Is it possible? Of course. I would argue that one have been sold way too many times the excuse that you would fare better with smaller cameras, like the Leica.
Vivian Maier shot on a Rolleiflex, a twin lens system that is so much harder to focus and looks pretty weird when you have two lenses pointing at you. Back then people knew it was a camera and there is nothing in that form that contributes to her infamous photos.
Leica rangefinders are louder than most of the Olympus, Fujis and Ricoh GRs that exist in the market and probably the largest of them all. Still we have current credible photojournalist and photographers that swears by it for street use.
The answer is really our own acceptance of what we are comfortable with. A medium format camera should not prevent you from doing street photography.
If you prefer B&W cause it has more soul or captures someone’s soul (darn are we back in the dark ages) , a medium format camera like the Pentax 645z gives you beautiful gradation and smooth tonal dof transitions.
Make your own decision. I personally had a lot of fun shooting and using a medium format camera like the Pentax 645Z for portraits and streets and I am convinced that the suitability of any camera is defined by you.
Spending many days at home with nothing but work opens up dialogues and self reflection that one could not imagine are possible.
I have not been buying any new gears for sometime now. It has been an amazing journey and like a speech given at obituary, I spend nights thinking about life, work and what exactly ticked me all these years.
I believe in slowing down, that is why i bought, sold and re-purchased several Leicas and used many film cameras. I believe in the invisible driving force of inspiration having value above a spec sheet. I do not subscribe to majority pressure or impression without having tried the tool myself, one of the reason why I still kept the Olympus PEN-F despite the reviews.
But above all else, I have always believe that having too many gears, just like having many chefs, spoils the meal, in this case, the very journey of what I wanted to experience in photography. Ironic, contradictory and a struggle that I have faced ever since my first camera in 2007.
Photography should be just like a relationship, a marriage that you undertake with your partner and watch her grow old, together, till death do us part. This was the missing commitment that I struggle to bring in to photography as a result, my collection grew and my obligation to use them becomes a distraction.
As I pondered on each and every gear I bought, the images I created with them, the friendship that I found with other photographers, models and the conversations that took place. I came to a conclusion that I could very much be able to carry out this journey that I always wanted, a transition from using whatever tools I already have, to just using ONE .
The choice of tool will be the Pentax 645Z that I left at the corner of the drybox (its too big to fit in) and all my other gears will now be in hibernation mode. I would begin to give some of them away. There will be only reduction from this point on.
I know how silly this is going to be especially bringing that medium format DSLR into every genre that I enjoy doing including Street photography but it is what it is. The soul searching is over. This beast will be that “one camera” for building muscle memory and the defining partner in bringing out all my artistic visuals into reality.
As the world recovers from Covid-19, each one of us should discover what is essential to each area of our lives. If you are into photography, it is Marie Kondo time.
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.