Keeping my thoughts wide open

2009, Photography

As promised, here is my second part of some photographs I took with the Leica M8 (see part one here). And should I mention something serious about this camera and the used lenses? Partially I think I should and partially I think I shouldn’t either. Why? Well first the serious part then. Even though it is a dream camera it still costs a lot of money. I mean really a lot of money. And yes, prices are dropping since the M9 was released. But the magic is still the lenses I think. And boy, these lenses come at serious prices.
Leica M8 and 35mm Summilux f/1.4 by Wouter Brandsma
And then the less serious part. I didn’t test this camera, I tried it, and to be honest we kept it at auto. I just scratched the surface to get some feeling of using a rangefinder camera and trying very fast lenses. I could have tried the Epson R-D1 too, but Cam, the sweetheart, insisted that I should try the Leica. And I don’t regret it. I loved the experience. And I loved using these lenses that screamed to be used wide open.
Leica M8 and 35mm Summilux f/1.4 by Wouter Brandsma
So what about these lenses? Leica lenses come at different flavors. Noctilux, Summilux, Summicron, Summarit, Elmarit, Elmar. The Noctilux lenses are the really fast ones. These lenses have a maximum apertures of f/1.0 or even f/0.95! You will find these only with 50mm focal lengths. And on the other side you will find the Elmar lenses. These are the slowest lenses, but by no mean bad lenses . Many users like to call their lenses Nocti’, ‘Lux or ‘Cron. I think they do so, because the owners have some sentimental relationship to their lenses. See it as a term of endearment (to quote Cam). And lets face it, Summilux or just ‘Lux sounds so much sexier than Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L USM. Interested? Then check Stephen Gandy’s CameraQuest for all the details and history of these lenses.
Leica M8 and 35mm Summilux f/1.4 by Wouter Brandsma
Would I want one? Yes, I would like to have a rangefinder, be it Leica or Epson. In the end they are still simple to operate cameras. The finder is large and bright, unlike with most SLR’s. I found manual focusing very well implemented. The finder provides the frame lines for three focal lengths, but these aren’t really accurate. Those who use external optical viewfinders for their compact sensor cameras know what I mean.But if you prefer accurate framing and if you like to have a sense of the depth of field you might be better of with a SLR.
Leica M8 and 35mm Summilux f/1.4 by Wouter Brandsma
So what is the part of all the attraction? I think to a large extension it is the unpredictability. Not the unpredictability of the system when it comes to the technical aspects, although some complained about that too. But more the end result part. When you shoot wide open it is quite difficult to really nail the focus and although you can have a feeling of the outcome and the depth of field by experience, you really know what you did until you see the end results. But that does bring excitement too. You can shoot an entire day and feel miserable after you see the results or you feel thrilled and stoked, because you’ve done everything right.
Leica M8 and 50mm Noctilux f/1.0 by Wouter Brandsma
The lenses are exceptional. The quality is very high and in particular the wide angle lenses are much smaller and better performers than the SLR counter parts. I just loved the feeling of the Summilux lens and using the smooth focus ring.
Leica M8 and 50mm Noctilux f/1.0 by Wouter Brandsma
But will I ever own one? Although it is my dream camera, likely not. The price, in particular the lenses, surpass my monthly income.
Leica M8 and 35mm Summilux f/1.4 by Wouter Brandsma
I would however still love to use M-mount lenses. And Voigtländer or Zeiss might be fine too for me. Some say they are 90% of the quality of the Leica lenses, but so are also the prices. Would I use such lenses with a rangefinder? I just don’t know. The M8 might eventually still be too expensive, even after a couple of years and a M9.2 or M10 announcement. Currently do the micro4/3 cameras provide an option to use these lenses too in combination to LCD screen or electronic viewfinder framing and focusing. It is just that I don’t like the 2x crop factor. And to be fair and honest, the new Olympus E-P2 looks like an ugly duck with that external EVF.
But maybe the new Samsung NX10 will be able to use these lenses too. This camera will have a 1,5x APS-C sized sensor. And will more manufacturers join this new competition? Sony mentioned being interested and they are the intellectual owners of the Hexar heritage! And maybe more will follow too.
Leica M8 and 35mm Summilux f/1.4 by Wouter Brandsma
All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

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27 thoughts on “Keeping my thoughts wide open

  1. Well, thanks for the lens info!

    I know, also my monthly income will never allow to own such gear… So another reason to keep that monthly lottery ticket.

    I love the 4th and 6th image, fall is here and these, to me, represent that feeling of ‘need a hot chocolate after that walk’

    1. You know Ronald. Maybe those Sigma boys are so smart to create a DP camera with a 35mm lens. The lens of course at least f/2.0 and an aperture and focus ring of course on the lens. It doesn’t need to be a rangefinder camera, I would be happy too with the recently announced Epson high megapixel count screens for electronic viewfinders.

      Until that moment I think it is perfectly fine to enjoy a hot chocolate after a good walk in the fall.

      1. “Maybe those Sigma boys are so smart to create a DP camera with a 35mm lens. The lens of course at least f/2.0 and an aperture and focus ring of course on the lens”

        Hi Wouter,

        i am looking for this kind of camera for almost 10 years now. Good to see that there are others out there as well. I guess we are not alone.

        I am not a film-fundametalist, but i recently took out my 1976 Konica T3 and a Konica HEXANON 50mm/f1.7 and put in some Velvia. My photo-walk resulted in some of the best shots i ever took and i had some great time using this equipment.
        The 50/f1.7 is truly one of the sharpest 50mm lenses ever made by anybody on this planet. Its out-of-focus rendering is creamy ad superb al well. As you would expect it is hugely expensive. A good one comes at about 25€ on ebay ;-).

        Although i truly adore Leica gear for its style and quality, oh boy these prices are pure fantasy!

        I like your shots and your comments on photography, keep up the good work!

        All the best from munich / germany,
        Daniel

  2. Hoi!

    Wat een boeiend verslag met BIJZONDER fraaie gedetailleerde foto’s met dat unieke bijzondere effect! Echt prachtig – ik zou het wel eens willen proberen, lijkt me geweldig. Vooralsnog houd ik het maar bij kijken naar de fraaie opnames die je ons toont incl. onderbouwingen in geschrift.

    Groeten,
    //Dave

    1. Hoi Dave, Dank je wel en ja, ik beschouw het zelf ook als bijzondere ervaring. Ik had het nooit willen missen en ik kan er prima mee leven het ook wie nooit meer te doen. Fotografie is zo al leuk genoeg.

      Groet, Wouter

  3. Great images, made with the best tools.

    But in all honesty: if I could afford this camera and/or lenses [which is not likely to happen in this lifetime] I would rather spend that money on traveling to some wonderful places. Taking pictures with less perfect cameras [my phone, if necessary 🙂 ].

  4. you didn’t even try the much smaller (and less expensive) pre-asphs! there are treasures to be found in old Leica glass that is just as good, often times better, IMO, than the newer shinier ones. there’s affordable treasures out there, you just need to be lucky.

    and the Epson is still an exquisite camera. i gave you the Leica because that was your dream.

  5. Oh, these benches. Oh, these sheeps. Oh, this one clear leaf in the dark, dark forest. This is poetry, written in light.

  6. I just checked out Leica M6 viewfinder today and I feel that the focusing a bit of challenge (coming from DSLR). The focusing screen in the middle is quite small and it is only in the center portion of the frame.

    But many Leica users said that it is easy and fast. So maybe it requires lot of practice.

    1. Seriously? Try focusing a dSLR with manual lenses without focus confirmation. No bleep, no green light, not even a split screen. And with regard to rangefinder a lot depends on the used magnifier. It is practicing, but not necessarily faster.

  7. Love shots 5 and 8. Out of general interest, why are viewfinder camera’s so expensive?

    1. Obviously quality, but also low produced numbers, relatively higher demand (although not even comparable to dSLR’s), and I think people who are willing to pay a high price. Even though the rangefinders are still true cameras for photographers, they are in my opinion not really targeted anymore for the same audience.

  8. Another nice series of photos. I really like the 3rd and 5th Photos. I just wonder if you can provide a downloadable full res file or a RAW file from the M8?

    There is an indescribable quality to the Sheep photo. It’s wonderful. I know with my Leica lenses sometimes there is an almost 3D quality to them. They are lenses Leica no other.

    I just look forward to your Winter photos Wouter. Its a pity you couldn’t ‘borrow’ the M8 for longer, you seem rather taken with it. Can’t you save your Euros?

    All the Best

    Chris

    1. I am trying to save my Euros, Chris. But at this pace it will take ages 😦 Unless the Pound Sterling remains so low 🙂 That could reduce the saving time with a year (or two).

      I don’t know about a full res downloadable DNG from the M8. I will think about it.

  9. Certainly there must be some upcoming purchases you could put off so that you might be able to afford such wonderful devices?

    Maybe giving up food? Housing? You could use the new camera to document your new homeless and starving lifestyle!!

  10. Yes the M is sexy – but I agree with the philosophy that the equipment is not what it is all about. Even if it would be nice to have said equipment, the price of the M is quite high. The lens of choice would make it even more out of reach… for now 😉 Oh but one day…

    I like all of these shots Wouter – I am really intrigued by the bench shot though. What settings did you have – do you have that data? I really like the depth on that one. I hope your having a great week.
    John

    1. The bench shot? There was no sunlight at that moment, with mostly overcast. I used the Noctilux at that moment and shot wide open at f/1 with a shutter speed of 1/750 sec at ISO 160, and an exposure compensation of -0.3 EV. I couldn’t believe shooting at that speed at such light, but that lens sucks all the light in that is available.

  11. Hi Wouter,

    Beautiful, when I read that you had borrowed your friend’s M8 I had no doubt that you would create some fantastic captures.

    I have been a Leica user for the past 10 yrs or so and love it.

    I was recently invited to share one of my images and some of my experience with Leica equipment here: http://leicashots.com/2009/11/11/rick-kwan/

    Please have a look for other great shots taken with digital and analog Leica cameras.

    Kind regards,

    Rk

    1. Hi Rick,

      It is unfortunately out of reach for me (yet), but I have witnessed it for a day. Maybe some day a M8 and a 35mm Summilux would be all I want. Enjoy your cameras and lenses and keep on sharing. Thank you for mentioning the link and nice to see also André Takeda’s work there.

      Cheers,
      Wouter

  12. Hi Wouter,

    I accidentally found your blog and the photo’s taken with Cam’s M8 and two very lenses. Splendid, I have to say ! Composing a photo without seeing actually focus and depth-of-field can be tricky but you managed excellent.

    Thanks for sharing your impressions and the photos !!

    Cheers,

    maddoc (from Japan)

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