35mm or 645 for travel to Spain

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abruzzi

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Most of my shooting is rural nature and landscape in my home state of New Mexico. Because it is always solo, and at my own pace, I have migrated to mostly larger cameras and slower processes—almost everything I’ve shot in the last year or two is on a view camera—6x9 up to 8x10. But…

I have been invited to travel to Spain with my father and his wife. The trip will focus on southern Spain and the moorish architectures and influences, though we will take a short detour to Barcelona because seeing Gaudi architecture is high on my list of desired experiences. Since I’ll be traveling with two other people taking photos with their phone, schlepping a view camera around isn’t going to happen.

35mm is the obvious answer since even a beast like a Nikon F2 is smaller and lighter than most medium format cameras. Looking at what I own, the options would be:

35mm
Nikon F2 with 3 or 4 primes <- the small manual option
Pentax MZ-S with a zoom and two fast primes for night shooting <- 35mm automation at its best

645
Bronica ETRSi with 3 primes <- the MF manual option
Fuji GA645Zi <- point and shoot medium format with a small zoom range

(I have a couple 6x7 cameras—Pentax 67 and Bronica GS-1, but they’re too heavy, so I’ve eliminated them.)

It’s hard to decide, and I’ve only once done this type of travel with film photography, and I took the Pentax with a Kodak Retina for B&W. It worked well and the Pentax auto modes were good for quickly capturing shots, but some of the shots I wish had more detail. So I’d be curious for those that have done something like this—is trying to bring a medium format camera overkill? My home processes deal with medium format better than 35, but using something like the Bronica with a handheld meter and WLF might be more cumbersome in interior locations like the Sagrada Familia. But at the same time I’d really want 4x5 photos of some of those interiors, so there 645 seems a better option than 35.

(Of course all of this depends on the type of carry on scanners in Madrid and if hand checks are possible there. I don’t want to admit it, but a DSLR may win out if I can’t get the film home safely.)
 

Sirius Glass

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I recommend a medium format camera such as your Bronica ETRSi but do not bother to take the telephoto lens. I have never needed a telephoto lens to Europe including Spain specifically AND something that is a fast shooter if possible. For my Hasselblad which is 6x6 heavily use the 38mm SWC and the 50mm and the 80mm gets much less use.
 

GregY

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Abruzzi, I feel for you. I made a trip to Europe this Aug/Sept for the first time since Covid. I took a Leica CL with a 40mm... & a friend in Italy send a Pentax 645 & lenses to Chamonix for my time there. I'm a huge fan of MF.. for travelling. In retrospect my Mamiya 6MF with the 50/75 combo was unbeatable...but i let it go because of worries over the electronics. These days I'm opting for a Leica M and a Perkeo ll (6x6) combo. I had no troubles getting film to Europe... & I had it processed in Paris before returning home. Next time i think i'll ship the film home since i prefer negs from my own darkroom w Pyrocat. I bet the 645 would do the trick for you.
(If Mamiya made Mamiya 6 mechanical i'd have one. The 50mm was especially spectacular.)
IMG_6837.JPG
 
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pentaxuser

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If it were I, the first important thought would be how big a print do I want? Second thought would be what speed film might I need given the light in the latitude of Southern Spain? This might help with the third thought which is what size prints do I need? If it is 8x10 or say 11x14 then I'd have thought that 35 mm with a 100 speed film such as TMax or Delta might be fine

I have a P645N and while carrying it in a holster or backpack all day is clearly possible, my experience is that the extra weight begins to tell after say 8 hours but your ability and willingness to carry extra weight might be different from mine Only you know what your limitations are

I hope you enjoy the holiday

pentaxuser
 

xkaes

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I'd bring BOTH 35mm cameras -- and one lens for each that covers the total focal length range you want. That way you will have two types of film at all time -- fast/slow - color/b&w. Too bad they don't have the same lens mount.
 

blee1996

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I had always fear about 120 film getting fogged by the airport machines, which is based on bad experience a few years back. Thus this summer I only took a big load of 35mm film and one 35mm camera with me, for a month in Europe (including Spain). I was in Barcelona, and did not find a lot of places to buy and process film. And the choices are limited.

If you can source 120 film in Europe and get them processed in Europe, then it should not be a problem.
 

GregY

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i've never had 120 fogged by airport machines....multiple trips & airports in different countries
 

faberryman

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It always baffles me why experienced photographers don't know which of their cameras and lenses to take on a trip.
 

Mike Lopez

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It always baffles me why experienced photographers don't know which of their cameras and lenses to take on a trip.

Completely agree! And the equally baffling "which lenses should I take?" or "you won't need this certain type of lens, because I didn't use one of those..." How can anyone but the person behind the camera, with his or her vision/imagination, possibly make that determination? Full disclosure: many years ago I asked a similar question someplace. I got a very thoughtful response that illuminated the silliness of the question for me.

And for what it's worth, I was in Spain 4 years ago and also made the voyage into Morocco. Security was tightest getting on and off the boat to Morocco (tighter than airport security), but none of my film had any issues with fogging. And I was denied an inspection by hand going into Morocco. The film took the full brunt of whatever the scanner delivered. No issues. (It was all HP5+, so not exactly a slow film, either.)
 

koraks

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I don’t want to admit it, but a DSLR may win out if I can’t get the film home safely.

Nothing wrong with that.

Personally when flying I always just carry a 35mm with a 50mm lens and perhaps a wide angle if I feel like lugging one around. That's enough dead weight to my taste.

I'd also not feel too bad about just skipping Barcelona and concentrating on other places. Not to offend anyone, but that town has become a hellhole in recent years. Plenty of interesting places in Spain that aren't overrun by tourists and pickpockets.
 

GregY

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It always baffles me why experienced photographers don't know which of their cameras and lenses to take on a trip.

Too many choices? i once bought a Fuji GW680lll for a photo i had in mind on a trip to the Dolomites.I couldn't see it as a square for my Rolleiflex...and wanted a bigger print than i felt a cropped to 645 neg. could do. I sold it after the trip
IMG_6815.JPG
 
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Pieter12

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I usually take a Fuji X Pro or X 100 mirrorless digital camera traveling. There are so many variables than can come into play, night time shots, vistas, details. That's where the versatility of digital and small size of the X comes in handy. No film to worry about, or what and how much film to take. Plus the Fujinon lenses are superb.
 
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abruzzi

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It always baffles me why experienced photographers don't know which of their cameras and lenses to take on a trip.

because I've never tried to take MF in an environment like this. When I was in Moscow a few years ago, I had the Pentax MZ-S, and maybe 4 lenses. I left some of the lenses in the room based on my expectations of what to shoot. But what I didn't get was how huge Moscow was (it felt larger than NYC when I was there) and it was hilly, so even that smaller setup was occasionally a drag. My question isn't simply should I take 35 or MF, its should I take 35 or MF to Barcelona, Seville, Grenada, and various southern cities. Is it flat like St. Petersburg (a very walkable city) or is it hilly like Rome or Moscow (both cities that can exhaust you just walking a mile.)

Its also a type of shooting I almost never do. I've shot 35 in a busy crowded place, but 99.9% of my medium format shooting is in places without another human for 20 miles. The Fuji shoots as easily as a point & shoot 35, but it has significant limitations with a very narrow zoom range, viewfinder viewing (which I dislike compared to SLRs), and inability to switch film mid roll--both the Bronica and the Pentax can do that easily. But if I shoot with the Bronica, each shot takes much longer--with a handheld meter and manual focus, are the throngs of people at one of the most famous locations in Europe going to overwhelm me? Remember I'm used to spending 20 minutes at a location setting up and preparing the shot.

Also, I know which lenses--I don't need help with that--just not whether the weight and effort of the MF camera are worth it.

Of course it may be all for naught since I havent been able to find any info on CT scanners or hand inspections in Madrid. if there is a 50% chance of loosing all my photos, it may be digital which I'd prefer not to.
 
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abruzzi

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And for what it's worth, I was in Spain 4 years ago and also made the voyage into Morocco. Security was tightest getting on and off the boat to Morocco (tighter than airport security), but none of my film had any issues with fogging. And I was denied an inspection by hand going into Morocco. The film took the full brunt of whatever the scanner delivered. No issues. (It was all HP5+, so not exactly a slow film, either.)

Interesting, how did you find Morocco? we were considering that (instead of Barcelona) but just could find good information on whether it would worth. Tangiers is close, but most of what I read didn't have anything good to say. Fes got some decent writeups, and would be accessable. Marrakesh seems the most reccomended, but its probably too much of a stretch to reach.

Honestly the only reason I want to see Barcelona is the Gaudi stuff. I've been somewhat obsessed with his works for a while. Originally the plan was 2.5 weeks mostly in the Andalusia region, with maybe a 3-4 day trip into Morocco. Morocco was traded with Barcelona, but with maybe 4-6 days since it is a greater distance to get there.
 

GregY

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Paul Howell

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My understanding is that the new airport X ray machines will fog film, Kodak has issues advice. I guess you can have film hand checked, although I will no longer taking film outside the U.S, if I did I would buy in Spain and send back home by Fed X or UPS. Unless you plan on making very large prints I would take 35mm, a few lens, your Pentax with fast primes, both Tmax 400 and 100. With 35mm you can many more frames for the same weight and space. If you plan on making 16X20 then your MF set up.
 

Mike Lopez

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Interesting, how did you find Morocco? we were considering that (instead of Barcelona) but just could find good information on whether it would worth. Tangiers is close, but most of what I read didn't have anything good to say. Fes got some decent writeups, and would be accessable. Marrakesh seems the most reccomended, but its probably too much of a stretch to reach.

Honestly the only reason I want to see Barcelona is the Gaudi stuff. I've been somewhat obsessed with his works for a while. Originally the plan was 2.5 weeks mostly in the Andalusia region, with maybe a 3-4 day trip into Morocco. Morocco was traded with Barcelona, but with maybe 4-6 days since it is a greater distance to get there.

Morocco will always be an experience that my wife and I look back on...and laugh--at ourselves. We were only in Tangier for a little more than 24 hours, as we had a full itinerary in Spain and Portugal. We failed to recognize (until we got there) that we were visiting during Ramadan, and out of deference to the locals, we didn't attempt to join the "sunset rush" for dinner. We also didn't know that, after that initial rush, the restaurants will shut down so that the proprietors and their families can eat. We wound up waiting hours (literally) to find dinner, and none of what was still available was traditional tagine. We wound up with some crappy spaghetti...in north Africa, after hours of building up an appetite for authentic local food. Live and learn.

Concerning photography, the light in Tangier was perhaps the most intense sunlight I've ever been around. This was in early May, so your mileage might vary, but be prepared for that (if you should go). Perhaps you could think in terms of "sunny 22" instead of 16 or 11.

Regarding Barcelona and Gaudi: the man produced some very interesting works. Sagrada Familia is the one that everyone's heard of and likely visits/thinks of first, but I was most fascinated by Casa Batllo. You should visit all of his landmarks there and form your own opinions, but I was very pleasantly surprised by Batllo. We visited La Sagrada first and I was expecting everything after that to be less impressive, but I was wrong.

Feel free to send a PM if you have any particular questions.
 

Mike Lopez

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Can’t believe I failed to mention this earlier, but it would be a shame if you went all the way to Barcelona and didn’t take in the Picasso Museum. And if you are into Calatrava, his works are abundant and easy to get to (but they are not only concentrated in Barcelona—think Sevilla as well.)
 

MattKing

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It always baffles me why experienced photographers don't know which of their cameras and lenses to take on a trip.

Perhaps the OP is inexperienced - at least with respect to trips like this, and current travelling conditions.
I would start first to ask what my intended purpose was for the results - large darkroom prints, a book, an internet website, images on a phone, a projected slide show, a digital slide show, ???
Once I've answered that question, that would lead to decisions about the compromise (if any) between the capabilities of the available equipment and film and storage medium choices and the logistics of travelling with them.
My best travel photography experiences involved projectable 35mm Kodachrome - which tells you that they were from a while ago. They were, however, in Spain.
 

GregY

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It's worth checking this thread on airport scanners.... not all international airports have the new film-killing scanners.... yet....
Still you can figure out how they differ....and other useful info

 

Sirius Glass

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Interesting, how did you find Morocco? we were considering that (instead of Barcelona) but just could find good information on whether it would worth. Tangiers is close, but most of what I read didn't have anything good to say. Fes got some decent writeups, and would be accessable. Marrakesh seems the most reccomended, but its probably too much of a stretch to reach.

Honestly the only reason I want to see Barcelona is the Gaudi stuff. I've been somewhat obsessed with his works for a while. Originally the plan was 2.5 weeks mostly in the Andalusia region, with maybe a 3-4 day trip into Morocco. Morocco was traded with Barcelona, but with maybe 4-6 days since it is a greater distance to get there.

Barcelona is a must see place on the Iberian Peninsula.
 

Pieter12

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Barcelona has quite a few steep hills, depending on the neighborhood. And you won't get 20 minutes to make a shot inside the Sagrada Familia, much less 20 minutes of peace. It is quite popular and can get crowded. If you intend to use a tripod, you might not be able to take it into some of the Gaudi sites. Check first. I'm not sure there is a good angle for the Sagrada Familia exterior, what with its location and the constant construction scaffolding. Details galore, though. Maybe do some advance location scouting with Google Earth or street view in Google Maps.
 

Sirius Glass

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Barcelona has quite a few steep hills, depending on the neighborhood. And you won't get 20 minutes to make a shot inside the Sagrada Familia, much less 20 minutes of peace. It is quite popular and can get crowded. If you intend to use a tripod, you might not be able to take it into some of the Gaudi sites. Check first. I'm not sure there is a good angle for the Sagrada Familia exterior, what with its location and the constant construction scaffolding. Details galore, though. Maybe do some advance location scouting with Google Earth or street view in Google Maps.

I got good exterior photographs of the Sagrada Familia from a nearby hill in a park, it may well have been a Gaudi park. It was not finished when I was there so I did not go in.
 

Pieter12

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I got good exterior photographs of the Sagrada Familia from a nearby hill in a park, it may well have been a Gaudi park. It was not finished when I was there so I did not go in.
I'm not sure it will ever be finished, but the hope now is 2026--the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.
 
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