Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1999/07/10

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Subject: [none]
From: Tom Bryant <>
Date: Sat, 10 Jul 1999 14:33:16 -0400 (EDT)

Hi Luggers,

    It's been a while since I dared post here, but as most of you like to
blather about your Leica experience, I am no different :-)

    Erwin should be getting a spiff from Leica.  Based on his report on the
21mm lenses I broke my long standing rule on never buying new and bought the
21mm f/2.8 Asph Elmarit.  I was quite suprised by the build quality, as Steve
Grady ( had extolled the merits of the older chrome lenses of
the '60s, and trashed the more recent efforts of the Solms plant.  Bovine
excretion.  This is the best made Leica lens I own.  Helical threads, fit and
finish are superb.  The lens cap alone is wonderfully designed, a minor point,
but elegant.  I was not expecting such quality.  Hopefully it will wear well,
as the lens will not be "mint" when my heirs go to sell it.

    On shooting itself.  I find myself usually taking Ted Grant's advice:
Maximum aperture and shutter speed is sharper than the optically best aperture
of f/5.6, handheld.  I've been buying the largest aperture lenses I can
afford, f/2 (35 and 90) f/1.4 (50) and f/2.8 (21 and 135).  A 50 Summicron and
a 135mm f/4 Serenar are sold.  Speed is where it's at, for me.

    I'm oogling the Noctilux, although the practical problems give me pause
(size, weight, vignetting, depth of field, and softness, compared to my
Summilux).  Is another stop worth $1000+? I dunno.  And that intrusion into
the lower right of the viewfinder.  With the older Summilux, with it's
elegant, detachable, reversable, vented shade, is only a minor (compared to
the new Noctilux) problem.

     BTW, that Summilux is gorgeous, wide open.  I rarely use it any other
way.  I rarely use *any* of my Leica lenses any other way.  
    For macros and telephoto work, it's a Canon F-1, mirror locked up, on a
tripod, with the 90mm f/2.5 Vivitar macro.  This is a totally different way of
taking pictures.  Sort of like a 35mm view camera.  The Leicas usually have
ISO 800, the Canon 25 or 50.

     Well, all that said, I'd like to confirm an observation that many of you
have spouted over the years: Leica photos are sharper at low speeds than those
taken with an SLR, especially the Canon and Nikon SLRs.  My M3 is indeed
sharper.  Seems it's not the lenses, which are wonderful, (the Japanese lenses
are wonderful too) but the mirror bounce.  See Pop Phot of a couple of months
ago, Herb Keppler's SLR column. (Usually the magazine's only redeeming
feature, IMHO)

     The Nikons I have played with over the years, and my Canon F1 have a
rather serious case of mirror bounce.  Well, *most* of the Japanese SLRs have
this problem.  Minolta, Pentax, Fuji, Topcon, Yashica, Mamiya, Konica, for
those I can remember having handled and feeling their jolt as the mirror
slapped up.

    For a softer release, try the old Exa, Olympus OM-1, or the Alpa.  The
original Leicaflex wasn't too bad in this respect, either.  Of course, this
gentle mirror action increases your "time parallax", the time between
squeezing the shutter release and the actual exposure.  It's as much as 1/10th
second in some of these cameras.  There are no simple solutions to this,
except for M Leicas.  About 1/50th of a second in these, or most other
rangefinders as well.

    P&S are even worse, autofocus systems seem to require 1/4 second to go
off.  My friend Professor Brennan refers to these as PHD (Push Here, Dummy)

    But there's more to this than than mirror bounce.  Just being able to
watch the exposure, as opposed to a blackness, seems to steady my hands.  I've
sometimes (not as often as I'd like) been able to hand hold 1/4 second and get
good results while standing up, not braced on anything.  If I can brace, and
my subject is holding still, I've even gotten away with a whole second.  When
I've tried this with the Canon, my attempts have failed.

    On second bodies: I have 2 M3s, usually with the same (fast) film.  When
shooting something really quick, (most of my Leica work) this helps me, as I
can have the 35 on one, and the 50, 90, or even 135 on the other, and be able
the grab the right body, without having to change lenses.  This can be nice.
It's also a big pain, as it's easy to bang them into each other when you're
moving fast.  I tend to frame with my eyes, before I do more precise framing
on the actual picture.  Once I've figured out the image I want, one camera
goes back in the vest (I have a Nikon photo vest) and the other, with the lens
of choice mounted on it, waits for that perfect moment.  The second body is
still useful, when you don't have time to change film.

    On 50s: I love them.  They look "ordinary", in many scenes, because that's
how our eyes and brain see things, with about a 40 degree angle of view.
Everything else is fuzzy perpheral vision.  (Well, if you want to be picky,
the fovea is only a couple of degrees across, but we easly preceive about +/-
20 degrees on either side of this.  50s are compact, fast, and cheap (Well...
This is a relative term, we're talking Leica here, especially if you are
thinking Noctilux) and very sharp.

    For many situations, a Nikon photo vest makes it's wearer look like a
target for ambitious theives or a buffon, in the eyes of the fashion police.
I've found that an M3 with body cap (the old "metal" ones excell) can fit in
most pockets larger than a dress shirt pocket, a Summilux 50 fits almost
anywhere, the 35 even more so.  The 90 can go in my wife's purse, if she's
along, or one of my jacket pockets bulges a lot.  The meter goes in the
aforementioned shirt pocket, and now I'm ready to shoot whatever turns up,
given a half minute to put the lens on the camera and check the light.

    In general, don't wrap you equipment in expensive bags.  They broacdast
the wrong message to thieves.  I'm tempted to use our old diaper bag, but that
looks a little too odd for a babyless guy.

    This last bit is OFF TOPIC, so stop reading here, unless you're a Scotch

    The following conversation was overheard, concerning Glenlivet 18:

    Teen:  Dad, can I have a sip?

    Dad:   Well, OK, but you probably won't like it.  Take a small sip, toss
           it to the back of your throat, swallow, and breath out through 
           your nose.

    The teen takes the sip:   *!YECCH!*  *!GAAAAK!*

    Dad:   I warned you...

    Teen:  You paid $35 a bottle for this???  It HURTS to drink it!

    Dad:   It was on sale, it usually costs $50.00.

    Teen:  Listen to your mouth!  It's telling you not to drink it!
           Gimme a coke.  I'm not drinking that again.  You're nuts!

    Well, it is an acquired taste...