Leica CL vs Leica M8 (+M Lenses)(Poland Photoshoot)

Leica CL vs Leica M8 (+M Lenses)(Poland Photoshoot)

My 3rd overseas photo shoot using the new digital Leica CL camera (with Leica M lenses).  Now with 6 weeks experience of using the camera I list my 5 Likes + 5 Dislikes of the CL, share more sample photos and include a Leica M8 vs Leica CL comparison.

  • Part A: 6 weeks with the Leica CL (5 Likes 5 Dislikes) + CL vs M8 compared
  • Part B: Film cameras & lenses I took to Poland + trip roundup

 

Leica CL vs Leica M8 Review

Part A: Leica CL vs Leica M8

A1: Leica CL – 6 weeks after purchase – Thoughts

Leica CL Honeymoon

This is now my third overseas model photography trip with the Leica CL and the Leica CL honeymoon (or “minimoon”as people call them now!) is officially over.  The passion and excitement from when we first met has faded as fast as it arrived.  Am I dreaming what fun I want to have next with my new CL?  Before yes, now no.  What killed the passion you ask?  It was all seemingly going so well for you both you say.  Where it went downhill was when I developed the film images from the two previous Leica CL shoots (Poland and Budapest).  Seeing the film scans reminded me what real photography is (for my taste).  Suddenly many of the Leica CL photos that I had liked from those trips now lacked depth and interest somehow compared to the analogue versions of similar photos.

Digital vs Film

I’ve always much preferred shooting film vs digital and I normally use digital to test ahead of shooting film (and to give clients a set of digital “instant” images).  I don’t hate the Leica CL.  It is great for a digital camera and does a good job for what it was designed for.  The Leica CL has now just become another tool for me similar to my Leica M240.  The CL gets the job done and I am happy with the results and user interface (overall – see my likes and dislikes below).

 

Leica CL vs Leica M8 Review - B&W Portrait - Girl Smiling
Leica CL + Leica Summarit-M 50mm f2.5
Get Creative – with the Leica CL?

If I want to get excited or creative with my photography I tend to select from the array of film cameras I use rather than think about a digital camera.  Don’t get me wrong, when I shoot the Leica CL side by side with film cameras sometimes the Leica CL will catch the better moment /photo. I just find I now pack the Leica CL without any thought as the “necessary digital camera” (for my model photography).  All the thought and time goes into deciding which film cameras to take.  Those are the cameras that will capture the interesting photos for me.   “Interesting” may not mean “best” but I find digital all a bit too easy/ straightforward to be challenging.

The Leica CL should always capture the better photo

The odds are stacked strongly in favour of the Leica CL (or any digital camera) as I shoot perhaps a 100:1 digital to film ratio.  Digital photos are often shot quickly in the flow of the model so should normally catch better ‘moments’ that the occasional film photo.   The Leica CL photos should nearly always be sharpen and have more dynamic range (can loose detail in shadows when shooting film) Digital files of the Leica CL gives the option of colour or black and white (vs. say B&W only if using B&W film) and generally just more “information” to work with when it comes to processing the files in Lightroom (apply a LR Leica CL preset) / Photoshop.  I tend not to shoot film cameras as fast as I do digital so I really need to nail the shot for my occasional film frames.  Some film cameras give more “keepers” than others.  (My digital photography is still single shot photography, not the DSLR machine-gun wedding approach.  I don’t need 4000+ very similar images to sort through thanks!)

 
Leica M8 + 28mm

A2: Leica CL Review (Follow-Up) Likes+Dislikes

(with my bias rose-tinted glasses now removed!)

5 Dislikes of the Leica CL

1. Viewfinder Blackout

If you’ve never used a Leica M camera (nor a rangefinder camera) you won’t understand this point but it’s a big one!  With a Leica M camera you never loose sight of your subject when  you press the shutter. This means you can anticipate the next photo and move as needed ready to catch the next moment/ picture.  With the Leica CL when you take a photo the EVF goes black and you’re left in a panic as to what you are missing. I find it quite unnerving especially for critical moments such as during a wedding ceremony. I much prefer a Leica M camera in this regard.

2. Speed of focus

Some one asked me how fast in the Leica CL to focus manually verses the Leica M cameras. I said I thought both cameras about the same.  I did a photo shoot just before coming to Poland with the Leica M8 and the Leica CL and the Leica M is definitely faster to focus, no question. (This is if I zoom in to critically focus the Leica CL using manual focus lenses).

3. Flash photography

The Leica CL is fine for flash photography but I’ve found I much prefer Leica M cameras when using flash due to the Leica M viewfinder vs Leica CL EVF.  I prefer the optical viewfinder for this strobist work especially in low light.

4. LCD Display (switching to EVF)

LCD turns off (switches from LCD view to EVF view) when you get too close to the EVF (it triggers the switch to change view).  Probably not an issue for most people but I find it frustrating if I’m trying to photograph the back of the camera with my iPhone.  Models always want to photo the back of my camera so they have something for Instagram straight away. There might be a setting to turn off this feature but if not it would be a good addition to a future Leica CL firmware update.

5. Crop sensor (vs Full frame)

This is less of a dislike and more of a limitation to be aware of.  It is more difficult to get good background separation with many M lenses I’ve tried on the APS-C crop sensor Leica CL vs a full frame Leica M.  I will cover the best M lenses on the CL in a round up post once I’ve tested more M lenses.

Leica CL Colours

5 Strengths of the Leica CL

1. EVF exposure preview in available light

The exposure preview via the Leica CL built in EVF is a real joy to use and I find I now miss it when I switch to a Leica M camera.  (It makes me lazy!  On Leica M cameras I tend to guess the exposure on the first frame, adjust as needed for the second frame and continue shooting).

2. EVF view to compose any lens

After using a Leica CL for a while I found myself getting caught out when using wide lenses on a Leica M camera. I forget with a Leica M I can’t use a 21mm lens and see the full field of view via the built in Leica rangefinder. (On many Leica M cameras this is 28mm wide maximum).  I found myself just guestimating the composition when using a 21mm lens on the M camera rather than attaching an external 21mm viewfinder to compose.  The same advantage of the EVF when using longer lenses (focal lengths) on the CL.  It is easier to see the image to focus than with a Leica M rangefinder patch, especially with a 135mm Elmar lens.

3. No potential rangefinder calibration issues

As the Leica CL is not a rangefinder camera there is no concern that a photo looks sharp in the viewfinder (EVF) yet is out of focus in camera.  As mentioned previously, Leica M cameras can need recalibrating from time to time, and especially if they get knocked.  A good example of this for me is using my old Leica Elmar 135mm f4 lens.  Wide open it misses focus on the Leica M240 yet is super sharp on the Leica CL (sample photos in my Leica CL + M lenses round up post to come).

4. Leica CL dynamic range

The dynamic range of the Leica CL camera is the best i’ve experienced on any digital camera.  It is so far ahead of the Leica M240 which looks primitive in comparison.  The Leica M240 clips/ blows the highlights very easily (and the Leica M8 even more so!).  The Leica CL does a fantastic job of retaining most of the detail in a scene most of the time making it great when it comes to processing the RAW files in Lightroom.

5. Fast buffering speed

I can work much quicker with the Leica CL (take photos without a lag).  The Leica M8 is the polar opposite and really struggles to keep up even for moderate pace photos.

 

+1 . Size

I do enjoy the light weight and compact size of the Leica CL.  It is still large enough to hold comfortably and securely for me.  Leica M cameras are pretty compact compared to most cameras too but the CL is a little smaller still.

Leica CL ISO 6400

A3: Leica CL vs Leica M8 – Why!?

Why would I compare the Leica CL vs Leica M8 when they are like chalk and cheese?  Both are Leica digital cameras but that is where the similarities probably end.  This won’t be a scientific test as no one will ever be in a position to decide between the M8 and Leica CL. (M240 vs M10 – yes, M240 vs CL – yes, but not the oldest digital Leica (M8) versus one of the newest Leica camera releases.

So what a pointless blog post heading you say.  Possibly, but for me I wanted to see which camera I enjoyed using the most and which camera photos I enjoyed seeing the most.  That is what I will cover in the rest of Part A in this article.

 

Leica CL vs Leica M8 review - girl photographer with leica Cl B&W
Claudia using my Leica CL (Shot with Leica M6 + Noctilux 50mm f1)

A4: Leica M8 vs Leica CL – Specs Compared

Leica M8 Specs – Quick facts recap
  1. Released in September 2006 (first digital Leica M)
  2. 10.3MP CCD 1.33x APS-H crop sensor
  3. Requires an IR cut filter (on the lens) to capture true colours
  4. Limited dynamic range
  5. Standard Leica M rangefinder focus system
  6. Slower buffer speed (when taking a photo)
  7. Low resolution rear LCD display for playback and menus (no live view)
  8. Manual focus lenses only
  9. Limited ISO range – 160 to 800 (usable)(160-2500 max)
  10. Weight – 591g
Leica CL Specs – Quick facts recap
  1. Released December 2017
  2. 24MP CMOS 1.5x APS-C crop sensor
  3. Impressive dynamic range beating many pro level cameras
  4. Built in EVF viewfinder (no optical viewfinder)
  5. Live view LCD that can be used to compose and focus (+focus peaking)
  6. Auto focus and manual focus lenses (MF lenses via adapter)
  7. High ISO range (100-6400 usable)(100-50,000 max)
  8. Weight – 403g

Leica M8 Lightroom Presets

A5: Which camera did I enjoy using most – Leica CL vs Leica M8

UK Pre-shoot (the day before Poland) – The cameras

Prior to flying to Poland I had a shoot in the UK with Aneta using many of the same cameras mentioned in this post (film and digital cameras).  This photoshoot was nearly all flash photography and I preferred using the Leica M8 to the Leica CL.  The M8 seemed to give a nicer shallow depth of field and the photos on the rear camera LCD just popped much more. Nearly all the photos were B&W so I didn’t use an IR cut filter on the M8.

Leica Lightroom Presets

Poland photo shoots – The cameras

In Poland I expected to like the M8 more too but I didn’t. I found the M8 too slow for the fast pace fashion models posing.  Due to the autumn colours in Poland I shot much more colour photography than expected.  I planned to use the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 lens a lot on this trip so had no IR cut filter with me. (Why? I don’t have a filter large enough for the 60mm filter thread of the Noctilux).  As such, for any colour photos I used the Leica CL and kept the M8 for black and white photos.  I also used available light much more for photos in Poland so the Leica CL suited this work (for me).   I think I shot roughly 3:1 more photos with the Leica CL vs M8.  Mostly due to taking photos in colour or being away from the hotel with only the Leica CL plus film cameras.

A6: Which camera photos did I prefer – Leica M8 vs Leica CL?

UK Pre-shoot (the day before Poland) – The photos

As mentioned above most of the photos shot with Aneta were with flash.  The apartment we chose to shoot in was smaller than expected so I used wider lenses most of the time.  Wider lenses and flash meant most photos had a greater depth (less blurry backgrounds) than the Poland shoot.  The Leica CL coped better when I was mixing sunlight and flash.  The Leica M8 photos clipped the highlights more easily whereas the Leica CL dynamic range retained most of the detail.  Shooting in a small space was more about the light than the camera choice.  That said the majority of the photos I liked from this shoot were shot with the Leica M8.

Leica M8 Portrait

Poland photo shoots – The photos
Leica CL

The Leica CL captured some nice photos in Poland, as it had done on my last two overseas shoots.  I think the choice of lenses I used didn’t help the Leica CL perform to it’s very best, with the exception of the Leica Noctilux lens.  The Noctilux 50mm f1 lens on the Leica CL produced some quite pretty photos with the shallow depth of field and bokeh.  If the CL was the only digital camera I used I would have been happy.  The problem was I also used  the same Leica Noctilux lens on the Leica M8.

Leica CL Portrait with 50mm f1 Noctilux

Leica M8 vs CL

The Leica M8 CCD sensor combined with the Leica Noctilux lens rendering arguably produced the more interesting images for me but the CL was no slouch.   This conclusion was based partly on personal taste (subjective) but also from the number of likes and comments on the various social media platforms.  The problem is the the digital Leica CL produces digital looking photos (lens dependent), as you may expect.  This is the look most peoples eyes are used to seeing in the digital world so such photos look at best “nice/ normal” (I think).

The beauty of the digital Leica M8 is it can produce photos that don’t look digital and on occasion some images are mistaken as analogue.  A photo that looks “different” is almost always going to be more interesting than a photo that looks “normal”, regardless of the subject matter. For this reason I feel the Leica M8 produced the most unique looking photos and maybe those that stand out the most from this Poland shoot.

Leica M8 Portrait with Noctilux

Comparing apples to oranges

The Leica CL did capture some nice colour photos (especially) and B&W too but I think this test was a bit like comparing apples to oranges.  In a world full of apples an orange will always look more exciting.  That being the Leica M8 photos in the digital era.

Comparing apples to apples

If I had compared apples to apples, say the Leica CL vs Leica M240 the results would be far closer.  The M240 would win for shallow depth of field with the full frame sensor but the Leica CL would win for dynamic range.  Perhaps I should compare these two cameras for a model shoot in the future!

 

A7: Leica CL with M Lenses (more lenses tested)

Example photos using the Leica CL with more Leica M mount lenses:

Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 (v2)

 

Leica CL + Noctilux 50mm f1

Leica CL + Noctilux Portrait

Leica Summarit-M 50mm f2.5

Leica CL Skin Tones

Leica CL +  Leica M Lenses

Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5

 

Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5 Portrait

Leica Macro Elmar-M 90mm f4  (used previously also)

 

Leica CL + 90mm

 

Part B: Poland trip October 2018 – Details

B1: Mamiya RZ67

For Poland I was excited to fit in my Mamiya RZ67 camera to do some nice portraits. I zipped my bag up successfully with everything for the trip inside, done. I then weighed my bag and I was 3kilo over the 10kg weight limit (for my main carry on bag). The culprit was quite obviously the RZ67. I took it out and the carbon monopod for it and I was just within my weight limit. Boo! I will try again next time!

B2: Camera Bag

With the Mamiya RZ67 removed my camera bag looked as follows:

I included a few different film cameras for a change to freshen things up a bit. Each had a purpose and was in my bag on merit alone.

B3: Why I chose each camera?

Leica M6 Classic

My Leica M6 seems to have the most accurately calibrated rangefinder of all my Leica film cameras. If I am to shoot film with the Noctilux at f1 I need the camera spot on. The Leica M6 also uses the same M lenses I will use on the Leica M8/ CL so it makes sense to pack at least one Leica film camera.

 

MrLeica.com

Nikon F5 SLR

I brought the Nikon F5 to use the Nikkor 180mm f2.8 lens specifically.  It gives a totally different shooting experience to using a Leica camera with say a 50mm lens.  I enjoy the compression and shoot-through ability using a long lens (and a SLR camera).  I’ve never taken such a long lens to Poland so it will allow me to create different photos to all my prior Poland visits.

Nikon F5 Photographer

Olympus 35 RC

The little Olympus 35 RC can produce sharp photos with the lens stopped down a little (I’ve found in the past).  It also gives a different look / distorted perspective than my Leica film cameras which I quite like.  It is a small camera so is easy to pack and carry but the main reason I brought it was the 1/500 flash sync speed.  I hoped to use this in daylight with flash.

Ilford Delta 100 Portrait

Fuji GA645

The GA645 is my smallest and lightest medium format camera.  I love the extra resolution 645 film negatives give over 35mm film.  I also like the economy factor of shooting 645 vs 6×6 or 6×7 film. 645 film is a good happy middle ground for me.  I wanted to shoot some 120 film and the 60mm Fujion lens has given me sharp pleasing results in the past.  It also has a flash sync speed of 1/400 which I planned to use.

Film vs Digital

B4: 2 Days in Poland, 6 Models

Debrief

I enjoyed 2 almost full days of photo sessions in Poland despite some cancellations.  9am til after 6pm both days, near back to back models, 1 in, 1 out.

Shooting film

I didn’t shoot as much film as I had hoped the first day but I got going more by the afternoon.  Day 2 I shot as much film as I could as I knew I would regret it if I didn’t. I shot 6 rolls of 35mm and 2 rolls of 120 including my first roll of Kodak ProImage 100 colour film. I had hoped to shoot more 120 film but the opportunities never seemed to arise.

Flash photography

As with shooting film I had hoped to use flash a lot in Poland. The problem was there were blue skies so much of the time it was too bright to shoot flash practically.  By the end of day 1 I used flash more as the light levels dropped and I was pleased with the result.   For day 2 again by later in the day I used flash when we worked in the shadows.  I was able to create a different look to my usual work and was happy with the results.  For the blue hour I gelled the light to mimic sunlight and used it through til dark.  It was a rare occasion that I preferred the colour images to the black and white photos. I shot some night photos with the film cameras using the flash so am interested to see the photos as I would normally avoid this.

Leica CL + Voigtlander 35mm Color Skopar

Nikon F5 Review

B5: Film cameras – which did I use most?

As mentioned I shot less film that hoped. (The usual it seems these days for me).  I shot 2 rolls with the Fuji GA645 and only 1 roll with the Olympus 35 RC.  The Nikon F5 went through 2 rolls and the Leica M6 3 rolls of film.

Film cameras – camera limitations

The GA645 often didn’t suit the busy background being an f4 lens so I used it less.  (With an f4 35mm equivalent lens there is less background separation).  The Olympus 35 RC is better stopped down so again I needed more light or a simple backdrop (for my taste). The Nikon F5 with 180mm lens was too long for many photos so was perhaps used less than it could have been.  It is also big to carry around but that didn’t matter. I used the Leica M6 the most as it has the best viewfinder of the manual focus film cameras, is very portable and arguably had access to the best lens. I used the M6 with the Leica Noctilux lens as much as I could but used it from f1-f2 rather than all shot wide open.

B6: Leica Lenses – which lenses didn’t I use

I hardly used the Voigtlander Color Skopar lenses (21mm f4 and 35mm f3.5) nor the Leica Elmarit 28mm f2.8.  I just did a few wide shots indoors a few times and I think that was all. Why not? I had a big hotel room and access to outdoors with good weather so was never in a confined space.

B7: Leica Lenses – what lenses were most used

I used the Leica Noctilux wherever possible but I had 3 Leica camera bodies asking for it! The Leica M6 got first choice as I prefer film to digital. This meant the Nocti was my most used lens in Poland.  My second most used was the Leica 90mm Macro Elmar, even on the CL.  I kept wanting background separation and that was my second best lens for the task that I had with me.  Lastly was the Leica Summarit 50mm f2.5 lens.  It was used third most as it was better than the other 3 wider lenses I had.

B8: Leica M lenses – regrets

For most of the my time in Poland I wish I had taken the Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH. It works great on every Leica, no question.  A second lens that could have been well used was the Voigtlander 35mm f1.2 ASPH lens. Next time! It was my first model shoot overseas without taking a full frame Leica M camera so not having these lenses was an oversight on my part. Always learning!

Girls like to have fun

B9: The Poland trip

Great weather

We were so lucky with the weather in Poland.  The middle of October with sunshine and blue sky both days and temperatures reaching into the 20s! (degrees Celsius).  I had left a cold wet windy UK so felt very fortunate.

Huge hotel room

To my delight the hotel kindly gave me the biggest room in the building.  The apartment family suite with sea view, roof top terrace and glass windows on 2 sides letting in lots of daylight. It was my first stay in this room despite visiting many times over the years.

Models

6 models in total.  2 new models, with one girl only 14 years old and had never had a photo shoot before.  2 familiar faces from my visit in September and 2 girls you might recognise if you’ve followed me for 1-2 years or more. Despite 3 model cancellations the 6 models that did visit filled most of my free time so I was happy.  Unlike my Budapest trip there was no time wasted, thankfully, and day 2 particularly was nonstop photos all day.  A big thanks to models Marta, Amelia, Pola, Irmina, Claudia and Teresa and to Monika for the huge hotel room (and kind hospitality)!

Film Photos

As with the last two Leica CL photo shoot trips I will share the film images a a later date once the film is developed and processed.

Film Teaser – Fuji GA645:

 

 

Fujifilm GA645 Portrait

To Follow

  • The best Leica M lenses for the Leica CL

Once I’ve used more of my Leica M lenses on the Leica CL I will share the results from all lenses tested plus some thoughts in a round up post.

Thanks

Matt

 

Related Leica CL Posts

Also

  • See full details of my portrait photography lighting kit (2018) – HERE
  • See full details of my portrait photography equipment kit (2018) – HERE

 

 

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My Leica Portrait Lighting Kit (Godox for Leica) + Portrait Photography Lighting

My Leica Portrait Lighting Kit (Godox for Leica) + Portrait Photography Lighting

Part 1: My Leica portrait lighting kit including Godox for Leica + Why I use, Recommended speedlights, Godox trigger for Leica,  TTL vs non-TTL and more.. *For the rest of the gear I use see Part 2: My Portrait Photography Gear Essentials

Leica Summarit-M 50mm f2.5

Summary of my Godox for Leica lighting kit

  • Godox Witstro AD-360 Flash Kit + PB960 Battery: Amazon UK / US
  • (NEW!) Godox AD200 TTL Flash – Amazon UK / US
  • Godox Ving V850II GN60 Flash Speedlight: Amazon UK/ US
  • Godox TT350N TTL Flash Speedlight: Amazon UK/ US
  • Godox XT-16 Wireless Flash Trigger /XTR16 Receiver: Amazon UK/ US

Leica Summicron 90mm Portrait

Topics covered in this article:

Part 1: My Leica Portrait Lighting Kit + Time to come clean! (What I use)

1. Time to come clean about my portrait photography lighting kit
2. Why I kept quiet
3. Is it bad if everyone uses the best camera kit?
4. Open and transparent
5. I only recommend photography equipment I own
6. Best Speedlights 2018? Latest lighting equipment
7. US and UK readers
8. Let’s begin!

Leica M8

Godox speedlights I still recommend(What I use)

• Godox Portable studio light – Godox AD-360 (Profoto B1 alternative!)
• Godox AD-180 & Godox AD-360 Flash (Cheaper than Profoto)
1. Godox Witstro AD-360 Portable Flash Kit + PB960 Battery
• Godox large flash – Godox V850II (Godox V850II mini review)
2. Godox Ving V850II GN60 Flash Speedlight
• Godox small speedlight – Godox TT350  (Godox TT350 mini review!)
3. Godox TT350N TTL Flash Speedlight

Godox wireless flash triggers I recommend for the Godox flash system (What I use)

1. Godox FT-16 Wireless Flash Trigger & Godox FTR16 Wireless Receiver 
2. Godox XT-16 Wireless Flash Trigger & Godox XTR16 Wireless Receiver 
3. Godox X1T – Wireless Hot Shoe Flash Trigger Transmitter
4. Godox X1R N 2.4G Wireless Flash Trigger Receiver

Non-Godox Lights (Mains Powered Studio Light)

• Ring Light – Great for Perfect Instagram Selfies!

Photography Lighting Equipment – Beginners Guide!

1. Why all photographers should use flash!
2. Using photography lighting is fun and effective! Off camera flash

3 Types of Photography Lighting for Beginners

1. Sunlight (Light originating from the sun)
2. Artificial continuous light
3. Flash lighting (with speedlight, stuido light or similar device)

• What portable & studio lights do I use? / Flash for Leica M cameras
• Best Photography Lighting Kits (Godox vs Nikon vs Canon)
• Follow the TTL / E-TTL flash trend or do lighting properly?
• Benefits of non- TTL speedlights? (Godox V850II vs Nikon SB-910)

Digital Hasselblad Photoshoot

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!

Hasselblad H3D-31 Fashion

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).

Happy New Year!

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.

Expired 120 Fuji Provia 100F Film

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.

Leica M240 Studio Shoot

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.

Leica lens flare

Let’s begin!

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.

Mamiya RZ67 Headshot

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!

Godox growth graph in 5yrs - Godox flash review
5yrs ago Godox flash were hardly known!  Now they are a household name in the UK and going from strength to strength.  This key word graph shows the increased interest in Godox lights!

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!

Panasonic Lumix LX100

 
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!

Leica M9 B&W

> Godox Witstro AD-360 Portable Flash Kit + PB960 Battery

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.

Photography lighting equipment
Godox AD-360 Light
 
 

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!)

Photography lighting equipment
Godox Ving V850II & V850 Speedlights

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)

Photography lighting equipment
Godox v350 Speedlights

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).

Photography lighting equipment
Old photo from a wedding – Leica M240 + M8 with Godox FT-16 triggers + Godox V850 Speedlight
> Godox FT-16 Wireless Flash Trigger & Godox FTR16 Wireless Receiver kit

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).

Photography lighting equipment
Godox FT-16 Trigger Transmitters for Speedlight
> Godox XT-16 Wireless Flash Trigger & Godox XTR16 Wireless Receiver kit

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/TT350 +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/TT350 +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.

Photography lighting equipment
Godox X1T trigger & X1R receivers (new style with hotshoe on top)
> Godox X1R N 2.4G Wireless Flash Trigger Receiver

New different style receiver –  for ALL SPEEDLIGHTS! (any brand) Different design where speedlight sits onto receiver unit or connect with cable

Non-Godox Lights (Mains Powered Studio Light)

Ring Light – Great for Perfect Instagram Selfies!

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.

Leica Studio Portrait

> 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).

leica cl camera review ringlight
Ringlight in action for an iPhone selfie for Instagram!

Missing Photos!!

 

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.

Leica CL B&W Preset

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.

Paris Fashion Week

 

3 Types of Photography Lighting for Beginners

In very basic terms there are 3 types of light –

C41 Crossed Processed Velvia 100

 
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).

Fomapan 100@800

 
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).

Hasselblad Wedding

 
3. Flash lighting (with speedlight, studio 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).

Budapest Model

 
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.

Leica M240 + Noctilux

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! 🙂

London Model Shoot

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).

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!

Leica M9 Location Shoot

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.

Speedlight Related Blog Posts

Here are some photo shoots as examples of the abovementioned lighting

Leica Summicron 90mm f2

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