The trouble with cameras is . . . . . . . (Never meet your heros) – My weekend with the Leica M8

M8-Selfie

The oh so required self portrait in mirror with new camera.

 

Right, i’ll let you get it out of your systems, go on, tell me you thought I was immune from gear acquisition syndrome.

It’s no secret I have a thing for Leicas. Always have and always will. I’ve been loving shooting my film CL of late, the 40mm f2 is beautiful on that camera (which it was designed for) and with TriX or TMax loaded I’ve got some beautiful photographs. It’s a pleasure to shoot with, makes me think and work for the images I get.

 

Now it’s normally about this time of year that I drop a little cash on something new. A couple of years ago a gained the 5Dmkii, a year later the EF 85L, then last year the X100.

This year I came across a used M8 for sale at a good price. I’ve wanted to get my hands on one of these since they launched and finally thought “I can have the excitement and joy of using my CL but with all the benefits and easy of digital” right?

Well after a couple of days I’m sad to say wrong. 😦

The M8 is a beautiful camera and I’ve seen some lovely images from them, however despite all it’s beauty and heritage the sensor is showing it’s age. Here is the problem with modern digital cameras. Leica M cameras were always cameras for life, this is pretty much shown by the fact the M8 I used was cheaper than a used M7 film body from the same dealer. In fact I’d say my CL will be worth more than the M8 in another 10 years (maybe less). The problem is with producing the body of a camera to last forever in the modern “throw away” world. Digital technology is still in it’s teens and as such moving and changing still. Camera bodies are no longer the investment pieces in a kit.

So the M8,

It’s lovely no doubt. You know it’s a quality camera as soon as it’s in your hands. It’s straight forward and easy to use if you’re used to cameras that require you to do the thinking. Aperture, shutter speed, focus ring and shutter release. Zen like pretty much describes the user experience.

The problems start once you get shooting, firstly it isn’t as quiet as I’m used to Leicas being. No biggie but worth noting, it sounds kind of mechanical in operation. The shutter release is actually rubbish. Now I’ve never said this about a Leica but seriously it’s all crunchy, if I can really feel the half press points on my shutter release I freak out. Leicas should be smooth like butter, silky and perfect, not jarring and stabby. Again not a deal breaker but another con for me.

These things I could get over as I was finally shooting with a digital M, I enjoyed the experience, well until I started to look through the images. I’ll not go into huge detail but here’s the main issues I had;

White balance is shocking, Forget auto WB unless you like blue tinted shots. Sure I shoot RAW but still I do like my previews to be close to actual colours.

My 40mm f2 ‘cron was appalling wide open on the thing. Crazy soft corners, like lens baby soft. This was a BIG deal to me.

Really rather poor ISO performance once you get above the base of 160. At 160 it’s really great but other than that noise starts to dance everywhere.

I’ll admit I was blown away by the sharpness of the images even when unsharpened in Lightroom but as we all know, sharpness isn’t everything.

Colours, h’eh, nothing to really write home about. Apparently the Kodak sensor in the M8 was designed to replicate Kodachrome colours. I’m no expert on Kodachrome but I’m pretty sure it was better than what I got with the M8.

Here’s a few shots from the weekend to give you an idea of my cons. These we’re edited to make them acceptable to me so you won’t see my issues with colour or white balance;

 

Red checks out

Red wall photographed with Leica M8, 40mm f2. Colour gained by running this through Color Efex and the Kodachrome preset.

Window shot with M8

Window shot with M8. Film (ish) look? yes. Straight from camera? No.

Shadow play

This one shows the stupid soft corners I got using the 40mm f2 on the M8. Never had this on the CL

Just testing for bo-keys 🙂

Blus doors & stone work

A little street detail from the city this morning. Leica M8 40mm f2

Through the looking glass

British institutions, BT phone box and a Red Royal Mail post box.

So after seeing my shots, I thought i’d be fun to compare to those I took last year with the X100 (now don’t get silly on me but I may be about to announce something)

Window details, X100

A window shot from the X100. Creamy and lovely

Shooting the shooter

Cameras a dawn. A little window detail whilst wandering with the X100.

Budapest doorway, Fuji X100

Street / doorway details from Budapest last year. X100. Oh the colours!

X100 bike

Bike in Budapest shot with the Fuji X100

I love this shot, blue hour in Budapest. The X100 excels in low light.

Busking in the rain, York. X100

Singing in the rain York style. Weather testing the X100

River walk details

Love this shot too. A little moment from down by the river last year.

 

Okay, now I know which series of shots I prefer.

Remeber last year when I let the X100 go, I said I loved it but it wasn’t worth what I paid for it. Well the same goes for the M8, I love the thing despite it’s short comings, I’m pretty sure that one day I will invest in some proper Leica lenses and a full frame digital M but for now, I just can’t part with that much money for a camera which doesn’t create what I want it too. So where does that leave me?

Well the CL is staying for all my B&W film work (no doubt on that one). It’s small, light and handy to have in the bag on assignments.

Now coming back to the “the X100 isn’t worth what I paid for it”. Well it wasn’t worth what I paid for it when first released brand new, however . . . . . . it is worth what I may have just found one for used and just serviced with a stack of extras.

I’ll be honest and say I’ve missed the little Fuji, every time I look back through my catalogue of shots from last years 365 the stand out images are normally from the X100, it’s colour reproduction is amazing, I really got to grips with converting my B&W’s with it, plus the thing is sexy as. Why didn’t I go for the new X-Pro 1? simple because HAVE YOU SEEN THE PRICE OF THOSE THINGS?!? I don’t care if it makes coffee for me and drives me to my commissions, I’m not wandering the back streets of eastern european cities casually swinging over two thousand pounds worth of metal and plastic from my wrist. Plus it’s going to get me into the whole lens system problem again.

So the M8 is going back, the Olympus E-P2 20mm combo is going to be leaving my company and all being well the X100 shall be returning. HA! its like a camera yoyo between the Oly E-P system and Fuji X100 around here eh? Stay tuned I’m sure they’ll be more on this subject to be said in a week or so.

 

So as they say sometimes is best not to meet your heros, I’ve admired the M8 from afar for a good while, now sadly I see it as a once was, a classic of old.

 

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(C)over boy // Reworked by himself



(C)over boy // Reworked by himself, originally uploaded by bang*.

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Another from last week with Jaime, well I say another it’s the same shot from before but with a little something something. He’s somewhat of a creative man and put this together. I dig it and figured I’d share the love. Check out more of Jaimes stuff here jwandsmurrayillustration.tumblr.com/

Model : Jamie Wands-Murray (Maverick Models)
Photographer : Mark Ivkovic (moi!)
Post Production – Jaime

Leica CL 40mm f2
Kodak Tri X in D76 (standard)

(C)over Boy



(C)over Boy, originally uploaded by bang*.

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Model : Jamie Wands-Murray (Maverick Models)
Photographer : Mark Ivkovic (moi!)

Leica CL 40mm f2
Kodak Tri X in D76 (standard)

Using the film cameras more and more for these shoots. Partly as I’m starting to trust that they still work and partly as I’m still in love with that little difference that the film look has.
I’m still running with the Film26 project, 26 two week periods of the year where we work through the alphabet for subject matter. You may now understand the title of the photo & this post.
I have to say I’m blown away by this little rangefinder. Previous to the CL I’ve used a rare (simply because they’re kinda worthless and mostly broken) Lordomat & a Yashica MG-1 (cheap as chips fixed lens “compact” rangefinder from the 60’s (ish).
Before you all get “I thought you were immune to G.A.S.” this was all early(ish) last year during my long term GAS illness.
Now the Lordomat was my first rangefinder camera and for that I dig it, it is also a thing of beauty. All chrome and metal and heavy. The lens was actually pretty good if slightly dreamy wide open. I just hated the tiny (and I mean tiny) viewfinder. So I started looking for something to replace it with (whilst ignoring the Leicas) I really wanted something handy but also quick to use almost as a snapshot camera. So I headed into the muddy waters of 60’s Compact rangefinders. Compact is a laugh, you’ll see if you ever pick one up. The Olympus 35 SP was my real aim but not for the price they now go for. So I stuck with the Yashica Electro that isn’t a Yashica Electro and only cost me £15. It’s okay, shot plenty of stuff with it but the aperture priority only shooting mode really started to bug me as I had to rely on the meter firstly being right and secondly being accurate.
So to the Leica CL. This is pretty much exactly what I’ve wanted from a rangefinder since I discovered how much I like them. Sure i’ll admit it isn’t a Leica M but it takes M lenses and shoots the same film. It’s lighter, smaller and has a built in meter (which works). Plus if someone asks to see it I’m not going to have to ask them to pay a deposit before I hand it over.
Maybe soon I’ll run through my medium format camera of choice these days. I’ve been trying a few different systems (via a process of begging and borrowing) over the last 6 months or so and I’m now feeling sure that I’ve found my camera.
So more film coming from me in various sizes, type and such. Five rolls went to the lab yesterday and I’m planning on running a good few through the cameras during my shoots this weekend.

Oh happy Valentines and all that too.

Mark

(C)over Boy

(C)ase

Club Yashica



Club Yashica, originally uploaded by bang*.

Day 265 / 365
(That would be less than 100 days to go then)

Ahem.
Yes it’s another new addition to the collection, I know I said I was through with 35mm when it comes to film but the fact is it’s a darn sight cheaper to shoot than medium format.
So what’s the story behind this one? Well I’ve been shooting with the Lordomat rangefinder for a while now and it’s lack of built in meter is a bit of a drag a times. So I’ve been on the look out for a fixed lens 35mm rangefinder with meter to solve my needs. I’ve been trying to find a good deal for an Olympus 35SP or Canon ql17 but it seems that people really want them at the moment and are willing to pay some slightly daft pricces to get ones which are “sold as seen” or as I like to read “this camera probably won’t work”. Then as if by magic I found this little gem for a rather bargain price. Sure I’ve stepped down from an f1.7 lens to f2.8 but to be honest most of these old rangefinders have rather limited max shutter speeds so f1.7 in full sun is tricky without getting ND filters involved.

Test roll has gone through the camera already and all seems tickity boo. I might stick a fresh roll of Kodak Ektar in for the weekend (if it’s bright)

The mighty PEN 20mm ultimate combo, which is smaller than the Yashica.

Oh yeah, check out that light!

Reds & Blues – With some initial impressions of the Fuji x100



Reds & Blues, originally uploaded by bang*.

134 / 365

Another like yesterdays post, this time I really tried to keep it to two colours. I even managed to sneak a bike in too, the first on the Fuji x100 (which is lovely by the way).
Pretty happy how these two shots work together.

Fuji x100 (RAW, LR3)

So then, the Fuji x100? What’s that all about? we thought you had fallen in love with the Olympus PEN and micro 4/3?
I know, I know, I did really enjoy shooting with the PEN and would still recommend it to anyone wanting a great, portable interchangeable lens camera system. It has great image quality and that Lumix 20mm f1.7 is a peach.
So why look to change????? Well I’ve always had my eye on the new fuji, it’s no secret around here that I have a love for Leica, one day I’ll be shooting digital M’s with beautiful Leica lenses. There is just something about the design, the retro (classic) camera feel and look to them and the craftmanship that has gone into them. Now go look at a fuji x100, see where I’m coming from?
Another reason was the whole lens thing, I have a “compact” camera (or the “not my work cameras”) camera to carry with me at all times. I want this camera to let me enjoy my photography, keep things simple and just let me concentrate on my vision. One of the great things about the micro 4/3 (PEN) systems is the whole array of lenses you can choose from. However for me wanting to keep things simple and clean, this is it’s biggest downfall. Over the last month or two I’ve spent far too much time scouring the internet and camera stores looking at lenses and accessories and all that. It’s kind of been annoying (but fun all the same). It has however been a distraction, to me my camera system is my Canon equipment, I know it inside out and blindfold, I know which lens will do what and exactly which will be needed for each job. For my “other” camera I desire simplicity, I don’t want to carry extra lenses and viewfinders (the Olympus VF-2 is still epic by the way). I want one very good lens, with character and a camera which gives me great pleasure in using, something that makes me slow down and relish in the challenges and experiences of making photographs.
Enter the Fuji x100, one fixed 35mm f2 lens, beautiful classic styling, built in optical / electronic viewfinder (finally), large sensor, great build quality and really great image quality.
I’ve only had a couple of quick jaunts into the city with it so far, sure it has a few nuances which I’ll need to adjust for but guess what? I’m manual with quick and intuitive aperture and shutter speed dials, easy iso access. It’s bliss.
I can just go and create photographs. The 35mm lens is something I can relate to, on the PEN I had 28mm and 40mm, these just aren’t focal lengths i’m accustomed to. I shoot prime lenses, I can see in 35mm, 50mm, 85mm. I know what it will look like in the viewfinder. So many times with the PEN I saw the shot, got the camera up and was greeted with an unexpected frame. Sure I can just step in or out a bit, but it just wasn’t clicking (forgive the pun) with my vision.
On the clicking side, I mentioned it in most of my notes on the PEN but the thing makes a noise. It’s an odd little noise, kind of squelchy shutter, there is no way I’m pulling off candid with that camera. You take a shot and in most situations everyone near you knows. Now I’m not talking pervy stuff here just I like a certain invisibility to my work at times, my old Leica DLux 4 and DigiLux 2 were ultimately silent, so if a job called for that I had a tool to fit. Onto the Fuji x100, hello silent again.
So here’s to some more testing of the Fuji to see if it really is the perfect camera to keep me happy until the bank manager says I can go and spend enough money to buy a car (or two) on a Leica.

Olympus PEN – E-PL2 Long Term Real World Review – Initial Impressions



The PEN, originally uploaded by bang*.

bang | Photography – Marks Olympus PEN – E-PL2 Long term review – Part 1- Initial Thoughts.

Now that I’m sure i’m hanging on to the PEN, here’s the first of a running real world review of the Olympus E-PL2. I figured the blog could do with some asides from the 365 project which seem to be commanding its posts. Plus my feelings for the micro 4/3 system cameras has changed now I’ve had chance to use one for a week or three.

As I say, this is real world review, no test charts, measuring devices or other dull stuff like that. People do those kinds of reviews in other corners of the web so if that’s what you want google is your friend.

Initial impressions –
As the latest incarnation of the digital Olympus PEN this camera has had effectively three younger siblings, the E-P1, E-PL1 & E-P2. Having never used any of the other models I can’t tell you how this one relates to those. I can however compare it to my Leica DLux4, the Leica DigiLux 2 and fairly or unfairly to my Canons.

Things I liked straight away –
Straight out the camera jpegs – The things just pop.

The screen – It’s big and it’s pretty darn bright.

Image quality – Super good for such a little camera.

Depth of Field control – With a larger (than usual compact sized cameras) sensor this is a huge plus to me. Not as good as full frame dslr but the camera is somewhat smaller and much more portable.

Noise control – Higher iso capability means I’m willing to push beyond where I used to with the DLux4. It isn’t a 5D mk ii though.

Hot Shoe – Well all my other cameras had one too but it’s still a huge plus for me (actually it’s a must).

Its looks – Hey to me how my cameras look plays a big part in my choice or purchase. The kit lens may be an okay lens but it spoils the look of the camera to me. Hence my instant purchase of the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 (well that and the fact I choose to mainly shoot with prime lenses)

It’s customisation ability – Sure the menus could cause some people problems, me however I just jumped right in and got it working how I wanted. Again to me this is a must, I have to have complete control over my camera otherwise It just doesn’t feel (or look) right.

Some things I’m not too keen on –
The kit lens – I know it’s a good lens and all image quality wise, and for most (actually probably all) the other users it will be a perfect companion. It just spoils the retro look of the time for me, the max aperture is kind of slow and the collapsable thing just bugs me too. When I’m out and about I like my camera ready for use but compact enough to sit by my side. Stick one of the pancake primes on and it’s perfect though.

The Strap – Again this is a personal thing. They could have gone for a more retro piece rather than the advertising. Needless to say mine never graced the camera.

ISO 200 as lowest ISO – Grrrrrrgh. Sure it’s only two stops from all my other cameras, but come on that’s two whole stops. If I’m using this thing with flash I’m going to be wanting lower iso some times to knock out some ambient light (again I’m of the minority users of this camera who will want this, most will be happy with the increased iso speed). Also combine this with the max shutter speed of 1/4000 of a second. I’m a fast prime lens shooter and as such like large apertures. On a number of occasions already I’ve been forced to stop down If I want to keep exposure correct, hence having to compromise my vision for the shot.

The Battery life – It pretty much sucks compared to everything but the Leica DigiLux2 (which was pretty old tech batterywise). I’m not sure if the battery warning comes on too early (although this can be tweaked in camera too) but I’m constantly aware of how quickly it seems to appear. Actually after further use I’ve found one battery struggles to power a full day shooting, this weekend I got about 290 shots to the battery and was left powerless at 10pm. I managed a few turn it back ons to grab a couple of extra shots but in todays world I do expect one battery to manage at least one full day. I’m not expecting the 1600+ shots I can get from one charged 1D or 5D battery but still 300 all out seems pretty weak.

As yet no “proper” RAW support – Adobe have candidate releases of LR3 and Camera RAW which support the Oly RAW files but as yet no stable support. Although with the quality of the jpegs this isn’t too much of a problem.

It’s noise – The Leicas I used were both very (read almost silent) quiet. My Canons make noise but aren’t really built for stealth anyway. I thought the PEN would be along the compact camera quiet lines. However it makes a “real” noise, sure it isn’t deafening but it is perceivable in quieter places. Just something to consider I guess. It’s sound is something akin to that of stepping on a big beetle, kind of squelchy.

So those are my initial thoughts after three weeks use. Some things I have figured out work arounds, others I’ve learned to live with. One thing is for certain though, I do love the thing and really love how it renders what I put before it. Compared to any other compact camera I’ve used this blows them away in this respect. I’ve compared it against the 5D mk ii / 35mm f2 and to tell you the truth they are pretty darn close under good “normal” lighting (actually quite frighteningly close). I’ll probably do a comparison post latter in the year so you can see what I mean. I’ve shot some studio portraits with the PEN and they came out beautifully (the jpegs were spot on).
People following my 365 project may have noticed I’ve shot most of my images over the last three weeks with the PEN (and the Panasonic 20mm, which is a very very good lens). It seems to just do what I want and expect it too pretty much all of the time. On that note if you wish to see more sample images from the PEN just browse through either here on the blog (I normally indicate which camera I’ve shot images with) or through my flickr stream (same with the camera details).
Only time will tell if it continues to impress as I push it further.

So far so good for the might small Olympus E-PL2.

I’ve heard internet rumblings about an E-P3 possible release this year. Judging by Olympus’ speedy model upgrades so far I’d expect this to be true. It’ll be interesting to see what they can do to improve this little camera. I am thinking someone needs to put out a fast wide angle prime for the micro 4/3 system though, the Panasonic 14mm f2.5 is good as it serves a good 28mm relative, but something like a 12mm f2 would just be peachy (24mm (relative) and fast, perfect landscape, interiors and for me travel lens when paired with the 20mm (40mm relative)).

More to follow in later updates through the year.

The PEN

 

The PEN, originally uploaded by bang*.

Day 94 / 365

Quick and easy was the order of the day for this shot.
I still have a number of outstanding items on the todo list for today. So it’s a quick camera shot of the lovely retro stylin’ Olympus E-PL2, sporting the Lumix 20mm f1.7 pancake lens and VF-1 viewfinder for ultimate classic looks. The thin black leather lomo strap with metal details finishes up the old school package (well for me anyway).

Shot on the 5D mkii / Sigma 50mm f1.4

I seem to have developed a cream border thing over the last few days, not sure what that’s all about (probably from me mounting & framing up a load of my work for show / sale.)