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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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Old 07-04-2008   #41
gb hill
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I thought Leicas didn't break?
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Old 07-04-2008   #42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
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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Originally Posted by mfunnell View Post
Yes. Really. Because they were going somewhere where buying a 2nd laptop (or any PC) wasn't a possibility.

...Mike
Dear Roger & Mike,

of course there are extreme situations where backups are needed, even a 2nd laptop, etc. In Iraq, on Safari, whatever.

My point was more that most of our trips don't fall in the above category, and offer replacement possibilities for almost everything. Most of the locations where I travel, I can buy/rent a laptop, a cellphone, or a good camera, get data access, etc.

I see how renting is not an option on a long motorcycle trip. In particular when you earn your livelyhood by reviewing equipment, among others. Very special requirements though, when compared to the average traveler, IMO. Because if not, you would not go by bike. What do you do when your bike breaks down ? Much more likely than your MP breaking down.

(on my own motorcycle trips (on a BMW as well), room is extremely sparse and usually gets occupied rather with another sweater or pair of shoes for the wife than another camera).

We seem to be more paranoid about photo equipment failures than about other stuff, and at the same time, we make a big point about getting the most reliable, battery independent, etc, photo equipment out there. Feels like a contradiction to me.

Roland.

Last edited by ferider : 07-04-2008 at 07:38.
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Old 07-04-2008   #43
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My last trip: two cameras. A very small digital P&S (Canon SD10), and my Konica C35 auto. Both cameras are truly pocket cameras. I have an 8 inch tripod to go with them. I take both (all three) everywhere on my trips, no fuss. If you go by the axiom that the best lens is a tripod, no problem with image quality.
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Old 07-04-2008   #44
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my very simple solution is to just stay home...
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Old 07-04-2008   #45
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Ever seen anybody travel with two laptops ?
Well, my time here in Thailand is partly business, and I'd be screwed without a computer. So as a backup I bought a new desktop machine when I first got here this time, installed the appropriate software and copied all my stuff on to it.

And I'm glad I did, because the laptop I came with has broken.
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Old 07-04-2008   #46
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My sightseeing trips nowadays are pretty local, but I have every confidence my cameras are going to function flawlessly. (& I shoot Bessas). which are known for the wind on levers locking up. Tomorrow I'm going to the Heavy Rebel Weekend & it will be one camera, two lenses & plenty of film. Unless my wife decides to go with me, then I'll take two cameras & have her carry one for me.
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Old 07-04-2008   #47
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I just got back from a two-week road trip to the pacific northwest. I took along a Minolta X700 so I could use my 50/1.7 Rokkor lens for some landscape photography. I've used this camera for years w/out a problem, but about four days into the trip and before I could get to the location where I'd intended to use it, it simply stopped working.

I was very, very glad that I had a couple of mechanical rfs along (Canon P and Bessa R).
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Old 07-04-2008   #48
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I've never had anything stolen, even though i often travel to Brazil, which has a bad reputation in that respect. The theft potential has never been a consideration toward what i travel with. I almost always travel with as much gear as my large case can contain. I recently bought a Tenba Roadie (small), which has wheels, and a great laptop compartment. I take a Hasselblad, Canon 5D, Zeiss Ikon, a 35mm film SLR, and a couple of compacts.

But, when i go out to shoot, from the hotel/apartment, i take only one or two of those cameras, and one to three lenses, tops, depending on what i'm shooting. If i'm just aimlessly wandering around, or if i'm out for some purpose other than photography, i take one small camera and that's it. If i'm out touring, with or without a guide, it's probably the Hassy and an SLR or Ikon.

I've never thought to chain anything down in a hotel. Maybe i should.... I used to use hotel safes for a camera or two, but they're usually too small, and i haven't felt the need recently.

No, i can't imagine ever taking a plane somewhere, and bringing only one camera. Not because of the potential for theft or malfunction, but because i can't ever be satisfied with just one camera. I need variety, and i have too many different objectives. I sorta envy those who can do that, though.
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Old 07-04-2008   #49
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Last year I was in northern India for 6 months – took a D70 with 18-70, a Coolpix 7900 and an 85/1.8, plus an M6 35/2, 50/2 & 90/4. By the end of the trip (this is a very dusty environment) the 18-70 zoom function had quit so naturally I was very pleased to have the 85. Dropped the 7900 and damaged the battery cover but the camera continues to function fine. Didn’t use the M6 as much as the 2 digitals, and of course had no problems with it. I’d always have some sort of back-up, although off tomorrow on a 5-day backpack trip and uncertain whether to take the D300 or the 7900 – not both.
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Old 07-04-2008   #50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CK Dexter Haven View Post
No, i can't imagine ever taking a plane somewhere, and bringing only one camera. Not because of the potential for theft or malfunction, but because i can't ever be satisfied with just one camera. I need variety, and i have too many different objectives. I sorta envy those who can do that, though.
And that's what it's all about. Failure redundancy is just a pre-text
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Old 07-04-2008   #51
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Thanks, everyone. This really is very interesting, with many points well taken. It is very easy indeed to assume that our own prejudices/fears are universal, the more so if they remain unchallenged for years at a time.

Many of my paranoid preconceptions are clearly due for examination, and I hope that others (especially the overconfident) feel the same.

Just one specific point, to Roland: there's a lot more I can fix on an old BMW than on an old (or indeed new) Leica, and one of the reasons I like my 1972 Land Rover so much is that I can fix even more myself. Same with my 1895 Gandolfi, come to think of it.

Cheers,

Roger

Last edited by Roger Hicks : 07-04-2008 at 08:11.
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Old 07-04-2008   #52
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I hate, and I mean hate taking a backup body with me but I do it for work with my DSLR , the reasons mentioned in above posts explain why. I recently walked for hours through the Amazon jungle with what seemed like a ton of gear and all I could think of was my M3 and how light it would be to carry (and that I could take more water with me if that is all I had) but once I arrived at my destination it really paid off to have all that gear. Then, I had to carry it back.
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Old 07-04-2008   #53
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I don't go downtown without two cameras let alone a foreign country.
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Old 07-04-2008   #54
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I always take an Olympus 35RC as a backup. Fully mechanical, very small, excellent lens.

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Old 07-04-2008   #55
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the grd makes a great backup camera.

for travel, i like 2 bodies and 3 lenses.

i could take the zi plus 35 and the entire cle kit, it would all fit in one bag and i would be covered from 28 to 90.
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Old 07-04-2008   #56
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I had a brand new Mamiya 6 crap out in Phoenix en route to the Grand Canyon. The local pro shop said.. "this is bad, got to go to the specialist or Mamiya" I ended up shooting with an Olympus OM1. Very glad to have had that or I'd have had nothing.

Travel/camera issues are becoming more frequent I believe due to inept baggage handling or lost luggage and finally ham handed baggage inspectors during pre boarding.

Take a "cast iron" manual camera as back up.. your choice.
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Old 07-04-2008   #57
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I tend to travel far too heavy. On my last trip to Thailand and Laos, I carried my Canon 5D plus two L zooms, plus my Leica M6 & Bessa R4M with a lens each. The reason I brought my 5D was that I was shooting for several NGOs who needed high quality digital files. I carried the rangefinders for black & white work. Of course, add onto this the weight of extra batteries and chargers, two portable hard drives, lens cleaning gear, memory cards and film. It was all entirely ridiculous. This year I'm heading back to Laos, but I'm hoping to leave my 5D at home. Either I'll shoot colour film for the NGOs, or I'll pray for the release of an affordable digital RF (please, Epson or Nikon or ...)

However, in 2002 I travelled around Turkey carrying just the great little Olympus Stylus Epic with its prime 35mm f/2.8 lens, and rolls of Provia. I had a wonderful time and came back with some very satisfying images. The Epic often still finds its way into my bag as a backup.
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Old 07-04-2008   #58
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Most times if I'm out for a day or two I just take the M7 and 50mm C-Sonnar. I may stick a 35 in my pocket if I expect I'll need it, but that's it. For long trips I do throw a small bag with my Nikon F2, a 35, 50 & 200. I know these will work and I'll be able to use the F2 to hammer a nail or two if the need arises
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Old 07-04-2008   #59
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Has anyone had a problem with taking just one camera that then breaks/is lost or stolen/otherwise fails to deliver the goods?
I'd never go on a trip without any backup of some sort. Last time I went travelling in West Africa one of my Leica bodies (M6 TTL 0.58x) died early on in the journey, which made me glad I'd brought the second one. Then at some point I dropped my 50mm Summicron in the sand and had to stop using it for fear of causing irreversible damage; fortunately the 35mm Summicron made it through unscathed.

I consider myself very lucky never to have had any equipment lost or stolen. (Although I came close once, when some thugs deprived me of all my money at knife point but failed to notice the camera in my bag).

Leaving some of the gear in the safety of the hotel room is not always an option when backpacking.

And then there's always the nagging possibility of losing exposed film, but that's another topic altogether...

Cheers

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Old 07-04-2008   #60
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I usually pack a second camera (a digital P&S) since my wife and other traveling companions always insist on typical tourist snaps with me in the picture. It's invariably easier to hand over a digital P&S for a snap rather than explain how to shoot a rangefinder.
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Old 07-04-2008   #61
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I take two MPs (one 0.72x and one 0.85x) and three lenses; 24, 35 and 85 in a small satchel. Seems to cover most eventualities.
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Old 07-04-2008   #62
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Travelling all my photo life -- one camera one lens.

Beginning in 2006 -- Leica M7 & two lenses (28,50); Contax T2 (backup).

Today? Probably Leica MP & 35mm Lux, Plaubel Makina, and Epic PS.

[EDITED for clarification]
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Old 07-04-2008   #63
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I enjoy taking with me two cameras or even a third small camera.

On certain days, it is more appropriate to have a pocket camera and on other days it is more important to choose a specific lens on a full sized camera. This is important to me. I don't thinkof it as back-up but as having alternate choices available to me.
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Old 07-04-2008   #64
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I used to take just a Leica 111g, and 28mm Orion lens. If it broke would buy a good (i.e. Kodak or Fuji) disposable. Once forgot my cameras, bought a Konica panoramic, and in the Lake district got some lovely shots!!
Now I often just take my Foca Standard with its 35mm lens.

John.
P.S. Have either you or Frances processed Ilford SFX in T.Max??
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Old 07-04-2008   #65
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I always carry two cameras of some sort when traveling a distance from home.

Had a Nikkormat to jam in 2005. My wife is from Belarus (Eastern Europe.) and has an apartment there. I go there every two years or so for a few weeks and we travel around from there.

In 2005, I took the Nikkormat with a 50 lens to leave at her apartment "just in case" and to keep from hauling it back and forth in my luggage. However, it was not working upon arrival.
I also had a Rollei TLR and an Epic as my main cameras.

A Olympus Epic is so small it is hard for me to understand how a person can not have room for one as a back up.
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Old 07-04-2008   #66
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Like anything mechanical, a camera will only break when you really need it not to. So I only take multiple cameras to non-reproducible sessions. To shoot a mountain, or factory, it will look pretty much the same tomorrow as it does today, so I take one camera. For photographing a wedding, a meet and greet, or the arrival of a statesman, I will take 3 or 4 cameras, a bunch of lenses, lights, reflectors, and a laptop!

I prefer to have less camera/lens choices, and spend less time fussing over what equipment to use. My photography is improved by simplicity.
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Old 07-04-2008   #67
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In pleasure travel, for me the main pleasure is in photo opportunities and interaction with the people, often in combination. For my wife it's the shopping, and also we both enjoy getting around and seeing the sights. She has her little Nikon digicam.

I don't take another camera as a backup, but I usually have three cameras. A tiny Canon ELPH with APS b&w film on my belt for occasional use. Two main cameras for different purposes or film or focal lengths. One good combo has been a Fuji GA645Wi with its 45mm close-focus lens plus a Bronica RF645 with 65mm.

Last Fall in Puerto Rico and St Thomas I had two Contax G2 with different lenses on (& the little Canon of course). I'd have the bag in the trunk and grab whichever camera suited the opportunity. But on a walk around Old San Juan I carried the bag with both cameras and four lenses, switching shoulders as discomfort mounted. Should have carried just one camera and another lens.

This Spring for a guided tour of Malta and Sicily I took a Leica M8 with spare batteries & cards, two card readers, and a spare M body because this was my first trip with a digital camera and I was not at all sure of reliability. (Again the Canon in its pouch too.) It ran fine though, and I only used that one body and two of the four lenses I brought. The "backup" body stayed safely in a roll of bubble wrap in the bag left in the hotel. BTW, we had his'n'hers cell phones and Apple laptops along plus a USB backup hard drive. After the busy tour we kicked back and recouperated on Lanzarote. All quite interesting and the M8 performed flawlessly, so now I wouldn't hesitate to take it alone.

There have been other times I've had only one camera on an overseas trip; one time a Fuji GS645S, another time a CLE+40mm, a couple times a single Pentax 67. On a road trip more gear can come along; to San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Yosemite a couple years ago I had a P67 (for landscapes, mostly with 75mm lens) and both Bronica RF bodies, one with color for people shots and the other with Tri-X film. Good to have a bit of different gear to handle a variety of opportunities.
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Old 07-05-2008   #68
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Quote:
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Unfortunately, in these wonderful days of "airline security", I find "whatever I can carry" can be remarkably limiting.
Travel with children: they get a full baggage allowance but only need to carry small clothes and a Nintendo DS. Up to the age of five or so, they're still naive enough to believe it's a privilege to carry Dad's stuff through security checks in their Barbie and Power Rangers rucksacks. Once they get older and wiser, they're still easily bribed into porterage with Coke and chocolate.
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Old 07-05-2008   #69
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I take my M7 and two lenses (28 and 50), one mounted on the camera and one on the Leica M lens carrier (eliminates the need for a bag - an awesome accessory).

Some rolls of film in the pocket, and a Leica Minilux for backup...
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Old 07-05-2008   #70
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I take a digital P&S (D-Lux 3) just in case.
Of course, it doesn't give me the same quality as my RF or DSLR, but the moment captured imperfectly is better than missing the moment entirely.

How I wish that would've always been the case. I'd give anything to have pictures (or snapshots, even) of what now seem like important moments in the past.
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Old 07-05-2008   #71
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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?
The reason is that even 'good quality' cameras can fail. For the RFF meet up in Berlin in April I took an M6TTL, not expecting any problems, although the thought had crossed my mind to take the M5 as well. Anyway, the damn thing developed a wind-on problem and the shots that did come out were double exposed (althogh, as it happens, I do quite like three or four of them). Fact is that if something is mechanical or electronic it can fail and there is a law that says if you don't have a backup then failure becomes more likely. Over the years I have normally carried two cameras, so natually on the trip I decide to take only there has to be a failure.

There are other good reasons to carry more than one camera:

1. The best opportunities always happen when you are on frame 36
2. You can put different lenses on each body and not waste time switching lenses (much quicker to switch to the other body)
3. You don't have to go to the gym to work out any more (not that I've ever felt the desire to do this personally).

Of course there is the option to leave one body in the hotel, as has been suggested, but suppose you're miles away when the failure happens -- do you really want to go back to the hotel and waste most of the day? No, your time is too precious and opportunities too few to risk all this -- just carry a backup and have done with it.
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Old 07-13-2008   #72
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Why buy a good camera and then buy a back-up? Well...

I've just got back from Arles. At the (quite good) hotel, the socket into which I plugged the M8 charger went off when I turned the bedside light off. After a 420-mile ride the previous day (Sunday) and visiting a LOT of exhibitions on Monday, I slept well and didn't wake up in the middle of the night to notice the problem.

So: Tuesday morning, I have one battery maybe one quarter charged, and the other maybe 50% discharged. I normally get through one-and-a-half M8 batteries on a reasonably busy day.

Fortunately I had also packed my Retina IIa so I was not deprived of a camera. I was also able to find another socket that stayed on all night...

Cheers,

Roger
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Old 07-13-2008   #73
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Hehe... Film cameras do have a future - as backup for digital cameras.

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Old 07-14-2008   #74
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or would that be tasteless? All I have to work with these days is the little sigma miracle, and it is just as slow and thoughtful as the rf645... I would love to come back and hang out here again. I miss RFF.
Well, I certainly have no problem with it -- and I love the idea that it's as slow as an rf645. I mean, my Alpa has no RF, and there are TLR and even SLR users here. How do others feel?

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Old 07-14-2008   #75
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Recently meeting up with my father on joint a trip to Ireland, my father remarked that I didn't appear to have that much photographic kit with me..., I had an EOS40D, Leica M6, Panasonic Lumix LX1 .....Actually that was me traveling light, I left the 'Blad and Texan Leica at home...!! Point is I always have a back-up as I can never choose which camera to take, so take as many as my method of travel and luggage will allow...just in case I fancy using the Fuji GW690 II....

I'm not pro, but always have more than one camera even if the second one is 'just' a LX1 P&S. In situations where I have to act 'Pro' - such as when I get roped into phtographing a wedding, I will always have a back-up for that particular situation.
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Old 07-14-2008   #76
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Originally Posted by shutterflower View Post
or would that be tasteless? All I have to work with these days is the little sigma miracle, and it is just as slow and thoughtful as the rf645... I would love to come back and hang out here again. I miss RFF.

Cool for me, heard a lot but not seen too much from the DP1...personally I'd love to see what miracles the Sigma can deliver.
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Old 07-14-2008   #77
Roger Hicks
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Originally Posted by sonofdanang View Post
BTW Roger, I just had a look through your website. Excellent. Made me want to set up a wet DR for the 35/4x5 again. I'm on the road for all of May through August every year and haven't found a simple way to pull off a portable film processing system.
Thanks for the kind words.

Consider a Nova Tent. Put an automotive air filter on the input blower and it doubles as an overnight film dryer...

Cheers,

R.
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Old 07-14-2008   #78
amateriat
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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?
Now, that, near as I can recall, I've somehow never managed to do (my lifelong M.O. has been to load the camera(s) before I leave or just as I'm heading out the door...wherever that door happens to be).

As far as the old what-to-bring-what-to-leave dilemma goes, I solved that one when I decided to ditch my steamer-trunk-sized SLR system* for a two-body, three-lens RF setup that fits in a sensibly-sized bag. This bag never gets unpacked, since there's next to no extra gear to sort (save for maybe a second flash unit if I feel the need for it). So I often take the whole kit, even if I'm just out for the day if I'm in a more-than-happy-snaps mood. As I've said before, it's quite a liberating feeling.

If I'm more into traveling light, or have other important stuff to do, then it's just one camera: either the Konica Auto S3 (hint to people here using small fixed-lens RFs like this: get a wrist strap for it and attach it to the lug of your choice, then let it dangle...fast, handy, and sometimes a conversation-starter), Ricoh GR-1, Konica Lexio 70, Konica POP, Holga 135, or, on the rare day I "feel digital", the little Casio EX-850. Once in a while I'll take two of the above with me, but mostly feel no need for it, as I've next to never had equipment failure without the camera giving me some kind of heads-up. And the few failures I have endured largely concerned the camera's battery, and that's an easy fix (at least with film-based cameras): bring a spare. They're small.


- Barrett

(*Well, there's still an SLR over here, but, to steal a Monty Python line, "it's a small one": Olympus OM-2n, with a 50 f/1.8 and Old-ish-but-good-ish Sigma 21-35 zoom, which I largely use as a Tinkerbell-class view camera these days. Finally, a good excuse for keeping and using my tripod and monopod!)
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Old 07-15-2008   #79
sykotec
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Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
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.
Put me in the amateur who takes backup category -

fortunately no problems with any gear, but a recent trip to Las Vegas (everyone - visit the neon museum boneyard!) meant the IIIf with Summitar and CV 15, and the Hexar Silver. Each has their strengths of course, but each was also the 'just in case' should only one make it. Airport security, amusingly, had a different 'routine' at each airpoty - my favorite was popping each roll of film from one compartment of the bag out of the cannister to swab it, yet ignoring the comparement with the other half of the film!)
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Old 07-16-2008   #80
Russ
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Originally Posted by wallace View Post
I always take an Olympus 35RC as a backup. Fully mechanical, very small, excellent lens.

wallace

I too, prefer the OLY RC as a back-up. When about town, usually just one SLR and a wide to medium tele. When traveling for an assignment, I'll have no less than three SLR's, a few quality zooms or primes and a couple of poppers. And the indestructable Nikon FM is always included in that kit.

Russ
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