I believe photographers should use whatever gear they like and they can afford. There are no right and wrong answers but only what works for you. I have shot a lot of different cameras over the years. I like to play and experiment with different photography equipment. This is part of the joy of photography for me. You can spend a small fortune with trial and error shopping while trying to find out what works for you. I’ll share what I use and why. Hopefully it will give you some insight for your purchases. Feel free to ask questions if you have them. Let me tell you about my gear:
My primary color digital camera is a Black Leica M9-P. To me it is a truly amazing camera and the perfect camera for me! It is light and easy to carry around. It takes razor sharp images with brilliant rendering of color. It is can easily slip into my briefcase to accompany as I go about my daily business. It also is a great conversation piece. I have a lot of conversations started by strangers who are just interested in my camera. I also shoot a Leica M Monochrom for Black and White digital photography. For Film Photography I shoot the Leica M6-J and the Leica M6 Millennium.
I have started to explore Medium Format film photography. I picked up a Hasselblad 501CM which is my primary Medium Format camera. I also have a Mamiya 645 Pro TL.
Point and Shoot
I also have the Ricoh GRD IV as my digital point and shoot.
In a world of mass production I admire the craftsmanship that Leica puts into their products. You can instantly feel the construction of the camera as you hold it in your hands. I love the clean look and feel of my M9-P. Leica refers to it as ‘stripped down to absolute functionality’. This video gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Leica cameras.
I shoot a varity of Leica prime lens with it; I have the Summilux 21mm f/1.4, Summicron 28mm f/2.0, Summilux 35mm f/1.4, Noctilux 50mm f/0.95, Summicron 50mm f/2.0, Elmar 50mm f/2.8, Summilux 75mm f/1.4 and the Summicron 90mm f/2.0. These lenses coupled with my M9-P, M-Monocrom and M6-J make for the perfect camera system for me. Leica doesn’t make zoom lenses so I am shooting only manual prime lenses.
Shooting only prime lenses took a bit of adjustment for me. When you walk around with zoom lenses you can change the perspective and see the change ‘in camera’. With primes it takes practice to learn to see the shot. You really ‘learn’ to see at different focal lengths and with practice will be able to see a shot before you put the camera up to your eye. I have gotten into the habit of spending a significant amount of dedicated time with new lenses to make sure I can ‘see’ the world through them as I talked about in 10 things I learned from daily shooting. You will find it easier to shoot some lenses over others. My 50mm is natural for me so there is no need to spend dedicated time with it. I actually have to stop spending time with it sometimes. Once you are comfortable with the lenses you can go out for a day with just one lens and be happy with your results. I am constantly checking which lenses I am getting my shots from to make sure I have a good balance between lenses. I am pretty happy with the shots I can get from any of my lenses;
(I am still breaking in the rest of the lenses so look for more xx shots series)
I always use a clear Leica protectors on my lenses. I know there are varying views on this but I never have a lens cap on. I am always walking in cities so I want to protect the glass of the lens. I like to shoot my lenses wide open most of the time so during the day I switch my clear protectors for ND filters. I use B+W ND 4 Filters most of the time and I also have a B+W ND 64 for my Noctilux for when it is really bright out.
There are a few ‘must have’ accessories to get the most out of these lenses. I have a 21mm bright finder I use in the hot shoe when I am shooting the 21mm Summilux. I also have a 35mm viewfinder that I occassionally use with my 35mm. The 35mm Summilux blocks part of the in camera viewfinder which takes a bit of getting use to. I also use a 1.4x magnifier with my 50mm to make it easier to focus.
Leica Lenses are hand-crafted. They are manufactured meticulously to precision. They are razor sharp. I find their manufacturing process fascinating.
I use a leather Artisan and Artist leather camera case. It is perfect for protecting the M9 body as I am moving through busy cities. It is a little heavier than Leica’s version but I think it is a bit nicer as well.
I also use the Artisan and Artist Silk Cord Strap vs. the one provided by Leica. Made from the same Japanese Kumihimo artists that have been making braided silk straps for battle armor and swords for Samurai warriors for thousands of years. The strap is cool on your neck and won’t mark a dress shirt like a leather strap can plus if it is used by Samurai it must be cool. It wraps very easily around your wrists when shooting Street Photography.
I use a ‘bip’ soft release from Match Technical on my Shutter Release. When you are shooting in low light it will significantly reduce camera shake allowing you to hand hold an additional stop of light or more. There are various size ones and they come either concave or convex. Leica recommends using the smaller sized ones. I also use the ‘Thumbs Up’ from Match Technical to make holding the M9 a little easier. To me it makes holding the camera feel more natural and I miss it when I forget to put in on my camera. I have one for when I am using an external viewfinder and one for when I am not.
I hate lugging around a tripod but they are necessary if you want to capture certain shots at night or long exposures. I use the Leica TableTop Tripod. It is extremely light and portable I tend to alway keep it in my camera bag when traveling. I have gotten some really cool architecture shots in hotels using it. I also use a hot shoe level which is helpful in making sure the camera is level.
There are times when a flash is very helpful and a fun part of photography to explore. I don’t carry them often when it makes for a nice divergence when I do. You can check out some of the results from Flashing Jiyugaoka, Flashing Tokyo and The Bake Shop Party….
I typically go out with 5 memory cards. I have one in the camera and four in a little carrying case. I tend to swap out cards once I get 100 or 150 shots on them. I am always worried about losing a card so I prefer to spread my data out across cards. With the type of shooting you are doing on a Leica you don’t need lightening fast cards or huge memory. I found my M9 works best with 8GB cards 30/mb per second cards.
For handling your film and ensuring you don’t get finger prints or oil from your skin on them you need gloves. I couldn’t believe how nasty my film got from just a little handling and it gives you a lot more to clean up in post processing.
I use an Epson GT-x970 Flatbed scanner. This is the Japan version of the V750. There are much more expensive dedicated film scanning available on the market. They are about 4-8 times the cost and I think I am getting pretty decent results now so I am not ready to make that investment. Perhaps there will be a PlusTek OptiFilm Scan 120 in my future but not right now. I am going to keep that money for film, cameras and lenses.
What you do need to invest in is a set of Better Scanning film holders. The ones provided by Epson are pretty difficult to get the film to lay flat. You also need to get an big air blower to get dust off of the film.
Mac, Drives and Software
If you don’t understand the need for ensuring the film is laying flat have a look at these two scans. The one on the left was not laying flat and the film was a bit curved. The second scan is laying completely flat. The BetterScanning plates don’t magically make this much difference but they do help you to ensure that your film is laying flat and as you can see this is pretty important for scanning.
I use a 17 inch MacBook Pro for all of my image processing. It is really heavy to carry around but I love the screen size and processing power. I have a 500GB Flash Drive and removed the optical drive and put in a second 600GB flash drive.
I don’t actually use a lot of different software. I have a minimalist digital workflow and use Adobe Lightroom for all of my editing needs. I have Photoshop but I never have a need for it. Lightroom can easily handle everything I need to get accomplished. I use TimeMachine for backing up. I also use the Rescue PRO file recovery utility from SanDisk. It is a life saver if you mistakenly format a memory card too soon.
Traditional spinning disk drives and I have a horrible legacy together. I didn’t lose ‘a’ hard drive…I lost ’6′ within a couple of months. I’m not sure what I did to the ‘Data Gods’ to cause this curse but if you enjoy reading about other people’s misery… enjoy;
Thankfully I am extremely paranoid and I backup everything, all the time. I do backups with TimeMachine a few times a week. I use Western Digital drives. I like them as they are clean looking, simple, reliable and I can access them directly and not through their software interface. Once a month I also copy over my entire ‘photos’ folder and archive off a copy. When I am traveling I make a second copy of my images I have shot and move them to my second drive on my Mac. I also carry along a couple of 500GB Western Digital drives to archive off copies to as well.
I typically go out with a camera hanging around my neck. When I do use a camera bag I use the Billingham f/Stop 2.8 (Black with Black Leather Trim). It is amazing how much you can fit in there. I can easily fit my 4 lenses, a second camera, my tripod, and other accessories without a problem. When I am out on business with my Tumi Briefcase or carrying my Manhattan Portage I use a Honl Wrap to wrap up my camera so it is protected when it is in one of those bags. It works really well and allows me to always have a camera with me, even for those rare times I need to put it in my bag.
So…there is a little insight to what I am shooting with.
Thanks for stopping by today…