28 August 2016

First Time Shooting the Leica M Monochrom


Up and Over
Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley
For a long time, I've pined over the Leica system. I often describe it as magic. I know to a lot of people, it will never make sense to spend $8,000... just for a camera body. That does NOT include the lens. The lens is a whole'nother world of expense on its own. And language, I might add. I got to shoot with the 35mm f/2.0, which based on that speed, you call it a 35mm Summicron. If it was a f/1.4, you'd call it a Summilux. The difference? The Summicon will put you out $3K and the Summilux edition will push you to $5K. I prefer the Summilux, but that's me. Nobody makes glass like Leica. In fact, I'd like to play with a 35 Summilux on my Sony A7RII. But that's not this story.

Getting up in the morning
Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley

This story is on my shot at the Leica M Monochrom Typ 246 and the 35mm Summicron for the weekend. So my girl and I headed up north to camp out and play in Utah for a bit. We pulled out the tent and loaded up the car and took off. I originally picked up the Fujifilm X-E2 a few years ago to help me prepare for this experience. At that time, I had a project that I thought was going to have me owning two Lecia bodies and 3 lenses. Tht didn't work out. I know the two cameras don't really compare, but the Fuji still has the rangefinder look. Or so I thought. Nothing about owning a Fuji could have prepared me for the Leica M-series.

The Fuji LOOKS like a rangefinder in style only. I should have known better. Don't get me wrong. I LOVED that Fuji. Highly, highly recommend it. But with respects to preparing me for a Leica...No. In particular, two things right off the bat should have told me that wouldn't be the case. The Fuji has an electronic viewfinder. If there is one and only one thing I could have used some prior experience with is Leica's split screen manual focus system. For that, I could have used a film rangefinder to help me. You are still looking from a vantage point of the lens in the Fuji. No so, with the Leica. You still have the potential for parallax in Leica cameras, as is the case when you have any camera system that has differentiated viewing systems...one for the lens which is separate from your's.

Hiking topfree,
Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley

The second thing is that Fuji is waaaaay lighter (350g) than Leica cameras (700g) AND smaller. You can practically palm a Fuji with one hand and it goes no where. You had better maintain positive control with all fingers around that Leica with the camera strap around your neck, else you can easily waste, $11 grand. In fact, its MUCH more advantageous to invest in the body or thumb grip accessories on this thing. There is much more of a presence of mind with the Leica. You know where it is at all times. Its not like you phone or your keys, that you may not immediately recall where you sat it down. You know, in a moment's recall, where your Leica camera is.

I would have liked to have had more time with the camera. Compared to my Sony A7RII, I was much slower with the Leica. I was a lot more deliberate. I already shoot slow and usually come back with a third of the shots that most of my peers do. Over a weekend, I may come back with 300 shots normally. I didn't even clear 100 with the Leica. Chances are, that was a learning curve issue. I've shot with a Leica before, but this was my first time having it out to shoot as my sole camera. Granted, I got some initial night shots with the Sony when I first got to my camp site. All after, I was exclusively Leica.

Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley

I was most engaged on achieving and maintaining a sharp focus. Utilizing the split screen, especially in lower lighting conditions can be tough. Its been quite a while since I had to do that regularly. Actually, it was a first because my film Canon used a circular focus screen instead of the square one used in the Leica. There is no autofocus, so it was all on me to achieve tack-sharp focus. I was able to do this on practically every shot, but it took a minute for each one with much concentration. I chose not to rely on focus peaking to assist me. I waned the viewfinder experience. News and war correspondents made a living without focus peaking and were quick with the shot. I want to learn the same.

I was a little off on exposures as well. In any other camera system, I am pretty decent at determining my initial exposure quite easily. I always seemed to be underexposing a bit, as if my exposure value compensation was a minus 2. This was easily corrected and eventually, I began to apply a little "Kentucky Windage". I adjusted at least one stop brighter than whatever I thought it might be.

A break while I figure out something on the camera,
Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley

Another thing that took me some time was the fact that the camera had already been used by several people. It would have been smart for me had I RESET everything on the camera prior to use, but I didn't notice each of the changes right off. And even afterwards, during post processing, I couldn't get any of my Plugins to read Leica's RAW files. I updated Adobe and tried a myriad of changes. It took me a whole day before I realized the camera was set to a grayscale color profile while I was shooting. A simple fix was to reset my Camera RAW converter to import all the files into Photoshop as AdobeRGB. That sped up my workflow.

I need more practice. I want to eventually own this camera as well as its color counterpart, The Leica M Typ 240. There is also an M-D version that has no LCD screen on the back, despite being a digital camera. I might consider it. Its purely for photo, so there's no video capabilities. Yeah, I have some other priorities first, but I plan to make the Leica system part of my family of cameras.

Checking under the rocks like a good model should,
Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley

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