35mm Compact Camera Photographer #29 – Daniel Marinelli

A bit of background? As much or as little as you are comfortable sharing… Name, Where you are from, what you do, What else in life do you enjoy? that sort of thing?

My name is Dan Marinelli. I am from San Diego, CA… where I work as a registered nurse and if I’m not working I’m either surfing, climbing/hiking or reading a book. I also spend a lot of time trying to build a community for half frame film photography appropriately name Half Frame Club…

How long have you been taking photos?

I’ve been taking photos compulsively since 2001 while studying Marine Biology in Hawaii. Digital hadn’t really taken hold at that point so I shot film, mostly Velvia and Tri X on either my EOS 3 or Holga. I was really interested in realistic landscapes in color and abstract stuff in B&W. After college, I enrolled in community college photography classes to learn how to develop and print in the darkroom. I completely abandoned film in 2005 in favor of digital until an accident saw my new Panasonic being fished out of a creek in 2015. I still had my Holga in the closet, so I bought a few rolls of Lomo 100 at took some shots. Within a week of seeing those images, I had 5 cameras on the way via eBay…A K1000, MeSuper, OM1n, OM2sp and XA2. I still have the K1000, MeSuper and Xa2.

What sort of photography do you enjoy or partake in the most (street, landscape, etc)?

Kind of hybridization of landscape and street photography. I suppose you could call it urban/suburban landscape. Guys like William Eggelston and Stephen Shore really influenced my work. I am trying to accurately document the landscape and environs that surround me while imparting a minimal amount of influence on the subject. As a result of this approach, I rarely include people in my work, despite all the things you hear about having a person makes your photos more emotional, blah, blah, blah. I kind of view the plants, signs, cars, objects as a sort of “wildlife” all it’s own and because the environments I photograph are generally manmade, there is always a bit of human touch. Recently I’ve been trying to move in a little closer to my subjects and employ a little more abstract approach, especially when shooting in B&W.

Which is/are your favourite 35mmc compact/rangefinder cameras?

Pen EE2 and Olympus XA2 are my two favorites right now. Those two work really well as a pair. Same designer, similar optics, and my approach doesn’t vary much when moving between the two of them with (occasional) exception of adjusting the range focus on the XA2. I use the ISO setting as exposure compensation and let the cameras do the rest. I usually keep the XA2 loaded with Gold 200 and mainly use Acros 100 or Portra 400 in the Pen EE2. I recently conducted a quasi-scientific study to find my Acros replacement and shared those results with EM at Emulsive. Based on that experience I’m trying to makes the switch to either Tmax 100 or Delta 100, but I have been unable to commit to either one at this point. I really like the fine-grained film paired with the half frame cameras, the image resolution is way better than you would think.

How big a part of your photography life are 35mm compact cameras/rangefinders?

The compact thing became really important to me in 2003 when I went to Europe on vacation for a few months. I brought my EOS 3 and a 24-70 zoom and also brought a new Canon Sure Shot digicam. Traveling around the continent I found that the EOS rarely came out of the bag while the SureShot was always in my pocket ready to go. Needless to say, the majority of my best images from that trip were taken with the SureShot. It was the real-life manifestation of “the best camera is the one you have with you”…Since then I always looked for the smallest camera, with the biggest sensor I could find. When getting back into film a few years ago, I looked for the same thing and bought an XA2. It’s almost always with me. Incidentally, with the quality of today’s scans the smallest camera with the biggest sensor would be a 35mm compact, “it’s full frame bro”. Even a half frame camera has the equivalent sensor size of an APS-C camera, so if you use a fine grain film you can get some amazing results.

What about the experience of shooting with these cameras appeals to you?

Simplicity. Pocketability. Approachability. Speed. The right compact camera should never get it the way of your vision, it should merely serve as a mechanism by which to capture your vision.

How do you feel they have effected your style? become part of it? or are the reason for it…?

The constraints offered by compact cameras actually give you a little more creative freedom once you figure it out. As I have matured I realized that many of the features offered by more complex cameras just didn’t help me create better images, in many instances they may have slowed the creative process by giving too much to think about. These days I prefer to shoot with several simple cameras that yield predictable results, rather than one camera that can do a little bit of everything. For example, I also tried an Olympus 35rc for awhile. Now, most people would agree that camera is pretty compact but it didn’t fit in a pocket which meant it didn’t make it out that much. Also, I found I would get bogged down in the settings (and that is a fairly simple camera) and take a more formal approach like that of an SLR. Every once in awhile I would get a roll from that camera with a few keepers but most of the time either the exposure was bad, the focus was off or the framing was outta whack. The inconsistency of it frustrated me to no end. With the XA2 zone focus, I am always kinda in focus, the exposure is always pretty solid and I don’t care as much about framing with that camera for some reason. After a while, you appreciate the vignetting, soft edges and supersaturated feel. Then you literally will be walking around and say ” That would look great on the XA2″ and sure enough it does.

With the half frame stuff. They definitely became part of my work really quickly. The portrait orientation combined with 72 shots per roll allowed me to take some creative chances I might not have otherwise taken. Things like diptychs and triptychs just appear from thin air when you carry that camera around long enough. You also can document things a little differently in that format and they give you a chance to make your images feel more kinetic. I think they are the best travel cameras out there. I just started shooting with an original Olympus Pen and while it has a little steeper learning curve then the EE2, it’s a pretty special camera. Maitani and his team at Olympus were fucking brilliant. They had everyone else in a headlock with respect to compact cameras until Yashica dialed it in during the early 80s. Interestingly, I just ordered a Samurai and while it’s not the least bit compact, I am excited to give it a whirl as well, especially given the horizontal image orientation being a departure from my norm

What is it specifically about these cameras that appeal to you so much?

Well they usually look pretty sexy too…

What was the path to this shooting habit? How did you discover it appealed to you?

I kind of addressed this above but when I got back from Europe I also realized that Stephen Shore had shot the entirety of American Surfaces on a little Rollei 35 and that just sealed the deal for me with respect to compact cameras. But as I mentioned above I worked in digital for almost 10 years before coming back to film. So it was more like I rediscovered it.

Show us your favourite/best images taken with a compact or rangefinder camera?

This is the sort of stuff I like to shoot with my XA2. Pretty boring by some accounts but the shots are just little tidbits of life. The stuff you see when gazing out a car window, taking a stroll around the neighborhood or just relaxing on a bench. These are all shot with Gold 200 in the Southern California region.

Half Frame Stuff

Here’s a pic of my EE2, my favorite half frame these days.

I shoot both diptychs and single shots. I take this camera with me every time I leave town for a nursing conference, so a lot of the shots end up being in cities. The diptychs are all on Acros 100 and were taken on a recent visit to Chicago. The single shots are shot on Tmax 400 from a birthday trip to San Fransisco.

@halfframeclub on Instagram


@danmar_photos on Instagram

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5 thoughts on “35mm Compact Camera Photographer #29 – Daniel Marinelli”

  1. Very inspiring read Daniel. Embarrassingly I have to admit owning a Pen-F and it has sat on the shelf unused since I got it. I will now have to give it a try. This diptych concept must have escaped me previously but I like it and I apparently already have the tool to do it so I will give it a go.


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