Camera Gear

I guess I'm a bit of an equipment junkie, having owned quite a variety of different camera systems over the years. With the 35mm SLR systems, I have always owned only one system at a time. Here is the list - from my first 110 camera (given to me in 1978 when I was 13), to my current Pentax 67II (bought in early 1999):

Pentax 110 format rangefinder
Vivitar 35mm rangefinder
Minolta X-700
Nikon FE-2
Olympus OM-4
Canon T-90
Canon EOS-Elan
Nikon F3/HP
Arca Swiss 4x5 studio camera
Linhof Technika 4x5 field camera
Pentax 67II Medium Format

I am now shooting exclusively with a Pentax 67II system. I have a 45mm f/4 ultra-wide, a 75mm f/4.5 wide-angle and a 135mm f/4 macro lens. I also use a set of extension tubes, the TTL prism, folding waist-level finder and the high-magnification finder. The sharpness and contrast of Pentax's SMC coated lenses is superb, and the built in spotmeter of the 67II is very convenient. I have abandoned my 4x5 cameras in favor of the Pentax because it is so much faster to shoot with and for prints up to 16x20, I don't really notice a huge difference in sharpness. Since I am currently shooting mainly landscapes, I have also abandoned my Nikon F3 (which I really liked). I often hike into back-country areas and try to keep my camera backpack's weight down. I probably wouldn't use a 35mm anyway, even if I dragged it along - so why bother. For the type of landscape photos that I tend to shoot, I find 35mm too grainy and seriously lacking sharpness and smooth tonality on large prints.

Since I really like razor-sharp photos and am not a steady handheld shooter, I use a tripod on virtually all my shots with the camera's mirror locked up to minimize camera shake. The Pentax 67II has a pretty massive mirror, and the camera has quite a "kick" when shooting handheld. I use a set of Slik Pro 700DX tripod legs, made of an Aluminum-Magnesium-Titanium (AMT) alloy. They are reasonably light, quite strong and have survived all the abuse that I could dish out over the last year-and-a-half. For a tripod head I use the Manfrotto 410 Gear Head. It has worm-gear driven adjustments on all 3 axis, so fine tuning the composition of a shot is a breeze. There are no large locking levers on this head to jab you in the back when carrying the tripod and it has a nice low-profile quick-release plate. This tripod configuration is the minimum strength that I'd recommend for the Pentax 67II. Even the Pentax's focal-plane shutter (on its own) can cause camera shake (at slow shutter speeds) on a lighter-duty tripod configuration.


I almost always shoot with slide film. Nothing beats looking at a large transparency (in true-colour) on a light-table and I must admit, I kind of miss my 4x5 in that respect! Since I do all of my printing digitally I, of course, need to scan my film as well. Scanning a positive transparency is generally much easier and more accurate (in terms of colour reproduction) than scanning a negative.

My current films of choice are Fuji Provia 100F and Fuji Velvia 50. The new 100F is an incredibly fine-grained and sharp slide film, even beating the slower Velvia in this respect. The colour balance of Provia 100F is wonderfully neutral yet still quite punchy and saturated. It doesn't suffer from overly blue shadows or overly magenta clouds like some other saturated slide films and it reproduces skin tones quite naturally. For the ultimate in vivid colour reproduction, Fuji Velvia 50 still reigns supreme. When I see photos done with Velvia, my usual reaction is "wow". It can take a scene that is perhaps a little lifeless and add enough punch to make the shot stand out.

I use Provia 100F more than Velvia because it has less contrast with more exposure latitude (making it easier to scan) and often I find the more neutral balance renders more pleasing images, especially in the desert southwest. The desert scenery in Utah and Arizona is already so vividly coloured that using Velvia often seems like overkill, since it sometimes results in an almost surreal colouration of the landscape. I primarily use Velvia when I want to exaggerate colour and/or emphasize subtle colour differences.

Digital Imaging

I print virtually all my images with a digital printer these days. For my computer, I use an Apple PowerMacintosh G3/400 (blue&white) with 320Mb of RAM, 2 hard disks totaling 14 Gb, an LG Electronics Flatron 795FT/Plus monitor, a MacAlley iKey keyboard, a Wacom 4x5 graphics tablet and a Microsoft (yikes!) Intellimouse Explorer - an excellent mouse, I must say. I also use a Yamaha 8x4x24 CD-RW drive and Kodak Gold Ultima CDR disks for archiving my images, a Polaroid SprintScan 35/Plus for 35mm film scanning and an Agfa Arcus II flatbed scanner for prints and web-resolution scans of larger format film. For large prints I use an Epson Stylus Photo 1200 printer. For 8x10 or smaller prints I use an old Kodak ColorEase dye-sublimation printer.

Since I manage the digital imaging department at Beau Photo Supplies, and we have a demo Imacon Flextight Precision II scanner, I... ahem... frequently need to test the scanner to ensure it's sharpness when scanning 6x7 film... yes, that's it!... test it for sharpness!... honestly! Actually, being able to use store equipment on occasion is one of the perks of working for Beau Photo - management is very easy-going in that respect. The Imacon is capable of producing a 170Mb scan from a 6x7 original at maximum optical resolution. With a DMax of 4.1, there is not much shadow detail that it can't pick up. It truly gives me exceptionally sharp and clean scans.

At Beau Photo, we also have a demo Fujix Pictrography PG-4000 printer which images on a silver-halide based emulsion using RGB lasers. It produces smooth, continuous-tone, razor sharp prints up to 12x18 inches in size - and it is fast! If I want to print images that require rich saturation and tonality in shadows (like my home-page background image) then I would try to use the Fujix instead of my Photo 1200 printer. For lighter toned, less demanding images, my Photo 1200 is surprisingly similar to the Fujix in print quality - although much slower, and nowhere near as archival.

I almost exclusively use Adobe Photoshop 5.5 when it comes to working with my digital images. There is not much I can't do with this program and it runs wickedly fast on Apple PowerMac systems, especially the new dual processor G4s. Apart from some levels and curves tweaking, some occasional dodging and burning and some preprint sharpening, I usually don't manipulate my images to any great extent. There are exceptions however: for example, I thought that my recent shot of Antelope Canyon in Arizona (again, my home page background image) did need some work when I made a large print.

The shot was taken with my Pentax 67II and 75mm lens, the tripod column almost fully extended, one tripod leg braced against the slot-canyon wall and a shutter speed of 6 seconds at f/16 with Fuji Velvia 50. Even though the mirror was locked up and I used a cable release, that huge 6x7 shutter-curtain probably did cause some shake. I was also pushing my depth-of-field since I had a canyon wall quite close to the camera. In any case, the shot needed some heavier unsharp-masking in Photoshop to look snappy at 11x14 or larger print sizes. When I sharpened it to the degree I liked, I found the sand at the bottom of the canyon becoming too grainy and mottled for my tastes. To try and solve this problem, I created a 50% opacity mask over just the sand and tried sharpening the image again. That did the trick: the texture of the canyon walls popped out nicely, while the sand was sharpened less - just the effect I was looking for. Also, there were some very blatant "Vibram" sole boot-prints in the sand which were seriously distracting. I used the cloning tool to carefully retouch these out (before sharpening). In the end, my final print was a significant improvement, but still very natural looking. Whenever I retouch a photo, no matter how severe the changes, I strive for a completely natural look. Even knowing where the photo was retouched, I want there to be absolutely no sign of manipulation - a difficult ideal to meet sometimes, admittedly.

Well, that just about covers it. Soon, I'll update this page with some images of my gear. I'll probably take them with a Nikon D1 digital camera - the demo camera from Beau Photo, of course!

Once again, feel free to email me with any questions or comments at


Mike Mander
August, 2000