One Camera One Lens (9 months at 35mm f4!)
Have you ever tried all your photography with one camera, one lens? Could you last 9 months using a 35mm lens at f4 for everything? Every wedding and every photo shoot? If you asked me before I would say no but I managed it. I had no choice but I think I came out the other side a better photographer!
One Camera One Lens – How it came about
One Camera – A Broken Leica M240
Last December I was shooting with my Leica M240 in Poland only to find it was misfocusing and needed recalibrating. The weeks past but I always had a need for my main workhorse camera, the Leica M240 so couldn’t part with it.
One Lens – Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5
I found if I used a 35mm lens and shot it at f4 I had sufficient depth to focus and get my subject sharp. As such the tiny Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5 pancake lens became my do everything lens, every model photography trip and every Leica wedding photography shoot. This was my one camera, one lens setup for 9 months.
Fast Lenses – They make it too easy!
If you have seen my previous photography you may have noticed I love fast lenses, from my early Nikon days using lenses like the Samyang 85mm f1.4, Nikkor 50mm f1.2 Ai-S and Nikkor 200mm f2 Ai-S to some of my Leica-M mount lenses such as the Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5, Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH and of course the mighty Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0. All those lenses shot wide open kind of dissolve the background to leave just the subject to catch the eye in the photo. You can pretty much shoot anything anywhere with a fast lens and it looks good and the look can’t be replicated with an iPhone.
To go from that way of shooting to suddenly having to shoot at f4 on a 35mm lens with most things in the photo in focus was a bit of a shock. I had to make ‘cool’ photos with everything in the photo in focus (or at least visible). Hmm!
Learning to shoot without shallow DOF
I found shooting with most things in focus helped me concentrate on trying to use better or more interesting light, stronger or different compositions and alternative camera angles in addition to working more closely with the models to try to fine tune their pose, look or expression. I am certainly far more picky now and often assist with applying makeup or styling suggestions to help try to make a stronger final image in camera. For a time I used the M240 for test shots then either shot the final image on film with say the Leica M6 or Hasselblad 501C or more recently warmed the model up with the Leica M240 then switched to the digital Hasselblad H3D-31.
Leica Germany Repair – Excellence Leica Service
I managed to finally send my Leica M240 off to the Leica Germany engineers for recalibration at the end of July 2016 and the camera was back with me in August looking literally brand new. I’m 99% sure it received more than just a recalibration and all under the Leica warranty scheme. I cannot speak highly enough of the Leica customer service and you certainly get what you pay for with Leica (in my experience).
One Camera, One Lens – What did I Learn?
I now have the novelty factor of being able to shoot fast lenses again on the Leica M240. I can also shoot a range of longer focal lengths again, 50mm, 75mm, 90mm and so on. Before the period of shooting with just a 35mm lens I regarded myself as a 50mm man. Coming out the other side I would say I’m probably equally 35mm or 50mm biased and do find 75mm and 90mm quite limiting with their tighter crop for regular use. Equally during my Leica Noctilux phase I shot everything at f1 regardless as to whether it was a flat brick wall or something against a distant backdrop. Shooting this week with the Noctilux I am shooting perhaps ‘smarter’ in that if a model is against a wall I might stop the lens down to f2 to improve the sharpness or if a subject is further away I might shoot at f1.4 to get a slightly crisper photo than just everything very soft. It is a battle of styles as I love super sharp such as the Hasselblad Zeiss 120mm Macro-Planar CF lens or the Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO but also love pleasing bokeh and the painterly feel of say the Noctilux or Pre-ASPH Leica Summicron 90mm f2 shot wide open. It’s a balance and depends on the subject too.
It not ideal to have a semi-function main workhorse camera (or any camera to that matter!) but I don’t think it did me any harm overall. That said it is nice to be able to use all my Leica M mount lenses again. 🙂
One Camera, One Lens Photography
Here are a few recent example images with the Leica M240 and Voigtlander 35mm f2.5 Color Skopar in Hamburg, Germany
Many more example images in my last Leica M240 post