The missing Leica X Vario review

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Judging from the email traffic over the last couple of days, I know there are many of you wondering why I’ve been silent on the new Leica X Vario (16MP, APS-C, similar to the X2 body, 28-70/3.5-6.4 equivalent) – the simple answer is that I wasn’t given a camera to test, so not having used one, I have no opinion on it as yet. I have requested one, and have been told it should arrive this week or next. As usual I will do my best to answer your questions if/when it arrives.

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Thoughts on street photography with medium format

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Ostensibly, this is already perhaps not the most practical of ideas; if one is extremely masochistic, things can be compounded further into the really bad idea class by using film. And a manual focus camera. Without a meter. I think it takes a certain amount of insanity – or at least a healthy dose of optimism – to even attempt it. Street photography (the genre itself being discussed in this previous article) is the kind of thing that’s handled best with a responsive, unobtrusive camera that also has a goodly amount of depth of field for a given aperture, plus what I like to think of as being very forgiving of slightly loose shot discipline. This generally means good high-ISO ability, perhaps a stabilization system, a low-vibration shutter and decently large pixels to make the effects of camera shake less obvious.

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Photoessay: The Yatai of Fukuoka

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During the day, you sometimes come across one or two of these food carts hiding dormant and parked in an alleyway, shuttered up and slumbering. Lights off, boarded up, you have no real idea as to their purpose. However, as night falls, Fukuoka’s traditional food carts start to emerge from their various hiding places, spread their wings, awnings, seats, sidewalk tables, makeshift walls/ partitions, lights, signs (in effect being a complete portable mini-restaurant around a counter-cum-kitchen) and cooking paraphanelia, and more attractively, their fragrant smells. Most of them congregate by the river under some trees in a stretch that’s bounded by Hakata Canal City on one side, and the seedier red light district on the other. I suppose they cater to the shoppers before they go home, and the punters before they go out.

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Photoessay: Monochrome vignettes from Shwedagon Pagoda with the Leica M Typ 240

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Perhaps the most famous landmark in Burma, Shwedagon Pagoda has been a focal point for life in Yangon for a very long time – it has reputedly existed in some form or other for the last 2,600 years. It reached its current height of approximately 114m in the late 1700s after the most recent rebuilding as a result of multiple earthquakes. It is thought of as the most sacred location for Buddhists in Burma, with the relics of multiple past Buddhas housed within: the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Koṇāgamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa and eight strands of hair from Gautama – the one traditionally thought of as Buddha. An exact replica exists in Naypyidaw (the new capital of Burma).

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Photoessay: Chinatown cinematics, and using the Leica 50/1.4 ASPH on the OM-D

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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.

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Review: The Leica D-Lux 6/ Panasonic LX7

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There aren’t that many choices for fully-featured, pocketable compacts at the moment; in my ongoing quest to find the ideal take-everywhere companion, I’ve probably tried most of them. Current top of the heap is the Sony RX100; I’ve also used the GR-Digital series, Fuji XF1 and Panasonic LX/ Leica D-Lux series. For whatever reason, I’ve never really bonded with the Canon S-series, so that’s never made it into my pocket; same with any of the Nikon Coolpixes, though I’m really hoping the A will change that. Whilst I loved the RX100 for its fantastic sensor, the lens arguably lets the package down: it may be fast one the wide end, but for it to keep up with the sensor in the corners, you have to stop down a bit (thereby negating this advantage) and the tele end is just plain slow.

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B&W samples from the Leica M Typ 240

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Quite a number of readers have asked about the Leica M Typ 240‘s potential for black and white usage. I think perhaps a more accurate description of the question would be: do the M 240’s files convert well to black and white? And if so, how do they compare to the output of the M Monochrom? I’m going to answer this in the context of raw conversion – there will be some users who only employ out of camera JPEGs, however, like the Monochrom, the M 240 requires processing of a DNG file to get the most out of it. And yes, there is a very significant difference.

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Lens review: The Leica 35/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH FLE

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I couldn’t find a product shot in my archive, so you’re going to have to settle for one of me using it instead.

Not long after this lens was initially released and generally available – early 2012 – I published a guest post review here on the Leica Blog. At that point, I’d had no more than a couple of weeks to shoot with the lens, and certainly not under any kind of duress or pressure. Since then, I’ve both encountered many situations with the lens and used it as pretty much the go-to on my M9-P in the hopes of making 35mm one of the intuitive focal lengths in my repertoire. It didn’t stick, and somewhere in the middle of last year, I landed up selling it to one of my students.

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Diner. All images in this review shot with the Leica M9-P except where otherwise noted.

I’ve been meaning to do a full review for some time now, but the reality is that there have been many other things which have gotten in the way – or perhaps I should stop making excuses for being lazy.

The 35mm f1.4 Summilux-M ASPH FLE is version seven in a long and distinguished line of lenses – some may even think of them as legendary and quintessentially Leica. They’ve grown larger, heavier and more expensive as time moved on – earlier versions were practically pancakes compared to the 35 FLE, but admittedly they were also relatively poor performers at maximum aperture. The previous version (VI) featured a single aspherical element (there was a very rare double aspherical version produced too, relatively early on in the life of this lens) and was known for being both an excellent optic, but hamstrung by one huge flaw: focus shift.

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The 2013 Leica M Typ 240

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Previously in October 2012, I had a chance to handle the M Typ 240 (I’m going to call it the M 240 from hereon in) back at the Kuala Lumpur launch event, and produce a quick preview (that can be found here). At that point, the camera was a very early functioning prototype – yet the improvement over the M9 was clear. There was of course no way to get images onto a PC for review; the SD card was glued in and the grip had no USB ports. Frustratingly, things appeared pretty good on the new (and larger) rear LCD. But we all know that such small and limited-gamut monitors are not a good way to determine image quality at all; I was thus itching to get my hands on a camera, or at very least, some good files to play around with. I’m not really a fan of long waits to availability – whilst it’s nice to know what’s in the works, I’d rather not have to wait six or more months before I can actually buy one. By then, the world might just have moved on.

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Quick shots from my ‘Diametric Opposites: East and West’ exhibition

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For those who can’t make it to my exhibition for geographic or logistical reasons but would like to have a look anyway, I went back after the opening party (covered well by fellow Malaysian photographer Robin Wong here) to get a few images of the exhibition. There are a few thrown in from the evening, though I admit I was too busy talking to people to do much documenting. I have to say a huge thank you to Leica – especially George Wong and Johann Effendy for organizing things – and of course our host, the owner of the Leica Starhill store – Raymond from Keat Camera. I’m also touched by the support of everybody who turned up for the party – I think over 80 in the end, we were expecting 20-30…hope you all had a great evening, I know I certainly did – enjoy! MT

Coda: The images were shot over several years with a mix of M8/ M9-P, NOT the new M as the internet seems to be speculating. That would be impossible, seeing as Thaipusam 2013 hasn’t happened yet, and there was no new M in February 2012 when the most recent images were shot.

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