Kulturpalast Dresden

The “Kulturpalast” in Dresden is one of the most recognizable architectural icons from the East German modernistic era of the 1960s and 1970s in the heart of Dresden. It received a complete overhaul over the last decade and was re-opened in April 2017. It is now as beautiful, in fact even more beautiful, than ever before. That’s true for the outside façade that stayed true to its origin as well as the modern interior that kept most of the references to the original design as well.

Leica MP | Kodak Ektar 100 | Leica Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH.

Summer in The City

As I had mentioned here before it’s always a nice surprise to discover the photos you had taken quite some time ago when you bring back a film from development. Also, seasons seem to become somewhat meaningless, because at least as in my case, it can take up to six months or longer until I manage to finish 36 exposures on a roll of film.

Same with today’s picture. Apparently taken in high summer (of 2018), it’s quite refreshing to see it in the middle of (allegedly) winter, lest we forget how summer feels like.

Leica MP | Leica Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH. | Kodak Ektar 100

Nature Paints

It’s quite fascinating, even when there doesn’t seem to be hardly any color left on a trist and foggy winter morning, nature still preserves little specks of color that catch our attention. Add a little bokeh and if you are lucky sometimes nature photography can look like a painting.

Leica SL | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | 1/640s | f/1.4 | ISO 100

Winter is Not What It Used to Be

I can hardly remember a time where we used to have a sustained snow cover over at least a couple of days. Even temperatures below zero degrees Celsius seem to become scarcer and scarcer. Not that I’m a huge fan of winter, let alone winter sports, but the sight of a snow covered cityscape or landscape can warm you heart. OK, I hear the irony in that.

When I was visiting friends between Christmas and New Year – or as we Germans tend to say “zwischen den Jahren” (as in “between the years”) – we, as a matter of tradition, went on a little hike around a sort of lake (which in reality is just a bit of a bulge of the river Isar near Mammingen).

It was pretty cold, but there was not a hint of snow. Now, I wouldn’t even expect the fake lake to be frozen over but some hint of winter would have been nice. In particular for taking photos and trying to capture a “winter scene”. But as of late that seems to be almost an impossible undertaking.

For the time being, the images below will have to do as “winter pictures”.

All pictures taken with a Leica SL and a Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH.

Leica SL | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | 1/4000s | f/1.4 | ISO 100
Leica SL | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | 1/1600s | f/1.4 | ISO 100
Leica SL | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | 1/2500s | f/1.4 | ISO 100

Molebrücke Pieschen

Leica M Monochrom M246 | Leica Summicron-M 35/f2 ASPH.

I hadn’t been posting new pictures for quite some time which is a shame. I think it’s a function of too much work-related distraction and just not taking my small Leica with me all the time. As one wise man once said, the best camera is always the one you have with you, and that’s usually a smartphone, not a “real” camera. Hence, I will try and get better in just bringing my Leica wherever I go.

The photo above is an example of one of those random pictures you can take as long as you have your camera with you. It’s really nothing special. I was on my way home from lunch. I just walked over the other side of the road to take it. No travel required or any other extra effort.

Kölner Dom and some thoughts about Lightroom Mobile

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/)

Leica SL (TYP 601) | Leica Summilux-M 1.4/50mm ASPH. | f/1.4 | 1/50s | ISO 2500 | Edited in Mobile Lightroom

Leica SL (TYP 601) | Leica Summilux-M 1.4/50mm ASPH. | f/1.4 | 1/50s | ISO 2500 | Edited in Mobile Lightroom

The Leica SL – A Quick Test

Leica SL Typ 601 | Leica Vario Elmarit SL 2.8-4/24-90mm ASPH. | ISO 50 | 1/60s | f/4

Leica SL Typ 601 | Leica Vario Elmarit SL 2.8-4/24-90mm ASPH. | ISO 50 | 1/60s | f/4 (click to see the full-res version, edited in Lightroom and Color Efex Pro)

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 :).