Category Archives: Teaching point


Test shot #9 from my 1957 Leica M3 DS.

Along with my subject, I’m pensive too, because I’m sending this camera for a CLA (the shutter speeds are clearly off… this image was underexposed by two stops and I had to “push” it in LR — hence the heavy grain).

And so now I’m back to contemplating the Ship of Theseus because I wonder:

Will my M3 be the same camera when it returns?  Will it continue to give me the sort of images I’ve seen from this first roll of film?

I don’t know, of course.  But I’ll keep you posted.


Leica M3, 50mm Summilux ASPH @ f/1.4, and Kodak Portra 800.



Test shot #1 from my 1957 Leica M3 DS.

I think the shutter speeds are off as most of the images in this first roll of film appear underexposed. Yet some look fine, so I’m at a loss.

I’m using Kodak Portra 800 here, which is more grainy than Portra 400, but I have a nagging feeling…

Anyway, I’ll take a grainy film image like this over the most polished digital equivalent any day.

Something more real about it.


Leica M3, 50mm Summilux ASPH @ f/1.4, and Kodak Portra 800.

1957 Leica M3.

The 1957 Leica M3 blends the best features from early and late Leica M3 cameras:

  • Double stroke film advance lever with shorter arm (allows you to advance the film and simultaneously hold the camera with one hand).
  • Silent return on the film advance (later models produce a ratcheting sound when returning).
  • Modern shutter speeds (earlier models have the older speeds: 1, 1/2, 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200…).
  • “Buddha” (aka “Rabbit Ear”) lugs riveted (not screwed) to camera — no loosening or spinning of lugs.
  • Film back door protrusions/pins to prevent door from flapping open when changing film (only available in cameras with serial numbers 854000-858000).
  • Double glass eyepiece with inner seal (later models have single glass with no seal).

It’s now 60 years old and still working like new.

(for more information see here)


You can never go back: De Mello and the D70.

↑Nikon D70 + Nikkor 50mm 1.8G.

“You can never go back.”  So the saying goes.

Today I dusted off an old camera I haven’t used in years — the Nikon D70.

The D70 was the first DSLR I ever owned, and it’s the only camera I never subsequently sold.

I’ve carried it through the streets of Toronto, in all sorts of weather.

We’ve also traveled together to New York City, Paris, and Athens.

A few of the people I’ve photographed with it are no longer with us.

But I was reminded today that, indeed, you can never go back.


Cafe Reading, revisited.

This is a candid shot, taken just moments after the original Cafe Reading photograph (which, in contrast to this one, was posed).  I had just informed V  that “I got the shot”, and she immediately relaxed and started to flip through the pages of a book.

So I photographed her, because I knew that this was the better image.

I don’t often set up photographs, but when I do I will wait (with camera in hand) for the moment that follows, because what follows is usually better than any idea I can dream up.

(Technical:  Taken on a rainy morning, with the soft light working its magic.)


Leica M9 (CCD Lives!Prosophos Open Letter to Leica) + Leica 35mm Summilux ASPH FLE.

Kata’s Chocolates (De Mello).

Kata dreams up the yummiest things 🙂 .

As an aside, I want to thank my lovely wife R who was the stylist for this shoot, and my good friend Mark for introducing me to the Foldio mini studio (this nifty portable contraption has been quite useful for product shots like this).

(Technical:  M9 + 90mm Summicron APO + Foldio2)


↑Leica M9 (CCD Lives!Prosophos Open Letter to Leica) + Leica 90mm Summicron APO.

De Mello Classic.

For comparison purposes, see a recent shot (different lighting and composition however), taken with the Mamiya RZ67 and Kodak Portra 400 film.



↑Leica M9 (CCD Lives!Prosophos Open Letter to Leica) + Leica 90mm Summicron APO.

Blue and Red (Test Shots, Mamiya 7).

Test Roll #1, Frames #4 and 5 of 10.

In the first shot I was re-familiarizing myself with the dynamic range, in the second the bokeh.  In both I was testing for the focus accuracy of my rangefinder.

1/125 | f/4 for both images.

So far, so good.




Mamiya 7 + 80mm + Kodak Porta 400.

Bikes and Pedestrian (Mamiya 7 test shot with crop).

Test Roll #1, Frame #2 of 10.

Overcast, late afternoon.

1/250 | f/4.

Here’s the scene.

The point of focus is on the letters “SR” (on the bike seat):


And here is an extreme crop:


Mamiya 7 + 80mm + Kodak Porta 400.


Night Lights.

Even though this lens is not known for low light photography, I’ve been using it frequently inside the house.

Technical:  1/30 sec | f/3.4 | ISO 640.



Leica M9 (CCD Lives!Prosophos Open Letter to Leica) + Leica 21mm Super-Elmar ASPH.


The light was really, really bad… and yet I really like the light in this image.

This underscores the fact that you never truly know how the image will look until you press the shutter.  In thinking about this, I’m reminded of that famous Garry Winogrand quote:  “I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.



Leica M9 (CCD Lives!Prosophos Open Letter to Leica) + Leica 35mm Summilux ASPH FLE.


A study in composition — there’s a lot going on in this frame!

This is probably one of the most successful (spontaneous) compositions I’ve had this year.  I wish I’d shot it at f/8, so more detail could be appreciated in the background, but often the background is full of distractions therefore I routinely photograph at wider apertures to relegate the clutter into a blur (incidentally, this photograph was shot at f/4.5. which is wide-ish for a telephoto lens).

On a related note, there are few vocal individuals on camera forums these days that routinely decry shallow-depth-of-field-photography and label it a fad.

I disagree:  the technique has been employed extensively from the dawn of photography and there are too many background distractions in modern-day environments to not use it.



↑Nikon D810 + Nikon 70-200mm f/4G ED VR AF-S.

Totally Safe.

…except he was called out 😦

At least I had this photo to show him afterwards.

On another note, this is the first image taken with the newly acquired Nikon 70-200mm f/4G.


Totally Safe

↑Nikon D810 + Nikon 70-200mm f/4G ED VR AF-S (@ 145mm).


Courtesy of De Mello Palheta.

The best latte I’ve had anywhere.



Leica M9 (CCD Lives!Prosophos Open Letter to Leica) + Leica 35mm Summilux ASPH FLE.

My Camera of the Year for 2016.

Prosophos - Leica M9 Black

My 35mm digital camera of the year for 2016 is:

Leica M9/M-E


After experimenting with the Nikon D810 (and other cameras) for more than seven months, I continue to prefer the Leica M9/M-E for image quality, at base ISO.

It is clear to me that the D810 has the better performing sensor by all objective metrics and has more malleable files, but somehow the M9 images look better.

(The runner up camera is once again the Leica M8.)

But, am I being premature with my selection?  What will the second half of 2016 bring?

Leica may finally improve on the disappointing M240 with the release of a new M in the fall, but realistically most of us won’t be able to get a hold of it until 2017.

Either way, don’t expect it to be a CCD camera like many of us have asked for in My Open a Letter to Leica.

I’ll be interested in it anyway, if the image quality is better than the M240.


Previous Camera of the Year Winners:


2015: No camera selected (it should have been the M9/M-E).

2014: Leica M9/M-E

2013: Leica M9/M-E

2012: Leica M9/M-E

2011: Leica M9

2010: Leica M9

2009: Leica M9

2008: Leica M8

2007: Leica M8

2006: Leica M8


The dividing line (and timing) of an out.

On a technical note, whereas I would have machine-gun-photographed with the D810 at 5 FPS to try to get this shot (and would have had a 50-50 chance), I was able to get the “decisive moment” with the M8 on a single click of the shutter.



Leica M8 (CCD Lives!Prosophos Open Letter to Leica) + Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH.

Nikon D810 vs. Leica M9 (in “real life” use).

(Not a scientific comparison between images taken at two different times under different conditions — but this reflects “actual use” conditions for me.)

(See related:  Nikon D810 vs. Leica M240 in “real life” use.)

I photographed my kids’ school Fun Fair yesterday.

Here is an image from the event, taken with the D810 + Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art @ f/4:

Fun Fair 2016

Here is an image from last year (2015), taken with the Leica M9 + Leica 35mm Summilux ASPH FLE @ f/4:

Fun Fair 2015

And here are the magnified views.

First, the D810 + Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art @ f/4 (magnified):

Fun Fair 2016 (magnification)

Next, the Leica M9 + Leica 35mm Summilux ASPH FLE @ f/4 (magnified):

Fun Fair 2015 (mangification)

My conclusions:

The D810 + Sigma 35 Art made it easier to photograph the event, the M9 + Leica 35 FLE produced more pleasing image quality (in “actual use” conditions).

In all fairness to the D810 + Sigma 35 Art, when the conditions are right and the focus is nailed, this combination leaves very little to be desired: Nikon D810 + Sigma 35 Art in optimal conditions.


Nikon D810 vs. Leica M240 (in “real life” use).

This is a comparison I did tonight for my own purposes.  I’ve decided to share it with you.

This reflects my “real life” use of these camera/lens combinations, but does not represent a scientific analysis.

I repeat, this is NOT scientific.

Here are two images from the kids’ school Lip Synch competition.

The first was taken in 2015 with the Leica M240 + Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH:

(f/2.8 | 1/250 | ISO 1600).

Prosophos Leica M240 and Leica 50

The second was taken in 2016 with the Nikon D810 + Sigma 50mm ART (I was sitting a little further back):

(f/2.8 | 1/250 | ISO 1000).

Prosophos Nikon D810 and Sigma 50

Now here are the central crops (looking at the individuals in sharpest focus from each image)…

Leica M240 + Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH (100%):

Prosophos Leica M240 and Leica 50 (crop)

Nikon D810 + Sigma 50mm ART (100%):

Prosophos Nikon D810 and Sigma 50 (crop)

The results above are consistent with other images I’ve examined.

The variables that differ between these two images are numerous.  The only thing they have in common is that they represent real-life output from my use of these camera/lenses.

What do YOU think of the results?