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Leica m9 Uncategorized

Stunning French mill for sale

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‘Come and eat with us chez nous’ said my new friends Jean Francois and Cristelle. Nothing could have prepared me for where they lived. My jaw dropped and my eyes opened wide. I was speechless, those who know me know how rare that is. I was simply blown away.

Let me try and paint a picture if I can. We drove down small roads through stunning countryside, rolling hills splattered with brown cows, through forests of pine and along narrow lanes so little used that the centre of them was green. After a while we broke out into a clearing, over a bridge. ‘We’re here’ said Henri, park anywhere.

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Towering over their granite house is a viaduct, an extraordinary structure which is now condemned but it’s still imposing and makes an impressive backdrop. The sound of the river is constant, a wonderful white noise that immediately relaxes you and makes you start looking for a hammock to chill out in.

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The river is fed through various channels which can be opened or shut depending on the need it then runs under the three story mill house where its power can be harnessed to produce 12kw! of power from a massive cast iron turbine in the bottom of the mill.

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Way back in the 16th century the mill was granted unlimited and free use of the water in the river by the king of France himself. That law is still in force today making this mill an extremely unusual and unique property. The use of water in France is heavily regulated but thanks to this ancient law the owners of the mill can do what they like with it.

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There are no neighbours. All one can hear is the constant and soporific burble of running water. It is an absolutely stunning spot. It’s about as close to heaven as we mortals are ever likely to get.

Jean Francois and Cristelle had a calm, peaceful and laid back demeanor and I can completely see why. I suspect I would too if I lived in such an amazing place. Over baked oysters! I asked why they wanted to sell and it’s easy enough to understand, with the kids grown up and flown from the nest they are looking for a place a bit smaller.

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Over the years they have done an extraordinary amount of work to the place and it is in excellent condition inside and out. Jean Francois is a surveyor so you just know the property has been restored not only well but to all the French norms. Cristelle is a remarkably talented interior designer with a unique touch which really makes their house a home.

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Personally I think they are mad to sell the place but I do understand. So how much will it cost to own this absolutely awesome and unique place? They are asking 1.2m€ which is a pittance for what it is. Sure, there are cheaper places in the region but how many mills like this do you think there are? And how many of those are for sale? Answer: None!

What an incredible family get away home this would make or perhaps a gite or perhaps the original mill could be reinstated. There is so much potential especially with unlimited use of the water running past. The river runs all year around. The house gets sun all day long.

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In this ever more crowded and noisy world places like this are fast becoming extremely desirable. I’d buy it myself but I’m about 1.19m€ short! Jean Francois and Cristelle are super people and willing to discuss all reasonable offers. They are in no hurry and I can understand that too. I’m not sure life after such an awesome place will ever be the same.

For those who don’t know the Limousin area of France I can tell you that a more beautiful area can scarce be imagined. Secluded but not isolated. Welcoming people and stunning countryside and wildlife. If you love nature and peace and quiet you will feel very much at home.

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Please email info@woodenwidget.com and I’ll be happy to pass on your enquiry to them. I wonder who the lucky new owners will be.

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Leica m9

Why I won’t be buying a Leica M/M10/type 240

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It’s hard to believe that’s it’s coming up 4 years since I have had my M9 but time flies and now Leica have brought out the M9’s successor, the M or as most people are calling it, the M type 240 or even the M10. It’s all a bit confusing. Leica always go their own way and I’m glad they do or the M9 would never have been made! However I do feel like they have shot themselves in the foot by simply calling it the M. It’s never easy to understand the thinking behind these things but you can be sure of one thing, if Leica chose it there will be a good reason behind it.

The name thing could turn out to be a very clever move. Consider this: The M 240 is surely the last evolution of the M3 which first came out in the 1950s because there is no where else to go with it. The screen is as big as it can be. The viewfinder now has led frame lines. Any big changes they make will turn the M into something else. So with this in mind Leica can upgrade the M 240 without needing to introduce a new model in the future. The sensor could be upgraded and with firmware updates the M 240 can be kept fully modern. If this is the case, I like it. We live in such a disposable world these days that it is a nice thought that one could buy the M 240 and keep it for decades while never losing out on the latest technology.

When the M 240 was first mentioned I was excited. It sounded perfect. Like Leica had taken all the things that annoyed M9 owners and fixed the lot but I suspect I was just being swept along by the positive reviews and comments. Unlike many others I quite liked the idea of being able to do video and to use R lenses but now that the novelty has worn off I am not so sure.

To work out whether or not I was being objective I went back to the reason why I love my M9. I love it because it is full frame and compact. The M 240 is 10% bigger and 10% heavier. That might not sound a lot but I consider the M9 to be at the limit of what constitutes a light and compact camera so that extra 10% in size and weight will be noticed by me. It is a real shame that Leica have not tried to reduce the size of the M 240. Every evolution of the M seems to be bigger than the last. Just hold an M6 in your hands and then handle an M 240 and you will realise just how much bigger and heavier the Ms are getting.

My original idea was to buy an M 240 and put the 21mm 3.4 on it. That way I can use the extra ISO ability to compensate for the lenses lack of speed. I would keep the 50mm 1.4 lux for the M9. I wouldn’t have to change lenses and that would keep dust off the sensor. But the reality is that I would never use my M9 again as my most used lens is the 21mm. So if I wanted two lenses I’d have to carry two bodies. That’s just silly. For me, the whole point of an M camera is that it is compact enough to be carried on my person at all times. (here’s how I carry my M9) I have another small pouch that carries one lens and it goes on the same belt as the camera.

All this talk of high ISO seems to me to be rather pointless. How quickly we have all forgotten how we would be happy with a film of 100 ASA with no chance to change it yet now even the M9 can take perfectly good pictures at 1000 ISO, already three stops better than we were used to. But the bottom line is that photography is about light. If the light is so poor that you need 3200 ISO then chances of getting a good picture are slim anyway. Maybe many use the extra ISO to allow a faster shutter speed but that has rarely bothered me with an M camera as a steady hand can easily allow shots taken at 1/15”. What I am saying is that I think the extra ISO is overrated and not reason enough to buy the M 240.

The new M is weatherproof. Well, from what I have experienced and heard from others the M9 had no problem being outdoors in the wet (within reason obviously) and after all Leica have long said that their cameras will work in any conceivable situation that you find yourself in so a bit of dampness has never been a problem and it is rare that I find myself taking pictures in the rain so again, this is something that is nice to know but has yet to be a problem for me with the M9.

The video option is certainly intriguing but again reality steps in. For much much less than a M 240 and lenses there are a lot of purpose built cameras that can do much better than the Leica. Many of which have image stabilisation and other clever features like zooms. Of course one could use the R adapter and use it to make video but for that kind of money it would be possible to buy some really choice video equipment.

The R adapter is another feature that seems helpful but that would mean having the lenses in the first place or buying them if you don’t. More expense and for me, the simpler the camera and the fewer the lenses the better. Anything that stops you taking pictures should be avoided.

This brings me on to one of the main reasons why I won’t be buying an M 240. It takes almost two seconds to boot up. This is ridiculous. The M9 boots up in a flash and can take pics almost immediately. If you want to miss the moment get a camera that doesn’t boot up immediately. I know because the Digiliux 2 I had was the same and it was extremely annoying. For this kind of money this is very poor.

Then there’s the max shutter speed of just 60 seconds. This is useless. Even the M9 can manage 4 minutes and often that is not enough either but it’s a lot better than 60 seconds. I love taking long exposures at night so with the M 240 I won’t be able to. Like the time it takes to boot up, it’s another situation where the M 240 has gone backwards.

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With a maximum 60 second exposure time, shots like this with lines made by the movement of the stars will no longer be possible.

Personally I care nothing for the bigger screen or live view. These are just toys which distract you from taking pictures. With decades of practice I can focus an M while another photographer is still deciding what kind of auto focus would be best for the situation. If Leica removed the screen and the menu I would be quite pleased especially if it meant they could reduce the size and weight back down to M6 levels. (here’s an article about a Leica M with simple features and if the comments are anything to go by, I’m certainly not alone in liking this idea.

Everyone is going on about the new menu. Well I never had any problem with the old one. I mostly set the camera once and never touch it again. I used to use the profiles when I first got the M9 and was forever using the wrong profile. It’s just too easy to forget to return the settings after use so an improved menu is of no gain to me.

More battery capacity? This has never been an issue for me in the past and if I thought I might be taking hundreds of pictures I could just take along a spare battery. And that leads me on to yet another reason why I won’t be buying an M 240. Yet another set of batteries, cables and chargers!!! ( Here’s a suggestion for an emergency battery on the M9)

And lastly, I really don’t like the look of the M 240. I love the way the M9 is cut away at the outside by the viewfinder, although it doesn’t reduce the dimensions particularly it does make the camera look better balanced and smaller. The new M 240 is not as good looking as the M9 and the new bigger central red dot is just showing off.

Now I don’t know about you lot but I wouldn’t consider that I take a lot of pictures, maybe 4000 shots a year but even that makes for a hell of a lot of storage. To keep back ups and back ups of back ups means a lot of hard drives. Even bigger files means even more storage issues. I have managed to make amazing prints over a metre wide from the M9 so there is really no need for anything bigger. I tend not to crop so there’s little advantage for me with bigger files. 

Conclusion

Although the M 240 has bigger files and higher ISOs it is bigger and heavier, takes longer to boot up and can only manage a 60 second exposure. The screen is bigger and it costs more. The M9 was a fantastic camera when it was launched and it remains capable of taking amazing images. It is a classic. I’m not convinced that the M 240 offers big enough improvements over the M9 to justify buying one. Sorry Leica but here’s one Leica fan that won’t be buying your latest offering.

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Leica m9

Leica M (240) T shirt

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The new Leica M. For some reason Leica have dropped the number from the name so many people are calling it the M 240 which is the camera’s in house development name. The Germans rarely do things without good reason and Leica are no exception. They have always gone their own way and I for one am glad. The M is a fascinating evolution of an old concept and once mastered can be quicker to use than any other camera.

The latest M might be seen as the last of the line. After all, where can they go from here? The screen is as big as it can be. The rangefinder has been modernised using led lighting but fundamentally it remains as pure as the first M, the M3. It’s my guess that this will be the last M camera. In the future Leica will simply offer upgrades to it. It will be possible to replace sensors and take advantage of the latest technology without the need to buy a whole new camera.

The next new thing from Leica will no doubt be a smaller body that can use the M lenses but will still have a full frame sensor and all of the legendary image quality. The rangefinder will go in favour of a Live View screen or separate viewfinder. The M will remain on sale as long as there are photographers out there who love the rangefinder system of focusing.

Available from Redbubble

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Leica m9 Uncategorized

The fine art of wedding photography

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I knew when I first saw Susana at work that here was someone who loved her job. Her smiling face immediately made her subjects feel at ease, not an easy task with a day so full of stress and expectation. I watched her work and it soon dawned on me that this was no ordinary wedding photographer.

Somehow I knew that her work would be excellent though I had no idea until I took a look at some of it. I was quite blown away by the quality and the depth of her images. Simply put Susana is a photographer to watch. Somehow she sees things that no one else sees and captures the moment with a beauty that is so natural it makes the hairs stand up on your arms!

When you think about it, the pictures of the big day are possibly the most important part of a wedding. The dress, the cake, the ceremony are all over and done with in a few hours but the images of the day will be looked at for years to come. That’s why it is so important to do it right.

Chatting with Susana after her work was done I learned a bit more about her technique. She doesn’t just take pictures at the church. For her the whole process is much more involved. She’s there while the bride and groom are getting ready, at a time when there’s not so much stress and she has some control over the mood and the lighting, something that just isn’t possible during the wedding itself. By spending time with the participants she gains their confidence so that on the big day she is more of a trusted friend than an employee.

Susana only shoots weddings in black and white which I think is very brave. Not only for her as it’s so much harder but it also takes great faith from the people getting married. However they need not worry, Susana’s black and white wedding pictures transcend photography and become a kind of timeless art, a series of beautiful images that do justice to such an important day.

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"When you photograph people in colour, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls" – Ted Grant

Until now I have never been excited about wedding photography but that was because I had no idea it could be done so well and with such style. I could go on but instead, I’ll just let Susana’s images speak for themselves. As they say, a picture paints a thousand words if that’s true then each one of Susana’s images is more like a book!

Susana has also won many awards, check out some of the winning images here

Susana is available for weddings anywhere in the world but book early as she is in serious demand. Visit www.susanabarbera.com for more details

Scroll down to see some of Susana’s work. Enjoy.

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There are many more like this. Please visit Susana’s blog to see more of her fantastic work http://susanabarbera.com/blog/

What follows is some of her favourite shots.

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Categories
Leica m9 Uncategorized

Lomography and Leica M

If you’re into photography and maybe if you’re not, you must surely have heard of Lomo cameras. Russian made and frankly not of great quality, nevertheless they have a massive worldwide following and one has to admit that photos taken with a Lomo are certainly interesting, sometimes quite magical.

It’s funny, on the one hand you have Lomo, an old design unchanged for decades, then you have the Leica M which has been steadily improved over the years. They can’t really be compared because one costs a few hundred Euros, the other a few thousand. Yet I am going to compare them anyway.

Lomo fans have ten golden rules to follow when taking pictures and without even realising I have been following them too but with my Leicas. Here they are.

1) Take your camera everywhere you go.

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This is a universal rule that applies equally well to any camera. It’s so true that if you don’t have your camera with you, you can’t very well take pictures!

2) Use it day and night.

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With their fast lenses leicas are great for night work.

3) Lomography is not an interference in your life, but part of it.

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I feel this way about my Leica M. I cannot imagine life without it.

4) Shoot from the hip.

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With wide lenses, it’s possible to shoot from the hip. I have done this a lot over the years and it’s often very effective. It’s especially good because no one sees the camera being brought to your face so it’s much more stealthy.

5) Get in close.

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This is a classic Leica approach. If you’re not happy with your work, get closer. I am often in people’s faces with my M. This is something that is much harder to do with SLRs and bigger cameras. It was Robert Capa who said that if you’re not happy with your work you’re not close enough.

6) Don’t think.

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Often I just set by experience the aperture, shutter speed and focus and shoot away without thinking.

7) Be fast.

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With the simple layout of the Leica M, all settings can be preset for most situations so that all you have to do is press the shutter release and capture the moment.

8) You don’t have to know beforehand what you have captured on film. (here is a classic example. I did not mean to put the smiley face in place of the number 8 but for the life of me, I cannot get rid of it!)

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This applies less to a Leica M of course but even with a digital M there is the moment when you see your images on the screen for the first time. Often those Leica lenses add a special something to an image that you could not have imagined.

9) Afterwards either.

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This happens much less with the Leica M as the lenses are better at coping with the kind of situations where the Lomo will create something mad, colourful and arty. Mind you, using a wide angle lens, shooting from a low angle and shooting into the sun, even with a Leica is likely to create crazy shots.

10) Don’t worry about any rules!

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This is my favourite rule. If you want to be a commercial photographer and sell your work, you will probably have to follow rules and convention but if you’re not then you can do what you like. Crooked horizons, cropped legs, lens flare etc are the order of the day!

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boats Leica m9 Uncategorized

Filming using a remote control drone

The sailing regatta at St Tropez in October is always fun. It’s the last one of the season and everyone is looking forward to a well earned break at the end of it. Frankly I don’t know how the crews do it, racing everyday and drinking every night. They do this for 6 months of the year but at St Tropez it gets a bit mental. The atmosphere is excellent and there’s always something going on.

This year, I met the team from airmotion.ch through a friend. They have a remote control drone that enables filming with a new and unique view that often can’t be obtained any other way. The ‘drone’ they use is cutting edge and full of electronics which enable the camera platform to always remain level thanks to a pair of gyros. It can rotate, tip up and down and sway from side to side. Obviously there is also control of the platform remotely as well. 

Naturally I offered my new Fliptail dinghy as a perfect subject to film and they were happy to oblige as they were looking to build up their portfolio with interesting subjects and besides they are young with tons of energy and so we set off with fresh batteries to Port Grimaud, a kind of French Venice with canals and houses with boats moored at the end of the gardens. Amazingly it gets over 1,000,000 visitors every year. What better back drop to film a small sailing boat?

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The boys from airmotion fly the drone from a boat at sea. That takes balls! Note the extremely high tec floatation devices attached to the drone. (water bottles filled with helium for extra lift. Not really, I just made that up!)

The drone has 8 arms and at the end of each is a brushless motor driving wooden blades, with a mix of left and right handed rotation. The whole thing weighs about 5 kilos and can lift almost its own weight in equipment. The very expensive Lithium Polymer batteries need special care as they are liable to exploding or bursting into flames if not respected. They are even charged in a special fireproof box. Everything about the drone is high-tec.

It can fly as high as 3 kilometres! but at this distance you can no longer see it so must rely on its built in GPS to bring it home. It can move forwards at speeds of up to 60 kph. It can stay aloft for as much as 10 minutes on one battery but normally less to ensure a decent safety margin, after all, you don’t want this highly expensive and fairly delicate tool to fall out of the sky. The whole bundle, which includes, cases, chargers, spares, batteries, video screens, computers, cables and connectors represents a hefty investment.

What makes the drone so interesting is where it can go and how easily it can be transported to any location. The obvious uses are for all sorts of aerial photography and also for film making but with different cameras attached could even be used to film buildings with infra red to see what areas need better insulation. It’s uses are only limited by the imagination. The drone isn’t silent, those 8 blades thrashing the air make some noise and moves a surprising amount of air and in fact twice we heard someone say that it was noisy but I’d rather listen to the drone for 5 minutes than a helicopter for 1 minute. It’s really not that loud but can’t be missed, at least at low heights.

A helicopter is all very well but they are hideously expensive, to buy, own and maintain, never mind the huge amounts of fuel they use. If you wanted your posh villa filmed a helicopter could do it, probably with only one pass only and it will be very expensive. The drone has the added advantage that the customer can see the view from the drone and get involved with the end result.

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The drone on display at Port Grimaud. It has red and blue led lights so you can see it easily when flying it at night. Seems strange to see wood on such a technical bit of kit but they cut flesh much less than the plastic ones I’m told.

Airmotion’s drone is a serious and professional bit of kit with a wingspan of over a metre. This gives solidity and stability. Even with the drone flying about all over the place the image remains stable and smooth. There are not many of these drones about and there may not be. The reason is more to do with the skill needed to fly one of these things than the financing required although that is a major consideration.

It costs 1000€ a day to hire the drone which seems expensive until you consider the alternatives and if the alternatives can’t work where you are for any number of reasons, then a drone might be the only realistic way to get the job done. When you consider that you are paying for one pilot and one artistic director/photographer and the use of a very expensive bit of kit it starts to look like very good value indeed.

We had a lot of fun and attracted hundreds of people which leads me on to the main disadvantage of this as a photographic tool which is that people will point, stare and take pictures of it. It never occurs to them that here is a big bit of kit flying at speed with no less than 8 fast rotating blades (they are not called blades for nothing!) and seem to have no fear.

On one trip we did at sea one old man on the foredeck of a French cruising boat dropped his pants and stood there proudly presenting his manhood for us to film. Maybe the novelty will wear off but I doubt it. There is no doubt that airmotion will have a lot of success in the south of France if this week is anything to go by. If you need their services, just get in touch. I am sure they can help you.

Categories
Leica m9

Sensors and the dreaded dust!

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The view through the Visible Dust loupe. Note how the 6 led bulbs focus in the centre.

It’s been a couple of years now since I bought a Leica M9 and it’s taken me that long to finally get good results cleaning my sensor. I don’t expect perfection, after all, the odd spot is easily removed with Lightroom. But this is not the point. The cleaner you can get your sensor, the less time you spend touching up pictures. It’s not too much of a chore if you only have a few pictures but when you start dealing in the hundreds or the thousands, that is another matter. The time you can save is massive.

There are some manufacturers whose cameras offer various ways to keep the sensor clean such as ultrasonic vibrations etc but the M9 has nothing at all. If you don’t change your lenses often you might not ever see much dust but as soon as you take a lens off you are inviting dust into your camera. There is really very little you can do about this. The obvious things are to hold the camera upside down when changing lenses, make sure the caps and the lenses are kept clean. Don’t put a lens in a pocket or the dust that it picks up will find its way into your camera and onto the sensor.

Also it doesn’t help that I am a dusty person. Where we live it is generally dry and dusty. Sometimes it’s windy too and that moves things around. When I first began trying to clean my sensor I tried a system called a Dust-Aid. Many people claim to get good results with this system but I found it to be a complete joke. It put more dust on the sensor than it took off and it had the habit of leaving marks on it too. The Dust-Aid is supplied with some sticky strips. The idea is that you press the wand onto a sticky strip which removes the dust from it so that it is clean when you place it on the sensor. The strips were statically charged and it seemed to me that they were just attracting dust. The company who sold it to me said that I was being incompetent or my environment was too dusty. Or I was.

As I had so little experience cleaning sensors I had to assume that what they said was true. Since then I have discovered a few things. One of them is that despite being a dusty person in a dusty environment I am now able to get my sensor very clean so I now do not believe that it has anything to do with me.

I also believe that if you can clean a sensor without touching it in any way this has to be the best way forward. Why risk damaging such a delicate piece of the camera by touching it if you don’t have to? Obviously you are not cleaning the actual sensor but the low pass glass filter in front of it but it is still delicate and easily damaged.

After the disaster with the Dust-Aid I tried other systems. One of them, the Green Clean system was offered to me by the Leica dealer. This system sucks dust from the surface using a compressed air canister to create a filtered vacuum. The trouble is that it’s just too easy to touch the sensor with the hard plastic end and it also requires that you can see the dust that needs removing. I soon gave up with that but I did sometimes use the compressed air to quickly blow the dust off the sensor or lens and caps when changing lenses. This did help to keep dust down but using compressed air is fraught with potential dangers. Sometimes the can sprays out propellant and that can damage the sensor, or cover it in crap so that you then have to clean it. You cannot fly with compressed air, even in checked in luggage so it’s not really ideal.

After this I tried the swab and chemical route but every swab I tried just left dust or tiny lint particles from the swab on the sensor. What I learned is that some chemicals and cleaning solutions and swabs are better than others. I bought one kit recently in desperation as I couldn’t find any other system where I was and it came with paper swabs and a pen with a brush on one end and a pad on the other. As before I was not able to get the sensor clean and every time I passed with the swab I was aware that I was touching the sensor unnecessarily. All very nerve wracking just before an important photographic commission.

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A 100% crop of the top right hand corner. This picture of the sky is clean. Not a speck of dust in sight. Result. This was after using every tool in the bundle.

At that moment I decided that I was not going to stand for this any more. It is amazing that camera companies do not either recommend or sell a decent sensor cleaning kit for their cameras. It is as if they don’t even know. Maybe it is different for every camera and user? All I know is that it is very hard to get a clean sensor. So after 2 years of experimentation what system do I use now?

Well, one of the first things I can tell you is that it’s a multi stage process. not one system will get  the sensor as clean and dust free as you might want but a combination of them will.

The first thing to do when cleaning your sensor is to take a picture of the sky at f16. Then take a good look at it on the computer at 100%. Look especially in the corners as they seem the hardest to clean and also where dust seems to collect most.

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A 7x magnification and 6 bright angled leds makes this an excellent tool for a good close look at the sensor.

The most important thing, apart from a dry, dust free and windless environment to clean your sensor in is light and a way of magnifying the view so you can really get a good close up view of the sensor. I bought a Briteview light and loupe from Visible Dust

This is essential for getting a good look at the surface of the sensor. It has 6 angled led bulbs which light up the sensor well and evenly and magnifies by x7 which is about right. The lens is clean and sharp. It’s a nice bit of kit, powered by two small batteries (supplied) and it comes in a foam padded plastic box which keeps it clean and dust free. Obviously you don’t want dust falling off the loupe so being able to put it away after every use makes a lot of sense. I can’t really over emphasize the importance of keeping your tools, lenses and caps as clean as possible. You’ll never stop dust 100% but with care you can keep it at a reasonable level!

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Two cleaning products, one water based and the other alcohol. The padded swabs are excellent and practically lint free. The chemicals work well and evaporate quickly leaving no visible drying marks.

If the sensor has drying marks or grease (from the shutter maybe) then you will first need to get this off. You don’t want to smear oils about on the sensor, or worse pick them up and contaminate your brush. I bought two types of cleaning product from Visible Dust. One is a soapy kind which cleans and the other is an alcohol based product that degreases. Both may be needed depending on what kind of dirt you have on your sensor.

For the swabs I bough Visible Dust’s Ultra MDX-100 which are made from lint free fabric. They are superior quality to anything else I have seen or used before. They are slightly padded and are the best I have used.

I started my clean with the V Dust cleaner and a swab. I was impressed with the way the swabs felt and how well they wiped across the surface. The liquid dries quickly on the sensor and leaves no drying marks. This has not been the case with the Eclipse fluid that I was using before. I was less impressed with the plastic packaging Visible Dust use in all their products. I would prefer to see a more biodegradable packaging.

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The Zeeion blower has two filters ensuring no dust gets blown into the camera. Comes with soft tip end to avoid accidental damage and a little carry bag. New internals can be bought when the filters are clogged.

After this, I swabbed with the water based version. Now that the sensor was clean, I could start to see about the dust. The first thing I do is take a look at the sensor to see how much dust there is on it and where it is. Then I hold the camera upside down and use Visible Dust’s Zeeion blower. This is a hand held blower that you squeeze to force air into the camera. It differs from others I have seen as it has two fine filters, one that filters the air being sucked into it and the other which filters the air that you blow into your camera. It is surprisingly good at removing most of the dust but it cannot get it all. Sometimes dust is surprisingly sticky and blowing it just isn’t enough and there is always the risk that you will just dislodge some dust from somewhere else and it will find its way onto the sensor.

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The Arctic Butterfly. Odd name but clever product. The bristles are charged to attract dirt by spinning the brush at high speed.

The final solution is to use the Arctic Butterfly. Don’t be put off by the strange name. This is a clever and obvious tool. It is basically a very fine brush attached to a battery operated handle. The way it works is this. You spin the brush at high speed for 5 to 10 seconds. This does two things, it flings off any dust that was stuck in the bristles and it charges them to attract dust so that when you wipe the brush over the sensor surface dust particles stick to it. (you do not spin the brush on the sensor!)

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The Arctic Butterfly spins the brush at high speed. This dislodges accumulated dust and charges the bristles to attract dust like a magnet. Do not spin the brush on the sensor!

The first time I used it I was not overly impressed with the results but it did remove a lot of dust. The secret, I discovered is to only make one pass after each spin of the brush. If the bristles are charged to attract dust they soon seem to become discharged by the action of touching them on to the sensor. This is the impression that I have. In any case the answer is simple, just spin the brush for ten seconds before you touch the sensor with it. Once you have lifted the brush off the surface it will need to be spun and recharged again. This is easy to do. It has led lights built in but they are not brilliantly placed and the brush obscures their view somewhat. It also comes in a padded plastic storage box.

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The built in leds on the Arctic Butterfly are not brilliantly placed.

The loupe is helpful at this stage. I use the Arctic Butterfly to remove the last few specs of dust that I can see. By starting in the corners and wiping towards the centre you can move or remove any dust easily. Then any dust that was not removed by the brush on that pass can be easily removed from the centre of the sensor.

This must sound like I work for Visible Dust or have something to gain by singing their praises but I promise you that I am just a humble customer with no connections to them in any way. What I have discovered in Visible Dust is a company who sell the best products for DIY sensor cleaning. From my experience they are only company that I have found who offer a complete solution. Every one of their products, from the cleaning products to the swabs to the blower and the arctic butterfly are excellent and WORK and that is all one can ask really.

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Here’s the bundle I bought for cleaning my sensor. Finally a system that works!

Yes it is expensive buying all this gear but it’s needed. It is as necessary to the modern photographer as a computer is. So my advice is don’t skimp on this. Cheaper products just don’t perform as well. You get what you pay for really seems to apply here.

Visible Dust offer various products either separately or as a bundle. I bought the Ultra Sensor Clean Arctic Butterfly 724 Super Bright Bundle It wasn’t cheap but frankly if I’d bought this in the first place my life would have been easier and I would not have wasted so much money on other lesser systems first. Save yourself some time and money and invest in the best. You’ll never regret it.

Categories
Leica m9 T Shirts

Leica M3 with Summilux 50mm lens T shirt

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After the popularity of the Leica M9 T shirt, it seemed only natural that one should be able to celebrate other classic Leicas too. Here is the first M, the M3.

It is reproduced actual size and with straps added it really looks like you are wearing one around your neck. If you actually are wearing an M3 around your neck then it will look like you have two!

Available only at redbubble

Categories
Leica m9

What makes a Leica M so special

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Taken with an M9 and a 21mm Summilux f1.4 lens. This image proves that even with manual focussing and exposure you can still take awesome images of fast moving subjects. This gull was only about a metre away, he was snapped as he went for my lunch!

This is a post I’ve wanted to write for such a long time but trying to explain why I love my Leica M is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write. It’s a complicated subject which covers not only the tangible physical aspects but includes passion and emotion, always hard to quantify. However I will see what I can do.

The most obvious place to start is at the beginning with some basic history. Almost 100 years ago now a clever chap called Oskar Barnack decided that it would be a cool idea to use 35mm cinema film in a compact camera and thus was born 35mm photography. Suddenly one could get out and about and take pictures unencumbered by big and bulky equipment. Whatever else has happened in the world of photography, this compact practicality still remains even in the latest incarnation of the Leica M camera.

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Oskar Barnack hard at work inventing stuff.

The first M camera (M3) was launched in 1954. The biggest difference between it and its predecessors was the new bayonet mount lenses which speeded up lens changing considerably over the older screw system. When you consider how technology has advanced since then it is really surprising that the latest M, the M9 still isn’t really that different to the M3. It is digital of course but at it’s heart it remains mechanical and to all intents and purposes, manual. A far cry from the latest offerings from the Japanese.

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The legendary Leica M3. What a splendid camera.

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55 years later and the family resemblance is still clear to see in the latest M9

Rangefinder focussing

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it they say and I for one am so glad that Leica didn’t try to change the basic camera too much. The M9 is more or less just a digital M3. The family resemblance is easy to see. Often people see my M9 and think it is an old camera. The same basic system for focussing has been retained. It’s a complicated mechanical system that requires about 80 individual pieces. The ‘RangeFinder’ is a crazy system that takes a bit of getting used but it’s not not without advantages.

Look through the viewfinder and you will notice that in the centre there is a small slightly lighter area. Look closer and you will see that there is a slight double image. By rotating the focussing ring on the lens, the double image becomes one single image. At this point the lens is in focus.

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Why would anyone use a system of focussing that is so complicated? It’s even more complicated than you can imagine because the lens is lower than the viewfinder so when you get close to your subject the whole image in the viewfinder has to move to keep the image correctly framed! Whatever else you think of this system you have to admire the mechanical beauty of the system.

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Cutaway drawing of the complicated viewfinder/rangerfinder system of an M camera.

Leica haven’t persisted with the rangefinder because they are stubbornly hanging on to a bygone era or because they are pandering to old diehards. There is a good reason of course and that is because the Leica M has no mirror unlike an SLR. With an SLR you look through the lens using a series of prisms and a mirror. At the exact moment you take a photo, the mirror swings up and the shutter opens. Having a mirror causes a few problems. It makes the whole camera more bulky and because the lens is further away from the film, lenses also tend to be bigger and heavier. But the worst problem with a mirror is the noise and the vibration that it causes.

SLRs are noisy cameras. It’s not easy to be stealthy with an SLR. As soon as the shutter is released the noise of the mirror flipping up alerts everyone to your presence. Also the movement of the mirror can induce camera shake. As soon as you take the mirror out of the equation you can bring the lenses much closer to the film/sensor. This makes a rangefinder considerably more compact than an SLR. Because the lenses are closer they can be made smaller and lighter but without the mirror the Leica M can take pictures at considerably lower shutter speeds without risk of mirror induced vibration.

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With no mirror to flip up, a rangefinder can take a picture that little bit faster than an SLR can. A rangefinder does not have to wait for the mirror to be out of the way before it can open the shutter. We’re only talking about the slightest delay but it could be enough to miss the perfect moment. Also when the mirror flips up on an SLR the view is momentarily lost but it never is with a rangefinder and you can see whether your subject chose that moment to blink. The rangefinder viewfinder is also considerably brighter than most SLRs as it does not depend on the speed of the lens to pass light through it but it cannot show the expected depth of field as an SLR can.

There is another less spoken of advantage to the rangefinder and that is the ability to accurately focus wide angle lenses even in very low light. With an SLR you focus by looking through the lens. When the image appears sharp then you take the picture. With a long telephoto lens, it is easy to see when the lens is in focus but with a wide angle, with its greater depth of field it’s not so obvious when the lens is in focus. In low light it becomes even more difficult. However modern autofocus systems have improved the situation dramatically but the fact remains the rangefinder system, although it is archaic by modern standards offers precision and ease of use even in difficult situations.

So I hope you can see that the rangefinder is just a different way to focus a lens and the advantages it offers far outweigh it’s disadvantages. It is true that initially it takes some getting used to but once you get the hang of it, it seems a perfectly sensible and clever way to focus a lens. There are ways to use the rangefinder of course that speed up its use and I’ll discuss those later. For now I just wanted to discuss the basic principals of an M camera.

The rangefinder focusing system is what makes the Leica M cameras different to most other systems, but it must also be said that at some time or another many of the other manufacturers also offered a similar system although they all abandoned it when the SLR first came out. Leica were slow to adapt to the new system and their later SLR offerings were never that great so they stuck mainly to what they did best as a small volume camera maker and kept on slowly developing the M concept as there was a steady demand for it.

One of the disadvantages to the rangefinder system is that it is not suited for telephoto lenses and really anything longer than 90mm is hard to use. Leica made up to 135mm lenses for the M but most M users accept that if you want to use a telephoto lens you are better off with an SLR. But what the rangefinder does allow is the use of very wide angle lenses. Leica’s current M ranges from an incredibly wide 16mm to 135mm which all said and done is not a bad range of focal lengths at all.

Camera invisibility

The Leica M with its compact size and quiet shutter without mirror is perfectly designed for getting close so this is how it is used. And this leads me onto another aspect of the M that really helps it stand out from other systems. Because the viewfinder is placed on one side, the camera only half covers your face. This has advantages; your face is only half hidden, unlike an SLR with it’s central eyepiece where it is completely hidden and this helps the camera to ‘disappear’ in your hands. One of the weirdest phenomena about the M is that you can get really close and your subjects don’t seem to even see the camera.

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This picture is to show how much of a person’s face is left showing while using a Leica M.

I have never been able to fully explain this. I think it’s because most of your face is still visible so the camera is much less intimidating. This allied to the quiet shutter means that very often the subject doesn’t even know you are taking pictures. For me, this is one of the best reasons for using a Leica M. Until you experience this ‘camera invisibility’ you just cannot imagine how it works. To be that close to a subject and still be able to discreetly snap away is a really special feature.

The second advantage to having the viewfinder to one side is that you can open your other eye and keep an eye on the action around you. With an SLR you have to lower the camera from your face to do this. It’s a small thing but believe me it makes a difference.

Learning to use your brain

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It may be hard for modern photographers to understand the desire of M users to have manual metering and focussing but again once you get the hang of it you will find that apart from being considerably more rewarding it is also at times much quicker to use. The simple fact is that the human brain is quite capable of reading changing light situations and with practice, you could even do without the light meter. And in any case, having made a reading, the light doesn’t really change that much. If you have only ever had spot reading auto exposure on your camera you might not realise just how easy it is to change exposure manually.

For example, if you are outdoors in the middle of the day, you might have an exposure of 250 secs at f11, if you want to take a shot in a shady area you will find that if you stop down 3 stops you will not be far away. Because there are clicks on the aperture ring and the speed dial you can easy adjust them without even taking the camera from your face. This comes with practice of course and in the meantime the M9 has a very good meter built in, not only that but the arrows in the viewfinder show the direction that you need to turn the aperture or the speed dial to obtain the correct exposure.

Previous to the Leica M9 I had a Digilux 2 which was a fabulous camera and had auto focus and exposure. It worked so well that I soon gave up using it manually and let it get on with it. What I realised eventually was that although it took very good pictures it was the camera taking them and not me. You might not think that it would make a lot of difference but it really does. I didn’t realise just how much until I got into using the M9 with a vengeance. I took back control and by doing so I was forced to think about what I was doing, where I wanted the focus and where I metered from. The quality of my work improved dramatically.

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Taken with a Digilux 2 camera. It was a very competent camera indeed.

It’s my belief that more and more features do not help anyone to be a better photographer. A pro friend of mine has a Nikon D3 and it’s unquestionably an incredible camera but it has so many features it could take you months to fully understand its full capabilities. There is also a danger that with so many settings you might forget to reset the camera and when you use it next find that the camera didn’t do what you expected it to and you might well have missed the moment.

There’s a lot to be said for a simple camera like the M9. Every basic setting that you need to change all the time is instantly visible, and not by consulting a screen that may be hard to see in the daylight. Every extra action that you have to make before you can take a picture detracts from actually taking pictures.

Taking pictures

Using an M is not like using other cameras. There are basically two ways to use it. The first way is to carefully focus and meter and then take a picture but this involves checking focus and exposure each time you take a picture. You can speed things up by always leaving the settings the same, for example 250 sec at f8 and the focus set on infinity. This way the camera will be almost right and if you want to change anything you have a starting point to begin from.

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This is a photo where the focus has been carefully adjusted and the exposure set accordingly. A lot depends on the lens you are using. Presetting focus can only really be done with wide angle lenses. Leica M9 21mm Asph

The second way to use the M is to preset everything and just snap away. Once you have set the exposure, the light doesn’t really change. Wide angle lenses have excellent depth of field so by taking advantage of this fact you can set the aperture at say f8 and you will have a huge margin of error for your focus. If the subject you wish to capture is 4 metres away, by setting the focus on 4 metres on the lens with an aperture of f8 will give you easily a metre either side or more depending on how wide your lens is. You will be amazed at just how quick an M is when set up like this.

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This picture was taken using the camera completely preset. There’s no way you could focus on a flying swallow just two metres away with any camera. This picture would be almost impossible to take with most modern cameras. M9, 50mm Elmar.

Many people don’t like the rangefinder because they find it hard to follow the action when focussing but there are a couple of tricks here that can help. The first is to always try and find something vertical to focus on, this makes it much easier to focus. What I found when trying to photograph moving subjects like children who are never still you need to adopt another way or doing things. It’s a little unorthodox but effective nevertheless. Focus on the subject as usual, when shooting people I generally try to focus on the eye nearest the camera but it is a hard thing to keep it always in focus using the rangefinder system but if you move your body back and forth you will find that focusing becomes very simple and fast. It must look a bit odd as I sway back and forth in front of a subject but it works!

Inspiration

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An eroded wall with the sea behind. This is exactly the kind of shot that the Leica M encourages you to take. Normally I wouldn’t have thought about a shot like this but I was holding my M9 and feeling all ‘arty’ so started thinking more about what might work. The end result is most pleasing. M9, 21mm Lux.

There is much to be said about the inspirational motivation that using an M gives you. Just hold one in your hands. This is no plastic mass produced camera. The top and bottom plate are machined from billets of solid brass. They are not cast. You can feel the quality in every aspect of the camera. Be spell bound when you look through the viewfinder by the crystal clear contrasty clarity of the image. Wiggle the little lever on the front by the lens and change the brightline frames in the viewfinder to see at a glance which lens would work best for a certain composition.

When I had my M3 I used to love to just wind it on and press the shutter just to hear that fabulous silky smooth sound. The new M9 isn’t quite as quiet and has a motorised wind on that spoils it all somewhat as far as I am concerned but then the new metal shutter does offer speeds of up to 4000 sec which is 4 times faster than the M3’s cloth shutter. In fact I have often thought that Leica should produce an M9P which is an even simpler version without even a screen. Read about it here

I digress. There is something really special about holding and using a Leica M and you can’t really explain this. It just makes you want to get up at the crack of dawn and get out and take pictures, I can’t say that I ever felt that inspired by a plastic bodied Nikon!

The legendary lenses

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Restaurant in Port Grimaud, La Table du Mareyeur. This was taken with the M9 and 21mm Summilux f1.4 lens at 1.4! 3 sec exposure. Pin sharp even wide open. This is most impressive.

Then there are the lenses. Everyone a beauty and amongst the range some truly extraordinary creations. Yes they are ludicrously expensive but so what? People often criticise Leica for making their products too expensive. They are expensive for a reason and that reason is that they are beautifully made with the best possible materials. Not only that but the 2009 M9 camera can use practically any Leica lens ever made. Can the latest Nikon say the same?

Most manufacturers update their systems so often that if you want the latest body you probably have to buy the latest range of lenses too but not with Leica. What this means is that Leica lenses hold their value. You might pay a lot for a Leica lens but you can be sure that when you come to sell you’ll get most of your money back.

Then lets look at some of these amazing Leica lenses. There’s the 21mm Summilux f1.4 a truly extraordinary and very fast lens, extremely compact for what it is. Yes it is expensive at about 5000 Euros but it’s worth every penny. People will argue that with modern SLRs extraordinary high ISOs there is no need for super fast lenses anymore but these people have missed the point. What they say is true in one sense but what they fail to understand is that the faster the lens the more the OOF (out of focus) areas soften.

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There is something really quite extraordinary about the effect of a superwide angle lens shot at 1.4 because it has the great wide view of a wide angle with the lovely OOF areas that you might get with a 50mm lens. This is a quite special effect that you simply can’t get with a super wide angle of f2.8 for example.

Then there’s the 50mm Noctilux, f0.95 a complete beast of a lens with a staggering cost of 8000 Euros. There’s nothing quite like it. There are also plenty of other choices in the range and some of these lenses are really small and compact which brings me to the main reason why I shoot with a Leica M. The simple fact is that if a camera is so big and bulky that you don’t take it with you everywhere you go you may well miss the moment. With a Leica M you have a fantastic high quality tool that is so compact that you are far more likely to have it with you at all times.

It’s true that Leica don’t make a zoom lens for the M but that is because prime lenses perform better and are faster. There are a couple of lenses that are not strictly zooms but do have varying focal lengths. The MATE (Medium Angle Tri Elmar) has 28,35 and 50mm all in one lens and the WATE Wide Angle Tri ELmar) has 16,18 and 21mm. The disadvantage to these lenses is that they are not fast at f4 and are quite long. But still their quality is excellent.

The simple fact is that there is a staggering choice of lenses made by Leica over the last half century or more and if that wasn’t enough for you then there are also other lens makers like Konica, Zeiss and Voigtlander to name but a few who also offer lenses in an M mount and can be used on a Leica M. Some of the wider lenses may cause red edges on the M9 but for the most part they are excellent for the money.

You can’t take a picture if your don’t have your camera!

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Yet another night time shot with the M9 and 21mm Summilux lens. 8 secs @f4

The reason I got into Ms in the first place was because the SLRs I’d be using previously were just too bulky and most of the time I just didn’t take them with me and then always regretted not having a camera with me. It doesn’t matter how good your camera is if you don’t have it when you need it!

Some say that the M9 is hopeless because it can’t take videos or can only manage a couple of shots a second or that the ISO range is poor. All this is true but this is a photographer’s camera. It is for those who think about their photography. The bottom line is that a Leica M is not for everyone but for those who understand it’s magic, here is a friend for life. It’s hard to say how much a Leica M9 will depreciate over the years. It’s a fabulous camera today and will still be a fabulous camera in 10 years time. And even when Leica bring out the M10 or the M11 you’ll still be able to use the same lenses. One thing is for sure: It might depreciate some but nothing compared to your average  Japanese DSLR.

Leicas are built with a legendary toughness. It’s no surprise that Leicas have been used by pros throughout history. They knew they could trust them to work when the going got tough. My old M3 was already 40 years old when I owned it and I had it for 5 years and it never once, not for a moment gave me any trouble. I never thought about it. It simply worked. The M9 carries on that tradition. It might be digital but it is still built to an extremely high standard. That is why it is expensive! You really do get what you pay for.

M’s can do macro

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Close up of a dragonfly taken with the M9 and a visoflex using a 50mm Elmar lens.

Leica Ms don’t do macro either. They say if you want this then buy a Canon and again this is true but surprisingly the Leica M camera can do macro. By using an ancient concept that turns a Leica M into an SLR called a visoflex you can take the most incredible macro pictures. Not only that but the visoflex takes lenses up to 800mm which suddenly adds major versatility to the system! True the whole thing is a bit clunky but it works and is there if you want it. It’s a lot of fun. Read more about it here 

Conclusion

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My homage to Henri Cartier Bresson. I actually managed to find the exact same spot where he took a similar picture 80 years ago. Things have changed of course but not much. Read more about this photo here

I think that has covered every aspect about why the Leica M system is fantastic. If you have never tried playing with a rangefinder camera I seriously suggest you try it. You may find as I did (and many others) that it suits your style and helps you to start thinking about your photography again. I have never regretted buying my first Leica. They are expensive but as hobbies go it’s not so bad. A decent mountain bike or wind surfer set up can cost similar amounts.

In the 30 odd years I have been taking pictures, I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed photography more than I do at the moment. Many people are desperately hanging onto film, which has it’s charm I suppose but for me who lives on a small boat I welcome the digital age with open arms. Back in the days I used to develop and print my own films aboard and let me tell you it wasn’t easy. To have an easy way to view and store my work has changed my life. I for one will never go back to film certainly not now that I have an M9!

Categories
Leica m9

21mm 1.4 Leica Summilux lens review

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Leica M9 21mm Summilux f1.4 Asph lens wide open at f1.4 for 10 secs 160 ISO. Pin sharp from 5 metres to infinity. This is one spectacular lens. (click on this image to download a full sized jpg)

When my Elmarit 21mm had to go back to Solms for repair, Leica very kindly sent me another lens to use in the mean time. When they said they would send me another 21mm lens to use I had NO IDEA that they would be sending me a 21 Lux, and a brand new one at that. This is what I call looking after your customers!

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Wide open and taken at min focus distance of 0.7 m. Unbelievably sharp, nice bokeh and OOF areas. Vignetting apparent but not in any way offensive.

So what is it like? It’s big. It’s heavy. It’s shockingly expensive but what a truly fantastic bit of engineering. It is Sublime, Awesome, Incredible etc. Just pick your own superlative! This lens is head and shoulders above ANY lens I have used on my M9 so far and that’s a lot (very handy being mates with a Leica dealer!)

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The ‘rope man’ makes a bracelet for a pretty Italian girl. Shot wide open as usual!

In fact I seem to just use it wide open. I just love the wide angle view it gives with fabulous OOF areas that look like you’re using a 50mm lens. It’s a unique view. The images it takes are completely sharp even at 1.4. There is some vignetting wide open but this is a super fast super wide angle lens after all. It would be weird if it didn’t have some character.

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Leica M9 Summilux 21mm. Shot taken at f1.4. Here you can see the vignetting. The effect is somewhat exaggerated with the black and white effect and the fact that back ground is very bright. In lower light situations the effect is much reduced.

The DOF is very slight at 1.4 but my M9 was spot on when focussing, even when at minimum distance of 70cm. Stopped down, the DOF this lens has is superb.

As for distortion, of course it has some but then it is a 21mm lens. Sometimes at the corners you can see some elongation but really it is very good as you can see from looking at the pictures in this post.

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This lens has some distortion but it never seems intrusive. Most shots just look really natural. This one was taken at f4.

I was brutal when I tested this lens. I shot into the sun wide open, I took the hood off, I left it on. I tried close to, I tried far away. I tried long exposures at night. In short I put this lens through its paces! Occasionally I saw some serious purple fringing but only in extreme situations which isn’t really surprising considering what I was asking it to do.

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Shot wide open as usual. Judge for yourself. If there is some vignetting, it only adds to the ‘look’ of the image.

It really needs the lens hood though or stray light can create a halo effect in some shots when shooting towards the light but considering how fast and wide this lens is it really handles it well. 

If I had to fault it, I would say that I think it needs a focusing knob like the one on my 21mm Asph. I initially found it hard to locate the focusing ring without it but I have since gotten used to it but I really like the focussing knob because you can tell by feel at what distance the lens is focussed and this kind of thing makes the lens faster to focus and the camera quicker to use.

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There can’t be many cameras that can capture an image like this. Remember that this seagull was shot using a 21mm lens. That bird was no more than a metre away! This one shot at f5.6.

The aperture ring is close to the focussing ring and I have managed to change the aperture by accident while trying to focus. But again, I’m sure I will get used to it with time.

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The aperture diaphragm has 11 blades and produces an attractive star burst effect when shooting into the light. However sometimes there can be some flare but considering how wide and fast this lens is and how many elements it has (10) it handles it really well. There might be flare but the lens keeps its contrast.

What is most amusing is that the focus ring only moves about 90 degrees from 70cm to Infinity yet the aperture ring moves around much more than that as it has so many stops!

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Leica M9 Summilux f1.4 Asph lens. Wide open at f1.4. 160 ISO. This shot is not made up of multiple exposures layered together, it’s pretty much as it came out of the camera. It really is amazing that you can shoot wide open and get such sharp results.

The hood screws on and stops at exactly the right place thanks to a slight indent in the thread casting but there’s nothing to lock it in place and it can get knocked off of true and that is not good. I have got into the habit of checking that the hood is done up tight before shooting.

Also pants is the lens hood cap, a rubbery plastic affair that just falls off as soon as you look at it. It doesn’t bother me as I never use lens caps with a rangefinder but for the money it really is a joke and it’s a bit annoying having to buy special filters for it but if you have just spent 5000 Euros on a lens, you’re hardly going to baulk at this point.

Also I have noticed that the screw-on hood is a bit small and up until f8 the corners are slightly dark. Taking off the hood cures this. I do find this a bit strange that the lens hood would encroach into the view of the lens and cause these black corners but maybe there is a good reason for this. If not I am sure Leica will soon sort it.

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This picture shows a shot of the sky taken at f1.4 with the lens hood fully screwed in place. As you can see the corners are slightly dark. These dark corners do not fully go until f8 which is a bit strange.

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This picture shows the same shot taken at f1.4 with the lens hood off. Black corners have gone but now the lens is far more susceptible to flare. Note the large orange halo bottom right. This halo was there right up to f8.

I am going to be gutted when it goes back. It is far too big, heavy and expensive but I have never enjoyed using a lens more on my M9 and I forgive it all its faults.