I had fun walking around shooting the camera and the newest lens... Oh! I didn't tell you about that? Well.....
As you can see in the image above I was using my new (to me) Leica CL and also a small, new lens. The lens is an inexpensive, TTartisans 35mm f1.4 lens which covers APS-C but not full frame. I bought it to have something small and light to carry around on the CL. It's totally, totally manual everything; no AF, no exposure automation, no exif info. But it's available in L mount without the need for an adapter and even destitute bloggers can afford one... it's a whopping $75 at B&H Photo. Less than the price of a Leica brand lens cap.
I've never used it before. It just came on Thursday. So it's the only lens I took with me this afternoon. I have to say that it's reasonably sharp in the center at f1.4, much better at f2.5, and absolutely fine at f4 and f5.6. I included this dour looking image of myself because it was shot at f2.0 and I think the detail around my angry looking eye is really good. I also like the way stuff falls in and out of focus. I'm loving the punch in for manual focusing and now that I've had the opportunity to use the camera with a fully manual lens on the front I'm happy to report that I spent three hours downtown, shot about 175 photographs and came back home with the original battery I had inserted this morning still showing a full charge. Much better. That's more like what I expected.
Here's some color stuff from the ramble through town:
The CL stood for: Compact Leica. I imagine the thoughts behind the digital CL are the same.
As you know I talk a lot about cameras here but buy new stuff very, very rarely (just kidding!!!). But life is short and there are so many cameras I haven't even played with yet. The CL was just such a logical addition.
The Leica CL hit my radar earlier this year when I realized that the bigger SL variants, while being superb picture taking machines, were a bit heavy to carry around when you just want a companion camera with which to capture ephemeral and errata. When I recently unearthed a box full of black and white prints I made after a trip to Mexico City in the early 1980's my brain started mixing together my experiences with that ancient and small "original" Leica camera, my years with the film CL, and my time lately with the color science of the SLs. It seemed to me that the new digital CL was a great combination of features with just a few downsides.
The camera came yesterday, near the end of the day, so I had ample time to unbox. And with a well preserved total retail package the Leica unboxing can be an extensive undertaking. The camera came with all of its original packing, including the black fabric bags that hold the various accessories, the original strap, all the documentation, all the body covers and even the box which unfolds into a series of drawers. This camera has no discernible wear, came with the latest firmware pre-loaded, and ticked every box. It also came with the original Leica battery and two additional Leica batteries. The price was, by most standards, outrageous --- but everything, including economics, is contextual. It wasn't going to "break the bank".
I haven't had time to shoot anything with it yet because no matter how beguiling a new addition to the camera collection might be morning swim practice always takes precedence. I meant to shoot some tests later this morning but the utility company is trimming trees away from power lines today and I wanted to be here to supervise and keep those numbskulls from butchering my 100 year old live oak trees. Now I'm headed to lunch with one of my favorite creative directors.
After lunch I'll spend a good part of the afternoon seeing if it's really true that the colors are great, the files are wonderfully but complexly sharp and that the batteries are weaker than Popeye with a year of NO spinach.
With that I mind I think I'll just circle back at the end of the day and add some first impressions. Given that the menus and the color science are all in the same current family I'm not sure I'll have much to say other than to make a glancing discussion about basic handling.
It's a beautiful camera and it's less than half the size and weight of an SL2. It's a promising combination.
I've walked down dark streets in many cities around the world, late at night, alone and dragging along cameras and all the accoutrement of photography. I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I've been accosted. I've never been robbed, never damaged and never relieved of photo gear. Not at 2 a.m. in Mexico City and not while stumbling back to my hotel near daylight in St. Petersburg, Russia and not when returning to my hotel from a casino in the dead of night in the Dominican Republic.
I'm not big or scary. I'm only 5 feet and about 8 inches tall. I don't carry some wicked firearm.
I only carry with me the expectation that I'll be fine and, in the worst imaginable scenario, I'll only end up losing an easy replaceable camera and lens. And maybe a wallet full of easy-to-cancel credit cards. In most major cities of the world I could be out shooting with a new camera and a replacement credit card the next day.
I don't go to war zones. I don't go to areas in beleaguered countries where people are absolutely desperate. But just about anywhere else? Let's go. Leave the fear at home. If you survive you'll have great stories to tell. Fear just breeds fear and once you've got the stink of fear on you only then do you start to attract predators. Cameras just aren't worth that much to thieves anymore....
We were having Emmett and Lisa, two restaurant owners, over for dinner and I was trying to get all the prep work done for my dish. I wanted to rinse some grape tomatoes and I noticed the pour over funnel we use to make coffee sitting on the drain board. Voila. Re-imagined as a different kitchen tool.
The tomatoes just needed to be rinsed...but not to worry, they got baked for 25 minutes in a 425° oven.
I was busy, but not too busy to grab the old camera I keep on a shelf near the kitchen for times like this...
The dinner was a success...but mostly because Emmett and Lisa brought some incredible bottles of wine with them.
One day in June I rode down from Austin with Belinda in her car (I only had a bike at the time) to visit my parents in San Antonio, B was visiting her parents a couple miles away. I was just hanging out with family a bit, getting free meals and access to a free washer and dryer. You know, ex-student standard operating procedures. And in the middle of one warm morning it dawned on me that I was bored. I'd read all the books I brought with me. I'd recently bought a well used Leica IIIf red dial rangefinder camera that came with a collapsible 50mm f3.5 Elmar lens and I taught myself to trim the film leader so it would load properly into the camera. It was....primitive. But I more or less got up to speed with the controls and even became somewhat comfortable using the rangefinder for focusing. The rangefinder window was deal-killer tiny and it was separate from the window through which one composed. The composition window as roughly equal to the angle of view of the 50mm. There were no bright lines, no switchable frame lines, etc. for any other focal length. If you wanted to use something like a 28mm lens on that camera you could focus via the rangefinder but accurate framing would require you to buy a separate bright line finder that you would place into the hot shoe. Still, it was a small, light and unobtrusive camera...and certainly not the kind of camera anyone would think of stealing in 1982.
I called B and told her I was bored and planning to make an impromptu trip somewhere. She wished me luck. I called around to the various airlines and found a super cheap flight on Air Mexicana to Mexico City. And, by "super cheap" I mean something around $68 roundtrip from San Antonio. I went to a used book store and bought an old travel guide to Mexico City and then packed. I carried one small backpack with a couple changes of clothes. I didn't need a camera bag because all I took was the small camera and 15 rolls of home rolled Tri-X. That and an ancient, screw mount, 50mm f3.5 lens...
Texans didn't need passports to travel to Mexico back then, just a drivers license. You did have to make sure you saved $15 for the airport tax in Mexico City in order to get back home... There were no "on line" reservations back then, no cell phones for normal people, etc. I got a ride over to the airport, hopped on the next flight and three hours later I was in the middle of a packed airport in a totally unfamiliar city.
I'd just gotten my first credit card two years earlier and thought it would be the magic ticket for the trip but most of the places I stayed and most of the restaurants I visited didn't take credit cards. That meant tightly budgeting the $300 I brought for the five day visit. I stayed on the fourth floor of a hotel on the Zocalo which was just around the corner from the big, famous cathedral. The hotel was old and great and had a café on the rooftop. The only downside was the every morning band practice for a 300+ member military marching band which struck up each day around 7 a.m.
Every day I'd plan to see something new and different. Mostly I walked but occasionally, like the day I went out to see the pyramids, I had to go in a small tour bus because of the distance. With a very weak command of Spanish and being entirely solo I was often totally confused about signage, instructions and warning signs but most people have a good nature and no one let me walk out into traffic....
I spent days at the giant park in the middle of the city. I loved walking around looking at menus for fancy food I couldn't afford in La Zona Rosa. I loved shopping in the national pawnshop (sadly, no good cameras...). I loved drinking Sanka while having heuvos rancheros at Sanford's House of Tiles. And I loved the thrill of walking the length of the Reforma Blvd. at two in the morning. As a goofy kid with a forty year old camera and third hand clothes no one ever gave me a second glance. The city was easy back then.
Odd to think that in 1982 one could be, for weeks at a time, totally off any grid. Off THE grid. No cellphone tracking. No credit card tracking. The only thread attached to any system was the airline manifest and I'm sure Henry White could have easily dodged that. It was sweet to be lost from the system. It was even sweeter to be totally unencumbered by clients, family, significant others, etc. No time table, no agenda, and no deadlines. Just walk out the front door of an ancient hotel, small Leica in hand, and a couple rolls of film in the pockets of your frayed and faded Levis. Letting the electric flow of a city of 20 million people pull you along.
Rolling back into San Antonio, I walked to my parent's house from the airport. It was only a couple miles away. They took me out for dinner and when I got back to their house I did a load of laundry. The next day B came by to collect me and patiently listened to all my breathless stories on the hour drive back up to Austin. She deposited me at my co-op studio on 7th street, in downtown and I got to work, all excited and energized, developing the twelve rolls of film I'd shot. About 72 frames per day. A tiny, tiny fraction of what I might shoot now in an afternoon.
Maybe there is a lesson for me in all of this... Can't quite see what it is though. Free laundry?