Whenever a celebrity holds an analogue camera, the price goes boom.
First there was Contax T2, T3 and the story of Kendall Jenner. We could forgive the eBay rocket science on prices because Contax point and shoots are premiums itself in the days of film.
Now we have Brie Larson with an analogue camera.
A Nikon FM10? My goodness.
In 2017, when Kendall Jenner talks about her love for photography in a talk show (Jimmy Fallon), she took out her Contax point and shoot camera. Up until that time the camera was priced around USD 200-300 on Ebay. After the talk show the prices begin to surge to USD 500 and today we have contax T3 selling at USD 700-1000++.
You can read more about her love for photography here at Adorama.
Last year on June 2018, Chris Hemsworth aka Thor posted a picture of his photos taken in Contax T2 analogue camera and captioned “I’ve gone full hipster and only shoot on film now, this was shot on film, digital is dead..”. Needless to say, Contax T2 prices wont be coming down anytime soon.
So thats strike 2 for Contax and strike 1 for Captain Marvel holding the Nikon F10 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.
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.
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 :
A place to hold my inhaler (for asthma)
A pocket for adapter and powerbank
A protected compartment from water for storing small maps, printouts and tablets.
A space putting in extra SD cards and cables or a small HDD if possible
Better than average protection from bumps from all sides and the bottom.
It must be easily accessible from the top as i don’t intend to lug it around with a strap on my neck.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Its 2018 and i am reviewing the PEN-F ? Yeah i know how outdated this would have sounded but as the price for this camera came down and exciting combination package with the 17 1.8 was offered 3 months ago, i jumped on it.
Readers of my blog knows that i only do real world reviews, not shooting bricks and i am not paid for anything i wrote here. The form factor of the PEN-F is superb, almost perfect.
My package comes with the original grip and boy, what a big difference it was holding it with the grip. I begin to have a lot of fun using it with the 17 1.8 that came with it.
There has been a lot of debate on the net about how sharp or bad the 17 1.8 is but to my experience and observation of using it so far, its sharp and very dependable for quality (despite the mtf chart i saw on one of these debates)
The colors are just amazing. I had own and used crazy lots of gears and when it comes to colors with minimum editing, my vote goes to Olympus and Canon.
The 17 1.8 is my preferred combo with this camera when it comes to street photography. I love it that it has the LCD by default turned back just like a film camera. Although this is not the first camera with this idea, it is probably one of the best. The other cameras like Leica MD Typ-262 or Leica M10 MD is charging more than USD 1000 for this difference, i would say PENF makes the most sense here as u can still access the LCD for setting time/date and formating cards by just turning it around.
Taking photos on the street is so fast and simple and since its m43, i took all my images at f1.8 and since my focus are mostly on certain people given the nature of my photographer mind’s eye, this was no issue at all.
In the “Defiant” photo above, the the mother was scolding the kid and he ran to the sister’s side and showed an angry gesture at the mother. All these happened so fast, from the moment i realized they were arguing till i took the camera out and shoot, all within 5 seconds.
Like many other m43 users, there was a month that i got caught up with the shallow DOF (how blur the background can be for portraits isolation) argument and wanted this camera to be the “all round” goto cam despite owning many other cam of which the shallow dof would not be an issue.
During that time, i sought out the Olympus 45 1.2 Pro and the 75 1.8 Premium. These are relatively expensive lenses. Expensive when you are comparing it for the objective of aquiring shallow dof when compared to Canon or Sony FF. Cheap if you are comparing it to Leica.
What i found out is that while the Pro lenses are expensive for dof equivalent, its actually very reasonable for BOKEH quality.
You do lose some advantages in size when you use Pro lenses, if you have other camera systems, maybe this would not be a wise direction. But if this is your One camera to rule them all, by all means go for it.
The other concern i had was the focusing at low light. In the projects i did so far, i would say this concern is largely unfounded except in a really dark setting.
I did a depression series with Angela as my model and its pretty dim and yet the PEN-F was able to focus and shoot precisely, the 5 Axis ibis is godsent.
PEN-F have one of the most attractive form and size that i have come across and its a real joy to use. If you are into street photography that doesn’t use shallow dof, this would be the perfect camera for the job.
If you are a bokeh whore, be prepared to pay top bucks for Pro lenses with Milvus quality bokeh.
You can find the rest of the images in this blog in my Instagram, follow that handle while ur at it 😉
Kuala Lumpur is a beautiful city, more so when Malaysia is now undergoing a new gov that is appeasing the public outcry over corruption and all manners of injustice wrought by the previous BN led administration.
Nothing have changed however when it comes to places to shoot street photography as common people continue their daily lives. From the typical tourist spots at KLCC, petaling street china town and city centre, the dynamics of the different ethnics and street activities continues.
Today, i took a walk around Jalan Pudu. My camera setup for street is the Leica M240 and Leica Elmarit 28mm f2.8. All the images here are shot wide open at f2.8 as per my habit and discipline to shoot wide open any lenses on any setup.
You don’t need a leica to do street photography of course but each gear does have its own advantages. Leica M come with some heft and a nice weight, perfect for doing hip shots, its distance scale on the manual lens are heaven matched for this use.
All the pictures here are processed using CaptureOne’s free film simulation sample.
Shooting from the hip avoids and minimizes any chances of confrontation. This is important in some places. Jalan Pudu is not an upscale area, it is an old place that have undergone very little economic changes. The idea of sharing images in social media and the indirect benefits of reaching out for more visitors is not something that the locals and immigrants here would appreciate.
The photo above was taken after one of the aunty shouted at a fellow photographer “no photos!”, he was using a very small camera and was composing using the LCD (think Ricoh GR, Leica X2 type of cameras). I took it from the hip and avoided the scene.
A noticeable amount of older people gather around this stairs chatting away. Some are waiting for the free food donation that occurs on weekend just across the street (more on this later).
Across the road, i noticed a few interesting aunties (or grandmas, depending on how polite you want to be) sitting at the side of the road. I could faintly hear what they are discussing but they clearly knows each other.
While walking pass by the school, a large number of old people and immigrants are gathering in the middle. I continued to walk with Joe, Stephan and Junrong, a few of my street buddies when a girl in green shirt came running after us. Initially i thought she got something to sell but as it turns out she just needed someone to help her take a group photo along with the pile of food that they are donating.
She said “i just want someone young to help take the photos because the old people here don’t know how to use an iphone”. Sure, that sounds like me (I totally forgot that Junrong is at least 30% younger hahaha). I took the opportunity to take the shot above with my own setup.
There is a morning market nearby selling seafood, groceries, joss sticks and as i entered i saw this old woman with a small setup. Joe, seeing that visuals and story presented immediately went and took a photo. After he is done, i went towards the stall and bought 3 packets of tibits and took a picture of her stall. For most of us doing white collar careers, seeing an old woman at this age trying to make a living by doing whatever she can, just tugs me in the heart. How much could she sell a day? At usd 0.25 a pack, there are barely 30 packs there on the table.
The path to the stalls are very narrow, you have to squeeze thru and move all the time. I came across 4-5 stalls where the workers are chopping on some meat and for the pleasure of my viewers, those photos won’t be shared here. The canopies cast various colors that would confuse any digital camera’s white balance. But since i am shooting in RAW, it doesnt matter at all.
There was this opening between the canopies that i saw this seller with her bucket of fish. I took this shot so quickly, i actually forgot about it until i went home and looked at the files. The fishes look wet and fresh and her expression of whistling made this shot a keeper.
As our shooting time came to and end we walked out of the market and i saw this durian stall at the side wall of the market. Later i noticed the seller is asleep. Must have been a tiring day.
The Hakke Mee stall is interesting in some ways. There aren’t many locals selling food that are below 50 years old, most of the newer generation who owns these stalls prefer hire workers from vietnam,myanmar or thailand to run the stalls.
Overall, i find that 28mm is the preferred focal length for street photography today. 35mm would be too narrow for close ups like the fish and seafood stalls images.
For those readers that have followed my blog, if you are wondering what happened to my Pentax 645Z and why isn’t it used on this set… First off, 645Z is a camera that you should consider very carefully before buying it, after i have used it for the last few months, it has raised my perception standard of pixel acuity and density so much so that i found myself rejecting images from APSCs and 1″ sensors. I am not saying that APSC and 1″ cameras are crap as we know the photographer is the key, i am saying that i found their output unacceptable for normal outdoor shoot.
Take this set for example that i did, without flash, ps, nothing, just some light editing on C1. Now just view it only if you have a monitor that is at least 15 inch (the bigger the better). Once u got used to this kind of pixel acuity and density, your mind naturally finds anything lower a problem. Hard to put a finger on it, it’s like looking at photos taken by mobile phones where ur mind knows something is lacking.
The 645Z is used for most of my model shooting events and this Leica M shall be my tool for the street.
I am at Tokyo now as i share this guide. The weird thing is that when i started to google for street photography in Tokyo, i ended up getting a pile of links that often provide…no inspirational photos, it is as if it’s written just for bait.
In fact, some of the most inspirational images i found are in youtube instead of the top links in google. Here is one example of a good youtube video .
Now that i been here for a week, i have a few pointers to share.
1. Visit the parks
By george, there are so many parks in Japan and parks are usually visited by both tourists and locals alike. By all means, its a great place to do some shoot.
2. Make up your mind on what is street photography
Street photography should be about people. There should at least be a person in your image when you take that shot. Tokyo have all kinds of people and the good news is that most of these people are Japanese, so unless you are at some hot tourist spots, you have plenty of Japanese to fill in the frame.
3. Visit Ginza on weekends
During weekend, central Chuo Dori street will be blocked from vehicle access. This means massive human traffic will be roaming this section of the street and that is exactly what we want for street photography.
If you are not sure where is Chuo Dori street, you can also look for the Ricoh Pentax building and you are in the right area. Do visit the Ricoh building, they often host interesting gallery at level 7 (which u need to pay 510 yen) or access level 8 for Ricoh Pentax shop. Level 8 also showcases the various film cameras of Ricoh Pentax and the prices back then.
4. Time matters
You need to pay attention to the 9-5 working hours time. This is because you will be using the rails too and you don’t want to be caught sandwiched in carriage while you try go get to your destination. Also if you are there early before these hours, you can watch the crowd grow in numbers and anticipate what kind of shots to take.
I didn’t take any Shibuya crossing photos because i have no idea what else i could take that could be interesting, but hey, thats me, you should go ahead and visit Shibuya. Here are some i took but didn’t capture the essence of the crossings.
5. Watch the traffic section
I found myself often regretting putting the camera back into the bag when i am at the traffic junction or stop. Surprises lurks in every corner (or in this case, every stop) and you should get your camera ready.
There are also long trucks that can slow down and even stops at any junction because they have idols inside and doing a road promotion.
6. Be confident
Most japanese are friendly and live by the culture of being polite. Sometimes they can be camera shy and cover their faces when your camera is seen pointing towards them. During these whole week, i only had one old guy shouting to me “No photos!” at the Yakitori Alley near Shinjuku at night. Man, what a loser, if it wasn’t for bloggers that took and share photographs of their shops and grilled skewers, where did he think the customers came from. Duh.
Anyway, that was just one really isolated incident. Be brave and just shoot.
Sometimes you will come across these smoking areas outside malls and streets. These scenes often present good photo opportunities. So do loiter around these locations especially in the pre 9 am or after 4.30 pm time range.
7. Pay attention to Japan’s peculiar culture
Japan have a very different set of culture and we see this reflected in many activities. This picture for example was taken just outside Gotanda, a bunch of kids are cleaning up the street and tending the public ground.
Japan is also an ageing country, so you will see a lot of over 60 years old folks still working and sometimes it can be heart wrenching to see them and be reminded of your own parents. It can be shocking too on how much these old people could walk so much between the subways and stairs.
So that is my guide for Tokyo, keep in mind this is my 3rd time in Japan shooting around and as i learn new things, i would share them in new articles.
I wanted to write this piece after stumbling upon the story of this girl called Plaaastic. She died late last year, taking her own life after a series of what she would termed as being singled out by the universe for abuse.
(*all the images here are not related to plaaastic or anyone, they are taken by me for this illustration)
Looking at her instagram and content that she generates, i see a creative soul snuffed out of this world, an immature death. It’s hard to imagine how one can deal with a situation in life where you got betrayed by the one you loved, abused by parents, abandoned by friends, tried to stood up and reclaim her life only to be robbed on the streets.
Frankly after reading the part on her villain husband who was introduced to her by her photographer friend, i could only wonder, what an idiot he is.
This series of images is going to reflect the loneliness of such a life and the prison that one can be in. She is not alone, in the last few months, we have seen korean k-pop idols who took their own lives. One could never fathom the “why” but one could feel. I ended this series with a positive note, a hope and i hope those who feels trapped by these invisible walls, will find strength to stay on.
Glasses. A prison of the soul.
You called out to those who seems so near. Yet they can’t hear you, your pleas and your plight found no one. Many are standing so near and yet the icy glass makes them so far.
Do we often create invisible barriers by our own decisions? A few steps to the right, a few to the left, are those steps all we needed for freedom. Do we walk right into another layer of glass even if we escaped this one?
Draw strength by looking back! What if looking back we could only draw hurts and unlock hidden memories that are too painful to be held to our attention? What then, how can one continue the journey if every step taken in the past only draws us back to darkness.
Peace. What one took for granted, is priceless to some. Unattainable, remote, like stranger that does reply no matter how much we calls out to. Each waves that swept over us are waves of disappointment.
But, then, we realize something. We could be happy. What if we are not trapped, but we are merely worthy of harder challenges in life to move us further up.
What if those who are actually trapped are these same people over the other side of the glass? People who are complacent and happy without direction nor purpose. Celebrating around a little fire that they started, unaware of the reality of life on the other side. Unable to offer help, they became like the deaf and mute.
Life is not a series of chance and tragedy. Life is about free gifts that are given to us, breath given to this Universe so that we could play a part in it, to experience Love and His great plan.