Jun 272012
 

Electrical Tape and the M9 in Havana by Erik Benjamins

Arriving in Havana on a late Wednesday afternoon unleashed welcomed waves of hot stickiness. I had arrived for the week to attend the 11th Havana Bienal. And it was this unique and privileged in into Cuba, coming off of years of unabashed romanticization, that tipped me over in deciding to invest in and put to first use, the Leica M9.

I don’t consider myself a photographer, but the practice proudly defines my technical skill set. Whether with traveling or working, moments when my relationship to photography veers into the analogue are preferred and savored. Travel makes up a substantial part of my professional and personal pursuits. In the past, that implied always bringing a film camera or two, my Nikon F2, Hasselblad 501 or maybe a borrowed Mamiya 7. For my personal work I still prefer to use my Toyo 45A, lending to my practice that is above all else, directorial and collaborative. As I finished up graduate school, I knew I couldn’t get away without owning a high quality digital camera for much longer. Gone were the privileges of free and hastily planned checkouts of 5D Mark IIs and the like for documentation and other jobs that would sporadically come and go. Considering the need for a digital camera I could not help but make assumptions about the tool and its effect on taking time, a variable I would argue is one of the craft’s most important characteristics. Flung into the digital realm of color calibrated computers, SD cards and CS suites, I perhaps stubbornly considered the sacred variable of time cast into the forever compressed, work-flowed and expedited by growing armies of shoot-by-the-hip dSLR pro-sumers.

The growing popularity of the Fuji X series, particularly the X-100, marked a point when I first started to seriously consider purchasing my own digital camera. I was looking for something light and compact, capable of producing superb quality images that I could use for pleasure (travel) and work (documentation). Further research led me inevitably to the holy M9 and Steve’s thorough and accessible site. Two observations were immediately made clear: one, Fuji and Leica’s contributions to the digital field are in completely different worlds and two, the M9, is a seductive and powerful beast that demands a very particular and patient kind of user. I was near immediately won over by the M9’s set of stubborn and confident qualities ensuring a long and continued life: the full frame sensor, the manual functions (especially the pleasures of manual focusing), the glass, the lens compatibility with its analogue predecessors, and yes, its “oooh-ahhh” factor. I don’t find a particular pleasure in street photography, which the Ms have been famously engineered for, but I do covet putting to athletic use a small, all-manual camera, with such welcome weight and feel, that just so happens to procure professional-grade digital files, saving costly trips to the film processor and negative scanner that begrudgingly add up. I didn’t want to worry more than I needed to about the fate of all things digital, their inevitable slippage into obsolescence. And while I’m arriving quite late in the game with a M10 around the corner, the M9 had what I needed and desired: simplicity, quality, and endurance. It had proven itself as a strong, unrelenting bastard, refusing to be placed on the shooter’s dusty camera shelf.

So my time in Havana was a most welcome and anticipated test-run of both the camera and my new identity as a traveler armed with, gasp, a digital camera. And with that I slung my new used M9 with 35mm Summicron around my shoulder (I’m a one lens kind of shooter for reasons of size and simplicity. I don’t plan on investing in another lens for quite some time, if ever). I had shot only about a dozen images by the time we landed and while I was quite comfortable with rangefinder operation given extensive use with the Mamiya 7, this was a whole new game. I’ll let the images speak for themselves, but a quick round-up of my thoughts in putting my M9 to heavy use for a week in Cuba includes the following:

The size was liberating and that weight just felt so… perfect. Shooting an all-manual, analogue’esque digital camera was an experience I had desperately longed for. The M9 in this regard made shooting the most fun and satisfying experience I’ve ever had with a digital camera, period. Understanding the shocking difference between the rather poor LCD playback screen and the actual DNG file allowed for a confidence and comfort in taking time to meter, compose, shoot, move on and not worry about reviewing or over thinking it. I have always preferred to compose in-camera and as such it took me a little time to get used to the framelines and parallax, but this was just an issue of practice.

I’m ecstatic, energized, quenched and even with faith in the possibilities of shooting digital. By no means am I giving up my cherished analogue films and formats, but the convenience of the M9’s size, image quality and operation is as unbelievable as it is unique as it is seductive. It took me a little to get accustomed to Lightroom, but I’ve embraced the software for M9 workflow and am really pleased with it. The price even in assembling a used kit is brutal and near other-worldly, but like many have said before regarding this, investing in a Leica is not about the money, but about shooting in a way that is opened up by closing down. Gone are the countless and overwhelming menus and controls that keep thumbs and index fingers over-exercised.

In Havana I covered my M9 and Leica logos with electrical tape. One day, another tourist walked by me once and then again, his eyes pointed slightly downwards. “I know that’s a Leica!” he cheered to me as a dSLR weighed down his neck. “I shot the best photos with mine years ago – what a great camera, what a great camera,” he waxed nostalgically with pride. We, two visitors, far from home, happily shared a few words about Leica and photography. And we were in mutual agreement: these really are damn good and damn unique cameras.

Erik Benjamins works in optimistic pursuit of a choreography between the culinary, performing and visual arts. He recently received his MFA in Studio Art from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in affiliation with Tufts University and now spends his time between Boston and Los Angeles. http://www.erikbenjamins.com

 

  75 Responses to “Electrical Tape and the Leica M9 in Havana by Erik Benjamins”

  1. Hi: I also was a latecomer this past March to the M9, having purchased with the Lux 35, a 75 and recently a mint 21 2.8 Biogon. Primarily a Canon shooter for my corporate, architectural and wedding work, I find the quality and speed of the M9 to be virtually equal to the Canon’s. Better than the Canon’s with lenses wide open and in the case of the Biogon virtually no distortion compared to anything else I’ve shot with on the wide end. The first thing I did when I took the camera out of the box was tape off the Leica ID’s. And as you have experienced, people still comment on the camera. I’ve also found people to be much more receptive to getting photographed with the M. Good shooting to you!

  2. Nicely written. Cool shots, not just documenting your travels, but telling the story of them.

  3. ^ +1

    Congrats on your M9. Seems that you had a great trip: Leica + Cuba – that’s a stunning combo :-)

  4. Wonderful images.

  5. Great article and beautiful images. I’m realising after years of acquiring more and more equipment that the most rewarding experiences in photography are had when limiting your gear and getting to know it well. I bought a used M7 and love it, despite having balked at the cost initially. Maybe a Leica M digital looms now that I’m on that slippery slope!

    Thanks for the read, enjoyed your article.

  6. Fun, interesting post. I’m a current X100 shooter and spent a few hours shooting with an M9 for the first time on Sunday. The M9′s hooks are in; it’s only a matter of time before my X100 is available for sale used. I love my X100 but the M9 is simply a different level.

    Enjoy your M9, as if you have a choice :-)

    • Matthew, can you expand a bit on what you think makes the M9 that much better than the X100 or or course something like the X-Pro1 etc ? I mean ok, it’s obvious that going full frame will certainly make a difference in terms of noise, DOF and framing, but what about overall IQ? I hate to be “that guy”, who we see in almost every Leica post here, but after having a rather extensive look at a dedicated X-100 thread at another forum, I’m convinced that it is just as capable as the M9 where output is concerned, if not even moreso judging by the quality of what I’m seeing here.

      That certainly isn’t a knock at these photos, they’re very nice. But I’m left wondering if the price tag associated with an Leica has more to do with the tactile experience, and maybe a bit of placeebo? I don’t know.. that’s why I’m asking you, and of course others here who have had the chance to shoot with the X-100 and M9 or X-Pro 1 That goes especially for Erik Benjamin.

      I’m genuinely curious, because I also want to dump the DSLR rig for street shooting and vacations.

      Thanks!

      Doug

      • Doug, speaking as someone who owned an M8 and now shoots with an X-Pro1 I think I can comment on this. If you forget about the tactile experience between the two cameras and all the various features the Fuji has over the Leica….there is still something magical about Leica files at low ISO.

        To this day I prefer files straight out of the Leica to the Fuji…..there is something about the colours produced by the CCD sensor that I like. Don’t get me wrong…the X-Pro1 produces amazing files, and many prefer the Fuji colours so I am probably in the minority, but for me that is my experience.

        Of course the great equalizer is PS….colours are easy to tweak and change and generally speaking I am VERY happy with the Fuji, as is my wallet. I should be receiving my M adapter next week and then I will test my 50mm Summicron and 25mm Zeiss Biogon….hopefully they work OK on the Fuji.

      • Hi Doug, I’ll take a stab at it, and I think Clint brought up some good points too. I took a lot of shots on the X100, same light, same everything, on the same day I used the M9. I think Clint’s point that the raw file, straight from the camera with no processing, simply has far more pleasing IQ (to my eye) than the files from the X100. I love my X100 but the truth is I can always improve them with a little tweaking in Lightroom…the M9 seldom required anything. Even my post-LR X100 files do not have the same IQ as the M9. The best way I can put it is that the M9 produces pics that actually look much better than reality, and the Fuji accomplishes this sometimes (with more work).

        There were about ten of us shooting M9s for the first time in the group I was in, and many had expensive dSLRs with them. To a person, everyone looked at their own cameras with slight disdain after spending time learning the M9 and shooting it. I wasn’t drinking Kool-Aid and I don’t believe anyone else was either–trust me, I would prefer to say the more expensive thing isn’t better, because then I won’t want to spend the money. You feel the quality in your hands and know that the same quality will be reflected in the image…I guess it’s an intangible. I will say the M9′s display is severely lacking–it’s not always possible to tell whether you were completely focused or not when reviewing, whereas the Fuji has a clear hi-res display. It seems inexcusable for a camera like this to not have a decent display.

        While the X100 allows you to go fully manual, the manual focus frankly sucks; with the M9, you’re forced to focus manually and something about that is very pleasing to me, as though it puts me more “into” the photo. All in all, I found it addictive in a way I can’t describe. I may sound like a fanboy but it’s true, and it was true for everyone else I was with. A guy stopped me on the street to tell me about his M3 that he’d sold years ago and had regretted selling ever since–he clearly felt the same way.

        Don’t get me wrong, for the most part I love my Fuji. I look forward to using it for a while, but I think that as I continue to improve in skill and eventually (I hope) outgrow it, I know my next stop. I don’t care for the whole Leica pretense that some seem to have, but I do care about quality and there’s no denying the M9′s quality–there’s no question the thing could last forever with proper maintenance. It’s an incredible pleasure to shoot and I like to think of the images I’d get once I’d really learned the camera and lens. I think the price of the M9 and lenses are justified by the high cost of R&D and materials combined with the small scale output.

        Some camera shops will allow you to take a camera out to shoot for a while–I’d recommend that with the M9 if you really want to know the difference. There’s obviously a lot left to a person’s own preferences, and I don’t know if you can tell if the price difference is justified *for you* without shooting with it and seeing the results.

        Sorry this response is a bit disjointed; I’m typing as I can at work.

        • I disagree here..while the m9 is a superior camera in every way to a Fuji X100, the file output can easily match a M9 and 35 cron as I showed in this comparison below.

          http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2011/06/16/crazy-comparison-leica-m9-and-35-summicron-asph-vs-the-fuji-x100/

          I am not talking resolution – but more like overall IQ, feel, color, etc. IN these comparisons I actually preferred the Fuji files, and I am a HUGE M9 fan as you all know.

          At $1199 vs $10K – do you see $8000 difference in those comparisons? I don’t, not when it comes to overall image quality. The Fuji is a fine machine and both it and the M9 NEED to be shot in RAW for best results, no question.

          Now if a lens like a 50 Lux is on the M9 then that all goes out of the window, but 35 vs 35…not far off at all.

          • No question they both take great shots. I looked at your images in the post you referenced and actually picked the Leica images, based on which I thought looked better, except for 1. Admittedly many were close in quality. I’ve noticed Fuji color often appears flatter than it is in reality (compare images three and four from the market on the page you linked to), or more vivid (look at the impossibly bright blue sky in one of the pics on the other page) than reality…the Leica renders things more realistically, or, as I said, in many cases improves upon reality but still looks real.

            Is there a big enough difference in IQ alone to justify an $8k difference? No. Is there a big enough difference in IQ and many other things? Some obviously think so, plenty of others think not. Is there a big enough difference *to me* to pay used prices for a used M9 and used 35 Cron (or a Lux if I find the right deal) while selling the black Fuji kit once I’m ready to actually handle an M9 without insulting its potential? To me, yes.

            It’s impressive to me that they’re in the same conversation–I hope Leica is paying attention and this helps drive innovation on their end–but there is a difference in IQ and user experience, the value of which will vary by person.

            I’m grateful and happy to own an X100 but the day will come when I’m ready for the next step in photography, and the M9 is to me that next logical step.

          • I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with you Steve, I find the level of sharpness and flare at f/2 on the x100 to be appalling. That alone can at times ruin my enjoyment of the x100. I don’t find the level of sharpness to be acceptable until f/4, which then severely limits my control over subject isolation and depth of field (which is already limited by using a 23mm lens). The flare issue cannot be resolved by any aperture which makes the camera useless for night time city landscapes (my main focus) or shooting backlight subjects. All of this, however, could be forgiven if the X100 had fast and reliable auto-focus, of which it has neither.

            By comparison, I get much more pleasing results with my M9 and the lowly VC 35mm f/1.4, which at least has character to it and surprisingly has more apparent sharpness at f/2 than the Fuji (at least to my eye) and offers great DOF possibilities. Enter the Zeiss Biogon 2/35 and all bets are off as even though it is a little “soft” at f/2, it still maintains a fairly high level of detail and contrast. This can all be applied to the M8 as well, btw, if you want to compare APS-C to APS-C.

            To be honest, for me one of the biggest IQ advantages to the M9 (which we will likely lose with the M10) is it’s film like tonal response curve (as result of the Kodak CCD sensor). As a landscape shooter, this can actually be a little frustrating as this less linear curve means that there’s a steep drop off in your shadows, but otherwise I find this very pleasing with the majority of shots. This kind of look, can be very difficult to re-create in Lightroom with the X100, though I have had more success at it with Silkypix, which on a whole handles Fuji files much better. Fuji files tend to be very flat and although that means more dynamic range, it also means far more PP. As someone else pointed out, M9 files often need little to no PP.

            But when it’s all said and done “to each, his own” applies well to this topic as everyone’s needs and tastes are different. I get a lot of shots I’m quite happy with from all my gear, including my iPhone, all-in-all though, I find the x100 to be the most disappointing out of all my cameras (which includes the much-maligned Sigma DP2).

          • I agree with Steve. I owned an M9 for a year, I’ve now owned a X100 for about 8 months, coming from Nikon pro gear. I shot 24k frames with my M9. I think the out-of-camera results from the X100 are better to my eye, the white balance and skin tones are almost always spot on and wonderful, and frankly, not to be critical of anyone’s photography, but I SO often don’t see the attributes that you guys ascribe to your images from your M9s.

            For example, these are nice images in this article, but I hate the color. If the M10 just did one thing and that was deliver Fuji WB/skin tones, and high ISO performance I would sell everything I own to get one.

            • @ Donald

              ” If the M10 just did one thing and that was deliver Fuji WB/skin tones”

              What I think the M10 should is find a way to truly replicate film, ISO’s be damned!!

              It should have the ability to look like Fuji Pro 400H @ 1 – 2 stops over, and like the new Portra 160 shot @ 125. And a single, true to life (film life that is..;) ), BW setting to look like 1600 or 3200 Delta.

              If it could really do that, I would consider the 8-9K price tag worth it over the next 10 years.

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed your story. I normally just scan the narrative portion of these articles, but you had me hooked after a few sentences. Your writing style is engaging, witty and quite a breath of fresh air. The images didn’t really do it for me though, with the exception of the second from the bottom – I liked the lines and the inclusion of the other photographer.

    One thought – you may want to pull off that sticky electrical tape and use gaffer tape instead. It doesn’t leave a residue and sticks like a champ, even if you have to repeatedly pull it off (as an x100 user who bangs his around a lot, I have it on my shutter and EV dials and battery cover latch).

    Cheers, and keep shooting.

  8. Erik, nice pics and well written post….although it reads more like an exercise in creative writing than a gear blog….which in many ways is actually quite refreshing.

    I had to laugh at the comment about covering the Leica logo and dot with electrical tape. Sorry, but that is just so pretentious….I always laugh when I hear people doing that. Seriously…anyone who knows Leica knows what the camera is without seeing the ‘dot’. I think people hiding the logo with gaffer tape etc is more about making yourself feel important than being discrete about your gear.

    Lastly…..you know someone has partaken of the kool-aid when you read the following:

    “The price even in assembling a used kit is brutal and near other-worldly, but like many have said before regarding this, investing in a Leica is not about the money, but about shooting in a way that is opened up by closing down.”

    Yes, only in the Leica world is less more…..both figuratively and financially. Let’s call a spade a spade, Leica is a luxury brand not some religious experience. Hey, I get your passion for the M9 as I too shot Leica and for me the attraction was to the world-class craftsmanship….but then again I also get sucked in to buying expensive watches when a $50 Timex would keep better time. The difference is that I recognize this, I don’t pretend that a $6000 Panerai somehow makes me one with the Planet.

    Just my 2 cents:)

    • Have to disagree with that, obviously so do Leica seeing as though they released the M9-P & M9-M sans logo or decals.

      I don’t give a proverbial how much the camera costs or who it’s made by, it’s the value as a tool that counts for me and that alone. And yes, my Leica bodies have logos & dots covered over too but then so do ALL my cameras no matter whether they are worth £5 or £5000.

      • Cidereye…..maybe you can explain to me what covering the logo on your ‘tools’ does for your photographs. Hiding ‘Canon’ or ‘Leica’ doesn’t magically make your camera invisible. If you truly want to be discrete the biggest thing you can do is work on your technique. You’re a lot better off being able to see, compose, focus, and shoot a subject in a blink of an eye than to stumble around trying to focus with some $10k Leica covered in electrical tape.

        Don’t kid yourself, the M9-P having the logo removed is a fashion statement, not a feature.

        • I agree Clint. I don’t get the logo cover up thing. Most people in the street wouldn’t know a Leica from a Zenith. Maybe someone could explain the real reason (please don’t say its to be discreet)

          • its because its damm expensive camera ok. That is the reason i cover it, i dont want to be using it on the street and get it stolen.
            now, is that truthful enough.

            • I think most of the professional camera thieves know exactly their “business area” and able to distinguish a cheap 20yrs old film camera (which it’s supposed to look like with that tape) from $10K gear…

    • When you’re traveling, the last thing you want is to attract undue attention to something expensive. From 15 feet away, that camera looks like any other small tourist cam, except for the red dot.
      Don’t be a mark lol.

      • Exactly, frankly it is exactly the same whether it is Nikon or Canon too IMHO. Besides, for street photography covering anything up that stands out is to ones advantage whether that is a bright shirt or camera logos. The same reason why I never use makers camera straps covered in their logos on any camera and always a plain dark strap with no logos.

        Also on another note, why should I advertise these companies? I know one reviewer on a premier UK camera magazine that goes as far as using Nikon straps on Canon’s and vice versa whenever he takes a new model out for review.

        • Cidereye, if the intent is not to advertise the camera manufacturer….on that I DO agree with you. I too use discrete straps (like Domke gripper) that don’t have logos plastered all over them. I despise T-Shirts covered in logos that advertise other companies etc…but for me that is just good fashion sense:)

        • So do you also cover the badge on our car to ensure the maker doesn’t get free advertising. If you had a polo shirt would you cover up the logo?

          • I don’t wear polo shirts with logos period. ;)

            What does it matter whether anyone covers up camera logos? It’s neither here nor there when it comes to making photographs. Just do what works for you, all I am saying is that I don’t give a rats a$$ about the gear used – just a tool, and for me a discreet tool works when used in public places.

            Too many people, one here especially!, get so caught up with gear and foibles instead of doing all that really matters – Get out and shoot. Whatever works for you at the end of the day, nothing more & nothing less.

            • Come on Cidereye….you don’t honestly believe that statement of yours do you…’I don’t care about the gear used – it’s just a tool’. Seriously, if you really felt that way you wouldn’t be shooting Leica. There are other ‘tools’ out there for far less money that will give you the same or better output.

              I don’t understand why so many won’t admit the truth…the Leica is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship that is a pleasure to behold. It makes you feel good just holding the dang thing.

              All the rest is just waxing poetic in some crazy attempt to justify $10k cameras and the cool factor of covering the logo to make you feel like some photojournalist. If you’re really honest with yourself you’ll admit you want to be Brad Pitt/Robert Redford with your Leica camera, kahki pants, and Ray Ban aviator sunglasses like in the movie Spy Games:) Let me guess, you also probably wear some retro photography vest from the 80′s that is full of pockets for film canisters…except that long ago you stopped shooting film but the vest is ‘comfortable’ and you wear it anyway…..

          • ‘So do you also cover the badge on our car to ensure the maker doesn’t get free advertising. If you had a polo shirt would you cover up the logo?’

            Nah…I drive an Audi and I’m OK showing it off:) With that said…I would never buy a t-Shirt that had ‘Audi’ plastered across the front of it.

      • A thief that knows what a Leica is can spot it from 15 feet, or 50 feet, don’t kid yourself. A thief will also still a $500 Canon or Nikon too, they don’t prowl the streets looking only for premium equipment, and to be honest they’re more likely to target your camera bag than your camera as multiple lenses will fetch more of a price than most single camera bodies.

        If you don’t want to lose your gear while travelling, then don’t leave it on your table while you eat and put your gear bag on the floor between your legs where it can’t be snatched by someone running by.

        Gaff tape is no magical thief barrier, no matter where you are… Or maybe you’re right and I should go put black gaff tape on the badge on my BMW so everyone will think it’s a Honda.

        • Or maybe you drive a Honda and you’d like us to think you drive Beemer? Now back to photography.

        • agree 100%
          As I wrote before, professional camera thieves know exactly their “business area” and able to distinguish a cheap 20yrs old film camera (which it’s supposed to look like with that tape) from $10K gear…:)

    • Totally agree with you. The only justification for covering logos that makes any sense to me is if you don’t want to give free advertising.

      Regarding Leica bringing out models without logos, I can think of two plausible explanations:
      1) Leica knows that some people buy the nonsense about logoless camera being more discrete, and thus create value by removing logos
      2) Leica knows that some of its buyers are the sort of people who bought the Leica because it is so premium, but who feel somewhat insecure about admitting this to themselves and the world. A logoless camera lets the buyer feel (unjustifiably) that they aren’t showcasing their expensive purchase to the world while still knowing that those “in the know” will recognize the premium nature of their camera.

      There are two type of camera thieves: those who don’t know cameras and will steal anything that isn’t a point and shoot (and even those too), and those who do know cameras, in which case covering up logos is practically useless. Having expensive gear doesn’t make you a mark. Looking like you are lost and unaware of your surroundings does…which, given the purpose of photography, and especially the Leica mystique (which I do somewhat buy in to) is hopefully something a Leica owner never looks like.

    • I don’t cover my camera but I don’t fault others if they do, I’ve seen some pretty funny/cool tape jobs on these blogs. I for one have a little cartoon character dangly thing that japanese girls usually have hanging from their cell phones (and the girl in Sucker Punch had one hanging of her .45) and a blue soft release. It’s all in good fun and to get a laugh.

      Oh and the comment about having a connection with an inanimate camera, I get it. I think there is some soul there. It doesn’t make the Leica shooter better but the craftsmanship and shooting experience can really make it feel like it’s an extension of your arm and eye.

  9. Some nice photos here Erik, in particular I like the composition of the person walking by the tumble-down building. I too had the privilege to visit Cuba last year from Boston – alas only with a Canon 40D and Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8. I was wondering if you might have some more of yours published somewhere? I have a few on my website as well for anyone who cares to look.

  10. Confirmation that the best photography is a product of craft, not art.

  11. Really enjoyed the article. Very well written. Often I fly through the article but every now and then I slow down and enjoy. This was one of those times.

  12. Very good article. As much as I’ve flinched about the prices, first the M8 and now the M9 have caused me to put down my 5D2 most of the time.

  13. Very nice article and a place I have often wanted to visit with my M9 .
    I think it’s about how you enjoy photography personally and I find that the M9 just feels right.
    My .2
    Ross

  14. I understand that the process of shooting with an M9 can be invaluably rewarding, and that’s nice to know. At the same time, I know that quality of pictures doesn’t have anything to do with that, as many pics taken by M9′s prove.

  15. I made it through seven comments and thought, “Wow, a civilized and mature comment thread…” I’m always a little premature…

    • Geez Raycoch…….since I was comment #8 I can only assume you were talking about me. I actually don’t see anything immature or ‘uncivilized’ in what I said. We’re allowed to share differing opinions….and these threads aren’t to just pat each other on the back.

      Besides, I’m not the only one here that thinks that taping the Leica logo over is just a wee bit pretentious. Besides, the title of the article is ‘Electrical tape and the Leica’……..how could someone not bring that up??

      With that said it was a great article and nicely written, a rarity on the Internet to read something so poetic about camera gear.

      Cheers

      • To tape or not to tape… Who cares? It is as arbitrary, and has less bearing, as, “Where do I put my pinky finger when I shoot?” Tape was mentioned once and the title is about as misleading as one of Woody Allen’s movie titles. Personally, I prefer to opine about the merits of one’s work or the output of a camera, not what someone does with the body (I prefer pink tassels on mine.) I say if we really want to know why one tapes, lets ask someone like James Nachtwey why he blacks his logos and markings. No offense intended, just MY two cents… My third cent is, I enjoyed the article.

        • James Nachtwey…a great photographer no doubt. With that said, I did not know he tapes over his logos…nor do I care…..it’s a silly and irrelevant practice.

          • this one made me chuckle. silly and irrelevant. and i should care more about what dunn says about this practice than nachtwey? ;)

  16. Ok so i’m one of those who cover up with electrical tape. And here’s my honest opinion which some of u nailed it. I am not rich, but i own an M9 with couple of lenses (after clearing out DSLR gear). I don’t spend money on expensive clothes, food and entertainment. I acquire used equipment by selling away what i have.

    Psychological:
    I’m a poor man who happen to love the look, feel and files of the M9, but do not like to flaunt this asset. So i tape it when going out to shoot. To strangers who don’t recognise it, i just say its an old manual camera. To those who know, we talk and have fun sharing. So yes! its psychological!! i HATE myself for spending so much and hopefully the tape succeeds in concealing from others that i own an expensive camera and therefore i’m rich! I don’t like it when people heckle and say how good a photographer i must be owning such an expensive camera. Of course i’m not! Can u tell the time better with an expensive watch?

    Safety + Psychological = Paranoia:
    This is true, but holding such an expensive camera, in fact it is the most expensive thing i own, makes me insecure and paranoid when travelling in the unknown. Nobody must recognise that i have 10k in my hands!! So instead of putting a paperbag over the M9, i use the tape..

    Discreteness?
    Coming from DSLR user before, the black M9 in itself is already far more discrete. So maybe not much help. One will never know and no one’s gonna waste time testing with and without the red dot. So no debate here. personal pref i say.

    All in all, i understand that the M9 is not the best camera for its price range. But when i had raised sufficient funds to get me a new camera, the price became less of a factor. And i turned my attention towards quality (full frame + prime lenses), compactness, feel and aesthetics. No x100 xpro or omds at that time.. Funny how a camera can cause such drama such as the M9.. =P

  17. A nice story, but with all due respect Havana is one of the most photogenic places I ever travelled to and offers much much more than these pics show.

  18. How come all color shots featured on this blog looks like they all have been edited by Steve? The colors and contrasts are excactly like they had been pp:ed by Steve! I just dont get it.. Do Steve demand a raw-files from the the photographers and then edit them himself before uploading them on the blog? I find this very strange..

    • Are you kidding? These look NOTHING like my shots in regards to PP, I am way more aggressive when converting raw files. :) I never in my life have edited ANYONE else’s work, ever. Not one shot on this website submitted by a reader or writer has been touched by me, only to make the title graphic when I add titles.

      So no, to answer your question once again…these shots and every other submitted shot on this site has not been touched by me at all.

      • I think he might be referring to everything sort of having a similar “Steve-approved” look. Perhaps because you’re the sole judge of what you put on your site, and you have certain individual tastes (as does every person), images are often going to be ones that appeal to you. For instance, there was that long stretch of black and white posts a few weeks ago (before and during the Monochrom launch) that certainly started to all bleed together as “here’s some more black and white random street pics.” I like your site, your attitude, and the generally positive vibe around here, but I gotta agree a bit with Danonino – there is some stylistic commonality among what gets posted here.

        • Well that is no doing of mine because 98% of all articles submitted go on this site. I do not instruct anyone to edit their photos like me and these photos look NOTHING like my color M9 shots. As for B&W posts, people must have been excited about the Monochrome as that is what was submitted to me at that time.

          What gets posted here is what is sent to me unless it is just god awful and provides nothing of value. That rarely happens.

          • Does that include daily inspiration submissions? Mine certainly never made it… I’m now really hoping it didn’t fall into the “god awful and provides nothing of value” category. Yikes!

            I certainly didn’t mean to imply that I think you would instruct anyone on how to PP their work – I think it’s clear that you don’t do that sort of thing. I was simply trying to point out that since you have certain preferences (as every person does), those preferences can sometimes show through in the selection of photos and articles posted here. Your recent photo contest, for instance, reflects a lot of your stylistic preferences (which of course you clearly explained was the criteria to begin with).

            This is an awesome site – I drop by every day. I’m certainly not trying to bash it. Keep up the great work!

      • there, see, u found the Leica signature…lol

  19. Sorry, but if at the end of the day, I had downloaded these and sorted them, I would have probably deleted them. I don’t care if they were taken by a Leica or a Brownie, they’re just snapshots of strangers looking at the photographer.

    • You know, I don’t disagree with you, but I don’t see why you can’t add constructive critique to help the guy. It takes a lot of guts to put your work out there, and apparently a lot of people liked his photos. Just saying, it’s ok to critique, but keep the pure criticism to yourself. It doesn’t add anything.

      • If I don’t particularly like or dislike a set of photos, I don’t post anything. If I like them, I post a note expressing my admiration and encouragement, and in the next submission, done by a person with a cell phone, I said how much I liked them and hoped to see more. Out of the 10 or 12 times I’ve said anything, this was the first time it was simply negative because I thought they were simply bad. If I have posted positive comments many times, do I not have the right to post something dissenting this one time, when a group of pictures really irritated me. (The very next posting agreed with me completely, by the way).
        There are a lot of pictures which are being called street photography, and are no such thing. Simply wandering around taking pictures of people, in no particular situation, making no particular statement, is not street photography, in my opinion. It’s snapshots of strangers.
        You started off by saying you agreed with me, but then said I should keep it to myself. Didn’t you just say it too, then?
        If a lot of people, (and or Steve), agree with you that no negative comments are allowed, then that’s that. But, if the Emperor has no clothes, somebody may as well say so.

        • Harry,
          You have a right to say whatever you want. It’s a free country, and Steve can moderate however he wants. I wasn’t suggesting “no negative comments.” But that doesn’t mean I think it’s particularly helpful or classy to tell someone their photos have no artistic merit in your eyes. But hey, that’s just me. Like I said, I agree with your assessment, but I would rather say something like this:

          Focus your framing: pictures 1 and 7 have potential, but crop down, or better yet, get closer. You don’t need the edges of the other pictures in the first photo, and the girl should be the complete focus of photo 7, not the background.

          Choose your angle: the third photo has promise. The guy in the center is interesting. But he looks like he is in a human tunnel. The people on the edges aren’t in focus (and I understand that this is probably because the lens was open being that it was dark), and are looking away. It is a little distracting. Either change the angle, or again, get closer.

          Select elements of interesting subjects: photos 4 and 8 are of subjects that I’m sure were very interesting in person, but aren’t as interesting in photo. That’s because I can’t see what you saw, feel what you felt, smell what you smelled etc. There are great photographers who can convey this. I am not one of them. To substitute, when I see a cool building or car, I don’t just try to get the entire subject in the frame, and leave it at that. I choose a particular element of the subject and focus on that. For example, with the building, maybe focus on a particular piece of rubble, or the arches in the upper left with some sky showing through. With the car, the focus should be the color, in my opinion. Highlight that. While it might seem like you are showing less, you are telling a more interesting story.

          Finally, think about what you are trying to say. The 5th photo does nothing for me. It doesn’t tell me anything, and could have been taken anywhere. If you can’t figure out what the photo is saying, it probably isn’t a keeper.

          That took a lot longer than a stark criticism, but I hope it is more helpful.

          • I meant the 6th photo. the 5th photo is pretty good, and would be better if you cropped out some of the non essential elements

          • I think if you publish something or put it on a popular website, you’re wearing your heart on your sleeve. I write about 6 articles per month, mostly for car magazines, ranging from tech to fiction to travel. I get letters from readers who say they like my work, and I get the occasional one who says he doesn’t.
            I shrug it off. I’m not 5 years old and I don’t expect everybody to fawn over everything I do.
            I didn’t insult or abuse the submitter, I gave my opinion that they were simply not street photography. Go back through the responses, (of which there very few), and when you come across the odd one which isn’t centred on arguing about Leicas, the odd comment is something like ‘nice’.
            Speaking of responses, I don’t remember ever seeing one like the example you gave.
            Sorry, but if you put something up for public consumption, that’s the chance you take. If, no matter the quality of the pictures, we’re all supposed to say ‘nice’, then it becomes kindergarten.
            I’ll tell you what. I’m in the process of packing up and moving back home to Europe, but as soon as I get settled in, I’ll prepare a submission of pix and send it to Steve for the Daily Inspiration. I’ll identify myself in the introduction so you’ll know they’re mine.
            If you don’t like them, you’re welcome to say so.

        • Thank you. I support your opinion.

  20. Thats EXACTLY what I thought too!

  21. Great write up!
    Here is my “epic” book about Cuba:

    http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/370463

  22. I hate to be the dissenter, but am I missing something here?

    No offense to the author, but most of these pictures are nothing I would post to brag about the IQ of any camera, let alone a Leica.

    • Surprised to read all the praise, finally a worthwhile comment.

      Those are not nice images. They’re underexposed, and if correctly exposed show nothing that’s worthwhile to be shown.

      Sad really, such a nice camera wasted.

      • Hey, we all take less-than-great pictures now and then. I’m no different and my hard drive and negative sleeves are filled with worthless images.

        What I do not understand, is that out of any website other than Luminous Landscape, the Steve Huff Blog has had regular guest postings where the photography has been sub-standard at best in my opinion. Of course he is free to post what he thinks is ok, but often the photography will contradict the accompanied article, imho.

        But to Steve’s credit, after several negative posts, he hasn’t booted me off his blog either. My intent is not to put down, but encourage where you can…I have littered the net with numerous “great shot” accolades to hundreds of photographers. If the image is good, it’s good and stands regardless of the camera used. Which leads me to my next point.

        Largely, the camera doesn’t matter (thanks Ken R.) and “IQ” is the responsibility of the photographer, not the engineer designing the camera. Yea, I get all the high ISO/low light arguments, and here and there, and they have merit. But the truth is, 98% of all pictures taken, amateur or “professional”, are done so at ISO’s under 400 (or could easily be) and shutter speeds 125th to 1000th of a second. The ability to shoot black cats in a coal mine can be technically applauded from pixel-chasers, however, for most situations, is not a performance feature needed for great photography. I hear the wedding photogs chiming in right now…I hear ya too, but many a high priced photographer can get by at ISO 800, f2.0 and a 60th, film or digital: exhibit A,B,C: Joe Bussink, Jose Villa, and Elizabeth Messina.

        One can argue the merits of Leica glass and know they have the very best. For my money (limited as it is), Zeiss does just fine. But the prices for Leica digital bodies is absurd. My $25.00 Canon Rebel 2000 with the 85 1.8 EF lens will look as good as any Leica body + glass shot at f4 and above. It’s about shooting, not buying crap like the M9.

  23. Hey all. I really appreciate the comments. Of course I realized posting on Steve’s site would welcome numerous perspectives and after three years in a MFA graduate program, receiving criticism of the most highest praise to the soul crushing disparaging is a completely normal thing. So I’m glad the post welcomed such variety.

    My profesional practice is not photo-centric, but when it ends up using such tools, they are always put to practice in controlled settings like with staging or within a studio. So you can understand how excited I am to have such privilege to put the M9 to use in re-entering a style of photography that is wrapped up in the unexpected, the happenstance, and often on the cusp. As such, the feedback regarding the photos is very much appreciated. If you wish, you can view the rest of the set here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/79610224@N07/sets/72157629957493352/

    For me, first and foremost, these images are about corralling research. Sure formal issues are crucial, but equally if not more important is the documentation of happenstance, intriguing, and memorable things that I can return to and fold into my practice that is defined in great part by visiting places, loaded with expectations, romantics, comforts or the lack thereof. Given my history with and preferences towards photography, the M9 is the optimal tool for such job. It’s a privilege for sure and one that is asking me to learn new things about shooting, taking time, and performing the photographing-traveler. And for that, I’m thankful.

    • Erik,

      You possess the one thing that any successful photographer requires, confidence in your work and the ability to sell whatever it is you produce as art. Your writing is poetic to be certain, but the flowery approach comes across as a bit egregious. I’ve always believed that art speaks for itself and trying to promote it is just flagrant hyperbole….but I’m probably in the minority….and I don’t have an MFA:)

      • Clint – great point…I had a thought the other day to remove “fine art” from my site…it is what it is…if it is any good, you certainly do not have to tell anyone about it.

  24. Just another point; my brother used to tell me that back in the 70′s and 80′s guys would often show up at gigs with a Yashica body and Zeiss Contax glass. They would cover up the Yashica name with electrical tape so no one knew they were shooting an “inferior” camera…quite the opposite here!!

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