Home > gear talk > Digital medium format in Kyoto

Digital medium format in Kyoto

November 19, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments
Click here for todays photos

Click here for todays photos

Having lived in Japan for about 10 years now, I’ve been to Kyoto quite a few times, each time with a camera and set of lenses at hand.

My most recent trip starts this coming Sunday.  I’ll be taking a night bus from Shinagawa, departing at around 11 pm, and arriving in Kyoto just before 7 am.  I could take a Shinkansen there, but I will be running a half marathon in Yokosuka earlier on Sunday, and taking the bus that night gets me into Kyoto earlier than if i were to catch the shinkansen the next morning.  I’m betting that I will be tired enough so that I sleep like a baby during the night bus ride.  Just to be sure I will pop a couple of sleeping pills as I board the bus, that way I can hope to get a good nights sleep and arrive feeling relatively refreshed.

On the way back home the following Saturday I will be taking the shinkansen as that is the absolute fastest way to travel, and I will be able to leave Kyoto after sunset and still make it home in time for a late dinner in Yokosuka.

This will be the first time that I will be shooting (digital) medium format in Kyoto.  Usually I shoot DSLR or Rangefinder, but this time I decided to trade off my more light weight kit and go for maximum image quality.

Here’s what I plan to bring:

Mamiya AFDII
Mamiya ZD back
Mamiya 35mm f3.5
Mamiya 55mm f2.8
Mamiya 80mm f1.9
Mamiya 150mm f3.5
Set of 3 extension tubes for macro work
A sack full of CF cards

While I am there I will also be checking out the used camera shops in Kyoto and Osaka to see if I can find a good deal on a Mamiya 200mm f2.8.

All of this fits nicely into a Lowepro Micro Trekker 200, which is my favorite backpack to use. I may change bags and instead use a Domke wax-wear F2, it depends if it looks like there will be a high likelihood of rain as the Domke is very water resistant.

Since I have not really had time to put the ZD back through its paces yet this should be a good opportunity to really see what it can do.

To date I’ve only used this medium format setup for single day type shooting (6-8 hours at a stretch) so I think I have a pretty good idea about what to expect as far as weight goes.  I am still a bit concerned, but I do also know that the results will quickly make me forget about the increase in weight compared to a DSLR kit.

But I do also have a backup plan/sanity check: I will also take along an Olympus E-P1 with a 20mm f1.7 and 14-42 kit zoom. This will serve as my backup in case I don’t feel like carrying so much gear on any particular day. The PEN will also serve as my nighttime low light camera.

Since this is a solo trip, and the only point is to take photos, explore more of Kyoto, and relax, I don’t think I’m going too nuts here with the gear I am bringing.

I just wanted some other people’s perspectives about this plan. Given the same choice of gear, would you do the same thing?

My alternative DSLR setup would be a Nikon D700 with some fast primes: 14/2.8, 35/2, 50/1.4, 85/1.4, and 180/2.8

Categories: gear talk
  1. Tregix
    November 20, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Jeff, you are going back in time and become a “Sherpa” photographer again. Why don’t your try to photograph Kyoto in the Samurai way: one camera and one or two lenses 😉

    Sorry, I could not resit.



  2. Justin
    November 20, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    I was wondering if you ever shoot film with your Mamiya setup? If you can, it would be interesting to shoot a few rolls on your Kyoto trip to compare to the digital back.

  3. Adam
    November 20, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Do huh? Mamiya? EXIF info says Kodak… EXIF also says 5D, Leica M8, and some pictures taken in 07. Whats that all about?

  4. Brian
    November 21, 2009 at 5:33 am

    Kyoto in the fall is my favorite place on Earth, so I’d be thrilled to get to take the same trip you are even if all I could bring was a cell phone camera. What I know about photography would fit on a Post-It note so can’t give you any advice on what equipment to bring, but have a great time. If you haven’t been, I’d recommend Renge-ji, near Miyake-Hachiman station – there’s a few pics of it here, in the fall it’s amazing and not as crowded as the popular spots like Tofukuji: http://regex.info/blog/2009-09-11/1312

  5. November 24, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    One of my friend sin Nagoya just went to Kyoto and the colours are still lovely there, though the trees start to become a little balder (rather than bolder…).
    You should have a lovely time though. As for going solo, well, i don’t know if your mrs enjoys your photography exercises when you guys are out and about, my ex’s usually didn’t appreciate my concentration on good shoots (read: they were bored out of their skulls!), so a solo trip should give you a good opportunity to go the long way!
    As for kit, well, it sounds liek you hit it spot on, though personally I might dump the 55 for weight savings etc, instead you could take a netbook for storage and viewing purposes (don’t try modding pics on a netbook, there is no way the screen will allow you to make good judgement calls!)
    Forget about the DLSR (D700) option: Been there done that. Don’t forget the whole reason of bringing MF with you this time round. All in all I think your kit selection is spot on.

    PS I got your email, thanks for the suggestions! Unfortunately work does not permit me to take my remaining holidays (scks k9 procriation rod!), but I get to take them to next year. My friend in Nagoya invited me to come during blossom season, which I think coincides with Easter if I’m not mistaken. Since Nagoya is abt 1,5 hour away from kyoto, I think that would be a brilliant opportunity to visit Japan (also gives me some time to boost my budget…). I’ll contact you nearer that time.
    Have fun buddy!!

  6. November 26, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    You have a beautiful blog. These are beautiful photographs. I like the blog layout too. I am not sure, of course, if you like old photography or that like we used to take over 50 years ago while in Japan, but there is some I did with others at my Sendai-shi, Japan blog.


  7. C
    December 3, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Hurry up and show us all of your photos from your trip 🙂 were all waiting 🙂

  8. David
    December 9, 2009 at 12:34 am

    Me too.

  9. 2yen
    December 10, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Abraham Lincoln, Thank you so much for sharing the link to your blog. I really enjoy seeing photos of Japan from days past.

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