Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rental Cameras: Hasselblad 503C/W, Part 1

Hasselblad 503C/W with 120mm f/4 Makro Planar
Hasselblad 503C/W with 120mm f/4 Makro Planar; Canon 30D, Canon 200mm f/2.8L, Canon 430EX & LumiQuest SB-II, LumoPro LP120

The second camera on my rental list is the Hasselblad 500 series. There are a few places in my city that rent these, and so I ended up with a 503C/W body and an 80mm f/2.8 CF Planar lens, a 120mm f/4 CFi Makro Planar lens, and a 150mm f/4 CF Sonnar lens. Part 1 of my discussion of it will focus on ergonomics, handling, size weight, etc; Part 2 will show results from the 3 rolls of film I exposed with it, and discuss my final conclusions. Again, since information on Hasselblad camera and lens stats is easily available on the web, I won't be discussing specifics in this area (except for close focus ability).

In terms of size and weight, this is a much more manageable camera than the RZ67, as the following size comparison pictures with a Canon 30D + 200mm f/2.8 lens and a Yashica D TLR show. The 503 has the 120mm f/4 Makro Planar on it. Looking at the same comparisons in the Mamiya RZ67 discussion should give a good idea of the relative sizes of the two cameras.

503C/W vs 30D 1 503C/W vs 30D 1
503C/W vs Yashica D 1 503C/W vs Yashica D 2
Hasselblad 503C/w size comparisons with Canon 30D, Yashica D; iPhone

Worth noting here is that I could easily fit the 503 body with the 80mm lens attached plus the 150mm lens into a Crumpler 5MDH, while the RZ67 with 65mm and 180mm lens was a tight squeeze in my Crumpler 7MDH. This comparison is not quite fair, since the normal lens is usually the smallest for any camera, and I didn't have the Mamiya 110mm lens to compare.

I was already used to a 6x6 waist-level finder from the Yashica D, and while it's certainly nice, it's not as nice as the 6x7 (really 7x7 with movable mask) finder on the RZ67. The ergonomics of the Hasselblad, on the other hand, are just lovely. The camera can be easily cradled in your left hand with a finger on the release, and the other important controls (focus, aperture, shutter) are all on the lens for easy operation with the right hand. While the reduced size and weight vs the RZ67 is what makes this possible, it's possible that this also allows for more camera shake than the rock-solid RZ67, where the weight helps keep the camera steady.

120mm f/4 Makro Planar Lens Barrel
120mm f/4 Makro Planar Lens Barrel; Canon 30D, Canon 200mm f/2.8L, Canon 430EX

The lenses, on the other hand, are not hugely smaller or lighter than the Mamiya lenses. I spent most of my time with the camera with the 120mm f/4 Makro Planar mounted, because of the close-focusing ability, but I did use all three lenses. In use, all the lenses were very nice; these are the newer lenses without the EV interlock. My only minor complaint is that the focus rings are perhaps a little too damped for how long their travel is (basically all the way around the lens barrel).

Image quality assessments will have to wait until I have all the film processed, but I can discuss the close focus issue now. The 120mm lens is the best in this regard (by design), focusing down to 0.8m, giving 1:4.5. For comparison, the 180mm Mamiya lens focues to 1:3.8 (and the shorter lenses do even better; the normal 110mm lens does around 1:2, although with a shorter working distance). The Hasselblad 80mm and 150mm, by comparison, do 0.8m/1:9 and 1.2m/1:7.1, respectively. While there are options for improving the close up situation (filters, extension tubes, and tele-converters), all of them require something additional to be carried. Being able to carry around any lens with focal length less than 180mm and get at least 1:3.8, instead of being limited to one specific lens or extra accessories, is a major point in favor of the RZ67.

T*; Canon 30D, Canon 200mm f/2.8L, Canon 430EX & LumiQuest SB-II, LumoPro LP120

While I didn't do any long walks with the Hasselblad, I can see that the smaller size and lighter weight would be quite a bonus, especially when traveling. For equivalent setups (body, waist level finder, one film back, wide angle lens, telephoto lens), the Hasselblad saves about 1000g, or 2.2lbs, compared to the Mamiya, which is not insignificant. Of course, a rangefinder setup could save 800-1000g compared to even the Hasselblad, making such a setup ridiculously light.

One other comparison: the Hasselblad looks gorgeous, especially in chrome, while I think the most anybody could manage to say about the Mamiya is that it looks solid or perhaps handsome.

On the positive side, the Hasselblad is a good-looking, nicely sized, and easy to use camera; on the negative, I have some concerns about close focus, and handheld use. Part 2 will examine some frames from San Francisco, as well as some food photography.

'blad; Canon 30D, Canon 200mm f/2.8L, Canon 430EX & LumiQuest SB-II, LumoPro LP120

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rental Cameras: Mamiya RZ67 Pro II, Part 2

Bent Sapling
Bent Sapling; Mamiyz RZ67 Pro II, 65mm f/4, Ilford HP5+

This continues part 1 of my discussion of the Mamiya RZ67. After a week of developing and scanning 4 rolls of film, I finally have all the results from my weekend with the RZ67 available, and the camera did not disappoint me. I shot 2 rolls of HP5+ rated at 400 in Muir Woods, 1 roll of Velvia 50 on and around Mt. Tamalpais, and 1 roll of Provia 100F for food photography, and all of them look great.

Rock On The Hillside
Rock On The Hillside; Mamiyz RZ67 Pro II, 180mm f/4.5, Ilford HP5+

Both lenses worked very well; the 180mm focal length in particular felt very natural to me, and I was very happy with many of the shots I got with it. This is not a huge surprise to me, as my first lens for my Canon 30D was a 50mm prime, which is actually a short telephoto lens on an APS-C sensor camera. Since then, I've always liked a longer than normal focal length. Were I to buy an RZ67 with only one lens, I think that this would be the one.

Coastal Grass
Coastal Grass; Mamiyz RZ67 Pro II, 65mm f/4, Fuji Velvia 50

The 65mm lens was also great, however. Having to adjust the floating element for close-up sharpness was a little annoying, but it seemed to work very well. The wide-normal view (about 30-35mm in 35mm terms) is also one that I like a lot. This is probably attributable to the 42mm lens on my Olympus 35RC, which has always felt very natural.

Fern Leaves
Fern Leaves; Mamiyz RZ67 Pro II, 180mm f/4.5, Ilford HP5+

For landscape work, both lenses worked very well, and the HP5+ looks lovely. One advantage of the 6x7 format is that a 400 speed film like HP5+ appears very grain-free as compared to 35mm (which is good, because the 400 speed lets you use much needed higher shutter speeds, especially somewhere as dark as Muir Woods). The bellows also enable some nice close ups like the fern above.

Hummus Plate (Provia 1)
Hummus Plate (Provia 1); Mamiyz RZ67 Pro II, 180mm f/4.5, Fuji Provia 100F, Canon 430EX, LumoPro LP120

One result that I was very interested in was how the food photography with Provia came out. Here, I was not disappointed either. There's a slight blue cast to the Provia, which I expected, and the DOF is much smaller, but the result looks very good. All of it was done with the 180mm, which worked nicely; it did require a stop of exposure compensation, but I expected that. Compared to the digital versions of the same shots, the digital is a little warmer, and has more DOF (same aperture for both, so this is expected), but the film version has a magic all its own. One thing I do note is that I would need an extension tube to get any closer with the 180mm, but this is not a huge hardship (although it would make my flashes work harder!).

Hummus Plate (Provia 2) Hummus Plate (Digital 2)
Hummus Plate (Provia 2) & Hummus Plate (Digital 2); Mamiyz RZ67 Pro II, 180mm f/4.5, Fuji Provia 100F, Canon 430EX, LumoPro LP120 & Canon 30D, Canon 200m f/2.8L

Roasted Squash With Salsa (Provia) Roasted Squash With Salsa (Digital)
Roasted Squash With Salsa (Prova & Digital); Mamiyz RZ67 Pro II, 180mm f/4.5, Fuji Provia 100F, Canon 430EX, LumoPro LP120, LumiQuest SB-III & Canon 30D, Canon 200m f/2.8L

All of the shots with and of the RZ67, including the ones in this post, can be seen in this Flickr set. All in all, I'm very happy with this camera, and with the results it produced. Really, the only negatives are the size and weight. Next, it's time to see how a 6x6 SLR fares.

Leaning Tree
Leaning Tree; Mamiyz RZ67 Pro II, 65mm f/4, Ilford HP5+

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

City Night Photography with Ektar 100

Bi Rite Night
Bi Rite Night; Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16, Kodak Ektar 100

With most people raving about the new Kodak negative film, Ektar 100, I got a 5 pack of it in 120 format when it became available. However, I ended up not being very happy with it in daylight conditions; I prefer Portra 160VC for negative films, or slide films in general, I'm finding. Thus I found myself with extra Ektar 100 to use for experimentation. One experiment I decided to do with it was long exposure night photography in color.

Tri-Cycle Alone At Night
Tri-Cycle Alone At Night; Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16, Kodak Ektar 100

I found little information about reciprocity failure with Ektar on the web, but what little I did find indicated that exposure, at least, was not too badly affected. So, I took my folding Nettar, a mini-tripod, cable release, and light meter, and set out to do some night shots. I rated the Ektar at EI 64 instead of 100, since most people seem to prefer over-exposing it a little. For each frame I wanted, I tried to take 1 shot as metered, 1 with 50% longer exposure, and 1 with 100% longer exposure. Time constraints meant that I couldn't always do the very long one, but luckily, it turned out not to be needed.

Fillmore Skyline
Fillmore Skyline; Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16, Kodak Ektar 100

As I found out, the shots I took as metered (Gossen LunaPro F) came out fine in terms of exposure, with very little difference from added exposure time. The shortest exposure I had was 4 seconds, and the longest 30 seconds, before correction, and both of these looked fine. Color shift is another matter, but if I cared about that, I would take long exposure black & white shots! When scanning, I was able to get the colors to my liking in any case, and part of the fun of night photography in a city is all the different colors as compared to daylight.

Waiting In The Bus Shelter
Waiting In The Bus Shelter; Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16, Kodak Ektar 100

My conclusion? I may have found a new use for some of my other rolls of Ektar. I'll be sure to save a few for other experiments though.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rental Cameras: Mamiya RZ67 Pro II, Part 1

Mamiya RZ67 Pro II
Mamiya RZ67 Pro II; Canon 30D, Canon 200mm f/2.8L, Canon 430EX & LumiQuest SB-II, LumoPro LP120

The first camera on my list of rentals is the Mamiya RZ67. I rented it along with a 65mm f/4 and 180mm f/4.5 lens. Part 1 of my discussion of it will focus on the camera in use: ergonomics, size, weight, etc. Part 2 will show images from the 4 rolls I exposed with the camera this weekend, and discuss the final results. Since none of these cameras are especially old or unknown, I won't provide basic information/stats; user manuals and lots of other information is easily available on the web.

As far as size goes, here are some comparison images (iPhone camera, sorry; since one of the comparisons is with my DSLR, I couldn't use it to take these!), with my 30D and Yashica D. The 30D has a 200mm f/2.8L on it, the largest lens I own; the RZ67 has the 180mm lens on it, although the 65mm isn't really any smaller. I'll try and reproduce these comparisons with all the cameras I rent.

RZ67 vs 30D 1 RZ67 vs 30D 2
RZ67 vs Yashica D 1 RZ67 vs Yashica D 2
Mamiya RZ67 size comparisons with Canon 30D, Yashica D; iPhone

As you can see, this is a large, serious camera. In use, however, it feels very good in the hand. All controls are easy to operate and see from the top of the camera; shutter speeds on the side, aperture on the lens, and the focus knobs down at the front. Also, a 6x7 waistlevel finder is a thing of beauty! The size and weight of the camera help hold it steady. I took several handheld shots with it, and the mirror also appears to be well damped; we'll see if the developed film bears out my conclusions here.

Mamiya-Sekor Z 180mm f/4.5 W-N (RZ67)
Mamiya-Sekor Z 180mm f/4.5 W-N (RZ67); Canon 30D, Canon 200mm f/2.8L, Canon 430EX & LumiQuest SB-II, LumoPro LP120

The lenses likewise are very large, not so much in length as in width, since they have to cover 6x7. With the bellows focusing, both lenses can focus very closely; the 65mm in particular can get right up against a subject (the bellows provide around 43mm of extension I believe). This allows for some nice near/far compositions with the 65mm, and with the 180mm, some nice single-detail close ups; I should have examples of both in my films. One minor quibble is the floating element adjustment on the 65mm, something I often forgot to adjust, since most of my shots were at infinity with that lens.

I ended up walking about 3.5 miles around Muir Woods carrying the RZ67, two lenses, meter, film, and tripod. With a comfortable shoulder bag, this was not a problem. The neck strap I had for the RZ was not the most supportive, but with a better strap the weight of the camera would not have been a problem. Adding another lens, another film back, or a prism finder would not be something I would want to do for very long. And I probably wouldn't want to take even the setup I had out all day for multiple days in a row.

Mamiya RZ67 Pro II Shutter Dial
Mamiya RZ67 Pro II Shutter Dial; Canon 30D, Canon 200mm f/2.8L, Canon 430EX & LumiQuest SB-II, LumoPro LP120

In general, though, I liked the RZ67 a lot. Of course, as it's the first camera I'm trying, I don't have many comparisons to make; perhaps a 6x6 SLR will feel even better. Part 2 will examine frames from Muir Woods, Mt Tam, and some food photography to see if the results are as nice as the camera itself, and will discuss whether the camera satisfies my criteria.

Mamiya RZ67 Pro II Front
Mamiya RZ67 Pro II Front; Canon 30D, Canon 200mm f/2.8L, Canon 430EX & LumiQuest SB-II, LumoPro LP120

Rental Cameras: The Project

Medium Format Lens
Medium Format Lens; Canon 30D, Canon 200mm f/2.8L, Canon 430EX + LumiQuest SB-III, LumoPro LP120

While I love my Zeiss Ikon Nettar and Yashica D cameras, recently I've been wishing for a more versatile medium format camera. Specifically, I wanted the following things:

  1. The ability to use focal lengths besides "normal" (the Nettar is 75mm, the Yashica 80mm).

  2. SLR viewing and close up ability for portraits and food photography (the Nettar is focus guessing, the Yashica has a real focusing, but neither focuses close).

  3. A versatile medium format "travel kit" (both my current cameras are actually good travel cameras).

  4. 6x6 or larger. I know 6x4.5 is a good percentage larger than 35mm, but honestly, I'd rather not bother carrying a medium format camera for just 6x4.5.

In the medium format world, though, having both #2 and #3 is tricky; the more versatile SLRs are the larger/heavier cameras, which tend to be the ones you don't want to travel with. With that in mind, and with the many options available in MF, I decided I needed to make a list of candidates, and try and rent as many as I could to make an informed comparison and choice. It's possible to read forever about how some people can handhold a certain camera, or carry it around all day, and others would never do that; what matters is whether you can or want to do it, and for that, you need personal experience.

Without further ado, the candidates:

  1. Mamiya RZ67. Widely known as an excellent "studio/tripod" camera, with good close focus ability on every lens because of the built in bellows. The rotating back also makes it possible to reasonably shoot 6x7 while using a waist-level viewfinder. Very popular landscape, portrait, product, food camera, which is why it made my list. The downsides are the size and weight.

  2. Hasselblad 500 series/Bronica SQ series. These 6x6 SLRs are smaller and lighter than the RZ67, but lack the close focus ability except on a few lenses (or by adding extension tubes/close up filters). The two systems have been compared a lot, mainly because the Bronica is much cheaper used. In terms of rental, however, none of the shops in my city rent the Bronica, and so the Hasselblad will be the representative 6x6 SLR in my comparison.

  3. Mamiya 7/Mamiya 6. These rangefinder systems (7 = 6x7, 6 = 6x6) offer fewer lenses than the SLR systems, with better wide-angles, but fewer telephoto options (150mm is the longest). The huge advantage is that with no mirror assembly, they're much smaller and lighter, making them excellent travel cameras. In terms of portrait/food cameras, however, these will be vastly inferior to the SLRs. Again, none of the shops in my city rent the 6 (it's an older camera), and so the 7 will be the representative interchangeable lens rangefinder.

  4. Fuji GW/GSW 670/690. These are fixed lens rangefinders, with either a 90mm (GW) or 65mm (GSW) lens, and a 6x7 (670) or 6x9 (format). These have the same advantages and disadvantages as the Mamiya rangefinders, but are cheaper, and can have a larger negative with the 6x9 option. I plan to try the GSW690, as despite being a fixed lens camera, it's not a normal length lens.

From the above choices, an optimal system could be the RZ67 for food, portrait, and some landscape work, plus a rangefinder (Mamiya 6, 7, or Fuji GSW690) as a travel camera. A compromise system would be a 6x6 SLR with a few lenses, that could function well for studio-style work, but be light enough to travel with (probably with only 2 lenses).

In the following weeks, I'll be renting the list above, and posting about my experiences with each system, followed by a conclusion when I decide what's right for me. Hopefully this can help other people who are making the same sort of decision that I am.

Here are the posts so far: