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Mountain hiking kit


I currently own a 503CW and a 50 FLE and a 150, both Cfi. At present, this outfit is being used principally as a wilderness trail kit in the Alaska Panhandle. I am finding that the 150 is rarely used, a 100 mm. would often be more suitable; and the 50 often is not quite wide enough -- moving back often is not an option, the risk being getting too much into the shot and forgetting about a sheer cliff behind me ;-)

I am leaning strongly towards acquiring a 100 mm.; and am also considering acquiring a SWC to handle the wider than 50 mm. field of view I need roughly 20% of the time. Please note that I have considered the 40 mm. FLE, but the SWC has the advantage of being a compact though limited back-up body, and would not require my having to acquire 93 mm. duplicates of the Bay 60 filters I use regularly. I have considered the Mamiya 7II and its 43 mm. lens, but precise framing and standardizing on the A12 film backs are important considerations to me.

I seldom use the 150 in-field because it often fails to provide the compressed angle of view that I need on occasion. In retrospect a 250 mm. would do the trick quite nicely, but to control costs and weight I am instead considering acquiring a 2X Mutar to use with the 100 mm. Besides, all this has to fit in a Billingham rucksack and I doubt a 250 would fit with everything else. In short the teleconverter would be, as they generally are, a compromise solution.

So, does the following make sense as a relatively light-weight and well-rounded field kit that will cover landscape shots that focus on very-close foreground elements:

503CW w/PM45 finder; SWC; 50 mm.; 100 mm.; 2X Mutar; and two film backs?

Although I have largely decided on this combo, I am quite willing to change my mind depending on the feedback received. For instance, (i) I use polarizers quite frequently, and (ii) I will likely start using graduated ND filters to control the wide contrast ranges common to the rainforest and shoreline scenes I shoot regularly. Going with the Lee system would also allow me carry only their wide angle lens hood rather than three rigid hoods. My impression is that the 40 mm. rather than a SWC would be better suited to using filters that need to be adjusted via direct viewing. Can anyone comment from first-hand experience as to whether the SWC w/its focusing screen back is ill-suited to using graduated filters?
I can't address the graduated filter question. I have only used a polarizing filter and various black & white filters (mostly red)with my SWC.

What I can do is enthusiastically endorse the SWC as a tool for capturing the beauty of nature in a splendid way. It is such a thrill to view the transparencies that little camera produces.

I must also say that the humble 80mm CF does a spectacular job. A couple of my photos taken with the 80CF depicting Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon, Utah, appear in Hasselblad Forum 2/98.

If you do obtain an SWC, you will likely cherish it as a member of your family.

Scott Roti
Wayne, I use the 250mm a lot in "nature" shooting and just LOVE it. If you can fit it in, take it! The angle of view really suits my eye and the image quality is stunning - so similar to the other great longer Hassy/Zeiss lens the 180mm! Both beautifully resolve the most amazing detail soooooo sharp.
If the 50mm isn't wide enough, I would go for the SWC. I use a 50mm and in most cases, it it wide enough. I thought about a 40mm and a friend who shoots Hassy, has also, but when feeling the "brick" weight of it, the SWC seems to always win!

As for a 100 vs. 150, that's personal depending on your shooting sytle.

Not sure if you're going for absolute weight savings, but I have usually go with a single film back (serviced and tested before the trip!) and a light meter (Sekonic spot) instead of a prism finder.

Just a few more thoughts!
RP, I am with you with regard to wide angle lenses on the Hassy 6x6 format. If 50mm is not wide enough then the 38mm Biogon SWC is the better wider lens. Of, course its proven lack of optical distortion is legendary.

My widest lens is the 50mm FLE which I think is a great lens offering minimal optical distortion. For me it's even a little forgiving when you hand hold and "angle up" your view - does not overly distort images at the extreme edges, and what is (by natural physics) unavoidably distorted at the edges does not creep too far in.

While I really enjoy the square 6x6 from a composition point of view, I am not keen on super-wide angle 6x6 images. So 50mm is as wide as I like.

I did borrow an SWC for a couple of weeks and really enjoyed using it. I also used it "in the street" hand held and found it very very easy to use. It has a well deserved reputation as one of the best ever super-wide lenses. But it does not give me an image that is visually compelling to me.

I also tried a 40mm, which I don't like. It seemed to my eyes to have too much optical distortion even when the film plane is perfectly flat to the subject; and any tilting of the camera angle really produced (IMHO) unattractive distortion. So the 38mm is a must if you need wider IMHO.

Some people are put off the idea of zone focusing required by the SWC - well I say "get over it". How hard is it to zone focus an SWC with its great DOF? And the results are truly great. I actually liked the SWC version just pre the CF barrel design because of the very nice way it has the moving markers highlighting the DOF range as you focus the lens - a really user friendly dsign that I feel Hassy should have retained on the SWC at least (since its use is dependent upon zone focusing).

I suppose if one is taking the absolute minimum number of lenses (2) a good tip is to take "something wide and something long" since a hiking trip typically means shooting scenery.

As a general guide I feel, you can "set the scene" providing some reference to the overall environment in your pictures with something at least 80mm wide; you can pick out the special features with something at least 120mm or 150mm long. But if 80mm is as wide as you will take then I think the other should be more like 180mm (ie to make a real and worthwhile difference in the images). But these are my preferences related to how I see what I see, and everyone is different.

If you plan to keep the kit size compact I agree with RP, take the WLF instead of a prism finder and use a light meter.

I don't do climbing, but when I go bush involving long walks I also take a baby Gitzo carbon fibre tripod - so light and easy I hardly know I have it with me. I don't bring the quick-release stuff preferring just to simply "spin" the Hassy body onto the small ball-head. This smallest of Gitzo's tripods is actually very adequate for my Hassy bodies - even with the 180mm on it (unless there is a lot of wind). I actually always use a WLF when using a tripod and use the prism when shooting hand-held.
Thank you everyone for the great and helpful responses.

I have found a late model SWC/M in excellent condition for a great price, and will likely be ordering that today along with a good used 100 CFi. The basic hiking kit I have decided on is: 503CW w/PM45, SWC/M, 100, 1.4 teleconverter, two A12 backs (one on each body, I generally use 100 ASA but 400 ASA is often necessary), Lee standard hood, and a Pentax Digital Spot Meter. I would love to also take the 50 FLE along since I tend to crop in-camera, but am instead acquiring a SWC focusing screen adapter, and possibly a bargain-quality HC1 or HC4 viewfinder for the tighter shots.

The latter may seem counterintuitive given the recommendations for leaving the PM45 (the one I have is un-metered) behind, and preferring the waist-level finder instead. However, I wear glasses and otherwise find the PM45 ideally suited to my shooting style. On another practical side, sealed finders also prevent sweat, raindrops, etc. from falling onto the focusing screen. In this instance, different strokes for different folks ;-)

As far as what tripod to take along: I am strongly considering picking up a Ries H600 wooden tripod and an Acratech ball head. I am currently using a Gitzo 1226, and though an excellent tripod it has neither the length nor flexibility in leg angle setting necessary for setting up on a steep slope. The Ries has those features, as does the Gitzo 2228, but the latter doesn't have the leg spikes needed for setting up securely on mossy (very springy) ground. The only drawback to the Ries is that it weighs 7 lbs. -- but it otherwise has the all the other features (some unmentioned) that I need.

Apart from my hiking needs, the overall lens kit should prove to be quite versatile in general since it will comprise of a 38, 50, 100, 150, and a 1.4 teleconverter. An irony is that when I acquired the 50 and 150 as a basic kit, I almost went with a 60 and the 180 instead -- given the range of my kit, those would have been the more logical/practical choice. Isn't hindsight wonderful ;-)

Simon: I totally agree with you re. the suitability of a 250 to my needs. In fact, the site I am acquiring the SWC from also has a used 250 Superachromat CF in excellent condition going for $2.6K US. Though it is oh so tempting, I chose to pass on it -- at this point it neither fits my priorities nor budget (whimper). My hope is that the 1.4 teleconverter and 150 will prove to be more than sufficient.

In another thread it was pointed out how things are relative, remember?
The Biogon isn't free from distortion.
It just has a exceptionally low distortion for a wide angle lens.
Compared to many other lenses it is just 'not bad'.

It should, i feel, also be pointed out that perspective is not distortion. What you see when you tilt a lens up is perspective. A 100 mm lens (now there's one with very low distortion...) does show the same. Any other lens does too.
In fact, you do not even need a camera with lens, just look up (naked eye) at any tall thing, and you will see the same.
That you notice it more when using wide angle lenses is because they show so much more of the world. (That you do not notice it when looking up yourself is because every bit of you physique is telling your brain you are tilting your head and looking up. So it thinks "nothing special", and it escapes your notice).
So remember: "perspective" =\= "distortion".

Next, DOF produced by the 38 mm (!) lens is not great at all. Zone focussing really is not that easy. 'Guesstimate' focussing (what you really do) requires a lot of experience, and is a hit and miss thing.
When you really want all this lens has to offer, there is no way round visual inspection of the image produced by the lens on a focussing screen.

But remember too that DOF is 'acceptable unsharpness'. So it ultimately comes down to how much leeway you give, what you, personally, are willing to accept.
For the money you have to pay for a Biogon, and for what it really can do, i think relying on DOF is an almost sinful waste.

There is also the small matter of size. While the 40 mm lens is a behemoth, the Biogon with its attached body and finder actually takes up more space in your bag. So if you're carrying a SLR-body anyway...

I'm not trying to put the Biogon/SWC down. Far from it. Great thing!
But as special ("legendary") as it often is made out to be, it is not.

Don't you just love the way the smilies stand out from the dark background?
That, however, is the only good thing about light text on a dark background.
List owner/operator: a bad change!
> I have both the SWC and the XPan I, and often find the XPan very > useful when space/weight is a major concern. More shots to the > roll, and you still have "near" medium format negative size in > panoramic mode. I've made prints as large as 8x17 with an Epson > 2200 and the pics look great.
Robert, I agree about the XPan. I too have one (II) and really enjoy using it and am pleased with the "flat" field of view. I use it when out with my Hassy 6x6 and when out and about with my Leica M7 - it compliments both. I think the secret to using it and getting the best from it is to think of it as an MF camera with a 135 format frame capability - rather than as a 135 camera abble to do panoramas. This subtle difference makes you understand its limitations better.
Thanks Wayne. The "kit" you've chosen should enable you to take wonderful images. I totally endorse your commets regarding different choices and different folks.

We are well advised to take time to understand how we see what we see and make our kit choices based on that understanding.

I too was offered a mint CF 250mm Super..., but I had to accept my financial limitiations. In any case I doubt that I will ever see imaging limitations with my Sonar version.

I must add that I envy your purchase of the Ries tripod, they have tempted me for a long time now. Let us know how well it performs one day.

Hi Qnu. Thanks for your well articulated comments and debate, which I greatly enjoy!

Unlike you I think I like the new black background, maybe because it's different.

Anyway, mia culpa! While I felt I'd sufficiently punctuated my attempted "relative" comments with clarity of personal experience views, maybe I hadn't.

True, MTFs show the Biogon is not fully distortion free (but very very good figures); but, to my eyes in the field and in prints, the distortion is so well corrected it might as well be 100% free. Whereas the 40mm (probably by optical necessity - as you say from squeezing so much in a frame) is, to my eyes, too distorted for me.

Personally, I describe distortion as two components - "designed in" attribute visible to the eye when the film plane is perfectly flat to the subject; user created by tilting the film plan angle to the subject. The latter will arise from 0% of the former and can also be a significant exaggeration of the x% distortion produced from the former. I suppose my words expressing comments you made.

So, while I agree that "perspective" is not distortion per se, it is nonetheless "apparent" distortion to the eye (depending upon the user of course) and all the same, is visual distortion, which I often find very unappealing.

But, Qnu, I must disagree with your view of the "legendary" label I gave the Biogon. All I've read over the years include descriptions of what might fairly be referred to as legendary status. Even the Zeiss Biogon 75mm version used on Linhof 4x5 cameras has the same reputation. This seems to be borne out by the seemingly remarkable resale values of these lenses.

Yes, in overall context the 38mm Biogon does not have truly huge DOF, say as a 15mm 135 format camera lens does. So your's is a good point to pull me back to a "relative context". But, in this MF 6x6 context in which I made my commet, it's nearly as good as it gets, and with care, not too hard to master.

You well point out the need to consider true critical subject focusing rather than rely upon "zone DOF" based sharpening. For that reason, I attempt to use the critical element as my point of critical focus and build good DOF behind and in front of that as the case needs.

But, ultimately, I feel it's fair to say that many users are happy with the level of visual sharpness DOF based zone focus provides under the "relative" circumstances.

I suppose today the challenger for the SWC is Mamiya's 43mm Mamiya 7 rangefinder lens. Now that is one good lens (relative to all others IMHO)!

You've raised some good issues of clarification and perspective. Cheers.