Gear Theory

Traveling? Taking a vintage film camera? Take a back up! – By Denys

July 4, 2018

The American South has fascinated me, ever since I came to the US. I don’t really know what was it exactly  –  the accent, the perceived beauty or the images from ‘Gone with the Wind’ that I once watched with my grandma and mom – but the attraction was there. So when the opportunity presented itself – my friends moved to Savannah – it only took me a couple of months to buy the tickets to pay them a visit.

The most important question, of course, was what camera to take with me. The choices were:

  • Yashica Mat LM – It’s compact, discreet, but unreliable (I was yet give it a proper CLA)
  • Fuji X-Pro1 – I love the camera, but it was leisure time; I wanted to shoot film!
  • Nikkormat FTN – I had too many lenses for it; too many tough choices!
  • Canonet QL19 – My new favourite, it has a 45mm is a good focal length for me!

On the morning of the flight everything fell into place, the Canonet went into my bag, and off I went to call an Uber, hanging it over my shoulder and grabbing my trusted plastic film holder with some color and black and white film on the way out.

I grabbed a couple of shots on my way to the airport, shot some frames of the planes tails and NYC form up top – I was pretty content. My friends met me at the airport. I even managed to get some shots while we were driving from the airport to their place.

Classic NYC plane picture

Sunlight at Savannah airport

My neighborhood in the early morning light. Lomography 400

And then, the Canonet just stopped working. I rewinded the film, opened the back – and the film door latch broke off. It was doomed! So I just threw it on my bed and grudgingly walked away.

iPhone to the rescue

The only camera I had now, was my iPhone 7. It takes pretty decent photos in good light, and I would have to make do with around 28mm focal length – but its much better then nothing. I shot the lovely streets, the plantation we went to, my friend’s dog playing in the field and even some portraits. To fulfil my need for film look I used the RNI film app, which, for most of my phone photos I like better than VSCO. Subsequently, I felt the photos were lovely, I even printed some 4×5’s to send back to Savannah.

Sasha and Pat

Bonaventura Cemetery

Pat and Cato

I am honestly surprised that this one time I did not have a backup, my chosen film camera broke. But, I guess you can call it a karma of sorts. The iPhone shots were good, but not perfect, and missed that special feeling of excitement when you are anxiously waiting for the developed rolls, but shots were taken, and for the next two weeks I still turned into a walking advert for “Visit Savannah”


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  • Reply
    Robert Poole
    July 4, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    I took an Olympus Trip 35 as my only camera on a couple of trips. Would highly recommend it! Small, lightweight. I didn’t have any worry about theft, plus it only cost me a tenner if it did get stolen.

    • Reply
      July 4, 2018 at 6:02 pm

      I’ve heard great things about Trip! I have a Rollei XF35 now as my street/travel camera and I like it a lot, although, sometimes there are issues with film loading

  • Reply
    July 4, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    I’ve never been in the situation you described because I’ve tended to bring too many cameras on trips. It’s partly to have backup but also just because I have tons of cameras and I couldn’t decide. I went through a period where I used a lot of small fixed lens cameras, so I was able to fit a lot of them in my bag. I eventually got back into SLRs and their size and weight is putting a well needed limit on what I can bring. For my upcoming trip to Holland my kit will be two Nikon bodies, an FM2n and an FE2 with a 35mm f/2 Nikkor-O and a 24mm f/2.8 Ais. If one body craps out I can switch lenses on the other. I’m also bringing a Nikon Action Touch, a surprisingly capable 80’s point and shoot which is submersible, making it perfect for bad weather or if I want to carry something lighter on a day trip. That might be it. I may take a second small camera, either my Olympus Trip 35 or XA2 for discreet street shooting in Amsterdam.

    • Reply
      July 4, 2018 at 6:01 pm

      I’ve been there(taking a bunch of cameras), but I’ve stopped doing it. Too much time deciding! And, I think imposing restrictions fuels your creativity and pushes you a bit out of the comfort zone. But, too each their own;)

  • Reply
    July 4, 2018 at 3:55 pm

    Cool post! What I got to learn from hystory of photography at my academy is that the sun on the south is simply different, and that’s one of main reasons why images look different and somewhat exotic, when people could rarely go to India for example, so photographers over there used that to make stunning images. And my colleague and a good friend from the same academy had a chance to try that in person.
    And about the door latch… I use my Nikon F601 with a broken latch over a few years like that, gaffer tape does the job. 🙂

  • Reply
    Martin south of France
    July 4, 2018 at 6:47 pm

    I own and use a Contax139Q that I bought new in 1980/81. I take it with me but I always take a backup body, in my case an RTS that uses the same lenses just in case. Fortunately the Contax, actually neither one of them has ever let me down.

    • Reply
      July 4, 2018 at 11:35 pm

      Never used Contax, actually, but heard a lot of good things

  • Reply
    evan bedford
    July 4, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    I always bring at least one digital and one film…preferably a combo that uses the same lenses.

    • Reply
      July 4, 2018 at 11:36 pm

      I usually bring my Xpro 1 with, but I rotate the lenses – one wider and one 50mm

  • Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    July 4, 2018 at 9:45 pm

    Denys, nice shots. I like the wall shot w/the color & texture.
    Over the years of travel, I’ve learned one important concept: redundancy. Planes have it built in, NASA lives by it.
    I pack my M2 & a CL w/a 40mm & 35mm lens. Both mechanical. The CL goes into the room safe with the 40mm.
    I’d go crazy if my camera broke when traveling. I have an iPhone, but I have never got into the habit of shooting w/it. Crazy, huh?

    • Reply
      July 4, 2018 at 11:37 pm

      Thanks, i am experimenting a bit with scenes without people. And I used to own a CL with 40mm – my fav combo, until it broke :(. How’s m2 treating u?

  • Reply
    Andy Šedík
    July 5, 2018 at 12:59 am

    I’ll offer another vote for the Trip 35. Dead simple to use and fairly reliable.
    As far as bringing a second camera goes, I usually bring a compact 35mm as a backup. If you are lucky enough to stumble upon a T4 or a Mju II, they are especially handy as they can also be used when the weather turns bad.

    • Reply
      July 5, 2018 at 4:08 am

      Yashicas are golden right now lol

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    July 5, 2018 at 3:27 am

    The M2 is solid. It went back to Solms years ago for a full ‘spa’ experience. It had, sometime in its long life, a M4 viewfinder installed. It’s not a M2R or any special issue…just someone who had it installed.
    It’s quieter than most M bodies I’ve used.
    I just like the 50’s industrial design of the camera. I joke that it’s more capable than me.

  • Reply
    July 5, 2018 at 11:25 am

    Zeiss Super Ikonta 531. Yes, a folder. Yes, 120 film. But when it is collapsed it is not much larger than an Olympus XA. Mine is as solid and reliable as a rock. It does weigh in a bit more than an XA…..More like a sack full of XAs. Most importantly- at least as your story goes- no plastic parts. Nice article and photos.

    • Reply
      July 6, 2018 at 3:17 pm

      Thanks! Have never used folders, I am a bit biased, because of the bellows🤷🏼‍♂️

  • Reply
    Barry Reid
    July 7, 2018 at 11:42 am

    I’d also add that taking spare batteries is a must – you can’t always get SR44 or whatever on vacation.

    • Reply
      July 7, 2018 at 2:30 pm

      Absolutely! The beauty of my Canonet was that it was could work without the batteries- you lose the shutter priority though

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