Sunday, 30 June 2013

Walking with the Leica X Vario - (Part 2 - the Monochromes)

The monochrome set

If you want to catch up, see the Part 1 of my experience

Leica is rightly famous for their monochrome, black and white look. They have a rich and long history in film and that started with black and white. Monochrome is still vital and real today - it discovers shapes, patterns and tones without the distraction of colour. Getting the right look however, when sensors are colour, can be a feat, particularly without clever post processing - Leica by the way, does make the M Monochrom that has a monochrome sensor.

The Images that Got Away

I feel dissatisfied when a monochrome shot is not sharp in context, lacks texture, solidity, shape or finesse. Trust me, I shot quite a few like that on this encounter. Why they got away (or at least, my side of the story).

The Autofocus on the X Vario isn't bad but let's say, it's leisurely.

Street photos of people tend to be monochrome, but I had difficulty getting response from the camera in time for street shots. Many of the Japanese competitors have upped their AF performance but it hasn't trickled down to Leica. The lens also warbles in sound when it focusses - a very quiet warble but you can hear it - again, the Japanese competitors have all kinds of ultrasonic and super quiet motors (partly motivated by movie shooting) and this detracts from the luxuriousness of the camera build and finish.

The Focus Scale

I was happy to see a nice feature that modern digital cameras do not have - a distance focussing scale. The focus ring around the lens has an "A" position which enables autofocus. If you take it off the "A" click position, you enable manual focus. There is no Depth of Field Scale so you need experience or a DOF aid (smartphone app, paper chart) to figure out what happens if you set the lens to f/8 (and be there) and 2 metres. Don't forget to take the ISO off from Auto otherwise, the camera might drop ISO to 100 instead of something feasible like 800 to keep the shutter speed fast enough to freeze motion blur. Doh! I did that. Lots of that.

The trouble is, this is a zoom lens camera - it is way too tempting to zoom and then you have messed up the expected DOF. I did that. Lots of that.

And really, it is Autofocus capable - I was too tempted to flub the estimate of 2 metres on MF, switch to AF, flub that and then switch to MF.

 

So, on to the ones that didn't fail.


Normal Black and White or High Contrast Black and White?
I missed quite a few of some people with fascinating clothes. By the time this shot came, movement had slowed down. This is SOOC JPEG and comes with white sky, gratis. I like the timelessness that black and white brings to this.


Have you wondered why people prefer not to live in No. 3 but 2A? Is this some Chinese auspicious number allergy? This image has had histogram widening - the textures of the wall and on the numbers make it worthwhile.

Leafless trees hold endless fascination for photographers. It's worthwhile finding ones that offer a shape and clarity on negative space but sometimes a busy scene brings context

One of the metro train lnes connecting to the South Yarra Station
Remember, we have a colour capable camera? Sometimes what looks black and white doesn't have to be black and white filtered.


It's not to say that grab shots of unposed people are impossible. This couple had just exchanged a chat and were waiting for the lights.

As I said, we need tones to be obvious as in monochromes, we don't have colour to provide separation.



Part 3, a summing up, maybe, coming soon...
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