This little lens is absolute magic.
I’ve owned it for a few days now, and I rarely want to take it off my camera, especially when I’m out on the street and it’s bright outside.
This is the ultimate street photography lens.
The Perfect Street Photography Lens
- It’s incredibly small (smallest M lens ever made!).
- It has an absolutely fantastic rendering, very classic look while retaining a modern edge.
- At f/5.6, nearly everything is in focus — perfect for street photography.
- 28mm is a great focal length for street photography.
As you can see, the microcontrast rendering of the 28 Summaron-M lens itself incredibly well to black and white photography, and colors, while muted, can easily be “popped” in post production, with much success.
Things to Note about the 28mm Summaron-M
- This lens’ minumum focus distance is 1m, not 0.7m like most modern Leica glass.
- The focus mechanism does not rotate between 9 o’clock and 6 o’clock like most Leica glass does. This range is used for the standard street distances you’ll be shooting it with — but for closer objects, you have to go all the way to 1 o’clock, which definitely takes some getting used to.
- Because the lens is so small, it’s easy to accidentally have a finger at the edges of your frame. This just requires some adjustment to the handling vs. standard Leica glass.
- The focus mechanism locks at infinity, and requires a depress of the adjuster to unlock it. This comes very naturally, but takes a little getting used to.
- Mounting and dismounting the lens is a little difficult, as there’s little to grab on to, other than the focus adjuster. This is why it locks at infinity.
I highly recommend this lens for street photographers.
I’ve compiled a list, for a coworker, of professional-level cameras I recommend at this point in time, at various budgets.
Things these cameras all have in common, and why I recommend them:
- Image quality vs. compact-ability. A large camera never gets taken anywhere. The only useful camera is the one you have with you.
- Fantastic user experience, simplistic designs, direct control, no unnecessary buttons/dials (the Sony gets a few points knocked off for it’s deep menu system — but once it’s configured, it’s point-and-shoot).
- Fuji X100F (https://amzn.to/2xhpS4r) — overall my favorite camera on earth. Optical/electronic viewfinder. Great lens. Simplicity. Pure photography.
- Sony RX100V (https://amzn.to/2KZgowF) — extremely compact, in my bag at all times, has a great pop-up electronic viewfinder.
- Leica Q (https://amzn.to/2scKVjs) — fixed lens, absolutely stellar image quality. If you’re looking to make art, but keep it simple, this is the camera to get.
- Leica CL (https://amzn.to/2IOaSjF) — interchangeable lenses, APS-C sensor. Fantastic image quality. Very compact.
- Leica M10 (https://amzn.to/2KZThC8) — this is the ultimate in manual photography experience. You purchase it with your heart, not your mind.
I’ve owned all of these cameras. If you want to see any sample images from any of these systems, ask away :)
As for cameras that are lowest budget, I don’t really have recommendations, other than going with older models of the X100 series, or picking up used copies of any of the above bodies (recommended). Your iPhone will take better photos than most cameras that cost less than the ones on this list.
Also, of note — all of the lenses attached to these cameras are prime lenses, meaning they are of a fixed focal length, as opposed to zooms. You “zoom with your feet”. This is both a superior photography experience, and is an optically superior design decision.
The Sony camera does zoom, which is useful, but you end up using it zoomed out at 100% about 98% of the time.
I recently did my first photoshoot (nsfw) with the Panasonic GX850, and realized that it was a little bit too entry–level for serious photography. So, I did a little bit of research and ended up picking up the fantastic Sony RX100 Mark 5, an even smaller camera. My first photoshoot (nsfw) with the Sony proved it to be a superior camera for my needs.
It is a "point and shoot", but it offers a level of control that I'm comfortable shooting with (Auto ISO, Aperture Priority mode), so this classification means nothing to me. It's a camera, in every way as much as the Fuijfilm X100F is.
I couldn't love this camera more. It's small, compact, has a reasonable lens (which I keep at 24mm most of the time), and a fantastic sensor. Its color reproduction (the aspect the Panasonic was lacking the most) is top–knotch, potentially beating out even my previous Fuijfilm X100F.
It's small enough to easily fit into my pocket, so I always have it with me. Despite reviews to the contrary, I find its battery life to be quite adequate.
The pop–up viewfinder is my favorite feature of the camera — after shooting without a viewfinder for a while, I realized how essential this tool is for the type of work I prefer to do on the daily.
The articulating screen is another big plus — as it allows me to view the screen while having the camera above my head, which is something I often try to do while shooting cityscape photography. It also does the opposite, of course, allowing for me to view the screen while the camera is far below my head, close to the ground. Overall, the screen on this camera is just excellent, especially for the price.
Overall, I'm thrilled with this purchase, and I highly recommend this camera to anyone looking for something small and pocketable.
I recently decided to switch cameras (again). This is something I do every few years, out of boredom, mostly, and it always inspires me as a photographer.
I usually end up switching between Leica and Fujifilm cameras, but this time is different — I decided to pick up my first Micro–Four–Thirds camera — the smallest one on the market. One that’s so small, it even lacks a viewfinder.
I opted for the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens, which is the closest thing to my preference of 35mm f/2.0 (on full frame).
Size Beats All & Inspiration
For me, size is king right now. I want the smallest camera reasonably possible, as I want to carry the body with me everywhere, and every millimeter counts a lot towards the feel of the camera on your body.
I was very happy with the superior quality and size of the Fujifilm x100F, which I highly recommend to anyone — and while this camera is absolutely a step back in terms of image quality, it holds a candle, and, most importantly, it inspires me — something that, after several years, the Fujifilm no longer was doing.
Creative inspiration is the most important quality a camera can have, and I’m finding it in this novelishly–small Panasonic camera.
The 3:4 aspect ratio is a serious downside to this sensor size. Luckily, the camera offers 2:3 cropping for JPEGs, and when importing images from JPEG+RAW mode, Lightroom CC (even on the iPad) automatically applies the crop to the RAW image. So, my GX850 is effectively a 2:3 camera, with some extra vertical pixels to play with if I ever need them.
I’m impressed with the image quality, given the size and price of the camera. The camera pales in comparison to the Fujifilm x100F, which was to be expected, especially when it comes to things like getting white balance just right, but overall I’m quite happy with its quirks.
The dynamic range of the resulting images are “good enough” to work with, far from excessive, and is taking some getting used to, for more creative work.
The form factor is worth these tradeoffs, in my opinion. There’s also something comforting/humbling about shooting with what’s considered an “entry level” camera when you’re a professional–level shooter.
Life Without a Viewfinder
So far, life without a viewfinder is quite okay. I was very apprehensive about this, but the portability of the camera (meaning I always have it on me), is easily worth the trade–off of not having a viewfinder. Plus, I have experience with a viewfinder–less system from the Ricoh GR, so I knew what I was getting myself into.
Shooting with a screen has a few unexpected benefits:
- You’re less noticeable on the street.
- People don’t consider you a professional when they do notice you, so they don’t mind you snapping a photo, and mostly ignore you.
Most importantly, the screen articulates 180 degrees upwards, for selfies or shooting 4K video of yourself. This is a very fun aspect of the camera that I don’t expect to use often, but I expect that when I need it, it’ll be considered quite useful.
I love this camera. It’s inspiring me to shoot.
That’s something that the fantstic Fujifilm X100F was no longer doing, hence me getting rid of it. I miss it dearly already, but there’s no need to hold on to things that are no longer serving you.
I expect myself to pick up the next iteration of the X100, once it’s released. It’ll likely be time to be re–inspired then :)
While mostly obviously identify as a software engineer publicly, the majority of my time is not spent writing code always.
Because of this, the iPad Pro is my computer of choice for pleasurable computing — creative work, consumption, writing, email, and even getting things done.
I keep everything (Documents, Desktop, repos directory, Sublime Text configuration, etc) in iCloud Drive storage. For those who don't know, the location of this sacred directory is as follows:
cd '~/Library/Mobile Documents/com~apple~CloudDocs'
Which, I always create a symlink to in my home directory:
ln -s '~/Library/Mobile Documents/com~apple~CloudDocs' ~/iCloud
I still use Dropbox for a few things — specifically, my iTunes library, Game ROMs, and recorded video files (which I'm slowly migrating to Photo Library).
As a photographer, I keep all my edited photos (e.g. published JPEGs) in iCloud Photo Library, carefully organized, and they are automatically synced across all devices. This setup has worked great for me for years.
All "works in progress" are stored in Adobe Lightroom CC, which is accessible from any device, including my Windows PC, and is very pleasurable to work with. On the iPad Pro, moving sliders is lightning fast, with instant response time on the image preview — far faster than it is on any Mac. Syncing is also instant between the Mac and the iPad. I've seen no conflicts thus–far while using the software on multiple machines at the same time either.
It goes without saying, but Lightroom CC works great with the Apple Pencil.
Korg GADGET is my guilty pleasure when it comes to music production. While I can only do "real" music production with Ableton Live on my iMac (which has real analog synthesizers connected to it, as a studio machine, as well as the essential Ableton Push), KORG Gadget provides a very high–quality yet contained music–making experience that works on both the Mac and the iPad (and iPhone!).
Other than the software synth being of upmost quality and design, I find the design of Korg GADGET to be very well thought out — I can make music with a mouse/keyboard (or just an Apple Pencil) with it, unlike with Ableton.
This is for one reason, mainly, and it's something that I hope Ableton introduces in the near future (but I won't get my hopes up)… The Piano Roll in Korg GADGET allows you to hide all notes not within the scale you are currently working with. This makes working with it tremendously more pleasurable for me, and enables me to make great music without putting on my music theory hat too deeply (as I don't have scales memorized, nor their patterns, though I know the emotional landscapes of the various common scales very well).
Even if you use Ableton as your essential workflow suite, I still recommend picking up the Mac version of KORG Gadget, as it makes all the built–in synthesizers/samplers available as VSTs — and they are of extremely high quality and repute.
It goes without saying, but Korg GADGET works great with the Apple Pencil.
I use an array of applications for writing — if I'm writing a single blog post, I use iA Writer, which is by far my favorite Markdown editor for both MacOS and iOS.
For more intricate writing, I use the excellent Ulysses software, which is great for writing intricate documents and organizing partially–formed ideas.
Both of these software suites sync instantly between MacOS and iOS with iCloud Drive.
I've tried literally every app in the app store for taking notes. Some are better than others. Some fit other people's needs better than others. I won't get into that here — I'll just share what works best for me.
Notability is the best iPad app for hand-written notes. It doesn't transcribe them, it just does a superb job at capturing them smoothly and instantly, has reasonably constraining (in a good way) organizing capabilities, and has excellent excellent support for the Apple Pencil.
There is also a Mac client available, which allows you to access your notes from your MacOS machines. Very nice. Well worth the money.
This is where things get a little bit tricky… coding on the iPad is quite possible—pleasurable even—but running your code is a different story.
To interact with Git repositories, I utilize the excellent Working Copy app, which supports the new Files app API for exposing your git repos to other applications, such as and editor like…
Textastic. This is the best code editor that I've found for iOS, and I've tried them all. It supports editing files from the new Files API, has great code hilighting, and is the closest thing I've found to a Sublime Text experience for the iPad. It even supports loading your own custom TextMate themes into the app, which is excellent.
A close second is GoCoEdit, which appears to be a relatively new app that doesn't have much awareness around it. I plan to contribute to it's ecosystem, if I have some extra time over the next coming months.
I experimented briefly with a Google Pixelbook, and while I found it to be one of the best portable laptop computing experiences I have ever encountered, the software available for the device was heavily lacking — OneNote and Lightroom CC, for example, perform almost infinitely better on the iPad Pro than they do on the Pixelbook. I think this has more to do with the expected quality/market of the Android ecosystem than anything else.
My life primarily revolves around creating things—digital things—for others to consume. This content is an embodiment of who I am, and is of great value to me (and hopefully others).
All of my work, including this post, is made available via services which could disappear at any moment, disable my account, lose my content, or become unable to charge my debit card.
Bus Factor: 1
None of these scenarios are really an issue if I am available to respond—but, what would happen if I am not? This could happen for any number of reasons, including the most unfortunate but inevitable one, and it could potentially happen at any moment, without any warning.
The reality of this possibility really set in when I unexpectedly spent two weeks in the hospital last year, without any warning, and was unable to work for a few months afterwards.
The only other person I know of that seemed to have an active interest in this concept is my late friend Aaron Swartz. He wrote a blog post titled If I get hit by a truck... in 2003, where he provided instructions on where to find his content if he was to no longer be available. Unfortunately, he took his own life in 2013—a tragic loss for all. However, all of his digital contributions to the world were not lost, and I'm sure that forethought and documentation contributed to this persistence.
So, this is my version of that blog post.
This concept of posthumous digital legacy is something that I've been exploring for a long time. I started a few projects in 2012 to experiment with the problem space, but kept hitting sustainability and UX roadblocks when it came to hosting other's content. At the end of the day, I realized that I don't believe many people actually care about this problem—so, I decided to simply solve it for myself.
My Digital Blackbox
But alas, for the rare but inevitable event that I either cease breath, or somehow become entirely unavailable for reasons beyond my control, I have created a digital blackbox—a portable archive of my digital content, hopefully hosted forever on archive.org. No matter what happens to me, ideally, my world should be enabled to live on forever, in some form or another.
The archive contains lossless archives of: kennethreitz.org essays, all published photography, music productions, and tweets. GitHub repositories (via git-bundles) and 500px (photography portfolio) may be added in the future.
I plan to update and re-issue this archive a few times a year.
So, when the worst does inevitably come to pass, you know where to find me :)
Earlier this week, OS X 10.10.3 was released, which includes the much-anticipated new Photos app — Apple’s full replacement for both iPhoto and Aperture.
I’ve been using Photos App for several months now (since the first beta was made available). It’s now a major part of my photography workflow, and, therefore, my life.
So, here’s a basic outline of my workflow.
My Photography Workflow
Step 0: Take Photos
Have a camera. Take photos.
Step 1: Process with Lightroom
Import photos into Lightroom. I do this once or twice a day.
Scroll through photos, flag all potential keeper photos. Enable “Flagged” filter in Develop mode. Unflag any repetitive or meh photos I’m not feeling at the moment.
Go through photos, one at a time, and apply selective edits to enhance the presentation of photos.
Thanks to my beloved Fujifilm x100t’s Classic Chrome mode, it’s quite rare that I want to do much more than simple hilights and shadows adjustments.
Final set of photos: export to disk as full-resolution high-quality JPEGs.
Step 2: Add New Album to Photos App
Once the fully rendered JPEGs are available, I import these files into Photos App, where each Album has a nice home based on the type of photos it contains.
Step 3: Publish!
Right from Photos app, publish your beautiful photographic moments to Facebook, Flickr, etc.
Thoughts on Editing in Photos App
Photos App is a very capable photo editor as well as a catolouge. However, the nature of this non-destructive editing (much like Lightroom) gives me an odd feeling of ephemerality in my conanical photo acrive, which is unideal.
I personally prefer to use Photos App as a “photo album” with completely rendered finalized JPEGs. However, if you find that the built-in editing capabilities fit well into your workflow, I highly recommend doing so! The color conversions and tools made available are first-class, especially for a consumer app. Simplicity is key to all workflows.
If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you have more than likely noticed: I change my mind a lot.
One month, I will be convinced that one particular camera will be the only camera I will ever need for the rest of my life. The next month, I find it a weighty burden that I never want to be bothered with again.
I, for one, welcome these ossilations. While it may appear that I “waste” a lot of time/energy/money on these shifts, I find these tides to bring some of my greatest bursts of creativity, art, joy, and happiness. So… time to change things up!
Setting the Leica Aside
Something lately has been pulling me away from my beloved Leica M. At first, I thought it was the much stuffer focus pull of my 35 Summilux ASPH LFE. So, I exchanged it for a very lovely chrome version of my all-time favorite lens, the 35 Summicron ASPH. I also invested in a lovely new silk short-neck strap by Artisan & Artist.
Both of these changes to my Leica setup proved to be fantastic improvements. I went on a two-week long journey to Egypt with this rig, and I was very happy with the results. However, something was still missing.
I simply don’t want to carry the camera around with me all the time. I ended up leaving it at home rather often, and it often felt like a burden to bring it out with me. What a strange phenomena!
I’m still not sure why I feel this way. My current working theories are as follows:
- I’m tired of being forced to focus manually (iffy, I’ve been doing so for *years*).
- It just weights too much (plausible, the M240 is the largest/heaviest Leica to date).
But, at the end of the day, I don’t need to justify my feelings. I just want to roll with them :)
Upgrading to the Fujifilm x100t
So — I decided to go “back to my roots” and return to my all-time favorite camera sustem — the Fuji x100 series. In this case, the new black-edition Fuji x100t.
Honestly, I’ve never been happier as a photographer as when I’ve been using a Fujifilm x100 exclusively as my camera. It’s truly the perfect system. Something seems to always pull me away from it though — the allure of the luxury, exlucisibity, and elitism of the Leica M is likely to blame. Of course, the glass the Leica offers simply cannot be beat, but is it worth the effort and the price (especially to someone that “shouldn’t” afford it?). Who’s to say.
Regardless, the new Fujifilm x100t is the perfect camera for me. Mine just arrived a day ago! And much like my x100 and x100s before it, I have instantly fallen head over heals for this beautiful, excusitely designed camera.
Fuji has soul.
So far, my favorite improvements over the Leica M are:
- Color. Fantastic colors, 100% accurate white balance.
- Portability. Size and weight are fantastic.
- Price. A Fuji is replacable. A Leica is not.
- Autofocus. A given, but wow what a change!
- Battery recharge over USB.
In general, this Fuji is simply a better camera in nearly every measurable way — I'm not alone in thinking this either. I've always had "something else" that pulled me towards the Leica anyway — and that's simply inspiration — Leica's inspire. Somehow, that inspiration seems to fade within me, over time. Perhaps the cycle will never end. Perhaps it just did.
Leica is for Luxury. Fuji is for Photography.
I’m holding onto the Leica M for a while. I may sell it, trade it for a Leica M2 + cash, ossilate back into Leica land, etc. Who knows, maybe it will make a perfect “once-in-a-lifetime” gift for someone special one day :)