The Accidental Camera Bag

The backpack I bought last year at Emart last year no longer met my needs so I decided to replace it. I originally bought it for going back and forth to school but realised later that putting groceries in my backpack on the way home from school was more convenient and environmentally friendly than carrying plastic bags from the shops. The problem was, the bag wasn’t quite big enough to fit a load of groceries into and the large pockets on the front of the bag prevented it from expanding to fit bags of apples and other oddly shaped things. So last weekend I decided to walk around downtown and buy a bigger bag.

I walked around the high street area but didn’t find anything that met my needs so I went to Homeplus to see what they had. There’s an independent merchant on the 4th floor that sells bags and I bought a very good shoulder bag from him last year. After looking around for twenty minutes or so, I found a large back that would fit a lot of groceries, could take oddly shaped packages, and also had a front pocket for carrying pens and so on. In the main compartment was a sleeve for a laptop computer. Perfect. I bought it and came home.

After looking it over again and going through the pockets, I realised that my new backpack would also make an excellent camera bag. Here it is:

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You can see the bag is quite long and the front pocket is large. I can fit my wallet, planner, phone, pens, and other things in there.

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Lots of little pockets and holders.

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The top of the bag completely unzips except for the back. This is an excellent feature. My last bag had a zipper that went across the top and down the sides. It left a narrow space to put things in and sometimes the front of the bag would flop around when the zipper was open all the way.

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One side of the bag has a deep pocket that fits my 180mm lens. It will fit a 300mm or possibly even longer lens as well.

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The other side of the bag has two smaller pockets. That’s where I keep two of my three other lenses. I usually have a 50mm lens on the camera so the top pocket holds a 28mm lens and the bottom pocket holds an 85mm lens.

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It might be hard to tell here, but the pockets and the main compartment have thick padding. Camera bag thickness. This provides good protection for my camera (which goes in the main compartment when travelling) and the lenses. What’s more, the thick padding insulates the bag and refrigerated foods stay cool while I’m coming home from the grocery store. Important when you don’t have a car and you depend on bicycle or buses to get around.

The only bad thing about the bag I have discovered so far it that because it’s so tall and the bottom is not completely flat, I need to be careful when setting it down. Otherwise, it might fall over or fall off a chair. This happened to me with a laptop computer inside. Luckily, the bag is so well padded that the computer was fine. But lesson learned . . . . .

I live in a smallish apartment and space is limited. I was really happy when I found a single bag that could take the place of three: a school bag, a shopping bag, and a camera bag. I don’t know how long this one will last me, though it seems sturdy enough with no loose threads indicating poor manufacture. When this one wears out, I am definitely going to look for something identical.

New Camera?

I’ve been using a Fujifilm X-Pro 1 for the past few years and although it takes wonderful photographs I would like to have a better body. The X-Pro 1’s autofocus is not very good and I sometimes miss photographs because the lens grinds back and forth trying to latch on to something. The EVF in the camera is fine but sometimes takes a while to adjust brightness and that delays the speed with which I can make a photograph. There are a few other annoyances as well but those are the main two.

So what camera do I want to buy? I’ve narrowed down my choices to a few but it’s difficult to decide. All of the cameras have advantages and disadvantages. I’ve been making some notes to help me decide and that’s what the body of this blog is.

The new X-T2 sounds great but reviews are often biased, especially early on. I’ve read that the EVF is wonderful, but is it wonderful for a viewfinder or wonderful for an EVF? I prefer an optical viewfinder. Fuji’s lenses make great photographs but I don’t like the way they handle. Plasticky, and manual focus is done electronically. The thing I don’t really want to give up is the great colour of X-series cameras.

My second choice is the Nikon D810. Except for the size and the lack of Fuji colours there is nothing bad to say about it. High resolution, optical viewfinder, amazing autofocus, etc. I’ve already got a basic set of Nikon lenses so I wouldn’t need to buy any. But, the size . . . . It’s not a camera I can hang around my neck all day like the Fuji mirrorless.

One of my favourite cameras ever is the Zeiss Ikon rangefinder. There’s no digital version, unfortunately. Should I buy a digital Leica? The Zeiss lens I have is an M-mount. But the price is very high and digital cameras go obsolete so quickly that I would feel too nervous about spending so much money. How much would it cost to fix in three years if something happened to the electronics? Would there be parts for it in five years? Leica is nice but it’s a risk I can’t afford.

What about a large camera like the D810 for projects and then a pocket camera like the Ricoh GR for always having on me? Well, then I have two cameras and I would prefer to just have one. And pocket cameras tend to have wide angle lenses whereas I prefer a standard lens. Good compact cameras aren’t cheap, either.

I’ve been making lists of pros and cons for the past couple of weeks and I still can’t decide. The important thing is to not buy anything until I am absolutely certain about what I want. The X-Pro 1 isn’t broken so there’s no big rush.

Undiginess

If you read my previous blog post you know that getting anything done with film is a royal pain in the arse where I live. And probably many other places. I didn’t go out and buy pencils and a sketchbook but I did put my Fuji X-Pro1 around my neck today instead of a film camera. (I got my digital camera ready before I knew that he wouldn’t have the film done because I had a strong feeling that my prints wouldn’t be ready based on past experience and I was feeling frustrated even before I left the house).

Downtown crosswalk, Fuji X-Pro 1, 18mm lens
Downtown crosswalk, Fuji X-Pro 1, 18mm lens

The above photo would be much better if the fellow with the mobile phone wasn’t there.

I don’t like most digital photographs because they are too clean and shiny. They are realistic rather than naturalistic, a distinction I picked up fromĀ Naturalistic Photography for Students of the Art by Peter Henry Emerson. Realistic is just a copy of reality whereas naturalistic photos include an interpretation of the subject while still remaining true to form. Interpretation or not, I find digital photographs a bit boring because they are so perfect.

Basement Space for Rent, Fuji X-Pro 1, 18mm lens
Basement Space for Rent, Fuji X-Pro 1, 18mm lens

So I have been trying to find a way to make my digital photos less pristine and glowing. Many online photos have the contrast, clarity, and saturation ‘up on bust’, as we say in Newfoundland. I prefer more muted and natural colours, like Kodak E100G slide filmĀ used to produce. The nice thing about the Fuji X-series cameras is that they make good colours right in the camera. Perhaps all that experience making film carried over to their digital department. After lots of research and trying out this and that, I now set my camera to Standard film simulation (Provia), -2 colour, -2 noise reduction, +1 shadow tone, and +1 highlight tone. Reducing colour gets rid of ‘digital glow’ and produces more natural colour, lowering noise reduction produces photos with less smoothing and more detail (with more noise, which I don’t mind), and changing the tone just means less time adjusting levels in Lightroom later.

Used Car Dealership Advertising, Fuji X-Pro 1, 18mm lens
Used Car Dealership Advertising, Fuji X-Pro 1, 18mm lens

One thing I like about film is that once I’ve done my best to get the proper exposure and pressed the shutter release button I don’t have to do anything else. The lab processes the film and then makes prints. That’s why I am taking pains to get everything right before I press the shutter release button on my digital camera. Let the camera do all the work. I don’t want to spend time messing around with post-processing.

On a somewhat unrelated note, the photos above are snapshots I made today. Definitely not works of art. I want to spend several weeks using a wide angle lens but it’s not easy. I understand I have to be more careful with composition because there are a lot more things in the frame but getting lines straight is going to take some practice. I had to adjust angles in all of the photos above because I didn’t get it right when I made the pictures. Practise, practise, practise . . . . .