Week 2 with the Leica M

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This week will be a simple test week, weather and covid permitting. I took my weekly covid test yesterday, so I should be allowed to travel within the city and shoot some photos. This week’s goal with the Leica M10 will be testing all the lenses and the Visoflex EVF that I bought. There are a lot of lenses to test so I am not sure how many good shots I will get with all the lenses but I can only do what the photography gods allow.  On a side note, because this is a lot of gear to carry around, I will not be taking the Leica Q2 Monochrom or a film camera out with me this time. Just the Leica M10 and a lot of lenses. To avoid people as much as possible(thanks to covid), most of the shooting this week should be either early in the morning or towards sunset.

 

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Everyone needs to make a living, even during covid lockdowns. Many old people in China will farm small pieces of land and sell the vegetables on the side of the road.

 

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Getting ready for market.

 

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Farmer walking to his fields

 

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This weird tree turned out to be fake. No idea why someone would plant a fake plastic tree outside their apartment complex.

 

The first morning out with the Leica M10 and the Voigtlander 50mm lens and I very quickly ran up against a problem with slower lenses. At F3.5, evening in dim light, I was having to push the ISO up to around 3200. I guess I am too spoilt with fast lenses over the years and never thought about how much less light an F3.5 lens would provide.  I am not sure how good the ISO ability of the Leica M10 would be, but it seems ok. Definitely not as good as the Nikon Z6 but ISO 3200 seems more than used so far. I wanted to shoot with the TTartisan 35mm F1.4 lens but I feel very uncomfortable with the focal length right now.

 

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TTartisan 28mm at f8

 

Shooting during the afternoon, I decided to use the TTartisan 28mm lens, I left the Visoflex EVF at home and just used the viewfinder, but I took the diopter off the Leica so I could see the frame lines more easily. Because the TTArtisan lens is so slow, I just stopped the lens down to f8 and zone-focused all the shots.  Without the diopter on the Leica m10, using the 28mm frame lines is relatively easy, but there is no way I could focus the rangefinder patch without the diopter. Maybe I will have to use the Visoflex with the 28mm lenses as well but I would rather use the viewfinder as that was the whole reason why I bought the Leica in the first place. My impressions so far with the TTartisan 28mm F5.6 is pretty good. The images seem sharp even wide open but some is vignetting in the corners, even stopped down to f8. On a side note, I love the look and feel of the lenses. I guess this lens is responsible for my falling down the rabbit hole of Leica M cameras. If I had not seen this lens on Youtube, I might not have bought all my new gear. Unfortunately, by leaving the Visoflex EVF at home, I couldn’t test the Leica 90mm Summicon lens or the Nikon 200mm F4 AIS lens as trying to focus those lenses on the LCD screen was pretty much impossible.

 

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Sunset with the Leica M10 and the Leica m 90mm F2 lens. Focusing this lens is much easier with the Visoflex

 

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The same sunset as above but shot with the Nikon F 200mm F4 AIS lens. This lens would be impossible to use without the Visoflex EVF for the Leica M10.

 

The following day, I finally got to test out the Leica Summicron and the Nikon 200mm F4 AIS lens. Using the Visoflex for manually focusing is so much easier. Adjust the focus ring and the Visoflex automatically zooms in while you focus on the subject. A half press on the shutter button and it zooms out again. I am not sure why the other camera manufacturers don’t do this. (Or maybe they can and I have never found the setting for this, I need to look and see if my Nikon Z6 can do this). I arrived at my location slightly late so I didn’t get to do much shooting with the lenses but I will head toward the river again and do some more testing tomorrow.

 

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Leica m 90 mm F2 lens, stopped down to F4

 

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Leica M 90mm F2 shot wide open

 

I spent the last two evenings using the Leica 90mm F2 lens, the Nikon 200mm F4 lens, and the Visoflex on the Leica M10. Starting with the Leica m 90MM F2 Summicron lens(I don’t like the lens names but I guess I should get used to them), my first impression of the lens was not very good. But once I got the Visoflex and I managed to get the focus right, the lens really came alive. Focusing the Leica M 90 Summicon lens without an EVF is incredibly hard. My success rate would be way under 10%(I have been practicing by focusing the lens with the Viewfinder and checking my focus with the Visoflex and zooming in). Having such a low hit rate with the focus while the lens is wide open is not good. So I guess I will be using the EVF with the lens from now on Maybe my focusing skills will improve with more time and practice but right now they are simply not good enough to use this lens with confidence. As for the Leica M 90mm Summicon, I am not sure where I stand with this lens. My first impressions of the lens were not good. It felt fantastic in my hands but my initial impressions were less than stellar. I guess focusing issues could be blamed for the initial poor impression this lens left me with and my opinion of the lens has certainly improved a lot since my first initial shoot with it. When the images are in focus, I like the sharpness, color, and rendering the lens gives. But I have to do some more testing at infinity as I think this lens is soft and not that good at infinity. Once I have a few more weeks of shooting with this lens under my belt, I will be able to give a better first impression of this lens.

 

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Nikon 200mm F4 stopped down to F8

 

As for the Nikon 200mm F4 AIS lens on the Leica M10, well I am not so sure about the lens yet. I need to do some more shooting with the lens before I can tell if it will be a good fit. I have noticed that the Nikon lenses which use the adapter for the Leica M10 are not sharp at infinity. You have to use the Visoflex and carefully focus each image, even if it is off in the distance, and should be in focus at infinity, it is clearly not in focus. You have to manually fine-tweak each shot to get the focus right. I am not sure if this is an issue with the adapter or if all adapted lenses on the Leica M systems will have this issue. But if I had to choose between the Leica M 90mm Summicron or the Nikon 200mm f4 AIS lens, then I would say that the Leica M90mm Summicron is way sharper and renders in a much more pleasing way. (but it is most likely 10 more expensive than the Nikon 200mm F4 lens). I would be interested in comparing the Leica M 90 Summicron to the Nikon 105mm F2.5 lens from Nikon. That was one of my favorite manual lenses from Nikon and it is a similar focal length so it would be interesting to see the difference between the two lenses. I guess I will wait for a rainy day and set up a test in my apartment.

 

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Just a quick snapshot with the TTartisan 21mm F1.5 lens as I was leaving the river. You always find some interesting things along the Yangtze river in China.

 

One thing I am starting to notice with the Leica M mount lens that I currently have is that they are all a little slow, so as soon as the light starts to dip, it gets difficult to shoot with them. I might need to get a faster 50mm Lens to shoot in the evening as I don’t think the Voigtlander 50mm lens will be usable, even at higher ISO levels. Not sure what lens I will buy yet, but it will not be a Leica 50mm lens, at least not yet. From my initial playing around with the Leica M camera, this is not a work camera and any lenses I buy for the system will never make me any money(or at least I do think so). So spending a lot of money on Leica 50mm lenses will not be a smart decision so I am thinking about another Voigtlander or a TTartisan. I will look online as see what my options are. Tomorrow’s plans are really simple, I am going to head to a small little woodland area that should be free of people and try to test all the lenses.

 

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Voigtlander 50mm. I really do have a powerline fetish. I must have hundreds of shots with powerlines in them.

 

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TTartisan 21mm F1.5 shot wide open.

 

The small woodland area near my apartment in China is usually filled with people but most people are not going there at the moment because of the covid lockdowns so it was a good time to do some walking and shooting with the lenses that I had bought for the Leica M10.  As soon as I entered the woodlands, I took off the Voigtlander 50mm and switched to the TTartisan 21mm F1.5. I have taken a few snapshots with the lens but never really paid much attention to the lens. The lens feels nice in the hand, the aperture ring and focus rings are nice and smooth and like all lenses for the M-mount, the lens has a certain heft or weight to it. It is all glass and metal. I wish all lenses for the Nikon system felt like this. The first shot above was shot wide open on the TTartisan 21mm, using the Visoflex to focus. It is hard to describe how I feel about the TTartisan 21mm lens. Wide open, it is not soft but has this soft look to it. Like the sharpness and contrast are not rendered together. Zoom in to 100% and you will find lots of details but zoom out and it just appears slightly soft.  I am much more comfortable shooting this lens at F2 as the images just feel much sharper then.

 

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Zoomed in at 100%. There is detail in the tree trunk but it just feels a little soft. At F2, it is way sharper. Notice all the Chromatic aberrations as well.

 

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The tree is shot with the TTartisan 21mm F1.5 lens, wide open. This is so I can compare it to the 7Artisan 35mm F1.4 lens.

 

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The same tree, I tried to keep the composition very similar but I had to adjust it slightly for the slightly longer focal length. The 7Artisan 35mm f1.4 is shot wide open, focused with the rangefinder this time. I will always opt for the viewfinder over the EVF, whenever possible.

 

Comparing the two images from the TTartisan 21mm lens and the 7Artisan 35mm f1.4 lens, the only real difference would be the depth of field and the slightly warmer color tones on the 7Artisan 35mm f1.4 lens. Both lenses look sharp to me and I would be more than happy with either image. I also stopped down the 7Artisan 35mm lens to f4 and took a second shot of the same tree.

 

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Shot with the 7Artisans at f4.

 

The 7Artisan 35mm F1.4 lens seems to be nice and sharp wide open and stopping down sharps it up a little more and obviously gives you slightly more depth of field. I would say that the build quality between the TTArtisan 21mm F1.5 and the 7Artisan 35mm F1.4 lens is almost identical but that should not be surprising as both lenses are produced at DJ Optics in China, so it is the same manufacture for both companies. I wish the 7Artican 35mm lens had the lens tab like the TTartisan 21mm F1.5 lens had though. Focusing with the lens tab is so much easier for some reason. I wish all my current lenses had finger tabs on them.

 

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Shot with the TTartisan 21mm lens, stopped down to f8. My best guess is that I will mostly be using the TTartisan on landscape/cityscape images at f8. At f8, this lens is perfectly sharp and no one could complain about it. More importantly, it seems sharp at infinity, unlike the Leica 90mm Summicron.

 

But trying to test the Leica 90mm F2 submicron and the Nikon 200mm F4 AIS lens in the woodlands is not easy so I headed back down to the river in the evening.

 

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Leica 90mm Summicon, shot at f4 so it would be on evening footing with the Nikon 200mm F4 AIS lens.

 

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The Nikon 200mm F4 AIS shot wide open.

 

Once again, and I can’t exactly quantify why, but I prefer the Leica 90mm Summicron rendering. The Nikon 200mm F4 lens was sharp enough for me, but it just lacks that certain pop. Look at the sunlight reflecting on the lighthouse on the Leica 90mm Summicron and Nikon 200mm AIS shots. Both images were shot within a 2-minute time frame(I am a little slow and changing Leica lenses at the moment. My muscle memory is working against me at the moment.). I took the Leica 90mm Summicron shot first, focusing with the Visoflex, changed the lens to the Nikon 200mm F AIS lens, and took the second shot. The lighting conditions were the same yet the images just look ever so slightly different. So I am starting to wonder if I should be looking at alternative options for a longer lens on the Leica M10. Once I got my longer shots, I rushed off to a nearby lake and shot the last of the light for the evening.

 

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Shot with the TTartisan 21mm F1.5 lens, stopped down to F4

 

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Shot with the Voigtlander 50mm F3.5 lens, stopped down to 5.6. I wanted slightly more depth of field for this shot and luckily the Leica M system can be handheld at a relatively slow shutter speed.

 

If you look at the last two images, you will notice that the skies are very dull and boring. This is what happens during sunsets in China at this time of year, so it is never great shooting conditions. This evening I also decided to buy a new lens. I ordered the TTartisan 50mm F0.95 lens. Hopefully, it will be delivered in the next day or two. I was looking at ordering the Voigtlander 50 f1 but I watched another Youtube video(shown below) and decided to give the TTartisan lens a go.

 

 

Unfortunately, the new TTartisan lens did not arrive the next day(covid has really slowed down delivery services in China) so I headed down to the local riverfront to do some shooting around sunset time again.

 

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Shot with the Voigtlander 50mm F3.5

 

I am not a street photographer, and I don’t really have much interest in street photography or at least modern street photography but I think I am starting to maybe understand why so many street shooters use rangefinder cameras. Sure zone focusing is easy but I think it is the actual rangefinder focusing that is the real key to shooting street. I found that most of the time while focusing on the rangefinder, I stopped thinking about people’s reactions as I was just concentrating on the shot. I never got that feeling with an SLR-type camera before. Maybe once focusing on a rangefinder is second nature to me, this will go away and I will start to feel more self-conscious again. But right now, it is actually very easy for me to shoot people on the street. (Or maybe it is just that Leica Wanker syndrome rubbing off on me.)

 

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Voigtlander 50mm at f8

 

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Voigtlander 50mm at f8

 

I will end the week Leica blog over here. The new TTArtisan 50mm Lens should arrive tomorrow sometime but I want to go try some IR photography tomorrow, so I will leave the Leica camera at home.  So far my journey with the Leica has been very enjoyable so I am looking forward to spending more time with the camera next week again.

 

Shaun

 

 

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