Category Archives: Teaching point

For some reason…

For some reason, my open letter to Leica has been getting a lot of traffic today.

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Who should sign it?

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Anyone who wants an updated CCD sensor in a future Leica M model.  Anyone who places emphasis on rangefinder simplicity and also values high image quality at low-to-moderate ISO values.

Yes, Leica, incorporate the ergonomic improvements of the M240, but help differentiate the brand from the mediocre CMOS landscape by bringing back an updated CCD sensor.

Please bring back a superior, simple, and reliable still-photography camera worthy of the Leica brand.

(If you’re reading this and are in agreement, please click on the Dear Leica dot below and sign your name in the comments section.)

Thanks,

—Peter.

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Prosophos Open Letter to Leica

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Related posts:

Later today… Epson V700 vs. Plustek 120.

I’m just finalising my post about my recent experience with the Epson V700 vs. Plustek 120.

Please note that the discussion is based on a single shot comparison (done for my own evaluation purposes) and therefore it is not meant to be a scientific analysis!

—Peter.

The Plustek 120 has arrived!

That was fast delivery!… ordered yesterday, here today.

(Thank you Canada Post)

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Plustek 120-1

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I still have the plastic protective sheet on the front :)

The footprint is certainly much smaller than the Epson V700.  Excellent.

For comparison purposes, here is the Plustek 120 from above, with a standard 3-hole punch and my recent Polaroid photo sitting on top of it:

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Plustek 120-2

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Now, the question is:

Will it perform as well as the V700?

—Peter.

Smile.

Here is my first image from the first roll of Kodak Tri-X 120 put through the Mamiya RZ67.

I self-processed the film at home like this, and self-scanned on an Epson V700.

Looking at the tonality of this image, I want to weep tears of joy.

Nothing I’ve experienced with digital comes close.

People, all these years we have been duped.

Instead of constantly upgrading e-cameras,

We could have had this all along.

And now film is dying.

Shame on us.

—Peter.

Smile

↑Mamiya RZ67, Mamiya 110mm @ f/2.8, and Kodak Tri-X 400.

Tomorrow: the Mamiya meets Tri-X.

Okay, enough of the Polaroid-ish films shots.

I stepped into the world of MF for one reason and one reason only:  Tri-X on a larger sheet of film.

So, tomorrow I’m posting a test image that I shot using Tri-X 400, and scanned with my now returned Epson.

—Peter.

Test Shot 1 (answer).

The answer to my Guess Which Gear question is:

Mamiya RZ67 Professional Pro II and Mamiya RZ 110mm F/2.8, using Fujifilm FP-3000B (Poloraid-type) B&W film:

Mamiya RZ67 with Polaroid Back

As the name implies, the Mamiya RZ67 is a 6 x 7 film format system.  Its film “sensor” size can be appreciated by looking at this comparison:

PhotographsByPeter Sensor Size Mamiya vs 35mm

This is a modular system and the Polaroid film back provides less “sensor” size (and less image quality) than 120 film, but I purchased it along with the 120 film back so that I could get instant results and feedback.  As you can see from my first Test Image, I messed up on my initial settings  (I had the ISO on the camera set to 800, while the Fuji FP-3000B is pegged at ISO 3000) so it was a good thing the damage was limited to only one image vs. an entire roll of 120 Kodak Tri-X.

[Incidentally, Fuji has recently announced that it is discontinuing this film :( . There's an online petition asking Fuji to bring back the FP-3000B and so far there are over 10,000 signatures.  You can still find it in stock, but prices have jumped quite a bit.  If you're interested in using it, buy it while you can — and sign the petition!]

Knowing my love of small Leica rangefinders, why did I even look at this behemoth of a camera?   One word:  PORTRAITURE.

If you look at the sample images online, you will be amazed.  Hopefully, I will produce something worthy of this camera.  The gear, for me, will be relegated to formal shooting, which means I will seldom use it.  However, given how easily and inexpensively one can obtain such capable film-based medium format systems, the decision was easy.

As a side bonus of first using the Polaroid back on the Mamiya, my kids were amazed at seeing “the pictures come out of the camera, like in the old cartoons!“.  It’s great to see that in this age of digital wizardry, something as old as this can fire up their imagination.

Now… off to dig up my old film developing equipment and brush up on…

My Method for Processing B&W film

Thanks for your interest.

—Peter.

Leica, please bring back an updated CCD sensor.

I’m about to go on holiday.

While I’m gone, please help keep the momentum going, and consider signing my open letter to Leica.

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Who should sign this letter?

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Anyone who wants an updated CCD sensor in a future Leica M model.  Anyone who places emphasis on rangefinder simplicity and also values high image quality at low-to-moderate ISO values.

Yes, Leica, incorporate the ergonomic improvements of the M240, but help differentiate the brand from the CMOS-muddy-file-with-video/EVF-me-too landscape by bringing back an updated CCD sensor.

Please bring back a superior, simple, and reliable still-photography camera worthy of the Leica brand.

—Peter.

(and thank you to the over 150 individuals who have already signed)

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Prosophos Open Letter to Leica

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Related posts:

Rolleiflex 2.8F Planar [Not].

Rolleiflex

↑Leica M9 and Leica Noctilux @ f/0.95.

Bigger Sensor = Better Image Quality.

All other things being equal, a bigger sensor = better image quality (always).

Don’t let the marketing machine tell you otherwise.

—Peter.

The trouble with most photography is…

The trouble with most photography/art/research/literature is that it’s derivative.

Almost 100% of what is produced each year is unoriginal.

That is why we idolize the trailblazers.

Follow your own path — you have your own story to tell.

(I’m talking to you.)

—Peter.

I came close to trashing all of my Leica gear this week.

Prosophos - Leica Trashed

In frustration, I came close to selling all of my Leica equipment a few days ago.

After an ice storm that left this city without power (and some of our fellow citizens still have no heat!), the whole family became ill (and we still are…).

What does this have to do with Leica?

Well, the one day where everything was “normal”, thankfully, was Christmas Day — our power had been restored and we hadn’t yet gotten sick.  Naturally, I was looking forward to photographing.

After shooting some frames and reviewing the images, I realized the focus was off!  A few key moments were lost (or at least, rendered blurry).  I took a few test shots and realized my M9 was back-focusing by about an inch.  Enough to mess things up when photographing at f/1.4.

This is one of the charms of rangefinder ownership.  The rangefinder focusing mechanism, over time, can spontaneously (or with little provocation) deviate from spec.

No problem, I thought.  That’s why I have a back-up M9(P).

So I started photographing with it.  But I realized why this camera has been relegated to back-up status.  Its buffer chokes up after a few frames and it takes several seconds before I can start photographing again.  The outcome:  I missed a few more key moments.

A specific charm of Leica ownership is that one M9 can behave in a much different way from another — identical — M9 (with the same SD card and the same firmware!).  Leica still hasn’t mastered the whole electronics thing… which may be perceived by some as somewhat of a shortcoming in the digital age.

Back to the story…

Maybe it was because I had spent the weekend and some of the week re-enacting scenes from Pioneer Village, or maybe it was because I was getting sick, but I had had enough!

(I know, I know, these are “First World” problems, and — believe me — I know how fortunate I am.  I’m just venting).

I started packing away the M9s.

But what other camera(s) would I now use?

Out of everything currently out there, the only non-Leica camera that will accept my M lenses and give me a full frame sensor is the Sony A7(R).  And its CMOS sensor comes the closest to achieving my coveted M9 CCD sensor rendering (the Sony colour signature is another story).  But… Leica lenses (especially wide angle ones) don’t necessarily shine on other manufacturers’ platforms.  So my pricey Leica Summilux lenses would be worth little on the Sony.

No problem, I thought once more.  I’ll just sell my lenses too and start from scratch.

But, but… I used the Sony RX1R earlier this year and the computer-as-camera user interface left me cold.  That, and having to rely on the EVF:  through it, it didn’t feel like I was watching the world… it felt like I was watching TV.

So I turned my attention to DSLR cameras.

The only contender for me would be the Nikon Df.  Small for a DSLR, plenty of external controls for manual shooting, etc.  And I was close to purchasing it, despite the downgrade in base ISO image quality it would represent (high ISO functionality is another story).

But I prefer to manually focus.  And I’d been-there-done-that with the D3 and D3s, both coupled to a Noct Nikkor 58/1.2 AIS lens.  When photographing action wide open, the hit rate with this system is low (even when using the “green dot” focus aid).

Plus, I’ve grown accustomed to the “see the world outside of the frame” view of the rangefinder window.  With it, I can see elements outside of what the lens sees, and I can therefore better anticipate how a given moment may unfold.

Finally — believe it or not — I was once more tempted to switch to a new Leica M240.  Oh, but the image quality would be… (well, you know).  And don’t forget those electronic gremlins, which continue to plague Leica, even with their latest bodies…

In the end, I decided to keep my current gear.  Yes, I know… I’ve become predictable.

Which places my photography situation in a precarious position, with respect to any future “upgrade” path.

Hopefully, by the time my current M9 cameras die (or their sensors spontaneously crack — but that’s another story!), there will be other viable options out there for me).

I’m holding out hope for Sony to sort out its user interface, and I’m also closely watching for advances in EVF technology.

Or maybe Leica will finally produce a non-beta version of a camera.

Yes, it’s a love-hate thing.

—Peter.

Good light is good (…and high ISO is often overrated).

Good Light is Good (…and High ISO is overrated)

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A number of years ago, Nikon introduced the flagship D3 and changed the face of photography by allowing us to capture images in near darkness.   I remember taking an image indoors late one evening in 2007 and marveling at how clean the image looked at ISO 6400.

Yet, these days when I photograph, I preferentially seek good light, and my ISO requirements with an f/1.4 aperture lens rarely exceed 1600.  Anything more than this, and I’m basically turning nighttime into daytime — which is often undesirable, as it destroys the ambiance of nighttime scenes.

I’ve learned the obvious: good light is good, and no amount of ISO boosting overcomes the disadvantages of poor light or poor lighting.

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Good light reveals nuances in colours and textures, and generally confers depth to those flat representations of the world we call photographs.

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That same ISO 6400 image from six years ago, when viewed now with a more critical eye, falls a little short on an aesthetic level, not because the lighting was dim, but because the lighting was poor.

Poor light is not necessarily the same as weak light.  For example, the scant light available after a sunset is “good light”, if one harnesses it properly (with the aid of a tripod and slow shutter speed).  The same thing may be said of incandescent lighting, if it is arranged on your subject in a pleasing way. 

Good light is not necessarily the same as bright or plentiful light.  For example, midday sunlight is often too stark to be desirable for portraiture, but may be perfect if the goal is to capture the interplay of light and shadow. 

Admittedly, high ISO capabilities are desirable for specific applications — for example, astrophotography, where the goal is to “see” the faint light emitted by distant stars but the exposure time is kept to a minimum to “freeze” the stars’ movement (so that stars remain “points” of light in the final photograph).  Or, if the goal is to capture action in dim light, or to record a memory for posterity and lighting considerations are secondary or beyond one’s control, then yes, a high-ISO-capable camera is vital.

If the goal, however, is to create an aesthetically pleasing photograph — even at night — then seek good light.

—Peter.

 

Toronto’s Finest, Revisited.

Taken yesterday.

Toronto's Finest, revisited

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

Q&A: Matteo asks about the Leica M (type 240).

Matteo writes:

“Dear Peter,

I hope all is well with you!

Finally this 2013 is going to an end… I’ve spent this year mostly in London, with little time for photography.

Far from home and committed to work, I’ve been having a hard time developing my ‘artistic’ side.

However, in a strong effort to keep my eyes trained, I’ve dedicated a bit of time to explore film and rangefinder photography.

Now I’m thinking to jump into digital again (time and flexibility are the main reasons), but I have to save a bit before getting a new camera.  I’m very interested in hearing a little more from you about your experience with the new M240.  It seems you don’t consider it on par (sensor wise) with the new [Sony] Alpha7R and Nikon Df, and I’m curious about that.  I’m still a bit puzzled about the available options, as I never had the chance to test extensively an M9 or any of these new models. I think I will stick to film for a little more :-) .

—Matteo”

Thank you very much Matteo for writing.

Well, it turns out I may have an opinion about the Leica M240:)

As many of the readers of Prosophos.com know, I’ve written much about it:

…And I have even written an open letter to Leica asking for an updated CCD sensor on a future Leica M model.  So far, over 130 individuals have signed it.

However, to answer your question in a concise manner, I’ll note three things I don’t appreciate about the Leica M240 sensor:

  1. Colour signature The native Leica M240 colour signature is suboptimal for skin tones, and one has to constantly fight against the default settings to achieve acceptable results.
  2. Colour Tonality Colour transitions are rendered more coarsely by the M240 vs. the M9.  The M9 renders tones in a more subtle and delicate fashion.
  3. Microcontrast Although the M240 sensor (24 MP) will objectively out-resolve the Leica M9 sensor (18 MP) at 100% magnification, the M240 files as a whole are more “muddy” and “flat” as compared to the more “crisp” and “3D”-like images generated by the M9See here for two examples (see various photo-sharing sites, photography fora, and generally the entire internet for more :) …).

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As for the Nikon Df and Sony A7/A7R, they are not rangefinder cameras, and so obviously cannot provide the rangefinder experience, which is important to me.   Also, being CMOS sensor cameras, they cannot equal the M9 in Points #2 and #3 above.

That’s basically it.  I hope that answers your question Matteo.

Sincerely,

—Peter.

[Incidentally, Matteo has submitted several images to me that will be featured in a not-too-distant Guest Post.]

Leica M9 still reigns supreme.

Leica M9 still reigns supreme

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It’s nearing the end of 2013, and the Leica M9/M-E/Monochrom with the venerable CCD sensor continues to provide the best image quality at base ISO in the 35mm (36 x 24) sensor class.

As predicted here.

The Leica M (Type 240) cannot touch it, the Nikon Df comes close, and so does the Sony A7/A7R… but none of these CMOS sensor cameras can equal it.

Don’t believe me?  Please research it for yourself.

And let’s not even mention the whole rangefinder experience, which these other cameras (with the exception of the Leica M240) lack.

So…

If you haven’t already done so, please consider signing my open letter to Leica.

Prosophos Open Letter to Leica

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Related posts:

The M9 and CCD sensor, revisited.

m9-sensor-revisited prosophos

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As I scanned some of the other photography sites late this evening, and read several initial user reports on Sony‘s new A7 and A7R 35mm interchangeable cameras, I noticed more and more people are conceding that my prediction on September 15, 2012, on the eve of the release of the Leica M240 was true: the M9 and its CCD sensor would prove to be superior at base ISO than any CMOS offering.

Unfortunately, holding this opinion and stating it publicly — repeatedly — has probably strained my relationship with Leica.  Hopefully they’ll eventually come around to seeing my efforts as constructive.  I am, after all, an enthusiast who only photographs with Leica rangefinders and lenses.

Back to the point:  is it any wonder that in June of this year I declared my camera of the year for 2013 to be the Leica M9?  As crazy as it was for me to do, I’m sticking by it.

It’s still not too late to sign My Open Letter to Leica ;) .

—Peter.

Sony A7 and A7R

Sony A7 and A7R

I’ve been looking at sample images from the Sony A7 and A7R and can state — without hesitation — that the best 35mm CMOS sensors right now are being manufactured by Sony.

—Peter.

Open letter to Leica: over 100 signatures (so far)…

Prosophos Open Letter to Leica

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Many of you prefer the rendering of the Leica M9 CCD sensor over the M240 CMOS sensor at low ISO values, and have consequently signed My Open Letter to Leica.  For those who haven’t, please consider doing so if you want to advocate for an updated CCD sensor in a future M model.

Thank you,

—Peter.

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Related posts:

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