So this year for vacation, my wife and I decided to head to Ireland and France. Naturally, my number one priority was to pack up the camera gear and passports. Everything else is second...
The Sony A7r and Fuji x100s were going for sure. I also decided since weight wasn't really an issue to bring along my old Canon A-1 and a few rolls of film. This whole trip was going to be staying at hotels...not really a "back-packing" style trip so slim and light wasn't a high priority and adding an extra camera and a few rolls of film weren't adding much. I grabbed 4 rolls of Ilford (HP5 Plus 400 and Delta 100), 2 rolls of Kodak 100 TMax and two rolls of Fujifilm Neopan ACROS 100.
I've walked around with the Fuji x100s a lot over the past few months and knew what to expect from it. I've also recently picked up the Fujifilm WCL-X100 Wide Conversion Lens which has been a nice addition. It was going along more as the walk around camera. It's small enough to walk with it around my neck all day long without neck pain to handle all the "vacation snapshots" as well as any behind the camera photos. In Dubai the A7r usually sits on a tripod so I've never really walked around much with it around my neck. I planned on doing this a few times during this trip just to see if maybe....just maybe....the A7r will make the x100s obsolete for me.
Canon EF 17mm TS-E
I really debated bringing the tilt-shift. I use it a lot here in Dubai and thought it would be good to bring with. I ended up using it three times. It was by far the heaviest and biggest thing in my bag and while I didn't walk around with it much...I still had to carry it during all the day of flights. I don't really regret bringing it per say....but if current self could talk to two weeks ago self....I would have not brought it with me. Wasn't worth the weight, real-estate and the risk of traveling with it (it's not exactly cheap). Of course being the only EF lens I was bringing it now adds the Metabones 3 EF to E adapter. Would have also been able to leave the larger Lee Filter stuff at home. Regardless, unless my next trip is to a big city with tall buildings I might be shooting off of rooftops, the TS-E is staying at home.
Sony/Zeiss FE lenses - Brought both the 55mm/1.8 and 35mm/2.8
- Both are relatively small and light
- Native E-Mount lenses with AF
Voigtlander - 21mm/1.8 and 15mm/4.5
- The 21 is a fast manual focus wide angle
- The CV15 is a TINY rangefinder lens that you'll either love, or hate.
Canon FD 50mm 1.4
- Only lens I brought for the A-1
Everything could have easily fit into the Pro Pack if I didn't bring the film stuff or the tilt-shift. With some creative packing I could have packed it all in the pro pack, but then it would have been pretty heavy and I always worry about the random carry-on weight check. I like having a messenger style bag when walking around anywhere so regardless I would have taken the DNA with.
Spare batteries for both A7r and x100s (1 ea.)
Benro Tripod (some carbon fiber three section model I only brought as it's much smaller than my Gitzo)
ReallyRightStuff BH-30 head and mounting plates for A7r and x100s
Macbook Air + powercord
Buffalo 1TB Thunderbolt external drive
Lee Filters x2 (for TS-E as well as the Seven5 system for x100s and 49mm) with Big Stoppers
40" Gepe Cable Release (for x100s and A-1)
Opteka RC-3 IR Remote (for A7r)
Joby GP-3 Gorilla Pod (don't travel without it)
Hex tool kit (some folding type I bought as well as an extra single hex key for the RRS plates)
Kenko 1.4 Teleconverter (I don't even know why I brought this)
SD Storage Case + few extra SD Cards
Lenspen (2 or 3) + few microfiber cloths
For starters I want to be clear on one thing. I take vacations to take vacations, not to go take pictures. That might sound surprising after reading my packing list, but the majority of photos I take on vacation are for OUR memories. "Snapshots" if I may. This is actually part of the joy of bringing a film camera....reflecting back at the pictures when I get them developed in a few weeks. During the trip we planned to do some driving, some touristy stuff, gratuitous amounts of drinking, fancy dining and enjoying ourselves. I'll occasionally break away for a few hours to go shoot something specific. Usually I'll send the wife off to the spa during this time.
Below is the only picture I really WANTED to take on this trip. Sure it's been shot a billion and 138 times, but it's a shot I've always loved, of a structure that's always amazed me. 1889...they finished building it three years AFTER the car was invented. That's crazy! I've wanted a large size print of this but I wanted it to be a picture I took. First day in Paris we went to go look at the Eiffel and when I looked up I knew it was happening today. I wasn't sure what the rules of using tripods here was. I looked around at the 7,321,452 tourists in the area and didn't see a single tripod. Hmm....well...I don't care...I'm getting my shot. I shot it with the Sony A7r and the CV15. Cops and soldiers walked by many times, nobody said anything about the tripod....well shit....you know what that means! It means I'm going to take a few more photos.
So let me rewind a few days. First, here is a list of the fancy ass hotels we stayed at during the course of our two week trip.
- Powerscourt Hotel Autograph Collection (Southwest of Dublin)
- The Shelbourne Dublin
- Renaissance Paris Arc de Triomphe Hotel (about a 5 minute walk to the Arc)
- InterContinental Carlton Cannes
- JW Marriott Cannes
- InterContinental Paris Le Grand Hotel
The Powerscourt, Renaissance and JW were absolutely amazing hotels. The Shelbourne was really really nice. Our room was a bit small, but the hotel itself was great with a great bar and restaurant. They make a Oysters Rockafeller that is one of the best I've had. The Renaissance in Paris was great. We had a Penthouse suite which was big and fancy. The Carlton in Cannes we stayed at only because it was a bit of a dream as a kid. The last time I was in Cannes was in 1989 when I was nine years old. It was the big fancy hotel in Cannes and a bit of a childhood dream to stay there. We arrived in Cannes a day early so I figured we'd stay there for that first night. Much like the Le Grand, it's a old hotel and really needs some renovation. And hotel age is no excuse, the Powerscourt and the Shelbourne are both really old and were amazing....not run down feeling.
Ok...back to the important stuff
Most of the trip I walked around with the DNA bag by itself. Basically if I wasn't planning on using the tripod (which was attached to the side of the backpack) I'd only bring the DNA bag. This bag can fit A LOT in it for a relatively small walk around bag. I could take both Zeiss lenses, both Voigtlander lenses, both cameras, wide angle adapter for the x100s, IR remote, cable release, passports, wallet and a few tid bits. This thing holds a ton. The shoulder strap and pad are fantastic. It also has a zipper on the top which is phenomenal, I never realized how convenient it would be until I used it! My only gripe about this bag is the little magnetic clips on the straps that attach to the front (they secure the flap). Funny enough they were an actual selling point that I really liked the first time I held the bag. The problem (and nice thing) is that the straps disconnect by sliding sideways. It felt great at first, but I found that they (whichever one was towards the front) came undone quite a bit. Basically it doesn't take much pressure to slide it out of it's magnetic holding. The whole front flap is still velcro'd down, so it's not like it's open, just a nuisance like walking around with your zipper down.
As far as the Incase Pro DSLR Pack.....I absolutely LOVE this bag. I've gone thru quite a few camera backpacks and have been wanting to buy this one for over two years. Once, I needed in two days and Incase didn't offer overnight shipping, twice it was out of stock in the color I wanted and a few times it was just out of stock. I ended up ordering it off of Amazon before this trip. So glad I did! My only gripe would be that it SHOULD come with some kind of waterproof cover. The DNA bag does, this one doesn't. With the word "pro" in it...shouldn't it come with one? I gave it a spray of some weather proofing stuff I had on hand, but didn't have to deal with any bad rain during the trip though it did sprinkle one time in Paris while I had the bag on, I also had an umbrella in the bag and was just using that.
So...here are a few pictures
Viva la France!
After 8 days we left Dublin and flew to Paris. The driver met us at the airport and drove us to the hotel. After we got settled and ate I grabbed some gear (in backpack) and wanted to go shoot the Arc de Triomphe. I expected it to be a bit crowded....I did not expect it to be so crowded. I was hoping to go on top of it, but one thing about me....I hate standing in line. Now if I must stand in line...that's fine....if I have the option...I will usually take whatever option involves no line. So needless to say....Sebastian will not be going to the top of the Arc de Triomphe today.
There was a ton of people so I decided to shoot across the street from Avenue de Champs-Élysées. The amount of traffic here is crazy and the fact that there's room for about 10 lanes, but there are no lanes and cars are just driving everywhere adds to the craziness. I really wanted to use the Lee Big Stopper here and the only wide angle I have that i can use it on is the 17mm Canon TS-E.
I cannot wait to go back to Paris. You can't turn a corner without seeing something amazing. So much history, culture and amazing food. I was hoping to meet up with Serge Ramelli while we were there but he didn't get back to Paris in time before we left, (though I did see a few of his photos being sold by a street vendor). Once the tourist season is over in the winter I'd like to make a trip back in a few days as there are a few things I want to do and shoot but it just wasn't doable with all the tourists.
After two more days in Paris it was time to make way towards the French Riviera and the city of Cannes. Originally we planned on making the drive south a two day drive but I ended up making the drive all the way thru just so we could spend some more there.
It was here where I made an observation. Every night I would dump my photos on the laptop and make a backup on the external drive. I'm hardly every shooting with the x100s. So far most everything I had shot during the trip was with either the Sony or the A-1. A couple of the pictures of the Sony shooting were shot with the x100s, but that's been about it. I found myself always carrying the A7r with me. Mostly I was shooting with the 55mm/1.8 or one of the two Voigtlanders, but it's been my primary camera. Why is this? I love the Fuji.
Has it simply become a back-up and behind the scene's camera?
Am I going to be selling off the Fuji x100s?
Hmmmmm.......more on that later...
So far I hadn't used the Gorilla pod a single time. But it's been fantastic as a conversation starter. Remember when I mentioned towards the top that nobody had a tripod when I was shooting at the Eiffel Tower? The same applied at the little bit of beach in the picture above. But so far I had let 5 people use the Gorilla pod at some point while I was out shooting. It was an easy way to start up a conversation and I got to help someone out. I will always be taking the gorilla pod with me.
The x100s conundrum
So here I sit looking back at the past two weeks trying to justify the x100s to myself. It's no secret, I absolutely love the x100s and it's the first camera I've ever been able to say that about. But, have I come to the point since selling my Canon 5D3 in December 2013 that the A7r can fully function for me as a walk-around camera as well as a land/city scape camera like I've been using it for?
Something else I found during this trip is that I really like shooting looking down at the screen flipped up. Not really sure why I like it, but I found it even with the A7r's loud ass shutter less intrusive than holding a camera up to my eye. So lets say I were to sell it. Then what? Recently on my review of the X-T1 a reader asked "with this XT1 + 10-24 combo, are you confident enough just to carry it for traveling leaving the a7r with CV15 behind?". Short answer...."Yes...without a doubt". I would also add a 35/1.4 or 56/1.2. But in my case I already own the A7r. I actually spoke to a few folks I saw with X-T1's during my trip including one couple in their 80's. Even got to answer a few questions about the camera for them :-)
So now what should I do? There's an x to m adapter to use M-mount lenses on the X-T1. Not to mention Fuji's own line-up of fast primes. But is that another pointless purchase at this point? What about adding an A7? The CV15 performs better on it than the A7r. It's AF system is better than the A7r. All the lenses and adapters I have would work on it. It would make for a great back-up. However, since I'm not shooting for money these days, should I even bother with a back-up? What about the rumors of Fuji's possible move towards a full frame sensor in the future? That will mean new lenses anyway, so the currently line-up of X lenses wouldn't work.
When I bought the x100s it was mainly to be more of a walk-around camera to supplement the rather large Canon 5D3. Last year in Sicily I hated walking around with the 5D3. The x100s wasn't purchased to be a backup.....it was a tool for a specific reason. Now the A7r can be that tool as well apparently (surprising to me actually). During this trip I started using the 35mm/2.8 more and more as well. I don't know why I almost never use it...but the few times I've had...I've been very happy with it. The 55/1.8 is truly a great real world performer.
The x100s has probably been my favorite camera I've ever owned, but like every camera, it's a tool that I simply don't need anymore. She will be missed...
No Pants Day
Every week I make it a goal to have a no pants day. I've been doing this the greater part of my adult life. Think of it as a "me day". It's not always a completely non-productive lazy day (though it is sometimes), but it's a day I'm not concerned with the outside world. I'll catch up on household chores, process photos, piddle around online, watch Archer, Top Gear, etc. And now do a blog. It'll probably revolve around photography or art, it'll probably have some pictures I shot that week (but might have some oldies), I don't really know what'll happen. It's my day and I'll write what I want to. Ideally, with no pants.