The Leica Diary, Part IV – An Unexpected Thing or Two

The Leica Diary, Part IV – An Unexpected Thing or Two

This is Part IV of a series. The previous three parts are listed below: The Leica Diary, Part 1: Introduction The Leica Diary, Part II – Coming To Grips The Leica Diary, Part III – Focus In this part, I’ll look at a couple of unexpected things I ran into when shooting with the Leica. Most people who shoot with a Leica assume that the lenses available for it, like the 50mm f/2.5 shown above, are primes. And, for the most part, this is true. I’d certainly had no reason to think otherwise.  The first unexpected thing… Then I was introduced to the Leica 16-18-21 lens. Okay, here’s the deal. Leica has really only made two zoom lenses that I know of, and of those two, this one is the only one still in production. And, to be fair, this isn’t a zoom lens like we imagine it to be. Canon and Nikon both make a 16-35mm zoom, for example. On those lenses, you can zoom seamlessly through the entire focal length range. I’m fairly sure I have images shot at 19mm, 23mm, 29mm, and other focal ranges in my library that were shot with the Nikon 16-35mm lens. The Leica’s zoom lens, however, is more like three prime lenses bundled into a zoom lens. The zoom ring doesn’t turn seamless. Instead, as you can see in the image above, there are three “click” stops at 16mm, 18mm, and 21mm. When you shoot, you shoot at one of those three focal ranges. Now, this lens, when you rent it from us, comes with a neat little accessory. Since the Leica’s built-in...
Playing With Canon’s New Big Guns

Playing With Canon’s New Big Guns

Canon’s 1Dx and 600mm f/4L IS II lens have been two of the most sought after (and repeatedly delayed) items in their inventory for the past year or so. Now, Canon is finally shipping them with some regularity, and we took this opportunity to put this new combo through its paces. I love photographing birds. A few years ago, I started with a Canon 100-400mm lens and a Rebel XTi, and shot from the comfort of my car. Eventually, I moved up to a Canon 1D Mark IV and a 600mm f/4, or a 500mm f/4 lens. The 1D MKIV/600mm combo became a favorite, and I managed to capture some really cool images with it that are part of my Natural History portfolio. Of course, since then, Canon has introduced its successor to the 1D MKIV and the 600mm f/4. The 1Dx takes over where the 1D MKIV left off, introducing a bigger sensor and better high-ISO performance, among other things, whereas the new 600mm Mark II comes in at slightly shorter and much lighter than its predecessor. I took this combo out for a spin to see if it would match up to my old favorites. As with my previous reviews, I focus more on the shooting experience out in the field, rather than lab tests and results. Handling Canon 1Dx The first thing I do with a new camera is go through the settings to customize it to my specifications. The Canon 1Dx’s menu system is a lot like the 5D Mark III’s, which itself borrows a few things I loved from the 7D, such as the...
The Leica Diary, Part III – Focus

The Leica Diary, Part III – Focus

Part I of the Leica Diary can be found here. Part II can be found here. Zone focus. Those are the two key words you need to know about focusing with a Leica. If you’ve used a rangefinder before, you already know this; if you haven’t, then read on. Leica cameras don’t focus like the DSLRs, ILC (Interchangeable Lens Compacts like the Olympus E-P2), or point-and-shoot digitals that we’re all used to. For one, Leica lenses are all manual-focus lenses. For another, unlike most other digital cameras today, you’re not focusing through the lens (TTL). You’re actually using a separate viewfinder to do the framing and focusing for you.  Take a look at the image below. It’s a bit hard to capture the view through a Leica’s viewfinder, but see that slightly bright rectangle near the top-left of the circle? That’s your focusing aid. Now, see how the part of the poster that’s in that rectangle is doubled?  Well, on a Leica, you adjust the focus ring of the lens till the two images merge into one. That’s the first way to focus a Leica, and when you’re at a wide-open aperture like f/2.5, it’s the surest way to gain critical focus. But that’s not how zone focusing works. Google defines zone focusing as “A way to focus that utilizes the depth of field scale rather than the actual distance from camera to subject. Zone focusing is most useful for candid, street photography.” To understand this, let’s take a look at the lens barrel of a Leica. In the image below, you’ll see that there are a number of markings...
Quick samples from the Canon 1Dx and the 600mm f/4L IS II

Quick samples from the Canon 1Dx and the 600mm f/4L IS II

I spent a weekend shooting with the Canon 1Dx and the new 600mm f/4L IS II, and will be posting a writeup of it soon. In the meantime, here are a few sample images taken with that combo. For what it’s worth, my favorite combination until recently was to shoot with the 1D Mark IV and the old 600mm f/4L IS Mark I. I don’t think it’ll be giving much away to say that the 1DX and the new 600 are officially my new favorite combination for this type of photography. Watch for our writeup of these new beasts from Canon later this...
The Leica Diary, Part 1: Introduction

The Leica Diary, Part 1: Introduction

These days, it looks like every major camera manufacturer is coming out with a new addition to the MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera) class of bodies and lenses. The latest, of course, is Canon, with its EOS-M camera. These units, typically smaller than your average DSLRs, have been getting better and better, packing some serious punch into a very small form factor. Thing is, in all the hype behind cameras like the EOS-M and Fuji’s X100 and X-Pro1 bodies, people forget that MILCs have been around before companies like Sony, Fuji, and Olympus made them popular. Way back in 2006, a good three years before Olympus came out with its retro-styled Micro-Four-Thirds-based camera, Leica introduced its first digital rangefinder, the M8. Powered by a 10.3MP crop sensor, the body retained almost all of the classic Leica styling that’s been aped so much now, and kept the lens mount the same, so that almost all M-series lenses could fit onto this new digital body. The M9, which BorrowLenses.com carries, kept the same general body shape of the M8, but upped the sensor to an 18.3MP full-frame sensor. It also added some very nice features, including better high ISO performance, a better EV compensation system, and exposure bracketing (though it feels kinda weird to try and shoot HDR with a Leica). Leica users also happen to be some of the biggest zealots most passionate folks out there. I’m not talking about the rich guys who like to hang an M9 from their neck for the cache that the little red dot on the camera’s body provides. I’m talking about the guys...
Get Your Gear On With the Canon 1Dx

Get Your Gear On With the Canon 1Dx

We’ve been waiting for this bit of kit for a long, long time. The 1Dx is finally here, and we run through a bunch of the features of Canon’s flagship body. This full-frame camera is set to replace the 1D mkiV and the 1Ds mk III. We show off the high frame-rate, some AF features, compare ISO settings and give a general rundown of this exciting new professional DSLR. The 1Dx is available for rent now at http://www.borrowlenses.com/product/Canon_EOS_1D_X_Digital_SLR “Bullet-Time Backflip” sequence...
Op-Ed: Gear Doesn’t Matter – Except When It Does

Op-Ed: Gear Doesn’t Matter – Except When It Does

Please note: this article is a personal opinion and does not reflect the views of BorrowLenses.com. All thoughts and images are my own. Introduction If you follow any part of the photographic blogosphere, you’ve heard folks repeat this mantra over and over and over again: “Gear doesn’t matter.” The basic premise of that dictum is as follows: making great pictures is about the photographer, not the camera or the lens or any other piece of gear. A good photographer can make a great image with a point-and-shoot that an amateur armed with a Nikon D4 and an 85mm f/1.4 lens can’t match. I’ve personally repeated the “It’s not the camera that takes the picture” mantra to new photographers myself because I know it to be true, and because it helps allay the fears many photographers have when buying their first DSLR, for example. I’ve also made some images, like the one shown here of Highway 130 in the San Francisco Bay Area, that I still like. It was taken with a Canon Rebel XTi and an 18–55mm kit lens. So, yes, at a basic level, you can make great images with very basic gear. For newcomers, especially, this is a good sermon to preach. The catch You knew there was going to be one, right? Before I tell you what that catch is, let me say this again, this time in bold and italic typeface: You don’t need expensive gear to get started in photography. Even a point-and-shoot will work. Use basic gear to learn the basics of photography before you start eyeing big gear. Ok. Here’s that catch: Gear...
Behold the Frankencam: The Adapter that Lets You Use Nikon G Lenses on Canon Cameras

Behold the Frankencam: The Adapter that Lets You Use Nikon G Lenses on Canon Cameras

The practice of swapping lenses between platforms via adapters isn’t something new. You can use an adapter to mount Nikon lenses onto Canon cameras but until recently this was limited to a smaller subset of Nikon lenses. The “D” lenses from Nikon (the ones with manual aperture rings, like the Nikon 35mm f/2) could be used via an adapter on Canon cameras. You could manipulate the aperture manually on the lens and set the shutter speed on your camera. DSLR video shooters quickly took to these lenses for this very reason. However, Nikon’s “G” class of lenses couldn’t be used with those adapters as there was no way to control the aperture on them as they lacked a manual aperture ring. The aperture was controlled electronically from the camera itself, and Canon cameras could not communicate with the lens in order to do so. Enter the Nikon G Lens to Canon Camera adapter! This ingenious little device allows not only the mounting of a Nikon lens to a Canon camera (like the older adapter we carry for “D” lenses), but also lets you mount a “G” lens onto your Canon body – and gives you a way to control the lens’ aperture mechanically. If you look at the adapter itself, there are two blue tabs attached to it. Once the lens is attached to the adapter, those blue tabs move a small lever on the lens itself that opens and closes the aperture. Looking through the viewfinder on your Canon camera (or at the Live View screen) lets you know which direction to turn that lever in, as the...
Op-Ed: Your Medium and Tools as Inspiration

Op-Ed: Your Medium and Tools as Inspiration

I just noticed that Instagram for Android was released yesterday, and it’s downloading as I write this. I really dig Instagram, SmugMug’s Camera Awesome, and all the other iPhone/Android camera apps out there; they’ve truly democratized photography and that’s for the better. Then I saw this on Popular Photography: Inside the World of Large Scale Wet Plate Photography. The story is about photographer Ian Ruther’s camera-in-a-truck that he takes out on location to make images. The cost of each image is a staggering $500, and the process isn’t exactly easy, as shown in the video below. I’m old enough to remember the days of film, of loading hand-rolled 35mm film cassettes into my Canon AE-1. As late as 2010, I still developed a bunch of medium-format 120 film myself, having fallen in love with the medium all over again. I’ve even shot on 4×5 film on a borrowed Crown Graphic, and it was a wonderful experience. Watching Ian Ruthers’ experiences in the video above reminded me of why, despite doing the bulk of my photography on a Canon 5D Mark II and the best lenses Canon has to offer, I still reach for my borrowed Hasselblad or my own Mamiya C33 TLR. Let’s get one thing out of the way – I don’t shoot film because I think it’s higher-quality than digital. That argument isn’t really valid anymore, especially given that quality is subjective. This is about one thing, and one thing only: the medium. Most arguments from film proponents start with, “There’s something about shooting film…” This is often followed by, “I can’t quite explain it.” I can appreciate...