Why do this? Why put the most precious resource into this? Why do anything? Self-expression? Leaving a mark? In a constantly changing environment? Hah! In hope of good Karma? I feel stupid and contagious. :P
All I know is that I would have been very happy if I had access to a guide, such as I plan on combing together here. Insight into someone's journey before starting mine. Could have saved me a lot of time and money. Planning on publishing a printed version when this feels rounded.
After the 3469'th iteration of this, that never saw the light of day because I constantly found it sub-par, decided to have a go at it online. Maybe feedback, accountability, humiliating myself or a mix of all those will push this closer to completion. Ironing it out as we go.
Some unsolicited advice right off the bat. Don’t take up photography if what drives you is to become an "influencer". If curiosity ignited your interest on the other hand, please dive right in! You'll probably find yourself enjoying the process, become passionate. As soon as it turns into a job, the passion rots and the smell will penetrate your photos. Also, any type of suffering or depression helps. Like with all forms of art, when one is balanced, life is good, the muse will be over there, with some miserable fuck, banging each other's brains out. It could work as a Jee-Oooo-Bee if you find balance. If you have shitloads of motivation, plus an endless pool of persistence (which is unlikely if you are the artist type) so that your passion is only tested by the occasional professional, paid endeavor.
Don't take yourself too seriously. You are not curing cancer. Golf is probably a cheaper hobby.
Consider yourself warned.
Comin' soon when it is ready.
Comin' soon when it is ready.
Comin' soon when it is ready.
Comin' soon when it is ready.
Hold your horses, it is coming. Jeeeeez'. Have to go back in time to lay this down.
Circumstances. They have spoken!
It's hard to say farewell to piled-up-over-the-years consumer electronics. Shrinked, everything had. Mhhhh. Like things tend to in cold weather.
Wanted to get rid of as much debt as possible. It is as if common sense payed me a visit and shook me. He seems to visit more often as more and more winters pass. The "add to shopping cart" followed by the "payment method", "charge my card", phase seems to have had it's run. A childhood with lots of “we can’t afford that"-s are to blame, I assume. These things develop, just like foot fetish of beautiful feet in someone who considers that he/she has a pair of ugly ones.
Now that I (kind of) experienced what being “on the other side" is like, I gained a bit of balance. Truth be told, I needed this. Those condescending buttholes who tell you, "material things won’t make you happy", 'specially when you are in a spot in life, where you have to refuse going out with friends because you can’t even afford a couple of beverages, are very irritating... until, one day, you become that butthole. Life is very counter-intuitive.
Back to the bag, so, stuff (debt) had to go, some of it got transmogrified into something that resembles its mini-me counterpart.
Letting go of what you perceive to be your property (but in reality its the bank's), stuff that feels liberating (but in reality enslaves you to your overlords), is hard. Stepping back from a certain level of comfort, gear capabilities is always a pain, ‘innit?!
Most of these fucking things lose value faster than you can read this paragraph. The only items that "got shrunk" over the years but grew in value and offer better quality are the few Leica M mount lens that my kit distilled down to over the years.
Another item that proved to be a good investment, was the Leica M-E (Typ 220) aka Leica M9. Which I sold at a higher price then I bought it for. A very rare feat in this binn'iss'. Which is why I wanted to hold onto it for as long as possible. In all honesty, I'm buying cameras with "this is just temporary" mindset, since I sold my Canon 5D MkII. That was a solid milestone. The Canon 6D that followed that was a downgrade. Just temporary until something better came along. This is when I became to be drawn in by the M lenses but was impossible to marry them to a DSLR.
The Leica M-E fell into the same temp. category, but had two bucket list features, that stood strong behind the purchase:
1. The fetish, the dream to own one, at least once in this lifetime. Experience what that is like. Owning and walking the streets with your own Leica M. It is a beautiful object in itself. If I had the extra money, I'd buy one just for the sake of looking at it. Purely for visual and tactile orgasm (which is also why a lot of wealthy people buy them and drive up the price). Not to mention the results it is capable of producing.
2. The next temporary camera had to fit the "good investment" shoes, so that I lose as little money as possible when I jump ship again.
Was waiting for the "perfect camera", or at least until this item I was eyeballin', that checked a lot of boxes (Leica SL typ 601), dropped in price so I (not a dentist) can afford it.
Certain versions of these Leica M bodies have a cult following. I think this will sooner or later come to an end since we just stepped out of the era where the shape and design of things are first, above all other qualities and stepped into one, where speed is the no.1 priority. Neither of those two looked like they were going to happen any time soon so I put up the ad. Not having time to shoot anyways, I thought I'll test the waters. Spoiler alert, the body found a new owner pretty quick.
It was a love/hate relationship with this one. Nailed photos rewarded me with amazing satisfaction, but most of the time it was a very limiting, slow process. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. These two go together I guess. The harder it is to achieve something the more satisfaction you get when you actually do. The cold truth is most of the time I got shit results and missed frames for which, my lack of sleep and routine, which resulted in poor skills were to blame, at least 80% of the cases. I was spoiled by high-resolution electronic viewfinders and iso capabilities. Cheaper and shorter service turnaround times. Not as if any of my previous camera bodies needed servicing. Ever. I'm just talking out of my ass, but in my defense, I'm pretty sure my statement is true.
Living without a camera felt unnatural! Like I was missing a limb or something.
Had to make a compromise and with bang-for-buck and resale-value as top priorities I started looking for my next "temporary camera". As cheap as possible, but still, be good enough and somewhat enjoyable so I don't get a -whatever is the opposite of an erection- when I pick it up. This meant an older model with lots of unchecked boxes. The choice, I think surprised me more than anyone else, I got a used Fuji X-T1.
I was also shocked, belive-you-me! Fuji was nowhere even near on my radar, after my Fuji X-Pro1 experience that left a very sour taste in my mouth. The toy-like, alpha product feel, coupled with very desirable "features" like poor battery life, shit ergonomics, murky-cellphone-like character of the images made it a very unpleasant user experience. The feeling you experience when you hold a tool in the hand is a decisive factor when it comes to purchasing decisions and picture-making.
I was looking at Sony's A7III, A7RIV, Canon's EOS R, but deep down I really wanted (still do) an SL. Sigma also jumped out of the bush with something interesting, the Sigma FP but further research revealed that the images the sensor spat out didn't really appeal to me.
Timing is another big factor when it comes to making these buying/selling decisions and can patch a bleeding wound or leave you with spare money in the bank. I still have such a hard-on for the Leica SL. Seems like it would be a proper heir to the 5D MkII, just like this little Fuji feels to be the reincarnation of an even earlier milestone of mine, the Canon 400D.
Crop sensor, small size, fun, cheap, reliable, enjoyable. Also, I'd like you to take note of their similar size. The latter is from 2006. What is this size madness in 2020, acting like they reinvented the wheel. Oh and the 400D houses a mirror. Catch me outside!
Not all that is Leica holds value like that, tho'. Not even their glass. Take the Leica dentist lens for example, the legendary Noctilux f/0.95 that rolls around for 10, 11 grand. There was a 40% off price drop offer just a couple of weeks ago, brand new. The resale value of a used one kind of reflects that, from what I saw. It is not a good investment, that one. It is a jungle out there.
Drones are not exempt from these rules either. Take my late DJI Mavic Pro 2 for example.
Owned it for about 10 months or so. Had even less time to get it up (he-ho-ho, he said "get it up", ha-ho-he) and running than the Leica M-E. Not to mention processing and sharing the material I shot with it. Captain obvious showed up and hinted that this might be a good time to cut losses before the next iteration gets spat out, decimating prices of the "old" version.
Lost money on this one also, obviously. I like to think about this short ownership and the costs associated (aka money-lost), as rent for the thing. It helps me sleep better, but I still can't help visualizing life’s "member" slapping my face left and right, with capitalism laughing in the corner.
The guy who bought it got a really sweet deal but a couple of months later prices took a hit and you could buy one, brand new, for less than I sold it for (I'm seeing a trend here in my decision-making that I'm starting to like, maybe these years of experience are starting to rub off on me).
The Leica M-E, (2+ grand) camera with tech in it from 2009-2012 morphed into a Fuji XT-1 from around 2014. Price already adjusted for obsolescence so it wasn't me, who suffered the losses. Bought it for around 2-3 hundred. Two, if the wife is reading this, Hi honey! -waves nervously- :D
The little Japanese works well with my modest Leica M glass stable. The affordable Fotodiox L/M-FX adapter does a solid job. Here is a nugget and this is why I learned to do research on everything I even consider buying.
Take the easy and obvious solution, the adapter provided in house by Fuji. Well, the Voigtlander 28mm f/2 wouldn't have fit, plus Fuji's adapter would have been more expensive also. There was another solution from Voigtlander. I've used their adapters before on my Sony A7. It was the Voigtlander VM-E. It was a Leica M lens to Sony E mount helicoid adapter, which gave it a very desirable function. That of being able to focus a lens, closer, then it's factory close focusing distance. Example: Close focusing distance of 0.9m or 0.7 meters could be reduced to 0.4, 0.3 depending on the lens you used it with. This is one of those things you try once and can never go back. You can but, you don't want to. Long story short, Voigtlander manufactures this same adapter in a Leica M to Fuji X flavor, called Voigtlander VM-X close focus adapter. I just couldn't justify the hefty price difference that would have went along with this one at this point in time, especially with my newly found zen financial wisdom.
I intend on selling this camera and when I do, this rare type of adapter that most people don't even know about exist, wouldn't have a good resale value, plus, the most likely Fuji-fanboy who will buy this off me, won't even need this adapter, because he'll be using it with native Fuji lens, (lenses?) that produce "better" "image quality", meaning better corner sharpness primarily, if sharpness is your only measure when it comes to being "better".
The crop factor (x1.5) is a pain in the scrotum and sorry, I know I'll be stoned for saying this but I see and can spot the difference between full-frame and crop-sensor images. Just like I can spot the difference between a low-element, special-recipe lens coating that produces better micro-contrast, subject separation, 3d pop, and a corrected-to-hell-and-back, 200 element count, flat-image-rendering overpriced POS lens. Glass is glass.
This is, fortunately, my problem, so the stoning can be canceled. It is a burden as is. I'd imagine vine tasters could maybe relate. I dunno'. At the end of the day, all is well, I got my missing limb back even if it's just a prosthetic, temporary limb. :)
There are a few gems out there I'd gladly test, before I can honestly, hand-on-my-heart say, I'm done researching gear. First and foremost the dentist lens, the 50mm Leica Noctilux f/0.95 ASPH. Speaking of which, there is this upcoming company called TTartisan and they are just about to drop a clone of the dentist lens for a fraction of the cost. The preview comparison images are quite impressive. I'd try both. Another contender in the 50mm realm is the Leica Summilux f/1.5 ASPH. I'm not sure which I'd pick if I had them both for a while. Yes, the Summilux seems to be that charismatic, but if that is true, why bother, when I already own the 50mm Zeiss Sonnar f/1.5. This is where we could get into character differences. The sweet nuances in rendering, out of focus areas but I won't bore you with that. All I'm saying is I'm curious.
Moving on, a worthy upgrade to the 90mm Elmarit you see depicted above would be Leica 90mm f/2 Summicron APO ASPH. I'm not even mentioning price differences because they seem to teleport into another dimension when you get to the top 89-99% of the league.
When it comes to the 35mm focal length, I'm undecided. Owned both the Canon 35mm f/2 and the highly praised 35mm f/1.4L. Sold the first one to upgrade to the second one but eventually got rid of that one too. We didn't get along. 28mm felt more comfortable until I got the Leica rangefinder. I think it would make sense on a Leica M. Never had the opportunity to try it tho, but if I'd buy another M, I'd couple it with the 35mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH, or a couple of tiers lower, the 4'th version of the 35mm f/2 Summicron. People seem to praise that. Size, price and rendering wise seems to be a very solid bet. If I'd own the SL tho', I'd give Voigtländer 35/1.2 Nokton a good hard look. It seems to be more balanced because of its bigger size on the SL. Rendering wise comes pretty damn close (as in 92-96%) to its luxury (Leica) counterpart.
Speaking of 28mm. The only thing I'd upgrade the current Voigtländer Ultron to is the Leica 28/1.4 Summilux ASPH. I'm not sure I'd like the clinical precision and smoothness (my 90mm 2.8 also has some of that). The Voigt. has more flaws (character) + the price, oh the price.
So yeah, these marvels are still on my wishlist. They represent the last step tho'. There is no next step. This is where it would max out for me. Not sure, after I had my time with the candidates on this list, how that would alter the contents of The Bag. Oh and I almost forgot. I'd also try one of these ultra-wides, like the Voigtländer 12/5.6 UltraWide Heliar. Ok, time to wrap it up. I'm just rambling at this point.
Hope life is treating you well, whatever your definition of well might be. Hope you have what you need. Because we can't always get what we want, but if we try sometime, we might find that we can get what we neeeee-eeeee-eed. :)
Until next time.
I'm guilty of gear fetish. It is a luxury. The camera you have right now is probably good enough. Still, I like tools. It gives me pleasure to work with something I enjoy picking up and I found that it influences the outcome... and I want the best possible fucking outcome. I should probably also share stuff I make along the way, but life stuff always gets in the way, plus I'm a procrastinating a-hole.
Had a chat with a childhood friend about how communication and people's expectations in that domain changed and social media and all that. I've been on the verge of deleting my social media accounts and I'm always in a process of streamlining and minimizing so I end up with more time because that is probably the most important resource we have. Having had friends who pulled the plug only to see ALL of them come back eventually strengthened my conclusion that deletion is not the solution, but finding balance. It is way harder. In every aspect, but that is what I need to aim for. Keep your enemies close kind of thing. Otherwise, you end up isolated from the world or end up in your own echo chamber.
About 90% of the photos and videos I made are on hard drives and they never saw the day of light. It is like I'm afraid to share them. Gotta find the right balance in that regard too. What to share, what is private. It messes with my head. Especially with all the pedos and sick people out there. You have to think about that too. Less is more. This website and youtube for video content is all I need.
Going back to gear. I've spent so much time researching, looking under every digital rock on the internet. This update was initialized by two factors. My wishlist and a guy I look up to and respect who just launched his youtube channel, which you probably should take a look at, god forbid subscribe :) Chris Weeks is the name BTW and the youtube channel runs by the name of Visual Trigger. There is a lot of signal there, in this sea of noise, it is like a breath of fresh air. Oh and stories. Real life stories.
So wishlists. We have everything we need but there are always things that we want. Telling ourselves, if only I had that "thing", I wouldn't be restless, I could start working, I wouldn't need anything better. There isn't anything better so when in possession of the "ultimate" tool one can start working. There is no point in starting without it because it will be sub-par compared to the work one could do with the "ultimate" tool. I'm still unsure if that has some percent of truth in it. This is all nice and fluffy but it is unrealistic and somehow untrue in practice.
Focusing on the lens section from this snippet. These are a few items from the list, that I keep an eye out for price drops. Don't mind the Canon EOS R5 price. It is not out yet, thus the 999999 price tag. These are in Norwegian Krones btw.
The mother fucking 50mm. Focal lengths kind of boiled down to three in my case. 28mm, 50mm and 90mm. Alltho' having owned a Leica M, I think the 35mm makes a lot of sense on one of those bodies and I'd still like to try that on a rangefinder. Back to the Fiddy'.
There is such a tremendous choice among those it'll make your head spin. I really had wet fetish dreams about a Leica M9 and a Leica 50mm f/0.95 noctilux asph combo. Since I owned a variant of the M9, that "dream" had fallen apart, so much so that when I see some old alleged famous photographer in an interview with a Leica M with a nocti I find it repulsive. Talking about becoming what you hate...
The nocti is a work of art don't get me wrong, so are Leica rangefinders, but the nocti has really bad chromatic aberrations wide open, reason why most of the sample shots are in B&W, but the reason you buy that lens to use it wide open. So it kind of defeats the purpose in a way. You are "forced" to shoot B&W. Oh and the price, the price is up there in snob territory.
Next on the ladder slightly below that is the Leica 50mm f/1.5 asph. It seems that quality that is almost perfect is always within reach, but for that last 3-9% you have to pay an exorbitant amount of money. Like with the nocti or the 1.5 asph. What sets apart the rich from the poor. The truth is 'tho, work that stands the test of time in most cases was/is shot on gear that was always affordable.
The Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar ZM T can do 85-90% of what the Leica 50mm f/1.5 asph does. The flaws of the Sonnar give it character. The Leica is surgical, perfect from corner to corner. Has a magical, smooth rendering that is hard to describe. The price of the Sonnar is 1261 $. The Leica is 4395 $ and for the record, the Nocti is 12495 $ and no that is not a typo.
So the dilemma is, do you get the nocti in exchange for a bunch of your internal organs and learn to live with chromatic aberrations, next to zero depth of field which is nice for a couple of weeks I imagine but gets old after a while. It will surely set your photos apart from the photos of the herd. Nearly touches medium format depth of field, except it falls short at the smooth, out of focus falloff department because, well, laws of physics. It touches it tho with its middle finger...
The price tho crosses it out. So, the next choice would be the Leica 50/1.5 asph. Perfect in every sense, has character, beautiful rendering no aberrations, comes very close to the nocti look and can be yours for a mere 4k+.
The little Sonnar for 1k+, already in the bag. Does most of what the two mentioned above do... why am I restless? Like I said. It is a luxury. With all said and done, I still want to at least try these two Leica variants. Something tells me the 1.5 asph is the keeper if money is not an issue.
Here comes another twist to the story. Just when you think you have your wishlist boiled down, set in stone, a Fuji gfx50r with a 110mm f/2.8 lens comes along and... fuck, the results crotch melting... the 45mm also looks like a good performer. People who say they don't see a difference between crop sensor and full-frame lie. If we take that further it means they shouldn't see any difference between full-frame and medium format, or medium format and large format. They are full of shit.
The results and rendering of that combo... medium format in general, is... it will make you weak in the knees is what I'd describe it as.
Still I think full-frame is the perfect compromise, size-wise, result and speed wise.
I've always enjoyed watching people interact, thus this hobby. Capturing interesting moments. Moments that say a lot more than words can. Capturing feelings, that the observer can relate to. Storytelling. With a pleasing aesthetic.
Speaking of medium format, why can't we standardize the focal lengths once and for all. I might be wrong but I assume full-frame is the most widely used format so why don't we take that as a reference and rename everything else accordingly.
So the 50mm focal lenght on full-frame would be the base and native crop sensor lens, instead of being labeled 50mm would be renamed (in the case of a 1.5x crop factor) 75mm. 50mm*1.5 crop factor = 75mm full-frame equivalent. Same with the gfx for example, the 45mm with a 0.8 multiplier would translate to a 36mm field of view on full-frame. The 110mm is a 87mm. Would make so much more sense if you ask me.
My three lens, the 28mm, 50mm and 90mm on my current Fuji x-t1 are 42mm, 75mm and 135mm. Why are we doing this to ourselves?
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