Friday, October 31, 2014


During my career as a photographer I worked with many models on portfolio development and promotion.  The results have been quite a variety of memorable shoots with outstanding photographs.  One such shoot, however, does stand out from all the others.

I had been in contact with Tiffany, discussing a shoot, determining the best approach to assure that she would receive the photographs she was looking for.  It was then that she explained one major difference.  Because of an accident she was bound to a wheel chair.

Of course it would have been easy to photograph her just in the wheel chair.  But that was too simple and too restrictive.  She explained that she would bring along a very good friend of hers who accompanied her quite often to offer some mobility beyond just sitting in the chair. 

Needless to say, I was at a bit of a loss.  I had never done a shoot like this and was initially worried about its success.  Then I decided to put her handicap out of my mind and focus on the shoot itself, on the photographs we both hoped would be a good result.

On the day of the shoot we quickly got to doing just that.  We worked with a variety of poses and lighting, and soon the shoot was not much different from the many others I had done in the past except that the variety of poses were somewhat restricted due to her not being mobile.

Tiffany’s goal was to show that a handicap like hers was in no way a hindrance to a successful modeling career.  She was hoping to be a role model to other handicapped individuals.  I think she succeeded.

All photographs were done in Studio with a Leica Digilux 2


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Monday, October 27, 2014


Leica M with Canon Lens

Purchasing a lens for a Leica used to be a very straight forward preposition; if you needed another lens, you would generally have to buy another Leica lens.  There were only few exceptions, and only for the Leica rangefinder cameras where some Leica screw mount lenses were also available from several German manufacturers and Nikon, Canon and a few other Japanese made lenses as well as some Russian made lenses for the Kiev and Zorki cameras.  No such choices existed for the Leica R reflex cameras.

Leica M9 with Canon 50mm f/0.95

That didn’t change until a few T-4 mounts appeared in the Leica R mount from Soligor and Vivitar and a bit later from Tamron with their interchangeable camera mount Adaptall lenses.  Most of those all but disappeared from the market, initially because sales of those mounts were too low to justify further manufacture and later, when interchangeable camera mount lenses were no longer manufactured.  Today aftermarket lens manufacturers concentrate on the main camera manufacturers like Nikon and Canon.

Now that the Leica M is a valid alternative for the R lenses, and since several manufacturers, including Novoflex, are making adapters to use lenses from other manufacturers on a variety of cameras, it is possible to use these lenses also on the Leica M.  That offers a huge choice of different lenses never before available for the Leica.

Leica M9 with Nikon fish eye lens

Leica M9 with Nikon PC perspective control lens

But does it make sense to equip a Leica with a lens from another manufacturer?  After all, one of the main reasons for owning a Leica is the quality and performance of their lenses.  I basically agree with that, however, I can also see that in some instances a lens from another manufacturer might be a valid choice, especially if we enter cost into the equation.  For instance, Besides the Leica 14-50 f/2.8-3.5 Vario Elmarit on my Leica Digilux 3, I also use a 55mm f/3.5 and a 105mm f/4 Micro Nikkor made by Nikon as well as a 200mm f/3.8 and a 400mm f/5.6 Noflexar made by Novoflex on that camera.  Especially the two Novoflex lenses have proven to be very much equal to their Leica counterparts as have the two Nikon lenses shown to be excellent performing lenses.

Leica Digilux 3 with Nikon 105mm f/4 Micro Nikkor

Leica Digilux 3 with 200mm f/3.8 Novoflex Noflexar

Leica Digilux 3 with 400mm f/5.6 Novoflex Noflexar

This brings up the question, which of these lenses do make sense to put on a Leica camera, especially the Leica M?  Price should definitely part of this consideration.  While some large manufacturers can offer high quality lenses at lower prices, simply because of their high sales volume, nobody is able to perform any miracles.  If the price is too good to be true, it is a safe assumption that this price is the result of considerable cost cutting measures.

A manufacturer has quite a number of means to arrive at lower manufacturing costs.  Aspherical lens elements are a good example.  The most costly approach to making such lens elements is to grind them from a lens blank.  While this is quite expensive, it also renders the best quality lens elements to assure the highest possible performance.  Another approach which, for instance, is used by Nikon is to make high precision molds and then mold the softened glass into its final, aspherical shape.  This method definitely lends itself to larger quantity, mass production.  The least expensive approach to aspherical element production, as used by many of the aftermarket manufacturers, is to make a standard, spherical element and then add a thin, aspherical surface section made of acrylic to it.  These acrylic add-ons are also molded.  This saves a lot of cost, but it also is a considerable compromise.  This process was initially developed by Zeiss in Germany.  It was, however, rejected because it could not assure the performance parameters set by Zeiss for their lenses.  The reason is that acrylics consist of rather large molecules.  Due to their size, they actually scatter the light when it transmits which adversely affects the performance of the lens.  With other words, not all aspherical elements are created equal.  There are a huge number of other cost saving measures that are being used, all of which ultimately lower the overall performance potential of the lens.

I came across two of the worst examples of this a while ago when I was still dabbling in repairing cameras and lenses for my own use.  I was asked to look at an aftermarket lens made by a well-known manufacturer.  The lens did not focus to infinity, even though there were no outward signs of abuse or that otherwise anything was wrong.  I had no choice than to partially disassemble the lens.  Since not all SLR and DSLR cameras have the same lens to film plane distance, this has to be taken into consideration when making an aftermarket lens.  Rather than making the lens specifically with the appropriate measurements, a general lens to film plane distance is used.  Then the rear of the lens has a threaded section which allows the lens to film plane distance to be changed to accommodate different cameras.  After adjusting the lens via this threaded section to assure proper infinity focus, these threads then have to be locked in place.  This is usually done with some set screws.  However, this manufacturer apparently decided that additional costs could be saved by eliminating the set screws and to use a piece of tape instead.  I am not exaggerating; they used a thick piece of tape around the entire threaded infinity adjustment.  The problem with the lens was that the tape had partially lost contact which had allowed the adjustment to change.

A while later I had a similar problem with a video zoom lens from the same maker.  This was by no means a cheap lens, it sold for almost $2,100.  Video lenses routinely come with an infinity adjustment to accommodate different video and motion picture cameras.  Remembering the problem with the other lens, I quickly concentrated on the infinity adjustment of this lens.  My suspicion was confirmed.  Even this relatively expensive lens used a piece of tape to “secure” proper infinity focus.

I am not saying that all aftermarket lenses are made with such extreme cost saving measures, what I am saying is ‘buyer beware’!  The low price has to be arrived at by some means.

My general advice is to equip your cameras with lenses made by the camera manufacturer.  That way there is the general assurance of the best possible performance.  With other words, put Leica lenses on a Leica to get the most out of your investment.

Leica M with Leica Vario-Elmarit-R 28-90mm f/2.8-4.5

Leica M with Elmarit-R 70-180mm f/2.8

But there are valid alternatives for the Leica.  Some of the older Nikon and Canon screw mount lenses are still performing quite well, but just as the older Leica screw mount lenses, they don’t measure up to the current line of Leica lenses.

More modern alternatives are offered by Voigtländer and Zeiss.  Their M mount lenses have proven to be excellent performers, relatively close to their Leica equivalents and considering their cost advantage, they do present a valid alternative.  Other choices exist from Minolta, the older Leitz-Minolta CL lenses, from Konika, Rollei-Cosina and SLR Magic.

Leica M2 with Voigtländer 75mm f/1.8

Leica M3 with Voigtländer Heliar12mm f/5.6

On the Leica R side, adapters allow the use of Canon, Nikon and a great variety of other lenses.  These would need to be adapted to the Leica R mount which then allows their use on the Leica M with the Leica R adapter or with a direct four thirds adapter on the Leica Digilaux 3.

Leica is not at all anymore as isolated as they used to be in the past.  The camera offers a huge selection of lenses from various manufacturers, and some of them are very good choices indeed.


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Saturday, October 25, 2014


by Gert Heiland

This is paradise for Leica fans, a room with many feet of shelves full of cameras and accessories. Right in the middle, still not unpacked, are several boxes with all sorts of treasures. Stored here is the collection of an American Leica collector from Rochester, New York.

Earlier this year, Holger Daberkow, himself a Leica enthusiast and photographer, was asked to bring the extensive collection to Wetzlar. Daberkow spent six days in the basement of the house in Rochester. About 1600 objects, from screw mount cameras to current models, had to be cataloged and packaged. In April, four air cargo containers went on the trip to Germany. Four months later Daberkow and specialist Lars Netopil unpacked all the items.

<p>Holger Daberkow (links) und Lars Netopil im Museumsmagazin.  (Fotos: Heiland)</p>
Holger Daberkow (left) and Lars Netopil in the storage area of the Leica museum (Foto: Heiland)

Nobody speaks about the value of the collection, especially since the American collector was not so much interested in the money, rather he wanted his collection, which he gathered over the span of 50 years, come home and that all the items stay together.

Portions of this collection can now be admired at the Leica Museum in the foyer ofLeica Camera AG. The camera collection has grown substantially, thanks to this major collection from the US.  Netopil can draw from a huge number of items.  Currently the showcases are equipped with special examples of the M-series. There are, for example, prototypes and experimental models, versions of military cameras, and examples of Leicas owned by famous people, such as President Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth.

One object can be seen which does look somewhat strange among these special cameras. And yet it is not unimportant because it is a plaster model of a Leica M that the Braunfels designer and sculptor Heinrich Janke made in 1953.

<p>Historisches Exponat: Das 1:1 Gipsmodell der Leica M, das Heinrich Janke im Jahr 1953 angefertigt hat.</p>
Plaster model of a Leica M, made by Heinrich Janke in 1953 (Foto: Heiland)

Meanwhile the collector in Rochester is a bit sad now that his basement is empty.  But he kept some miscellaneous items, no cameras, but accessories and promotional material from over six decades. Perhaps all this will come home sometime in the future as well.

This special exhibition is open until Jan. 4 in the foyer of the Leica Camera AG, Leitz-Park 5.   Hours are Monday to Friday from 10 am to 8 pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 6 pm.  Admission is free.


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Friday, October 24, 2014


At the recent Photokina Leica announced a redesigned line of their Summarit-M lenses.  The maximum aperture increased from f/2.5 to f/2.4 and the new Summarit 35mm f/2.4 features an aspherical element.

The Summarit-M f/2.5 lenses offer a great combination of light weight and superb optical performance. In addition they are especially handy when used on smaller cameras which accept the Leica M lenses.

That brings up the question of what is happening with the old line of Summarit-M lenses.  Leica’s answer is – a price reduction.  According to the Leica Store Miami, the new prices are as follows:

Leica Summarit-M 35mm f/2.5 – $1,695 (Was $1,950)
Leica Summarit-M 50mm f/2.5 – $1,295 (Was $1,750)
Leica Summarit-M 75mm f/2.5 – $1,695 (Was $1,950)
Leica Summarit-M 90mm f/2.5 – $1,895 (Was $2,150)

These prices are in effect while supplies last.


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Thursday, October 23, 2014


Unlike in the US, many larger German companies conduct their own training and education programs.  These usually are a combination of practical education in form of an apprenticeship, where applicable, combined with educational programs at schools of higher learning, including university studies.  Leica is no exception.  They have carried on this tradition since the beginnings of the company.

Ernst Leitz III was no exception.  Even though it was planned for him to eventually take over the leadership of the company from his father, Ernst Leitz II insisted the he would undergo training as an apprentice within the company besides his University studies.

Part of this included training as a Feinmechaniker (precision mechanic).  Such training included even basics like learning how to correctly use a metal file, for instance.  With other words, his education and training was from the ground up.

Toward the end of this training program he was even assigned the task of some design work.  While little is known what all this entailed, we do, however, have one example that was used for years on the Leica screw mount cameras.

After his father had decided to manufacture “Barnacks Kamera” (Barnack’s Camera) after the initial 30 (or 31, the exact number has never been conclusively established) preproduction models, some final design work was necessary before the first official Leica, the Leica I or Model A could be marketed.

Ernst Leitz III was given the task of designing the small rewind lever that allowed the camera to be switched from the position of film advance to rewind.  Apparently his work was successful.  We have to assume that the final decision was made by Oskar Barnack, and for years his lever design was with us on the Leica screw mount cameras.

Lever in the 'advance' position

Lever moved half way to show the intricate shape


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Wednesday, October 22, 2014


The Tourist Information Office of Wetzlar offers a rare insight into the "House Friedwart", the former home of the Leitz family.

Haus Friedwart

Wetzlar  - Leitz-Villa "Haus Friedwart" (2012-02-19)

Guided tours of the magnificent property will be offered on Saturday 25 October at 2 and 4 pm and on Sunday, October 26, at 10:30 am and 2 pm. The house Friedwart is a historical and architectural marvel. Set on a large garden plot at Kalsmunthang, it was built in 1914-1917 for Ernst Leitz II, the pioneer of the Leica. Today it is only used for receptions and chamber concerts. You can visit the house with its extraordinary interior during the one and a half hour tour.

Pre-registration is required. Tickets are priced at 6 Euros at the Tourist Information Office Domplatz 8 (Cathedral Square 8).  

Phone: (0 64 41) 99 77 55


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Monday, October 20, 2014

RENÉ BURRI: 1933-2014

Magnum Photos announced with great sadness that René Burri passed away earlier today at the age of 81.  He had been involved with Magnum since 1955, upon the recommendation of Werner Bischof.  He was a member since 1959. René Burri was famous for his portraits of icons of the 20th Century including Che Guevara and Picasso, he was also known for his artistic strength as a photojournalist and his architectural photography, with his study of Le Corbusier being one of the best known.

Just last year, in June, Leica Camera honored René Burri for his life’s work.  At that time Leica Camera wrote,

“The Swiss photographer René Burri is considered to be one of the best known and most respected photographers of the 20th and 21st centuries. His portfolios shot as a photojournalist at political hot spots around the world, for example of the divided and later reunited city of Berlin, and evocative portraits like those of the Cuban revolutionary leader Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara with a cigar, the sculptors and painters Pablo Picasso and Alberto Giacometti or the architect Le Corbusier founded his fame. Today, some of his images stand as valuable documents of contemporary history. And now, Leica Camera AG honors the lifework of the 80-year old Leica photographer, who has been a member of the Magnum agency for over fifty years, with the Leica Hall of Fame Award.”


Martin Parr, President of Magnum Photos said,

"Not only was he one of the great post war photographers, he was also one of the most generous people I have had the privilege to meet. His contribution to Magnum and his unrivalled ability to tell stories and entertain us over this time will be part of his enormous legacy...

Our thoughts and best wishes go out to his family."