Allen's Blog

Archives for ‘Allen’s Blog’:

Leica — From A to Q in 93 Years

At some point in the 1970s, I was returning to New York City from Buffalo after finishing an assignment. Middle of winter, a lot of snow, no planes flying, and a slow train was the only option. At some point, I was passing time by cleaning all my gear, and two of my cameras were Leica M3s. The conductor stopped to chat, and his first question was, “are those Leicas?”

After I confirmed that they were, his next words were something to the effect that he had a Leica that he’d brought back from World War II, but that it didn’t work. He added that if I could “use it for parts,” he would mail it to me and I’d send him fifty dollars. I stayed calm, said yes, and a few days later there it was: a Leica Model A, from 1925, first year of production. And it didn’t work—but only because there was a small chip of film caught in the shutter curtain! Quick work with a pair of tweezers, and it works fine to this day. Although I haven’t used it in decades, it still gets cycled every couple of months.

1925 Leica A

Along with this almost-a-century-old treasure, my only surviving Leica is a perfectly-functioning M6 (with three superb lenses). Even if the body sits on the shelf, these optics get used all the time on my full-frame Nikon DSLR, thanks to a custom-machined adapter made in the ‘70s by Marty Forscher’s team at Professional Camera Repair (and, yes, I know that a number of companies today make adapters for just about any lens to almost any camera system).

And just as important, the Leica lenses are fantastic on my mirrorless Fuji X-E2. Taking advantage of the Fuji sensor’s 1.52x crop factor, my 50mm Summicron becomes an incredibly sharp portrait lens. The three images in this report were made with the Leica 90mm Tele-Elmarit on the X-E2.

Anyway, a few months ago, I made a (truly) major investment: the Leica Q. Its full-frame mirrorless sensor is mated to a non-interchangeable 28mm f/1.7 Summilux. As you can see in the photos, the camera is elegantly simple, with few controls, and built with the quality you’d expect from Leica. There’s even a macro option on the lens. I would be very comfortable traveling the world with this camera alone (plus my iPhone, of course).

Leica Q (top)

Photographing with ‘one camera / one lens’ is wonderfully liberating in itself, and evokes the way that for most of photographic history, pictures were made. On my first day at the AP in the late 60’s, my editor, Dan Grossi, (do a Google search for his WWII pictures) said something I’ve never forgotten: “At the Associated Press, we don’t take pictures, we make pictures.”

I’ll be posting some images made with the Leica Q very soon.

Leica Q (front)

NAB 2018: Introducing DMG MIX, a Line of Full-Color LED Light Heads that Match Rosco Gels Precisely

Another April, another NAB Show… all manner of gear and gadgets revealed in the Las Vegas heat, all striving to push the arts of filmmaking and photography even further.

My usual NAB report will come shortly, but one item that just couldn’t wait is the new MIX line of light heads from DMG Lumière. DMG is based in Lyon, France and was recently acquired by Rosco Labs. They’re led by three brothers and a dear friend who discovered that their passions for cinematography and engineering formed a natural basis for a successful family business. (No prizes for guessing which is the brooding, mysterious one.)

DMG Lumière brothers

We at Visual Departures have to give a nod to the fact that they, like us, were founded on the notion of “by working photographers, for working photographers” (we even made it our tagline back in 1982!) There’s literally no substitute for building exactly the product you need… and the products that resulted from this designer-led process were lights called (in order of increasing size) MINI SWITCH, SL1 SWITCH, and MAXI SWITCH.

Pretty darned smooth, eh? So you can well imagine that Rosco’s booth at NAB was filled with technical and sales associates who were simply (ahem) beaming at the opportunity to show off what you could do with the new-and-improved versions of these three superb light units. So, without further ado, have a look…

What can you say to that besides… “pretty darned smooth-er”?! (On second thought, I suppose you can say lots of things besides that… but I’m stricken by a sudden ineloquence. Maybe it was the surprisingly catchy soundtrack on that video? Let’s go with that.)

At any rate, everyone who came to the booth was blown away by the thoughtful details the de Montgrand brothers included in these lights – just the thing to make #SetLife a little easier, more productive, and more fun. We couldn’t be happier for our colleagues at Rosco and DMG as they work to bring these wonderful light heads to creative people this summer.

If you need to know more, Joel Svendsen of Rosco is your man. He recently posted some details on the new MIX units which – just to be clear – will be available alongside the classic SWITCH units (so named because they can “switch” from daylight to tungsten color temperatures, including those somewhere in between.) We’ll be distributing all of these to our dealers across the country just as soon as they’re ready.