DMR: First year (long)

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by doug herr, Apr 14, 2007.

  1. It's been one year more or less since good fortune graced me with a DMR. Its features that have made the biggest differences in my photos are common to most DSLR cameras: the extremely low cost per exposure, the superior high-ISO image quality, and the near-instant feedback. The DMR's excellent dynamic range and color rendition have also been a huge benefit. I will always be thankful for the benefactor who offered the DMR to me on very favorable terms and for those whose generosity permitted me to keep the DMR during my family's crisis earlier this year.
    My favorite pictures so far made with the DMR, with photographic notes where appropriate, all at ISO 400 with -1 stop compensation (prevents highlight clipping) except where noted. Due to the number of photos in this post I've provided HTML links instead of in-line photos for the sake of those on dial-up.
    Canada Geese
    R8/DMR, 280 f/4 APO + 1.4x APO-Extender-R
    One of my earliest DMR photos, and the one where I learned to "chimp". I had been working close to the ground with the camera on a tripod collapsed as low as it would go. I heard the geese coming and saw that their probable flight path would give some good backgrounds. No time to switch to shoulder stock or monopod so I picked the whole rig up tripod and all to pan along with the birds. Exposures made and geese gone, a silly grin came over my face as I reviewed the new photos. I had learned to "chimp".
    Ash- throated Flycatcher
    R8/DMR, 560mm f/6.8
    With this photo I learned to take advantage of the DMR's high-ISO capabilities and excellent shadow detail retention. The ISO setting on the camera was 400, but I had set exposure compensation to -3 stops to keep shutter speeds workable (~ 1/125 sec), bringing up the image tones during development and further refined with Photoshop. This is cropped with no noise reduction.
    Cooper's Hawk
    R8/DMR, 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R
    In this pair of photos (second is below) I realized how much better the DMR's color quality is than professional ISO 400 slide film. Both photos are uncropped from the same location; the only difference is the camera body.
    Cooper's Hawk
    Leicaflex SL2/Provia 400F, 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R
    It also dawned on me that to get the same image size with the film camera I could use the 1.4x extender, and that with the extender's loss of light I'd have to use a faster film to use the same shutter speed as I did with the DMR and no extender. Thus a valid comparison for my purposes is DMR @ ISO 400 vs. ISO 800 color film. In technical quality it's no contest, the DMR wins.
    Dall's Sheep
    R8/DMR, 560mm f/6.8 Telyt
    ALASKA! I spent six summers in Alaska in my younger days and now on the 30th anniversary of my first summer I brought the DMR. Chimping and the histogram display made this photo possible. In my first few exposures of this ram the brightest whites had lost detail due to clipping; histogram review and subsequent exposure adjustments brought back the detail in the brightest white areas (clearly visible in the print)
    Gray Jay
    R8/DMR, 280mm f/4 APO
    I was beginning to notice some aliasing and color moire in the fine feather detail, particularly when using the 280 APO which can resolve more than just about anything else. A photoshop plug-in from tamed the beast, and only where it reared its head. The DMR's battery life was a problem occasionally, fortunately I was car-camping and had 12-volt power available overnight.
    Steller's Jay
    R8/DMR, 560mm f/6.8 with 1.4x APO-Extender-R
    I'm not a big fan of the cropped viewfinder OTOH it allows the SLR user to see the action outside the frame lines and anticipate when the action will be in the picture area.
    Common Merganser
    R8/DMR, 560mm f/6.8 Telyt
    I've gradually realized that the DMR's high-ISO image quality as made the 560mm Telyt much more usable than with film; I can use higher shutter speeds in weaker light and still get image quality equivalent to E100G, my current favorite slide film. All the E100G photos made of this bird were tossed due to subject motion.
    Yellow-billed Magpie
    R8/DMR, Novoflex 400mm f/5.6
    Birds with large areas of black and white plumage were always a problem with film because I could get detail in the white areas or detail in the black plumage or neither. The DMR's dynamic range plus judicious histogram chimping helps keep the detail in these black-and-white birds.
    Clapper Rail
    R8/DMR, 560mm f/6.8 Telyt
    DMR's dynamic range to the rescue again. With film I'd have lost shadow detail or white detail or both.
    I'm showing these photos just 'cuz I like 'em. All: R8/DMR:
    American Kestrel
    Western Bluebird
    American Avocet
    Long-eared Owl
    Northern Saw- whet Owl
    Problems: the battery life can be a problem especially with heavy chimping, the R8+DMR is a hefty package, and I'd really like an SL viewfinder in the R8. All things considered though I'm looking forward to another year with the DMR.
  2. WOW! Beautiful images, showing what the DMR, in the right hands, is capable of!
  3. Extraordinary images. You really are the 21st century's Audubon.

    Your preference for the DMR over E100G will make me reconsider my preference for film over digital, at least insofar as color slide film and SLRs are concerned.

    Thanks for an informative post and beautiful images.
  4. Doug, not only are you a master in your discipline but also a most generous person to share all this insight of yours. Thanks a lot, it's always a pleasure to read your posts!
  5. None better that I've ever seen. But then your images shine regardless of which camera you use.
  6. Marvellous.
  7. Highly impressive!
  8. Very fine Images, thanks for sharing those.
  9. Doug, I was interested to see you use the apo extender with the 560. Any general comments on using it with that and other lenses? For instance, do I see a degradation in image quality (not in the least to criticize your beautiful results!!) of the 280/4 APO when using the extender compared to without? How do the results of cropping an image without the extender to match image size with the extender compare, and is there a dependence on the f stop used? Your patience with your art and love of the avian realm show in all your photos.
  10. Doug, thanks for sharing your photos and experiences. Wondering if you've found any
    particular situations when you'd prefer film?
  11. Nice review, and some lovely images. The technical quality is impeccable in all but the final shot (Northern Saw-whet Owl), which shows quite a bit of noise.
  12. What Lutz said so eloquently!

    Best wishes and regards to you, Doug!
  13. Awfully good, Doug.

    In addition to admiring the photos, I found myself wondering how you managed to spend 6 summers during your "younger days" in Alaska ?

    Hope your family is well.
  14. Beautiful images and solid recommendation of the DMR. Why did Leica discontinue it?
  15. Thanks for the comments, and for taking the time to load the photos!<P>
    Harry, the 1.4x extender causes a slight loss of image quality under controlled test
    conditions. Of the photos linked here, two were made with the 280 APO and 1.4x APO-
    Extender: Canada Geese and American Kestrel (captive). The 280 APO by itself easily out-
    resolves the DMR (and film for that matter); in the Canada Geese photo resolution was
    limited by the hand-held panning and slower shutter speed (about 1/125 sec IIRC)
    however in the American Kestrel photo (bright light, shoulder stock & monopod) at high
    magnification the detail in the bird is satifactorily mind-boggling. You make a good point
    about 1.4x extender vs. cropping: in low light conditions where I mght be under-exposing
    to keep shutter speeds up it's better to crop (IMHO) vs. using the extender because
    shadow noise is less. In plentiful light I'd rather use the 1.4x extender so that I can see
    more clearly the finer points of composition and posture. When using the 560mm Telyt
    with the 1.4x extender the lens combination resolved less than the DMR is capable of
    Peter, I'm having a hard time with your question. On an emotional level I'd rather do
    everything on film, perhaps because I've used slide film for nearly 40 years, perhaps
    because it's much easier to look at the slides w/o dealing with a computer, and perhaps
    because using film (for me) means using my all-time favorite cameras, the Leicaflex SL or
    SL2. From a technical POV the DMR wins 90% of the time but where a lower ISO is feasible,
    or where viewfinder quality makes a difference in catching posture nuances or accurately
    placing the limited zone of focus, I'd rather use the Leicaflex (SL or SL2) with E100G.
    Mike, the Nothern Saw-whet Owl was a 1/2 sec exposure between gusts of wind with -2
    stops exposure compensation. I'd rather do this than use flash because I prefer the look
    of natural lighting.
  16. I'd rather do this than use flash because I prefer the look of natural lighting.
    Same here. Just thought that one looked like it had been pushed a bit. Still, excellent stuff.
  17. SCL


    Doug - As always a wonderful collection of masterpieces. You set some really high standards for the rest of us to attempt to achieve. My hat's off to you, and thanks for your commentary as well!
  18. Superb work usual, your dedication show through you images.
  19. What a gift (pictures plus technical notes)! Thanks Doug.

    I have read that Leica has stopped the production of DMR. Any idea what they have in store for us?
  20. "I have read that Leica has stopped the production of DMR"
    As I understand it, DMR production has ended because Leica's DMR partner Imacon is now a part of Hasselblad and Hasselblad considers Leica a competitor.
    "Any idea what they have in store for us?"
    I have no inside info, the rumor mill says the R10 will be a full-frame digital-only camera.
    Michael S. wrote: "I found myself wondering how you managed to spend 6 summers during your "younger days" in Alaska ?"
    I took a break from engineering school and worked at a variety of summer jobs.
  21. Kudos to Doug. Your photographs continue to inspire all who view them!
  22. Just a great teaching post. Thanks for taking all the time to share it with you. I still like the Leicaflex SL viewfinder best of all the cameras I've used.
  23. Douglas, thank you very much for taking the time to post such a beautiful series of photographs and the wealth of information and experiences. Not only are your photographs beautiful but your prose style shows your generosity and accesibility. I have enjoyed my virtual trip through Nature... and now I have your website among my favorites.

    I hope you have a great day!
  24. Great work, Doug, as usual!
  25. Due to the number of photos in this post I've provided HTML links instead of in-line photos for the sake of those on dial-up.
    This should be a required practice for multiple photos, even if they are linked right from a folder. Thanks for thinking of those of us that are still in the dark ages with dial-up.
    Very nice images Doug.
  26. Doug,
    I agree with everything you say regarding the quality of DMR images and the improvements over film since, as you know, I'm going through the same transition period after acquiring the DMR recently myself. Besides, how could I disagree with you since you taught me everything I know about Leica R and bird photography over the past five years.....and I'm probably not alone in this regard. You're not only a great photographer but a great teacher, as this post you've made proves so well.

  27. Doug, Great Work and you are really a nice guy (writing all the stuff from A-Z for the learners like us) - thanks for sharing the photos.
    Keep doing the best work!

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