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.