Tasmania Overland Track with the Leica M9 by Louis Stevenson

USER REPORT: Tasmania Overland Track with the Leica M9 by Louis Stevenson

Being close to nature and the great outdoors have always been my greatest desire. It sets me at peace, humbles me, and reminds me of the privilege that i have at that moment to gaze at nature’s wonders. However, growing up in 100% man-made Singapore, bogged down by day-to-day hustle and grime, phones ringing, car horns, crowds, skyscrapers, news, announcement systems, etc, my senses are constantly overloaded. I don’t get that many opportunities to satisfy my cravings for a little adventure, but when I do, Ohhh Boyy.. I’d be sure to pack in my camera and cast those memories in stone (or pixels for that matter).

Destination: Tasmania Overland Track. 5 days and 70km of pure adventure bliss from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Claire. And what better way to spend your time with a friend who is just as passionate about the great outdoors and (gasp!) photography too.

Weapon of choice: Leica M9 + Voigtlander 28mm f2 Ultrons, and the Panasonic DMC-FT3 waterproof camera if it rains and also for video footages. I have had the M9 for just about a year now, and it be the first time it be exposed to the elements. So here goes…

 

Stepping onto the boardwalk for the first time, soaking in the breathtaking bushland scenery and fresh air.

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The track was tough, because of all the equipment we had to carry to survive 5 days. So making a rest stop was a frequent affair, which gave us the opportunity to recharge by capturing nature’s best.

A fellow tracker from Belgium. Gentle personality and great company. Taught us a game where you place a deck of cards on top of a water bottle and take turns to blow the cards off the deck without toppling the deck. Simple game for simple times, yet immensely enjoyable.

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The scenery changes daily, one moment we were traversing the rockfalls of Cradle Mountain, the next we were walking through the enchanted pine forest. I like the geometry of this photo.

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One of my favorite images not taken by the M9. Woken up by wallabies the next morning just outside our tent. Really, what better way to kick off the morning capturing the moment with hot coffee on hand.

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When climbing up Cradle Mt, it didn’t seem so high from the bottom, until you look down. 

The next two images were taken with a Holga film camera!

We had a brief period in Sydney after Tasmania and this was the shot that struck me most. Can this texture ever be reproduced by digital? maybe with photoshop perhaps.

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A shot of Cradle Mountain with Pink Holga! Amazing feeling to have scaled that mountain.

The M9 was perfect as a companion throughout the trip. Considering I already had 25 kilos on my back, there was no way i could accommodate a DSLR. My previous trek was to Everest Base Camp which i brought a Canon 50D and 17-85mm lens. Heavy and bulky. Having experienced both scenarios, the M9 brought me much more satisfying shooting experience. This gratifying feeling translates into how your images turn out, and eventually how you feel towards them, more intimate in my case. So if u can achieve this feeling through using Film, DSLR, Iphone 4S camera, stick with it.

Visit my flickr site for more images: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tanlouis/

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42 thoughts on “Tasmania Overland Track with the Leica M9 by Louis Stevenson

  1. Thanks Louie for this report!

    I’m just preparing to walk the Overland Track in the end of April and will use a M9 for the first time and I’m quite unclear about how long the M9 batteries last with one charge.
    So I was looking for clear informations about that which is difficult to find.
    So you say you made it with two batteries? This is golden info for me!
    I’m probably gonna take a third one as M9 will be the only camera I’ll have with me!

    I’m very excited to go walking there with this equipment!

    Thanks to you and Steve!

    Vincent

    1. Hey Vincent!

      Gd to know you’re heading to Tassie! i really miss that place, now even more so after coming back from a weekend riverwalk in Malaysia.. How long the battery lasts also depends a lot on how much you tend to shoot! for me, i shoot only a couple when the backdrop changes, so a single charge can last up to 2 days or more. not forgetting i had a waterproof PNS to take random shots/ videos during rain (and it rained a lot).

      Enjoy your trip!

  2. Sounds like some real fun. I think if I was going on a multi-day trip with variable weather, I’d invest in a small 35mm SLR with some lenses. Ultra cheap, full frame, low (or zero!) battery consumption, low risk if you break it, excellent quality.

    Incidentally, what’s the difference between a hike and a trek? Does the latter have people help you carry your things?

    1. I dont see any difference between a hike or trek, and the issue on porters depends how u organise yourself. U could do without porters just doing a trek in himalayas but if you are doing an expedition, then u probably need porters.

  3. I had done Overland Track about 10 years ago when I was studying in Hobart. Then I used film camera. Love that place! I will be going to trek Everest Base Camp with my wife… 20 days in Apr. Hopefully I can use the new Olympus OMD if not, I will jus use my E-P3 🙂

    Tks for much for the photos, it bring back great memories 🙂

    1. EBC was my first real trek and it really set the standards for trekking experience way up there! While Tassie did not have the famous Everest looming at the background, it was a whole different experience cos we were on our own, no porters, tourists, even the huts did not have anyone to tend to you.

      One piece of advice for EBC though, beware of the food. i had the worst bout of food poisoning at Lobuche (suspect it was the boiled potatoes) and by the time i slogged my way to Gorak Shep, i had none left in me to base camp, yes in fact i didnt make it to the camp. very sad.

      Otherwise enjoy your trek! look forward to hearing your experience! if u have any questions about ebc, can ask me as well. =)

  4. Yeah, boy, I don’t know how I’d ever get a muddy green vignetted picture of some birds in a park with digital. It’s probably impossible.

  5. Thank you but please, more photos from the M9.

    I was going to ask about batteries too; what was the solar charger that didn’t work? And the Energizer that did? I get through more or less a battery per day on my trips so would be interested in how to manage a journey like yours.

    Much of my power is consumed showing the screen to people in crowded village and would, therefore, be less of a problem in such a wilderness than in my usual haunts, but still something I should like to solve for the future.

    I very happily used the V 35mm 2.5 for a year. I was lucky enough to snag a new Summilux when they came out and it’s phenomenal, but not essential as you’ve shown.

    1. Hi Jon, the one i used was the Energizer one. You really have to have strong sun to get some charge going.

      Didn’t really have a battery conservation plan, generally just 1 batt to last 2.5 days and if it dies out before, i still had the Panasonic and even iphone 4S cam. =)

  6. Great to see a slice of home! Tassie is a photographers paradise with some of the best beaches in the world along the Bay of Fires National Park,the granite shorelines of the Frecinet,7 out of the 10 highest peaks in the Cradle Mountain Nation park,100 metre cliffs of the Peninsula and all within a few hours drive.I have wanted to do the Overland track for a few years now but worry about my gear.My landscape kit consists of Canon 5dmkII,24 TSE II,45TSE,Zeiss 21mm,35mm,100mm MP and 70-200mm 2.8L IS II and Nikon 14-24.On Hikes I usually just take the Zeiss Primes but its heavy,and the kit is not what I would call ‘weatherproof’.The M9 sounds like it would be great in these long hike situations.Hope you enjoyed my beautiful state and I hope to do the Overland track in the next few years.

    1. Ronnie, u have the great outdoors as your backyard, envious! I will definitely be back and take my time with the track exploring more of the sidetrips and perhaps push a little harder closer to winter. =)

  7. Hi Louis,

    Reading your post, made me want to ask you about how you feel your M9 coped with being exposed to the elements. I can read you took the Panasonic waterproof for when it rained, am curious to know if you would risk using the M9 in a light rain shower?

    I’m scared to even get a drop of rain on my M9 after having a Canon 5DII die on me in a fairly light rain shower last year (the water leaked in through the exposure dial on the top plate). Have never read any user anecdotes of just how much of a rain sprinkling an M9 can take.

    Was impressed to speak to a military photographer who has used an M9 in Afghanistan and felt it stood up well to a battering and all the dirt and dust.

    Maybe Leica would lend Steve an M9 to do a rain trashing test!

    1. Hi Matt! During the track, we were blessed with 2-3 beautiful days of pure sunny weather, though it was still cold, but otherwise, there was rain. at most my M9 would take light rain but anything heavier, i would keep it. not gonna risk it because no matter what, the bottom plate and lense mount is not tight sealed.
      In non rainy weather, it works, took couple knocks and dropped it once because the leica strap gave way (never using that strap again and realise how stupid the design is). The ultrons took a few knocks as well but the lens hood protected it well. I would imagine the film cams to be much hardier.
      I think your proposal for steve is good one!

      1. Yea fair point on the sealing – there is always the option of a plastic carrier bag, which would be quite a comedy item to try and protect an M9 with – don’t think AquaTech or Thinktank make any rain covers designed for rangefinder cameras.

        I’ve been warned off the Leica straps that come with the M9 too and been told to get one of these UPstraps: http://www.upstrap-pro.com/

        I’m in London and the press photographers I know who use them swear they are the best thing ever for grip on your shoulders. Not sexy to look at but practical if you work with two or three bodies at once. They do Kevlar as well as Nylon straps which I’d guess would last for years.

  8. Superb images and very interesting trip. I really enjoy seeing some of the less popular lenses options being used on the M9, I often feel they are wrongly overlooked, almost like they can’t be any good because they are comparatively inexpensive….I quite often shoot my M9 with the 50mm Jupiter 3 f/1.5 and at times I have been blown away by the results for instance – http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6859412103/in/photostream

    Great post, thanks for sharing it.

    1. I know exactly how that is — people have said/written the same to me. Almost as if it’s a “sin” to use non-Leica lenses on a M9!

  9. Nice story and pictures. Actually I don’t understand that you say the Canon 50D is heavy. The Canon body is only around 100 grams more than the M9 and your 28mm Ultron weighs 243 grams. So your combo is around 840 grams + battery (not particularly light weight).

    You can easily find DSLRs that are lighter than your M9 combo for instance the Nikon D3100 where the body is around 140 grams lighter than the M9.

    I went on trekking in Greenland for 11 days with my OM-1 and a couple of lenses (28mm and 50mm) also starting out with 25-26 kg (got a little lighter as we ate the food). Wasn’t bothered the slightest with the weight or size of the camera.

    1. IMO, it’s more about bulk than weight. My M9 is definitely not a light-weight compared to APS-C DSLR’s. But, the shape is much easier to deal with during travels with lots of other stuff, because the M9 is basically a brick. The lenses are also smaller. While most M lenses have some heft (thanks to better construction than the cheapo plastic lenses of today), they take up less space. I am carrying a M9 with a 50mm and 75mm lens today in my bag. I also have a X100 to cover the 35mm. If I was carrying a 5D2 with equivalent primes, my bag would’ve had to be much bigger!

      1. Yes, but you don’t need to bring an FF for snaps or if you do, bring an OM-1 or a Contax G2 which is lighter than the M9 and (as I’m sure you know from several posts here) easily competes with the M9 or even surpasses it.

    2. Thanks Anders, i agreed with u about the weight now that u mention it. i had the 17-85mm lens attached and this increased the bulk and weight considerably. Perhaps the bulk made it seem much heavier. The lense did not have a lock which caused the lense to droop constantly, further increasing the bulk. I only switched over to the trusty 50 1.8 when the 17-85 locked up due to broken ring inside the lense, and it became much lighter and compact. I was drawn by the upgrade towards full frame camera (5dmII) but somehow that arduous path led me to the M8.2, then the M9 instead. I am in a happy place now. =)

      1. Sure the 5DII is a lot heavier, no doubt about it. It weighs around the same as the D700 which I would be very hesitant to bring on such a trip. And surely I would never bring a zoom.

        I’m going to Scotland on a hike this summer and may bring the new D800, but will probably only mount it with the very small Voigtländer 40mm f/2.0 pancake – at least I’m trying to convince myself to do that 🙂

          1. Yes, looking very much forward to that trip But you never know if the pics are good enough to be presented here, because generally the level is very high in my opinion.

  10. Finish the story man! I want more text, more pictures, you really drew me in and now I need more! I will be waiting right here. Leave me alone woman, we are not going out tonight, I am waiting for the rest. 😀

    1. Bastiaan, u cracked me up! i already felt bad for busting the 3 photo limit on Steve’s site, so u can check out the rest on my Flickr! The best way is of course going for the track itself. Highly recommended! Tasmania Overland Track takes your breathe away, literally. Now that i’m home, i badly need another adventure. NZ’s Milford track is in my radar. =)

  11. Wow, I’m envious of you trip! I too shed my DSLR for a 80+ mile hiking trip this past spring for the Ricoh GRDIII that I found reviewed here by Steve. I camp often and was wondering how your battery life worked out and if you carried extra batteries, how many? Did you also happen to carry a solar charger too?

    Also love to see more and hear more about your used of the Ultron 28mm!

    1. Hi Duane, yes, i realise how important compactness is during the track, yet not compromising quality to capture moments that u will remember for life. I brought 2 batteries which lasted just enough over 5 days. I also brought a solar charger but only had it charged once. after that, the solar charging did not really work well. I used the energizer one.

      I was really surprised with the 28mm ultron’s performance and glad i resisted the urge to bring the CV 35mm 1.4 instead. This was the first time i shot extensively with the 28mm and will be my default lense for tracking!

        1. I should be getting a Zeiss 28 Biogon today. Will be trying it out over the weekend. Was debating between the Voigt vs. Zeiss. Never used a Zeiss before, so I decided to give it a shot. Other choice would have been a 28 Cron or Elmarit. But those are WAAAY more expensive (especially the Cron).

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