Category Archives: Teaching point

A camera must go — Leica or Sony?

As many of you know, I’ve been experimenting with — and immensely enjoying — the Sony A7S.

The images from the CMOS sensor in the A7S come closest to the look I get with the CCD sensor(s) found in the Leica M8 and M9/M-E vs any other CMOS sensor camera I’ve tried to date (that list includes the Nikon D800E, the Leica M240, the Sony RX1R, the Nikon Df, and — whatever else I left out).

The CMOS-on-steroids A7S also allows me to photograph at amazingly high ISO levels.  And does video too.

Frankly, the A7S is a fun camera to use.

On the other hand, the M8/M9/M-E cameras produce superior images at base ISO.

But Leica doesn’t appear to want to make any more CCD-based M cameras in the future, unless of course a million of you sign My Open Letter to Leica (by the way, only 999,660 signatures to go…).  And the CCD Leica cameras are clunky and dated with respect to technology (they were dated, in fact, at the time of their introduction!).

Then again, Michael Jordan was considered over-the-hill when he returned to the NBA for the second half of his career, and look what he accomplished.

The point of all of this?

I’m a minimalist.  Keeping things simple helps me produce better images.

I mentioned previously that I don’t function well juggling different camera platforms, as added variables (like differences in ergonomics, the way of “seeing” (through the viewfinder), menus, etc.) just get in the way.

Variables are the enemy.  They are to avoided.  They create convoluted paths between you and your images.

So of course, one of these camera platforms is destined to go.

But you already knew that.




This image was taken with the Sony (Alpha) a7S.

I wish to thank my good friend Ashwin Rao who was absolutely correct about three things with respect to this camera:

  1.  The a7S digital files are the most CCD-like CMOS files I’ve encountered (not quite like the magic of CCD, but very close — even in their behaviour during post-processing).
  2.  I need to re-acquaint myself with the “tunnel vision” viewfinder the a7S shares with most other cameras.  This is a significant limitation, since unless the camera is a rangefinder, it’s not (yet) possible to see “the world outside the window frame” to better anticipate photographic opportunities.
  3. The a7S sensor and Leica lenses play well together.

Additional notes:

  • The focus-peaking is quite accurate and very user-friendly.
  • The auto-ISO function, in combination with the exposure compensation dial, actually improves upon my set-up with the Leica M8/M9/M-E.
  • The silent shutter option makes me weep tears of joy — bravo Sony.
  • The advertised high ISO capabilities are not just marketing hyperbole.  This sensor was tailor made for dark Canadian winters.
  • This latest Sony still feels like a computer to me vs. a “real” camera.  But it’s undeniably a “real” camera and a formidable photographic tool that is in many ways light years ahead of the competition.

On another note, I would like to thank Patrick from Downtown Camera in Toronto for patiently allowing me to play with the in-store demo Sony a7S before purchasing one for myself.  I’ve dealt with Patrick a number of times and he is a true gentleman who offers exceptional service!*

[*NOTE:  The recommendations I make on my site are personal recommendations, based on being a satisfied customer.  I am not affiliated with any commercial interests, nor do I earn any money (advertising or otherwise) from any business, product, or link to a business I provide on my site.]




Chalk Messages for Santa, closer.

Photographically speaking, I live for these moments:

The out-of-focus man in the background, in his positioning, is mirroring our foreground chalk messenger.

In actuality, he was reaching down to pick up a fallen football.

As I saw the scene unfold, I shifted myself slightly to the left, in an attempt to “fill” the photographic frame by expanding the spacing between the two subjects.  This further enhanced the image by creating a more pleasing composition.

(In the past, I’ve discussed the importance of filling the photographic frame — see here, here, and here.)

The actual mirroring of his posture, though he was engaged in a completely different activity from our little chalk messenger, is the sort of happenstance occurrence that a photography geek like myself is thrilled to capture.

A second later, he stood.  The moment had passed.


Chalk messages for Santa, closer

My “Open Letter to Leica” … 325 signatures, so far.

I’d to like see an updated CCD sensor in future Leica M because I believe CCD is superior to CMOS with respect to image rendition at base ISO.

Do you agree?

Please consider signing my Open Letter to Leica.


(Edit: 339 signatures so far… )

Prosophos Open Letter to Leica


Related posts:

Hockey Girl, in action.

This was photographed through the arena glass and under poor lighting, using the Leica M9/M-E and 75mm Summarit (see my review here).  Not exactly “sports gear” but good enough to get this shot of my daughter.

Technical considerations:

  • f/2.5 | 1/350 sec | ISO 1250
  • The DNG file was “pushed” two stops in LR for an “effective” ISO of 5000.
  • White balance was manually set during post-processing.


Hockey Girl

How many summers do you have left?

10? 20? 30? 40? 50?… 1?

And would you change anything if you knew the answer?

I would.

The obvious question is:

Why am I not doing that already?


Time Left


As the winter approaches and the light recedes, I may not have the aurora borealis in my backyard, but I’m grateful to have the sparkle of family life inside.



Hair Dryer.

I always have a difficult time capturing her, when she’s aware of the camera.

This time, I was able to photograph surreptitiously, with the help of the Ice Light (on the table).


Hair Dryer

The Beautiful Game in motion.

The Mamiya RZ67 is a large camera.

But it’s fairly nimble at field level.


The Beautiful Game in Motion

Scared of the dark.

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”


Scared of the dark

Recent insight: M8 vs. M9 for B&W, and the negative “Efex” of Silver Efex Pro.

Conventional internet wisdom states that the Leica M8 is a better camera than the M9 for B&W file conversion — True or False?

The answer:  True… but barely.

My old B&W conversions with the M8 were more pleasing than the ones I subsequently obtained with my M9/M-E, but now I realize that the less pleasing M9/M-E conversions were mostly secondary to my use of Silver Efex Pro.  Lately I’ve been doing straight de-saturation of my M9/M-E files, and they look more natural and almost as good as my M8 files.  The M8 still wins because of its greater IR sensitivity — this allows for slightly better B&W output.

For all practical purposes, however, the M8 and M9 sensors behave almost identically (for both B&W and colour).  This shouldn’t be too surprising, given how the sensor in the latter evolved from the former.

Which makes me want to re-state something I’ve been saying for years:  the M8 was the most under-appreciated and underestimated digital camera ever.

If there’s anyone from the original Kodak KAF-10500 (APS-H 10.3-megapixel) CCD sensor development team reading this, I sincerely thank you for your fine work.


[Upcoming Insight:  Film vs. Digital].

Everybody has a story.

“We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it’s our life, or possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand.”

― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.

Everybody has a story

The Crazy Bedtime Routine.

Yes, all Canadians use 3D glasses to hypnotize our children into submission.

All frames shot at 1/30 sec.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving everyone!


Crazy Bedtime Routine 1 Crazy Bedtime Routine 2 Crazy Bedtime Routine 3 Crazy Bedtime Routine 4 Crazy Bedtime Routine 5

Photography truths I’ve learned over the years.

  1. The 35mm format is the ideal format for recording Life’s Little Moments.
  2. Rangefinders are the ideal camera platform for recording Life’s Little Moments.
  3. Photography is the art of exclusion (painting is the art of inclusion).
  4. Newer generation lenses perform better optically than old classics.
  5. Buy the gear you really want.  Do that once.
  6. The bond between you and your camera is more important than what the spec sheet suggests.
  7. When it comes to cameras and lenses, less is more.
  8. Internet photography fora, beyond the first year of participation, are generally a waste of time.
  9. You only get better with practice.
  10. CCD rules; Film rules CCD…  both are dying.
  11. Use prime lenses.  They lead to better photographs.
  12. Robert Capa was correct: “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.
  13. To increase your chances of success, shoot in Manual mode.
  14. Focus with manual lenses.  This too will increase your chances of success.
  15. The Rule of Thirds is a pretty good rule.
  16. One good idea is better than 100 frames per second.
  17. Have a healthy respect for those making a living via photography.  It’s difficult to do.
  18. Record video of your loved ones as well… you’ll regret it if you don’t.
  19. Photography is the most democratic form of art… all of us are capable of creating a masterpiece.
  20. Never bet against Leica.


Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon T* ZM.

Zeiss 35mm f_1.4 ZM

It comes in black and silver, of course.

A very intriguing lens.

If the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon T* ZM truly surpasses the performance of the Leica 35mm Summilux FLE, it will be impressive.  Even if the published Zeiss MTF graphs are misleading and this lens “only” comes close to the FLE, it will still be impressive, given it’s 50% the price of the Leica equivalent.

However, it’s larger than the FLE (but has less distortion).

Looking at the few sample images on the ‘net, it renders very similarly to my 50 Summilux ASPH and the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 ZM (two lenses I love), at least with respect to the way it draws the (in-focus) subject.  Bokeh is not the same.

Did I mention I’m intrigued?

[EDIT October 13, 2014:  I re-purchased a Leica 35 Summilux FLE as I am pleased with its performance and small size.]




A night on the town, Part 2.

The reddish skin rendering may make you believe this was shot with a Leica M240, but she was in fact sitting in front of a large illuminated red sign.

So now I know how to achieve the M240 look, with respect to skin tones anyway.

However, I don’t know how to produce the muddy rendering of the CMOS-crippled Leica M240, as all I can get out of my Leica M9/M-E are those lovely CCD crisp files with superior tonality and colour reproduction, at base ISO.

For those of you who haven’t already done so, perhaps you may be interested in signing My Open Letter to Leica.

(over 280 signatures so far…)


A night on the town, Part 2


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