The bags are packed!

Gear for vacation
The window dressing

Like for every larger trip comes the big question of what camera gear should I take along and finding the right answer is usually rather difficult if you have many options to choose from. If I remember correctly, for last year’s summer vacation, I have taken two Nikon SLR bodies, the FM3a and a FM2 together with a couple of prime lenses and a Nikon Ti35.
This year, I opt again for Nikon (FM3a, F100 and J5) but I add my latest acquisition, which I simply call “the beast”: a Fujica GW690 Professional, the first model, fully manual coupled range finder camera, without light meter but with a fixed 90mm f/3,5 lens. I was not actively looking for this camera, let alone any non-35mm body, given I just recently got a Contax RTS which I have started to CLA, so it was a big coincidence that one of my active search agents on alerted me on this camera, simply because the previous owner mentioned “Contax” in his text describing the Fujica et voilà, not even 24h later I am the proud owner of this wonderful camera and immediately decided to take it along together with some of my 120 film rolls that are patiently waiting in the fridge for more useful times.

I have chosen the Nikon F100 with a couple of AF Nikkors (35-70mm f/2,8, 60mm f/2,8 Macro (or Micro as Nikon calls it) and a 20mm f/2,8, my widest full frame Nikon lens) because I had some issues last year with focusing on the manual Nikons and (in my opinion) too many shots were not sharp, hence the AF capability. Also, I take a Tamron 70-300mm with built-in stabilisation, in order to get some potential shots of remote objects with sufficient sharpness.

The FM3a with the 35~70mm f/3,5 and the 50mm f/1,4 are always with me, so no exception now and the Voigtlaender VF101 simply because it is small and has a film in it which I would like to finish. I call it my “going-out” cam.

On the digital side, I was opting for my beloved Sigma DP2 Merrill, which was “re-activated” a few months ago during my first portrait shooting with a model (more to come soon) as second choice camera and it was so nice to experience the famous “3D” effect and microcontrast of the Foveon sensor-based Sigmas that it is now part of the gear, along with an armada of batteries…
Last but not least the smallest system camera I own: the Nikon 1 J5 with a 10-30mm zoom. Its my wife’s camera too when we are travelling.
Rounding up the total pack, a light-weight tripod, a monopod, two Nikon flashlights (SB-30 and SB-800) and some more accessories such as the belts, UV filters, hoods, etc. should not be missing and all is neatly packed in a weekender bag. When shooting, I will use a small rucksack and fill it with the gear I want to use that day.

The film rolls are not on the table but all in the fridge. At the current temperatures in Vienna (today it was 38,9C!) I will not dare exposing them unnecessarily to the heat 🙂

So, here we go, I am ready for some vacation and looking forward to many nice pictures and the writing of more stories about my experience with the gear.

My Nikon 1 System
My Nikon 1 System ready for my niece’s upcoming vacation

Before I forget, this was some other packing done!

Shooting with the Nikon FM3a and the Voigtländer VF 101

A couple of weeks ago I was meeting with some UK-friends in Zagreb at the INmusic festival.

I wanted to shoot some pictures during our stay and decided to go for two cameras: the Nikon FM3a and a RF from Voigtländer, the VF 101. Both are sturdy and lightweight at the same time. The meter of the VF 101 was just working fine and given the music bands were having their gigs in the evening, I packed for the FM3a a fast 1.4 50mm lens, a little flash (Nikon SB-30) which I could use for both cameras and fast film (which however I eventually decided not to use).

The total FM3a set, neatly stored in my Billingham Hadley Small consists of the following items:

  • FM3a body with a Upstrap strap
  • Zoom-NIKKOR 35~70mm 1:3.5 with hood HN-22
  • NIKKOR 50mm 1:1.4 with rubber hood HR-2
  • NIKKOR 28mm 1:2.8 with hood HN-2
  • Nikon SB-30 flash-light
  • Skylight 1B and  UV filter
  • Spare batteries for flash and body
  • Lens cloth
  • various film rolls (stored in my fridge), such as Kodak Portra 160, Kodak Ektar 100, Fujifilm 200, Ilford 3200 B&W

The whole kit weighs just over 2.5kg which is not too much for me considering I was carrying it in the middle of the crowds during a concert. Also, the Billingham allowed for a very easy access to the gear without having to fiddle with zippers.
Though I love the 35~70mm with its built-in Macro function, I’ve decided to mostly take the 50 and 28mm only thus saving half a kg and make space for my spray to fight the mosquitoes. Also, there’s no big difference between 35 and 28mm on the wide end and for day light shooting, I would take the body with the zoom lens only without the bag.

The SB-30 is probably the smallest Nikon TTL flashlight for their film cameras and aside of the non-TTL automatic mode it even has some rudimentary manual mode and exposure compensation, enough for most use-cases and the Voigtländer. In combination with the FM3a, I achieved great fill-lights, if not too far away give its guide number of 16/52 (at 28mm angle of coverage, ISO 100, m/ft, 20°C/68°F).
Talking of films, I’ve been experimenting with different types and eventually, for general purpose shooting, I like the Fujifilm SUPERIA 200 the most as it has a rather balanced color rendition. The Ektar 100 is great for summer days to give a lot of warmth but it blows out the reds very quickly. The Portra 160 is a great portrait film and I shoot it usually at 100 to give a light touch to the pictures. For shooting during at night / very little available light, my absolute star is the ILFORD Delta 3200, shot in combination with a fast prime lens.

The Voigtländer VF 101 is a small coupled AE rangefinder camera. I just got it very recently from one of my favourite 2nd hand shops in Vienna: Leicashop. (Check the Vintage section). Developed by Voigtländer and produced in the mid Seventies by Rollei, it most likely also has its genes for the lens from Zeiss Ikon,  as the Color Skopar 40mm looks a lot like a Tessar.
Shooting with the VF 101 is a joy, provided there’s enough light. In the dark, it was difficult for me to focus given the tiny overlay image of the coupled range finder function was not really of a big help. The camera is super-silent, hence rather non-intrusive, however, due to my lack of experience when shooting RF cameras, it took me sometimes more time than anticipated to do some basic adjustments, I am obviously not Henri Cartier-Bresson. Holding it is a joy, as you get the impression of holding a sturdy little block of metal and it weighs just over half a kilo.

On my way to Zagreb, I did a stop-over in Maribor and Ptuj Castle, both lovely places in Slovenia, so the coming pictures are from the whole trip.

Shooting B&W with the Nikon FM3a

As stated in a previous post, my favourite combo (currently)for unobtrusive photographing with roll film is the Nikon FM3a with a 50mm 1:1:4 prime, the tiny Nikon SB-30 and Ilford Delta 3200 which I set to 1600 and let develop according to specs. The push gives some extra “pop”.

The standard focus screen K3 is a matte/Fresnel screen which has a (horizontal) split-image rangefinder spot surrounded by a microprism ring and a 12mm center-weighted area reference circle.

Nikon type "K" focusing screen
Nikon type “K” focusing screen

Since I can remember, I had more issues when focusing with a horizontal split compared to the diagonal split (45 degrees) as it is with many other SLRs such as the Mamiya NC1000s:

Mamiya No1 focus screen NC1000s
Mamiya No1 focus screen NC1000s

This might be with me only though and other do not have any difficulties.

Below a series of pictures which I took during an event on invitation only in Vienna where the key topic was to give speeches and everybody could volunteer. Completed by a game to rate different white wines and fabulous Swiss cheese, it was a very nice evening in a relaxed atmosphere.