Though visiting Chinatown in the USA is somewhat ironic for a person from Asia (we do have Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur too; it’s just not that different from the rest of town); I did find it to be quite photographically rich – especially with San Francisco’s inclined streets. Between the Cantonese and interesting side alleys, it felt a lot more like Hong Kong than anywhere else – which is perhaps a consequence of the origin of the immigrants. More than that though, something about the atmosphere was rather conducive to the cinematic style, though it could also be because both times I arrived at the end of the day as the sun was setting and pouring down the east-west streets in a gloriously saturated manner. I sent my workshop students off to explore style with a few different assignments, mounted the Leica 50/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH on my OM-D via an adaptor and set off to grab a few frames from a movie.
Quick comment on using the 50/1.4 ASPH on the OM-D: you can really see the field curvature; center-focus-and-recompose doesn’t work; the corners will visibly focus shift. You have to focus in place for optimum results, or risk smearing. I don’t think it’s a consequence of the lens design so much as the interaction between the lens and the microlenses on the sensor (the M cameras have offset microlenses to deal with edge issues, the OM-D doesn’t). That said, I’ve frequently found that this field curvature is something that is both frustrating in practice – it makes nailing precise focus wide open near-impossible – and a strong contributor to the cinematic ‘look’ because it helps with subject isolation, especially at distance. It’s not easy to focus the lens precisely on the camera, but using the 5x magnified view and OIS helps (there’s an option to disable cancelling the magnified view with the shutter half press, and OIS is activated only with the half press).
In any case, I think the images speak for themselves – when you get it right, the output simply sings – I have a feeling that this combinationn is going to replace my FX/85mm or M43/45/1.8 combination for a lot of applications simply because of the way it looks. More images from the USA to come. Enjoy! MT
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