India with the Leica Monochrom and 50 APO Summicron by Lee Sungsoo


India with the Leica Monochrom and 50 APO Summicron

by Lee Sungsoo

Hi , Steve

My name is Sung Soo Lee from South Korea.(Just moved in California 3weeks ago) I am a big fan of Unlike any other site, I can read real field reviews about gears- especially Leica , so I love to visit this site. I started using Leica M6 about 13 years ago. For many years I used Leica and other SLR , DSLR cameras together but now I use only Leica M9P and Monochrom with 50mm Apo summicron and 90mm Apo summicron and X2.As an amateur photographer , handy gear is more helpful for concentrating work.

For me , 50mm lens is the main angle in my works.

When I bought my first Leica , I couldn’t afford other lenses so I had to keep using 50mm summilux 4th for over 10 years. That’s how I’ve gotten familiar with this angle. I also love the dramatic effect of the lens and color. Then I had used the 50mm asph and summicron. Like other users , I agree that all the Leica lenses have different characteristics, which yields excellent results. Fortunately , I got a chance to own 50mm Apo Summicron – the very first one in South Korea- so much exciting things happened to me on February this year!

Some people were asking about the 50mm Apo lens. In my opinion, this lens is super sharp and has a much deeper color compared with other 50mm M-lenses in Leica.

Today, I ‘d like to share some pictures that were taken April, 2013 at Delhi and Jodhpur , India using 50mm Apo summicron lens.

One of my favorite photographers is Steve Mccurry.

Since the day I saw the pictures of Steve Mccury at Jodhpur , one of my dreams was going to Jodhpur for photographing.

Finally, a dream came true!! I spent incredible days in Jodhpur and India. I ‘d like to say thank you to all the people who I met during the trip- they welcomed me to their city with open arms and warm smiles. It was all very touching and I won’t forget the days I’ve spent there.

I hope you enjoy my pictures of India.

Have a wonderful day !

Best Regards,

Sung Soo Lee











  1. Well done! That said, I’d say, having lived/studied in India (Varanasi, U.P.) for a year, that India and Indians in B&W are rather abstract. Art? Yeah, I guess so. On the other hands, in-person India exudes a cacophony of colors and hues (and odors and aromas!) 24/7/365. Thus, color photography may give one who’s never been there, a closer feel of what the reality is like.

  2. Thank you for some of the best photographs I have seen, as a group, in a long time.
    Your work is a pleasure to see. “Stay Focused !”

  3. These are great shots. I agree with one of the other posts. Leica should employ you as one of their photographers. You absolutely know what you doing with your cameras. The photos in your posts definitely depict the humanistic side of India, Very cool.
    Best Regards to one of of Worlds Unsung Photographer,

  4. Great monochrome photographs. I suspect that you would take good photos regardless of what camera you used . . . that’s always the case. The photographer matters more than the equipment, otherwise we would no longer enjoy looking a Cartier-Bresson’s classic work. So, you. I don’t think these photos have to take a “back seat” to McCurry’s work. Not his whole body of work obviously, which is fantastic. Just these B&W images. I also like McCurry’s work, but at times I get overwhelmed with the color. No question that he gets magical color in his photos, to the point that I don’t think I could accomplish it even if he gave me his camera. But the color is often too strong for me and I wish he would do more in B&W. Yes, like you do! I have the M9 and have been resisting as hard as possible trading it in for the M Monochrom. But every time I see photos like this from the MM, I start to swing back again towards buying one. Yes, you would have taken similar great photographs with any modern camera, but I am still convinced that they were better (and better enough) because you used the MM. Congratulations. You’re safe as long as McCurry sticks to color.

  5. Due to my budget constraints, I’ve also had a 50mm for around 3 years . . . I’m really impressed with your work! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Fantastic images ! I really love your work, and your Flicker’s pages. And what a démonstration about what can be do with a 50mm in street photography, just like HCB. Some 35mm lovers should try !

  7. Nice photos, but you stated that the APO Summicron “has a much deeper color compared with other 50mm M-lenses in Leica”. A bit difficult to see the deeper color with BW photos.

  8. Stunning in an abstract way. Having lived in India (Varanasi, UP) for a year, I find that India is not B&W but color. It’s rampant in colors. B&W expresses an artistic vision or visualization of life and people there. Color its reality. It’s more than apples and oranges though.

  9. Well…I for one, do think Lee has made an outstanding work here. His images have a strong theme, careful composition, and a very human approach to documenting the india trip. I don’t think his images are over-cooked either, he has used a modern post processing look, with punch, contrast, and clarity, but the images are good enough by themselves, they are not “hiding behind pp”, if you know what i mean.

    Even though the man has clearly spent quite a few $$$ in his leica gear, in my view, that makes the images ever more impressive, as anyone who has shot a leica knows how difficult it is to master that beast.

    Anyway, just my 2 cents. Keep up the good work!

  10. It really hurts my eyes whenever I read “Outstanding”, “Fantastic”, “Magnificent”, “blablabla” just because the photos are taken with a Leica.
    In France, we call it the “Snobisme Leica”…

    Give a disposable film camera to Lee, and the result would have been the same.

    Great photos Lee, indeed. But I’m not fond of the post-processing though…

  11. Restricting yourself to the 50mm was a good choice for you. You obviously have the knack for that FOV. I saw one of your images in a flickr gallery earlier this week but did not have a chance to really check out your stream. I shall have to go back and take an indepth look. Very nice work, Lee!

  12. Hard to pick a favourite Lee but I love the 2nd and the 6th especially. I think you’ve just made the queue for the MM a bit longer!

  13. Unquestionably these are some of the best images I’ve seen. My favorite is the little girl peaking out of the train. You can’t see her full face, but one can understand that she is full of wonder. The subject, lighting, tonality, sharpness and that little bit of background bokeh are fantastic. Well done!

  14. Quite a challenge with monochrome; #3 looks like it may have been better served with color but the others are very evocative and gritty.

  15. Your pictures are better then Steve’s, his are too polished and so called pretty. Keep the rough poetry up!

      • Thanks, PP? I don’t have any typical steps in pp with Lightroom. I am just follow my feeling .. I am pretty much sure Monochrom will give you more greater quality DNG file than M9.

        • Hi Sung Soo, Wonderful pics! I finally just got the same setup as u! (3 weeks ago) MM w the APO 50mm. Waited so long for this lens! May i ask if u can share how to increase the contrast on LR4 to get this effect? What were the basic tools u used? So far i get nice pictures, but can’t seem to get them as contrasty as yours.

          Thanks! Wei

          • Hi, Wei, Congratulation ! That’s one of the beautiful combination of lens and digital body. : ) Lightroom is great tool for post processing. I often use “adjustment brush”. I believe you will make your own creative final picture.

  16. Lee, thanks for sharing. I have already seen part of your work on Flickr – and was excited. To be honest, you made me order the 50 APO two months ago. My favs are #2, #4, #6 and #8, with #4 being the strongest in my oint of view.

  17. I do love the composition and the tension of the seventh shot with the window guy. I like square crop too (I shoot quite exclusively with old film TLR cameras). You got the knack!

  18. Ok, finally some good natural, not over processed Leica Monochrom pics that allow us to see the unique qualities of this very expensive lens and sensor.
    Nice contrasty B&W with a good photojournalist look.

  19. Just fantastic! I saw those images on LFI gallery and have bookmarked the 2nd one as one of the best there.

  20. I spent 3 months in India and never got shoots like these. These pictures would be great taken on any camera, but on you Monochrome they look 3D, echoing someone above, what camera settings did you use (out of interest in case one day a monochrome ends up in a basket on my door step) and what post processing did you do. Once again great work.

    • I don’t think it’s that people love taking pictures of poverty in India, it’s just that India is so different than what we see everyday here in the west that just about everything we see there is interesting. I just spent 2.5 weeks in India this past June and it was an amazing experience. Yes I saw a lot of poverty but didn’t go into India thinking about taking pictures of ‘poverty’ and these excellent photos remind me of the normal everyday life of people that I saw there.

      I especially like the train photos. Reminds me how much fun and frustrating railway travel in India is. Where else can you travel thousands of miles and see 5 different cities for less than $150 USD for a family of four.

    • Thanks for sharing the Brihat’s site. There has been many improvements in the life of poor people in India in the past 50 years but not at the same pace for the tribals, the casteless, and the slum dwellers. And the rupee keeps falling….

  21. These images are absolutely gripping – like it’s more than just seeing something. And I am very interested in your use of 50mm where so many swear by 35mm for street.
    As usual for me, they wouldn’t lose anything by less contrast and a more subtle grey scale (I don’t mean softening). But that runs counter to current MM style. Thank you for sharing.

  22. Great shots but I love the pic on the train rails….it looks like “Walking Dead”. One thing that I have to say though is that your pushing a lot on clarity, IMHO, and some of the lens characteristics have been disappeared.

  23. Great work, Sung Soo. I love your style and effective use of the MM and the 50 APO. Your style and love of McCurry show through here…keep up the great work, and enjoy California

  24. Great pictures Lee. You have managed to capture India without any trace of the ‘tourist’ shots showing beggars and dogs. I particularly like the 4th and 7th pictures for their candidness. Thanks.

  25. Great photos and you have captured what Leica is so good at. Leica should replace some of the photos on their website with your photographs, as I think your’s capture the Leica experience a lot better. Wonderful work.

  26. Nice surprise when you are expecting an Indian burst of colour to see such beautiful black and white pictures. Like the commenter above me I agree that it is very hard to single out favorites. And I normally do not have any trouble with that.

    Thanks and greetings

  27. Wow, these are quite something! It’s hard to single out just a few as my favorites. This is what I want to become as a street photographer.

  28. Some amazing work presented here! I have always wanted to visit the mysterious land of India, the people and culture there are fascinating to me. Congrats.

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