Walking New Orleans with the Leica M By Neil Gandhi

Walking New Orleans with the Leica M

By Neil Gandhi

Hey Steve,

Finally got a chance to use my Leica M so I thought I’d share some photos from my recent trip to New Orleans. I had to ditch my A7 and the 5D MIII in order to be able to afford the M240 and after using this system, I think it has been one of the best decisions ever (mind you, I do miss both those cameras and I have captured some great images with them!). Here are some first impressions:

1. The Design. Pure genius in precision and engineering. Minimal, and allows you to quickly get to what you need. The Leica M may not have all the bells and whistles that other cameras in its category have, but to be honest, I did not miss them one bit. The menu and button layouts are intuitive and so easy to get to. It takes a no-nonsense approach by shredding the unnecessary and letting you focus on simply capturing the moments around you.

2. Rangefinder. The Rangefinder methodology of shooting takes quite a bit of getting used to. I found myself constantly missing opportunities simply because I had never used this system for focusing before. At the end of the trip however, I did find myself getting very comfortable using it and found a certain sense of joy in using it. Its like I was actually doing some WORK, prior to taking an image. I bought this book from the Apple iBooks store called “Work your Leica M” by Joeri van der Kloet (https://itun.es/us/KyvxV.l) and his exercises have helped tremendously in getting used to shooting Rangefinder.

3. Ergonomics. The camera is a beast…to hold. Ergonomically, it made me miss having the A7 or the 5D MIII and it kept slipping like a bar of soap from my hand when I initially got it. The leather half case definitely helps and the more I use it, the more I am getting used to holding it and composing my shots.

4. Viewfinder. The optical viewfinder is a joy to use. I do NOT miss having an EVF and the composition lines are wonderful to gauge whats in and out of the scene while composing.

5. Image Quality. As expected, the overall quality of the images processed by the M is just outstanding but the real star of the show was the 50mm f2 summicron lens. I got it used debating how good it would be but man, its sharp. I also used the Zeiss 35mm f2 but minimally as I was smitten by the summicron. Just great for street photography. Low light is a bit of a challenge with high ISO, but having a faster lens will probably help in that department.

Here are some images from the trip (probably more than you need so feel free to take some out for your post), more on my instagram page here: http://instagram.com/lifeinanimage.















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  1. Get a thumbs up for your leica. it makes handeling a lot easier in my opinion.
    happy shooting.

  2. Thanks for your pictures, I’m sure New Orleans is full of potential.
    And I agree with your comments, on the Leica’s slippy ergonomics. (I bought an M9 last week).

    Try and avoid falling into the habit of photographing the backs of peoples heads, I’m guilty of it, and it’s an easy pass for the want to be street photographer, but most of the time the results are dull.

    With your pic of the guy shucking oysters, try moving further to the left, and notice his hands, follow his eyes and compose using the texture in the foreground, you’ll probably have to smile occasionally but the picture will be more interesting than your current position.

    Good luck and keep at it.


    • CB, great feedback. Much appreciated. What made composition much more difficult for me was the rangefinder view (i.e. the rectangular lines) as I constantly kept focusing my subjects beyond the realm of the 50mm bucket.

    • Thank you sirji. I hope we can get together in India sometime and get at taking some good portraits on the streets! 🙂

  3. If you find the M difficult to handle, may I suggest adding a Thumbs-Up accessory for it. In my experience, it really changes the handling!

    • Paul, I did think about buying it, though I found it to be a bit too expensive and I would not be able to put a half case over it. The Leica M leather half case did the trick. Its much easier to hold. Without a case however, a different story! 🙂

  4. What are you guys smoking? These images are not defined by any camera let alone an ‘M’. They are simply snaps that could have been taken with virtually anything.

  5. Hi, forgot to mention in my last post that I have looked at Neil’s stuff on line and they are simply superb. There cannot be any quibbles with his work -simply take a look enjoy and admire. The observations made above by me and others are not present in any of the photos I looked at. It’s strange how photographers I have seen submitting work to this site often have work on the web that is worlds apart in quality (in my opinion ) why ?
    Can Neil shed any light on this? I would be interested to know!
    So the lesson for us all is to look at the links provided by the photographer to get the whole picture so to speak !
    Well done Neil that M is in good hands.

    Best Wishes

    • Fergus, I have already dropped the M a couple of times so I wouldn’t say its in good hands! 🙂 I am just an amateur photographer, self taught and trying to learn and sponge as much as I can from the greats. A lot of images I took in New Orleans are also on my instagram site so I don’t think the goal was to put mediocre work on here. The one reason that I can think of is that instagram always shows images better is because of the size of the overall image being so small and how it portrays on a mobile device.

  6. In reply to the comments by Chad that I was trying to tell Neil how to use the sliders in Lightroom to do his black and white conversion. If you read my piece carefully you will see that I am simply mentioning that when I use MY sliders in Lightroom to do MY conversions the Leica DNG files need really minimalist work to achieve what ever results you require. This is a really strong point of the Leica for a black and white enthusiast. The images out of camera are normally very good. I did not infer that he was not aware of this ! I told him I liked his compositions and that to me there might be some soft focus in some images (could be my monitor)
    People who submit work are often glad to hear praise and some hopefully helpful criticism in equal measure -I know I would. It is a given that the person doing the critique may be missing the point of somebody’s work but they can only give a hopefully honest balanced view of what they see.
    It would be a worthless experience to be dishonestly dishing out praise all the time and would not be appreciated anyway as it would just appear bland. Neil has got strong compositions which is the most important thing and he is new to Leica and manual focus -I am using manual focus all my life and I get some focus issues which I would not mind people pointing out to me.
    I know he likes his rangefinder and is producing nice interesting compositions.

    Best Wishes

  7. To all the commenters complaining about the b/w contrast level, get over it. Clearly Neil processed his images in a way that was pleasing to him and is currently a popular style. Some like it, some don’t but I wouldn’t tell him how to use sliders to add more contrast when this was so obviously a conscious editing choice.

    Congrats on your purchase Neil, sounds like you are really enjoying the camera.

    • Thanks Chad, I do think its personal preference and how the eye sees an image that pleases it.

  8. I love the photo of the girl in front of the window from the back, great. But guys, stop thinking about your gear so much. Having owned the 5D3 and the A7 and now a Leica M, which are more or less brand new cameras, all taking equally great pictures. That is the same amount of cameras I owned since I entered digital photography 15 years ago …

    • No issues against any camera system Robert, I really enjoyed shooting with the 5D and the A7. I just thought it was time to switch to something new and the rangefinder system posed a challenge of sorts, so I decided to switch over.

  9. I like your images but the black and white images look a little odd -maybe a little bit more contrast needed. I have an M8 and when you convert to B+W in lightroom using the sliders the images are crisp and multi toned Few other cameras needs so little work to convert to black and white in my experience. Maybe its me but your colour images look slightly out of focus (maybe it’s my crappy Monitor). Sorry to be a pain but I am only saying this because after you get these few niggly details sorted you will be producing some really nice stuff.

    Best Wishes

  10. I really like the minimalism of your two images with the three doors. (Just a pity the right hand door got clipped onthe second one). I also thought the B&Ws were a bit grey – not that I would want all the high contrast deep shadow stuff, but just a little more definition.
    Really interesting to read your early impressions of rangefinder shooting. Thanks.

    • Thanks for the feedback John, appreciate your thoughts on adding more definition. And yes, really enjoying the rangefinder, its just a great system to photograph in!

  11. I like ’em. Enjoyable to look at, a little trip to that city.

    Curious: In all your B&W except the last one, you have your blacks mapped to a dark-ish grey, leaving them looking kinda washed out. Is that a look you were intending, or is that just where they landed, after your processing work flow?

    Keep ’em coming.

    • That was the look I was gunning for. But I hear you on them looking a bit washed out. I just need to play around with the B&W conversion more, its very interesting but clearly from all the comments, needs to please all eyes 🙂 And yes, New Orleans is just a beautiful city to photograph!

  12. Not bad at all. And congratulations on your new camera.

    Personally I found the color images better than the b&w ones, they look a bit grey and dull on my screen, with no really deep blacks or bright whites. Highly enjoyable all the same.


    • Thanks for the feedback Jan. I could def. benefit from a tutorial or two on B&W post processing. I was gunning for a simple B&W conversion to give the images more of a natural look.

      • Great colors! I personally find B/W processing to be much more challenging than color. Though your last image is wonderful black and white! It looks like clean medium-format Tri-X.

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