Travelling Japan with 6 rolls of film

My wife and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary in Japan. It was my first time to go around Kyoto and Osaka so before our trip, I planned what camera to bring with me to take some nice photos.


My Pentax 645N medium format film camera with some films

My Gear

My Pentax 645N

  • Pentax 645N medium format film camera with FA645 75mm F2.8 lens
  • Extra 120 film back
  • Some expired Fuji 400H 120 film
  • Some expired Kodak Ektar 100 120 film
  • Fresh box of Kodak Portra 400 film, which I bought at Yodobashi Camera in Japan
  • Fujifilm X100T for random shots

So why did I decide to bring this heavy, bulky film camera when I have my X100T? To be honest, I just had a feeling that it would be nice to shoot travel pictures with a film camera. I have been shooting mostly with digital and this trip presented an opportunity for me to explore in many different ways.

I also love the look of medium format shots and it helps that we don’t have to rush from one place to another. I had time to slow down, observe and imagine the shot in my head before actually clicking.

Which is better: digital or film?

Film and Digital Cameras

None.. They are both great and it will depend on your purpose. Based on my experience, digital is good for anything that you need in an instant. If you are shooting for products, food, advertisements and the like, then shooting digital is your best option. But if you have the time and a lot of patience, shooting with film might work for you. I recommend film for personal projects.

Now, film cameras (even medium format ones) are now priced competitively, like wayyy cheaper than digital. Some medium format film cameras cost less than a prosumer point and shoot camera. But of course, you need to consider about film, processing, printing and scanning. If you are a trigger happy kind of photographer, I suggest you stick with digital.

Digital cameras also had a lot of improvement in the past 10 years. Sensors have become better. Cameras are becoming smaller and faster. Image quality is stunning. And a good digital camera won’t zero out your savings account.

Pentax 645N film camera

Pentax 645N film camera

Fuji X100T

Fuji X100T

Pentax 645N Film camera

Pentax 645N Film camera


Fuji X100T

Tips on Shooting with Film

Know your ISO – Your film is your ISO. Whenever you use film, you cannot change your ISO on the fly. You have to finish the roll of film to change it.

Entrance to Nijo Castle F11 @ 1/250 Fujifilm 400H

Entrance to Nijo Castle
F11 @ 1/250 Fujifilm 400H

Snow fall around Nijo Castle area F4.5 @ 1/60 Kodak Ektar 100

Snow fall around Nijo Castle area
F4.5 @ 1/60 Kodak Ektar 100

Know your composition. – Learn to imagine your composition before shooting. Unlike digital cameras, you can’t take test shots and see it right away… unless you’re using polaroids of course.


A view from Himeji Castle Pentax 645N FA645 75mm F2.8 lens

Know your exposure. – One of my habits when shooting digital, especially with EVF, is to use EV dial to adjust the exposure. However, when using film, you don’t have a preview of your shot. You have to analyze the lighting and exposure with your eyes and decide on the adjustment. Again, no instant test shots.


Himeji Castle

PRACTICE. – Read the manual! Practice, practice and more practice should be done before travelling with any camera. Don’t be lazy. You should understand how the camera meters, focuses, dials, controls and if there is any shutter lag. To get the best travel photos, you should be in sync with your gear. Stories are better told with pictures especially with great pictures. So, better practice before traveling.

Somewhere in Kyoto - A great photo but I misfocussed the girl.

Somewhere in Kyoto – A great photo if only I focused correctly.


A street around Gion.. Too bad I did not properly rolled the used film.

Do you know who should get better?

The one behind the camera. We should try to take better photos. It doesn’t matter if you are using film or digital. Practice, practice and more practice. At the end of the day, it’s all about the shot and not the medium format film camera or the Full frame DSLR or the APS-C mirrorless camera that you use.

The photographer who should get better and his wife @ Plum Orchard around Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

The photographer who should get better and his wife @ Plum Orchard around Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

Here are some more photos from the rolls of film I took in Japan.