About The MountainBorn
Memories of a life less ordinary…
Born under the blazing hot sun near the equator, raised in the frozen remote northern wilds, and now making our lives in the Tokyo concrete jungle for the past decade. We love blue skies, stationery, photography, design, 18th century British poets, afternoon naps atop sun-dappled tatami mats, autumnal food, latte art (and lattes), girls in high heels and guys in fashionable scarves.
We’ve been shooting for a long, long time and use a wide variety of photographic gear. Here’s some of what we’re currently shooting with.
Medium Format Interchangeable-Lens
Our current medium-format body is the Hasselblad X2D, a beautiful, weighty metal sculpture of a camera that features a gorgeous, intuitive user interface, a massive 100MP resolution and probably no more than 25% of the features available on any consumer FF mirrorless camera available at 1/4th the price. But in many ways, it’s almost like a classic sports car - you pay an eye-watering amount for quantifiably far fewer features but an infinitely, albeit unquantifiably, more sublime usage experience. We generally pair it with the heavy, but excellent XCD 35-75 f/3.5-4.5 as our walk around lens, and the gorgeous XCD 80mm f/1.9 for our portrait work.
Full Frame Range Finder
We own a Leica M11 along with a Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4 ASPH, a Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH and a APO-Summicron-M 75mm f/2 ASPH. We pull them out of their lovely resting place on the shelf about once a month when we’re in one of our analogue moods and go wander the city streets trying to live out our best Cartier-Bresson fantasies, but invariably end up coming home with a dozen out-of-focus images of cats and the backs of people’s heads.
Full Frame Interchangeable-Lens
We use the Leica SL2-S for most of our general shooting, especially when its larger, heavier size and slower auto-focus performance don’t matter as much as its sublime user experience and amazing build quality. We most often pair it with the Vario Elmarit SL 24-70 f/2.8 for everyday and travel use and match it with our “3 prime” trio of APO Summicron SL 28mm f/2.0, APO Summicron SL 50mm f/2.0, and the excellent (and fantastically affordable, by comparison)Sigma 85mm f/1.2 DG DN for portrait/people-heavy work.
On the other hand, when we need top-end auto-focus performance and/or resolution, we most often reach for our Sony A7RiV. For wildlife/sports oriented work (such as our love of yabusame - Japanese horse-mounted archery) we most often match it with the FE 70-200 f/2.8 GM OSS, while for birding we usually add the large, but surprisingly affordable FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS occasionally with the 1.4x extender, and supported by the Wimberly Sidekick gimbal attached to a Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ballhead mounted on a Peak Design Tripod equipped with the universal adaptorfor a relatively portable setup that still breaks down and packs up small enough to fit in many normal-sized backpacks.
For portrait work where the extra megapixels are required, we most often rely on the FE 85mm f/1.4 GM - we estimate about 80% of our “people shots” are actually taken with this combination. We round out the “holy trinity” of G-Master lenses with the FE 50mm f/1.4 GM and the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM, the latter of which is also our go-to astrophotography lens.
The Canon R5 represents our first foray back into the Canon family in more than 7 years after their countless technical and product stagnation caused us to leave them for Sony. The R5 (and the entire mirrorless R5 lineup) are interesting to play with but still firmly occupy the #3 spot in our shooting lineup. The RF 28-70 f/2.0 L is probably the most attractive part of the system for us at the moment, being an intriguing (albeit incredibly heavy) curiousity that has done a pretty decent job of being an “all in one” FF solution that can capably shoot travel, landscape and portrait at a much faster aperture than usual.
We don’t often bring our full-frame bodies with us for landscape/outdoor adventures due to the bulk and mass - every gram counts when you’re hiking and camping for days in a row. However for trips or travel where we need the performance of a full frame body but a slightly smaller package than the Leica SL2 we’ll usually pair the A7rIV with the Sony 24-105mm f/4 G. While this is an excellent lens overall to begin with, when combined with the 61MP resolution and good high-ISO performance of the A7rIV we don’t find ourselves missing longer focal lengths or faster apertures at all - in almost all cases we can achieve our results by simply cropping in post or bumping the ISO.
Fixed Lens Full-Frame
After a tumultous love-hate relationship with the original Leica Q and then later the murdered out Leica Q-P Type 119 with its fixed 27mm f/1.7 Summilux lens, we ended up selling both of them in favour of the amazing, sublime Leica Q II a couple of years ago and have never looked back.
While much of the Leica Q II’s specs and overall design seem very close to the previous v1 and QP models, for whatever reason, the Q II is the one where the love affair really seemed to take off - finally, the magic that was for whatever reason off-and-on with the previous versions seemed to take full effect and the Q II has increasingly become our single go-to travel camera and “always packed and ready to go” one-bag travel camera.
It isn’t to say that all is perfect with the Q II - the price is still as ridiculous as ever, the lack of any ports on the body is bizzarely limiting, and the lack of in-body charging means that the gigantic plasticy power charging brick has to be carried for any extended trip negating much of the advantages of a one-camera minimal setup especially for one bag travel scenarios. Fortunately, we found the much smaller Nitecore ULSL USB battery charger that is capable of charging the battery in a much smaller usb-powered footprint, helping to keep the magic of this camera alive for us.
On paper the Leica CL seems like a difficult camera to like - it’s far more expensive and is missing important features (such as image stabilisation) common in virtually all its competitors and it suffers from a rather anemic lens lineup (all of which also lack stabilisation). Despite this, much like the Leica SL2-S, it makes up for it with an amazing, sublime user experience, surprisingly high image quality from the (relatively expensive) lenses and one of the smallest bodies around, which, when coupled with the equally tiny (albeit slightly slow) lenses, makes for a great all-around travel/hiking camera. We pair it most often with the Vario Elmar T 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH for general travel/hiking use, often backed up with either the Summilux TL 35mm f/1.4 ASPH or Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN as a fast general purpose prime/portrait lens for photographing people.
When it comes to the Sony, we usually pair it with the long-overdue but fantastically capable E 16-55mm f/2.8 G for a very capable and very compact all-in-one travel zoom experience. Add in the cheap but excellent E mount version of the Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN to get a capable and compact 2-lens setup that can handle just about any situation.
For vlogging, we pair the Sony a6600 with the Sigma Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN which is a wonderful combination especially with the astounding eye-tracking AF abilities of the a6600 (as well as its flip up screen and microphone in/headphone out jacks). We pipe the 4K output out from the a6600 through a BlackMagic ATEM Mini Pro and record directly into our 2020 16” Macbook Pro for an even faster workflow. For audio, we pair the combination above with the Rode VideoMic Pro+ - the auto power on/off function is truly a lifesaver (to say nothing of the audio quality), and occasionally, the Rode Wireless GO + lavalier mic for videos where we’ll be moving around a fair bit.
1” Sensor / Everything Else
We also have a mix of 1” sensor and smaller speciality cameras we also use when the timing and situation calls for it. A few years ago when our pocket camera suffered a tragic fall down the side of a mountain, we replaced it with the Sony RX100m7 as our ultra-compact pocket camera. Much like its predecessor, the RX7 comes with a strong list of pros, including its absolutely massive 24-200mm (FF equivalent) telephoto zoom, supremely capable 1” sensor, ultra-tiny size, auto pop-up viewfinder and ability to shoot RAWs - a long list to which it also adds a mic-in jack and built-in timelapse functionality. We’ve done entire outdoor hiking trips with only this camera for the entire journey and been well satisfied with the results. The list of cons include its ridiculous price, fiddly buttons, sad battery life and slower aperture than some previous RX models.
In terms of smartphones, we usually shoot with our Apple iPhone 14 Pro. When we’re doing the Android thing, we rely on our Sony Xperia 1 Mark II with its sexy profile and much-hyped triple cameras… that still takes worse photos than the iPhone, in our opinion.
For drones, we often bring along the teeny-tiny Mavic Mini Pro 3 - small enough to throw into almost any bag without thinking about but still providing the flexiblity to grab a quick aerial shot to mix things up even during one-bag travel.
For action cameras, we often bring along the GoPro Hero 10 Black for our outdoor adventures and road trips - the combination of built in hyperlapse and timewarp make for some awesome vidoes with almost no extra effort required (other than dragging our sorry butts up to and teeteringly across ridgelines up in the clouds).
Cameras We Used To Own
Here’s the story - we absolutely loved and to be honest, still do love, Micro Four-Thirds. In particular, our much beloved trio of the stunningly built Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH., the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO and the Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 12mm f/1.4 ASPH coupled with the Panasonic GX7M3 (GX9 outside of Japan) and later on, the Panasonic G9 made us realise that being able to do serious portrait work didn’t necessarily require one to bring multiple kilos of heavy full-frame equipment - especially when traveling overseas with one bag or on mixed business/pleasure trips.
But as the years passed and smartphones got better and full frame and APS-C got better, and even pocket cams got better…. well, you know the story. We’d ended up accumulating so much Sony gear and the release of the excellent Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 G and a6600 meant that we were just not really bringing our M43 stuff out with us as much as we used to - and the 61MP A7rIV and the tremendous margin for cropping in post (to the point where you could crop out a full-sized vertical slice from a landscape-orientation image taken by the A7rIV and it’s just as big as if you’d taken a portrait-orientation shot from a normal FF body) meant that the compact ultra-zooms of M43 were not as much of an advantage as they used to be. And to be honest, we’d been burned a few times by the poor high ISO abilities of M43 in the past as well.
And with a heavy heart, we made the sad decision to sell off all our M43 gear at the end of 2019. Farewell our beloved companions - we shall miss you.
1” Sensor and others
We also own the original Sony RX0 for video, but freely confess that it wasn’t a wise purchase especially in light of the rest of the gear we already own and it has been collecting dust somewhere for almost a year at this point.
GoPro Hero Fusion - we regret buying you, you expensive toy you. We forgot we’re not extreme sport parachute skydiving wingsailers. Our life is boring in 360°.
Bags & Travel
We travel extensively for both work and pleasure and are constantly trying out new gear in search of the ever-elusive “perfect setup”. At last count, in our dedicated “bag room” we have hundreds (possibly thousands if we’re counting pouches) of different carry pieces, and probably are still adding at least two or three each month. We also have a YouTube channel reviewing some of our bags which you can find here.
Given our love of bags, the exact combination of carry solutions we favour tends to change at any given time and depending on the use case, but here are some of our current favourite bags for some common cartegories:
- Evergoods Civic Panel Loader 24 v3 (God Tier - possibly one of the greatest bags ever)
- Evergoods Panel Loader Classic 20 (simple, small and amazing)
- Rofmia Shift Daypack V2
- Bellroy Transit Workpack
One Bag Travel Bags
- Evergoods Civic Travel Bag 26 (God Tier goldilocks bag, both regular and Carryology collab version)
- Belroy Transit Pack 28L (S Tier, goldilocks bag)
- Remote Equipment Alpha 31
- Rofmia Shift Backpack v2
- Evergoods Civic Travel Bag 35
- GoRuck GR1 21L/26L (so many different variations, pick your favourite)
- Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 40
- Hyperlight Mountain Gear Southwest 2400
- Hyperlite Mountain Gear DayBreak
- Millet Trilogy 30 Dyneema
- Arcteryx Bora 63
- Bellroy Venture Sling 6L
- Bellroy Venture Sling 9L
- Greenroom 136 Metromonger Prime
- Aer City Sling v2
- Modern Dayfarer Dayfarer Sling (EDC + iPad Pro 11”)
- Peak Design Everyday Sling 3L/5L/6L (#cameraLife)
- Evergoods Transit Duffel 35
- Misson Workshop Transit Duffle
- North Face Basecamp Duffle S/XS
- Patagonia Black Hole Duffle 45L
- Arcteryx Carrier Duffle 30L/40L/80L
- Rimowa Cabin (Aluminum or Essential series)
- North Face 22” Rolling Thunder
- North Face 30” Rolling Thunder
- Louis Vuitton Horizon Soft Duffle 55 (when we’re feeling extra bougie)
- Rofia Boston Bag M
- Arcteryx Leaf Courier 15L
- Arcteryx Granville 10L
- Arcteryx Fyx 9L
- Matador x Carryology EDX series (backpack / messenger)
- GoRuck x Carryology Kaidan Bullet 15L
- Aer Go Packable Backpack 2
- Matador On-Grid packable daypack
- Mystery Ranch In-And-Out
- Matador On Grid Packable tote
- Arceryx Veilance Seque Tote
- Arcteryx Bianca 9
- Peak Design Everyday Tote
Special Place in My Heart
- Evergoods Mountain Quick Draw 24 (possibly one of the best looking bags ever)
- Arcteryx Veilance Nomin Pack
- Mystery Ranch x Carryology Assault
- Mystery Ranch x Carryology Escape
In the non-digital world, we’re partial to Rhodia DotPads, Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks and have a far larger collection of fountain pens than we really ought to, with the Lamy Dialog 3 EF, the Visconti Homo Sapiens Bronze Age EF, Visconti London Fog EF and Pilot Custom Heritage 912 EF being among our heaviest rotators.
For our EDC carry, we’re partial to our Field Notes, often coupled with the Bellroy x Fieldnotes Everyday Inspiration Cover and the James Brand Stillwell pen. For what it’s worth, the National Parks series are absolutely amazing (if only they were dot grid inside…)
Besides our love of stationery, we also have a fondness for watches which we use mainly to making sure we show up places on time, don’t miss flights/trains/boats and to timebox our work throughout the day. We’re certainly not horological connoisseurs but we do have a small mildly eclectic mix of a few choice digital and analogue watches.
In our current collection:
- Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch - worn on a classic black & grey Nato strap 99% of the time
- IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Monopusher Edition “Le Petit Prince” - Love in a 46mm case diameter size
- IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph - for the times when a suit is unavoidable
- Hermes H08 - the first Hermes time piece that really made us take notice
- Bell & Ross BR 05 “Horolum” - all grey everything with media-blasted steel = Love
- James Brand x Timex Expedition North - field watch + Nato strap + Titanium (also) = Love
- Apple Watch Hermes - with the beautiful brown fauve leather strap and deployant clasp
- Apple Watch Edition - in white ceramic, our daily driver for those “All White Everything” days
- Apple Watch Edition - in dark titanium for when we’re doing the black on black techwear thing
- Garmin Marq Athlete - for when we’re running or climbing mountains
- Casio G-Shock GBX100-1 - we all need a tiny and cute G-Shock in our lives
- Casio G-Shock G-Squad GBD-H1000 - for when we want the G-Shock look with smart features
- Casio G-Shock GPR-B1000-1JR Rangeman - for when we’re hiking and need battery for days
- Casio G-Shock GWG-1000-1A1 MudMaster - when you need a big black murdered out thing
- Casio G-Shock GR-B200RAF-8AJR GravityMaster - grey + white + carbon = love at first sight.
- Casio G-Shock GWF-A1000XC-1AJF - when you just can’t get enough carbon fiber in your life
The site is powered by Jekyll, created in Sublime Text with photography processed by usual suspects like Lightroom and Photoshop, all atop a combination of an iMac Pro, 16” Macbook Pro and iPad Pro depending on where we are at any given moment.
We use Cultured Code’s amazing Things across all our devices to keep us organised and get things done, Day One to keep our daily diary (and occasionally draft initial versions of posts) and Bear for all our productivity/note taking needs.
Finally, we love legos and firmly believe that the Lego Pirates series of the 90s was the single greatest theme Lego has ever created.