Leica Workshop in Spain (+ X2D, Makina 67, Sigma 85mm..)
Back in March, one of my loyal Patreons contacted me to request a private 1:1 Leica workshop in Spain. I had some contacts there from previous visits so I organised two days of model photography with Leica cameras. I say Leica but Hidde brought along some very nice cameras and lenses for me to try out. This article includes my results from the 100MP digital Hasselblad X2D, the 47MP Leica SL2, a Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN lens, the new Leica Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH SL lens and the classic Makina 67 medium format film camera.
So in no particular order I will cover the following. Click the links to skip straight to the YouTube video/ article (also linked below together with full res photos)
- Hasselblad X2D (100MP medium format digital camera)
- Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG DN lens ..on the 47MP Leica SL2
- Leica Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH SL lens
- Plaubel Makina 67 (medium format film camera)
Private Leica workshops
To date, almost all the Leica workshops I teach have been 1:1 on demand (except a few group sessions back in 2014). Now I’ve relocated closer to London I will start advertising group workshops too FYI. (Is the plan). Follow the blog to stay informed and see dates as they are published.
Hidde’s request was model photography and getting the most from both his Leica cameras but also using any camera. My model photography workshops are not limited to Leica users only. Normally students have some appreciation of Leica (perhaps they own a vintage Leica film camera) but for digital they might use Nikon, Sony, Lumix, Canon etc. In this instance it was exciting for me to see and try out the latest digital Hasselblad!
When it comes to digital cameras there are consumer cameras such as Sony, Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Lumix and then there are premium cameras like Leica and Hasselblad. As a Leica user it takes a lot to be impressed by non-Leica digital cameras but Hasselblad tick that box. The 100MP Hasselblad X2D needs more than just a paragraph so I wrote a full article – Hasselblad X2D vs Leica. This also includes the YouTube video I recorded. To wet your appetite here are a few sample photos from that article.
Hasselblad X2D sample photos
Why Spain? Alicante & Torrevieja
For photographers like myself living in the UK, Spain can offer the perfect cheap winter getaway. I’ve made several trips to the Alicante region of Spain in search of sun and warmer climates during the colder months back home. The city of Alicante has a lot to offer and is popular with tourists. Torrevieja is down the coast from Alicante (perhaps an hour on a bus) and is a much quieter resort.
It’s nice to go there for a change of scenery and make my YouTube videos with a different backdrop. I run in the mornings along the quiet beaches, get back for breakfast and set to work on a video. I work better in brighter warmer conditions (or to be more accurate, I struggle to be productive on dark cold wet days). After quitting my career and becoming a full time YouTuber/ blogger I can now work from anywhere which is a big perk.
Watch this second video I made on how you can make money/ survive as a full time photographer in today’s saturated market
As a model photographer/ portrait photographer using Leica cameras, I’m always looking for that perfect portrait lens. If you know anything about portrait lenses you’ll know that 85mm f1.4 lenses (from any brand) should offer a great starting point. 85mm is longer than the standard 50mm focal length which results in less distortion and more flattering portraits. Fast maximum aperture lenses such as a 85mm f1.4 lens will blur the background of your photo to give pleasing subject background separation.
With that in mind, when Hidde pulled out the new Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens in Leica L mount I was keen to give it a try. To make it even more interesting, he let me try the lens on his Leica SL2 (while he used his Hasselblad X2D camera). If you love autofocus lenses and you use Leica SL cameras there is a strong chance you like Sigma lenses for Leica. Here are some sample photos from our Leica workshop in Spain using the Sigma lens wide open on the Leica SL2.
Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art Leica portraits
As with the few Hasselblad photos shared above, I shoot in RAW then to edit images I just apply my MrLeica Lightroom presets. Quick and easy then I send all photos to the models via WeTransfer.
Need Leica Presets?
I’ve always been impressed with the results from Sigma lenses even if I don’t own them personally. For newer photographers especially, autofocus can let you forget the gear and focus on taking better photos. (I see this a lot at my Leica workshops, from the feedback people give me). Personally, I love smaller lenses but I need great results too. The Sigma 85mm f1.4 is very nice but an f2 lens would have left more of the background detail to enjoy in the photo. Sometimes it’s nice to “nuke” the background but that makes it almost too easy. For this reason my favourite top two Sigma portrait lenses for Leica are the Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN and the amazing Sigma 90mm f2.8 DG DN.
Leica SL2 vs Leica SL
Now as a Leica SL lover/ user you would expect I would like the Leica SL2 camera too. The Leica SL is 24MP and the Leica SL2 is 47MP. At first glance both cameras look the same and work the same way. The difference is the file size. Did a notice a huge improvement when using the Leica SL2 camera over my SL? Not really. The viewfinder of the SL2 is high resolution than my SL but I don’t remember even noticing that difference. I didn’t shoot both cameras side by side in Spain but for real world use the Leica SL is still an excellent camera. If you like to crop heavily in post or use APS-C Leica TL lenses then the Leica SL2 is better but the larger file size will benefit from a faster computer to process them.
If you need superior autofocus and IBIS (image stabilisation) then the Leica SL2 camera wins over the SL. As I use mostly manual focus M glass on my Leica SL and crop/ frame in camera I don’t see the benefits of upgrading for my work. If you want the high res viewfinder, the improved autofocus and IBIS but only 24MP, check out the Leica SL2-S instead.
Models for the Leica workshop in Spain
The biggest limitation when teaching model photography is having a constant supply of reliable and willing beautiful people. I call anyone that stands in front of the camera during a photoshoot a “model” but most are just regular people. What I love the most about scouting normal people for photos is they really appreciate being asked and get excited about our photo session. It gives them a great excuse to get glam’d up for the day and they come away with some beautiful photos and hopefully fun memories too.
This is very different to working with freelance (full time) models. When it’s their day job it’s a tick box exercise and “just another day”. Hopefully I can make the experience better than what they are used to but even so I just love the look in the eyes from someone that has never had professional photos before. Their face just lights up and I enjoy that aspect of my work.
Another lens that Hidde had with him was the just released Leica Summicron-SL 35mm f2 ASPH lens. As the name suggests this is an autofocus Leica SL lens (L mount). What I was more interested in was how similar the lens was to my cheap plastic fantastic Panasonic Lumix 50mm f1.8 AF lens. Also L mount. The dimensions and optical formula are the same for the 50mm Lumix f1.8 and new Leica Summicron 50mm f2 and the 35mm Lumix f1.8 and the new Leica Summicron 35mm f2.
The main differences are that the Leica lenses are in a metal barrel, Lumix are plastic body and Leica state that they use ground glass not moulded and different lens coatings. Leica are also said to work to stricter (higher) tolerances during manufacture. Leica are slightly better in all regards except weight but for the money Lumix offer excellent value. See more info and the YouTube video in the Cheap Autofocus Lenses for Leica article.
Ukrainian girls in Spain
The models I invited for our Spain workshop were both Ukrainian, both Mums and both very hard working. They’d separately relocated to Torrevieja from Ukraine and setup their businesses in the area. As a photographer with an appreciation for Eastern European models (after having worked in Poland, Hungary, Ukraine during my previous career) I was excited to find them in Spain. Tatiana modelled for us one day and Dasha the second day. I knew both girls from a previous visit to Spain. Dasha speaks English but Tatiana not at all but that doesn’t stop our photos. I’ve got so used to communicating with body language only over the years we still get great photos. (Hidde is lucky to have his wife as his full time model so she also modelled for us).
One film camera that tempted me many times over the years was the Plaubel Makina 67. Hidde owned the camera so kindly offered to bring it from the Netherlands so I could try it out during our workshop in Spain. During the height of my medium format film era I owned a lot of the deemed “best cameras”. For 6×7 film I used the Mamiya RZ67 for portraits (I need to use it again!) and Mamiya 7 for something smaller. The Fuji GF670 offered me 6×6 and 6×7. For 6×6 I had cameras like TLR, Hasselblad, Rolleiflex SL66E and the Mamiya 6 to name a few. Note to self. Start shooting more 120 film! (Normally my preference is the size and speed of 35mm film cameras such as Leica).
Shooting with the 6×7 Makina 67
If you are used to the size of say the Mamiya RB or RZ 67 you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the size of the Plaubel Makina 67 camera. What stopped me buying this camera is how fragile they are being bellows cameras. It’s easy to knock the rangefinder out of alignment with the lens extended if you give the camera a bump. I look for hopefully reliable cameras ideally with minimal electronics. The more manual the better for me as usually they can be repaired.
The Makina 67, unlike the Mamiya 6, Mamiya 7 and Fuji GF670, doesn’t need a battery for use, only to power the lightmeter. Hidde had the Makina 67 which has the Nikkor 80mm f2.8 lens. 80mm on 6×7 is similar to a fast 40mm on a full frame camera so great for portraits. There is also the Makina W67 with the Nikkor 55mm f4.5 lens. That gives you roughly 24mm in 35mm terms.
Plaubel Makina 67 portraits
Here are a few Makina 67 portraits from our Leica workshop in Spain. I only shot one roll of 120 Fuji Acros film as I was also testing the above mentioned gear too.
Join Patreon for BTS videos
I’ve shared BTS (behind the scenes) videos from my photoshoots with Dasha and Tatiana on Patreon together with videos from 80+ other shoots. Check out Patreon if interested.
Thanks again to Hidde for letting me test his various cameras and lenses. Great guy and hopefully we’ll be doing more photoshoots together in the future. I offered to run a Leica workshop closer to his home next time, in either Amsterdam or Rotterdam! Follow Hidde on Instagram here.
Next Leica workshop in Spain
Spain is similar to the UK in terms of seasons, just warmer usually. My preference is to visit Spain out of season (October to March) when it’s warmer than England but not too hot. I’ll be going back there this winter so if you want to request a Leica workshop in Spain, as Hidde did, get in touch and we’ll organise something. Note – There is no small print that says you must bring a big bag of exciting cameras and lenses but if you do I’ll likely make a blog post about it!
“Matt is a great guy to hang out with for a multi-day workshop! He’s very hands-on with lots of knowledge and has helped me improve on my model photography skills. I can definitely recommend booking a workshop with Matt if you’re looking to take first steps or improve on your current portrait photography skills!” – Spain Mar’23
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