User Report: Iceland with the Leica M 240 By Alexandra Shapiro

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:[email protected]/sets/72157635338841683/

And here is some of my other work:[email protected]/

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  1. Hi,

    Iceland is quiet a nice country.
    This year, 2014, I will go there the fifth time, in summer with my own Landrover Defender. I will take Leica M gear and Canon gear as well. Leica: M9,21mm,35mm,50mm,90mm and a 15mm Voigtlander. As for Canon: EOS6D,2,8/70-200, 2,8/300 and 1,4 Extender.
    I like very much my photos with M9, but have to use the Canon for Birds and sometimes “compressed landscapes”. Also for taking videos.
    I have hundreds of pictures of Iceland, but always want to get better oneΒ΄s. I have to go back to this country to get better light, better points of view or even new things, like fresh snow on top of the hills/mountains.

  2. Last month …. is the first two words, these images are taking in the summer, half a year ago, at least.
    I know, I live in Iceland.

    • Yes, they were taken in late August; I wrote the report awhile before Steve posted it; sorry for any confusion.

  3. A different view. For some reason, although these images are nice enough, they don’t go over the “very good postcard” level for me. Post processing, saturating, desaturating, HDR, oversharpening, undersharpening, don’t usually make a not-so-interesting image into an interesting image. And if you include a human figure into a landscape, please don’t habitually center it? I know the rangefinder thingey sort of leads you to do that, but there must be more interesting compositions available.

    I find landscapes like these as beautiful as the next man, but visually interesting as an image? No. As a memory? Yes, very good.

    I apologize if this comes over as unnessarily critical; it wasn’t meant to be.

    • I think you say what you say very considerately – shouldn’t take away from the enjoyment Alexandra also clearly had and which her photos do bring out. The one that grabs me as an image is number nine with the “teeth” in the mouth of the bay in B&W.

      • John, it might just be a personal thing. I traveled a lot in the West of the US some twenty years ago, armed with my FM2n, some primes, a unipod (?), loads of different colour negative and b&w film and a notebook, and became increasingly frustrated with finding an interesting point of view to shoot (I thought I could just as well buy some of those excellent postcards at the gas station), and sort of gave up on photography as a result.

        I got back, more or less seriously, in the summer of 2008 and enjoyed a steep (digitally and visually) learning curve since.

        I still get bored easily though… πŸ˜‰ I visit photography site (American Suburb X is my favorite) and photography museums (two within walking distance of my office in Amsterdam) a lot, and have a camera with me every day.

        How things change. If you’re interested, I’m Michiel953 on Flickr.

  4. Beautiful!

    I am going to Island next Monday… you made me long a lot more than I already did, and I thought that was impossible!! πŸ˜€

  5. Everyone should visit Iceland at some point in their lives. Take a camera if you wish, go without one – doesn’t matter. But, by all means, take the time to see one of the most wonderful places on Earth.

  6. You mentioned bringing the Canon along for long-lens use. I have the same issues, using my M for most everything, saving the Canon for 200mm or close-focusing situations. I’m expecting delivery of the M to R adapter and when I have the funds, I hope to purchase an R telephoto (180?) and possibly an R macro. I’m not worried about shooting fast-moving subjects with the R lenses, but at times need the long lenses and close focusing.

    Nice images!

    • Easy mistake – probably means the new elmarit, which is tiny and reputedly wickedly sharp. I have the old version, which is very good on an M9 and great on Fuji Acros 100, the new one is like a jewel and supposed to be even sharper.

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