Relatively new lens. Very new camera. The Leica SL2 paired up with the Sigma 65mm f2.0. Does that work?

I know you're probably waiting for me to write a gushy review about the brand new Leica SL2 I picked up on Thursday, and to show you amazing photographs that could not be taken by any other camera, but I'm afraid it doesn't work that way. While the camera's color is tweaked in a certain way and the filter pack in front of the sensor is thinner than the one on the S1R I find that there's not a heck of a lot of difference between the two cameras. And I didn't think there really would be. It's pretty obvious that Leica and Panasonic are working hand-in-hand on these big, high res, mirrorless cameras and I actually would have been a bit shocked if there had been a big difference in image quality in either direction.

The Leica is, visually, a much nicer bit of industrial design but none of the spreadsheet jockeys here or on the WWW will take the value of better industrial design too seriously; not when two otherwise very similar performing cameras have a $2,000+ gap in price. 

So, what is the logic in buying such an expensive camera? Especially when it so obviously duplicates the capabilities of a camera I already own (Lumix S1R) and doesn't bring any radically new and different features to the mix? I could mention the clean look that having fewer buttons and knobs confers but, again, it's just industrial design differences which are, themselves, too subjective to measure. 

I think it mostly boils down to how the SL2 feels when you hold it in your hand or bring it up to your eye. 

For me it purchase was a symbolic capper to a long career during which I owned and used all generations of Leica cameras and became fond of most of them. Sentimental. Nostalgic.

I started shooting the interchangeable rangefinder models when all I could afford was a Leica IIIf, red dial screw mount camera, and an old 50mm Elmar f4.0 collapsible lens. You had to trim the leaders of your Tri-X film back then in order to load it into the camera, and the viewing window was tiny. Really, really tiny. But the overall camera package was small and discreet and I liked it so much that one day I put it in a small backpack, drove over to the airport and booked a ticket to Mexico City to shoot for fun for a week and a half. I didn't bring any other camera. I didn't own any other lenses that would work with the camera. But it was fun to shoot, maybe because it took discipline and newly learned skills to do it right. 

Later I "graduated" to a Leica M3 and a 50mm dual range Summicron lens. It was such a revelation. Still probably the best camera I ever shot with. It was the first one I took up in a helicopter. We went up to shoot a shot from the north of the state capitol building looking south into downtown. I was shooting Kodachrome 64 and the shots were done just before sunset. They were amazing. Pure luck but still amazing.

That shoot also generated my first copyright infringement lawsuit. A magazine copied the image from the cover of a glossy, color brochure I'd shot for a commercial client and used on their own magazine cover. The infringing company decided it would be alright because they used the image in black and white. But everyone could see right away that it was the same image. I settled out of court for enough money to buy a few more M lenses and both a Leicaflex SL and Leicaflex SL2. Both "Flexes" were bullet proof, mechanical, SLR film cameras which took the new (at the time) Leica R mount lenses. 

I picked up an original Leicaflex just to have and then went down the line picking up the R3, the R4, the R4sp, the R5 and finally a couple of R8's, as they emerged. In the mid-1990s I started using more M series cameras and ended up with an M6 and an M6.85 (larger view magnification for use with slightly longer lenses). I used those for nearly weekly event work for the better part of 8 years before succumbing to the lure of digital. 

I wrote a long article about the M series Leicas for Photo.net in 2000 which, by the time they decided the article had become passé and took it down, had generated millions and millions of page views and earned me an honorary membership to the Leica Historical Society. It was at an LHSA meeting in San Antonio that I had drinks in the hotel bar with the famous photographer, Jim Marshall. We had some good laughs in between professing our common high regard for the cameras. 

For over a decade I watched Leica struggle and go through multiple ownerships and buyouts. For a while I didn't believe they were going to make it through, financially. Then the M series cameras went to full frame sensors again and a raft of new M lenses appeared followed by both a medium format camera, and the first Leica SL. By the time they fleshed out their SL line of lenses and started the L-mount venture with Sigma and Panasonic I started paying attention again. 

I'm sure it was the three "Leica Certified" Lumix S-Pro lenses I'd bought for the Panasonic S series cameras that started me down the path to owning this new Leica camera because the 24-70mm, the 50mm and the 70-200mm are all superb lenses that lack nothing; as far as I'm concerned. 

The final mercantile "kick to the seat of my pants" that pushed me to go forward and get a new Leica camera was my purchase of the Sigma 65mm f2.8 L-mount lens. It's nothing short of phenomenal. It's sinisterly sharp at f2.0 and then becomes futuristically capable as one stops down. I like the look, the feel and the rendering of it and it convinced me that it wasn't necessary to run out and buy my favorite focal lengths in Leica SL models (at $5K to $10K a pop!!!) in order to put together a fun system around an SL2 body. I could buy the body I enjoyed looking at and handling and still get top quality imaging but at (compared to Leica) a discount price. 

I shot with the camera yesterday, together with the 65mm. It's not going to revolutionize my work or hoist me up into the photographic stratosphere of gifted artists. But it's fun, feels great and handles wonderfully. 

But I'll say it again: I never thought I'd pay $275 per battery for spares. That's just crazy. 

This blog post is peppered with random images from a long walk, both before and after seeing a new show of two artists at the Austin Contemporary Museum. One of the artists did work that was sublime and brilliant while the second gallery hosted a show of photographs that looked every bit like the haphazard portfolio of a clumsy, second year student in the commercial photography program at the local community college. It was a jarring juxtaposition but you go see what you can during a pandemic. The bad artist's manifesto (paraphrased): He eschews the ease of digital imaging with all of its post processing and manipulation and instead works in the "mythical" analog space, using film and chemicals and printing on photographic color paper. 

Making the case once again that some curators are blind. And that many artists are not self-aware.

the images here are 2200 pixels wide or about 1/4 of the camera's actual capabilities. click on them to make them bigger. But they still won't be big enough to make you catch your breath....


Brrrrrr. I've got the heater running in the office this morning!

 The weather was so nice yesterday but today I woke up to a bone-chilling 46°. When I arrived here at the office the weak sunlight was only able to raise the temp a couple of degrees so I turned on the heater for a little warmth and kept my working jacket on over a long sleeved shirt. We hope it will crest 60° today but nothing is certain where weather is concerned. 

It's been a fun game lately, trying to track down a vaccine. In Texas we're allowing everyone over 65 to line up and get one. The problem is we don't have good information about where to line up and the supply of vaccines is spotty. Real spotty. Couple that with one of the worst internet sign-up apps imaginable and you've got....a lot of people who would love to get jabbed in the arm but who are side-lined until supply and internet savvy are improved. 

I spent an hour last night hitting the refresh button on the Austin Public Health/Covid website sign-up page. I've already registered an account, been approved and sent to the scheduling page but when I get there the wheels spin for a long time before and error message pops up and kindly tells me "It's not you, it's me!" and advises me to refresh and try again. It's kind of like playing a bad slot machine that never pays off. I can't imagine how people with marginal computer skills are managing. I can imagine how people with very short attention spans are managing...and it's not a pretty thought.

I'm sure I'll eventually get through and get immunized but until I do we're masking and avoiding things like: work. work. or work. It's not that bad. At least, when masked, I can walk outside to my heart's content. 

I hope wherever you are that even if your weather is more treacherous than ours that your state's vaccine plan is worlds better. 

I'm currently reveling in the added space in the office. It's not actually "added" as much as "recaptured." 

I've moved out a ton of gear in the last week and I can see the floor and walls again. In the past I went through past purges like this in preparation to make changes and new additions to the "toy box." Now it feels different. It feels like I'm downsizing in preparation to make more photographs out in the uncontrolled world instead of inside my controlled space. I am also now considering retirement to be on a spectrum. 

At one end is 5% less work and the retention of  almost all the worry while at the other end it's a total abandonment of work and an immersion into free time and personal projects. I'm still closer to the work end of the spectrum. But quickly working my way toward middle ground. 

Tomorrow I take 6 generations of laptops to be recycled or (not by me) re-purposed. It's amazing that I let them stack up for so long. I'm keeping the Blueberry MacBook. It's too cool to be tossed. 

I saw a quote today that I liked: "Pay more attention to what you're are paying attention to." 

Seems like a good idea in these days of information overload. 

Phasers on stun. Kirk out.