Field Techniques for Technical Cameras – Lenses and Accessories

Field Techniques for Technical Cameras – Lenses and Accessories

Sepia Sunrise; Auburn, Ohio. Schneider Kreuznach 60xl / Alpa STC / IQ3100. Two-image stitch shifted 18mm L/R.

Navigating Lens Choices

A primary benefit of using a technical camera is to apply movements and utilize the larger image circle associated with most of the dedicated lenses from Rodenstock and Schneider. There are three primary movement applications used with technical cameras. All of these will be covered in greater detail in subsequent articles:

  1. Rise/fall: shifting the lens and/or the back up/down to frame the scene without tilting the camera. In general, this is done to keep the back and lens perpendicular to the ground but there are many other applications. I use this on almost every image.
  2. Shifting Left/Right: Usually accomplished by sliding the back left/right. Most of the time this is done in order stitch two images together. This is a simple and reliable way to create a panorama, and is something I do very frequently. It also allows you to shift the back in its portrait dimension in order to increase the angle of view by making use of the larger image circle.
  3. Tilt: Apply lens tilt to adjust the plane of focus angle, which creates a depth of field wedge that keeps subjects at various distances from the sensor plane in sharp focus. Also applying back tilt to adjust the relative size of objects in the scene.

On forums, you will often hear, “Pick the widest lens you want then gap up from there.” That’s a reasonable approach. Or if you have a favorite focal length, pick that and gap up/down from there. Don’t forget that you can do two-image stitches by shifting the back. For example, with the sk60xl and the back in the portrait orientation, shifting left/right ~15.5mm gives you a 54×72, 4:3 stitched image. In “FF” equivalents, the 60mm becomes a 29-39mm mini-zoom; the 90hr-sw becomes a 44-58mm zoom (in FF equivalents). Most of these lenses handle that amount of shift except for a few of the wider Schneiders (sk28 and sk35).

Into the Muck; Auburn, Ohio. A few degrees of back tilt was applied to render all the duckweed, cattails and grasses sharp from front to back in a single image, while adjusting the size and position of the cattails vs grasses. Schneider -Kreuznach / Alpa 12 / IQ41450.

I use various, somewhat random abbreviations for lens names. Schneider Kreuznach Apo-Digitar lenses are SK or sk. Rodenstock usually refers to their digital lenses with an “HR”, so I often abbreviate Rodenstock to “Rodi” or simply “32hr” for the Rodenstock f/4 32mm HR-W.

I’ve been saying “larger image circles” compared to image circles associated with mirrorless / DSLR lenses, which are usually no bigger than the diagonal of the medium. A 135 format diagonal (24mm x 36mm) is 43.27mm. Medium format sensors come these days in two sizes: ~54×40 (67mm diagonal) and 44×33 (55mm diagonal). Most of the lenses discussed here have image circles in the 90-120mm range. Large format photographers will laugh at the thought of those being large image circles; 8×10 (really ~ 200mm x 250mm) has a diagonal of about 320mm, and that would just cover the film with no movements! I will reserve the word “gargantuan” for image circles associated with 8×10 lenses to keep all this in context.

Here is a matrix of the available horizontal shift or vertical rise/fall based on image circle size with the sensor in Landscape orientation. On a 54×40 sensor, lenses with a 100mm image circle can shift 18-20mm to create a 9×4 panorama (2.25:1) or 7×3 (2.33:1). For landscape and/or architecture applications, you could apply up to 22mm lens rise (back fall). One note about format and maximum movements: I often hear the comment on forums that smaller formats are better because you can shift a bigger percentage of the image. In the example shown in the table, you see the 44×33 sensor can shift more for a given image circle. This can be misleading. It is really the lens that defines how much movement is available, not the format. In each case above, I can apply more lens rise with the 44×33 sensor, but that difference is used up to fill the area the 54×40 sensor is already covering. I come from the school of, “Camera/lens position determines perspective,” not focal length; focal length just defines how much of the scene you want to capture. If you allow me that leeway for a minute, and accept the ability to shift around within the lens’ image circle, then sensor size becomes only a factor in how many images you need to take in order to cover the area. Theoretically, I could take the same image with a Sony a7r-iv / Fuji GFX100 / Phase One IQ4150 on the back of a Cambo Actus; they all use the same base sensor technology. That is, ignoring CFA’s, on-board processing, software, … Ah, never mind; back to lenses.

The most important point to get across when choosing lenses is that the usable image circle is an important characteristic; one that is usually not considered when choosing lenses for mirrorless or DSLRs.

Canopy Moss and Ferns; Silver Falls, Oregon. Here is an example of shifting the sensor around within the lens circle to get a wider angle of view. The relatively new Rodenstock f/6.5 138mm “float” has a wonderful usable image circle of at least 120mm. this is a four-image stitch, but the lens was not moved at all between images; only the digital back. Rodenstock 138mm / Alpa 12+ / IQ4150.

How Good Are Technical Camera Lenses?

Up until a few years ago, these “digital” technical camera lenses were the best available in terms of sharpness and detail rendering for medium format. Recently, other medium format systems have developed lenses that are as sharp (or sharper) than even the best technical camera lenses. Examples like the great line of Fuji GFX lenses, Hasselblad XD, Phase One “Blue Ring”, not to mention some of the new “full frame” lenses from Canon, Nikon, Sigma Art, Sony G-Master and Zeiss Otus can render incredible detail at wider apertures.

The limit to technical camera lenses is their relatively small apertures and the associated diffraction. Diffraction doesn’t suddenly appear with each lens at a specific f-stop; it is always present, getting gradually worse as the lens opening gets smaller. A Fuji GFX lens shot at f/4 will always be technically sharper than any of the best Rodenstock lenses at f/5.6 or f/8 because of that diffraction. However, we rarely use technical cameras at wide open apertures. It is true that technical cameras, their lenses and the digital backs can make technically wonderful, tack sharp images all across the field of view. But, if you are considering a technical camera system solely for the image quality, don’t bother. Today, you can get equal, if not better, measurable quality from other modern camera systems and lenses. A basic Fuji GFX kit or Sony A7r-iv with the right lenses will score higher on any test bench.

Image circle size is still what sets these lenses apart from all others. Even the tilt/shift versions of smaller formats have image circles barely big enough to cover a 54×40 sensor with a 67mm diagonal. Most technical camera lenses have image circles >90mm, with some over 120mm. The only way to get significant movements with a 54×40 sensor is with these or other large-format lenses. I am still amazed at how sharp these lenses are between f/8 – f/16, all across the image to the corners, even with movements applied.

Hof Flats; Iceland. I was taken by surprise in Iceland by the large expanses of flat plains that ran out to the ocean. Two-image stitch shifted 18mm L/R. Schneider Kreuznach f/5.6 150mm / Alpa STC / IQ180.

The other area where technical camera lenses sometime fall behind is in the potential for flare. It can be managed, but some care is required for a few of the wide angle Rodenstocks. Oh, one other thing: Technical camera lenses are really, really bad at auto focusing.

Shutters

Copal shutters are no longer available in production. You can still find them used or in some repair shop’s stock. If you buy any of these lenses new, your choice is to either get an “aperture mount” with aperture diaphragm but no shutter, or get the relatively new Phase One X-Shutter. You also have the option to convert your lens from a Copal or aperture mount to an X-Shutter. Your choice depends on the photos and workflow you use. If you are using film or a digital back that does not have a built-in electronic shutter, then you must find used lenses with a copal shutter. If you are using a more modern back with electronic shutter, your choices open up and become a bit more complicated. We do not yet have global shutters that fire the whole sensor at once; electronic shutters in our currently-available systems scan down the sensor. This creates a “rolling shutter” effect with moving subjects and also limits the use of strobes:

  • For photography that does not include moving subjects, using the electronic shutter with aperture mount lenses is perfectly fine. I have also found the electronic shutter to be fine for random movement like wind on branches, ocean waves or flowing water. For landscape, product and architecture photography, I have used the electronic shutter exclusively since it was introduced on the IQ3100 in 2016 without ever detecting rolling shutter effects.
  • If you use strobes, have people or man-made objects moving in the frame, then you most likely will not be able to use the electronic shutter; you need either Copal shutters or the X-Shutter.
  • If you plan to use the IQ4150, then you could utilize the X-Shutter with all its benefits.
Waves #2 at Bruhel Point; Westport, California. Electronic shutter was used; I don’t notice any rolling shutter effect when shooting randomly moving natural subjects. Schneider Kreuznach f/5.6 60xl / Alpa STC / IQ3100.

Lens Choice

Any lens discussed below is wonderful and has, in my opinion, excellent quality. They are in that top tier Otus / Sigma Art / best Canikonsony place on the shelf. Some are a bit better than others, but all can be used with any digital back available, including the IQ4150. All this is IMO, so take it for what it is worth: not much. My current kit includes the following lenses: sk35xl, sk60xl, sk90N, Rodi 138 float, sk150N and the Zeiss 250 superachromat. In the past, I’ve also owned and used: 40hr, sk43xl, 70hr, 90hr-sw, 100hr-s.

For a three-lens kit:

The cost/weight-be-damned options: Rodenstock 32hr, 90hr-sw and 138 float; or a tighter grouping with less reach: Rodenstock 32hr, 50hr and 90hr-sw. New, these three lenses will add up to well north of $35,000. It will probably be several years until a 138mm is available on the used market.

The sensible really good alternatives: 40hr, sk90 apo-digitar, sk120N or sk150N; or if you can catch them available, the Sk35xl, sk72/70hr, sk120N

Mix and match to your heart’s content.

Dunes Sunrise #2; Death Valley, California. 5mm lens rise. Schneider Kreuznach f/5.6 43xl / Alpa STC / P65+.

Wide:

  • Sk28: Very good, but you really should have the IQ4150 to go with it. Too much color cast for any shift on other backs. Needs the CF.
  • 32hr: Excellent lens, big, heavy, expensive and you need to transport it with some care; don’t walk with it on the camera attached to the tripod over your shoulder. If you want the absolute best wide lens and don’t care about weight or filter size, this is it. 86mm filter threads. Some mustache distortion. Alpa has a good reference for distortion graphs here: Distortion Charts
  • Sk35xl: Very good out to about a 10mm shift. Really a 36mm. Need a CF for all digital backs except the IQ4150, and I still use the CF even with that back. Smaller and lighter than the 40hr. No distortion vs the 40hr.
  • 40hr: Very good, slightly better than the sk35 with much less color cast. Can shift ~ 15mm. Really a 42mm. Slight mustache distortion.
  • Sk43xl: Very good if you can find one. On par with the 40hr, but more color cast. If you have the IQ4150 this is an excellent option. With any other back the 40hr is probably the better choice for most photographers.

I’ve owned the sk43xl, 40hr and the sk35. I sold the sk43 to get the 40hr because with Alpa you cannot tilt the 43, but you can tilt the 40hr. After several years of not using either lens much, I realized both of those options are not really wide enough for me. 42/43mm is ~ 28mm equivalent, which I’ve never connected with. I prefer ~24mm and 35mm FF equivalents. I now have the sk35, which I really like. Although with Alpa, I cannot tilt that lens.

I would pick the one that fits your needs and not worry about the slight difference in quality from one to the other. The most popular and “safest” option is the 40hr.

Seastacks and fog; Cannon Beach, Oregon. 5mm back rise and 2 degrees front tilt. Rodenstock f/5.6 70hr-w / Alpa STC / IQ180.

50-75mm:

  • 50hr: A bit larger than the others, but excellent lens with a very usable image circle. Probably the best of the bunch, neck and neck with the sk60xl.
  • Sk60xl: Another excellent lens with very big image circle. A bit smaller than the 50hr, but you need the CF with anything but the IQ4150.
  • 70hr: Splitting hairs between this and the sk72. 58mm filter threads.
  • Sk72: See above. However, the 72 is really a 75mm.

All these are excellent lenses. Again, choose based on the focal length you want, and where it fits with other lenses. You may skip over this range initially, see how you get along with the technical camera “gestalt” and then decide. That being said, personally this is my most-used focal length. I had 70hr but wanted something a bit wider. I moved to the sk60xl and love that lens. It is my one-lens kit.

Thanks to the Beavers. Lundy Canyon, Eastern Sierra. Two-image stitch shifted 18mm L/R. Rodenstock f/6.5 138mm / Alpa STC / IQ4150

90-150mm:

  • 90hr-w: The older Rodenstock digital design, “90mm f/5.6 HR Digaron-W.” Very good lens on par with other options except the hr-sw below.
  • 90hr-sw: Best lens of the 90-100mm options. Very sharp in the whole image circle out to >100mm. Expensive and heavier with a 72mm filter thread.
  • Sk90 apo-digitar: If you are ok with the slightly degraded performance off-center vs the 90hr-sw, this is a great, light lens w/ 40.5mm filter threads.
  • Sk100 apo-digitar: Similar to sk90; just a focal length choice. Harder to find.
  • 100hr-s: Smaller image circle, but it is actually larger than stated. 58mm filter threads.
  • Sk120N apo-digitar: Similar in quality to the other schneiders in this range, just longer. Still, 40.5mm filter threads.
  • Sk120 asph: Schneider released this lens not long before they got out of the business, so there are not many out there. By all accounts it is one of the best lenses available. 110mm image circle.
  • Rodenstock 138mm “float”: This is the best lens I’ve ever owned. The image circle is not gargantuan, but close (officially 110mm). I can shift it 20mm and rise 20mm to a 123mm image circle, and other than some slight field curvature way out there wide open, cannot tell the difference in sharpness across the field; an amazing lens.
  • Sk 150: Like the Sk120N, very nice quality out to ~ 100mm image circle and incredibly small for what it can do. 40,5mm filter threads. It is not as sharp out at the edge of the image circle as the new Rodi 138 above, but it punches way above its weight. In an Alpa mount, it weighs 706 grams vs the 138f at 1188 grams. And, you can probably get one for 1/3 to 1/2 the cost.

This is the toughest choice. If money and weight are no object, then the 90hr-sw and/or the 138 float are the winners. The sk120 asph is probably as good, but very hard to find. The other 90-100 options should all have about the same quality. My opinion in this range: if you can afford the 90hr-sw / 138 float and don’t mind the size, go for it. If one of those two things is a limitation for you, the sk90 / 150 is almost as good, and the smallest/lightest of the bunch. This is also a range where I frequently stitch two images into a panorama, so a solid 100mm image circle is important to me.

I’ve owned the 100hr-s, 90hr-sw, sk90, sk150 and 138f. My original two-lens kit was the sk43xl and the 100hr-s. The 100 got decentered at some point. Instead of repair I traded it in for the 90hr-sw. After using the 90hr-sw for several years, I moved to the sk90 to lighten my kit and help fund a IQ4150 upgrade.

Mt Hood from Jonsrud Viewpoint; Sandy, Oregon. Zeiss f/5.6 250mm Superachromat / Alpa 12+ / IQ4150.

> 150mm:

Once you get longer than 150mm, there are a host of options available from legacy large format lenses and lenses from other medium format systems. If you are using a helical-based technical camera, lens length can be a packaging problem. Rodenstock has a 180mm that is excellent, and Schneider Kreuznach made a 210mm if you can find it. Legacy lenses from other camera systems can be very good and even more fun to investigate and explore; for example, longer lenses like the Zeiss – Hasselblad f/5.6 250mm or 350mm Superachromats.

For more information about legacy Schneider Kreuznach lenses, I have a resource page on my website: SK Data. Rodenstock lenses can currently be found on their website here: Professional Lenses Digital.

Technical camera lenses change a less frequently than DSLR or mirrorless, especially now. This is good and bad: Good because legacy lenses are still excellent and hold their value. In some cases, I’ve sold lenses that I bought new for more than their original purchase price. I’m not saying The Motley Fool will ever recommend them as an investment, but hey, you never know. The bad side is, don’t hold your breath for a new f/4.0 lens to get developed in your favorite focal length with a 120mm image circle. As far as I know, the number of new technical camera lenses developed in the last half dozen years is, well, one. And that lens, the Rodenstock f/6.5 138mm, was announced in 2018 and finally began delivering in 2021.

Schneider Kreuznach vs Rodenstock

I have some experience using both Rodenstock and Schneider-Kreuznach lenses. I think it is safe to say SK got beat by Rodenstock in this market space largely because SK’s symmetrical wide-angle designs caused more color cast issues than the equivalent Rodenstock asymmetric or “retrofocus” designs. If you want more info about wide angle lens design, Roger Cicala of LensRentals has a good history and explanation here: lensrentals.com-blog. There was a period in sensor technology from ~ 2010-2020 where pixel design, size and well depth made the sharp angle of incidence associated with wide-angle symmetric lens design a real problem. Here is a Samsung paper that explains the issue: Imagesensors.org. It could largely be corrected by Capture One’s LCC / Adobe’s Flat Field process, but only to a point. And, many photographers just didn’t want to deal with the hassle. After 2020, most modern sensor designs incorporated back-side illumination (BSI) technology. The associated shallow pixel well greatly reduces color cast, cross-talk and vignetting caused by interplay of angled light and sensor. This puts SK lenses back in the picture, so to speak.

Deep in the woods around Oyster Dome; Samish, Washington. 7mm back rise to position the bottom right trunk without tilting the camera. H&Y Polarizer to kill wet reflections. Schneider Kreuznach f/5.6 60xl / Alpa 12+ / IQ4150.

In general, most users agree with the following comparison between Schneider-Kreuznach and Rodenstock. None of these are true across the board; there are always exceptions:

  • Wide open, Rodenstock lenses perform better; they are sharper across the field with more contrast at the edges.
  • Rodenstock lenses tend toward retrofocus designs, while SK tend toward symmetric designs.
  • For a given focal length, Rodenstock lenses are larger and heavier.
  • Wide angle SK lenses have less distortion vs their Rodenstock equivalent.
  • For wide angles, Rodenstock lenses will have less color cast and less vignetting vs their SK counterpart.
  • Center filters are more important on SK lenses. Unless you are using a newer BSI sensor, assume a center filter is necessary for all SK lenses < 72mm.
  • Rodenstock stated image circles are hard and fast; they utilize a mechanical “stop” that defines the edge of the usable image circle. SK stated image circles are more liberal; some may argue the usable image circle is not as large as stated due to a falloff in image quality. Again, there are exceptions like the f/5.6 60XL and the f/5.6 120 ASPH. The usable image circle will depend on whether a center filter is applied, the specific digital back used, the LCC process, image content and the photographer’s sensitivity to color and/or image quality in the corners.
  • Some Rodenstock lenses are more susceptible to flare.

Critical Accessories

Tripod

Setup in the rain for the image above. I believe this equipment can and should should be used in just about any environment. RRS TVC-24L w/ Arca Swiss L60 geared head.

25 years ago, if you wanted a real tripod you bought a Gitzo Mountaineer carbon fiber tripod. Period. Today, there are many options for high-quality tripods. Gitzo and Really Right Stuff are the most popular, but there are many others. The Center Column is a great resource for tripod-related information. David Berryrieser does a thoughtful job testing and commenting on many aspects of tripods and heads. A few broad comments:

  • Setting up a tripod on a hillside requires longer legs. Keep that in mind when deciding on a necessary extended height.
  • The weight savings associated with carbon fiber legs is significant, as is the lower heat transfer coefficient vs aluminum when carrying a cold tripod all day.
  • A leveling base below the tripod head can be very convenient and helpful. In some cases, you could use the tripod / leveling base without any head; very light weight.
  • Center columns are generally not worth the weight and loss in stability.
  • Collapsed packing height is important for portability and travel. On flights, the length of your tripod often defines the size of your travel luggage. I recommend four-section legs. Three-section legs may be faster to set up and marginally more stable, but they are significantly longer when collapsed.

Tripod Heads

One of my favorite activities is to head out somewhere I’ve never been, starting out before sunrise. you get to see the world gradually appear as it gets lighter. Even when the ultimate photo is a bust, as in this case near Blodgett, Montana.

Most technical camera users prefer some type of geared head with separate pitch and roll control vs a ballhead with one tension control for all dimensions. This is especially true if you have a CCD digital back without live view. Trying to make micro adjustments in one dimension with a ballhead without seeing the screen is a maddening experience. Currently there are several options for geared control, each with its mix of features and benefits:

  • Arca Swiss Cube: The de facto standard. Extremely sturdy, versatile because it can tilt 90 degrees, but heavy.
  • Arca Swiss L60 Leveler: much smaller than the Cube and just as sturdy. Limited to 10 degrees of adjustment, so often needs a leveling base on the tripod to obtain a reasonable adjustment range. No 90 degree tilt.
  • Arca Swiss L75 Leveler: A slightly larger version of the L60 above with 15 degrees of adjustment. If I had only one head this would be it. No 90 degree tilt.
  • Arca Swiss D4 Geared: Features both geared and “ball head” type of operation. Very quick to use, Many view this as the Goldilocks of geared heads.
  • Linhof Micro 3D Leveling Head: Smaller and lighter than the Cube but there is no 90 degree tilt.
  • KPS T5 Geared Ballhead: Looks like a standard ballhead but includes geared control. Similar features to A/S D4.

Note that most of these heads come with different quick release clamps. Yet another endless debate about which is best. You definitely want something that accepts the standard Arca-Swiss dovetail plate. How it clamps and releases is totally up to you. I prefer the Really Right Stuff style quick release and have retrofitted all my heads to that design.

Headlamp

Extremely useful. There are so many options I don’t dare attempt to recommend one over the other. REI has a very useful article here: Headlamps – How to Choose

Filters

If you are considering a technical camera, I will assume you are already well-versed in filters and the various filter systems. These are my general thoughts, but I will not go into great detail.

UV/Protection Filters

I no longer use filters as protection. I find them to be more trouble than the possible protection benefit. Working from a tripod virtually 100% of the time, I think the biggest risk associated with the front element comes from the act of screwing filters on and off. They are relatively thin and can slip out of your fingers and drag right across the lens. Using protective filters doubles the need for that exercise, and can arguably increase the risk of damage. If I was walking around doing street photography, my risk assessment might be different.

Polarizing Filters

Extremely useful tools, especially in wet forests where they do an excellent job removing water reflections. As far as I know, the polarizing effect is not easy to duplicate in post processing.

These two images have the same white balance temp/tint settings and color settings. The difference in hue and saturation is the use of a polarizer to remove blue reflections from the sky. Rodenstock f/5.6 90hr-sw / Alpa STC / IQ3100.

Center Filters

Center filters are used for some large format lenses in order to counteract the vignetting that occurs at the far reaches of the image circle. All lenses have some vignetting, but these lenses exhibit more because the image circles are so large and other design criteria. Center filters are specific to individual lenses, or in some cases groups of lenses. For example, the Schneider center filter “II-J” is used for the Alpa versions of the 43xl / 47xl / 60xl (each requires a different adapter, however). The Rodenstock E67 center filter is used with 5 different lenses.

Center filters help with LCC correction because the image is not as dark at the edges, which makes the LCC process not have to work as hard correcting the combination of lens cast and light falloff. In many cases, center filters can be considered as optional; which digital back you use plays a large role in that consideration. The IQ4150 not only has less lens color cast, but also less vignetting due to the BSI sensor (more discussion on this topic can be found later in the LCC section).

At the time of this writing, it appears all center filters are optional if you are using the IQ4150. With any other digital back, I recommend at least owning center filters for Schneider lenses 60mm and wider and Rodenstock lenses wider than 40mm. Unfortunately, center filters for Schneider lenses can be difficult to find.

Neutral Density (ND) and Graduated Neutral Density (GND) Filters

Your choice of ND and GND filters depends on how wide your lenses are and the size of your largest filter thread. I choose lenses carefully so I can keep this choice simple and light. My widest lens is a 35mm (23mm eq) and my largest filter thread diameter is 72mm. I can use standard 100mm size filters with no vignetting. There are many great brands of ND/GND filters out today including Breakthrough, Formatt-Hitech, H&Y, Lee, Nisi and Wine Country. It is a personal choice and they are all excellent quality. My personal preference is the H&Y Filter System. The magnetic design is great, and I’ve custom-made an LCC card and a black ABS 100x150mm sheet to fit in their magnetic frames. Taking LCC and black frame images are significantly easier; no hands!

As sensor dynamic range increases, the need for GND filters decreases. GND filters will always have the disadvantage of darkening subject matter that extends above and below the GND range, like a tree. I’ve used them when I had to, but looking back through my portfolio it was hard to find an image that used a GND. I had to go all the way back to 2017! Now, with the dynamic range available with modern sensors, not to mention features on the IQ4150 like Dual Exposure + and Frame Averaging, I don’t even think about them.

I used a 6-stop ND filter from H&Y to get this image in mid-day sun with a light overcast sky. I can leave the ND’s at home now that the IQ4150 has frame averaging.

ND’s are a different story, particularly for water in bright light. Even at ISO 50 and f/16, the shutter speed on a sunny day is 1/60 second; too fast for most flowing water effects. The ND filter makes this possible. Many photographers keep a stable of 3/6/10 stop ND filters. Staying with my “go light” theme, I carry only one 6-stop ND filter from H&Y Filters. Simple drop-in design works wonderfully, even with thick gloves. I find one filter, combined with an optional polarizer to further reduce light, provides enough flexibility. Since the IQ4150 released the Frame Averaging feature, I haven’t used ND’s either. Things are changing in our field workflow for the better!

Batteries

I carry four extra batteries in a Think Tank battery holder. I do not take solar equipment or auxiliary battery packs for in-field charging even when backpacking for several days. The Phase One battery costs $45 and weighs 100 grams. You would have to go through quite a few batteries to justify the cost, weight and space of equipment for charging batteries in the field.

Mystery Valley, Arizona. 2-image stitch shifted 18mm L/R. Schneider Kreuznach f/5.6 150mm / Alpa STC / IQ3100.

Memory Card

If you have any digital back other than the IQ4150, you will be using CF cards. My favorite brand is Lexar, but not because they are faster or more reliable. They are, however, easier to remove from the digital back because the little lip is more robust and easier to grab, especially with gloves on. I try to size cards that hold 300-400 images. They are cheaper and if I lose images from a faulty card, it won’t be that many. I can fit 400 IQ3100 images on a 64gb card, which is plenty of capacity. Plus, I carry a few extra just in case.

Lens Hoods

I’ve mentioned some of the wide angle lenses can be susceptible to flare, so shading the lens is important. There is just no universal solution for lens hoods that I find acceptable. It gets more complicated because of the large image circles. A hood that shields the lens well without movements will probably vignette with movements. A hood that doesn’t vignette with movements won’t do as good a job shielding the lens without movements. If you are using the Lee filter system and can work within the 100mm system, the Lee collapsible lens hood is the most popular solution. It works for all lenses and is relatively compact and simple, but makes changing or adjusting filters more difficult.  If you require a larger filter system, there are options but they become large and cumbersome. I suggest first trying manual flags, hats or screens. The soft pull-out cover inside the lid of most f-stop ICU’s works marvelously as a make-shift lens shade. Some of these technical camera lenses are sensitive to flare, especially some Rodenstocks with their larger front elements. I’ve settled on a random selection. The sk60xl and sk90 have cheap B+W collapsable rubber hoods, while I use the Alpa supplied 3D printed hood for the Rodi 138mm float. I just manually flag the 35xl, and sometimes still manually flag in addition to the hood.

Rainstorm in the Valley; Death Valley, California, no movements. Schneider Kreuznach 43xl / Alpa STC / P65+.

Wait; What About a Light Meter?

I just don’t use one. With direct feedback and detailed histograms, it is much faster to simply guess at an exposure, shoot and adjust. I find it helps me become more aware of the light conditions and environment. It is also a bit of a fun game; I test myself to see how accurate the light meter is in my head. Keep in mind we are not adjusting ISO or even f-stop very often, so it just becomes a question of estimating the amount of light and whether you have a center filter, polarizer or ND filter mounted. There are some reasonable light meter apps for your iPhone. myLightMeter is one option I’ve tried that is full-featured and fun to use, but not necessary. I own a Sekonic 508, but wouldn’t think of carrying it with me.

Up Next

That’s it for this long-winded installment. From here, we will get into the process details of packing and setting up. And yes, that includes everyone’s favorite topic: camera bags.

Dave Chew
Chagrin Falls, Ohio

I was born and raised in Northeast Ohio where my outdoor experiences defined my life from an early age. From living in Western Geauga County next to what became one of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy’s oldest and largest holdings, to spending summers on staff at Camp Stigwandish and family vacations that included backpacking, climbing and mountaineering, I developed a deep appreciation for the wonder and diversity of the outdoors. My photography represents an effort to notice, appreciate and celebrate the incredible detail of the natural environment. While living in Northern California, I took a camera backpacking in the Sierras. That experience brought so many questions and so much curiosity around how cameras and film see the world. More importantly, it gave me an entirely new view of the world that made me notice and appreciate the outdoors at another level. I then learned that my office in Emeryville was two blocks down from Galen Rowell’s studio. Galen quickly became a great mentor, and he and his staff were an endless, patient resource. I am a chemical engineer with a career in the industrial, municipal and residential water industry.

Article Type: Tutorials, Columns, MISC

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