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The photographer’s daypack – part 2: medium format street shooters

A little while ago, I covered my recommendations and rationale for the basic photographer’s daypack – a small, light pack of essential items for any film photographer. You can read the original article here.

Whilst the basic principle stays the same for medium format photography, the nature of the medium means that there will be additional items you will want, or need to carry for different types and durations of shooting.

Let’s quickly recap on the original day pack:

  1. A pen/pencil and small notebook.
  2. A fine tip marker.
  3. A small lens/eyeglass cloth.
  4. Some spare film (fast, slow, color, black and white).
  5. A spare battery.
  6. A light meter, or alternative.
  7. A rubber band and some stiff card.
  8. Bonus item – a skylight, or UV filter for the more accident prone, or clumsy among us.


So without further ado, here’s my take on the additions and enhancements we can make for the medium format photographer.


Shot on ilford FP4+

Shot on Ilford FP4+

A considerate speed

Medium Format photography may not always need but often demands a more considered approach to considering, framing and metering than 35mm. Most old-hand medium format photographers are used to only getting 12, or 16 shots from a roll of 120 film but when you’re just starting off, it can sometimes take a while before you get into the swing of things. It gets worse when you consider that 6×12 and 6×17 shooters only get six and four shots per roll respectively!

Still, that needn’t mean that an enhanced medium format day pack for medium format photographers be much heavier or bulkier than that of a 35mm shooter.

I love shooting medium format. So much so that I have an MF camera with me each and every day, rain or shine. So, taking my experience into account, I’ve put together a list of the additional items I carry with me on an everyday shoot when lugging a medium format camera.

We’ll be considering this a baseline enhanced medium format day pack. It’s also worthwhile to note that the items listed here equally are applicable to medium format rangefinders, SLRs and TLRs alike.

  1. A close-up lens
  2. A red filter
  3. A warming filter
  4. A shutter release cable
  5. A hotshoe spirit level


All pretty small and easily pocketable, I think you’ll agree. The rationale is simple: keep it small, keep it light, keep it useful.

Let’s take a look at the items in a bit more detail.


#1 – A close-up lens

I have an extensive range of macro extension tubes for nearly all my medium format gear but they can be bulky and unwieldy.

When walking the streets looking for something interesting, a screw on, or snap in close-up filter will do the job, as the lens will not need to be removed and remounted to attach a tube or bellows. Take a look below at what these little things can do.

Spring flowers - Kodak Ektar 100

Spring flowers – Kodak Ektar 100

That’s a seriously isolated image and you click the image to see a second, even more isolated version in the linked roll.  It was captured with a small and simple twist-in bayonet macro lens attachment for my Yashica Mat 124G.

Whilst normally I’m the kind of person who’s reluctant to put more glass in front of my lens in this case, the results speak for themselves and this lens kit is now permanently attached to my 124G’s shoulder strap just waiting to be used.

Anyway, great results with minimal fuss and ideal for grabbing a quick shot. If you don’t want to purchase your manufacturer’s own brand of close up filter, there are plenty available on the aftermarket, just check eBay.


#2 & 3 – The filters

Lens filters

Lens filters

When shooting colour negative, or slide film, a warming filter such as the 81A, B, or C will only rob you of around 1/3rd of a stop of light but that’s a small price to pay for getting the warmth you desire when the sun goes in. You can also try a light yellow filter when pushing your film to give yourself wonderful pastel hues.

The red filter is for black and white and something I nearly always carry with me on sunny days. A deep red filter ads bags of contrast to your images and although it will rob you of about three stops of light (!!!), the results are worth it when shooting fast film on a sunny day.


#4 – A shutter release cable

I regularly hand hold down to 1/15th of a second, although wouldn’t advise trying to shoot an entire roll at that speed. Take a simple shutter release cable with you and figure out how it works best for you. They’re a great investment for only a small outlay.


#5 – A hotshoe spirit level

3-axis hotshoe spirit level

3-axis hotshoe spirit level

Normally I’d leave this out of an everyday pack but I carry mine nearly all the time and it’s a great help when shooting from the hip.

This 3-axis version shown in the image on the right is my favourite type, as it allows me to check my vertical or horizontal levels, as well as letting me accurately line up 45-degree diagonals when I’m feeling a little off-keel.

Mine is a little more battered than the one in the picture and cost me just a few dollars on eBay.


All done…nearly

In total, these items won’t add more than a few hundred grams to your pack. They’re about the size and weight of a good-sized apple but a little more useful for photographic purposes.

“Where are my extra lenses?!”, I hear you say. Well, that’s entirely up to you. I find that I’ll usually start and finish a short medium format run with only one lens unless I’m shooting the Mamiya C-system.  This is mainly because the lenses for this TLR system camera are small, light and I can easily fit another wider or longer lens into my bag without much fuss.

With other camera systems I’m really reluctant to carry more than one lens unless I REALLY need to.  They’re just too damned heavy. The same goes for film backs. It doesn’t matter whether you have a Kiev 88, or Hasselblad, those things are heavy and better left for longer trips, or if you’re going somewhere pretty special.

Back to lenses. Normally, I’ll take out the fastest lens I have (something like a stock 80/2.8) and make a mental note to go back with a different lens should I feel the need to do so in the future.

That’s a wrap on this part of the day pack series. Drop us a line in the comments about your own thoughts on what’s been discussed here. As ever, we’re really keen to hear from you and keep an eye out for our compact camera and 35mm rangefinder daypacks…coming soon!

PS. There’s talk of a Toy Camera daypack coming from the deepest, darkest recesses of EMULSIVE. More on this as the situation develops. As ever, let us know your thoughts in the comments. I have a feeling that this may some down to a vote 😉


About The Author


Self confessed film-freak and filmphotography mad-obsessive. I push, pull, shoot, boil and burn film everyday, and I want to share what I learn. It might not all be right but it's a start.


  1. Nice continuation 🙂
    The three axis spirit level is interesting. Being 3 axis I guess it should work equally well on a camera with the hotshoe on the side, like many TLRs have for example.

    • Yes. In fact, it’s absolutely essential when doing funky poses with a Waist Level Finder!

  2. Funky poses with WL finder… I know that because I have a Mamiya 645. I bought a prism to avoid doing that. But if you have a square aspect ratio then you shouldn’t need to do such poses.

    • I simply don’t get on with prisms…trying, though. I’ve been known to shoot my WLF cameras with arms stretched above my head, camera upside down and at an angle, with me looking up at the focus screen! I guess I really should try and make it easier on myself…

  3. @BillinghamBags substitute with a Rollei & I’m there.

  4. @BillinghamBags I’m using a crumplers with an rb67 +2 lens and Polaroid +m4-p

  5. I have in an old army surplus canvas bag. It’s a perfect fit for a Mamiya C330. Gubbins has too go in a coat though….

    • Sounds cool! Pics?



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