New year, new gear
2020 was a year from hell, getting stuck in quarantine in China since late January meant that it was very hard to do any shooting or even any work, so not a lot of photography got done last year. But with a new year comes some new gear and hopefully some freedom to go out and create again. So let’s quickly go over some of my new gear that arrived just in time for Christmas and my reasons for purchasing them.
The first new piece of equipment is the Ricoh GRiii. After watching a few vlogs from street shooters on Youtube, I decided to give this little camera a try. I really don’t carry big cameras with me during my normal day to day activities as they get too much attention from the general public and during the last few months, if a foreigner is walking around China with a big camera hanging off of himself, it would almost guarantee a visit from the police. So I found myself leaving home with almost no cameras a lot of the time. In the past, I never left home without my Fuji X100 and I used to take a lot of street shots during my morning walks but I have gotten away from that during these last few years. So I am hoping that this little camera will re-ignite my passion for shooting during my morning walks. So far I have taken the Ricoh GRiii out with me every morning and it has turned out to be a real little gem of a camera.
I have only used the Ricoh GRiii for around 2 weeks now but it has already become my everyday digital camera. It fits into my coat pocket with no problem, and no one pays you any attention when you are using it. The snap focus seems to be really good, and the normal autofocus seems to be fine so far. The only real downside to the camera is that the High ISO noise is not great. I have capped the maximum ISO at 2500 but thankful the Ricoh has in-body stabilization so you can shoot at much slower shutter speeds and still get good results. Almost all my shots with this camera so far as been shoot wide open at f2.8 with shutter speeds around 1/4 second. For shooting the stuff I like on the streets, this works out well.
I have also really enjoyed how customizable the camera is. I have set up two different profiles that I use on the camera. The first is the color profile which I use at night and early in the morning and the second is the black and white profile which I use during the day. I really enjoy how easy it is to switch between the two profiles. I seldom use a camera’s customization abilities, and to be honest, mostly I set all my work cameras to manual and shot raw. But this camera makes it so easy to use different custom profiles and they are very useful. I still need to use this camera a lot more before I can give any kind of review, but I will say that this camera is way better than my small Fuji XE3 that I used from time to time when I wanted to carry a small camera.
My next purchase was a new medium format camera to carry around with me when I go do some landscape shooting. I have been dragging my Pentax 67 or the Seagull 4A with me, but I had a real itch to try a system camera. I had my eyes set on a Hasselblad system, but I simply couldn’t find a single good body in all of China. Every single camera I looked at, seemed to have been through the wringer so eventually, I had to look at other system cameras. The Bronica SQ looked good but once again, I could find any good bodies for sale. There were a lot of really badly used copies that have clearly been heavily used by some pros so I decided to pass on them. In the west, you can buy an old film camera and send it for a CLA but not here in China. Most cameras can’t be repaired here in China and no one does CLA’s. Either you can fix the camera yourself or it doesn’t work again if it breaks. So I tend to be a tiny bit fussy when I buy old film cameras now. I finally found a Mamiya 645 pro body that came with a waist-level finder, an AE prism, the 80mm 2.8 lenses, and a wide 55mm 2.8 lens. This little setup weighs less than my Pentax 67 body and a single lens and I can now buy more film backs and shoot my black and white film at different ISO speeds and swop the backs as I need to.
I have only shot a single roll of film with the Mamiya 645 pro right now and I was just making sure that the camera was working and I was checking for light leaks. So I really can’t comment too much about the camera right now except to say that the camera is very light compared to what I am used to carrying around when I was shooting medium format. The waist-level finder is nice and bright but I had problems using the AE prism finder. It meters the scene perfectly but there is no diopter on the prism finder so I have to use glasses with it, and I don’t enjoy shooting with glasses on. I did check each exposure settings with each shot with the AE prism and compared it to an external light meter but my readings were almost identical which is good. If I do take the AE prism with me in the future, then I can leave my light meter at home. Right now I am not really using the Mamiya 645 pro even though it is packed into my everyday camera bag because we are right in the middle of Winter in Zhenjiang China and the weather is terrible. The skies are just pea soup grey, making any kind of photography very difficult outside. I really do want to get busy with this camera and shoot some more film with it but I have to wait until the weather clears up a bit.
My final purchase for this year was a GoPro. I have multiple action cameras but I wanted something that could do motion lapse with as I ride my bike around and go do some shooting in China. My DJI Osmo Pocket is a great little camera but it is not good for mounting on your chest so I bought the GoPro Hero 8 and a chest strap. Hopefully, this will turn out to be useful but time will tell.
A quick sunset timelapse demo
A quick demo of the motion lapse that I hope to use in 2021 when I go out shooting in China. I think it might be interesting if people can see what it is like shooting in China. A foreigner with a camera can draw lots of attention and it can produce some amusing situations in China, so I am hoping to capture some of these on video this year.
So this is all the new gear that I acquired for 2021. I hope this year will give me more opportunities to do some shooting and if I am lucky, then maybe the virus outbreak will slow down enough so I can go back to work. I spent most of 2020 in my apartment and I didn’t have the opportunity to get a lot of work done, so I am really hoping to get back to work and being creative again.