1 Camera (M240) + 1 Slow Lens

1 Camera (M240) + 1 Slow Lens

Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica

September 2016

Hamburg Agency Model

Broken Leica M240

Last December I was shooting with my Leica M240 in Poland only to find it was misfocusing and needed recalibrating.  The weeks past but I always had a need for my main workhorse camera, the Leica M240 so couldn’t part with it. I found if I used a 35mm lens and shot it at f4 I had sufficient depth to focus and get my subject sharp. As such the tiny Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5 pancake lens became my do everything lens, every model photography trip and every Leica wedding photography shoot.

Fast Lenses

If you have seen my previous photography you may have noticed I love fast lenses, from my early Nikon days using lenses like the Samyang 85mm f1.4, Nikkor 50mm f1.2 Ai-S and Nikkor 200mm f2 Ai-S to some of my Leica-M mount lenses such as the Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5, Leica  Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH and of course the mighty Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0. All those lenses shot wide open kind of dissolve the background to leave just the subject to catch the eye in the photo.  You can pretty much shoot anything anywhere with a fast lens and it looks good and the look can’t be replicated with an iPhone.

To go from that way of shooting to suddenly having to shoot at f4 on a 35mm lens with most things in the photo in focus was a bit of a shock. I had to make ‘cool’ photos with everything in the photo in focus (or at least visible).  Hmm!

Learning to shoot without shallow DOF

I found shooting with most things in focus helped me concentrate on trying to use better or more interesting light, stronger or different compositions and alternative camera angles in addition to working more closely with the models to try to fine tune their pose, look or expression. I am certainly far more picky now and often assist with applying makeup or styling suggestions to help try to make a stronger final image in camera. For a time I used the M240 for test shots then either shot the final image on film with say the Leica M6 or Hasselblad 501C or more recently warmed the model up with the Leica M240 then switched to the digital Hasselblad H3D-31.

Leica Germany Repair

I managed to finally send my Leica M240 off to the Leica Germany engineers for recalibration at the end of July 2016 and the camera was back with me in August looking literally brand new. I’m 99% sure it received more than just a recalibration and all under the Leica warranty scheme. I cannot speak highly enough of the Leica customer service and you certainly get what you pay for with Leica (in my experience).

What did I Learn?

I now have the novelty factor of being able to shoot fast lenses again on the Leica M240.  I can also shoot a range of longer focal lengths again, 50mm, 75mm, 90mm and so on. Before the period of shooting with just a 35mm lens I regarded myself as a 50mm man. Coming out the other side I would say I’m probably equally 35mm or 50mm biased and do find 75mm and 90mm quite limiting with their tighter crop for regular use. Equally during my Leica Noctilux phase I shot everything at f1 regardless as to whether it was a flat brick wall or something against a distant backdrop.  Shooting this week with the Noctilux I am shooting perhaps ‘smarter’ in that if a model is against a wall I might stop the lens down to f2 to improve the sharpness or if a subject is further away I might shoot at f1.4 to get a slightly crisper photo than just everything very soft.  It is a battle of styles as I love super sharp such as the Hasselblad Zeiss 120mm Macro-Planar CF lens or the Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO but also love pleasing bokeh and the painterly feel of say the Noctilux or Pre-ASPH Leica Summicron 90mm f2 shot wide open. It’s a balance and depends on the subject too.

Conclusion

It not ideal to have a semi-function main workhorse camera (or any camera to that matter!) but I don’t think it did me any harm overall.  That said it is nice to be able to use all my Leica M mount lenses again. 🙂

Here are a few recent example images with the Leica M240 and Voigtlander 35mm f2.5 Color Skopar in Hamburg, Germany

Calvin Klein Shoot

Hamburg

Runway Model

Agency model

 

Many more example images in my last Leica M240 post

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Ukraine Models 2016

Ukraine Models 2016

Matthew Osborne Photography / @MrLeicaCom

May 2016

Trip

I organized another model photography trip to Uzhgorod, Ukraine to catchup with model friends and hopefully also meet some new ones. After recently visiting Poland to shoot with the model agencies I had some ideas of what cameras I may like to take for this trip. I take only hand luggage on all my trips so it depends on the airline as to how much camera gear I can pack. For Poland I had a backpack and my small Billingham Hadley Digital bag so took 4 cameras, a strobe and a compact travel tripod to use as light stand. For Ukraine I only have the backpack.

Cameras

I took my newly purchased Mamiya 6 to Poland as it is smaller than the Hasselblad 501C.  I packed the Leica M 240 for digital and brought the Leica M6 to shoot more film.  I selected the Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5 lens for its size, sharpness and lack of flare.  The Leica Summicron 50 f2 v5 flares too much for me so I left that at home and instead of packing the slightly larger Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 went one ‘better’ and brought the Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO.  The 75 APO is my sharpest Leica M lens and maybe sharpest any lens and it lets me focus closer than nearly all standard Leica M lenses in terms of magnification.  Another camera I considered was my old Nikon FM plus Voigtlander 40mm f2 pancake lens but in the end I chose the M6. In addition to all of that I squeezed in my Leica Elmar 50mm f2.8 collapsible lens and a speedlight (+ reflector). No tripod though.

Film

I currently favour 120 Fomapan 100 black and white film for my medium format cameras but I thought I better use up some existing film in the fridge before buying more Foma.  As such I packed mostly Kodak Tri-X 400 film plus a few different rolls to use up. For 35mm film I wanted to shoot more colour so brought along some Kodak Portra 400, Fujicolor C200 and for black and white 35mm Fomapan 100.

One thing I like about Fomapan 100 is I can shoot it at ISO 50-400 and develop as if at ISO 100.  I can also push Foma to 800 easily without any real issues. If I am planning to shoot ISO 50-400 I would go for Foma. For ISO 400-800-1600 range I would use Tri-X 400.  The weather for the trip was forecast unsettled so Tri-X might be the right choice.

Leica Fashion

Model Shoots

I like to make the most of my model photography trips overseas so managed to shoot 17 girls in 3.5 days shooting 9:00-21:00 back to back.  I worked with the local model agency, One Models, who kindly provided a few models that were available and not out on contract overseas. I also worked with some of the girls I knew from previous trips and also a few new faces, friends of friends.

The weather was not as kind as I would have liked (for the time of year) and we had a fair bit of rain.  As such I did more photoshoots inside the hotel than I planned to so I had to think a bit more.  The speedlight was a life saver in the low light conditions and I used it for the majority of the photos.  I do tend to favour using lights for most of my model photography and I think adding light can sometimes make a photo look more like a fashion photo which I like.  The speedlight helped me keep my ISO at 100-400 for almost all photos and I also had the lenses stopped down.  The biggest limitation was the flash sync speed of the Leica M6 of 1/50.  I noted on the film scans for a shoot we did outside in the rain that there was motion blur as the models were moving more than I noticed.  The Mamiya 6 has a max flash sync speed of 1/500  so that had no issues.

As I had no light stand or tripod I had to handhold the speedlight for the majority of the photos.  This is not ideal as it is difficult to exactly replicate the same light when swapping between cameras (digital and film) but better than nothing (for my taste). I didn’t use the reflector at all so may leave it behind next time.

Light and Shadow

Camera Performance

Leica M 240

I noticed my Leica M 240 needs the rangefinder recalibrating again (the second time) so I was shooting 99% with the 35mm Voigtlander Color Skopar lens stopped down a little.  I did use the Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO for a few photos but I focused with the LCD.  The mis-calibrated rangefinder was less of an issue than it may sound as my current style is favouring lenses stopped down to match the film cameras for easy alignment of settings.  I shoot digital with ISO, aperture and shutter to match the film camera then when the model looks good I switch to film cameras. I have some nice Sekonic light meters but find at the moment I am not using them.  When using strobes I like to see the digital preview of the light prior to shooting film.  With daylight I would be happy to meter once then shoot film without chimping on the digital LCD.

Excluding the recalibration issue, the Leica M 240 is on good form and I love it more and more each day.  I would still say the Leica M9 and Leica M8 make better B&W photos (more filmic) but the M240 is no slouch and I am getting good results both B&W and colour.

Ukrainian Model
Go Green!
Leica M Fashion

Leica M6

As mentioned the Leica M6 max flash sync speed of 1/50 is a killer for strobist work.  It is just too slow unless used in very controlled conditions.  I did get some nice black and white film scans but I also lost a few due to model motion blur outside.  The Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO pretty much lived on the M6 but strangely I found it too tight for my current taste on location.  I was loving the 35mm focal length on the M240.  I might take two 35mm lenses next time to match the view for easy composition across the two Leica cameras.

Black and White Fashion Photography
Leica M6 Portrait

Mamiya 6

After getting some quite nice results in Poland using the Mamiya 6 medium format 6×6 rangefinder camera, I was excited to see what I could do in Ukraine. (Poland photos still to come when i’ve edited a few more).  I am enjoying the size of the Mamiya 6 camera very much and it is very easy to carry it in my little Billingham Hadley Digital camera bag together with one complete Leica M camera or 2 Leica M bodies and 2 Leica M lenses packed down. I still have my Hasselblad 501C vs Mamiya 6 post to write but in the meantime it is safe to say the Mamiya 6 is a keeper.  I still only have one lens, the 75mm which I like due to it’s smaller size and lighter weight (vs. 50mm and 150mm lenses) and the focal length.  That said I would like to use a Mamiya 6 50mm f4 G lens if I see one for sale at a reasonable price.  I think the wider view would be great for film wedding photography to capture a wider scene.

Film Fashion
Mamiya 6 Fashion

Ukrainian Models

I have been travelling to Ukraine for quite a few years now and I must say the level and quality of modelling from the girls this time is the best to date. The resulting photos may have been helped a little by me not having any majority camera issues (unlike previous trips) and being armed with more photography knowledge and experience.  In addition to that, I meet more and more models each visit so every follow up visit I pick the best of the best to maximise the chance of making photos I will like.  I always try to better my best work with every shoot and although it may not always be possible it keeps me fired up and as keen as ever.

As with all my trips, a huge thank you to all the models I worked with, to One Model agency and to the makeup girls where applicable.  I didn’t experience a single cancellation so that was a real breath of fresh air compared to the usual UK (and now Poland) high cancellation rates of 50-60% plus.  Big big thanks!

I have started to develop and scan some of the black and white film but the colour film is still to follow.

Thanks!

Leica M240

 

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