Shoulder style camera bags are something I have never really got on with, having a preference to spread the load evenly across my shoulders. But it hasn’t stopped me from trying a few out over the decades – from Billingham’s beautifully tactile products to unknown budget brands… I have owned a few. Except for the Billingham, none have stayed with me more than a year or so, and the Billingham only survived longer as it had become a repository for seldom used gear.
It has been many years since I owned a telephoto zoom lens of any kind. Burned by poor quality third party zooms of the 1980’s, I have consistently ducked getting another and always opted for primes when requiring telephoto focal lengths. This changed when researching a recent trip to the eastern region of Halkidiki in Greece. Part of the itinerary was to visit the town of Ouranoupoli which is close to the border of the Monks Republic of Athos.
This is the lens that captured my interest in the T system around a year ago. Tantalisingly exhibited at the 2016 Photography show but unavailable to the public at the time, it would be several months before I finally owned one. This was not as much to do with supply and demand but more my own prevarication when deciding on what new camera system to purchase. Once I had decided to buy into the T system, my commitment was bolstered by 35mm f1.4 ownership.
September 2016 saw the announcement and release of the sixth lens for Leica’s TL system. Forming the third in a trio of high quality primes, the 60mm lens finally gave the TL system a dedicated macro optic that also doubles as a reasonably fast short telephoto solution. I was keen to ‘round out’ my shooting options with something from the telephoto realm and this makes an interesting alternative to the 55-135 zoom. Of course, given the APSC size sensor, the focal length of the 60mm equates to 90mm which, for me, falls into my ideal focal length of between 85 and 135mm, albeit at the lower end of my requirements.
This is the first lens I purchased for my T camera and just the second zoom I have owned in 28 years. Before this, my experience of zooms was limited to budget third party models that often disappointed in both optical and build quality. These memories are probably the reason I rarely strayed into zoom territory, preferring instead high quality primes. A lot has changed over the decades and the performance gap between zooms and primes is now minimal.
Inevitably, the purchase of a new camera system has triggered the shift towards a new bag in which to store and transport it. Post Leica T purchase, I found myself once more lusting after something more utopian that those I already own. Having just used a Leica X for the last few years, I always found my Clik Elite Cloudscape and Vanguard Arlen 49 back packs suitable for the job as they did not need to house much in the way of additional lenses and equipment. At present I could still use either of them as my system is still small (one body and two lenses) but looking ahead I can see myself with at least one, if not two more lenses as well as a few more peripheral items. Additionally, my TL 35mm f1.4 lens is pretty large when the hood is attached and this really does impact on its storage at the moment. Given one of my future purchases is likely to be the 60mm f2.8 macro lens, which has the same size hood, I will soon be running into problems. I also have a Billingham 335 bag which will house the system going forward, but I find shoulder bags heavy and cumbersome.
So I finally committed to a new camera system after many months of evaluating what the market has to offer. I decided to buy into in the Leica T or TL system as it is now known. With very few exceptions I have never been the kind of person to jump at new technology, preferring instead to remain behind the curve and reap the benefits of a debugged product that usually has the added bonus of reduced pricing. My purchase of the T is no exception and finally found its way into my hands more than two and a half years after its release. Such a long time in the market place has resulted in huge discounts, particularly as I timed my purchase with the announcement of a slightly updated model, the TL. Given the small generational differences between the two (32GB instead of 16GB internal memory) faster autofocus in C-AF mode (which will probably trickle down to the original T in the form of a firmware upgrade) and a pretty new titanium finish with bevelled edges, I am more than happy with the choice made.