Je suis le mal aimé is a French classic song and roughly translated means: the one no one likes! For this article I’m going to talk about three of my passions. I’ve spend a bit of time trying to find non-technical articles about these but failed to find something that grabbed my interest. This became the idea for an article to share with you, and I hope it inspires you to try them out for yourselves!
I recently found myself in a fortunate position obtain a few of the items on my Leica bucket list that I never thought I’d ever be able to afford. I did make a mistake and choose one or two items that I hated afterwards, including the Noct 1.2 which for me, on film, is pure shit! Please note also that it came from the factory poorly adjusted with the focusing ring not smooth at all but very rough. Fortunately I have now resolved those purchasing mistakes, so let me tell now you about my preciouses…
Item A : Leica Summicron 75 APO
What could I really say about this piece of art except that this was my go to lens for a long time and that it just gives me amazing results. The weight and length is for me perfect and I love shooting it. When I am extremely lucky, it sometimes gives me a picture that slightly resemble a drawing. Apart from that, it took a little bit of practice but after that, focusing became as natural as the framing and it gave me really bloody good results.
In my opinion, as with all Leica lenses made for the M line, it’s a lens that is best used at close proximity (for me between 1m and 2m) as that’s where it just shows you all that it is capable of. Let me give you a couple of examples of what i’m talking about:
Love when you can see joy of full attention on the face of a musician. HE/She is in the zone!
What is so special about this lens? Well it’s an APO. Roughly translated, the lens has got a specific element that is placing Green/Blue and Red on the same band-wave which I believe makes for sharper images, even in black and white. I think that the magicians at Leica did a wonderful job with this lens. Honestly this lens is for me just Amazing.
Item B: The Leica R8
Being an M shooter, I’ve only recently tried an SLR with an R6. It is, in my opinion, the most adequate R produced in the old line, but is a pain in the ass to use it in low light conditions. On the other end, I’ve always liked the R8 for its shape. I never understood why Leica released it, as the time they’d already lost that battle for a long time! The R8 (and subsequently the R9) were the top of what Leica could do in an SLR body and yet at the same time failing on some points that a student engineer would yell at you for! Just one example: there is no lock on the dial that selects the mode and is the on/off switch. As you can see, it is placed in a way that it moves when you put your camera away in your bag. It can even get knocked sometimes when shooting with it. Very annoying!
This camera is full of features, that I will not detail here. The reason is simple, overcomplexity of cameras is why I shoot M. I do not understand all those complicated functionalities! I use the spot meter (which is very good by the way) and the camera in manual. And anyway, I’m pretty sure that nearly all those functionalities were better made by Canon/Nikon and co.
Not long ago, I stumble on a beautiful R8 complete in it’s box at a very good price and thought it would be nice in my collection. As I already had a few R lenses, I tried shooting the damn thing at a concert and was blown away by the quality of the camera. the Viewfinder is absolutely superb and easy to focus, the dials are in the right position and seeing the results with a 60 macro I was very pleased. One thing that annoys me on all the R cameras I have had my hands on is the shutter button which is very wrongly placed/designed. It sits in the middle of the shutter speed dial and (especially with small hands) is not easy to engage. This is most problematic when you shoot with a heavy weight and you’re shooting at 1/12, 1/15th or 1/30th of a sec.
Despite the issues though, all in all, I loved the experience and decided I should buy a correct lens to equip it. Which brings me to Item C ….
Item C: Macro R 100mm 2.8 APO
I read a bit about this lens but was bored quite quickly so looked at a couple of images, but again nothing major to report. My thinking was was simple though, I wanted an APO, didn’t want to pay 5k for a lens I was not sure about, and didn’t want to go too far from what i’m used to (35/50/75). Eventually this was the only one I could afford, and decided “why not?”. If I don’t like it, I can still re-sell it without loosing too much…
I bought it in a Leica Store where the service is very good and the people I had on the phone were kind and professional – which I find is not always the case in camera retail!
I received it, shot it, and that was for me a revelation. The rendering I get from this one keeps astonishing me each time. I only shoot it at f/2.8 and f/f4, sometimes at 8th of sec. It’s heavy, cumbersome, and the focus wheel feels like it needs turning 4 times on itself just to get to the point of focus, but the images it gives me are just, wow! I love the bokeh, love the transition between in and out of focus, the micro contras… The R8 has its perks. This lens is heavy and having the two together is nasty for your back, but, what I’m about is the final result of an image, and for that, these two just work for me!
And to finish a beautiful Rose ….
So that’s it for me for today, I hope I have given you some insight into some gear that – for many reasons – some people don’t seem to like.
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6 thoughts on “Je Suis Le Mal Aimé! – The One No One Likes”
Really enjoyed the lovely moody photographs!
And some photographic stuff I’ll never be able to use..
Thanks for sharing!
Alex, a wonderful read. I’ve never seen a Leica or any of the lenses you have written about. I have however seen your images and they’re excellent. The moment is down to the photographer, but the image quality of these is a thing of beauty. I am now going to find out what a R Leica is and what it looks like.
Thank you so much for sharing such a super article.
Thank you very much Dean.
IMO Leica R until the the R8/R9 aren’t worth a thing, however they have made some fantastic lenses.
The source of some buyer’s remorse has been the closing of thousands of brick & mortar camera stores. They are not coming back, and this isn’t nostalgic pining. The store became a gathering place for people to talk, exchange tips, look at equipment, and listen to the staff about upcoming trends or new equipment. You could look before you bought. So, that Noct you might fall for could be examined, you might find someone who used one, and they may let you try it. Almost impossible to do anymore.
I live in an area where there are no camera stores, no photographers gatherings. I rely on B&H Photo or Adorama for all my darkroom supplies & film needs. Shooting film is my choice. With that decision, I know I make my life a bit more photographically difficult. But I do miss the give & take, miss seeing what others are up to in real time.
Now, many of us look on eBay, search for key words when a piece of equipment is sourced and roll the dice that your purchase will be as described. Sometimes, the return period isn’t long enough to really try a piece of equipment. You may find it was better in your mind’s eye rather than on your camera. Even with a Leica, there is a difference between lust and love.
And finally, you buy a piece of equipment to fill a need. You don’t buy a piece of equipment and then find a need for it. In my small town, there’s an eccentric builder that makes concrete figurines: gargoyles & lions, hippo’s & skulls and aliens. He displays them on the front porch Victorian style home. It reminded me of the Addam’s Family. I tried taking shots from the sidewalk with my 50mm lens on my camera. Failed. Tried contacting him. Failed. I finally searched eBay and found a reasonably priced original auto-Nikkor 135mm lens for my Nikon F. The lens enabled me to get the photo I had in my mind’s eye. Waste of money? No. The lens was $60.00. The lens filled a need.
I agree with the idea of a lens filling a need, but sometimes GAS arrive and fall for it (that is what happend to me).
For the noct, it has been to Leica, only thing is that it has been made for digital, not film and as you i rather shoot film than digital, so bye bye Noct…