User Report: Iceland with the Leica M 240
By Alexandra Shapiro
Last month I toured Iceland with my family, cameras in tow. Iceland has a stunning and unusual landscape. Because it is a volcanic island near the Artic Circle, lava fields cover the surface with black, desert-like vistas overshadowed by mountains covered with green mossy vegetation. Gorgeous waterfalls (but not many trees) dot the countryside. Glaciers blanket other parts of the country. It rains a lot, so it’s best to use weatherproof gear or make sure you have plastic to protect your gear.
Our trip included a few days in the capital city of Reykjavik, a five-day inland hiking trek known as the Laugavegurrin tour that included some river crossings, and several days touring the southern coast. The trek involved about 40 miles of hiking, with overnight stops at heated huts in between, and some stunning scenery we could not have seen any other way — craggy lava fields, rust-colored crevasses, green mountains with pockets of snow and sheep grazing on rocky cliffs (and elsewhere).
After the trek, we flew from Reykjavik to Hofn, a town in the east, and then made our way west over the course of about five days by driving along the southern coastal road. We saw many interesting spots along the way, including a glacial lagoon, unique basalt formations, Icelandic horses, a glacier and many waterfalls. We also paid a visit to the fascinating Westman Islands (whose residents suffered through a massive and devastating volcanic eruption in the 1970s).
I was fortunate enough to have received my Leica M240 (after having waited nearly 10 months) shortly before the trip, so I brought it with me along with three lenses: the 28 Summarit, the 90 Summicron, and the new Voigtlander Nokton 50 1.5. Of these, I used the 28 and 50 most — the 28 for the majority of landscapes, and the 50 for some landscapes and lots of people shots. The 90 is a great lens, but I didn’t end up using it that much, as it often seemed either too long or too short for what I wanted to shoot. For the trek, this was all I used as I wanted to travel light because I would be carrying it for miles of walking (I also had the Canon gear discussed below with me for the rest of the trip). A few words about the M: it is obviously a wonderful camera. I’ve used an M3 for years, but never had a digital Leica before. Ironically one of the reasons I had held out for the M was live view, but I actually found that I used the rangefinder for focusing more often. (The focus peaking is very faint, I found.) As for the lenses, the 28 is tiny and super-sharp and was just the right focal length for many of the shots of the unusual scenery. The Nokton has nice color rendition and great Bokeh (to my mind) especially wide open for portraits.
I also brought a dslr, which I used in Reykjavik and for the southern coast tour. Although it would have been nice to travel lighter with only the Leica gear, I knew there would be opportunities to shoot birds, including puffins, so I brought along the Canon 70-300 L lens, which is great for shooting sports and wildlife. I did not want to lug a heavy camera body, so instead I brought the diminutive Canon SL1, which is a fun little camera. It doesn’t have the low-light performance of the 5D, and it’s a crop sensor, but the IQ is actually quite decent and I like the ergonomics a lot. (Some might hate it because of the size, but I have small hands, and the touch screen is great). I also brought the kit lens along — it’s a slow cheap plastic zoom but the IQ is surprisingly decent, and I figured it might be useful to have something wider than 70 for the SL1. The body (and the kit lens when I used that) kept getting wet in the rain but fortunately both worked fine after a wipe-down even though they’re plastic and have no weatherproofing.
Anyway, now for the photos.
More of the photos from the trip can be found here:
And here is some of my other work: