The dilemma of the Leica

Hullo everyone,

Lately, I have been considering purchasing a Leica Rangefinder. I’m a bit of a purist so I was looking at the earlier 35mm rangefinders, such as the Leitz IIIf’s and M4’s and 5’s. The IIIf because I am a sucker for nostalgia and the 4’s and 5’s because they were probably the ones that had the feature set I wanted (hmph, why can’t Leica make a Leitz III lookalike with the features of an M7… I would buy that).

However, never mind the Leica, it got me thinking, and this is in reference to discussions I had been having with my housemates dilemma weighing up whether he should save for an M8 or declare it utterly futile and use the money more wisely, am I really purchasing the Leica as an excercise in practicing on-the-fly focus pulling or was it just, as he referred to, for the hypothetical “Leica experience”.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe photography is essentially an homage to the visual sense, however, does a well made film winder really define the experience of photography, or is it the way that the eye is forced to look at the world anew? My personal belief is of the latter, which makes the dilemma of the Leica a moot point. However, the quality of the equipment you use to capture the visual sense cannot be divorced from the experience (or in other words, would you eat soup with a fork?). And there in lies the fine line between being a camera gear fetishist and a too hip for my own good lomographer, and the dilemma of the photographer.

Most photographers, at least people who actively label themselves as photographers, fall into the two categories above. It is a polarization of ideology similar to evangelists and hippies. Just as a camera gear fetishist is more likely to take a picture of his camera than what the camera is looking at, so is a lomographer more likely to snap incoherently without looking through the viewfinder at all and declare it a piece of post-modernist art, “because that is the lomographic way”, at which point two things happen, 1. they become the exact anti-thesis of a photographer 2. the appreciation of a non-photograph taken without any thought pulls them further away from being a photographer.

In either case, neither of these two groups are capturing the visual sense, and hence, neither of these groups can possibly call themselves photographers. It is only when we transcend either the adoration of the physical tools we use to photograph, or the cultural misdirection surrounding a photographic fad, that we can truly unify the eye and the lens. As no two people have eyes that are alike, so too no two people have photographic styles that are exactly alike (although some may aspire to others).

And it is here that we discover the Leica experience is not an exclusive experience at all. It is in fact an experience possible with any camera, that of transcendence.

So, I suppose, getting back to the original question…

Do I need a Leica Rangefinder?

Below, my kitchen bench through the eyes of a Holga


The impending thesis

As part of my study, it was and still is, currently, my job to complete a thesis. As a quick heads up, I will be posting regularly to both justify the worth of my theoretical arguments as well as update myself on the progress of the thesis.

I am now coming to the home stretch of my work and as part of that, it is now the most critical time for self-analysis, as part of the construction of a conclusion leading to an overall thematic argument. So far, the arguments I have (gleaned from my iPad, thanks goes to my supervisor, Dr. Mark Finn… Hi there!) that thread this 80 odd page document together (eventually) are:

That while meritocracy does not help MMORPGs as they are currently implemented. There is currently no viable alternative paradigm to motivate players of this genre of online worlds.

The MMORPGs through the natural evolution of systems of “play”, from theatrical role-playing (Comedia Del’arte), to role-playing games and miniature war games, through to the most direct spiritual link of pen and paper Dungeons and Dragons, have come to represent meritocracies. It could be argued that this drive to the social construct of a meritocracy is a function of human society, so called, social Darwinism.

Lastly, in order to reinforce the relevance of meritocracies in MMORPGs to the earthly reality, using Singapore as an example of a meritocratic technocracy (a variant on meritocracy, as no other society that strictly follow meritocracy exists, or, it could be argued, could ever exist), I will attempt to provide a case that the systems that have evolved over time in MMORPGs mirrors the real world attempts at achieving a meritocracy within a society.

As a final ditty, and as a response to those who simply dismiss this type of work as an excuse to be lazy and get attached to games, i.e. trivialize it, the idea of this thesis is to promote the image that a game is a social structure, whether it is single player with elements of multiplayer (implicit or explicit) or it is an entire virtual world.

[insert grand sweeping statement]

Feel free to debate the issue (I would love it) as it can only force me to focus on the core issues of my argument and refine it… refine it down to a sharp needle spike made of titanium, wrapped with a page of Oscar Wilde’s saying and dipped in a vat of lemon juice with see salt sprinkled on it at the end.

As part of my catharsis I may decide, for some unknown reason, to begin a video documentary about my late night sessions typing away occasionally on the computer, but mostly, mousing here and there and clicking.


Some new lenses

Bonjour! (now you know how to greet in French!) Recently, I shot my own film with my own equipment. As part of the lens set that I shot on I had two incredibly lovely Canon L series lenses, the 16-35mm MKII (amazing contrast, fantastic sharpness throughout the aperture and zoom range and ridiculous handling of flare) and the, ever flexible 24-70mm. These two zoom lenses are and, forever will be, the only zoom lenses I can trust myself with (both are fast enough (f2.8) to be useful in lowlight, while being sharp enough for when clarity is needed in those wide stopped down shots).

However, I was never completely happy about the prime lens set that I rapidly cobbled together out of leftover change and some aggressive (some would say life-threatening) haggling. They included a 28mm 2.8 USM II from Canon along with its counterpart (part of the same series of prime lenses) the 85mm 1.8 USM II. It also included the often raved about, stylistically, Sigma 50mm 1.4.

Don’t get me wrong, these lenses are by no means poor consumer grade plastic toys. Far from it, the combination of these lenses amount to almost AU$2000 last year (should be less now seeing as our currency is of higher valuation than the US dollar at the moment). But, they never really had the characteristics conducive to creating a film (although, they also weren’t terrible). For example, the Canon 28mm 2.8 was severely soft around the border and lacked contrast, necessary for my film, which was a homage to colour, and the Sigma 50mm was razor sharp in the center, but also suffered from severe softening on the edges, not conducive to a film where the subject in the film is unlikely to be front and center all the time. I suppose (and with some post grading for the Canon 28mm) they are perfectly alright for portrait photography or the like, however, they weren’t of high enough quality to use as my dedicated film lenses (not the mention the different characteristics of these lenses being different brands). Just quickly, the 85mm 1.8 from Canon is a dream lens and a bargain to boot (it should really be an L series itself as it has different characteristics to the 85mm 1.2 from Canon).

And do you know what? I finally got the balls to break away from Canon glass and get the lenses that I really wanted. They may be outdated, they may be no longer natively supported, they may also be a bit bashed up, but, there is no denying the quality of the Carl Zeiss lenses made for the Contax SLR systems in the late 80s and 90s, when a metal casing and damped buttery smooth focus ring was a pre-requisite for a consumer to even look at your lens. For less than US$1000 I managed to nab the 28mm 2.8, the 50mm 1.7 and the 85mm 2.8 as well. They may not be the most well known or fastest of the Zeiss range, but, pfft, seriously, people who revert to sub f2.0 shooting by default are idiotic anyway, and, as far as lab tests go, these lenses exhibit the most consistently sharp and contrasty (albeit cold) features of any lens I have ever seen (in fact, I jumped out of my chair when I saw it). The next lens I aim to have in my prime collection is the 21mm 2.8 from Zeiss, although, by itself, this lens goes for over US$1200 on the old eBay.

Anyway, they are due to arrive in the next couple of weeks so be sure to stay tuned for some lens tests to see if my copies are any good. Also, seeing as this is a new blog, I thought I might give you a heads-up that, hopefully, this will keep my tech madness going and concepts and ideas from the technical side of filming on a DSLR will be discussed in the future. Again, if there are any questions please feel free to contact!

Welcome to Chum’s new self-obsession

Hullo, and welcome to my new website. If you want to learn more about me please visit the About & Contact page above. Otherwise, admire the shiny bareness of it all (although I did update the gallery to include the best stills from 2010, check them out and if you want me to “chumify” your film as well don’t hesitate to contact me).

On another note, it has been another tiring day having just come off the final day of principal photography on Amir Rezaie’s upcoming short film, “One Whispers, the Other Shouts” starring Lee Mclenaghan, Julia Harari and Nick Brien, all of which are beautiful people. There were some trying times and some moments when God’s wrath brought us near to tears, but, due to the bulldozing mentality of the core production team, made of up of Amir, himself (in… as he says… fifteen different roles), the indomitable Brendan Krotz on Camera and Lighting and myself on Sound, we managed to complete the filming on time, albeit with a bit of overtime involved.

“One Whispers, the Other Shouts” is a slow and subversive film about the power struggles of neo-feminist female archetypes and the paternalistic role of man, with a little bit of psychotic delusion mixed in. I was impressed by the complexity of the shots and am looking forward to seeing a deep and complex short in the next six months from the man.

And here, now, is a shot I took with my now, sadly, deceased Konica FS-1 (the last SLR to be made my Konica, officially, before they declared insolvency and promptly got snatched up by Minolta). Sunrise at 30,000ft shot out the side of a plane on the way the Rome via Singapore. Kind of poetic I suppose, as it ushers in the dawn of this measly website.