model photography trip where I tried the Leica CL with M Lenses (4 more lenses tested!).  Articles includes Leica CL sample images with each lens, Leica CL High ISO, new Leica CL LR preset and more..

 

  • 1. Kit List for Budapest
  • 2. Leica CL with M Lenses (x4 more tested)
    • 2.1 Leica Summlux 50mm f1.4 ASPH
    • 2.2 Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 MC Nokton Classic
    • 2.3 Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 MC Nokton Classic
    • 2.4 Leica Summicron 28mm f2 ASPH
  • 3. Film Cameras & Film Photos
  • 4. Leica CL Portraits – Different Lighting
    • 4.1 Available Light Portraits – Leica CL
    • 4.2 Leica Flare (Sun) Portraits – Leica CL
    • 4.3 Off Camera Flash Portraits – Leica CL
    • 4.4 On Camera Flash Portraits – Leica CL
  • 5. Leica CL High ISO
    • 5.1 Leica CL ISO 3200
    • 5.2 Leica CL lSO 6400
    • 5.3 Leica CL ISO 12800
  • 6. Model Photography – Highs & Lows
  • 7. New Leica CL Lightroom Preset for Budapest

 

leica cl with m lenses
Leica CL + 18mm Elmarit-TL kit lens @ISO 1600

1. Intro & Kit List

Back from a few days of model photography in Budapest.  I took the Leica CL and 4 more different Leica M mount lenses to play with together a few film cameras and the digital Leica M240 as backup.  The Hasselblad 500cm + Zeiss 120mm f4 Macro-Planar combo was already packed and ready to go then at the final hour (literally 1am when still packing) I changed my mind and swapped it for the Nikon F5 + Tokina 100mm f2.8 macro lens.  Here was the final kit list –

1.1 Camera Bag  – Cameras & Lenses

 

leica cl with m lenses - cameras
Leica CL, Leica M240, Leica M4P, Nikon F5, Mamiya 6
1.2. Additional Photography Gear (See 1.3 links for detail)
  • 2 Godox TT 350 Speedlights
  • Zomei 699C Carbon Tripod
  • Billingham Hadley Digital Bag
  • Lowepro Pro Runner BP 350 AW II Backpack
1.3 What Gear I Use for Portraits:
  • See full details of my portrait photography lighting kit – HERE
  • See full details of my portrait photography equipment kit – HERE
1.4. Film Stock for Budapest
  • 120 Fomapan 100 film
  • 120 Ilford HP5 film
  • 35mm Fomapan 100 bulk rolled
  • 35mm Kodak Double-X 5222 bulk rolled

 

leica CL with 18mm lens
Leica CL + 18mm Elmarit-TL kit lens @ISO 3200
1.5. Can you have too many cameras!?

The Mamiya 6 was an after thought as I found I had space left in my main Lowepro Pro Runner backpack. One more camera won’t hurt I thought.

 

Now onto the Leica CL digital photos!

2. Leica CL with M lenses (4 more lenses tested!)

As mentioned in my last Leica CL + Leica lenses post, I found the Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO and Leica Macro-Elmar 90mm f4 a bit too long on a crop sensor for models.  (90mm Elmar especially).  For this trip I therefore went for shorter focal lengths.  I packed 4 Leica M mount lenses including my favourite Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4, my still loved Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 and Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 sibling and my Leica Summicron 28mm f2 ASPH lens (still need to review it!). Here are each of the M lenses on the Leica CL in turn:

2.1. Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH lens

The 50mm Summilux was my first choice as it is my most used lens on the Leica M cameras. I packed the Lux 50mm to use on the Leica CL and Leica M4P.  It’s great for portraits and also for low light. It is noticeable sharper than the Voigtländer Nokton 40mm f1.4 when used on a Leica film camera (especially).  Here are a few CL sample shots with the Summilux 50 ASPH:

Leica CL + Leica Summillux 50mm Portrait

Leica CL with M lenses

 

2.2. Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 MC (Nokton Classic) lens

The 40mm was the lens that I say taught me photography. I used it on a Panasonic Lumix G1 when first starting out my photography.  I then bought a Voigtlander Bessa R3A film camera with the same 40mm Voigtländer lens on and that lead me to buying the digital Leica M9.  I love the compact size of the Nokton 40mm and I think it is the best value to performance Leica M mount lens available.  Here are some 40mm photos using the Leica CL:

Leica CL + Voigtlander 40mm

Voigtlander 40mm f1.4

2.3. Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 MC (Nokton Classic) lens

I used the Voigtländer 35mm f1.2 ASPH lens in Poland for my last model shoot and I think it was my most used lens.  I wanted to try the Voigtlander  35mm f1.4 version on the Leica CL to see how the results compared.  The advantage of the Voigtländer 35mm f1.4 version is it is much smaller and lighter than the f1.2 if you want to travel light and it costs less!  The advantage of the Voigtlander 35mm f1.2 ASPH is it focuses at 0.5m on the Leica CL vs 0.7m for the 35mm f1.4 lens.  I didn’t notice a obvious difference between the Voigtlander 35mm and 40mm when using them both on the Leica CL. I probably used the Nokton 35mm focal more as if wanted longer lens I used the Leica 50mm Summilux. Voigtlander 35mm sample photos with the Leica CL:

Leica CL + Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4

Voigtlander 35mm f1.4

2.4. Leica Summicron-M 28mm f2 ASPH lens

I took the Summicron 28mm f2 lens as I wanted a faster but wider lens option.  My Voigtlander Color Skopar 21mm f4 is quite similar in focal length to the 18mm Leica Elmarit-TL kit lens and not as fast.  The Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f2.8 is also nice and is smaller than the Summicron but I thought an f2 aperture would be sensible for the often low light photo shoots. As with all the M lenses mentioned I also used the 28mm Summicron on my Leica M4P for film photos.  I think I used it on film more the the CL but overall I probably used it the least of the lenses I had with me.  Here is a 28mm Summicron photo with the Leica CL:

 

Leica CL + Leica Summicron 28mm

 

3. Film Cameras & Film Photos – Budapest

Film Cameras

One reason for not bringing the Hasselblad was because in the past I’ve not used the medium format cameras as much due to too little light (Europe in autumn!). I took the Leica M4P to use with fast f1.4 lenses and for wider compositions (28mm-50mm).  I packed the Nikon F5 with Tokina 100mm f2.8 macro lens to use as a longer focal length at f2.8. I then included the compact Voigtländer Ultron 40mm f2 if I was using the Nikon F5 and wanted a wider photo.  The Mamiya 6 needs as much light as a Hasselblad with F4/f4.5 lenses (of those I packed) but I somehow find I use the Mamiya more.

Film Photos

I will share the film photos in a separate blog post (once I’ve developed the film).  I used both the 35mm film cameras roughly equally, the more modern Nikon F5 and the smaller manual Leica M4P.  The Mamiya 6 camera was used the least. Partly as their was not much light (at times) and partly the photos I was seeing just suited rectangles not squares (or I just didn’t feel inclined to shoot big cameras). In total I shot 2 half rolls of 35mm (film to finish already in the cameras)(Kodak Portra 160 and Ilford Pan 100), a roll of Kodak Double-X and 3 rolls of Fomapan 100. For 120 I only shot 1 roll of HP5 with the Mamiya 6 (Poor effort I know!).

4. Leica CL Portraits – Budapest Models

4.1 Available Light Portraits with the Leica CL

Daylight suits some skin better than flash  and indirect sunlight is more flattering than direct sun in these instances. That said I love using direct sun for portraits when I can.

leica cl with m lenses
Leica CL + Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH
leica cl with m lenses - preview
Leica CL + Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 lens
4.2 Leica CL + Lens Flare (Sun) Portraits

When shooting film (especially) I often shoot with the sun behind me but with the new Leica CL I enjoyed shooting at the sun to flare the lens.  Enjoying this process I then shot all 3 film cameras at the sun too so I’m excited to see the results. This was the Leica CL using available light only at the sun.

Leica CL & Mamiya 6 :)

leica cl with m lenses
Leica CL + Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 Lens Flare

 

4.3 Off Camera Flash Portraits – Leica CL

I enjoyed using off camera flash (how I normally use flash) to put light where I wanted it when available light wasn’t quite good enough.

Leica CL with M lenses- flash photography
Leica CL + Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 + OCF (Flash) @ ISO 100
leica cl with m lenses - flash
Leica CL + Godox TT350 flash – on camera flash & off camera flash (OCF)
4.4 On Camera Flash Portraits – Leica CL

As I normally do off camera flash photography I thought I should try on camera flash too for a different look.  The little Godox TT350 speedlights are perfect size for a Leica camera and cheaper than a Leica flash.  They fit both the Leica M cameras and Leica CL camera well.  (Normal size speedlights are too big for a Leica flash).

leica cl with m lenses flash photo
Leica CL + On Camera Flash (Godox TT350)
leica cl with m lenses (2)
Leica CL + 2x Godox TT350 flash

5. Leica CL High ISO

I used available light only for most of the photo shoot on day 1 so had the Leica CL ISO cranked right up as it got dark.  This was my first proper test of the Leica CL ISO above 1600.  I was interested to see how it performed at ISo 6400 and ISo 12800 especially.  I think for me the Leica CL high ISo limit is  ISo 6400 and I wouldn’t go above this where possible.  That said the photo i’ve shared at 12800 doesnt look too terrible considering how dark it was!

5.1 Leica CL ISO 3200
leica cl with m lens - 50mm Summilux
Leica CL + Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH @ISO 3200
5.2 Leica CL ISO 6400

Leica CL Portrait - ISO 6400

5.3 Leica CL ISO 12800
Leica CL with M lenses - high ISO
Leica CL High ISo @12800 + Voigtlander 35mm f1.4

 

6. Model Photography – Highs & Lows

With models getting ever more popular on Instagram year on year, the biggest problem I now have is models never see my messages, or usually too late to respond while i’m in town.  All of my 15 or more usual Budapest models were busy, out of town, overseas on shoots, ill or working.  I had hoped to work with more new faces on this visit but even with NumberOne Models agency sending me a few girls the number of models I worked with was much less than usual.  Not all bad as I desperately needed to catch up on sleep and having not computer to distract me certainly helped!  It also allowed me more time to work with each model on day 2. Day 3 was mostly wasted after 3 cancellations and time wasters.  This is the highs and lows reality of a model photographer!  When it’s good it’s very good but the rest of the time you are on your own.  (That is why i’ve started to do some overseas cycling photography trips too as i’m not limited by models and there is no time wasted).  Both types of photography trip have their up side for me so I look to continue to do both into 2019.

Models – Thanks

Thanks to the Budapest models I worked with –  Lili who you may recognise and Niki who you probably don’t recognise but I worked with a few years ago.  Thanks to Andrea at NumberOne Models who offered me Eszter and Kata. Eszter a 17yr new model keen on fashion and I tried to make the most of what clothes she brought (then mixed it up a bit!).  Kata another new model and only 15yr travelled 3yrs each way to meet me! Crazy to hear this but lovely to meet you!  You all did great!

The best models after all are those that show up!

 

Leica CL with 18mm
Leica CL with 18mm Elmarit-TL kit lens

7. Leica CL Lightroom Preset for Budapest

I found my Leica CL Lightroom Preset – B&W “Poland 2018” (download availble in the SHOP tab above) suited the bright images shot with Lili.  The darker conditions overall seemed to want a more vintage look of my B&W “High Contrast” LR preset, with less black blacks and a slightly softer look.  I developed a new Leica CL preset B&W “Budapest 2018” which was used for most the images in this article.

7.1 Leica CL Preset – Offer (3for2 + Budapest 1 free!) £9.99!

If anyone downloads the existing Leica CL 3for2 preset bundle I will email you a free download of the new Leica CL preset B&W “Budapest 2018” used here.  This means you will get 3x B&W LR presets and 1x colour Lightroom preset for only £9.99!  (I use these Lightroom presets for Leica CL camera photos but they can be applied to any photo from any camera).

Summary – Camera Thoughts

Leica CL

Despite the many models cancellations and a lot of down time I enjoyed using the Leica CL with M lenses.  My favourite Leica M mount lens of the trip was as expected the Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH.  I might not have used it the most on the Leica CL though as film takes priority to digital.  The Summilux 50mm was on the Leica M4P whenever I was shooting Leica film (mostly unless I needed a wider view) and if I wasn’t shooting film I had it on the CL.

Leica CL with M lenses – Which is the best M lens on the Leica CL?

I will do a summary of the best M lenses on the Leica CL after my next trip later this month (from all 3 trips and with 12+ M lenses).

Other Cameras

I was happy with the Leica M4P and Nikon F5 cameras and would look to take both 35mm film cameras on the next overseas shoot.  While I’m in the current 35mm film mood I would probably leave the Mamiya 6 behind for the next trip.  The Leica M240 camera hardly got used but it’s good to have as a backup! I could never of predicted how quick I’ve moved from the Leica M240 but i’ve not ruled out the Leica CL honeymoon effect

 

Next Up! – Leica CL with M lens (More lens to test!)

I still have more Leica M lenses to use on the Leica CL. I should probably try the Noctilux 50mm f1 lens next and the Summicron 90 f2 for some super shallow depth of field shots!  It’s in the diary for October!

 

Tempted by the Leica CL?  Treat yourself!

Check out the latest CL prices on Amazon! (UK) / (US)

 

Related Leica CL & Camera Gear Posts

 

 

Essential Portrait Photography Equipment List (x5)(What I Use)

Essential Portrait Photography Equipment List (x5)(What I Use)

Part 2

 

Qu. Are you a beginner portrait photographer who just bought their first camera or someone looking to move into portraiture?

> Here I list my 5 portrait photography equipment essentials (and go into more detail on the various light stand options I use)

 

2013 REPOST: Samyang 85mm f1.4 Portrait

 

  1. MEMORY CARDS
  2. LIGHT STANDS
    1. Professional C-Stands
    2. Lightweight Light Stand
    3. GorillaPod
    4. Compact Light Stand
    5. Carbon Tripod
    6. Mini Tabletop Tripod
    7. Carbon Monopod
  3. LIGHT MODIFIERS
    1. Umbrellas
    2. Softbox
  4. CAMERA BAGS
    1. Small Camera Bag
    2. Large Camera Bag
  5. REFLECTORS

 

Leica Studio Photoshoot

 

WHAT I USE

Following on from my Part 1: Recommended Portrait Photography Lighting kit blog post where I talk about my favourite 3 speedlights and 3 wireless flash trigger options, in Part 2 I list more of my essential portrait photography gear that I recommend to others.

As written in part 1, when you buy a new camera the first thing you need to get is a decent memory card (and as a portrait / wedding photographer the next thing  is a speedlight!).  Once you have a flash you then need to mount it on something, then you will want to modify/ shape the light and as your photography equipment expands you will need a new camera bag.  Talking 100% from experience!

 

So as summarised above, here is my top 5 portrait photography equipment essentials once you have bought a flash / wireless flash triggers (part 1).

 

Large Format Wedding

 

1. BEST SD MEMORY CARDS – SANDISK EXTREME

SD Cards – SanDisk Extreme 32GB

For all my digital cameras I now use the same memory cards.  When I started my photography I used lots of different memory card brands but the only ones that didn’t fail me were the SanDisk Extreme SD cards.  From my experience the best SD memory cards are the SanDisk Extreme range, whatever the capacity you chose.  I used to use the cheaper SanDisk cards also but after one corrupted I now only use the gold label “SanDisk Extreme SD cards”.  All the SD memory cards I buy are 32GB SD cards as I think it is a good balance between not to low capacity yet not to big that you have a 10 photoshoots on one card (a lot to lose if you misplace the SD card!).  Also in recent years the price of SD cards has come down so much.  I remember paying nearly £100 for just one 32GB SanDisk Extreme memory card some years ago! Ouch!

Portrait Photography Equipment

I have used the SanDisk Extreme 32 GB SDHC cards in my Leica M8/M9/M240/CL cameras (for photos), Nikon D800 (photos and video), Lumix LX100 (photos and video).  I generally buy the SD card size version as that is the size accepted by most digital cameras.  I also have some SanDisk Micro-SD card versions that I used to transfer between my cameras and a tablet (Using a Micro-SD – SD card adapter in the camera).

If you need a new memory card I recommend these –

> SanDisk Extreme 32 GB SDHC (90 MB/s, Class 10, U3, V30)

 

2. BEST LIGHT STANDS FOR PHOTOGRAPHY (x7)

Hasselblad Studio Shoot

In this section I talk about the best light stands for photography and 7 different stands I use.  They include Manfrotto light stands (full height and small), cheap lightweight light stands, best portable light stand for easy use out of the studio, best travel light stand for overseas trips, ultra compact light stands when you only have limited space in your camera bag

2.1 Professional Heavy Duty C-Stands

If money is no object or if you use heavy weight light modifiers professional C-stands are the way to go.  If you will use a light stand every day and want durability and reliability then this is the best option.  The disadvantage of C stands is they cost more than the cheaper lightweight stands (see 2.2) and are relatively big and heavy if want to transport, say for location shoots.  I think C stands are best suited to the studio.  I don’t own any but have used them and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.  If I was starting out fresh today I would have purchased a couple rather than trying to do everything on the cheap.

> Professional Heavy Duty C-Stand

 

2.2 Lightweight Light Stand

Lightweight light stands are the more common design with 3 diagonal black legs and a pole in the middle.  They come in different sizes, load capacities and as a result costs.  Perhaps like many people I started out with the cheap smaller ones from Amazon for about £15 and then as they broke I replaced them with larger higher capacity versions.  These cheap lightweight light stands are more than adequate to mount a bare speedlight or with a small light modifier attached but they tend to bow and eventually break if using large light modifiers or heavier studio lights.  If you don’t overload them they are probably the best portable light stand option without spending lots of money.  I guess as with everything, you get what you pay for.  There are so many light stands available that all do a similar job.  Here is the most popular £15 style light stand which is perfect for beginners and pros alike.  Just check the height and load capacity before buying baring in mind what you plan to use it for.  (I think I have maybe 5 of these cheap lightweight stands then more heavy-duty ones too).

> Lightweight Light Stands (Aluminium)

2.3 GorillaPod

Almost SOOC

(I can’t find a photo of me using my GorillaPod but it is mentioned in the details of how I took this photo!  Flash lit bird photography – 2011!)

One of my earlier light stands / camera tripods was a Gorillapod when they were first released. At the time I used it for everything, both holding my Panasonic Lumix G1 and to mount a speedlight on.  The Gorillapod is good as it can wrap around things so you can suspend your light from a tree branch or curtain rail.  I moved away from the Gorillapod when I started using my Nikon cameras and huge 200mm lenses but I should probably start to use it again now I use mostly Leica cameras.  I tried cheap Chinese copies of the Gorillapod brand but they break quite quickly. (The balls  pull out of the sockets under load and or they just flop under any weight). If you buy a branded Joby Gorillapod tripod and ensure the load capacity is sufficient for your largest camera plus lens combination it should function without problems.

> JOBY GorillaPod SLR Zoom with Ballhead

 

 

2.4 Best Light Stand For Travel – Manfrotto Nano

As you can see in my photo below, light stands come in various shapes and sizes.  A light stand is what I use to hold my off camera flash units.  The £15 light stands (2.2) are great to use if you don’t need to travel by air.  These stands are too long to fit in a permitted carry-on bag which is how I travel. If you are travelling with checked in luggage you might be ok if have a bigger case (I used to carry these light stands diagonally in a large suitcase if was flying with checked luggage).  I searched for the best light stand for travel and after much research bought the Manfrotto Nano light stand which was the smallest full height light stand I could find. The Manfrotto Nano stand is probably the best light stand for speedlights as it only has a load capacity of 1.5kg.  This Manfroto light stand is not suited to use with a large softbox but a mini softbox or umbrella is fine (if using inside).  I think an umbrella on the Manfrotto Nano light stand outside would only result in a bent or broken Manfrotto Nano!  Good quality light stand as I would expect from Manfrotto.

> Manfrotto Nano Stand Black

 

 

2.5 Best Travel Tripod – Zomei Carbon Tripod

Light stand size comparison
(Left-Right: Large heavy duty stand, Lightweight aluminium stand, Manfrotto Nano stand, Zomei Carbon tripod

If you are looking for the best travel light stand then the Manfrotto Nano stand is great to use when travelling with a large camera backpack but it can still be too long for smaller camera bags.  To fit this requirement I bought a Zomei carbon tripod which was the result of reading lots of reviews and it seems to be the best travel tripod for my needs.  Full height, lightweight and very compact and portable when packed down.   There are lots of very similar Zomei tripods available, both carbon tripods and aluminium ones; the Z666, Z669, Z699 and many more. I have two Zomei carbon  fibre tripods but the more compact version is my Zomei Z699C.  I have heavy-duty Manfrotto tripods and a few other brands but my go to tripod for travel is the Zomei Z699C as it packs the smallest and is the lightest.  The Zomei Z699C tripod comes with a ball head and has a clever design where one of the tripod legs unscrew to use it as a monopod.  I use the Zomei tripod as a light stand by screwing a speedlight “foot” onto the ball head quick release plate.  I also attach umbrella mounts and other studio accessories.  I find the Zomei Z699C good to use with an umbrella as the wide legs gives more stability in a breeze.  There is a hook below the Zomei tripod where you can hang your camera bag for extra stability too.  When I was using my cameras on the tripod during my San Francisco trip this summer I found hanging the bag on the tripod helped keep it steady in the wind. For San Francisco I was hiking and cycling with my photography equipment so having a compact carbon lightweight tripod was a real help. I used this tripod with a Hasselblad XPan, Fuji GF670 and Nikon F4 + 180mm lens. I find Zomei tripods off great value for money but if you pay more you will find higher quality.  That didn’t stop me buying two Zomei tripods (both still working*).  They do all I ask of them.

> ZOMEI Z699C Carbon Fiber Portable Tripod with Ball Head

2.6 Ultra Compact Light Stand / Tripod – PIXI EVO

Hasselblad 500CM film camera

I discovered the Manfrotto Pixi EVO mini tripod when planning my cycling photography trips to Fuerteventura.  I wanted an ultra compact light stand / tripod to use with my Hasselblad 500cm for landscape photography.  As I was looking to do mostly cycling and some photography I needed just a small portable lightweight tripod to support the camera. The Manfrotto PIXI EVO is very solid and since buying it I use it as a table top tripod even on model shoots.  The ultra compact design packs so small you can carry it with you all the time.  Being a Manfrotto tripod it is super high quality and looks like it will last forever. I also use the Manfrotto PIXI EVO as a light stand as it has a ball head that I can use to angle a speedlight in a particular direction. The PIXI EVO version has extendable legs so I prefer it to the slightly cheaper model, the PIXI-B that doesn’t have this feature.

> Manfrotto PIXI EVO 2-Section Mini Tripod – Black

 

2.7 Best Carbon Fibre Monopod – Sirui P-326

Hasselblad on Duty

 

When first buying my Hasselblad 501C I wanted the best carbon fibre monopod I could find (for a reasonable price) to use as a camera support.  I found the Sirui P-326 carbon monopod does the job perfectly.  Super lightweight and sturdy too.  I almost always use a monopod with my larger film cameras (Hasselblads and Mamiya RZ67 especially).  The Sirui P-326 carbon monopod replaces my metal Heavy Manfrotto monopod which I used to use all the time for weddings when using my huge Nikkor 200mm f2 prime on the Nikon D800.  The Sirui P-326 monopod also works great as a voice activated light stand.  By this I mean have a flash mounted on the Sirui monopod and ask someone to hold the light for you.  I tend to prefer to work alone for my photography but for occasions like this an assistant is handy.  Some locations don’t permit tripods or light stands so having a friend hold the Sirui P-326 with a light on it is a great solution for off camera flash. I would say the Sirui P-326 is easily as good as products from Manfrotto and should last a long time. I have also used the Sirui monopod with a light attached when working alone and I just lean it against a wall or tree or even wrap my arm round it while holding the camera in my hands. For this reason I’ve included it within light stands though most people probably don’t use it for this purpose.

> SIRUI P-326 Carbon Fibre Monopod Height 155 cm

3. BEST LIGHT MODIFIERS

There are so many light modifiers available it is probably possible to start an entire blog  just reviewing the latest light modifier releases!  The best light modifiers for speedlights or even studio lights are the most common ones. I would say if just starting out the best light modifier to start off with is a simple and very affordable photography umbrella.  Once you have mastered speedlight photography with an umbrella you might next want to look at getting softbox so I have reviewed those two products.

3.1 Photography Umbrellas

Portrait Photography Workshop

Photography umbrellas are commonly silver, gold or white colour on the inside and all produce a different quality of light.  Silver, gold and white (“translucent”) umbrellas are used to bounce light off (flash is pointed at the inside of the umbrella surface and the light bounced back onto the subject.  White or translucent umbrellas are multi-purpose as they can also be used as a “shoot through” umbrella where the flash is pointed into the umbrella but the subject this time stands on the opposite site of the umbrella.  Umbrellas are so inexpensive on Amazon and eBay you can find umbrellas in every size and quality to suit your budget.  Larger photography umbrellas create a softer light but are less manageable and cost more when they break!  I find white translucent umbrellas are the most useful.  Something like this –

> Neewer Professional 33″/84cm White Translucent Umbrella

3.2 Photography Softboxes

Studio Photography Workshop

(Old photo of me teaching portrait photography with the 60×60 softbox)

Once a photographer has mastered the umbrella the second most common light modifier is a photography softbox.  Softboxes are good as they help control the spread of light whereas with an umbrella it just sprays light everywhere.  As with umbrellas, softboxes come in every shape, size, quality, and cost. I find a Godox softbox offers good value and adequate quality for my needs.  I’ve bought Godox softboxes in various sizes, 20×20, 40×40, 60×60.  The mini version is good for overseas travel but the 60×60 offers the nicest quality of light (as the bigger the light modifier the softer the light). Godox softboxes come with 2 white diffusion panels and fold down for easy transportation.  The Godox softbox also comes with a Bowen S-mount adapter meaning the softbox can be used with most studio lights as well as on a speedlight.  I try to buy all Bowen S-mount light modifiers so that my light system is fully compatible with each other.  If you need a softbox that does what it is designed for at a low-cost I recommend Godox but I’m sure other brands are similar (Neewer for example).  I buy Godox modifiers mainly as I love the brackets. Well made and I use them all the time without concern.  In the past I used to buy cheap umbrella mounts but I broke so many of them.  The Godox softbox brackets can be used with studio umbrellas or other light modifiers (any Bowen S-mount modifier will fit). Great system.

> Godox 60x60cm Foldable Universal Softbox with S Style Speedlite Bracket for Flash Bowens

 

4. CAMERA BAGS

4.1 Small Camera Bag

Billingham Hadley Digital

As a Leica photographer the camera bag I use the most is a Billingham Hadley Digital bag.  It is designed really for 3 small camera lenses (Leica size) and a Leica size camera body.  In reality I have fitted 3 Leica M bodies and 3 Leica M lenses or perhaps, 1 Leica camera, 3 lenses and a folding medium format camera like the Fuji GF670 which just fits nicely on top. Very well made and functions well.  The Hadley Digital is my most used camera bag even though it is only small.  This Billingham camera bag would work well for any small mirrorless camera brand or small 35mm film camera but they also make bags in many shapes and sizes if the Hadley Digital is not quite right for your setup.  The Billingham Hadley Small is very popular but I have not tried it.  The tan colour Billingham bag I have looks nice but the black version will probably stay looking clean for longer!

> Billingham Hadley Digital Canvas Camera Bag

 

4.2 Best Carry-On Backpack (For Photography)

I wore out quite a few camera backpack bags before deciding it was time to pay more for something of higher quality.  I wanted to find the best carry on backpack I could get for photography.  That being a large camera bag that was within the maximum dimensions allowed for UK low-cost airlines carry on luggage.  I fly mostly with WizzAir and Ryanair and the Lowepro Pro Runner BP 350 AW II bag lets me carry both my camera gear and clothes for a long weekend overseas of model photography.  The Lowepro Pro Runner BP 350 backpack dimensions are 31.5cm x 14cm x 46cm and I carry a Zomei carbon tripod, speedlights, film, cameras and clothes in it.  This large carry on backpack has heavy-duty comfortable straps so for wedding photography when I load the Lowepro BP 350 to the max with cameras it can still function well under load.  If I want to carry additional cameras when working overseas I travel with priority boarding and take the Billingham Hadley Digital bag and this larger Lowepro Pro Runner backpack. I put all the heavy items in the Billingham camera bad as this is not weight restricted. The Lowepro BP 350 is made of very high quality materials like the Billingham bag and it should last me quite a while. A great all-purpose camera bag / backpack where the inside layout can be customised to fit you specific camera system.  One trip I might be carrying a large high power light such as the Godox AD-360 together with say a Hasselblad camera then for the next shoot I might carry 2 small Godox TT350 speedlights and smaller Leica film cameras.

> Lowepro Pro Runner BP 350 AW II Bag Carry on Backpack

5. BEST REFLECTORS FOR PHOTOGRAPHY – 5IN1

5-in-1 Reflector

NPhoto Magazine - June 2013 - MatthewOsbornePhotograpy

(Old photo from a magazine article I wrote but evidence of my reflector!)

 

When it comes to the question of the best reflectors for photography I would always reply a 5in1 reflector.  Although I list the common 5-in-1 reflector 5th I would say this is the most important item here after a memory card.  A photography reflector is a low-cost essential that has so many useful applications for portrait photography. I will have to do a post just on how many ways I use a 5-in-1 reflector when I get chance!  I use quite a few different light reflectors of different shapes, sizes and cost but the 43-inch one recommended here offers by far the best bang for the buck, as they say.  My original 5-in-1 reflector looks quite beat up these days but I still use it on shoots from time to time.  (Some of my large light reflectors are often to big to take to a shoot if I am travelling light).

> Neewer 43-inch / 110cm 5-in-1 Collapsible Reflector with Bag – Translucent, Silver, Gold, White and Black

 

Photographing Men

SUMMARY

I hope this was of some use to you.  Feel free to comment below if you think I forgot something!?  I was struggling with what to call this article but thought as 99% of my work with this equipment is portrait photography that would be the most suitable title.  I do the occasional landscape too I guess!

 

Portrait Lighting

THE BLOG IS CHANGING

I realised that this blog has always been all about me. For many of the diary style articles (especially my overseas trips) I just ramble on about what I get up to.  It probably comes from years of writing a daily diary in my earlier years.  I enjoy documenting things but it might not be a great read!

As I love to teach photography I thought I would try to write a few more general photography articles in addition to the very niche Leica lens / Leica camera / film camera specific posts so that the MrLeica site can be of more use to more people.  It is very much work in progress and there is a lot of old low value “reviews” or articles I need to update or delete.  I start with over 400 blog posts (that I have written since starting MrLeica.com in 2013) and I hope to cull them down to maybe 200-300 by Christmas.  I will do my best anyway! Watch this space!

Thanks Matt

 

Leica S2 Colours

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