TK Roll 2015–39: Traveling Light (Minolta X-700, 45/f2 and 28/f2.8, Agfa Precisa 100)

Summer vacation usually does not take me southward, where so many Central Europeans bask in the hot glow of the Mediterranean sun. Instead, I book a flight, or a ferry passage out of a Baltic port towards Finland.

My mother was born in Finland. She grew up there, and she still has ties. She never gave up her Finnish citizenship, and thus also conferred it on me and my brother. But more importantly, she instilled in us a love for the Finnish countryside in summer. Summer in Scandinavia is a time when even the most sober among people admit that magic may be real. It only lasts a few short months, but during these months the sun hardly sets, and the climate makes you forget how close you are to the Arctic circle.

After going at least every other year from when I was a toddler until the late 1990s, and not having been back during most years as a student (not once from 2003 to 2010), I went again in 2014 and 2015. And luckily, I had rediscovered the joys of film photography by then. In 2014 I left home with two camera bodies, one of them a heavy Minolta SR-T, several prime lenses, a standard zoom, and a tele zoom. I also brought along two point and shoots (one for color, and one for black and white), and loads of film. It was fun, and I got a lot of great shots, and even the ones that weren’t great were still wonderful memories.

This time, that wouldn’t be possible. In the ever-increasing race to inconvenience flyers around the globe, our airline had decided just a few months before Carrie and I were to join my parents in the family refuge in the South of that Nordic country, that checked luggage was no longer something that customers deserved. Unfortunately, they had not deigned to inform ticket bookers of this, so we found out about it the evening before our departure, with bags already packed. You could pay a fee, sure, and be allowed that privilege, but since we were headed on a summer vacation without much need for formal dress, that seemed ridiculous to us. Yet, having decided to carry on, a very obvious problem presented itself: How was I going to travel across half of Europe with clothes, toiletries, books and camera equipment all stuffed into one bag that could not weigh more than 8kg?

A frenzied night of Tetris-like repacking and re-repacking followed, accompanied by several weigh-ins. Out went the wireless keyboard I had hoped to use with my iPad to get some writing done. Out went extra pairs of pants and a second week’s worth of t-shirts, socks, and underwear. Out went extra pairs of shoes. I would bring just one, the one I was going to wear on the plane. Out went several books (though I couldn’t possibly bring less than two!). But the elephant in the room sat on my shelf; shiny, heavy, big. It had become clear that my assortment of cameras had to be cut down to size.

I don’t like airline baggage restrictions, but I do like a challenge. And I did like that it forced me to be honest to myself: which camera would I trust to capture two weeks worth of vacation memories? Which lenses would I bring so that I wouldn’t miss any photo opportunities? Did I need filters? What film would I want? Fast? Slow? And if the latter, how would I deal without bringing a tripod?

I didn’t have to think for all that long. Panic mode set in, and I realized that I would just have to go to my go-to. So I grabbed my Minolta X-700, put the smallest prime I had, a very useful 45/f2, on it, clicked a 28/f2.8 lens onto a 2x teleconverter (this would give me a nice stepping of focal lengths: 28 – 45 – 56 – 90, essentially a standard zoom, but with better image quality and better low light capabilities), put a circular polarizer on the 45, stuck a close-up lens in my bag, loaded the camera with Agfa Precisa 100 slide film, and put another 10 of these films in one of those egg-box-like multiple film roll cases. At ISO 100, there wouldn’t be the slightest worry about airport x-rays fogging the film, and the sharpness of the emulsion (rumored to be a repackaged Fuji Provia or Sensia or the like) would enable me to take pictures of things that were farther away than my lens selection reached, and later crop without problems. I put a lens cleaning cloth, an old Agfa flash and an UltraPod mini tripod into the bag (really a very handy little thing), and looked at my selection. Done. Well, almost. I really couldn’t be without a backup – not just my iPhone, which I would use extensively for Instagram shots, but a film camera – imagine seeing a beautiful scene and not being able to capture it on film!). Since another SLR body was too heavy and big, I put the Minolta Riva Mini in my jacket pocket.

Bildschirmfoto 2016-01-18 um 09.55.11

The Minimalist Kit

Then I went on vacation with one carry on bag weighing less than 8kg, feeling much like a normal person going on vacation, and not like the obsessed photographer who can’t leave anything behind I had been the previous year. I shot all 11 rolls, and I never missed another camera – even when the Minolta’s frame counter gave up halfway through the vacation and I couldn’t tell anymore which frame I was on for the rest of the rolls. It really is true: Traveling light is freeing.

13 thoughts on “TK Roll 2015–39: Traveling Light (Minolta X-700, 45/f2 and 28/f2.8, Agfa Precisa 100)

    • Yeah, I noticed how well it metered when I scanned this. Thinking about setting it deliberately a third of a stop lower to get a little more detail in the shadows. How are you liking the XD-11? I feel I can’t avoid trying it out eventually.

      Like

  1. I don’t know Torsten; just the Riva Mini would be “traveling light”. There is still a great deal of the obsessive photographer in this selection 😉

    Did you use all the lenses and attachments and filters or flash? Which ones could you leave behind next time based on did-not-use-at-all criterion, and which ones could you survive without because rarely used or otherwise not really necessary? Could you be satisfied with just one lens (the 40/2 perhaps?), polarising filter and that’s it?

    That film is lovely, I wish it was available in my neck of the woods. And Buying Lure is, shall I say, a particularly alluring photo. Pun aside, it is my favourite.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hehe, it’s all about where on the spectrum of the obsessiveness one locates oneself 😉 Though maybe next time I’ll just bring the 35/f2.8 on the X-700 with the polarizer. I hardly used the 28mm, but only because I realized it had a scratch on the back element and that would mess with the contrast. To me, the challenge wasn’t about leaving as much as possible, but about bringing as much as possible, just without the weight. In this case, I was literally traveling light in terms of weight. My obsessiveness came with me, either way 😉 And yes, I love that film. I shot most of my year in Washington, DC in 2013/14 with that camera/film combination. It used to be really cheap, €7 for a 2-pack, but they’ve since increased prices to €11. Still much cheaper than Provia, but not as easily used as a film to burn through anymore. I really like the old school travel photography vibe you get from shooting slide though, so maybe I’ll stock up for next summer.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I lament the cost of slide film. I can’t get anything for less than about Can$20 per roll, and processing is another $10. I can buy good cameras for $30, so it really sticks in the craw and keeps me away. But I just love the way it looks, every time I use it.

        Like

        • That’s a pretty sad state of affairs. Considering I managed to buy this still at €6.95 per 2, and processing without framing (which is better for scanning anyway) is €1.95, the whole eleven rolls came out to €38.23 for the film an €21.45 for processing – i.e., less than what you would pay for three rolls! I could stick some of that cheap film in the mail for you, but not sure if that would end up being worth it after shipping and fees…

          Like

          • Thanks for the thought! I suspect that by the time I paid for all the extras, I would be in the same ballpark as here. The Canadian dollar has dropped by 30% in last year or so which we are starting to feel as it trickles/floods through the supply chain. But, your offer does remind me that my London based sister is coming for a visit soon. Maybe I should see if she is willing to pick some film up for me and courier it over.
            I shouldn’t sound like I am complaining though. In some ways I am really lucky in that there is a wide variety of film available in this small city (for example: http://camera-traders.com/film-and-chemistry) and I know lots of people are without any real choices in their towns.

            Like

            • If she can get to Poundland, they seem to be stocking the Agfa 200 again that’s probably a Fuji C200, for £1 for a roll of 24. It performs much better than it should, though of course it’s not slide…

              Liked by 1 person

          • And after writing that last comment I had another look through the film selection in that link and see that they currently have some Rollei reversal films for $9 and $10 which they did not have when I last was looking around for slide film. So, I should make a visit to the store and stock up. Though I have no idea was the film is like.

            Like

  2. Wow: 8kg is a real challenge. I have ‘bent’ the rules one or two times by wearing my camera rather than presenting it in my bag at check in. Your tiny tripod looks great! Is it more versatile than a gorilla-pod?

    Like

    • Some airlines explicit allow “one camera” as an extra item, but I didn’t want to push my luck. The UltraPod is great, some things it does better than a Gorillapod (e.g. It works well as an extra handle for stabilzing your shot or portrait sork), but it’s sometimes more limiting in setup – the UltraPod needs to be wrapped around something to be stable, the Gorillapod can just grab on. I’m not typically a tripod guy, but the little pod works for me and doesn’t weigh me down.

      Like

  3. I must say I’m always delighted to read your posts Torsten. I have fond memories of Scandinavia as well. Some day we’ll have to take the kids there.

    And I could see my self doing the same thing with the gear! Well, maybe I would have left the 28mm at home and brought the 100mm. 😉 Or maybe just a TLR … Not that I own one currently. 😉 Oh, and I love, love, love Precisa as well. Such a great film at such a cheap price. Although I pay 2.55€ for development around here. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s