Went to South Dakota with my friend JoshB to second shoot a wedding with him. Had a few minutes to kill before we headed back up north and got a chance to shoot around the town we were in a bit. Went through a few rolls of film as well. I will be posting a full post of the shots I took very soon.
Taken with my Leica M8 and voigtlander 40 1.4 classic
I am currently sitting in a hotel room in northern Wisconsin. I have been in and out of more hotels that I would like as of late, but it is one thing that goes along with my new job position. Over the past few months, I have put on way too many miles on my car that I would like to divulge. That much time behind the wheel gives you a lot of thinking and gathering time. Being gone makes you miss your comforts of home and also makes you miss your loved ones like crazy. With my recent time of reflection, I have given a lot of thought to my newest member of my family, my lovely Leica M8 digital rangefinder. With anything, it’s been an odd journey so far. I for one have not even considered using manual focus up until I purchased an old Mamiya C330 medium format twin lens camera. You really have to take most things you knew about using your camera and throw them out the window. Some of these new cameras don’t even require knowledge of how to use it and you are still able to make breathtaking pictures. Believe me, sometimes I miss autofocus and some of the amenities of my Nikon D700. At the end of the day, it really is a sense of accomplishment to sit down and look at the photos you created and think back to how they were made. From selecting the proper shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, then finally manually focusing in that perfect pin sharp focus. You can really appreciate all that work that went into that single frame of 1/2000 of a second at f 1.4 even a little more. With a Leica or any rangefinder camera, if the photo is out of focus, it is only because you missed focus, not the camera. These things are made to be the most precise machines in the world. This also has made me start to love the simplicity and effect of some out of focus photos I have taken. It really takes a while to get used to manually focusing each frame. This process really slows down your thought process and makes you compose each frame with extreme care. I have been shooting with a very simple set up. I use my Leica M8 and my Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 nokton classic. Before I would have a bag full of 6 different lenses all spanning a certain focal length and aperture. Now with the single lens, I already have my subject perfectly framed before the camera even comes to my eye. The Leica truly is an extension of my eye. This simplifies the way I shoot and how I create an image. Now I don’t need to constantly think of what lens I should be putting on. The lens is already mounted and ready to go. I am primarily more worried about how my lighting is or if I should move spots. It’s like going back to basics. As early settlers lived off the land and made due with their surrounding, I adopt the same beliefs with my gear. Until I have truly exceeded the usability of the 40mm, I will consider adding another lens to my bag. Some people may scoff at the fact that I decided to go with the Voigtlander over the Leica brand lenses. To be honest, I didn’t have enough money to purchase one of these historic lenses otherwise I would have. When it comes down to it, I am almost glad I didn’t have enough money! This opened my eyes to the wonderful Voigtlander glass and it’s reasonable price. I have absolutely no complaints with my experience so far. My pictures are tack sharp and have such amazing, unique bokah.
Now comes the big question all of you are probably asking. Why on earth would you choose a Leica M8 over the new sparkly Nikon D700 that is full frame? When you look at the spec sheet it really seems like an odd choice. A downgrade really… Don’t get me wrong, I fully support the Nikon brand and the D700 camera. If anyone asks my opinion on that rig, I will tell them the truth. It is an amazing camera that renders amazing results. But, when it comes down to it at the end of the day, I felt the camera was really the photographer and I was a just the hired help to lug the thing around all day. I was probably using only 1/10th of the features that camera has to offer and what people really buy it for. For my personal preference, I prefer the feel of the images that come out of my Leica. This is not the “Leica snob” in me. People only think people that own Leica’s are snobs because they have never used one and experienced the magic of what a Leica truly is. With my M8, I feel like I am part of the creative process again and feel one with my work. I feel more proud of the work I am producing now that I have ever been before. Yes I will admit that there are limitations to what a Leica can and cannot do. I personally love these quirks with the camera. Unlike my old D700, you must be careful with your ISO setting. Most photos are very poor color quality at ISO 2500 where the full frame of the Nikon easily would out perform the M8. I have found a very simple solution to this problem. Turn it black and white! The M8 produces stunning black and white photos at any ISO the camera has. Before owning the Leica, I really did not care to shoot many black and white photos. The D700 files just didn’t have the same punch and depth in the tones when it came to this art. The M8 sensor just has a hint of magic in it that allows it to capture light like I have never seen before. I will find myself shooting and purposefully finding areas with just a few light streaks or cracks letting light in to make these photos I have grown to love. It may seem odd going from a 12MP full frame to a 10MP aps-H. What you really have to consider in your shooting is what you actually need the MP for. Me, I have only blown up a photo to a canvas that is 16x20. This is a beautiful size. The files from my 10MP leica look stunning as well. With all things, there are always a few downfalls that I wish would have been added or fixed on the camera. The auto white balance is god awful. The quick fix is to shoot raw. Shooting a few photos very quickly one after another weighs down the camera and it takes a bit for it to finish the buffer and process the images. I think I have only had this happen a handful of times so it is a very small complaint. I didn’t buy this camera to shoot 10 frames per second so this is also user error (my bad…). With the latest firmware release they did fix a few shortfalls and I am very happy for that! For instance, when you would snap a picture it may have taken up to 3 seconds to be able to hit the review button and look at the image. Now with the new update, the review is almost instant. My biggest pet peeve is that they did not add a dedicated ISO and exposure compensation button. To access these features, you must first press the set button, scroll down, pick the item, then finally choose the setting you would like to change to. The M9 does have the ISO button so until I can upgrade, I will just deal with what I have.
Shooting with the M8 really is a treat every time I pull it out of my bag. It is so small and easy to use. I enjoy how simplified the menus are in the camera. I find myself shooting more with this camera than any I have ever owned before it. No I do not mean gigs of photos taken. I mean in my daily life. I have 2, 2GB SD cards that I will carry with me when shooting. I do not have a need for more. Unless I have honestly ran into that much intriguing stuff to shoot on an outing, there must be a problem if I filled both of those. Before with the big DSLR, I would rarely bring it with me because of the amount of baggage that goes along with lugging those cameras around. If it wasn’t breaking your shoulder from having it slung there all day, then it was the looks people would give you when you are snapping away photos at the cute new coffee shop down the street. I have taken on a new task with this rangefinder. I plan to do everything with this camera that people would normally do with a DSLR. To show that these cameras can do anything any other camera can. “One man taking his Leica where others have never gone before!” That may be the title of my adventure. Already I have used it with full strobe set ups, action, and portraits. Next month I am also shooting a wedding solely with the M8.
I am still fairly new to Leica and rangefinders. I have found these small new loves with shooting only within the last 2 months. I can only imagine what 5, 10, or 20 years down the road with this line of cameras will bring me. The lineage of this brand and its shooters go back about 100 years. They have shot anything from JFK to The Beatles. The only question I ask myself is WHY ON EARTH DID IT TAKE ME THIS LONG TO FINALLY JUMP ON!?
I plan to update this and further elaborate down the road as I become more seasoned. Until then please stay tuned!!
How do i like my Leica? It has been a fun interesting road of learning and developing the last two months. I will be posting a full blog post very soon with a comparison between my old full frame Nikon and my thoughts on this APS-H Leica.
A quick sneak peak…. I love it ;)
Shot this photo of my Mamiya with my Leica m8 and nokton 40 1.4