Keeping the Leica SL

I was supposed to sell the Leica SL once the SL2-S arrived. I almost did it, too. It’s technically still listed for sale in a couple of places, but I’m not ready to get rid of it yet. I mean just look at it.

The Leica SL is five years old and still a wonderful camera. If I’m being honest, the brand new SL2-S is better, but not that much better. I’m keeping the original because it’s awesome and it’s worth more to me to have around than the money I could get for it. This calculus could change, of course, but it’s kind of amazing that I have an extra SL available. I don’t see the APO-Summicron-SL 35mm ever coming off the SL2-S, so it’s great that I can keep one of the M primes or the Zoom lens on the SL without having to switch lenses.

Another benefit of keeping the SL is that I can take it places I might not take the newer one. It seems silly to call the SL my “beater” camera but that’s how I’m thinking of it. If I drop or lose or have the SL2-S and Summicron stolen, I’m out a very significant amount of money. With the SL and cheaper lens it would still really hurt, but less. The SL has GPS built in and the SL2-S does not, which is handy for if and when I actually do go places again.

Leica SL with 50mm Summilux-M ASPH and SL2-S with APO-Summicron-SL 35 ASPH

I no longer have a camera to use for scanning film, since I sold all my Fuji gear. I’m thinking about finding a cheap Nikkor macro and adapter and using the SL for the scanning station. Not an ideal use for such a fine camera, but should work well.

And finally, I get a little emotional about cameras. I sold the M10-P and hate myself for it, even though it was necessary at the time. I’m thinking that if I don’t have to sell the SL, why not keep it around for a while?

I have had thoughts about finding a used Leica Monochrom. If I get serious about that I’d need to sell the SL to help fund the M. In the meantime, the SL won’t go to waste.

UPDATE (February 24, 2021): I sold the SL. Could not resist trying a Q2 Monochrom.

Don’t listen to this guy. Use any lens you want with a Leica

I watched the following video by Ramsey Spencer yesterday and I’ve been fuming about it ever since:

What a load of elitist bullshit. I realize he’s just trying to make a name for himself so people “click Like and Subscribe, guys,” but grrrrrr!

Don’t listen to him. Use what makes you happy. Use what makes sense for your photography and budget. If you’re like me, using Leica cameras makes you happy. I have spent an embarrassing amount of money on Leica lenses over the years, but I also use Sigma, Canon, and Voigtlander lenses on Leica bodies and they’re all great or fun or interesting or all of the above.

Leica SL2-S with Canon 50mm LTM via M adapter…GASP!

People have all sorts of reasons for using Leica cameras, and yes, the ability to use Leica lenses is one of them. Others may be attracted to the history and reputation of Leica. That’s fine, too. Some, like me, just adore using cameras that are over-engineered and manufactured to such a high degree of quality that you can feel it the minute you pick them up.

I’d enjoy using my Leica M cameras even if the only lenses I could afford were made from the bottom of a Coke bottle. Don’t let some snobby, narrow-minded douche tell you what’s right or wrong for your photography.

Yeesh, that came out a little harsh, but I’m leaving it for now because I’m still pissed.

It’s not a good darkroom, but it works

My last house had a proper darkroom. It was a little janky, but there was a big sink, room for three enlargers, a wet side, a dry side, etc.

When I moved into my new house, I originally planned to turn an extra room in the basement into a shiny new darkroom. That didn’t happen, so I’ve been using the bathroom instead. It works fine.

Here’s my fancy darkroom.

The basement bathr…ehem…darkroom

The worst part of the whole thing is that tiny faucet. At minimum I should put in a tall one. As it is now, I need to fill a 1qt measuring cup, and then use that to fill containers. It’s a pain. The HomePod is nice because I can just tell it what to play in the dark.

Print washer

I don’t have a fitting for the faucet to run a hose into the washing tray, so I just let the faucet pour into it.

Film and print dryer

I ran some string across the shower to use as a hanger for drying prints and film. Works great.

Enlarging side

Here’s the meat of the operation. This is the bathroom closet, converted into the “dry side”. There’s room for this Leitz Focomat V35 enlarger. The V35 is a fantastic piece of equipment, but only enlarges 35mm film. I’m considering something that can do medium format as well. I have two 4×5 enlargers in storage but there is no way they’d fit. I can, however, make 4×5″ contact prints on 5×7″ paper. I love making those, so that should do.

Paper and supplies

There’s room for all sorts of photo paper and chemicals. I’ve only been making enlargements up to 8×10″ so some of this is no longer needed but I can’t bring myself to get rid of it. I also store my film scanner here.

Anyway, that’s it. That’s my darkroom. I was planning to not shoot any film in 2021 but I don’t think that’ll stick, so I dusted everything off and mixed up a fresh batch of chemicals in preparation for spending more time here.

I forgot I wasn’t going to shoot any film this year

It’s not that I made a promise or anything, but I had no intention of shooting film in 2021. I put away my scanning rig, stored the chemicals, and placed the cameras on a shelf.

I’ve been so excited by the new Leica SL2-S that I figured I’d just spend my time with that camera for a while. You know how I am, though. I picked up the M6 and saw that it was loaded with film and couldn’t help myself. That camera just begs to be used, once you touch it.

Anyway, I made a few mirror self-portraits, annoyed the dog, and documented the state of my desk. The usual mundane stuff one shoots when bored and holding a camera during a pandemic in winter.

I finished the roll of Tri-X, shot at ISO 800, and processed it in HC-110. I love HC-110 because it lasts forever on the shelf, and is easy to mix and use. I’m no longer experimenting with various developers and processes. They all look basically the same to me, and HC-110 is cheap and easy.

Here’s a few from the roll. Scanned on the V750 using SilverFast’s new version 9.

It remains to be seen how much film I shoot, but I’ve dusted off the gear and I’m ready for whenever the mood strikes.

The answer to “Whom should I let manage my photos?”

You’re lookin’ at him.

I’ve been asking myself, “Who[sic] should I let manage my photos?” as a way to talk myself into letting Lightroom and the Adobe ecosystem take over the nitty gritty of file and library management. In the end, I couldn’t go through with it, so I remain in charge.

Yes, it can be a pain to deal with files, folders, storage, backups, naming, and so on. But, managing things myself is the way I’ve always done it. One of the most important things I “own” are my photos. Why would I give up any control over them? For now, at least, I’m not going to. I’m back to my process of culling, naming, tagging, and cataloging with Photo Mechanic Plus and editing in Capture One Pro.

So, 2021, here we come!

Who should I let manage my photos?

I have for many years kept my photos properly named and in a dated folder hierarchy on my hard drive: /2020/12-December 2020/2020-12-02-Alice.dng

This requires that I import my photos from a card, then add metadata (Title and Caption), then rename them with the capture date and title, then put them into the proper folder, where they live forever. Whew!

Another step later in my process is to “burn” a copy of each edited RAW file to a JPEG that lives right beside the original. I also create a copy of the best photos in my “Digital Print Archive”. The DPA is swept up and uploaded to Google Photos, Flickr, and my Synology, automatically. This gives me ways to share and organize them later. It also provides the content-based search and face recognition that is so handy.

It’s a good system. Solid. Future-proof. Backups are a known quantity.

But I’m tired of doing it. I’m tired of copying, moving, renaming, archiving, burning, etc. Basically I’m tired of managing everything myself. I edit my RAW files in Capture One Pro and deal with culling, naming, and distributing using Photo Mechanic. They’re great apps, but expensive and so flexible that I spend way too much time tweaking my process.

Some days, today for example, I’m tempted to import everything into the new Lightroom and let Adobe take it from there. This battle has been raging for a few years now and I cannot for the life of me settle it.

The truth is, Lightroom can be configured to keep all of the original RAW files on a local drive, in dated folders, automatically. This helps alleviate my fear of going all-in with cloud storage. I can’t rename files from within Lightroom, but at least I know they’re there. I’ve tried importing, culling, renaming in Photo Mechanic and then importing into Lightroom, but if I’m going to bother with all that I should just stick with C1.

Lightroom isn’t even close to Capture One on features, power, or flexibility. But it syncs my photos to all my devices, including my iPhone photos. I don’t have to do anything. That’s a huge benefit. 90% of my images can be processed just fine in Lightroom. If I want, I can always process the other 10% using Capture One (or Photoshop, I suppose).

This post is just me trying to talk myself into yielding to my lazier tendencies and moving everything to Lightroom. I’m still noodling on it, but don’t be surprised if there’s a new post soon about how I switched to Lightroom (again). Maybe then I’ll spend more time photographing and less time playing with my editing workflow.

(UPDATE January 3, 2021: Here’s the answer)

The Leica APO-Summicron-SL 35mm f/2 ASPH Lens

I recently bought a used, 5-year-old Leica SL. I didn’t buy any new lenses at the time, as I wasn’t sure I’d even like the camera. Turns out I liked the camera very much, so I ordered a Sigma 24-70 f2.8 zoom. I figured the zoom would cover my bases but I also bought the Leica M-to-L adapter so I could use my Leica M lenses.

The M lenses work flawlessly on the SL, and are even easier to focus on it, given the super bright EVF and focus peaking. M lenses are wonderful, but they are manual focus only. I was using the Sigma zoom a lot and falling for the convenience of auto-focus. This got me thinking about prime lenses for the SL. I prefer primes in almost all cases and so the research began in earnest.

The Sigma zoom is fine, but I really wanted a Leica native SL lens. And I wanted a prime. But what focal length should I get? Since I can only afford one lens (by “afford” I mean sell off most of my other gear to pay for it), I opted for the APO-Summicron-SL 35mm f/2 ASPH. I can never decide which length I prefer, 50mm or 35mm, but I went with the 35 because I feel it’s just a tad more flexible.

I must admit that hearing Peter Karbe, Leica’s designer of the M and SL lens lines, say that the APO-Summicron-SL 35mm is his favorite Leica lens and that it might be the best lens Leica has ever made helped push me over the edge. You can listen to Peter go into glorious technical detail about the SL lenses for like an hour and a half in this video.

The lens arrived a few days ago and so far all I can say is that my first impressions are that it has easily exceeded my high expectations. It’s beautiful, and the construction and feel of it are just wonderful.

The SL lenses are significantly larger than the M lenses I’m used to. Here is a photo showing the size difference between the tiny, jewel-like Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH and this new 35mm f/2 SL.

Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH vs the APO-Summicron-SL 35mm f/2 SL ASPH

A nice feature of the SL lenses is close focusing distance. The SL lenses are more useful close up. For example the SL can focus down to 27 cm while the Summicron-M can only get to within 70 cm. That matters a lot more often than one might think.

Getting closer with the SL

What about image quality? Good question. I don’t know much yet, as I’ve only been plinking around the house. What I do know is that the few images I’ve taken have looked fantastic. Most decent modern lenses make great images, but I have convinced myself that the files coming out of the SL with the APO-Summicron are somehow even better. To my eyes, they are noticably, meaningfully better, and that’s the only criteria I need.

Is the APO-Summicron-SL 35mm ASPH worth $5,000? Of course not. No one needs a lens like this. I certainly don’t. I mostly take photos of my dog or selfies or family snapshots, so there’s no point trying to justify the cost other than to say that it might be the best lens I’ve ever used. It feels fantastic. It looks fantastic, and, combined with the SL, it makes fantastic images and I’m very happy with it.

The Leica SL2-S = InstaBuy!

When I bought a used Leica SL(601) recently instead of the newer SL2 , it was mostly because I didn’t want to spend $6,000 on a camera that I wasn’t sure I’d love. But it was also partly because I really don’t need a 47-megapixel sensor. Who’s got the time and space to manage 80MB per image photos?

I’ve had the SL for a month and that’s long enough to know that I love it. It’s big but not too big. It’s an absolute tank, build-wise, and it’s fast and fun to use. I’m happy. I can shoot my M-mount Leica lenses on it and am finding it even easier to focus them on the SL than I do on the M10-P. So everything’s good then. I wish it had IBIS, though.

And then, just this morning, Leica announced the SL2-S. The SL2-S is, from my standpoint, an updated SL that adds everything in the SL2 except the giant sensor. The SL2-S has a 24 Megapixel sensor, which is a sweet spot for me. It also improves focusing, low-light capabilities, and of course includes IBIS. In other words, it’s exactly what I wanted in the SL2. And to top it off, it’s more than $1,000 cheaper than the SL2.

Apparently the SL2-S is being marketed as a hybrid still/video powerhouse. I guess the video features are great, but I don’t care as much about that. I care about speed, handling, image quality, and reasonable file sizes. Proper video is a nice bonus, though.

I’ve already sold my beloved M10-P and preordered an SL2-S. I have no idea when it’ll arrive, but I can hardly wait.

Daily minutiae and record keeping

mi·​nu·​tia (noun) – a minute or minor detail—usually used in plural

I like the word “minutia”. I’ve been thinking about the various little things that happen throughout a typical day as daily minutiae. Things like “Paid the gas bill” or “Had a minor headache” or “Changed oil in the car”. It’s all trivial and boring, but I find that I value having a record of these things.

But where to record all of this minutiae? If you know me, you know that I can never settle on one single note-taking app or system. Looking for a “better way” is what I like doing, even though it becomes frustrating when I deadlock over the decision. And I’m deadlocked right now about where to keep records of the “minute or minor details” of my day.

It’s not a problem of not having a good place to keep things, it’s that there are too many good places I could keep things. Here are the current contenders.

Tinderbox

Oh my, how I love Tinderbox. It’s one of the most powerful and flexible note-taking tools available. Tinderbox is where I started recording the day’s minutiae back in 2006. I maintained a Daybook file for years and it was wonderful.

But at some point things like iOS and Linux became interesting to me, and since Tinderbox is unabashedly Mac-only, I drifted away from it. Lately though, I’ve removed iOS and Linux from the table and that puts Tinderbox right back in the running.

Day One

Day One is a fantastic journal app for Mac and iOS. I’m not consistent with it, but I do try to record one or two entries with photos each week. I love the book printing features. I’m just not sure it’s suitable for all the little bits and bobs of the day.

TiddlyWiki

Ah, TiddlyWiki. Hidden beneath your cute name is a very capable and flexible tool for keeping notes. Add to that the fact that it’s all done in a single, free, local-first HTML file and you’ve got a strong case for use as a place for record-keeping. Of course I use it for my public wiki at rudimentarylathe.org

Roam

A late-comer to the game, Roam Research is amazing and game changing. I’d say it has single-handedly re-invigorated the entire genre of note-taking apps. It took many of the ideas of Org mode and TiddlyWiki, added proper outlining, and mashed them up into something new and very cool. Roam is almost a perfect solution for recording minutiae. Except that it costs $15/month and is entirely cloud-based and proprietary. See, the thing with record-keeping is that it’s meant to be useful not just right now, but forever. Roam is fantastic for the now, but is risky for the longer term. This may disqualify it.

Org mode

As wonderful and powerful as Org mode is, I think my years-long fascination with Emacs may be coming to a close.

TheBrain

TheBrain was not a consideration for note-taking prior to the recently introduced version 12. With TheBrain 12, notes are not only a first-class citizen, but they offer many of the features of Roam (minus outlining).

Is that a great list or what?! Can you see why I might be struggling with which to choose?

I’m currently thinking of going with either Tinderbox or TiddlyWiki.

For the past few days, I’ve been putting everything into my Rudimentary Lathe TiddlyWiki. It may be a bit too much information to share publicly, but I’m interested in the whole “public self-modeling” thing right now, so it works as part of the larger experiment. TiddlyWiki is also the only valid contender that is free and readable, as-is, forever. By “forever” of course I mean “for a long time”.

Using Tinderbox would be ideal. It’s a great outliner, and I love outlines. Beyond that it pays dividends with fancy maps and summaries so with a small amount of extra work, I get fun and useful output. Tinderbox is not free, however, but it is not (yet) subscription based. I’ve been using it for more than a decade, and the author doesn’t appear to have any intention of stopping development any time soon. Also, I usually export my notes every month to PDF files, so that gets me the necessary permanence.

I’m going to use both for a while, side-by-side, and see if the choice becomes more apparent.

TiddlyWiki is more fun than Roam

I fell in love with TiddlyWiki almost exactly 2 years ago. I wrote in it almost daily until late August, 2020, when I moved full-time into a public Roam database.

Roam is great and I love it. I’ve tried everything else, and nothing beats Roam for easily taking, linking, and re-using notes. I’m still using a private Roam database for work projects and CRM-type stuff, and it’s great for that.

Roam is efficient, fast, clever…and boring. Easy isn’t the same as fun.

TiddlyWiki is fun. It’s playful. I can’t really explain it, but creating new “tiddlers” and messing around with customization and finding new organizing principles is actually enjoyable in TiddlyWiki. I am probably one of only a handful of people who actually prefer the separate view and edit modes.

So, I’m going to return to using TiddlyWiki instead of Roam for my daily notes and scraps. My wiki is still at rudimentarylathe.org, which is a thousand times more fun as a URL than https://roamresearch.com/#/app/jackbaty am I right? I expect Roam will offer custom domains at some point, but so for they don’t.

I feel that TiddlyWiki’s local-first, single HTML file, free and open-source approach is better suited as a place to do “public self-modeling” for the long term.

Plus, it’s more fun. I hope to see you there!