Travelling with a digital medium format camera {review}

travelling with a medium format camera

Those familiar voices arguing against each other, “Is it even practical? It is so heavy!” vs “I want the best image quality for this trip, the weight will do me good!”. Some of you are probably salivating over the FUJIFILM GFX 50R medium format camera and wondering if its suitable for travelling. My choice was simply between my Pentax 645Z (if it works for this, FUJIFILM GFX 50R would be a walk in the park) and my other lesser sized cameras.

Those went thru my head several rounds on the last 2 days prior to the trip. I even created a poll on my fb and the results are as follows.

Poll results voted Pentax 645z for travel camera
Poll results on which camera to bring for travelling

In the spirit of keeping to my words and not take my friends vote for granted, I took the medium format Pentax 645Z with me to the trip, which is already half-done while i am typing this blog.

Granted I am pretty sure some of those votes are coming from the evil side of my friends, people who just want to see me suffer ;-).

First off, let’s be clear about one thing, i have ZERO income from writing this blog and its purely from my experience and opinion. Let’s start with the bag to hold the beast.

Bag for Pentax 645Z
The Bag to hold the Beast

I got this bag early this year in Tokyo when I saw it was on sale and tick all the boxes. Requirements that came thru much refinement from my trips. Among the checkboxes are :

  1. A place to hold my inhaler (for asthma)
  2. A pocket for adapter and powerbank
  3. A protected compartment from water for storing small maps, printouts and tablets.
  4. A space putting in extra SD cards and cables or a small HDD if possible
  5. Better than average protection from bumps from all sides and the bottom.
  6. It must be easily accessible from the top as i don’t intend to lug it around with a strap on my neck.
Pentax 645Z with one lens
Pentax 645Z with 55mm FA f2.8 AL IF

I have no idea what kind of brand ZEROSHOCK  is, i was told that it was made in Japan, it ticked all the boxes and boy, what a fantastic bag it is.  The only other rule i have for travel was that my bag should only fit One Camera + One lens and the Pentax FA 55 F2.8 is my goto lens for this setup.  (The effective focal length in 35mm is 55 x 0.79 = 43.5, a balance between my preferred 35mm and the revered 50mm, some say that 42mm is the true natural view on both eyes).

The first stop is Khao Yai, a 3 hours drive from Bangkok International Airport. Khao Yai is travel destination that is enjoying brisk growth of travellers, thanks to the wanderlust and instagram thirsty influencers propagating images of its enchantments.

I didn’t know what to expect really, i just had a few images that i saved from Instagram (God bless these influencers haha) and since this is a family trip, i wanted the best IQ possible (the other voice won, fuelled by those votes).

Here are some shots that i took, lightly edited on Capture One, without using any presets.

Portrait with a medium format camera
Portrait at the Sunflower farm in Maneesorn during sunrise
Portrait at the Sunflower farm in Maneesorn during sunrise

Initially i wanted to use the film preset FL-07 (-) from the free Capture One v11 samples preset that i downloaded.  It would give me a look with some film tones like below.

Portrait with the Pentax 645Z
Portrait with the free FL-07 (-) Preset from C1

I changed my mind and decided to stick to what looks really natural to me during that session and i am pleasantly surprised that the Pentax 645Z raw files just needed a bit of nudging to hit eureka. For those of you who want that film preset you can download it from Capture One, I have found those free samples to be excellent, so much so that i never had enough motivation to buy the whole preset.

The sunflower farm is a must visit. It cost me 80 baht per person (USD 2.5) and i went there twice, one for the sunset and one for the sunrise.

Medium format camera for travel
Portrait on sunset at Maneesorn farm
Medium format camera for travel
Portrait on sunset at Maneesorn farm

Here is the thing, i had 100% confidence that the image quality would be superior to my other cameras. The grip is superior to any of the cameras i had or ever had and i never needed a strap on it.  I knew from a vague expectation that i would not be doing any hiking, this criteria could have limit my options to the Olympus PEN with 12-40mm PRO lens or the Canon 6D MK2  with 35 F2 USM IS. The Olympus is a street godlike camera akin to the Ricoh GR2 and the Canon’s color science is unmatched for portraits.

So if you are into street photography,  a camera like Pentax 645Z might not be the right choice for travel. If you are going hiking and would only start shooting upon reaching a certain peak and setting up tripod, the IQ from a medium format camera would not disappoint your hard earned labor.

Here are some other images for sharing, taken around Khao Yai, where indicated i would use the preset from C1, all images shot at F2.8.

beautiful medium format portraits
Preset FL-07.
beautiful medium format portraits
Sunset
beautiful medium format portraits
Taken nearby Yellow Submarine Cafe / Desaturated
model with flower portraits on medium format camera
This beautiful scene is just a walk from the Maneesorn farm
model with flower portraits on medium format camera
Primo Piazza, FL-07 preset

In conclusion, if you are doing portraits or travelling with family, bringing the medium format camera put a lid on the question on IQ.  If you are doing street, perhaps the FUJIFILM GFX 50R would be viable with a certain level of training on zone / distance shooting, else cameras like Ricoh GR2(3) or Olympus m43 with capable lenses like 17 1.8 or 12-40 pro would get you loads of pictures minus the intimidation and weight.

Wait … what about the Leica! What happened to your idea of shooting with film? That my friend is a topic for another day.

 

your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s