Joshua K. Jackson photographs the returning nightlife in London using the newly announced Leica M11 and APO-Summicron-M 50mm f/2 ASPH. This series showcases the exceptional image quality of the M11, even in the most challenging of low-light situations. Read on to hear more about Joshua’s experience as he beautifully captures London’s Friday night lights.
How long have you been working with Leica cameras? What has your experience been like so far?
The M system offers a very unique user experience that makes you feel very involved in the photography process. The cameras are also so simple to use and easy to carry around for extended periods – the latter is especially important for me, where it’s common to walk up to 10 miles a day.
What inspires you to shoot low-light photography?
Cities take on a very different atmosphere at night – dark, exciting, and often mysterious. It’s also great fun working with vivid colours from artificial lights sources that are not present during the day.
How well did the M11 assist you in low-light scenes?
I generally use manual exposure, but I actually found myself using aperture priority on the M11 because the metering was so accurate. I would still use the camera in manual mode during the day to take full ownership of the output, but at night you’re really just looking for a well-balanced exposure. The M11 delivered this consistently, even in very challenging lighting situations.
Did you find the camera as responsive as the M10 generation of cameras? What was the transition like?
The transition was seamless. You’re immediately at home with any M camera since the ergonomics and controls are so similar. The M11 is faster and more responsive, but the thing that impressed me the most was the huge leap forward in image quality – the level of detail is remarkable.
With the M11’s dynamic range increasing by one stop at the lower resolutions (36MP & 18MP), we’re you happy with its performance at 60MP?
I was keen to really test the camera in a challenging lighting situation to give a truer account of its performance. Overall, I was consistently impressed by the detail, dynamic range and noise performance at full resolution. This performance really comes to life when the files are printed.
What was your reasoning for shooting at 60MP?
Printing is a key step in my process. Therefore, having so much detail is great for this. And sometimes it’s not always possible to stand where you need to, so being able to crop in a little without losing all the detail is a huge bonus.
What advantages did you gain from the new metering system in the M11?
In the past, I’ve used manual exposure as I found the in-camera metering to be inconsistent. The M11 metering in the M11 has vastly improved – it’s fast and very accurate.
Did the M11 change your approach at all in terms of making your exposures?
To test the metering, I’ve been using the camera exclusively in aperture priority. It’s the first M camera I’ve been confident to use in this way, and I was surprised by how it was able to ‘read’ very difficult lighting situations.
How happy were you to push the ISO at 60MP?
At night, I try to stay around ISO1600. However, I tested the M11 up to ISO5000 and at shutter speeds as low as 1/15th second. Even here there is still bags of detail and noise is brilliantly controlled
Which lenses did you use for the M11? And how well did they perform at 60MP?
For the test, I was working exclusively with the APO-Summicron-M 50mm. Leica lenses can be a considerable investment but with this camera, you really feel like you are getting the best value out of them.
Do you have any tips and/or photography advice for shooting with the M11?
- Find the light:
During the day, there’s often so much going on that it can be hard to know where to focus your efforts. Everything is a potential photo! However, at night, less of the city is illuminated and so many of the distractions we find during daylight are removed. It becomes easier to spot opportunities for street photos. Start by looking for strong sources of light such as illuminated signs, windows, streetlights and car headlights.
- Push your ISO:
Achieve faster shutter speeds by using a higher ISO. Set the camera to 1600, 3200 or use auto ISO with a minimum shutter speed set for the available light. It’s better to have a little noise than miss a shot entirely.
- Use a fast prime lens:
Zoom lenses offer great versatility, but the trade-off is often slower apertures. Setting the lens to wide open will help you collect more light to achieve faster shutter speeds.
- Embrace slower shutter speeds:
The lack of available light means you’re typically working with slower shutter speeds than during the day. Make a conscious effort to hold the camera steady. Slowing down or briefly standing still will also help you get exceptionally sharp results. Alternatively, use slow shutter speeds with intent to explore new creative possibilities.
- Shoot in raw and auto white balance:
Getting a good exposure at night isn’t always easy. Set your camera to RAW and auto WB to give yourself greater flexibility to correct the exposure or white balance afterwards.
To see more of Joshua’s work, see here.