Tag Archives: Cameras

{6×4.5} Long-Term Relationship…An Epic Blog About Medium Format

(This is a long, verbose post about me and my medium format “backstory.”  Feel free to jump on down to the bottom for the camera/photos that are the main focus of this blog, if ya please. I won’t be mad atcha!)

Over the past handful of years, I’ve had my share of flings with medium format SLR cameras. First, there was my affair with the Hassy. It was a brief relationship , but it was a robust one. Our time together was beautiful.

Once I was ready to love again, someone set me up with a Contax 645. I thought this was “the one.” Turns out the Contax was too posh for me – I’m just a humble freelance photographer; I couldn’t afford to keep up with the Contax lifestyle. It was like luxury cars and champagne; I’m more like mini vans and Coke Zero. We did splendid work together though. There was no denying that.

Last year, another Hasselblad came into my life. I knew it wouldn’t be a forever relationship, but I also knew this Hassy and I would have more time together than I’d had with my previous Hasselblad fling. It accompanied me on a few photo shoots. It was even my date to a big wedding I shot! But our days were numbered. And I ended up coming out of my time with Hassy #2 feeling as if, for now at least, Hasselblads are not really my “type.”* It served its purpose in my life, so I felt at peace when we parted ways.

I can’t go long without feeling as if I need to be involved with a medium format SLR though. A few months ago, I decided I really needed such a camera in my life again. I wanted it to be the real deal this time though. I didn’t want it just to be one more short-term love affair.

Several things came into consideration when I was deciding which type of medium format camera I wanted to have in my life. Cost was a major factor. If I were a rich girl, I’d still be with that posh Contax I toyed with a couple of years back.  Another was which medium format format I’d mesh with. That’s because medium format film can be shot in any number of image dimensions:

  • 6x6cm (my most beloved of all shooting formats) – The Hasselblad is a 6×6 camera, as are TLRs, Holga, and Diana. Square format is my absolute fave!
  • 6×4.5cm –  The Contax 645 is one such camera. I love square so much that I had never given the possibility of a 645 camera a second thought. I but I kinda dug it once I tried the Contax. Plus, you get more photos from a roll of film shot in 6×4.5 than you do a 6×6!
  • 6×7, 6×8, 6x9cm – The thing with medium format SLRs is: the bigger the negative size, the more giant the camera (though some rangefinder and “folder cameras” aren’t quite so cumbersome.)  I mean, these SLRs are monstrous things to carry around. Probably best suited for work in the studio (aka – you can set it up on a tripod.) Also, as mentioned above, the larger the negative a camera produces, the fewer frames you get from a roll of medium format film.
  • 6x12cm – Whoa whoa whoa. This is pretty major. It takes medium format panoramics. So that’s darn awesome. HUGE negative. Thankfully, there are some toy-ish 6×12 cameras out there, so I might actually have the ability to afford to play with such a camera one day.

Now. I really REALLY wanted a 6×6 SLR. I started looking around at those, and  Hasselblad seemed to be financially out of the question. But there is a less “popular” (I think “less trendy” would be more accurate) brand called Bronica that seemed to be a little more reasonably priced. And I’m no camera snob: Sure, the Zeiss glass on Hasselblad…c’est magnifique! But if Bronica lenses and bodies are good but underrated (therefore cheap as chips) then I’ll laugh all the way to the bank. I found a Bronica 645 for an appallingly good deal. It’s obscene how cheap these cameras are now, if you ask me.

My Bronica ETRSi came with a non-metered eye-level prism finder, 75mm/2.8 lens, a 150mm/3.5 lens, a “speed grip,” two 120 film backs, and one 220 film back. The good thing about these “modular” camera systems is that you can change film types any time you please if you have more than one film back. So I really got to shoot more than one test roll simultaneously. I had one back loaded with Ilford XP-2 (C-41) black and white film and another loaded with Kodak Portra 160 color film. I swapped between the two film backs/film types at my own discretion. I love modular cameras!

Meet my Bronica – we’re in a committed relationship

I HIGHLY recommend getting a speed grip if you ever find yourself in possession of a Bronica MF SLR. It greatly improves the handling of the camera, gives you a second shutter release button that is better-placed than the one on the front of the camera body itself, makes film advance quicker (a two-stroke advance lever rather than the winding advance arm that comes standard with the camera,) and a hot shoe for your flash. I got especially ecstatic when I realized that the flash shoe on the grip is “hot,” since it means that I can use a flash with my ETRSi without needing a sync cord. I’m so pumped about that!

Speed grip!!!

My ETRSi came with an “all matte” focusing screen. I was worried about my ability to accurately focus, because I’m used to split-image focusing screens. However, all the photos below were taken with the standard, all matte screen, and basically all the photos from my three test rolls were focused beautifully. Before I got my film back from the lab, I was still worried about my ability to accurately focus my photos. So I picked up a split-image screen for a pittance from KEH. Just in case!

It took me several weeks to get my Bronica test rolls up to the photo lab for development. It was soooooo worth the wait though!

Bronica ETRSi • Zenzanon 75mm/2.8 EII • Ilford XP2/Kodak Portra 160/Ilford XP2 shot @ 1600 ASA

I hope to have a very fruitful relationship with my Bronica – it will be my steady date on both professional and personal occasions. Don’t be surprised if I ask my Bronica to run away to England me one of these days ♥♥♥

*I would not kick a Hasselblad out of bed though, if I’m honest.


What $35’ll Get You

I got a “new” toy last week. It’s a Pentax ZX-7, which is a 35mm auto focus SLR. Though most would say I need another camera like I need a hole in my head, I do have my reasons for buying this Pentax. I’ll tell you about those reasons some time. Since I paid only $27 for the camera and its 28-90mm kit lens, I feel my purchase won’t need much justification though.

I’m not ready to do a full write-up on this camera yet, because I’ve only put one roll of film through it. But I think this one’s a keeper!

(I might add, other than $27 investment in the camera, it cost me an additional $8 for the “privilege” of using my niece as the subject for the test roll. What a demanding diva she is!)

Pentax ZX-7 • Kodak BW400CN
•  Some using 28-90mm/3.5-5.6, some using 50mm/1.4

Canon Rebel 2000: A Pleasant Surprise

I thought it was about time I profiled a camera that I’ve been using for nearly four years and which has become an unexpected favorite in my camera arsenal: the Canon Rebel 2000.

In June 2008, I purchased a Canon Rebel Ti from a charity shop for $25. It didn’t come with a lens, so I had to lay hands on one in order to test the camera. I had a flash of inspiration: My friend Adam used to have a Canon Rebel, and I was pretty sure he said it had stopped working. I hoped he might be up for selling the lens off his Rebel, since he couldn’t get any use out of the camera body at that point. As hoped, Adam agreed to sell the lens to me. Hooray! When I picked up the lens from him, he said, “You can just take the camera, too. I think it might be working again.” I attached said lens to the Rebel Ti body I’d purchased and found that the Ti’s film door was broken. Boo! I put batteries in the 2000, and to my delight, it was working again!

Thanks for the killer camera, Adam!
It’s in good hands, I promise!

Product of my first roll through the Rebel 2000

This was right before I was going to chaperon a church youth group trip to Waco, TX, so I broke the Rebel 2k in by taking it on the road with me. The Rebel was just PERFECT for toting around with me down there. I could use it like an over-grown point-and-shoot if I wanted, or I could have complete control over exposure and focus settings. That trip to Waco with the Rebel had me hooked. It’s been one of those cameras I can throw into my purse and be ready to go at a moment’s notice! I remember one of my photo buddies, Dirk, at Memphis Photo Supply giving me a hard time when he saw me with this camera. He gave me a “you could do better” sideways glance. Then, when complimenting a photo he thought was fantastic and wanting to know which camera I’d used, I’m pretty sure I rocked his world by replying, “My Canon Rebel 2000!” Burn!

Waco, Tx

mewithoutYou in Nashville, July 2008

I did a search for photos in my Flickr photostream that are tagged with “Canon Rebel 2000.” There are about 450 photos there from my Rebel! That number is pretty high, considering how many other cameras I have and divide my film between. I’ve actually featured a lot of Rebel 2000 photos on the blog and in my photo galleries, but here are a sampling of my favorites from over the years.


(And, I’ve obviously loved shooting people with the Rebel 2K!)

All photos taken with the Canon Rebel 2000 and the 35-80mm/4-5.6 “kit lens.” Except the photo of the Rebel at the top of this post, which was taken with my Canon Powershot SX230HS.

A lesson in travel photography (or “how I learned my lesson”)

Who doesn’t love to travel? I know I sure do! I, like a lot of travel lovers, do not get to do it as much as I would like to. Everyone likes to take photos when they travel. When a photographer goes on vacation, photography can become the most important thing. More important than experiences

Three years ago, I up and took a voyage to England. Alone. You can read a little about it here. Besides the fact that I was already in love with the Motherland before I set foot on British soil, I knew the main purpose of my trip was photography, photography, photography. I owned a dSLR, but I was so high and mighty that I didn’t take it. I documented my entire trip on film. There were times when camera malfunctions made me second-guess this decision, but I don’t regret leaving the digital camera back in Mississippi while I went to England. In the end, I was glad I’d gone to England on my own because when you are a photographer on vacay, it can be difficult to juggle your desire to photograph with being fair to your traveling companions. I could stop and go as much as I want, come and go as I pleased, all to suit my photographic needs.

Both the issue of film vs. digital and how to get in satisfying photography while traveling with others cropped up for me recently. I traveled with about 7 of my friends to St. Louis, Missouri for a quick visit. I, being me, left my nice digital SLR at home and opted instead to take my Nikon FE and Holga 120N. I didn’t stock up on film before I left for Missouri because I figured I could just do that when I got up there. When some of my friends realized I didn’t have my digital camera, they were both perplexed and slightly disappointed because they new the limitations of film might hamper the volume of photos I could take on the trip. I was somewhat offended that my artistic vision for documenting our time in St. Louis was being questioned. Then some things happened along the way that caused me to learn my lesson.

I am very stubborn about using film rather than digital in most areas of my photography. However, I’m going to have to admit now there are some drawbacks to basing yourself in film photography. For example, when my friends and I arrived in St. Louis, it was getting late in the day and the sunlight was fading fast. We went to the zoo, and there were definitely certain shots I couldn’t get because I had a slow film speed, 100 ASA, loaded in my camera. Sure, I am quite pleased with some of the photos I DID get, but the scope of my photography that first night in the STL was not what it should’ve been.

Nikon FE and Holga 120N at the St. Louis Zoo. 

Tragedy struck my plan of being too cool for school and do only film photography in St. Louis: I actually LEFT my wallet at the restaurant where we’d stopped for lunch on our way to St. Louis. Cape Girardeau, Missouri. I discovered this when I went to stock up on film and had no way of paying for it. D’oh! My lack of preparedness bit me in the rear. Yes, Amanda Raney did go out of town with only one roll of 35mm film in her possession. Oh how the mighty have fallen…

I ran out of film pretty early in the day Sunday morning. Before we’d even left our super cool hotel, in fact! And we still had hours of St. Louis awesomeness to enjoy before going home. What’s a girl to do??

Nikon FE and Holga 120N at and around the hotel Sunday morning

All was not lost, thanks to the darling Annie who decided I should use her point-and-shoot digital camera while we spent our last few hours in St. Louis before going back to Memphis. I’m sure she knew not being able to take photos like I wanted was just eating me up inside. If you think I’m uppity about not using my dSLR for everything, you should see how uppity I normally am about my ever having to use a point-and-shoot digital! Once again, I had to learn my lesson: some camera is better than no camera at all. And guess what: that little camera of Annie’s wasn’t half bad! It performed well, I’d say. We went to the St. Louis Art Museum, the galleria, and a cool pizza joint for lunch. I ended up being quite pleased with a lot of the photos. Just gotta know how to get the best out of these little cameras.

Further adventures in STL, taken with Annie’s Sony Cybershot 

For the events that unfolded with my photography in St. Louis, I am taking the “all’s well that ends well” viewpoint. I didn’t come back with a portfolio stacked with shots of that city, but I came back with a lot of fun (and some quite nice) shots that fulfilled my need to do photography while traveling.

So what is my conclusion in all of this? When you, as a photographer, are going somewhere special, you have to assess the purpose of your trip. Is this a trip that is going to be based mostly around photography? If so, how is this going to work out if I’m traveling with others who are not mainly interested in doing fine photography while we’re away? Even if I had had all the film in the world while I was in St. Louis, I wouldn’t have been able to do everything I wanted to photographically because I was with people whose purpose was to hang out with friends in a different city, not pack in as much photography as possible.

I had to learn that maybe it’s okay that I go out of town with my friends and have a main purpose of just being with my buddies. When I access the purpose of future out of town trips, I will decide if it’s to hang out with my friends, or if I’m planning on coming back with a body of work from that city. After my experience in St. Louis, if the answer is “my main purpose is to just have fun with my friends,” I’m honestly just going to throw my digital camera and maybe a small 35mm camera in my bag to take care of the type of photography I’ll do while I’m away.

It was my first time to travel to St. Louis and I just LOVED the city. I was just DYING because there were so many awesome things I saw and I wanted to capture in photos. It just wasn’t practical this time around. I resigned myself that I would be “forced” to go back to STL another time specifically for a photo excursion. Oh, the things I’ll do for my work!

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