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Tuesday, October 25

One camera, one lens - for and against


Crail

The answer, it seems, to my complaints about being weighed down by heavy gear and tripods was simple, obvious and cheap. Or so it would appear from the comments. Instead of being overburdened by the tools of the trade, I should leave some lenses and the tripod behind and go out with just one camera and a single lens.

This is something I regularly do already if I'm walking around in town or taking photographs for which a standard - or at least just one - lens is likely to be perfectly suitable. And that's really the key to this issue: there's not much point in just sticking to one lens if you think you're going to need more.

There may be photographers who are happy with one lens on a "photographic outing" but I'm definitely not one of them. Take my most recent trip to the Fife fishing village of Crail. I took just three photographs on the SL66E - one with the 40mm, one with the 80mm and one with the 250mm. I needed the lenses for different reasons and not just because I wanted to switch focal lengths for the fun of it.

The wide angle shot - the 40mm Distagon is roughly equivalent to a 24mm lens on the 35mm format - was of randomly-shaped stones set into the road surface. I went in close with the 40mm to emphasise the stones and included some of the village houses in the background.

The 80mm was used to frame the harbour and its houses. The wide angle was too wide for that shot. The 250mm photograph was of the distant Isle of May. The long lens was needed to get a big enough image of the island on the frame. Here are a few old digital shots, taken on a dull day about eight years ago, to put you in the picture.




When photographing the beech trees I mentioned in the previous post, I used the 40mm and 80mm lenses. I would have used the 150mm as well for one shot but couldn't find a vantage point clear of overhanging branches.

A total of six shots wasn't much of a return from two outings but it was still three times as many as I'd have taken with just the 80mm on the camera. When I'm using 35mm equipment my shooting style is exactly the same. A "normal" outfit consists of 28mm, 50mm and 100/135mm lenses. Sometimes I use a 24mm in place of the 28mm. This 28/50/135 outfit is for landscape-type shots. If I was wandering about in a big city then I might just settle for a 50mm as it can be a pain switching lenses in a town.

So for those readers who suggested one lens only at the end of my last post, then I'm afraid that's just a non-starter. David M suggested a Mamiya TLR with its interchangeable lenses. I had one of those 30 years ago and gave it up because it was too heavy! David's suggestion of a carbon Gitzo tripod would save a few pounds but they're hellishly expensive. I have a nice Induro tripod that weighs 6lbs - the Benbo is 10lbs. The Gitzo traveller that would seem to be suitable for an SL66E weighs about 4lbs. So a saving, yes, and better than nothing but less than 10% overall. Another reader, Frank, who's struggled with the same problem that's bothering me, came up with an interesting idea - the Fuji GA645Zi. That's it below.


The name sort of rang a bell but I had to google it to find out what it did. It's a 6x4.5cm camera with a 55mm-90mm zoom lens, about the same as a 35mm-55mm lens on the small format. It seems to be very good at doing what it does and is well worth a closer look.

The zoom range isn't massive but it's handy for shooting in woods and for general landscape work. It would also be great for the "flaneur" type of photography on city streets. It weighs just under 2lbs which is a fraction of what I was lugging around on the two trips I mentioned above. Aside from the 10lb Benbo, the SL66E outfit tipped the scales at 18lbs. The three Rolleis idea from the previous post would weigh in at around 9 lbs. Not particularly lightweight I suppose but less than just the Benbo on its own.

There's a certain reluctance to part with the SL66E not least because it was a 50th birthday present. It's a fantastic camera and the lenses are superb but I'm just not feeling it anymore. It's all becoming too much of a trauchle*. The total of 28lbs I was carrying around is about the same as a set of golf clubs.

Wandering about on slippery rocks in the harbour at low tide with this outfit was not a lot of fun, to be honest. I kept wishing I had my OM2 or, even better, the Leica M2 with me instead. I think most of us use medium and larger formats for the extra quality that's apparent in prints courtesy of the nice, big negatives. Side-by-side, 35mm negs look pretty dinky in comparison. But I'm not going to be making big prints in future and 35mm might well be just fine so why the need for the larger negatives?

I've been using medium format for more than 30 years but I still consider myself to be a 35mm photographer. I think it's probably time now to just accept that fact and concentrate on the smaller format. Making a permanent switch to 35mm more compelling is the fact that I've been experiencing a lot of aches and pains, mostly coming from my back.

I won't be making any hasty decisions, however. First of all, I want to get the darkroom up and running and make some prints from my Leica Tmax 400 negs using my chosen enlarger and lens. I'll evaluate them to see if I'm happy. After that, I'll decide what to do. As well as the SL66E, my 5x4 Speed Graphic and the big 5x7 Kodak Specialist Model 2 will probably be shown the door. If I can't be bothered totting the Rollei then I'm not going to fair much better with the large format leviathans.

And the Crail photographs? Well, another roll finished and added to the "to be developed" pile so nothing to show yet. The pic at the top of the post is an iPhone photo taken by my talented other half, Cath. A quick duotone in Lightroom and it looks great. Handy things these Apple devices. And perhaps a good argument for the one camera, one lens proponents!

* A good Scottish noun
1. work or a task that is tiring, monotonous, and lengthy

12 comments :

Stuart Fisher-Spurlock said...

Good read, great pics-as usual. Have you considered a Mamiya 6 or 7? Ever since I got the mamiya 6 I barely even shoot 35mm any more. So portable, quick handling, three perfect lenses, and only nominally larger than a comparable 35mm kit. I have and love the 7 as well, but the 6 is my go-to camera for all purpose, walkabout, social, travel, etc photography. The collapsing design is quite nice. The 6 with the 75mm lens weighs in at just above a 1kg if I recall correctly. The finder is huge and bright. The meter is great once you get acquainted with it.

For ages now I have been contemplating getting rid of most of my 35mm gear because I just don't use it anymore- the mamiya is just so easy, and soooo good- the extra weight/size is negligible when considering the ease of working with the larger negatives later- be it in the darkroom or scanning. It would definitely be my "desert island camera"!

I am very thankful for your website, keep it up!

Best, Stuart

PS Sure, the Mamiya 6 with a lens is a good bit larger/heavier than my Minolta CLE with the 40mm Summicron, but about the same as a DSLR+Prime and also about the same as a Fuji 645.

Stuart Fisher-Spurlock said...

Good read, great pics-as usual. Have you considered a Mamiya 6 or 7? Ever since I got the mamiya 6 I barely even shoot 35mm any more. So portable, quick handling, three perfect lenses, and only nominally larger than a comparable 35mm kit. I have and love the 7 as well, but the 6 is my go-to camera for all purpose, walkabout, social, travel, etc photography. The collapsing design is quite nice. The 6 with the 75mm lens weighs in at just above a 1kg if I recall correctly. The finder is huge and bright. The meter is great once you get acquainted with it.

For ages now I have been contemplating getting rid of most of my 35mm gear because I just don't use it anymore- the mamiya is just so easy, and soooo good- the extra weight/size is negligible when considering the ease of working with the larger negatives later- be it in the darkroom or scanning. It would definitely be my "desert island camera"!

I am very thankful for your website, keep it up!

Best, Stuart

PS Sure, the Mamiya 6 with a lens is a good bit larger/heavier than my Minolta CLE with the 40mm Summicron, but about the same as a DSLR+Prime and also about the same as a Fuji 645.

slackercruster said...

Well, sometimes it is 1 cam and 1 lens other times it is 3 cams and 3 lenses. (Leica 21mm, Leica 50mm and Leica with adapted 180 fisheye.) I don't pigeon hole myself. My job is to get the shot not to massage my ego. The worst scenario is 3 cams in a backpack and a mirrorless mover with an IR flash setup for a 4th cam.

If it is going to be dusk when I'm out I have to transfer to IR flash. After I head back for dinner then it is usually just 1 cam...the IR flash setup, unless I'm shooting night landscapes with a regular cam.

Even then I try to make due with no tripod. As a street photog I pride myself in no / low tripod use. (Even though I own several)

DcAnalogue said...

The problem, as usual, resides on each one's style of photography. The goal is to carry home the frames we want, good for the "project" we have in mind.
I agree you could have needed three lenses to take three different photos but, sometimes, I ask me why I had to take some shots? It was really necessary to my expression? How many of the shots we take are worthy?
So, many times, could be more useful (and back relieving) to make a gear's selection (the same of shots selection... a sort of editing) and not carry out too much things we won't use or use only for a shot or two. Do we really needed these shots?
Ok, we love gears as we love photography (I'm G.A.S. seriously addicted), and we like to play with cameras and lenses... but we can't always drag ourselves with tons of gears because "maybe I will need it.... maybe"....
Of course it all depends on our fitness and age.... :-D

Andy Pearce said...

yes ive tried the one camera one lens route, ive been through a number of medium format cameras and tried sticking to one lens, but im never happy i just cant do it, my problem is dodgy legs, somehow i always end up heading back to the car for another lens, i could leave the extra lenses at home, but there are times you just cant walk closer or further away, maybe if at the age of seven i had inherited a camera with a single lens, then maybe i might be happy with a single lens, but no i inherited a Minolta SR7 with a bag full of primes and i wasnt long in learning the creative abilities of each lens, so even now when i go out 135 using a 24-105, i will still have another couple of lenses ( make that a bag full ) in the car, on my last trip to the Hermitage outside Dunkeld, i spent so much time going back to the car, that in the end my other half ''god bless her'' went back to the car for the bag and spent her morning following me around, so for all you lucky people who can work with a single lens good on you, but for me im stuck working in my old way, with different lenses and cameras, the legs are getting worse as is the back, the painkillers are getting stronger, but its the way i work and probably always will.

Herman Sheephouse said...

Bruce - I wasn't being a nag-bag about sticking to one lens, but just try a trip with your 2.8F - you might be surprised at what you can see when you are limiting yourself like that. Granted you won't be able to fill the frame with the Isle Of May from the shore, but you can get some surprisingly faux wide-angle effects with a standard lens.

The thing I would caution with junking other formats is sometimes you wake up and think, I'll use that, oh shit, I've got rid . . .
I still feel that way about the Pentax 6x7 and yet thinking logically, I doubt I'd ever use one again, but all the same . . .

Richard Urmonas said...

I have done a fair amount of investigation into lightweight gear in my case due to the ever tightening airline carry-on restrictions. With medium format the lightweight options are limited. Either a Fuji 645 or an old folder, then an older Rolleiflex / Rolleicord. Other options all gain weight fast, the Mamiys 6/7 with the standard lens is around 1.2 kg. The Rolleiflex 2.8F is similar, as is the Plaubel Makina. If you are tempted by the Fuji GA645Zi make sure you handle one before you buy. I owned one briefly and for me the VF was unacceptable, like looking through a keyhole. I am not sure about the fixed lens 645. For 35mm it is not hard to get a 3 lens kit under 1 kg. As for a single lens give it a good try, it takes a little time to get used to it, but these days I find I can go with a single lens and get enough decent images to not regret the "shots I missed".

John Carter said...

When I go out locally I use one camera one lens. But sometimes I use two cameras but still one lens each. My big problem (which is mental), when I go on a trip I take a bunch of cameras. Usually it is three, two simple Pentax P3n and two lenses, a 28 and a 50 (switchable, color and B&W), and finally a 6x6 usually a folder with B&W film. I know it doesn't sound like much but it has to be carry on: so along with Gibbons 'Rise and Fall....' it ends up a lot.

Kevin Allan said...

I'm a proud owner of a Fuji 645Zi and use it for walking, cycling, and family trips. Most of the time I leave the lens at the wide end (about 35mm equivalent) and occasionally zoom to the longer end when required, so the non-zoom models would be no hardship.

However I can't claim to be using only one camera; I'm going to the Trossachs next week and will take an RZ67 with a few lenses for low-level walks and the 645Zi for anything more strenuous.

DougH said...

There are zoom lenses for the Pentax 645 system including an 80-160mm f4.5 that can be found on the used market for less than $200 [eg,KEH]. A friend uses the system and gets excellent results.

Keith Tapscott said...

Treat yourself to a Rolleiflex TLR.

Bruce Robbins said...

Check this post out, Keith. :)

http://www.theonlinedarkroom.com/2015/08/the-worlds-greatest-ever-camera.html?m=1