Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pascal Vossen on - Traveling Sri Lanka with Leica M and Medium Format (Contax 645)

Steve Huff always has great guest writers on his blog. I found Pascal Vossen's review of the experience of traveling Sri Lanka with both a Leica M (M7) and medium format camera (Contax 645) very interesting. I am traveling to Japan again soon, and plan on taking my Leica M9 and a medium format camera, most likely my old Zeiss 6x6 folder with Tessar f2.8 lens.
(Click Here) to read Pascal's travel story on
Pascal mentions the normal reasons for carrying a Leica M on travel - image quality, size, unobtrusive appearance (though he mentions sometimes taping over the "Leica" logo to hide the name), fast and accurate focus, and quiet shutter. I find the part about the camera being unobtrusive interesting. I have had some pretty sketchy-looking characters ask me if that's a Leica, etc. I've even had people follow me to ask the question. And, Pascal carries his gear in a Billingham Hadley Pro bag - definitely not unobtrusive. If you get near an educated camera thief, Billingham will definitely attract them. Billingham bags cost more than some cameras.
Anyway, Pascal chose to carry three M lenses: a 28mm f2, 50mm f1.4 Aspheric Summilux, and a 15mm Voigtlander Heliar. It seems that the 15mm was included on a whim.
Now for the medium format kit. Pascal carried a Contax 645 with a Zeiss T* 80mm f2 lens. This allowed a minimum of lens changes in the field. Since the Contax was intended for two purposes, portraits (presumably including some environment around the subject) and landscapes, the 80mm "normal" length for the 6x4.5 cm format was a good compromise.
Pascal described that he would typically pick a Sri Lankan village and spend a couple of hours walking it, shooting mostly with his M7. Periodically, he would approach people he met along the way, engaging them in conversation, and shooting portraits with the Contax.
Pascal's only regret was that he didn't bring a medium format camera with a larger negative (6x4.5 is the smallest format on 120 film). Other options include the square format 6x6, and rectangular formats of 6x7, 6x8, and 6x9. As negative size increases, so does the overall quality of the image. It's sort of like getting more pixels on a full frame digital sensor for those of you who didn't come from the film world. However, as size goes up, so does the amount of time you spend changing film rolls. You can typically get in 16 shots of 6x4.5, only 8 shots of 6x9.
On my upcoming trip, my Zeiss folder will give me 12 shots of 6x6 square format. My folder has the advantage of being very compact compared to Pascal's Contax. On the other hand, it is 100% manual, including guess focusing. I'll have to bring some form of external rangefinder, which could be my Lumix DMC-LX7 even. It will be fun to shoot the old folding Zeiss, bellows and all, in Japan. However, like Pascal, I will mostly rely on my Leica M.
Go read Pascal's post at the link above. There are some great pictures there.