Leica cameras are my workhorse tools for all types of photography, both digital Leica cameras and Leica film cameras. I also use medium format cameras such as Hasselblad and Mamiya (+ 4×5 large format cameras) and develop my film in house. The majority of the blog content is either Leica camera related or film photography. I photograph people; portraits, models, fashion, lifestyle, wedding photography so most of my photography is portraits, experimenting with various cameras, lenses and films. The digital Leica M240 camera is my do everything digital M camera but I shoot film whenever possible.
I hope you find the content as enjoyable to read as I find it is to document.
My Recommended: Portrait Photography Lighting Kit (Beginner or Pro)(2018)(Godox Lights – Best third party flash?)
Qu. Want to buy a speedlight & wireless flash trigger but unsure what to get? + Why every portrait photographer should own a flash!
>> I explain the 3 types of light, Why every photographer should use flash, TTL vs non-TTL, & recommend my Godox flash- 3 best speedlights + 3 wireless flash triggers
Part 1: My Recommended Portrait Photography Lighting kit
Part 2: My Recommended / Essential Portrait Photography Equipment list (x5)
Part 1: Recommended Portrait Photography Lighting Kit + Time to come clean! (What I use)
Time to come clean about my portrait photography lighting kit
Here I detail all the things I’ve never/ rarely spoke about in my 400+ previous blog posts. What do I use to make my portrait photographs excluding cameras and lenses. Specifically for this part 1 post – what portrait photography lighting gear I use.
Why I kept quiet
In the past you may have noticed I always wrote a vague description of my lighting equipment such as “speedlight” or “strobe”. I did this as whenever I mention a make and model of a product I use someone often wrote to me just hours later saying thanks Matt I’ve just bought one! While I love to help share what I have learnt with my self-taught photography I was worried that everyone’s photos would start to look the same as mine. The same camera, same lens and same lighting (if I detailed the specifics of the lighting gear I was using). After my post yesterday you can now even use the same MrLeica Lightroom presets!
Is it bad if everyone uses the best camera kit?
In reality if 10 photographers all had the same camera, same lens, same lighting kit and even same Lightroom preset and all took a photo of the same model there would still be 10 different photos. Every photographer sees the world differently and literally almost everyone has a camera of some sort now. Me telling a few readers the exact kit I use is hardly going to change anything. And so that is why I will detail exactly what photography kit I use. I already write in great detail about my Leica cameras and film cameras. I have also spoke about the lenses I use and recommend for the different cameras I have.
In this part 1 post I will cover my most used portrait photography lighting kit that I recommend to my students (people who come for photography tuition).
Open and transparent
I will be honest. One reason to write this post is to jump on the Amazon affiliates bandwagon. I upgraded the MrLeica blog platform a few months ago to make it easier to customise and hopefully read for viewers as I noticed most of the 400+ blog posts were impossible to find. Upgrading the blog now means it costs me around £400 a year to run it. I decided if I included a few Amazon Affiliate product links as part of a review it might be able to help cover some of the cost.
I guess the good thing for readers is it prompted me to write about sharing my favourite portrait photography lighting equipment that til now I had avoided. For anyone that has not heard of Amazon affiliates it basically means if you buy a product through clicking a link on this page it helps to support the MrLeica blog. (Amazon pay me a small commission for any referrals). To the buyer there is no extra cost, I am just providing a direct link to the standard Amazon website.
I only recommend photography equipment I own
For all the photography products I recommend I tried to include photos of the equipment being used and where possible the actual products in my hand. Many people write these sorts of posts and share a stock photo of an Amazon product that they might not even own. I only write about products I use, tried and tested and have proven themselves to me. (I have many many other lights and kit that were not as good so I guess I did the light testing for you!)
Best Speedlights 2018? Latest lighting equipment
The items I review may not all be the latest variants as the technology changes so fast. They might not be the newest / best speedlights in 2018 but have not seen anything better that has made me want to upgrade from my current lighting kit. Also the benefit of some slightly older models is they have a proven track record and older version are cheaper to buy vs the new model.
US and UK readers
If you don’t know from my previous ramblings I am a UK-based portrait photographer. I noticed however that most of my MrLeica blog readers live in the US followed by the UK then everywhere else in the world. I can’t setup product links for everyone I’m afraid but I will include UK and US links to the Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com website. For everyone else the camera gear I recommend is just the same but I can’t send you a direct link to buy it. Sorry.
When anyone buys a new camera the first thing to buy is a decent memory card. As a portrait photographer I thing the next thing I bought was a light (a speedlight). Photography lighting is a huge topic but I will talk about how I enjoy using a photography lighting system rather than one product for portrait photography.
Photography Lighting Equipment – Beginners Guide!
Why all photographers should use flash!
Many new photographers shy away from using their camera with a flash. I know I did for a think the first 2-3 years. Even some professional photographers label themselves as an “available light photographer” which basically means they can’t use flash. I say this because if you could you would! I’m not picking at anyone but I know as a portrait and wedding photographer sometimes there just isn’t enough light to get the photo you want. That being with the quality of light you want. Why struggle at ISO 6400+ and produce a low quality noisy image when you can fake daylight with a flash and shoot it at ISO 100-400. Here is a good example from my recent trip to Poland. It was the last photo shoot of the day and almost dark outside. I could have probably shot it at ISo 12800 or something but instead I just faked the daylight with an off camera flash and shot it at ISo 400.
Using photography lighting is fun and effective! Off camera flash
Modern cameras spoil us now with even low-cost camera having like ISO 1-million! As a film photographer I usually need to shoot at ISo 100-400/800 (try too) so I use lights quite often if the available light levels are too low. As you can see then I’ve gone from an “available light photographer” to a “lights are amazing!” photographer. Once you start it’s addictive stuff! You can almost always better a scene with a light and there is unlimited creative ways to use a light. I talk from a people photography stand point whether posed models or run and gun wedding photography. Even some landscape photographers use lights now (light painting a landscape). The guys over at F Stoppers have been playing around with these techniques if you are more of a landscape photographer type and interested. I guess street photography is an exception to needing a flash though some famous street photographers flash light their “prey” in the street too to great effect.
3 Types of Photography Lighting for Beginners
In very basic terms there are 3 types of light –
1. Sunlight (Light originating from the sun)
Whether direct sun on a blue sky day, diffused sunlight through clouds, light at dusk and dawn, light reflecting off water, a building, the floor, it all originates from the sun. (I ignore moonlight but would group it here also). We can’t control how the sun is hitting the earth/ the objects around us. This is often referred to as continuous light but to be specific lets call it natural continuous light. (I exclude firelight from this).
2. Artificial continuous light
This is usual a light source as a result of mankind. Street lights, car lights, lighting in your house, light from you iPhone, light from a candle if you light it. Any light that can be seen for a longer duration of time than a fraction of a second. In the studio there are a now a few different types of continuous lights. Tradition hot lights (tungsten bulb studio lights) and cold lights like LED lighting and Fluorescent tube lighting. Each give a different quality of light. Generally speaking (there are some exception) continuous lighting normally requires more power so tends to be mains powered and is often found in the studio. (Some of the modern LED lights are portable and use battery packs).
3. Flash lighting (with speedlight, stuido light or similar device)
Flash lights are commonly refered to as speedlights for photography. They are generally smaller and more portable than traditional artificial lights and battery-powered. Flash light is instant on/off where as daylight and artificial light is continuous. This make flash lighting much more difficult to use as you cannot see the effect until you fire the flash and take a photo. This means using speedlights to good effect can take practise but it’s worth it! (It took me many hours of experimenting and I never stop learning).
What portable and studio lights do I use in 2018? / Flash for Leica M cameras
I love lights so have bought so many over the years. I use traditional hot lights, modern fluorescent right lights, main powered studio lights, portable battery pack studio lights and speedlights of every size and power. In this recommended list I try to share details on the lights I use the most. I am a studio based photographer but much of my photography is on location (for weddings and photo shoots) or overseas (all the model trips I do outside the UK). Each time I travel I try to find ways of making my photography lighting kit smaller and smaller yet still have larger high power lights for when weight is less of an issue.
Best Photography Lighting Kits (Godox vs Nikon vs Canon)
As mentioned above I have bought many brands over the years but the brand that I have stayed with (and grown with) is Godox. When you buy photography lighting kits you soon realise you are investing in a lighting system. I guess it is similar to cameras. If you buy a Nikon DSLR you can’t then use a Canon lens as it doesn’t fit. The same with lighting to a degree. Once you start using off camera flash you need triggers or transmitters and receivers. With modern speedlights often some features are built into the flash units themselves so it’s really beneficial to use everything from the same brand.
Follow the TTL / E-TTL flash trend or do lighting properly?
TTL or E-TTL (for Canon users) seems to be all the rage these days. Most photography light (speedlight) manufacturers now offer a TTL flash. What is TTL? In very simple terms it is a computer inside the flash that gives a perfect exposure for every photo. This is great for people who use a camera in full auto mode and don’t know a F stop from an ISo. A full auto camera with a TTL full auto lens is now completely automated to give a perfect exposure every time without needing to know anything about photography. Great for wedding photographers in it to make a quick buck but boring as hell for anyone hoping to get some fulfilment from the art of photography and learning the craft. I can’t think of anything worse / more dull myself. Surely the kick from getting a good photo is when you put the effort in to achieve it? If it is offered on a plate to you as a finished article and you had no input in the result then where is the fun in that. When I teach students I always teach to use a manual flash and full manual camera settings. I think they know more after their first day than many of the wedding photographers! 🙂
Benefits of non- TTL speedlights? (Godox V850II vs Nikon SB-910)
Ans: The same light power but a less than a third of the cost!
If you (like me) don’t want a TTL flash then you can save a lot of money. For example a Nikon SB-910 TTL Speedlight is around £300 on Amazon whereas a Godox V850 without TTL is only £90! Both lights are a similar size and power output. Worth noting when you look to buy a speedlight. If a flash looks expensive check if it is TTL. If it is there might be a cheaper alternative without TTL you can buy (Like the Godox V850/V850II).
Why I recommend Godox lights & top 3 Godox speedlights (2018)(for me). Are Godox the best third flash? + Godox are a Flash for Leica cameras! (Great!)
> 3 Godox speedlights I still recommend in 2018 (What I use)
Godox Portable studio light – Godox AD-360 (Profoto B1 alternative!)
I am in no way linked to Godox (also know as Cheetah, Witstro, Flashpoint and other names) but ever since my first Godox flash I have been hooked. Originally I was lusting after a Profoto B1 (don’t we all!) after seeing one of their adverts but I couldn’t bring myself to spend such a large amount of money on a light. The research then began to find a cheap Profoto B1 alternative. I wanted a portable high power light to photograph on location. I looked at Paul C Buff’s Alien Bees like the B400 but I couldn’t find a stockist for them in the UK. I looked at Elinchrom Ranger Quadra after seeing them in a photography magazine. I loved the small head units but again they were expensive. At the time I had a Nikon D700 not Leica cameras so my photography budget was a lot lower!
Eventually I discovered Godox when they were just hitting the UK market (see graph above – Godox is everywhere now but they weren’t 5+ yrs ago!) I might have even imported my Godox flash I can’t remember. I was just so keen to get a portable high power light to give me a similar tool to a Profoto B1 that I probably did import it I was that excited to find it!
Godox AD-180 & Godox AD-360 Flash (Cheaper than Profoto and better than a regular flash!)
I remember when I first used my Godox flash at a big Indian wedding. Rather than needing like 3 speedlights I could just light the whole room with one pop of the Godox flash! It recycles really fast too so for weddings it is amazing. Non-stop high power flash – living the dream! No more missed photos from little speedlights not recycling fast enough! I had studio power lighting on location and photographers often came and asked me what I was using so they could buy the same. My first Godox light was (still is) a Godox AD-180 and then I later bought the more powerful Godox AD-360 that I recommend here. I use the pair of them for my wedding photography and never worry about batteries needing replacing etc. For these Godox flash I needed triggers so I could fire the light off camera. I bought flash triggers from Godox so now I had lights and triggers to fire them. Great. (Triggers detailed below). My lighting system had begun!
Studio power flash with separate battery pack. Comes with USB port for FTR16 receiver (but will accept new XTR16 receiver also)(Great as I can then fire with FT-16/ XT-16/ X1T triggers!) I use it as a cheap Profoto B1 alternative but that is not an exact comparison.
Godox large flash – Godox V850II (The best speedlight for my needs) (A brief Godox V850II review!)
Then I wanted a large speedlight that was more portable than the Godox AD-360 but still powerful and still worked with my same triggers. I didn’t need a TTL flash so that would save me a lot of money. I bought a Godox V850 and then Godox V850 II (that I recommend here). The V850II is a 4x AA battery size flash similar to the size of main brand flash units that i used previously (Nikon SB-900 size or Canon equivalent) but with a lithium battery. The Godox V850II is the best speedlight for me as it works with my existing flash triggers. Now I had multiple off camera lights that I can fire from a single Godox remote trigger on my camera hotshoe. This was my photography lighting kit for models and weddings in the UK. When overseas I just took a smaller Godox V850 /V850 II and left the larger lights behind. The V850/V850II with “Li-ion” batteries normally last a full day on one charge and recycle quickly too. No more faffing around with piles of AA batteries! (I remember in my early weddings I was charging some AA batteries at the wedding as my 3 Yongnuo flashes were working hard and eating through the batteries!).
> Godox Ving V850II GN60 Flash Speedlight
Powerful flash, lithium battery, built-in XTR16 receiver (but will accept FTR16 receiver also via USB port)(Great as I can then fire with FT-16/ XT-16/ X1T triggers!)
Godox small speedlight – Godox TT350 (Best flash for Leica M camera / cheap Leica flash alternative!) (A mini Godox TT350 review!)
As a Leica photographer I enjoy using small cameras for digital photography. I wanted to find the best flash for Leica M cameras (specifically the Leica M240, M8, M6 and M4P)(The Leica M3 and M2 have a cold shoe not a hot shoe). Leica flash are expensive but they are a nice small size. I wanted a cheap Leica flash alternative as didn’t want to pay crazy money for a Leica flash (like a Leica SF40). A Leica flash would also not be compatible with my existing light setup anyway. The Godox V850II is too big really to mount on a small Leica M camera so I did some research and settled on the new Godox TT350 flash. The Godox TT350 flash is a small 2xAA battery unit more similar in size to a Leica flash. The small unit can be used as a trigger to fire other flash units yet still emit flash itself too (like a normal flash). I had the situation as some weddings where I was using all off camera flash and had a trigger on my camera hotshoe. Someone would then want a photo or I needed to light something up right in front of me (away from my lights). I couldn’t use a standard speedlight on my hotshoe as then the other off camera lights would not fire (say to light a venue room). I needed light on camera that would also fire lights off camera. Hey presto! Godox answer my dreams with the Godox TT350. Perfect size as a Leica flash and does all I need. It actually does more than my needs as it is TTL but they don’t make a non-TTL version sadly. The price is slighty higher but it has a lot of functionality as part of a wider camera system. There is a small problem though. This latest Godox speedlight doesn’t work with my usual FT-16 Godox triggers. (see below).
> Godox TT350N TTL Flash Speedlight
Small TTL speedlight that can work as a flash, trigger same units and units compatible with the new XTR16 receiver (Note* Can’t fire Godox TT350 of camera with FT-16 trigger, only XT-16/ X1T/ another TT350 or similar modern flash)
Top 3 Best Wireless Flash Triggers 2018: Godox wireless triggers and receivers for flash photography
> 3 Godox wireless flash triggers I recommend for the Godox flash system
This bit gets a little complicated so try to hang with me! So my original Godox wireless flash triggers are called Godox FT-16 transmitters. They look a bit like pocket wizards (see photo below) and have an aerial on the top. FT-16 triggers use 2x AA batteries and are a perfect weight for small cameras such as a Leica. FT-16 triggers have their own receivers. Different flash units use different size receivers. The Godox AD-180, AD-360 and V850II have a USB receiver port so can be fired from new receivers (XTR-16) and old receivers (FTR-16) (you just plug the receiver into the side of the unit). The old receiver that pairs with the FT-16 wireless flash trigger is called a Godox FTR-16 receiver. The new receiver looks nearly identical but is called a XTR-16 receiver. (Godox have now released a new version of the FT-16 transmitter called the XT-16 wireless flash trigger)(with same aerial style). I don’t have the XT-16 transmitter but will recommend it next to the old FT-16 transmitter (below) as I only just discovered it while writing this post! I will be buying Godox XT-16 triggers soon! Why. Well this is the problem I faced. So the old FT-16 trigger will fire the bigger speedlights but wont talk to the latest Godox v350 flash. The Godox TT350 will fire the older speedlights now that I fitted these units with new XTR-16 receivers. But what if I want to fire the little Godox TT350 off camera? I need a new trigger to do this. For this I bought a new style of Godox trigger and receiver called Godox X1T trigger and X1R receiver. (See further down).
I still prefer the older Godox FT-16 wireless flash trigger to the new X1T trigger
Old version (Trigger/Receiver kit) for AD-180/AD-360/V850/V850II+more. Pocket wizard design and works great on small cameras. Trigger will fire any older Godox flash or older “F” receiver. Receiver will work with ANY Godox light with a USB port (new or old).
The Godox XT-16 wireless flash trigger has all the benefits of the FT-16 (+ more!)
New version (Trigger/Receiver kit) for AD-180/AD-360/V850II/V350 +more. Same pocket wizard design and works great on small cameras. Trigger will fire any new Godox flash or new “X” receiver. Receiver will work with ANY Godox light with a USB port (new or old).
> NO IMAGE AS I’VE NOT BOUGHT THESE YET (SAME AS ABOVE GODOX FT-16 DESIGN)
> Godox X1T – Wireless Hot Shoe Flash Trigger Transmitter
New different style Trigger – for AD-180/AD-360/V850II/V350 +more. Big advantage as when on hotshoe it can fire any new Godox flash or new “X” receiver off camera and will accept any brand speedlight to sit on top for a combination of on camera and off camera flash option. I find it too big for Leica cameras but use it with Nikon D800/ F4/ F5/ Hasselblad and others.
In addition to all the various Godox speedlights and triggers above I also use continuous lights. The beauty of these is you can see what you will get (ie. the effect on the subject) before you take the photo. Beauty lights or ring lights are very popular with makeup artists, vloggers and some studio photographers also. The main point to note as a photographer is continuous light is very low power compared to a speedlight / flash so they are of no use on a bright day or if you are a studio photographer that photos everything at f16. Great for low light and fast lenses like F1.4-f2-f2.8 etc.
> Neewer RING LIGHT – 75W (600W Equivalent) 5500K Camera Photo Dimmable Ring Fluorescent, Diameter 18 inches Outer 14 inches Inner
You can always see if a photo was taken with a ringlight as there will be polo shaped highlights in the eyes (see Stacey above in the studio).
Part 1: Recommended Photography Lighting Equipment – Summary
Above I have detailed the main photography lighting I use for most of my photography, 3 sizes (and power outputs) of Godox speedlights to suit different occasions, new versions and old versions of Godox wireless flash triggers and receivers needed to use the flash off camera. I also listed my Ring flash as they are very popular for Instagramers trying to take the perfect selfies! I appreciate I went into quite a lot of detail but I hope it made some sense. It took me ages researching these products before buying to try to get the best product for the money and then practice and experimenting to understand what triggers and receivers can fire what speedlights. Luckily I enjoy experimenting with flash photography!
Part 2: To Follow
I had planned to list all my gear on one blog post but it was getting a bit to long and messy. In part two (when i get time!) I will list more of the photography equipment I use and it will be less light specific.
Here are some photo shoots as examples of the abovementioned lighting
3.4 – Manual Focus (Poland Day 2) – Don’t believe all you read!
3.5 – How to use the Leica CL focus assist with manual lenses
3.6 – Limitations for me of focusing via the Leica CL magnified view
3.7 – Focus Assist vs Focus Peaking – Leica CL
3.8 – Leica CL EVF focus peaking – It’s a new one for me!
3.9 – Real life limitations of Leica CL focus peaking
3.10 – Leica CL EVF option – P-A-S/ P-A-S-M to help focusing
3.11 – Leica CL focusing when using speedlights
3.12 – ND filters on the Leica CL – limitations
4. – 6 different ways I was Lighting my Portraits in Poland – Leica CL
4.1 – Leica CL photo shoot with direct sunlight
4.2 – Leica CL indoor low light photography
4.3 – Leica CL high ISO outdoor low light photos
4.4 – Portraits with a ring light and the Leica CL
4.5 – Leica CL beach photos – natural reflector
4.6 – Leica CL + Speedlight (Direct flash for a fashion look)
5. – Leica M lenses on the Leica CL – Sample images & lens comments (x5)
6. – 3 Leica CL dislikes (vs M240)(so far)
6.1 – Leica CL EVF black out
6.2 – Leica CL battery life
6.3 – Leica CL SD card slot issue
7. – Best feature of the Leica CL?
8. – Has the Leica CL changed my photography?
1. Intro – Poland Trip
Poland Model Photography – 2 Days, 8 Photoshoots
In this blog post I talk about my experience of using the Leica CL on one of my overseas model photography trips. It was to be my first outing with the Leica CL so I was excited at what I could achieve. I visited model friends in Sopot, Poland and stayed at my usual hotel overlooking Sopot beach.
On some of my model photography trips I work with as many as 5-6 models a day trying to fit everyone in. In Poland this time a few of my regulars were busy or out of town so this allowed me to have more time with each model. If a model is good 3hrs can pass in a blink of an eye and I always wish we had a whole day to shoot. This was the case I think for every photo session in Poland. Even working 9am through til dark (7:30pm approx) there wasn’t enough time. I was really lucky to work with some amazing models again. I try to help myself by inviting the best of the best models I can find but on the day itself the models need to perform too for it to be a success. They did. I worked with two new models recommended to me by a model friend who was out of town, and some familiar faces too.
Camera gear packed for Poland
Leica CL digital camera
Leica Elmarit-TL 18mm f2.8 lens
Leica CL – Leica M lens adapter
Leica M240 digital camera
Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5 lens
Leica Summicron 50mm f2 DR lens
Leica SOOKY-M close focus adapter / googles
Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO lens
Leica Macro Elmar 90mm f4 lens
Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH lens
Hasselblad H3D-31 digital & film camera
Hasselblad HC 80mm f2.8 lens
Hasselblad H3D 645 film back
Film – assorted 120 B&W film (PanF, Delta 100, HP5, Trix, Fomapan)
Speedlight (I will detail full spec of lights I use in a new post soon)
Tripod (I will detail in a new post soon)
Lightmeter (I will detail in a new post soon)
2 Camera bags (I will detail in a new post soon)
2. 5 Leica M mount lenses on the Leica CL camera
Of all the Leica M mount lenses I could choose from why did I take the selection I did?
The Voigtländer 35mm f1.2 lens is relatively big and heavy for a Leica mount lens. The f1.2 aperture doesn’t make a huge difference compared to the 1.4 Nokton classic lenses I have. The Voigtländer Nokton 40mm f1.4 and 35mm f1.4 are both much smaller and lighter. For this reason historically I have used them more than the 35/1.2 ASPH as I often shoot overseas so need to pack as light as I can. So why did I bring it? I chose it as it has one ‘special’ feature.. it focuses as close as 0.5m (closer than the standard 0.7m for Leica M lenses). As the Leica M rangefinder system only works as close as 0.7m this wasn’t a great advantage on the Leica M240. On the Leica CL however there is no optical rangefinder so I can use the lens up close at 0.5m. This helps create a nice shallow depth of field (DOF) at f1.2.
35mm on the Leica CL APS-C 1.5x crop sensor gives an equivalent 50mm focal length which is nice for portraits. The f1.2 aperture is good for low light photography and I like to carry one fast lens for this reason for each trip.
The Summaron 35mm f3.5 lens is a vintage. 1950s design, tiny in size and has a lovely retro look. The problem with modern lenses is everything can look too perfect. I brought the Summaron as it is sharp yet flares easily so helps give a more filmic rendering to photos.
The Leica Summicron 50mm f2 DR is also a vintage lens. It is special in that it can work with a SOOKY-M close focus adapter (googles). Without the goggles it can only focus as close as 1m. With the close focus adapter the Summicron 50 DR can focus to 0.4m. Being an older Leica lens again it can flare easier than modern lenses (but less so than other older lenses)(The old Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5 lens flares the most for me I think). I will use the Summicron DR for close up portraits (especially) and again for a less modern look. 50mm on the Leica CL APS-C crop sensor is equivalent to 75mm on the Leica M240.
If I want to get the most out of the Leica CL sensor then the Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO lens should help. Super sharp and a modern look to the photos (perhaps similar to the look of the Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH lens that I use a lot). 75mm on the Leica CL is very roughly equivalent to 110mm so at f2 should be very pleasing for portraits.
I was going to bring my older Leica Elmar 135mm f4 lens instead but I needed a smaller lens. I wanted to bring a long lens to give a different look to the shorter lenses. The Leica Elmar 90mm macro collapses so is super compact and a perfect travel companion. Like the 75mm APO this lens is sharp and modern in how it renders. The Elmar 90 equates to 135mm on the Leica CL so should help give some nice compression in photos.
3. Focusing Leica M lenses on a Leica CL camera – is it easy?
3.1 – Leica CL EVF Viewfinder vs Leica M240
I was not sure to expect when from the Leica CL camera. I didn’t test a CL prior to purchase and I’ve never used a Leica M240 with the additional hotshoe EVF accessory. I’ve used a Leica M rangefinder camera as my main camera since the Leica M9. As such it is safe to say I like rangefinder cameras, Leica and otherwise. For medium format film photography I enjoy using a Fuji GF670, Mamiya 6 and Mamiya 7 and these are all rangefinder cameras. I enjoy focusing via an optical rangefinder viewfinder where I align two lines in the viewfinder and I know my photo is in focus. The Leica CL has a built in viewfinder but it is an electronic not optical viewfinder EVF).
When I bought the Leica CL camera it came with a Leica Elmarit-TL 18mm f2.8 autofocus lens. I used it in autofocus mode initially and found the CL easy to focus. I then switched to manual mode and was pleasantly surprised by an automatic magnified window view in the centre of the EVF view. That made focusing even easier.
3.3 – Leica CL – Manual focus – Leica M Lenses (Poland Day 1)
After first using a TL lens on the Leica CL I was excited to try out some of my Leica M mount lenses. I thought the magnified window would be perfect for pin point focusing accuracy for a lens like my Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 lens. Sadly I soon found out that when using a Leica M lens on the Leica CL that the magnified EVF view doesn’t show. With the Leica TL lens the camera can sense the lens being turned manually so auto pops up the magnified view. With manual lenses the Leica CL doesn’t sense the lens being turned to focus so only displays the standard (non-magnified) EVF view. (Please read 3.4**)
3.4- Manual Focus (Poland Day 2) – Don’t believe all you read!
Well the above statement was my best knowledge up until the end of the first day in Poland. After day one I noticed from the Leica CL LCD display that some of the model photos taken with manual lenses were not tact sharp (in focus). I woke up at 4am thinking about it so decided to do some online research on my phone. When using a Leica CL and Leica M lenses (6-bit coded and not coded) is it possible to manually activate a magnified view for the Leica CL focus assist option. Contrary to the Leica CL facts I had read online prior to buying the camera, I found you can use the Leica CL focus assist with manual lenses.
3.5 – How to use the Leica CL focus assist with manual lenses
To be specific for anyone with a Leica CL and doesn’t already know this, I use the left of the top two dials (on the top right of the camera) when looking through the EVF. The left dial allows two steps of magnification and makes focusing any of my Leica M lenses lenses super accurate. All my Leica M mount lenses are working whether a 6-bit coded modern Leica lens (like the 75mm APO or 90mm f4), the vintage Leica Summicron 50 DR and Summaron 35 lens or lenses from Voigtländer (I assume my Zeiss ZM lenses will work also but I’ve not tried them yet).
3.6 – Limitations for me of focusing via the Leica CL magnified view
Focusing on a model using the Leica CL magnified view and a lens set to it’s widest aperture works if the subject stop moving when I ask (so I can focus). For some models this just isn’t how they pose so for these instances I found I had to stop down the lens to say f2.8-f4 to give me a deeper depth in focus to capture movement. I then just try to catch the faces and poses as they came, thick and fast!
> Off topic – How I pose a model
Some models that have worked with me for years know how I operate so try to slow down their own fluid model posing (non-stop poses). They tell me it feels awkward holding a pose but also that they trust my eye and direction as I fine tune everything before taking a photo. When working with an experienced agency model (many in Poland have worked in Asia and elsewhere) poses from them are often spontaneous and I just adjust a little if I feel it will help the photo.
> Off topic – It’s a team effort + creative models are best
I might suggest ideas to models for poses but it is a team effort. The more creative the model generally the better the resulting photos. We can feed off each other creativity and the photos get better and better as we both keep thinking of ways to improve an initial pose. On occasion a pose can look amazing on the first take but more often it might be the 5th or 6th fined tuned version of the original pose. That said some things I can’t control, like wind and available light. For these sometimes we just get lucky. If the wind blows the hair as I take the photo or a break in the clouds allows the sun to peek through and gives a nice rim light to the model.
3.7 – Leica CL Focus Assist vs Focus Peaking
When using the Leica CL with Leica M mount lenses I tried to use the lenses at their widest apertures as much as possible. The Leica CL APS-C crop sensor gives a less shallow DOF compared to the same lens on a full frame Leica M camera (like my M240). For this reason using the lenses wide open would hopefully give for some nice shallow DOF portraits on the Leica CL. As mentioned above, after day one I noticed some photos were not in focus. I found that although the focus peaking will light up to confirm a subject is in focus it is not 100% accurate. When I zoomed in on the focus peaking highlights the focus still needed fine tuning for some photo to be sharp. This focusing problem is most apparent for distance subjects and less of a problem when up close (I found). Now that I had the Leica CL focus assist magnified view setup for day two if the model didn’t move the photos were sharp.
3.8 – Leica CL EVF focus peaking – It’s a new one for me!
Coming from Nikon DSLRs then Leica M cameras I’ve never had a camera offering focus peaking. (That’s actually not quite true as I had a Lumix LX100 for a short time and I think that had focus peaking)(I didn’t use it much so can’t remember!). If I’m not using a digital Leica M then it is usually various old film cameras. Film cameras of course don’t have focus peaking and many don’t even have a battery / electronics!
3.9 – Leica CL focus peaking real life limitations
When using the Leica CL with manual focus lenses the only was to focus accurately for me is to use focus peaking. I have the Leica CL focus peaking set to red and I look for the red highlight on what I want to focus on. Focus peaking seems to work much better in a high contrast environment or when focusing on a subject with defined edges. In low light and with flat low contrast scenes the focus peaking aid often fails to light up. In these situations I tried to focus as accurately as I can by eye. (Once I had discovered the Leica CL magnified view option for day 2 it helped). Luckily though I find the CL focus peaking worked most the time.
3.10 – Leica CL EVF option – P-A-S/ P-A-S-M to help focusing
One unexpected nice feature of the Leica CL EVF is when you want to focus in low light. The EVF normal view is the exposure you will obtain if you fire the shutter with those camera settings (aperture, shutter speed, ISO). Leica call this exposure mode P-A-S (Program Aperture Shutter). The second option is to set the Leica CL to P-A-S-M (Program Aperture Shutter Manual) mode and in low light the EVF view is brighter than reality (brighter that what you can see with your eyes). Coming from Leica M camera optical viewfinders this was a nice surprise and it really helps when focusing the Leica CL in low light.
3.11 – Leica CL focusing when using speedlights
On my first photo shoot with the Leica CL in the studio I was using my usual strobes/ studio lights/ speedlights. Not knowing the Leica CL P-A-S/P-A-S-M camera option when I tried to view the model in normal P A S mode I could see nothing (just a blacked out EVF). For that shoot in the moment I switched to using continuous lighting instead of strobes to overcome the issue. For Poland however I knew the camera a little better so switched to P A S M for speedlight lit photos. The Leica CL worked just fine with a flash when I used the correct camera settings.
3.12 – ND filter on the Leica CL – limitations
I am used to using ND filters on the Leica M240 to darken daylight so I can illuminate the subject with flash. (Espeically lenses like the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0). With the M240 I look through the optical viewfinder to focus so I can stack ND filters on a lens and it has no impact on my view of the subject or focusing. I soon realised I can’t use ND filters on the Leica CL so easily as I need to look through the EVF to focus. If the EVF is black I can’t take a photo and that was the case I had. I soon gave up on the ND filter idea using the Leica CL for the method I was using it for. (It will still be fine for something like landscapes where the Leica CL can be placed on a tripod, lens focused then ND filter added after. (This is probably standard practise for all non-Leica shooters!)
4. Leica CL portraits with different types of lighting
4.1 – Leica CL photo shoot with direct sunlight
Day one was surprisingly nice weather for September with sunshine so I shot with available light as much as I could. Unlike most photographers (I think) I like sunlight for my model photography (and even for wedding photography too). I like directional contrasty light. Day two was more overcast and the light was very flat. Having both conditions helps give a bit of variety to the pictures.
4.2 – Leica CL indoor low light photography
For indoor low light photos when it was starting to get too dark I used the Leica CL with an off camera speedlight. This was to initially boost existing light levels and then as it got darker to replicate daylight coming from outside. I did this because the quality of light from a speedlight was more flattering for the models faces. Low power room lamps never give the best light for portraits. Using a speedlight also meant I didn’t require a high ISO above about 800. The Leica CL photos still look great at ISO 800 so I had no concerns.
4.3 Leica CL high ISO outdoor low light photos
For outside low light photos I used available light only. I was using the Leica CL at ISO 1600-3200 and the Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH lens at f1.2. The quality of light was very flat but it gave quite a nice look. It was quite cold for the model on the beach so we came indoors before I had to push the ISO beyond 3200. As I enjoy using different light sources I think I would rarely go above ISO 3200 when I have a choice but it might prove useful for Leica wedding photography with the Leica CL.
4.4 Portraits with a ring light and the Leica CL
For two of the photo sessions I shot at Dorota’s home again, with partner in crime, Kinga. As a makeup artist she has a ringlight so I like to make use of this in the photos. (I have a ring light in the studio too). Unlike maybe ‘normal’ photographers, I was using the ring light too boost daylight / add some fill light for the pictures. I also added a reflector for some of these photos too. In the UK I don’t use photography reflectors as much currently as I tend to just be lazy and use multiple light sources instead. Saying that, I have quite a few different ones for when I’m in a reflector portraits phase. Reflectors can be great when working overseas with limited equipment to add some fill light, especially when working in bright conditions. (That’s probably why I use reflectors less in the UK! – Often cloudy!).
4.5 Leica CL beach photos – natural reflector
On a sunny day sand on a beach can work well as a natural reflector. For added effect get the model down lower. I was using this style of lighting for some of the photos with Teresa.
4.6 Leica CL + Speedlight (Direct flash for a fashion look)
Being blessed with sunshine for a lot of day one, when it later became absent I really missed it. I decided to replicate the effect of the direct sun onto the model with an off camera speedlight. For the static photos of Julia it was easy to hand hold the speedlight. I did this as I felt the clothes required a more fashion look which can be achieved with lighting. When working with Marta at first I was working with the speedlight on a light stand (tripod as packs smaller). This was great for limited movement and when she stayed in the same position. We then decided to do a few catwalk style photos in her amazing dress. With her walking in her dress I needed to move too. I decided to switch to using the Leica CL kit lens, the Leica Elmarit-TL 18mm f2.8. This lens is wider than the Leica M lenses I was using so I could work closer to the model. The 18mm TL lens is also autofocus so I could walk backwards holding the camera in one hand and the flash in my other hand. This worked for the look I was trying to create.
> Off Topic – Leica M hyperfocal distance focusing
Side note! In the past I used a similar technique for Leica weddings with the Leica M9 or M240. I used a wide lens M lens like the Zeiss ZM Biogon 21mm f2.8 lens stopped down for a larger depth in focus. Manual focus actually works much better than a autofocus lens as autofocus can miss. I could have switched the Leica Elmarit-TL lens to manual but at the time I didn’t think to do so.
5. Favourite Leica M lenses on the Leica CL (so far)
5.1 – Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO
So far the Leica M mount lens that I have used the most on the Leica CL is the Leica Summicron-M 75mm f2 APO. I used this lens for the Leica CL wedding and for perhaps 25% of the model photos in Poland. It is a sharp and contrasty lens wide open and produces pleasing shallow DOF portraits. Perhaps strangely it is not a go to lens on my Leica M cameras.
5.2 – Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii
Another lens which has seen limited use on my Leica M cameras (after initial purchase) is the Voigtländer 35mm f1.2 ASPH version of the less. I also have the Voigtländer 35mm f1.4 classic version which is smaller and lighter. On the Leica M cameras I tended to use smaller lenses the most so the f1.2 lens tended to be second choice to the f1.4. The Nokton f1.2 is sharper to my eyes though and as mentioned above it focuses to 0.5m which is great on the Leica CL. 35mm was my widest focal length for manual lenses (equivalent to 50mm on the CL) so I used it a lot in Poland. It was also the fastest lens so was my lens of choice in low light. I think it was my most used lens for the trip.
5.3 – Leica Summicron 50mm f2 DR
I found lenses with less contrast like the Leica M 50 DR were harder to focus on day one. Focus peaking highlights seems less apparent so in some cases photos were focused by best guestimate. On day two however using the Leica CL focus assist magnified view I could now focus the Summicron DR accurately and it gave for some pleasing results. It was good for when the Leica 75mm APO was a bit too long to use.
5.4 – Leica Summicron 50mm DR + close focus goggles
I didn’t use the Leica close focus adapter as much as I expected. I think I wanted to incorporate more of the background to use the location. Tight crop headshot can be taken in a studio or where the background is less interesting. Saying that I did enjoy using the Leica Summicron 50mm DR with close focus goggles for a few arty camera photos!
5.5 – Leica Macro-Elmar M 90mm f4
Talking of too long, for model photography in Poland I found the 90mm too long in most instances, when on the 1.5x crop sensor Leica CL. I tried to use it for some photos to see the result but I wouldn’t take it with me for future Leica CL photoshoots.
5.6 – Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5
I only used the vintage Leica Summaron 35mm lens for a handful of photos. It didn’t really suit the lighting conditions I was working in. That being I couldn’t see a creative advantage to use this lens instead of the Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f1.2 lens on the Leica CL.
6. Leica CL vs M240 dislikes (x3)
After using the Leica CL camera non-stop for 2 days of model photography and for a Leica wedding I feel I am starting to know it better. Coming from a Leica M240 camera I base my Leica CL dislikes as a direct comparison.
6.1 – Leica CL EVF black out
With the Leica M240 I am very accustomed to an optical viewfinder. What was normal for me is probably alien to everyone who has not used a camera with an optical viewfinder. Everyone this isn’t a digital Leica M shooter is missing out so much! So normal life for me is to see a moment through the optical viewfinder (whether camera off or on). When I press the shutter button I don’t lose sight of the subject I am photographing so I can prepare to capture instant moments immediately after the first photo. This is great for weddings to photograph day the first kiss or any series of images. With model photography where a model poses fast it is also extremely beneficial. When using a Leica CL camera when you press the shutter the EVF and LCD display blackout immediately after the photo. If a model is quite static this is no problem but if they are moving constantly I was missing maybe 2 of every 3 facial expressions. Not good. With a Leica wedding this is very unnerving as you literally can’t see to recompose on a moving subject like bride and father walking down the aisle. I appreciate now this is probably normal life for most photographers but it shows a true huge benefit of Leica M camera. For this reason o think a Leica M camera is probably still a better choice for Leica street photography if your particular style is to take a series of images. I have read that the lag on the Leica CL EVF is quite good but it’s worth noting if you are used to a Leica M rangefinder camera (with optical viewfinder not EVF).
6.2 – Leica CL battery life
As mentioned in my Leica CL wedding post battery life (capacity) is not great on the Leica CL. Less than the a larger Leica M240 battery I am used to. Did I find it a problem in Poland, no. I had one battery in charge while I used the second battery and rotated. Will it be a problem when photographing on location and not having the hotel in walking distance. Yes. If I was doing a photo shoot on location and away from any power source I will need at least 2 spare Leica CL batteries, perhaps 3 spares for a non-stop full day of model photography. More spare batteries will be good to have for wedding photography also as backup.
6.3 – Leica CL SD card slot issue
Half way through day two I had to change memory card in the Leica CL and found when I tried to clip in the new card it wouldn’t clip securely. I had to switch to using the Leica M240 camera while the Leica CL was out of action. Perhaps temporarily falling out of love with the M240, when the model stopped to change clothes I tried to fix the CL. I found if I closed the Leica CL battery/ card slot bottom plate door it held the SD card in place and I could still take photos. From then I switched back to the Leica CL. I might need to send the CL back to Leica for repair as it is under warranty.
7 – Best feature of the Leica CL?
The best (most noticeable) feature of the Leica CL camera vs the Leica M240 that I am used to is the fantastic dynamic range of the CL sensor. It makes a huge difference and I really appreciate this feature. I have clipped almost no highlights since getting the Leica CL vs more often with the Leica M240. Excellent sensor Leica engineers! I’m impressed.
8. Has the Leica CL change my photography?
8.1 – The impact of the Leica CL focus peaking on my photography
I think perhaps yes. I felt I was more spontaneous using the Leica CL if I could see the focus peaking highlights already showing on the model from the EVF preview image (ie. the EVF telling me that the model was in focus). I took more sequences of photos (at some stages/ with fast models particularly) rather than lots of 1s (as I do with the Leica M240) to try to capture the in between pose poses. I think this might also be my wedding photography influencing my model photography where I enjoy catching the little moments at weddings.
Seeing the focus peaking highlights on the Leica CL might also improve my Leica M camera photography. I think I often stop and refocus for each photos with models using a Leica M camera, like my Leica M240. (Less so with weddings as I need to capture the action as it happens). In reality I might be better to ‘chance’ a few photos and take pictures on the M240 without refocusing each time. With a manual focus lens the lens is already prefocused on the model/ subject from the last photo. Yes it might not be tack sharp on the nearest eye if I take a second or third photo without refocusing but it might help capture a few nice natural moments. It is probably worth noting this is less of an issue if people use a lens stopped down (giving more depth in focus). I might do with this style of shooting for parts of a wedding day for this exact reason (need more depth to capture moving subjects in focus). It’s only because I often use lenses at f1.0, f1.2, f1.4.. that the focusing problem is more apparent (ie. Focus depth is so narrow it only covers one eye).
8.2 – Has the Leica CL improved my model photography specifically?
I’m not sure. If the photos look better / worse / different to you I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to comment, good or bad. Regardless of how the final photos will look I felt the Leica CL helped the photos flow well with the exception of a model working fast and me struggling with the Leica CL EVF black out. Having the Leica CL focus assist with manual focus lenses M definitely made the photography process more rewarding. I don’t like the thought of merely hoping a photo is in focus! (Poland day 1 vs day 2).
8.3 – Leica CL – One camera photography (not multiple cameras!)
Using only one camera on day 2 (other than when the Leica CL SD card slot had issues) was quite rare for me. I almost always have at least two cameras on me at any one time, film and digital. I’m not sure if it helped the photos but it should have in theory as less stop start between 2 cameras.
8.4 – Has the Leica CL negatively impacted my film photography?
I tried to ‘be good’ for once and take less cameras on this trip to Poland. I packed the Leica M240 to backup the Leica CL and the Hasselblad H3D with film back to hopefully capture some high quality medium format film photos. Film doesn’t suit every model as I’ve written before but I shot 2 rolls with one model and then only half of a third roll for all other models put together. A combination of perhaps the quality of light, light levels, location and how the model posed/ worked. Sadly on the second day the Hasselblad camera stopped working so I had no option to be able to shoot film after the first few frames during the morning session. I think I would have only shot 4-5 rolls of film maximum anyway in Poland as some of the photos were fast and frantic or the light levels were too low for film.
I will share the Hasselblad H3D film back photos from Poland on a separate blog post once I get chance to develop the film. Fingers crossed the photos look as nice as they did in camera. I’m excited to see the results as the Hasselblad H3D camera has produced extremely sharp film negatives in the past (even if I have not used it a great deal).
Big thanks as with all my model photography trips to the models themselves. Without them I just have an empty beach / hotel room to photograph. For models I’ve worked with previously I think these photos may well be some of our best pictures yet. For the new models it was amazing to find you and I hope to see you next time too! Also thanks to Monika for another comfortable stay in her hotel. I loved the new decor too!
Looking forward to taking the Leica CL on my next model photography trip overseas again soon!
Tempted by the Leica CL? Treat yourself!
Check out the latest CL prices on Amazon! (UK) / (US)
New to MrLeica.com!
**Since writing this article I have added a SHOP section to MrLeica.com so you can now download the presets I make for my Leica cameras. So far I have listed 3 Leica CL LR presets – “Poland 2018” B&W, “High Contrast” B&W & “Wedding” Colour preset.
Leica Lightroom Presets – MrLeica LR Downloads Now Available!
Why am I now selling my Leica Lightroom presets?
When I have shared digital photos on Flickr in the past and mentioned words to the effect of “quick edit with a Lightroom preset I’ve made” some readers have commented or wrote to me asking if I would share these presets. I think originally I didn’t want to share mt Leica Lightroom presets as I was worried everyone’s photos would look the same. In reality I think so few people will be interested I can’t see it making a difference! As you may know I shoot a lot of film so for these images I don’t use Lightroom. For all digital photos with my Leica cameras however I push the raw DNG files through Lightroom and add a preset across all images before exporting all and sending to the client. For each digital Leica camera I develop a few black and white presets and a couple of colour ones to suit my taste (and probably with a film photography influence). The presets are nothing special nor ground breaking and you might be frustrated at how simple they are. You did ask for them though so as requested! 3 new Leica CL presets.
New digital camera – New Lightroom presets needed!
When I bought the Leica CL camera a few weeks ago the first thing I had to do was make a Lightroom preset. Each camera sensor is different so I don’t use say a Leica M8 preset on the Leica M240 (and v.versa). My Leica M240 presets didn’t suit the Leica CL sensor for my eyes so I developed new ones. My first few photo shoots all suited high contrast B&W tones (to my eyes, on those days) so my first Leica CL preset I made was “High Contrast”. I loved the crisp black and whites from the Leica CL sensor!
Poland trip – More Leica Lightroom preset requests! Time to make available!
After returned from my Poland model photography trip I wanted to give the photos a more vintage vibe. Many of the photos seemed to have a timeless quality to them so the super modern Leica CL”High Contrast” preset I had made didn’t suit most of the pictures (for me). With my film photography eye I tried to develop a vintage look B&W preset to suit the mood of the images. As a reminder of its origin I called this Leica CL black and white preset “Poland 2018”.
First Leica CL Wedding – Need a Lightroom wedding preset
Much of my model photography is black and white images so I tend to use B&W presets the most. That said for my Leica wedding photography most clients seem to want colour photos. Buying the Leica CL ahead of a wedding when it came to editing I needed to develop a new Leica CL colour profile / preset. I work closely with wedding clients and Adam and Becky loved the bright low contrast wedding look. I made the CL colour preset “Wedding” and used it for all the wedding images. I like the slight vintage / filmic look it has.
3 New MrLeica Leica CL Lightroom presets – Now available
For each of the 3 Leica CL Lightroom presets I have made I have shown below a RAW file (left) and the same photos with the Lightroom preset applied (right). No other adjustments were made to these photos. These presets may not suit this particular image but I wanted to use a single photo with all 3 Leica CL presets applied so you can see the effect side by side. I then included 3 sample photos using each of the 3 Leica Lightroom presets I developed as seen on Flickr (If you use Flickr!).
More Leica preset example photos – Where to find?
In addition to the sample photos included below you will be able to see more of my Leica camera images using the Mr Leica Lightroom presets soon. I will post the full Leica CL wedding blog (with all photos using my Leica CL “Wedding” preset) and also the recent Poland model photography trip blog (with many of the photos using the “Poland 2018” LR preset as soon as I get time. For the “High contrast” preset please see more example photos on my previous Leica CL blog posts. (It was the first Leica CL preset I made so I used it on all the early Leica CL photos).
Special bundle offer giving all 3 Leica CL presets for the price of only 2
Leica Lighroom Presets – More Leica Cameras LR Presets:
If people seem to like my MrLeica Leica CL Lightroom presets I have LR presets for my other Leica cameras too. As I get chance I can make these available.
Leica M240 – Lightroom presets (to follow)
I still use a digital Leica M240 and have a few different presets to suit most conditions I photograph in. Black and white and colour. This camera nearly broke me coming from a Leica M9 so it took months trying to develop a Lightroom preset to make the photos nice enough to look at to my taste. I wrote a post about nearly giving up on the M240 at the time. My Leica M240 presets probably try to get the images back to something closer to what was obtained from the Leica M9 sensor (together will a film photography influence). (*I didn’t develop the presets to replicate the exact Leica M9 look, merely something I enjoyed looking at).
Leica M8 – Lightroom presets (to follow)
The Leica M8 captures amazing B&W JPEGs (like the M9) so in the past I often posted straight from camera Leica M8 JPEGs. More recently I have edited Leica M8 DNG raw files so needed to make presets. I still have the M8 but seem to have misplaced the presets. I will try to find as I need them for myself anyway. I can then share them too as I know people have asked me directly to provide M8 presets.
Leica M9 – Lightroom presets (maybe to follow)
The Leica M9 was my first digital Leica camera. I loved the M9 in camera B&W JPEGs especially. I part exchanged it to buy my Leica M240 so I have not used the camera for a few years now. My current version of Lightroom doesn’t seem to show older presets so I’m not sure if I will be able to find my old Leica M9 presets. If I can I will make them available as people have requested them.
Leica D-Lux 109 / Lumix LX100 – Lightroom presets (I can make available if requested)
I used a little Panasonic Lumix LX100 camera as a backup camera to my Leica M240 for about a year for overseas trips. The LX100 is the same inside as the Leica D-Lux 109 camera but a bit cheaper. The LX100 sensor is not quite a Leica M sensor so I made myself a few LX100 Lightroom presets to make the photos more pleasing to my eye. If anyone uses a Leica D-Lux 109 or Lx100 and want these presets please comment / write to me and I will look to make them available.
Lightroom presets – Answers to possible questions
1. What version of Lightroom do I use?
My current version of Lightroom is CC 2015, Version 6.3 (Licence type Creative Cloud). (To find this detail I went into Lightroom and clicked Help-System info). Why am I not using the latest Lightroom CC2017/2018? I tried to upgrade but get an error (will try to fix it but CC 2015 works just fine for me!).
1b. Will my Lightroom preset work with older versions of Lightroom 4/5/6
I upgraded from 5.6 to 6.3 and the presets definitely work fine with LR v5 and v6. I have read online that v6 Lightroom presets should work with LR v4 and possibly earlier LR versions too but I have not tested it.
1c. Will Lightroom 5,6,7 and CC2015 presets work on Lightroom CC (2017/2018)(Like LR Classic 7.3.X)?
Yes a Lightroom preset made in LR versions 5,6,7 or CC 2015 can be used in the more recent Lightroom CC 2017/2018. You will just need to copy the preset into the new Lightroom preset location. See next paragraph to find your Lightroom preset folder. Up until LR 7.2 (I believe) all the earlier preset file types are the same. Adobe apparently then changed how presets save for Lightroom Classic versions 7.3.X (from .LrTemplate files to .xmp files). If you use a version of LR7.3 it might require a bit more LR knowledge to get my preset to work for you.
1d. Will Lightroom presets work on a Windows PC and a Mac the same
Yes Lightroom is the same for PC and Mac. The only difference is the preset folder location is in a different place.
2. How to install your new Lightroom preset download? – For Windows 2018
Open Lightroom and click: Edit->Preferences->Presets
Click: Show Lightroom Presets Folder (to open)
Double Click: Lightroom (to open)
Double Click: Develop Presets (to open the folder)
Drag & Drop or Copy & Paste the MrLeica preset into Develop Presets
Restart Lightroom (Mr Leica Preset(s) should now display in Presets)
3. What photos can the MrLeica Lightroom presets be used for?
All of my MrLeica Lightroom presets can be applied to any RAW or JPEG image. I designed the Lightroom presets with specific cameras in mind but in reality the presets can be applied to any photo from any camera.
4. What if I don’t use a Leica camera but want to try out the MrLeica look presets?
Perhaps you use a Nikon, Canon, Sony or Fuji camera (it can be any camera). Even if you don’t use a Leica camera you can still apply one of my MrLeica presets to your image. By using the same Lightroom preset as me that removes the editing aspect of how my photo might differ from yours. You then know that any differences are from the camera or lens used.
5. Trying to Replicate the MrLeica photo look?
If you use the same camera(s) as me, say a Leica CL and you apply one of my Leica CL presets. If the photo still looks different it must be the effect of the lenses I used (if different to the lens you are using). If you use exactly the same equipment (Camera, Lens, MrLeica Preset) as me then the difference can only be the light / location and camera settings used (Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO).
6. How to Buy / Download a MrLeica Lightroom presets?
To buy a MrLeica Lightroom preset you can click one of the red “Purchase” buttons above or go directly to the new MrLeica SHOP. The SHOP contains links to all MrLeica products currently available to download. Once you click “Purchase you will automatically proceed to Checkout where you can click “BUY NOW”. This will direct you to PayPal to complete your payment and an email will instantly be sent to your email address with a link to download the product.
7. Please read before buying
As noted above the MrLeica Lightroom presets are often very simple and it might seem like a lot of money for ‘nothing’. These are the presets that I use and that people have been asking me for so i’ve just set up the blog to make it possible to download.
If you experience any difficulties trying to purchase a product please email me and I will try to resolve it as soon as I can. I taught myself how to set up the blog to be able to sell products so hoping it works smoothly for everyone. (I tested it and it worked no problems for me). Thanks for understanding!
Qu. Ever wondered how the Leica CL compares to a Leica M240?
>> In this article I review both cameras during a wedding and list 13 reasons why you might prefer a Leica CL
(Left, Leica CL vs Leica M240, right – my wedding camera setup yesterday)
Intro – Buying the Leica CL camera
I have had my new digital Leica CL camera for just over a week now so I am back with more Leica CL facts and thoughts. I bought the CL in a hurry to receive it in time for a Leica wedding photography booking yesterday. Adam and Becky’s wedding at South Farm, Royston (UK) had been 3 years in the planning with me in contact with them throughout. I think this lead to me being more excited than ever to try to produce some of my best wedding photos to date. (When a couple cares as much as I do about creating the best possible photos they always exceed results when it is only me interested. It is a team effort!) I hoped the Leica CL camera purchase would help me in my quest for raising the bar (wedding photography wise).
The Test – Leica wedding photography
For anyone who has never photographed a wedding, a wedding gives an environment to see the best and worst of any camera and lens. Equipment needs to work and jump when you shout jump. If not you don’t take it to a wedding. Simple. Over the years I have learnt and now try to pack only my best/ most reliable cameras and photography gear.
I did a lot of testing ahead of yesterday’s wedding (well a weeks worth!) so was confident the Leica CL camera was up to the job. I took my Leica M240 camera as a second body so I felt I had the wedding covered between the two Leica bodies.
Showtime! Leica CL vs Leica M240 Wedding
So which camera did I use the most for the wedding?
I expected to use the Leica CL maybe 10-20% maximum for a few 18mm wide shots and a few macro photos. I then expected to use the tried and tested Leica M240 camera for everything else. It didn’t pan out like that. I shot 80% of the wedding photos with the Leica CL! Using both cameras in the heat of the moment I soon appreciated what each camera could offer. Driving back at midnight I was trying to summarise the Leica CL vs Leica M240. While it is fresh in my mind a made a simple list, Leica CL vs Leica M240.
Results – 13 Reasons Why I prefer the Leica CL!
1. Lightweight Leica camera (super light!)
With the Leica CL 18mm Leica Elmarit-TL lens attached you can wear the CL around you neck all day and forget it is there. It is that lightweight.
2. Smaller and more compact than any Leica M
The Leica CL with the 18mm Leica Elmarit-TL f2.8 lens attached is tiny! If like me you are juggling cameras in the thick of the wedding action it is easy to slip the Leica CL into a large jacket pocket or top of a small camera bag to free up your neck/ hands.
3. Leica macro/ close up work! (not the usual 0.7m limit)
Macro photography was my first love when I first got into photography and I often miss it using a Leica M 240 rangefinder. The Leica CL with Leica M lenses attached let me give the wedding couple macro photos that have been absent in my wedding photography work for quite a while. I loved capturing the smaller details with a very shallow depth of field).
4. Through the lens view (not a rangefinder)
If you are not a Leica photographer what you may not realise is us rangefinder shooters focus and compose our photos without looking through the lens. Mad right!
We use a window in the top left of a Leica M camera body (other rangefinder like my Mamiya 7, 6, Fuji GF670.. etc). A rangefinder window is normally great unless you leave the lens cap on as you will not know you are not capturing photos especially if using a film camera. At least on modern cameras the photo preview normally appears on the camera rear LCD display.
The practical reason I list this is if like me you enjoy shooting through something, say vegetation (leaves of a tree) at a subject behind you can’t tell if a leaf is over the lens (unless one big leaf is over the rangefinder window and the lens!) With models I may ask them to tell me if they can see the lens as that means it can see them but for a wedding when working quickly I normally avoid such photos with a Leica M camera (or guess it and take a few shots).
In my Nikon D800 time I loved this style of shoot though photography as with a DSLR what you see is what you get. With the Leica CL the EVF gives the same what you see is what you get view and that is perfect for this shoot through style.
5. EVF exposure preview (I love it!)
During a wedding having a visual interpretation of how bright or dark an image will look if I press the shutter with the current settings is a huge help (unless using flash then less so!). I got into a lazy habit with the M240 of guessing the exposure on the first shot and adjusting as needed for the second. With the Leica CL I made full use of the EVF exposure preview and really enjoyed this feature.
6. I can see in the dark!
The Leica CL EVF give an almost night vision goggles view in low light/ darkness that I am not used to. I could see people and details to focus on in the dark easier through the EVF than through the optical viewfinder of the Leica M240. A great new tool to have when needed.
7. No rangefinder coupling necessity (use any lens!)
Unlike the Leica M cameras which requires you to use rangefinder coupled lenses that focus via the optical rangefinder / viewfinder, the CL will accept any lens via an adapter. I really enjoyed using different Leica M lenses but I might try some none Leica M mount lenses too going forward. It means I am no longer limited by 0.7m closest focus distance of the Leica M cameras (*unless use close focus goggles).
8. No risk of rangefinder calibration issues (Stress free!)
Unlike the Leica M cameras which are often plagued by needing rangefinder adjustment (especially older Leica M film cameras that may have taken a few knocks over the years), the Leica CL is not. The Leica CL is not a rangefinder cameras as it has no optical viewfinder (only EVF). This means for very important events such as wedding photography there is no added worry that the camera was knocked during the chaos that is every wedding and photos were now capturing out of focus. I had this happen to me with a Leica M3 during a wedding and it was not until I received the photos that I saw the soft focus images.
(Luckily they were supplementary film photos to the digital Leica M photos I was taking on the day).
9. Higher ISO ability (similar to the Leica M10 & Leica SL)
I think to my eyes the Leica CL gives me 2 stops more useable low light ability verses the Leica M240. My M240 sensor can create banding on photos at ISO 3200 so I try to use it at ISo 1600 or below. The Leica CL seems OK at ISo 6400 which is great for a low light wedding photography which is so often the case.
10. Improved dynamic range (You will be impressed!)
I sometimes clip the highlights with my Leica M240 if rushing photos such as during a wedding (and moving from bright to dark and back to light situations). I didn’t lose a single photo with the Leica CL yesterday! The CL dynamic range is better than the Leica M240 and said to exceed that of a Nikon D4 and other pro level cameras. Don’t underestimate the little guy!
11. Telephoto lenses on a Leica (and can focus easily!)
Focusing a long lens like a Leica Elmar 135mm f4 lens wide open can be tricky with the Leica M240 due to the small rangefinder patch. With the Leica CL EVF every lens is now possible and easy. I shot much of the wedding with a Leica M Summicron 75mm f2 APO with ease.
12. Wide lenses on a Leica (no external viewfinders needed!)
With the Leica M240 viewfinder it only gives a view (framelines) up to 28mm wide. Anything wider and you need to use an external viewfinder or focus via the LCD. I tended to not use the LCD to focus and I use a 1.4x maginifer loop on the viewfinder so even 28mm is near impossible to see. The Leica CL EVF means I can compose and focus a photo with even the widest of lenses. The widest I have is the 15mm Voigtlander Super-Wide Heliar lens but on a crop body like the Leica CL it is not so wide.
13. Compose with new angles (up high, down low, no limits!)
Normally I use the Leica M240 optical viewfinder to focus/ compose 99% of my photos. With the Leica CL however I found I was happily switching between the EVF and rear LCD. I tend to use the EVF if using a Leica M manual lens (via adapter) and the LCD for the autofocus 18mm Leica TL lens. Using the LCD to focus meant I no longer need to have my eye pushed up against the camera. This opens so many new opportunities for creative camera angles – up high, down low.
I really enjoyed this CL feature during the wedding. (When I used the Leica M240 + a wide 21mm lens for wedding photos previously I often just preset a distance on the lens. I stopped down and guessed the composition and used the camera over my head / at waist level.(Hyperfocal distance style where you stop the lens down to higher f stop to give greater depth in focus).
..it’s not all one sided!
Results – 3 Reasons Why I prefer the Leica M240!
1. Battery Life (Big is best!)
The larger size and capacity of the Leica M240 battery means you get much more photos per battery charge. 500 photos approx for the M240 battery vs around 220 photos for the Leica CL battery. “Fat” Leica M240 cameras have their uses after all! (*The new slimmed down Leica M10 now comes with a smaller battery than the M240).
In real terms this means the Leica CL eats batteries during a wedding. I had 1 spare battery plus charger but for next years weddings I will buy an additions Leica CL battery. (*Luckily the Leica CL batteries seem to charge quick).
2. Shallow depth of field (DOF)(Full frame wins!)
The Leica CL APS-C system design gives a 1.5x crop factor vs the full frame M240. This means for portraits at a set distance of say 0.7m the Leica M240 will give a more shallow DOF. It is not a problem for me but you might prefer the M240 if you love your creamy bokeh photos!
3. Better Ergonomics (A handful can be nicer!)
After a 9hr wedding using the Leica CL my hand was starting to cramp by the first dance. Please note I was using larger Leica M lenses not the 18mm lens for much of the day. The wider Leica M 240 body seems slightly easier on the hand. I could buy the addition Leica CL hand grip which would probably ease this but i’ve spent enough money already! (If I flex my hand for 10 seconds I was good to go again!).
Debrief – Leica CL Review vs Leica M240
Apologises if I overlooked any blindingly obvious camera features in this Leica CL review. After the wedding yesterday and using the Leica CL vs Leica M240 this was my conclusion. The Leica CL and I are still in our honeymoon period so this CL review may need updating going forward. That said, many of the points listed are simply fact and no time will change that. Safe to say I like the little Leica CL so far and much more than I ever expected!
Wedding photos.. coming soon
*Sorry I didn’t have an example wedding photo for each point made. I have not gone through all of yesterdays weddings photos yet. In a follow up post I will share the final selection of Adam and Becky wedding photos. (Also on my todo list I also need to post lots of other Leica weddings from this year!)
..time to go and cook some lunch/dinner as it is 11pm! These cameras (and related activities) are addictive! 🙂
Tempted by the Leica CL? Treat yourself!
Check out the latest CL prices on Amazon! (UK) / (US)
Qu. Is the Tokina 100/f2.8 Macro the Best Nikon Lens?
>> Here I explain why I use the Tokina 100mm Macro lens more than any other lens on my Nikon cameras (Portraits)
Best Nikon lenses
When I used a digital Nikon D800 DSLR I enjoyed using the typical dreamy lenses like everyone else, giving that super shallow depth of field. Some of my best Nikon lenses / favourites were the Nikkor 50mm f1.2, Nikkor 200mm f2 and Samyang 85mm f1.4 (I prefer it to the Nikkor 85mm f1.4 D that I also have). All these lenses were manual focus but that was fine as most of my Nikon D800 photography was done with manual focus only. I just preferred having full control.
Nikon film cameras
One of my earliest film cameras was a Nikon FM. I then bought a newer Nikon F4 camera and more recently a Nikon F5. 35mm film to my eyes renders much softer than the 36MP Nikon D800 digital files. As such lenses like the Nikkor 50mm f1.2 wide open was now too soft for my taste on film. Perhaps it was because I had got used to the sharp Leica lens look now that I had moved to Leica. Regardless, I needed “better” lenses for the Nikon SLR film cameras if I was to use them. Macro lenses are usually regarded as some of the sharpest in a lens lineup so that is where I looked first. My first Nikon camera macro lens was a Nikkor 60mm f2.8 Micro and I was really impressed.
Tokina 100mm Macro f2.8
The Nikkor 60mm is nice but I liked the idea of a longer focal length to use for portraits. I settled on a Tokina 100mm macro f2.8 AF lens. It has been one of my most used Nikon lenses ever since. I love it and I highly recommend it to any Nikon (& Canon) users. Rather than try to praise the Tokina 100mm macro lens in words I think it is easier to show it with real photos. See below.
Grab yourself one before the price goes up!
I guess what I can do with the Tokina 100mm Macro lens, being a current product (unlike nearly everything else I review!) is give you a direct link so you can go and treat yourself to one. An absolute bargain when you consider that this lens seems to out perform nearly every other Nikon mount lens I use and seems easily on a par with my best Leica lenses. Get one before they put the price up! Amazon UK / Amazon US 🙂
Tokina 100mm Portrait Photos
Sorry if you have seen some of the images before, perhaps in film reviews. I use the Tokina 100mm lens a lot! Click any photo to see more details.