Is it the end of Leica (…for me)?

I have been using various Leica M cameras for the last 7 or so years, and until recently it has been a system that I have really enjoyed.

However, limited time to process and scan film has led me to shoot digital more and more. I still ultimately prefer the look of film, but mostly so when it is either in medium of large format sizes.

When it comes to 35mm, I have found that since I picked up an old Nikon F3, I have actually preferred it to using a Leica. It is much easier to focus and I actually prefer the look of the images with the Nikon 50mm 1.4 Ai lens attached. Yes, it’s massively flawed compared to a 50mm Summilux-M ASPH. However, those flaws give the lens a lot of character. It’s also really sharp once you stop it down to F2.8 – F4. The Bokeh with the Nikon lens is also incredible.

Then there is the case of mirrorless, specifically Fuji and Sony. I have picked up a mirrorless system in the last 6 months or so. I resisted it for a long time, as I thought (!) I preferred optical systems. However, the ability to see a scene through an EVF in black and white was a total game changer for me. My main interest in photography is shooting in black and white. I also love to shoot in colour, but’s that easy in some respects. I find having to ‘convert’ a scene into black and white in my mind a pain – actually seeing it in monochrome to start with makes the whole process much more enjoyable and rapid. With street photography seeing and shooting quickly is the name of the game a lot of the time, as once a moment has gone, well it has gone!

Then, at least with the Fujifilm cameras, there is the user experience. They are fantastic and fun cameras to use. The Sony is not quite in the same league in user experience, but the incredible AF system combined with a wide angle lens for street photography, is another game changer for me.

With a Leica, I find that my photos are more distant and ‘classic’ in a Cartier-Bresson sense. With the Sony in particular the silent shutter and rapid AF with reliable face / eye detection, it means that I can get a lot closer. The images are more dynamic and ‘modern’. It’s also a lot more fun to shoot in this way, as the whole process feels more emotive and engaging. I know that I can put a wide angle on a Leica and get a similar experience, but on so many levels for me now, it just isn’t working for me anymore.

I also feel that my photography is changing, in the next couple of years I should see more time on the horizon to do things that have been very difficult now – more family time, more travel, less work! My interest in street photography remains strong, but I needed to mix up my approach and make it more dynamic to keep my interest. I feel that this has started to happen. I am going to keep that area now to digital. I will be keeping film ticking along, but this will mainly sit within medium and large formats for either specific projects or family portraiture.

I also want to do more video work. I am terrible at it at the moment. With having a young family, it makes me wants to capture their experiences on video. One of the things that I never had in my childhood was video or audio-recordings of me, just a few photographs (my parents weren’t big on creating imagery!). I am looking to buy a gimbal to stabilise the camera and create some nice smooth images. I would also like to shoot more videos, incorporating time-lapse, astro-photography, drones, hand held, etc. These would be similar to the sort of videos made by others I have been periodically posting up on this blog over the last couple of years.

So, I feel that it’s time to part ways with what’s left of my Leica equipment (much of it has gone to fund my mirrorless revolution). In some ways, I will be sad to let it go. However, I don’t like having cameras sitting around in storage not being used. I like to have cameras that I use at least on a semi-regular basis. The only exception to this is my Ebony 5×4, as the man who made them has retired and you can’t get them new anymore. Change is good, particularly when you feel that it is in a new and exciting direction! 🙂

Dartmoor

Sunday involved a nice walk across some of Dartmoor along a route that started in Belstone. It was really nice to see some friends again that I have not seen for ages, far too long!

Dartmoor is such a great place to visit, with a lot of history. It’s a place that I would like to come back to much more often (particularly as it is only about 2hrs drive away). The scenery was stunning, felt remote (from a UK perspective!) and presented with some nice photo opportunities. It’s definitely somewhere that has a lot of potential, as well as just so much character (including in the pubs!)

I am not  sure what the building is in the bottom picture or why it is in the middle of nowhere. It was on the military firing range, so naturally the most like guess is that it had some kind of army purpose!

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Streets of London

A good walk back to the train after work today. I’ve mentioned on this blog a few times before that night photography is my favourite time to shoot, it’s a bonus when it’s been raining – like yesterday.

The Dolomites

The Dolomites is a place that I used to visit on a regular basis for a number of years. Climbing in the mountains there was one of my favourite things to do. I haven’t been for a while now, and this video really makes me want to go back there again.

When I used to go there I would take a Nikon D70s with a 6mp sensor (and a Fuji Finepix compact for backup)- how things have moved on over the years. And, in terms of cameras for me, as I used that little Nikon for about 8 years before finally upgrading to a Canon 5DmkIII. I remember thinking that 22mp at the time was overkill for a camera. Since then it’s probably been overkill in cameras for me, to be honest!

The Dolomites is a very magical place to me. I have walked a number of the Alta via trails  (I think there are 8 of them) and used the via ferratas to get to some pretty spectacular mountain huts dotted across the range. The food is an interesting mix of Italian and German, which is great in towns like Belluno and Bolzano, but not quite so good up in the mountain huts (although it never ceased to amaze me how good the Strudel was up there!). Each day of trekking would end with a pint (or two….) of Forst or Birra Moretti, which always went down well.

Anyway, I found this great time-lapse video, which reminded me of how great this place is.

A few of my own images from a couple of trips to the Dolomites:

Out and about at night, again

The carnival was out in town tonight. I didn’t get a lot of time to shoot, mainly as I had taken my youngest daughter with me to see it, so I just managed to get a few images in the end. It was nice and busy though in town, so on another occasion it would have made for some good photo opportunities.

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Smoking a fag

I do like it now that the evenings are drawing in (although, like most people in a few months I will have had enough of the dark by then). Night street photography is my favourite time to shoot as I love the black that pervades the images.

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Shooting from the hip

I was in London late last week, whilst there I decided to play a ‘game’ whilst out doing street photography on the walk back from work to the train station. The game was about shooting from the hip, there were two rules (1) to obviously not look through the viewfinder and (2) no cropping of the images is allowed. I took the little Fuji X100F with me as it is small and relatively unobtrusive (I have the silver, rather than black version).

I have only posted up a very short edit from the shoot. A lot were rubbish or a bit boring. I noticed that I tend to hold the camera on a tilt, making for a more dramatic perspective. I quite like it, but I will try and work on straightening up the camera at the time. It was a lot of fun and I will try it again when I am next in London!

The X100 is such a great little camera, in the short period I have owned it – it is has gone pretty much everywhere with me. The image quality is excellent, the lens sharp and, critically, it is fun to use. Fuji’s are making some excellent cameras at the moment – my poor Canon is struggling to see the light of day. Canon take note here – I am waiting for a mirrorless full-frame camera for those amazing L lenses, although whether even that will be better than the Fuji stuff will remain to be seen…