Week 4 with Leica M

 

DSC_0585-Edit-1024x682 Week 4 with Leica M

 

This has been a difficult week for me,  I had been struggling with the 7Artisan 35mm f1.4 lens and the potential lockdowns looming over my head all week while worrying about food supplies and covid tests. I know it is really hard for the rest of the world to understand what is happening here in China, but a single covid case can send a whole city of millions of people into a long lockdown, and if you are not stocked up and prepared, then you simply stave. But onto photography, my only form of therapy at the moment. My goal for this week was to shoot the entire week with the 7Artisan 35mm f1.4 lens and the Leica M 90 Summicron lens. I have been struggling to get comfortable with the 7Artisan lens and I haven’t liked a single image I have taken with the lens so far. There was something about the images that just put me off the lens.

 

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7Artisan35mm f1.4. Shot wide open. When walking down a dirt path in China, if you find a bicycle or an e-bike, along the way, you can bet the kitchen sink that there is someone doing some finishing. Right now fishing is illegal in the Yangtze River so all fishermen are doing so illegally and trying to hide away from the authorities.

 

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7Artisan 35mm f1.4 Shot wide open. I am not having any difficulty focusing the 35mm lens with the rangefinder. The slightly wider than normal lens gives enough depth of field at f1.4 so focusing is relatively easy. I am still not as fast with the focusing as I would like but my hit rate is slowly improving with the rangefinder

 

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7Artisan 35mm f1.4 shot at f8. I was fairly happy with this shot when I zoomed in on the LCD screen. But looks can be deceiving

 

For once, it was an awesome sunset for China, with some cloud cover and only a little hazy. I really enjoyed watching the sun go down with an optical viewfinder and lining the shots up with the 35mm frame lines seemed good and comfortable for once. I was starting to think that all I really need is a 35mm lens to go with the 50mm and the 90mm, but my happiness was short-lived. After I got home, I decided to pixel-peep into the image and saw that the center was nice and sharp. You would expect that when shooting at f8 but the corners were terrible. I could not believe how soft the sun was in the above shot.

 

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This is a 100% crop from the above shot and the sun with the bridge is just not sharp. Compared to the center of the image, it is simply not good enough.

 

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This is a 100% crop from the center of the image. Now the silhouettes of the buildings are nice and sharp, unlike the previous 100% crop from the corner of the image

 

I had a lot of fun shooting this sunset, all alone in nature so I decided to hang around and shoot into blue hour as well(I also have a lockdown hanging over my head so any time I can spend outside is good). Most of the shots were taken with the Leica M 90 Summicron and the TTartisan 50mm f0.95 lenses. Unfortunately, I got nothing special off the 50mm lens.

 

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Leica 90mm Summicron, shot wide open. Shot at the beginning of the blue hour.

 

 

Although I had a good time shooting with the sunset, I was not too pleased with the images that I got with the 7Artisan 35mm F1.4 lens. I had gotten more comfortable with the focal length but the images were just too soft in the corners.  Any shots with the 7Artisan 35mm f1.4 lens where the main subject was in the center or close to the center of the frame were fine, but anything in the corners just seemed terrible to me, so I wanted to test the lens again and see if my suspicions were right. So I headed off to another location to test the lens out, but I arrived a little late and mostly just got some sunset shots. The sun is really starting to set very early now in China.

 

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7Artisan 35mm f`1.4 shot at f4.

 

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7Artisan 35mm f1.4 shot at f8[

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7Artisan 35mm f1.4 shot at f8. I noticed that as you stopped the 7Artisan lens down, the lens tends to shirt color slightly. When wide open, it is very warm but as you stop it down, you lose that warm color cast.

 

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7Artisan 35mm f1.4 shot at f8.

 

The above four images are typical workflow for me. I would work a scene, shooting different compositions, and usually, only use one in a blog/social media post. I decided to use all four images here so people can see the lens being used and the color shift that happens as you stop the lens down. Once again, I was happy with the image’s sharpness in the center of the image but not in the corners. I also noticed that I started to frame shots with the subject right in or close to the middle of the frame, which could be me subconsciously adapting to this lens, knowing that the corners would be terribly soft.

 

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Leica m 90mm Summicron, shot at f8. Same sunset but a slightly different angle from the previous images

 

The last day of shooting for me this week was a small hike up a hill here in Zhenjiang China. My goal was to hike up the infamous TV tower hill at Nanshan park while only using the 7Artisan 35mm f1.4 lens.

 

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7Artisan 35mm F1.4 Shot at F4

 

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This is a quick grab shot at the shore of a tiny lake, just before I went up the hiking path. Once again, I was happy with the image on the LCD but I felt completely let down when viewing the image on my computer monitor

 

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The 100 % crop is taken towards the side of the image. Not even towards one of the corners.

 

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Towards the right side of the crop, the image is nice and sharp.

 

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Towards the left side of the 100% crop, it is clearly soft or even out of focus. May be some type of focal plane curvature, but to be honest, I am not 100% sure. I have never seen a lens do this at f8 before, especially as I am focused near infinity.

 

The center of the image is sharp at f8 but seeing how quickly the image softens towards the corners really surprised me. To be honest, I have never seen a lens behave like this before, and I guess it is why I so strongly dislike this lens. The lens would be fine if you were shooting portraits or all your images are focused around a center point in the middle of the frame, but if you care even a little about the edges of the frame, then you would be well advised to stay away from the 7Artisan 35mm f1.4 lens. I don’t remember the last time where I felt so negative toward a lens. The only question that really remains for me is “Do I just hate this lens or do I also hate the 35mm focal length?” I am not sure what the answer is at the moment and I don’t actually own any 35mm SLR lenses to even play around with.

 

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7Artisan 35mm f1.4 Shot at f8. Shooting directly into the sun and there is no flaring

 

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7artisan 35mm f1.4 shot at f8. Slowly working my way up the hill at Nanshan. It was a steep hike so I am glad that I was carrying a light camera kit

 

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7Artisan 35mm f1.4 shot at f8

 

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7Artisan 35mm f1.4 shot wide open at the minimum focal distance. I am not really into leaves and flowers, but I liked the autumn colors and wanted to test how sharp the 7Artisan lens was at the closest focal distance.

 

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7Artisan 35mm f1.4, shot at f4

 

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7Artisan 35mm f1.4 shot wide open. I really don’t have a problem with this lens and its center sharpness. I just think this lens is not a good fit for me as I tend to document the urban/landscapes around myself so I need a lens to be somewhat sharp in the corners.

 

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7Artisan 35mm f1.4 shot at f8. Once again, in the center, the lens is perfectly fine. Even shooting into the bright light and flaring was well controlled.

 

I climbed up the hill for over an hour, huffing and puffing all the way. The covid lockdowns have really done a number on my fitness. At the top of the hill, I took a shot of the gate blocking any further progression and I decided that I had enough of the 7Artisan 35m f1.4 lens and I switched to my Voightlander 50mm F3.5 lens.

 

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Voigtlander 50mm F3.5 shot at f8

 

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TTartisan 21mm f1.5 shot at f8. Once again, I marveled at how much I enjoyed the focus tab on the lens. I really do wish all my lenses had a focus tab on the lens barrels.

 

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Voigtlander 50mm F3.5 shot at f8

 

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Voigtlander 50mm F3.5 shot at f8

 

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Voigtlander 50mm F3.5 shot at f8

 

 

Shooting the Voigtlander 50mm f3.5 lens is such a different experience compared to the 7Artisan 35mm lens. I think one of the reasons I am enjoying my time with the Leica M system so much is directly related to the Voigtlander 50mm f3.5 lens. If I had started out on the 7Artisan 35mm f1.4 lens and it was the only lens that I owned for the system, then I might have felt completely different about the Leica M system and the enjoyment I was getting out of it. Picking the right lenses for a system is incredibly important and perhaps in some way, Leica Fanboys are correct in only wanting to shoot Leica Lens on a Leica body. At least by doing that, you would get an enjoyable experience. I never really thought too much about lenses for a system before because I almost always bought pro-quality lenses for work and used them in my personal photography. I am still a little stuck with my decisions with the 35mm and 28 mm focal lengths. I don’t know if I should just give up on the 35mm focal length and use the Visoflex with the 28mm or perhaps I should roll the dice and buy another 35mm lens to test with. I wish I could rent a couple of lenses to test on the camera but the rental companies in China no longer rent to foreigners as a couple of foreigners rented equipment using a friend’s credit card and then did a runner with the gear. Anyway, that is a problem for another day. I will think about what I will do over the weekend. I bought another little camera this week to try out, another IR camera so I will be shooting the camera during the weekend and seeing how I go with that camera.

So until next week,

Shaun

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