Archive of ‘Street Photography’ category

Trying out some vintage Leica, Canon, Minolta and SMC lenses on Sony a7R

A while ago I decided to do a comparison shoot with four different vintage lenses. The aim was not to make excellent photos, but just to shoot the same thing with same settings and compare the results. The lenses used were:

All of these lenses were shot wide open at F1.4 except the Summicron, which was at F2.0. This is because all vintage lenses look more or less the same at F5.6 or F8.0 which I should have used on the street scene if I were shooting the street and not just comparing the lenses. Old lenses tend to show their flaws aperture wide open, so I did not see any point in comparing these in any other setting since they’d look the same. I have a large collection of lenses, and these were chosen because of relatively low price and good quality. I have better lenses, but comparing affordable lenses is more interesting. I tried to shoot the same scene with a less affordable combination as well so you can do a little bit of comparison between very affordable lenses and not so affordable one.

The camera I used was a Sony a7R with adapters for each lens. I did not do any colour correction after shooting these lenses, so you can see the lesser quality of Sony cameras compared to Leica or Fujifilm just by looking at the white balance. If I need good quality photos from the Sony a7R, I need to change the white balance manually for each photo. That is something I don’t have to do with any of my Fujifilm or Leica cameras. I don’t know what Sony is thinking, but all photos taken on a Sony camera are brown. A photo taken of my grey cat looked brown enough that a friend of mine asked if it’s my cat since it looks brown.

I also made a couple of comparison shots with Leica M9 and Leica Summilux-M 50 mm F1.5 ASPH. at F1.4. These are just to show that there is a difference both in cameras and in lenses when you go up the price scale. But the truth is that you can take very good photos with lenses that cost less than 100€. When I bought these lenses, they cost less than 50€ each apart from the Summilux which was over 200€. I bought the Canon FD 50 mm F1.4 from Amsterdam, and it came with Canon T70 camera and camera bag all for 40€. It once belonged to an old man who was enthusiastic about film photography, and the widow was delighted to know that the lens was going into real use like his husband would, not into a dusty collection or museum.

Why a cold street and not some nature?

There are places like this in the centre of Jyväskylä if you just look.

Less than 3 km away from the centre of Jyväskylä the view totally changes.

It is currently winter in Finland and these were taken at the end of January. There is nothing that is green around and believe me when I say that there isn’t a lot of nice places to see at this time of the year. When the moment is right and you’re in the correct location you can get nice shots, but when there is little to no snow and everything is brown and grey, looking for something nice is challenging. It was +3 degrees celcius when we were taking these shots and Sony depleted its full battery in less than 45 minutes. I don’t know what Sony is thinking when two batteries in a battery grip last only 12 minutes in -10 celcius. My Leica M240 can shoot whole weekend with one battery and Fujifilm is no slouch either, although not nearly as nice as the Leica M240.

First comparison

This scene was shot at walking district in the centre of Jyväskylä, Finland. I focused all lenses to a pole in the centre of the photo. Sadly the last shot with Leica M9 is not shot in the same direction as the tripod must have moved, and I did not see that in the optical viewfinder of my Leica M9. I have an adapter for M-mount lenses for Sony a7R, but the results are often so disappointing due to sensor differences that I don’t think it’s worth it using any Leica M-mount lenses on a Sony camera, it just looks wrong. Leica has a thinner layer of glass over the sensor and microlens structure to combat colour cast and vignetting. In my opinion, the Leica M240 is even better with all Leica M lenses including wide angles, so Leica has made improvements in that respect. On the other hand, Sony sensor is not designed at all for non-Sony lenses that are very close to the sensor, causing the outer edges of the image to be blurry. For example, the Summilux I used on my M9 during this test shooting is very blurry on the Sony a7R.

Canon FD 50 mm F1.4

Canon FD 50 mm F1.4


Minolta MC Rokkor-X PG 50 mm F1.4

Minolta MC Rokkor-X PG 50 mm F1.4


SMC Takumar 50 mm F1.4

SMC Takumar 50 mm F1.4


Leica Summicron-R 50 mm F2.0

Leica Summicron-R 50 mm F2.0


Leica Summilux-M 50 mm F1.4 ASPH. with Leica M9

Leica Summilux-M 50 mm F1.4 ASPH. with Leica M9

Second comparison

This second scene if very near the first one to the same direction. The red granite spheres are called “Kahden kesken” and are made by Matti Peltokangas in 2003. In fact this second set was shot before the first one because of sunlight.

Canon FD 50 mm F1.4

Canon FD 50 mm F1.4


Minolta MC Rokkor-X PG 50 mm F1.4

Minolta MC Rokkor-X PG 50 mm F1.4


SMC Takumar 50 mm F1.4

SMC Takumar 50 mm F1.4


Leica Summicron-R 50 mm F2.0

Leica Summicron-R 50 mm F2.0


Leica M9 and Leica Summilux-M 50 mm F1.4 ASPH.

Leica M9 and Leica Summilux-M 50 mm F1.4 ASPH.

What did we learn?

For me it’s obvious that all these lenses are different. I can’t show the exact differences using the same scene but instead, I would have to look for a specific situation for each lens and shoot it with all lenses to show the difference. That would be too much work for something that you’ll eventually see if you purchase any of these lenses.

What was interesting is that price does not always guarantee excellent results. A high-end lens like the Leica Summilux-M 50 mm F1.5 ASPH. demands some practice because of field curvature and other features of the lens. Without particular situation where an individual lens excels, all these are very capable tools. I could have changed the captions for the lenses, and you would never know I did that. The Leica Summilux-R 50 mm F2.0 looks slightly better to my eye, but so would each of the other lenses if they were shot at F2.0 instead.

Camera differences

I have several Fujifilm cameras, but as these all have crop sensors, I decided to use a full frame camera for 50 mm lenses. Since my Leica M240 is still in Solms, Germany, I had to use my Leica M9 for comparison shots. Whenever I go taking photos, I have noticed that everything I shoot with Sony cameras is brown or somehow sad looking. I really like the more true colour balance I get from Fujifilm cameras. Leica M9 is far from neutral, but it has its own charm by having a bit of a Kodak film look, which is not a surprise since the sensor is designed and made by Kodak. Sony a7R is good for adapting different vintage lenses, but it is not capable of using Leica M mount lenses properly because of the short flange focal distance. I know that some lenses look good, but most do not and I hate it when someone is comparing Leica lenses to Sony lenses using a Sony camera when there is a big difference in quality when you use a real Leica. Leica M240 has more neutral look compared to the M9, but sometimes the old CCD look of the M9 is just what I need.

An Hour of Street Photography with Fujifilm X-Pro2

First things first

This is not a review of Fujifilm X-Pro2, because there are enough of those already. I did not shoot brick walls or measure anything, but took the camera with me to the streets. It’s no surprise to my friends and followers that I own a lot of different cameras and lenses. It’s a hobby, so I tend to take out different cameras and lenses out on a different day, depending on mood, weather and destination. My normal day consists of walking my way to work and back in the city center of Jyväskylä. My apartment is in the walking district, so all events and people are very, very close and going shooting doesn’t require a car nor bus. I walk 4 to 10 km every day (sans weekends), the average being around 5,8 km.

I carry a camera with me always. If I don’t have a real camera with interchangeable lenses, at least I have my iPhone 6S Plus. Not exactly ideal, but two rules:

  • The best camera is the one you have with you
  • A camera in the bag stays in the bag

I know it’s easy to take out a camera from your bag (or at least from mine), but you know you won’t unless there is something really special and chances are the moment went by while you were digging out the camera. This happens all the time to me unless I am holding the camera I have or have it at least on a neck or shoulder strap. Even the iPhone in my pocket won’t get used that much and when it does, it’s probably too late. I don’t “spray and pray” with my camera and most days I don’t take any photos just because there isn’t anything catching my eye or I’m too busy doing something else.

Early September day in Finland

Yesterday I had my Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujifilm 35 mm F1.4 lens with me. Nothing else, so no zooming, no huge resolution for cropping images and all the possibilities and limitations of the X-Trans sensor, which does not use the Bayer filter normally used in digital cameras today. X-Pro2 does not have an antialiasing filter either, meaning that Fujifilm is expecting the X-Trans sensor layout to handle Moiré effects. More on that later.

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The old 35 mm F1.4 lens for Fujifilm is in my opinion better than the new weather resistant (not sealed), smaller and less expensive F2 version. It does not need software correction and has a lot more pleasing quality to it (software correction does not equal good optics). It’s the first Fujifilm X mount lens ever released and its autofocus is slower than on new Fujifilm lenses, although it’s now a lot better thanks to firmware updates Fujifilm has provided. It’s not exactly first choice when people think of portrait lenses, but I’ve found it very good in that respect. I have several full frame cameras, but I don’t feel like I absolutely need a 85 mm F1.2 on a full frame to be able to shoot portraits. On Fujifilm the closest lens to that is the 56 mm F1.2, which is effectively a 85 mm F1.8 on the Fujifilm crop sensor. I haven’t bought the lens as I have several 50 to 58 mm manual lenses that are enough for the job, if needed. Anyway, yesterday I had the 35 mm F1.4, which has a field of view like a 50 mm F2.0 on a full frame camera (or whatever, looks good to me). I haven’t used the X-Pro2 a lot yet, since I had (and still have) the X-Pro1 until last week. X-Pro2 is very much like the X-Pro1, meaning that it’s easy to get good white balance and better colors. Although it’s supposed to have 14 bit RAW images, I get too many blown highlights than I’m used to with for example my Leica M9 or Leica M240. 

How to get models for portrait shooting if you’re into it? Just ask people on the street. It’s a good way to make new friends, have more social contact outside your workplace and step outside your comfort zone. Asking doesn’t hurt and it gets easier the more you do it. It’s surprising how many like a photo taken and see it how it looks like with a good camera and lens instead of a smartphone. No, I don’t ask people for portraits when I have only my iPhone with me.

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Although it’s early days of September in Finland and therefore early autumn, the days are still bright enough to be a bit troublesome for the X-Pro2 in the hands of a person who has used it only for a week. Whenever there’s sky somewhere and I don’t expose the image to highlights, the sky gets easily blown out. The photo above isn’t the best example, since it’s what is left after editing the blown out sky. I will have to practise more with this camera to get more consistent results, since I know it’s a better camera than I see now. I’m too used to my Leica M9 and M240, the first of which is very much film like and even though it does not have even near the dynamic range of the new X-Pro2, it’s still a very capable camera I absolutely love. Thankfully I don’t skimp on the back screen and look at the photos only if I have asked someone to have a picture taken and then show it. Deleting photos based on the 3″ screen is a very bad habit and it slows you down. Editing and deleting are best done on a computer, so I expect the camera act like a film camera, I see the results later.

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It’s not unusual to see events in the walking district in the center of Jyväskylä. At least during summer there is something happening almost every week and even when there isn’t, it’s still more or less full of people, being a beautiful place without cars. Yesterday it was beginning of a fashion weekend, so that gathered people even more than Pokemon Go does.

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REAGL Capoeira Jyväskylä (with Leandro Silva) was performing yesterday on Kompassi (or Compass) in the centre of walking district. I did not spend enough time there to see what other there was yesterday (or today, since the event is still continuing). Nice to see something else than below average street players or “beggars” (organized crime if you ask me) for a change.

Seeing X-Trans sensor’s ugly side

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The image above is an example of a subject very difficult for Fujifilm X-Trans sensor. If you zoom the image to 100%, you can see that the background screen is rendered in an absolutely horrible way. I used latest Adobe Lightroom to process the RAW image, so I don’t know if there is a software that could salvage an image like that. But to be honest, this wouldn’t be an easy task for any camera with enough resolution. For comparison, I took an iPhone shot of the same stage. The lights were blown out on a Bayer sensor as well and the background screen looks bad, although not as bad due to lack of resolution and sharpness.

More thoughts on X-Pro2

Maybe I should post a more thorough article about the Fujifilm X-Pro2 when I’m done training with it. I still feel like an amateur with it and do not always get the result I expect. It’s not the camera’s fault, I just am more used to my old Leica’s and manual focusing. I get even focusing and depth of field wrong more often on the X-Pro2 than I do on the Leica M240, just because it handles differently and I’m not using the X-Pro2 on fully manual mode, which I maybe should. I might update this article later with more photos, since I took plenty during the one hour shooting. I’m now just too tired to edit more photos for the web.

Update: There is a follow-up to this article released in January 2016. I will write more about my experiences with this camera now and then after I’ve got a feeling I’ve learned something new about it. After only a few months the only major thing apart from the X-Trans sensor challenges is the vulnerability to optical shake. In my opinion, this was introduced with the 24-megapixel sensor, meaning that the pixel density is causing the trouble. The way to avoid this is to use higher shutter speed, or optical image stabilisation provided your lens has it. I love my Leica’s, but when it comes to autofocus, Fujifilm is the next best thing.