Dear rangefinder enthusiasts and classic photographers,
Thank you for allowing us to share some news and random thoughts with you.
The Long and Winding Road
One good thing about the past year: Covid-19 has brought us closer to what is dear and important. I’m fortunate that throughout my life, photography has provided me with purpose and pleasure. There is a quiet satisfaction in the knowledge that we are part of a fraternity that includes legendary photographers who understand the beauty and power of an image captured in a fleeting moment.
During lengthy spells when we were housebound, I turned to YouTube, Vimeo, The New York Times’ Lens blog, and other platforms and sites to view a wealth of documentaries, talks and reportages on and by some of the most-celebrated image makers of our time. One can’t help but be moved by Dorothea Lange’s lifetime odyssey, her triumphs and tragedies, and the raw power of her imagery in shaping how we remember the Great Depression; or inspired by a presentation from the late Mary Ellen Mark as you see her subjects through her insightful and caring eye. There is a series of short videos on William Eggleston that go beyond the commonplace that he so perfectly captured and presented. Spoiler alert: quirky, colourful and erratic applies both to his photography and his personality. Our friend and director of the Leica Akademie, Tom Smith, hosts a series of relaxed chats with, among others, the charming and humble Maggie Steber.
Educated, erudite and driven by their mission, it is uplifting to see greatness and benevolence at work in photographers who make a consummate effort to understand and reveal the human condition in their subjects. Today, in what masquerades too often as photographic content, there’s a race to attract eyeballs to the latest unboxing, or test the corner-to-corner sharpness of one’s basement wall. Meaningful photography requires empathy, inquisitiveness, and hard work tackling issues both large and small.
It’s Getting Crowded at the Top
What with their latest offerings in the perfektion trifekta – the M10-R, the SL2 and Q2 – Leica is still sitting pretty, but can there be any doubt that Sony with their A1 and Fuji with their latest, 100 MP medium-format camera, are elbowing themselves into position to assume the mantle of head honcho?
Sony Alpha A1: Making a Statement in the Mirrorless World
In 1925, Oscar Barnack’s Leica 1 not only stood the photographic world on its head, but fundamentally changed the way people looked at themselves by bringing the camera to the middle of daily life.
Remember the Nikon F36 motor drive? Lock up the mirror and hold on tight as 8 AA batteries powered the film past the shutter at a blazing 4 fps. Fast-forward to 2021 and meet the very pricey Sony A1 flagship that, for the moment, is the apogee of camera engineering. Among its features: 30 fps and no blackout, beyond-belief autofocus that can quickly find and follow a bird’s eye, a crazy fast electronic shutter that can freeze action at 1/32,000 of a second without rolling shutter, a 50 MP full-frame stacked sensor that, for all intents and purposes, eliminates waiting for the buffer to clear, 8K video with lengthy recording times, and just about anything and everything else on your want list. Like the new Leica APO-Summicron-M 35 f/2 ASPH, the Sony A1 shows us what can be achieved when engineers work without limitations to provide superior tools that will push the boundaries of our art. But a camera is, well… just a camera. The onus is on us to turn opportunities provided by technology, into a new golden age of photography!
It’s The Most Beautiful Lens Leica Has Produced in the Past Decade. You want one? So do I!!
It’s been a busy year in Wetzlar, both redesigning and creating unique lenses that the photography world seems to want. Here’s my insight into production: at the end of the day, you have to actually produce and deliver something! Of the new, vintage (yup, it’s an oxymoron) 50mm Noctilux, as of this writing, only one has made it north of the 49th parallel. IMHO, it’s not a lens for every M user, but the all-around exquisiteness and remarkable craftsmanship that was first seen in 1966 when it was manufactured in Wetzlar, is something to behold. We’re struggling to get a clear indication of how many we will receive, but more baffling is that we’re in the dark about how many will be produced.
Leica APO-Summicron-M 35 f/2 ASPH: How Do You Renew Timelessness?
Next to the 50mm focal length, the 35mm Summicron has been instrumental in creating and maintaining the remarkable legacy of Leica photography. I’ve always been a huge fan of Summicron lenses. The f/2 maximum aperture translates into compact dimensions, and there is something about how sharpness and tonality are rendered with both natural creaminess and unambiguous precision. This linchpin of the legendary Leica look is getting a rich cousin!
Besides the apochromatic elements in a complex and unique design that insures optimal performance and sharpness at every aperture and any distance, the Leica Apo-Summicron-M 35 f/2 ASPH has a wonderful new twist. It focuses as close as 30cm! (The old standard was 70 cm.) The lens is not only praiseworthy as an optical achievement, but also demonstrates that Leica remains fully committed to the M system and pushing the limits of what it can accomplish.
Fujifilm GFX100s: Medium-Format in a Full-Frame Package
It’s the size of a compact, full-frame camera, and is complemented by a superb lens lineup that will capture the remarkable detail and tonality afforded by 100 megapixels on a medium-format sensor. If you are an art photographer that loves to make exceptionally large prints that hold their sharpness, the GFX100s is a MUST! ’Nuff said.
Need a new camera strap? It’s important to know the ropes! Credit the Cooph Cooperative for bringing us the original rope strap. Through their collaboration with Leica, they developed a lineup of distinctive, high-quality straps that are a perfect match for your camera. We have the new designs including the unique, double strap for the SL or any DSLR, and the Paracord lineup of wrist and neck straps created from repurposed parachute cord.
The vaccines are coming, the weather’s warming up and I even spotted a starling beginning to build a nest. Despite the trials and tribulations of the past year, there is much to be joyful about.
Always looking forward to your comments.
Jean Bardaji and Daniel Wiener