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Willem Jongman
(willem) - F - M
drooling over M9 on 10/11/2009 10:55:25 MDT Print View

I have a shelf full of Nikon bodies and lenses, but for years all I would take on a trip is just one manual body and a 2.0 35mm and a 1.8 85 mm lens.
I have also been drooling over the M9. It is the first camera that I can really use like the camera's of old, without the interference of menu's and what not. It is just a simple to use camera that gives you full control, including a superb rangefinder for perfect focussing at low light (I always wanted one), and with the highest quality results. With a 35 and 90 mm lens it would still be all I need....

Edited by willem on 10/11/2009 13:15:26 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: drooling over M9 on 10/11/2009 17:52:18 MDT Print View

Bit short on wide angle?

Cheers

Rob Harrison
(robhar54) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: M9 on 10/12/2009 00:19:13 MDT Print View

Indeed. Like Ross said, a 35/2 Summicron, a 50/2 Summicron of any era (I have a collapsible one from the '50's that makes superb images and can be on ebay for ~$350), and a 90/2.8 Elmarit-M (~$800 on ebay) would do it all, and be half the volume and weight of a DSLR system. A friend of mine has sold his M8 and is getting an M9...I hope he lets me hold it someday...;)

Several generations of photographers have built careers on one M body and a 35mm lens. For a recent example, check out the work of James Whitlow Delano. Incredible travel images of China, mostly.

But, before you spend $12,000 on a body and three lenses, like Ross said, it's the person behind the viewfinder, not the camera. You could make a career using a Holga! And THAT is REALLY light. ;)

BTW, I ended up not taking my OM this weekend. No room! Drat. Have to pare down other stuff to fit it in I guess.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Holgas on 10/12/2009 01:17:02 MDT Print View

That's an interesting idea on the Holga. I love some of the images I have created on mine, but never thought of taking it hiking, but as you say it is very light.

Ross Williams
(xavi1337) - F

Locale: Korea
35mm still better on 10/12/2009 01:20:49 MDT Print View

If you rescan your 35mm you will see that it will still out resolve the best dslrs. This is true even from film 15 years ago. The last great leap in film tech was back in the late 80s/ early 90s with the Fuji Velvia film.

One thing that has been totally overlooked so far is off camera flash. If you are going to be doing weddings, you MUST have a good off camera flash with intelligent ttl metering. Expect to drop 400USD as a minimum.

Also, go used for the Leica lenses, they keep very well.

To promote the Mamiya once again, the leaf shutter is ultra quite and can flash sync at ridiculous speeds. It may be hard to find a flash that will work "intelligently" with both a leica and Mamiya though

Julian Thomas
(jtclicker) - F
Re: 35mm still better on 10/12/2009 05:33:41 MDT Print View

If you rescan your 35mm stuff you are giving up years of your life, or big buck. To get good quality scans, if you are doing it yourself, takes skill and time, and that isn't including the dust spotting. If you are using velvia, the contrast range is limited compared to colour neg or full frame digi. IMO leica are not good backpacking cameras, the rangefinder is fragile. I used to shoot with 4 leica bodies, and I never had more than 2 working for any length of time together, mainly due top focus misalignement(2 M6s, M4 and M4-P) I'm also not convinced that rf focussing is accurate enough for digi, but I'm unsure of the science behind that. I DO know that the advantage rf cameras had with film was that you didn't need a retrofocus design for w/a lenses. This is a definite disadvantage with digi sensors as the light coming from acute angles causes problems needing all sort of microlenses on the senosr to compensate

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Locale: DON'T LOOK DOWN!!
Re: Re: 35mm still better on 10/12/2009 06:43:56 MDT Print View

I used to have a Ricoh XR10 SLR with a standard 50mm lens and a sigma 80-210 zoom which gave pretty good results. Heavy though. Then I used a Ricoh compact 35mm with 28mm fixed lens and got great photos for the weight. I had to tape up the back of the camera to prevent light leakage though, it had been around.

These days I'm happy enough with a compact digicam. It's the composition in the photo that wins the prize or makes your day, not the camera or the pixel count.

My answer to Jen's original quest for a 'do it all' lightweight is the canon superzoom range. The big 12x zoom is a real bonus for sports action and snapping birds on the wing, and the image stabilisation really works too. And they run on AA batteries, no more power downs at crucial moments on long hikes.

I have an S2IS which is a bit long in the tooth now. I'm thinking of upgrading to the SX1 with the new CMOS big sensor. Mind you, it's around 21oz, and I may just go for the 9oz SX110s and learn to live without a viewfinder. The other advantage is I won't have to find pack room for it. It'll just live in my pocket.

Edited by tallbloke on 10/12/2009 06:57:33 MDT.

James Lee
(JLeephoto) - F - M

Locale: Triad
Closest thing on 10/12/2009 07:06:39 MDT Print View

They're not so light, but anything less than a DSLR is going to be a frustrating compromise. I'm a pro photographer that often carries a Canon G10, depending on my needs, but would be horrified at the idea of shooting a wedding with it. However, I would feel comfortable doing 90% of my work with a Nikon D700, 24 2.8 & 85 1.4, or the same with Canon 5D. Used a Leica M6 for many years, it was my favorite all time camera. I loved shooting with it, but it was still not as versatile as a DSLR and the jury is still out on the M9.

Tohru Ohnuki
(erdferkel) - F

Locale: S. California
Re: Re: 35mm still better on 10/12/2009 11:32:54 MDT Print View

We'll have to see what w/a lenses they develop for the micro 4/3 system. It did away with the mirrorbox to make the body smaller and allow for more optimal lens designs...

Julian Thomas
(jtclicker) - F
Re: Closest thing on 10/12/2009 11:50:06 MDT Print View

agreed. Shooting weddings you need a dslr and a zoom, I know people who have added a leica to that, but youn eed speed and accuracy and the ability to get proofs up fast

Roger Homrich
(rogerhomrich)

Locale: California/Michigan
No Perfect Hammer… I mean Camera. on 10/12/2009 12:16:32 MDT Print View

To Jen…

Having made a living behind many different camera types, I can attest that a camera is simply a hammer… a tool. No one type is perfect for every situation. Even for landscape images, I may choose a view camera for control, a rangefinder for portability or a reflex camera for its versatility. Notice how none of this relates to film/digital, resolution, make/model, or ‘image quality’.

Personal note: I have not found a use for a compact in my kit. Those who take photos along a walk/ride may find themselves very happy. Publishers have also found images from some compacts acceptable for print. Personally, I walk in order to create images… I’m a photographer first. When a view camera is always a possible companion, I find that a compact is rarely a consideration. This, I know, is not the norm on this forum.

Either way, one should not choose to build a birdhouse with a sledgehammer or expect a ball-peen to suit their every need. This is just not realistic. Know what you are building, and choose the right hammer. Understand what each camera type is best suited for, and where it forces compromise. You then can make a choice as to what camera type best suits your needs and what limitations you are willing to live with.

If I, like you state, were traveling on a motorcycle shooting landscapes, weddings and modeling images (a life I don’t see ahead of me), I would use a two-camera setup to give me flexibility and a margin of safety in case of equipment failure. The exact two cameras and lenses I’d use is based on years of my own personal experience, and understanding what I am willing to live with/without on a given project.

That stated, if I were recommending a traveling setup to one of my students, I would lean towards a DSLR. A rangefinder would be a close second, but an increased level of skill is needed to produce successful (i.e. sharp) images consistently, especially with longer lenses.

The auto-focus SLR is probably the most popular choice of traveling pros because of both its versatility and its combination of being ‘good enough’ and ‘portable enough’ for most situations. I would suggest a digital SLR purely for convenience and economic reasons, given your intended commercial application and traveling nature.

An example (not an endorsement) of your request; a professional, single camera/lens traveling setup: Canon 5D MkII W/ EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM

Not a good choice for an architectural or wildlife shooter, but people and places could be documented adequately with this simple kit. A 24-70mm/70-200mm combo would be even better. Many journalists & fashion shooters use this kit.

Like many techniques on this site… going lightweight (one body/lens) forces compromise. You must have the proper skills and be willing to live with the consequences of a minimalist approach. I, personally, would never work commercially without a backup. My clients and I would never accept equipment failure as an acceptable reason for assignment failure.

Most importantly, I would never take a stranger’s recommendation without thoroughly testing multiple systems myself. Find out for yourself what the right balance of cost, usability, control, ‘image quality’ and compromise works best for your primary applications.

Nothing beats experience… never find yourself framing a house with ball-peen hammer because someone said it was a fantastic brand/model. It may truly be… but it doesn’t make it the right tool for the job.

I admire your spirit. Best of luck.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Closest thing on 10/12/2009 14:25:41 MDT Print View

> They're not so light, but anything less than a DSLR is going to be a frustrating compromise.

You may be right, but not in the sense you were thinking. For many WALKERS, a DSLR will be frustrating because of its size and weight and the probability that it is always in the pack when they want to take a photo.

Would it be reasonable to suggest that most of the argument here has been created by trying to fit one camera into two markets?

* There are those who want 'pro' results, whatever that may mean, and won't be satisfied with anything less than a couple of (D)SLRs and a collection of lenses. Big bikkies, and big weights and bulky gear, but worth it to them as a tool for a living.

* And there are those who are primarily walkers, who want a camera which is inexpensive, light, easy to use and which can be carried in a pocket or on a shoulder strap and which will give them 'good quality' pics for showing friends on a screen.

I can't see anything which would span both markets today (or for some time to come), but I can certainly see many cameras which would satisfy just one of these two markets.

Hum?

Cheers

Chris Townsend
(Christownsend) - MLife

Locale: Cairngorms National Park
Cameras on 10/12/2009 14:39:32 MDT Print View

"For many WALKERS, a DSLR will be frustrating because of its size and weight and the probability that it is always in the pack when they want to take a photo."

But this doesn't have to be so with the smaller, lighter DSLRs. They are easy to carry comfortably so they are at hand.

"There are those who want 'pro' results, whatever that may mean, and won't be satisfied with anything less than a couple of (D)SLRs and a collection of lenses. Big bikkies, and big weights and bulky gear, but worth it to them as a tool for a living."

Big pro Nikons and Canons certainly fit into that category but there are also much smaller and lighter DSLRs and there's no need to carry a couple of them and a collection of lenses. On my last two week walk I carried a light DSLR with one zoom lens.

"And there are those who are primarily walkers, who want a camera which is inexpensive, light, easy to use and which can be carried in a pocket or on a shoulder strap and which will give them 'good quality' pics for showing friends on a screen."

I think there's plenty of room inbetween these two positions.

"I can't see anything which would span both markets today (or for some time to come), but I can certainly see many cameras which would satisfy just one of these two markets."

I think micro four thirds can span both markets along with the best quality compacts such as Ricoh GRD and GXs, Canon G10s and others. And of course there's the Leica M9.......

Chris Townsend
(Christownsend) - MLife

Locale: Cairngorms National Park
One All Around Camera, Light and Professional: Does it exist? on 10/12/2009 14:43:17 MDT Print View

The nearest to this would be a lightweight DSLR with a zoom lens. I use a Canon 450D with the 18-55 kit lens and, occasionally, 11-18 and 55-250 lenses. I've had pictures from this camera (and previously a 300D and 350D) published in magazines and books and am currently working on a large format book of photographs. The publishers are all happy with the images from the 450D.

I would like a lighter camera though!

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Cameras on 10/12/2009 18:12:14 MDT Print View

Hi Chris

> I think there's plenty of room in between these two positions.
You would complicate things! :-)

> And of course there's the Leica M9.
Fixed lens ...
and incompatible with my bank balance ...

Cheers
PS: but I AM looking at the G11.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Cameras on 10/12/2009 18:22:33 MDT Print View

> I AM looking at the G11.

I am likely going to swap my LX3 + G1 for a GF1... but first I need to get my hands on one to get a better sense of it. Alas, supplies seem limited.

If you like the G11, you might like the PowerShot S90 even more for backpacking. I got to play with one a couple of days ago... and first glance it looks quite nice. Smaller and lighter than the G11. In fact smaller than the fixed lens GRDIII. Same sensor as G11. Reasonable controls though it's not a GRD. Has bad barrel distortion at the wide end, but the wonders of digital processing can mostly compensate for this.

>> And of course there's the Leica M9.
>Fixed lens ...
>and incompatible with my bank balance ...

Not fixed, interchangeable primes. Unless you are thinking about the soon to be released Leica X1 which looks to be aimed at the Sigma DP-2.

I haven't found a few well chosen primes to be too restrictive. I understand the price issue though. I didn't realize how much the M4 system I had inherited years ago was worth. It was the system I used. It wasn't one of those cool SLRs that everyone was getting in the 1970s. When I had to replace it I couldn't bring myself to spend the money. I made a switch to a Nikon SLR system for something like 1/2 the price of the leica gear for a more versatile system. Funny thing though was that when I was shooting with zoom lens, I was often framing nearly all my shots at the equiv of 24mm, 35mm, 50mm which were the fixed lens I used most of the time. I did picked up a used Minolta (Leica) CL for times the SLR was too heavy... but I sold it off when I found a pocket camera that had "good enough" versatility and image quality in a smaller and easier to carry package.

--Mark

Edited by verber on 10/12/2009 19:16:56 MDT.

Chris Townsend
(Christownsend) - MLife

Locale: Cairngorms National Park
Cameras on 10/12/2009 18:31:28 MDT Print View

Hi Roger,

>> I think there's plenty of room in between these two positions.
>You would complicate things! :-)
Sorry! :-)

>> And of course there's the Leica M9.
>Fixed lens ...
No. Interchangeable. Supposed to work with almost every Leica M mount lens made since 1954.

>and incompatible with my bank balance ...
And mine! :-)

Cheers,

>PS: but I AM looking at the G11.
And I am looking at the GF-1.

James Lee
(JLeephoto) - F - M

Locale: Triad
Re: No Perfect Hammer on 10/12/2009 19:07:54 MDT Print View

I think Roger nailed it (pun intended.) Most of my work has been photojournalism in "hot zones" where I worked out of a backpack for 3 months at a time. So, I spent a lot of energy trying to determine the lightest set-up for those particular needs. For me, that was the two lightest but still rugged DSLRs with a 17-35 2.8 & 80-200 2.8 lenses. I knew some guys shooting very specific styles of magazine work with Leica rangefinders or high end P&Ss like the Ricoh GRII. But again, these were for a very specific style and need and they worked within their limitations.
I did a trip to Kenya recently where still photography, while important was NOT my primary concern so I only took the Canon G10. I had to limit myself to certain types of images, but I judged it a worthwhile compromise.
There are almost always compromises to be made in photography. It's a matter of determining the your priorities and finding a balance.

Edited by JLeephoto on 10/12/2009 19:09:05 MDT.

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Locale: DON'T LOOK DOWN!!
Re: Cameras on 10/13/2009 03:57:08 MDT Print View

Some great advice here from the photo pros which goes well beyond my strictly amateur-snapper ramblings. However I do know a thing or two about travelling long distance on motorcycles, and I think Jen needs to consider the effects of dust and vibration and moisture on expensive camera kit.

There are great protective cases out there. They are bulky and heavy. Bear this in mind when accumulating kit. Also remember bike luggage is more vulnerable to theft than from car trunks. You will want to carry your kit when you get off the bike, so keep it as small volume as possible.

Roger Homrich
(rogerhomrich)

Locale: California/Michigan
Leica M9… Best ‘All Around’ Camera? on 10/13/2009 12:23:25 MDT Print View

Since the Leica M9 has come up multiple times, I believe it is worth exploring the reality of this digital rangefinder as being a contender for the best ‘all around’ pick, and as a walking camera.

It appears that the M9, from initial testing, is capable of producing images on par with the well-known +20MP DSLRs. This is nothing spectacular, but nothing to scoff at either. Having beat up a few Leica’s over the years, I can attest to the quality of the lenses as being on par with anything offered by any glassmaker. But, it takes more than great glass to make a great digital camera.

For those who don’t know, a rangefinder is lighter and smaller than a DSLR because it lacks a reflex prism and mirror, which also means that you don’t look through the lens. You see no optical effects of focal length (compression, distortion, etc.) or have the ability to optically preview depth of field via the viewfinder. In addition, compositions are only approximate due to parallax and focusing can also be troublesome for the person new to a rangefinder or during fast motion, or in low contrast situations.

But, with a digital RF, you do have the ability look at the display after an exposure to check these things. This seems like a decent compromise, assuming you have more than one chance to get the shot. And although I prefer the large negative (yes, negative) and aspect ratio of the Mamiya 7 rangefinder (my main walking camera), a digital Leica may be a perfectly fine option. But, this convenience comes at a price. $7,000 to be exact. And another $3,000-$4,000 for some glass.

Quite nice, yes. But, before more drooling or depression from the price ensues… Lets compare it to a more versatile DSLR of a similar sensor-size. The heavier, bulkier, full-frame Canon 5DmkII will produce a comparable image at less than half the price of the Leica M9. The Canon lenses will be a fraction of the cost as well and will have world-class auto-focus. It will shoot HD video and be compatible with an immense lens set. One would also find the high ISO quality better in the Canon… quite useful when traveling without a tripod, shooting action or in low light.

Just like UL backpacking, it’s always about compromise… weight, cost, function, durability, etc. Is a camera that is less versatile worth over twice as much because it’s lighter, smaller (may I say, sexier?) and sports a red dot? That’s up to you. Personally, it’s not on my wish list. Though, it would have been impressive a few years ago… or maybe now, if it were half the price.

Keep in mind… both of these cameras will produce images that will far exceed the needs of 99% of the readers of both this, and even photo-specific forums.

As has already been mentioned, the lighter DSLRs, high-end compacts and micro four thirds seem to be the most appropriate for the discerning walker looking to preserve memories, the aspiring amateur on a budget or the professional/semi-pro choosing an inexpensive lightweight kit that will still satisfy many editorial clients.

Fortunately, if you fit into the above categories, your options are both lighter and cheaper than the average ‘pro’ kits. Lucky you! You should be able to achieve great results.

So, while there is no best 'all around' for everyone and every subject... there probably is a camera that's best for you... in most circumstances in which you will wish to use it. The only way to know what's best for you is to test, test, test. Just like a tarp, a stove or a pack.

For those few, like myself, who are often unwilling to compromise exactitude for weight and price, we willingly pay for it with our backs and our bank accounts. We consider it simply part of the job to carry the right tools… whatever they may be, given the subject and circumstances.

It would though, be very convenient for me not to carry my view cameras, my Hasselblads or even my Mamiya 7s in the field, but great images are rarely born from convenience. They are more often born through hard work and sacrifice.

And sorry, even Leica can’t build a perfect camera for all seasons.

-Roger

Edited by rogerhomrich on 10/13/2009 19:24:46 MDT.