Leica M10-D: Comparison to an Old Friend

Leica M10-D: Comparison to an Old Friend

Bottom-Line-Up-Front

The Leica M10-D is a remarkable camera. Its minimalist controls provide an uncluttered, refreshingly simple user experience that compliments your creative process. It is my first foray into Leica’s digital M ecosystem and I’m happy I waited until this camera came along to take the plunge. If you’re jonesing for an M10-D, I recommend you move immediately on your impulse.

New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve – Tinsel & Lights – Leica M10-D w/Noctilux-M 50mm

My Frame of Reference

I’m a child of the film age. My first professional 35mm camera was the venerable Nikon F3HP, which I still use today. I repeatedly read Ansel Adam’s books The Camera, The Negative, and The Print, until I had internalized the wisdom contained within those sacred texts and applied it to my own work.

As a U.S. Navy submarine Electronics Technician in the early ‘80s, one of my collateral duties was Ships Photographer. The primary duty of a ship’s photographer was to ensure images made through the boat’s periscopes were of sufficient quality to extract maximum intelligence. On deployments we took along a portable, automatic film processing unit, which was cumbersome to use and provided mediocre results at best, so I preferred to develop negatives by hand. After one exercise which required taking, processing, and submitting periscope images for review, I was happy to learn the Intel guys had never seen such well-developed negatives.

Rick Miller - Early Navy Days

Standing Lookout Watch – 1984, Nikon F3HP w/Nikkor 50mm f1.8 – Taken by OOD

Ahh, the memories…, uh, where was I, oh yeah, the Nikon F3HP, anyway, what I like about this camera, among many other things, is its 80% center-weighted metering, Auto exposure mode, exposure memory lock, and the ergonomics of its controls. You can, of course, set the exposure manually, but sometimes I like to be spontaneous, and the combination of auto exposure mode, center-weighted metering, and exposure lock allow me to quickly assess a scene’s luminosity and make bracketed exposures without bothering to drop into manual mode. And oh-by-the-way, there’s no chimping on a film camera.

Savannah Riverfront

The Beef Jerky Shop, Savannah, GA – Leica M10-D w/Noctilux-M 50mm

Another critically important feature of the Nikon F3HP is, of course, that it’s a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera, and I recall clearly my struggle to decide between it and the Leica M4-P, which is a range finder. To me, peering directly through the lens seemed like a more natural way to view a scene and more accurately judge image composition, a view I still hold today. So, with limited funds of a young navy squid, and being inclined towards an SLR, I chose the Nikon over the Leica, and I’ve been happy with my decision ever since. I use Nikon’s Flagship DSLRs to this day and all my old Nikon lenses work just fine on them.

Blackberry Bush

Blackberry Bush – Leica M10-D w/Summicron-M 90mm

Que the Leica M10-D

It’s the marriage of intuitive, ergonomic controls and a return to a familiar way of image-making that defines the allure of the Leica M10-D for me personally. It compares favorably in size with the Nikon F3HP sans its MD-4 motor winder. Its metering, by default, is center-weighted, and the exposure lock (called Metering Memory Lock) is activated by a slight pressure on the shutter release button. In this regard, the M10-D outshines the F3HP. It’s a bit of a Kabuki dance to activate the exposure lock with the MD-4 motor winder attached, which is my F3HP’s normal battle configuration.

Backyard Buddha

Buddha & Zen Plant – Leica M10-D w/Summicron-M 90mm

A slew of additional features such as focus peaking and two additional metering modes are available with the use of the separate Visoflex 020 accessory. More about the Visoflex later.

The camera’s operation can be customized via the Leica Fotos app, which connects to the camera via the Leica M10-D’s WIFI (WLAN) connection. The Fotos app also allows you to control the camera remotely, a feature I haven’t tried yet, but seems like it would come in handy to reduce touch-induced camera shake or to just let you take a picture with you in it that doesn’t look like a selfie.

I’m still not as fast at acquiring images as quickly with a range finder vs. an SLR, but I’m getting better with practice.

Grave Site Savannah, GA

Grave Site, Savannah, GA – Leica M10-D w/Noctilux-M 50mm

The Visoflex (Type 020) Electronic Viewfinder

This is one cool accessory. Attaching the Visoflex to the M10-D gives you a DSLR experience without the mirror flap. It connects to the M10-D via the hot shoe mount and provides a full-color, heads-up display with information you’d normally find in a DSLR or mirrorless camera with an electronic viewfinder, including a histogram in the upper left corner of the display. It also provides focus peaking and the ability, with a tap of the shutter release button, to zoom in on a subject to focus on a particular detail. This is all fine and dandy, but I find the battery drains about 10 times faster when using the Visoflex, something to be aware of if you decide to add that accessory to your kit. So, I’ve set the M10-D to my favorite settings and with practice I’m getting better at focusing with the optical range finder.

Leica Visoflex

Leica M10-D with Visoflex and Spare Batteries

Actually, in my experience, I can focus more accurately with the optical range finder, especially in situations where extremely accurate focusing is critical, say, when focusing on an eye at wide-open apertures. The Visoflex favors good, solid edges.

Leica Visoflex Rear View

Leica M10-D w/Visoflex Rear View

So, although I shelled out some hard-earned cash for the Visoflex, I find myself using it less often now as I grow more proficient at range finder focusing. Note: My M10-D is always smartly dressed in its Luigi half case with built-in grip, and UPstrap Medium X Crossover Pad camera strap + Quick Release available at UPStrap-pro.com.

Visoflex Up

Leica M10-D w/Visoflex in Up Position

 

The Fotos App

The Leica M10-D has a minimal set of external controls, and since there’s no screen on the back, to make changes to default settings, or access other advanced features not accessible when the Visoflex is attached, you must connect the camera to the Fotos app to access these settings. Connecting my M10-D to Fotos seems like a hit-or-miss operation at times and requires several retries, but it eventually connects.  Maybe I need to update my camera’s firmware. Once in, however, it works great, and you can change settings and operate the camera remotely, as I mentioned earlier.

The following screenshots step through the process of connecting the camera to Fotos.

Connecting Fotos App

Connecting to Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Remote Operation

Remote Operation

 

Fotos also lets you view and download images from the camera to your iPhone or iPad. One point of caution is in order here – downloading an image from the camera to your device removes the image from the camera. I found this a bit annoying when later I went to import the images into Lightroom and found the ones I had downloaded were missing. I had to import them from my iPhone into Apple’s Photos, then export the original files from Photos then import them into Lightroom. This delete-from-camera-on-download might just be a setting in Fotos. If it is, I haven’t found it yet. Just something to keep in mind.

Something else to keep in mind…using the camera’s WLAN sucks down the battery at about 10 times the normal rate. That’s why you need to buy one or two spare batteries. This leads me to my Tips for All Day Shooting with the Leica M10-D on One Battery:

  • Don’t use the Visoflex
  • Resist the urge to chimp until you get home. (Chimping on your phone is still chimping. Real photographers don’t need to chimp. )

Side-By-Side Comparisons

Leica M10-D vs. Nikon F3HP

Leica M10-D vs. Nikon F3HP

Leica M10-D vs. Leica M3

Leica M10-D vs. Leica M3

Leica M3 Needs CLA

Leica M3 Needs CLA

Over the course of a year (Jan 2017 – June 2018) I ran a roll of Tri-X through this camera, and when I finally got around to developing the film, I discovered it had a serious problem which I’d never noticed before. At shutter speeds 125th of a second and faster the rear shutter curtain quickly catches up to the front curtain and a severe case of shutter capping occurs, as you can see from the contact sheet below. Time for a CLA.

A few hours of Internet research later and I settled on YYeCamera.com. I sent Mr. Youxin Ye an email introducing him to my camera and its problem(s), and asked for shipping instructions. He responded within 30 minutes. His prompt reply assured me my camera would be in good hands. I told him I’d ship it out the following day.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed the shutter release would jam at random intervals, requiring the use of the self-timer to release. At speeds below 125th of a second the shutter curtains seemed to work fine. Cameras, like motorcycles, benefit more from use than neglect. Taking over a year to shoot a roll of film could be construed as a high crime against a classic camera.

The lens used to make these images is the Leica Summicron 5cm f2. This is a collapsible lens and when paired with the M3 makes for a compact kit, although not quite as compact as the Leica Elmar 5cm f2.8.

New Year’s Resolution: Shoot More Film In 2019 (2 January 2020 Update!)

New Year’s Resolution: Shoot More Film In 2019 (2 January 2020 Update!)

Happy New Year!

 

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of film, but I’m ashamed to admit I slacked off in 2017 & 2018 and shot only a handful of rolls and developed not one. I’m now faced with a stockpile of aging film and chemicals nearing expiration and I need to get busy. I need to shoot more film. 

My ambitious plan for 2019 is to select two cameras from my collection as daily shooters and carry them wherever I go, either one or the other, or, if I’m feeling froggy, both, but that might be too ambitious. In case you haven’t already guessed from looking at the header image, I’ve selected the venerable Nikon F3HP and the Mamiya C330.

Nikon F3HP


Nikon F3HP

The Nikon F3HP was an easy choice as it’s easily my favorate camera of all time. I’m upping the ante by using only two prime lenses: 1) a Nikkor 50mm f1.2 (shown attached to the camera), and 2) a Nikkor 35mm f1.4. The use of primes will force me out of my comfort zone and encourage me to get close and intimate with my subjects. I also need to build an image bank using these lenses and this will give me the opportunity.

Mamiya C330 Pro


Mamiya C330 Pro

I’ve owned the Mamiya C330 for some time, but haven’t had a chance to use it.  Its 80mm f2.8 Mamiya-Sekor lens is superb for portrait work.

Both of these cameras are hefty. In my very unscientific left-hand-right-hand scale test, the Mamiya feels more than a bit heavier than the Nikon with the MD-4 motordrive attached. My strap of choice in situations like this is the UPstrap Large Mountain ‘Hybrid’ Pad Camera Step/Sling. These are, hands down, the best camera straps on the planet. And no, I am not affiliated with UPstrap. I just like to plug companies that make great products here in the good-ol’ USA.

Kodak 400 TX



Kodak 400 TX

For film I’ll be using Kodak Tri-X 400, Kodak Porta 400, Kodak Ektar 100, and ADOX 25. I’ll schlep the film and other doodads around in my goto camera bag: a US Army Communications Peg Bag.

US Army Bag



US Army Bag

The one shown above is a reprodution. I waterproofed the fabric with 3M waterproofing spray and I carry a handful of waterproof pouches for when the weather is particularly nasty and I can’t escape the elements.

I’ll post updates and sample images throughout the year.

Update
2 January 2020

I fell way short of achieving this goal, I’m saddened to admit. I didn’t even touch the Mamiya C330 Pro, but I did manage to take the Nikon F3HP out for several spins over the course of the year and came away with a handful of images, several of which are posted below.

Bentleys Still Life

Bentleys Still Life – Nikon F3HP w/Nikkor 50mm f1.2

Tri Nguyen

Tri Nguyen – Nikon F3HP w/Nikkor 50mm f1.2

The Nikon F3HP is perhaps my favorite camera. I’ve used it since the early 1980’s and its controls are as familiar, intuitive, and responsive to me as a lover’s body.

Kathleen

Kathleen – Nikon F3HP w/Nikkor 50mm f1.2

But it seems I have found a new lover…

Leica M10-D

Leica M10-D w/Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0

…a digital camera that shoots like a film camera, the Leica M10-D. You can read my complete review of this amazing camera here: [ Link coming soon! ]

What Famous Photographers Used Yashica Mat Cameras?

What Famous Photographers Used Yashica Mat Cameras?

On 5 September 2018, I received an inquiry via my website contact page from Mark Stone-Brant:

Dear Rick

    I was wondering which famous pro photographers actually used the Yashica TLR, It does not matter which models they used for their work. It is difficult to actually see any on the web. I was wondering if you knew which famous photographers so I could see their examples of their photos. Perhaps they are mainly Japanese photographers?

    Please let me know 

    Kind regards 

Mark

    What a great question. Until Mark’s inquiry, I’d not given the subject much thought. I know there’s a tremendous amateur interest in the Yashica Mat cameras. They’re affordable medium format cameras, though over the past few years I’ve seen prices creep up into the $500 range for units in mint condition.

    Mark also posed the question to a Yashica Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) enthusiast from Australia who offered the following analysis:

    Thank you. In terms of your question, there is no easy answer. There is a difference between professional photographers and famous photographers. The simple answer is that I don’t know of any famous professional photographers who used Yashica TLRs. There could have been but not to my limited knowledge.

    Yashica’s philosophy was to build good quality TLRs at low prices and make money out of volume. The TLRs were aimed at mainly amateurs although the crank wind models often ended up being used by wedding photographers and similar, particularly when starting out. These are professionals by any description but are unlikely to be published photographers in the sense that you would find them in an art book of some form. One such photographer is an Englishman by the name of Tony Baker who contacted me regarding some assistance with a book. He has written an autobiography, “It’s not Quite How I Pictured It”. At various times, he did very well. When he was starting out, he used a Yashica-Mat but moved on to other equipment when he became more successful.

    And that’s the reality, the Yashicas are very capable of decent pictures but they are not particularly designed for the rigours of professional use. People used them for that purpose but not so much out of choice rather than a matter of necessity. Minolta Autocords are very similar in that regard.

    Also, famous photographers rarely talk about their tools. They use whatever tool meets their needs or that they have at hand at the time and in reality, are capable of taking far better pictures than the rest of us regardless of the quality of the camera.

    I know that your question was specifically regarding TLRs but Yashica’s first 35 mm SLR, the Pentamatic, is an example of a camera being used not for some outstanding quality but for a reason only known to the photographer. It was not a commercially successful SLR, even though it seems to be a nicely built camera with quality lens. There were three versions but it only lasted in production a couple of years. The biggest issue was a poor selection of lenses and only the normal lens featured an auto diaphragm. Not the sort of camera that “professionals” are drawn to but the famous Weegee, Arthur Fellig, names the Pentamatic as one of the cameras he liked using.

    Sorry, that’s the limit of my knowledge on this topic.

    So I put the question out to a wider audience: If anyone knows of a famous or influential photographer who preferred to use Yashica Mat cameras between 1957 – 1990, please share their name and any images you are aware of with me so I can post them on this blog.

Bent Rim and Trash, Amsterdam

 

Getting Close: Macro Photography with Classic Nikon Equipment

Getting Close: Macro Photography with Classic Nikon Equipment

Sometimes you just wanna get close. Macro lenses offer close-focusing capabilities and you don’t need the latest and greatest lens to have fun with macro photography. My favorite macro lens is the Zoom-Nikkor 35-105. In this post I’d like to show you how you can get really close to your subject by combining a digital camera with classic macro equipment.

I’m a Nikon fan for a reason. Their older equipment works with their newer cameras. For the most part. You can use lenses made in the late 70’s with the higher end Nikon cameras with no problem. You can mount older lenses to Nikon’s entry-level DSLRs but function is limited. If you know how to shoot manual, you have nothing to worry about.

To get close to my subject in this article I’m going to use a Micro-Nikkor 55mm f2.8 AI-S manual focus lens mounted to a Nikon D5500. To get even closer, I’ll attache the lens and the camera to a Nikon PB-6 bellows.

One of my favorite subjects to photograph when no one is handy is Zen Plant.

Zen Plant – Nikon D5500 w/Micro-Nikkor 55mm f2.8 Manual Focus Lens

The lens is attached directly to the camera for this shot. I’d call it a medium shot. In the middle of the image there’s a leaf with two distinct spots. I’ll use the same set-up to get a little bit closer.

Zen Plant – A Little Bit Closer

I am hand holding the camera for both of these images. The D5500 is set to manual because it won’t work on Auto or Aperture Priority with an AI-S lens. (But my D3X will.) What this means is that I must use an external exposure meter or bracket my shots by altering either the shutter speed, the aperture, or the ISO setting until I get an acceptable exposure.

To get in even closer I will mount the lens and the camera to a Nikon PB-6 bellows. Here’s what the rig looks like.

Nikon D5500 and Micro-Nikkor 55mm attacked to a Nikon PB-6 Bellows

I adjust the bellows extension, lens focus, and plant position to zero in on the two-spot leaf.

Even Closer with the Nikon PB-6 Bellows

There’s a lot more on that leaf than two spots. And I never before noticed the thin, wispy spider webs connecting the leaves. Getting close to your subject can open up a whole new world!

If I extend the bellows even further, I can get even closer.

Closer Still – Bellow Extended Further

I believe even the dust has dust on it!

At these extremely close ranges every little movement really affects the subject. One thoughtless touch to the plant or the camera rig creates chaos in the image. It can take several minutes for things to settle down enough to snap the picture. Depth of field at these close focusing distances is wafer thin, and perhaps thinner than a wafer. The slightest adjustment to either the bellows, the lens focus, or the plant can throw the whole image out of whack. It can be a real chore to find my bearings after a focusing mishap.

To get even closer, I can reverse the lens on the PB-6. I’ll leave that for another post.

If you’re a Nikon user don’t discount older equipment. Most of it works fine on high-end Nikon DSLRs and even with entry level cameras, although with some limitations.