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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

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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Leica m9

Plustek 7400 film scanner review

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Beautiful old Alfa shot with Leica M3 and Tmax 100 asa film. Scanned with Plustek 7400 film scanner.

Recently I was going through some old B&W prints and I realised that I had taken some really great pictures over the years so I decided that the time had come to scan the negs and really organise my archive. In over 30 years of taking pictures it amounts to thousands of images. It’s actually a massive task but it’s not going to get done by itself. So I decided to buy a scanner and get on with it.

My idea was to scan all my negs at the highest res possible rather than just scan images when I needed. This way I can chuck out the original negs and simplify my life. Most people would keep them but I live on a small boat and simply don’t have the space to keep them. There’s always the risk that they would get damaged anyway in the damp environment.

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I did some research and in the end found the Plustek 7400 35mm film scanner. It cost a bit over £200 and comes with carriers for 6 negs or 4 slides. It also comes with Silver Fast scanning software. The unit itself is not too big and has a reassuring weight to it. In use it is quiet but the carrier does not advance automatically so you have to scan one image at a time. The 7400 has the latest LED technology which means better quicker scans and with no warm up time.

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At this point I have to mention the software Silver Fast. I’m afraid I find this clunky, untidy and frankly crap. It’s awful to use, over complicated with a very unhelpful ‘help’ guide. Not only that but try and do ANYTHING while it’s scanning and you will crash the program. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal but having crashed once, the scanner is no longer recognised and the only solution is a computer re-boot. I did some research on some forums and discovered that I am not alone. I am on Windows 7 and maybe this has something to do with it. Personally I think not. I think that Silver Fast is a piss poor bit of software. There are other scanning programs I could buy but I only plan on scanning my negs once and then I am done so I will live with it as at the very least, it does allow me to scan.

Rant over, let’s scan. Because I am only scanning once I decided to scan at the max resolution of 7200 dpi. In reality this means 10,000 px wide scans in B&W which end up about 25 meg each. I tried saving files as Tiffs but the file size was massive and I could not see any difference at all between the Jpg and the Tiff. All my scans are now done as max quality JPGs. I found that the images could be adjusted for exposure, contrast etc just as well from a JPG as they could from a Tiff. So as far as I could tell there was no advantage to scanning and saving as a Tiff.

The B&W scans are excellent as you can see from the first pic on this post. I only scan once for each image but you can have multiple passes if you want but obviously this slows down the process massively and to be honest, I couldn’t see the difference. One pass at max res with the image saved as a uncompressed JPG is good enough for my purposes. Each scan takes about 2 to 3 minutes which isn’t too bad. I try not to think about the thousands of negs still ahead of me!

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Here’s a crop showing the zoom at 50% of the scanned image and below is a 100% version.

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A lot depends of the quality of your negs of course. Many of my shots were taken with all sorts of cameras and often in low light with fast film so there is not much quality there to start with. I could probably get away with scanning at a lower res but at least if I scan at the highest res possible I can always lower the quality later. When you come across a good neg, well exposed and developed the quality of the scan is excellent. Each individual piece of grain is visible. It’s really quite impressive.

Dust and scratches can be a problem that will really depend on how well your negs were stored. I always used the waxed paper neg holders and so long as they don’t get wet they seem to do the least damage to negs. My negs get handled a lot and so many of them had some dust marks and sometimes the odd scratch. I have decided not to get too anal about this. I think one could drive one’s self completely mad by worrying about every tiny bit of dust. I started to de dust one photo of my mate Tom but it got completely out of hand when I started to remove bits of dust that were actually stuck to his clothing!

Most of my negs were not too bad and I found the best way to remove dust is in Lightroom. Zoom in to 1:3 and use the navigator on the left to make sure to cover the whole image. It can be a bit of work but it’s not too bad thanks to Lightroom’s excellent dust removing tool. It takes a bit of practice but once learned is pretty quick.

Silver Fast offers some dust removing options but I didn’t like the look of the image after it had been worked on, it seemed to lose a lot of sharpness. Also it tripled the time to scan so I made the decision to repair the images post scanning. I found a clever though simple free program made by Polaroid. It’s easy to use yet surprisingly effective. There was a certain amount of messing about with the settings but there are not that many so it didn’t take long to discover what worked best. I had a lot of trouble finding it but in the end I found it here. I don’t know how long this bizarre link will remain but it’s worth a try. I had great trouble locating it. It works as a stand alone program or as a Photoshop plug in.

As yet I have not tried to scan any slides or colour negs, for now I’m just really happy to see some old B&W images again. Like seeing old mates again. I’ll post a review of the scanner with colour images as soon as I get a chance.

Conclusion: An excellent and easy to use scanner. Superb quality and pretty quiet. Only let down by the Silver Fast software it comes with.

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Leica m9

Leica M9, instant deployment case

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There’s no point having a great camera if you don’t have it with you when you need it. The Leica M9 is pretty compact for what it is but it’s still quite a lump to lug about. If you wear it around your neck you run the risk of damaging it or the lens as it swings about. You can put it in a camera bag but it’s hardly a hands free option.

Luckily I have a very talented partner who made me an instant deployment case to my design that I can wear around my waist. It is basically a top loading camera case that can be worn. My M9 has a grip and it’s this that allows the camera to be extracted from the case. The whole operation takes seconds and can be achieved using only one hand. I’m right handed so wear it on my left hip.

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Some might say that it looks a bit odd but I couldn’t care about that. What’s important is that my valuable M9 is protected and I can get it out and start shooting easily. Worn with a belt the weight is not really noticeable and the best bit is that my hands are free and there’s no chance I will leave the camera somewhere by accident as you might if you had it in a camera bag.

The best bit is that no one has any idea what the case is and what might be inside it. I’m not one of those M9 owners who wants everyone to know I have one. I am much happier if no one has a clue. I bought my M9 to take pictures , not to draw attention to myself.

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The case is made from a thick outer leather with a super soft pig skin leather interior. It is completely hand made and hand stitched. The lid remains attached to the case so it can’t be lost and to allow for a one handed operation. The lid overlaps the case and is held in place with nothing more complicated than a magnetic catch. In case you are wondering, a magnet placed near the camera or the SD is no problem.

Although not strictly waterproof, the overlapping lid helps to keep water off and the entire case was treated with many applications of hide food which should help to fill the thread holes and shed water as well. In practice the case works exactly as planned. It means my camera is always with me and well protected too.