The Leica in the Landscape

Banks of fog under a clear sky

Banks of fog under a clear sky

Ok, sort of a reprise on the previous post. In coming to know the Leica M9 better, I’ve lacked occasions for people photography (but that’s coming up this weekend with a visit to Berlin!). What wasn’t lacking was autumnal fog and foliage around here. Plus, I’ve been monetizing my Hasselblad equipment (a bit of an emotional good-bye) and getting a Leica M Elmar f/3.4 24 mm wide angle for the proceeds.
Here it is on the M9

Here it is on the M9

Nifty cutout in the already quite compact lensshade

Nifty cutout in the already quite compact lensshade

So, how does one work with a Leica in the landscape? Everything’s the same as with a large format field camera, except you don’t have movements and you don’t have to lug around a crushing field pack. In fact, I make do with a small Billingham bag that holds the camera, a spotmeter, four lenses, various accessories and a bottle of water. It is positively light on the shoulder! Over the other shoulder (or as a substitute for a walking sick) goes the tripod, as I mentioned in the previous post, a combination of Calumet carbon legs and Really Right Stuff’s medium ballhead with Arca clamp.
Oh, and about the spotmeter: I’ve yet to use it in the field. Call me lazy, but it is more convenient to check the histogram and adjust accordingly. The spotmeter’s place is up for grabs.
Here's the kit deployed to photograph the foggy/sunny scene in the lead photograph

Here's the kit deployed to photograph the foggy/sunny scene in the lead photograph

So, how does the Elmar f/3.4 24mm lens fare? Quite stunning, in fact! It is Leica’s version of an unstressed lens construction, meaning that by forgoing a wide aperture you gain small size, a flat field and high resolution starting with the open aperture. Diffraction sets in at apertures smaller than f/5.6.
On the few occasions that I’ve used it to capture street scenes, I’ve used it in close proximity to my subjects, e.g. in a crowd. You focus and recompose and the wide angle makes your “victims” think your not photographing them. Try it sometimes, this really works!
Oh yeah, the recomposing part: there are no framelines for 24 mm in the M9’s viewfinder. Till now, I make do and take the whole of the viewfinder image as an approximation for what you get with the 24 mm lens. Works quite good for far and medium distances, but I’m keeping my equipment eyes peeled for a used 21 – 24 – 28 mm zoom viewfinder.
The Elmar-M f/3.4 24mm resolves so fine of a detail so evenly that it is the first lens that has produced moirĂ© on the M9’s sensor for me. I was photographing architecture with some fine regular details. No problem in nature, no repeating patterns there.

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3 Responses to “The Leica in the Landscape”

  1. Savory Simple Says:

    The fog with the intense contrast makes for beautiful photos. I love these.

  2. kiwicafe Says:

    I love it, I recently sold the try-elmar 16/18/21 for the fast 24mm 1.4, I love it and agree with all the above words đŸ™‚ the first image was napped with this lens, I was considering selling all my Leica gear for medium format but you caught me in time, thanx

  3. Monochrom | Mostly Black & White Says:

    […] of Wetzlar in a building next to the Leica factory. I went there on Saturday to deliver my Leica M9 to the service department. It, like some other previous models of Leica’s digital rangefinder […]

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