Packing for the USA

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On the road again.

One of the conundrums I always face before a trip of any sort is the question of what gear to bring. It isn’t so much of a problem if I’m on assignment, because what I need is dictated by the brief of the job, but it’s a completely different story when I’m teaching, or worse, travelling for myself. I suppose it’s a problem faced by anybody who’s got more than one complete set of gear. There was a time when I used to simply take every (or nearly every) lens I owned – whilst this would ensure that you’d never miss an opportunity, it’s also a great way to rack up chiropractor bills and ensure that you really don’t enjoy your trip. Lugging everything from place to place becomes a chore, and taking photographs turns into a burden rather than a joy.

Needless to say, I’ve since travelled as light as possible – first with a D700 and a couple of fast primes; lately with a compact and one system camera. In fact, the majority of my recent workshops have been done with this setup – typically an OM-D, the 12/2 and 45/1.8 primes, and something else to fill the pocket for quick grabs. The trouble is, I’m starting to become accustomed to the image quality of the D800E and Hasselblad systems; my recent trip to Fukuoka brought this home in a big way. Whilst I loved the compactness and flexibility of the D-Lux 6, (and that thing has one amazingly good lens) the image quality at anything above base ISO (80) left a lot to be desired; not only were the files pretty small, but the pixel quality simply wasn’t there. Is there any reason why you couldn’t produce great pictorial results with this camera? Absolutely not. It was satisfying to use too, but I could never quite shake the feeling of wishing I’d had something with a bit more resolution instead.

My upcoming USA trip is going to be a mix of teaching and personal shooting; both requirements are flexible enough that I could pretty much use anything, with the caveat that I’m going to be carrying it around in my hands for 16 days, so every superfluous ounce is eventually going to make itself noticed (and probably regretted). The contenders looked like this:

  • Nikon FX body (D800E or D600) and AFS 24-120/4 VR
  • Nikon FX body, AFS 28/1.8 G and AFS 85/1.8 G primes
  • M4/3 system
  • A compact of some sort
  • Hasselblad 501C, 50/80mm lenses, film
  • Hasselblad 501C, 50/80mm lenses, CFV-39 digital back
  • I want to say Leica M and 28/50mm lenses, but I don’t have one yet.

As much as I’d love to take the ‘blad, using film would be solely for my personal work, which means that I’d have to still carry another digital system of some sort. Plus the number of airport scans I’d have to go through – I estimate about a dozen based on the airports I’m familiar with – would mean risking fogging on return. Not to mention having to carry a lot of film. For similar reasons, I’m not considering 35mm film either. Borrowing the CFV-39 digital back again is an option (and I’m thinking about trying it out again now that the previous focusing issues have been resolved) – but it’s not hugely practical, or stealthy. Not to mention heavy and very power-hungry; scratch that.

On the same rung for image quality is the Nikon FX option; the trouble is, I laid out both zoom and prime kits next to the ‘Blad while packing for Fukuoka, and guess what: the ‘Blad was lighter and smaller. No denying that the 24-120 would give me the most flexibility, at the expense of a couple of stops of light. Primes would give better image quality and more light, at the expense of bulk and a bit of weight. I’m still not a big fan of the ergonomics of the D600, and as far as I’m concerned, that takes it out of the equation. The D800E needs all the shutter speed it can get, so it would be a prime solution, and perhaps paired with a tripod, too.

This is beginning to sound like the gear I’d take for an assignment.

I’d love to go with the new M, but since nobody seems interested in selling me a camera (several of my readers in the region reported being very annoyed that Leica Singapore auctioned off all their early stock instead of fulfilling their back order list) that really isn’t an option, either. In the meantime, my M lenses go unloved. Guess what: this brings us right back to what I usually pack – the OM-D and 12/45 or 12/60 primes. I actually haven’t shot with this combination in a while, so I should probably spend a bit of time reviewing files and making sure that I’m not going to experience the same disappointment at opening the D-Lux 6’s images. I would have rounded things out with a compact – either the Fuji X20 or Coolpix A, but neither review unit arrived in time. I have a feeling the latter might land up replacing a lot of things if it’s fast enough: my compact, my 12/2, my 28/2 Summicron, and my GR1v. A large-sensor pocket 28mm camera has been on my wish list as long as I can remember.

I don’t think I’ll bother bringing a tripod (since every time I do, I never use it) or film (scared of the X ray machines still); the laptop and Wacom are both a given since I’m teaching, along with a spare hard drive, batteries and memory cards – but that’s probably going to be about it, I think; just enough to fill out a couple of jacket pockets nicely. And my wife says I complain about her clothes packing decisions…MT


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  1. Evil Ted says:

    Something good for you to do in San Francisco…
    A wonderful Gary Winogrand exhibition.

  2. Could you do a review or post on what you use to carry your gear. I am fearful of having to ship camera equipment as baggage, so I am always looking for something that fits under the seat, but holds a lot. I have tried Think Tank, Billingham (a neighbor threw a perfectly good day pack out, which I picked up), Art and Artisan and several of the big name brands. Each has its drawbacks. I have yet to find one that also handles a laptop like a Macbook Air.


    Jack Siegel

    P.S. Sorry to miss your U.S. workshops. Unfortunately, I signed up for a five-day Leica workshop about 7 or 8 months ago. It falls right in the middle of your U.S. tour. Enjoy. By the way, there is a place one block west of the Flatiron building in New York City that I believe processes film overnight.

    • Easy – I use the Billingham Hadley Pro most of the time; the space between the internal divider and the back fits a 11″ Air nicely. The rest is perfect for a small camera system, a couple of accessories etc. If I need anything larger, then it’s probably the Think Tank Airport International for assignment, or the Kata LPS 216. I cover these in the Camerapedia at the end…

  3. Dennis Ng says:

    I recall Hcb use 50mm mostly. One of his compliant when visit US is that the space is different from Europe and his 50mm is too long.

    • You could be right. I’ve read various reports – I know it was 35/50, but which one he favoured appears to be a matter of some uncertainty.

  4. Wow! All these “photographers” seem to go through a nervous breakdown concerning what cameras/lenses to take on a trip. Worse than my wife with what dresses to take for a weekend getaway. Do what my friend Cartier Bresson did. 50mm lens with your feet as a quality zoom lens!

    • Not all of us shoot like HCB. And he used a 35 most of the time, not 50.

      Sharing the thought process is a far cry from a nervous breakdown, and your sarcasm in calling me a “photographer” is downright insulting.

  5. In the USA nobody walks anywhere, we have big cars with big trunks to fit all of our gear. Bring it all. Seriously. It would be sad to bring the camera B-team to SF & NYC and leave the A-team behind. Bringing film to the USA would be like packing sourdough bread to SF. Buy and develop it all here. Can’t wait to see your pictures.

  6. I didn’t bother to read all the replies, but I’m usually in the same boat as you. The Olympus is good enough, and in real life, good enough is always good enough. Less is more. My gear is the 7-14mm Panasonic ( you need this lens for the cities ), the 17mmf/1.8 and the 40-150mm ( good enough stopped down 1 stop ). Another body is nice if you don’t want to change lenses that often. The total weighs less than the D800 and 24-70 f/2.8.
    Finally, don’t use that ” English designer bag “. Yeah, it’s nice but the thieves like it even more than you! I use an old Domke canvas that I found at the dump. Threw it in the washing machine and “voila.” It has just the right amount of pockets to separate all lenses.

    Have fun!

    • Oh, the bag is just to get from place to place. I use a jacket with lots of pockets.

      • Darrell Raymond says:

        I do something similar. On a recent trip to San Francisco with my daughter, I used a cargo shirt, with one pocket for a 12mm and one for a 45mm. I had a 60 2.8 in a small backpack, which also held whichever zoom (14-42 or 40-150) my daughter wasn’t currently using on her E-PM1.

        Jason (below) says use a car. I did that too–I used the car to hold the tripods I brought and didn’t use, and also the 25 1.4 and 7.5 fisheye I mostly didn’t use .

        • So much to see on foot – and cars aren’t practical when you’ve got a workshop to lead 🙂

        • Having trouble finding an e-mail address for you, but wanted to give you an alert about your current and upcoming trip. In New York, the Museum of Modern Art has a major exhibition of Bill Brandt’s work. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has a major exhibition of Garry Winogrand’s work. I suspect you are very busy with the workshops, but if you get an hour or so and have the interest, one or both of these exhibits might be of interest.

          • Thanks for the heads up, Jack. There’s a contact link in the header. I’ve been to the SFMOMA exhibit twice already – one care of a student who knew the head curator – it was excellent and highly recommended if you’re in the Bay Area. As for NYMOMA, I’ll put it on the to-do list 🙂

  7. I recently travelled to thailand with a M3 (w/ 50mm and 21mm) and a Fuji x100 and Fuji Instax 50. I eventually left the x100 in the hotel room and used the M3 for the entire trip. My back is eternally grateful. It was quite hot and humid in thailand, and 4-6kg can easily feel like 20kg. A part of me really wished I brought my Mamiya c330.
    Note. The TSA allows hand inspection of film. Print out the rules for them if they get confused, although I rarely have problems. The one time I did have problems, I fibbed a little and gave three reasons. “1) film can be pushed or pulled beyond the box speed. So this film can be considered ASA 3200 or 6400 just as easily. 2) x-rays are cumulative, I’ll be traveling through a number of airports and wish to minimize the damage to the film. If we are following kodak’s guidelines, two X-rays would theoretically make the safe film speed, 800 and so forth. 3) the Kodak recommendation, tested 135 film. I’m shooting large format film, which contains a larger silver compound that makes it more sensitive to X-rays than the standard 135 film format.” Speaking with confidence and with respective authority, the TSA smiled confusingly, checked my film and waved me through.
    Safe Travels

    • That’s not exactly heavy to begin with, but I get the point.

      Went through LAX earlier, there were clear signs saying ISO 800 and below was safe, but they’d hand inspect if requested.

  8. Paul Bradforth says:

    Ming, I always enjoy the terrific quality of your shots on the blog, and the quality of the writing. Tell me, is that gorgeous shot of a Billingham bag at the top of the post a ‘grab’ shot, or was it posed and lit intentionally?

  9. Wouter Langen says:

    Hi Ming love to read your reviews .

    Have you considered to get a second hand Phaseone P25/P25+ or P45 for your Hasselblad instead of film ? It makes your ‘blad digital .

    • Yes, but it also turns it into a 645. The V series was not meant to be shot in portrait orientation.

      • Wouter Langen says:

        True the V series were designed as a 56x56mm , the phase one backs are mounted landscape orientation you have to turn the phase back 90 degrees and mount it on the blad to have portrait orientation . It will be 645 but the performance is superior to a FF body .

  10. i like the lighting (what have you used?) and the P&P of the “On the road again.” picture. OTOH the D800 and 28mm+85mm is my travel kit. Sometimes is to much of a weight and quite difficult to change lenses. I really miss my NEX – and have seriously thoughts regarding buying another one as my pocket-camera-that-is-always-with-me-when-i-need-it.
    Thanks for sharing.

  11. With low-speed film and a couple of hand-checks, I really don’t think it’s a big deal. However, as an alternative, just buy your film here in the US, mail it to me as you shoot it, then I’ll send it back to you. No X-Rays, no fuss.

  12. Oskar O. says:

    Having just bought a Sigma 35/1.4 to with my D800, I really got the feeling that the combination is like medium format and then I read your blog. Now I don’t dare to take out the Hassy to compare the size and weight (and I prefer to use the 100/3.5 rather than the 80/2.8) 😛

    During the past week, I’ve processed a few hundred image taken with an OM-D (which is a lot considering how much time I have for processing right now). Most are low-light shots indoors. My take is that the image quality is entirely decent, would have been great back in 2008, but the D800 spoils me and it’s a clear notch higher in image quality. So the glass is half full or half empty, depending on how you view it. Naturally, the D800 also brings with it a tendency to use higher spec lenses (I greatly prefer the Zeiss 25/2 over the Nikkor 28/1.8), more careful focusing and more careful handholding technique, rather than being more casual as with a small camera.

    My advice? Sorry, I think I just made it all harder 😉
    What I do myself is to try to take one camera and three lenses. Not more, since it gets too heavy. Not less, since then I’m leaving something critical uncovered. No different formats, systems etc.; those are just distractions when one should go out and make the shots rather than digging in the bag. So I guess my philosophy could be summed up as prefer mobility over covering all bases and favor making the images you can with your gear instead of thinking about missed oportunities (and believe me there were missed opportunities, but it’s a whole body of work that makes me as a photographer, not a few opportunities here and there.)

    • No doubt about it. The D800E has higher potential, but is also much more demanding, and honestly feels more like work than anything. Working around what you’ve got and seeing in the FLs you did bring is the best way to not feel like you’re missing anything. Oddly, I walked around Fukuoka using the Blad and 80mm 99% of the time, and didn’t feel like I missed anything either…

  13. Erling M Moe says:

    I have taken the plunge and bought a (used) S2 kit with 3 lenses. But I have also bought the system case, which constitutes my hand baggage. I know similar cases exist for other systems, or more generic. I find it very easy to travel with, is has wheels and a retractable handle, just like a modern on-board suitcase. Of course, this limits your other carry-on to a small purse, and you need to send a suitcase, which I assume you would need anyway on such a long trip.

    • Congratulations! It seems like a rather big box for just one body, three lenses and a few accessories though – I’ve decided to go with the Billingham 555; it’s far bigger than I need, but means that I can also chuck in a fleece and gloves for when I arrive, some reading material, laptop and Wacom etc. I think it’d comfortably fit your S2 kit with lots of room to spare – perhaps worth a look. Great weekend bag too, if you take out the camera dividers. Besides, I might just land up coming back with more kit than I left with. 🙂

      • Well, I also have room for my MM and a couple of M lenses, batteries, SD cards, chargers etc. Above all, it is well protected. If I travel with S2 and 120+30 only, I use a soft bag though.

  14. you might want to consider grabbing a gorillapod while you’re at BH or Adorama. Though it usually stays untouched inside the bag when I’m traveling, it does come in handy whenever i need that stable platform for those long shutter shots.

    • I usually go with the Manfrotto 345 tabletop kit – but I haven’t actually used a tripod while travelling for the last few journeys, so I don’t think it’s worth the space. Fast lenses and great IS on the OM-D mean 1/2 sec is actually possible with the 12mm…

  15. Charlie Z says:

    Last call. Ming, if there was any trip to bring a film camera, this is it. (B&H has a big counter just for film. Volume is not what it once was, but it’s welcome sight to see 3 guys handling it).

    I enjoyed your comments about your HB, too. I’ve kept mine for all the reasons you stated: lighter(!), smaller(!) and just as good (no, better) images. It’s just not as fast at anything, which can be critical, but it’s not to me.

    Practically, the OM-D makes perfect sense for what you need to do on this trip, though. Very interested to hear if it still measures up for you, though.

    I’m in NY and wish I’m sorry to be missing your class. Next time.

    • I have a feeling I’ll be buying a couple of bricks of Acros home…

      As for the class – I still have a slot or two for the 5-8th April session if that works?

  16. Here are a couple of comments regarding traveling by air with film.

    Always hand carry your film with you. Take it out of the box and put it in a clear zip lock plastic bag to make it easy for the security agent to hand check. Leave 35mm in the plastic can and 120 in the foil pack, 8 35mm cans or 6 120 rolls will fit in a sandwich size bag. Then put the smaller bags in a large gallon size bag. Always ask for a hand check. In the US if you ask the security agents are required to do so. In other countries this may not be the case, so you may be dependent on the agents generosity and not being too busy.

    NEVER put your film in an x-ray resistant bag. If the x-ray agent can’t see what is in your case they will simply turn up the power and rescan until they can. If for some reason they can’t see with a scan, or you are delaying a long line, they may ask you to step aside so they can do a more thorough search of you and your belongings. Remember the idea is to make this as easy for the security agent as possible.

    Never put your film in your checked baggage. All bags are now x-rayed at very high levels. This will expose your film making it unusable. The airlines are warning of this and they are serious.


  17. Hi Ming,

    I’m in a somewhat similar situation. Trying to figure out what to bring on my upcoming 7 night vacation to Iceland with my girlfriend in a month or so.

    I’ve decided to go with my om-d and 12/2 (long exposure landscapes — 16 stops worth of ND filters ready to go. no grad nd though…), 60/2.8 (flowers and portraits), and 100-300mm (for the puffins!) lenses. Can’t bring the hasselblad with that because it would just be way too heavy and it would not fit in my kata 467 (nice and discreet, but fairly small backpack) backpack with the digital equipment anyway.

    I do want to bring some film equipment though. I’ve always asked for hand inspections on travel and never had any issues to date. I think I will likely go with my leica mp and 28/2.8 asph with a red filter for some, hopefully, dramatic landscapes. The other option is to go for lovely 120 quality and bring my rolleiflex instead of the leica.

    Definitely bringing my gitzo traveler and a cable release for whichever film camera I take / wired remote for the om-d. I’ve got four batteries for the om-d and a bunch of memory cards too. 🙂

    Hoping to get some photographs worthy of the flickr pool.


  18. I feel you Ming! I’m so happy that you get to change up your world view and enjoy shooting for yourself here these next few weeks. You are able to make art with whatever you carry, but I wish I could just loan you my M9-P since your new M 240 hasn’t arrived yet. Both NYC and San Francisco are big cities to get around in. An M with one lens per day would be a fantastic way to see those cities! I’m looking forward to joining you at one of your workshops soon. Have fun!!

    • Thanks for the generous offer – I’m going super light this time; the OM-D and one lens around my neck, and a spare lens in a pocket. Perhaps one of the P&S cameras (X20, Coolpix A, X100s) once I pick up the review samples.

  19. I’m going to Japan in a couple of weeks (from NYC) and have been having the same thoughts. I’ve decided to bring my D800 and f/1.8 trio, 28mm, 50mm, 85mm, leaving my 35mm f/1.4 at home. I thought about getting the 24-120mm f/4, but I’ve never been big on zooms. I’ve considered m4/3rds, but I have young kids and need good continuous AF. Have a great time in NYC!

  20. Would seem sensible to take a Leica M9 and Leica film body and your finest lenses will fit both cameras and all in a very small space.

    • True, except I don’t have bodies anymore…lenses yes.

      • Some really good prices on M9 and M9p available, even if its not as good as the new M its probably better than the Olympus Nikon etc.

        • Depends for what – at anything above base ISO the Nikons annihilate it in every way for image quality, and dynamic range is higher throughout the entire ISO range. The OM-D is cleaner at high ISO too, and has better color. Plus neither one of them corrupts SD cards or locks up on a regular basis…

  21. Ming: I apologize if I missed a previous blog on this subject but have you had (or will have) a chance to slap that new Siggy 35 1.4 on your D800E?

  22. Jeez Ming. You make the mundane image of a gear bag on a car seat look amazing!
    Have a fabulous trip!

  23. Ming, what are your thoughts on getting an x100s? While not exactly “pocketable”, it seems really appealing to me- especially when I’m lugging around a d800e and a whole slew of lenses! While it will be a personal camera, rather than one I shoot commercial work on, I still want decent image quality. Also, I should mention that 35mm is my favourite focal length. What would you do in my position? I almost put an order in for one, when I remembered you raving over the omd! It seems that we both have difficult decisions to make..
    Anyway, bon voyage!

    • I did seriously consider it, but adding the adaptor to bring it to my preferred 28mm would make it as bulky as the primary camera. But the image quality from the sample I played with in Japan looked pretty amazing.

  24. Ming, the clear solution is to buy another D700 and go with the 28/85 lenses 🙂

    • I learned Looong ago to just let go of the need to carry all that equipment, just too stressful and takes all of the enjoyment out of travel. If I were you, I would FedEx all of my essential gear to the Hotel (well insured of course) then get yourself an RX1 with Gariz Gun Shot strap & case for the journey. Such a sweet way to go… Travel Safe 😉

      • I’ve lost a rather expensive watch through fedex before. Never again!

        • Me too, but in the end its just stuff than can be replaced. If it’s not, then don’t send it of course. I learned to loosen my sphincter muscle a long time…I was just way too anal…couldn’t enjoy the journey which for me is now half the fun! But hey, whatever butter’s your toast… 🙂

          • It should be half the fun. Too many years as a consultant took away half of that, the airport security people took away the other half…

    • Aargh…

  25. Hi Ming – Maybe it’s time for an RX1? I’m sure you will be happy with the file quality and can’t complain in terms of compactness.

    • Not pocketable. I’m getting a Coolpix A, plus the X20 to try out in NYC.

      • I’ll be curious to hear your impressions of the X20. I have a loaner, and RAW is shockingly better than OOC JPEGs (via LR 4.4RC) in every dimension especially after reading all the angst about Xtrans RAW processing. There is no watercolor effect in RAW whereas it is prevalent in the JPEG. Anyway, have a good trip!

  26. Have you still got the Sony RX100? Why not take it?

  27. Somehow I am glad that I don’t have as many choices as you. I’d just take my D600 with the 28/1.8 and 85/1.8 AF-S lenses probably leaving behind the 50/1.4 and 105/2.8 AF-S lenses. This makes things a lot easier 🙂

    But being a former D800E user myself, I know why you are in love with the ergonomics and image quality of it. I sold it in favor of the D600 because of the following reasons:
    – The D600 is a little bit lighter
    – The live view image is way better. The 100% view gives you a perfect idea of what’s in focus and what’s not. This is very important to me because I usually shoot from a tripod for maximum image quality and I love the slow framing that goes with it. Makes me think about perspective etc. a lot more. I always disliked the “pixelated” 100% view of the D800E.
    – The processing speed of the RAW files on my computer was awful and I really didn’t want to spend 1000 Euros for a new one.
    – It’s a lot cheaper.

    I guess a D600E that lets you change the aperture in live view would be the ideal camera for me because of the described advantages.

    Having said that, I know that everyone has his own favorite (and mostly for good reason) so I hope that you don’t rack your brains too much. I am looking forward to seeing your results no matter which camera you will take with you! I wish you a pleasant journey and have fun!

    • I’ve become spoiled by the D800E’s image quality. If it was for a commercial job, no question about what I’d take; since it isn’t, then the question of sufficiency raises its head. Completely agree with LV and focusing – as well as the U1/U2 positions that none of the pro cameras seem to have. I like to be able to switch quickly between studio work (manual, base ISO, flash, multi AF points etc) to a more spontaneous setup (A, auto ISO, 11-point AFC etc) which I can do with the D600, but not the D800E. An odd omission, it seems.

  28. Oops! Forgot to add. I have learned to travel lighter. When I went to Italy last September I took a Leica M7 with 35mm and 50mm lenses. Plus an Olympus EP-3 with 12mm and 20mm lenses, a M to M43 adapter, and a Canon S90 compact. All of this was able to fit in a small messenger bag, which fit into a larger day pack for on the plane. Though, since I was traveling between he US and Europe, I took film with me since it was low speed and it would only be scanned 4 times for the round trip.


  29. I would have guessed you would take the OM-D… 🙂
    I don’t know if airport scanners have become more powerful in recent years – probably just the opposite, due to health issues. Also, no need, as their sensors have become more sensitive.
    Even if the exposure level is comparable to that in the nineties, risk of film-fogging is not a problem.
    At least not in your case, as I think you would use ISO 100 film.
    I worked for Kodak in the nineties and as I recall we always advised to pack film in x-ray-protection cases over ISO 1600 (which was very rarely used then…)
    Anyhow, have a great trip, I look forward to reading about your impressions and to your pictures!

  30. Ming

    I suggest that you do the opposite of what usually try to do, which is take everything. Traveling heavy does have advantages, though weight, bulk and spontinaitty are not on the list.

    Another suggestion is to take the Olympus kit and the Hassleblad with film backs, but leave the film at home. San Francisco (SF) has camera stores that will have film. A quick internet search brings up 6 camera stores in SF, including a Calumet store ( which is geared to supporting pro photographers. At one time they had a studio with a 16×20 Polaroid camera.

    One store I can recommend in the vicinity is San Jose Camera ( Unfortunately it’s not super close, it’s about 1.5 hrs south in the city of Campbell, Ca. But it has been well stocked when I have visited. Also, you can probably arrange to order film and have it waiting for you at your hotel with either Calumet or San Jose Camera. Both stores should also be able to recommend a good film lab in San Francisco, so you don’t have to take your chances picking one from an Internet search. Though this lab is on Market St in SF,

    Have fun!

  31. Steve Jones says:

    Ha Ha! The OM-D and a couple of lenses and a compact. Same thing that I do every time I have to travel anywhere, which to my mind just goes to prove how ‘right’ Olympus got that product. Light weight, quality, versatility, handling. Just say… OM-D. Aaaaah! That’s better!
    Will the D-Lux6 review be up anytime soon?

  32. I am excited to see the pictures from the US. I am glad you are bringing the OMD and the 12/45. The 45 has something special about it and you work magic with the 12. 🙂

  33. Ming, I’ve traveled a lot lately with film and never had any fogging that I could discern. The modern airport scanners are really pretty good with film. You just have to keep the security people from opening your film boxes if you are shooting large format, or unrolling your 120 to swab it (I’ve also had one guy who wanted to swab the *inside* of an exposed 35mm film canister…. but I talked his manager out of it…) This was all when I was requesting hand inspections. Now, I just let it go through in my carry-on (in a lead bag if I remember) and it’s fine, really. Even on our recent trip: NYC->London->Chunnel->Paris->London->NYC, with scanners at every step both ways, my tri-x and portra 400 turned out fine, even the half-shot roll in the camera.

    Further, most labs aren’t changing their chemicals often enough anymore, mainly to save money, so development isn’t always perfect to say the least. So I’m not sure I could reliably tell where a bit of fog came from even if I found some.

    Perhaps I’m biased, but don’t let (perhaps slightly) irrational fears of fogging stop you from taking film and the Hasselblad! Or an M6 or MP or whatever film M body you have.

    Safe travels!

  34. I don’t think you’ll have any trouble buying film anywhere in the USA, and probably at lower cost than in Malaysia, so why not buy and process on the hoof? At the very least you can use a c41 film surely? Heck, I can even get 120 c41 film processed in an hour in Phnom Penh!
    Good luck and good shooting whatever you take, anyway!

    • It’s a quality issue and the control trek part of me that doesn’t want to let go of my processing to a third party – how you develop your film is very much an artistic choice in the same vein as raw conversion.

  35. Dennis Ng says:

    “now that the previous focusing issues have been resolved” miss the issue being mentioned and how is it resolved. In fact, miss any review of CFV39 as well. Would try again to search for it. In the mean time, safe trip.

    P.S. I have bought for 2-3 years film and Polaroid film (to re-learn how to expose my 203fe); do not see any issues even 400 slide and b/w C40 film.

    • I couldn’t focus the 501/CFV combo properly – turns out it was my camera that was the issue, but because I’d only ever shot it stopped down, I never noticed. I’ve recalibrated the mirror zero return position; so far so good…

  36. Jonathan says:

    Every individual’s circumstances are different. I enjoy shooting with all mechanical film cameras. Their power demand is zero to minimal so I don’t worry about being a plug-in slave. This is *big* for me for while on artistic pursuit, I find spontaneity and freedom from drudgery are key to creativity. For candid shots, my phone is my only digital camera and very effective for stealth. It’s an automatic complement to my film gear.

    Within the last year, my requests for hand inspecting film with security/TSA agents at airports in China/HK/USA have been all been successful. I’d say the hassy with film backs and/or finding an film M camera in the US are much more satisfying. I’m sure you’ll have spectacular images no matter what you choose. Good luck!

    • Agree – but at the same time, modern camera batteries last so long that you you’re more likely to run out of card space first a and then you have to ask yourself whether all of those images are really meaningful…

  37. Wow Ming I can almost feel your pain. That is the additional weight carrying a couple different systems with you half way around the world. The many airports you plan on moving through will be a big hassle all by itself. Those that read your blog that don’t travel may not understand how difficult airline travel has become.

    I was fortunate to have had the chance to tinker with the new M last evening at the Leica Store Miami grand opening. Not having owned and shot a Leica digital for very long I was able to see some of the difference between it and my M-E. I could see a two M 240 body kit with 3 to 4 lenses a perfect professional travel kit. I know it’s not difficult packing the M-E and two lenses.

    But whatever you decide as your final kit I wish you safe travels and try to keep a smile on your face as you maneuver through the USA’s TSA system. I get to see that every time I go and come home from work.

    • Thanks – as far as I’m concerned, the lighter the better. The problem is when I go on assignment for watch work and have to bring a full lighting kit and tripod too…

      • As I hit the send button I realized I forgot about your wonderful macro work with watches. That’s a whole different challenge to contend with. I can only imagine that once in the states if someone were to request that kind of work. What do you do then? Rent?

  38. Having returned from one huge trip taking everything with me and nearly killing myself in the ice, snow and mud I think you are very wise to travel as light as you can. I will take only my OMD and the 45 and 60 to Japan later this year. Looking forward to your review of the Coolpix A and the Fuji x20. I may pack too much but my wife balances that by shopping more. Good luck with the trip.

  39. Rain Santiago says:

    Have a safe trip Ming, looking forward to seeing some awesome photos soon. Glad your lugging the 45mm along for your OMD, your review on the Olympus 45mm was one of the deciding factors why I went with it instead of the 17mm f1.8 Oly variant for my E-PM!.

  40. As a fan of the m4/3 standard, I am glad you’re bringing the OM-D, and can’t wait to see you capture more photos with it! Have you tried the 20mm f/1.7 for its great travel (pancake) properties?

    • Yes, but I prefer the 12/45 combo for the varied perspective. I suppose if I could only have one lens then it’s a interesting option…

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