Photoessay: Small format Fukuokan monochromes

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Most of these are square because I was under the influence of Hasselblad at the time; with your primary camera set up to shoot black and white squares, it’s difficult to break your shooting rhythm to see much of anything else. However, this set was shot entirely with a Leica(sonic) D Lux 6. I think what’s interesting here is when I used the DL6 over the ‘Blad: mainly in situations where a) I wouldn’t be fast enough with MF; b) when it was too dark and I didn’t have the 400 back already on the camera; c) when I needed longer or wider perspectives I didn’t have as most of the time I was only carrying 50 or 80mm lenses. There’s still very much room in the bag (pocket?) for a smaller format and a smaller camera, even if you have to give up image quality: a shot is better than no shot at all. Admittedly, at these sizes and this presentation format, it’s not easy to tell what camera was used. Regardless, it’s always about the images: enjoy! MT

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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. I still use my Leica D-Lux 4 as I love the lens and ratios. I also use the Sony NEX 5 for the nicer sensor, but the kit lenses kind of suck. Still, I got some pretty good shots out of that kit. I don’t have the D800 or D800E as it’s out of my league, and a computer killer. LOL! I do use the Sigma DP2M with all its quirks though and love what it can produce, though I do it a disservice by not using a tripod. LOL! I still use my film cameras as well. Also picked up a Polaroid 100 Land Camera and SX70. Fun to use. So many choices. Love the B&W and detail in these shots which is why I don’t want to sell my D-Lux 4!

  2. Great series, Ming! And very inspiring, too, to play with different formats. Your insights were in part ‘responsible’ for my getting a LX7 and I’m looking forward to putting it through its paces. So far it’s been great: I love that lens which, in ‘collaboration’ with the excellent image stabilizer, on one hand, and the amazing close up focus capability on the other, satisfies most of my pocket camera shooting needs and makes it great companion for my D7100

  3. I really enjoyed this series. Wonderful shots from such as small camera.

  4. Like this series Ming! Been doing thinking about compacts as I’m looking for one and have to say, I’m starting to think that a smaller sensor (i.e. <1in) that is excellent at low ISO say up to 400 (and can be used at a push at 800) combined with an excellent lens wide open (with image stabilisation) may actually be the best compromise….maybe it's not all about sensor size!

    • You don’t actually need to go that high up the ISO scale because of the very fast lens and excellent stabilizer. Agreed – if you must do a compact now, it’s a toss up between this and the RX100(I or II).

      • To be honest the price difference is over 200 euros between the mark I and II making that a no brainer. LX7 is nice but as its said the best camera is the one you have and in that regard the smaller rx100 wins for me (just). I’ve recommended the rx100 to a few friends and they have not been disappointed, may have to buy one myself…..but i really don’t need it 🙂

        • True; unless the sensor offers some significant improvements – supposedly it does – the price difference is tough to justify. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the RX100 in the time I’ve had it, but I admit the pixel acuity I get out of the D800E and medium format have spoiled me. The GR is a much better fit for me personally…

          • Sadly it’s pretty impossible at the moment to find somewhere to play with the GR – like you I love 28mm, the 28 1.8G along with the D700 has become a firm favourite for me. How are you getting along with it after spending more time with it?

            With compacts I only use them in daylight with low ISO – in this regard my Oly XZ-1 is sufficient. Lower light I tend to shoot wide only. I can definitely appreciate medium format and the D800E spoiling you – a friend of mine is a Hassleblad film nut and it really is amazing especially when printed to large sizes, pretty hard to go back to even the rx100!

            • Love it. Color is now excellent after I made a custom profile with a colorchecker passport – though the new standard Adobe profiles are pretty good, too. The Coolpix A is still slightly better out of the box for color, but can’t match the GR’s black and white conversions. Works really well with the GW3 21mm adaptor too, for a sort of pocket-SWC. The pixel quality of the camera remains one of the best I’ve seen, and the best in anything that’s actually pocketable.

  5. Love the building interior with the triangle negative space! I assume the placement of the man in the foreground, under the pinnacle of the triangle was intentional? Either way, well done.

  6. sergeylandesman says:

    Excellent series as always!

  7. Ron Scubadiver says:

    Nice series Ming. I did not do square crops when I had a 12mp camera because I thought 8mp was not enough. I just thought that, it probably isn’t true. Since moving to a D800, I use square crops more frequently. The camera can be set to capture 4×5 making it a bit easier to visualize a square crop, and producing a 30mp file which is more than enough. (Note to self, add trip to Asia to bucket list.)

    • It’s a little more than 8MP because the sensor is larger than the lens’ image circle; the camera maintains the diagonal FL so that 1:1 has more pixels vertically than say 16:9 does. (Similarly, 16:9 has more pixels horizontally than 4:3.) As for the D800E – I’ve been scanning all of my Hasselblad negatives with it, yielding about 22-23MP (after cropping the film borders) – recently made a 30×30″ print for a client that looked absolutely stunning, and very clean despite being on film. More than enough pixels in there.

      • Ron Scubadiver says:

        I don’t totally understand your comment, but if it works, it works. When you say you are scanning 6×6 negatives with your D800E, it sounds like you have rigged up some kind of a light box and are making digital photographs of the negatives. That sounds like a plan.

        • Actually, it’s a bit more sophisticated than that – it’s a frame that feeds/ tensions the film, keeps everything parallel at the right height, and illuminates it. I’ll be making a limited run of them for sale on the site soon.

      • Can you please explain your scanning method with D800E?

        • I’m using a custom-built rig that feeds, tensions and illuminates film, and holds everything perpendicular. I’ll be making a limited run of these available for sale on the site once I’ve sorted out manufacturing tolerance issues. This set was shot with a compact though.

          • Let me know when they are available as I look for a better solution than using scanners.

            • It’ll be on the site as soon as it is. I don’t have time for scanners either; I can do an entire roll of 35mm at higher resolution and in less time than it takes a scanner to do a single frame.

              • Philip Lo says:

                Hi Ming:

                How about “scanning” slides with your invention? Possible? Have you tried it?


  8. Chopstick scene #3 is my favorite, Ming: Real life vs technically perfect but ‘dry’ skyscraper images.
    Were you cropping straight in camera? I love square format, but I have trouble accepting post cropping as a concept (besides being a waste of sensor — Lumix LX7 at least tries not to waste too much sensor with its variable format concept). Also, alternating formats somewhat detracts from visual signature I think. Still, if somebody built a square-format-only APSC or FF equivalent, I might be tempted…

    • Thanks – yes, I had the aspect ratio set to 1:1 to match the film Hasselblad I was also shooting at the same time. I couldn’t switch aspect ratios ‘in my head’ that easily. Plus with the LX7, the sensor is larger than the lens’ image circle, so if you don’t crop in camera, you don’t gain the extra height or width.

  9. Very nice serie Ming, with few standing out for me (the guy with the cigar, the bicycle man, Nbr 2) and i particularly like your high contrast B&W conversion ! So appropriate ..

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