Archive for the ‘Equipment’ Category

The end of the Leica Year…or not?

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010 by

August the 10th. It is now a year ago I started with Michael Johnston’s ‘Leica Lessons‘ project.

I feel like I didn’t really complete the year, though. As I detailed before, I’ve been using my 400D occasionally to record the progress of our renovation project1, and as you can see from last week’s picture, I haven’t stuck to one lens either. I’ve also started using a light meter during the second half of the year2.

So, will I ditch the Leica tomorrow and go back to my EOS 30, or even run back to the modern embrace of digital? No, definitely not. I’ve found that for most of the things I shoot, the Leica is close to my perfect camera. It’s small, so I can carry it always, it’s reliable, and it’s an enormous pleasure to use. It certainly has its weaknesses, and rangefinders don’t suit every purpose, but nothing prevents me from using one of my SLRs if the need arises.

As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t really stuck with one lens. When I realized the Leica was there to stay, I started drawing up my ultimate Leica kit3, and started watching Ebay for deals on these lenses. Over the past few months, I’ve been able to get both lenses I wanted for very reasonable prices. I haven’t used the lenses much, mostly put a few rolls behind then to make sure they worked as they should, but I still used them. They have, however, confimed my assessment that the Leica suits me.

Why did I start using a lightmeter? This I blame on the remodelling project: Because I had very little time to shoot, and equally little time to develop, I practised little, and there was often a long time between shooting the picture and seeing the result. It is also my experience that you need to keep excersizing the skill, or it will fade very fast. When I started getting less than 10 well-exposed shots per roll it started taking the fun out of the whole project, which wasn’t the idea. So I picked up a Leicameter MR from Ebay, and I’ve been using it for most of my shots since then. That, combined with the fact that I’ve finally zeroed in on a exposure index/developing combo I’m happy with means that the last 5 months have given me a lot more satisfying shots.

So, what’s next? I might, in the future, redo parts of the year, since I feel like I cheated. I’ll certainly give GSOTPANWASTOTZSS another go, when I can make more time. I’ll also keep shooting a lot of B&W film. For one thing, I like the ability to do your own development, but I also feel like I haven’t learned everything I can about shooting in B&W yet. I will be trying out the Leica (or more exactly, the Leica lenses) with some colour slide film though4.

Next friday I’ll be shooting another wedding, so I’ll get a healthy dose of modern cameras and lenses. Let’s call it detox.

  1. I was also asked to shoot a swimming match a few months ago, for which I brought the Canon as well. []
  2. Though to be fair, this requirement wasn’t stipulated by Michael Johnston, but by me []
  3. On which more in a following post []
  4. If I like both, there may be a second body in the future, though that won’t be soon. []

Falling apart – Part 2

Monday, December 21st, 2009 by

First, my apologies for yet another long radio silence. I’ve been renovating my new home, so I haven’t been taking a lot of pictures, and haven’t been close to a computer either.

Second, the follow-up to the missing-lever-problem I described three weeks ago. Back then, I mailed Leica’s spare parts service1, and within a few days got a reply that if I supplied them with my postal address, they’d send me a replacement lever free of charge2.

The new lever promptly arrived a few days later, so I can now once more preview how a picture would look with a lens I haven’t got…

Tomorrow, I’ll finally post another picture.

  1. I also contacted Will van Manen, the Dutch Leica repair technician who serviced my camera before I bought it, who also replied promptly that he could supply and re-attach the part, even if the inner coupling had gotten dislodged. []
  2. Leicas may be expensive, but the service is great: Free parts on a second-hand, 54-year-old camera. []

SOOKY-M manual

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 by

Just a quick note: As I already stated on my lenses page, one thing that bugged me when I was looking into the SOOKY-M (SOMKY) device, was the distinct lack of info available online. I’ve therefore made the manual available as a download.

Falling apart

Monday, November 30th, 2009 by

Well, this sucks.

Sometime last saturday, the screw keeping the frameline-preview lever of the M3 in place unscrewed itself. I found the screw again, luckily it fell out indoors, but I’m afraid the lever itself fell off later, outside, and I haven’t been able to find it again.

Luckily, this is the only control on the camera that isn’t needed for actual shooting, but it’s still annoying.

If anyone has suggestions on where to get a replacement, please let me know in the comments! I’ve looked at DAG but he currently only has the (fugly) M4-style levers in stock.


Friday, November 13th, 2009 by

As I mentioned back when I explained the lens I’m using for the Leica Lessons project, I was really tempted by the Dual-range Summicron. In the end I decided against it, but mentioned in the footnotes that if I would end up missing the close range too much, I could always get a SOMKY adapter.

Well, I just did.

I love using the Leica, and it does pretty much everything I want from a camera. I’m surprised at how little I miss my Canons, quite frankly1, but one thing keeps bugging me: The lack of close focus. Product shots, and of course flower photography are hard or impossible without excessive cropping, so in the end I caved.

I managed to find one in excellent condition, with manual2 and in the original red box. I’ll be testing it out over the coming period, and keep you posted. I already posted some info on the lenses page.

  1. Which bothers me a bit, as I have quite a bit invested in that system. []
  2. Which was pretty important, as there is frightingly little info on this device available online. []

Well said

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009 by

DPReview1 just put up their hands-on preview of the Leica X1. The following line made me laugh out loud, but is also indicative of one of the reasons I prefer film over digital:

…if you’re after an aquarium mode, HD movies or background music for your slide shows, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Back to our regular programming…

  1. Once referred to as …the place to go if you’ve just hit someone over the head and stolen their nice digital camera, and now need to read a review that’s comprehensive enough that you won’t miss the manual. (source). []

Further developments ((Worst pun ever, I know.))

Monday, October 5th, 2009 by

I recently went over my expenses for the Leica Year, and my development costs were rapidly approaching the cost of the Leica and lens. This was of course to be expected (and pointed out by Mike in the discussion following his original post, but the turning point was coming quicker than I expected.

Part of this is due to the fact that my lab charges more for B&W development than they do for colour (slide) development. (Or their contact sheets are very expensive). Costs run to over 10 EUR per roll. At over 2 rolls a week on average, that gets to over 100 EUR a month.

Luckily, when I chose my film, I went for a classic B&W film, so I dug up my parents’ old developing equipment and ordered some chemicals. This weekend, I developed my first few rolls. It was easier than I expected.

I used Agfa Rodinal, since it’s very cheap1 and lasts forever (reportedly). I used a 1+45 dilution2 and developed for 11 minutes, with 30 seconds agitation every 3 minutes. Followed by a water stop-bath and 6 minutes in RXA fixer (rapid, non hardening). Temperature was around 19 degrees, which is the temperature of the tapwater in my kitchen3.

I also caught up with my scanning this weekend, so from now on, I can develop and scan each roll in a reasonable time. Who needs digital?

  1. The `try the cheapest, upgrade if necessary’ tactic worked well for my film, so I applied it here as well. []
  2. I wanted something around 1+50 and my tank (Jobo 2400) has a 450ml capacity, so 450ml water + 10ml concentrate is easy to measure off, giving great reproducability. []
  3. Once again, taking the easy way out. []


Sunday, August 9th, 2009 by

Just a quick note that I’ve added the equipment for the Leica Lessons project to the equipment pages. Details are still limited, as I haven’t actually shot anything with this stuff yet.

I’m using this weekend to finish the rolls of film left in each of my cameras, as today is the last chance to use those. I foresee a lot of business for my lab this week…

The film

Saturday, August 8th, 2009 by

The final item1 needed for the Leica Lessons project is a film, a black and white film to be exact.

I wanted to use a 400 ASA film, which I’ve found is a nice all-round speed. I also wanted to use a `real’ B&W film, as opposed to a chromogenic film. In this speed, 5 types are well available to me: Kodak T-Max, Kodak Tri-X, Ilford Delta, Ilford HP5 and Fuji Neopan.

As I have absolutely no experience with B&W film, I decided to to a comparison. My demands for the final film:

  • Good detail
  • Not too grainy
  • Capable of being pushed to 1600 ASA2

For the comparison, I got two rolls of each, and shot a collection of scenes on each of them. One roll at 400 ASA, the other at 1600. I also bracketed each scene at +1 and -1 stop.

I’ll post the resulting pictures here in the near future, but the short of the story is: I didn’t see enough difference to base a valid choice on.

Since I didn’t have any real preference, a final deciding factor came into play: price. Thanks to the wonderful website, I can get all Fuji films in bulk, and at less than half the price I pay for other brands through normal retailers. As I have good experience with Fuji for my other films and didn’t dislike Neopan in the test shots I decided to just take the easy way out, and use Neopan 400 for my `one film’.

With that, the set is complete: Leica M3, 50mm Summicron collapsible and Fuji Neopan 400, my choice of photographic equipment for the upcoming year.

  1. Or more specifically, going at an average of 2 rolls a week, at least 100 items. []
  2. For those tricky indoor tungsten shots, and those times I lose my sanity and decide to do sports-photography with a rangefinder. []

The lens

Thursday, August 6th, 2009 by

In addition to a camera, I also needed a lens for the Leica Lessons project. In the rules I specified this had to be a Leica lens, and as I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be using a 50mm lens.

That still leaves a lot of options.

A site that was of much value to me was this one, which list pretty much all M lenses ever made.

With mount and focal length set, one parameter left was the maximum aperture. I’ve always had good experience with the `slightly slower’ fifty, the model just below the f1.4 mainstream lens, like my Canon 50mm f1.8 or my Pentax 50mm f1.7, which strike a nice bargain between light, size/weight, image quality and price. The Leica equivalent here is the fabled Summicron.

Vain as I am, I preferred a chrome lens to go with my chrome body1. I also wanted a compact lens (one of the reasons I went for a Summicron over a Summilux).

My fondness of flower photography first had me looking seriously at the DR Summicron, but in the end I decided against that for several reasons2:

  1. It’s too good. It’s often hailed as the best Leica 50mm. I felt using the best of the best contravenes the spirit of the project.
  2. It’s complex. The dual range aspect of the lens practically turns it into two lenses. As the assignment says one lens, that feels like cheating.
  3. It’s expensive. The high quality of the lens make good copies highly sought-after.
  4. It’s big. As I have to carry the camera everywhere, I wanted something compact. The DR is the biggest 50mm Summicron to date.

This led me back to a series of lenses that intrigued me even before I learned more about Leica lenses: Collapsible lenses. As an SLR shooter, this concept has always seemed genius to me: The ability to simply slide the lens back into the body of the camera, giving a near-flat package for transport.

Looking around, these are considered good, if slightly dated lenses, and available for reasonable prices as well. So here she is:

Leica lens 1192418, build in Wertzlar in 1954. Unlike the camera, I got this from a seller in the States, so I did get to pay a nice customs premium, but it’s in excellent condition, and came with original front and back caps3. Only downside of the American heritage is the fact that the distance scale is in feet instead of meters. However, I was always pretty good in guestimating distances in feet when I played (British) table-top games, so I don’t think it’ll really matter in the end.

  1. Although I didn’t have the body yet when shopping for lenses, I was pretty sure the collectors’ premium on a black M3 would be pretty pointless, and out of my target price range. []
  2. Should, during the coming year, the lack of close-focus ability become too big a bother, I can always look around for a SOMKY adapter []
  3. Interestingly enough, the ad specified it only came with a rear cap. After I bought the lens, when it was still in transit, I contacted the seller if it really didn’t come with a front cap, since I was shopping for a lens hood and matching cap. The seller confirmed it didn’t come with one, yet when it arrived, there most definitely was a front cap on it. I’m not complaining though. []