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Roger Hicks -- Author of The Rangefinder Book

Roger Hicks is a well known photographic writer, author of The Rangefinder Book, over three dozen other photographic books, and a frequent contributor to Shutterbug and Amateur Photographer. Unusually in today's photographic world, most of his camera reviews are film cameras, especially rangefinders. See www.rogerandfrances.com for further background (Frances is his wife Frances Schultz, acknowledged darkroom addict and fellow Shutterbug contributor) .


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One camera, one lens (not the usual thread)
Old 07-03-2008   #1
Roger Hicks
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One camera, one lens (not the usual thread)

For travel, one camera and one lens sounds to me like a really rotten idea. If the camera and/or lens stops working, what are you going to do?

More than two cameras, on the other hand, and you can be looking at a lot of weight and bulk, especially if you're walking much. There's also the point that you may spend more time wondering which camera to use than you will spend taking pictures.

The only way I'd carry one camera is with another -- good, cheap, reliable -- camera that I can leave in the room without worrying too much if it's stolen (Konica SIII in a locked suitcase) or in the hotel safe (e.g. Nikon F + 50/2, both of which are cheap nowadays) or even in my pocket if it's small and light enough (Retina IIa).

But as this is part of my livelihood I normally carry two Leicas, or one Leica + 1 MF (Alpa or Linhof). With the Alpa 12WA, the body is just a spacer and can't really go wrong, but I carry 2 lenses, 2 backs and (following the time I forgot, on a trip to India) 2 viewfinder masks.

Has anyone had a problem with taking just one camera that then breaks/is lost or stolen/otherwise fails to deliver the goods?

Cheers,

R.

Last edited by Roger Hicks : 07-04-2008 at 08:25. Reason: typo
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Old 07-03-2008   #2
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No problems so far with manual cameras, more usually with digital SLRs, where even a seemingly fully charged battery suddenly discharges and I am left high and dry.

My usual holiday or short trip combination is digital SLR with general zoom and one good prime (usually a 24mm, to give about 35-40mm fov), one mechanical rangefinder (usually a Bessa R with Nokton) or mechanical SLR (Pentax MX with 50/1.7) and a Vivitar slim & wide (21mm fov) or Pentax Espio mini (which has a great 28mm lens and is surprinsingly versatile). This usually comes with a mini tripod and film, 2 charged batteries for the SLR.

It is difficult to shake off the paranoia of being without a camera of some sort......
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Old 07-03-2008   #3
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Roger

I was in the Alps once (mid winter), with an OM 1 which was performing very nicely. My girlfriend of the time spilled some water on it accidentally, and didn't tell me then I took it outside.....

The unfortunate thing froze up, luckily it was only the exterior controls and not the workings inside that got wet.

Once it thawed and dried it was fine. Ever since I bring a spare of some kind and I still use the OM regularly

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Old 07-03-2008   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
For travel, one camera and one lens sounds to me like a really rotten idea. If the camera and/or lens stops working, what are you going to do?
Enjoy the trip. At least, that's what I did when my Hexar completely froze when I was on holiday in France three years ago. I figured out what was wrong (mid-roll rewind button stuck) two days after. But I did manage to have a jolly good time without it..
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Old 07-04-2008   #5
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Until recently it was always only one camera / one (or two) lense(s) and I never had any problem (either with my DSLR or film camera) Now, I carry one Leica / one lens with me and a TLR. Leica for BW film and TLR for color, all in 400 ISO. I have a quite large messenger-style bag and carry both cameras and some rolls of unexposed film with me, already exposed film kept in the hotel room.
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Old 07-04-2008   #6
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An older, but reliable, manual SLR with at moderate zoom (35 - 105) and/or Retina 1a
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Old 07-04-2008   #7
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I took my Pentax dSLR out for a walk once, and forgot to put in a memory card. I felt very silly.

Anyone ever forgotten the film?
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Old 07-04-2008   #8
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i've never had a problem on holiday. come to think of it, I've only had one repair to a camera in over 30 years. Not bad going.
When on holiday I tend to take a main shooting camera and a pocket compact. The main shooter could be anything from a DSLR plus short zoom, my CLE plus 25 & 40 or my Hexar Silver. I don't really shoot with long lenses so any of these suit me fine. Depends on where I'm going and what I fancy using at the time.
The pocket option is usually my Espio Mini, like Zuikologist mentioned above.
I have been away with just a compact in my pocket and shot the whole holiday on just that and to be honest I can manage quite well, though you sacrifice some control. That said I would still take two compacts, one as backup.
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Old 07-04-2008   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisN View Post
I took my Pentax dSLR out for a walk once, and forgot to put in a memory card. I felt very silly.

Anyone ever forgotten the film?
Music festival with interesting local bands, memory cards prepared (two of them), battery charged (Nikon D1x, was eating batteries ...) and once arrived at the festival site I realised that I had forgotten the battery in the charger at home...
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Old 07-04-2008   #10
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Some years ago I acquired a secondhand Rolleiflex T which looked as good as new and appeared to work well. I duly took it to Turkey (a brilliantly photogenic country) and over 10 days shot a vast number of pictures. Almost all were out of focus. It transpired the taking lens was misaligned internally, probably (said the repairer) because the camera had been dropped. Externally the lens plate was parallel to the body, so offering no clue to the horrors within. Stupidly, it was the only camera I took on the trip.

A terrible disappointment: but for the totally failed focussing, many of the pictures might have been very good...

Regards,
D.

PS: Ironically, Roger, I've just remembered that the whole sorry episode was ultimately your fault! I'd bought the T as a cheap way into MF as a direct result of reading your Medium Format Handbook (Blandford 1986, pps.30-32).

Happy ending though: post-repair the camera worked perfectly, I've loved it ever since, and it did get me seriously interested in MF. So thanks, really--
D.

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Old 07-04-2008   #11
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If I travel by car I'll take just about the whole kit. If I travel by air, I'll go pretty basic, perhaps the 35mm SLR and 3 lenses.
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Old 07-04-2008   #12
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[ amateur_mode ]

i do not understand the possibly underlying paranoia. usually, cameras do not just fail. if you plan a trip to areas that put special requirements on your camera - well, then you should know about that beforehand.
and if your camera happens to fail in spite of your planning ahead, be happy if you have your credit card with you and a camera shop nearby.

[ /amateur_mode ]

[ professional_mode ]

if you get paid for taking pictures, having one or more replacement bodies with you is mandatory anyway, and the question should not come up in the first place.

[ /professional_mode ]
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Old 07-04-2008   #13
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Originally Posted by pvdhaar View Post
Enjoy the trip. At least, that's what I did when my Hexar completely froze when I was on holiday in France three years ago. I figured out what was wrong (mid-roll rewind button stuck) two days after. But I did manage to have a jolly good time without it..
Dear Peter,

Good point. But although I'd not go as far as my late friend Colin Glanfield ('If I couldn't take my camera, I'd not bother to travel') I'd certainly hate to be without a camera when I was travelling. That was true even before I started earning money with the camera -- which is so long ago I've pretty much forgotten what it's like not to rely on a camera...

Cheers,

R.
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Old 07-04-2008   #14
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Roger, when traveling I take just one camera. Currently it's the M4, which haven't ever ruined a single frame to me so far. If it fails, I'd buy an inexpensive p&s with 35mm lens.

But certainly on a once in a lifetime photo opportunity it pays to take a backup.
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Old 07-04-2008   #15
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I still have not learned this simple precaution. Back in 1991 I was hired to shoot an art tour in the USSR. I took a Minolta 9000 (they were paying for it) and a boatload of lenses. I had just finished a PR shoot in NYC with Olympus and had a beautiful OM-4Ti kit. After some deliberation I decided to go to the USSR with the 9000 alone. The camera kept malfunctioning. AF finally stopped all together. if you think doing MF in an AF world is hard now, try it in 1991.
And yet I recently returned from a 2 week trip. All I took was a Zeiss Ikon and a CV Heliar 50mm lens. It was awesome.
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Old 07-04-2008   #16
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I've had a Pentax 67 break its winder in Israel - they didn't export this camera to Israel so no chance of getting it fixed even though I was there for two months.

Had a sigma zoom break in Cuba - it was almost new, so I've never bought a Sigma lens since.

Both cases I was young and skint with patchy back up, much more belt and braces these days, but it is my living.
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Old 07-04-2008   #17
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Like others have said ........ are you traveling to take pictures or are you travelling and take pictures on the way. On a (short)(business)(solo) trip alone just one camera, one lens. On a longer (holiday) trip with my girlfriend I have learnt that taking pictures gets in the way of a good time together (=the aim of the trip). In these cases I take more with me for those moments (I'm an early riser and she's not) that I go out alone for a hour or so. Often to places/spots we'd seen together before and enjoyed without the camera bag as third party!

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Old 07-04-2008   #18
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When traveling for pleasure, I have always driven, so I could take what I wanted. That usually included my Fujica ST 901 and Yashica TL Super with several lenses. The Fuji can work without battery in case of emergency, but I always carry a spare battery. I would also take my Super Press 23 and lenses.

About 5 years ago I put together a kit for a trrp to Germany that I never made after all. It consisted of a Yashica FX 103, 50mm Contax 50mm f/1.4, three zooms; 18-28, 28-70, and 75-150. A backup Yashica FX 3 body, a Yashica 221 dedicated flash, a 2x teleconverter, an odd filter or two, and film. Also a Welta 6x6 folder and a Gossen Luna Pro. It all fits in a small bag about 8 1/2, by 14, by 6(including the pockets). I keep and often have that in my car while commuting to work. I am considering replacing the Welta with a Zeiss Ikon non-rangefinder(light) or a Moskva(heavy).

As an aside, I have several zooms, but find I don't like even as small as an 80-200 most of the time. I am surprised how many photos a 50mm can take. I also have learned to prefer primes, 18mm, 24mm, 28mm, 135mm. But as I said, I like the kit above too, for the versatility of the zooms. And that for weight as well.

To the point of your question Mr. Hicks, I don't recall ever having a camera fail while on a trip or work. Even a Yashica 124 MAT that slipped out of my hands and hit a rock while changing film still worked, even though I had to rachet the film advance. My main cameras, the ST 901 and the Super Press 23 have worked well for over 30 years. I have had cameras fail, but never on a trip.
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Old 07-04-2008   #19
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I take everything my baggage allowance permits. Not because I'm scared of breakdown, but because holidays are my most important and least repeatable regular photography opportunities, and I like to mix scenery, wildlife, people and whatever else is worth making images of. So I take whatever I can carry, and then choose day-by-day what gear to go out with, leaving the rest in hotel or apartment. I lock stuff away when I'm not using it if I can, but if I can't, I try not to worry: it's all insured and nothing is irreplaceable except exposed film and image storage devices - which I always put in a safe if there is one.
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Old 07-04-2008   #20
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When I travel around I always have just one body and one lens with me. One of my favourite combinations for cities and countryside trips is a Bessa L with the 15mm lens. In October my girlfriend and me are going to Lanzarote again - then I will be pretty high-tech: zeiss 4,5/21mm and the bessa r2a.

I`d never take two or more lenses with me - I want to concentrate on a special angle of view and compose my photos depending on this.

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Old 07-04-2008   #21
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I don't do photography for a living but travel for pleasure. If it is to a place I may never see again then I take a back up body. Luckily my wife likes to snap too so having a back up is not a problem. OTH I have not had a body fail on a trip, touch wood.

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Old 07-04-2008   #22
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Take Two. In 42 years of shooting film only one failure. My honeymoon I had only one Nikon F and two lenses. The F lost all speeds above 1/60th so I got very little. OK, I bought it used from Wall street photo in 76 and put several thousand rolls thru it in college but I never expected an F to let me down. Joe
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Old 07-04-2008   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sebastel View Post
[ amateur_mode ]

i do not understand the possibly underlying paranoia. usually, cameras do not just fail. if you plan a trip to areas that put special requirements on your camera - well, then you should know about that beforehand.
and if your camera happens to fail in spite of your planning ahead, be happy if you have your credit card with you and a camera shop nearby.

[ /amateur_mode ]

[ professional_mode ]

if you get paid for taking pictures, having one or more replacement bodies with you is mandatory anyway, and the question should not come up in the first place.

[ /professional_mode ]
That depends on where one is going. A few years ago, I took three cameras to Durango, CO for a rail charter trip. One day it rained, if if I hadn't had the Pentax 90WR weather resistent camera as the backup to my two SLR bodies I would have had less pictures at the end of the trip.

Now if I'm rained out a few blocks from home, I can go back another day or swing by the house and get another camera.
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Old 07-04-2008   #24
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So far, not a problem with mechanical cameras. Have had numerous "temporary" problems with battery-dependent cameras over the years (dead batteries).
I don't travel often, but generally carry one M and one or two lenses; Also an ultra compact digital P&S as backup - fits in shirt pocket.
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Old 07-04-2008   #25
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I'd only ever take one camera.

So long as it was a quality camera.

Why buy a good camera, and then take a back up?
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Old 07-04-2008   #26
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Quote:
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I take everything my baggage allowance permits. Not because I'm scared of breakdown, but because holidays are my most important and least repeatable regular photography opportunities, and I like to mix scenery, wildlife, people and whatever else is worth making images of. So I take whatever I can carry, and then choose day-by-day what gear to go out with, leaving the rest in hotel or apartment.
Matt: very wise words. Unfortunately, in these wonderful days of "airline security", I find "whatever I can carry" can be remarkably limiting.

A cautionary tale, however:

Last year (ie. June 2007) I and my father went on a wildlife photography course organised through Australian Geographic magazine. I took a 2nd near everything. Lots of people (especially including Dad) pointed and laughed. Too much gear! 'Till Dad dropped his camera, with external flash on, and ripped the hot-shoe off. He took over my 2nd camera. Someone else's card reader failed. I had a spare, which I loaned them. Another had a shutter failure - but I had a film body as "2nd spare", so they could use that. I had hard-disk space (external), film (b&w and colour), spare USB, network and telephone cables, etc. etc. (most of which, one way or another, someone used).

None of which could have been found within a 200k (120mile) drive (and way worse in terms of road conditions). OK - it didn't help me because I had nothing fail or break (mostly by good luck rather than good management) - but I was amazed at how many things did go wrong. And also amazed that nobody but me had a backup plan ...

...Mike

(P.S. my usual and more "general" travel backup plan is an Olympus mju-II aka Stylus Epic which cost almost nothing, takes nearly no space and still takes a good photo. But for "one off" trips like the photo course / rainforest trip I do a little more.)
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Old 07-04-2008   #27
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Quote:
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I'd only ever take one camera.

So long as it was a quality camera.

Why buy a good camera, and then take a back up?
Because even good cameras can break. And Mvrphy's Law says "at the worst possible time". And even smart people can do dumb things that break or lose a good camera.

Sure, don't plan on it. But if it really is a once in a lifetime photographic opportunity, well, then I'm paranoid enough to want backup.

...Mike
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Old 07-04-2008   #28
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When I was living in Thailand in the 80s and regularly traveling around SE Asia, I only had one camera for most of the time - a Pentax Spotmatic, which never went wrong. But had it broken, I would have bought a new camera.

I did eventually splash out on a Nikon F3, and an Olympus XA2 for sticking in a pocket, and the XA2 was a lifesaver once when I was out walking in jungle in Malaysia and got caught in a downpour - I thought I had the F3 well protected, but when I later found somewhere to sit down I placed the camera on a table and was horrified to see a pool of water pour out from the Nikkor 35-135 lens. If it wasn't for the XA2 (which was stashed in my bag in my room), that would have been the end of my photos for the next week or so. (The Nikkor lens was ruined, but the F3 was fine).
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Old 07-04-2008   #29
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Matt: very wise words. Unfortunately, in these wonderful days of "airline security", I find "whatever I can carry" can be remarkably limiting.
I couldn't agree more. And, it is getting worse with the fees for checking luggage and the associated congestion of the onboard storage bins. Often I would check a bag of clothes, even if it was small, so I could take a bit more camera gear. Now I carry-on my bag and take only one camera/lens and a lens hood to keep the weight/bulk down. A couple of weeks ago I flew to a wedding and took a Retina IIIC as the sole camera for personal photography. The shots I got were great, but I didn't get as many pics as I should have/could have with another (heavier) camera. Maybe I'll return to Nikon F3/MD4 as my standard carry-about camera since I think I can do more with it. Unfortunately that is the camera that came up with a "false positive" once at airline security checkpoint for traces of explosives... which was a rather inconvenient experience!
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Old 07-04-2008   #30
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I'll often take along two different types of cameras, for example a Rolleiflex and the SWC, not because I'm afraid of a failure but because I want to do somewhat different kinds of work. Of course if one failed I could work with the other.

Of course on a paying job or one of those once-in-a-lifetime trips I'd carry backups for backups.

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Old 07-04-2008   #31
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In a recent trip to the Middle East, I took with me a Canon P and a Contax T2 as my "full size" and "light" cameras. I often would take with me only one camera and I left the other at home.
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Old 07-04-2008   #32
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When I travel I mostly fly.

I take camera and film in carry on.

I have other stuff to take, too, like laptop, etc. Simply no room for much else but 1 body.

I'm with Jon. We put all this emphasis on the quality of our cameras, how light "travel combos" should be, etc. Then why carry a backup ?

Of course I imagine a pro having different requirements.

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Old 07-04-2008   #33
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I'd only ever take one camera.

So long as it was a quality camera.

Why buy a good camera, and then take a back up?
Because nothing made by man is perfect.

Leica M2; jammed shutter. Hasselblad 500C; back screws loose/falling out (vibration on a motorcycle tour). Vivitar Series 1 lens, interior lens group unscrewed (same cause, different motorcycle). MR meter; corroded contacts. MPP Mk VII; light leak. Linhof Tech IV; broken ground-glass. Mamiya 645; defective back latch.

That's just me. Another friend shot an entire assignment with a Rollei 35 because the airline lost his main camera outfit for 5 days. Others have had cameras stolen, or dropped them, or even in one case stopped a bullet with one (fortunately a Nikon F).

Edit: It looks as if the amateur/pro divide is wider here than I had imagined. I had assumed that more amateurs took their photography as seriously from choice as professionals have to. Seems I was wrong -- which interested me. Thanks, guys!

Cheers,

R.

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Old 07-04-2008   #34
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Originally Posted by Gumby View Post
Unfortunately that is the camera that came up with a "false positive" once at airline security checkpoint for traces of explosives... which was a rather inconvenient experience!
I think you used rather too few, and rather mild, words for how much fun that must have been

...Mike
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My flickr photostream has day-to-day stuff and I've given up most everywhere else through lack of time or perhaps interest.
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Old 07-04-2008   #35
ferider
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It's funny: some people (like me) depend professionally on their laptop. If on a business trip, it would break, I might as well return home.

Ever seen anybody travel with two laptops ?



Roland.
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Old 07-04-2008   #36
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I used to carry three cameras when traveling---two Nikon bodies and a compact such as Olympus XA or a Rollei 35. Nowadays, I only carry one camera and one lens (Bessa R2 with CV25, Ektachrome 100 film) and a digital camera (Sony R1). I use these cameras as each other's backup. I also use the zoom lens on the digital camera as my tele lens, so I do not need to carry a tele lens for my Bessa. I also use the digital camera for indoor pictures, so I do not need to take a fast lens nor fast film for the Bessa.

With regards to camera breakdown, that has occurred to me only once. It wasn't the camera's fault, but an accident. I was at the start of a China trip a number of years ago and had the Nikon FM2 in my hand. I tripped and fell and landed with my whole body weight on the camera. It made a dent on the side of the top plate and jammed the rewind mechanism. I ended up using the XA for the rest of my trip.

The XA also came to my rescue on another China trip. But that was my fault. I was on the mountain top of Huangshan viewing sunrise. To my surprise, the batteries in the meter of the Nikon ran out of juice. Of course I didn't check the night before, and also left the handheld meter in the hotel room. SO I had to use the meter in the XA to take a reading so that I could calculate the proper exposure for sunrise. BTW, the sunrise pictures turned out fine.

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Old 07-04-2008   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ferider View Post
Ever seen anybody travel with two laptops ?

... or two cell/mobile phones... ?
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Old 07-04-2008   #38
Roger Hicks
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ferider View Post
It's funny: some people (like me) depend professionally on their laptop. If on a business trip, it would break, I might as well return home.

Ever seen anybody travel with two laptops ?



Roland.
Dear Roland,

Ever seen anyone lose all their data?

If I travel with a laptop, the data is backed up and I can use the jump drives/CDs anywhere. No-one gives a toss about letting you use their computer, and a new laptop doesn't cost much in the unlikely event that you have to buy one.

Getting another Leica is another matter.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 07-04-2008   #39
mfunnell
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ferider View Post
It's funny: some people (like me) depend professionally on their laptop. If on a business trip, it would break, I might as well return home.

Ever seen anybody travel with two laptops ?



Roland.
Yes. Really. Because they were going somewhere where buying a 2nd laptop (or any PC) wasn't a possibility.

...Mike
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My flickr photostream has day-to-day stuff and I've given up most everywhere else through lack of time or perhaps interest.
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Old 07-04-2008   #40
Gumby
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Edit: It looks as if the amateur/pro divide is wider here than I had imagined. I had assumed that more amateurs took their photography as seriously from choice as professionals have to. Seems I was wrong -- which interested me.
I once took my personal photography as serious as my professional photography. As a pro I would carry triple-redundancy backup, and shoot triple-reduntantly. Only had two memorably significant failures (once it was a 'no man-made machine is perfect' scenario and another time it was a 'no man is perfect' scenario). As time has gone by, I take personal photography much less seriously and prefer more to enjoy the experience itself than photographically documenting the experience. But that's just me...
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Last edited by Gumby : 07-04-2008 at 07:15. Reason: grammar correction... and not sure I did enough!
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