Category Archives: Review

Street Photography with the Canon M6

If I may, a little background for this post. A few years ago I was deeply involved in street photography and had more than one blog that I was posting to and maintaining on the subject. In reality what I did was overextend myself to the point of burnout. I decided it was time to take a break, which I did. I pursued my music by playing bass, guitar and learning the ukulele. I also retired during this time so I had plenty of time on my hands.

A few months ago I injured the index finger on my chording hand and decided it was time to give it a rest so it can hopefully heal. Having my background in photography I decided to buy a camera to take pictures of my new granddaughter. From 2010-2014 I had shot many different systems including Nikon, Olympus, Leica and Fujifilm. I decided this time around to buy a Canon camera since I hadn’t owned a Canon Rebel since my film days in the early 70’s.

My first camera was a Canon M50 which I love and have used for people, nature and street. I then decided that I didn’t need a viewfinder for street, as I shoot from the navel and do all candids. After researching extensively  and almost buying a Ricoh GR I decided that for the money a Canon M6 would work perfectly.

Before I talk about the Canon M6 I want to make it clear that this is a user review. It is not a technical review. There are great websites that do very thorough jobs with this. My favorites are Imaging Resource and DP Review. This review is about me using the M6 in a street photography situation.

I found one locally so I purchased it. I already owned the M50 so setting it up would have been fairly simple but I decided to buy a course through Creative Live to do it properly. John Greengo is the instructor and he does a great job covering everything from buttons to menus. I highly recommend anything he teaches as he covers many aspects of photography.

Unfortunately, I live in the Mid-Atlantic and it is cold. Shooting anything outside is uncomfortable at best but we were blessed with a couple of warm days so I was able to take the M6 out on its maiden voyage. I had it outfitted with the Canon 22mm lens so I was ready to go.

My first task was to set it up to shoot using zone focusing. The lens does not have anything on the exterior to help with this process but it can be done. In manual mode I set the camera to f/10 with a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second. I used Auto ISO with a max of 3200. To deal with the focus I used auto focus to focus on an object about 8 feet away. I then put the camera in manual focus and went on my photo walk.

One thing I have learned with my photography is to always be ready which means the camera is on and ready to go when I leave the car. As soon as I turned the corner to the walking mall I saw this couple. I am glad I was ready.

I love this picture. There is affection and undoubtedly discussion going on. I have other pics of them I will share at another time.

I basically walked the mall shooting as I went. I love pics like the one above. I shoot candids. I have the camera hanging from my neck, resting on my navel ready to shoot. I look like a run of the mill tourist. I do not look through the LCD and I don’t pose people. I want to capture photography on the street, as people are, without them knowing they are on camera. Let’s face it, when people know they are having their picture taken they don’t look natural so a candid, normal shot is not possible, at least in my mind. My finger is always on the shutter as I look for a pic to take.

When I got to the end of the mall I decided to use the camera in auto focus. I was curious to see how it would focus and if it would be as good as the M50. It did a great job- on par with the M50.

Here are my first thoughts on the Canon M6.

Pros:

Small, light and doesn’t stand out. Mine is black with black gaff tape over the Canon and EOS lettering.

Very easy to hold and use. Comfortable ergonomics.

It is fast and relatively quiet. More on this in the “Cons” area.

The picture quality is great and the CH mode works well. I always shoot in CH but only take 2-3 pics at a time, usually.

The RAW files convert to B&W nicely.

It cost me less than $500 without the lens which I thought was a good price.

Cons:

No “silent” setting. It doesn’t even have a silent scene mode like the M50. I want the ability to turn off the volume of the shutter so it can be completely silent. For me, this is important. Without that ability I am limited in what I can shoot.

The battery. It is impossible to find an aftermarket battery, as in Wasabi, that will function normally. I have them for my M50 and my Panasonic LX7. I bought two from a battery warehouse but they wouldn’t register in the charger or the camera so I never knew how charged they were or what kind of battery life I had. Now I have to spend $50-60 on a small Canon battery. Listen up Canon. I understand profit but not when I can buy an aftermarket battery that works as well as the $50 version, for $5. Not cool in this situation.

The LCD is impossible to see under certain lighting conditions. I don’t use it to shoot but on rare occasions I like to see how a picture is framed or if it is in focus.

Here is how I decide how much I like a camera. If it was stolen, would i get another one? In this case- YES! Definitely. The weather is limiting me as far as street photography goes right now but when I get a nice day I will be out with the M6 right away.

On a side note, I have just received an Artisan 35mm lens from B&H with the appropriate scale so I can monitor distance and depth of field when I zone focus. I am really looking forward to shooting with this lens. I got use to this kind of set-up with my Leica cameras, especially my M8. More to come once I get a chance to try it out.

All in all, if you want something to shoot street photography that is small, light and more than capable, I highly recommend the Canon M6, even though the battery situation is a pain in the posterior.

©Vic Schmeltz

 

The Leica X Vario as a Street Photography Camera

In the last couple of months I have written a lot about my new Leica X Vario camera. I have sung its praises and also noted some of the issues it has that need to be addressed by Leica. All in all I think it is a great camera that produces stellar files. If you want to read my comments on it you can find them elsewhere on my blog.

Now that I have had it for a couple of months, and shot quite a few frames, I would like to address its use as a camera for street photography. I just spent 2.5 days at a Leica Akadamie Street Photography Weekend in Washington D.C. where I used the X Vario exclusively. Most of the people attending the class were using Leica M’s. I was the only one with the X Vario. I took a step of faith and did not bring a back-up camera as I was trusting that the X Vario would perform consistently throughout the weekend, which it did.

As a street camera one of the things I appreciate about the X Vario is that most of the settings can be done before I walk out the door or the camera is turned on. Aperture- check. Aperture priority or shutter speed- check. Focal length- check. Auto or manual focus- check. I have a default preset that I have developed in camera so I don’t have to set anything, including ISO initially, when I begin shooting. Turn it on, pick single frame or continuous and off I go. By the way I usually shoot in single frame. I don’t “run and gun” anymore.  Now back to the class . . .

After few hours of class time we began shooting Friday evening about 6:30 p.m. It was Golden Hour and the light was fantastic. Typically when I shoot on the street I begin at 400 ISO with an f-stop of f/8 or so. I adjust from there depending on if I am in sunlight or shadows. On the X Vario I use aperture priority with auto focus most of the time. If I was shooting from 10 feet to infinity I could easily move from auto to manual focus so I didn’t have to wait for the camera to focus. I could shoot instantly. As the night progressed I found myself shooting at 1600 ISO and higher without any problem. At the end of our official time we stopped at a restaurant which had a basement. It was dimly lit and I was getting clear, handheld pictures at 6400 ISO. Yes, I said 6400. This camera does produce some amazing files which I will show later.

My technique for street photography is to hang my camera with a Dsptch strap around my neck tourist style. It rests on my navel which is where I tend to shoot from most of the time. I can quickly chimp between shots by looking at the LCD, which is clear and bright on the X Vario, and zoom in or out to get the pic framed the way I want. It does take some practice but it is effective. One of the best things about this camera is that it can be set up to be completely silent. I can be talking to someone three feet away and be taking their picture at the same time without them knowing it. I love this about the X Vario. It has the ability to be very “stealthy.” In fact, when the class was reviewing my photos, as they were projected on a screen, more than once someone asked if I was taking the picture of the person while I was talking to them. When I answered “yes,” they were surprised as that is impossible to do with many cameras without the person knowing.

For me this is one of the best things about this camera. Personally, I much prefer a candid street photo.  I am looking for a “genuine moment” not a “posed moment.” When you ask someone to take their pic they don’t usually look as they did when you approached them because they are aware they are having their picture taken. I rarely interact with people on the street, before I take their picture, as I am taking their picture because of what they are doing and the way they look. I want a candid shot, not a posed shot. With the X Vario this is easily accomplished.

Concerning this, during the weekend one of my assignments was to approach someone to ask if I could take their picture.  I was at the Eastern Market and walked by a woman who had a booth where she was selling some items. She had beautiful blue eyes.  After walking by the booth at least three times I stopped and asked if I could take her picture.  I explained that I was taking a class and that this was one of my assignments.  She was very nice and said, “Yes.”  The problem was now that she knew I was taking her pic she never looked as she did when I had walked by earlier.  She kept talking and smiling.  The pic came out okay but it was not as candid as I would have liked.

When I shoot I have the Olympus VF-2 EVF on the camera too. I switch back and forth between the EVF and LCD depending on what I am shooting. This is where my struggle begins as after taking a pic there is a lag. The pic shows in the EVF or on the LCD for a moment, even with the Auto Review off. I can’t continue shooting until the pic goes away. I have tried different settings and techniques but I cannot get the X Vario to shoot one picture after another without the lag. For me this is probably the biggest complaint I have with this camera. Why can’t it perform as most cameras do? I usually shoot single frame on the street and would love to be able to continue shooting without waiting. Leica, are you listening?

I am pleased with the battery life as I can easily get over 300 frames per battery. I always buy the manufacture’s battery as I have had bad experiences with aftermarket batteries. Why would I want to put a $5.00 battery in a $3000 camera? It just doesn’t make sense to me. Neither does trying to skimp on a lens hood that may or may not vignette. Spend $100 on the Leica hood and you won’t have any problems. It will look great and function as it was designed to. By the way, when I went to the weekend class I brought my charger and 5 batteries. I only used 3 and only once was the battery in the red, ready to die.

Some of you may be wondering what I carry when I am on the street. Typically, I have the X Vario outfitted with a Leica grip and lens hood. I use the Olympus VF-2 EVF and a Dsptch neck strap. Sometimes I bring along a very small Lowepro bag, the Event Messenger 100, depending on how long I plan on shooting. If I am going to be shooting for a few hours I have extra batteries with me and Sandisk Extreme or Extreme Pro SD cards.

As an aside, one of the things I just discovered is that I like the manual assist off on the camera.  If it is off it focuses more like a DSLR when trying to manually focus the lens. For me this works much better.

So, with all of this being said, how does the X Vario work as a street camera? I think it works really well. It is easy to use, produces great files, produces nice pics at high ISO’s and is so small and light that it doesn’t bother me if I am carrying it for hours. Battery life is good and the camera itself is unobtrusive.

I would have said it works “great” but the lag between files really is bothersome. Someone suggested I shoot using continuous mode but I don’t want all of the extra files that I will end up deleting in post production. Leica, please do something about this. I am sure it can be corrected with a firmware update.

In conclusion, here is how I decide how good a particular camera is.  We have all been there I am sure.  If it was stolen, would I replace it?  The answer is a resounding “Yes!”  I am fortunate enough to own the Leica X1, X2, M6, M8 and the X Vario.  I bought it about two months ago and haven’t touched the other cameras since.

I have posted five pics below from the X Vario that I took last weekend.  The first one is shot at 400 ISO, then 800, 1600, 3200 and lastly 6400. You can click on each picture to enlarge them. If you want to read more about the Leica X Vario check out my Flipboard mag- X Vario Flipboard Magazine. Enjoy!

L1021854 L1021893 L1021913 L1022209 L1022515

Day 2 of the Leica Street Photography Weekend

In summary today included beautiful weather, a great group of photographers, two fantastic instructors (Tom and Matt) and a variety of locations.

We began the morning at the Eastern Market.  Then we travelled to the White House to take pics of the demonstration against involvement in Syria. A long walk followed to a cafe for lunch.  Following was a taxi ride to one of the doggie swims.  Then off we went to Dupont Circle and then a Metro ride back to the Leica store. Oh, and a break for food and beverage.  Included is one on one instruction along the way.

I went through two batteries for the X Vario, lots of fluid and had a blast!  Now comes the processing and editing of hundreds of images.  Fifty or so will be reviewed by Tom and Matt tomorrow.  Each photographer will have 6-10 images for the end of day slide show. Can’t wait.

I know some of you are wondering how the X Vario performed.  It worked really well. The files are better than I expected.  I will be posting some of them in the future.

More tomorrow after what I hope is a good night’s sleep.

Leica Akademie Street Photography Weekend

It has finally arrived!  I am in D.C. at Leica’s Street Photography Weekend.  We shot for a couple of hours tonight, after some class time, and will shoot tomorrow for the entire day. I am using the X Vario and really putting it through its paces. I will have an update after tomorrow and will be writing a review of the weekend next week. The weather is perfect so tomorrow should be a blast.

Enjoy your weekend.  I will! 😃

The Leica X Vario 2

It is very possible that Leica will eventually come out with a followup to the X Vario camera just as they did to the X1.  There were definite improvements made with the X2 and I am hoping the same will be true with the followup to the X Vario.

Other than the obvious things I have addressed in previous posts I would really love to see Leica get rid of the pop up flash. I never use it as I prefer to use off camera flash using the Pocket Wizard Flex system.  Occasionally I will put a Nikon SB-700 on the hotshoe and use it on manual.  I have no need for a pop up flash but could sure use a built-in EVF!

I have seen pictures of the new Panansonic GX-7 and it has a really innovative EVF that is built into the body of the camera and sits to the left of the hot shoe.  It also has the ability to tilt up to 90 degrees.  I would love to see Leica add something like this to the “X Vario 2.”  It would truly be an upgrade and make it a much better camera.  I have the external Olympus VF-2, but frankly it is a hassle to constantly be taking it on and off.  More than once I have left my truck and walked away all the while forgetting to put it on.  Bummer!  It also sticks up and completely ruins the way the camera looks.  On the GX-7 the EVF is built-in and is truly part of the camera.  Wouldn’t it be great to have something similar on the next X Vario?

As long as I am dreaming could I also request a full frame sensor without the AA filter?  If Leica could do this as well as the other things I have suggested, in my two previous posts, this would be a great camera!  I would also like to see the lens be a 24-120 2.8.  Hey, a person can dream can’t they?

Finally, can we have all of this for less than $3000?  Leica, if you can do this sign me up right now!  Thanks for listening.

Six Weeks Later

I wanted to post a quick update as some may be wondering if the way I feel about the X Vario has changed now that I have owned it for six weeks.

Definitely not. I don’t want to go over what I wrote in my initial review but I feel the same. It is a great camera that produces outstanding files. It isn’t perfect but no camera is.

I would suggest, as I did in the review, that a few accessories really make using the Leica X Vario more pleasurable. They are:

The Olympus Electronic Viewfinder (VF-2)
The Leica handgrip
The Leica lens hood

The reason I recommend the Olympus EVF is that it is about half the price of the Leica model. Otherwise buy Leica. The handgrip and hood fit perfectly and do their job because they are designed by Leica for their camera. Don’t buy a cheap grip or hood. If you are going to shoot with Leica cameras you might as well accept the fact that it is going to cost money. It is money well spent but money nonetheless.

Soon, I will be posting what I would like to see Leica change when they come out with the next X Vario camera- maybe X Vario 2? Catchy isn’t it? 🙂

Stay tuned!