Like many bloggers, I have other interests aside from my passion for vintage bicycles (shock!). Photography has always been an avocation for me. I was introduced, early on, to my father’s 1953 Leica IIIf camera, and since then, have nurtured my passion for film and digital photography. At one point, before the digital revolution, I housed a darkroom in a spare bathroom. But, those days are gone.
Photographing bicycles, however, is a very difficult task. Visually speaking, bicycles are nothing more than narrow tubes and shiny parts. They are hard to photograph, and especially difficult to capture in natural settings without the aid of studio lighting. In bright sunlight, the metal parts will send photons into a camera’s light meter, and throw off your exposure. And, visually conveying the shape of the bicycle’s frame and individual components usually means using a very open lens aperture for close up shots, to limit the depth of field to the image you want to portray, as in the photo above.
For most of the photographs on this site, I have used a Leica Digilux 2, which is now over 10 years old and therefore considered obsolete in the world of digital photography. Nonetheless, it still has a loyal following as an “affordable” Leica, made so by the existence of its fixed, non interchangeable Summicron lens. But, what a good lens it is, with a 28-90mm focal length and an aperture which opens up to f 2. If you have used film rangefinder cameras, it’s hard to go back to the slow acting shutter of an SLR. Film rangefinders have notoriously excellent focusing capability, so long as you adjust for parallax when using long lenses. The Leica Digilux 2 has a frustrating manual focus, but I prefer to use it over the unreliable autofocus found in this early technology camera. And, of course, this camera is too big and bulky to safely bring with me on a bike ride, so my iPhone camera has had to suffice for on the road photos. Hence, I have pined for a smaller rangefinder camera that would satisfy my artistic senses and at the same time be affordable and reasonably portable.
After doing some research, I became convinced that I needed this Panasonic Lumix G rangefinder (Model DMC-GM1K). It is tiny, pretty, and was made to look and feel like a Leica, with its quirky manual dials, and sexy black and silver case.
It comes standard with a 12-32 mm (equivalent to a 24-64 mm lens for a 35 mm camera) f3.5 lens, pictured first, above, and with its 4/3 size, there are many other lens options available. I also purchased the Olympus M.Zuiko 45 mm (equivalent to a 90 mm lens for a 35 mm camera) f1.8 lens, after reading some reviews, which is pictured second. Amazingly, this camera can also accept Leica lenses by using an optional adapter.
You can see just how small it really is – it fits easily into the palm of my hand. The only downside to its tiny size is the equally paltry-sized dials which are too easy to accidentally press when handling the camera. It also does not have a viewfinder, but the quality of the LED screen and the ability to add a manual focus aid to the set up made it relatively effortless to use right out of the box. It is very light and feels delicate, so when I do take it with my on my bike travels, I will be carefully packing it to insure that it is protected from road shock.
Toward that end, I purchased an accessory case which will help to protect it when in use, which is also very Leica-like, as the top piece can be unsnapped and removed, but with the body still in its case.
All of the images in this post were taken with the new camera, except those of the camera itself (taken with the Leica), and the photo of both cameras together (taken with the iPhone). And, while there is much to learn and master with this new little camera, I have a feeling that the Lumix G might become the main camera I use for just about everything. It’s got Wi-Fi connectivity, and too many features to fathom. With today’s miserable weather (the Portland rains have begun), I seem to now have no choice but to actually read the owner’s manual.
I still shoot film I’ve always wanted to get a leica m6, i alternate between a olympus 35 rc range finder and a pentax K1000, Ive photographed bikes in the past and its always yielded some great shots.
Yes. The M6 is a fantasy of mine. Thank you for sharing your camera equipment recommendations.
I also used a 1953 Leica fIII with a nice, very fast 5cm lens for years and years. Well past its “use by” date, when everyone else was shooting motor drive Nikons as the height of technology, my own Nikons got used for professional gigs and my little IIIf continued to be used for my personal work. It was only the advent of digital photography that placed this fine, tough, reliable Leica body on the shelf. It sits there now, gazing down on me as I type this reply. Digital photography has eclipsed film in many ways, and regardless of my predilection for Fred-ness in other aspects of my life, I doubt I’ll ever shoot another roll of film. But any credit I have for photography goes back to that little Leica body that accompanied me across most of the continents on this planet, and left me with memorable images.
What a great IIIf story! I know a few people still doing film. Maybe it will make a come back, like LPs.
Though it’s too bulky to take everywhere on the bike, I like to use my Pentax K-01 mirrorless with my old M-series 1980s lenses for bike photos, especially the 50mm f1.4. Even though it came with an AF 18-55 I don’t use that ( I’m old school I guess ! ).
I recently bought a decent M-series 200mm f4 for it at the bargain price of $28AUD at a second hand shop ! It’s a modern camera that can be used with classic K-mount lenses, albeit manually.
Also I use a Nikon J1 and an AW120 on the bike.
The Lumix looks to be a good thing for those longer rides !
Nice score! Love those old, fast lenses. We’ll see what this new one can do.
Nice article.I’m also a D2 person along with LC1s.Your Lumix interests me,could you tell me the model number please?.Thank you
Hi – it is model DMC-GM1k. I edited the post to include the model – thanks for your question. There are other mirrorless micro cameras that are also Leica look-alikes that might be worth considering as well.
Check out the 20mm f1.7 LUMIX lens, too. It’s a great standard focal length–40mm equivilent, same as an old Canonet. I shoot my OM-D almost exclusively with the 20mm.
I’m a Pentax guy, too–a big fan of the 21mm f3.2, a very nice wider-than-normal prime.
Thank you for that Lumix recommendation – it’s nice to have a 40mm focal length as an all round lens.