I have big clumsy hands. My fingers are large with similar dexterity to uncooked sausages on a fork. Try as I may to be careful, completing a delicate task without some kind of calamity is an alien concept to me. If I am completing a DIY task, I need lots of space and big tools. If I am working on a gardening project, I am suited to driving holes into the ground with a jackhammer rather than mincing around with secateurs. Strange then, that I have spent a lifetime using many of photography’s smaller tools, eschewing Manufacturers such as Canon and Nikon and their behemoth product lines.
It was always my plan to build a small collection of SL primes, based around the focal lengths thatI consider most useful to me. In recent years I have preferred to keep my lens choice small, unlike around 20-30 years ago when I had a dozen or so for one system. Back then the number of lenses in my collection had grown out of trial and error as I experimented with different focal lengths and speeds. In retrospect I found it useful (if not a bit costly) to establish which angles of view I tended to operate with, as my personal taste has not really changed much since then. My core system comprised of 35, 50 and 100mm lenses, the latter occasionally being replaced with a 135, or even more occasionally a 180. It was these which saw most active use over many years, while others were used simply when I felt like a change (and to justify their existence).
Anyone delving around in the PhotoArk archives will soon notice my love of the Olympus OM System film cameras and lenses. And anyone unfamiliar with the system may not realise that one of its core values was ease of transportation. Those last three words can be distilled into another word - portability. And there is a strong argument that states that in order to be truly portable, compactness is a fundamental requirement. One of the driving reasons for being a user of the OM System throughout my film photography years that that most OM camera bodies and lenses clearly demonstrated this quality in their design… two of the best examples of this in the lens line-up are the Zuiko 100mm f2.8 and 40mm f2, 48mm and 25mm long respectively, with both sharing a 49mm filter thread. A OM3Ti body and a three prime lenses takes up very little little space, which is why my OM system kit accompanied me on most journeys through my life.
My interest in 35mm lenses has remained unfettered since I first got into ‘serious’ photography more than four decades ago. I have written elsewhere of my fondness for this focal length and it’s ability to capture slightly wider angles with little in the way of distortion. It was a long time before I purchased my first 35mm, as before this I have used zooms and often composed images on or around this angle. Seeking a lighter alternative, I soon latched onto the fact that I could have a fast prime - much faster than a zoom - minus the heft. When I first discovered Leica Camera’s it was via the X1, as it had a 35mm equivalent lens built in, albeit not particularly fast. Not many years after this I was lured into purchasing the X Typ 113, thanks to its much faster 35mm prime. I still use that camera today and the results I can get from it are sublime.
Cameras have fascinated me all of my life. I do not remember a time before I loved them. Even as a small child my Dad’s Brownie was something I couldn’t keep my hands off. I struggled to correlate that this small item could record happy memories of relatives and holidays forever. Like most small boys, I was fascinated by dinosaurs, insects trapped in amber and time travel. Film became my amber, and the image contained on the negative was the insect. The camera of course became the time machine. Immortalised by the medium, our past is recalled in more detail than human memory alone permits. My Dad also had an old TLR camera which he allowed me to play with until I broke it (Hopefully it wasn’t an expensive one). Hopelessly I peered through the viewfinder wondering if I could see directly into the past and glimpse the same world from which the photographs were created. I don’t ever recall this being disappointing and it certainly didn’t cause my interest in cameras to wain, which is surprising considering the world of distractions that comes with growing up. But somewhere in those playful sessions long ago a deep rooted seed was embedded in my psyche.
A welcome addition to our Leica lens arsenal is the Summilux-SL 50 f1.4 ASPH, which we took delivery of just a couple of weeks ago. As we only have APSC L mount camera bodies to attach it to at present, this particular choice may seem a little odd to some. Yep, it is large. Yep is has considerable ‘heft’. And yep, the APSC bodies are dwarfed by it. But it provides a very useful short telephoto perspective (75mm) with a fast aperture, giving me some of my favourite shooting parameters. It also aligns nicely with future acquisition plans to fully embrace the L mount system from a 36x24mm sensor perspective.
At the penultimate Photography Show in Birmingham, held before the pandemic changed the way we live our lives, I had been attracted to the Tenba stand by their DNA range of shoulder bags. At the time I was looking for something very small that I could use to house my X113 (or TL with 1 additional lens), charger and spare battery as well as travel documents for city breaks. Its purpose was nothing more than this, and meant I could keep weight to a minimum as there was no room for ‘accessory creep’. The DNA 8 was my choice but I loved the style and quality of Tenba’s other products.