Walking with Cameras (and Racists)

Back in March I went to a Beers and Cameras meet up in Birmingham. Organised by Hamish Gill it was a classic meet and mooch, very ably shepherded by Richard Lambert. I’m always a fan of a photowalk, they’re such a great chance to get together and talk (ramble /effuse / evangelise). There are multiple posts on here about my decision process for which cameras to take on a particular walk and why.(Street Photography with the Street Hunters / Rematch – Street photography in London / Decisions Decsions – lndnwlk). This time I went with the Leica + 50mm and the F1 + the 55mm, because they are nice and I like them.

The event was kindly sponsored by Peak Design; (I was lucky enough to win a Cuff which I like, and has inspired the purchase of a Slide which I really like), and Kodak Alaris kindly supplied some film for us to shoot on the day.

Portra’s Year

The last year has been Portra’s year, I’ve shot almost nothing else, (some Natura 1600). Aside from the lovely tone and colour, neither of the cameras I was shooting has a working meter and the advantage of shooting Portra is that one can wing the metering. Having pre-loaded with Portra 400 and Natura 1600 on the train I did snaffle a roll of TX400 from the selection on offer.

The walk took us to the Covered Markets, The Custard Factory, through the city and along the canals. It also coincided with a march of a number of white supremacist groups, (who proved to be precisely as erudite, charming, and delightful as one might imagine). We crossed paths with them on a few occasions and I shot a few images but it all felt rather threatening and unpleasant. No war photographer am I.

In terms of the photography on the day think I came home with a better haul last year in London, entirely because of my state of mind on the day. My appreciation for the images was damped further by some gnarly scan lines from the lab, I haven’t rescanned them as yet, but here are a few of the better ones.

Summer Mjuse

This left me with a roll of TX400 burning a hole in my film stash, until the opportunity recently came up to put a roll through an Olympus Mju II Zoom 80. As a 35mm compact with a zoom and persistent flash, it’s very nearly the antithesis of my norm. I hardly ever shoot (film) with a zoom lens, often preferring the subject separation that one gets from a prime. It’s also rare for me use an auto setting, (recent dalliances with Instax and half-frame besides).

Given that I was going to shoot a film I’ve not shot in a while, and as a first monochrome roll in a long time too, it seemed fitting to subvert the entire exercise. There was something charmingly simple about just putting a film in. Not altering the ISO, (I’m happy to subvert a DX code any day of the week). With the combination of autofocus and a bit of zoom one could just use shoot the camera.

Erm…

It doesn’t announce the lens’ aperture on the body of the camera. Had I checked I might have know that it dropped from f/4.5 to f/8.9 over the course of the zoom and would have been less quick to tickle the no flash button. The 80mm end is a great focal length for portraits, but on-camera flash is not normally a great addition to portraiture, neither is all the lovely background detail one gets at f/8.9. In short, the zoom was useful,but constantly having to disable the flash was pretty irritating, as was the resultant camera shake.

There is a version of the Mju that has a 35mm f/2.8 prime lens in the same compact little package. The wider aperture combined with the the wider angle lens (the Zoom 80 is at 38mm at it’s widest), would perform better in low light, or at least require flash less often. Having put a roll through this one I understand why they are now commanding slightly daft prices.

Final Mjusings

As far as the concept is concerned I am somewhat converted, full-frame depth in a truly pocketable package, with an internal meter, I could get on board with that. The horrendous flare could be peculiar to this example or endemic within the species but I shan’t (we’ll see) be shooting this one again anytime soon. If a 35mm f/2.8 should cross my path however…

The fact that one can pocket the beasty means that I took it with me when I didn’t want anything bulky. As a result a good chunk of the roll was expended while being pointed at the Intern, hence the similarity in subject. The film is great; it has a pleasant grain pattern and it scans nicely. Other than that it’s hard to draw too many conclusions, having upended my modus operandi I’ve produced images that aren’t comparable with that which I would normally shoot. I like them though, and will shoot more of the film. Here are a just few pictures from the Mju II Zoom 80 with Kodak TX400.