Poor Man's Construct of a Passable Leica Q or Q2 Competitor... Vroom.

Open this one up large to see how three dimensional this image looks.
That old, old 28mm does a wonderful job with depth and separating planes.

 who wouldn't want a brilliant, olive green and Kevlar wrapped Leica Q2 faux rangefinder camera to play with out on the streets? But who wants to pay U.S. $6,000+ for the privilege? While I am sure many of my readers have the wherewithal to order one on impulse and not lose any sleep over the expense I am equally sure that for most of us it would be a stretch. And if one is streeeetching one has to wonder if it's all worth it. Or if one can put together an equally good street shooting set up, based on a nice 28mm lens, for a lot less money. And if you cobbled together a substitute could it match the frothy reputation of the Q2 and also deliver the goods; the images? 

In my mind, if you disregard the difference in build quality and implied prestige of the Q series Leicas and you are looking for pure performance as your deciding metric I would have to suggest that, if you can deal with a little bit longer fixed lens, you might look instead at a Fuji X100V. I've owned two and they are wonderful cameras. Especially for the money. But if you can't move away from that 28mm focal length and you don't want to sell a kidney you could consider building your own street shooting conglomeration. 

A reasonable choice might be something like a Sony A7(x) body coupled with their 28mm f2.0 lens. That might just get you in the same ballpark. You'd have to work on the color science difference with a bit of diligence but eventually you might be able to get close and then make a preset for Lightroom that you could use to automate a bit of the processing. If you really want to stick to using a Leica camera for their killer color science you might consider doing what I did today: Put a Contax Y/C Carl Zeiss 28mm f2.8 (accessible used for around $300 in good shape. Look for the MM version denoted by the f22 number on the aperture ring being green)  on an Y/C to L mount adapter and popping the lens onto a "vintage" Leica SL (usually available for around $2200, in good shape). 

I was thinking about the Q or the Q2 and it dawned on me that I already had enough of the pieces in my collection to toss together an ersatz combo. I set the camera to raw format, set the white balance to daylight, selected the aperture priority mode, and let the auto-ISO range between 50 and 12,500. All I really needed to do was compose, focus and shoot. Sure, every once in a while I'd tweak the exposure a bit with the exposure compensation dial but other than that I was working mostly by touch. Or camera telepathy.

It was stinky hot outside so I stayed on the shady side of the streets and did my usual walk. When I started to feel the heat I'd duck into one of my favorite taco restaurants and grab an ice tea. There wasn't much going on downtown but that was okay with me because another thing I was playing with was messing around with a circular polarizer on the lens. That more or less ruled out photographing fast moving objects today. So did my compulsion to magnify the center part of the frame on a lot of the shots in order to confirm, or acquire, sharp focus. 

I think that older Contax 28mm lens is really good. Especially when you are willing to work stopped down to f5.6 or, even better, f8.0. Since I'm very happy with the overall results I consider that I saved over $6,000 today. The polarizer was free. It's a Minolta polarizer that came attached to a lens I bought and then sold long, long ago. The lens was crap, the filter was really nice. Still is.

When it hit 103° and the heat index parked itself at 107° I decided to pack it in and head home. The sunscreen and bountiful selection of wide brimmed hats are all good and well but no substitute for the comfort of a cool pool or a studio luxuriously awash with air conditioning. 

So, the SL+Contax 28mm is a good substitute for the Q in my mind. Not as small and not as compact but with a bigger, better battery. And dual card slots. But no I.S.  If you really, really need more megapixels you might consider a used Panasonic S1R (around $1800 on the sporadic used markets) and the same lens. If you are lucky enough to already own a Leica SL2 you can sub that into the mix for a full on, toe to toe, replacement. It's got the same high res sensor and the same color science family/look. With the higher res cameras you have the equivalent of a Q2...at least imaging performance wise...

That's all I've got for today. I sure hope it snows tomorrow. I'd settle for rain. Hell, at this point I'd welcome highs in the mid-90s....


I absolutely love the girl on the gymnastic rings painted around and under the small window unit A/C. 

Use a much worse 28mm lens if you want Purple Haze. 

Polarizer. Engaged.

It always bugs me when my bodyguard accidentally steps into the frame. 
I guess everyone's been there at one time or another. Right?

And sadly, for the absolutely humorless and literal among us:

I don't have a bodyguard. I was making a joke. It's okay.


Too hot to photograph portraits outside? Composites to the rescue.


Chelsea in downtown Austin. Beat the heat.

A Chef. And tiny, ancient camera bokeh.

 I took this photo of my friend, Emmett with the ancient and primitive Panasonic G3. Of course, every expert on the planet told me it was impossible to put background sufficiently out of focus with the dainty and limited, teeny-tiny sensor in that camera. I tried anyway. 

I used the version one version of the Leica Summilux 25mm f1.4 with a working aperture of f2.5. The shutter speed was 1/125th of a second and the ISO was set at 640. I think we were able to make it work.

In a moment of incoherence I sold my first 25mm Summilux to another photo blogger. When I got back into the system this past year it was one of the very first lenses I replaced. But this time I bought the second generation. Works better with DfD and it's better weather sealed. Optics are reported to be the same. Those standard angle of view lenses are crucial for every format. At least I think so...

Bokeh-O-Rama in the service of advertising.


I was reminiscing about all the DSLR cameras I've used and I came across a lot of images we made while using one of the stars of the DSLR epoch; the Canon 5Dmk2. This image was a combination of available light at ISO 100, 1/13th of a second shutter speed and an aperture of f2.8 mixed with some soft electronic flash from the front. I was using an 85mm f1.8 lens.

It's a text book example of how we used to use the ability to render a background out of focus before the more recent trend of slivering the depth of field to the width of a gnat's whisker. In the days before micro slicing depth of field we tried to keep an image in focus enough to keep out main subject nicely sharp while putting the background into the "recognizable, but vague" category, which covers a myriad of styling sins...

By using a bit of aperture restraint we are still able to see that our subject has both ears and that his shirt is wrinkly instead of looking as soft as pudding.

Accidents and mishaps derail the quiet life. But we're not going to make this a new hobby...

From an emergency room in San Antonio. 
Photographed for an ad campaign.

Well, it's been a stressful week around here. A young family member had a sports related accident and broke his arm. We spent some time on Wednesday evening at a local hospital emergency room where he had a temporary cast applied. He'll need surgery to stabilize the radius and ulna which were both broken. That's scheduled for early this coming week. Not life threatening for him but clearly a set back and a pain in the ass arm....

I'm doing the doting dad thing and dropping by fresh coffee, picking up meds, driving him to doctor appointments, delivering groceries, sandwich and needed/desired supplies. He's staying at his place before the surgery; he really likes to guard his independence.... but I've pretty much insisted that he camp here for the few days after surgery to make sure there are no complications during recovery. He'll get round-the-clock care here. And there is tons more space... as well as an endless refresh to the goodies in the refrigerator.

I might be a little slower about getting blog posts out this week but that just goes with the territory. 

I think you guys can manage a day or two without my breathless prose about yet another life changing lens. 

I'm saving up to help with what will most likely be a multiple-Leica level $$$ invoice from the adventure. Ah well. I really didn't need anymore cameras....at least not until the Fall. Even with great health insurance things can get pricey. 

(not really looking for medical advice here. I swim with multiple doctors and nurses and I work with four different medical practices. Every professional I talk to is more than willing to share "much needed" advice. I think I've hit critical mass on advice... ). 

The kid is handling everything well. His father less so. No other details forthcoming. Google: HIPAA Compliance.


The Best Camera Sony ever made. Considering not just image quality but also handling, battery life, and great lens choice.


Of all the cameras I've used from Sony (a850, a77, a57, A7ii, A7rii, RX10, RX10iii, Nex-7, etc.) the one that always stands out by a wide margin from all the rest as an all-around winner has got to be the a99. It was a full framer, with the semi-transparent non-moving mirror, a super nice 24 megapixel sensor and a selection of really stellar glass. It also had a color science to it that ended with that model. 

I always thought of it as the last brilliant thrust of Minolta engineering before the photography department of Sony was totally overthrown by a new staff of boring camera engineers and equally lackluster marketing teams. 

The color out of that specific camera was beautiful and the lenses were amazing. The 70-200mm f2.8 was especially good. 

I was sad to let the system go but it was becoming quickly apparent that this would be an orphaned construct that would cease to be supported at all in very short order. 

This was a working shot from a video course I did back in 2013 for Craftsy.com. A fresh face. A nice lens and some playful lighting. 

Sad when new owners of technology homogenize out the secret sauce and move on. 

R.I.P. Sony a99. (Or should I say: Minolta a99?)

One of those times when the Universe tosses you a soft, slow pitch and you are ready for it.


Photograph for a private school in Austin. 

No Photoshop magic. No retouching. 


My new, standard, normal 50mm equivalent for the CL and TL2.

This image is an outlier. It was taken with the 17mm f1.4 TTArtisan lens.

One Stumbling block I've had in integrating the cropped frame Leicas into my operational comfort zone has been finding a very good, standard 50mm equivalent normal lens for the systems. I tried the TTArtisan 35mm f1.4 but while it's very, very good for the price one gives away all the niceties of modernity. You give up auto exposure in the modes other than "A". You give up in camera lens corrections for geometric distortion, vignetting and some other under the hood fixes. You give up exif info. You give up auto-focus and you also walk around in stark disbelief that a $75 lens can be so good...

I read a lot about a lens Leica sold especially for the CL/TL2 systems which was the 35mm f1.4 Summilux and just about everything I came across gushed about the outstanding optical performance of the lens. But of course it turned out to be big, heavy and painfully expensive. I thought $2,000K+ was a bit over the top for a lens I could only really use well on what is now a discontinued system family. 

After working with the Sigma i-Series 35mm f2.0 I was impressed by its performance on full frame cameras. It showed sharp chops and nice colors everywhere in the frame. But would it stand up to the increased pixel density of the cropped frame, 24 megapixel sensors of the mini-Leicas? That's what today's test was all about. 

I worked the lens at apertures from f2.0 to f11 and I was not disappointed at any part of the aperture range.  The sharpness didn't vary by much, only the depth of field. The lens is not too big on the camera and actually feels more compact and lighter than the "made for APS-C" Leica 35mm f1.4. The final plus for me is that I can use it on all of the L mount, full frame cameras as well as the cropped frame orphans.

Final verdict? Sure. It's absolutely fine. A very decent choice for a normal point of view on a couple of pixie sized cameras. And we already own it. Bonus.

Exhaustive and rigorous testing under treacherous conditions with a scary model.

 Bokeh anyone?

We're forever testing the gear in that primordial oven we call: Downtown Austin. So, how is the Bokeh with the Sigma 35mm f2.0 we've heard so much about? Is it...bokeh-licious?


This was a test shot from today. Actually, the last shot on a long and hot tromp through the city. It was photographed with the 35mm lens but today I was using it on a Leica CL which is a camera with a smaller, APS-C sensor. 

I was curious to see how the background and bokeh would look if I used the lens at its maximum aperture. Would it be "wooly"? "wire-y"? "tense"? "aggravated"? "finicky"? "melancholy?" or just plodding and pensive?

Truth be told, I am not a particularly good judge of bokeh but I found it to be intransigent, jejune, and anti-mordantic. 

I would defer to the experts among us, if any are brave enough to step in and talk about the quality of this lens's out of focus areas. Have a swing at it. You couldn't do worse than me.

Maybe it's gloppy with soft and mellow fringes.... Who can know? Perhaps I should run it by the experts at DPR...

A new spec for reviews: "Taken at 103°"

Swimming cold during a brutally hot Summer. Benefits.

BMT at the pool. Nikon D700, 50mm f1.2

If you are a regular reader of the blog you are probably tired of reading about swimming but... the powers that be just put me in charge of content again so you'll have to be a bit patient. 

I have been swimming for the better part of three decades at the Rollingwood Pool. I swim there because their masters swim program attracts world class coaches and thoughtful, disciplined swimmers who are also incredibly nice people. People who are able to balance their competitive streaks with the ability to get along and also have fun. The program runs coached masters workouts twice a day, six days a week and then the pool is closed on Mondays. The water has to rest sometime...

Swimming at the pool this Summer has been a challenge. Nothing has changed in the coaching or the swimmers but the unbroken heatwave ( so far 45 days in the triple digits!!! ) is making it nearly impossible to keep the water cool enough. We use big aerators at night to cool the water but since the water coming out of the taps is about 86° and the pool is in direct sun for most of each day the actual pool water temperature has creeped up from our usual (and preferred) 80° to about 85° as of yesterday. 

We can still swim in it but we have to swim slower, add more time to intervals, shorten the sets, etc. When the water temperature is too warm human core temperatures rise, there is an osmotic effect that accelerates dehydration and the heat makes everything more fatiguing. Our coaches are constantly encouraging us to drink more fluids and they are keeping a closer eye on everyone, watching for sign of heat stress. 

Last week I wanted to swim on Monday. I had gotten a Senior Swim Pass from the city of Austin which gives me ready access to the city pools. There is one pool in particular that I always enjoy but I won't name it here because it's already over-attended. It's an old WPA pool that sits adjacent to Lady Bird Lake. It's not chlorinated because it's filled with fresh spring water that's usually a constant 70°. It gets drained and refilled a couple times a week. But......SEVENTY DEGREES !!!....that's pure gold.

And in the first hours of the morning (opens at 8) the many lap lanes are in the  shade. The main pool is open only to lap swimmers from 8 - noon so there are no kids to dodge and no floating, lazy people littering the lanes to mess up good, long distance swims. There are strict rules about circle swimming or split lane swimming and anyone who doesn't want to play by the rules gets tossed out. In short, my kind of pool.

So, I went last week on Monday and the difference in water temperature was shocking, invigorating and heavenly. Swimming in cold water for me means I can go longer, harder, faster and better in the same amount of time I usually spend at workout. I knocked out 4,000 yards and felt no more tired than when I arrived. 

But I missed swimming with my team (although I swam in a lane adjacent to my old kinesiology coach from UT, circa 1974) so I had decided just to make the "cold" swim a Monday thing. I went again this week on Monday, had my own lane, did a lot of fast yardage and had a blast. 

It was back to my regular swim club on Tuesday and back to the heat. I enjoyed being in sync with my perennial swim buddies but the difference between Monday's swim and Tuesday's swim was striking. So, this morning I was back at the cold pool. I'm guessing the rest of the Summer is going to be an exercise in moving back and forth between the hot pool and the cold pool. The group, coached swims and the pensive, driven loner swims. But at least the options exist. 

There was an article on the CNN news feed this morning about exercise and longevity. Apparently there is no necessary upper limit to exercise but people who exercise above the WHO recommendations live longer. And better. They have lower mortality from all causes than people who exercise less. The commonly cited baseline recommendation for exercise is between 75 minutes and 150 minutes of solid exercise a week. I think these recommendation should be for each day. The study presented recommended 300+ minutes of exercise a week and also recommended that about half of those exercise minutes be "vigorous." 

Playing snooker or bowling were NOT included in the recommended vigorous exercises. (See "Games, NOT exercise" from the Society of Data-Free Research for more about the exercise futility of games...). Included were jogging or running, soccer, fast swimming, etc.

Since the dawn of recorded history people in nearly all cultures have been looking for the "Fountain of Youth" or the secrets of extending one's lifespan. Looks like we have, in fact, discovered the secret to adding years and years to your life by doing a good bit of exercise.  And living those years in better health. The sad thing is that most people will disregard the research, find a comfortable chair in front of the computer, TV or video game console, munch on some pizza, drink a diet Coke and resolve to start an exercise "program" next year. So, free, healthy extra years are currently for sale for the price of a bit of sweat and discipline and there are very few takers. Now that is sad.


Additional experience with the Sigma i-Series 35mm f2.0 Contemporary Lens. This has almost converted me into a 35mm focal length fan. But the lens had some help from a favorite camera.

the salad dish. Dinner at a friend's house. Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, purple onions, zucchini, bleu cheese and a wonderful dressing. Handheld in the dining room, in the evening. 


It was just last Friday when I decided to replace my first generation Sigma Art lens of the same focal length with the newer, slower, but much sexier looking f2.0 version. I have already fallen hard for the new lens. It just handles so much better. There was really nothing to complain about when it came to image quality with the one stop faster Art lens but damn! it was big and heavy. The new arrival is about half the volume and half the weight of the lens it replaces and the makes a huge difference if most of your shooting (at least these days) is done walking around in the heat, carrying your own stuff with you. 

After swim practice in a too warm pool this morning I had the sudden urge to eat a bacon, egg and cheese breakfast taco at a place called Torchy's. This worked out really well because I also got an email from REI that another pair of "Sahara" long pants I'd ordered online for tromping around in the sun was ready to be picked up from their downtown store. Torchy's and REI are about a quarter mile from each other and so my brain started to map out a route that would encompass both and also provide a loop through downtown so I could walk around and play with the lens again. 

But first, the taco. B. doesn't care for Torchy's Tacos but I find their breakfast tacos, on flour tortillas, to be very good, very authentic and a bargain. I ordered the egg, bacon and cheese taco and it arrived to the table in a paper lined, plastic basket, accompanied by a small container of salsa. I was so far off the reservation today that I ordered a Mexican Coke to go with my taco. For those of you who don't know domestic Coca-Cola is made with high fructose corn syrup while the Mexican product is made with cane sugar. Once a year I get curious enough to want to try a soft drink and when I do I try to make sure it's one of the Mexican Cokes that come in a traditional 12 ounce glass bottle. Yum. But only permissible once a year and on days where it is destined to be over 100°. I haven't gone full "Johnston" on a healthier diet just yet. 

The thing about Torchy's is that the tacos are amply stuffed with ingredients. And I don't know where they find such salty, perfect bacon but the salinity only adds to its "bad boy" allure. Tip the salsa along the diameter line of the taco and indulge. Protein, fat, processed white flour, spicy salsa. What's not to love? But just one. Never two.

Properly filled I headed out to take some black and white images, and the occasional saturated color images, of my favorite area in downtown. 

I used the lens on a Leica SL camera and set the camera for large Jpegs with enhanced contrast for even more snap. The lens balances beautifully on the ample camera body and the combo, especially in high octane sunlight, focuses instantly and with rigor. If you look at the "bendy" building shot a few images down you'll see that with the sun just out of the top of the frame I was able to elicit a bit of flare but I can't imagine any other lens would be much better in that regard. 

Most of the images are shot at ISO 50 which is the actual, native ISO for the Leica SL camera. For the black and white images I set the Jpeg parameters to "monochrome", medium high contrast, low noise reduction and medium high sharpness. Works well for me and I think the medium high contrast setting is what helps to accentuate the tones in the sky. I can't think of anything else that would since there is no option to apply digital color filters to the files (like green, yellow, orange and red...). 

I really like the camera and lens combination now. It's the best combination of all the camera bodies and lenses I currently own. See images below to make assessments about the technical qualities of the files.....

Park car. Turn around. See clouds. Shoot clouds.

devilishly handsome photographer becomes famous by photographing himself
day after day, week after week, month after month, in a mirror at the W Hotel. 
will it ever stop? f2.0 

A welcome (to me) vision of chaos in urban scape.

Look for the flare. Be at peace with the flare. 

Savor all that fantastic dynamic range. Ah. ISO 50.

Minimalist Landscape Photography. Less is less?

for years I have resisted coming to terms with the ever present 35mm focal length on a full frame camera. But not anymore. I have turned over a new leaf of acceptance and emotional regard for it. I must be mellowing from the passage of time. The antidote? More time with the Sigma 65mm f2.0. What a nice pair they make though. An SL on each shoulder. The 35mm on one and the 65mm on the other. Some extra batteries and more clouds in the sky. It's all we really need.