In my last post I featured some photos from the Dresden “Museumsnacht” aka “A Night in the Museum”. On our way to the exhibitions of course I couldn’t restrain myself from taking some random shots of the famous Dresden architectural heritage. It always feels a bit funny acting like a tourist in your own hometown, but Dresden is just such a marvel in so many respects, I can easily deal with the awkward feeling.
When I have to stay overnight in Berlin, I usually stay in a very nice hotel close to “Bahnhof Friedrichstraße” train station. I was always fascinated by the architecture and the maze of underpasses and small alleys in that station. It’s extremely confusing. But normally you rush through a train station, you don’t have time to take photographs – or better: you don’t take your time to make them. This time, I was so amazed by the light in the small overpass that crosses Friedrichstraße and connects to the U-Bahn station that I quickly checked into the hotel and went back with my camera and took a few photographs and then edited them right away on my iPad during dinner with Lightroom Mobile. I increasingly like the ability to work on the photographs right away – when they are still fresh in your memory.
Later on today I was then reading a bit about the history of “Bahnhof Friedrichstraße”. I knew a little bit about it, that it was one of the train stations that basically got cut in half and truncated East and West Berlin after the Berlin Wall was built in August 1961. I also faintly remembered that it was one of the biggest gateways for East German Stasi (East German State Police) spies to get into West Berlin. In September 1967 alone 1,700 of those spies crossed the border at Bahnhof Friedrichstraße. That’s a couple dozen per day. One of the reasons why the train station was so heavily frequented was because it was extremely hard to oversee and observe. So it was not only used by Eastern spies but also by Western RAF terrorists to get more or less undiscovered to their Stasi contacts in East Berlin.
When you wander through the train station today you can still see and appreciate why it was such a great place for the Cold War spy business – even I get still lost here sometimes.
I was always a bit skeptical about using Lightroom Mobile. I couldn’t quite fathom how a mobile application could deliver results that could stand up to what I can achieve with a full blown desktop application on my computer. Until recently I hadn’t even touched Lightroom Mobile although it’s included in my subscription. I just couldn’t be bothered.
But since I got my Leica SL that changed. Because with the SL comes a very nifty mobile application “Leica SL” which (among many other useful things) lets you sync your images via WiFi to your tablet or mobile phone. When you are on the road this is an incredible advantage that I had ocassionally missed on my DSLRs but also on the M Monochrom. Sometimes you just want to immediately share what you encounter during your travel. For Instagram, that’s a huge plus – it’s called “Insta” for a reason :).
Once you have the image on your tablet, it’s easy to load it into Lightroom Mobile and start editing it. And – at least to me skeptic – it was quite an eye opener how powerful that small mobile app is. You can use the vast majority of the functions that you are used to on the full-blown desktop application. With one incredible advantage – the touch screen lets you very easily zoom, apply and change radial filters and adjust curves. On a desktop you would need a graphic tablet to accomplish the same.
Of course the smaller screen is a drawback, and you can only work on the JPEGs, not the raw files (at least I haven’t figured out yet how to do that). But I can certainly live with that, since the primary purpose is to quickly edit an image for sharing on social media channels rather than the big screen or even a print. Another plus is that the edits you make are transferred into the desktop version of Lightroom once you are at your computer and load the images into Lightroom. So you can continue to adjust where you left it off and even go back in your editing and undo adjustments you had made on your tablet.
So here you go. The picture below of the altar at the Kölner Dom was taken with the SL and then edited during my waiting time at the Cologne/Bonn airport so I could share it on Instagram. No further editing in the desktop Lightroom version was done. Enjoy and let me know what you think. Oh and of course, feel free to follow me on Instagram :) (https://www.instagram.com/monokuro2k/)
Normally I’m not very fond of the sort of dreamy images with glow and glare which are a bit reminiscent of wedding photography or equally romantic genres. But in this case I thought, why not. This castle has probably been photographed so many times from so many different angles and perspectives that a pinch of tackiness (if that’s a word) can’t hurt :).
The Leica Store Berlin is currently offering a free-of-charge test of their Leica SL camera. Smart people, they are, at Leica. They know exactly what will happen to people who put their hands on an SL: “It’s a trap!” you want to scream out loud. And of course, I went straight into it, got me an SL for three days to thoroughly and objectively test it, and here I am, completely sold on it.
When I picked up the camera yesterday, the weather forecast was anything but ideal. It was raining, windy, no sunshine whatsoever and everything was grey, no light, no shadows. But I thought, if the camera is able to cope with these conditions, it will probably excel in any other.
I was really skeptical at first. The SL isn’t the first new camera I tested, so I wasn’t expecting any leaps in terms of image quality over the DSLRs I currently own (Nikon D800, D700) or my Leica M Monochrom. The latter in particular, because the M lenses have this very unique rendering that is probably very hard to top. All in all I was expecting a somewhat better performance, noticeable, but worth the hefty price tag?
Included in the test kit was also the new Vario Elmarit SL 2,8-4/24-90mm ASPH. and in particular for this lens I was extremely skeptical. Its sheer weight and size and the fact that it is a zoom lens, to me, this is really a hard sell. I could just keep my Nikon gear if I wanted to keep schlepping a ton of lenses around.
But let’s cut to the chase, here is the verdict in terms of image quality: With my M lenses (Summilux 50mm and Summicron 35mm) the image quality of the SL is simply stunning. The color rendition, the bokeh, micro contrast, sharpness overall and just the way it renders the image left me speechless. When compared to the images of my D800 with excellent prime lenses (like the 1.4/85mm) the Leica SL is miles ahead. And the D800 is probably still one of the best DSLRs in that segment.
I can’t really compare the SL to any other digital M other than my M Monochrom. And these are two completely different approaches to photography. What I did though was a very quick comparison of how monochrome images out of the SL would compare to those from the M Monochrom. And here the M Monochrom takes a slight, but noticeable win home. That said, I didn’t really apply any extensive conversion to the SL images, so I’m sure if done right, you can get close to the image quality of the M Monochrom.
But what about the Vario Elmarit? Well, here I’m a bit uncertain, still. The image quality is not on par with the Leica M prime lenses. The differences are subtle but distinctive. In particular micro contrast and bokeh. Also, the overall look of the M lenses is more pleasing. On the pro side the Vario Elmarit is extremely versatile, because it’s a zoom lens. On my small hike to the Schloss Moritzburg (see picture above) through pretty heavy rain, I only took the Vario lens, because I didn’t want to change lenses while the rain was pouring down. With just one prime lens I probably would have missed a couple shots. Also, the autofocus is excellent and of course makes shooting a lot easier. Which in turn is a bit of a deviation from the way I use to photograph with the M Monochrom. With the Monochrom it just takes much more time for composition. With the SL and the Vario zoom it’s more a DSLR “shoot and forget” experience. Not so sure I like that :).
And of course apart from the image quality the usability of the SL is just outstanding. Autofocus is just one example, but the Eye-Res viewfinder is a pleasure to work with. The ability to “WYSIWYG” is a real benefit. Also, the 4k video mode is in a completely different league compared to what I’m used to from my Nikon D800.
So, with all that said, the odds of me parting with my DSLR equipment and changing over to the SL (with or without the Vario Elmarit) are not exactly slim :). In the end my blog may become a bit more colorful again :).
When it comes to photography and museums I typically find myself more interested in the visitors than the actual exhibition. It’s a bit exaggerated I admit, however, from a photographic standpoint there is nothing less interesting than photographing other people’s artwork. So even at the Getty I found myself taking more pictures of people than art.