Thursday, March 31, 2011

It rains on Koh Samui

While the unrest in North Africa and Middle East as well as the earthquake, tsunami, and the resulting nuclear crisis in Japan understandably grab most of our attention, Thailand is also facing some severe problems. The heavy rains in the south of Thailand have resulted in flooding that has so far killed at least 15 people, and already some 80 districts in eight provinces have been declared disaster areas. Last year about 200 people were killed in the floods in the south of Thailand.

One of the areas that has been hit the hardest is the popular holiday destination, Koh Samui, where more than 10 000 tourists are currently stranded. What western media usually fails to mention is that there are also about 50 000 local residents on the island. Having left Koh Samui about two weeks ago, this was the worst of rain I faced. A fortnight later things have changed.

Bo Phut, Koh Samui, 2011 - Leica M8, 1/180, ISO 160

Chaweng, Koh Samui, 2011 - Leica M8, 1/125, ISO 160

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

CV 75/2.5 at the Bangkok Grand Palace

As you have perhaps seen in my latest post I have planned on using the Cosina Voigtländer 75/2.5 Color-Heliar telephoto lens on the Leica M8. The goal was to have fun with this lens and especially test its usefulness for travel photography. The playground for this little experiment is Thailand, and below you can find a small set of photographs at the Bangkok Grand Palace.

A short telephoto lens is often seen as a portrait lens. Certainly, the CV 75/2.5 fits the part. For someone looking specifically for a portrait lens, there is a another good Voigtländer alternative: the new 75/1.8 Heliar. While the CV 75/2.5 is sharp across the aperture range, the CV 75/1.8 is said to give a softer look wide open. A razor-sharp portrait is seldom appreciated. You don't want your portraits to look like this:

2011 - Leica M8, 1/500, ISO 160

CV 75/2.5 as a travel lens

Few of us enjoy a large and heavy kit for travel. The CV 75/2.5 is only 64.5 mm long and weighs merely 230 g. The newer CV 75/1.8 is hardly that much bigger at 73.8 mm although at 427 g it weighs almost twice as much as the tiny 75/2.5. For travel any reduction in bulk or weight is however warmly welcomed.

In addition to portraits, a telephoto lens is useful for excluding unwanted distractions from your photographs, photographing details, and compressing landscapes and distant views. Below you can find examples of all three. It would have been difficult to avoid the crowds of tourist in the first photograph with a wider lens. Much the same is achieved with a telephoto lens in the third photo. More importantly, the scale of the buildings is better perceived due to the compression effect. I have included 100% crops of both close and more distant details to give some idea of the lens sharpness (see the links). I can say this is one sharp lens even wide open.

2011 - Leica M8, 1/1000, ISO 160

2011 - Leica M8, 1/750, ISO 160

2011 - Leica M8, 1/1000, ISO 160

Perhaps the only minor gripe I have about this lens is its close focus distance, which is unfortunately limited to 1 m. A 0.7-m limit would make it much more useful, especially for travel when you wish to get by with as little gear as possible. The CV 75/1.8 focuses down to 0.9 m, so it is only slightly better in this respect.

2011 - Leica M8, 1/250, ISO 160