Photography

SD CardsUse one card and shoot only with that. Download the images to the computer. Delete the images on the card. Put the card back in the camera. Have a backup card that you use only if your normal card fails. 

SD card M10SD 2000x speed Angelbird 64GB or 128GB cards. Or the 1000x 128GB. Stay with just one brand and size for each camera model. | SD card M9 | SanDisk 16GB or 32GB. | SD formatter for Mac | A free software which formats the SD-card so you get optimum speed if for some reason speed is lost (after formatting the card in other cameras, etc).

Aperture: Leica lens designer Peter Karbe says ‘aperture is only for depth of field, not light control. 

Leica M6 | The serial number of my first Leica M6 (Black) camera was 1758506, part of a batch of 4,000 produced from 28 Oct 1988, serial number 1758451-1762450. I bought it second hand from Fieldgrass & Gale (a company in Wandsworth, London) in 1994. I sold it for €800 to Siena camera Thursday 15th Feb 2005. My next M6 (serial number 2063590) cost £495 from Wey Cameras in England in Oct 2007. It was second hand and in excellent condition. No signs of impact damage or paint wear, no marks around the strap lugs. The base plate still had it’s protective cover and the bayonet mount was virtually free from wear. I later sold this to someone in Italy for 600 euros.

Leica M6 TTL | The M6 TTL version is slightly taller. The TTL’s meter is slightly more sensitive. There’s now a central ‘proper exposure’ dot between the over- and under-exposure LED’s; the shutter speed dial can be turned easily with the index finger of your right hand. The film advance mechanism of the M6TTL feels flimsier than the one on the M6 “Classic.” The M6TTL shutter speed dial is larger and easier to change with just your trigger finger, but rotates in the opposite direction of all the previous M’s, which means the LED arrows in the viewfinder now point out the correct direction to move both the aperture ring on the lens and the shutter-speed dial for correct exposure. (With the M6, you must turn the shutter dial in the opposite direction of the metering arrows to get correct exposure.)

Leica M7The advantage of the M7 over the M6 is that it has optional aperture-priority autoexposure. The shutter is also more accurate & slightly quieter than the M6. All but the very earliest M7 units also have the improved, more flare-free viewfinder (early units lacking this feature can be upgraded by Leica). The M7 more battery-dependent & a little bit heavier than the M6. The batteries that Leica provides in the M7 box are said to be inferior to new, high quality 1/3N lithiums.

Leica M240With the M240 Auto ISO works only when the shutter dial is set to the “A” position (aperture priority). A manual shutter speed selection disables Auto ISO. Leica has promised a firmware update that will re-introduce this capability as an option.

Lenses

A Leica lens with a max aperture of f/1 is called Noctilux. f/1.4 is Summilux. f/2 is Summicron. f/2.8 is Elmarit. f/4 is Elmar. The old saying goes: if you travel with one lens only it means the correct lens is always on the camera. If you travel with two lenses, the wrong one is always on the camera. Some argue that the 35mm and 50mm focal lengths work best for Leica/rangefinder photography.

ASPH | ASPH means that the lens has one or more aspherical elements, to correct optical errors to a higher degree; the implication being that the lens is of very high optical performance. 

APO | APO means that the lens is apochromatically corrected, i.e. all the wavelengths of light focus at the same point and there is no colour fringing. This implies a lens of ultimate performance. In Leica’s case an APO label is given only if the lens is able to deliver apochromatic performance over virtually the entire image field at any aperture and focus distance. Other manufacturers do not adhere to this standard quite so strictly. As for the APO prefix, it should be mentioned that there is currently no legal definition of what it refers to. In other words, the use of the term “APO” on a lens from manufacturer x may refer to a kind (and level) of optical correction completely different than that of another manufacturer. Not all “APO” are created alike. In the case of Leica, the term APO is used only if the lens in question meets the “classical” definition of apochromatic (i.e. a lens corrected for three color wavelengths – not two as is the case with other competitors…) and if the degree of correction of other optical “abberations” (the technical word for a “design” flaw if you wish – there are no perfect lenses!) in both the center and the corners of the image is of a very high degree – much MUCH higher degree of correction than even the best non-APO Leica lenses. In other words, when you buy a Leica APO lens, you are getting something very special.

Floating Lens Elements | Floating elements (FLE) increase image sharpness at the plane of focus. They do this at the cost of lessening image sharpness as you move further away from the image plane in either direction. This loss of image sharpness decreases apparent depth of field. With a “floating element” design some of the lens elements move differentially in regard to each other during some or all of the focussing travel. Floating element design in 35mm photography began in the 20th-century as a method of improving image quality at the plane of focus. This improvement in image quality at the plane of focus was at the cost of lessening of depth of field in front of & behind this plane. 

Two lens-only combos | Some argue that from a FOV (field of view) perspective there is no point carrying two lenses if their focal lengths are less than 2x apart. So 28mm and 50mm makes sense, 35mm and 75mm makes sense (great coverage, easy to carry), or even 35mm and 90mm. 

21/24/28mm external viewfinder attachment | Mine cost £269 from Wey Cameras 29th June 2007. | One reason the 24mm f2.8 isn’t as popular now as it once was is that since Leica sells finders separately even with their 21s, someone who buys a used lens has to scout around for a finder. Leica no longer makes the 24mm bright line viewfinder. Used ones are rather scarce and sell for a premium, and many dislike the 21-24-28 tri-finder, citing its huge size, weight, short eye-relief and lack of bright line (not able to see outside the framelines).

21mm Focal length | The Leica M9, Monochrom, M240 & M246 Monochrom all use Classic metering, which means that the light metre in the camera bases exposure on an oval about 1/3 of the centre of the sensor. It’s very easy to use the light metering with 50mm lenses and so on and get it right. With a wide angle lens you should notice that you often will get the sky (which is usually much brighter than everything else) as part of the 1/3 of the center of the sensor, simply because the lens see so wide. This is how and why the light meter will pick up bright light and underexpose the real center of interest in the photo. Tilt the camera slightly down or away from the strong light source, press the shutter release half down to lock the exposure reading, then recompose and press the shutter.

21mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH | Thorsten Overgaard says the 21mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 is designed for shooting against the light, creating the possibility of composing not only two-dimensional, but three-dimensional images using the DOF (Depth Of Field). The lens designer, Peter Karbe he should try to shoot portraits with a 21mm Summilux because it had no distortion.

21mm f/2.8 Elmarit ASPHRendering | ‘The 21mm asph is one of the few ASPH lenses with an “older” fingerprint. It is not extremely contrasty like some newer ASPH lenses and shows some light and sharpness fall off into the corners (where the 35 cron Asph for example is sharp into the corners). Think about it. Assuming you will not shoot a landscape or building at f2,8 some softness in the corners is a blessing IMHO because it puts more attention to the main subject, which is more in the middle of the frame.’ (Source: Leica forum thread – 21mm Elmarit-M ASPH Poor wide open page 2). | Contrast The 21mm f/2.8 Elmarit ASPH has a great blend of reasonably strong micro-contrast with moderate macro contrast (Sean Reid).

21mm Asph Leica Super-Elmar M f/3.4 | Aka ‘The Sem’ in Leica-speak Pros: Small, lightweight, compact. Little or no distortion. Little or no vignetting. Very good micro contrast. Good for street, documentary, landscape, editorial, reportage, photojournalism, interiors, exteriors. Cons: Relatively slow at f/3.4. Need an external viewfinder. Less good for portraits. | Composing | Use live view (if your M camera has it). Or use the Leica Visoflex Electronic Viewfinder (EVF2). Or use the Leica Universal Wide-Angle Viewfinder M. 

28mm Focal lengthLess distortion than wider lenses. Use for landscapes (incl with people in the foreground), street (less distortion compared to wider lenses), & architecture (sharp images). 

28mm f/2.0 Summicron M-ASPH | Size The size of the 28mm f/2.0 Summicron M-Aspherical lens remains very close to that of the Elmarit (easier to carry and use and more discrete). However, as the lens size increases, it will block more of the viewfinder. | Lens hood The supplied 28mm Summicron rigid lens hood blocks nearly a quarter of the viewfinder. There is a window in the back of the hood that allows the photographer to see a bit of what otherwise would be blocked, while in the meantime keeping the front of the lens adequately shaded (plus the window instantly tells the photographer if the lens cap is still on). With the lens hood removed, the lens blocks about one eighth of the viewfinder (0.72 magnification) viewfinder, and that results will be different when using the .58 magnification bodies. | Framelines Both the .72 and .58 magnification viewfinders support the 28mm lenses with frames for composition. The higher .85 magnification body can also be used with a 28mm lens, however a separate viewfinder must be used for accurate framing. | Weight The weight of the new 28mm Summicron is only 10 grams more than the Elmarit, and not much more than the 35mm f/2.0 Summicron-M ASPH, or the 50mm f/2.0 Summicron-M lenses.

28mm f/2.8 Voigtlander Cosima Ultron | “If you are on a budget take a look at the new Voigtlander Cosina Ultron 2/28. Very sharp, (even f2 looks very good), contrast is well balanced, handles flare very well. Build is first rate, although I suspect that the black anodized finish is a little thinner than on the Leicas. Nice compact size. Frameline obstruction on a .72 finder is very reasonable, but probably a touch more than the Elmarit. Excellent ergonomics, with finger tab,” (Thread: Yet another 28mm thread).35MM Focal length | The 35mm focal length works well for portraits at medium distances all the way to landscape photographs. The advantage of the wider 35mm over the 50mm focal length however is its greater depth of field and less distortion. This makes it better than 28mm for street photography. With 35mm the distance from the subject is equal to the amount of coverage for the long side of the film. Five feet from the subject will cover five feet at the subject plane for the long side of the film. At f/16 everything from 4ft to infinity is in focus (at f/11 set at 5.8ft to infinity). This means as a landscape lens both foreground and background are sharp. In low light 35mm gives greater depth of field compared to a 50mm lens.

35MM f/1.4 SUMMILUX | My first leica lens (serial number 3434038), bought with my first Leica body (an M6). I sold it for €1,000 to Siena camera Thursday 15th Feb 2005). Size-wise the Leica 35/1.4 Summilux is a diminutive lens. It is espcially good between f4 & f5.6. At wider apertures it does suffer from astigmatism and may not be compared with its ASPH counterpart nor the 35mm Summicron asph.

35MM f/1.4 SUMMILUX ASPH | This lens delivers high contrasts, excellent detail rendition over the entire image area, good field flatness, and it has extremely low coma. Because all these qualities remain practically unchanged in the close-up range down to 0.7 m (28 in), this Summilux lens is the universal wide angle lens. I The 35mm lenses are already considered to be standard lenses in the Leica M system. With its large aperture, this lens masters all photographic situations superbly. | Aperture ring The aperture ring has clicks at half stops. FLE The lens has a floating lens-element which retains sharpness when focusing at close range (70cm minimum focus). Very sharp at f/4. | Filter E46 (46mm). | Weight 320 grammes.

35mm f/2.0 Summicron (Pre–ASPH) | The 4th version of the pre-asph 35mm Summicron has almost a cult following. It is getting to be almost as expensive as the 35mm Summicron ASPH on the used market.

35mm f/2.0 Summicron ASPH Hood | Supplied with compact rectangular hood. | Filter E39. | Weight 255 grams for the black version, 340 grams for the chrome version.

50mm Focal length

50mm lenses have been considered “normal” for a long time now. The absence of of distortion produces photos with “natural-looking” perspective at normal enlargement sizes, especially of people, and for documentary photography. It’s no accident that the basic geometry of the M rangefinder is set around the movement of a 50mm lens as you focus it from infinity to closest focus. When it was put together, lenses such as the APO 75mm Summicron and 24mm Summilux were simply not envisaged. 

The 5 major versions of the 50mm lens are:

1954 – 1968 = 1st Optical Design (7 Elements)

1956 – 1968 = Dual Range, near focus model (to be used on M8 needs modification)

1969 – 1979 = 2nd Optical Design (7 Elements, Later 6 Elements)

1980 – 1995 = Summicron IV (6 Elements) Product code 11819 Black / 11825 Chrome. Seen by some as the best.

1995 – Present = Summicron V (6 Elements, same optical cell as IV version). This is the version I own. Built in lens-hood

50mm f/1.0 NOCTILUX ASPH

A new optical formula with ASPH technology and a floating element for increased close focus performance. The standard model, has a 46mm filter size and has both a focusing ring and a focusing tab, and a built-in hood. | Filter E60. | Weight Heavy compared to the 50mm Summicron or the 50mm Summilux.

50mm f/1.0 NOCTILUX ASPH LHSA SPECIAL EDITION

The LHSA Special Edition has a 43mm filter size and has a focusing ring but no focusing tab, and a clip-on hood.

50mm f/1.4 SUMMILUX

There are four versions of the 1.4/50 mm Summilux, that came in three different optical formulas. | Type-1 1959-1961 (#1,645,300 – 1,844,0000, circa 12,000 units). This is the original formula. It was produced for only a few years and while it is better than the Summarit, it is soft wide open and needs to be stopped down to at least f8 to really be sharp. There are people that shoot them, but it’s mainly a collectors item. This version was replaced by Type 2 which featured a new optical computation and increased performance (especially at 1.4). / Type-2 1962-1994 (1,844,001-?). This is the most common version of the Lux. A greatly improved optical formula that remained in production for over 40 years (over 40 years until the arrival of the ASPH model and is very, very good). In my experience this lens performs identical to the 3rd generation 2/50 Summicon, except of course it is a stop faster. I also find the Summilux to be far more resistant to flare than any of the 50mm Summicrons. Bokeh is perfectly smooth and the lens produces silky smooth images, especially in black and white. This version has a clip on hood and focuses as close as 1 meter. | Type-3 (Summilux-M) 1995-2006 (no serial numbers available). This version uses the IDENTICAL optical formula as the Type-2 that was introduced in 1962. The only difference is the dreaded built in collapsible hood (which doesn’t lock in place) and a new focusing mount that lets you get as close as .7 meters (70cm) to your subject. Performance is identical to Type 2. The color of the coating on mine is different than on the Type two, but that’s it. | Type-4 2005 – present see 1.4/50 Summilux-M ASPH.

50mm f/2.0 SUMMICRON

50mm f/2.0 SUMMICRON PRE-ASPH | Version 1 Collapsible. A 1950 design which offers the lowest level of performance of the series). 

VERSION 2 Rigid and DR. Same formula, different mounts. The Rigid/DR is single coated and delivers very sharp, but medium contrast images. | 

VERSION 3 Version #3 and 4 are sharper below f5.6 than versions 1 and 2. | 

Version 4 Initially with clip on hood, now built in hood. Same optical formula as version 3. Unless you shoot test charts, you will have a very difficult time telling version 3 from #4. These are modern high contrast designs. | 

Version 5 ASPH–see below.

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75MM FOCAL LENGTHThe 75mm focal length can be like a more intimate 50mm but throws some people off and can cause disappointment. A 50mm is good for people photos of all kinds, but in the specific application of portraiture a 75mm can be more useful. The slight perspective compressions very naturally draws your viewer to the subject, but it doesn’t compress so much like a 90mm or longer that your subject starts to look fatter than he or she really is.

75MM LENS CHOICESLeica 75mm Summicron f/2.0, Leica Summilux f1.4 and the Cosina-Voigtländer f/2.5 Color Heliar. “Re Sean Reid’s newly published comparison of the 75/2.0 Apo-Summicron M with the 75/2.5 Color Heliar. The verdict on the Summicron might not surprise: probably one of the best lenses money can buy. What almost blew me away, though, is the outstanding performance of the inexpensive CV Heliar. I strongly recommend everybody to read Sean’s review. The 75 Heliar results may surprise many people, especially in the corners. “The “pop” is mostly contrast. The Leica is a slightly higher-contrast lens. It also shows slightly higher resolution on center. As a rule (with some exceptions) the CV lenses tend to be of moderate contrast. That makes for less initial “pop” but greater effective dynamic range with the M8 (if the subject lighting is contrasty). It comes down to taste, intentions, etc. Some prefer more contrast in their lenses, others prefer more shadow info. Neither is universally “better”,” says Sean Reid,” (Source: Leica forum thread: Summicron 75mm versus CV 75mm-Sean Reid’s new review, p.1 Voigtlander CV = Color Heliar 75mm f/2.5).

75MM f/1.4 SUMMILUX

Focus shift The 75lux suffers from focus shift so expect some learning curve if you use it wide open (Personally I cant manage it wide open). (Source: Leica forum thread – 75/90mm lenses on M9, p.1)

75MM f/2.0 SUMMICRON APO
Serial number (MINE) 3995506 [2006: Serial numbers were 3993946 to 4004757]. | Filter E49. | Hood The built-in hood is short, creating complaints about flare. | Flare Prone to flare even in only mild back-light or side light situations, especially at close range (the lens hood does little to help the side-lit issue). It’s possible to make any lens at all flare with, for example, a strong light source directly into the front element. | Weight Heavy for an M lens. | Magnifier Use the 1.4x viewfinder magnifier. 
 
In brief | The 75mm APO is one of the best corrected lenses in the Leica M range. It is a “floating lens element” or FLE design. The micro-contrast even at f/2 is very high particularly in the centre of the image. If this is combined with a suitably detailed subject then the perceived DoF can be very limited. Performance is even across the frame at all apertures, vignetting is low, chromatic aberrations very low. Excellent optical performance and resolution. Very high sharpness. Beautiful rendition. Nice bokeh. Some suggest it could be the perfect 75 mm lens. It is typically used for portraits (head and shoulders distance) or in closer for more drama. It can also be used for close ups (e.g. flowers because the close focus distance gives a useful magnification). Design Peter Karbe designed the Summicron 75mm f.2. He also designed the 50/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH (one of Leica’s most popular Leica lenses ever) and 50/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH amongst others. | Angle of view ‘Its angle of view is superior compared to a 50mm for achieving ‘normal’ vision. When your eye perceives a motif, you are usually concentrating on the central part of your vision. That is what a 75mm sees.’ (Source: Leica forum thread – Leica 75mm Summicron owners). | Frame lines Small frame lines make it difficult to focus precisely wide open– the focusing throw is ludicrously short. | Focusing The focusing ring’s throw is short (unlike that of the Noctilux whose long throw makes it slower to focus) making it hard to focus accurately (even with the 1.4x viewfinder magnifier) and quickly (you can have one or the other, but not both). Focus with the focus-ring and then slightly rock backwards and forwards watching the rangefinder image. Do not focus too far into the subject. This applies to oblique views or where the subject is in several planes over some distance. In general, at large subject distances, there is more depth-of-field behind the focus point than in front; if you focus too far back, the nearest point won’t be ‘sharp’ enough. This is certainly more noticeable in the digital age where it’s easy to look at big enlargements on the computer screen from an inappropriately-close distance.’ (Source: Leica forum thread – Leica 75mm Summicron owners.)Backfocussing A possible issue with this lens.
 
90MM FOCAL LENGTH

90MM Leica APO-Sum-micron-M 90mm f/2 ASPH | Vivid colours. Images with a ‘unique 3D feel’. Sharp across the frame at f/2. | Filter E55. 

90MM Elmarit | Filter E46. 

PHOTOGRAPHY

Contrast | Sean Reid says “Higher lens contrast does not automatically make a lens better. High lens contrast is indeed a technical achievement but not necessarily one that will make a given lens more suitable for a specific task.” [Source: Leica forum thread – Summicron 75mm versus CV 75mm-Sean Reid’s new review, p.7]

Focus shift | Focus shift is an inevitable quality of all high-speed, small-format camera lenses – but is largely mitigated by Leica’s latest generation floating element (FLE) designs. To the point of practical inconsequence.

Keystoning | With the superwide angle lenses keep the camera level otherwise to avoid prominent keystoning.

Zone focussing | Henri Cartier-Bresson, a very fast street shooter, used zone focusing. When someone noticed that he had marked 4 meters on his lens with red nail polish he said “Yes, that’s my life: keeping a certain distance from things.” He also marked 125th on his shutter speed dial, [he shot mostly Ilford ISO 100 film] adjusting only the aperture as the light changed. When he had an M3 he taped over the rangefinder window, presumably to get rid of that annoying little rectangle in the middle of the image! All of this made it possible to keep his camera, hanging from its strap, down on his chest, with his hands folded over it, until he saw the shot. Then up it would come, but only for a second, and it would be down and concealed again before his subject noticed being photographed. This was crucial to him, because he needed to go on shooting unnoticed as a situation developed towards that decisive moment. No autofocusing camera is nearly fast enough for that kind of work. He also frequently used, even on his M-cameras, an obsolete 1930s accessory finder called a VIDOM that renders the image backwards and upside down, so as to see the composition in abstract terms. Not many of us would care for that, but the point is that he subordinated everything to seeing – sharpness and correct exposure were not his priorities. ___________________________

35/1.4 Summilux asph on one of your M10 bodies for low light shooting with the 35’s fast aperture and the M10’s improved high ISO performance over the M9.

24/2.8 Elmarit on the other M10 so you can use the Visoflex 020 if you wish/need to.

75/2 APO-Summicron asph on the M9 to give you a short telephoto option.

M10 frame lines are optimized at 2m; M9 at 1m.  Depending on your subject matter and distance, that could influence your decision. One gets used to framing, but more difficult when your brain must adjust to different tools simultaneously. Two M10s makes more sense to me, although I stick to one body at a time. Besides the frameline distance optimization distinctions I mentioned, the M10 VF has a larger opening, higher magnification and better eye relief. This may or may not result in more or less viewing or focusing ease when using certain lenses. And you’ve probably already considered any differences in rendering (colors, resolution, noise or otherwise).

I have an M10 and a Monochrom (M9 based), but never use them together. One of the key benefits of the MM is to retain a b/w mindset throughout the shooting and processing experience. Lens decisions are, as always, dependent on specific shooting goals and conditions.

I would put the 35 f/1.4 on the M9 (needs a fast aperture more than the M10s) and the 24 and 75 on the M10s. Of course, that could also be 28/75 – or 24/50, or any other such mix.

My own personal carry with three lenses, centered on a 35mm, is – bright light, 21/35/135 f/4; low-light 21/35/75

For two lenses (1 or 2 cameras) I’ve been having fun with a 28-75 combo recently

24/2.8 on an M10. This lens (well, at least my 21/2.8 Asph., which I understand is of a similar design) is all about the subtleties of light flowing from brightness to darkness, so I want as much detail and nuance as possible in the dynamic range.

50/2 on an M10. The better rangefinder makes it easier to find that crisp, shallow focus.

35/1.4 on the M9. This is a do-everything lens on a never-say-die body. The moderate wide angle combined with a fast aperture make it suitable for a wide range of situations. I think the M9’s high ISO capabilities are just fine; certainly newer cameras are better, but the M9 is stunningly capable when compared with the film that is my benchmark, and if there isn’t enough light to make a good photo with an M9 then there isn’t enough light for my skills to create a good photo with. I could wax poetic about this lens for hours, and the M9’s moderate dynamic range makes all of its images quite nice quite easily nearly straight out of the box. For snapshots or observational rather than contemplative photography, say no more: 35/1.4 and M9. Not that an M10 is overall inferior — I’d happily take three M10s over three M9s if cost weren’t a factor — but using an M9 here isn’t much of a compromise at all.

Of course, the implied question is important, too: why not the other lenses. The 28 Elmarit Asph. appears to be a brilliant lens in a very accommodating focal length and would be a worthy candidate for a one-camera solution, but I find that focal length’s areal distortion to be distracting at times and so, if I have multiple bodies or the luxury of time to choose lenses, I like having a wider lens for subjects that suit that view and a narrower lens for subjects that won’t do well with wide-angle distortion, ergo my choice here of 24 & 35. The 75mm Asph. has a lot of character in common with the 35/1.4, and I like that a lot, but I simply don’t go out to that focal length very often. I see wide; for me, 50mm is tele, so for my tele lens it would see the most use.

Post: I The best results come from the best technical photographs. In this digital age it is still worth getting it right in the camera. “fixing in post” always loses quality. See Jeff Schewe in”The Digital Negative’ where he points out that the principle of GIGO does apply. An essential must-read for any serious digital photographer IMO. It answers about 90% of postprocessing and workflow questions that we see in this forum.

Sensor cleaning video: See here