Leica vs Mamiya: Budapest Models

Leica vs Mamiya: Budapest Models – June 2018

Blog Diary

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!)

Leica Photographer UK

Intro

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 M240 camera body
  • Leica M3 film camera body
  • Leica M4-P film camera body
  • Voigtlander Color Skopar 21mm f4 lens
  • Voigtlander Nokton Classic 40mm f1.4 lens
  • Leica Summicron-M 28mm f2 ASPH lens
  • Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH lens
  • Leica Summarit-M 50mm f2.5 lens
  • Leica Macro-Elmer-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)
  • Speedlights
  • Tripod + Mini tripod

 

Leica M240 Fashion

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.

Leica Cameras

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.

Mamiya 7

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.

Leica Model Photography

Hasselblad 500CM

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.

Mamiya RZ67 Pro II

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.

Mamiya M645 Super

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.

Voigtlander Nokton 40mm

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 Eastman Double-X to use at ISO 1000 approx. For colour film I have 120 Kodak Portra 400, 35mm and 120 Cinestill 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.

Voigtlander Nokton Classic 40mm

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.

Mamiya 7 50mm lens

Apartment

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!

Leica cameras

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.

 

Leica M4-P + Summilux

Mamiya M645 Super

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 gravity 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 500CM / 501C I find there is often not enough light for the f3.5/f4 lenses I use.

Mamiya 7

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!

Leica M240 + Voigtlander 40mm

Film

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.

Models

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! 🙂

 

Leica M 240 B&W

Big thanks

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!

Film Photos

August 2018 – 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 to follow 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.

Related Posts

 

Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 Bokeh

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Mamiya 645 Super Review – Cheaper Hasselblad Alternative?

Mamiya 645 Super Review – Cheaper Hasselblad Alternative?

 

Like me, are you looking to buy a a cheap medium format camera? Have you considered the Mamiya 645!? It’s much cheaper than the Contax 645 or a Hasselblad.

Here I detail 9 point about my Mamiya 645 camera including – cheaper / smaller / lighter Mamiya RZ67 or Hasselblad alternative, the amazing Mamiya Sekor 80mm f1.9 lens & some Mamiya 645 portraits.

 

120 Kodak Portra 400

 

1. New Film Camera!

I recently bought myself a Mamiya 645 Super medium format film camera.  When I wrote the last post “Contax 645 vs Mamiya 645” (link below) the camera had not yet arrived.  Now I have had chance to run a roll of film through it what do I think?

Medium Format Film Camera – Mamiya 645:

Happy Christmas to me #Mamiya 645 Super #mediumformatfilm #filmphotography #filmisnotdead @mrleicacom

2. Mamiya 645 WLF (Waist Level Finder)

My first observation is the 645 format is in horizontal orientation in the camera rather than vertical.  As a portrait photographer I tend to shoot in the portrait orientation.  For anyone used to a digital camera such as a DSLR you might think so what?  Well I bought this particular camera as I wanted a waist level viewfinder (“WLF”).  To focus you look down at the top of the camera and it will show a horizontal image on the glass.  To take a portrait photo I have to hold the camera on it’s side and it is not quite as easy to compose when working quickly.  You don’t have this problem with say my Rolleiflex SL66E or a Hasselblad as they are 6×6 format.  I don’t have the issue with the Mamiya RZ67 either as it has a rotating film back.  That said the WLF makes the camera smaller and lighter than with a prism view finder so I am happy to compromise.

 

Mamiya 645 Extension Tube

3. Mamiya 645 Extension Tubes (for Headshots)

Some of the Mamiya 645 lenses will not focus as close as I would like to for film headshots.  Luckily there is the option like with many camera systems, to use an extension tube.  You can buy different thickness tubes which basically fit between the lens and the camera body.  The thicker the extension tube the closer you can focus to a subject.  I use the Mamiya 645 extension tube number 1 for some of my model photography headshots.

Mamiya 645 Headshot

4. Cheaper Mamiya RZ67 or Hasselblad Alternative?

If you don’t mind the 6×4.5 film format vs 6×6 film or 6×7 the Mamiya 645 Super camera offers a cheap alternative to a Hasselblad 501C or Mamiya RZ67.  I use all 3 of these cameras (and more) and if you want a cheap medium format camera that is smaller and lighter than most medium format film cameras then look no further.  The Mamiya 645, Hasselblad and RZ67 are all modular film cameras with WLF so all give a similar shooting experience.  All three of these cameas have amazing lenses available so I think the choice of cameras comes down to film format. If you are happy with the 645 film format then the Mamiya 645 Super gives 15 frames (photos) per roll of film. In comparison a 6×6 Hasselblad gives 12 frames per roll and the RZ67 gives only 10 rolls of film.  This makes the M645 a more economical choice when it comes to shooting film/ buying film.

 

Mamiya 645 Model Photography

5. Modular Camera Design – M645 Film Camera

The modular design of the Mamiya 645 Super means I can remove and replace the film back.  For wedding photography it is good practice to have multiple film backs, for both speed and efficiency but also so you can load perhaps one film back with colour film and one with black and white.  For that reason I bought myself a spare 120 film back.

Mamiya 645 Super + Portra

6. Mamiya Sekor C 80mm f/1.9 lens

The Mamiya 645 Super comes with a Mamiya Sekor 80mm f2.8 lens as standard M645 kit lens.  It is small and lightweight but the reason I bought the camera was to make use of the fast Mamiya Sekor C 80mm f/1.9 lens.  the Mamiya 80mm f1.9 lens as it came on my Mamiya 645 1000S camera (link below) so the first task was to transfer it onto the M645 Super camera. (I don’t use my Mamiya 645 1000S I just wanted the lens from it!)  The Mamiya 80mm f1.9 lens is amazing for portraits or low light photography with a medium format camera. (I believe it is the fastest medium format camera lens for any system. “Fastest” meaning it has the smallest f stop number so lets in the most light and gives the most shallow depth of field).

Mamiya Sekor C 80mm f1.9 vs Contax 645 Zeiss 80mm f2

The closest lens I have owned to the Mamiya C 80mm f/1.9 lens is my Contax 645 Zeiss 80mm f2 lens.  That way a fantastic camera/ lens setup but you pay a huge premium for it.  (See link below for my Contax 645 vs Mamiya 645 review) .  The main difference with the Contax 645 camera setup is the lenses are autofocus where as the Mamiya Sekor 80mm f1.9 is manual focus.  This is true for all lenses on the Mamiya 645 Super as it is a manual camera.

Kodak Portra 400 Studio Portrait

7. Mamiya 645 Wedding Photography

I bought the camera to use for analogue Mamiya 645 wedding photography.  The 80mm f1.9 lens lets me photograph in low light conditions and the 645 film format gives me 15 photos per roll.  The modular M645 design means I can also use multiple film backs.  This means I can reload film faster during a busy wedding or use 2 backs with different film types.   I now plan to use the Mamiya 645 Super alongside my 35mm Leica M3 film cameras for film photography weddings.

Mamiya 645 Wedding

8. Mamiya 645 Portraits

#filmdeveloping #filmphotography #model Roisin #photographer www.MrLeica.com #camera #mamiya 645 Super #kodakfilm

My first chance to use the Mamiya 645 Super was in my Coventry studio for model photography with friend and model Roisin.  Above is an iPhone photo of my first 645 Mamiya negatives drip drying above the bath.  Below are a few samples of the resulting photos once the negatives had been scanned.

Mamiya 645 Super + T-Max

Mamiya 645 Super + 80mm f1.9

Specsavers Advert!

Mamiya 645 Super @ f1.9

9. Mamiya 645 Landscape Photography

I have also used the Mamiya 645 camera for some landscape photography but since getting a Fuji GA645 I now pack this camera if I want to travel light with a 645 format camera.

Munich on Film

 

Finally I reveal how I make my Portrait Images!

If you want to know the exact photography equipment I use to make my Mamiya 645 portraits, other than the M645 camera (or other cameras I use) see the links below.  I used to avoid writing about my non-camera gear but I thought it was time to reveal all!  I detail the speicific speedlights and wireless triggers I use together with the other photography gear needed for my portrait photography.

 

Related Links

More Film Photography Posts –
More Model Photography Posts –