Today is my first proper day out with my new M. Since I received my delivery just over a week ago, I haven’t had a chance to take it out to see the sun. During the past few days, I spent many hours ‘testing’ the camera and my legacy lenses and I have discovered a few interesting things which I will share later when complete my full Leica M review.
Despite my experience with my film M6, shooting a digital M is very different. I guess that familiarizing the ‘character’ of the RAW files from the Leica M is the biggest challenge for me. Indeed focusing is also something that I need to get used to again because being digital means that there isn’t any tolerance in focusing error. When I use film, there is usually a degree of flexibility in minor focusing error. That could be the result of film flatness, the actual sensitivity and sharpness of the film itself or human error. But because today’s digital sensor is ‘dead’ flat and the despite the theoretical design of the system, getting a perfectly sharp shot can be difficult. Having said that, my normal techniques need to be brushed up before I can get the most of the fantastic M sensor and lens. However, if you are a REAL photographer, then you know sharpness isn’t everything and the story of the photo is much more important that the hair splitting sharpness of the subject in the photo.
Well, having ‘played’ around with the M and my lenses at home and my garden, I finally get a chance to take my camera out for a photoshoot. It’s a trial shoot that a young lady asked me to do. So what an opportunity to test my eyes and my camera to see how we ‘mate’ to each other. Sounds horny? No… my camera is THE extension of my eye so I need to feel right when I am using it. Luce is a very lovely young lady who contacted me for some portraits for her model agent.
The photoshoot took place after a nice hot cup of coffee and introduction at Starbucks in Angel. We then spent the next 45 minutes along Camden Passage, a famous place for antique collectors and retro-fashion goers. I love this place and a great place for some cool shots as there are lots of different characters that will make good background and surround. For this shoot, I only have my M and my 50 Lux. During Canon days, I usually carry a 50mm 1.4 and a 85mm 1.2. Now with the M, I am settled with only one lens.
However, the entire shoot had been very pleasant. Luce was very bubbly and friendly with a hint of ‘coolness’ in her. That’s pretty impressive considering she hasn’t done modeling before. After reading numerous reviews online, I was competing my mind whether to get the 35mm or the 50mm Lux. In the end, I chose 50mm mainly because it may suit my ‘eyes’. Because portrait is still a big part of me and a 50mm is a great medium for full and half body shots. 50mm is also more flexible if I want to mix street and travel together. This focal length is like a swiss army knife in photography. Anyhow, now I don’t need to scare any novice or my client with my utterly massive 85mm 1.2L, the 50 Lux is so tiny (in comparison) that Luce didn’t find offensive at tall even when I shoot up close.
Focusing withe the new M was really easy and pleasurable. In most cases, I found myself operating faster than when I was with my Canon 5D. While Luce was warming up with me and the camera, I was experimenting with my composition with the rangefinder. I shot most of my photos using wider aperture. I did use Aperture priority and let the M decides on the exposure and shutter speed. To keep things simple, I did keep my ISO at 800 so that I know there will not be any problem with camera shake or subject movement.
While I am not a chimping monkey, I did check my focus a few times and used the playback to show Luce what I just took. I did find this type of ice-breaking technique very useful whenever I meet new customers. Of course the image isn’t final and hence I usually keep my preview in mono so the customers can’t see what’s coming in the final version. Well, sometimes I do give them a mono shot but even with today’s 3-inch screen, one just can’t really tell the quality.
When the photoshoot ended, I narrowed down to a dozen images. To assess the style of the lens, I did processed the images in a mix of different styles, normal, classic, contemporary and mono. This allows me to get some ideas of the capability of this lens, the sensor and the processor. One discovery though, I find the Leica RAW files are so much ‘richer’ than the Canon’s. The colour depth is much greater and I was simply stunned when they were opened them in Aperture. (yes, I am still with my aging Aperture programme because I am so used to it).
When we parted after the shoot, Luce was very happy and relaxed. Now I am getting used to her and we are already planning our next shoot.
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