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Last winter, I purchased my Leica M2 with a Summicron 2/50 for a project with Johnny Patience. My first weekend with the camera, I decided to take it out to Rye, NH for a walk on the deserted beach to learn how to use the camera and lens. Coming off the Leica M-E, it was more about getting a feel for metering and so on. Surprisingly, I’ve only posted a handful of images from that first test roll, but looking back over those images tonight, I realize there really is something special here. A few of these images have been highlighted in various posts, but never together like this. These are straight scans from Richard Photo Lab – no crop, no straightening, no post work-  not even a Color PAC file.

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  • Yeah, I remember the article and some of the shots. They made me consider the Portra 400 (now my preferred treat ;)).

    I still wonder what it is that so highly attracts me to shooting film and lately to medium format. When using my Leicas, I regularly prefer the outcome on film to the technically superior M9 shots – same lenses involved, so they are not the point. And I don’t think that it is about “too much” resolution and detail or lag of grain with the M9 – because medium format film has this too, and there I like film even more …ReplyCancel

    • Hey Christian – 400 sure is a treat, huh? Many have been asking me to try something else, like Velvia or Fuji Pro and so on – but Portra is such a gem, why would I switch? I am clearly addicted to it.

      Yep, not the lenses, it’s definitely the way film handles light. Though digital may be technically superior, light-wise film is the clear winner (for me).

      I am finding it more and more difficult to look at digitally created images, especially anything Photoshopped. These highly retouched images to models or the crap HDR (in my book) Lik puts out is more digital creation than photograph. I mean, you can do it right with something like Rebecca Lily’s presets to set tone, but so many feel hell bent on either pushing the saturation to clown vomit proportions or doing these gaudy “faux film” layers.

      Sorry, rant–off.ReplyCancel

  • Hey Ray – what a rant ;)

    But yes, I’m with you regarding many digital stuff that’s coming my way lately. Sometimes I like what I see, but increasingly I find myself ignoring (highly) manipulated stuff.

    You could be right that it is about the way film handles light – but I don’t understand *how* this works (which technical parameters matter here, and which details make all the difference).

    But however, I’m fine as long as film exists (and it looks as if it is going to exist for some time to come).ReplyCancel

    • Yes sir, it better keep existing. I was looking for some Portra 800 this weekend and man, the cost of that must keep many from buying it, which is probably telling Kodak not to produce it. Grrr – they better not drop any Portra lines.ReplyCancel

  • Agnes Wilk G

    And apparently I became your big fan (: there’s somet magical in analog photography, what digital will never achieve. However I still appreciate both. Digital gives me the possibility to post my photos right after they are taken, if the shoot is not perfect- I can repeat it. But surprisingly, the pure pleasure to pressing the shutter button is greater with analog. They are both so easy to lose (few weeks ago my hard drive died with all what I had on it, I don’t backupsReplyCancel

    • Agnes Wilk G

      *do backups and last week I exposed film by accident) but it’s a great adventure. I started it around 16 months ago, and didn’t appreciate analog until I found Pentax k1000 and absolutely felt in love. Right now my digital body stays in a drawer in my closet.

      But getting one of Leicas is absolutely on my wish list.

      That must been absolutely perfect day, I like that soft light and soft colors. those are photos ID love to hang up on my wall.ReplyCancel

    • Love to hear that, thank you Agnes!

      I know the feeling of exposing film – I did that last week too after a shoot for an album cover. 3 rolls are fine, but one is destroyed – the one with my favorite poses, of course. Happens. Ugh. But I have done the same with digital, formatting the wrong card mid-shoot.ReplyCancel

  • Great post, Ray! It was your photos and journey that gave me the extra nudge to get into it myself. And I am so happy I did. I can’t tell if I like my film photos better for aesthetic reasons, or the feeling of using the Leica, developing the film and being a craftsman.ReplyCancel

    • Thank you Riley – glad you got into it, as you’re kicking — with it!ReplyCancel

UpdateMarch 29, 2015 – Today the judges have came to a decision. Congratulations to Steve Cowell on your first place selection! The camera will be mailed this week!

First off, I want to thank each and every photographer for entering this giveaway. The amount of time and effort put into these photo essays is quite evident in the results. I have received an overwhelming response over the past month. Entries have been pouring in from every corner of the globe; showing me a piece of their world that I’d never otherwise see. Visions and stories told both on film and digital; color and black & white. I love that this is not a technical contest.  It’s not about the gear, the processing or traditional “rules of photography” that are centered in so many other contests. It’s about the art.

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  • josh

    Ray, excellent selection. I looked at all the entries and it looked like you made the best choices. Great job for the shortlisted contestants. Happy you narrowed it down I couldn’t have done it as well. Josh J.ReplyCancel

    • Thanks Josh – now the judges have a lot of debating to do!ReplyCancel

  • Giovanni

    Hats off to the best 5 and again thanks Ray for great work and the giveaway!ReplyCancel

    • It was a lot of fun Giovanni, thank you. I may have to do this again!ReplyCancel

  • Nice job Ray to narrow it down to a great short list of entries. You had a daunting challenge. Congrats to the remaining five, they’re all wonderful!!!ReplyCancel

    • Hi Bill – thank you! It certainly was not an easy task. But I feel comfortable saying that any of the 5 here can justifiably win.ReplyCancel

  • Agnes Wilk G

    I took a good look at all the entires and I wouldn’t be able to narrow it down to just 5 of them. That had to be real challenge for you… However, from all of my heart, thank you. As you wrote – I feel like I already won. But all those people who entered, they are simply amazing. Congratulations to everyone! Hugs!ReplyCancel

    • It really was – so many have unique qualities that really stood out – having to pick the “best” is quite stressful!ReplyCancel

  • You did a correct choice! Steves photos tells a powerful and touching story. I’ve started to shoot street/journalism for only 4 months ago (been an Architectual & Nature photographer for 6 years), so it would have feel abit embarrising to win this to be honest! Great job all of you! And thank you RAY for this competition, it really forces to to leave your confort zone!ReplyCancel

    • It’s my pleasure Patrik – someone made me step out of my comfort zone when I first started and it really sparked new things in me. Having others do it was such a treat, as the gallery is loaded with amazing ideas.ReplyCancel

Leica Summicron 2/50 v5 on Leica M-A – thigh deep snow

I guess it is time to give a first look review of the Leica Summicron 2/50. I am planning a second review / compare down the road where I will pit it head to head with the Carl Zeiss C Sonnar 1.5/50 – my favorite lens which is also in dire need of a proper film review. For now, I am going to give my initial impressions of the lens and the first 3 rolls I have shot through it.

As an aside, I had a Summicron 2/50 from the 1950’s that I absolutely adored last year and for some reason sold off. I figured to replace it, why not try a version 5 of the lens. I picked it up from Jack’s Camera Shop in Muncie, IN – a great friendly shop that I’d highly recommend.

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  • Hi Ray,

    I also sold off my Summicron-M 50/2 about a year ago. I am contemplating getting another one or purchasing the Zeiss Biogon 50mm/2. Do you have any experience with the Biogon?

    Thanks,
    DominicReplyCancel

    • Hi Dominic – I haven’t messed around with the Biogon 50 yet. It’s on my todo list.ReplyCancel

    • Dominic,

      I own the *Planar* 50mm f/2 and it’s a great lens. The Leica is better construction and smoother functioning overall. The colors are a ‘different shade of grey’ for the most part. The Zeiss is very sharp but I believe the Leica has less issues shooting wide open and focusing a bit farther off than usual (over 30ftish?).

      On the plus side for the Planar, the aperture is 1/3 clicks – an advantage with digital to an extent. Also plus – price!

      Portrait with Zeiss Planar ZM
      https://d324imu86q1bqn.cloudfront.net/uploads/asset/attachment/245657/optimized.jpg

      -TimReplyCancel

      • Thanks Tim! I’m leaning towards the Zeiss. It’s something I haven’t tried yet and the price is definitely easier to swallow.ReplyCancel

  • Beautiful images Ray! I must admit I didn’t read the review as gear reviews aren’t interesting to me (any more). Well, at least not that much. ;)ReplyCancel

    • Thank you – and honestly, I don’t really like gear reviews either. I only read them when there is something specific I am looking for. That’s why mine aren’t overly detailed – I like to show results rather than talk about them. :)ReplyCancel

      • Yes, exactly! But I must admit that it was different until very recently. Maybe, just maybe, I’m getting over my G.A.S. and can concentrate on taking pictures instead.ReplyCancel

  • Hi Ray, pitty that you are not on Tumblr – I would like many of the above images (and reblog the one or other of them ;)). Snow! I like it, but we had only 1 (!) day of real snow this winter here in Berlin (and 2 or 3 with only some snow, but nothing to talk about) …

    The Summicron 2/50 v5 I experienced as a very reliable lens that gives really good results under nearly all circumstances. Older models (you had the dual-range Summicron before, which I would never sell – but I have the goggles for it ;)) have more interesting visual properties, but they tend to have outliers with bokeh. I can’t decide which one I like more (but I’m thinking about exchanging the v5 Summicron to a Summilux ASPH, because I have the “Summicron look” with the old Summicron and would like to have a wider aperture).ReplyCancel

    • Hi Christian- I was on there for a few months, but it was just one more thing to maintain so I dumped it. But thank you for that!

      Yes, that DR Cron was pretty amazing – it had a really unique rendering which I loved so much. I also had the Lux ASPH – it was gorgeous, but looking back at my images with it, they were too sharp for me. Imagine that… too sharp! But while I had it, it was the best lens on the planet (for me).ReplyCancel

      • Yeah, I can imagine this “too sharp” ;) – but with film, it won’t be that dramatic (you used the Lux ASPH with your M-E, right?). The DR Cron can’t be used on digital Ms (none of them!), so that’s a pitty – I prefer it to the current Cron (due to its “unique rendition”, which is actually specific optical errors at open aperture ;)).

        I’m looking forward to your comparison of the current Cron to the 1.5/50 Zeiss lens. Should be interesting (though not fully comparable lenses).ReplyCancel

        • Yeah, the Lux was on the M-E. I’d be curious now to shoot it on film.ReplyCancel

  • JH

    ray i’m looking forward to the 1.5 zeiss comparison as i have this summicron already and looking for a 1.5/50.

    you mention you had the lux and that was a bit too sharp but great lens, that is one i’m considering but at 3x the price of the zeiss the zeiss is tempting but the focus shift at 1.5 sounds like its an annoyance. with the zeiss do you notice the focus shft? did you get yours changed so that its good at 1.5?

    i have to agree that the summicron may not be “special” in the sense that its brings some wow or pop to it, more like it just doesn’t do anything bad at all and is sort of good at everything that most reviews of it sort of say its a boring lens, bc it does everything so well but nothing spectacular.ReplyCancel

    • I do not notice any focus shift with this copy. Though I believe it’s optimised for 1.5 by Zeiss before they sent it to me – and rarely do I drift to a slower setting. 90% of what I shoot is at f/1.5!

      I wouldn’t say the Summicron is boring – just does a very nice job – nothing overly weak or overly mind blowing. That’s probably why I’ll keep it, reliable and dependable.ReplyCancel

      • JH

        that is cool might get the 1.5 then i did notice in your comparisons that the zeiss is practically as good as the summilux, the summilux seems perfect in the pics but then again its nearly 3x more the price if not more so that should be expected.

        and you are right about the summicron, it basicaly just a great lens that you can count on to work great, not overly weak or mindblowing, but just reliable and good.ReplyCancel