Compact Photographers

35mm Compact Photographer #20 – Michael Rennie

July 22, 2016

First, 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?

I’m Michael Rennie, I live in Wormit, Fife, Scotland, I’m father to two awesome kids; Lana and Luke and married to my best friend Kate. I’m a mechatronics engineer by day but at heart I’m skateboarder and cyclist; in fact I enjoy all sorts of outdoor pursuits, sailing, hill walking, surfing and snowboarding whenever I get the chance.

How long have you been taking photos?

I’ve been taking photos since I was a young teenager, first with my dads compact 35mm camera, then moving onto digital compacts when I went to university. I mainly documented hill walking, skateboarding and snowboarding trips with my friends; I knew nothing about photography and was often disappointed when the photos didn’t do the trips justice. Writing this, I realise it was actually getting a dog (Molly the beagle, hence my website name: that was the catalyst for me taking more of an interest in photography and that interest is now a full blown obsession. I still enjoy documenting all my adventures, big or small and film has become a big part of this.


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

When it comes to shooting film I enjoy action photography, documenting family life and travel photography. I also enjoy using different cameras and films to re-explore the places I’ve visited hundreds of times.

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

My absolute favourite is my Olympus XA, it’s so capable and unobtrusive, it definitely fulfils the “C” in 35mmc! I also shoot with a Olympus Pen D3 which is good fun and being half frame gives some interesting options on composition and making diptychs. Inspired by Hamish’s Win a Leica competition I also now have a Canon AF35 Sprint/J that is currently travelling the world, see if you want to be involved.

Ben shooting film

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

They make up around half of what I shoot on film, I also use an Minolta SLR, Rolleicord VB, Ihagee Exa and a Fuji Instax Wide too. I’m interested in experimenting with different cameras, lenses and films, so this line-up is constantly changing. I’m also shooting with a Leica M4 on loan from a friend at the moment, a real treat.

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

The XA and the Pen D3 are quite different beasts, the XA is easier to get good shots with due to the great metering and rangefinder focusing, the D3 does have a meter but mine is intermittent so it’s basically a fully manual camera with scale focus, I find it challenging to shoot with but love the results when the stars align and I get focus, composition and exposure correct! I mainly use the XA for documenting bike rides and mountain biking as well as street and travel.

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

Style? Not sure I have one, photography for me is about capturing the key moments and documenting my life, I find that compact cameras don’t tend to distract as much as pulling out a large ‘pro’ looking camera can and allow you to shoot without affecting peoples behaviour. When it comes to shooting action on the bike, the XA has definitely moulded my style; the combination of subject matter and the memories make them some of my favourite shots.


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

These are perfect multi-purpose cameras, I enjoy the process of documenting enjoyable yet unremarkable moments in my life with them as they are unobtrusive but they can still create great images. Their small size let’s me squeeze photography opportunities into every possible crack in my schedule!

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

In the last five years I’ve started taking my photography more seriously, learning more about technical,composition and digital editing techniques to improve the quality of my shots. A more ruthless approach to editing digital photos was actually what lead me to film, initially as a learning exercise and a way to reduce my ‘hit and hope’ method of digital photography: using auto mode and shutter burst mode.

I started enjoying film with a borrowed Minolta SLR; the colours, grain, DOF (compared to my Micro Four Thirds digital camera) and the process of making pictures in a more thoughtful way all appealed to me. I basically became slightly obsessed with film: I bought a Minolta Dynax 5 with 50mm F1.4, then an Olympus XA, then an Olympus Pen D3, then a Ihagee Exa, then a Rolleicord VB……then a really cheap Canon AF35 SPRINT!

I now shoot around 6-8 rolls of film a month, what’s that hashtag again? oh yeah, #shootfilmstaybroke ! although a subscription to develop and scan up to ten rolls a month at Photoghost helps keep cost under control.

I enjoy shooting film on all my cameras on a regular basis but the compact cameras are so versatile and  interesting to use in their own right I keep coming back to them.

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


Family fun


Out of the shadows

Powering up



Skate and create


Good foundations

Kate pedalling



Little explorer

Existential beagle

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  • Reply
    jeremy north
    July 23, 2016 at 9:51 am

    Fantastic review not just of the camera but the whole point of having it.

    So many of us are bogged down by the minutiae of this or that machine but it is all about capturing moments for future recall and enjoyment.

    I love the bicycle theme too.

    • Reply
      Michael Rennie
      July 23, 2016 at 9:15 pm

      Thank you very much Jeremy, I agree, and thanks for taking the time to read my waffle!

  • Reply
    Patricia Pryde
    July 23, 2016 at 5:51 pm

    Loved reading this Mike. Didn’t really understand any of the technical stuff but your passion for photography certainly came through loud and clear. Your photos always make me smile. Keep up the great work. Pat xxxxxx

  • Reply
    July 24, 2016 at 2:00 am

    Really enjoyed the pictures, the half frame pics are especially awesome! When the two frames come together perfectly it’s the best!

  • Reply
    Ken Hindle-May
    July 24, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    I love that trick of spreading a composition across two frames. I don’t think I’ve seen that before. Also, thanks for letting us know about Photoghost’s subscription service. I’ve not heard of a lab offering that service and it could really catch on. £4 a roll (plus postage) for dev + scan is potentially great value.

  • Reply
    July 25, 2016 at 9:41 am

    Great photos, I like the bike shots. And I must say that
    I am really intrigued by the combined half-frames, they’re like mini-stories! Now I am thinking that it doesn’t even require half-frames so I might try a project with duo-photos myself.

    • Reply
      Michael Rennie
      July 26, 2016 at 8:39 am

      Thanks Ken, not sure I’ve managed to get it perfect yet, but love shooting these type of shots.

      Speak to Ennan at Photoghost, it’s a great service!

      Aukje, these two frame shots are often referred to as ‘diptychs’ and they are great fun to shoot! Thanks for reading and the kind comment!

  • Reply
    July 25, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    Lovely shots – what film have you used for the lifeboat shot? Also, lovely bike

    • Reply
      Michael Rennie
      July 26, 2016 at 8:42 am

      Hi Dexter, the life boat was shot on Velvia 50 and cross processed in C41, shot on the XA; it gave some pretty crazy colours!

      • Reply
        July 26, 2016 at 9:41 am

        Thanks Michael – I’ll have to try it!

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