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