Dear rangefinder enthusiasts and classic photographers,
Thank you for allowing us to share some news and random thoughts with you.
The Buzz On the Riverbank
The Lahn river is a popular destination for canoeists and sightseers drawn by storybook castles and cathedrals towering above its shores. But in the world of photography, the importance of this tributary of the Rhine runs a lot deeper than its waters. Nestled on its banks is the town of Wetzlar, the cradle of quality optics and cameras, historically home to Hensoldt, Oculus Optikgeräte, Minox and, of course, Ernst Leitz.
Not too long ago, one could plausibly argue that despite a glorious past, Leica Camera was following the downward arc of Eastman Kodak, Rollei, Minolta and other photographic giants. But that’s not what happened. The heirs of the Leitz legacy are now designing, creating and manufacturing what are, without doubt, the most advanced and beloved cameras and lenses available today. We are witnessing a renaissance at Leica and marvel as this small company of merely 500 people, pushes and redefines the boundaries in photography’s new golden age.
A New Monochrom Makes its Debut
Truly an extension of the photographer’s eyes and hands, I can think of no camera that better celebrates the spirit and style of photography championed by Leica than the new M10 Monochrom. Coupled with M lenses, the purpose-built black-and-white sensor assiduously maintains the classic Leica look. By significantly increasing the megapixels, Leica has been able to push that look into disciplines that have traditionally been within the purview of specialized, technical and larger-format gear.
When the M10 Monochrom was announced a couple of weeks ago, this was my instantaneous impression:
If a Leica M represents the essence of a camera, then a black-and-white photograph is photography’s soul.
You may revel in a rich and colourful landscape photograph, a dazzling wildlife image, or a vivid and radiant portrait, but there is nothing like black and white to raise the spirit and reveal a decisive moment filled with emotion and meaning.
From Robert Frank to Larry Towell with more than a passing wave to Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Koudelka and other humanist photographers, the understanding of light, texture and the shades of grey will forever define and be part of the human experience.
Today, we are introduced to the third generation of the Leica Monochrom camera. While its two predecessors – loved and coveted by art photographers – continue to produce outstanding images with unmatched quality and dynamic range, this new M10 Monochrom goes a good distance further. It is built on the M10-P platform, with a lighter, slimmer body, identical to the M7. The shutter is the quietest mechanical shutter ever and the viewfinder is larger and brighter than those in any previous Leica camera. The sensor was developed and built from the ground up with this camera in mind, producing 40 megapixel images that will elevate printing possibilities to a new level.
As the M10 Monochrom becomes available, I stand in awe that it was built in the first place. In a world increasingly guided by marketers with mass production as their mantra, Leica has offered us a low-volume, world-beating, black-and-white M. While they have won my admiration, more importantly, they have earned my respect!
SL2: The State-of-the-Art Mirrorless
My enthusiasm for the SL2 is still growing and from what I have heard, this enthusiasm is contagious. 47.3-megapixels, no low-pass filter, ability to shoot 10 fps with the mechanical shutter (20 with the electronic, but who cares?), 5-axis stabilization on the sensor, a sublime OLED viewfinder, a menu that is a triumph of lucidity over incomprehensibility, rock solid and beautifully machined, this is a camera that not only does everything well, it also feels right while going about its business. It is the epitome of a modern photographic tool!
Using the SL2 seems to exponentially increase the joy of photography. I’ve received feedback from owners who claim their photographs have a feeling of depth that is beyond reach of even large-format silver halide photography, with breathtaking clarity and luminosity that is anything but overly clinical.
While the SL2’s best feature may be the ability to take full advantage of M lenses, using the growing number of lenses in native L-mount on this camera will add an amazing new dimension to appreciating the groundbreaking camera.
In addition to the 3 SL zoom lenses, there are presently 5 Leica-SL primes with 2 more in the pipeline. All share the same optical design concepts, same width and filter size. Within the wide angle and telephoto groupings, there are common elements. Superior contrast and sharpness, and minimal to nonexistent aberrations are delivered across the board. These are true apochromatic lenses, with longitudinal colour aberrations being reduced to amounts that are not visible. No more colour fringing in defocused areas!
Thursday, March 19: An Evening With The Giant’s Neighbour
An accomplished photographer, musician, and a great friend of mine and the boutique, Chad Tobin calls Cape Breton home. For many years, he’d visit Robert Frank at his summer home in Mabou, Cape Breton, where Frank and his wife June have had a cottage since the early 1970s.
Of course, we are all familiar with Frank’s landmark book, The Americans, with its telling insights into an America stripped of its glossy, 1950s veneer. Chad forged an unusual relationship with the Swiss-born, mercurial master and over the years, casually photographed him in his seaside retreat.
Frank passed away on September 9, 2019, leaving a powerful legacy marked by photographs that not only broke with accepted norms, but challenged and changed how a nation viewed itself. On September 10, 2019, The New Yorker’s art critic, Peter Schjeldahl wrote: “Frank’s nakedness to what was to him an alien land terrified us, and we were joyous. In a way, this amounted to a callow extension of American exceptionalism – postwar national hubris, only negative. Tragedy with its foot to the floor. We were special, all right..."
To share his experience and time with Robert Frank, Chad decided to create To Be Frank, a project honouring the photographer’s memory through a talk and a series of intimate portraits that are woven into the rugged, Cape Breton terrain. The presentation focuses on quiet moments by the sea, revealing the nexus between land, love and loss.
On Thursday, March 19 at 18:30, I am most pleased to announce that Camtec will host an evening with Chad Tobin. He will talk about his friend and the fashioning of this compelling tribute to one of photography’s giants.
Places are limited, if you wish to attend please RSVP by email.
Mike Hayes: Our Peripatetic Pal is at it Again
He’s graced our newsletter several times in the past with images that revealed an exciting world well beyond the horizon. This time, Mike spent 6 months on the spine of South America, exploring the Andes in Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.
Respectful, honest and open, Mike’s approach to photography mirrors how he lives his life. On his journeys, he has perfected the ability to appreciate a moment in the wilderness, and understand the underlying human condition in the villages and towns he visits. A photograph by Mike Hayes is definitely one where “what you see is what you get,” but the kicker is how Mike saw it. (The result is a perfectly captured image, complemented with his unique insight and wit.) With a sharp sense of composition, and an uncanny understanding of light, shadow, texture and colour, this latest collection of uncomplicated but meaningful images are amongst the most enjoyable, revealing and uplifting I have ever seen.
Treat yourself to the masterful travel and street photography of this extraordinary ex-Montrealer! Mostly Street.
Mike also has a wonderful blog Sea, Surf, Dirt, about the outdoors and photography that is a treasure trove of information and observations from the road less travelled.
We’re writing this on a stormy day in February. School is cancelled, people are playing hooky from work, and the mood is surprisingly upbeat as Montrealers dig themselves out from the blizzard. Enjoy the rest of the winter!
Always looking forward to your comments.
Jean Bardaji and Daniel Wiener