LEICA

Alternative views on the Leica world by Erwin Puts

Agility is the new buzzword in Leica Wetzlar

In a recent video, the director of operations, Mr. Stankovic, explains how cameras are assembled in the current workflow in the Wetzlar buildings. To give you some context, the classical way of manufacturing, serial numbers allocation and assembly may be elucidated.
When Leica had only two camera systems (the R- and M-line) with a range of lenses, the workflow was like this: the product manager decided how many cameras and lenses were to be made, based on demand and sales forecasts. Then for every camera and lens a batch of serial numbers was reserved and the production of such a batch started. The production of every batch required time, because the batches were made in succession. This had the consequence that some products were temporarily unavailable or (worse!) did not sell at all and were in stock for a long time. This method was transparent, but had the danger that capital was destroyed. The manufacturing method was a version of the very old assembly line: a line of workstations was established and on every workstation one person assembled some parts of the product.
The agility concept implies that the production responds very quickly, if not immediately to market movements. A new product requires a fast production run to have enough items available, but the demand of existing products also needs to be satisfied. Therefore the new method is to have a number of assembly stations where one person assemblies up to ten different products (presumably in a period between a day and a week). This method explains a few things: serial numbers are now almost allocated at random, the product quality is less than what it was. Classical cameras (like the M-A) are organically assembled from a number of parts. That is why one person on one workstation assembles one camera at a time. This can be done because demand is low.
Modern digital cameras are assembled with subgroups (like shutter mechanism and electronic boards) and every assembly stage is controlled by computer. This makes it easier to assemble a variety of products in a short period. For lenses the same method is implemented.
The advantages are clear: hardly any obsolete stock and a fast reaction to changing demands. The disadvantage? Think for yourself!

Rules for now


1. apply snapshot style to your personal photography
2. select everyday moments and things you are emotionally attached to
3. avoid cliché photographs, including picturesque scenery
4. avoid simulation of art photographs, also cliché!
5. do not take photographs of conventional things and events
6. be creative in the sense of spontaneity and instantaneity
7. use film
8. do not believe that digital is better
9. apply the detective approach
10. accept that the cameras sees different things than common causal perception and presents them differently
11. forget about photographic language, photographic seeing, photographic message and all this stuff
12. avoid street photography and the snapshot-aesthetic approach
13. straight photography or deadpan photography and Leica photography are a happy symbiosis
14. read Robert Penn “It’s all about the bike” if you wish to understand photography
15. everyone (including Leica marketing and Leica development) claims that the path from analog to digital has a teleological necessity: progress implies that old technologies are obsolete and restrictive
16. this is false: digitization of the camera simply increases profit.
17. if you insist on walking the digital path, use the Leica M8 or M10, or both
18. my preferred tools?
19. Most used: Leica M-A, Leica M7, Apo-Summicron-M 2/50, Sekonic L-398A III, Ilford Delta 100, Kodak TMax 100, ADOX FX-39
20. Occasionally used: M8, M Monochrome II, Iridient Developer, Epson R-3000

Spur-Orthopan UR

A few days ago I loaded my M-A with Spur Orthopan UR film. It should be known that this is an Agfa-Gevaert microfilm emulsion with a useable sensitive for photographic purposes from ISO 6 to ISO 25. When using the Apo-Summicron-M 2/50 mm ASPH. the shutter speed is between 1/125 and 1/500 at f/2 or f/2.8 depending on the brightness level of the ambient light. For these pictures, made in sunny bright daylight I selected ISO 6. The negatives had a high contrast, but showed no grain at all. The scanning procedure did not reduce the contrast. The two pictures below show that this emulsion is capable of producing images that are equal to what is possible with computational photography. isabelle-01_copya53_copy

analog-digital: what does it mean?

The pair of contrasting concepts is now the standard way to describe the difference between silver-halide processes and the computational processes inside the solid-state equipped modern cameras. The advantage of this pair is clarity: you know what you are talking about, they are easily used and nobody will be confused when you are referring to one or the other. What is not clear, is the exact content of the concepts, especially when applied to the alternative and complementary photographic processes.
For a long time I have wondered what an analog photographic process is. The description and analysis of silver-halide processes since the early 1840s do not use the word 'analog'. The few recent books about silver-halide processing (Haist, Modern Photographic Processes and Tadaaki, Photographic Sensitivity) do not use the word 'anaog' at all.
First of all: the word is traditionally spelled as 'analogue'. American writers drop the silent -ue. 'Analog' is now routinely used in relation with electronics and 'analogue' is used in the sense that someting bears an analogy to somethinge else. An analogy is a similarity between two things that are otherwise dissimilar. The word 'analogy' derivers frome Greek word meaning 'proportionate' and this is correct.
There are two domains where the analog-digital pair is used: the computer industry and the signal-processing industry.
Analogue is related to analogy and this concept is used in the construction of scientific theories. When a scientist has a number of experimental data and wants to give an explanation of what is happening, a model or analogy with familiar events or objects is often introduced. The main definition of ‘analog’ originated in the computer industry. An analog computer represented data in a way that reflects the properties of the data being modelled. Data and numbers may be represented by physical quantities such as electric voltage levels. Analogue computing is primarily a modelling technology. An analogue computer contains shafts, wheels, discs and gears to perform operations and also used relays and vacuum tubes. All this gear was used to simulate and model some physical process in reality. Physical processes can be described mathematically with differential equations and this type of functions can be simulated with analogue computers.
The calculations based on analogue computers that use proportions to simulate and compare processes have a finite accuracy. The newer development of digital computers could increase the accuracy by using a long string of binary digits and were also more reliable. Originally there was no word for the type of computers used for simulation and equation solving. They were just 'computers'. When the digital computer was introduced, a new name 'analogue computers' was given to the modelling type, because analogy was the method that was used to model, calculate and simulate processes happening in the real physical world.
Analogue and digital in the computing world are not alternatives but complementary techniques.

These two parallel themes of calculation and modelling have to be separated when discussing the concepts of analogies, simulations and modelling.
The study of the process of silver-halide photography reveals that there is no computing involved and hardly any simulation or modelling. The characterization of the silver-halide process as analogue is false from whatever angle it is approached.
In the photographic world the interpretation of the two words (analog and digital) is derived from a definition used in electric signal processing. An analog signal is a continuous signal which represents physical measurements. The signal is represented by sine waves and the values of the measurements are mathematically continuous. A digital signal is a discrete time signal generated by digital modulation. The signal is denoted by square waves and the values of the measurements are mathematically discontinuous (or discrete). In order to input these values into a computer the values are converted to digital strings of zeros and ones. The analog signal is concerned with small fluctuations that are meaningful, whereas the digital signal uses large electric charges or voltages.
This description is valid for signal processing and the charge-coupled devices used for the capture, transmittance and storage of electrical signals. A modern photographic camera, equipped with charge-coupled devices, is in fact a powerful computer that processes data in binary format.
A series of MOS capacitors that transport and store electric voltages or currents is called a charge-coupled device and when the voltages or currents (the charge packets) are linked to photon counting or imaging, the device is called an imager. The best description of a ‘digital’ camera would be a camera equipped with an imager.
To describe a camera as digital when inside the camera metal-oxide semiconductor capacitors do the work is an obvious, but narrow-minded approach.

The word ‘digital’ has become magical. When the inside working of a device is based on digital technology it is good, reliable and cheap. The original analog devices are forgotten. All analogue technology is based upon the idea that the magnitude of an electric current or voltage has to be analogous to something in the real world. The bad point is that every electric circuit has a certain randomness, a noise effect that mingles with the analog signal values to produce an uncertainty. Analog signals are small, noise-laden voltages. The new idea is to go from small voltages to large ones: a high voltage is interpreted as one, a low voltage as zero. This one-zero concept was already used to represent numbers in computers and this concept was therefore called ‘digital’. Now the code patterns can describe everything and he strength of the signal is no longer important, The code pattern becomes a non-physical entity. We already had such a system in the past: the telegraph system where time plays an important part: the sequence of long and short intervals between the clicks of the telegraph mechanism.
The technology that is used inside a digital camera is the solid-state imaging that is possible with these charge-coupled devices.
Looking in the most recent brochures about the Canon EOS-1V and the Nikon F4, thee is no mention of the analogue processes and of analog cameras. These models are simply called cameras, very advanced and full of electronics of course, but just cameras. There is some mention of opto-mechatronics technology, but that is all there is to say. It is the analogous situation with the early computers. Before the introduction of the digital computer no one knew or was interested to describe such a computer as analogue.
The digital camera has the same functions and the same type of microcontrollers and printed circuits (Canon boasts that the EOS-1V has lots of 32 bits CPU's) and even the same functionality as these older cameras. The only difference is the fact that the F4 and 1V have to be loaded with film and that the modern EOS-1Dx and Nikon D5 are equipped with solid-state imagers.
The most obvious way to distinguish these two types (film using and imager equipped) would be to use a description such as: cameras using film and cameras fitted with imagers). If a shorter description would be needed the word 'film camera' is not smart, because of the fact that movie cameras also are described as film cameras or cinema cameras. This is confusing. Analogue and digital cameras is also not a smart idea, because of the connection to computations. Inside a digital camera lots of computations take place, but there is no computation at all in the silver-halide photography. When we could agree that silver-halide is the core technology of photography, we might say that we have two types of cameras: photographic cameras and computational cameras. Such a description is more to the point of the core processes inside the camera. A camera is a technological and physical artefact, not a digital or analogue one.
Perhaps I am to nitpicking to question the time-honored description, sanctioned by industry and all photographers in the world. Adoption and conciseness is one side of the medal:a clear description of the technology involved is another one. Given the fact that 'analogue' is associated with archaic, dinosaur and Luddite, and 'digital' with modern, progress and future, it makes sense to return to the roots and find the origin of words and why they are used so falsely in technological discussions about photography.

David Douglas Duncan died on June 7, 2018


DDD as he was known, was one of the last and perhaps greatest photojournalist of the twentieth century. He was the equal of Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Eugene Smith. He died 102 years old and gave away all his possessions a few years before 2008, living in a French villa at a hill overseeing Cannes.
Some of his possessions were a handful of Leica cameras. He became famous within the photographic world because he selected the newly discovered Nikkor lenses above the Leitz designs. He presumably had the Nikkor lens mounts adapted for his Leica cameras. The content of his pictures were less important than this technical detail. He was however a photographer of the old school who was more interested in taking pictures than talking technically or artistically about them. His pictures were grainy and gritty, probably made with Kodak Tri-X pushed to the limit.
His selection of the Nikkor lenses was a topic of high importance. When a working photographer of his standing threw away the Leitz designs, there must be a garin of truth. Crawley claimed that the Japanese optical designers favoured a high contrast at low frequencies, where as the German counterparts favoured the low contrast at high frequencies, because this was better suited to the new colour films with the finely graded colour hues.
Most Zeiss MTF measurements of older Japanese lenses indicate that this conclusion is not correct: the older Japanese lenses show a low contrast at low frequencies and an even lower contrast at high frequencies. It might be the case that Japanese designs had a (relatively) high contrast at the medium frequencies, precisely where the Kodak Tri-X emulsion showed its best performance.
It is an intriguing problem. The historical discussion indicates that the eye is easily fooled and that the MTF values do not show the proper optical performance the human brain appreciates.