Posted on July 23, 2010 10:19 am Categorised in:

During some recent time spent up in Ohio visiting some family, I put through the paces, several different cameras. In this blog I will talk about my experience with each and my thoughts about them.

I shot a few rolls through my fairly new Lubitel 166. It was acquired back in March and it takes a bit of getting used to, but I have definitely made some frames I really dig. A few months ago I made a blog post highlighting a few of the first rolls through it. (<—– click over there to check out the first Lubitel blog!)

The Lubitel 166+ (the version we own) is a twin-lens medium format camera that is a reissue of the older Lubitel models, which were actually based on the old Voigtlander Brillant camera. Unlike its predecessors, our version is plastic and very lightweight, which is both a benefit and a hindrance depending on how you look at it. On one hand I love that I can hang it around my neck and almost forget it’s there, but at the same time, I get nervous when I have to stuff it in the bottom of a full camera bag for fear it might be crushed, or crack somehow. Luckily I haven’t had any issues. The controls are fairly simple, but anyone who has ever tried to carefully compose a shot with a TLR and a waist level viewfinder (without a tripod) will understand the frustration. As someone who came from a graphic design background and puts a lot of stock in careful composition and lines, I sometimes find myself frustrated when trying to fine tune a shot, but after the film is developed and I realize I nailed it, (if I actually did nail it) I feel like I just conquered the world.

Given the time and effort that goes into every frame, I only managed to run 3 rolls of 120 Kodak Portra 400vc through it during the trip. Shooting the 6×6 format (which I prefer to the rectangular) you only get 12 exposures per roll, meaning that I walked away with 36 total frames about half of which I liked and are in a slideshow at the bottom of the post. That is an almost 50% keeper rate, which in the world of photography, isn’t bad at all. The vivid color film makes the colors pop nicely. The images have a definite mood and texture to them which I like. If you’re wanting a quick snapshot of a scene and have only a few seconds, there are other cameras that will do a better job, but if you can spare a few minutes and can take your time in a fairly static scene, the Lubitel can give you a nice image. Of course, it’s no Hasselblad, but for the price and weight, it can’t be beat. I also ran several quick rolls through my Octomat as well but the majority of my photos were with my phone.

Since the new Apple iPhone 4 was released just a week or so prior to my leaving on this recent trip, and given the fact that I had pre ordered and received the new phone, you already know I tested out the new photo features. I took a handful of images and video after receiving the new phone and prior to leaving, however I was excited that I would be able to travel with the phone to put it through its paces.

I upgraded my phone from the Apple iPhone 3G which was 2 years old. The advancements made in the built in camera(s) were worth the price of the upgrade alone, as it is the camera that is ALWAYS with me, even when there is nothing else. I took somewhere in the ballpark of 3000 images during the life of my 3G and am already on pace with this new iPhone.

Whenever I see something that inspires me or just need a quick photo of something I reach in my back pocket and pull out my phone. I started snapping images as soon as I was in the airport in Houston and didn’t stop until I was home. I believe I took around 600-700 images during the week-long trip, not to mention a ton of HD video clips as well. During my short stay in Chicago I snapped a photo of this beautiful church on the corner of W. Barry and W. Seminary streets. Moments later I started toying with a few of the image editing apps I have installed on my phone. After combining a few of the effects from 2 different 3rd party apps I stumbled on an effect that I found rather appealing. Throughout the remainder of the trip I would go back and edit images taken on the trip in the same manner and came out with another little iPhone photo essay from the travel.

Iphone photo editing by Todd Spoth

The original iPhone4 image, the image converted to black and white, and the final image.

The illustration above shows the progression from the initially captured image to how the image looked after the first step with the third image illustrating the completed image.

The first step was to identify which images would work best for the project. I found that high contrast images with fairly simple content worked best. Huge group photos with a ton of people would often seem muddied up, so sticking to fairly simple images worked best.

Secondly I used the Photoshop Mobile app to convert the images into black and white, boost contrast and perfect exposure. The Photoshop Mobile app is great for those basic tweaks that any real photographer would need. Sure there are a few bells and whistles to entice the casual user into purchasing, but it’s the only app I have (and that I have found) that will let me crop and straighten images with a constrained aspect ratio. After saving the edited black and white image I was ready for the final step.

I have several impulse buy image editing apps that I have been into lately such as Red Giant’s Plastic Bullet app that turns your photos into vintage wonders, but the app that worked for me here is Stephen Spring’s Pic Grunger. It’s a simple application that allows the user to select an image and apply any one of several built in textures. Some of the textures look better than others when outputted. I originally dug the “cracked” look, but since it didn’t hold up too well when I transferred them to the computer, I decided to go with the “creased” look. The app seems to output the images at 1000 pixels on the long end (about 1/3 of the original size) which is definitely a negative and I wish there were more choices of textures, but other than that, the app is awesome. The vintage, sepia tone, textured feel produced from the app gave the images a punch that I really dig.

The Lubitel and the iPhone are great but my workhorse is my Canon 5D mark II DSLR. The 5D II is my primary camera and it can handle just about anything. Anytime I travel, regardless if the trip is business or personal the 5D II is always with me. And almost all of the time I am packing a pretty sizable digital kit as you never know when the opportunity will present itself for a serious shoot even if the trip doesn’t seem so.

However, on several of my last few personal trips, I have found myself using my 5D less and less and instead opting to use the camera that is always by my side, my cellphone. It’s actually pretty interesting to be able to lay all of my images from my trip out and be able to identify which device was used in each situation. For example since the 5D kit is heavy and oftentimes cumbersome to manage, most of images taken with it were from my aunt’s house where we stayed or nearby. Most of the images taken on different day trips here or there were with other, smaller, devices. This doesn’t mean I love my 5D any less, it just means that since I am on vacation and my other, smaller, devices produce their own interesting images, I opted to save my shoulders and leave the heavier kit in its case. I thoroughly enjoy producing interesting images, but given this was a personal trip, I was not in a pressure situation to produce a certain image for a client, thus I could take advantage of using my toy/smaller cameras and experimenting to my heart’s content.