Apr 242015
 

Street Photography in Dublin Ireland with Film

By Fergus Fitzgerald

Hi All,
I hope I am familiar to most of the regulars here as I post a lot as a commentator but never before as a contributor. I suppose you could call me a street photographer in as much as most of my photography seems to take place on the streets. My interests in photography these days is in street photography and those photographers who are regarded as being talented in this genre.

I do not take myself too seriously. I think street photography is valuable in the sense that it is entirely without an agenda which is its strength.

I realise this is a gear orientated site and I am definitely not a gear head though most photographers who say that are actually not telling the truth ! How can I explain this ? You see we all start out with an ambition to produce a great image -the image that is in our heads – if we do not succeed we will try again and again always seeking that elusive image. If you have experienced this feeling and know the frustration and remain faithful to that image in your head -then you are a photographer simple as that.

We can try all kinds of ways to achieve our goal -most of us (myself included ) at some time or other will succumb to the allure of the apparatus. If only we could get that new piece of equipment -that would make the transformation for us . In time we learn that the secret is to just keep shooting with what you have and try to become enthused more by the images you are creating and not the apparatus used. Mind you, I am more than willing to concede that gear can and does inspire people. So once you don’t go too crazy, what’s the harm in enjoying a new Nikon Canon Sony or even a Leica ? Not all at once of course !

I have used many cameras in my day and finally settled for Leica for many reasons -firstly they are beautiful and minimalist in the extreme and have superb optics. Secondly I like the European heritage -not to mention a desire to be a bit different.

I think of my images as being snaps for the thinking snapper. I hope anybody who recognises himself or herself in one of my photos will have the sense of humour to just have a laugh as I would never take an image to show a person in a bad way -though I will not allow my photography to become anodyne either.

These images are mostly from my M6 with 35 and 50 Summicron lenses on Ilford XP2 film scanned on my Nikon Coolscan V ED .  The images are just incidents I happened upon as I walked around where I live which is Dublin Ireland . For example the girl walking in costume reading the book was an actress rehearsing her lines during a break at the Samuel Beckett Theatre festival.

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I tend to shoot mostly with the 50mm lens and do not get too up close. Despite what Capa said I feel you can still produce good pictures from a slight distance. I cannot for example imagine myself ever using a 28mm or wider for street -though many do this magnificently.

I traded my M6 for an M8 seven or more years ago and occasionally I get a Lumix G1 on loan from a friend .I used this to get the image of the old lady bemused by the two guys reaction to whatever was on the laptop screen. I actually like the G1 a lot as it is nice and compact and produces good colour images -though I’m not a big fan of EVF’s Actually none other than Saul Leiter used one at the latter part of his career!

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The photo below was taken in Moore St Dublin where traditional traders still sell from stalls and many have family roots going back generations:

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The old gent looking through the view window is in Temple bar which has nice bars and restaurants and is a great spot for street photography. My favourite haunt there is “The Gallery of Photography “where I have seen such wonderful exhibitions as Genesis by Salgado. Keen eyed photographers will see this is not a film scan -it’s actually from the M8.

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Luck and happenstance play a big part in street photography. One day I was in the old Animal Museum in Dublin known to the kids of Dublin as the “Dead Zoo” with my nephew when I snapped a photo of him looking in wonder at a Moose. When the film was processed it turned out to be a different kid altogether as my nephew had wandered off to view something else! Years later myself and friends would visit “Yellowstone Park” in the US and I would have a very similar reaction to a live Moose -Wow they are big!

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When I got the M8 I shot almost exclusively in colour but now I mostly shoot in black and white . I love the way Leica M digital cameras render black and white. I have not seen better. Strangely I now seem to be shooting Black and White on digital and colour on film which is the reverse of a lot of photographers I know. Kodak Portra film has a lot to do with this as I love it‘s subtle pastel like colours. I have now resurrected my ancient Pentax K1000 and a few Takumar lenses for colour.

Hope you like the images.

Rgds Fergus Fitzgerald

PS might post a few colour street photos from the M8 in the future…….? Thanks Steve and Brandon.

Jan 152015
 

2014 – My year with Leica

By Jason Boucher

Long ago I read Mike Johnston’s post on The Online Photographer about a year with Leica and it would make you a better photographer. I wanted to jump in at the time, but at that time couldn’t imagine spending that much on an “old” camera and it would force me to buy a new lens. I ended up buying a used Bessa as well as a used Voigtlander lens. While the original article suggested to commit fully, I committed to at least 1 roll of film per month. In that year I relearned so much about photography. It slowed me down. It made me intentional in my shooting. It also was my 1st experience with a rangefinder and frankly, the focusing became second nature and something I preferred over the split prism I grew up with. I was happy with my Bessa and my m43 digital and DSLR autofocus kits. That year with film and my Bessa really did help me.

A couple of years ago, things changed for me. I took a new job where I was not providing social content and digital image assets to the company I work for. This freed me a bit from photography as work. I could do photography for me and for me only. Coincidentally at the same time, my friend at my local camera store, National Camera Exchange, called me one day and said they got a used M9 in mint condition. I went in and held it in my hands. Wow. It was love and lust at first sight. But…cash was still a problem and I left instead with a used M8. Figuring I could give it a try and not loose much money. I had 1 M -mount lens at the time, a Zeiss 35 f2.8, I attached it and shot it almost exclusively for a couple of months.

Here are a few shots from my summer vacation and family visit in North Dakota with the M8

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It was a lovely set up and gave me a few images that I truly cherish. That old M8 has some quirky but special mojo. To be honest, it is still my favorite black and white, digital camera of all time and one day hope to own one alongside my newer Leica digital M camera. That missing IR filter does something amazing to skin and skin tones. But…I just could not handle the noise of shutter as well as the inability, at least with my single lens I owned, to shoot at higher ISO’s and in lower light, something I do a lot. So I put it away and shot it on special occasion.

About mid way through 2014, I took the M8 on a trip again and was reminded of both the experience and the glorious output. So…I sold everything else I owned including my new Fuji XT1 as well as the M8 and came home with a used M240. Over the course of the fall I slowly added some used M mount glass. I know much has been written about the M240 and how some folks prefer the M9 CCD sensor. I had some experience with the CCD with the M8 and in certain instances do prefer it, the overall shooting experience, capability as well as the higher ISO capabilities make the M240 an easy and preferred choice for me. It just works.

M 240 Images…

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My Leica M240 has become an extension of my hand as well as the most amazing creative tool I have ever used. I am no professional and shoot only for myself, but I am pleased with and believe the camera has in fact been a driving factor in changing my personal style and satisfaction with photography. I know that for each of us that we all respond uniquely to gear and many feel that Leica’s are a bunch of hype. I thought that too, but in the end, I feel that it did help me develop, grow and output better images.

So….Even though I really only starting using Leica cameras halfway through 2014, I still consider it my year of Leica.  Hope you enjoy them and my wish to all of you in 2015 is that you find that muse, that tool, that thing that inspires you and helps you develop your craft and art.

Cheers

Jason
www.imaginegnat.com

Aug 082014
 

Canon AE-1

By Shane Caut

Hi Steve and Brandon,

I thought I would write a submission highlighting some of the beauty of Australia captured on a Canon AE-1 Program film camera.

To begin with I am a novice when it comes to photography and have only started working at this passion the last year or so, so I know I still have a lot to learn. Your site has been a constant source of inspiration and information, which I have keenly absorbed and so I wanted to share my progress.

My first serious camera purchase was a Leica M8. I was all set to start with a Fuji X body, when I was shown a used Leica M8 in the camera store and I was hooked. The M8 seemed to make so much sense to me and I did not get lost in all the gadgetry that other digital cameras can provide. I love how the M8 taught me the basics of setting the ISO, shutter speed and aperture. What more could anyone need?! I started with the Voigtlander 35mm f2.5 color skopar lens and it is certainly a great value for money lens. Wanting to try a wide-angle, I purchased a 24mm f2.8 FDn lens which I thought I could adapt to the M8 and focus using zone focusing. This worked fine, but that lens just did not belong on that camera. I then did some research and decided to try the lens on a body it was designed for. This led me to the Canon AE-1 Program. This camera is a delight. It is simple to use, ergonomic, quite small for a slr, and can be purchased for less than $100.

I fitted the lens to the body and took it on a trip to Melbourne. Some of the results are below. The other shots are from the streets and beaches of Adelaide.

I have used a few different films in my fledging film endeavour: Velvia 100, Ilford FP4, Ektar 100, and Portra 400. All have their own unique signature, and to my eye provide a depth of character difficult to recreate on digital. I am now hooked on film, and switched my Leica M8, which I did love and will always be thankful for purchasing, for a Leica M3. The M3 is in another stratosphere to the other cameras, and is hard to put down once you start hearing that almost silent click of the shutter release and experience that super smooth advance lever. I now have a nice balance of the M3 with a Canon 50mm f1.4 ltm lens and the Canon with the 24mm.

I hope readers enjoy the photos and feel free to provide any critical advice.

I have just started a flickr site here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/125897175@N08/

Kindest regards,
Shane

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Jun 252014
 

Still enjoying my Leica M8

By Jochen Utecht

Dear Steve,

It has been a while since you published my latest “inspirational” email (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/01/14/daily-inspiration-494-by-jochen-utecht/). This time I would like to share a few images taken with my Leica M8, which I love and hate at the same time. If I had to decide which camera to keep, it would be the Fujifilm X100s. But the M8 is capable of outstanding quality. It only is a slow and quirky device, which sometimes is a good thing.

You can hardly push the ISO beyond 640. There is too much noise showing up. Focusing often takes too much time for snapshots. But prefocusing can make looking through the viewfinder obsolete. Compared to the X100 it is a heavy piece of metal. But it feels soo good!

I don´t have Leica lenses, because I am by no means rich if money matters. But I could get hold of a few nice lenses second hand:
Voigtländer 21/4, VC 15/4.5, Minolta 28/2.8 and Minolta 40/2.0. The Minolta´s are the same in quality as Leica glass. And the 15/4.5 is fantastic. Very sharp lens. I use the 21 and the 28 most of the time.

Usually I shoot RAW (DNG). The wide-angle lenses from Voigtländer get a treatment with CornerFix first. Then I develop a bit with Photoshop (Camera Raw). After that I go into Picasa and make some adjustments to the jpg´s. (First I try the I´m-feeling-lucky-button) That works well enough for me at least.

VC 21/4, edited in PS (correction of converging lines)

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They don´t earn much money, but are really childloving people.
Minolta 28mm/2.8, prefocused image.

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The forbidden city is always a joy to walk around. I usually hate images taken from behind. They are cowardish and mostly don´t say anything than that the photographer was there and didn´t have the guts to ask for permission. But sometimes you cannot do anything else and the picture still works.
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The same goes for this one. This Panorama was also with the 21/4. I stitched it from 6 portait-style images. There is barely any distortion in the VC21/4, so PS didn´t have problems putting it together. I don´t mind that some people appear as doublettes. Next time I might bring a tripod and blur the people.

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First of all I asked for permission to take a picture of these beauties. After a posing picture was taken they immediately went back to watching their smartphones and I could capture the scene I had been seeing before.
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Sometimes you get nice results if you hand the M8 to a stranger to have your picture taken. This was on the first of May. I even had to tell that chinese fellow which button to press, but made the settings prior to handing the camera over. It would have been a fun pic if my face had been replacing Mao. I will try that next time. That might not be possible with a rangefinder camera though.
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I hope you enjoyed the pictures and if you don´t want to show all 6 pictures, feel free to choose three of them.

Thanks, Jochen
5intheworld.de

Apr 212014
 

Learning to See Again With the Leica M8

by Craig Litten

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I started shooting with a pseudo-rangefinder camera, the Fuji X-Pro1, in 2013, and shed the weight and bulk of my DSLR’s forever. I love and still use the X-Pro1, but I’ve wanted a Leica M6 rangefinder for over 20 years. The problem is, the M6 uses film. Film is wonderful, but it’s no longer convenient, nor is it cheap. True, you can buy a lot of film for the price of a digital Leica M, but don’t forget about the inconvenience of film. Pro photo labs have disappeared for the most part, prints are no longer done in the darkroom–and if they are, you must pay an extraordinary premium. I say “extraordinary” because it used to be fairly cheap to get a high-quality, fiber based B&W wet print (made in a real darkroom), but not any longer. There is also no lab to process the film. For years I processed my own B&W film, but I no longer own the tanks and reels, nor do I really have the time.

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So a few months ago, I purchased a used Leica M8 (M8.2 to be exact) from a friend who has since upgraded to the Leica M (Type 240)–Leica’s latest. Now I have a true rangefinder, and I’m enjoying the total rangefinder experience: manual focusing, manual exposure, a real shutter speed dial, a real, mechanical aperture ring, and a real rangefinder window. And believe it or not, once you learn how to use it, you can do things like exposure and focus faster and more accurately than with all-electronic cameras. I’m not quite there yet, but it gets easier every time I use the M8. With the Leica, I can always see what shutter speed and aperture I have set (even when it’s off), and the camera is always ready. It’s small, built like a M4 Sherman tank, and it’s incredibly discrete for street photography. So far, the only people who have noticed me while out shooting are people who know what a Leica is, and then they strike up a conversation. Otherwise, I’ve never been so ignored in all my years of street photography. Being ignored while doing street photography is a good thing.

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This brings me around to the main point of this article: learning to see again. As you can clearly see, not one photo above has people in it. Ninety-five percent of what I normally shoot, whether for work or personal use, has people in it. I’m a people shooter; yes, I shoot people. But since I got the M8, it has changed the way I feel when photographing, and the way I am seeing the world around me. Everything around me has become art. Rangefinder cameras by nature force you to slow down and think. You cannot focus as close as with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, and you no longer look through the lens, so there is a thing called parallax error at certain distances (in other words, your subject doesn’t always line up exactly where you framed it). I call this serendipity and I love it. I feel like I have too much control over my frame anyway, which comes from years of photojournalism training and thousands of assignments, so less accurate framing of my subject is fine with me. The camera is also much slower to write images to the card, which is also perfectly acceptable because I shoot far fewer shots with it. Sometimes I only shoot one frame of a given scene, whereas before, I usually shoot several.

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Surprisingly, for a camera as old as the M8, the image quality is astonishing. Leica lenses, which are second to none, might have something to do with that of course. Color can be a bit tricky, but when you nail it, it’s stunning and very Kodak Kodachrome looking–the best color film ever made. And the black & white produced from the M8’s sensor is very film-like. Grain starts to show up at ISO 320, which is great because I love grain. High ISO is basically non-existent, but so what, some of the world’s best photographers survived their entire careers shooting Tri-X, which is ISO 400 film.

Give one a try! The Leica Store Miami has a test drive program that is very reasonable. Ask for Peter; he’ll be glad to help you. If you’ve never shot with a rangefinder such as a Leica M, be prepared for a learning curve, but it gets easier, and it’s a lot of fun. Finally, when out shooting on the streets, don’t forget to “see” what else is around you. Don’t be so focused on looking like Winogrand and miss the Sam Abell moments all around you.

Please come join me for a street photography workshop this year. Go to http://www.street-photography-workshops.com for more info.

Apr 112014
 

The legend : A Leica story

By Yves Oliver

I am an enthusiast 47 years old photographer. I live in Belgium, so forgive me for my possible bad english. But first, before the pictures, a true Leica story….or how I finally bought an M8.

Back to…1944 !

My father was a 12 years old boy and passionate about…photography. In 1944, that meant a foldable 6×9 Zeiss Nikon and, of course, black and white film. Living in a village in South Belgium, he was by far the only guy aware of photography. It was the end of the Second World War in Europe and the Germans were going back home. A German troop stopped in the village and an officer spent the night in my father’s house. He had a Leica (probably Leica III). It was the brand new top camera at the time coming from Germany : shiny, tiny and easy to use with 35mm film. My father had his eyes wide open. The next morning, the soldier left to join his troop and….forgot his camera on the kitchen table. My father was dying to keep it without a doubt ! These were dangerous time, the Germans were nervous because they were losing the war and the family could have been accused to have stolen the camera. You could be shot for nothing. “Too dangerous” said my grandmother who forced his son to run after the officer and give him the Leica back. You have to imagine the fear of the young boy among enemy soldiers, and his disappointment for holding a dream camera for a few seconds before giving it back.

10 years later, he had become an engineer and with his very first pay, he bought a Rolleicord 6×6. At the time, if you shot sport or actualities you used Leica, if you shot landscape you used Rollei. Simple. That was before Japanese cameras. He travelled, so he chose Rollei, but in his heart, he never forgot the Leica he once dreamed about during the war. He continued with Rollei, then Exacta, later with Olympus but never with Leica.

15 years later, he had a boy (me) and give him the photography virus. I learned with him, spent time in the darkroom with black and white prints, and with the years, I owned different cameras from Minolta to digital Nikon. When he died, I gave most of his old gear to a famous photography museum (except the Rolleicord I still use !). A part of my life had gone with him but I knew something was missing to close the circle . He had told me the story many times and, as a child, I also dreamed about the “legendary Leica from the war”. In memoriam to him, for my pleasure, and for the father and son dream could finally come true, I bought a used silver M8 with a Summicron 35 for my 45th anniversary. A real gem, he would have been happy for me.

I now have a 5 years old daughter who began shooting with a cheap Coolpix. I wander if the name of Leica will still mean something for her in twenty years…

Yves Oliver

Pictures on Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/51484580@N07

General website : www.yvesoliver.com

Book : www.blurb.fr/user/yvesoliver

Now, some of my pictures (Leica M8 + Summicron 35 mm, all processed with Silver Fx Pro)

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Mar 062014
 

Buying Leica M8 in London – First experiences

by Ruben Laranjeira

Hi Steve, I am Ruben from Portugal and I have 28 years old. I visit your site every day, since late 2008. And you have influenced me to be passionate about Leicas, and Leica look in photos.

So here I am, 5 years later, ready to buy my first Leica. Due to Leica high prices, I have chosen to buy a used Leica M8 in London, and a new Voigtlander 40mm 1.4.

This is a short story about a dream come true.

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Since I began searching for photography and for photo machines, it didn’t take to long until my search got into stevehuffphoto site.

This site amaze me since my first contact with its very best articles on internet about real photography. For amateur/enthusiastic/professional people interested in photography and it’s gear. We can find here very precise technical information, and principally how to get passion about this form of art.

So since 2008 I knew I want a good-looking camera, with strong capabilities to turn my day by day pictures into something memorable. I ended buying a canon 50d and started shooting inside water the surfers riding waves. But I knew one day my little Leica would ended on my hands. This moment appears when I realized that used Leicas on eBay, and no Leica lenses was cheaper than I thought.

So I tried to put all together and planed not to buy that online, but buy than in London.

One month planning the trip with my girlfriend, reading every single day every article about M8 or M8.2, about voightlander wide-angle or 40mm, etc etc… So my plan was first get the lens, and then get the camera, because I can’t imagine have a Leica in my hands for a second with no lens attached.

Ok, voigtlander 40mm 1.4 lens with me, let’s get to the Leica dealer. Two nice cameras to choose, one mint condition 1600 actuation M8 and one 36000 actuation M8.2 with strong sings of use and 200 dollars cheaper. For what I read online, I have chosen the M8.2 with 6 month warranty.

I never had used range finder in my life, or manual focus, but my first shoot wide open, on a LFI magazine was easy and in focus. So I have thought, so far so good! Let’s do the payment and get outside with this beautiful day in London.

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With this camera I really feel the inspiration to record the best moments I will find trough my life, and I can get the camera inside my coat easily with no big monster point to people’s faces. I have found this camera really easy to use, even with the big ISO issues, but you can do just awesome B&W when the colors are not good. I have used aperture priority on almost all the frames and tried to put ISO160.

All the photos have little LR process, some B&W haven’t nothing to retouch.

I found the photos super sharp, and you can see the CCD Leica look, and you can get beautiful black and white pictures. The camera is not perfect but “After all, a photograph that is technically perfect that has no soul isn’t memorable.”

The next photos shows you a little what I got with my very first experience in RF world with the best RF you can get in a big beautiful city with a beautiful girlfriend as a model.

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Curiosity Numbers:

The prices are around 1900$ US for the used Leicas M8’s

Voigtlander SC 40mm 1.4: 459$ New

I bought a new Leica batery for 150$

first day: 66 photos

second day: 59 photos

3th day: 30 photos

Focus missed: 15

 

And here is some of my other work:

https://www.facebook.com/clickbyuriel

Jan 152014
 

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USER REPORT: The 35mm Voigtländer Nokton f/1.2 ASPH II meets the Leica M8.

By Elie Bescont

Hi Steve,

Opening this review section was a really good idea. I discovered very talented people here lately, like Neil Buchan-Grant who stroke me with his review about the OM-D E-M5 and E-M1. His portraits are amazing. Brett Price, also, delivered fantastic vintage looking images in his review about the M240. Bravo.

A few months back, I read your review about the 35mm Voigtländer Nokton f/1.2 ASPH II lens. You seemed to like it, and you made me want this piece of glass, because it’s a f/1.2 lens which delivers quite good images for a fraction of the price of the 35 Lux 1.4.

So, it’s done. I got it for around six months now, I shot thousands of pictures with it in France, Australia, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Japan, and I’m ready to share my thoughts about this lens. I decided to buy it after reading a review about it on this website, so I thought I should debrief about it here. Of course, since this is about the 35 Nokton 1.2 ASPH II and since I shoot it on the M8, all pictures of this review were taken with this combo. Here we go.

First remark, it’s quite a big lens for a rangefinder camera:

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Bigger than the 35 Lux 1.4 Yanidel uses:

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And nothing like my tiny 35 Summaron f/3.5 my girlfriend Marie shots on her M2:

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Still, it’s way smaller than a DSLR lens and its size is not a problem at all. I’ve been carrying it with me everyday for around six months and it was never bothering to do so.

Second remark, the finish is not that good. The paint goes away very easily, and ‘lens made in Japan’ quickly became ‘lens made in apan’. I don’t know that country. The ‘1.4’ indication on the aperture ring disappeared after three months of using this lens. But is it that bad? I could just get some white paint and get it fixed quickly, and considering the price of the lens, I prefer it to have a bad finish than a bad image quality or bad ergonomics.

And talking about this… Third remark, this lens feels really good in hands. Focus is smooth and easy, the aperture ring clicks, everything about this lens feels just right. Actually, it feels like having a Leica lens in hands. According to some friends who got the first version, this second one has a way better feeling.

The other important point is image quality. I use it on the M8 without an IR-cut filter and I fix eventual chromatic aberrations on Adobe Lightroom. As you may know, the sensor of this camera doesn’t have any IR-cut filter on it. The M8 sees the infrared spectrum, and this can cause chromatic aberrations. Black synthetic clothes look purple under artificial light, for instance. So, why do I use this camera without any IR-cut filter? As the camera sees infrared, its spectrum is not red + green + blue, but infrared + red + green + blue. As a consequence, the Leica M8 is one of the best digital cameras for black and white photography, because infrared adds dynamics in greys that other cameras can’t possibly get. Well, that’s all about the camera, now let’s talk about the lens. Images at f/1.2 are not razor-sharp, but you have to take in account the fact that this is a f/1.2 lens wide open. So, I think they are sharp enough. And you? This is a portrait of a random guy I don’t know, at f/1.2:

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Marie and the cat, big time, at f/1.2:

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A friend, Stan, at f/1.2 and ISO320, 1/45th:

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At f/1.4, it gets sharper. The portraits of Yanidel and Marie with her M2 above were shot at 1.4. Another one at 1.4, a portrait of Didier Bourdon, a famous French humorist:

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Colors are nice, the contrast is good, sharpness is there, the bokeh is quite nice, for around 1/4th of the price of a 35mm Summilux. I’m very happy with it, and even if it’s big for a rangefinder lens, it’s still small. Remember, rangefinder lenses are tiny. So, it’s a pretty good travel lens.

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But let’s get back to the jazzy city of Paris for the last ones:

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And a final bokehlicious picture:

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Here is what you can get with this lens.

Let’s summarize a little bit. Pros and cons:

+ It’s cheap for a 35mm f/1.2 lens.

+ It feels good and looks solid.

+ Good image quality for such a price.

 

– It’s big and quite heavy compared to other RF lenses.

– The finish is pretty bad, even if the lens looks good.

 

That’s all folks! I hope you enjoyed this review, and if you got this lens, I hope you agree with me on this. If you liked the pictures, you can follow me:

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DigitalFragrancePhotography

On Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/92813485@N05/

On Tumblr: http://digital–fragrance.tumblr.com/

On Twitter: https://twitter.com/ElieBescont

Or in the streets, but don’t scare the shit out of me.

Farewell and all the best,

Elie

May 242013
 

270084TheOriginalMonochrom

The Original Monochrom: The Leica M8 by Elie Bescont

Hi Steve, congrats on your new Leica M240 camera and thank you for having me writing outrageous crap on your wonderful website. Apologies to everyone for wasting your precious time, I am really sorry you chose to read this particular boring article that mainly deals with black and white photography.

To begin with, I would like to politely introduce myself: my name is Elie, I am 24 and I’m into photography for not that long. Like all other French people, I am an arrogant bastard and like all other Leica M users, I am quite handsome:

A self-portrait, hands down:

Leica M8 + 35mm Leitz Summaron f/3.5, ISO160, wide open, 1/30th.

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I would define myself as a street photographer, as I mainly use my gear for street photography, but I’m open to everything else. Actually, when I got my first camera only one year and a half ago (which was a little Lumix FS16), the only interesting use I could think of it was to photograph unknown people in the streets. Today, I just do the same thing but I use a more appropriate and traditional tool: a Leica M camera.

 

I don’t see photography as a way to capture reality, I see it as a powerful way to transform it, making it more dramatic. Thus, I mainly shoot black and white (well, that’s not literally right. I shoot color and transform my photos into black and white using Adobe Lightroom 4 and Silver Efex Pro 2).

Some of you may ask why I chose a Leica M camera, and I will answer this very good question right away. I chose it because a Leica M (from the M3 to the M240) is the best tool ever (according to ME) to keep in touch with reality, and I think it’s a good thing if your goal is to transform reality to keep things up with it. Also, it is small and not imposing.

And this is what “not imposing” means, for those who may not know:

 

“A smile to the unknown”

Leica M8 + 35mm Leitz Summaron f/3.5, ISO160, wide open, 1/250th.

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Some people think that it is virtually impossible to capture fast-moving objects with a Leica M because everything is manual on these cameras. It IS possible. Your camera cannot do it, so YOU can, or YOU can’t. If you can’t, just train a little bit. The only thing you have to do is to forget this little focusing patch in the middle of the viewfinder. You KNOW where your fingers are, so you know what’s on focus.

Leica M8 + 35mm Leitz Summaron f/3.5, ISO160, wide open, 1/1500th.

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Well… At this point, you may have noticed some little things about me: I’m stuck with ISO160 (I feel better this way), I shoot with a Leica M8 and a wide open 35mm Leitz Summaron f/3.5 from 1955, and I steal almost all my photographs. Even when I shoot a self-portrait, I try to steal it.

I like to give some info on my pictures when I post them, but now you know that I shoot ISO160, wide open with a Leica M8 and a 35mm f/3.5 Summaron, so I will only give you the shutter speed.

Why black and white? Well, it’s not that I don’t feel comfortable with colours…

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… It’s just that black and white photographs are just stronger to me, more expressive and more beautiful. And the Leica M8 is a GREAT camera for black and white photography. I love the work of classic photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau. It’s not only the beauty of the captured scenes that fascinates me, it’s also this powerful contrast. A powerful contrast you can easily get with old Leica lenses like the Summaron.

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The Leica M8 has a nice advantage for you, street shooters: it’s not a full frame camera. Yes, it can be an advantage. Like many street photographers, I like to shoot 50mm. So I put a 35mm lens on my cropped M8, that allows me to shoot 46.55mm (almost 50mm) with a small, discrete 35mm lens. It’s smaller and lighter than a 50mm lens, and the combo holds in my pocket.

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I met a lot of people complaining about how Leica cameras and lenses are expensive. One day, I was having a drink on a terrasse, and a man, smoking his cigarette, asked me why I had a 4300€ camera. I don’t smoke. I don’t spend thousands in cigarettes every year, I never did. Instead, I have a Leica camera wich will never give me cancer. Yeah, the Monochrom is quite expensive, the 50 Lux too. But do you really need it? Look:

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All the pictures you can see in this article were taken with a combo that costs around 1600€ nowadays. So you black and white lovers, if you think that the Monochrom is too much expensive for you, try the original Monochrom: the Leica M8.

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I tried the new Fuji cameras, also. They are nice, small cameras but the feeling of it is nothing like a Leica M camera. If you need a small camera but don’t have the money for a Monochrom, even for a M-E, before you fall for one of the new Fuji, try the M8. Make yourself this favour, it truly is a great camera.

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Most people tend to think today that they need the latest Leica body and lenses, and that they will never be able to enjoy taking pictures (and I mean taking incredibly good pictures) with something like the M8 and a Leitz lens from the 50’s. If your pictures are not amazing, please, don’t blame the 6000€ camera and the 4000€ lens. Maybe you don’t need it. Maybe you just need to go out and take more pictures. Maybe you just need a small but efficient camera and a good lens if you want to shoot black and white, and maybe you should try the M8 and one of these fine old Leica lenses from the 50’s or the 60’s. Maybe you won’t like it and maybe you will feel more comfortable with something like a Fuji camera, and it’s fine. The really important thing is to enjoy taking pictures. And it’s even better if the pictures are good.

I will now post more pictures of this amazing combo:

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Well, we are in 2013 and the M8 is still an amazing camera, like all the other Leica M cameras. My 35mm f/3.5 Summaron is 58 years old now, and it is still an incredibly good lens. The price of the M8 dropped quite a bit lately, and you may consider getting one of these precious “original Monochrom” cameras for yourself. What are you waiting for? Try one out and fall in love. Welcome to the Leica world!

Thank you Steve, once again, thanks to all of you for reading this. I hope some of you have learnt something helpful, and I hope you enjoyed my photographs. If you have any questions, just post a comment, I will try to give you a clear answer quickly. If you want to see more of my pictures, follow me or whatever, here you go:

https://www.facebook.com/DigitalFragrancePhotography
www.flickr.com/photos/92813485@N05/
http://digital–fragrance.tumblr.com/

Nov 032012
 

From Steve: Wow, look at this B&W quality from the old tried and true and quirky M8. The M8 always ha da great B&W quality about it and if you think about it, you could find a used M8 and use it as a Monochrom camera if you never want to shoot in low/dim light. The only thing holding it back is ISO and lack of full frame but the results from the M8 are always….classic. Thanks Vincent!

Hi Steve,

It’s been 13 years since I’ve welcomed our daughter to this world. Ever since that moment I am in a constant awe. Maybe that sounds a bit exaggerated to you or the many readers of your awesome site, but I can assure you that it’s a genuine statement. As your life is in a constant flux everything is impermanent, so is your parenthood. It’ being confronted with a new-born that you realize how fast it’s changing. A dear friend of mine gave birth to a beautiful baby boy recently and she not only gave me the opportunity to take photographs of their 5 days old child, but also asked me to use them for their birth announcement card. Obviously, that has been quite an honor to do. As I was taking pictures of their child, I had a flashback to the time that our daughter was a baby. Words cannot describe how your life changes when you become a parent. It’s not about being more happy or having a more fulfilling life. It’s just different…..and just….awesome.

The pictures are shot with my ‘old’ but trusty Leica M8 with the Voigtlander 75mm 1,8. Processed from RAW in Capture One and used with the Rollei Retro preset in DxO Filmpack 3. Hope you like it and good and inspiring enough to publish it on your site!

Regards,

Vincent van Kleef

 

Aug 152012
 

Dear Steve,

As a loyal reader of your site, I’d like to offer my thoughts on a digital vintage – The Leica M8.

We consumers/photo enthusiasts have the tough job of chasing the latest camera technology with our wallets and savings. We are always tempted to look ahead (M10, anyone?), and easily leave behind great machines that are barely 1 or 2 years old.

Case in point: Leica M8, a controversial product released by Leica way back in ’06 that was conveniently forgotten soon after M9 came out.

A month ago I had to send in my M9 to repair due to “chipped coating on the sensor” (sign of digital life span?) after just one year in possession. I needed an interim substitute that could offer me the same M-series built and handling. For the price of an X2, I purchased an M8 in pristine condition (thanks to dedicated Leica collectors in HK).

Immediately I felt connected to M8, because it was so similar to M9 in terms of look and handling.

Here are things about M8 I liked:

– 1.3 crop factor (not full frame, but still beats any mirrorless out there today)

– Interchangeable lens

– Rangefinder-style focusing (no need for EVF or LCD display)

– Leica M-series solid built and minimalistic handling

– Acceptable ISO up to 640, which in reality has ISO 800 sensitivity

– ISO 160 image quality almost as good as M9

– Same battery as M9, which means the camera could live on if M9 or Monochrom remain in production

 

And a couple of functions I wish M9 had retained from M8:

– Bigger text display on the menu pages

– dedicated battery indicator

I recently traveled to Locarno, Switzerland, and brought my M8 along with Pre-ASPH 35mm Summilux. The combo produced stunning images. I’d like to share some with you and your readers. With the imminent arrival of M10, the price of M8 will probably continue to fall. I urge anyone who’d like to get into the world of rangefinder photography to pick one up. f you are interested in viewing more of my pictures, please go to my website: www.dingyuinshan.com

Cheers,

Shan Ding

From Steve:

Don’t forget that the M8 requires the use or IR/UV filters for each lens you use on the camera! These are a MUST with the M8 if you want the correct color and IQ.

Jan 162012
 

 

USER REPORT: Vintage Glass is Fun
a Mini-Review of a 1961 Leica 90mm Elmarit f/2.8
by Amy Medina – DangRabbit Photography
Nothing too technical here, I just wanted to share my delight with a recent lens I got for my upcoming birthday (yes, I got my gift early!). It’s an old version 1 of the 90mm Elmarit, and what a joy it’s turning out to be.
I’ve wanted a 90 for quite a while, ever since last year when I found myself in a situation where the 50 just wasn’t long enough and there was no way to get closer with my feet. Two very interesting fellows were sitting in chairs conversing on the other side of small boat canal, and I only wished to have something longer to capture more of their wonderfully interesting personalities.
So I finally decided to take a chance with this old Elmarit. While I’d love a newer one, it’s just not in the budget for me.
It arrived on Thursday morning and I immediately set out to give it a try… down to a favorite marina on a misty day. This is one of my first shots with the lens, wide open, of a favorite subject:

 

This old Elmarit renders in a very classic way, with focus-fall-off that isn’t harsh or dramatic, but silky smooth. Wide open, the lens is surprisingly sharp. Contrast is more of what you’d expect in an old classic like this — the contrast is not at all punchy  — but lets face it, in the digital age we can always give contrast a little boost in post if necessary. It has a fantastic character about it, the way an old Summitar does (but the bokeh isn’t swirly). Straight out of the camera, the files have a vintage look to them, not in color, but in their rendering… and it takes to a retro-style post-processing treatment quite nicely.

 

The downside is that the lens is quite prone to flare. Though I didn’t get a hood with the lens, I’ve heard it actually makes little difference, and since it’s a bit long already without the hood, I’m not sure I’d use it anyway. It is something to be aware of though. The flare is of the soft hazy kind.
The lens isn’t heavy, but as mentioned, long. You can see in the photo of my camera with the lens mounted, it’s almost silly looking… almost. Focus is smooth, and the throw isn’t too long. Adjusting focus with the Elmarit is quite comfortable and easy, though with any 90 you’ll want to be sure your rangefinder mechanism is aligned properly. Luckily, mine is spot on, even after almost 5 years. I love my M8.

Also, focusing can be a little challenging with a long lens like this. I have a 1.25 magnifier screwed onto my M8 and it really does help in a big way. And I have one of the cheaper, “from Hong Kong” magnifiers I got on EBay and it works a charm.

 

Overall, for under $400 I am thrilled with this star-of-a-lens… and it’s a gem worth exploring if your budget doesn’t allow for a more modern 90, or if you just want to try some vintage Leica glass. I’ve been having a ball with it for the last four days, and though I was a little worried 90mm might be long for every-day use, it’s proving to be just a new focal length to explore, and a fun one at that.

 

and Follow me…
Thanks for reading and looking!
Jan 132012
 

Let It Snow!

By Allen Liu

Hi Steve,

Hope you had a great new year!

Here is my second blog entry to your great site (you can find my first blog entry about my trip to Hong Kong here…).

A few weeks ago, Julie and I decided to spend our winter vacation in Montreal, QC. I was particularly excited about this decision; living in California, I had never experienced a “white Christmas” before.

For the first few days there, the sky was clear, and temperatures dipped below freezing. We were actually a bit disappointed because we really wanted to see snow (I know people who need to shovel snow out of their driveways all winter long are secretly hating me now).

Then, on the last day of our trip, our prayers were answered.

A tiny Christmas miracle.

It snowed.

All photos are shot with one camera and one lens then post processed by Silver Efex Pro 2.

Please feel free to visit my Montreal album 

I hope you enjoy them.

Allen

 

Dec 272010
 

The Leica M8 vs The Sony NEX-5 with the Leica 50 Summarit Lens

Happy Monday to all, and again, Happy Holidays! Today I decided to do a quick comparison between two cameras that are still pretty hot. The Leica M8 and the Sony NEX-5. Many say the NEX-5 is a better buy than the older M8 because with the Sony you can use an Adapter to mount Leica M lenses and from what I have been hearing, many are saying that this yields better results than using the Leica M8. First off, shooting these cameras will bring you two TOTALLY different experiences. With the M8 I can shoot MUCH faster and with superb precision over the NEX-5 with the same lens via an adapter. The M8 is a rangefinder and the NEX-5 as we all know, is NOT.

I also know there have been articles here and there about the NEX-5 with Leica glass, but this time I wanted to see the NEX go head to head against the M8 in regards to image quality using the same lens.

So this comparison is only about image quality. Is the NEX-5 capable of better image quality than the M8? It does have more megapixels at 14 vs 10. It does have better high ISO performance as well but the M8 has the advantage (or so it seems) because it does not have an AA filter, so we should get more detail from an M8 shot than a NEX-5 shot with the same glass, right? Or is it ALL BOUT THE GLASS?

I wanted to find out! So thanks to SLR Magic who sent me their very well made Leica M to Sony NEX Adapter, I was able to try yet another Leica lens on my NEX-5. Also, thanks to Leica Dealer Ken Hansen I was able to shoot the M8 along with the 50 and 90 Summarit lenses. He sent them to me to try out for a while since I never reviewed the 50 or 90 Summarits lenses, so that was VERY cool of him! Ken seems to always have used M8’s in stock as well as the Summarit lenses, and he always has amazing service and prices. If you are looking for any new or used Leica, send him an email at [email protected] and he will get back with you pretty fast.

OK! On to the pics!

First, a straight comparison. These two images are full size files out of the camera from RAW. No PP involved. What do you see between the two?

First up, The M8 file…click on the image for the full size version – 50 Summarit at F4

now the file from the NEX-5 and 50 Summarit at F/4

In the images above it seems the NEX-5 edges are TEENY BIT softer than the M8 (when viewing the full size image at 100%) but the NEX-5 is still pretty detailed and sharp. This is not meant to be a good picture, just a test shot. Plus, it was mid day and the AZ sun is pretty hard. Still we can see the same image shot with each camera and the same lens.

Here is one more comparison between the two using the same 50 Summitar lens. In this one, the M8 file seems much sharper when viewing the full size file. Each camera has the 50 Summarit mounted and I shot these at f2/5

First the M8 file…

and the NEX-5 file…

In this one the M8 file is sharper and more vibrant with much more detail. This was all it took for me to see that the M8 is superior in regards to detail and even color. Also, the shooting experience for me was funner and faster with the M8. You do lose the high ISO capability, you lose the size advantage as the NEX is tiny, and you lose all of the whiz bang features of the NEX. Also, you would lose some cash. A used M8 is usually around $2200-$2600. Add the Summarit lens and you are at about $3600-$3800. The NEX-5 is $649 with a 16mm lens. Add adapter and lens and you would be at $2200 total. Still a load of cash huh?

One more quick “for fun” comparison…

First is from the Leica M8 with 50 Summitar at F/2

Now the NEX-5 with 50 Summarit at F/2.5

I did not add the M9 to this test because I usually see people comparing the NEX-5 to the M8. Yes the NEX can use Leica glass and YES it can provide awesome results, but the old M8 still stands above it just a bit for flat out IQ IMO. The NEX-5 and Leica glass combo is still pretty sweet though and the 50 Summarit lens is great on the camera. This is Leicas cheapest lens (that you can buy new) at about $1400 and it is a great little 50. It reminds me a little of the 50 Summicron but with a more modern signature. I still have not found a Leica lens I did not love :)

Below are a few more snapshots from both cameras.

NEX-5 – 50 Summarit – F/2.5

NEX-5 – 50 Summarit – F/2.5

Leica M8

Leica M8 at ISO 1250

Leica M8 and 50

Both camera combos offer great IQ and the Sony color can be very rich and deep when using Leica glass. But for me, the shooting experience goes to the Leica M8 and the overall versatility goes to the NEX combo. I like ’em both!

Again, thanks to Ken Hansen for sending me the M8 and lenses to try out for this test. I believe this used M8 that he sent me is for sale and it’s in perfect condition, box and all. If interested email him at [email protected] and ask him about the M8 I have right now. Ken is a great guy and he doesn’t pay me to mention him.

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