With my new (to me) Leica M9 black body arriving soon my head is already starting to wander with regards to lenses on my to buy list.
To recap from my last post (here) I bought the Leica M9 body to let me shoot Voigtlander lenses on a full frame sensor body. I want to have a smaller camera to use for documentary style wedding photography. The D800 is great but is hardly discrete. So my brain is already excited at the thought of all the Leica M lenses I can now use. That said I have started to think what lenses I would buy next.
The Leica M mount lenses I own so far are:
> Voigtlander Nokton Classic 40mm f1.4
> Voigtlander Color Skopar 21mm f4
Leica M mount lenses on my to buy list:
I understand many Leica purists would never put a non-Leica lenses on a Leica body but until I have a fatter wallet I am more than happy with the results some of the Voigtlander lenses give. I have my eye on the following 2 lenses in no particular order:
> Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 Asph II (Steve Huff review here – http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2011/12/02/voigtlander-nokton-35-1-2-aspherical-ii-lens-review-on-the-leica-m9/
Why these lenses you may ask? The Voigtlander 35mm f1.2 is said to be sharper than my Voigtlander 40mm wide open and I would buy it for it’s shallow DOF low light abilities. I love my Nikkor 50mm f1.2 AI-s on my Nikon D800 so a f1.2 lens on the Leica M9 just seems to make sense to me.
UPDATE* I recently read Steve’s review (above) on the Zeiss Planar 50mm f2. Oh my!!! That ticks all my boxes and more! Added to list and now quite possibly at the top! I already own an M42 Zeiss Planar that I have used on my D800 and it i crazy sharp at f1.8, plus the colours are far nicer than the Nikon glass.
I will be using the Leica M9 for wedding photography aswell my model photography. In the UK wedding photography will normally include some low light photography even during the daytime due to our changeable weather. As a Leica M9 wedding photographer I am well aware that the M9 cannot compete with my Nikon D800 at high ISO. By using fast lenses (ie. wide aperture like f1.2, f1.4, f2) I can try to shoot at or below ISO 800 on the Leica body to avoid excessive noise on the images.
It terms of focal length 35mm on my Nikon D800 can be too tight in small spaces such as a cramped room full of people at a wedding reception. I think my 21mm f4 will be a little wide but more so will too slow for the dim indoor lighting faced at many wedding venues. The Voigtlander 28mm f2 Ultron provides the perfect focal length and speed to accompany my current 40mm f1.4 lens. As the Voigtlander 28mm f2 is also cheaper than it’s 35mm cousin I may buy this lens quite soon ready for the next wedding.
I am not really interested in focal lengths greater than 50mm on the Leica M9 as I can use the Nikon D800 for longer distances. The Nikkor 200mm f2 AI-s is a beast of a lens so lets me get my discrete wedding photography photos from a safe distance. Up close most people would run a mile due to it’s size but that is where the Leica M9 comes in, for discrete documentary style wedding photography up close.
For info on all Voigtlander lenses see here – https://www.voigtlaender.de/?lang=en
Leica M9 wedding photography samples coming soon! See here for my wedding photography style – http://matthewosbornephotography.co.uk/Leica-Wedding-Photographer-UK.html
UPDATE – September 2013* I now have all the above lenses. By far my favourite is the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii. Sharp with a shallow DOF and easy to nail focus at f1.2
I ran one of my photography tuition and lighting workshops today with model Leia who kindly helped me out. The guy coming for my photography workshop brought his Leica M9 and kindly let me try it with my favourite Voigtlander Classic 40mm f1.4 lens. The full frame CCD 18MP Kodak sensor in the Leica didn’t disappoint. The colours alone blew me away! The build quality feels fantastic and it weighs a ton! More so, I finally see the results of the Voigtlander Classic (Nokton) 40mm f1.4 lens and all it’s bokeh beauty on full frame! My first real camera was a Panansonic Lumix G1 which is were I first met and fell in love with the Voigtlander 40mm look. That was a m43 sensor (x2 crop) so it equated to 80mm on a 35mm camera. I then bought the Voigtlander Bessa R3A 35mm rangefinder film camera just for that lens.
I have wanted a small form digital camera to work alongside my Nikon D800 DSLR for my model photography and wedding photography for a few months so I can mount my Voigtlander lenses. I looked at the Fuji X-Pro1 but from reading reviews settled on a buying a Sony NEX-6.
The Sony NEX-6 arrived last week and just looks like a plastic flimsy toy. I’m sure it can take nice photographs but it just gave me no confidence. I am used to solid build film cameras like the Voiglander Bessa R3A rangefinder and Mamiya RZ67 Pro II. Safe to say I wont be using it.
So.. After the photography workshop I hit the internet and starting my Leica M9 research. Several hours later I saw a bid ending on eBay for a black Leica M9 body.
The rest was history!
Used Leica M9 – Bought!
I never thought I would see this day but I think I can now safely say I am a ‘proper’ photographer. The Leica M9 suits me down to the ground as I shoot manual focus lenses on the Nikon D800 anyway and I love older lenses made of metal and glass. It will work very well along side similar well build cameras and share lenses with my Voigtlander Bessa R3A.
Another model photography image with the Leica M9 from Ukraine last weekend. Model Yulya drinking a cuppa on her balcony. Available light portrait.
Lens – Voigtlander Nokton Classic 40mm f1.4
B&W in camera JPEG with contrast enhanced in LR3.
I love the film look of the Leica M9 images. I don’t think I could ask for more. Images look like they came straight from the darkroom yet in fact it was the result of 2 minutes in Lightroom. 🙂
Leica M9 JPEG vs DNG
When I first bought my Leica M9 I was used to using my Nikon D800 in B&W JPEG mode. I shoot mostly black and white for personal work and model photography / fashion and it was just easier to upload say 200 images from a fashion shoot, delete a few blinks, maybe tweek the contrast and sharpen a little, watermark, export and send all images to the model just a few hours later. This was my Leica Lightroom workflow at the end of last year. I then read more and thought maybe I should shoot DNG format then convert to black and white in post processing. I have been doing that for most of 2014. I couldn’t understand when looking back at old Leica M9 images why I couldn’t match that magical Leica M9 look. I tried a few things and thought it must just be down to me using different glass. The DNG files look more CMOS sensor like, smoother with finer detail yet if you add grain it doesn’t improve the image.
Here are a few sample B&W JPEG images taken with my Leica M9 last year –
So what has changed?
Yesterday a did a Leica fashion photography shoot with model / photography student Ellie and we headed out to the countryside. I took my Leica M9 + Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 v2 plus two film cameras (Mamiya RZ67 Pro II loaded with Ilford FP4+ and Leica M2 loaded with colour Kodak Portra 160). Normally if I want to see B&W tones when I shoot I set the camera to black and white basic JPEG + DNG then normally bin the JPEGs after and process then DNG files, converting to B&W. Today however I started looking at the M9 basic JPEG files first and I was blown away. It was those JPEG imperfections that had been making my previous Leica images so perfect for my taste. Couple this effect with the image making ability of the Noctilux 50f1 shot wide open and suddenly you have medium format film looking images straight from the camera. The look is a cross between 35mm film and medium format film in my eyes (depending on the image) but a look that I am over the moon with. More than 200 images can be sent to the model without any editing work though that is not why I am over the moon! 🙂 . I fear that editing them to try to perfect the flaws will kill that imperfect look that makes them so perfect. I was trying to describe what I was seeing to the model and I said they look like a series of still from a Lana Del Rae video. If you have not seen any of her music videos look her up and that is what the images remind me of. I love the style her videos are shot in so I guess this is why I like the images. Sorry for the gushing post!
Leica M9 Flash Photography
Here is a sample from the weekend location shoot with model Harriet. I wanted to do some daylight photography mixing ambient light and strobes using the Leica. Here is the first sample using a single off camera flash fired via PC sync cord. It was too windy for umbrella light modifiers and my new 16″ beauty dish had not yet arrived so I used a ringflash on the flash head to diffuse the light onto the model.
Photo taken with Leica M9 + Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii lens (though I was using other lenses too).
If you would like to learn how to light a model on location or in the studio you should join me for one of my workshops where I will help you understand both your camera and the light around you.
I know many of the reviews on the Leica M9 are not that favourable for low light work but I am more than happy with it’s performance using a fast lens (wide aperture such as f1.4).
Above is sample with model Mira in Ukraine using the Leica M9 + VC Nokton 40mm f1.4
More examples below with model Gina and LeicaM9 + VC Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii, UK
Obviously the results from the 2 Voigtlander lenses are not really comparable as the 35/1.2 is almost 4x the price of the little VC 40/1.4. The VC 35/1.2 is sharp wide open whereas the 40mm tends to give a more vintage look and is softer.
After coming from a Nikon D800 DSLR I think the main advantage some people may overlook when doing low light Leica photography is being able to use very slow shutter speeds handheld with relative ease and still get sharp usable results.
The 40/1.4 example shot is at 1/15, IS0 800 but a shutterspeed of 1/8 is easy enough to do free standing and if you have something to lean against or can sit down can do 1/4 or slower if need to.
Leica M9 Macro Photography
Leica M9 Macro Photography. It is possible after all! 🙂
This is f1.2 macro photography using a Voigtlander Classic Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii + my old friend the Raynox 250 macro lens clipped on. I used hyperfocal distance to focus as the Raynox focuses at a distance of 12cm on any camera.
There is vignetting on the 35mm lens but it would not be a problem on a 50mm lens or longer.
As expected it is difficult to judge / guesstimate focus at f1.2 using hyperfocal distance but stopped down to f4-f8 it is very easy to nail focus.
When I started out my photography with my first bridge camera 4 years ago macro was my thing, as portraits are today. I used to use a Panasonic Lumix G1 with a Voigtlander Classic Nokton 40mm f1.4 lens via adapter + the Raynox 250 macro lens attached. It was a killer combination for macro and I got some great photos from that setup. If you have both these lenses already you will correctly tell me that the Raynox 250 will not clip onto a 43mm filter thread diameter of a VC Nokton 40mm f1.4. Correct. But, if you attach the metal vented hood to the VC 40/1.4 you can then clip it to the larger 52mm filter threaded hood.
I was lying in bed yesterday morning and thought there is no reason I cannot do the same macro photography with the Leica M9. It is not as easy to focus a Leica as I cannot see what I am focusing on for close-ups as the rangefinder focusing system does not operate at a distance closer than 0.7M.
Why do I want to do macro photography with a Leica?
At my last UK Leica wedding the Leica M9 could do 90% of the wedding but I used my Nikon D800 for wedding ring photos (macro photography) and for wide angle shots where the Voigtlander 21mm f4 was not quite wide enough for ‘wow’ shots (Used a Samyang 14mm f2.8 instead).
For my next Leica Wedding I can use the Raynox 250 + Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f2 prime lens for macro photos such as wedding rings and I will use my new Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide Heliar lens for the wide angle photos such as inside the church.
I am toying with the idea of a 75mm or 90mm prime for Leica portraits but I have the amazing Nikkor 200mm f2 AI-s, Nikkor 50mm f1.2 AI-s and Samyang 85mm f1.4 lenses for the Nikon D800.
A couple of lenses that interest me for the Leica M9:
Helios 40-2 85mm f1.5
Konica Hexanon 60mm f1.2
I will post some real Leica M9 macro shots (of something more interesting that a receipt!) using a 50mm prime lens when I get chance.
Unedited shot from Leica M9 using the low saturated colour JPEG setting (as away from laptop!) Pleased with tones and the shadow depth of field using my Voigtlander 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii wide open (at f1.2). Fantastic lens.
Another unedited Leica M9 sample with the Voigtlander 35/1.2
Leica M9 vs. Medium Format Film
I think used wide open the Voigtlander 35mm f1.2 on the Leica M9 can give an almost medium format film look due to the shallow DOF and colour tones. I think if I had used one of my medium format film cameras and 120 Kodak Portra colour film it would not have been hugely different from this shot.
The 35mm is for sure my favourite plus most expensive lens so far. I do not currently own any Leica glass so I am basing my thoughts on owning: Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 (reviews to come), V 21mm f4, V 28mm f2 Ultron and VC Nokton 40mm f1.4 + Zeiss ZM 50mm f2 T, Jupiter 3 (50/1.5) and Industar 52mm f2.8 (review to follow).
For value for money the Russian lenses can do a fine job and the little VC Nokton 40/1.4 the best value Voigtlander (I think).
I was in Amsterdam (Schiphol airport railway terminal) waiting for connection so had to get my Leica M9 out for some street photography practise! My Voigtlander 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii would have been ideal in the low light but I was travelling light so had brought my smaller lighter Voigtlander 28mm f2 Ultron instead.
For this shot I knew what I wanted so set a low shutter to blur the train yet shoot handheld. It was shot at 1/12 I think. I found it quite addictive but the train came too soon so I didn’t get much time to get creative.
Coming soon.. I think my next lens will be the Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide Heliar.
The 28mm was a bit too tight for some photo oppotunities I saw. The VC 15/4.5 is small very sharp with little distortion. It has some bad reviews on the Leica M9 due to the purple vignetting (as lens mounts too close to sensor) but as I shoot mostly B&W photography it wont really be a problem for me and I can correct in PP (or set a similar Leica coded lens in camera to minimise the effect). My Samyang 14mm f2,8 on my Nikon D800 is a brilliant lens but there is quite a lot of distortion at the edges..plus the main issue.. it wont fit my Leica! 🙂 Coming soon!
Leica M9 & The Future of Film
As a keen film photographer here are my thoughts after recently buying a Leica M9..
I have just moved from my Nikon D800 to a Leica M9 (for my digital photography) and must say i’m blown away with the Leica experience. The Leica M9 Kodak CCD sensor renders photos more like film so it really threatens my future use of shooting film.
One thing the Leica M9 cannot do is provide such shallow depths of field (DOF) so I hope my medium format film cameras at least still have a future.
Here is an example with my Mamiya RZ67 & Model Emily:
I think the Contax 645, ARAX-CM (Kiev 8Cool, Moskva-5 and Mamiya RZ still hopefully have their place. As for my Nikon FM and Voigtlander Bessa R3A rangefinder.. do they?
Kodak Portra film captures such nice skin tones for portraits; model photography and wedding photography so maybe yes. The Nikon FM has the upper hand as I can use any of my Nikon mount lenses such as a Nikkor 200mm f2 that gives sharp shallow DOF images to almost match medium format film. The Bessa can use my Leica M mount glass but the result would not be hughly different from using the Leica M9 (i think) (IMO).. not yet done a side by side comparison.. yet.. 🙂
Conclusion.. I don’t think DSLRs can threaten film photography (or those that like the film look) but Leica.. it definitely make you stop and think!
Black and white JPEG SOOC (straight from SD card) hence no watermark.
I think the soft focus and Leica B&W tones help give this shot a more vintage look.
Here is another example Leica M9 B&W JPEG SOOC which to me also doesn’t look digital. Katie sorting out her makeup in Regent’s Park, London shot with the lens I recently bought in Ukraine (on a FED-2 film camera for under £10), the Industar 26M 52mm f2.8 shot wide open at f2.8. A nice little lens and very light. Less contrast vs. modern lenses due to the older lens coating but I like it.
For anyone who has seen my recent work you will know that I have been using my new Leica M9 for both my model photography and wedding photography. You may have also seen that I have a thing for black and white and that I also normally use the in camera black & white JPEGs from both my Leica and Nikon D800.
I love the look of the Leica M9 photos but other than the rendering I couldn’t quite put my finger on why that was. If I compare my Nikon D800 vs. Leica M9 on paper the dynamic range of the Nikon D800 is an impressive 14.4EV vs 11.7EV for the M9 . This means the D800 it retains more details in the shadow and highlight areas of photos.
As I shoot JPEG format for B&W (+DNG for colour) I reviewed the dynamic range for the Leica M9 JPEGs. Leica M9 JPEGs have a dynamic range of 7.84EV so half that of Nikon D800 RAW files.
This may sound a poor performance by the Leica but for me it is what makes the B&W photos it produces. I like high contrast shots as above and I love the fall off of light for the blacks.
The D800 shots can often have grey-black shadow areas showing all the detail. I like the more old fashioned look black blacks myself.
I tend to do black and white photography with my Leica M9. On occasion though I do take colour images and use the DNG files (rather than Leica M9 B&W in camera JPEGs).
In a recent post I compared desaturated Leica M9 colours to Kodak Portra film which I love for my model photography / wedding photography portraits.
The normal Leica M9 DNG file colours tend to be much more saturated and for my subjects often too saturated. For me the standard Leica M9 colours are more like colour slide film or perhaps Fuji Superia film.
I did a models photography shoot in Ukraine with model Katya last weekend and her red dress and red lipstick suited brighter colours. In this mini series I really liked the Leica M9 colours and they made a nice contrast to the desaturated tones when I shot with model Yulya the day earlier.
Here are a few more Leica M9 examples using the very sharp Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f2 T lens.
Desaturated Leica M9 Colours vs Kodak Portra 160 Film
Yesterday I had the pleasure of providing Anna and Vici’s wedding photography for their wedding in Warwickshire, UK. The day started for me at the Coventry wedding venue, The Saxon Mill, where we had the ceremony and wedding breakfast once everyone had arrived. Later we moved onto the Warwick Arms Hotel in Warwick where the evening guests joined us.
Anna and Vici had opted for my Black and White Wedding Photography Package so I was already super happy before the day had even started. I tend to see all my photos in B&W and as shadows and highlights and use my cameras in B&W JPEG mode (JPEG fine + RAW so have the colour negative if required). Black and white photography lets me use light as a major part of each image as there is no distraction of colour. B&W photography also places more emphasis on texture, shape and form and this simplicity helps viewers relive the memories of the day.
Leica wedding photography captured in black and white tones gives my clients a set of timeless looking film like images. The B&W tones really suit my documentary wedding photography style. I like to photograph by available light where possible as I can see my images more easily however if the light levels are too low I will use additional artificial lights to mimic the effect of sunlight. I then balance the ambient light and strobe lights in camera to get the desired look and exposure.
Yesterday was a typical British winter day being mostly overcast with heavy rain at times. Both venues were dark inside so I knew I would need additional lighting. New for 2014 I used a combination of studio lights and speedlights to increase light levels.
A quick mention and a huge thanks to Gary at Lencarta UK for resending me two studio lights next day delivery on Thursday January 24, 2014 after the first package was lost in the post. I can highly recommend the Lencarta light products. I have used a few different models and all are very well made and offer excellent value for money. They can be described as a UK equivalent of the US Paul Buff Alien Bees in terms of cost but that is where the comparison ends. Technically they are far superior and the build quality is superb. Gary also offers exceptional customer service which is priceless in situations like these!
My Wedding Photography Camera Bag
If you follow me on Flickr or Facebook you will know I have quite a few lenses to choose from for both the Leica M9 and Nikon D800 cameras. I always take two camera bodies and tend to have one camera with a wider lens and one camera body with a short telephoto lens. I found in the past that if you take too many lenses you miss photos as spend more time trying to decide what lens to use than composing or anticipating a photo. I try to learn from each wedding so to keep improving year on year and with each shoot. As a result, yesterday I packed the camera gear with an approximate usage in brackets –
The Nikon D800 DSLR with the 35-70/2.8 covered most situations and was the most used setup on the day. I tend to use the D800 for fast action photography, low light photography (>ISO 800) and group photos where I may want to crop yet retain a large file size. I use the Leica M9 for reportage style photography working close to my subjects, often in tight spaces with a wide angle lens as people notice the smaller Leica camera less so I can capture natural looking expressions more easily and within a meter of my subject.
If I take off my Leica hat for a moment to give honest non-bias feedback, the most enjoyable lens to use was the Nikkor 50mm f1.2 AI-s for night photography. It gives subjects a magic glow yet it still sharp if you zoom in on the images. In second place was the CV 35/1.2 for the same reason. Both lenses render photos beautifully at f1.2 and seem to capture more light that visible with the naked eye. A joy to use for night photography without flash.
My most enjoyable part of the day was the downtime between the ceremony and the wedding breakfast. No pressure and a time to play and get creative. Working in the very ‘cosy’ confinements of The Saxon Mill and using an off camera studio light strobe as my light source I was able to mingle amongst the guests with the Leica M9 + Zeiss ZM 21/2.8. I used the single source of light to illuminate my subjects all around the room working the camera settings to get the desired exposure. I like high contrast black and white photography and the artificial light source gave me a similar look to low afternoon sun. A great feeling as the rain battered the windows from outside and thunder rumbled overhead.
Here is a wedding portrait looking over the water at the Saxon Mill
As with every wedding I wish I had done a few things differently but on the whole a great start to the 2014 wedding photography season. I was pleased with my choice of equipment and my new Zeiss ZM 21/2.8 was a worthy addition to my camera bag complementing the 35mm and 50mm focal lengths nicely.
A separate wedding photography gallery post will follow once I have gone through all the images. A big thanks once again to Anna and Vici for the invite and to all the guests for making me feel so welcome.
On Saturday I covered Dutch photographer and fellow Leica M9 shooter Patrick and his now wife Sam’s wedding at Upper House, Hayfield in the Peak District. Patrick is a successful architect with a keen eye for detail so the pressure was really on this time!
Wedding Photography – One Camera
I normally shoot with a single Leica M9 and have a Nikon D800 in the car as a back up camera. Using one Leica M body keeps things simple and me nice and mobile. For the last few weddings I used the 50mm Leica Noctilux f1.0 as my main lens for as much of the day as possible shooting it wide open. I have a Leica M8 but the rangefinder suddenly shifted out of focus six months plus ago so it is currently out of action. The only problem with one camera and prime lenses is if I want to quick do a wide shot then say a telephoto shot such as during speeches or the first dance I have to quickly change lenses. Although this can be done very quickly and on the go there is always a chance I might miss something.
Wedding Photography – Two Camera Bodies
As I knew Patrick also had a Leica M9 body I asked if I could use it for the day to give me two Leica M9 cameras and a similar setup to what I used in my pre-Leica days when I used a Nikon D800 and a Nikon D700. Patrick agreed so I was all set for the day. I knew the indoor photos would be in some tight spaces so wanted wide angle lenses on one body and then telephoto lens on the other to get closer to the action when I wasn’t able to on foot.
Lens Choice (for the 95% of the day*)
Camera 1 (M9)
21mm – Carl Zeiss Biogon 21mm f2.8
28mm – Voigtlander Ultron 28mm f2
Camera 2 (M9)
75mm – Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO
90mm – Leica Summicron 90mm f2 Pre-ASPH
*There were a few photos taken with the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH and some also with the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4.
When using one camera for wedding photography my most used focal length is 50mm, then followed by 35mm. When I had two camera bodies for a wedding both of these FL were hardly used. I really enjoyed the 28f2 / 90f2 combo for much of the day and I think I kept the ISO on both cameras at ISO 200 all day despite it being typical overcast British weather. I am happy using slow shutter speeds and enjoy using off camera lighting.
Anything else new?
Yes, my style continues to evolve. For my last 2 or 3 Leica weddings shot over the summer I used my Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 wide open for much of the day. That followed the same style of my model photography that was also taken at the widest lens apertures to give the shallow depth of field look. Recently, and perhaps since getting my Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO I have started to enjoy stopping my lenses down my lenses to give sharper results. The model photography photos take on more of a fashion look in my eyes when they are sharper. I often use any apertures from f2.8 to f11 depending on the lens. The lens I stop down the most is the Leica Elmar 135mm f4 as it can be softer at wider apertures. This was the first wedding since my current taste had changed so many of the photos were shot at f2.8-f5.6 on the day where in the past I aimed to shoot wide open as much as possible.
Here is the first sample from Sam and Patrick’s wedding, taken of the beautiful Sam just before she met her Dad to walk down the isle.
Would I buy a second Leica M9 for weddings?
Not at this stage but I think I will get my Leica M8 repaired and use that as my second Leica M body for wide angle shots. The 1.33x crop factor of the M8 would make my Zeiss Biogon 21/2.8 the equivalent of a 28mm f2.8 lens on the M9 which is perfect for my needs. This is what I started to do when I first bought the M8.
See my Leica weddings and engagement photography on my sister site, www.LeicaWeddingPhotographer.co.uk
Here a some of the digital Leica M9 camera photo highlights from yesterday’s engagement photography session in London. Full blog post to follow to include 35mm film and medium format film photos on – www.LeicaWeddingPhotographer.co.uk
Gear used: I kept the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 on the Leica M9 for the entire shoot. I used my Leica M3 + Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 @f1 for 35mm film and my Rolleiflex SL66E for 120 medium format images.
Alex & Andy – Digital Highlights
Leica M9 digital photos vs Voigtlander Bessa R3A film photos
Leica M9 vs. 35mm B&W Film Comparison (with same lenses on both cameras).
I think this model portrait of Yulya taken in Ukraine looks a similar to low contrast film such as Fomapan. I have not shot any black and white 35mm film since buying my Leica as I keep telling myself the B&W photos from the Leica M9 are almost indistinguishable from those I have taken with my Voigtlander Bessa R3A film camera.
So.. time to make a head to head comparison using the same lenses on both cameras (Voigtlander glass). I hope film can proof me wrong and come out the clear winner but I think the Bessa is up against strong competition.
I have 2 fashion shoots booked in London tomorrow with model friends so i’ll take both cameras and do a little side by side comparison experiment. Once the film is developed I will post some samples from both cameras. Will we be able to tell the difference!?
Today I did another location fashion shoot. This time at Blighty Bazaar, Leamington Spa with designer Viv Whelan, MUA Bina M and model Georgina. I had no idea what to expect when I arrived but I knew I wanted to shoot both film and digital. (I had been reading about the Leica S2 so that had pushed me even more so to shoot some ‘proper’ 6×7 format film with my Mamiya RZ67 Pro II).
Film Photography – As it was a desgner shoot I wanted more satured colours so chose to load 120 Kodak Ektar 100. I wanted a sharp lens so picked the Mamiya Sekor 110mm f2.8. The Mamiya 65mm f4 is possibly even sharper but I find is often too wide for portrait work. I used the standard 6×7 format RZ film back for maximum resolution capture (rather than 6×6 or 645 I also own). I also used a RZ Polaroid back to take a few test shots with the RZ before moving onto roll film (and also just for the fun of it!). I loaded Fuji FP100C colour instant film (ISO 100 speed).
Digital photography – I chose my current favourite setup – Leica M9 + Leica Noctilux 50m f1.0 v2. As it was fashion for once I stopped the lens down to f5.6 to mirror the RZ settings for light metering purposes.
Results – I am interested to see the film photography results and will share a full blog post once the film has been scanned/ developed comparing the Leica M vs Mamiya RZ. I often rave about Leica everything so I want to see if the RZ can win me over doing what it does best.
The title of this photo is “Crime Passionel“, the name of the hat that the very talented Viv Whelan spent all day yesterday making in advance of our shoot.
I love nothing more than collaboration fashion shoots where creative people that are strong in their field all come together and together make something amazing. I could happy do shoots like this everyday despite the pressure to get it right and move onto the next garment all within a limited timeframe. Great day! 🙂
Leica M9 Model Photography
Leica M9 Price – was it worth the upgrade from the Nikon D800?
As a UK Leica wedding photographer / model photographer I first tried the Leica M9 for model photography in the studio when it first arrived a few weeks ago. (*I realise it is not designed for this). After saving up enough to cover the used Leica M9 price tag I had high hopes. Sadly I found that when it came to models and portraits I could not get as close to my subjects as I normally could with the Nikon D800 lenses (with my Leica M mount lenses) so I struggled a little.
Undetered yesterday I had a full day model shoot with 2 models in a beautiful old house location so took the Leica M9 + VC 28/2, VC 40/1.4 and Zeiss ZM 50/2. To try to make my life more difficult I also decided to use no flash and used ambient + a bike light to double as a video light.
It was my second shoot with Polish model Nella so I was expecting good things.. here are some of the initial results. I like the B&W out the camera JPEGs so shoot that for B&W + DNG if want colour.
Having less kit made me very mobile and I could focus more on the composition. I took 700 shots on the day and didn’t miss the Nikon D800. I was impressed by the Leica M9 environmental portraits and next time will hesitate before grabbing the Nikon D800 first in the studio.
Leica Model Photography / Fashion Photography with Gina
Leica M9 Wedding Photographer – My First Leica Wedding!
Jane, a fellow photographer friend ask me to be a second shooter today for her wedding clients Josie and Craig. As this took the pressure off me I thought today is the day to start my new style of wedding photography. I bought a Leica M9 body which arrived a few days ago and I wanted to push myself to be more of a documentary style photographer that is in the thick of the action to get those intimate shots. In the past I have used my Nikon D800 and often a Nikkor 200mm f2 AI-s zoom lens to pick people off at a distance for candid shots. As nice as the lens is it is big and not very discrete. I liked the idea of the small form of the Leica where I can blend in to look like one of the wedding guests. I normally also use a lot of strobe light (mostly off camera) in my D800 wedding photography.
So, the Leica Challenge I set myself for today’s church wedding was:
1)Use the Leica as much as possible for practise and examples for my wedding portfolio.
2)Use as few lenses as possible.
3)Don’t use flash. Ambient light only.
4)Get in close to the action.
In addition to buying a Leica M9 body I also wanted some more Leica M mount lenses ready for my Leica M9 wedding debut! After lots of research I bought myself a Voigtlander Ultron 28mm f2 and a Zeiss ZM T Planar 50mm f2. I already own a Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 and Voigtlander 21mm f4. I woke this morning to a heavy rain and dark skies so my first thoughts were to leave the VC 21/4 at home. That was my biggest regret of the day and I will take for all future shoots especially when so tiny.
Approximate lens usage today it was:
Nikon D800 & Samyang 14mm f2.8 – 5% (for a few wide shots)
Nikon D800 & Rollei Planar 50mm f1.8 on macro extension tube – 5% (for macros) Leica M9 & Voigtlander Ultron 28mm f2 – 70% (fantastic lens even wide open)(my new fav!) Leica M9 & Zeiss ZM T Planar 50mm f2 – 15% (contrasty & nice for tighter shots)
Leica M9 & Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 – 5% (I was rushing and took it out my bag by mistake!)
My First Leica Wedding – Feedback:
So, how did I get on with my challenge? As you can see from the lenses/ cameras used I used the Leica M9 for probably well over 90% of the images taken and only 2 lenses for most of the day. I had the VC 28mm lens on the camera most so I had to be in close to my subjects to fill my viewfinder. I was lucky as the sun came out later so I didn’t use strobes once all day. Even in the church I was able to shoot at f2, 1/30 and ISO 640.
That Leica M9 Look:
I started out my wedding photography a few years ago shooting colour photos as most people do. For 2013 the majority of my work in now black and white so I managed to persuade a couple to buy a black and white wedding photography package from me. I shot B&W JPEGs on the D800 and 35mm B&W Kodak T-Max 100 film. I like the look of the B&W JPEGs from the D800 but they lack the emotion and life you can capture shooting film. I like the film look and do a lot of film photography with my models. For fashion photography style shoots I often use medium format film cameras such as Mamiya RZ67 and Contax 645. But, despite loving the film look I have decided it is not practical and economical to shoot masses of film for a wedding. It just takes me too long to hand develop the film, scan and edit to prepare for clients when on mass. It is great for selective model shots. So, where is this leading you may wonder. Well.. I found that ‘look’ I craved from film yet in a convenient digital format. The 18MP Kodak CCD full frame sensor coupled with my nice Voigtlander and Zeiss lenses render the Leica M9 black and white JPEGs in such a way that it looks like film. I was blow away with the results straight out the camera. Over the moon in fact! So much so that I wont even upload the Leica DNG files (also taken today)(DNG+JPEG fine). I might crop a few images but other than that the client can have the selected images as they are. Zero batch editing required. This is how I like to work!
(For model photography the Nikon D800 is still the winner as I found on my last Leica Model Shoot. (I cannot work near enough with the Leica M mount lenses). For my average model photography shoot I may take 200-300 images. I shoot B&W JPEGs, upload to LR3, resize, sharpen, tag, export. Job done. If I can now do weddings in the same manner i’m eternally happy! I like to edit individual film photography model shots but I really dread the thought of editing 1000 wedding images. It just becomes a burden on my shoulders until completed).
“You Can’t Do A Wedding With a Leica M9”!?
Erm.. I think I proved today with my first rangefinder camera wedding experience that you most certainly CAN use a Leica M9 for wedding photography! It doesn’t just try to fill the shoes of the Nikon D800 but instead sets a new standard that is not even attainable by Nikon (D800 or D4) due to the unique rendering from the Leica M9 sensor and Leica M lenses.
I need to read up on any macro option for the Leica. If I can cover this aspect of wedding photography for detail shots such as the rings then the Nikon D800 will become a backup camera if I have a problem with the Leica. The D800 still has a place as it does excel for model photography and fashion shoots due to the crisp 36MP images and high dynamic range.
Rodinal Stand Development (How To!) / Rodinal Developer
Rodinal Stand Development – This was my preferred method of B&W film developing when I first started film photography and developing film at home. Article provides a how to guide together with sample photos and thoughts along the way.
PART 1: The basics – Rodinal Stand Development
PART 2: More in depth – Rodinal Semi-Stand Development
PART 1: Rodinal Stand Development
Rodinal R09 One Shot / R09 developer
When home developing B&W film I normally I use a mix of Xtol & Rodinal to stand develop my film but today I tried just Rodinal, 1:100. I say Rodinal but the formula I use is actually called R09 One Shot or R09 developer. You can buy it in 125ml bottles from eBay.
Adox Rodinal / Adox Adonal
Rodinal developer is sold in a few different forms. In addition to R09 developer (One Shot) I also have Adox Rodinal in a bottle that looks like this and it is also sold as Adox Adonal. I have not tried the Adonal version but the bottle looks almost identical to Adox Rodinal.
Where to buy Rodinal?
I think I bought my very first bottle of Rodinal developer in a camera lab but since then tend to buy most things online as it is just easier. In the UK you can get Adox Rodinal from Amazon if you don’t live near a big city: Adox Rodinal – Amazon (UK)
Paterson tank (Film developing tank) + Developing
For my 120 film reel depth in the Paterson tank I needed 600ml approx (to be safe) so used 6ml of Rodinal to tap water. Normally I develop for 19-23 mins so I did not want to wait the usual ‘1 hour’. I timed 30mins and did 1 agitation at 15mins (so this is semi-stand developing really)(for even results/ increased contrast) at 20 degrees.
Rodinal Developer Times
The standard Rodinal developer times that most people use or mention online is the famour 1 hour duration. If you are new to using the Rodinal developer I would say start with 60 minutes and check the results. If for you the film develops a little too exposed/ bright for you taste then next time shorten the Rodinal developer times by 10mins. You can just play around with it to taste. I have found there is not a hard and fast rule and I always experiment with different times and temps to see the effect.
Film roll #1 – Stand development (Mamiya RZ67)
This was a model photography portfolio shoot with UK model Josie. I used my Mamiya RZ67 and Fuji Acros film. She had mainly digital photos taken on the day but when I seen a nice pose I grab the Mamiya RZ67 / Contax 645 for some film photography shots.
Mamiya RZ67 + Fuji Acros film developed with Rodinal
Rodinal developer characteristics
The end result.. I actually much prefer this to my normal developing look for this photo at least. Very sharp, highlights not blown (nearly always are usually) and nice contrast and tonal range. I’m impressed!
Rodinal shelf life? (How to test)
Rodinal is regarded by most to have a long shelf life, even if the bottle has been opened and is not air tight. A simple way to test if the Rodinal developer is still active is to add a few drop of Rodinal concentrate onto a piece of undeveloped film. The film should go black within a few seconds if the Rodinal stock is still good to use.
Guide to Stand development with Rodinal
I saw this post and I think it may well be the best description of Stand Development i’ve seen. Have a read if you’ve never tried stand developing film
Second roll developed with Rodinal. Here I developed 120 Kodak T-Max 400 in Rodinal 1:150 for 1 hour at 20 degrees C. (Why 1:150..why not!)(will try Rodinal 1:200 next)
“The Dancer” – Contax 645 + Carl Zeiss 80mm f2 lens (1/60 at f2)
PART 2: Rodinal Semi-Stand Development: Getting More Technical!)
Black and White Film Developing
Regular readers will know I develop my black and white film at home using the Rodinal (R09 One Shot) semi-stand development method using times less than one hour. The more common approach is ‘Rodinal stand development‘ for a duration of one hour. I have already written one post on stand developing (link below) but as I like to experiment I am starting to fine tune my method (and I will continue to do so).
The standard stand development method is a good safe option but can produce ‘flat’ negatives. By that I mean mostly mid greys and lacking contrast (highlights and shadows). I generally develop my Kodak T-Max 100 film in Rodinal for 40-45 minutes with one or two turns (“agitations”) during that time. What I noticed is when I have shot a roll of B&W film over a period of several days in varying light conditions the film negatives results will also vary dramatically.
Photos taken in bright light/ direct sunlight/ contrasty light/ hard light such a direct flash / speedlights benefit from a shorter developing time (such as 40 minutes) and give high quality negatives with a broad dynamic range (highlight detail, range of mid grey detail and shadow detail).
Photos taken in the shade / even light / overcast day / inside without obvious directional light will develop as just mid greys lacking contrast and clarity when using the same developing time. Luckily film retains a lot of detail so negatives can be pushed / pulled when scanned to boost contrast and if needed boost contrast further in PP.
Not Rocket Science!
I know that all sounds obvious. It is not rocket science that contrasty light when taking a photo on film will give a more contrasty negative. But, the trick is when you want to create a contrasty negative from flat light. If the photos were taken on an overcast day increase your developing time and also the number of agitation during film developing and this will help the highlights (or brighter mid greys) develop further to give a negative with more contrast.
Rodinal – How it works – Recap!
Rodinal stand development
OK, to recap how stand development works, highlight areas develop faster than areas of shadow. Developer around the highlights stops working after a certain time and then the remaining time lets the shadow detail develop further. If you don’t agitate the film and stand for one hour the highlight detail and shadow detail both have time to develop. The highlight detail is not blown as the developer becomes exhausted around highlight detail sooner so stops.
Rodinal semi-stand development
For semi-stand development you are basically refreshing the highlights areas with new developer each time you agitate the film so the highlights develop further and faster. By stopping the time sooner the highlights are developed but some deeper shadow detail remains less developed thereby produce a negative with more contrast.
That shorter time works well if photo are taken in ‘good’ light (good light being with direction). If however the light is flat then more agitations will refresh the highlights more to try to ‘over develop’ beyond the brightest seen when taking the photo and thereby giving a negative with more contrast.
Mamiya 645 Super + 80mm f1.9 lens
Xtol + Rodinal
For film photography I often like to use my own home brew of Xtol and Rodinal developers mixed together to develop my black and white film negatives. I have used various ratios of each but all giving acceptable and pleasing results. I will maybe write another blog on the Xtol developer when I get time.
Are Xtol stock and diluted Rodinal one shot developers?
Camera shop answer:
After speaking to a camera shop I was advised that it is recommended to dump your developer after each roll of film developed…
The real answer!:
(Based on my own experience). I am self taught so learn as I go. My first disappointment was using a batch of developer that was a week old (since dilution from Xtol stock/ Rodinal concentrate) and the film negatives came out almost blank. The developer had been kept in a clear soft drink bottle in a dark cupboard.
My first valuable lesson was diluted developer does not last as long as diluted fixer solution. I now aim to use a developer batch within 2-3 days of dilution and then dispose of it.
Cheap film development
Unlike the guy in the shop, I do not use the developer as one shot. I make up a mix 1L of Rodinal developer brew (diluted Rodinal) and develop as many as 6 rolls of film (mostly 120 medium format film but also the occasional 36exp 135 film) during a 2-3 day period. Now this is cheap film development if you do the maths!
Here is an example photo from the 6th roll of film developed last weekend in Rodinal :
Bridal Photography with Contax 645 & Fuji Neopan 100 film
Rodinal active ingredients
Obviously the active ingredients in the film developer becomes more exhausted after each roll of film developed so developing times will need to be increased accordingly. Even if you only develop 2-3 rolls of film per batch of developer you have still made a 100% or 200% saving on developer costs. More film myth breakers coming soon!
If you are on a tight budget, say a student and need cheap film development to persue your hobby, another way to cut cost is to use a rodinal dilution such as 1:2 /1:3 etc. 1:3 dilution gives you 3x more film developed so if you reuse your rodinal dilution too (rather than as a one shot)(as I describe above) you now have a super cheap film developer!
The problem with stand development
The problem arises when you have a ‘mixed’ lighting conditions roll of film. Some negatives will be near perfect already and some will be flat. If you agitate the film more during developing then you will blow the highlights on the contrasty negatives. If you agitate less the flat negatives will develop as just that, flat and grey.
Make good notes!
So in conclusion, I will try to make a note of the lighting conditions I shot the film in if films are being stored before being developed. For medium format film I will try to shoot an entire roll in similar light as you get less photos on a roll anyway (8-16 depending on 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×7, 6×9, with 645 format normally giving 16 negatives). For 35mm film when you have 36 exposures it is not always possible to shoot all images in similar light so in this instance I might develop with less agitations for a longer duration and increase the contrast in post processing (“PP”).
Practise + trial and error = perfect
I hope that made a little sense! The best way to learn is to try what method works best for you. Everyone is different but the above approach is how I currently develop my black and white film.
Examples images – Film Portraits (Leica M2)
Flat light – flat negative push when scanned (note more grain)
Contrasty light – contrasty negative with fine grain
2 Camper Vans
1 Great Cause
I joined my brothers Pete and John, and together with a group of friends we cycled 1000 miles NON STOP day and night from John O’Groats to Lands End as a relay, starting on 21st of July 2013. We did the ride to raise money for a great cause.
Lucy, one of our close friends, died from cervical cancer on April 17th 2012 aged just 33, only weeks after her wedding day. Lucy and her family were extremely grateful for the support provided by the Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice.
Last year, kind people contributed £10,000 for Sue Ryder when a smaller team of us crossed the English Channel in 3 2-man inflatable kayaks! This year, it was a different challenge, but the same great cause. There was no chance of me falling overboard again but the challenge was just as demanding.
Here is the story in pictures, taken with my iPhone 5
It’s not to late for donations and we would be really grateful if you could help us support this great cause. Thanks in advance! 🙂