Bodies

Lenses

Bokeh

Etc. 

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Leica M3 and M4

This Leica M3 is my first Leica camera, a model n° 783 631 made in 1955 with a double stroke lever, here with a Summicron 50 mm NF and a Voigtländer light-meter; one of my M4 was made in 1968, another one in 1969. Why have more than one camera body? And is it appropriate to practice street photography with several bodies, round the neck, on one shoulder, in one hand? 

The viewfinder of the M3 is best for 50 or 90mm lenses, whereas the viewfinder of the M4 is better suited to a 35mm or a 50mm lens. Being able to see what is surrounding the frame is useful when one has to decide what should be inside or outside the frame. For that reason, I tend to keep both eyes open, the right one looking through the viewfinder and the left one outside, in order to see a still or moving item which might complete the composition. Having several bodies allows you, therefore, to use almost simultaneously either wide angle, standard or telephoto. Having said that, discretion and invisibility being essential for practicing street photography, it would often be inappropriate to overplay the David Seymour or Robert Capa look.

50mm

This is the basic focal length, and it is the most useful for street photography. I have three 50mm lenses: a Summicron made in 1957, a collapsible Elmar made in 1960 (which reminds me of the gesture of James Mason in the Mankiewicz movie Five Fingers), and a near focusing Summicron made in 1957. With its removable spectacle viewfinder attachment this lens focuses to 19”. 

It is ingenious and versatile, and if I had to keep one lens only, it would be this one.

 

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90mm

The black line surrounding the picture shows that it has not been cropped. When one is, as I am, aiming to keep the black line, one is at the same time worried about having unwanted items surrounding the subject. I hate plastic bags, most modern cars, tracksuits and sweatpants, and I try very hard to keep them out of the frame.

A 90 mm lens is a good answer to this problem, as it reduces both the frame and the depth of field. What is out of focus (also called bokeh, see below) brings a creative effect of blur.

This Elmar 90 mm is collapsible and relatively small when not in use, although its weight is still noticeable. It has a removable spectacle viewfinder for macrophotography, but this is taking us out of the field of traditional street photography.

35mm

I don’t use this lens very much, but it is light and compact and easy to keep in a pocket.  It can be useful for a street photographer as it gives an important depth of field, and enables one to photograph, discretely, a subject placed at the edge of the frame, facing away from the camera.

For this reason, I sometimes have used a 21mm lens which amplifies these effects, although the perspective effect caused by the extreme wide angle can distort the image if one isn’t  pointing the camera straight.


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Bokeh

Bokeh is a Japanese word meaning out of focus. It is used to describe the effect of unsharpness where part of the picture is out of focus.

This effect is more visible at wide aperture, as small aperture gives more depth of field. The bokeh technique can be used where part of the image is intended to be out of focus, as in the pictorial effects of impressionism or pointillism. Some lenses produce a good bokeh, some are better for bokeh either before or after focus, some can be used for both and some don’t give a good bokeh at all.

We can see examples of bokeh in a lot of movies, especially old ones; when the subject at the front gets out of focus, it means that the centre of attention will shift to the subject at the back.