No, My Phone Does Not Need a Camera – The Arsenal

Posted on June 25, 2011


With some down time lately, I’ve been sorting through my gear, running some experiments and thinking about various directions I’d like to go. I thought it might be interesting to sort through the various bits that I use, and don’t use.

One thing is when you buy stuff on eBay, which I did when building up my kit, you get some great deals, but you also get some extraneous bits along the way. I have a lot of gear, and I use a surprising amount of it. Of course, first there was The Fire, after which I had to rebuy my gear, and then there was The Flood, after which I had to rebuy my gear, essentially tripling the extraneous bits. Here is my basic stash:

This is what I unpacked from my two bags and my closet

In the upper left are my medium format lenses, telephoto doublers, macro doublers, tripod mounts, view finders, lens hoods, and film packs.

MF lenses, doublers, and hoods

In the back is my 360mm prime, my 500mm telephoto, and my 100-200mm zoom with doubler.

500mm lens with filter and tripod mount

Bernard calls this lens my “mountain macro.”  Look at the size of the filters that hog uses. I’ve taken pictures Mt. Baker off of my front porch with this lens and a doubler. This lens is one of those great eBay stories. Most eBayites (eBaphiles?) use stored searches, rather than scan through hundreds of auction listings. So, for this lens the search would be “Mamiya RB67 500mm telephoto,” but the guy must’ve bought it at auction and had no idea what he got. He listed it as a “500mm fish eye.” This lens probably went for around $3500 new, and I got it for the minimum bid price of $300, being the only bidder. You can see the instructions below it in the box. The metal piece is a tripod mount, as the lens is too heavy to mount  the camera body on the tripod. The field of view is so narrow, the mount has a site, like a gun, to help you line up your shot. You can see it in the photo below.

It's not the size of the lens it's how you use it (photo by Bernard)

I love this shot. Huge camera on the tripod, beer in one  hand , SLR in the other. Pretty much defines me! Unfortunately, once I got the 100-200mm zoom with the doubler, I don’t really use either the 360mm or 500mm lenses. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever used the 360mm lens. Even though the doubler takes a stop away, with most of my shots this is hardly the issue. This is good because if you notice, the 500mm lens is not fun to pack around. I should sell it and get a new car.

100-200mm zoom with doubler

I’ve even replaced my 90mm, once my go-to lens, with this.  This is fortuitous as I was carrying my camera around on a borrowed tripod (oh, you’ve carried your camera on the tripod, too) with a faulty locking mechanism and did this to the 90mm. Fortunately, I had a spare because it came with a second body I bought. (Don’t you wish you had a second body?)


In the top middle are my two main gear bags, my water proof SLR bag, and my water proof back pack.

As I type this I’m waiting for a new 150mm soft-focus filter to show up from UPS.

On the far right is my box-o-filters.


I started with a set of  Cokin filters when I bought my first serious SLR from Bernard (after the Russian baggage handlers beating my K1000 into submission, first and last time I put a camera into baggage). I moved up to glass, but just this weekend when I found out that a glass infrared filter for the SLR was going to cost $210, bought an IR Cokin. The holder open on the lid are some of the filters I pack daily. The 500mm 110mm filter is there for comparison. Those filters ended up costing more than the lens.

Continuing clockwise are my various SLR lenses, some of them ruined by getting soaked in salt water, but I think I need to run some tests on them, now that they are out. Might get some interesting Pictorialist effects.

35mm lenses

Seems like every time I buy another Canon EOS – first from Bernard, then after the fire, then after flood, one for my sister, one for Beth, and just today one for Kalyx (for $10!) –  it comes with a Tamron 28-200mm zoom. Sure, these lenses are not expensive, but every photojournalism shot I ever took was taken with that lens. So, I try to get it with that lens because it is such a great all around lens.  For that kit I also use a 50mm 2.8 macro. I think that lens goes up to f128. Somewhere I have a photo with this tiny little mushroom and a huge Douglas fir both in focus. The final lens, on the far right is the 12-24mm zoom which is a great macro lens, takes awesome ski, architecture, and car photos, and gets used way more than I ever expected.

Singapore Mandarin Oriental lobby

(That’s the elevator, I laid down on the floor to take this shot.)

From less than 1' away

I mourn the loss of the 300mm lens there, but never enough to replace it. As I said a lot of these lenses got trashed with saltwater, but they may find homes on homemade cameras where I’m looking for more Pictoralist (soft focus) anyway.

Bottom center are my cameras.

Some cameras I use

In the back is my film SLR. In front of that is a Holga plastic camera Bernard gave me. These have become quite the cult camera. I’m hoping Emmie, Sam, Sooz, or Kalyx will adopt this camera for a least a roll of film or so. Ooh, bing! idea….another post perhaps.


I also have another film camera with a body capt modified to be a pinhole camera (which I may do to Mr. Holga, too).


On Pinhole Day with the Balefire staff, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that not only will the camera meter through the pinhole, but even better my spot meter will give a very decent reading, the first shots were acceptable, but now I know how to use it, I need to take some more. Speaking of light meters this is a key part of my kit now that I have one! I used to use my SLR to meter for my MF, but as discussed previously, there were multiple fallacies with that.

-Also tucked away in there is my Canon 30D DSLR, so under utilized it might as well be on a phone. In the mix is my Brooks-Veriwide 6×9 rangefinder camera. This shoots an image that is 1/2 the size of a 4×5″ camera and has a 110 degree field of view. I got it for a steal, but it broke on the first roll of film. Haven’t used it much since I got it back, but I like to take the viewfinder off the top and walk around looking though it like a Hollywood director. The rubber band keeps the lens cap on.

Brooks-Veriwide 6x9cm

Of course my workhorse baby is my  Mamiya RB67, shown here with my 140mm macro lens which has suddenly become my go-to lens.


The backs are removable so you can switch mid-roll (for the Zone system development, for instance, or in this case to infrared film) and you rotate it to switch from landscape to portrait.

RB67 Rotating back

Call me when your phone has an app for that. I have a second body that Christian and I are trying to make into a tilt-shift. (You can’t see it here, but the camera has a bellows.)

RB67 Component pieces

On the bottom left are my vignetting filters. This is part of the 4olb. of gear I got when I bought my Medium Format gear from a retired wedding photographer. I just started playing with them, and have not really gotten them to work.

Vignetting filters

Which may be moot, because since I started writing this this afternoon my soft focus 150mm lens showed up in the mail.!Got a good deal on it because in the images on eBay, it only showed two of the three disks, but the third disk is sitting right inside the lens where it belongs.

RB67 150mm Soft focus lens

So now I have 50, 90, 140, 150, 100-200 zoom, 360, and 500mm lenses for that camera. But  the sweetest camera is not even on the table.

Newton 4x5 camera

The story of this camera is that the original owner worked at Yosemite when Ansel Adams was there, wanted to get into photography and this is the camera recommended to him. I bought it from his son for $150.  It’s got the freaking manual! I really thought this was where my photography was going, but with only 2 lenses, I have to rethink that assumption. Also, not so back-packable.

In the center is all of my pods – tripods, monopods, and other pods. I use a Bogen with a Manfrotto head, which is basically completely worn out and trashed. To round it out I have multiple backs including a 220, and a Polaroid back.  There has got to be a use for that Polaroid back.

Various backs

Plus a view finder that has some cool controls on it I don’t understand at the moment, unless they give DOF previews.

Shutter speed and f-stop scales on prism, but why?

Then I have various handles and flash cords, but those are two things I never do with this camera.

On a given day this is what I’m carrying in my pack:

The daily load

So that is the MF 100-200mm zoom with doubler, a 50mm wide angle lens, a 140mm macro lens, RB67 body, extra film pack, lens hoods, film, a dozen or so filters, light meter, extra film, a DSLR or SLR body with usually a 28-200mm zoom, a 50mm macro, and/or the 12-24mm zoom. Although sometimes I replace that with the range finder camera.  For a mere $1275 EU I could replace those lenses with an RB67 adapter (thanks a lot, Bernard).

And, in case you don’t believe it, here it is in the backpack:


Complete with Moleskin notebook, thank you Beth and Emmie. (The 50mm lens is just visible in the lower left).

Let's go

All that, plus tripod, comes to around 40lbs. The backpack is poorly designed for tripod carry, so lately I’ve just been carrying it my hand. Been thinking of putting the tripod head in the back pack though.  As you can see, no room for a phone!

PS:: My new lens came with a systems chart showing all of the possible parts. I circled all of the bits I have.

RB67 System chart

Crap! According to this there is a tilt-shift lens available.  That would save me hacking up the spare camera. Off to eBay…

Posted in: Gear, Photography