There is a Japanese garden in the Amsterdamse Bos, a wooded area in-between Amsterdam and Amstelveen. Every spring time, the cherry blossoms bloom, and the garden is a popular weekend trip for many families in the neighbourhood. In April 2013 I went along to see if I could pick up some nice shots of the trees.
Due to the design of a rangefinder system, the photographer is fairly limited when it comes to focusing close up. The Leica rangefinder system has a close focusing distance of between 0.7m and 1.0m, depending on the lens used. Compare a 50mm f/2 Summicron lens, such as the one used in this post, which has a minimum focusing distance of 0.7m, with an equivalent Nikon or Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens which can focus up to around 0.45m, and the differences for close up photography are easily recognisable. Add to this the fact that a Canikon lens can also be used together with extension tubes or a close up filter to get even closer due to the design of the SLR through-the-lens system, and it can be a very easy decision to shoot with an SLR when you want to go close. However to see how flexible the Leica would be under these circumstances, I went along with the M-E matched with the 50mm Summicron.
I quickly realised that the sort of shots I would be able to get would be very different to an SLR system, so I concentrated on maintaining a wide aperture and differing planes of focus in order to have selective focus on specific flower buds in the shot. Due to the attractive bokeh (out of focus areas) that the Summicron exhibits, I was able to shoot all the images in this post at f/2, giving me some nice shots of the trees and blossoms.
There are some possibilities for macro with the Leica rangefinder system, but this involves purchasing a fairly expensive Macro-Elmar 90mm lens, and a pair of ‘goggles’ that fit over the normal rangefinder windows to enable the camera to focus a lot closer. But it’s also a pretty expensive solution, so I will stick with using my Nikon and matching macro lenses when I want to get in real close. But for situations such as the Japanese cherry blossoms, I am quite happy to travel light and come back with these sort of results.