LTM (LeicaThread Mount) to M-mount Adapter Adventure III

This post is to help me keep track of what I’ve learned about adapting LTM lenses to modern digital Leica cameras.

While a LTM to M adapter may mechanically assemble the lens and the camera body it might not locate the lens on the camera exactly with the focus mark at the top. Example of mis-alignment with the Kipon adapter.

The mis-alignment isn’t an issue for focusing with the rangefinder.

LTM adapters that don’t incorporate 6-bit coding can be an issue because of the notch machined in the flange of the adapter. This notch exposes the optical sensor in the 6-bit coded M camera to variations in lighting. The variations in light causing the camera to “think” you’ve swapped the lens. The various lens modes on the M10 have different impacts when using this Voigtlander lens.

  • AUTO lens detect results in unpredictable interpretation by the camera. The results range from “no lens mounted” to the base default lens of 16-18-21 f/4.0 ASPH 11626. This is because the sensor is exposed to shadowing by you finger as you focus or any number of other things.
  • MANUAL lens setting can be set to whatever lens you are using, or an appropriate related lens. The issue remains that at times the camera will interpret a shadow crossing the sensor as mounting dis-mounting the lens. Generally when this happens, the camera switches to no lens mode. If you are rangefinder shooter, this might not be obvious to you. In LV view mode the camera puts up a warning screen “no lens mounted.”
  • OFF. This is obviously workable. The camera will function fine. You won’t get any EXIF data for the lens in this mode. Also, the camera will not perform any firmware correction for the particular lens mounted.

The absence of in-camera firmware corrections for lenses can be unimportant or a big deal. The lens that led me down this path, Voigtlander 21mm f/4.0 Color Skopar (LTM version), needs help from the in-camera firmware. If used without the Leica M lens selection set to 21 f/2.8 11134 you’ll get a magenta color fringe on the right side of the frame.

Magenta fringe along right edge of image. This happens with the Voigtlander 21mm f/4 Color Skopar LTM version when shooting without lens detection.

Depending upon the subject matter this fringe might not even be noticeable. But, why have to worry about it when an easy solution exists?

There is a good reference at Camera Quest that describes the various LTM adapters. There are definitely things to keep in mind when adapting the Leica thread mount to modern M bayonete with 6-bit coding.

< LTM Adventure II

LTM (LeicaThread Mount) to M-mount Adapter Adventure II

I finally received a Kipon LTM to M mount adapter with 6-bit coding. Everything goes together fine, however, there is a new wrinkle in the process.

Having an adapter that incorporates 6-bit coding alieveates the issue that required application of gaffer tape show in this blog post. You can see here the physical difference between an LTM adapter that has 6-bit coding and one that doesn’t incorporate it.

The segment that is cut out, illustrated by the RED annotations. On the Kipon adapter (right) the cut out is smaller to allow machining of the 6-bit coding on the back (camera) side of the adapter.
Shown here, the Beschoi adapter lying on top of the Kipon adapter. The 6-bit coding section on the Kippon is circled in RED. You can see the Beschoi adapter is machined away in that area.

This minor appearing difference is all the difference in the world if you are using a Leica with 6-bit coding.

The issue now is the fit of the adapter. Illustrated below the Beschoi aligns the mounted LTM lens pretty well with the camera body. On the other hand the Kipon has a good bit of misalignment.

Voigtlander 21mm f/4 Color Skopar mounted on M10-P using the Beschoi LTM – M adapter. You can see the RED mark emphasizing the alignment between the lens and the camera body. Pretty good, acceptable, I’d say
Same lens and camera with the Kipon LTM – M adapter. The RED marks help illustrate the amount of misalignment between the lens and the camera body.

The question is whether this mis-alignment is important or not. Based on the way that the focusing mechanism in the lens moves the rangefinder follower in the camera, this has no effect of focusing.

What causes the mis-alignment?

I measured the flange thickness of each LTM mount. By flange, I mean the part of the adapter that sits between the lens and M-mount on the camera body. The Beshoi is .05mm thinner than the Kippon. This is enough to change the alignment at assembly with the camera.

This saga, which in online forums is often trivialized “just get an LTM adapter” is much more trouble than you’d expect.

<LTM Adventure I LTM Adventure III >

Playing with Leica Flash I

I’ve always had a fascination with flash photography. As I’ve been using the M10-P as my “camera” I decided to get some flash units for the Leica system for occasional use. The first one is the SF-24D. This is not the most compact Leica flash, but it is small enough to shove in the pocket of loose jeans. I wouldn’t recommend sitting on in though! These are available used on ebay and that’s where I picked mine up.

On the first day playing around, it felt like the TTL pre-flash proceeded the imaging flash by a significant and noticeable gap. I could easily discern that gap. The process was the pre-flash provided metering with the shutter open to allow the M10 image sensor to do a quick exposure calculation and transmit the results to the flash. Then the second flash was the exposure for the image. Right from day one that time gap between pre-flash and flash felt long to me with the SF-24D.

After a short time, I decided to move up the Leica hierarchy a little and picked up a SF-40 flash. This unit is a little larger, but has some attractive built-in features: tilt-swivel head, built-in diffuser, and analog controls as opposed to the LCD of the SF-24D.

Right away in TTL mode it was apparent that the pre-flash/flash cycle of the SF-40 was a lot quicker than the SF-24D. In an attempt to relay just how noticeable the difference is, attached are two videos. They demonstrate quite clearly how much quicker the SF-40 operates.

From a real-world prospective, the SF-40 pre flash/flash cycle is almost indiscernible while the SF-24D is quite noticeable. It’s easy to imagine that with each generation of flashes, the controls and speed have improved so it shouldn’t be a surprise to find the SF-40 significantly faster.

Video shows the SF-24D flash pre-flash and flash cycle. This was shot, slo-mo on an iPhone 6s. The time between flashes is 2.38 seconds.

Video shows SF-40 flash pre-flash and flash cycle . As before, slo-mo on iPhone 6s The time between flashes is .85 seconds.

The SF-40 is three times faster in the pre-flash/flash cycle.

Conquer your Fears in Portland with Eric Kim

The punch line: it is pretty rare to have someone turn down your request for a photo.

“Just one” this guy said. After I’d already ripped a 5 photo series of him walking towards me.

October 19th, I attended an Eric Kim street photography workshop in Portland, OR. A single day, all day workshop there was a total of five participants counting me.  It made for an intimate and focused session.

The goal was to conquer your fears in street photography.  This is an important topic for the budding street photographer.  Judging by the number of posts online I see that say something like: “I’m looking for a discrete camera for street…” a lot of people are fearful.  For me, I’ve always believed that people have their own f**king problems; they don’t really care what you are doing.  But I had a weird hangup too. I’m not sure what the origin of the hangup was, but I was reluctant to take pictures of people on the street.  It was a strange thing, because I’m not shy; generally not afraid to talk to anyone.  To save thousands of hours of psycho-analysis I signed up for this workshop.

“Street photography” seems pretty popular although I seldom see any practitioners.  It makes sense that it would be popular.  Many of the great and best known photographers are street photographers.  Really, how many people know the name of the guy that shoots brilliant and beautiful burrito images for Taco Bell?  But even the most oblivious have a pretty good chance of knowing of HCB.

The ready availability of streets or public places and the low technical threshold place this form at the forefront of easy access photography. No hiking required, no expensive studio equipment, no  paid models.  All you need is a vision, a camera, and a minimum of guts.

The 15 NOs…

Pretty woman, balances for a picture. Happy to oblige!

After a short time with introductions Eric gave the first assignment.  Break into pairs and head out to the Portland streets. Ask people if they mind if we take to picture of them; if they say the don’t mind: go all in. Take pictures while giving direction (look up, stand on one foot, stare at the camera, …) and take at least 15 images.  If they say no, just move on to the next subject.  As it turns out, there is nearly an infinity of subjects, so one “no” isn’t going to ruin your day.  In fact the entire goal of the exercise was to rack up 15 nos.  That is have 15 people tell you that you can’t take their picture!  I failed. I managed to find 8 people that said no, and that was after really trying to figure out the “type” that would say no.  Guess what?  No damage done.  I kept photographing, no one attacked me or called for help, or even expressed the most minor annoyance.  Great learning experience!

The take then ask…

We met up after the 15 nos assignment to review our results and talk through what we’d learned.  The next assignment was just as fascinating.  We were to go out onto the streets and very overtly take someones picture.  Then attempt to catch their eye and ask if they’d mind if we took their picture.  

This guy went through a number of directed motions as I photographed his brunch.

Yes; do it then ask permission.  Like many things in life, in street photography it’s often better to ask forgiveness rather than permission.  And that is what this assignment taught.  It also taught that if you don’t directly confront someone it’s quite likely they’ll pretend you aren’t there.

 

We found it really challenging to catch the eye of a subject after the photo was taken.  They knew I took the photo.  I was standing RIGHT THERE with a 28mm lens so I had to be pretty close to make a photo.  But the subject would choose to keep walking or standing at the bus stop or eating and pretend nothing happened.  It’s a strange social contract.  

If the subject did allow their eye to be caught, it was easy to take a few pictures, often with direction.  For this guy in the diner, I had motioned for him to hold his hand so the camera could see the ring.  No problem.

My takeaway…

First off its was a real pleasure meeting and working with Eric, Nancy, Matt, Max, and Anton.  In the exercises having a wing man for support was super!  It provided someone to share the experience with and talk through the challenges as they occur.

Take…(really close)…then…

 


ask…(direct(=)…shoot

I feel like I’m cured of whatever weird malady had been affecting my street photography.

 Back in my home town, I’ve been applying the stuff that Eric talked us through.  It’s pretty fun to do the take then ask technique and effective at producing interesting images.

Ultimately, I would recommend this workshop.  Eric creates a workshop environment that is open and direct. He ties the discussion to the work and has useful and creative assignments.  I had the luxury to travel to Portland for this one, but I can certainly recommend you’d take the opportunity to workshop with Eric where ever happens.

 

 

 

LTM (LeicaThread Mount) to M-mount Adapter Adventure I

The LTM to M-mount world is a little more complicated than it used to be. Since 2006, when Leica implemented 6-bit coding, you don’t have to use the code, but your LTM adapter should cover the optical sensor anyway. If you’ve got an older Leica M-mount camera, this won’t be an issue for you.

It started with the search for a wide angle lens for my M10-P. To me, 28mm is about normal but on occasion a wider look is nice. The key is “on occasion.” That signals that the cost of Leica lenses isn’t warrented for this application. After noodling around the web, I came across the Voigtlander 21 f/4 Color Skopar as a really nice option. It’s super compact, just a little larger than the Leica 28 Summaron, which means it can go along easily without taking up a lot of space. Perhaps the perfect lens to provide the occasional wide angle perspective.

Taking the economics of this matter even further, while the M-mount Voigtlander is pretty economical (~$400) the LTM version used is about a hundred bucks cheaper. All you have to do is come up with a Leica thread mount to M-mount adapter. A used LTM version Color Skopar was located in Japan and ordered.

Next, get the LTM to M-mount adapter. After searching around Amazon and Ebay I found a couple of LTM adapter options. The M10 has 6-bit coding for the lenses, although it’s not required to use 6-bit coded lenses. You can manually input the lens from a menu in the M10. The first choice, a Kipon adapter which includes the machined pockets for filling in the appropriate lens code will take awhile to arrive. I ordered it and am willing to wait a little bit for it. At the same time though, my newly Ebay acquired Color Skopar didn’t want to wait. I ordered another, non-6-bit coded LTM adapter, this one by Beschoi.

When assembled onto the Voigtlander, the Bechoi adapter fit fine and everything seemed okay until the camera seemed to get confused thinking no lens was mounted when I operated the focusing ring on the lens. Fiddling around with the lens the realization struck that the optical sensor which is used to read the 6-bit coding on Leica lenses was exposed rather than covered by the lens mount. Every time I moved the focus ring the sensor would “see” my finger and think something had changed with the lens. The M10-P would display “no lens mounted” in the live view mode. If not using live view, it didn’t seem to be an issue; the fact that the camera doesn’t know what kind of lens is mounted aside.

For this particular lens, I want to used the M10 built-in lens corrections for 21mm, so it’s an issue for me.

The Leica optical sensor which detects the lens type is visible in this image. On the Leica mount between the lens serial number and the little focusing nub on the lens.
The LTM adapter mounted clearly showing the Leica optical sensor. The optical sensor needs to be covered by the adapter.

For the time being I installed a piece of gaffer tape to cover the sensor. That prevents the sensor from believing that the lens was swapped because the shadow of my finger crossed it while focusing.

Appropriate, even elegant temporary solution to the 6-bit coding sensor exposed.

LTM Adventure II >

From the European Train

Station someplace in France

Back in 2013 traveling around Spain and France I took my setup for photographing out the window of moving trains. We had a good bit of train travel providing many opportunities to capture images.

This image, from a small station someplace around Caracosone was a surprise for me. I hadn’t noticed the peeker at the time.

The series of images from the train has continued for my commute over a period of years. I plan to wrap up the first seven years of work in the spring of 2019 and publish the work “someplace.”

The series started as a way to occupy myself during my one hour commute to work. I had realized that there was a derth of images taken from trains and surfeit of image taken of trains. My job was obvious.

Chicken Coops: Monaco

Monaco seen from the Presidential Palace. Fujifilm X30

This look across the harbor to the city climbing up the hill really struck me. The density of building is shocking. From that view, it’s hard to image that there are even roadways or sidewalks between the buildings.

I was reminded of an afternoon at Jon’s Fish Market at the Dana Point, CA harbor. I’d walked down there and ordered fish and chips. The place was busy and an older woman asked if she could share my outdoor table. We talked and when I asked her where she lived, she point inland towards San Juan Capistrano and Laguna Niguel and said “in a chicken coop up there.” The image hasn’t left me of the condos climbing up the hills; as chicken coops.

I had the Fuji X30, a travel zoom camera with a 12 mega-pixel 2/3” sensor. Based on the specs you’d never expect it render a scene this well. It has an outstanding zoom lens that helps that rendering.

Next time you find an arugument about sensor resolution remember this image. State of the art is 24 mega-pixels APSc or larger sensing. 2/3” 12 mega-pixel in a travel zoom. Not so bad.

Why Can’t Fuji put the Buttons in the Same Place?

The focus clutch. That’s where it started for me. Back around 2012 when I opted into the Fuji X series of cameras, I orderd all of the initial wave of lenses along with the X-E1. By the time I traveled to Europe that summer, I had the 18 f/2, 23 f/1.4, 35 f/1.4, and the 60 f/2.4. In that initial collection I was puzzled by certain things, all having come from the same maker.

One of these lenses uses a clutch to engage manual focusing and the other three are more typical modern drive by wire electronic systems. So in my initial lens inventory it split on manual focus method. Now in 2018 when I line up my fleshed out system of lenses, I still miss the logic. The fast prime series (the Fujilux) split between clutch manual focus mechanisms, typical drive by wire focusing. What is the vision here? Are competing departments designing these lenses? They completely failing to articulate a plan. A user like me would like to understand where they were going with this system. It was a leap of faith at the time 2012.

Looking at the Fuji cameras is a different but same beast. My particular focus is on the X-Pro2, X100F, and X-E3. I’ve been using the X100F exclusively for a few months now and have been really grooving the camera to my needs. It’s a shock to pick up the X-E3. Where’s the ISO dial? Where’s that button on the front of the camera by the lens that I’ve assigned to AF lock? And the D-pad, where has the D-pad gone?

There is the possibility of learning and adapting, which is a fine suggestion for other people. I’m not even against it, I’ve been a life-long learner, but there must be a point to effort. Does “adapting” to two completely different camera physical control schemes make me a better photographer? I don’t think so. I believe it makes me worse by never having a home and thrashing around with the camera controls for basic shooting functions; AE/EF lock, WB, ISO, and more when I change cameras.

There are many dimensions to the photography hobby. Some people are in it for the gear and the technology. They enjoy playing with cameras and imaging is secondary. I’m probably almost as far to the opposite extreme as you’d ever want to find. Imaging is primary and everything else supports imaging. I don’t need a perfect camera, just one that doesn’t get in the way and that I can pick up and use without having to remember anything in particular. It comes back round to the control scheme on Fuji cameras. If I say the X100F is my primary and anything else is a secondary system, then I want things to line up with the X100F. It’s a matter of prospective, right? If you’re primary is X-E3 then everything should line up with that system.

Camera companies will update cameras, add or remove controls, relocate them and perform all kinds of engineering that might not really enhance the creative process. And isn’t that what it’s all about, the creative process? My X100F exclusive experience has really helped me refine what is essential from what is noise in image making. Just eliminating lens choice is such a dramatic effect that everything else quickly bubbles to the surface. I get to the image quicker. At the same time I find no tolerance for anything that slows down the image. There is nothing worse than to raise the viewfinder to the eye and see a menu that has been summoned by an accidental button press. It feels even worse than one of those ads that invades your internet browser. The ad that always pop up as you scroll down to continue reading an article. We know the motive for the internet ad. What is the motive for the camera menu? Hopefully camera makers have not adopted the philosophy of the internet wishing to keep and direct your attention something that isn’t always your choosing.

When I go to the interchangeable lens camera (X-E3) to play with the great XF 23 f/1.4 I am annoyed. The camera is in the way again. Gotta remember the button configuration. Not helpful. Slow. Not valuable to image creation. Shouldn’t I be able to pick up what is essentially the same tool and use it? I don’t have to relearn to use a hammer, screwdriver or saw each time I pick up a different one. Even though screwdrivers can have differing properties, phillips, flat-blade, torx, the use remains the same and no relearning is required. The camera has become a more complex tool, but the basics: focus, depth of field, shutter speed, are not complicated. These should be obvious and easy for an experienced photographer. Experience should not be a hinderance to using the camera.

Sports photography is one of those clear instances where things can and do change very quickly. To only reference that as a quick changing environment trivializes the effort of the wedding photographer, the prom photographer, the landscape shooter, the art photographer, … Everything in the world is constantly in motion; for the landscapest wind, clouds and sun move relentlessly. The street shooter deals with an ever-changing human landscape where a gesture or a different glance can change a photo from “good” to something really exceptional. Anything in the camera that pulls you away from the scene in front of you is a distraction and you risk missing the moment. I never want to look down at the LCD to setup a shot. I never want to have the camera at my eye then need to feel around for a button, or to remember which button is the AE lock. Read Ansel Adams’ discussion of Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. It is clear that he needed everything to work and even with his tremendous skill and familiar gear it was a chaotic scene. Is it not the same for each of us? We need no obstacles in the way of the image. It is difficult enough to visualize and execute without intrusions from the camera.

The modern camera has greatly simplified things for many photographers. AF, AE are huge conveniences and ones that I enjoy. We have near instant access to the equivalent of the 1980s Nikon MD-4 motor drive mounted to a F3. With just a menu selection, and no bank of 8 AA batteries required, we get 4, 6, 8 or more frames per second. But readying the camera can be an entirely different story.

There are justifications for sure. Fuji can talk about market strategies, engineering constraints, cost targets, upgrade paths. To me this is all non-sense. I think as photographers, we should become a little more unreasonable. These things that companies hold dear often have little benefit for us image makers. Strangely enough, it is Fuji’s own creation that has engendered such outrage from me. The X100F as the camera elemental outrages me. Not because it is flawed, but because it reveals the flaws in other systems so starkly.

So I now make a choice. I’ve put my X-E1 up sale and it’ll be long gone by time you read this. My almost brand new X-E3 will follow it to the auction block. Then, I buy the X-Pro2. I can see from pictures that the controls will be the most similar between XP2 and X100F. I think I can make this work. I’ve invested heavily in Fuji XF glass over the years. I would like to make it work.

Expat Experience- Starting

Expat Experience: Starting

With about 17 months to go in our life here in the USA we’ve started making definitive moves. Our plan has us abandoning our American lifestyle for something simpler, more mobile, and focused on experiential living. We plan to have experiences rather than things.

We are selling everything. By everything, I mean almost everything. At this point maybe we’ll have a small carton of things that will be forwarded to us in a couple of years. Albums of photos, documents, maybe a camera or two. That’s about it. A reasonable question would be if we don’t need for a couple of years, do we need it all? We’ll cross that bridge when it comes. First we have to get down to that level. Right now we have a house plus all the stuff that goes with that in Southern California.

I’ve started selling off photo equipment and digging through a storage bin that I still have. The contents that that bin need to be gone by March for the sake of my sanity. It’s a small piece of the accumulation of a lifetime of stuff. I was looking at the contents the other day and realized that there are things in there that I couldn’t care less about. Most of those things have almost zero value; they’ll probably go in a dumpster.

There are other things that have some sentimental value. Like my fishing rods. One in particular which was my dad’s rod that became mine. It’s nothing special in terms of the fishing pole, I had it re-wrapped and eyeletted in the 80s so I could use it. In considering what to do with that rod, I thought about giving it away to a friend or simply yardsailing it.

The reason for keeping it has become unclear to me. I’ve not fished in a small river, pond, or lake since moving to Southern California in 1996. That’s what the rod is for. I can remember catching my first fish with my dad around 1965 in Hartford Canal near Woodriver, Il. I think today the canal has reverted to the historical name of Woodcreek. Anyway it was a dogfish, well below the keeper size and not really an eating fish; we threw it back. It wasn’t on that same rod, but my dad was fishing with that rod at the time.

Question is whether the memories are with the rod or with me. In my mind, I don’t need the rod to have the memory just as vivid. Perhaps the rod is a memory aid, to remind me of those times when they are far from my present. The fear is loosing the ability to realize a memory is there to be refreshed and enjoyed without a talisman to trigger it.

I’m preparing to take that chance; that the memory will disappear to lack of triggering. I think it won’t. I’ll be looking a little creek in the Pyrenese in a few years at it’ll take me back to that day on Woodcreek with my dad and fishing rod. Most of my things are like that. The memory is avialable out there in the world for remembering.

Valet Parking

X100F w/TCL-X100II 50mm convertor f2 1/40 ISO 400

This couple waiting for the valet to bring their car back caught my eye from 1/2 block away. I was worried that I’d miss the shot, so I rushed to get in position. At the same time I didn’t want to spook them from the revery. I walked quickly preping the X100F on the move. A group passed in front of the couple as I reached the my spot. As soon as the group passed; you see the result.

The woman holding a smart phone would normally be off limits for an image. People holding phones are doing just that; and it isn’t interesting to observe. Perhaps if occasionally you’d see someone holding a fish it would be interesting, but only until everyone was holding a fish. It’s like that with phones. Everyone is holding one so it’s challenging to find an interesting image. You need more. In this case the man is clearly engaged and maybe even a little impatient grasping his watch. His expression, clearly a bit pained, is a pain I’ve felt too.

I’ve been devoted to the X100F for a couple of months now. Devoted means that I always wear a camera and X100F camera only. It changes you to do that. At first it’s a self conscious act. Having a camera all the time; a real camera that looks like a camera. I walk to the train, into work, at lunch, everyplace. It sits on my desk at work. Surprisingly people take no particular notice. I friends and family know that I might have a camera along at any moment anyway. Often people strike up conversations about the camera. The X100F is an opening to that; it looks old school and analog unless you are hip to the Fuji camera line.

Lately X100F has had the TCL-X100II 50mm convertor mounted. That 50mm (full frame) FOV is something I’ve always liked but haven’t used it much in the last few years. I’m finding it a nice prospective again.

This photo taken at a shutter speed of 1/40 is starting to fly in the face of the “rule” for shutter speed. That rule shutter speed = 1/focal length in full frame terms would lead me to worry since the lens is a 50. That would be a 1/50 shutter speed for blur free imaging. I broke that rule, but only slightly. I am find that the X100 does handhold quite well. Without the TCL convertor on I regularly see 1/20 sec shutter speed images that look surprisingly blurr-free. But as we know:

Sharpness is a bourgeois concept.

Just take the image. If it comes out a blurry or out of focus so what? It might still work. It might even work better a little out of focus. Just take the image.