Updates and Q&A Wednesday is back! – December 1st 2010

Q&A Wednesday is back, but first some updates…

Looking for unique, fun, helpful and inspiring guest posts!

Hey guys! It’s Wednesday and I am happy to say I am returning the Q&A Wednesday posts/column/article. Not sure what it is but I have been revived lately. I have a new energy and a new drive and I have decided to put even MORE time in to  this site (I already sit half the day working on it and the other half out shooting!) to pump it up to the next level. Right now I am writing a few new articles and am also looking for more guest articles from all of you! This site has always been about the community and those with a true passion for photography. Doesnt matter if you shoot for a living or just shoot flowers in your yard, what matters most is that you are having FUN doing it!

So I am putting out a calling for those with passion. If you have anything you would like to share with this community of passionate photographers who are just like  you send me an e-mail and let me know. I always love to see cool articles that inspire and help others and I can’t do it all! With that said, I am happy that all of you come here on a daily basis. Traffic is UP again and November was my biggest month yet with over 680,000 visits! It’s awesome to share thoughts, opinions and info with like minded people and the past guest articles have been all of that and more! Let’s keep it up!

UPDATE – The Forums

The forums have now been up for one month and i managed to get 1000 registrations in November! Not bad at all and so far the conversations have remained 100% civil. I have not had to moderate ONE post so that is awesome 🙂 Goes to show the quality and class of the readers here, and that is what I hoped for when I launched them.

Feel free to register for the site (it’s free and I would NEVER use your email or info..as a matter of fact, I do not even see it) so you can participate in the forums. I am also taking suggestions for forum topics because it has been 30 days and I want to remove the ones that are not getting traffic and maybe add one or two that you would like to see. Let me know! You can check them out HERE..feel free to participate!

Q&A Wednesday!

The following questions are all REAL questions that have been e-mailed to me in recent weeks or months. Instead of answering every single e-mail I receive (sometimes 200+ a day) this weekly post will showcase many of the questions along with my full answers. Enjoy!

I’ll start off with a long one…

Question: Hey Steve, I’m a fan of your site, love your write-ups and reviews. I need your opinions on rangefinders based on your experience, expertise. Basically, I started photography with a DSLR only to take photographs of my family and document the arrival and growth of my baby. I have very little experience with film compacts and SLRs. I love take pictures that captures moments, expressions, emotions and I would say Street Photography is the genre I am very attracted to. I want to get a rangefinder to do all those and rangefinder is my choice for its inconspicuousness and weight. I like to keep a somewhat close distance to my subject to have at least some kind of interaction but not disrupting whatever they are doing. So, I’m torn between going film or digital. I love how I can take pictures with digital and view it instantly. I am also very receptive to learn how to right from basics and understanding light and how film photography can be different from digital. I also love how film render the images I’ve taken with the details, contrasts and such. My question here is, would you advise a newbie like me to go digital or film? With my financial capabilities, I am only allowed to get either a M6 TTL or M8/8.2. Please shed some light. Appreciate your comments and help. Hope to hear from you really soon. Regards, Jimmy

ANSWER: Hey Jimmy! Thanks for the question and the details. This is a tough one because the whole film/digital debate continues to go on and on. One one side you have your pro film guys who love film to death and shoot their film 98% of the time. They swear by film and say its the best. No contest. On the other side you have your digital guys who say film is drying up, its dying and way to expensive and time consuming. They say digital is the way to go and much cheaper.

I have a little bit of both of those sides in me…

I LOVE film. I LOVE the Leica M film cameras. I also LOVE digital and the M9 is the ultimate digital RF in my opinion. What you need to do is lay out the pros and cons of each system before you decide. When you DO decide, you need to make that choice for yourself based on your needs and wants.


An M6 TTL is a beautiful camera. It feels better than an M8 and is thinner. Shooting film can yield wonderful results and choosing your own look is just a matter of choosing a certain film stock and lab. FIlm has latitude (print film and B&W) and is pretty forgiving. Shoot some Tri-X on the street with a Leica 50mm and you are guaranteed to get that classic look to your photos.


Film is expensive these days. Buy a roll of film for $5-$10 and then it has to be processed. You get 36 exposures and one ISO/ASA. When I was shooting loads of film the cost was killing me. I was spending $up to $30 a roll between the film and the processing and scanning. If you scan yourself be prepared for several hours behind your computer. Sure, film is nostalgic and fun but can be costly and  time consuming. You have to ask yourself if the beautiful and timeless looks are worth it to you.


An M8.2 is a very nice camera. Build is nice, and in black paint it is the sexiest digital ever made IMO. The shutter is quiet, and you get instant feedback. Shoot 10 images or 1000 and you have them all right there and ready to unload to your computer. I have taken some of my best images with an M8/M8.2 and it is a camera that is near and dear to my heart. Plop on a 35 Lux 1.4 and be wowed.


Expensive even used and you can only buy these used these days. Expect to pay anywhere from $2800-$3700 for one depending on condition. The M8.2 sensor is a little dodgy after ISO 640 and after that it is all about exposure. Get that right and you can shoot at 1250. The M8.2 absolutely needs IR/UV filters or else you will get some nasty magenta and purple colors to things you could have sworn were black :). Some M8.2’s may have tens of thousands of shutter fires on them so you have to be careful when buying used. Other than that, the M*.2 is a nice and solid camera.

Good luck Jimmy and thanks for the question!

Question: Hey Steve! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! You are getting me all gear-lusting again. Thinking about getting the NEX to replace my EP2. The high ISO and faster AF is the selling point for me. A few questions though.

1 – Does using Leica lens significantly improve the sharpness of the images? If yes, can you please post a few photos in your website or email them to me?

Answer: Yes, Leica lenses will be sharper on the NEX due to the softness and distortion of  the kit lenses. Actually, the kit lenses are great for what they are but they can be a but soft in the corners and the thing that bugged me most about them was the distortion. Leica lenses do not distort so yea, they will be cleaner, sharper and have no real distortion on the NEX. BUT…shooting Leica lenses on the NEX can be slow as you will be all manual focus. Keep that in mind. I posted a few samples HERE.

2 – When using MF lenses, does the NEX automatically magnify the image in the LCD screen upon the turn of the focus tab, or is the user required to press a button (or two)?

Answer: You have to press the button but it’s quick and easy. No complaints.

3 – Do you believe it’s worthwhile spending $100 – 200 extra dollars (depending on the kit I get) to get the NEX5 instead of NEX3?

Answer: The extra $100 is well worth it IMO. Better body, better grip, better HD video, and smaller. I tried both and much prefer the NEX-5. Worth the $100, YES.

4 – Which would produce better image at ISO400? NEX + 28 Elmarit or Leica X1 or M8.2 + 28 Elmarit?

Answer: I get this ALL the time and honestly I am not qualified to answer as I have not done this test side by side. From memory, I would venture to guess an M8.2 and 28 Elmarit would give you the best file, followed by the X1 and then the NEX. All would be good, but the M8.2 sensor is highly capable though it doesn’t have an ISO 400 setting. 🙂 There is no AA filter on the M8.2 so you will get a fantastic file. Then again, the NEX is damn good as well but the whole thing…IQ, and usability goes to the M8.2 IMO.

Thanks again for a great website. I’m also VERY happy to see that you sound much happier than a few months ago. Best regards, Armando

Thanks Armando!

Question: Hey Steve, I´m lookin´ for a new camera, it must be small & light weight, a “all in one” model, and I think it must be a LEICA. My approach is of an ambitioned amateur. I found your site and like it very much, cause it seems to be on daily reality and not even on artificial labority data sampling if you know what I mean (I hope my English is not that bad and you understand what I´m trying to say !!). I read your reviews about the X1 and the D-Lux 4, they seemed to be very helpful to me, but there are some few questions I´d like to ask to you.

* Is the quality of the X1 really worth twice the price of the D-Lux 4 ? The pictures will be shown on a 24″ Mac screen or printed in DIN-A 4

Answer: Yes, the X1 quality is MUCH nicer and costs MORE than twice as much as a D-Lux 4. The X1 has an APS-C sized sensor which is much larger than the small sensor in the D-Lux 4. Therefore, with the D-Lux you will get more grain and noise, especially at ISO’s above 400. The D-Lux 4 was best in class for a compact but the X1 came along and overtook it. The X1 is great but comes at a high price, and it’s slow AF is a bit frustrating at times (though there is a firmware update coming that will fix this).

* Has the new D – Lux 5 the same quality as the D – Lux 4 ?

Answer: Pretty much, yes. I found the D-Lux 5 to be slightly better than the 4 in the IQ dept but also likes its new 1:1 feature on the lens barrel as well as the much improved HD Video capabilities. The D-Lux 5 is my favorite *compact* camera under the X1. Great photos can be had and it’s AF is super fast, much faster than the $2000 X1 but again, the smaller sensor kind of kills its performance at high ISO’s when compared to the X1.

I would be happy if you could send me a short note about that. Thanx for the time that it may take, best wishes and greetings from Klaus (Hamburg / Germany)

Thank YOU and Happy to help!

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  1. The film vs. digital debate continues, although it is really a matter of personal preference now. I can give my experience shooting a number of film cams plus digital.

    Digital is soooo much cheaper and faster. I also spend about $28 per roll for film, processing, scanning, postage etc. all in (NCPS in San Diego). Shoot 40 rolls a year, which is not that much, and you’re looking at almost $1200 in annual costs. Also, I usually save up several rolls before I ship them off, so it can be months before I actually see the results. With that said, I’ve had some great results on film. You can process yourself if you use BW film. With care you can get the cost down to maybe $1 a roll of chemicals. However, then you’re looking at another $900 or so for a good scanner (Epson V700) and darkroom equipment, not to mention a lot of time spent developing and scanning instead of shooting. So, a used M6 at $1100 plus $900 pus $200 for film and chemicals for one year (40*$5) equals $2200 or about an M8 price. If you’re wondering if you like film, I would just get a cheap/classic film camera like an Olympus XA ($50) or Nikon FE ($150 with lens) or Olympus RC ($125?) or Contax T2 ($250) and give it a try. You’ll either love it or hate it. Film makes you have a lot more discipline, no wasting shots.

    If you’re the kind of gear geek that buys $5000+ digital cameras, or three or four $1000 cameras, the constant depreciation (“digital rot”) can add up to more than the annual costs of film, making film cheaper.

    If you like digital and don’t want to swing for an M8+lens at this time, why not get a Panasonic GF1? The kit with the 20mm lens is about $700 these days. It’s a lovely camera, although the lack of an adequate viewfinder is a stopping point for me. I’m waiting to take a look at the Fuji X100. You can get an Olympus E-P1 with 17mm lens and optical VF for about $500 these days, check eBay. That’s definitely the cheapest option, and produces great results.

    For me, I shoot digital 85% of the time, and put a few occasional rolls through my film cams. My film cams are presently filling a “compact/quality” niche between my S90 and D90. With that said, the only two shots that ended up matted and framed on my wall this year were on Tri-X — no fooling around on Aperture, no cropping, just printed them straight off the scan.

  2. Film isint that expensive, especially if you go the home procesing route (bnw that is). BnH has Neopan for 2.69 for a 36 exposure roll, little cheaper if you get kentemere film which is ilford. Chemicals to develop 20 rolls adds up to around 15 bucks for me, so for 20 rolls your looking at 60 – 70 bucks, add in starting costs of a patterson tank and a few containers and thermometers etc.

  3. Another film vs digital comment….

    If you want a full frame digital (or even close) in a rangefinder, it’s very expensive, the RD-1 being the cheapest, and still expensive.

    Sure an M6 is also quite pricey, but it’s far from the only option, a Bessa is in many ways the better camera, and much less expensive, spend the change on film. If you don’t mind an SLR, get a Pentax MX/ME or something, nice manual camera, for next to nothing.

    If you don’t mind your camera coming sans red dot, then film photography can be very, very cheap, with exceptional results. I’m not having a go at Leica, I use an M6, and like it a lot, but the results are indiscernible from any 35mm camera with a decent lens.

    For me, the downside of film, is not the cost, but the hassle of scanning etc…

  4. The film guys always show up with these questions. I would also like to add that one might be surprised how long it takes to shot a roll of 24 to 36 pictures. Unless your using a motor drive and are making a living shooting film, I bet you become incredibly selective with your compositions.

    • Depends on the subject, on my last holiday I used 16 rolls of 36 exp. film in 10 days, which for me is quite a lot. Often though, a roll will sit in my camera for weeks if I don’t feel I want to shoot much. So Brian is right, selectiveness is part of the point, but not the big reason for me.

      Only one of my cameras has a motor wind, and it’s the one I used the least, a motor wind does not make any difference to me.

  5. Nice set of questions and answers Steve. I only have one little cat to throw amongst the pigeons. I wonder if film is in fact more expensive, or, indeed is it cheaper. I refer to this handy website:


    According to this site, adjusted for inflation a 2010 price of £3.39 for a roll of Tri-X would have been £1.10 in 1980. If you use something like Fomapan, it’ll go less than £1. I don’t ever recall film being quite that cheap in the 80s. Maybe it was, but I’m willing to guess if it is more now, it’s not by much.

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