Farewell to 35mm ?

I’ve been thinking recently about moving away from 35mm to concentrate on medium format film. I already shoot more rolls of 120 film than I do of 35mm, but I’ve become increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of 35mm. There’s no doubt that the bigger negative helps produce a smoother image; my Mamiya RZ67 produces negatives which are about 4.5 times the area of 35mm. Quite often I’ve taken a photo on 35mm that I think is promising but not quite there, and if I’ve travelled a distance on that occasion, I feel that the outing was wasted by compromise too much on the portability vs resolution spectrum.

Of course an advantage of 35mm is the relative weight and portability of the equipment. My Pentax MX fits easily into a small bag with 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm prime lenses; my Olympus XA fits into almost any pocket.

Top view of the Pentax MX
Top view of the Pentax MX

But having said that, my Yashicamat 124G is pretty light, and slung over my shoulder it’s almost un-noticeable. However, the Yashicamat has a fixed 80mm lens (50mm equivalent in 35mm terms) which isn’t as wide as I would like for landscape work.

Yashicamat 124G

The Mamiya RZ67 is my next step up from the Yashicamat, having the advantage of removable and revolving film backs, a very bright and clear viewfinder, and high quality interchangeable lens ; I have lenses in 50mm, 65mm, 110mm, and 180mm focal lengths, which equate to 25mm, 32mm, 55mm, and 90mm in 35mm terms.

The Mamiya RZ67
The Mamiya RZ67

The big disadvantage of the RZ67 is weight – I tried to weigh it for the purpose of this blog post, but managed to break the cheap kitchen scales – although to be fair that happened when I dropped them on the floor rather than from weighing the camera. According the manual, it weighs 2.4kg with the 110mm lens, that’s before you add a couple more lenses and a film back to your pack.

Despite the weight, I’m making a conscious effort to use the RZ67 for a higher proportion of my photography outings. I’m going to the Isle of Skye for a week’s photography soon and I’ve adapted a 65L walking backpack to carry the kit, including foam padding in the bottom compartment. The alloy frame and substantial shoulder and hip straps should make the weight manageable and there will be lots of space left over for food, spare clothing, etc. I find that the majority of photo-specific backpacks just don’t leave enough room for walking equipment.

After the Skye trip I’ll blog about how things worked out with the backpack and hopefully have some decent images to the post too.

Having spent a few paragraphs bemoaning 35mm, I’m now going to show some 35mm images … I had decided I needed to use up some of my existing 35mm film, particularly a few half-used films loaded into cameras, so I took the Pentax MX and an Olympus XA to Beamish Museum. I have to say that, despite everything I’ve just said about 35mm, I was happy with the results from this outing.

All the images were taken with Rollei RPX100 film, which is the same thing as Kentmere 100, and developed in Kodak TMax developer.

The trainee blacksmith Pentax MX with 35mm lens
The trainee blacksmith
Pentax MX with 35mm lens

I often find that I’m attracted to odd corners containing rubbish as much as the more obvious scenes. The image below is my favourite from the set and was just behind where the blacksmiths were working. I just liked the interplay of the shapes and I thought that the brambles helped create the slightest suggestion of a “crown of thorns” theme:

Ironwork shapes.  Pentax MX and 50mm lens
Ironwork shapes.
Pentax MX and 50mm lens

2014-8-11, London, Olympus XA, RPX100, Tmax Dev 4mins, Jobo 23C, 029

2014-8-11, London, Olympus XA, RPX100, Tmax Dev 4mins, Jobo 23C, 036

2014-8-11, London, Olympus XA, RPX100, Tmax Dev 4mins, Jobo 23C, 022

Beamish Home Farm


The sewing spot



2014-8-11, London, Olympus XA, RPX100, Tmax Dev 4mins, Jobo 23C, 021

Ready to fire, I mean cook


The images above were all taken in one small area of Beamish museum, the “Home Farm” area, which is set in the style of the early 1940s.  The interior shots were taken with a tripod – there’s no restrictions on using tripods at Beamish although obviously you have to show consideration for others if it is busy.

As well as the Pentax, I had with me an Olympus XA, also loaded with RPX100 film. Unfortunately due to a developing error most of these had serious fogging on the side of the film nearest the lid of the developing tank. Later I realised that, after having dismantled the lid of a Jobo tank, I had put the funnel back in the wrong way round, so it wasn’t light tight. The film from the Pentax was further away from the lid and mostly avoided the fogging. When it comes to developing, I’m close to having committed every mistake it is possible to make !

This one did survive from the Olympus with a fair bit of cropping:

The ace of spades
The ace of spades

Finally here’s a few images taken on a previous trip to Beamish, again with the Pentax MX but this time loaded with Kodak Ektar colour negative film, although I converted two to mono because they just didn’t need colour. On that occasion I carried just the 35mm f2.8 lens, which is my choice when I really don’t want to be changing lenses. That was a trip with my family when faffing around for too long causes issues ….

Captain Mainwaring goes to Beamish

Pure Milk
Pure Milk


The kitchen at Pockerley Manor. I didn't have a tripod on this occasion so  had to for 1/15s at f2.8 with Kodak Ektar film at IS0100
The kitchen at Pockerley Manor. I didn’t have a tripod on this occasion so had to settle for 1/15s at f2.8 with Kodak Ektar film at IS0100

So will I actually be giving up 35mm altogether ?

Well, these trips to Beamish reminded me that 35mm can have a role when you’re in a crowd and have to select your viewing angle quckly to match a moving subject. But I think I will, at least, be reducing the numbers of cameras I use so that I’m concentrating more on making the image rather than trying out different cameras.

I have been finding that the quality of the viewfinder is becoming more important to me – maybe associated with age and deteriorating eyesight – so I like the good clear viewfinder in a 35mm SLR such as the Pentax MX, and even more so the waist-level finders of the Yashicamat and Mamiya.

The waist-level viewfinder of the Mamiya RZ67
The waist-level viewfinder of the Mamiya RZ67

The smaller viewfinders of my Olympus XA, Zeiss Ikon Contina, Voigtlander Bessa 6*9 folder, and my other 6*6 folders, are more difficult. Accurately framing the image, and ensuring it is level, is much more difficult with these cameras.

So I’ll certainly be doing more of my photography with the Mamiya RZ67, and the Yashicamat, but the Pentax MX may still have a role in using up the remaining 9 or 10 rolls of 35mm film. And then, there’s also the Baby Rollei which is currently in the repair shop and has 12 rolls of 127 film waiting to be used… camera choice remains a complicated issue.







  1. I have similar cameras and thoughts. A FM2, a Rolleiflex and a Hasselblad.
    I settled on using delta100, and RDP for the 35mm.
    For portability, stealth, portrait and limited landscape i use the Rolleiflex.
    When i anticipate needing different focal lengths or to go between colour and b+w i use the Hasselblad.

    Hass is heavy, the Rolleiflex has a better viewfinder is lighter and is easier to use…It’s all horses for courses isn’t it?

    If i didn’t also have a digital Nikon SLR then i might well sell my FM2 and all associated gear, lens back compatibility is very useful though…


    • Thanks for your comment, Andy. I think your set of three cameras is a compact collection by the standards of many – and you use them to great effect. I had three different incompatible interchangeable lens 35mm sets in use – the MX, Canon FD, and Canon EF, plus two Olympus XAs, an XA2, and a half-frame camera. They’ve all gone now courtesy of eBay. I’ve not yet tried a Hasselblad but I think I prefer non-square to square images so the Mamiya RZ67 suits me well.


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