WHAT’S IN MY BAG

 

If you are interested in the equipment I use for street photography, here is the list of the tools I usually take along when I head to the street.

Camera : Leica M9 rangefinder camera (18mpx, 24 x 36 CCD sensor)

I find that rangefinders are the best tool for street photography, though any camera will perfectly suit if you master it. Therefore I use mainly the Leica M9, which is the only digital rangefinder currently in production. To me, the manual focus, the framelines system, the unobstrusiveness and the small size of the Leica M’s make it the best choice for street photography. Unluckily, the M9 is also a very expensive camera. Cheaper options do exist in the form of the Leica M8 (1.3 crop factor), the Epson R-D1 (1.5 crop factor) or, why not, the large range of film rangefinders (Leica M2 to 7, Bessa, Zeiss Ikon, etc…). If you wish an even more compact system, the Leica X1 or Sigma DP2 are good options that can host external viewfinders with framelines and mimick some of the rangefinders characteristics.

 

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Lens 1 : 35mm F1.4 Leica Summilux Asph (Version I)
A contrasty lens with a gorgeous look wide open. It weights only 320 grams for a length of 46mm and forms a well balanced combo with the Leica M9. It boasts a state of the art performance at all F stops together with a great balance of clarity and contrast. The one lens to own for a lifetime.

 

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Lens 2 : 60mm F1.2 Konica Hexanon
A two in one type of lens. Indeed, its softer wide open look makes it perfect for portraits and poetic atmospheres. By F1.4, it becomes the sharpest M lens on center with soft corners for spectacular transitions to unsharp planes. By F2.8, it shows all the qualities of a modern lens with high contrast and great sharpness from center to corners. Its extraordinary build quality and handling, all in a smaller weight and size (400 grams) than other super fast lenses, make it a great complement to the 35mm lens. Unluckily, this amazing lens was produced in only 800 samples and is very difficult to find on the used market.

 

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I do like to experiment with lenses and own a few other ones, yet this 2 lens system is very portable and covers 99% of my needs in terms of framing. As I like to say, keep it simple and concentrate on what is happening in the street, rather then what’s in your bag. Finally, I do not use hoods for my lenses to keep the overall size of my system as small as possible. I do get very occasional flare but do not mind as it often results in an interesting effect to my pictures.

3 original Leica M8/9 batteries – stay out of third party suppliers, I only had bad experiences with their products.

1 x 46mm and 1 x 58mm UV filter for lens protection – since I don’t use hoods, I still like to have a protection of the front element of my lenses.
1 x 46mm and 1 x 58mm ND 0.6 filter (ND for Neutral Density) for shooting in bright light wide open (reduces light by two stops).
Note that I only use B+W or Heliopan filters. Avoid cheap filters, they can degrade the quality of your pictures.

Gossen Digisix light meter. Since I use my camera in manual mode only, this external light meter comes in handy for those situations where you need to get a quick reading of the light conditions. This device obviously can meter reflective and incident light but, of course, the later one is the only way to go in street photography.

 

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Domke F5XB Camera Bag. When in Paris, I usually carry my camera on a strap around my shoulder (or hand) and have my second lens with accessories in a jacket or a very small leather bag. Yet when travelling, the Domke F5XB bag is absolutely great as it easily can carry your camera plus 2 lenses, all above accessories, a cellphone and your documents. I especially like the fact that it has both a zip and a velcro band. Indeed, it makes it especially difficult for these erring hands to get in your bag and remove discreetly your favorite gear. I also own a Leicatime Luigi half case to protect my camera but hardly ever use it since the Leica M9 handles much better without a case. As for my camera strap, I asked Luigi for a special customized version with both sides of the strap in finished leather. This way it slides easily over any clothing, including winter jackets.

 

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Post processing. I use exclusively Adobe Lightroom 5.0 which provides a great balance between functionalities and time invested to come up with satisfactory results. I use an Imac 24’’ to view my pictures and print them on a HP9180 (A3+), mainly on Canson Satin paper.

  14 Responses to “WHAT’S IN MY BAG”

  1. It was very interesting to read!! I like your works

  2. Hi
    great photos, and write ups.

    Are you ever afraid when travelling with your M9 and those lenses to get robbed or mugged? Or do you feel since the camera is small and looks like a film camera that most people don’t care? I am debating on a M9 but fear for this fact as it is enviable.

  3. thanks.

    Eric, yes this is always a worry. Nevertheless, 99% of people here do not know what a Leica, and even less a M9. They almost look at me in a way that say “Poor guy with that old camera”; . I have put tape on the Leica and M9 logos to futher give that impression of old.
    This being said, all my equipment is insured for the trip. So if anything bad were to happen, I would recover most of my investment. And if I really feel in a insecure zone, I’ll go out with the tiny DP2.
    Finally, as a fellow friend photographer told me “Take your best equipment along, otherwise you’ll regret it”.

  4. I discovered your blog only recently, but I absolutely love it. I am reading all your posts now systematic. One of the things I wonder is what computer you brought on your trip? Not your imac i guess?

    • Thanks Joeri.
      My Imac would have been kind of an overload … ;) I took a MacBook Pro13″ 500Gb. Small screen but big enough. Good processor for lightroom, more than enough storage for the pics I take + my whole archive. My girlfriend took her 11″ Mac Air, I envy the weight though storage is much less 128Gb and does not have back lit keyboard.

  5. Hi Yanidel,
    Interesting choice. Why did you go for Leica? When I was making a choice for my first decent photocamera – all the experts were suggesting Canon, and I went for it.
    Yes, Leica says that you have a character and individuality, but still it is strange choice.
    Nevertheless, your portfolio is amazing!!
    All the best to you,
    Helmuts

    • Hi,

      I chose Leica because I shoot 100% street photography. Due to the small size, high image quality and rangefinder system (and its frame lines that allow you to see around the frame), I think this is the best tool for street photography.

      Cheers, Yanidel

  6. You have a very nice and interesting blog ! thx for sharing

  7. Do you use a tripod?

  8. A very interesting read all round. I use a Leica MDa which is a viewfinder/rangefinderless 35mm film camera. I have a 3.5cm f3.5 Summaron lens on the front and a 35mm viewfinder plugged into the accessory shoe atop. I’ve used this combination for a year or two now with excellent results. In use, it is very discreet. I also use a Sekonic Studio Deluxe incident meter and a Gossen Lunasix for reflected readings. Film is Ilford XP2, Bag? chromogenic, and I have it processed then scanned onto a disc. Bag? a Billingham for Leica Combination bag. I also have a Leica 111 circa 1935 with a screw 3.5 cm f3.5 but just use the unbuilt finder.

  9. By accident, I discovered an interesting camera to use for street photography. I’d always fancied a Nikon F2, so bought one quite reasonably. Later, saw a second body very cheap as it had no finder. After buying it I found a way of covering the top with card and elastic. Then I saw a waist level finder on a dealers website, so bought it as a top end body cap.
    Later, I was tempted to take this camera out with a 50 on it and a Weston meter. Found using the camera at lower chest height and looking down into the WLF to be an interesting experience. It ticks all the boxes for discrete shooting and, with practice, I’m sure I will soon be as proficient with it as I am with an eye level finder!

  10. Really like your site. It is different, interesting and inspiring.

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