In your bag No: 1329 – Stephen Dowling


by Bellamy /

7 min read
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In your bag No: 1329, Stephen Dowling
Stephen is a bit of a regular on the site. Having had his bag featured in the past, and his work. Oh and let’s not forget the pieces he has written about photography too. He probably needs to have a couple of the Featured on JCH pins. Check out his latest film heavy bag.

Japan Camera Hunter Bag NZ

This is the bag that’s just travelled with me across the planet, from a drizzly December London to the early summer sun of Auckland, New Zealand. I’ve returned home for my first Christmas in 20-odd years, and with five-odd weeks back in New Zealand (and hopefully with plenty of that big southern blue sky on show). This is what I’ve lugged back…

Lomo LC-A 120

The lovely people at Lomography UK have loaned me this camera a couple of times this year, and once again for this big trip Down Under. The LC-A 120’s a medium format of the old Lomo LC-A zone-focus compact, boasting a 38/4.5 lens (the equivalent of about 24mm on a 35mm camera). The LC-A 120’s a fantastic camera, adding that characteristic vignetting and saturated contrast, though the effects are even more dramatic on a medium format negative.

I’m trying to run at least 20 rolls of film through this over the month I’m here, a mix of street photography in Wellington and the rightly world-famous Kiwi scenery. I’ve taken a handful of rolls of old Kodak slide film with me; the results from cross-processed slide on this camera are out-of-this –world.

Pentax ESII

My collection of film cameras contains a few dozen 35mm SLRs of various stripes, and my favourite would have to be the ESII; I’ve got four of five of them and a bunch of old Takumar lenses. The ESII was the last in the m42-mountSpotmatic line of cameras, and has a stepless electronically controlled shutter – the camera senses the chosen aperture in the lens and sets the appropriate shutter speed. If I had to shoot on one 35mm set-up for the rest of my photo-taking days, it would be this.

The aperture-priority function only works with the SMC Takumar lenses – they have a special tab at the back that the ESII can read – but they’re plentiful and reasonably priced. The aperture priority is great for street shooting, and the cameras have that satisfying heft of 1970s SLRs, mostly metal and built to last.

I’ve packed a few lenses to swap between – a 55/1.8 standard, 28/3.5 wide-angle and a 105/2.8 for portraits.

Zenit TTL

Soviet cameras tend to get a bad rap, but that often seems to be from people who’ve not actually shot with them. True, there’s plenty of duds that came out of the factories of Zenit, Zorki, Kiev and FED, but this was mostly down to dodgy quality control rather than any inherent weaknesses in the designs.

One of the old Soviet camera I bought early in the last decade is a Zenit E, a camera made in the many millions from the mid-1960s. It sports the M42 mount, an uncoupled selenium meter, a handful of shutter speeds and little else. I bought the E at a London market for £4 more than a decade ago and it’s still going strong, and the meter’s accurate enough to use slide film. The TTL’s a slightly more modern update, with a battery-powered TTL meter; but it’s pretty much the same camera.

This TTL cost me under £10 off eBay and works perfectly; I’ve shot a few rolls on it so far, but this NZ trip gives me a chance to put it through its paces on some familiar turf. The Helios-44 58mm lens that came as standard is absolutely fantastic; sharp and with beautifully creamy bokeh shooting at wide apertures.

Olympus 35RC

The compact little rangefinder’s sometimes referred to as the ‘poor man’s Leica’. Made in the early 1970s, it’s a fixed-lens rangefinder shutter-priority; set the lens to ‘A’ and choose the shutter speed; the camera will choose the right aperture for you. There’s fully manual controls too; you check the right exposure using the ‘A’ setting and you can then manually control aperture (useful for bracketing in challenging light). All this in a tiny package; the 35RC is small enough for a coat pocket, and its secret weapon is an incredibly sharp lens 42/2.8 lens.

Another big plus with the 35RC is its incredibly quiet shutter; this is a perfect camera for street shooting as it’s so quiet and the lens is a nice half-way house between standard and wide-angle. It’s as tough as old boots, aswell. It’s a camera that deserves to be better-known; I’ve been really impressed with the pics I’ve got from it so far.

Lomo LC-A

I bought my first Lomo LC-A in 2000; a Soviet-era model that’s still soldiering on nicely. I bought a second one a few months ago from an eBay seller in Moscow; this seems to be an export model, with a tiny badge of the Bolshevik-era cruiser Aurora added as an afterthought.

I’ve fallen back into the habit of shooting more on Lomos and similar cameras – Olympus XA2, Cosina CX-2 etc – since finding a few stashes of old Agfa and Kodak slide film on eBay. I’ve bought 10 or so rolls with me, and most of them will go in the Lomo; cross-processed Agfa Precisa boosts blues to amazing effect anyhow; it’s going be even more noticeable in the clear, deep blue South Pacific skies.

I wouldn’t go on any trip now without having a Lomo or similar compact to hand – they allow you to be a little more spontaneous and shoot off-the-cuff.

Vanguard Heralder bag

I bought this last year before a trip to Barcelona and Morocco. It’s the perfect travel bag, allowing me to take all the camera gear and film I need as cabin luggage, and small enough to ensure that I don’t pack so much that it becomes too heavy to take on, or to carry around for any length of time. I think this is the Heralder 38 version; the tags have been taken off, so the exact model is now a bit of a mystery. There’s a laptop sleeve that perfect for packing in film if you’re not carrying a computer, and a zippered compartment for passports etc. It’s robust, and the top zipper means I can dig something out with the bag still on my shoulder. I’ll be using this for a very long time.


New Zealand’s a fantastic photographic location, but it’s a mixed blessing for film photographers – being on the other side of the world means imported goods are rarely cheap. Digital has been enthusiastically embraced, and many of the old camera shops and film processors I remember have gone to the wall.

While I’ll grab a few rolls of Kodak Ektar and Tri-X while I’m here, it made sense to take everything I could. So with me I’ve bought about 50 rolls of 120 and 35mm film; that should be enough for the five weeks I’m here. It’s a pretty mixed bag – in 120 there’s Kodak E100VS and Fuji Provia 100, plus some Lomography 100 and 400 print film, and some Xpro 200 for cross-processing.

There’s Lomography 100 and Kodak Ektar in 35mm, plus some Kodak E100 slide and some Kodak Elite Chrome 100 and Agfa Precisa for cross-processing. I’m also trying, for the first time, Lomography’s Redscale XR 50-200 film; I’ll set it at 64, where the effects will be less redscale and more muted colour, according to my friend Hannah at Lomography London. It’s always good to try something new.

Nice to see you back, Stephen. Looks like you had a great trip. NZ has to be one of the most photogenic countries I have ever visited.
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4 comments on “In your bag No: 1329 – Stephen Dowling”

    Thanos M. January 20, 2016 at 1:49 pm / Reply

    I ‘ve been following Stephens’ site for quite a time and his work was always an inspiration for me. Just like these amazing cameras in his bag. Keep up man.

    Luca January 20, 2016 at 5:05 pm / Reply

    You are a brave man, such a long trip with 2 lomo and no one Leica :) !!! my respect. I love your stream.

    JM SCHWARTZ January 23, 2016 at 4:28 am / Reply

    Cool. J’ai découvert Stephen et son travail voilà près de deux ans par hasard lors d’une recherche sur un Zorki 4. Depuis sa vision et sa passion photographique m’accompagnent régulièrement dans mon aventure personnelle. Je suis revenu au film argentique avec plus de confiance grâce à son enthousiasme et à la vue de ses résultats. Je pratiquai autrefois le film d’une manière classique. Depuis, je réalise le traitement croisé, je cherche des appareils anciens manuels et mécanique de toute beauté. Merci Stephen.

    Shaun January 31, 2016 at 2:49 am / Reply

    Hi Stephen,

    I have respect for your bag because it does not contain a Leica!

    Nice lens cap on the Pentax as well, get the impression you love photography and the process it involves, I hope you had a great journey and well done.

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