Through the Lens Darkly

sat30jun [ prev | next ]

Still studying my favorite café racer...

For the sake of comparison, I have recorded the shutter sounds of my Leica M6 and M8 at 1, 2, and 3m, respectively, always M6 first, then M8, at each distance. The shutterspeeds were set to 1/60s and the focusing was left as an exercise to the reader. Due to my ineptness, I have recorded it with an iSight camera, as a Quicktime movie without image.

Leica M Shutter Sounds

fri29jun [ prev | next ]

I was out last night with Patricia, and we visited a cocktail bar I like called Fluido. It was surprisingly quiet, much quieter than the previous times I have been there. I ordered a double Bruichladdich, an older single malt Scotch which set me back €19! Just as we left, I shot this view of the bar from the door, with the 28 Cron. Great lens. The M8 is really quite nice at ISO 640.

thu28jun [ prev | next ]

I strolled through Tiergarten on the way home from work today, and spotted this couple. Only when I got home and developed the picture did I notice the large heart drawn on the tree. Some things you just can't plan as well as life does.

wed27jun [ prev | next ]

This was another one of those shots I knew I had bagged before I even pressed the trigger. The colour and lighting were just right. The woman who works in the store came out just as I was taking the picture and looked mildly worried, so I gave her a big smile and said "Very beautiful; I am a photographer", and then she seemed to relax a bit.

On this particular day, I just kept finding neat things to take pictures of, and now I am not sure if I should post multiple pictures here, or just leave it at one. In fact, I have wondered that before. On three previous occasions, I have posted multiple shots in one day. The first time was a bag review, the second time was an extra panorama I had been working on, to demonstrate a point, and the most recent time was a shot of an exhibition I attended. I think those three times were fine, but today I will leave the other shots out. I feel that it is fine to support stories with photos, but putting up multiple competing photos is not desirable somehow, so never mind.

tue26jun [ prev | next ]

I am not super-happy with any of the pictures from today, so here is a decent one from yesterday. I like the colours, I like the texture, but somehow I feel that something is missing. There is no center of attention, except the colours themselves, and there isn't enough sharpness for the texture to be a major element, and the white area in the corner bothers me a bit. Maybe I can reshoot it with the 90 Macro and more depth of field. It is close to where I work.

mon25jun [ prev | next ]

Fallen petals. I loved the colours. 75 Lux again, this time at f/1.4.

sun24jun [ prev | next ]

Drawing aliens with deep concentration. The spaceship was being created, with additional features for sucking up and rejecting humans, based on their inherent goodness. The 75 Lux at f/2. Wonderful lens.

sat23jun [ prev | next ]

Breaking rules: too tall aspect ratio, subject center of attention in frame, subjects not looking out, subjects too close to edge, dual interest in photo, ...

I was at the SPD headquarters, the Willy-Brandt-Haus, where the World Press Photo Award 2007 exhibition was on. The last (and only other) time I was here it was for a truly excellent Bruno Barbey show, with photos from his home land, Morocco.

This time my feelings were a bit more mixed. Photos of war, famine, crime, and so on serve a purpose, but they are rarely photos I enjoy. I do try to expose myself to them anyway. My reasons for not enjoying them are not strictly related to what they depict, but how they depict it, and what the reasons for taking them are. Often, I get the feeling that it has little to do with stopping the suffering, and more with exhibitionism and sensationalism. The winner this year is a nice shot, but I disagree with it being the winner, because it is not clear what the photo means, and so in a sense, it is not very good journalism. Here is a link to that photo. It shows a nice new red car full of young beautiful Lebanese people looking at the destruction after an Israeli attack. It is not clear what we are meant to see here though. The photo is very flashy, contrasting the new, expensive Mini Cabrio and the people in it with the ragged destruction around it. Are we meant to feel sorry for these young people? Are we meant to be dismayed at the way they look out of place here? Are they being made fun of? I do like the photo, I just don't think it should win this award.

There was another shot which really hit me, but perhaps not in the way intended. Jeroen Oerlemans took a photo of a dead child being held up by paramedics in front of a large number of photographers, and this photo to me really holds the mirror up to the world press. The exploitation of this dead child for the political message of the Lebanese paramedics, and the eagerness of the press to take this photo, are to me revolting. I am not against the Lebanese, and I am not against the Israelis, but just this situation of exploiting the dead and suffering to spread some questionable message. Here is a link, but I don't know how long it will stay valid.

Simultaneously, there was also a BFF Förderpreis 2007 exhibition one floor down, and I enjoyed this more. The photos were quite mixed, and I did not like them all, but the themes were all interesting.

fri22jun [ prev | next ]

On the way home from a long night with friends, I spotted this rather graphic wet track scene. Giving in an equally graphic treatment was a matter of course. No matter how I rotate it, it seems a little out of balance.

thu21jun [ prev | next ]

This is a sister picture to the tree of the 13th of this month, just behind the tree in that picture, and was given a similar treatment. I was wavering between a high-contrast, highly saturated look, and this very understated, muted colour look, and ended up choosing this one, partly for the connection it gave to the other picture. I have taken a few shots of this grave, but never been totally happy with the results. This one is good, but I still have the feeling that there is more to be found here. I will keep trying.

wed20jun [ prev | next ]

I am a little behind, so I will just add this rather nice shot of my M6 to catch up a bit. I chatted with Herr Heymel, a Leica mechanic who was visiting Leica Berlin, and mentioned that I had wanted to exchange the newer style winding lever on my M6 with an older style lever, and he just pulled one out and exchanged it for me on the spot, saving me roughly €100 in the process, as well as the cost of the tool for me to exchange it myself. You can see this new/old lever in this photo. He was unusually friendly and helpful, and we discussed many aspects of the Leica M8, as well as M cameras in general, and photography. I gave him a list of my personal wishes for the Leica M8 and/or M9, and he promised to pass it on to Stefan Daniel, who is the Chief of Product Management at Leica, and will ultimately make many of these decisions. Herr Heymel also showed me how to unscrew the optical unit of my Dual-Range Summicron, which I didn't know you could do. He also showed me the early stages of damage to the shutter cloth, from the sun shining through the lens. It is not serious yet, but one day I may have to replace the shutter, which will be expensive.

tue19jun [ prev | next ]

A home-sequel to an earlier restaurant photo.

In the evening I went out and took a couple of photos, ordereding a medium fries, and took the failed panorama below. It will take some exploration to see what subjects work best with the panorama treatment. For now I have to remember to pivot around the lens, and not around my waist, like in this shot.

I found out (by taking a 19-image panorama with my 75 Lux, as well as a single shot with the same lens, all of the rose) that the image from yesterday, lovely as it is, doesn't really justify the effort. The single shot with the 75 Lux was almost as good, and the 19-shot panorama was better, with less depth of field. With a bit of care, I could probably have made an image nearly indistinguishable from yesterday's with 12 photos with the 75 Lux, instead of the 100 with the 90 Macro. The panorama was much quicker to build, and there were no niggly stitching problems.

However, what was really missing was the dramatic perspective of the shot of Jana. The rose shot looks pretty normal, somehow. The forced, dramatic perspective is what made it work, and the lack of same turned the rose into a relatively normal shot.

mon18jun [ prev | next ]

I was ill all weekend, so I got a lot of sleep and drank a lot of tea. Today I stayed home as well. The first half of the day was a washout but in the second half, I started coming alive and redid my problematic rose closeup panorama, and you can see the results for yourself. I chose to crop it like my old Hasselblad shots, as I love the square format, and the result somehow looks like medium or large format photography.

The image is about 6000 pixels on a side, and was done from 100 images developed in sync in Lightroom, and exported with a maximum side length of 1500 pixels, as high-quality JPGs. Not using full size made the panorama program work much faster, because after all, there is a lot of data, and if they had all been full-size TIFFs, I would still be importing. It still took a lot of work, and I eventually had to create it in three chunks and then merge them. There is a new and improved version of Autopano, the panorama program, on the way, and I look forward to it.

I think I have also finally found my reason for upgrading from my PowerMac Dual 2.5GHz to a new Mac Pro. I am still undecided if I should get the slowest, medium, or quad-core fire-breathing version. The latter is another thousand, but then again, what is a thousand in the long run, if it runs 50-100% faster. I am more likely to notice the speed difference than the price difference. Anyway, money is tight, so I will have to wait a bit.

sun17jun [ prev | next ]

Another shot of my favorite café racer. You've gotta love rain (sometimes).

I am working on another difficult panorama, this time a closeup panorama of a rose in a glass, on a table. Since the whole point of my technique is to get very narrow depth of field, it is very difficult to stitch, because panorama programs try to take advantage of coinciding small detail, but focused detail, not blurry detail. It will take some time. I expect to post it tomorrow.

sat16jun [ prev | next ]

Believe it or not, this is a panorama of 36 individual photos. I shot each image with the 50 Summilux Asph at f/1.4, focused on Jana's eyes. Stitching this many images allows me to get a huge field of view, like a 24mm lens or similar, yet retain the uniquely telephoto narrow depth of field. This simulates the results from a large format camera. A very neat technique, which I have wanted to try for a while, but never got around to until I saw someone else had done it. There goes the opportunity for having it named after me. I clearly still have something to learn about using this program though (Autopano Pro, by the way). The horizon is very wobbly and the buildings look weird. Neat effect, but not deliberate.

fri15jun [ prev | next ]

A very innocent-looking cluster found in a cemetary. Contrast is a setting that I often play a lot with (read: boost) when I do B&W conversions, but which I often ignore when I work with colour. Seltsam. It was actually quite sunny when I made this photo, but the soft, sunny look is completely gone in this conversion.

My black Luigi "Leicatime" Crescenzi strap for the M8 arrived, and is every bit as nice as the brown one I have for the M6. I love the feel of leather. Sometimes—especially in the case of high-tech—"better" is not better.

thu14jun [ prev | next ]

I love all the ornamentation in this cemetary, but it is often hard to get a satisfying shot of it. This one is a bit more successful than most, although I think I ought to return with a tripod, and get as much of the fence in focus as I can without losing the blurriness in the background. Only the middle here is really sharp, although that is hard to see in this little picture.

wed13jun [ prev | next ]

I have walked past this spot a million times (well...), but never taken a picture of this tree, at least on purpose. Today it just struck me how grand it looked.

I had some fun with it in Lightroom. I cranked the Saturation almost completely down, an absolute change which gets rid of all dull colours, and then cranked the Vibrance completely up, a relative change, ie. it doesn't move the end points, just the middle, and this had the effect of bringing back the colours which were initially rich. The end results: an almost sepia look, but with green present. I also toned down the highlights and brought up the shadows, leaving it with a soft feel, although it was a reasonably contrasty photo initially.

It is neat what you can accomplish with a little twiddling. I look forward to having a stronger feel for what to do to get certain effects. At the moment there is experimentation, often followed by surprise.

tue12jun [ prev | next ]

Nothing great today, just some grapes from yesterday. I liked the way they were lying there, as soon as I looked at them with my photographer's eye. Until then, they were just grapes on a plate... I didn't touch a slider in Lightroom for this one. Everything was just right.

mon11jun [ prev | next ]

Light and shadow on a sloped moving sidewalk. I kinda wanted to get it sharp front-to-back, but didn't have time to set up the tripod...

sun10jun [ prev | next ]

Lifted from a few days ago. This is also from the back of the Börse, but I hesitated in posting it so close to the other one. In the end I took the processing in the opposite direction, boosting colour rather than going B&W.

sat9jun [ prev | next ]

Cheating a little, pulling out a shot from a couple of days ago which I like, but which didn't get the chance to get posted due to another shot I liked a little more. In hindsight, I think I prefer this one, but now they are both here.

fri8jun [ prev | next ]

Just a shot up the car entry to the new Motel-One t Bahnhof Zoo, the ugliest building I have seen in all of Berlin, and brand-spanking new, to the point where I had to crop out a bit of scaffolding on the right side to keep the photo uncluttered.

thu7jun [ prev | next ]

A highly technical shot, and I find it is not completely successful, but still interesting. This is the lift for cleaning the roof of the Berliner Börse.

I have rearranged my posts, putting the photo of the day first, and all descriptions and talk afterwards. This is meant to be a photoblog, after all.

(based on a post I made on the Leica User Forum on Leica delivery and lens coding slowdowns):

Based on what I know, and what I have heard, Leica spent decades slowly cutting back and letting people go, and even used up and didn't replace their glass warehouse stocks, due to dwindling sales and the Hermes attitude towards accessorising.

Now they have hired back some of the people they let go, are starting to stock glass again (to avoid another Noctilux price-rise situation), and are looking at M8 sales way above what their M7/MP sales were, in addition to increased sales of the latter. Not only that, but they completely sold out of their entire lens lineup, and ran out of pretty much everything they sold related to the M system. They have to start from a situation where there is nothing in stock and thousands of shouting customers.

They have more or less caught up with the M8 situation, although the cameras aren't as well distributed as they could be. The lenses are beginning to show again, and I recently managed to get both a WATE and a 28 Cron within a reasonable amount of time. Again, there are some fluctuations, but many or most lenses are in stock in places which traditionally have stock.

The few remaining problems are servicing and lens mount replacing. As I understand it, Leica originally estimated two people to replace the mounts, hired and trained them, and then ended up with an ever-increasing stock of lenses waiting on servicing, and a depleted stock of lens mounts. They have to train more people, as well as get more mounts fabricated, and meanwhile the lenses continue to come in and pile up. I would not be surprised if they even have space problems as a result!

The service people for the M8 and the lens mount replacement technicians are doing jobs which are entirely new, and Leica has little to no expertise in the areas. The same goes for the firmware updates, as well as the whole decision-making and design process. In spite of having so little expertise in the digital arena, they still managed to come up with a camera with excellent image quality and a user-experience so nicely tuned that many of us have re-discovered the joy of photography.

Leica is clearly capable of getting things right when given time, but at the moment there is just so much work to catch up with, and meanwhile many of the top minds on the M8 are presumably working on the R10, the DMR firmware update, or even the M9.

The Leica M8 has been a modern-day success-story to an extent which Leica could not even allow itself to dream of. In fact, I think the success of the M8 is great enough, in spite of its flaws, that many other camera manufacturers ought to sit up and take notice. There is something more going on here than loyal customers updating their camerabag contents. The "simplicity" of the M8 is based on exactly the same features as the "complex" original manual cameras, which spawned two or three decades of ever-increasing complexity in auto-everything cameras with so many settings that hardly anyone understood everything. The M8 reverses that trend almost completely.

I think we will see some copycats in the next few years, like the Canon G, Ricoh GR, and Sigma DP cameras, with converging featuresets. These particular models are all compelling in some way, but fall short somewhere. The Canon G-line has turned away from its more serious features recently, such as RAW support, and like the Ricoh GR line, it has a too-small sensor with noise problems. The Sigma DP has a slow lens and no viewfinder, but a larger sensor. All three could compete with the M8 at the lower end, given enough attention.

wed6jun [ prev | next ]

Taken in an alley behind the Berliner Börse; Not exactly the roughest alley in town. There is nothing really in this photo, but as soon as I saw it, something spoke to me. When I saw the picture on the computer, it spoke to me again. I gave it a fairly contrasty B&W treatment, although the lens (28/2A) is rather gentle in its tones. Wonderful lens.

tue5jun [ prev | next ]

A variation on a theme. I am finding myself adding vignetting to my photos. Perhaps I should just have saved thousands and bought crappy old lenses. Then again, they would have had vignetting, but also unsharp corners, which I am less fond of, possibly except for in portraits. This was taken with the 28 Cron at f/16, no less. It was still sharper than the f/8 picture, even though diffraction must have been creeping in somehow. I had to use the spot-removal tool of Lightroom about 40 times! Time to clean the sensor.

mon4jun [ prev | next ]

The awesome 90 Macro in macro action. This lens is truly sharp, and has a great look to it. This is a picture of a chrome dumbbell, by the way.

My Leica Summicron-M 28mm f/2 Asph arrived, and hence my lens kit is complete for the moment. There are naturally other lenses which I might want to buy with time, such as the legendary Noctilux, but they can all wait. I really do have some of the very most desirable, contemporary Leica lenses, as well as some interesting older pieces. For now, my main lens lineup is as follows: Tri-Elmar 16-18-21/4, 28/2, 35/2, 50/1.4, 75/1.4, and 90/4 Macro (add Asph where appropriate; these are all current). I also have an older 135/2.8 I, but I will likely replace this with either the newer 135/2.8 II or the current 135/3.4. The latter can apparently be a bear to focus, so I am not sure if I will get it. I might get it with the 30% coupon, if Leica won't let me delay my purchase, since it is not so expensive. Finally, I have a Visoflex III and the latest version of the 280/4.8 for it, quite a nice lens. I also currently own a Voigtländer 15mm f/4.5, but I may sell this one. On the other hand, I might keep it for travelling, since it is tiny and inexpensive.

sun3jun [ prev | next ]

Patricia, Jana and I went to "Sisters", a café where you can paint your own clay dishes. I have been there once before, and made a Gromit sugardish, so this time I painted a Wallace mug. Jana also painted a mug with bees and flowers. I didn't clue her in to the obvious symbolism; that can wait a few years.

sat2jun [ prev | next ]

A slow day. I was tired, and just taking care of business, but just at the end of the day, I saw this wonderful old beetle, and cropped it very tightly indeed... Too much so?

fri1jun [ prev | next ]

A night out with friends. Fun was had by all, and too much was imbibed, as evidenced by this photo which could not have come into existence under any other circumstances. The B&W abilities of the Leica M8 are quite good, I must say. The look is very film-like compared to the Canon EOS 5D I used before. Coming from a company with a history like Leica, this should not be a surprise, I suppose. The photo was taken at ISO 1250. I find that at ISO 2500 the images start to fall apart a bit, so I prefer staying below that and sometimes getting unsharp shots due to camera or subject movement.

thu31may [ prev | next ]

Some people leave their shoes anywhere. This one was standing alone on the sidewalk somewhere around Helmholz Platz. Quite a nice shoe too, and relatively new-looking. I am sure there is a story to be told around this shoe, but if I were to write it, it would be fiction, and I am more interested in the documentary in this case...

I am finding with Lightroom that I sometimes have to be quite careful what I do with certain sliders. In this particular photo, I had to leave the Fill Light slider at zero, or I would start to get unacceptable white noise in the shadow areas such as inside the shoe. Instead, I lowered the exposure slightly, and used the Brightness slider, which shifts the entire image towards lighter values, while keeping the ends pinned. The Blacks slider has quite a dramatic effect sometimes, and in this photo it is responsible for the very saturated orange of the shoe. I did not touch the Vibrance or Saturation sliders. I did use the Yellow and Green channel sliders to eliminate a nasty streetlamp cast which couldn't be dealt with any other way.

Well, the M4 was a no-show. Apparently it has been temporarily replaced with a bus. I am not sure what happens next, but I presume the line will leave from the "new" side of Alexanderplatz S-Bahn, as the M2 does.

wed30may [ prev | next ]

...and here is the first shot of the M2 at the new end-station, Alexanderplatz. This tramstop is new, and the other ones were until today on the other side of the station. Apparently the M4 got moved from the other side to this side, but got lost somewhere along the way, and no one knew where it really was. Tomorrow I will take the M4 to work and find out where it goes.

tue29may [ prev | next ]

This is more of a documentary shot than I normally post. The M2 is the tram line which runs down Prenzlauer Allée, through Mitte, and ends up at the Hackeschen Höfe. This is a quirky and problematic route, since the streets are narrow and busy, and there is a lot of competition for the space, from the tram itself, to delivery trucks, taxis, cars driving, cars parking, and the garbage trucks, and the tram relatively regularly gets stuck in traffic for short periods of time.

For this reason, the BVG (the Berlin Transit Authority) has been building a new set of tracks to take the tram to Alexanderplatz, one of the main stations of Berlin. Today was the last run of the M2 on the old tracks, and I took this shot of the M2 at the end station.

As a single event, this is rather unimportant, but it does mark yet another step in the transition of Berlin from an unusual, off-beat city, to a more mainstream, well-organised city. The old days of wrecked buildings housing raves and squatters, and every corner in Mitte, Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg having its own D.J. label putting out electronic music, as well as bars with half Trabis with open trunks serving as sofas, are coming to an end, to make way for a less exciting, more streamlined metropole, serving more and more tourists. Witness the Starbucks in the background. It is clear that Berlin needs this to happen, but it is also a bit sad.

mon28may [ prev | next ]

Another TE test shot. This lens can focus as close as 50cm, although it is only rangefinder coupled until 70cm, so you need to guess the distance a bit. Given the ample depth of field of super-wide lenses, this isn't really a problem. Here I was very close to the front branches of the bush, although this is a little hard to tell.

sun27may [ prev | next ]

Karneval der Kulturen, parade. It was totally packed and we didn't stay for long. It was also raining mildly and threatening to pick up, and we were both a tad tired. We did watch the first few boats in the "Umzug". This woman was (still) really into it, and posed for me as she danced by. Many others were significantly less energetic.

sat26may [ prev | next ]

Karneval der Kulturen, cook in a smoky tent. The carnival in general was a little commercial, and way over-crowded, and there was simply too little to do with cultures in general, but here and there we still saw signs of the old days. This guy was cooking something like Arab-style chicken pieces, and there was just smoke everywhere. I caught him just as he had washed his hands. I knew right away that this would be my shot of the day.

fri25may [ prev | next ]

I sneaked a shot of Patricia as she was taking a shot of a churchbell... She is using my old M6 with a Dual-Range Summicron 50mm, a great little lens. The camera is also sporting a Luigi "Leicatime" Crescenzi strap, a really nice little accessory. I will hopefully get another one for my M8 next month, in black.

thu24may [ prev | next ]

This is a test shot of the Berlin Börse (stock exchange) with my new Leica Tri-Elmar-M 16-18-21mm f/4 Asph (from now on: TE) super-wide-angle lens, which I picked up on the 26th (yeah, I am cheating a bit with the dates here, but I had a couple of dud days in a row). On the M8, these focal lengths correspond to 21, 24, and 28mm. The lens is sharper and more flexible than my previous super-wide, the Voigtländer 15mm f/4.5.

It is an oddity though, needing lots of fussy little settings to work best. If used with an IR filter, then the workflow is as follows: put lens on camera, put special finder on camera (the lens gives a wider view than the viewfinder can show), find subject and choose which focal length you want to use, turn camera on, set focal length through menu (to allow the automated removal of the cyan corners the IR filter induces with super-wide-angle lenses), set the lens to that focal length, set viewfinder to that focal length, use viewfinder to roughly compose the shot, focus on selected focus point, transfer distance from lens to viewfinder, re-focus, just in case you moved, frame, and shoot.

This sounds horrendous, but most of it is very quick and straight-forward and many steps can be skipped if you need to take a quick shot. These are all points which make the lens much easier to get the desired results with than the Voigtländer. The viewfinder is also very accurate, which is a nice change from the M8 itself. I am already quite fond of the TE, but I do need to look at my carry-around kit and trim it a bit. I almost never need all the choice I regularly carry. Something like TE/28/50/90 or TE/35/75 should be fine. I need to experiment a bit to decide what to carry when.

wed23may [ prev | next ]

Another no-time day, so here is a quick product-like-shot.

tue22may [ prev | next ]

I didn't manage to take a picture today, so I stole this one from a couple of days ago. This is a balcony in one of the last unrenovated houses in my neighbourhood. When I moved in here this kind of balcony was the rule rather than the exception, but this has switched around.

mon21may [ prev | next ]

Apart from being a fan of photography, I was a motorcycle nut for quite a few years, and although I have owned four motorcycles, I have not yet owned a car. Around the corner from where I live someone regularly parks a wonderful Norton Commando-based café racer, of which I took this picture. I suspect I will take more, as I get the time and opportunity to do so.

sun20may [ prev | next ]

From a series I did today, as an experiment on abstract shadows. I did about 20 of these, and quite like many of them, although it is hard to say why. In a very real sense, they are totally mundane, but somehow they speak to me.

sat19may [ prev | next ]

Today's photo, from Volkspark Friedrichshain. I played with almost every slider in Lightroom, but the significant ones are vignetting and the various colour intensities. I removed a lot of colour, and added some back. Fun. The final result looks a little like a Noctilux shot.

And now, a mini-review of the Artisan&Artist ACAM 7100 camera bag (Artisan&Artist Bags Japan), which I have just received a couple of days ago, and which I have fallen in love with. This is the same bag which used to be sold in the States and the U.K. as the "Oskar's One Day Bag" (Artisan&Artist Bags U.S.A.).

It is relatively compact, having outside and inside dimensions of W300xH200xD100 mm and W270xH160xD90 mm, respectively. It has a strap which goes from the complete one side of the bag to the complete other side of the bag, but does not run underneath. There is a generous non-slip shoulder pad built on to the strap.

It arrived very quickly (much quicker than the charge to my credit card, which has not happened yet) from Japan (I could not find it elsewhere; they speak English well, and can be contacted here: Artisan&Artist Contact Info). The price was ¥18900, plus ¥3250 for shipping to Germany. This all works out to be about €135, which is quite a deal, considering the quality of the construction and materials. It was packaged carefully in a box, in a disposable, but nice for storage purposes, paper-cloth bag, as well as being accompanied by a full Artisan&Artist catalog of nice and interesting items. I suspect I will buy more things there in the future.

In the following images, I have substituted the Leica M8+50 Lux Asph with my M6+50 Cron DR, which is roughly the same size. The contents are as follows:

Back pocket: sometimes a small book, but not today.
Front flap pocket: map and lens cleaning tissue.
Front pocket 1: 1.25x loupe, angle finder, extra battery, macro adapter in bag.
Front pocket 2: cellphone, ballhead, 75 Lux shade
Inside net pocket: pens, pencil, 2mm Allen key (!), keys
Main pocket, in front of padding: Moleskine, passport
Main pocket, side of padding: Leica table top tripod
Main pocket, back of padding: magazine
Main pocket, inside padding: M8+50 Lux Asph, CV15+75 Lux, 35/2A+90/4M.

I stack the lenses back-to-back, ie. with the back covers touching. These seem tougher and I don't care if they get a little scratched. I have placed the inside dividers on a slight angle to make the bag less thick front-to-back and to make the wells hug the lenses tighter, so that one cannot slide past the other and damage it. There is a clasped strap sitting between the front pockets which can be clasped to the hasp by the inside net pocket. This keeps the bag from flopping into a "fatter" shape, front-to-back, which I appreciate. The bag is very full, but not bursting, with the contents I have. I don't know what I will do when my WATE and 28 Cron arrive, but I will think of something I am sure. Probably I will leave the 75 Lux at home, or maybe carry a lens in a jacket pocket.

I highly recommend the bag. My only change so far would be to make it perhaps 2cm longer to hold larger magazines, to make the padding perhaps 1-2cm taller to better hold two lenses like the 75 Lux/CV15 combo, and to add one external side-pocket for the tripod, but really, these are tiny niggles.

[Update 080901: I have updated the links to the Japanese site, since the old ones had stopped working. I am also ordering an ACAM-7000, since the 7100 is too small to hold the camera, lenses, and my new MacBook Air laptop at the same time. I will add a review when it arrives, and place a link here.]

fri18may [ prev | next ]

A nice nostalgic shot of my older Leica M6 with its Dual-Range Summicron 50mm lens and a Luigi "Leicatime" Crescenzi strap. Wonderful camera to use. Nicer than the M8 even, but then, the M8 is digital, whose advantages overrides the nicer feeling of the M6, a film camera. I have no idea how one would go about making a daily photoblog with a film camera. The logistics are illogical.

thu17may [ prev | next ]

Playing around with the 90 Macro. Nice lens, easy to use, if quirky. A little hard to focus accurately though. I pretty much need the 1.25x loupe to focus it correctly. However, persistence has paid off. I nailed almost every shot today, but I was being very careful. I do miss the extra stops compared to my 50 Lux Asph, and find that I have to use at least ISO 320 most of the time.

wed16may [ prev | next ]

A new lens: the Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4. Very sharp, but I am often focusing too far forward with it. I am not yet sure if I am off, or the lens. More testing tomorrow.

tue15may [ prev | next ]

A rainy day from the office. There is a guard railing there, although who knows what for. It would be easy enough to jump it, for those so inclined. I suppose it is to prevent accidents.

mon14may [ prev | next ]

Jana playing Brain Age, while at home ill. She still managed to break a personal record or two.

sun13may [ prev | next ]

Jana and I playing cards. When she was slow, I would "punish" her by taking pictures. She plays Rummy/Gin Rummy by spreading out her cards on the chair next to her and playing secretly under the edge of the table: the disadvantage of small hands combined with a big mind.

sat12may [ prev | next ]

This sounds weird, but the colours in this image are true. I didn't even move a slider, and it turned out exactly the way I expected it to. Strange storm light. Looks like sepia.

fri11may [ prev | next ]

I wasn't sure about this one, made three photos with different exposures, and ended up preferring this one slightly. I actually ended up cropping over half of it out, since the left half of it didn't work out the way I had hoped. This half had nicer light.

I have finally caved in and decided that I will finance the missing three Leica lenses in my lineup: The 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar, the 28mm f/2.0 Summicron, and the 90mm f/4 Macro. The latter two I miss regularly, but the former was a bit of a difficult choice. It is rather expensive, but I already own the Voigtländer 15mm f/4.5 and was considering a Voigtländer 21mm f/4, but apparently the latter has soft corners, even stopped down, which doesn't appeal to me.

The Zeiss lenses don't appeal to me, to be honest. I respect the company, but find the lenses unattractive, and their 1/3 stop aperture rings don't match the 1/2 stop shutter speed ring on the M8, and additionally, I find the lenses too bulky and don't agree with the high-contrast Zeiss philosophy.

This leaves me with just the Leica 21mm as a choice. Given that a decent copy would cost €1000-1500 anyway, and that this lens is fairly bulky, and that I would have to carry both this and the Voigtländer 15mm when travelling, doubling the bulk, I eventually decided on the Tri-Elmar. This lens has the advantage that it optionally comes as a kit with a hotshoe viewfinder which is rather large, but which is also the best in the business. The lens is also of a high optical quality, and works well on film, which the Voigtländer does not, and finally, there is a third focal length in the middle of the range: 18mm, which is also very useful. Anyway, I signed the papers, got the approval, and am just waiting for everything to go through now. The 90 Macro is in stock at my store, but I will have to wait for the other two. The 28mm will probably arrive within a couple of weeks, but the Tri-Elmar could take longer.

thu10may [ prev | next ]

I spotted this image on the long-distance platform as I came into Bahnhof Zoo on the S-Bahn, ran over, and made two photos. This one was clearly better. I removed all colour except orange and blue, since the rest was just distracting (mainly green), and there wasn't much of it in any case. The aspect ratio is slightly off since a woman managed to sneak into the right of the frame without me noticing. Ah well, 11 pixels never killed anyone. I like this shot rather a lot.

wed9may [ prev | next ]

A dud day, with respect to photos, so here is the second picture I was considering using yesterday. I ended up choosing the previous one for yesterday simply because it was less cluttered, but I have managed to declutter this one a bit by switching to B&W.

tue8may [ prev | next ]

A quick picture, as I am on my way to bed. I had a good morning in the cemetary today, and got a couple of quite good pictures. Here is the one which worked the best in this size.

mon7may [ prev | next ]

A tired half day at work, and then I strolled through Mitte on the way back home. I managed to take a few good shots today, although no spectacular ones. I do feel that the average level of quality was a bit higher than usual. It might have been due to the day or location, or I might actually be improving slightly due to consistently putting myself through the entire cycle of getting a shot finalised, every day.

sun6may [ prev | next ]

A lazy day with nothing much happening. Jana did manage to squeeze in some climbing time. It bothers me a little that a piece of her foot is missing. I still find the M8's loose framing annoying on occasion.

sat5may [ prev | next ]

Patricia and I were bicycling around Tegel Park, and I ended up buying a Crumpler Pretty Boy for the trip. Black with an orange stripe, it was much more comfortable for bicycling than anything else I had. I brought the CV15, 35/2 Asph and 75 Lux, but ended up using the 35 exclusively. I did find myself frustrated that it was too tight in some places, so the 28/2 Asph I have been considering definitely has a place in my bag. I also brought the M6 and DR 50, which Patricia used with Fuji 400 B&W (Neopan?).

I was torn between two shots for this day, but ended up choosing the woolly forest shot. Maybe on another day I will pull out the other one.

fri4may [ prev | next ]

Today's picture is another from the festival on Tuesday.

I have just bought the little foldable Leica tabletop tripod, and a cheap Cullman ballhead to go with it, and have run a test of how sharp I can get pictures down to what speeds, with and without the tripod. Note that this is not with the tripod standing on a table, but with the legs spread and placed against the chest and shoulders. It is surprisingly solid.

With my 35/2 Asph, I was able to get acceptably sharp shots without the tripod down to 1/8s and so I gave up on trying to make that lens deliver unsharp pictures. This is not about perfectly razor-sharp pictures, which you probably need a full tripod for in any case, but about relatively sharp shots in dark situations.

I then mounted the 75 Lux, and stopped it down to f/2.8 at 1/90s and then shot slower and slower while decreasing the aperture to compensate for the increase in light. At 1/24s I had a borderline shot, but below that I was getting ghost images and severe softness.

Then I tried again with the tripod, and this time I was able to get a stunningly sharp shot at 1/12s, so I would say that this combo adds at least 1 1/2 stops to the slow end of the range. I need to find a way to always carry this tripod, as it is so effective.

The tripod costs 100 Euro and can be seen at the link below. There are also pictures lower on the page of how it is used against a wall or the chest. Note that for the greatest stability, you find the correct position, and then tighten it. This makes the camera, tripod and your upper body a single unit moving together.

Leica Tabletop Tripod & Ball Head

Rather than the 170 Euro expensive Leica ballhead, I picked up a decent Cullman for 20 Euro like the following one. Although the tightening knob and the part which screws onto the camera are plastic, the rest is metal and the construction seems rugged enough for careful to medium-rough handling.

Cullmann CU903 Mini Ball Head

thu3may [ prev | next ]

Cheating again. This was taken yesterday. Taking a decent picture every day is harder than it sounds, so I will allow myself to occasionally reach back a couple of days.

wed2may [ prev | next ]

Here is Jana, looking through a Lego construction guide for her next project:

tue1may [ prev | next ]

Walpurgisnacht is over, and there was a street festival in my neighbourhood. This dad-son-pair was just leaving, commenting on the cranes across the street.