Taking Photos in “The City of Light” – The Leica M9 and Fuji XPro-1 in Paris by Ashwin Rao

Taking Photos in “The City of Light” – The Leica M9 and Fuji XPro-1 in Paris

By Ashwin Rao

Hello, everyone. It’s been a few months since my last post, though I have been quite busy, photographically speaking, trying to travel as my job and personal life allow and take photographs along the way. One observation that I have made, and this may be purely my perspective, is that people tend to take more photos with their newly purchased gear, and recently, the release of new gear has slowed down, as companies ready for big camera announcements at Photokina. The past year has seen the release many wonderful cameras have been introduced this year, many of which Steve has covered, including the fantastic Olympus OM-D, Fuji XPro-1, Sony RX100, Panasonic GX-1, Nikon D800, and Canon 5D Mark III. With Leica, there was this May’s announcement of the Leica M Monochrom, which has yet to see the hands of paying customers but a represents a camera full of promise. While new gear is always fun to try out and test, we shouldn’t discount tried and true gear as tools to channel our collective photographic muses. The release of newer products does in no way invalidate yesterday’s cameras of choice. Thus, while Photokina may see the release of a Fuji X200, Olympus EP-4, Leica M10, a professional Olympus OM-D, and many other tasty tidbits, the Fuji X100, Olympus EP-3, Leica M8 and M9, and OM-D will remain as amazing tools for capturing photos.




I wanted to take the time to celebrate my longstanding favorite camera, the Leica M9, and one of my new favorites, the Fuji XPro-1, as amazing photographic tools by which to grow my photographic skills. I used both cameras extensively during my recent visit to Paris this past July, and the exercise of photographing this city for a week validated my vision for the city by capturing it in the way that I saw it. We currently live in a golden age of photography, where cameras are truly fantastic tools for creative expressionism. Every camera will have strengths and weaknesses, and one should choose a camera that suits their needs and style, and go out and make images. For some, it’s the iPhone that suits their needs the best. For others, tech cameras with medium format backs are necessary to capture the required image. For me, over the past 6 years, the digital rangefinder has been the camera that suited my needs, and in particular, the Leica M9 was an digital realization of the ideal rangefinder camera. Remember that while the M10 may soon replace the M9 at the top of Leica’s supply and production food chain, the Leica M9 remains and will continue to be a fantastic tool for those who love rangefinder photography. Similarly, the Fuji XPro-1 is a fantastic option for people liking cameras in a smaller form factor, with rangefinder styling. It is far from perfect, with quirky autofocus being its primary issue, but the images acquired from its innovative sensor have the potential to wow both the photographer and his or her audience. Let me talk about my experience using these cameras, while walking the streets of Paris….





During my visit, I used the M9 about 75% of the time, preferring its responsiveness and build, and I used the Fuji XPro-1 about 25% of the time, particularly when the lights dimmed in the city. I found the XPro-1 to be wonderful for the street, but a bit challenging with faster moving subjects (even in street life with the motion of peole). The M9 in contrast, rarely, in the way… I have become so accustomed to the rangefinder way, that this, in large part, was why I used the M9 more. It’s a camera that I have grown intimately comfortable with, through travels in Egypt, Venice, India, and other far away places. It’s through the M9 that I have grown to be comfortable with the 35/50/90 mm way of seeing the world. That being said, once one learns its quirky and at times exasperating focus system, the Fuji XPro-1 will reward you duly with wonderful images. I have provided you with my perspective of this camera as well, in a separate article. In practice, the XPro-1 takes a bit more planning to use as a street camera. With both the M9 and the XPro-1, one must practice seeing the image before it actually happens. That being said, the autofocus of the XPro-1 can hold one back when capturing the decisive moment, in certain times when acquiring quick focus is necessary, but if you get the hang of pre-focusing with the camera, that is locking in on a field of focus by holding half way on the shutter release to capture the point of intended focus, you can then find your moment and capture it. Just pointing and shooting with the XPro-1 can be dicey as a way of shooting, so it forces a new way of setting up and capturing your shot. The M9, for me, was an easier tool to use, partly due to my familiarity, probably because I didn’t have to rely on autofocus to nail my intended plane of focus and quickly snap my image. I found that using both cameras at the same time was disconcerting, and I decided that a better way to use these cameras was to choose one to take out and use it for both its strengths and its limitations. Thus, on my trip, the M9 became my daytime camera, while the XPro-1 was often used later in the evening and night or when AF would be helpful. Ultimately, I feel that one should travel using a camera that they are comfortable with. In this way, the camera will not get in the way. For me, the M9 never got in the way, and when grabbing the camera out of the bag, the M9 came out ¾ of the time, compared to the XPro-1, which I had slightly less comfort with.



And yes, Paris, J’taime (I love you!)….what a great city it is….For any of you whom haven’t had the privilege of visiting Paris, please do. Paris is a city of great history, cultural diversity, and a vibrancy in its people and visitors that breaths a literal life into the paved and picturesque cobblestone streets . Many writers, photographers, philosophers and poets and travelers have romanced about the city for years. I myself visited the city as a youth, now nearly 2 decades ago, and have carried with me many fond memories that have added to my own romance with the city. It’s a city of its people, its coffee shops, its wonderful croissants and wines, its young couples in love, its museums and art, its glorious architecture, and endless activity. It’s a city of quiet alleyways, ageless cemeteries tucked in the midst of a bustling modern city, and grand churches full of gothic splendor. It’s the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph, and Sacre Coeur. And through the sum of its parts, it is much more. Go yourself, and you enjoy discovering this for yourself. To describe Paris doesn’t do it justice.




I had a wonderful opportunity to visit Paris this past July, as I have family members who live and work in the heart of the city. What an opportunity to travel and have a local guide (family, again) to show me the inner workings of the city. I’d almost always recommend this. If you know someone locally, see if they’d be willing to show you around. You’ll see so much more and get a feel for much more than if you stick to tourist routes. It’s been a longstanding desire to shoot the city using a rangefinder, which for me is a perfect “street” camera. I mean, if Henri CB earned his chops here, what better photographic playground could there be for a rangefinder nut like me. So off I set to “the City of Light”, M9 in hand. Along with the M9, I decided to pack my Fuji XPro-1, a relatively new addition, in order to test it out as a “street” camera. The XP-1 also offers the photographer amazing low light capacities, far superior to the M9 sensor’s ability in this venue, so I thought that the XPro-1 would be a nice tool for lower light work.



Lenses, you may ask? What did I bring? Well, along came a 21 mm Super-Elmar, 35 mm Summilux FLE, 50 mm Summilux asph, and 90 mm APO-Summicron. All of this fit comfortably in my Fogg-B-Laika bag, which is an AMAZING bag for all you small camera nuts. It is discrete and has the capacity to carry a lot of gear. This was the bag that ended my “bag acquisition syndrome” a couple of years back…I wish it cured my “gear acquisition syndrome (GAS)”, but I haven’t been quite so lucky on that front.

Once I arrived, it was immediately off to walk the streets. I had the great privilege of having family members, including my brother Pree and his fiancé Hadley (who writes a fantastic blog regarding life in Paris, http://laviemaraisienne.com; go check it out!), escort me around town so that I could gather the lay of the land.








Our journey began in the Marais district, where family lives. Le Marais has historically been a center for Jewish culture in the city, and has gone through many phases of evolution. In its present incarnation, it is a beautiful district of fantastic squares (le Place de Vosges), streets bustling with commerce and cuisine, and sleepy nooks where Parisian life really takes place. Le Marais was my home during this drip, and it served as an incredibly convenient starting place from which to see many of Paris’ sites. While thoroughly travelling through this district, I was able to visit many more places, primarily by foot. Paris is well known for its metro and bus routes, but it is a city best experienced by foot. For those who enjoy cycling, Paris has one of the most unique and well developed public cycling commuter establishments, with citywide access to drop off and pick up points for these bikes. One can easily rent these bikes by hour and experience the city by wheel (much less frustrating than Paris’ infamous traffic).





My journeys by foot, bus, and metro landed me all over the city. I visited all of the typical sites (Eiffel Tour, Monmartre, Notre Dame, les Invalides, the Latin Quarter, le boulevard Saint Germain. Along the way, I frequented many patisseries and boulangeries, visited expansive cemetaries, and saw the city from its alleys and from great heights and elevation. I sampled many baguettes and croissants, a crepe here or there, wonderful local and ethnic cuisine, and even 2 orders of escargot! So tasty! All of this, I saw in many instances, through the viewfinder of the M9 and XPro-1.

Here, I have posted a summary of my pictures taken and edited for you all, from the trip. I hope that you enjoy them:

SET: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashwinrao1/sets/72157630481465554/with/7558740324/

SLIDESHOW: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashwinrao1/sets/72157630481465554/show/

What I present to you beyond my words are my images. I hope that they motivate you to take your own photos, visit places both near and far, and enjoy the process of making your own images. Sith whatever gear you own and use. New cameras will come and go, but what remains are memories and the images by which you captured them. For me, the visit was a reminder of what wonderful cameras we already have, and what great tools they are to use to capture and preserve these memories right here, and right now!

Until next time, my fellow Huffites, farewell, and I hope that this post sees you well!

All the best,


P.S. A few more pics for your viewing….



  1. I was liking your photos so much that I paid little attention to what camera took which photo. BECAUSE, Ashwin, you emphasize that which is important. THE IMAGE. Look at HCB’s pictures. How many are critically sharp. Few. But the content of his photos is exquisite. You have talent and could take emotionally absorbing photos with a little point and shoot. The files…meh, not a factor. If you had done a blind test nobody would know the difference. Except those who are more interested in the equipment than the content.

  2. I’ve read your posts on this site, and while you might be a dyed-in-the-wool Leica apologist who would praise Leica if they put out a cardboard box with a small hole in it, but you’re actually a pretty good photographer, I have to say!

  3. Bonjour Ashwin!

    I always enjoy your pictures and your posts.

    Capturing, what I call, “the atmosphere” of Paris, where I grew up, is not easy task, and you did a superb job!

    As always, amazing pictures and a great/well written article on “the city of lights”, bravo!!!

    Keep up the Great work and Take care!

    PS: No big deal but I have to ask you this: I really enjoyed your “Pimp your Leica Part I” article, 01/28/2011, where is the promised part II and III, am I missing something LOL!?

    • Hi Richard, you are so right. Parts 2 and 3 have been long percolating, and I will try to get them put together soon! Sorry for the delay, and I hope that all is well!


  4. It has been almost ten years since I’ve been to Paris…this is a great reminder that I need to get back soon. You captured it really well, Ashwin–your shots brought back the feeling of Paris to me with all its varied scenes. And I completely agree with the idea that the only way to really discover is to walk as much as possible…great train system, but there’s far more to see above ground (and which is not so apparent by riding by in a bus or taxi). Thank you for sharing these and for the great write-up as well.

  5. Nice shots, great “photo walk” styles. I am a Fuji Xpro1 owner, but if I could afford the M9, I’d be all over it like a rash. 😉

  6. That’s an interesting article and I liked the variety in your images. It certainly was a nice trip! However, I’d like to shift the focus from cameras to lenses… you don’t mention it Ashwin, but I suppose you had the 35mm f1.4 on the X-Pro1. And as good as it my be, the comparison is against the two 35/50 Sumiluxes in probably their best versions! It’s the lenses, I think, the reason why most comments seem to prefer the images from the M9. Thanks for posting!

  7. Thank you to William J, Celia, Daniel, Brian, Dave, Anders, Ross, Richard, Davud, Mo han, and so many others above. It’s an honor and pleasure to share with you!

    • Ha, that’s great! Thanks, Evan! My real world gig, which keeps things interested!

      All the best,

      • You are a lucky guy, getting sideline views! I think this will be a good year if you are a Hawks fan! That new QB, Rusell Wilson looks great!

  8. Great article. I use a Leica M9-P; M4-P and Fuji X100 and like you its the M9-P which I use, its intuitive and I so dislike autofocus.

  9. Terrific Article Ashwin ! Looking forward to going to Paris next June on a 2 week river cruise ~ Your article has motivated me wish I was leaving tomorrow.
    Thanks for sharing !

  10. Thank you very much for sharing yet another set of brilliant photos Ashwin! I am such a sucker for your posts!

    I’m still stuck laughing on photo number 1 ;D

    Kind regards, Celia.

  11. Ashwin ..

    wow that is a wonderful journey 🙂 Paris.. Wish to be there one day 🙂

    all the pictures tells me story..
    esp the red bride photos.. Love it the most..

    thanks a lot for sharing all that


  12. Looking through your Flikr portfolio of your visit to Paris I would say that the majority of your photographs were taken on your Fuji X-Pro 1, and not as you say here that you reached for the Leica M9 most of the time – not that it really matters.

    Very nice images of that beautiful city, and you have caught that Parisian atmosphere very well. I also liked the portrait of your two friends with their dog – a lovely photograph and one for their wall.

    Liking my X-Pro 1 more and more, and it is nice to use an OVF once again, although the focusing took a few weeks to get used to – lovely image quality though.

  13. When I see Ashwins name on a thread my ears perk up.
    Beautiful set as always. I need you to give me some PP lessons :).
    Brian Palmer

  14. Very nice work and an inspiration for me as we will be in Paris for a week this next month and I am looking forward to getting out and about with the camera.
    I will use my M9 and an X2 as my high ISO / backup camera.

    Like you said you dont remember the gear your images were taken with in the future but the image you were able to capture.

    You are an artist Ashwin with light.

    I always enjoy your work.
    Cheers Ross

    • Very true. Thankfully, the M9 is an amazing photographic tool as is…. I think that we tend to forget these in our lust for new gear (I am guilty of this as well)


      • Greetings!

        According: “I think that we tend to forget these in our lust for new gear (I am guilty of this as well)”.

        +1 – count me in too (and I am quite sure Steve is another member of that club!


  15. Ashwin,

    Thanks for your wonderful imagery and writing. I got married in Paris last November, going back for the Xth time this November to celebrate our first anniversary. This time, an M9 will have the fun of joining us.

    Paris is a wonderful city, stuffed with nice people (as long as you at least try to speak French), and an endless supply of interesting subjects, no matter what you´re into. The city never lets you go.. 🙂


  16. Hello Ashwin,

    As always, brilliant photography and wonderfully written. My last visit to Paris was a number of years ago when I was only starting my own photographic journey. This article has only whetted my appetite even further to return to this wonderful city.

    • Thank for the wonderful compliment, Mike. It’s all that I hope to do with by photos, is to inspire and get people excited about photography and travel.

  17. Ashwin, your photography and words are inspiring, keep up the great work, thank you for sharing!!
    I was in Paris in the 90s, time for a return trip, love the City of Light!!


  18. Awww your pictures of Paris! Such a great city with cachet, I’d go back working there tomorrow morning.

    Thx Ashwin, it’s all your fault, now I want to go back!

    P.S. I prefer the M9 pictures, but they’re all great!

  19. Great photos, as usual Ashwin. But also, an uplifting read that encourages us to go out and shoot, whatever you have.
    I live in France and get to Paris regularly, and never tire of it.
    Did you get to Blvd. Beaumarches? It’s a street that has two or three camera shops per block. Also, there are often outdoor photo displays to be enjoyed. And, it has a fantastic gallery/museum, dedicated to photography which was actually Paris’s first city hall.
    Paris isn’t just a photogenic city, it’s a photographic city.

  20. Hi Ashwin,
    Stunning pics as usual. Your posts are always a visual treat. I went to Paris last year and enjoyed the atmosphere. It is such a beautiful city to photograph I sometimes felt that photography comes in the way of enjoying the city. One afternoon I even decided not to shoot a single frame. Couldn’t do that!!


  21. The XPro-1 holds its own against the M9 very nicely, with the added benefit of having much better high ISO capability.

  22. Ashwin. love the images, l’m glad you had a great trip. I’m taking my first trip to Paris next month and I’ll be taking my X pro-1 and all three lens. Debating on taking the D800 with some primes (28,50,105vr). Do you think its worth bring the DSLR due to weight or will the X Pro-1 be fine for all day use?

    • Hi Brian, i would take one kit or the other….Personally, I’d take the XP-1 for portability and discretion, but it’s a personal choice. THe D800 will bring home some fantastic captures as well…but at a much bigger size requirement for travel.

  23. Hey, Ashwin! Cool article and pictures! My favourite is “ashparis7”. Amazing DOF and detail!

    Just want to throw my two paisa on the bag issue. My bag-lust was cured, rather unexpectedly, by a very small bag (just 20x14x6cm) called Tatonka Cavalier. It takes my M9 and five (!) lenses, plus a small Nikon SB-30 flash, a spare battery, a lens cloth, and my passport/tickets/cards/money. All together at the same time. No kidding! It went with me all over India, Russia and Europe and I never wanted anything else for a bag. It doesn’t have any padding but hey I am a big man and I can protect my Leica. The best thing (apart from being really small) is that nobody in their right mind would ever assume there is about $10,000 worth of gear in there.

    The bag is pretty strong and looks cool (mine is all black), and it costs only 30 Euros. Here’s the link in case anybody’s interested: http://intranet.tatonka.com/infosys/php/artinfoe.php?1754_Cavalier

    The lenses I take with me everywhere (thanks to my small bag-friend) are: VC 15mm, Zeiss Biogon 28mm, Zeiss Biogon 35mm, Zeiss Sonnar 50mm, and Minolta Rokkor 90mm.

    Sometimes I take couple of lenses and flash out and take Fuji X100 along with my M9 and 3 lenses. Again, all in the same small bag.

    I don’t work for Tatonka, in case anyone thought so… Just an excited gear-head who wants to share his excitement.



  24. Nice photos and captured the life of Paris! You can clearly see the different between the M9 and X-Pro1, well I should save enough budget to get a M9 🙂

  25. Ashwin, great photos! I love my XPro1 but I miss shooting Leica and I think I might drop a few dollars for a used M9 in a year or so when the prices drop even further. As others mentioned I love the natural look to your photos, not too much PP.

  26. Thanks for sharing! They’re lovely captures.

    Just an observation that was triggered by post by Kristen Dowling the other day. It seems like today there is a popular trend of shooting wide open. With rangefinders like the M’s the photographer has to truly master controlling DOF, versus cameras like the Fuji X-Pro or NEX-7 and others in their category where you can rely on the camera’s IQ. I noticed in the M9 shots the DOF seems overly shallow, where more image detail would’ve helped the composition. Where as in your X-Pro shots the DOF was good but didn’t have that Leica-creaminess. Did you find yourself shooting wide open on the M9 (especially in the cafe and dining room shots)?

    Full disclaimer, for casual use I shoot with a M9 and NEX-7 and am always playing with DOF field control since the two cameras are so different in shooting styles. I’m always interested in what others are experiencing.

    • THe M9 has shallower DOF due to full frame, compared to the other cameras that you have mentioned, which have cropped sensors and hence more depth of field at any given aperture. I shoot at all apertures. I do like wide open imagery, no doubt, but sometimes, the details in the background help tell a story, and the aperture should be stepped down.

      • Great to see classic French body language, with waving arms, shrugs, and intense kisses. Americans aren’t as demonstrative (usually — I live in San Francisco.) And the first picture got a snicker. Biggest pissoir I’ve ever seen.

  27. Great pictures, Ashwin. My favourite pic is the first one, lol. I also visited Paris recently in June and can only agree with your detailed description about the city’s life. See my blog with my look through the rangefinder, if you like.
    Cheers, Frank

  28. nice article.

    have never had an experice of the fuji xpro-1 so can’t comment..

    but i love using m9. try and take it everywhere…sure there are a couple of issues but super happy with quality of prints…and that’s what it all boils down to

    me…i am holding out for an m11!

  29. Great coverage and passion for a wonderful city. A photographic playground Paris is. I’ll be there for a few weeks this fall and will be taking only my X100 and O-M5 with a 12mm, 23mm and the 45mm. Having been there several times before with my Hassy and DSLR’s in tow I’m looking forward to using and abusing these feather weights. Did you bring a light weight tripod with you?
    P.s. Great article, thank you for sharing your passion

    • Viewing the images, I was going to say something similar… but scrolling down I find you beat me to it!

      Over processed files aren’t my bag, either, and it is refreshing to see this atmospheric set of a city I know and love.

      I especially like the guy reading the map and the woman using her phone outside the crowded bar…

      Great work, Ashwin.

        • Thanks, guys! I do enjoy processing, and it’s always a fine line about how much to do. I have never been a huge fan of HDR or the overprocessed look, so I try to find my own balance in representing the image as I saw it with my own eyes.

          • My thoughts entirely, Ashwin.

            Looks like you work similar to me, observing and taking those ‘little moments’ that build a whole picture of your interaction with a place… most people look but never see.

            Tip #1: Check out the locality’s postcard selection. I always buy a postcard of the main attractions or monument of interest: they’re pretty much always taken in the best light and a from a vantage point I can’t get to!

            Tip#2: Never be afraid to keep the light levels low: if it’s dark and moody why spoil the shot by metering to make it look like daylight?

            Here endith the first lesson!

            Now… where’s my passport and the Eurostar website…

    • Totally agree. I haven’t used film in years, but the emphasis was often on realism and sublty. It seems to me only Leica is trying to bring this simple aesthetic to digital.

  30. Some very nice pics sir…

    Question though… Would you not be comparing apples with apples if you ran the XP1 alongside the M8 or M8.2? The Leicas’ are getting close to the Fuji in price terms, they are both similar in terms of crop factor?

    The M9 is a very different animal and a lot more expensive.

    • They are very different beasts on many accounts. The M9 and M8 offer a very different user experience than the XP-1, despite the looks of the camera. The XP-1 came with me for low light and AF needs, in a similar form factor. I agree that the comparison is difficult, but if I had to choose, it’d be the M9 all the way..

  31. Thanks for sharing Ashwin. As always wonderful photographs! I like your selects and prefer the look of the Leica files to the xPro1. I can’t afford to upgrade when the newest greatest gear is available. Plus I’m still trying to master my Ricoh GXR-M ; ). The body technology is already 3 years old and the M mount module almost a year but it hasn’t slowed me down and I enjoy working with the 12 megapixel files.

    Maybe in a couple years I can justify a used M9 once the Monochrom and M10 hit the markets!

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