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Posts tagged ‘Leica Summilux 35 f1.4 aspherical’

LEICA M MONOCHROM – Reality Check

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ISO 320, 1/125 sec, 35mm Summilux – by O

Since my “first impression” post back in September last year, O and I sold a few lenses and an old Nikon, just so proceeds could go towards a Leica M Monochrom and we haven’t looked back.

When the camera was first announced in May 2012, O was immediately sold on the idea. Me? I needed a lot of convincing because the price point was high, and it was limited to black and white. But then we were able to test the pre-production model and both of us fell in love with it.

In my previous post, I talked about the most important value any camera can give, whether it be a $1.00 toy camera or a Leica, is the ability to inspire you to grab the camera and shoot amazing or near amazing photographs. Well, it hasn’t changed at all. Actually, I lie. The desire to shoot beautiful photographs is stronger than before.

Leica Liker Martin Cello

ISO 5000, 1/1000 sec, 50mm Noctilux – by O

O sums it up the best. He says there is no excuse to not shoot good photographs anymore. Unlike color, where you can be lazy and decide if the shot could be presented in black and white or not, or slack off on the framing or composition (don’t tell me you don’t do this sometime), the Monochrom only works well when you understand the demands it has of you, the user/photographer. You have to rethink how you ‘see’. You are forced to think in black and white in order to capture the images you want.

This is because the image is recorded in shades of grey and tones and not the colors which our eye is accustomed to seeing in real life. Understanding this is the first step towards a creative process. You have to think about how you want the sensor to record the image. You have to consider many aspects of the photograph in order to capture what you want. This creative process is essential to the Monochrom, otherwise, it would be a waste of money. However little or strong it may be, you can’t run away from it.

M Tillmann 1.A Ewanglee

ISO 400, 1/45, 35mm Summilux

So if you think you are not creative, you actually are because of all the different aspects you must consider and answer before you press the shutter. For instance, the choice of more or less contrast will either harshen or soften the image, therefore changing the way you present the subject. The tones help define whether the image is more realistic or impressionistic. You can emphasize forms and shapes, thereby focussing the eye towards the subject with less distractions.

O believes that black and white has an inherently more impressionistic quality whereas color requires a great deal of thought and planning in order to give off the same level of impressionism.

So without further ado, let’s dive straight into the photographs and details of the performance of the Monochrom.

M Tillmann 12 Ewanglee

ISO 1250, 1/45sec, 35mm Summilux

DISCLAIMER!!!: My review is only based on the images I take and how user friendly the camera is. Some images have been post processed with slight crops (to straighten the shot) and pushing or pulling on the contrast, darks, and brightness in Lightroom 4. A few have been processed with Nik Silver Efex 2. That is about the only post work I do. And, my bias is based on if the camera helps me capture the image I envisioned. I am not knowledgeable about equipment from any technical point of view. So if any one expects to read detailed specifications or any tech reviews, there are other sites that have the expertise. You can go to L-Camera Forum here to find out a list of all the reviews of the Monochrom. You can check out all the specifications at the Leica site here.

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ISO 800, 1/2000 sec, 35mm Summilux

THE BASIC PHYSICAL

I love, love, love the stealth look of the Monochrom. No Leica red dot, no Leica name logo on top, just matte black metal with a fine textured leather finish. Simple and understated. In my mind, it’s the most elegant Leica in the M series. The clean lines are classic.

FRAME BUFFER

In Japan, there is an aesthetic called Wabi-Sabi, that is sometimes described as beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence (三法印 sanbōin), specifically impermanence (無常 mujō), the other two being suffering (苦 ku) and emptiness or absence of self-nature (空 kū?).” (Taken from Wikipedia)

You’re probably wondering, “what in the world is she talking about?”… I’m just coming to it, so please indulge me a little more.

Leica Liker Hitchcock church

ISO 640, 1/500, 35mm Summilux – by O

From an engineering or design point of view, wabi may be interpreted as the imperfect quality of any object, due to inevitable limitations in design and construction/manufacture especially with respect to unpredictable or changing usage conditions; then sabi could be interpreted as the aspect of imperfect reliability, or limited mortality of any object, hence the phonological and etymological connection with the Japanese word sabi, to rust.(Also taken from Wikipedia)

Now to the point. On the pre-production model, we noted the Frame Buffer was slow. Well….it hasn’t changed. When you shoot over 4-5 single frames continuously, the frame buffer fills up and you’re forced to wait between 15- 30 seconds before it frees up. It’s a flaw that happens to me very often. That’s why I have had to reach into my Zen drawer and find a way to explain to myself why I must remain patient as little grasshopper should. 🙂

I hope Leica fixes this soon!

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ISO 320, 1/180 sec, 35mm Summilux – by O

ISO BUMP

The increase in ISO to 10000 make this camera low light friendly. It’s my go-to camera in the evenings. Stripped of the RGB filters, Kodak’s Truesense presents as pure an image as you can possibly get. To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing out there that comes close to purity than this one.

THE BEAUTY OF GRAIN

As I said in my last post, the most unique thing about this camera is the noise grain. It is just simply exquisite. The grain is not the digital hard edged type you get with the M9. It’s a soft film-like grain.

However, at 10,000 ISO, the Truesense sensor is pushed to its limit. The noise is extremely noticeable with a slight muddy nature (for my taste), although professional photographers like Jacob Aue Sobol has been able to turn it into an aesthetic. The highest I use is 6400, where the noise is acceptable and part of the aesthetic of the shot. But at 5000 you can get a near noiseless shot. My ideal range for night shots is 3200 -6400. During the day, I play between 640 and 3200.

TONES

I love the complex and refined tonal range of this camera. When you look at the images, the details are part of the lure. Hence, the grey nature of the RAW files. But that’s what is so great about the camera. You capture more detail than some negative films. Your RAW files let you make ‘informed’ choices on how to process the shot. You have more options to post the image than ever before.

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ISO 320, 1/125 sec, 35mm Summilux – by O

EXPOSURE
As mentioned in my last post, you need to underexpose the shot so don’t blow out your highlights. Unless you want to of course.

LCD SCREEN

I really hope Leica will replace the 2.5″ TFT LCD sapphire-crystal display screen with something comparable to any SLR camera out there. What they have on there is just subpar.

THE MENU

I was able to play with the new histogram that shows the raw data combined with a clipping display. I try to practice with it to see how my estimate of exposure is compared to the actual. It’s still a work in progress for me. A wonderful tool for those who are still learning.

Leica Liker Back

ISO 320, 1/4000, 50mm Summicron – by O

LENSES

The Monochrom makes every lens shine because the image is as pure as the lens. But O and I are of the opinion that the Monochrom is really made for sharp lenses like the APOs. The sensor captures every nuance of the image.

THE PRICE TAG

What can I say? I hate it because it hurts the pocket for those of us who have to count our pennies. But I understand it and am in support of the decision. It’s the only camera that is hand made. Regardless of the technology (good or bad), I love the fact that I am paying for some one’s livelihood. Someone who has pride in their work. Some one who gets excited when they can invent, to preserve and expand a legend, or bridge a gap between old and new, paint the logo on, put on the screw… well you get the idea.

In our society, we don’t seem to value individual input anymore. The bottom-line rules everything at the expense of people. You can’t compare products that are made from robotic assembly lines with ones put together by humans.

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ISO 2000, 1/60 sec, 21mm Super Elmar

CONCLUSION

The Leica M Monochrom is a milestone in camera inventions, just like when the ‘Barnack’ was invented to make cameras portable, or the first M(3) Leica was invented with bayonet interchangeable lenses, or when the M9 was born with its full frame sensor. This camera is a game changer in the world of full frame digital cameras. It is also the perfect evolution from negative film to digital without leaving the achievements of film in the trash. It tries to emulate the beautiful quality of film, yet still have its own unique quality. That’s a good thing.

You can read:

First Impressions of Leica M Monochrom (Pre-production model) Part 1 here.

First Impressions of Leica M Monochrom (Pre-production model) Part 2 here.

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# 12 MARIUSZ “MARIO” JANISZEWSKI, Warsaw Documentary and Street Photographer

Leica Liker is honored to have Mariusz Janiszewski, a Warsaw (Poland) Documentary and Street Photographer as our #12 guest.

When you view many Mariusz’s (Mario) images, you can’t help but stay a while because there is so much to look at in a single image. He takes full advantage of his 28mm wide angle lens, capturing  a fairly wide view to emphasize space and ambiance. In a sense, some of his photos hark of Atget’s visual document of Paris. The one thing they have in common: people going about their lives against the large backdrop of their environment.

In Mario’s photographs, the environment plays an equal, if not crucial, role to the humans who inhabit them. As if he is saying we are shaped by where we work and live.

What is fascinating is his choice of environments: shipyards, brickyards, fishing villages, etc.. Places where the environment is larger than the individual. Some of them have an epic quality to them. Yet, you can feel the quiet spirit of each person within the space. In our western world of automation, we forget that there are places that still build or deconstruct amazing things by hand.

Mario rarely shoots one-off images. He spends hours, days, weeks capturing a series of photos so we can experience not fragments, but segments of life. It is the combination of the images that create an overall impression of the subject rather than the reliance of a single image to encompass the message. His slow and patient way of documenting his subjects has given us a glimpse into the resilience of the human spirit.

Here’s my interview with MARIUSZ JANISZEWSKI:

Nick Name: Mario
Currently living in: Warsaw, Poland
Motto: I don’t have one.
Documentary and Street Photographer since: More than 10 years

Profession/Job: Commercial photographer
Websites: www.mariuszjaniszewski.pl, http://www.packshotstudio.pl
Organizations or Group: None
Having grown up in your formidable years (first 16 years) under communist rule before solidarity, how has it affected your photography?
I have never thought about it. I just remember the tanks on the streets and and people being arrested for having solidarity leaflets. However, for me, it’s the distant past and I do not connect it with the present.

Did you study photography or take seminars? How did it help shape your photography? No, I am self-taught, an autodidactic. I was a graphic designer working in a company when my boss told me he needed a photo of t-shirt with a logo. So I taught myself how to make the photo and from there I photographed things for the company. Over time, became a commercial photographer and gave up the graphic design.

As for my personal photographs, 10 years ago I started to photograph typical travel and vacation images in places like Egypt, China and Mexico. But when I saw the pyramids and visited many museums, I saw that there were other things to photograph. It was a pivotal time and bit-by-bit I began to delve deeper into the world of photography. I soon found people more interesting to photograph than old buildings. I started off using a long zoom lens from a distance. Then I met an experienced photographer who convinced me to shoot closer with a wider lens.

Favorite Camera & Lens: Leica M9 + Leica Elmarit 28mm/2.8
Back-up Camera & Lens: Zeiss Ikon + Leica Summilux 35/1.4 aspherical
Favorite photography gadget: Small dilapidated camera in hand, I do not need anything more and certainly no gadget.

Why do you like to shoot with a Leica M9? Do you own any other Leica film cameras? I use to own the Leica MP but abandoned it in favor of M9.
For me it is the only digital camera with analog look i.e. with the elusive flavor of analogue film. Another reason for the M9 is, it makes me invisible. Running around at dawn with a large DSLR camera is a bit like telling everyone – “Hey look, I’m a photographer!.” I photograph dilapidated areas, places of ruin and waste. With a DSLR it looks like I want to take a picture of their decline. It’s not the case with the M9. The small angular box hiding in my hand does not stir anyone’s attention and everyone feels free to continue with their work. I’m just a harmless passer by with an antique camera from the attic. Of course I know the weaknesses of the M9: low ISO range or when I shoot too much, it hangs up and doesn’t allow you to shoot for a few seconds. However, this is where I pay the price for what I need.

When do you choose to your Zeiss Ikon or Contax 645? The Zeiss Ikon is only an accessory backup which is more used to not being used. But the Contax is another matter. I love medium format. Here is the real power of negative film. Contax (or earlier hasselblad 203F) has a different approach to photography. It’s not a spur of the moment camera. It requires time and is therefore mainly used for portraits. It is always a compliment to documenting in quantity.

Favorite street food: Hindi (Indian) food
Do you listen to music while shooting? Never
Favorite music when shooting and/or editing Photos: Hindi music when I edit.
Favorite photo software: Nik Silver Efex 2

3 Favorite Master Photographers: Josef Koudelka, Sebastião Salgado, Henri Cartier-Bresson
3 Favorite Contemporary Photographers: Alex Webb, Francesco Zizola, Mariusz Janiszewski 😉
Which 3 photographers’ prints do you own? I do not have any. At my house I only have my photographs. But I passionately collect albums of other photographers. I love to have my morning coffee in hand with an album – slowly turning over page after page, and contemplating on each image.

Color or Black and White? I shoot 80% black and white. Black and white photography is much more pronounced while color draws attention.
Shoot Film or Digital? Digital. But only because using the Leica M9 feels like using a film camera and the final image is similar to analog film.
If Film, what type of negative? Kodak Portra, Kodak Tri-x Pan, Ilford HP5 Is there a special time of the day you like to shoot or is any time good? Best time is after 6PM. I love the beautiful color of the sun and great dark shadows.

How do you define street photography? Street is pure truth, without pretense, and it expands unnecessary beautification.

Why did you choose Street or Documentary Photography and not another form of photography or stamp collecting? My photographs teeter between two styles- documentary photography and street photography with an emphasis on the first. Street photography can frame humor in life whereas documentary photography frames bare reality.

What motivates you to photograph the streets? It needs no motivation. It is pure pleasure, catching in the frame of truth is in some sense to me escape from work. I am an advertising photographer where truth recedes. I love the uncertain factor of what could happen in a particular moment.

Is Street Photography an obsession? Obsession is a strong word but it really fully reflects my approach. When I leave the house I can forget everything but never the camera and keys.

Are you a lone shooter or do you like shooting with friends or a group? A group attracts attention. We become visible from a distance. It’s best to photograph alone or in pairs, but no more. Only then do I feel I have the opportunity to make a good photo.

Are you an invisible photographer or visible? Depends on the circumstances, but I try to be invisible. Only then is there the biggest chance for a good picture. You can then assimilate into the environment and wait for the right moment. Street or documentary photography is not racing.

Favorite street or documentary photography city: Calcutta, India. It has a classic blend of modernity, swarms of people, chaos … I generally like to shoot in the crowd. And Calcutta offers the ideal place in between a crowd of people.

What inspires your photography? Great photographers inspire me. Studying their sensitivity increases my awareness of photographic opportunities. It’s not about copying their ideas in a certain direction, but to open our eyes to other ways of showing the world.

Is there a philosophy, concept or aesthetic behind your compositions that you apply to your photos? Philosophy implies too much said. It is more about the beauty I see where to others it might only be dirt and chaos.

You do product photography. How does advertising photography affect your work? How does it affect how you see light? Product and promotional photography is all about taking care of details. Every little nuance there is important. Every mistake can make the picture be perceived positively or negatively. I think this is what is most important and it is translated into my pictures. When I shoot, I try to pay attention to the little things. Of course, there is no way of correcting fact. It matters more when composing the crop, looking at nuances in the background which could be an added advantage. Mastery of light, is also important. However, I’m not a fan of flashing in documents.

Do you shoot a lot? Certainly much less than one or two years ago. I’m not a fan of shooting a series and then hoping that something will come of it. Trust your intuition and try to predict when to press the shutter button.

What do you look for in a good photograph by others? A good photo must stop you and ask you to focus on the vision. It encourages you to reflect. It induces one to think. The image must have a message. The story in the photo should stimulate the imagination.

How do you choose your shots when you edit? What tells you that the shot is good? I choose the pictures that arrest my attention for a long time. The images also should not be limited to one strong focusing point. I like to look at an image that allows my eye to jump around. Like trying new flavors.

Why do you choose to shoot in underdeveloped places? Why not in Poland? I always liked the exotic. Of course, in my country you can find lots to shoot. But Asia and Africa has always fascinated me. One can say just go out on the Indian streets and the camera will the rest. Only those who were in those places, know that’s half the knowledge of the truth. I love the contact with the locals. The cultural gate opens completely different problems, problems which you aren’t familiar with. Additionally it is also pulling away from everyday life, from domestic issues, from problems. The phone is switched off, the internet does not tempt. It’s just me and the camera.

Why do you prefer to shoot a series or photoessay? Can you give some advice on creating a series or photo essay, rather than a one-off photos? I think the photo essay is the next step on the path of photography. Anyone can shoot one photo, even if only by accident. A series requires you to study a subject. It asks you what you want to achieve. You have to report on it, to focus on the many aspects of which with a single photograph is not achievable.

Best 3 tips for shooting the streets: Patience, reflexes and smile. A positive attitude is very important. It’s how we are perceived. If we are positive, half the work is already done. Then just wait for the right time and make quick decisions to capture that one single moment.

Best single advice on how to improve your work: It’s important to be in critical terms with your own work all the time. Don’t be quick to say it’s perfect because you can’t go back.

Best single advice on how to edit your work: No matter how many times we play with the sliders for contrast, light or dark, or how many layers we work with in software programs, the final result should look natural from an invisible hand.

Best single advice for someone who wants to get into street or documentary photography: The picture has to tell the story and not be an empty cage. Without the story, then everything else goes by the wayside, such as whether the subject is valid, exposition, and other aspects. Today, unfortunately, there seems to be greater emphasis on whether the picture is sharp and hit the point than on what content it presents.

What’s the best moment in your street photography career? Bangladezi bazaar. Amidst the background of poverty 2 girls stand out, collecting waste from the ground. I approached them with my friend and we told ourselves that they can choose whatever they want, and we’ll pay for it. We ended up walking the whole bazaar and escorted them to a rickshaw carrying their nets filled with food. Watching these girls, which started from helplessness and emptiness in their eyes, through fear of an unusual situation, turning into unimaginable joy in their eyes… oh, it was an unforgettable moment.

What’s the worst moment in your street photography career? Visiting the bazaar in my town. The hostility I’ve encountered from my own people was incredible as I was the epitome of the evil photographer.
What projects are you working on? I’ve begun collecting material on the mines in the world, plus a few other ideas which are too early to tell.

here do you want to be in 5 years with regard to street photography? On top 😉 The future is too far away. I am focusing on preparing the nearest project. On the one hand it’s important that progress is constant. On the other hand I want to stil find pleasure in photography the next 5, 10 or 15 years.

Are there exhibitions planned in the future? One of the galleries in Warsaw will exhibit my photos, probably in the fall. You’ll also be able to see them somewhere else but the details are not known. And who knows about the plans for the 2013 crop. I don’t want to speak about them lest I jinx them.

Leica Liker thanks Mario for sharing his experience and inspirational advice with us. We look forward to checking in on him in the future.

You can check out Mario’s’s gear in “Liker Bags’n Gear” here.

Here is Mario’s self portrait.

#12 Mariusz “Mario” Janiszewski ‘s Gear


We are pleased to have Mariusz Janiszewski, Warsaw (Poland) Documentary and Street Photographer as our #12 featured photographer.

Here are his self portraits.

You can check out the interview under “Inspiration” here in this blog. This is his bag of goodies! He’s a real Leica Liker 🙂

SMALL OPTIONS

In the Bag:
Leica M9
Leica Elmarit 28mm/f2.8
Simple canvas bag

BIG OPTIONS

In the Bag:

Leica M9
Leica Elmarit 28mm/f2.8
Leica Summilux 35mm/f1.4 aspherical

Zeiss Ikon
Voigtlander 40mm/f1.4

Contax 645
Zeiss 80mm/f2.0

Simple canvas duffle bag

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