All posts by Anson

What is in my camera bag?

Billingham-Hadley-pro-2020-sage-chocolate-Leica-m10-noctilux-e58-f1-battery-summicron-rigid-50mm-Sekonic-L558-Hasselblad-503cx-80mm-CF-Planar-Tri-X-Kodak-Portra-Film-ND-filter

What is in my camera bag?

 

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Bag: Billingham Hadley Pro 2020 Sage/Chocolate

Camera and lenses:

  1. Leica M10 with Noctilux 50mm f1.0 E58 and extra battery
  2. Summicron 50mm f2 Rigid type 2 with E39 yellow filter (Great for both colour and black and white film/digital)
  3. B+W 58mm MRC Nano ND0.9 3 stops (allow me to use noctilux at f1 wide open during the day)
  4. Sekonic Lightmeter L-558 (been using it for 9 years very reliable in spot, flash and ambient mode. I love the spot metering mode which I can have 4 different measurement and calcuate an average)
  5. Hasselblad 503cx with Planar CF 80mm f2.8 T* and A12 back loaded with Tri-X (First camera purchase in 2020 and I hope to start a portrait project with it soon after this difficult time)
  6. Addition A12 magazine for colour film

Film choice

  1. Kodak Professional Tri-X 400 Black and white film (120 format)
  2. Kodak Portra 400 (120 format)

 

Leica Summilux 35mm f1.4 Pre-asph Infinity Lock: A Hidden Gem with Characters

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The Leica Summilux 35mm f1.4 Pre-asph Infinity Lock: A Hidden Gem with Characters

 

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A Lens Identical to Summilux first version aka Steel Rim

There are many people who would dream of owning a copy of the first version Summilux 35mm because of its rarity, outlook and Leica “glow”. Its special outlook on both M2 and M3 version really made me fond of it, especially with that sexy OLLUX hood which is so unique in the entire Leica collection. It is sad to see the price of this rare gem keep going up.  I have personally tried both lenses on hand and been shooting with them for a while on film and digital. So I would describe the Summilux pre-a v2 early type (infinity lock version) is a little bit sharper at all apertures compared with Steel Rim.


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Kodak Tmax P3200

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Kodak Tmax P3200

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Leica M10

Steel Rim has vulnerable coating in early serials and very easy to have separations in elements, so it is hard to cherry pick the best copy. Both lenses were constructed in the same design with the same focus scale and infinity lock except the front metal rim was installed in Steel Rim. Some Infinity lock version have brass tabs and some are in chrome. Most of their serial number begins in 222xxxx, 229xxxx and 234xxxx and it is available in both M2 and M3 goggle version.

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Kodak Double-X

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Kentmere 400

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Ilford HP5 pushed to 800

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Ilford HP5 pushed to 800

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Ilford HP5 pushed to 800


Minimum focusing distance at 0.85m in M2 version

The non-goggle version of this lens can focus down to 0.85m compared with Steel Rim and normal Summilux pre-a 35mm which has a minimum focus distance at 1 meter. Other summicron lenses such as 7 elements (King of Bokeh) and 8 elements both have min focus range at 0.7m. It surely gives you an advantage to take some nice images with f1.4 at a closer range, great to take half body portraits when you are sitting opposite of your subject. Whereas the M3 version with the aid of the goggle, it can focus down to 0.65m. 

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Arista EDU 400

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Kodak Double-X

An Underrated Gem with so much Character

There are so many layers to taste with this lens. The most popular lens from Leica probably is the Summicron 35mm f2 Version 1 (8 elements) with its immaculate transition in black and white images and the essense described as sealing the air in the image. Another one will be Summicron 35mm f2 IV (7 elements) also known as King of Bokeh, it is an overall performer on black and white and colour negatives not so special but great for consistency on your image. But what I wanted to express is that this Summilux infinity lock can also offer you most of their characters at different apertures. 

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Leica M240P

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Kentmere 400

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Kentmere 400

Starting wide open at f1.4 can perform like Steel Rim but not having the crazy glow or haze from normal Ver 2 pre-asph, at f2 it is very much like the 8 elements and bokeh is the same as well. At F2.8 to F8 it gives rich and solid images like the King of Bokeh. The most obvious difference among them is that Summilux infinity lock tends to render in a much warmer tone than other lenses, that sense of Warmth sometimes might not be great on colour photography but sometimes that put on extra spirit to the photographs. I believe no lens is perfect but a great lens should have characters that fit in your photo philosophy and they are like your best companion, like a drawing brush which helps you to create your memories or assignments

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Kodak Tri-X

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Ilford HP5 pushed to 800

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Kodak Double-X

Conclusion

As I have noticed not many people are aware of the specialty of this little gem, that’s why I wrote this article to let more people appreciate this lens with its character and outstanding performance. I know this lens is actually even rarer than Steel Rim but I highly recommend you to try it. All of these are just my personal experience and if you have anything wanted to share with me or other readers, feel free to comment below and definitely great to hear comments from other users!

 


Film Samples

Kodak Ultramax 400

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Kodak Ultramax 400

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Kodak Ultramax 400

Kodak Eastman 5222 Double-X

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Kodak Double-X

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Kodak Double-X

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Kodak Double-X

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Kodak Double-X

Cinestill 800T pushed to 1600

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Cinestill 800T

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Cinestill 800T

Fujifilm Superia Premium 400

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Fujifilm Supera Premium 400

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Fujifilm Supera Premium 400

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Fujifilm Supera Premium 400

Kodak Super Gold 400 (Japan Ver)

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Kodak Supergold 400

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Kodak Supergold 400

TinType – Retro Style Camera App

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Tintypes - Retro Style Camera App

Last month I came across this amazing retro style photo from a photographer’s instagram story. I immediately messaged him and he was very kind to share the name of this app which is called TinType by Hipstamatic.

I downloaded this app and played around with it for about a month for now. It is great and at first I thought it was similar to wet plate photography. Those retro style photography process which requires collodion as a sticky and transparent medium, that is ideal for coating different stable surfaces such as glasses or metal (tin) for photography and it was widely used in 1860s and 1870s. Alright I please do look up in google for history related to tintype photography. Not sure if anyone is familiar with Hipstamatic but I had their first photo app installed on my iphone back in 2010.

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What’s so special about this app is that it reproduces that vintage look from petzval lenses by using portrait mode on your iphone with a narrow depth of field and heavy vignettes. This camera app also consists of four different effects: classic B&W, hand-painted colours, high contrast B&W and sepia stained ambrotype. Try it if you like this large format photography style and let me know how you feel. So far this app doesn’t perform really well at night, maybe it tries to simulate the way it looks with original tintype photos.

Link: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/tintype-by-hipstamatic/id926177061




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Baked HK – Serving Sourdough with Love

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Baked is my favourite place for brunch in Central. It is located in Elgin Street around Soho area in Hong Kong. Their owner Zahir is a super friendly guy from South Africa. Every sourdough is handmade by him with their traditional starter which they have been feeding it with care and love for over 50 years. They serve sourdough with their own passion and it pairs with different toppings. Check them out and they have super nice coffee as well!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bakedcafebarhk/
Address: Shop D, G/F, 14 Elgin Street, Soho, Central

All shots were taken with Leica M10 with 7Artisans 75mm f1.25 lens

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The Leica Noctilux 50mm F1.0: A Unique Dream Lens

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A Bulky Rangefinder Lens but will do you the magic

In 2010, I got myself a Canon 50mm f1.2 LTM lens and had an intensively 6 months shooting experience with it with my Leica M8 and Leica film MP camera. It was dreamy with special spinning bokeh, during that time I thought I was having the best large aperture lens available for rangefinder cameras. But GAS continuously persuading me to look at other fast lenses. So there was this thread in the HKLFC forum, owners showcasing different Noctilux they have and I noticed that E58 (Version 1) and V4 with built in hood (Version 4), they both win people’s heart. Noctilux = Noct = night in Latin, Noct + Lux = night light gathering. Nocti is from the word “Nocturnal”. The magic was the silky skin rendering, creamy bokeh that I have never seen before. It was so special to me.

Honestly, as a beginner searching for a Noctilux they all looked the same to me and I cannot tell which one should I get given the price varies among them.So the question is which version should I get?

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Which Noctilux 50mm F1.0 should you get?

I admit that I was a bit crazy about studying different Noctilux f1 lenses from Tommy Oshima to Tinyeyes on flickr. I tried to skim through every post to see if they mention which serial of the Noctilux they are using. If you take a closer look at the bokeh and sharpness, you will notice the difference on each version.

Generally speaking, they all inherited the same kind of mood with spherical like bokeh which gives you a very 3D look. If you are taking a portrait, focus on the subject’s left/right eye, anything fall out of that focus point will be blurred gradually and your subject’s skin will be softened as if adding a soft focus filter on it. I have tried 6 copies of Noctilux at different times, E58 (Version 1), Version 3 with clip on hood and Version 4 E60 with build in hood.

E58 Version 1 (pinned hood)
It has a filter size of 58mm with the most vignetting at wide open among 4 different versions but at the same time add extra character to this lens. What is so different about this lens compared with the later version is that colour is generally muted and not as vibrant as the later versions. Earlier type coating will have some serious Leica glow and produce the softest texture of the skin. It’s bokeh has an oil painting like texture, the butter smooth creamy bokeh is its signature. If price is not a concern, this is the version I would highly recommend you to try.

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E60 Version 2 (pinned hood)
It is the rarest version as it has the lowest production unit. It is similar to E58’s rendering but less vignette. I have only tested it out in a shop but never owned it.

E60 Version 3 (clip on hood)
It was my first Noctilux, its character is a combination of Version 1 and Version 4. It has better sharpness than Version 1 and 2 (more obvious on film). Colour is very rich and has higher contrast. Bokeh is still very creamy but maybe due to the coating, it renders with more details in the bokeh than version 1.

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E60 Version 4 (build in hood)
The Noctilux that I first saw and fell in love with. I was attracted to its convenient square hood but honestly I was very disappointed when I found out the hood is so loose and made of plastic. Anyways, many people aim at the later serial numbers starting at 395 or 398 because it has modern coating and captures sharpest images on digital cameras. But if you are looking for creamy bokeh, this lens is not suitable for you. What I mean is that this version has modern coating that made the out of focus area not as dissolved as other versions, which means that the bokeh will be kind of “Busy”. For me, I shoot both digital and film but mostly with film so I ended up getting a very early serial starting with 363 with coating and picture rendition similar to version 3.

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A Perfect lens for Portrait lovers and Cinematic mood

The magic of Noctilux is that by using its thin depth of field, you can separate your subject easily. It creates excellent portraits with mood and I would say this lens cannot be easily replicated by other lenses. The reason why I didn’t pick Noctilux 50/0.95 is that on digital F0.95 produce higher contrast pictures and has less attractive highlights. The glow from Noctilux F1 is the essence to create the special and magical mood in your photographs. Some people might dislike the cat eye bokeh but for me that’s the most special rendering from the Noctilux because the Cat eye bokeh will give you sphercial feeling and gives you that 3D pop look.

Noctilux Version 3 was my first Noctilux copy after upgrading from Canon 50mm f1.2 LTM lens. I would describe the experience after the upgrade as using an alcoholic wipe cleared the vaseline on your picture, which gives the rich and creaminess that other lenses cannot do the same job for you. I have tried multiple lenses on both digital and film, including 7Artisans 50mm f1.1, Konica 50mm f1.2, Canon 50mm f1.2 LTM, Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.1, Nokton 50mm f1.2, MC Optical 50mm f1.1, Canon 50mm f0.95. As I am a person who is looking for mood and texture, Canon 50mm f1.2 LTM and Canon 50mm f0.95 gave me the best mood on both digital and film. 7Artisans 50mm f1.1 work best on digital cameras only.

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Which lenses are the best alternative to Noctilux

If any of you are looking for a cheap alternative to Noctilux and you are also same as me who focus more on mood and texture and the creaminess of Bokeh. I would suggest you try 7Artisans 50mm f1.1 on digital. Summilux 50mm f1.4 asph on both digital and film, the special thing about this lens is that, when you focus down to 0.7m to 0.8m the depth of field is kind of similar to Noctilux and the bokeh is just perfect. Canon 50mm f1.2 LTM is also a special lens in my heart since it performs really well on both digital and film. Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.2 is also a great lens with close focus down to 0.7m and especially a little bit of glow when you shoot at wide open at f1.2, great performer on digital and film but a more standardised lens without the special mood at night. Another word “Boring” to describe this lens.

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I have tried most of these versions on both digital and film, from the digital Leica M8 era, M9 and eventually the Leica M10. Tested it out with different colour negative films, slide film and black and white films as well. In general, I love its performance on film most, because all these versions perform similar on film than digital and on film it gives you a special mood. So I highly recommend you to try it with different films.

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Conclusion

I hope this article can help you differentiate different Noctilux versions for 50mm f1.0 and at the same time give you a little push to get one and take pictures with it! I was at first found that choosing the right Noctilux is quite difficult as the price range is huge plus there is subtle difference in each version to give you different tastes. I wish everyone would try Noctilux at least once in their life time and let me know if you had the same feeling as I do. I know that the weight of the lens made it not an everyday carrying lens but do give it a try.