Photoessay: 28mm in Tokyo

_Q116_L1070166 copy
Camouflage (urban jailbreak)

People, an urban centre, 28mm, and monochrome – is there a more ‘classical’ recipe for what might be traditionally classified as street photography? Perhaps, perhaps not. The whole genre is so fluid that I think it is impossible to define anyway; I instead think ‘snippets from the quotidian’ is probably more accurate in this case. They are vignettes and observations of the repeated, the mundane, and the boring. But the pace of the world changes so fast that who knows what the same activities will look like in twenty or fifty years? MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

_Q116_L1070066 copy
Floating man

_Q116_L1070893 copy
Seeking balance

_Q116_L1070061 copy

_Q116_L1070942 copy

_Q116_L1070177 copy
The corral

_Q116_L1060959 copy

_Q116_L1070019 copy
Even giants tread with care

_Q116_L1070257 copy
Rushing to and from identical places

_Q116_L1070987 copy
Don’t look back never look back you can never look back

_Q116_L1070323 copy
Build something today

_Q116_L1070188 copy

_Q116_L1080499 copy
To the mines

_Q116_L1070539 copy

_Q116_L1070573 copy
Light refreshment

_Q116_L1070651 copy

_Q116_L1080482 copy
Dregs of the day


Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


Visit the Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including workshop and Photoshop Workflow videos and the customized Email School of Photography. You can also support the site by purchasing from B&H and Amazon – thanks!

We are also on Facebook and there is a curated reader Flickr pool.

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


  1. Samuel Jessop says:

    I would love to see an update on your work around 28mm-e. You mentioned a while back shooting with the Hasselblad 50mm, does this occupy a similar space?

    • Not really – it’s closer to 40mm-e on 44×33, and on 54×40 I use the 100mm, which is closer to 60mm-e. (The 50mm on 54×40 would be 30mm or so, but it doesn’t work for me somehow).

      • Samuel Jessop says:

        Have you found something at the wider end on the 54×40 that you are comfortable with?

        • Actually, yes – much wider, at either 24 or 28mm (16-19mm-e!). The 35mm end of the 35-90 is also good (about 22mm-e, by my calculations).

  2. Jorge balarin. says:

    “Dregs of the day”, “never look back” and the one of the motorcycle are wonderful for me.

  3. Very nice work! Rushing to and fro, and don’t look back appeal to me in that I feel they show the 28mm ability to exaggerate scale very nicely

  4. These work very nicely with the new iOS “night shift” mode! Maybe there’s a point in digitally toning b&w images after all.

    As for the photos, again you make me wish I could compose with 28mm. Maybe one day I’ll buy a used GR and spend a year with only that. Also enjoyed the titles btw 😉

    • I’m concerned about that night shift thing because we’re moving away from critical color and consistency to apple’s interpretation of it – that makes color adjustment a nightmare because color space almost becomes dynamic, and there’s no way to correct for that…

      Images – thanks!

      • Of course it’s destructive for colour photos (and most b&w, probably) but way too obvious to not turn off for that purpose. The newest iPad has more worrying features with the ambient-light adjustment (though many calibration devices also do that), and wide colour space in a non-colour managed environment (hello saturation!)

        • I would assume we can turn some of this stuff off…maybe?

          • Night shift toggle is right there in the quick control panel (?) along with flight mode, mute, etc (and it’s actually very good for late-night reading). Wide color gamut is an issue because it probably cannot be turned off and is mostly harmful if applications are not colour managed.

            • I wonder how many applications are?

              • I had a short while to play with the new wide gamut iPad in a store. Based on some test pages, it seems that the browser may be colour managed after all. Web wisdom (even recent) suggests otherwise, though, so I wouldn’t buy one without further research.

  5. Even Giants may turn out to become a classic- a very clean image, easy to read, with a pleasant surprise.

  6. Rosa Michaels says:

    Very Thelonious Monk .
    Gorgeous B&W .
    Thank You .

  7. Harry DeYong says:

    Excellent, as always. I think one of your most important photographic traits is your dedication. You’re always out there shooting, in the dark, in the rain, whatever. On of my favourite mottos is “it seems like the harder I work, the luckier I am”. You work extremely hard at being a photographer.

  8. Martin Fritter says:

    I believe you mentioned in response to a comment that the Q shared the same sensor at the SL. Do I remember correctly? If so, can you comment on how it compares to the 240? In any case, you work makes a very good case for it.

  9. tshoang1 says:

    Hi, I really like your black and white. There’s a certain style to them. When I’m less busy I’d like to take the classes you’re offering. Just one quick question on some of these: do you crop the photos at different sizes to emphasize the content?

  10. Ming,

    Impressed by your recent move to medium format I would like to raise the question if you ever thought about adding a technical camera like Alpa to your setup – at least for the ” non-street-style”-photos? That would be the pinnacle of quality…

    Cheers Peter

    • Yes and no – the Alpas are a serious investment but give me nothing I don’t already have with the HTS; if anything, they’re a lot more fiddly. I admit the FPS is extremely interesting though because of the ability to use other glass like the Otuses…

  11. fantastic set!

  12. Wayne S. says:

    Great set Ming! My favorites are Don’t look back.. due to the quality of the light and Even giants … Wondering if you will buy the Otus 28? Especially now that you have gone MF with the ‘Blad.

    • I’ve had (and still have) an Otus 28 since September last year 😉 These lenses are waiting for the right camera/ sensor. Did I mention it seems they cover 44x33mm?

      • Oh, you did not have to return it? Is it the final version or prototype?
        Could you adapt it to MF camera like Pentax 645D or is the register length prevent that?

  13. François Arbour says:

    Great images (again). Thanks for keeping me inspire you really mastered 28mm.

  14. Great images as always, MIng.

    I just got back from Tokyo, and I can’t wait to process the Acros I shot. Hopefully, some of them will turn out good. Oh, and thanks for the Kyubei-recommendation. It was a fantastic experience. The grilles tuna sashimi was amazing.

  15. Great series!!! The Q is just a wonderful tool!!! I wouldn´t wanna miss it anmore! 😉

  16. You wrote in your review of Q about its lens that -Progressing out of this centre zone to about halfway to the edges (1/4 across the frame), resolving power drops off but is recovered at f2.8. Personally I would prefer Q with 2.8 aperture if it resulted inlets barrel half the length. In street style shooting Gary Winograd and Bruce Gilden said f:11 1/1000 of sec, zone focus and you are there 😮

  17. Ming, I especially liked the images of reflections in windows. They are abstract in the sense that the viewer isn’t sure what part is reflection and what part is not, but the overall compositions are “formal” and spot on.

  18. One of the best sets of all time, Ming. You are making magic with this camera and it just keeps getting better. Very inspirational.

  19. Brett Patching says:

    I’m really enjoying your photos from Tokyo Ming! This set and People of Tokyo II are wonderful.

  20. J. Giolas says:

    Two observations:

    1) This may be some of your best street work—I love a large number of these shots. And I don’t say this lightly. You’ve produced a lot of great street stuff over the years since I’ve been following you. But, in the is case, you’ve managed to combine your penchant for organizational and compositional order and precision and perfectly juxtapose it against the more fluid human elements. This is really great stuff, Ming.

    2) This series reminds me what I have observed over time regarding the Q: It’s rendering style seems extremely well suited for B&W conversion. I also observed this years in the M9, and always felt its rendering more suited to B&W conversion than the M240 (which I own). But out of all the color Leicas, the Q looks to be the best at this. Thoughts?

    • Thanks. I’m inclined to agree re. the Q – it seems to have some strange color shifts in the reds/magentas under incandescent light that can’t be easily profiled out.

  21. Playfully observant eye coupled precisely accurate timing! Outstanding collection!

  22. Wonderful set… what struck me is the variety captured here, very nicely rounded (chalking this up to curation).

    Only one shot tugged at me a bit with a feeling of ‘would love to see this in color as well’ — Light Refreshment. Recalling how nice your Aizu Nights set turned out, light refreshment seemed to be a possible candidate for a similar tone/atmosphere (which would of course break the theme you set forth here).

    • Thank you. Ah – yes, that one also works in color, but in keeping with the set – I thought the strong darkness fit quite well, too.

  23. Richard P. says:

    Hi Ming, I do like a (large) number of these images. But I am curious about Camouflage … Is the level of blurriness in the foreground subject (the man) intentional, or was this the best you could get given the light available? For my personal taste I find the level of blurriness distracting, but I also wonder if the blurriness itself conveys a point that I am just not getting. The reason I ask is that I’ve seen this in other pieces of your street photography (over the years) and given your considerable skill and talent I have to assume it is deliberate. Thanks for clarifying.

    • It’s deliberate – the idea of blending in does have a lack of definition at the edges, and this is precisely what the man is doing – smearing into the crossing.

  24. Thanks a lot for giving opportunity to see your set of amazing images.
    I agree about 28 mm lens. It is just “right” WA lens.

    • Thanks – the strange thing is I find 28mm works for me on the 44×33 Hasselblad sensor too, even though it’s now a 21 equivalent…

  25. Three words: visually gorgeous set.

    plus two more words: thank you.

  26. Gary Morris says:

    Very impressed with the quality images you’ve pulled from the Q. From your varied posts, you seem to have integrated the Q into your shooting style, so that it is now an integral part of your work.

    Can you provide a brief insight into how well the Q is now working for you?

    • Thanks. No change from the initial report, though caution is required with continuous drive and OIS as it has a tendency to produce double images sometimes. Care with focus at 1.7 is also required. I think I may also be getting spoiled by files from the big H: color and dynamic range just aren’t quite the same… 🙂

  27. I think this is probably my all time favorite of your essays. Very moving images, and a very compelling collection. Thanks for sharing this.

  28. Even giants tread with care, floating man, Dregs of the day are great!

    On a slightly related note, Ming I remember there was one time you posted about your manifesto for street photography a year or so back that was quickly pulled within an hour. Did it morph into the “The evolution of street photography” article, never to be seen again?

    • Thanks – yes, that was the evolution of street photography article – it wasn’t pulled; it got posted before it was supposed to be (WP time zone scheduling issue; I set it up while travelling).

%d bloggers like this: