What’s In My Bag – Mark II

**Update: You can also find this post featured on Japan Camera Hunter.**

As long-time readers will know, I posted a bag shot a few months ago with my then-current setup for shooting. This was inspired by the excellent series on Japan Camera Hunter, which featured my bag earlier this year. At that time, I had a different spread than I do now, so I figured it was only fair that I share what I use regularly now. I have done reviews on a number of items that I use, and I will be continuing reviews going forward, so stay tuned if I haven’t covered something yet. If you have questions about anything I use or have used, I’m always happy to give my thoughts either on the blog or in an email to you–just get in touch!

Here is my bag from February 2012:

What’s in My Bag – February 2012

1. Bag – It’s a Domke F-803. I got this bag a few months ago, and love it. The size is great; it holds two bodies, some lenses, a waterbottle…everything I need for a day of shooting. I used it every day when in England for 2 weeks and it held everything I needed day in, day out.
2. Fuji X100 – I just did a review on this camera, and as of now it is really the only digital camera for me. I love it. I could not spring for the Fuji filter + hood combo (rip off!) so I got the generic version.
3. Leica M3 DS (double stroke), Zhou leather half case, leather strap; Summicron 50mm f/2 – I am a big fan of this camera. It’s very old school, no meter, no electronics, but it’s a classic. The viewfinder is 1:1 and really great for the 50mm lens, which is my favorite focal length. Based on the serial #, made in January 1955.
4. Leica Tele-Elmarit 90mm f/2.8 – Just recently acquired, it’s the lightest and smallest 90mm Leica makes. Great lens, very good for traveling.
5. Film – These are some of the films I have been carrying lately: Kodak Ektar 100, Ilford HP5+, and Fuji Superia 1600. I carry 1-2 rolls of each, which covers any lighting conditions I might run into. The grain on the Superia is very nice, in my opinion.
6. Leica M6TTL 0.85, Artist & Artisan cloth strap, soft release; M-Rokkor 40mm f/2 – I can’t decide which of the Leicas I like more–they are both amazing. I love the slightly wider viewfinder on the M6 over the M3, and the meter is handy at times too. It is one of the last M6TTLs made, ca. 2002-03, judging by the serial #. The M-Rokkor 40/2 is a great lens, super small and light and always gives me great results.
7. Spare Digital Items – memory cards and extra battery for the X100.
8. Bikkuri Film Case – Another great item from Japan Camera Hunter! I just got this in the mail but it will for sure be in my bag from this day forward. Holds 10 rolls of film in the Fujifilm hard plastic case, which are now discontinued. Oh, and Bellamy Hunt informed me that I got THE LAST ONE!
9. Rocket blower – this is a leftover from when I carried around my D700, but I keep it around. It’s light and you never know when you might need it!
10. Water Bottle – You have to stay hydrated!
11. iPhone 4 + headphones – ‘Nuff said.
12. Notebook/Pen – It’s a moleskine and my all-time favorite pen…it’s a Parker something-or-other, but it’s great. And I’m picky about my pens.
13. Gum – I’m not really loyal to any brand, but it has to be cinnamon.

But, as they say…that was then, and this is now.

Over the last year, I have been experimenting with different gear and trying new set-ups. I touched on a bit of my photographic journey in a previous post, so you should check that out if you’re interested.

Nowadays, I take almost an entirely different set of equipment to photograph with. First of all, I no longer have most of what was in that picture; both film cameras, all three lenses are gone. They have been sold off to find new homes as for one reason or another, I couldn’t settle down with them. Choosing camera gear often feels like dating. The X100 remains, and the Domke bag is still here as well. The Fujifilm plastic film case (if you recall, I got the last one) has been supplemented with another, this one branded by Japan Camera Hunter–it’s a slightly different color, but is functionally exactly the same. I quite like it, and may even add a third, but three is a lot to carry around, unless I’m traveling and they’re in my suitcase. The phone is the same, the notebook is the same…accessories don’t change much.

What’s in My Bag – November 2012

A. Leica MP 0.72x – I love this camera. This is, as I have said before, the last Leica for me. However, it has recently become clear that I require a lower magnification viewfinder in order to be able to see the framelines when shooting, as I wear glasses. This has become my go-to body for the 50mm focal length. It has a lovely character to it, has the standard viewfinder magnification, and is built like a tank. It will be with me forever and always, and I hope that in 30 years it’s as scuffed and scratched and brassed as I can make it. I grow more attached to it every day.

B. Leica M6TTL 0.58 – This is a new addition, as with glasses it can be hard to see the 35mm framelines with the 0.72x magnification on my MP. This allows me to have my 35mm Summicron mounted all the time, though it can also be used with other focal lengths as well. I prefer the handling of the M6TTL to the MP in some ways; the shutter dial turns the correct way (relative to the meter, opposite of the traditional M series) and the larger dial means I can access the shutter dial with my finger without taking the camera from my eye.

C. Fuji X100 – I have spoken about this camera often, and always glowingly. I love the size, weight, performance, lens, viewfinder…pretty much everything. There are a few minor quibbles but nothing serious. Far and away my favorite digital camera to date. I don’t use digital a lot these days, but when I do, I use the X100.

D. Lenses:

  • Color-Skopar 25mm f/4 – I don’t go wide often, but when I do this is a lovely little lens to have. I used to have the 21mm Color-Skopar, but found 21mm too wide for me, and found 28mm to be too close to my favored 35mm focal length. This is a good compromise. I love the small size, and it was very cheap.
  • Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH – This is my go-to lens. It wasn’t cheap, but it is the best 35mm lens that Leica makes (some say the best it has ever made). I used to shoot more with the 50mm focal length but enough time shooting with the Fuji X100 has taught me that I prefer 35mm, as you get more in the frame. The square hood is annoying, and I generally avoid hoods, but I had some problem with flare on this lens (which I didn’t expect!) so I keep it on now.
  • Nokton 50mm f/1.5 ASPH – This lens is almost indistinguishable from the pre-ASPH Summilux, at a fraction of the cost. Other than bragging rights for actually owning a Summilux, I’m not sure why you’d choose that one over this lens. It is fast, not too large, and not very expensive; performance is very good throughout the aperture.
  • Elmar-M 50mm f/2.8 – I generally prefer not to have two lenses of the same focal length, but I make an exception for this little gem. About half the price of the Summicron-M 50mm f/2, I love the rendering of it, and it’s small size for traveling. You can collapse it and throw it in your pocket easily. One drawback: at f/8 and above, there are no half stops in the aperture.

E. Domke bag – This bag is great, fits all I need for a day of shooting, and is small and light. There is no velcro to draw attention to myself when opening/closing the bag, and the metal buckle keeps things secure (it’s actually really hard to open, so I won’t get robbed!).

F. Fujifilm/Japan Camera Hunter film cases – These are really awesome, and as I mentioned in my initial post, I got the last Fujifilm one from JCH earlier this year. Bellamy now has a range of JPH-branded cases and I highly recommend them. I don’t usually go out with more than 10 rolls at a time, but for traveling abroad it’s lovely to have all my film in these cases. I have 5 of them for longer trips.

G. Film – Alright, here is what you’ve been waiting for. What kind of film do I shoot generally? The answer is, quite a few kinds. I used to shoot Ilford HP5+ mostly when I started on film 5 years ago, but have moved to Tri-X/Arista Premium for most of my monochrome nowadays. I like them both equally, but I can get Arista for around half the price of the Ilford, so I shoot that mostly. For color I shoot a bit of Ektar, but have moved away from it as I don’t always love the results; Portra 400 is probably my favorite color film, but I also enjoy Fuji Pro 400H, and I’ve got loads of that stuff around the house (70 rolls or so!), so I’m shooting a lot of it these days. With the way color film costs keep going up and up, I’m moving toward more black and white. Once my color film is gone, I’m not sure what I’ll do–at nearly $10/roll it’s a lot to ask to shoot color negative film. I’ve all but stopped shooting color reversal film, prices have gone way up and developing costs have risen as well. Another of my favorite films, Superia 1600, has become scarce and ridiculously expensive (over $12/roll when you can find it) so I have begun experimenting with Ilford Delta 3200 and (the recently-discontinued) TMAX P3200, which I try to shoot at 1600 to give myself a fast option.

Black and white:

  1. Kodak 400TX/Arista Premium 400 (very cheap!)
  2. Ilford HP5+ 400
  3. Ilford Delta 3200
  4. Kodak TMAX P3200 (recently discontinued)

Color:

  1. Kodak Portra 400
  2. Fuji Pro 400H
  3. Kodak Ektar
  4. Superia 1600 (less lately with scarcity and cost increasing)

H. Leica SF-20 flash – I recently acquired this for a project I am going to be starting next year that I’ll need more light for. Shooting with a flash generally isn’t my style, but I got it used for pretty cheap, and it works well in my tests so far.

I. iPhone 4 – still using the same phone, going on two years. It works and I have little reason to upgrade, considering how effing expensive these things are these days.

J. Wallet – I got this from Dynomighty and really enjoy it. It’s thin and light, and they have a lot of sweet designs. Made of some kind of paper, they are almost indestructible. Check them out.

So that’s my general bag setup as of now. I don’t always carry all three cameras–in fact, I never do–but usually two of them, or just one if I’m going out without the sole intention of making photographs. Which one I take depends on my mood, and what I think I’ll encounter during my time out shooting.

Hope you all enjoyed this…questions? Comments? Ask away!

8 Comments

  1. Hi, I was looking at your setup and had a question. I am a student and mostly shoot digital but collect film cameras cause thats what I originally started on when I was 13. Unfortunately film and developing costs are out of this world now. But somebody recently gave me an old film stock that they dont plan to use anymore. It’s a lot of Kodak Max 400 and Kodak Gold 300 along with some Kodak 400 for B&W and Fujichrome provia 100F color reversal film. Anyways I dont have a darkroom (except for a black and white one at my school) and was wondering if you might have some tips as to where I could get this film processed for a reasonable price. I want to start shooting it and see if I enjoy film so that I can buy more and start experimenting with it, but I dont want some cheap developing place to do a bad job cause I have a limited supply any suggestions?

    Reply

    1. You can get color film processed cheaply at Wal-Mart, Target, Sam’s Club, or other such places. Black and white and reversal film are trickier, but you said you have access to a dark room at school, which leaves only the slide film.

      I always recommend North Coast Photo in California–that’s where I send all my stuff.

      Reply

  2. Between your essay on film vs. digital and your bag setup, I may start looking for film again.

    It’s funny, but I was looking at an old album of photos when I went backpacking through Europe in ’96 and realized I use to make better photos back then. I determined I have become lazy with the digital point-and-shoot cameras–more so with the iPhone.

    Reply

    1. Good man. Digital does make us lazy photographers; every frame no longer counts. You can take hundreds of images in a short space of time, delete them easily, and forget them on a hard drive just as easily. There is no reason to think about a shot before taking it, since you can just as easily take a lazy one and review it on the screen and retake it if need be.

      Plus, you can still look at photos from 1996 on negatives. Or 1986. Good luck looking at digital images 15-25 years into the future, since they will be lost on corrupt hard drives or unreadable by whatever technology has replaced the one we are using now. Negatives and prints will be around after you’re dead.

      I’m super glad to hear you’re interested in shooting film again! There are so many great film cameras available for not much money these days, and the film emulsions that are available are better than ever.

      Reply

  3. Nice selection of gear, and this post is well written as indeed all your posts are. I’m wondering why your Hasselblad 501cm has once again failed to make the cut – such wonderful images, why leave it on the shelf?

    Reply

    1. Not sure what made me start shooting. I got into it years ago with a point-and-shoot camera and quickly discovered that photography enhances the way I experience life.

      What about you?

      Reply

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