Category Archives: Teaching point

Photography has always been furthered by technology, but…

It’s true:  photography has always been furthered by technology.

What I mean is that, as technology has advanced (first during the film era, and now digital), photographers have increasingly been provided with the tools to more easily record/convey their vision.

However, I’m not so sure that the last 5 years have given us anything along the same vein.

—Peter.

 

Leica M2-R (Test Images).

Yesterday, I posted some images of the Leica M2-R I was fortunate to acquire.  The photos were taken with a Leica M10 and processed in Lightroom with relative ease.

In contrast, today I set upon the boring and arduous task of testing the M2-R without — of course — the immediate feedback of digital photography.  As I subsequently stood in my basement processing the film, I must admit that I had second thoughts about whether all of the hassle was worth it.  It’s especially frustrating when the effort of processing and scanning is undertaken only to find out that the camera is in some way defective.

Fortunately in this case, all is good.

And as I watched the images magically appear — first on the negative as it was unspooled following its final wash, and then in more detail on my monitor as the scanner did its thing — I realized for the 1000th time why I keep coming back to film: even mundane test shots look better on this antiquated “sensor”.

The following images are not meant to be interesting.  However, they are useful to me.  In them, I’m verifying:

  1. Shutter speed accuracy (in various types of light)
  2. Rangefinder precision (in near, mid, and far distances)

Technical:

  • Lens: Leica 50mm Summilux
  • Aperture: f/1.4 (except the last image which, because of brightness, necessitated f/2).
  • Shutter speed range: 1/60 – 1/1000 sec.

—Peter.

(focus is on the small word “Elect”, above the J)↓

(focus is on the number “50”)↓

(focus again is on the number “50”)↓

(focus is on the letter “G”)↓

(focus is on the poor sap )↓

(focus is on the faint word “KeepRite”)↓

(focus is on the round thermometer)↓

(focus is on the door of the house across the street)↓

Leica M2-R + Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH f/1.4.

I stopped using Instagram a year ago.

A year ago, I deleted my Prosophos Instagram account.

I can tell you why I did it, but I wasn’t planning to in this post.  Suffice it to say, I think social media in general is a vex on all of us, and Instagram in particular is a vex on photography.  Funny enough, I still keep a Twitter account active, but all it does is link back to posts on this site.

In order to protect my “online identity” from people up to no good, I subsequently reserved the name @PhotographsbyPeter.  The Prosophos account was no longer active (once deleted, Instagram does not allow you to re-claim it).  However, recently I realized that @prosophos (with the lowercase “p”) is considered a unique name, so I claimed that one too.

Both of those IG accounts have a placeholder composite photo attached to them, but that’s all they will ever have.

—Peter.

Presents!

Delayed birthday gratification.

Technical note:  Mixed lighting (natural and incandescent) was wreaking havoc on the colours here, but I managed to get acceptable skin tones via post-processing.

—Peter.

Leica M10 + Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH f/1.4.

The Cyclist.

This is an uncropped image.  Technically, it’s a difficult sort of shot to achieve focus, not just because of the motion of the cyclist and the small margin of error involved in photographing at f/1.4, but also because the cyclist is situated a little to the right of centre, away from the focus patch of the rangefinder.  To deal with this, some experience and (admittedly) luck, is involved.

Incidentally, the same three issues (quick motion — especially with the subject coming towards the camera, shallow depth of field, and hitting critical focus at the periphery of the frame) can equally frustrate even the most sophisticated autofocus systems.  Interestingly, in these situations I seem to have more success with rangefinders.

Now, if only the distracting car behind her wasn’t there, I might have been satisfied with this image.

—Peter.

Leica M10 + Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH f/1.4.

Walk this way.

Another test shot.

This was captured one minute before yesterday’s image, at the same crossing where I had briefly paused on my way home from work (I was practicing my rangefinder focusing to get it to where it was a year ago before I switched over to DSLRs).

On a technical note, one of the early conclusions I can draw from the files is that I’m liking the skin tones out of the M10.

—Peter.

Leica M10 + Leica 50mm Summicron APO.

The rarest Leica lens ever?

Are you a multi-millionaire (or billionaire) looking for the rarest of Leica lenses to round out your lens collection?

Well, right now there’s an online auction for a Leica lens with a starting bid of CAN$1,038,349.72.

That’s not a typo.

(I placed a bid but then retracted it because I realized I’m at least a million dollars short.)

—Peter.

The Graduate, 2 (film simulation).

Here’s an alternative take on The Graduate, 2, processed to simulate film.

Curious to know which version is preferred by most.

—Peter.

Nikon D850 + Nikon 105mm f/1.4 E.

Blue.

Nikon D850 + Nikon 105mm f/1.4 E.

Edit.

I thought it would be interesting to post the same image with lens corrections (distortion and vignetting removed):

Nikon D850 + Nikon 105mm f/1.4 E.

(distortion and vignetting corrected)

The vignetting at f/1.4 is very noticeable (the distortion is rather minimal, so you won’t see much of a difference in that respect); whether to correct the vignetting or not is of course a matter of preference.

—Peter.

Nikon to Leica to Nikon.

Ever since I sold my Leica gear last year, I’ve had many of you write to ask me whether I’ve regretted my decision.

Even within the last 24 hours, one of my dear readers contacted me to inquire about the very same thing.  The short answer is: no, I haven’t regretted it… not for a second.

On a related note, I just wrote a response to a fellow photographer, Donald Barnat, in the comments section of one of my posts (a micro-review of the Nikon 28/1.4E) that I think summarizes my current thinking on this issue.

The response is here.

(Incidentally, Mr. Barnat has recently written a wonderful review of the Nikon 58/1.4G — check it out if you’re in the mood for great street photography, insightful thinking, and very eloquent prose!)

—Peter.

 

 

Mayn’t.

Mayn’t = may not.

I just invented a new word.

It’s what I do.

—Peter.

Update: Nikon Service and my D500.

This is an update to what will henceforth be referred to as My Nikon Fiasco.

I hadn’t been contacted by Nikon since their mess-up last week so, fearing the worst, I called them today.

In summary: they need a part for my Nikon D500 and they only ordered it today (perhaps just after my call?…).

It is very unlikely that I will have my camera back in time for my son’s tournament this weekend.

Strike 2, Nikon.

😡

—Peter.

 

 

Disappointed in Nikon Service (Canada).

This is in follow-up to this postThe problem with my Nikon D500 was that the green LED light on the back panel was continuously blinking (as if the memory card was being accessed) whether the camera was on or off.  This would drain the battery to zero power within an hour — again, whether the camera was on or off.

Thankfully, I received a call yesterday that my Nikon D500 was repaired and ready to be picked-up.

Yay!

So, today, I made the hour-long return trip to Nikon in Mississauga.

When I arrived, the nice person behind the counter retrieved my camera and informed me:

  1.  The camera was cleaned.
  2.  The firmware was updated.
  3.  The autofocus was adjusted.

Me:  Oh.  That’s all?

Him:  That’s it.  It’s fixed now.

Well,  prior to taking it to Nikon:

  1.  The camera was already clean.
  2.  I had already installed the latest firmware.
  3. The autofocus was working perfectly; in fact, it’s the one thing I had hoped they wouldn’t touch!

Me:  Do you mind if I test it here?

Him:  Sure, go right ahead.

(a battery and memory card is placed in the camera… we both stand and watch as the blinking green light turns on… and off… continuously…)

Him:  Oh.

Me:   This is the problem (that required repair).  A technician signed off on this?

Him:  Let me take it back inside — please wait here.

(several minutes later…)

Him:  I’m very sorry.  It seems that there is a hardware problem.  It will need to be fixed.

Me:  Yes, I know.

Needless to say, I returned home empty-handed.  Now I’ll have to make a 3rd trip to Nikon, at some point.  My guess is that they will eventually fix it, but this interaction did not inspire me with confidence.

I just hope that they haven’t messed up the autofocus.

—Peter.

 

 

 

My Nikon D500 has been hospitalized :(

After one year of flawless performance, my Nikon D500 is in need of repair…

Fortunately it’s still under warranty.

But…

Tonight was the night of my son’s choir solo!

So, I loaded my Leica M3 with this:

Fuji Superia 1600 image courtesy of B&H

Yes, my Leica M3 + Undisclosed Lens #1 + ASA (ISO) 1600 Fujifilm.

Next week, I’ll have the roll developed and scanned.

Fingers crossed!

—Peter.

 

Restoring old photographs 1, 2, and 3.

These photos have been in my wife’s family for decades but they have begun to discolour, fade, and disintegrate.

So, yesterday I tried my hand at digitally restoring them.

Technique:

  • My wife photographed the original prints with her Sony RX100
  • I processed the files in Lightroom.

My goal was not only to restore them, but to preserve the integrity/intent of the original images, by not altering them in any significant way.

—Peter.

Why the Leica M3 is a special camera to me.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of handling every single M rangefinder camera model Leica has ever manufactured (including a few limited edition examples of each).

And although I’ve previously worked with most of these cameras, I’ve never had the opportunity to handle all of them at the same time so that I could compare their build quality, viewfinders and shutters.

The one that remains my favourite is the Leica M3.  

Many photographers have previously discussed why the M3 is regarded as perhaps the best M camera Leica ever made, so I won’t re-hash all of that here.

Others, it will come as no surprise, disagree with that assessment and have been quick to point out its faults.  Even I recognize its not-too-insignificant shortcomings.

For example:

Do I wish the M3 had 35mm frame lines?  Yes.

Do I wish the M3 could focus closer than 1 meter for most lenses?  Of course.

Do I wish the M3 had a built-in light meter?  Sure.

But, I know that the addition of each of these features ultimately takes away from something else.   It essentially ruins the formula that makes the M3 the M3.

(Incidentally, the compromises inherent in every camera design decision is why a photographer who sets out to find the “perfect” camera is, in actuality, on a fool’s errand — and all of us have been guilty of playing the fool.)

Still, the sense of purpose and dependability that the M3 brings to the pursuit of photography seems unmatched by every other model.

I can tell you that its build quality really is second to none.  Pick up an M3, and it truly does feel like a solid and singular block of matter.  It’s an illusion of course, because the M3, like all subsequent M cameras, is made from a plethora of parts:

(↑ re-building of a Leica M3 by Kanto Camera)

But, in the M3, the decision process around which parts were chosen and how they were put together was done with the least number of compromises.  It’s evident when you pick one up.  Even the much-glorified modern film camera reincarnations of the M3, the Leica MP and M-A, feel somewhat tinny and hollow in comparison.

Besides build quality, the other attraction to the M3 for me is its clear viewfinder, which is the most resistant to flare and has the highest magnification of any M.  These qualities are very helpful when composing and focusing.  The view is also uncluttered.  In comparing the M3 viewfinder to the one found in the digital M10, where bright and blinking LED frame lines compete with the subject for the photographer’s attention,  I can’t help thinking that, somewhere along the way, Leica lost its focus, so to speak.

(But I know I am in the minority on this, since — more and more — blinking visual aids are the preferred feature set for many photographers.)

And, as much as I would love it for the M3 to have an internal light meter, I have to admit that, once again, the blinking lights in the M6, M7, and MP viewfinders seem to distract more than aid.

Am I being picky in writing all of the above?  Yes, of course.

Could I go on, and on?  Unfortunately, yes 🙂

But I will stop here.  The truth is, all of the M cameras do an excellent job of getting out of the way of the photographer.  For me, however, the M3 does it best.

—Peter.

Enlarged prints are the final arbiter of image quality.

Earlier today, I second-guessed the image quality arising from my digital vs. film cameras so I decided to do something that has always helped clarify things for me:  print the images in a semi-large format (in this case 12 x 18 inches).

The verdict:  both the digital and film files look very good.  I’m sticking to both formats.

The Nikon D850, in particular, really shines when it comes to producing pleasing prints.  The files are exceptional.

The real shocker for me was the quality of the files arising from the sometimes-maligned Nikon 58/1.4G.  My goodness!  Despite what the objective tests involving brick walls show, the colours and perceived sharpness in the prints from the 58/1.4G are better than what I used to get from the highly regarded Sigma 50/1.4 Art.  Take that DxO!

—Peter.

 

 

Baxter and the art of stealing a baseball.

The victims of this crime were three children.

On a serious note…

I decided to remove the 200mm f/2 from the D500 (where it’s been permanently mounted) and try it out on the D850.

Though I don’t consider the D850 a sports camera, it did reasonably well here (and I can assure you that little Baxter is very fast).

—Peter.

↑ Nikon D850 + Nikon 200mm f/2 G ED VR II.