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made my peace with the M9 / 35 Summilux - in Bali


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Hi dear fellow photographers



The M9. I had my reservations, I had my problems. I asked, and complained about it in this forum and got some good advice. But I was not really convinced.


The 35 Summilux FLE. Again disappointments, was nearly about to sell it. Thought about to separate from Leica totally.


There where moments of frustration but also moments of joy.


I am a professionell wedding photographer and shoot mainly in unposed journalistic style. Yeah, easy answer, the M9 is for you you might say. I thought so, too. But parallax, fast moving situations with open aperture and low light shooting were the issues that made my problems.


In the end I found peace - in Bali.

No, I am not Julia Roberts but still, I found my peace with my M9 and Summilux combo. I actually love it.

The colors, the out of focus rendering, the handling. It was just pure fun to use it. And I am happy with the results. The M9 will get a lot of work next season...



If you like, see some pictures from my journey to Bali (the M9/35 was accompanied with the D700 and a 85/1.4)


a professional shooting:

Schmidt Wedding Photography


a little private notebook of my time in Bali:

Schmidt Wedding Photography



So, now probably is the time to try the 75 Summicron/Summilux, and the journey will start again...


heiko schmidt

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Even with these results - and I know you've gone through quite a challenging time to get around to liking the M9 + 35 FLE setup - I am wondering why you'd choose an M for fast moving situations when you are predominantly shooting wide open. Please don't misunderstand - I like very much your unposed journalistic style, as you put it, but it is difficult to apply when using the widest apertures which seems to be your preference. So, even with these results I would not have said that the M9 - or any M for that matter - is the "easy answer" to the question of what gear to use for your style. Rather, I would have though you would be using an autofocus camera with a fast lens instead, like the D700 and the 85 you already have.


If insisting on using an M, then I would have thought you would have used zone focus, which is pretty unbeatable for journalistic style in fast situations. Personally, I would have used that esp. if the result would be for professional use where a client expects results. However, in that case it would be impossible to use the widest apertures, of course. I agree with the posters above that you have nice photos on your site, that the rendering of the 35 FLE is amazing (I feel the same about my copy) etc. But quite a few images are out of focus and severely over- or under-exposed.

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.......................... But quite a few images are out of focus and severely over- or under-exposed.


My 2 cts and no more, but ....................................... need there always be at least one part of a picture tack sharp? IMHO many of Heiko's pictures would loose their interest imnmediately. And be indistinguishable from Caniko shots.

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Hi Philip,


thank you for your thoughtful input, really apreachiate it.

Valid points for sure, let´s see:


There are over- and underexposed pictures, but that also lies in the eye of the observer. I did it deliberatly to enhance the emotional content, something I do quite often. It´s just my style. When sometimes the exposure doesn´t come out as anticipated I fix it in post (RAW). I shoot all manual as I do with my Nikons - autoexposure just don´t work for me. (The Nikons allways underexpose when shooting against the sun, leaving the faces dark, don´t use fill-flash).


There are (some) out of focus/motion blur pictures. Sometimes, especially with motion blur, it is nice to give the puicture a little bit of extra salt. But often - you are right - it is just the problem of the M, like slow focus in moving situations and not so good high ISO.


I mostly shoot wide open, stopping down I do very seldom, either when needing more depht of field, or - like in the wedding shot where the bride is throwing the flowers back- when I absolutley need the shot and the subject is moving fast. But that is more a way to work around the shortcomings of the rangefinder focussing (or my ability). Nikon would of corse handle these situations better.


I have the choice:


- Either using my 2 Nikons for all my wedding work, and do like nearly every other wedding photographer. I am a 35 mm type of guy, so either I live with the bad bokeh of the 35/2.0 or with the slow AF of the 35/1.4. OR, I move to Canon, but don´t let us start with this.


- Or, I use my Leica with the exeptional 35 Summilux, feel great, get 90% of the shots I get with the Nikon, but if I get it I like it much more than the Nikons.



So it comes down to personal choice. I probably will stay with the Leica for the 35mm. I hope I get better with focus with practice. I can guestimate 70 cm quite well allready (it´s exactly as long as I can reach with my arm), so it´s just pull up the camera and shoot without even looking through the viewfinder. Of course the missrate is huge.



Thanks to the rest of you for your nice words about my pics ...



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Adding 2c here as well - Heiko uses "technical imperfections" to create a romantic mood - a technique that fits his profession well


And with grace!

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Thanks for writing back, for explaining your thought process and for taking the feedback in the positive and constructive manner I intended it. There is a lot of "great shot", "awesome image", "best I have ever seen" comments around the internet, particularly at Flickr and definitely also here, so I do appreciate that you struck up the dialogue.


I'm certainly not going to argue on style or taste because there is really no point. If you and - most importantly - your clients are happy with the results, then that is all that matters!


I hasten to add that I'm certainly not one who takes pin-sharp photographs as soon as I press the shutter. Moreover, because I use film it takes a bit longer for me to learn from my mistakes, meaning my progress with the M system is slower. Still, I enjoy it immensely and much more than I did with my Canon gear.


I sold cameras in the 80s when the EOS system was launched and it was quite clear that Canon was superior to Nikon AF-wise for a number of years. In the DSLR world, Nikon has finally caught up and at the mo' it seems a pretty dead race. Then again, it depends on one's photographic needs. It is a pretty big decision to change to another system.


One little comment, though, where I have discovered the great benefits of re-thinking my photography as a result of using manual metering with an M.


You say Nikons always under-expose when shooting against the sun with autoexposure. I remember when the EOS system came out there was a lot of discussions about the rudimentary image-processing in their (analogue) cameras. Apparently the camera was in some way comparing the exposure of the scene with a great number of stored situations in order to determine the correct exposure. Seemed awfully advanced to me at the time but in many situations it was possible to obtain useable images even against stronger light sources (though usually not the sun). Of course the possibility always existed - and exists with pretty much all DSLRs too - to choose another metering method, like spot, and that would result in a much better exposed contre-jour portrait. The particular qualities of film also assisted in such situations, of course.


The difference between the old analogue shooting style just described and today's DSLR shooting style, it seems, is that photographers today simply expect that a camera should be able to understand that in a contre-jour situation the photographer wants both the face and the background correctly exposed. Enter the digital magic which does its tricks and produces a pretty well-exposed image. Advances in technology allows people to expect these things, which is pretty amazing.


Using the meter on my TTL has forced me to "see" not only what stronger/strongish light sources there are within the frame but also to estimate their relative strength vis-a-vis the rest of the scene. What appears like a weak lamp may ruin an indoors evening shot, whereas it won't make a dent in the overall exposure in an indoors afternoon scene. This is valuable experience.


But - and it is due to my background - even if I were to use the latest and greatest digital SLRs I would not expect to be able to get a well-exposed image in a contre-jour situation with matrix or evaluative metering. I would instead use the options available to me, like spot metering, to increase my chances of a correctly exposed image. I might allow exposing a bit more in favour of the bright background in order to reduce the amount I would have to pull in ACR's exposure lever in post, but I would still meter predominantly off the subject.



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Hi Philip,


cool, this is leading somewhere.


As I shoot in a journalistic style and try to get the moments and the more important moments "in between" I have to be fast. There is simply no time for spot metering. That would mean, aim to the face, press shutter halfway, recompose, take one picture. Want to do another picture? you have to start at the beginning again - very slow.


In some modern evaluating metering it goes: shoot one image, the subject moves a bit to one side, suddenly there is a lamp/window or something within the picture and my metering will be off.


In manual I simply check the room when entering, where is light, where is it more dark, guess the exposure, check while aiming at those spots. Then I have one, maybe two different exposures for the environment. I can shoot as many pictures as I want, everyone will be proper exposed. Moves the subject into a darker area, I all ready know the exposure and just need to dial it in, on goes the shooting.


Same goes for outside, often it is enough to know two exposures, one for the sunny-side of subjects, one for the shadow-side.



It takes time, but once you get it, it is fast, very reliable and foremost satisfactory. And I can do it with every camera, doesn´t matter if I have my Leica or my Nikon.


But, I also understand that other photogs are faster with other methods, do what works for you. I think it´s as simple as that.




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Hi Dana,


thank you for the fowers,


Apple Aperture and VSCO

I made my own presets (one for colour, one for B&W) and batchprocess, tweaking only if necessary.

For good skin colours I can recommend do the exposure right in camera, when pushing in post you will have difficulties with the correct colours.


In wedding photography I have to edit about 500 - 800 pics in a day or two, so this is streamlined as much as possible.




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