Leica Street Photography (1)

Leica Street Photography (1) – Shooting from the Hip

What is Street Photography?
To me the term ‘Street Photography‘ is associated with unplanned unrequested candid photos of people taken in a street environment. Many street photographers stop people and ask them if they can take their photo. This is fine but to me this is then a ‘Street Portrait‘ and could just as easily be a model standing in the street (as I often do) or a homeless person / shop worker / other.  Although I work with models on a regular basis I do not think I have the confidence to jump out in front of someone and take a photo as I would be worried they may not appreciate it. This has lead to me using the technique known as ‘Zone Focusing‘. I can work closely with my subjects and yet they are often unaware I am taking a photography and as a result at no point feel threatened by me.

Here are a sample of Leica street photography images I took in London. All images are zone focused (link below) and shot from waist level without looking through the viewfinder.

Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide Heliar + Leica M8 (f8 approx)
London Street Photography
Leica M8 Street Photography
Leica Street Photography
Running Late

1951 Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5 + Leica M9 (@f3.5)
Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5
Leica Street Photography
People of London

Voigtlander 35mm f2.5 PII + Leica M9
Coffee Culture
Street Photography

1954 Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5 + Leica M9 (@f1.5)

MatthewOsbornePhotography.co.uk – Leica Photographer

Related Post

Zone Focusinghttps://matthewosbornephotography.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/zone-focusing/


Zone Focusing

Zone Focusing – Zone focusing with the Leica M system
Zone Focusing

What is zone focusing ?

Zone focusing is dialing in a predetermined focal distance and aperture onto your camera lens as shown in the header photo. Here the lens is set to infinity.
How does zone focusing work?
The lines on the top of the lens shown in the header photo indicate at every given aperture what the depth of field (“DOF”) will be in focus at each focal length. A wider aperture (lower f. stop number) gives a more shallow DOF and a smaller aperture (higher f. stop number) gives a greater DOF. This is indicated by the hyperfocal distance lines on the top of the lens. In the example lens photo shown it is clear to see that the space between the two f2.8 lines is much smaller than the space between the two f16 lines. The distance number in meters or feet opposite the line at f2 is the focal distance. If you set this at say 1.2m (“2” is opposite the 1.2m number) then at f8 you look at the distance numbers opposite the two “8” numbers. Each lens focal length is different but on a 35mm lens this means at f8 everything between 1m and 1.6m is in focus.
When would you use zone focusing?
Zone focusing is very useful for street photography when using manual focus lenses such as Leica cameras. Things often happen very quickly so candid street photography would be almost impossible without zone focusing when using manual focus cameras. You do not always have time to bring the camera to your eye and then focus and compose to get the shot. If you have set the camera lens to a predetermined distance then you know if you are within that distance from your subject that the subject is in focus and all you need to do is to compose and take the photo.
What is a good lens for zone focused Leica street photography?
The most common focal lengths used for street photography range between 50mm and 21mm (50mm, 40mm, 35mm, 28mm, 24mm, 21mm for example) depending on personal preference and the working distance you like to keep between you and your subject. Longer lenses such as 50mm means you can be further away from your subject than if you were using 21mm. As you often stop a lens down for street photography (dial in a higher f. stop number) you do not need fast lenses such as a Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 It just means you are carrying unnecessary weight. I find black lenses better than silver as they sparkle less in the light so do not attract attention to themselves as much. Small compact lenses are less noticeable than a larger lens.
Lenses with a focus tab are great for zone focusing
I find lenses with a focus “tab” much easier to zone focus as I can alter the predetermined focal distance on the lens without looking. If you select one lens then learn to master it you will soon know by touch at what focal distance the lens is set at. My personal preference is to have the tab pointing directly at the floor which on my lens is 1.2m. I keep my finger on the tab as I walk around. If a subject is closer to me than 1.2m I move the tab to the left perhaps 45 degrees and this reduces the focal distance towards 0.7m. If a subject is further away I move it 45 degrees to the right and this dials in a long focal distance towards 3m and then infinity. After each photo I return the tab to the centre ready for the next image. I am reasonably new to street photography but I found this method works the best for my style.
Street photography at eye level or waist level using zone focusing?
Street photography can be captured at eye level but also at waist level if you do not want to draw attention to yourself. I find bringing a camera to eye level with a subject looking towards you can scare them resulting in an unnatural pose such as hand over their face, a change in expression or potentially verbal confrontation.
Examples images of street photography that were zone focused at different focal lengths
50mm lens (Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5 (1954) on Leica M9)
35mm lens (Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5 (1951) on Leica M9)
Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5
35mm lens (Voigtlander Color Skopar PII 35mm f2.5 on Leica M9)
Coffee Culture
21mm focal length (15mm f4.5 Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar on Leica M8 with 1.33x crop)(19mm)
London Street Photography
What are my favourite lenses for zone focused Leica street photography?
After a few recent trips to London I found I like to work close to my subjects (roughly 1m distance). For this reason I found 50mm far too tight and it resulted in many headless photos. 35mm was a good focal length when I was standing still and taking photos of people passing me by. I like the vintage look of the silver 1951 Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5 but I prefer the easier to use black Voigtlander Color Skopar PII 35mm f2.5 with plastic focus tab. I often move fast so am in and out of a situation very quickly. As a result 35mm can also be too tight sometimes. I found my favourite focal length was the equivalent of 21mm but using a 15mm f4.5 Super Wide Heliar on my crop sensor Leica M8 rather than using my M9. I have a super sharp 21mm f2.8 Zeiss ZM Biogon however it is larger, silver and without focus tab so I think less suited to street photography.

If you have never tried zone focusing you should. It is great for all sorts of photography not just street photography. I use zone focusing for moving subjects during Leica wedding photography and also for fast moving children photography. I hope this post makes some sense. It is easier in practice than it looks written down! 🙂

MatthewOsbornePhotography.co.uk – Leica Photographer

Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5

Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5 lens (1951)

Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5

Yesterday I was visiting London for two model shoots and to do some Leica street photography. I stopped in at a vintage camera repair shop in walking distance of Euston train station to have a look around. ‘Camera City’ ran by Pany and his team was full of amazing old cameras. Some very early film cameras through to newer digital cameras. I was looking at the Rolleiflex TLR cameras as that is one type of camera I have not yet owned. I checked to see if they had any vintage Leica lenses in and they had a modified 1951 Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5 lens. The original design in that era (as showed in the photo) was Leica thread mount (LTM) but my copy is a bayonet mount (LM). I can tell the year of production from the serial number and mine is one of the early ones. The Summaron was in production in Germany from 1949 – 1960. The lens optics look reasonably good for the age of the lens and there is no obvious haze or internal dust. That said, I think the lens was probably cleaned when it was modified. This in not a problem for me as I buy vintage Leica lenses to use not to polish.

I struck a deal with Pany and part exchanged my Voigtlander Color Skopar 21mm f4 now that I have the Zeiss ZM Biogon 21mm f2.8. I loved the size of the 21/4 in LTM mount but I found those lenses sometimes had focus shift so I thought I would stick with the 21/2.8.

It was a totally unplanned purchase (again!) but after really enjoying the use of my 1954 vintage Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5 I knew I would soon be looking for a vintage 35mm to match. You can see the advantages of older lenses by looking at my Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5 blog post.

Here are a couple of samples using the Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5 on my Leica M9

Camera City – test shot before agreeing to buy the lens @f3.5
Camera City, London

Leica street photography in Central London @f3.5
Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5

I love the flare of the old lenses. I recently bought the Voigtlander Skopar PII 35mm f2.5 which is sharp at f2.5 and controls flare well. Both these small 35mm lenses are compact and have their own character. I like the old Leica glass for personal projects but for paying clients I will often use newer glass if I need the look of modern optics and/ or reliable sharpness shot wide open.

I will post a full set of example photos using the Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5 when I find time.

MatthewOsbornePhotography.co.uk – Leica Wedding Photographer

Related Links
Camera City – http://www.cameracity.co.uk
Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5 (1954) –

Compact Voigtlander Primes Trio

Compact Voigtlander Primes Trio – 40/1.4, 35/2.5 & 15/4.5
Leica Photographer – Matthew Osborne Photography

Compact Voigtlander Primes Trio

As a Leica Photographer I have learnt to appreciate the compact size of both the Leica cameras and some of the Leica mount lenses. Over the last six months I have gained quite a nice collection of Leica M mount primes from the likes of Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander. I have some of the well known great lenses such as the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 but also some less well known ones such as those made by Voigtlander. I recently travelled to London where I would be shooting street model / fashion photography in daylight and at night and candid Leica street photography, again during the day and at night. I wanted to take two Leica camera bodies with me to be safe (in case one failed) so I packed my Leica M9 and Leica M8. i then wanted compact lenses to cover my needs. Of all my lenses I chose three to take in my Leica camera bag. They were all made by the same company, Voigtlander.

My lens choice
Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5 ii – Super compact pancake lens for street photography
Voigtlander Nokton Classic 40mm f1.4 – Compact and perfect for portraits and low light photography
Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar 15mm f4.5 – Wide angle for environmental street photography showing the people in their surroundings

My Ona camera bag still had space and I wanted to take a film camera. I packed a Nikon FM SLR with a Rollei Planar 50mm f1.8 lens attached. The Nikon FM did well but I lusted after Leica film. When I got home I ordered a 1958 Leica M2 35mm film camera. My camera bag is now complete. Three camera bodies covering film photography and digital photography (Leica M2, M8, M9) and three compact lenses covering all I need (15f4.5, 35f2.5, 40f1.4).

Here are some sample images from my day in London using the aforementioned equipment –

Leica M9 + CV Nokton 40mm f1.4
St. Paul's Cathedral
Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4

Leica M9 + CV Skopar 35mm f2.5 ii
London Photography Workshop
St. Paul's
London strobist workshop
Leica M9 Street Photography

Leica M8 + CV Skopar 35mm f2.5 ii
Model Photography

Leica M9 + CV 15mm f4.5 Heliar
London Street Photography (2)

I am really looking forward to shooting 35mm film photography with the beautifully crafted Leica M2 on my next outing. A full review of my 1958 Leica M2 film camera to follow once I have example images.

MatthewOsbornePhotography.co.uk – Leica Photographer

Featured: Henri Cartier-Bresson

Featured: Henri Cartier-Bresson (“HCB”)

Featured: Henri Cartier-Bresson

The French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson captured some of the very best street photography photos ever taken with his Leica 35mm film camera.  He is amongst a handful of my all time favourite photographers and I am sure has had an influence on my photography style today.

I favour high contrast black and white photos for both digital photography and film photography.  I shoot both my Leica M9 rangefinder and Nikon D800 DSLR cameras in black and white JPEG + RAW file mode and usually only use the JPEG files.  Modern digital cameras tend to have an extended dynamic range capturing details in the shadows and highlights.  I enjoy the more traditional look of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s crisp whites and black blacks in his photos.  I love the scenes captured in his early street photography images and I hope one day I too can learn to compose and capture such images within a split second without having to think.

Moving from a Nikon DSLR to a Leica M9 has let me get one step closer to photography in it’s purest form.  By that I mean the camera has less buttons and gimmicky features and so lets you concentrate on taking a photograph rather than worrying about camera settings.  I now need to learn to see the world through some of my favourite lenses so I can visualise a picture before I put the camera to my eye using focal lengths such as 21mm (Zeiss ZM Biogon 21mm f2.8), 35mm (Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii) and HCB’s favourite 50mm focal length (Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 & Zeiss ZM Sonnar T 50mm f1.5 amongst others).  I can then chose that lens for the day and use a one camera one lens setup letting me focus 100% of the photograph I would like to compose and capture.

For my last Leica wedding in January, I used the 21mm ZM Biogon on the Leica M9 camera for almost the entire day.  I found it perfect for my documentary style wedding photography.  I was able to photograph the wedding with the unobtrusive Leica up close yet without being noticed, mingling amongst the wedding guests.  I enjoy shooting by available light as Cartier-Bresson did and but also use off camera lighting if I have too to simulate daylight in low light situations (such as winter wedddings in the UK!).

Practise makes perfect and as Cartier-Bresson once described in an interview, if you bring the camera to your eye and pull the trigger it needs to be a direct hit or nothing at all.

MatthewOsbornePhotography.co.uk – Leica Photography

Lumix G3 Street Photography

Lumix G3 Street Photography

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 + Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide Heliar lens via M4/3 – Leica M mount adapter

I took the G3 to London with various Leica M mount lenses to see what it was capable of vs. my Leica M9 and Nikon D800. Initially I was disappointed by the lower resolution and less apparent sharpness of the monochrome JPEGs however it gives the images quite a nice vintage almost filmic look (because of the softness I think).

Some sample images using the G3 on the street

Lumix G3 Street Photography

Panasonic DMC-G3

Central London

Vintage Street Photography

M4/3 + Leica M

London Street Photography

The Lumix G3 camera body + the compact CV 15/4.5 made for a lightweight setup. Using the m4/3 – LM adapter having the lens set at 0.5M meant everything from roughly 2m – infinity was in focus. That meant as long as I did not get too close to my subjects I could just point and shoot without any focus requirements. Similar to street photography using hyperfocal distance but easier. Being accustom to a Leica M9 camera I found it very easy to ‘see’ my shots even though I was using a new-to-me camera.

I will keep my thoughts on the G3 for a future post, my likes and dislikes so far.

MatthewOsbornePhotography.co.uk – Leica Photographer

Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4

Leica Lux ASPH 50/1.4 ..and compared to Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5

Here are a few examples with my most expensive Leica M mount lens, the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 (‘Lux’). I bought a used Lux on eBay really to see if all the Leica hype was justified. To be honest I had no real emotion or excitement in buying the lens or even holding it when it arrived. It had to impress me first with its capabilities. I have other nice lenses such as the Nikkor 50mm f1.2 AI-s on the Nikon D800 and the Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f2 and Zeiss ZM Sonnar C 50mm f1.5 for the Leica M9. The Lux had to beat these at its high price tag to secure a price in my Leica camera bag. I am almost pro non-Leica glass as like anyone I like to back the underdog. I use Russian lenses such as the Jupiter 3 50/1.5 (Soviet clone of the 1930s design Zeiss Sonnar) and Voigtlander glass such as the great value for money CV Nokton 40mm f1.4.

Can the Leica Summilux really be that good?

I took 3 lenses to London for some model test shoot street photography. I tried to rotate the lens I was using through the day however there are no real side by side comparison shots as I still had the fashion shoots to do. The 3 lenses selected were the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4, the Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5 and for wider shots the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii.


Once I got back I selected some of my favourites from the thumbnails images to post. I did not check the EXIF data until afterwards. Of the 17 photos taken so far 10 of those were with the Leica Lux ASPH, 4 with the ZM Sonnar and 3 with the CV Nokton 35/1.2. I think I was hoping the Zeiss ZM Sonnar would win but no, it seem the LUX ASPH 50mm is as good as the rave reviews make out.

Leica Summilux ASPH vs Zeiss ZM Sonnar – why is the Lux good?

1) The Summilux will focus slightly closer than 0.7M whereas the minimum focus distance of the Zeiss ZM Sonnar is 0.9M. This gives a more shallow DOF and nice bokeh.

2) Edge to edge sharpness across the image

3) Very sharp at infinity

4) No focus shift issues so can be used at ease at any aperture and can be relied upon.

5) Leica lenses hold their value.

6) Built in hood.

Leica Summilux ASPH vs Zeiss ZM Sonnar – why is the Sonnar better?

1) The ZM Sonnar is 2.5x cheaper yet produces just as good a Lux photo at 0.9M when shot wide open. I found it very difficult to tell what lens I had used for most of the photos.

2) The Zeiss ZM Sonnar is smaller and lighter and does not block the bottom right hand corner of the viewfinder.

3) Zeiss ZM lenses give photos a sharp constrasty look with a 3D pop subject-background separation and nice rendering from the softer corners of the image.

Thoughts so far..

I need to conduct some more scientific tests with side-by-side examples but at the moment I am very happy with the results from both the ZM Sonnar and Leica Summilux ASPH 50. Both lenses are very capable but as I like shallow depth of field images the Leica is winning at the moment. The Lux bokeh reminds me of the bokeh from the Nikkor 50mm f1.2 AI-s where is can appear to swirl behind the subject and change shape at the image corners. The Nikkor 200mm f2 AI-s also produces this bokeh look.

Leica Wedding Photography

I feel I could rely on the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 lens for Leica wedding photography on my Leica M9. I would not need to worry about focus shift found on the Zeiss ZM Sonnar.  For documentary style wedding photography edge to edge sharpness shot wide open is great as the subjects are often not in the centre of the photo.  The fast f1.4 aperture makes the Lux great for low light photography when shooting by available light such as during a wedding ceremony.  The Zeiss ZM Planar 50/2 has similiar sharpness wide open however in low light f2 is often not bright enough for UK Leica weddings and the CV Nokton 40mm f1.4 lens is not as sharp wide open.

Example images with the Leica Summilux ASPH 50/1.4 on the Leica M9

Environmental Portraits – Models Angelique and Valentine

After Hours

Leica Summilux ASPH Bokeh

Summilux ASPH 50

Summilux ASPH 50/1.4

Other examples

Leica Summilux ASPH

Leica Summilux ASPH 50 is sharp!


Leica Street Photography

Clothes Show 2013

Clothes Show Live

MatthewOsbornePhotography.co.uk – Leica Wedding Photographer

Related Posts

Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5 C

Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii

Leica Wedding Photography

Nikkor 200mm f2 AI-s

Nikkor 50mm f1.2 AI-s