Shanghai – Weeks 07-12

May 28, 2012


Long time, no see. And unfortunately it`s the better way to handle things. I was getting tired of ranting about the culture clash, I`m sure most of you felt the same.

This week`s entry is about the newly announced Leica gear, and about what I have been doing here the past weeks. To be honest, not much! I`m actually enjoying going to the office in the morning. There are plenty of things to keep me busy throughout the day, and I finally get the feeling that I`m accomplishing something. Last week two of my projects went in to the construction detailing stage, now all I have to do is to refrain from spanking the landscape “architects” and their undying need to modify perfectly good designs. :D

I`ll probably be able to show some of my work in the weeks to come. I`m sure many of my university colleagues are curious about the projects.

I`m currently working on a small orthodox chapel; and, as many of you know, the most used phrase is “It must be outstanding, but cheap!” so it shouldn`t be too hard to get this one together and out the door to production. :)
It`s pointless to complain about the weather again but I just want to say that it`s terrific during the week and is utterly crap during the weekend.

This past weekend we actually had good weather and we made the best of it.

As every other weekend we had brunch at Munchies. It`s an all American dinner style place with some south of the border dishes as well . They serve burgers, sandwiches, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas and all sorts of other goodies. It`s just hard to resist going there every Saturday morning.

On top of that I made it out of a McDonald`s without ordering anything so that must be a good sign as well. :)
For those of you troubled by my cuisine choices, I just like to point out that Monday-Friday I eat exclusively Chinese food, so I deserve a little treat at the end of the week.

We are getting used to the long distances we have to cover by subway or on foot. They don`t seem as tiresome as they used to. We are seeing more and more beautiful places and we`re meeting new interesting people every day.
Ordering food and buying things is not a problem anymore. I have tuned my ear to the Chinese language and, surprisingly, I find myself giving an answer in the same language. (for now, just simple things … but I`m getting there)

This last weekend we did something really fun. We started the Sunday with Men In Black 3 at the cinema. Neither of us had been to a morning screening since we were kids, and it felt good. The movie was fun thus it put a nice spin on the whole day. We followed that with Munchies. (if you ever get to Shanghai … it`s a no-brainer) And after that we hit the stores like determined bank-robbers, I was in dire need of new clothes.

We revisited the Old Town afterwards (crowded, full of tourists and Chinese fake-market hustlers).

And we ended the night on the Bund. The girls wanted to see the financial district at sunset so I complied.

Overall our experience here is only going to get better from now on and we`re planning on staying for as long as there is good architecture to be made.

For more pictures revisit the Picasa Album. It has been updated fairly recent.

Now on to some more technical stuff:


For those pixel-peepers out there, Leica launched the M9-Monochrom – 8000$ (~6000Euros) with a greyscale sensor . In my opinion it`s going to be a classic like the M6 and the M3 before that. Upon inspecting the samples that have surfaced from reputable sources (Ming Thein and Steve Huff) I can`t figure what else could anyone want more out of a black and white camera? The 18MP and the ISO6400 quality will be enough for anyone for probably 10-20 years, especially if you`re shooting BW film right now and you plan on doing that for the next 20 years.

At a 5 Euros/cartridge of TRI-X (or HP5) and 7 Euros for processing and scanning, given that you shoot 1 film every week, that`s 6360 Euros in the first 10 years … the next 10 years you shoot for free. And I don`t even want to get into the benefits of straight digital files (one being … well … more than 36 pictures every week!) . Of course, film has it`s advantages but they are not technical anymore. (in my opinion anyway). The only things that film brings to the table Is the actual limitation of 36 frames and the idea that one has to make the best of them. That stuff will always make you a better photographer. I know it worked for me so it`s got to have some sort of truth to it.

The only problem that the M9-M will have in time is that color sensors in rangefinders will get better and better so the majority of possible buyers will just go for the color M and convert it to B/W and it will probably look just as good. So Leica will have to bring something new to the Monochrom table, but for those non-picky black and white shooters that plan on buying one right now, the M9-M will be just as cherished in 10 years as it is now. You can`t say that about a Nikon D3 or a Canon 1Ds.

The new 50mm Summicron ASPH, on the other hand, is a way to expensive pickle jar. It`s optical quality … outstanding, but when you compare it to a Zeiss or the 50mm Summilux ASPH, it`s kinda pointless to throw 7000$ down the drain when one could have a more versatile lens (or lensES for that matter) for the same amount of cash (or LESS).

I`m sure allot of people will buy it just so they can say they have the best stuff on the market, but photography is not about that … so cheers to them !

I finally bit the bullet and bought a ticket to Photokina this year so I`ll be there with my fingers crossed hoping to get my hands on the next M or something of the sort (although I might be disappointed). If I would be a luxury goods company I wouldn`t launch my new flagship camera with the rest of the manufacturers. I`d make sure to have my own Victoria`s Secret style launch. And they need to look into Apple presentations because the M9-M unveiling was really boring.

A lot of people asked me “Vlad, aren`t you going to buy the new Nikon D800? It`s got like a zillion pixels and shit” And the answer is still: “No, I`m not buying it”.

As long as I`ll have lighter alternatives to what the D700 can give me, I`ll take those instead of two buckets of megapixels.

Here`s the scoop: as far as I`m concerned, the biggest commercial job that I had were some printed panoramas 3.6m x 0.8 m and I`ve done those with the D700 flawlessly. Thus, although it`s wonderful to have the megapixels, I don`t really NEED them, and on top of that, I`m already crying for a new back-up solution because my HDDs and available bays are almost full. I don`t want to overburden myself with huge files.

A better idea for someone like me would be to buy the D4, but have you seen the size of that? I don`t want to be the new Notre Dame hunchback in a couple of years, it`s bad enough as it is.

So I`m set on moving to a digital rangefinder as soon as possible. But that`s easier said than done. Especially because my close friends want to travel allot and whenever I get to save enough … I find myself in a airport, towards a new place. :)

In the meantime I`m trying to find a new film camera for myself and I have tried the common used camera stores but with no luck. There are plenty of suitable contenders but the state that I find them on is sub-par. The humidity in Shanghai is over the top; thus the rust settles in really fast, and once that happens there`s no going back.

Many camera shops actually sell big humidors for your photography gear collection. Too bad they don`t use them to store ALL the merchandise throughout the year.

So if you`re in Shanghai for a couple of days and you want to hit the used camera stores double check everything you buy for rust, dust, oil, screws that don`t match and other signs that the product has been tampered with. There are some real bargains (diamonds in the rough, as they say) but you need to really look! Oh, and the price shown is never the actual price; there`s always room for negotiations. And as a rule of thumb, if he starts negotiating after you said your price, that actually means he`s ok with your price but wants to see if he can squeeze more money out of you. I do my homework in advance and then I stick to one final price. If they don`t agree I can always try again next week, until they crack, and will sell just to get rid of me. I`m currently doing this with film.

Until my next entry,

Take care everyone!

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