Category Archives: Review

Leica M, a Love Letter

Recently, the awesome dudes at DigitalRev (Kai, Lok, etc) did a video titled “Why the Leica M is so unique” (video at the end of page).  It brought back memories of when I took my first shot with a Leica M9 and the Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH.  Needless to say, it was a magical experience equivalent to the birth of my child.  I don’t have a child, but if I did, I’d say it would be pretty damn close.

Leica M
Leica M

Like most people, my road to appreciation (and eventually love) of the Leica M system was a long journey which involved a large amount of ignorant questions and the bad mouthing of various Leica owners.  Forgive me, I was young.  Despite my fondness of the Leica M system, I definitely understand the argument from the other side of the fence.  For example, if I was to purchase the current Leica M9 ($6995) and 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M Aspherical Lens ($4995) from B&H Superstore in NY the total would be about $12,000.  For that amount of money I can buy a Canon 5D MkII ($2499), EF 24mm f/1.4L ($1699), EF 50mm f/1.2L ($1599), EF 85mm f/1.2L ($2099), and still leave me with about $4000 to spend on any 2 of EF 16-35 f2.8L, EF 24-70 f2.8L, EF 70-200 f2.8L IS II.  When I put it this way, you can have 1 full frame camera and 1 lens in the Leica system, or a full frame DSLR with a pretty serious kit of L glass.

It’s almost a no brainer.

The Leica also has no auto focus, the view finder isn’t through the lens, and it’s completely manual.  There is no taking a break when using the M9.  However if these are the reasons putting you off the M system, man the fuck up!  Only pussies use aperture priority!  Jokes, I use a DSLR too so relax, I’m not haring.

If you are serious about photography, not serious in the way that you want to make money from it.  Serious in the way that photography is a gateway into another world, and the drive to take the perfect shot is out of love for the art over economical reasons, one day you’ll understand where I and many others are coming from.  Taking a photo with the Leica M brings you right back to the roots of photography, there’s no AF, no program modes, no high spec processing unit or even a TTL viewfinder to hide behind.  If you are not a capable photographer, this camera will eat you alive in front of the world, people will stop and stare as if you were R2D2 with a spastic colon.  Be prepared to bare your soul.  The timeless design originally created by Oskar Barnack who started at the Leitz camera department in 1911 has remained more or less unchanged.  It hasn’t given in to peer pressure, criticism, the huge movement when the Single Lens Reflex became ever so popular.  No, it stood its ground and said “One day you will all appreciate me”.

These Leica M cameras and lenses are so beautifully hand crafted and assembled that it feels as if the soul of Oskar Barnack is within every single Leica sold.  Many natives and Aboriginal people have a religious belief that a photograph can steal the soul of the subject.  With the M9, not only can I steal your soul, I can also make you feel happy, sad, angry, and inspired.  All at the same time.  Every photo I capture with the M9 also takes away a small piece of me.  I’m perfectly fine with that.

Although my time with an M9 was short lived, it gave me a taste.  It reminded me of what photography was really about, I didn’t worry about making money or being the guy people want to be around at parties and events.  No, the M9 was an extension of me to help me face the world.  Life was different on the other side of that bright, massive viewfinder that is so quintessentially Leica.  I took 5 photos of seemingly meaningless subjects, but each shot had a lasting effect so difficult to explain that you have to experience it to know it.

Yea, I’m in love.

I can say with utmost confidence that I will certainly own a Leica digital rangefinder before I die.  Until then, I can only try to help others appreciate and understand what I have come to terms with.

 

Double Down!

On 30th March 2011, the KFC Double Down was officially released in Sydney.  I know, it’s a long time to wait since it was released on April 12 2010 in the US.  As you would expect, we were pretty eager to go check out what was widely ridiculed as extremely unhealthy. 

The Double Down contains a full day’s worth of sodium according to the American Heart Association’s guidelines.  Of course this had no affect on sales, selling over 350 000 sandwiches in less than 10 days in Canada. 

image

Above: A picture of yours truly.  Zinger fillet, cheese, bacon, sauce, cheese, zinger fillet.  A real man’s “burger”

I also HAD to take a video of our experience with the double down (which we managed to get our hands on the night before).  Scroll down for Episode 1 of the series Smile

 

Taking on the Double Down: Episode I. Shot with the Canon EOS 5D MkII and EF 17-40mm f4L

 

Stay tuned for Episode II, where we up the stakes, manhood on the line

Lowepro Pro Runner 450AW

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been looking at getting a new camera bag to replace my Lowepro Flipside 400AW.  The Flipside is a great bag, but ever since I bought a couple of new lenses it got a bit cramped.

I was tossing up between:
– Lowepro Vertex 200AW
– Lowepro Computrekker Plus
– Pro Runner 350AW/450AW

I needed the new camera bag to be able to carry EVERYTHING, all my camera gear and a laptop as well as filters and chargers for when I’m travelling.  The other important thing was it needed to be cabin compatible for carry-on luggage in international flights.  All those bags fit the criteria, but based on info gathered from the Lowepro site as well as nearly every forum out there, I decided to get the Pro Runner 450AW.

Here are the specific dimensions from the Lowepro product page
INTERIOR:
12.2W x 6.7D x 18.5H in.
31 x 17 x 47 cm
EXTERIOR:
13.4W x 11.4D x 19.9H in.
34 x 29 x 50.5 cm

Views
Photos taken with my LX-3

As you can see, the bag is one of the more low profile bags in the list.  The bag isn’t huge, it’s about the same size as the Kata Bumblebee and a bit bigger than the Lowepro Classified 250AW (which I also use).  One thing you will notice straight away though, is the immense depth of the bag (more obvious when you see the internal photos).  From the front there isn’t much going on, nice and simple with a couple of sliplocks for the tripod carrier.  The waist straps can be hidden away into the back of the bag, which I love since I rarely use those straps and they tend to get in the way in large crowds.  You can see one of the handles on the side view (also one on the top) for easy movement in and out of storage compartments.  There is also a laptop compartment to fit a 17in Macbook Pro, my Alienware M11x fits in there quite easily.

Inside

In a quick arrangement of the interior padding (completely customisable), you can see this bag has plenty of room for gear.  There are still a couple of spaces that I haven’t use up, and I could have easily added another gripped body onto the end of the 70-200.  This bag is designed to hold Pro bodies or gripped bodies, measuring roughly 6.5in deep in the gear compartment.

Extras

A nice touch is the shoulder strap supports which keep the bag as close to your back as possible (this is important when you carry so much gear).  You can also see the tripod holder, and the hidden compartment for the all weather cover.

With all the camera gear inside it, the bag weighed in at about 10-11kg, but as soon as you put it on your back you can hardly feel the weight.  I would gladly go trekking with a full load in this bag for a whole day.  If the zippers used in this bag was the same as those used in the Vertex 200AW it would easily rank as one of the best bags that Lowepro have ever made, but you can’t have it all for such a low price.  Overall, 9/10, I’d recommend it to anyone who needs to transport a large amount of gear for holidays/photoshoots/day-trips.