Posts Tagged ‘“Leica M9-P”’

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What a weekend!!


Typically if you follow this blog, it’s usually a collection of pictures that gets dumped on here linked to my flickr page. The descriptions are all the same for the same set. Great visually, but not very content full filling. From this weekend’s experience, I’m now motivated to start dedicating more time on this blog to talk about my experiences as well as sharing tips as I learn them while on my way honing the artistry of becoming a “Leica Ninja”.

The first time I heard the term “Leica Ninja” was from my attendance at Leica Akademie North America Weekend in San Francisco. It was a term mentioned on the first day by Tom Smith (Head honcho for US Leica Akademie I think). He was our main host for the weekend. I will be going into more details about the entire weekend in a little bit. But before that, here is a little back story on how I even end up in this class. I dove head first into the “Red Dot” craze back in April. Having been shooting Canon’s all my photography life, I felt it was time for change. The thought of carrying a big SLR with the latest Bokeh master 85mm 1.2L just doesn’t excite me anymore. I notice that the camera would sit in the camera bag month at a time. I felt my love for photography was waning. I been chronicling my experiences in The Beginning and The Flood I will be adding two more chapters in the near future. Of course talking more about my experience with Leica.

I wanted to get back to the basics!!

To cut the story short, back in April, few weeks after I bought my first Leica lens (Black 35mm Summicron f/2 ASPH non-6 bit), I saw the announcement for the Leica Akademie. At this point, I didn’t even own a body yet. I was using a friend’s M6 to get the Leica experience. Went down to Walgreen to pick up 4 rolls of ASA400 BW film and started shooting. In short, I signed up for the class knowing that M9 will be in my future someday.

As the days gets closer, the wife started to put events in the calendar. Knowing that September 16 was a weekend that I blocked out ~5 month ago, she should be able to schedule around that? Well, if it was events that she plan, YES. If it wasn’t, then of course NO. A month leading up to the weekend, we got a wedding invitation for one of her family friends getting married and wanted my kids to be the ring bearer. Knowing that I usually don’t take picture of my kids, it was easy to tell her, um.. Hon, can you go by yourself? You don’t really need me there right? I did buy you the GF2, that takes great pictures. Being a very understanding wife, she cross my name out on the calendar for that weekend.

On the Monday before the weekend, one of my wife’s dearest friend’s husband passed away. Rest in Peace R. He’s been fighting cancer for the past few month. They planned the funeral on Saturday. Once again, being lucky to have such a understanding wife, she went by herself to pay respect on behalf of our family.

Anyways, on to more cheerful things.

Friday came. Checked the reminder email from Leica Akademie that was sent out earlier in the week. To be honest, I didn’t read the entire email. Just Hotel Triton 4pm.

Packed up my gear and fought the traffic into the City.

Hotel Triton is a cute little hotel on the corner of Grant and Bush. Nice central location next to Chinatown and the main shopping area. Great street shooting location with many interesting people.

When I got there, I didn’t really have an idea what the experience was going to be. All I know is that I get to play with Leica gear and learn from Leica Masters. So I just went up stairs, found the room and the was greeted at the Door by a Tom. As I later found out, Tom Brichta is the Leica Sales Rep for Northern California. Luckily, Both the key hosts for the program was name Tom. I’m usually really bad with names.
As the instruction started shortly, Tom mention that 4pm was for going over the basic of the M9. The actual Friday reception starts at 6pm. I assuming that’s when the bulk of the other attendee was going to arrive. I thought this would be a great time to get a refresher on the M9, maybe there are some secret features that I never knew existed. All in all, it was good to confirm everything I knew about the camera.

TIP #1: The actual viewable frame line on the Leica M9 is calibrated to 3 meter. As you focus closer, regardless of what you see in the view finder, the actual frame line that shows up in the photo will be 2-3 frame lines tighter. The farther you focus, the actual frame line that shows up in the photo will be 1-2 frame lines looser. So keep this in mind when you’re framing your photo. Even though now days, it’s usually fairly easy to crop a picture especially at the M9’s 18 megapixel, just make sure you capture enough of the picture so you can crop.

During the review, I couldn’t keep my eye off the white table right under the projection screen. It was loaded with M9, M9-Ps as well as most of Leica’s latest lenses including the fabled 0.95 Noctilux and the S2!! I’m guessing over ~$100k of gear?

Leica Akademie Toys

Leica Akademie Toys

After the review, we took a break to enjoy some wine and Hors d’oeuvre as the rest of the attendees started to trickle in. During the break, I got a chance to get a closer look at the loaner equipment. Due to the inaccessibility of most Leica gear, whether by availability or by wallet-wise, it was quite a sight to see. I put my name down on a M9-P Black, 35mm f/1.4 Summilux APSH, and a 24mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH. Someone got to the 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux before I did. I been wanting to try out the new 35mm especially after reading great reviews all over the place not to mention how rare that lens is to obtain. I already own a latest version of Silver 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH 6 bit (Arguably one of the sharpest 35mm lens Leica ever) I wanted to get a good comparison to see how good is really good. The 24mm has always been my landscape go to range. I have the 24mm f/2.8 Elmarit ASPH. Once again, trying to justify to myself if additional $4k is worth the extra 2 stops. I will be doing a little write up on the lenses I use this weekend in another post. More of my personal subjective review rather than quantitative.

My M9 + 24mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

My M9 + 24mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

M9-P + 35mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE

M9-P + 35mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE

Lux Trio

Lux Trio

On to the lecture. Tom saved one part of the review for the entire attendee to see. The HyperFocal and Scale Focasing. These are couple techniques I been practicing ever since I got the Leica. Chad (from my autobio) was the one that introduce it to me earlier this year. I read all about it and try to understand all the mumble jumbo. My tip? Set it and go try it. Once you see the picture, you will believe it.

This is a more how to tip rather than the theory behind it. If you want to read more about why it works and stuff like circle of confusion, DOF, etc. This wikipedia link does a fairly good job at explaining it. Hyper Focal

Tip #2: Setting HyperFocal. Grab your lens. Put it on f/16. Locate the two “16” marks on the lens barrel. Line the ∞ on the right “16”. Read the number on the left “16”. On a 35mm f/2 Summicron it shows 4 feet. So this means any picture taken from 4 feet to infinity will be in focus. If you adjust the f/stop to f/8, match the ∞ to right “8” and read the distance on the left “8”. Should be ~7 feet. This only works on the larger f/stop since it gives you a wider range. As you get comfortable with the range, you can try to open up the lens more to f/5.6. Keeping in mind that you will get shorter and shorter distance and the minimum focus distance will get farther. Remember, this is dependent on your lens selection.

Tip #3: Setting the Scale Focusing: Instead of setting the ∞, you pick a range you want. The most you want in focus at f/5.6 is 8 feet. Put “8” to match up to the right “5.6”. Then read the left “5.6”, should be a little under 4 feet. So this means anywhere from 5 feet to 8 feet will be in focus. Everything else will be blur out.

Tip #4: Use HyperFocal and Scale Focusing during the day to capture those moments without worrying about focusing. By setting the HyperFocal or Scale Focusing range, everything within that range to infinity will be in focus. One less ring you have to worry about when you’re street shooting to capture that shot. Just make sure you’re exposure are set and literally, just point and shoot!!

The night ended with Keynote speaker, The Pulitzer Prize photographer Kim Komenich. I especially like his presentation on key composition techniques used by famous photographers. Sadly to say, the only one that he mention that I actually knew who it was was Henri Cartier-Bresson. As I venture more into the artistry of Photography, I need to brush up my cultural knowledge and study more works from legendary Leica Masters. All in all, the keynote was very inspirational.

That was the end of Day 1!!

On the way to the parking lot, I couldn’t wait to try out the 35mm lux even though I have around with over $30k worth of Leica gear on me. I snap a couple shots before calling it a night.

Green Door

Stop Square

Continue on to Day 2…

(Day 1) (Day 2) (Day 2 Night) (Day 3)