Leica camera CLA in Seoul

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I have a couple of Leica Ms and of all of them, my favorite has to be the M2. However that M2 is also the only mechanical camera in my possession that is in need of overhauling. Clean, lubricate & adjust as they say it, or simply CLA. Doesn’t take long to do a search on the Internet before I stumble across a supposedly nondescript shop in Chungmuro (충무로) that came recommended. GPS coordinate is approximately at 37.562063, 126.990041

To get there, take line 3 orange line to 충무로 station and get out at exit 5. Continue straight towards Myeongdong and one you pass a big tower called Kukdong Building, turn right and immediately turn left on the next small junction. About ten meters later on your right will be a small camera shop called Yeongsang 영상 Camera. Go up to the second floor and there is a black and white photo developing shop. In a small corner of the shop, the old man there will CLA your mechanical camera.

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Mine took only 2 hours. About the time it takes to develop a roll of film and cost a reasonable 100,000₩. The finder all clear now an all mechanical parts humming along, it’s cheap and at the same time fast. I was initially expecting a week before pickup. Who knew I could browse the camera shops around the area and pick it up on the same day.

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Highly recommended shop. Thanks to rangefinderforum.com for the initial directions. Shop opens 10am to 7pm. However the owner is sometimes downstairs in a used camera shop.

Last days of autumn, Seoul

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It is now middle of november, and trees are shedding leaves as winter nears. The trees in Seoul are no exactly the ones that are giving the red coloured leaves, more likely brown then red, but there are some maple trees around too. The weather is starting to dip down below freezing in the early morning, so there is not too much more time to go around looking for something to take pictures of before having to wait for the next autumn.

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I have two favourite macro lens. Today I have my Nikkor 70-180 and this situation is where it shines. This versatile lens allows me to crop close, or to zoom out to 70mm for more coverage. When zooming using that lens, you do not lose focus at all, the only thing is that you change the cropping on the picture. Nice. Too bad this lens is not that easy to find either new on the second hand market. When used properly it is sharp at infinity and as a macro lens. For someone who doesn’t bother with shooting sports or models, the 70-180 is my lens that cover the 70-200 range.
When shooting leaves in autumn, look around for contrast in colours. Look also possibilities to isolate foreground and the background. When the leaves are close enough to the camera, even at f5.6 you will be able to get nice enough blur in the background for isolation. And it is lucky I have the option to crank up the ISO on the D3s, and typically I will be using ISO1000+ up to ISO12800 when the skies turned dark. Normally I would use up to ISO 1600 only for critical shots where noise free photos and maximum detail is required, but today I wouldn’t call it a critical day, so for cases lke this, I’d go up to ISO12,800. I can remove some of the noise later when I get into Lightroom.

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*end*

Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan

What a hectic weekend. Saturday morning flight to Haneda airport followed by a drive to Fujikawaguchiko and the rush back the next day to catch the last flight from Haneda. This trip was supposed to take place the week before (31st October) but was delayed because of Typhoon Chaba, which would have caused non stop weekend of rain. And there would be no way Mount Fuji would be visible from the town located 10km away to the north.
If you have followed this site quite a bit, you would have noticed that this is one of my favourite sites to shoot Mount Fuji. I could wake up early in the morning and walk 30 mins to the other side of Kawaguchiko across the bridge and set up my tripod before 6am. And in the last 3 times I have been here, Mount Fuji would always be visible in the morning along with a calm lake to catch some reflection. Kawaguchiko is large enough not to be perfectly calm, and the wind does kick in about 7-7:30am. So get there early. I will not detail too much how to get there, the easiest would be via the Keio Express bus line from Shinjuku just opposite Yodobashi Camera. And as a primer, Fuji 5 Lakes regions composes of… of course, 5 lakes. From the right to the left, there’s Yamakako, which I have never been, and since I have not heard too much about the view there, I have no plans to visit since it is also out of the way. Kawaguchiko is arguably the easiest one to access, as it is just situated by Fujikawaguchiko and the northern shore is littered with attractions like a monkey show and a music box museum. The views here are one of the best accessible without long hikes and a car, and Mount Fuji looks symmetrical from here. The only possible issue is that the town would be visible in your picture of the famous mountain. Only an issue if you’re after the mountain sans civilization. Just next to it would be Saiko, where Mount Fuji is not visible at all, obscured by a close by hill. News has it that Saiko is a good fishing place. Next to it, a little drive a way is Shojiko, which I think rivals Kawaguchiko. Cars could drive to the lake bank facing Mount Fuji, and you could get down to water level. What you would see on the opposite bank on the foot of the mountain is just pure nature. However, Shojiko is not that easy to reach without your own car. The public buses don’t run regularly, so you may have 1 hour there and if you do not get on the returning bus, the wait may be quite long. No buses at night the last time I checked, so night time shooting by bus would be impossible. One could camp by the lake side though. The last one is Motosuko, a relatively large lake, with an elevated vantage point at the far side of the lake. It is even more remote than Shojiko. This is also the view of Mount Fuji that could be found at the back of a 100 yen note.

Lets see what we have here…

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Shoji-ko: This is one of the first shot of this Autumn season for me. The EXIF reads 5:30pm and it was already dark. Exposure reads 30 secs at f5.6 on a 28-70mm. It was already dark when I got there, and the long exposure lights up the mountain a bit. I kept the foreground dark to convey the evening mood. You could see car lights on the right at the bottom of the mountain, and some faint lights at what could be the mountain 5th station. AT this time of the year, the snow cap is starting to grow, but obviously it is still early.

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Shoji-ko: This is one of my favourite picture of the shoot. Exposure reads 4 minutes 30 seconds and f8. I did another one that was 20mins long but came up to almost a blank shot. I had a ND8 on the lens and I would have to stretched it to 1hour exposure if I was to get something like this. What I wanted to do with this shot was to have a long enough exposure to catch the star trail. You could also faintly notice a line of a passing aircraft. I would have wished to have more time here, I guess I will explore the possibility to camp here the next time. Would have been great to catch an hour long star trail.

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Kawaguchiko: This was taken at very close to 6am. Note the vapour on the lake surface. This morning was not what I hoped for, with cloudy skies in the morning. When I got to the lakeside at 5:30am the mountain was covered in clouds, but almost always it clears at close to 6am when the faint trace of sunshine appears. You also notice that Fujikawaguchiko town is quite prominent in the foreground. This is a 4 sec exposure at f8, at about 40mm, and I cropped the top and bottom of the original frame. You also noticed that the view from Kawaguchiko is a little different, with the long gentle sloping sides of the mountain visible from here, while at Shojiko, the slope is quite strong.

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Kawaguchiko: Looking at the east at the rising sun. The only good thing about a cloudy day is that the morning red sun glow is quite strong.

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Kawaguchiko: With the sun starting to appear in the morning, Mount Fuji starts to glow a little shade of red. This scene only lasts not more than 10 mins. In fact I think it might have been shorter than that. So this is where an ergonomic camera comes in, when you switch from one scene and light type to another. The controls has to be easily found and you do not have the luxury of diving into the menus to change something.

Continue reading “Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan”

One for the road…


Now that was a quick 7 months and a bit in Hong Kong. Whenever I go over Stone Cutter island bridge, I can never help staring at the hill with colonial houses on it overlooking Hong Kong Island. For me at least, that would be the best location with a view of  Hong Kong Island. I’ve always wanted to go there in the evening and set up my tripod to take a panorama at location (22.31530, 114.14248). On my last weekend there, I found that that place is a Naval base, hence off limits to casual passerbys. Its amazing what a little check on Googlemaps and streetview can tell you. So its time to search for an alternative. I’ve shot quite a number of pictures of Hong Kong, and I have not had a good panorama of the place yet, so this is an obvious last project before leaving.

Finally settled on West Kowloon Waterfront as the second best alternative just above Western Harbour tunnel. Again, best time for me to shoot was between 6:30pm to about 8:00pm. At this time of the year, the sun will start to set at 7pm and there will be two light show. One when the orange glow of the setting sun showers the subject with soft warm light and the second (which I think I like better) when the sun has set below the horizon and the skies in the background are in a dark shade of blue and foreground lighted by orange neon lights. I’m pretty happy with the resulting panorama made up of up to 15 frames of 12 megapix pictures stitched in Photoshop. Heres a sample:

Good way to end my short stay in Hong Kong. Now signing off, soon I will report back in a new location.

Hong Kong MTR


Started off my new project weekend, to photograph the station names of every single MTR station in Hong Kong. I don’t know how long it will take to do them all, but 3 or 4 weekends may be just enough. The idea is simple, take a camera, one lens and stop at every single station and then move on to the next.

There has not been any over eager security guard asking me to stop photographing so far, and to keep things interesting, I’ve got 2 months of backlogged podcasts to keep me company while continuing the task. The only thing I learnt is that there is a limit to the time you can spend in the metro, once you pass the gates. Its about 2.5 hours. And I spent a little more than that, and the Customer Service office let me out without a penalty. Otherwise it would cost a little more than 20HKD. I believe it was 21HKD that they mentioned.

Chai Wan MTR Station

There’s no deadline to this project. It will be completed when its completed, and I will figure out then what to do with all the database of photos! Today I managed to shoot 512 NEF files!

Lens Test: Tale of two pancakes

Pancake lenses. Not many people use it nowadays, preferring the do-all zoom lenses. Going back to the old days when photographers would carry one prime lens per camera, and still be able to take amazing photographers, there is nothing a prime cannot do in the hands of someone with the right photographic vision. In short, nothing wrong with a pancake lens. In fact I love pancakes because it keeps the camera side profile smaller, making it possible to squeeze a pro-body with built in grip into a small bag. And most of the time you can zoom with your feet anyway.
Profile Comparison. ULTRON on the right, AIS on the left.

A pancake lens is the name given to low profile lenses, normally around the 50mm focal length range. Up for this test are the two that I own. First up is a Nikkor 50mm f1.8 AIS. Now there are many versions of this lens, and the 0.60m minimum focal length version is the one I have, which is noticeably shorter than the other models. The other lens I have been using quite a bit is a Voigtlander 40mm f2 SL ULTRON. Yes a mouthful, I’ll just call it AIS and ULTRON for the short version hereforth. They’re both manual lenses. And they only meter on Nikon’s semi pro bodies like the D300/D700 and up.

This is not meant to be a full on test, so I will not bother to perform an exhaustive test on it. On the question of bokeh, I have noticed that the ULTRON has this harsh donut shaped bokeh, perhaps because of the Aspherical element in the lens. But I’m not a bokeh freak so it is not an issue for me.

Continue reading “Lens Test: Tale of two pancakes”

Equipment for Japan trip

Thought now is the best time to document what I brought with me to Japan. This trip requires quite a number of trips in trains and local buses so I was hoping to travel with as little bulk as possible, although at the end of the day, I feel that my packs are a little too heavy.
For bags, I have a 35L backpack for clothes and chargers and items that does not require removal during transit. Even though temperature in Japan at this time of the year plunges below zero, becuase of the constant moving I will be doing, I packed only a fleece with Windstopper (Gore) material, and for waterproofing, a Mont-Bell packable Gore-Tex outer shell.  A Gitzo G1341T tripod with RRS BH25 is attached on the outside for the late evening photo shooting in dim light, and this tripod/ball-head combination is light enough to be brought along for the trip.

On my belt I have a Leatherman tool for emergency, and my Ricoh GR Digital point and shoot on the other side. They do get in the way especially when sitting down, but hey, better than nothing.

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Strange texture in Neopan 400 + HC110b

Was looking at a roll that was developed individually this week, and the pictures when zoomed, had this leathery texture to it. First I thought it was ACDSee rendering JPEG so that it loads fast, but it showed up also in Photoshop. Looked at the other Neopan 400 developed in HC110 this week and it was not present.
So the explaination has to be with the way I develop the film. Its winter now in Shanghai, so the water coming out of the tap is somewhere around 5 degrees celcius probably. My developer is always at 20C since that’s an easy timing to remember. My stopbath is somewhere in between the two. The way I process now is I do a rinse cycle with the tap water after stopbath so wash away the yellow tint in the Kodak Indicator Stop Bath so that it doesn’t taint my Fixer which is colourless. My current theory is that I must have accidently gone from 15C in the stopbath to 5C in the rinse stage, shrinking the silver crystals till they crack and giving the leathery texture.

Here’s a 100% crop to explain the phenomenon. Scanned at 2700dpi as usual.

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Lucky SHD100 Followup and recipe

Managed to find some time on saturday and sunday on a cold winters day in Shanghai to shoot 2 rolls of Lucky. Rating it at EI100 there was no special problem loading nor rewinding it on the M6.
Development was done in a 2 reel tank with HC110b (since I have a lot of stock solution, well, in stock). Timing was 7 mins for 2 x 35mm rolls with inversions every minute. Temperature of course 20C. The negatives came out probably thicker than I would like to have. I’ll try and reduce by 15-30secs next time.

The negatives are thin like most forums stated… you can tell that its thinner than most other european films, but one thing strange is that the new Lucky SHD100 doesn’t seem to curl up too much. Surely not as much as Tri-X. I usually hang it up to dry, weighted down with heavier clips at the bottom, and still it managed to remain flat this morning as I cut the strips and loaded it into the Printfile negative holders. So far so good. Scanning is next and I’ll report any particularities, if any.

Summarit and ACAM-3000

Just about to leave Tokyo after 5 days here, and the damage this trip is a Leica Summarit f1.5 M mount, and a nice Artisan & Artist ACAM3000 bag.
Summarit was just too pretty to pass up, especially when it comes with a XOONS hood. The grade at Fujiya was B but it looked better. A little battered cosmetically, but the glass looks alright to me. And did I mention about the hood?

And photography is nothing if you dont have a lot of bags. A&A bags are some of the best canvas bags on the market and Fujiya sell them for anything between 10-20% cheaper than more other shops in Tokyo. The ACAM3000 bag has zipped top instead of flaps, which I think is better when you move around quick. The zips are large enough that its smooth and easy to open and close. Padding is plenty enough for 2 Leica M bodies with <50mm lenses and a lightmeter in the main compartment. The front compartment is large enough to fit rolls of film, so its the perfect bag. No obvious brand name on the front, so it doesn’t shout “camera bag here”.