Thinking out loud (about gear, money, and enjoying photography)

I’m a moody kind of person. One day I fancy this, the other day I fancy that. My mood can swap within minutes. This is especially bad when it comes to toys. And with toys I mean cameras. Let me digress.

I bought the Olympus E-P1 when it was relatively fresh on the market, in late 2009. I saw that it was a very capable small camera, and I saw the future in mirrorless systems (and Micro Four Thirds in particular). Also, MFT had a very neat lens to offer that made a perfect match with the E-P1: the Lumix 20mm f/1.7. This kit has served me pretty well since then. It had two major drawbacks, though: AF was awfully slow (due to both the lens and the camera), and the display was only 230k dots and there was no hi-res EVF available (the VF-2 was only introduced with the E-P2). But nonetheless, the combo is capable of taking some very good pictures that would rival contemporary consumer DSLRs.

A little later, I was bitten by the Leica bug. I had seen so many pictures from and read so many stories about the M8, that I wanted one for myself. It was a crazy idea back then, and seems even crazier now. I didn’t really have the money loose, so I decided I would pay it pack to myself (read: to my savings) over time. Which I did. And once I had the M8, I enjoyed it tremendously. It is a wonderful piece of machinery that looks gorgeous, feels absolutely fabulous in your hand, is pure joy to operate and outputs some of the finest images when combined with a good lens.

There is a drawback to the M8 as well, though: it’s expensive. And I don’t mean just expensive to buy. It’s also expensive to maintain. Mine hasn’t failed so far, but chances are that it will, at some point, need a new shutter and/or sensor. Or the rangefinder realigned. Or new circuitry. And this all gets very expensive very quickly.

Fast forward to today. Here I am, proud owner of a lovely Micro Four Thirds system consisting of the E-P1, the Panasonic G1, the 20mm f/1.7, the Noktor 12mm f/1.6 and a couple other stuff, and a Leica M8 with three great lenses. All good and well. I love all my cameras, because — being the moody type I am — each one fits some kind of mood I’m in. I don’t always like the M8, because it’s a primadonna. Sometimes I want to go compact, so I take the E-P1. Then, I want to use a fancy C-mount lens and need the EVF of the G1.

The M8 is the king of the hill in my setup, there’s no question. But the E-P1 and G1 and pretty capable themselves. And they have AF to offer, and much better high ISO than the M8. And if they ever break down, they’re cheap to replace. Which got me thinking. I’m also a father and have a family to feed. We’re getting along well, but there’s never really much left. Which means I can’t really justify to have the M8 around any longer. Because when I have it, I use it, and when I use it, it wears, and when it wears, it will need service. And realistically, I can’t afford a camera that needs money put into it just so I can use it. I already spent a four-figure sum on the camera and lenses. That’s money we could well need to pay for our car’s repair bills.

So, do I really need the M8? Well, that’s a silly question. Of course I do. I mean, it’s an effin’ Leica! You need a Leica! But despite what my heart tries to tell me, I know that the M8 will, in the long term, cost me money that I don’t have. So as much as it hurts me to admit — because I really, really, really love this camera — the M8 has to go.

I had a good time with it. I enjoyed using it. It’s a unique experience to shoot a rangefinder camera. If you want to read the whole story about me falling in love with rangefinder cameras, zip over to Steve Huff’s site. I won’t repeat all of that here. Suffice to say: if you ever hold a Leica and fall in love with it (which is highly probable), you will never want to part with it. It’s like with a classic car: your head keeps telling you it’s a waste of money, but your heart just can’t let go.

I’ve taken many, many great pictures with the M8. And I’ve learned quite a lot about photography in the time I had it. About manual operation, about judging light, about composing with an inaccurate viewfinder, etc. etc. But when I’m honest, it’s not like I couldn’t take similar pictures with a camera less expensive. And it’s not like the M8 really takes better pictures. They have a different, unique quality to them, yes. But I’ve taken stunning pictures with my E-P1 under the right circumstances.

So, if I let go of the M8 — which I am not yet 100% sure I will be able to –, what will I fill that big whole with, that will be left in my soul once it’s gone? That’s a simple one. I’m already invested in another fabulous camera system: Micro Four Thirds. And compared to late 2009, that system has matured by now. Not only are there a number of really really great lenses available for MFT, there are also some very very good cameras out by now — chiefly the new Olympus OM-D E-M5, which trumps pretty much everything else in the mirrorless world today. Save for the Fuji X-Pro 1, maybe, and the Leica M system of course.

So here’s what I’ll do. I will send in my M8 and the lenses for service, so I can sell the stuff with a good conscience. From the revenue, I will get the Olympus OM-D, and probably sell either the E-P1 or the G1, because I don’t really need three cameras of the same system. In addition to my 12mm f/1.6 and 20mm f/1.7 I will get the 45mm f/1.8. The Olympus 12mm f/2 and the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4 are both tempting, but too close to the lenses I already have. Though I might just get them at another point.

What I will have then is a pretty complete system, spanning focal lengths from 24mm (equivalent to 35mm full frame) to 90mm, in a compact and highly capable package. I will have a system that will last me for quite a while, that I can take anywhere, and that is inexpensive to maintain and/or upgrade. Quality wise, and from the pure bling-factor, it won’t be as posh and as fancy as a Leica M. But cheaper, a lot cheaper, and 95% of the quality probably. And I will be able to sleep a lot better, not having to worry about frighteningly high repair bills …

It’s a difficult decision, because it’s not only a rational one but also a highly emotional one. But it’s one that’s got to be made. And if I’ve learned anything during my recent vacation (where I used the M8 almost exclusively), then it’s that there’s nothing I can do with the M8 that I can’t with a camera which is cheaper, smaller, less posh and above all, less expensive to maintain.

So, here goes nothing …

Awesomeness: Leica S2 + APO Telyt-R 400mm f/2.8

Due to the lack of dedicated telephoto lenses for Leica’s S medium format system, this gentleman made his own R->S adapter to use R-mount telephoto lenses on his Leica S2. Apparently, the image circle of these lenses is large enough to cover the whole S2 sensor. Allegedly, he already contacted Leica about the adapter, as he definitely sees a market for adapting R-mount lenses to the S2. Very awesome!

He was taking pictures of penguins with this combo, btw.

Leica S2 + APO Telyt-R 400mm f/2.8 at the Frankfurt zoo

New Aki-Asahi Custom Covering Kit for Leica M8

Finally! Aki-Asahi, Japanese manufacturer of custom coverings (“leatherettes”) for analog and digital cameras, are now also producing a Custom Covering Kit for the Leica M8. Look:

Previously, they were only offering kits for analog Leica Ms. If you wanted to reskin your digital Leica M, you had to order a much more expensive covering from There’s nothing wrong with that — their coverings are well worth the price, especially the ones made from real leather. But they’re known to be slow on responding to inquiries, which has in the past put many people off of ordering from them. But worry no more! Now you can order a very nice replacement leatherette for your digital Leica from Aki Asahi, who make very good coverings that come in at very affordable prices.

You can visit Aki Asahi’s web store here.

Btw, I reckon the covering should also be applicable to the M9, since its main body is virtually identical to that of the M8 (although the website states it’s only for the M8).

News & Articles | April 4th, 2012

I thought I’d reinstate my irregular News & Articles column, starting with today. I’ve been neglecting this for some time, but I find so many interesting news bits and other kinds of articles during my daily web-crawling routine, that I find I should share at least some of them with you. So, without further ado, here’s a list of recent news and articles for you to digest!

Three Approaches to Shooting a Classic Screwmount Leica

On Steve Huff’s blog, Khoa Tran shares his experience with shooting an old screwmount Leica IIc, and shares some tips about how to approach shooting such a camera. A very insightful read, with some very nice pictures!

The real digital Holga

Gearhead Mike Martens has created an actual digital Holga by sticking a 20 megapixel Phase One medium format back to the front part of a Holga. He shares a description of how he did it and some pictures taken with that combination in his flickr photostream.

Using The Zeiss 50mm Planar ZM On Micro Four Thirds

A little advertising for myself and for the website I’m writing for: I wrote a little hands-on review about using the Zeiss 50mm Planar ZM on my Olympus E-P1 and Panasonic G1 cameras for The Phoblographer. Just in case you’re interested in that kind of stuff …

Fuji X-Pro 1 goodness

Over at Luminous Landscape, photographer Nick Devlin shares his insights into the Fuji X-Pro 1.
Meanwhile, David from SoundImagePlus is working on a multi-part review of said camera. As always, he uses it mainly for his landscape work, and goes deeply into detail, uncovering what’s great and what’s awful about Fuji’s new flagship. His ravings begin here.
Lastly, here is dpreview’s first look at the X-Pro 1.

Have fun, and see you next time ’round!

The smallest 28mm M-mount lens

Japanese optics manufacturer MS Optical has been renowned for quite some time for their conversions of all kinds of lenses from and to all kinds of different mounts. A while ago, they created the smallest ever 35mm lens for Leica M-mount, the MS Optical Super Triplet Perar 35mm f/3.5, a lens which was instantaneously recognized for its optical qualities. After the original version of the 35mm Perar had sold out, MS Optical introduced version II with slight modifications. This lens is recognized as one of the best 35mm lenses for Leica M-mount ever.

Meanwhile, it seems the lens’ creator Miyazaki-san has been busy working on new designs. As jonmanjiro reports, MS Optical have just finished development of another minute M-mount lens, one even smaller then the previous. The new lens is a 28mm f/4 lens and shares the designation “Super Triplet Perar” with its predecessor. And just like its 35/3.5 sibling, it sports a modern three-element “Cooke-Triplet” design that is highly corrected for ultimate performance on digital M-mount cameras.

MS Optical Super Triplet Perar 28mm f/4 on a Leica M7 | Picture by jonmanjiro

An interesting feature of the lens is that its aperture blades are position in front of the front lens element. Since this would effectively expose them to outside influences, I am very curious to hear from the first actual users of the lens if this will eventually pose a problem. The reason behind this is that this way the optical formula could be further perfected, since there had no space to be left for the aperture between the lens elements.

According to the thread on rff, the new lens will be available shortly via Japan Camera Hunter. Since MS Optical products have previously been sold via Japan Exposures, I believe the lens will also be available there soon.

UPDATE: More info on the lens and on how to order it is now available at Japan Camera Hunter.