I’m finding the Leica M-E is going to take some work for me to get comfortable shooting with this fine instrument. I’ve spent the last couple days pouring through Thorsten von Overgaard’s Leica M9 Digital Rangefinder Camera running review of his experiences using this camera. He includes his Adobe Lightroom workflow and what I was especially interested in learning was how he sets up his camera to shoot.
Since I’ve only had my M-E but a few days I’ve come to realize that his experiences and how he operates his M9 are perfect for me. The only thing I’ve added is I’ve set up three of the cameras “User Profile’s” to save my settings.
The camera is going to take me some time to really get to know it. But it really is very simple. One of the first things I’ve noticed shooting with it is how to hold the camera. I added Tim Isaac’s “Thumbs Up” to help me grip the camera better and finding its working as advertised.
So I’d like to share with you how I’ve setup my M-E. But before I do it would help if I explained how I like to shoot. I prefer to shoot with my Leica 35mm Summicron wide open all the time. Some have commented on some of my landscape images why I don’t have everything in “focus”. That’s my style, in fact, its really how your eye really sees anyway, isn’t it? Whether you are looking at an object that’s up close or far away, the other objects outside that field of view are out of focus. Plus, why waste the opportunity to shoot stopped down when you have a Leica lens attached. Its my opinion the real character of the Leica lens is when you shoot with it wide open at its largest aperture.
With that said, then you’ll understand the reasoning with how I’ve set up my M-E, not unlike how Thorsten has his. I’m just going to start from the beginning of the Menu system and work my way down. (You’re probably thinking since most of you probably have experience with a DSLR that this could take a long time as most of your cameras have more menu items than you can shake a stick at!)
My M-E has 27 Menu items, that’s it, 27 and that includes setting the time and date (2 items), firmware, language, sensor cleaning, reset and formatting the SD card. So that leaves only 20 Menu items left to mess with and 2 of those include the Lens Detection and User Profiles. Now we’re down to just 18 Menu items.
- Lens Detection – Since I’m shooting with an older Leica lens I have mine setup manually using the Leica 35mm f/2 11310/11311 lens profile
- Advance – I’ve set mine to Discreet. ( This setting is used to determine how your shutter button operates. The options are Standard, Soft, Discreet and Discreet & Soft.)
- Self-Timer – Off
- Auto ISO Setup – 1/60s/800ISO
- Sharpening – Standard
- Color saturation – Black & White (I’ve setup the camera to shoot DNG+JPG with the JPG in B&W)
- Contrast – Standard
- Bracketing setup – Haven’t configured bracketing yet. I would probably only use this if I were putting the camera on a tripod to shoot landscapes and wanted to create an HDR photograph.
- Monitor brightness – Standard
- Histogram – Standard
- Folder management – Leica
- Auto Review – Off
- Auto Power Off – 2 minutes (I really like this feature. Its one I wish my Ricoh GXR had. I’m able to leave my camera on all the time and with just a slight activation of the shutter release the camera comes on and you’re ready to shoot.)
- Flash sync – 1st Curtain
- Auto slow sync – Lens dependent
- Color management – Adobe RGB
- DNG setup – Uncompressed (Thorsten shoots compressed
That’s it for the Main menu items.
Now to how I’m setting the actual camera controls. Since I want to shoot wide open my aperture is set at f2.o since that’s my biggest aperture with a Leica Summicron lens. I have the Shutter set on A for Aperture control or call it “Automatic” and I’ll let the camera’s light meter set the shutter. Since I have the Advance set at Discreet I can lock the Shutter speed by pressing the shutter release part way and then recompose to properly expose for unique lighting situations. That’s where more practice and experience with the camera is necessary.
The base ISO for the camera is 160. For real bright light I’m using ISO 160 and a neutral density (6 stop) filter on my lens. If I didn’t have an ND filter on the front I’d exceed the 1/4000 shutter speed limit of the camera since I don’t want to stop the lens down. In my first User Profile I have this ISO set along with the other settings above and Manual White Balance. (I’ll get to white balance in a second)
For low light I’m using an ISO of 800 and have that set in the second User Profile as described above along with Manual White Balance.
For indoor shooting I’m also using ISO 800 but I’m presetting the White Balance to 3200k and that is set in my third User Profile.
To access the User Profiles once they’ve been memorized its very easy. On the back of the camera along the left side of the LCD are 5 buttons. (Play, Delete, ISO, Info and Set). By selecting the Set button a different Menu opens on the LCD which includes:
- White balance
- Exposure Compensation
- Exposure bracketing
- Set user profile
Pretty simple isn’t it? Just select number 6, Set user profile, and what you have saved in either of the 4 profiles will be loaded.
So what about White Balance? Do all of you just use Auto? In the past year I have began using the WhiBal (White Balance Reference card). I have two sizes I carry, the Studio Card and Pocket Card. The Pocket Card is the size of a credit card and I keep that in my wallet. The other card is a about twice that size and I keep that one in my camera bag.
For shooting in bright or low light outdoors I will use one of these cards to manually set my white balance. By doing this saves me time in post processing work flow and ensures I’m getting the right colors to begin with in my DNG files.
So that’s how I have my M-E setup to run and by keeping my setup simple and only having to change my white balance for two of my shooting profiles I can concentrate on what’s out in front of the camera and not what’s going on behind the camera.
If you other Leica digital shooters have anything you’d like to add please do. Suggestions are welcome too.