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.
Full Frame Interchangeable-Lens
Our main full-frame body is the Sony A7rIV, most often paired with the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM - we estimate about 80% of the shots we take are with this combination. We match it up with the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA and the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM Lens for the full “3 prime” portrait kit. With just these three primes (or else just the 85 and 24 matched with good old-fashioned human foot zoom) you can make magic happen.
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 the simplicity of a relatively compact one-body-one-lens solution, 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.
For wildlife/sports oriented work (such as our love of yabusame - Japanese horse-mounted archery) and occasionally for certain kinds of landscape work, we’ll either bring along the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS or the Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM OSS though their size and weight means that these lenses don’t often get as much use as they perhaps ought to for the price.
These days we’re also playing around with the Leica SL2 and its (gigantic, but optically lovely) series of lenses. It’s a much different and far more sublime shooting and handling experience than the Sony bodies though at the cost of an offensively high markup for sub-par technology. (Whither the cost of a design premium?)
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 Leica Q II earlier at the beginning of 2020.
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.
In certain cases where smaller bodies and lenses are worth the trade offs over full-frame we rely on the Sony A6600 as our APS-C solution. For portable portrait/photoshoots we pair it with the Sony Sonnar T* E 24mm f/1.8 ZA Lens, Sony FE 35mm f/1.8 and the Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA to roughly approximate the holy trinity of portrait primes, albiet much smaller and slightly slower than their full frame cousins. The Sony APS-C lineup of lenses is actually surprisingly weak, so the latter two are actually full-frame lenses that happen to work nicely with the APS-C bodies.
For one-body-one-lens travel, we pair the a6600 with what we consider the strongest lens in Sony’s APS-C specific lineup, the Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 G for a 24-82.5mm equivalent constant-aperture normal zoom. This combination is a workhorse for almost anything we would encounter during any normal travel adventure from landscapes to portraits to even astrophotography.
For vlogging, we pair the a6600 with the Sigma Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN which is a magical 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.
With the pandemic that has ravaged the world and dramatically cut down on travel in 2020, we find ourselves using our APS-C bodies primarily for video and vlogging, and as mentioned above, have been experimenting with using the Sony A7C as a replacement for our a6600 in the travel scenario given the similar body sizes (though the lenses are still generally heavier). This hasn’t really been a hard choice as we’ve always been extremely impressed with the a6600 for video but considerably less impressed by the lackluster lens offerings for still photography.
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. Last year 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 11 Pro - the addition of a wide-angle camera is amazing and a life saver. Night mode still pales in comparison to Google’s magic in the Pixel, but it helps get the job done. 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 own a sorely under-utilised Mavic Pro but these days find ourselves much more likely to be bringing along the incredibly tiny and lightweight Mavic Mini. This is the drone that we’ve been waiting for - small enough for us to find a way to include it even for one-bag travel.
For action cameras, we often bring along the GoPro Hero 7 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.
With the release of the tri-camera iPhone 11 Pro, we no longer find much need for our Moment Wide Angle and Anamorphic Lenses. (The anamorphic lens sometimes but honestly, we almost never remember to bring it with us these days)
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 had over 200 different carry pieces, and probably add at least one or two each month. We’ve also recently started 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 at the moment some of the bags getting a lot of rotation include:
- Evergoods Civic Panel Loader 24 (possibly one of the greatest bags ever)
- Evergoods Mountain Quick Draw 24 (possibly one of the best looking bags ever)
- Evergoods Civic Halfzip 22
- Bellroy Transit Workpack
- Rofmia Shift Daypack V2
- Mystery Ranch x Carryology Assault
- Mystery Ranch x Carryology Escape
- Mystery Ranch Urban Assault 24
- Able Carry Daily Backpack (XPac) 20L
- GoRuck x Huckberry GR1 21L “Slick”
- Arcteryx Veilance Nomin Pack
- Hyperlite Mountain Gear DayBreak
- Belroy Sling Mini (EDC + iPad Mini 5th Gen)
- Modern Dayfarer Dayfarer Sling (EDC + iPad Pro 11”)
- Arcteryx Arro 8 (EDC + iPad Pro 11”)
- Arcteryx Slingblade 4 (EDC + iPad Pro 11”)
- Code Of Bell X-Pod (EDC + iPad Mini 5th Gen)
- Cote&Ciel Isarau (EDC + iPad Pro 11”)
- Code Of Bell Annex Liner Saccoche (EDC + iPad Pro 11”)
- Aer x Oshman City Sling (EDC)
- Aer Sling Pouch (EDC + Travel Documents)
- Peak Design Everyday Sling 3L/5L/6L (#cameraLife)
One Bag Travel
- Heimplanet Monolith Daypack 22L
- Heimplanet Transit Pack v2 28L
- Belroy Transit Pack 28L
- Evergoods Civic Halfzip 22
- GoRuck GR1 26L / GR2 34L
- Patagonia Mini-MLC 26L
- Bellroy Weekender 30L
- Evergoods Civic Transit Pack 40L
- Topo Designs Travel Pack 30L
- Aer Travel Bag 2
- Peak Design Travel Bag
- Rimowa Cabin
- North Face 22” Rolling Thunder
- North Face 30” Rolling Thunder
- Tumi 4-wheeled brief
- Rofia Boston Bag M
- Arcteryx Leaf Courier 15L
- Arcteryx Granville 10L
- Arcteryx Fyx 9L
- Aer x Oshmans City Messenger
- Hyperlight Mountain Gear Southwest 2400
- Millet Trilogy 30 Dyneema
- Arcteryx Bora 63
- Mammut Trion Spine 75
- Tortuga Outbreaker Daypack
- Mystery Ranch In-And-Out
- Hyperlite Mountain Gear Metro
- Matador Transit Packable Tote
- Matador On-Grid Packable Backpack
- Arceryx Veilance Seque Tote
- Arcteryx Bianca 9
- Peak Design Everyday Tote
- North Face Basecamp Duffle S/XS
- Patagonia Black Hole Duffle 45L
- Arcteryx Carrier Duffle 30L/40L/80L
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:
- IWC Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph - for the times when a suit is unavoidable
- 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 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.
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.