Without a doubt, one of the benefits of getting into the Leica M system is for their astonishingly high quality optics. Especially over the last 25 years, Leica M lenses have achieved a high level reputation for outstanding optical quality.
Brand new, current Leica M lenses are expensive. But not all new M mount lenses are. Two easily available series of M mount lenses are from Voigtlander and Zeiss, both made by Cosina.
The pricing difference is enormous when comparing the same focal length and nearly identical widest aperture. For this article, Downtown Camera in Toronto gave me access to the classic “normal” focal length for a full frame or film Leica M body, the 50mm (the focal length of choice for legendary photojournalist, Henri Cartier-Bresson) with the high speed aperture of f1.4 or f1.5 (for our purposes).
Featured in this article are Leica’s 50mm f1.4 Summilux, the Zeiss ZM 50mm f1.5 C Sonnar and the Voigtlander 50mm f1.5 Nokton.
High Speed 50mm’s
Voigtlander Nokton f1.5
Zeiss ZM Sonnar f1.5
Leica Summilux f.14
The method I described, on shooting with the Fuji X-Pro1 in Part I, didn’t emerge from a vacuum. It’s closely based on how I learned to shoot with a Leica M rangefinder, over three decades. In turn, that was something I learned from reading how the great masters of street photography, people like Josef Koudelka, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Joel Meyerowitz, used their Leica’s for their work. Today, Leica M rangefinders are still being made. There are various models, including a gorgeous 35mm film body called the MP, and the high-end digital M (Type 240).
The legendary Leica M3, with a 28mm accessory bright frame finder & Zeiss ZM 28mm lens
Of the Leica M bodies throughout history, my all-time favorite body to use for street photography, is the Leica M3. Continue reading
I’ve owned the Filson + Magnum Harvey Messenger Bag now for 9 months, and it’s become my favourite satchel for daily carry of my cameras and as a laptop bag. Here’s a detailed update on the Harvey Messenger.
Filson + Magnum Harvey Messenger: 9 months later
Filson 70193 Harvey Messenger Bag (Magnum Black)
Billingham Hadley Pro
One of the greatest satchel or messenger style camera bags is the Billingham Hadley. It’s been in production in various forms since 1988, and continues to be one of Billingham’s most successful lines of bags.
Currently, it’s offered in various sizes, from the tiny Hadley Digital to the big Hadley Large Pro, which has a dedicated laptop sleeve. For this post, I want to cover the mid-sized Hadley Pro. And this review isn’t based on a brand new sample. I bought this specific Billingham well over a decade ago, so this review is VERY long-term.
Billingham Hadley Pro camera bag. A long-lived Classic
A big part of the Fuji X system’s success is its fantastic line of Fujinon lenses. In a short time, Fujifilm has created an extensive group of lenses. The XF line covers a wide variety of focal lengths, and started off with some fantastic prime lenses. Since then, they’ve improved their lenses’ AF capability with each generation, and added some phenomenal pro-quality zooms. Among my favourite Fujinon XF lenses are their XF 18mm, 10-24mm and 23mm.
In the middle of 2013, Zeiss introduced its Touit lenses for the Fuji X mount. These lenses were designed in close collaboration with Fujifilm, and have full AF and inter-communication with the Fuji X camera bodies.
Zeiss 32mm f/1.8 Touit Series for Fujifilm X Series Cameras
Zeiss Touit 32mm f1.8 for the Fuji X mount
Really enjoying the Fuji X’s low light capability. A couple of images shot at night with the XF 18mm lens, during a rain storm with lots of fog.
XF 18mm, shot at 6400 ISO, f2, 1/20th sec
XF 18mm, 6400 ISO, f2, 1/30th sec. Lots of rain & fog diffused the light sources
I’ve written previously about carrying the Fuji X cameras as a large, comprehensive system on location for professional use. But one of the best aspects of Fuji X cameras, and the Leica M system which partially inspired their styling and form, is their compact, unobtrusive size. It makes the X and M systems especially appropriate for daily and street photography. A huge system isn’t appropriate – better just to carry a body or two, and perhaps a couple of lenses. A small, compact bag is all that’s required. Artisan & Artist have a suitable model in their line-up.
Artisan & Artist are makers of fine camera bags and straps. Made in Japan, their quality is top notch, right up there with the craftsmanship of Billingham from England.
Artisan & Artist ACAM 7100 camera bag carrying: Fuji X-Pro1 with 18mm, 60mm on the left, 10-24mm on the right. Meter, blower bulb, microfiber & spare batteries in front pockets
Chromatic aberration. Barrel distortion. Lack of resolution.
These are the some of the optical “sins” that the Fuji XF 18mm supposedly suffers from. How any can possible capture a decent picture with this awful lens is beyond me 🙂
Obviously, I’m saying that with tongue firmly in cheek!
The Fuji XF 18mm (left) with the XF 10-24mm
I’ve received a few inquiries asking about the documentary footage of master street photographers I was referring to in my post on using the Fuji X-Pro1 for street work.
While I believe the best way to learn from the great photographers who practice street photography at the highest level, is to study their actual work – looking at their great photographs carefully and repeatedly – it’s also educational to see them while they’re working.
A perfect example of being inspired by watching others work is how that influenced Joel Meyerowitz. Watching Robert Frank at a photo shoot in the ’60’s drove Mr. Meyerowitz from his career path as an art director, into photography. A few years later, he also saw the great Cartier-Bresson at work, shooting the street.
Here are a few links to YouTube, starting with the great master, Henri Cartier-Bresson. This one is absolutely delightful to watch – HCB moves so lightly and unobtrusively on the street.
From 1981 to 2009, I used a Leica M rangefinder system continuously. As most practitioners of the art know, the Leica M, with its simple, optical view of the world, small size and ease of pre-setting controls, made it the supreme tool for street photography.
In the winter of 2014, I finally got around to looking at the Fuji X system. I was especially attracted to the X-Pro1 body. Its optical finder and interchangeable lens capability really brought me back to my old Leica M system, which I had become comfortable with, for nearly 30 years of daily use.
Fujifilm X-Pro 1 16MP Digital Camera with APS-C X-Trans CMOS Sensor (Body Only)
The Fuji X-Pro1 with the XF 18mm f2 lens – one the best set-ups I’ve found for street photography