New Arrival. Small System Back-up Camera.


This is the second Leica CL camera that I have purchased from the Leica Store Miami. The cameras they've sent me so far exceeded my expectations for condition on each transaction.  Both cameras came impeccably packaged. I've blacked out the bar codes and addresses on the outer to preserve what little privacy I have left on the web. Disclaimer: I pay full price for the cameras and have no affiliation (other than admiration for their business model) with the store. 

The box was stout and well taped at every spot and juncture. I wish every other vendor could learn to pack as well...

The styrofoam noodles aren't just tossed on top of the box situated inside. In fact, it seems as though LSM has perfected some technique by which the noodles are equally distributed on every side of the internal boxes which is obviously better protection than just tossing a handful of cushioning in at random. I've had delicate stuff shipped to me by other vendors where the product is lodged directly against two sides of a box and it seemed as though the styro-peanuts were casually tossed in on another side as packaging theater of the worst kind.

Just under the top layer of styrofoam-noodles there is a black, cloth bag with drawstrings and a white line rendering of the Barnack original Leica camera technical drawing on it. Inside the bag is the printed receipt for the camera and a small assortment of Leica themed postcards. It's a wonderful way to envelope something as banal as a sales bill. 

In the nest of styro-noodles there is a plain, cardboard box which serves to protect the inner product box from abrasion and handling.

Inside the plain cardboard box is the actual Leica product box and it's very big considering how small the actual camera body is. Sorry that this image is a bit dark. It was shot with another camera maker's camera... kidding, just kidding...

The silver outer box opens up to reveal a black box which contains all the pieces associated with the camera. But each group of parts has a "drawer" within the black box to keep everything neat and tidy. 

I pulled the box just above out of the top drawer of the black box/assembly and it contained the actual camera body nestled securely in protective high density foam. Considering all the layers of protection I would be amazed at just how destructive a shipper would have to be to break one of these cameras in transit. I guess you could cause some damage if you were to toss it out of an airplane at 30,000 feet...

And just above the camera is revealed. I looked over every square inch and I have to say that this one appears just as a new one in an previously unopened box might. To add to that feeling the folks at Leica Store Miami wipe the previous user's info out of the camera memory, update the firmware to the most current rev. and deliver a camera that plays the original greeting screen and requires me to set the date, time and zone.

The team in Miami go out of their way to make the purchase of even an older, retired camera model that was never the flagship of the maker, feel very special and very valuable. It's so rare to find this level of attention to both packaging and to describing the camera in our pre-purchase discussion. Wow!

Another nice thing is the e-mailed notices that come at every juncture. Confirmation of shipping. Confirmation of UPS transfers. Confirmation of "out for delivery" along with an accurate estimation of the delivery window. And a delivery confirmation e-mail that came minutes after I accepted the package from the UPS driver. At every step of the way I've been so impressed by their service. Perhaps that's why this was the fifth time I've bought a used Leica camera from these guys in a little more than a year. 

I've put the original strap on, put in a freshly charged battery, put the shipped battery on the charger, formatted an SD card and run through the menus. We're good to go here. And I'm happy. 

Of course no one "needs" a second CL. For that matter, given the state of the industry and the economy, no one needs much more than a good phone to do current photo business. But it's fun and nice and I'll take my small system with me when I want to travel light but still be able to charge people for the work. 

Most photo enthusiasts or pros won't care much about the packaging and services offered by the Leica Store Miami unless they are interested already in Leica cameras and products. Why? Because that's the only kind of camera their store sells. You can't get a Sony there. You can't even get a Panasonic there. But if you want great information about Leica and then great service during a purchase I can't imagine a better photo/retail experience via long distance. Just amazing.

Thanks to David and Josh.


Street photographer in Paris. Last century.

© Kirk Tuck

My preferred camera in 1978. The Canonet QL17. Used here in Avignon.

 @1978 Kirk Tuck

Paris with the EOS-1 and the original 85mm f1.1.2 lens.


You know that power plant I always seem to love photographing? You can't get this view any more. Why? It's surrounded on three sides by giant, high rise buildings. Layers and layers of them.


But at one time (2010) it was out in the  middle of a field and the nearby warehouses were old cinder block buildings with one or two stories and a lot of lonesome space in between. 

Time flies when you turn a city into a Boom-scape. 

Ceiling Detail at the Alexander Palace in Pushkin, Russia. Just 400 meters from the Catherine Palace.

 1995 was also the year I spent a couple of freezing cold weeks in St. Petersburg, Russia. I was there with a team from the World Monuments Fund documenting art and artifacts from the last palace of the Czars. While I was looking up and photographing this detail in the Palace (then the headquarters of the Russian Naval Intelligence Agency) I was escorted by my translator and a military officer who came complete with a sidearm and a list of things I could NOT photograph. 

One of my "fondest" memories was standing knee deep in snow in front of the Alexander Palace shooting Polaroids to share with the two tank crews who were manning the tanks just in front of the entry way. It was a successful bribe that granted me access to photograph the exterior of the building on a chilly February afternoon. 

One of my most used Hasselblads on that trip was the SWC/M. The one with the super-wide Biogon lens permanently attached to the camera body. Ah, the film days....

We were, I think, the first western survey team allowed in the Palace in about 70 years. It was an interesting time in Russia....

Summer passtime. Looking through photographs. Finding stuff I liked. Figuring out why.


Alanis Morrisette at Liberty Lunch for Sony Records. August 29, 1995

What I wrote a few years later....

"...The distinguished members of the photo-press operated in the space between the barrier and the stage.  As memory serves there were exactly three photographers at the concert. It was a time of film and getting fun shots actually required some.....knowledge.

All I needed was one good shot. I was shooting in black and white and I took two cameras to the event with me. One was a Leica M4 with a 50mm Summicron, loaded with Tri-X film. The other was a Leica M6 ttl .85 with a 90mm Summicron, also loaded with Tri-X. I didn't plan on shooting much with the 90 but it sure made a nice semi-spot meter with which to gauge exposure."

The keeper image for me was the one I posted here. I used up one 36 exposure roll of Tri-X film. Of course it was all stage lighting as flash in the press pit was not allowed. It was a time when you really did have to know how to measure light with a meter, how to focus on a fast moving performer and how to wait for the right moment so you didn't run out of film. 

1995 is a nostalgic year for me. That's the year Ben was born. The year I went to Rome on a personal photo adventure with two medium format Mamiya 6 cameras and hundreds of rolls of Kodak's new chromagenic film, T-Max 400 CN. along with my photographer friend, Paul.  


When we got back from our Rome shoots Paul and I both made big prints and had a two person show at Austin's best Italian restaurant, Madam Nadalini's. Nearly 400 people came to the opening. It was an amazing time back when photography/art still had the power to enthrall ordinary people. And back when openings were a big social draw.

And in the middle of all that year's fun I found myself sandwiched between the stage and the crowd at Liberty Lunch photographing one of the most popular musicians of the moment. It was August in Austin and we were all drenched in sweat. The crowd of young kids, mostly women, roared every time a song started. It was a bit intoxicating. 

I made a print in the darkroom the next day and that was the coda. When I look back to see what we could pull off with completely manual cameras and "slow" film I am embarrassed for all the "photographers" now who can't conceive of working with anything less than complete automation and endless technical "training wheels." Or limitless ISO sensors.

But I'm sure the guys who photographed out in the wild, with glass negatives in giant bellows cameras, a hundred years ago, would feel exactly the same about my generation of photographers. 

Context is helpful.


Exploring the 45mm Sigma on the Leica CL. Nice and long at a full frame equivalent of about 68mm. Always interesting to change one's point of view.


Heading quickly toward the mid-point of the year. Maybe I should do the second half in color. 

I was very intentionally photographing in black and white today. Jpeg only. No turning back. But then I saw this box in a store window and I just had to change over to color. I thought the subject matter demanded it. 


I decided to skip the Jan. 6th testimony today and take a walk instead. It was rather nice. I mean, how much more evidence do we really need before we start prosecuting the treasonous, the grifters and the riff-raff? I'd rather listen to the lovely, lilting, lyrical click of the CL's shutter...


It came to me in a dream. I should shoot more photographs with the Leica CL. And I should be more adventurous in my lens choices. Or something like that. 

Speaking of dreams, I've been experimenting on myself again and with interesting results. I've decided to go to bed one hour earlier than I have been over the last few years. Trying to give myself a fighting chance at getting a good 7.5 or 8.0 hours of sleep in before swim practice. So far the results are good and I'm not finding any real unintended consequences that I can peg back to the new regimen. But I am finding that I remember dreams much more than I have in the past. And sometimes the dreams wake me up.

I woke up two mornings ago because I was having a dream about swimming the butterfly stroke and I was working, in my dream, on my dolphin kick. But as my brain was dreaming about the kick my legs were actually doing the kick in real life. I woke up because I was getting frustrated (in my dream) since I felt like I was working hard but not making any forward progress. Today I woke up from a dream about my freestyle arm recovery. 

As a blogger who writes about photography it would have been a lot better for all of us if I'd been dreaming about some new and innovative way to make great photographs. Something I could share that would make you rush to your camera, hoist the strap over your shoulder and then run out the door to try out some almost unimaginably cool technique. But sadly... no. I'll see if I can "change the station" in my dreams going forward. 

In the previous blog I talked about using the Sigma Contemporary 90mm lens with the Sigma fp. A few people liked the way the combination rendered color and the way the images looked, technically. Even while mentioning the mediocre content...

I wondered if all that glorious technical performance was due to the Sigma fp camera or just how much putting the correct lens on a camera shifts the results. Today I put the Sigma 45mm lens on the CL and decided to see how much different this combo might be. But I more or less give up now. All recent cameras are fine. Most recent lenses are admirable. Put any of them together and the shooter becomes the weak link. How else to explain it?

Last night it ended up raining here for hours and hours. A wonderful continuous, soaking rain but with none of the wild gyrations, impetuous downpours or random flooding. The episode did wonders to clear the air across the city and my experience walking through downtown was downright pleasant. 

I am bored already with Summer. I'm tired of the hot days and the humid nights. I tried to book a trip to a far off city to visit a friend but when I went on line to book a hotel every single one of the hotels I wanted to stay in were totally sold out for the week in mid-July in which I wanted to travel. And then there is the uncertainty of air travel. I guess my next recourse to getting out of town is to head to San Antonio or back over to San Angelo. Someplace I can drive to in less than 4 hours. Someplace where there is always a vacant hotel room. 

Looking back over the last four or five years (factoring out Covid lockdowns) I find that June and July have traditionally been my slowest months for business. And that's sad because even though I have a big chunk of time in which I can get away I can't imagine a worse time to go to the kinds of places I'd like to go. Filled with tourists, Record heat waves all over the globe and every measure of uncertainty one could toss at the world. I know from experience that major cities like Rome, Lisbon, Paris, Berlin, etc. are much, much more pleasant in the Fall months, after the tourist clear out and the kids are back in school. 

We're aiming for that. In the meantime I'm happy to swim more. In fact swimming is becoming my major activity for the Summer. I just need to cut out the dream kicking before someone gets hurt...

If you are out traveling right now you are braver than me. Or just heedless and not very risk averse. But more power to you. Life is short and, if not now then when?

Me? I think I'll just maximize being a tourist in my own town. At least I know some of the good places to hit for dinner...



Strolling through the swampy weather with nothing but a naked fp and 90mm of optical happiness.

El Camino.

The family had stuff to do yesterday so after swim practice in the morning I was left to my own devices. I thought long and hard about cleaning up, and straightening up, the studio/office and I started the process in earnest but soon became overwhelmed by the drudgery of the chore. And bogged down by the realization that I once again have a lot of cameras and lenses to muddle around with. I decided that a walk might help me clear my head and give me some self-awareness when it came to my obvious camera hoarding. (It did not. I think complete self awareness might be a long term project for a mental health expert; or team. But if I pay someone thousands of dollars to help me figure out why I like to buy cameras I will instead be saddened by the knowledge that I could have skipped therapy sessions, bought new cameras with that money and come out about even in the end...). 

I used ample amounts of sunscreen, wore long safari/Sahara pants (UPF 50) and an anti-stylish hat, a moisture wicking, breathable, light weight shirt and spiffy, bifocal sunglasses and headed toward the desk to, like a guest at a buffet, pick out a camera and lens to drag about with me in the heat. As I looked over the inventory it struck me that I had not yet paired the Sigma fp with the 90mm Sigma f2.8 lens for an outdoor shooting experience. I put them together, tossed an extra battery in my pants pocket and headed out. And, in a different twist, even though the sun intensity was set to 11 out of 10, I decided to try composing and focusing on the naked, rear LCD screen. No protective loupe! I even removed the vestigial grips from the camera body.

It was just me, the camera and the lens, all tethered together by a Domke Grip-Strap. 

I started out with the idea of shooting both in black and white (Jpeg) and in the square aspect ratio. But I started seeing stuff I knew might look better in color and folded like a cheap chair under a fat guy using it as a step ladder to hang a string of ornamental lights. But I kept the Jpeg setting and the square. Two out of three. So much for disciplined operational parameters...

When I got into downtown I remembered that I hadn't had a post swim breakfast so I stopped by Torchy's Tacos on 2nd St. for a bacon, egg and cheese breakfast taco and washed it down with a cup of their middling good coffee. I looked for the better version of coffee but it doesn't exist in that restaurant.

When I use the Sigma fp for walking around and casually photographing I like to default to the "standard" color setting. It's pretty, and well behaved, and has just a bit more contrast bite than the neutral or natural setting. I knew from experience that the Sigma 90mm f2.8 Contemporary lens is nice and sharp all the way from wide open to pinhole so I left it set at f4.0 and ignored the camera settings for the rest of the morning. >

In my earlier forays with the Sigma fp I always felt like I had to have the big chimney finder/magnifier attached in order to effectively see what was on the LCD when shooting in extremely bright light --- but now I'm pretty sure that I was over-thinking the issue and all I really needed was my bifocals and a little patience. 

I'm trying a new approach to life right now. It's called, "Don't try so hard." The idea is that some of us go through life relentlessly trying to make sure everything we touch works out perfectly. But that's too hard to keep up. So now it's: Don't try so hard." The word of the week is: "ease."

The funny thing (to me) is that the new less rigorous approach to life came to me when a swim coach, who competed recently at the Olympic level and has some gold to show for it, told me he didn't get really fast until he stopped trying too hard. When he relaxed a bit it pushed him over the inflection point into world class. I have no presumption that I'll improve when I ratchet down the focus on pushing too hard but I'm already finding that I'm enjoying everything I do a little more. And a little more beyond that. 

So, with my new philosophy firmly in place I decided that whether I came back home with a blank memory card, just a few fun images, or a small collection of "tourist" shots I'd be happy. And interestingly enough ---- I was. 

The Sigma fp is a fun camera. It really is small and relatively light. It's slow to perk up once you turn on the power but it does everything else just fine. In the square format the Jpeg files are 4,000 pixels by 4,000 pixels for a total of 16 megapixels and that's far more than enough for anything I'll use the images for. By opting for the square format I never had to turn the camera 90 degrees to one side for verticals. I like that because I can continue to wear my polarized sunglasses without the screen blacking out when I turn it and change the polar interference pattern with the LCD. Go Squares!!!

Surprising action and adventure...

For the first time in ages I was accosted by a very agitated and largely incoherent street person who came roaring, wobbling and bellowing up the street and who then lunged at me in a show of intended intimidation. I'm 66 but I'm still adequately quick on my feet and I dodged his initial grasping lunge and stepped out of the range in which he could respond too quickly for me to parry or evade. I put a parked car between myself and him and I guess he decided the heat made another aggressive assault too much trouble. He bellowed a long stream of obscenities and stumbled off in the other direction. By that point two people had already whipped out their cell phones and called the police. Sad. I've walked a few times in the urban area with a friend who is both a photographer and a practicing psychiatrist who pointed out to me all the signs of people who were off their anti-psychotic meds --- and this guy yesterday was a classic case. 

Were I living out a "novel" fantasy written by an action adventure writer I would have had my character take charge and quickly disable the fellow with some spectacular martial arts moves but in real life it's always best to get out of the way and stay out of the potential attack zone. Always good to choose flight over fight if you are the one with the most to lose. But keep a Bench Made Bug Out lock blade in your back pocket... just in case you run out of room to move. 

I took a few deep breaths when the action passed and continued the walk. In the next block I watched a different homeless fellow get up from his reclined position against the wall of a bank building, shuffle over to a low planter positioned next to the curb of the busy street, unzip his fly and piss on the plants. Right on Congress Ave.  Just a few blocks from the Capitol building. I've walked downtown for years and that was a first for me...

It was just that kind of day.

So I continued on and the rest of the day was uneventful. An enterprising street person asked me for two dollars. I declined. He asked if I would "pay" him two dollars if he could do 20 perfect push ups. I agreed. He took a few moments to put on his shoes and then proceeded, in the 103° heat, to pound out 20 perfect push ups right there on the side walk. I was impressed so I fished into my pocket for some cash. All I had was a five but I thought he deserved some kind of bonus for not only doing the promised perfect form but because he delivered something of value for the money. I walked off examining my own topography of thoughts about the matter and I'm still a bit perplexed by my reaction to all that. That slice of time felt like the Fellini movie, Satyricon. 

I looked in my wallet to see if I had anymore cash but I didn't. I wanted some coffee and perhaps a croissant so I was happy when I came across a gift card in the folds instead. I walked over to the Four Seasons Hotel and had a fun coffee, a fresh croissant and a Perrier with ice at the lobby bar. A nice, temporary antidote to the strange vibe in the street. But I am happy not to have been carrying a full camera bag and not having worn goofy shoes. It's nice to move quickly and with some agility when you want to/need to. 

I got back to the office in the mid afternoon and sorted down about 150 images to a dozen. I downloaded the keepers into my "DESKTOP ART SUMMER 2022" folder and played around with them in Lightroom Classic. In the end I decided I'm still too big of a fan to get rid of the fp. It's different and fun. Like a palette cleanser during a complex but compelling dinner. 

Today I'm struggling a bit with boredom and struggling even harder to get any work done on my prequel to "The Lisbon Portfolio." Made especially difficult since I have the conflicting desires to "not try so hard" but also to work more diligently at editing out the fat in this second novel... I took a procrastination break to grab enchiladas and a guacamole salad at Maudie's Tex-Mex restaurant over on Lake Austin Blvd. It's trash food but oh so tasty, and a good way to fend off an hour or so of impending work.

The combination of the Sigma 90mm and the Sigma fp is pretty magnificent when 
it comes to recording detail and sharpness. The photo above was shot across four lanes of busy road by a recently accosted photographer walking through a hellish heat wave with a camera and lens that are both bereft of image stabilization.  Just below is a close up looking into the center arch.....

I threw my best "Garry Winogrand" tilt at this one. 
I think I'll include it in a Guggenheim Grant application...

Walked by the Google building on 2nd...

Ben came over for dinner. He and I threw together a Niçoise salad and waited for B. to come home from her visit to San Antonio. We laughed, told stories, had some wine, and then he headed back home and B. and I settled into the books we were reading... Altogether a day in which I didn't try,  even for a minute, too hard. 


One Lens, Two Looks.


I recently photographed 15 attorneys in a temporary studio at a hotel. I used the Panasonic GH6 and the 42.5mm f1.2 Leica lens. I was very happy with the raw files from that set-up. But I was curious by how much the overall image quality had improved since the days when I was running around shooting everything with a Panasonic G9. I went to a folder from my time in Iceland and looked carefully at a number of images. Of course it's all apples and oranges since only a direct comparison between photographs shot in identical situations by each camera and lens combination is at all meaningful but it was still a fun exercise and showed me what I wanted to know in the moment. 

The two images above are of a light house or beacon in the harbor of Reykjavik. They were taken with the G9 fitted with a 15mm f1.7 Leica lens. While I am fairly certain the GH6 would have the overall edge when it comes to dynamic range I am equally certain that the G9, and the 15mm, are very good image makers even in 2022.

While I didn't have time to review again all the 5800+ images from the 2018 trip I did look through several hundred and the only ones I found wanting were flawed by operator error or just a floundering photographer pointing a very good camera at something or other that was boring before I tried to photograph it, boring as a photograph, and which will continue to be boring in the future... I certainly can't blame a camera for lack of insightful subject selection. 

Working on a small project right now and I'm having fun carting around the GH6 + GH5ii system with a handful of lenses. So much smaller and lighter than my bigger Leica system. And, for final use on the web the images are far, far better than they need to be.

The heat is taking a break today. Temperatures are forecast to stay under 98°. Thanks Mother Nature. I'm sorry we pissed you off. 


Don't you hate it when a company discontinues one of your favorite products? I just got up to speed on a great camera and, BAM, it's discontinued. And as far as I can tell there are no plans to replace it.... What to do?


TTArtisan 23mm f1.4 for L mount on a Leica CL. Wonderful.

You dig through cameras for years and then you find one that really speaks to you. It's small, lightweight and easy to walk around with but at the same time its 24 megapixel sensor, combined with great image processing, gives you about 95% of the quality you get using bigger and much more expensive cameras. You buy one and start working with it and over time come to trust its metering and white balance. Your hands find the right way to hold the camera. You find the best way to attach the camera to you with its strap. You learn the ins and outs of its imaging processes. You can judge battery life almost by intuition. 

And then....the retail universe pulls the rug out from under you and the camera becomes discontinued. Should you decide you want an extra body to incorporate into your small travel system your only recourse, over time, will be the vagaries of the used camera market. And, if my current experience is any indication, good condition-to-mint condition cameras will vanish quickly. 

I thought I would really enjoy the Leica SL2 camera more than any other camera I own. But....for some reason or other I find it to have the least magnetic attachment to me. Oh, it's great for work. The files are incredibly detailed and the dynamic range seems limitless. Even when working with video the camera is a superb commercial tool. But once you've finished shoot your jobs .... that's where the charm of the bigger and heavier system recedes. 

I find that when I need just the right look in a full frame camera for any subject matter that doesn't need to be printed large and with endless detail I actually prefer the "look" of the files I get with the SL cameras. And, if push comes to shove and I really want a specific color and tone palette in full frame that makes me smile every time, it's always the Sigma fp. Not the new fpL with the 61 megapixel sensor but the original 24 megapixel sensor model. 

But all these choices pale in comparison when it comes to choosing a camera to roam around through the streets of a city, or to bring along to a dinner party, or to take on a trip to someplace new. More and more I'm depending on the affable, comfortable, minuscule Leica CL. And a collection of small lenses that leverage its advantages even more.

I always meant to dig into my wallet and splash out for a back-up CL body. I have a TL2 but it's just not the same. I've always had a thing for creating systems based around two matching camera bodies. I dragged my feet when it came to my APS-C Leica. But then that day came last month when Leica announced that they had discontinued the CL. They made it pretty clear in interviews, etc. that they would be stepping away from "cropped" frame cameras to concentrate their efforts on full frame (35mm) sensor cameras. I found myself a bit sad because of the announcement but I hopped onto the web thinking I would track down a new, in the box, second unit to pair with the first one. How difficult could it be?

Well it seems that soon after the announcement people who had always wanted a CL, or people like me who found their first encounter to be a profitable one, rushed (ahead of me) to kill off the remaining inventory at all the big (and small) retailers. I'd see a used body listed at someplace like Camera West (in San Francisco) and by the time I clicked on the product it was already listed as "out of stock." 

After ending up late to the party at a number of online Leica vendors I finally asked one of my favorite shops if they could put me on a list or inform me when they got a nice, clean, relatively unused CL back in stock. 

I got an e-mail yesterday from my favorite Leica Store and I responded as quickly as I could. On Monday the camera will be on its way to me. I guess I should downsize my current inventory of stuff and sell off some of the excess but I don't really want to. I'd rather pull the batteries out of the cameras I am not currently using and put the bodies into temporary storage. Especially since I seem to have a habit of regretting my sales of favorite cameras and then ending up replacing them at more cost to myself down the road.

The Leica CL is very appealing to me for a number of reasons. My very first Leica camera was used Leica IIIf (red dial) that came with the ubiquitous 50mm f3.5 Elmar collapsible lens. That body is an almost exact model for the rounded ends and small size of the CL. In fact, I pulled the IIIf out of the filing cabinet and compared them. I can see exactly where Leica got their inspiration for the CL. They stole the design from...Leica. Steal from the best?

The IIIf was the camera I took with me on a solo trip to Mexico City back in 1980. Loaded with home-rolled Tri-X film it actually returned some very nice negatives. I was happy when I got back to the darkroom and realized that the 50mm had not yet hit its "expiration date." That camera was so small and unobtrusive that I could walk the streets of Mexico City at 2 in the morning, by myself, and never draw attention to me or to the fact that I was out photographing in the middle of the night. 

The digital CL is the direct descendant of those cameras from first 30+ years of Leica's golden period of growth and invention. The just discontinued CL is also a beneficiary of the L mount alliance and there is a range of great lenses available from Leica, Panasonic, Sigma and TTArtisan. Two of my favorites are from the Sigma Contemporary series of lenses. The 56mm f1.4 is an awesomely sharp and precise lens. You can shoot it wide open on a CL and it performs remarkably well. The other Sigma lens that is a tremendous value is the APS-C only 18-50mm f2.8 lens. If you don't need longer focal lengths these two lenses and two camera bodies constitute the most compact and powerful imaging system in all of the L mount camp. Sure, the TL2 is a bit smaller (not by much...) but it lacks the built in EVF which makes the CL so effective for photographers like me. 

I know as I type this that someone will chime in to tell me that I could have gotten any number of cameras with many more "features" or with bigger sensors, or with more resolution, or better C-AF for the same money I spent in getting this bare-bones camera but none of those factors make much difference to me. I have other cameras. They have features and spex galore. What they lack is simplicity and a streamlined approach to casual photography. 

I like the CL for its simplicity and for my dexterity with it. And I think the red dot is cute. YMMV. It usually does. 

I turned the air conditioning down last night and finally got a fabulous night's sleep which greatly improved my overall attitude today. It's still hot outside and a bit forbidding but I can roll with it better now. Added to that was a great swim practice this morning with an old friend in my lane. Fast, smooth, easy and happy. Starting to sound like the Seven Dwarves. 

Get the camera you want. Don't listen to anyone else. Retirement accounts. Pish. Those are for pessimists. 


The Strange Social Paralysis of a Heat Wave. And a few more samples from the Leica SL camera shot in monochrome.

We're 14 days into a heat wave. There's a high pressure system parked over lots of Texas and here in Austin we've been over 100° (f) for the last two weeks straight. Downtown is always worse. There's so much dark pavement acting as a giant heat sink and so few trees or green spaces to break up the still heat. 

When we factor in the humidity it feels so much worse. I can look out the window of my studio and watch the grass go from green to yellow to brown almost in real time. I'd water the lawn more but I'm always trying to balance out the ethics of wasting water in an ongoing drought. It's an ill-fated attempt at balance when you realize that it's the beginning of Summer and unless the universe makes some big meteorological changes nothing is really going to save that expanse of natural carpeting. I asked B. today if crushed granite counted as a native species. The answer was a partial yes. It counts if the granite comes from around Llano, Texas. 

I used to be impervious to the heat. In fact, B. reminded me the other day that there was a time when I thought nothing of going out on a day like today, when the "mercury" is touching 104°, and do a five mile run around the lake. I'm no longer convinced, as I might have been back then, that I am bullet proof any more and that in itself is a little depressing. 

Earlier today I was out cleaning some mold and mildew off a seventy five foot rock wall that runs across the front of our property (we're not just "wood fence" people...) with a bucket of distilled vinegar, water and a stiff brush. Every once in a while I would turn on the hose and spray it up over my head and stand in the cascade of tiny droplets as they came down on my head and my long sleeve shirt. But after an hour of hard labor I was feeling quite spent and tossed in the brush. Headed into the air conditioning. Drank more water. 

I can only imagine how dangerous this kind of weather can be for people who have to work outside all day. I'm thinking you really have to build up a resistance to the daily toasting to survive. But I'm equally sure that relentless heat ages one. 

But what does this have to do with photography? I can't really make any cogent points about client projects because all the clients are, by their own admission, hibernating until the weather breaks. If it does. 
The typical ad client spends the vast majority of their life sitting in an air conditioned office communing with their computer and sitting through endless meetings. Acclimation isn't on their resumé. I can speak to how it affects me.

I'm sitting in my office with the A/C humming along and I'm surrounded by cameras and lenses I'd love to be using right now. I have a battery charging for the Sigma fp in the hopes that we'll have enough cool hours left after tomorrow's swim practice to get a walk in and make some photo art. But the weather has done a good job of keeping most people off the streets and camping out in restaurants and malls. It has driven the younger people out to the lakes to float on paddle boards and various rafts drinking canned beer and testing the efficacy of their base layer tans. No one in their right mind is taking a stroll down Second St. dressed in fun fashion and waiting to be discovered by a crazy photographer. 

I called a friend to see if he'd like to meet for coffee but he was adamant that he's not leaving his apartment until we're back in the 90's. Not the decade but the temperature range. I called another photographer friend but he escaped to Vancouver in the hopes that the weather would cooperate. I'd love to be in Iceland right now but then so would about a million half drunk UK party people on their way to being fully drunk. It's mostly why we don't do much travel in the Summer months. Everyone else is traveling and everything is crowded. Who wants to wait in line to see a melting glacier?

It's odd to feel isolated and in the depths of heat dystopia, especially after having been busy in all of last week and for a long day this week. But there it is. 

I wanted to write a long article today explaining why I feel that 24 megapixel cameras, and even cameras with lower pixel counts, are more suitable for the kind of photograph we mostly do these days but I'm too tired from the heat to type anything cogent. 

I'll pick up the Sigma fp and the 45mm Sigma lens when I head back into the house. The idea is that I'll see something delightful or interesting and snap a shot or two. But in reality the camera will sit on the edge of the dining room table unused until I grab it tomorrow morning and take it with me to swim practice. At least I know there will be people there.... 

Hope you have a better plan for the Summer than I do. And I hope you are executing it well. Cheers. 

 So, the supreme court took a bite out of happiness and constitutional democracy in the USA this week. 

Had me looking at property in Switzerland. Too bad I can't afford it....

Fifty millimeters of joy. An inexpensive, practical, fun lens for L mount cameras.

I'm a sucker for 50mm lenses. Just love the focal length and the fact that they have a long history in photography and, compared to zooms or wide angle lenses, are easier for camera makers to design and produce well. It's rare for even the least expensive 50mm lenses to be anything but sharp at f5.6 and most of the good ones are usable at wider apertures as well. 

When I first started using L mount cameras the only 50mm lenses for the system were the Leica 50mm f2.0 SL lens (@$5K+), the Panasonic 50mm f1.4 S-Pro (@$2.3K) and the huge, heavy Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art series lens. In a moment of rash exuberance I splashed out for the Panasonic 50mm f1.4. It was a great lens, all Leica Certified and composed of many, many exotic elements and more. It also came with a weight problem (no body shaming here, just the facts) and it was .... too big. Sharp and punchy, for sure, but not an optimum choice for a carry around camera. At least not for me.

I was instantly interested when I read that Panasonic had come out with a new 50mm that was smaller (wish it was smaller still), much lighter and, when on sale, dirt cheap. That's the 50mm f1.8 S lens that comes complete with a composite material body, and not much else. It feels cheaper than the big 1.4 lens but I think most of use need to get over our emotional allegiance to the idea that metal is always the best material for lenses. 

I find the newish 50mm f1.8 Panasonic lens for the S series cameras to be pretty much "just right." 

These are samples from that lens, taken with a Leica SL on a day when the clouds were happy and artsy and cooperative. I've also been playing around a bit more with a "sideways" competitor for the Panasonic lens. That would be the TTArtisan 50mm f1.4; also for the L mount. I say it's a "sideways" competitor since they are not directly comparable. The TT-A lens is totally manual which slows down the focusing process and you are focusing at whatever aperture the lens is set for so accuracy probably goes down as the f-stop gets smaller. 

From f2.0 on down to f11 both lenses are sharp and crispy. They each have a different visual fingerprint but both are totally usable and enjoyable on all the L mount cameras --- from the Sigmas to the Leicas. The differences in coatings and construction would have been more visible and important in the film days but the differences are small enough so that either lens can be "tuned in" to nearly match one another. 

I've been testing my current 50mm lenses because I've heard good things about the performance of the Voightlander Ultron 50mm f2.0 Apo lens and I'm vacillating about getting one. It's not an L mount lens but is available in the Leica M mount and there are adapters galore for the systems. 

But after looking at the results from a casual outing with the Panasonic 50mm f1.8 S I'm not sure the additional dabbling with the Ultron is even rational-i-zable. And wasn't Ultron the ultimate evil villain in the Transformer movies? Gives me pause. 



Trying to summon some affection for my least loved camera. Yes.....we've circled back to the Leica TL2. Now discontinued but still functional. I'm getting there.

Who thought it was a good idea to ask 66 year olds to swim sets of 50 yards butterfly at workout this morning? Let me speak to the manager! Kidding, of course. It's just par for the course. But I have to say that having about a quarter of the hour long workout being comprised of butterfly stroke can be....daunting. Although the 20 year old in the adjacent lane didn't seem to be struggling at all...

"Fast is wasted on the youth.."

Seriously though, if you want to get your heart rate up and sustain it there nothing beats sets of butterfly in the pool. Maybe tomorrow we can spend the morning doing innocuous stroke drills instead???

So, after swim practice and a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs with smoked salmon I thought it would be a good time of the day to head downtown and walk over to my bank (which is on my usual route) and actually make a check deposit in person. Mostly because I was curious to see if banks still really have physical tellers who you can see in person, and such. They do. And the ones at my bank were very friendly. The walk to the bank was a thinly veiled excuse to try to build a bit of love... or at least grudging acceptance....for what is my current least favorite camera in the studio. And that would be the Leica TL2. 

I didn't do it any favors though. I put the TTartisan 17mm f1.4 lens on it and mostly used it at f8 along with some half-assed zone focusing. The ultra bright sun was a good challenge when it came to composing on the rear screen. The searing heat made concentration hard. So most of the images are just random snippets of visual errata. I finally gave up when the soles of my shoes started melting into the sidewalks and went home...

I'll grudgingly admit that the screen was bright enough to see well; even with my sunglasses on. And I'll also admit that I really like the colors and tones from that camera. They are right in line with files coming from the CL and the SL, both of which I really enjoy. This particular version/sample of the 17mm lens is also quite good. Yes, there's a bit of distortion but it's easy enough to fix with Lightroom. So, unlike tests in the past with the same camera, I'd put today's effort down as an overall success. 

Things I liked? The lighter weight. The quality of the .DNG files. The general competence of the rear screen ---  even when used in bright daylight. A surprising bout of endurance from the battery. The overall cuteness of the camera and the little, bizarre looking lens. 

Things I disliked? Easy. The fact that the camera often switched to video when its rear screen rubbed against my shirt. That nuisance of the camera changing modes from "A" to "S" if I touched the screen inadvertently. The cryptic nature of hunting for some settings in the menu. 

But if you are going to judge a camera by the files it creates I'll have to say that I'm changing my tune about the (now discontinued) TL2. Maybe I'm liking it more because of its new status as a discontinued underdog. But for whatever reason I seemed to have a more enjoyable time with the camera than I have had ever before. 

But take all this with a grain of salt since my brain and my assessments of the camera might have been addled by the overwhelming heat as we soared to 100+ by noon. And we'll still be at 98° late into the evening.  Stay hydrated but don't spill water on the TL2, I'm not sure it's at all weather sealed.

24 megapixels of APS-C goodness. A good selection of competent-to-excellent lenses. A natty little black leather half case. What's not to like? Well, besides all the stuff I listed above...


Every truck in Texas seems to have those metallic (but plastic) windshield heat thingys.