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Thread: Travel kit that won't kill my back

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    Travel kit that won't kill my back

    I have been using various Canon cropped and FF dSLR's for years, now with the 5D. I am just getting into the MF game now with the Contax 645 system. For an upcoming trip to Europe with the family I want to bring the Contax, but the difference in weight is rearing it's ugly head. I have learned from experience that when traveling, a heavy kit doesn't make it. My mantra is "lighter is better". I can use a backpack, but would prefer to use a shoulder bag which of course presents serious limits on the kit. A nice midrange zoom was my preference with Canons. But I don't know now...

    What do you recommend? I have the 55, 45-90, 140, and 1.4 mutar. My current options are:

    55 alone
    45-90 alone
    55 plus 140 (with Mutar)

    I am leaning towards the single prime option.

    I have never traveled with only a single prime. Will I get too frustrated with the 55 alone?
    Last edited by tom in mpls; 13th April 2008 at 20:46.

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    Tom,
    If you are going to bring the Contax kit to Europe you owe it to yourself to bring more than one lens. Doesn't mean you have to carry it around all day, but at least you've got it with you if you want it. The zoom is heavy, if you must leave something behind leave that. Frankly, if weight is your main concern, the M8 and a couple of lenses is the way to go.

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    Personally, I traveled exactly one time with a MF system on a family vacation and decided that would be my last -- unless it was a dedicated photography trip. Hence, my current travel kit of choice is a pair of M8's and 4 or 5 lenses.

    That said, if I were traveling with my Mamiya MF system, I would take the 35, 55, 80 and 150. But to clarify -- and a big BUT it is -- my lenses are small-ish compared to C645, so IF I still owned that system I would probably leave the 35 out and go with just the 55, 80 and 140. So in your case take at least the 55 and 140 and FWIW I'd carry an 80 long before the mutar...

    My .02,
    Jack
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  4. #4
    thsinar
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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    that's actually exactly 2 times, Jack:

    the first and the last time!



    Thierry

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flesher View Post
    Personally, I traveled exactly one time with a MF system on a family vacation and decided that would be my last.
    My .02,

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    My 5D with Contax N 24-85 has worked for me. I love the MF files; the 645 with waist level finder and 55mm is not a big rig. However shlepping a second lens always makes me think verrrrry carefully. The 140/mutar combo is nearly 3 pounds.

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    I have traveled with my Hasselblad H system and thought taking the 50-110 zoom was a great choice. While it is big and heavy, it was the lens I used 90% of the time. As a result, took more shots because not constantly changing lenses. I travel with a 28mm, 50-110mm, 210mm and 1.7x converter. These lenses with a set of extension tubes are all I need while traveling. Sometimes I wish i had the macro with me.

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    So, Mark, you use the zoom for nearly all shooting, but you would still carry 3 more lenses with you? You don't mind hiking the urban landscape with a camera backpack?

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    Quote Originally Posted by tom in mpls View Post
    I have been using various Canon cropped and FF dSLR's for years, now with the 5D. I am just getting into the MF game now with the Contax 645 system. For an upcoming trip to Europe with the family I want to bring the Contax, but the difference in weight is rearing it's ugly head. I have learned from experience that when traveling, a heavy kit doesn't make it. My mantra is "lighter is better". I can use a backpack, but would prefer to use a shoulder bag which of course presents serious limits on the kit. A nice midrange zoom was my preference with Canons. But I don't know now...

    What do you recommend? I have the 55, 45-90, 140, and 1.4 mutar. My current options are:

    55 alone
    45-90 alone
    55 plus 140 (with Mutar)



    I am leaning towards the single prime option.

    I have never traveled with only a single prime. Will I get too frustrated with the 55 alone?
    Don't let the weak shouldered ones talk you out of using the C645!

    I really like the 35mm 80mm. If I had to take one I would take the 80mm; sharp, lower light and can be stiched easily for a oano instead of a wide .

    Otherwise, I use the 35mm, 80 and 140mm

    for two, I like your 55/140/1.4x combo.

    In travel I find that you can alway blow up a bit and wider helps in cramped quarters.

    last year I took 2500 shots in Austria with M8 and 3000 with C645 later in south France.

    The C645 are a lot more imopressive, and I didnt miss the telephoto (though I did take the estimable 135 tele-elmar for M8!

    regards
    Victor

    PS I AM one of the 'weak-shouldered oines" but I now use a backpack . After three (yes 3!) rotator cuff surgeries, one takes care!

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    Quote Originally Posted by tom in mpls View Post
    So, Mark, you use the zoom for nearly all shooting, but you would still carry 3 more lenses with you? You don't mind hiking the urban landscape with a camera backpack?
    No problem. do it all the time, and many use backpacks, esp the kids. Thus if you are forced to check it, not likely to be stolen. [take a mickey mouse one LOL]

    also unlike US museums and sites, in europe they are not so persnikety (and ofetn 1-2 euro will by photo privilges.)

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    Well i would not say that I do this as often through the city. If so, I usually keep it in my trunk and take out as needed. If i am out in a less urban setting and hiking around, I use the F.64 backpack. I can get everything i need into this pack. I have carried on planes -- no problem. THe other option is a roller bag, which i tend to take if i am going to be using mostly from the car. Now I will admit most of my trips are not photo related. As a result, I make my decision depending on how much time I am going to have. I was in Whistler and took my MF gear because I knew I would have time to shoot (although I am always torn between shooting and skiing in my free time). However, i just returned from Costa Brava Spain and was trying to get by without having to check any luggage. So i had a small Domke bag, with my 1DsmkIII, leica 28mm, CZ 35-70, 70-200/L IS, 90mm TSE, 580EX flash and my Lee polarizer, ND filter pack. I had this and a macro tripod all in my carry on luggage (although was way over packed). In my brief case, I had my work files, computer etc.

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    Quote Originally Posted by mark1958 View Post
    Well i would not say that I do this as often through the city. If so, I usually keep it in my trunk and take out as needed. If i am out in a less urban setting and hiking around, I use the F.64 backpack. I can get everything i need into this pack. I have carried on planes -- no problem. THe other option is a roller bag, which i tend to take if i am going to be using mostly from the car. Now I will admit most of my trips are not photo related. As a result, I make my decision depending on how much time I am going to have. I was in Whistler and took my MF gear because I knew I would have time to shoot (although I am always torn between shooting and skiing in my free time). However, i just returned from Costa Brava Spain and was trying to get by without having to check any luggage. So i had a small Domke bag, with my 1DsmkIII, leica 28mm, CZ 35-70, 70-200/L IS, 90mm TSE, 580EX flash and my Lee polarizer, ND filter pack. I had this and a macro tripod all in my carry on luggage (although was way over packed). In my brief case, I had my work files, computer etc.
    That's quite a bit to lug. When I travel I'm mostly on foot. I enjoy the strolling and leisurely sight seeing. I have never used a backpack and it has little appeal. Of course that makes it difficult; that's when I would be most in need of lens options. Seems that I put myself in the position of struggling with trying to simultaneously accomplish mutually exclusive activities. My middle initial is "C" which I think I will say stands for "Conundrum".
    Last edited by tom in mpls; 14th April 2008 at 10:05.

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    If you want a high quality compact, I can think of nothing better than an
    Alpa TC
    P45+
    S-K 24mm (or 35mm) XL

    Don't bother with the viewfinder-just aim in the general direction, and with the 39MP your image will be SOMEWHERE in the frame!

    [not kidding-it is SMALL!)

    regards
    Victor

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    Tom: Take a look at the Domke J1 as a possible shoulder bag for the MF outfit. In mine, I can fit the Mamiya 645 with any lens, and have four other compartments for the other lenses, plus side pockets. Also get the US Postal Carriers strap pad from Domke as it actually makes the weight on the shoulder bearable
    Jack
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  14. #14
    DougDolde
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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    Alpa TC
    P45+
    S-K 24mm (or 35mm) XL

    Man you just blew his trip budget with this rig !

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    Seriously, you could travel around the world several times staying in 5 star hotels for the cost of that rig.

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flesher View Post
    Tom: Take a look at the Domke J1 as a possible shoulder bag for the MF outfit. In mine, I can fit the Mamiya 645 with any lens, and have four other compartments for the other lenses, plus side pockets. Also get the US Postal Carriers strap pad from Domke as it actually makes the weight on the shoulder bearable
    Jack, I have a nice shoulder bag that will accept the 645 with 55mm and the 140 with Mutar. The problem is how it makes one's shoulder ache due to the weight. Doing a lot of walking with a heavy shoulder bag is tough.

    Ok, sometimes it takes me a while to realize what the question really is. The crux of the issue is probably this: a shoulder bag is good for 645 body with one lens. Adding a second lens, and other gear, demands a backpack. Am I willing to travel with a backpack? hmmm.

    Also I have tried the Lowepro slingshot. Hated it. I'd rather go with a true backpack.
    Last edited by tom in mpls; 14th April 2008 at 13:25.

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    Hi Tom,

    I am a long time Contax 645 user, and have found it to be the most ideal/versatile choice for travel. All three of your options are perfectly adequate, except for your last choice, I would not recommend taking the Mutar. Unless you know for sure that you will need it, you should leave the telephoto behind. I can't tell you how many times my 140 and 210 and Mutar just sat in my bag for the entire trip.

    The smallest, most compact setup for shooting all day is the 55 (or 80) and a waist level finder. I believe this combo is even lighter than some 35mm DSLRs like the Canon 1DsXXX or Leica DMR. I can shoot all day with this setup. The only downside is whether you will need flash. If you can get away without needing flash, then this is your best bet.

    Here are my travel recommendations when you don't want to lug everything:

    1a. WLF, 55 and no flash. This is the smallest and lightest outfit of ANY of the AF SLR systems. For a one lens solution, the extra FOV of the 55 will prove to be more important than the speed of the 80.

    2a. WLF, 45-90, 80, no flash. Here, you trade off the compactness/lightweight of the 55 for the versatility of the zoom. If I know that I will want "near-macro" shots (like in spring), this is my solution, since the zoom has a 1:4 macro capability at 90mm. Without flash, you will also need the 80/2, since the speed will allow the Contax 645 to autofocus in near darkness....very useful inside Europe's cathedrals and museums. The 80mm is tiny and also acts as a backup if you find the zoom to be too heavy on some days.

    If you really cannot deal with a WLF only setup and/or want flash, then this is the next step up in kit size:

    1b. prism, 55, TLA200 flash. This little flash can work wonders when you need a little outdoor fill. Indoors it is more risky, since it cannot bounce, but works great if it is only a supplemental light source.

    2b. prism, 45-90, 80, TLA200 flash. Again, this is a much more versatile setup if you can handle the extra weight.

    If you are bringing a tripod and planning on creating stitched landscapes, then I WOULD recommend the 140, and add it to any of the solutions above.

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    David, you raise another issue regarding the flash. I have wlf and prism finders, tla 200, and the flash bracket, but it seems so silly to take the bracket just to be able to use the flash. so i've been thinking of taking the prism also so i can use flash. the P30+ shoots at up to ISO 1600 so dim light may be more of an issue for af than exposure.

    Thanks also for your comments about tele. That puts a new way of looking at it for me. I change my mind every 5 minutes, but right now I like 1a. Would it be silly to add the flash bracket or prism, and TLA 360? 1 nice light lens, full flash options. But 850-900 gm extra weight. Wouldn't it be perfect if the tla 200 could be used with the wlf? one can dream, eh?

    1aII. wlf, 55, bracket, tla 200?

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    Jim, you are on your vacation with your family....don't take the flash bracket. Besides, that thing will draw unwanted attention to you. (If you were single and in Milan, then it would be a different story...) You may even get approached by officials who tell you that you cannot shoot it without a license!

    If you will need flash often, the you should take the prism and be done with it. Just treat the prism+TLA200 as a single entity when you need to use flash, and shoot as much as possible with the WLF. The prism is a better choice to take with you than the flash bracket. I even like this idea, since the prism is now a backup should anything happen to your WLF, whereas the bracket backs up nothing.

    One more thing...unless you are an old pro who is accustomed to shooting with WLF hand-held for long periods, I strongly recommend using a grid focusing screen. The Contax 645, as great a camera as it is, is not the best ergonomically for hand-held WLF shooting. If you do not practice, practice, practice, you will wind up with photos that are skewed (badly). The grid focusing screen will help you align your WLF shots with ease.

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    Quote Originally Posted by David Klepacki View Post
    Jim, you are on your vacation with your family....don't take the flash bracket. Besides, that thing will draw unwanted attention to you. (If you were single and in Milan, then it would be a different story...) You may even get approached by officials who tell you that you cannot shoot it without a license!

    If you will need flash often, the you should take the prism and be done with it. Just treat the prism+TLA200 as a single entity when you need to use flash, and shoot as much as possible with the WLF. The prism is a better choice to take with you than the flash bracket. I even like this idea, since the prism is now a backup should anything happen to your WLF, whereas the bracket backs up nothing.

    One more thing...unless you are an old pro who is accustomed to shooting with WLF hand-held for long periods, I strongly recommend using a grid focusing screen. The Contax 645, as great a camera as it is, is not the best ergonomically for hand-held WLF shooting. If you do not practice, practice, practice, you will wind up with photos that are skewed (badly). The grid focusing screen will help you align your WLF shots with ease.
    Good advice again. I love using grid on my 5D, makes even more sense for the 645.

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    The more I think about this, the more I am convinced the prism and WLF are necessary. Sometimes, long periods of WLF use will leave our neck strained from looking down all the time. The prism would allow you to alternate on days, and alleviate any discomfort, should it arise.

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    I have used the same bag with my MF gear as well. I really do like it. However if it is full and after walking for a long period, my shoulder hurts more than a backpack.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flesher View Post
    Tom: Take a look at the Domke J1 as a possible shoulder bag for the MF outfit. In mine, I can fit the Mamiya 645 with any lens, and have four other compartments for the other lenses, plus side pockets. Also get the US Postal Carriers strap pad from Domke as it actually makes the weight on the shoulder bearable

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    Quote Originally Posted by David Klepacki View Post
    The more I think about this, the more I am convinced the prism and WLF are necessary. Sometimes, long periods of WLF use will leave our neck strained from looking down all the time. The prism would allow you to alternate on days, and alleviate any discomfort, should it arise.
    Funny how roundabout my reasoning can get. The wlf is lighter, but if you want to have flash available you need the prism. So it would be a smaller/lighter kit to use the 645/prism/55/flash than to use both viewfinders.

    I am still fairly new to this system, but I rather enjoy the lower camera angle of the wlf so that would favor taking both finders. Unless lightest possible kit is the primary concern...oy, my head aches.
    Last edited by tom in mpls; 15th April 2008 at 11:33.

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    Tom, I am also in the Minneapolis area and took along a Contax 645 with P25 on vacation to Switzerland last summer. The attached photo was with my hiking kit, consisting of the 55mm and the 120mm Makro, and the TLA200 (this photo was with the 55mm). I used a monopod for most shots or placed the camera on my backpack for stability, using the self-timer. I was very happy with it but am still learning. On a Southwest USA car trip last fall, my kit was the 45-90mm zoom and the 120mm Makro with a Carbon One tripod.
    This picture, taken in flat noon sunlight using fill-flash, was from the Segantini-Huette, a reclusive painter's alp hut overlooking the Engadin valley and St. Moritz.

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    Tom,

    NO more agony necessary. I really think you will find the following system as the best overall compromise for your vacation needs:

    Contax 645 w/ grid screen,WLF,prism,55, and TLA200.

    Your walk around/daily setup should be: WLF and 55.
    When you need to add flash, then swap out the WLF for the prism. It only takes about ten seconds. When not in use, the prism is only a little extra weight, but can squeeze into small spaces in your pack (like vertically).

    I don't think you can get any more quality per gm. This is a VERY small and lightweight travel kit for MF quality.

    If you still need more rational justification to ease your mind, you can also think about it this way. You traded off the luxury of the zoom, to get the benefits of the prism and flash (roughly a wash in weight and size). This is a great compromise.

    Just take this setup and don't think twice. Enjoy your family and vacation and the photographic memories.

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    Re: Travel kit that won't kill my back

    engel001, thanks for the input and the lovely sample.

    David, OCD is part of who I am! I know I will continue to argue with myself about the right kit, even after I return. At any rate, your comments have allowed me to relax and get on with the other things in my life that need to be obsessed over.

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