Jeremiah Rogers

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Sun, Mar 29, 2015

Update May 11, 2015

Leica refused to fix the camera for free until I guessed and emailed the CEO directly. They then fixed it for free, sent it back for free, and sent me a book of selfies taken with Leica cameras.

Once I get the batteries for the Leica back I’m 90% sure I’ll be selling it. Why? Honestly I find my Canon EOS 6D more is comfortable, faster, quieter and has longer battery life than the Leica ME. I’d rather sell the Leica ME and put that money into traveling more around Asia, photography workshops (I’ll be at Foundry this year), or as a reserve fund for buying another camera body if the 6D eventually breaks (I doubt it will, it seesm awfully solid).

Update April 1, 2015

Updated with toned down language. I feel the first version was a too strongly worded and in hindsight I wish I’d been more subtle. The honest thing to do is to push the updated article back out through the same channel.

I feel like this will eventually get resolved, but I still think the customer service is lacking.

I go back to thinking about what happened in the late 1990’s when I had an issue with my first Apple laptop. I called Apple and they apologised. A box was on my doorstep the next day, I put the laptop in the box, and a fixed laptop was back on my doorstep two days later.

Update March 31, 2015

Based on recent emails with Leica I do think it is now being looked into more seriously.

On a Leica forum some reasonable theories came up. No one there thinks it could be caused by a mechanical clearance.

Prevailing theories are:

  1. It’s sensor corrosion. Apparently what look like scratches can often be corrosion forming in lines.
  2. That I tried to clean the sensor myself or had someone clean the sensor improperly for me. (All I can say is that this didn’t happen).
  3. That the camera was cleaned somehow before I bought it (but I bought it new…)

My money is on either sensor corrosion or that something got behind the shutter and scratched the sensor.

My recommendation is that if you want a Leica get a M6 or the M240 (which has no known corrosion issues). The Leica M9, ME, and Monochrom have corrosion issues which are known to look like scratches. It can take a long time, and potentially a roundtrip to Germany, until the corrosion is properly dealt with under warranty.

That said, I don’t like the M240. From my trip to the Leica store in Kyoto:

“I told the salesman that I didn’t like the Leica M240 or the Leica T and he just shrugged and said “Yes. The Leica ME is the best for photographers.” I’m glad that Leica’s marketing message about the ME being for the basics of photography seems to be true. No one was trying to upgrade me to the next camera in the line today.”

There may be a flaw with the digital Leica M rangefinder cameras that I haven’t seen reported elsewhere. The flaw would be that dust works its way through the lens and behind the metal shutter, causing scratches to the sensor as the metal shutter operates.

I’ve been corresponding with Leica about this issue for more than two weeks without resolution so I felt it was time to mention it publicly. I’ve been told that my sensor is scratched and asked if clearance could cause this issue. That direct question has never been answered.

I first noticed this in an f/16 shot of monks near the river in Phnom Penh with blue sky in the background. Below is the picture and a detail of the two scratches I saw1. The picture is terrible and skewed but I left it unedited on purpose.

Scratches in the top left and bottom right of an image of monks in Phnom Penh. Below, two crop shots showing the scratches in more detail.

Thinking that these scratches were only hair I sent my Leica to the Singapore service center for cleaning. They told me that what I thought was hair was actually scratches and asked 1200 Singapore dollars (about 875 USD) to replace the sensor. The camera, purchased April 2014, is still under warranty for another year.

How would nonlinear scratches occur on a sensor? I’m no hardware expert but my best guess is that it has to do with the accordion design on the M9/ME shutter (image from Ken Rockwell’s page). Cloth shutter film Leica cameras should not have this issue: at the worst it would scratch a single frame of film.

An image sent to me by Leica Camera Singapore showing the scratches on my sensor. Edited with Snapseed to increase contrast so that the scratches are more easily visible. Here is the original lower contrast image, leading to the theory that this could be corrosion and not scratches


I’ll be updating this article as the story evolves. If you’d like to follow the updates I’ve setup a temporary mailing list below and will send you updates.

  1. There’s also some dust on my lens in this shot. I’ve left it uncorrected for this image. I clean my camera regularly, but this is Cambodia after all. [return]
Wed, Mar 4, 2015

I’m taking my first trip out of Cambodia tomorrow after 5 months living here.

Below is what I’m bringing on a two week trip to Bangkok. All told it weighs 5-7 pounds after you factor that half of the clothes will be worn and not in the pack at any time.

It shows an evolution in my packing strategy. I’ve strayed from the Leica to a Canon SLR. I’m packing lighter now since I know what the weather will be like. The only things I’m not bringing that I would for a longer trip are my down jacket, external hard drive, tripod, and antibiotics (easy to get in Thailand).

Top: Fully loaded. Left: Everything together laid out. Right: What gets carried on my back.


I love my black icebreaker v-necks, but it’s way too hot in Asia right now to wear those. So I’m bringing my yellow icebreaker wool shirt and a synthetic t-shirt from Rohan.

For the rare chance that it might get a little cold or rain I have an ultralight rain jacket and a wool buff (the buff doubles as a sleeping mask). I expect to wear the rain jacket only in the movie theatre in Bangkok when they pump the air conditioning extra cold. I could bring a down jacket or hoodie on this trip but that’s overkill for Thailand in March.

I’ve got a Patagonia ultralight swimsuit (sadly no longer for sale), icebreaker wool shorts for wearing to bed, and Rohan Fusion trousers for wearing most days. I still only have two pairs of icebreaker underwear, no socks, and a belt from Mont Bell that I picked up in Japan for about $10.

All of this stuff is heavily tested with the exception of the two Rohan items, which were sent for free for me to try out and send back notes.

So far the Rohan gear is working well. The shirt is very practical but I don’t like how it looks. But it’s coming with me because it’s a heck of a lot more comfortable than wool in burning city heat.

The Fusions trousers are great looking for a versatile and quick drying pair of travel pants. They feel almost exactly the same as the Strongholds with the exception of being lighter fabric. My favorite thing about Rohan pants — and keep in mind they’ve never paid me other than sending me these free clothes to try — is the clip in the left pocket for keys and the zippered back-right and front-right pockets. I use these zippers and that clip all the time.

My clothing needs are very simple and this should cover every environment I encounter. Two shirts so I can alternate days wearing them, one pair of pants, swim trunks, and a pair of shorts to wear at night while I sleep. Notably no socks and only two pairs of underwear.


The only shoes I wear these days are Keen Newports. I hate how they look but love how they dry quickly and don’t make my feet sweat. Shoes like these, open ended sandals with some good padding, are wonderful for spending a full day wandering a city. Stepping in puddle isn’t a big deal, taking them off to let your feet breath isn’t an ordeal, and there’s never any need for socks. I took mine into the shower just before taking this picture to wash them, so they’re wet in the photo.

Pick an understated color combination and people might not mention how ugly they are when they see you. Mine are crimson and dark grey.

Not pictured minor things: usb charging cable, folding tootbrush, fingernail clippers, and this awesome tiny hair trimmer.


These days I mostly use a Canon EOS 6D and 28mm f1.8. I get better pictures from it than I ever did from my Leica ME. That’s not to say one camera is superior to the other but instead that my photo skills have gotten to the point where I don’t care much about discretion.

On every technical measurement other than size the Canon trounces the Leica. The Canon is quieter, more comfortable to wear, shoots better in low light, has longer battery life, and is water resistant. The Leica has better lenses and is physically smaller.

A Leica 28mm f2 lens costs $4,000. The Canon 28mm f1.8 lens costs nine times less. The Canon 6D body costs $1,400 new. The Leica ME body costs $5,000 new. Take your pick: $1,900 camera to trounce through the streets or a $9,000 camera?

Oddly the 6D is almost the same weight as a Leica ME and much more comfortable to wear for extended periods. The rubber and plastic case is a lot nicer to have next to my body.

I may or may not bring the 40mm f2.8 prime lens that I used to take these pictures. Of course the charger, an extra battery, and an amazing [universal power adapter]() with USB ports.


I’m still using the RBH EP2 Headphones rated best by the WireCutter but also pack a pair of counterfeit Apple EarPods for walking in the street (the RBH don’t let in any noise).


My phone is a Sony Z2 – very long battery life, water proof, and a 1080p display. It has a phenomenal camera, which I almost never use, and is water resistant. Full review here.


My computer is somewhat sadly back to an 11 inch Macbook Air. I wish Apple would come out with a lighter machine with a better screen, but this 11 inch Air is already basically the perfect computer.

Apple does input devices better than everyone else. They also have the best setup of third party software. I love Byword, Textmate, and SimpleNote and Lightroom. Those are my standbys and Linux has no good equivalents (I tried, trust me).

I tried using an iPad as a computer, but it’s almost impossible to multitask effectively for doing things like taxes and web design. It’s also way too hard to manage large photo libraries.

I tried the lightest laptop in the world, which is Tynan’s favorite but found it lacking in durability and hated the keyboard and mouse input.

Finally, I spent two weeks traveling with only an LG phone when I went to Siem Reap. That was awesome and I strongly recommend it. But I need to do “real” work now and can’t do that.


What’s removed from my more recent packing lists: my long underwear, socks, and previous sandals were given away in Bangkok after months of not being used. I almost never use a tripod, so I’m not bringing it. I rarely wear sunglasses, so those are out too. No water bottle, coffee cup, phone battery, or sleeping sheet. For any of these things I can buy a $1-5 equivalent if I need them.

Finally I’m not using a stuff sack for clothes anymore. With this few clothes they do fine in the bottom of my bag or wrapped around my camera as protection.


This is an almost ready for anything packing list. It’s versatile, light, and I can carry it all day. In practical terms it costs — without camera, phone, or computer — around $500. You could do much the same with any other gear, or with lesser gear, but I like things that are light, durable, and don’t smell after repeated wearings.

My pack as usual is a 16.5 liter Tom Bihn Daylight. I’ve tried a bunch of shoulder bags lately but still love the Daylight more. I stand by my earlier review here.

Thu, Feb 19, 2015

Please forgive the typos. I’ll fix those soon, this was written tonight and it’s already late.

About two weeks ago my LG G2 screen broke. I managed to get it replaced in Phnom Penh but then it promptly broke again, leading me on the search for a better and more durable Android phone.

Given how brittle and thin the glass was on the display I wasn’t ready to get another screen installed on the G2. It may either get sold or stick around as a general purpose micro computer for uploading files while I’m on the go.

Now the G2 is still a fantastic phone, but it’s not water resistant and it doesn’t have an expandable Micro SD card slot. Also, and I only found this out after buying it, I ended up with the obscure Brazilian model that can’t run Cyanogenmod and was late to get updates.

Chiang Mai, Thailand. July, 2014.

The models I considered replacing it with were the iPhone 5 and 5S, Samsung Galaxy S5 (terrible hand feeling), the Sony Xperia Ultra (too big), and the Sony Xperia Z2, Z3, Z1 and and Z3 compact models. I also looked at the Huawei Ascend Mate 2 and Mate 7 (no Cyanogen) which have big screens and fantastic battery life. The One Plus One is not available in Cambodia and the Oppo phones look great (N1, N3, Find 7) but were too expensive ($500ish).

I ended up finding a Sony Z2 for about $320 used in amazing shape. To be fair I also priced shopped the iPhone 5 and 5S. But those iPhones cost over $350 for below average battery life, no water resistance, small screens and high “steal me” value. It wasn’t worth it.

The iPhone 6 costs $750 used in Cambodia with 16 gigs of storage and around $1,000 with 64 gigs of storage and a 1080p display (the plus model). That’s three times the price after I added in an SD card for music storage to the Sony.


In practice I shoot few photos on my phone but I still want it to have a passable camera. When comparing phone cameras I always look to DxOMark mobile for objective comparisons.

The Z2, Z3, and S5 occupy spots 3-5 on the DxOMark rankings. That’s below both variants of iPhone 6 but above the iPhone 5S (#9) and iPhone 5 (#15).

Note that the Z3 Compact has the same camera as its bigger. So you’re not missing anything buying the smaller and lighter model. (Honestly I might have preferred a Z2 compact — but they don’t seem to exist).

Why the Z2

I picked the out of date Sony Z2 because it is almost the same specs as a brand new $590 in Cambodia Sony Z3. I’m serious: Sony updates their phones every six months, the Z2 and the Z3 are basically the same thing. They have the same screen, almost the same processor, and the same camera.

What makes the Z2 great is the huge 3200 mAh battery, the 1080p IPS display, the 13” sensor and the water and dust resistance. That 13” sensor is larger than the iPhone 6 Plus and the size of many point and shoots 1. It can also shoot 4k video which I don’t need.

As far as durability: I’m probably not going to put a case on my Z2 but it feels far more durable than other glass phones I’ve used. Battery life: this morning I woke up with ~60% battery after forgetting to charge it overnight and it still lasted until the end of the day walking around playing music and reading.

What I find most remarkable about these phones is how Sony is fitting bigger batteries, bigger camera sensors, three times the RAM and higher resolution displays into lighter packaging than Apple which is also waterproof. How? The iPhone 6 and Z3 compact both weigh 129 grams but the Z3 has 40% more battery capacity. What is Apple doing with all those grams?

The full-sized Z3 has a slightly smaller screen than the iPhone 6 Plus (5.2 vs 5.5 inches), the same screen resolution, a bigger battery, and it is also lighter. Again it’s also waterproof and has expandable storage.


I love Cyanogenmod. Cyanogenmod 12 is the best mobile OS I’ve ever used and I’m using a nightly build. It’s just remarkably good. Lollipop is there.

It’s hard for me to tell which features are part of Lollipop and which are Cyanogen, but the design and multitasking is phenomenal. The handling of notifications and dozens of apps is much better for me on Android than iOS. There are a few minor bugs but fewer in practice than I’ve had on iOS 8. (From a nightly build!)

My advice if you ever buy an Android phone is to make very sure that the SKU you buy works with Cyanogenmod. It’s a great way to future proof your way into software updates. It’s also the only way aside from rooting your phone to get a very uncluttered Android experience from most manufacturers.

Sony’s stock Android ROM is very uncluttered and nicely designed, but it still had a few apps (Sony apps, but also Facebook) that couldn’t be uninstalled. I dislike that for a few reasons, but the main one is that the default apps stay on the phone and eats bandwidth and space updating themselves and clutter the UI. It also means I have to root the phone and risk security issues in order to get the UI I want.

Sony has an official page allowing you to unlock the bootloader on your device. Holy crap! This is a beautiful commitment to open source software from a company which people love to hate.

So if you’re in the market for an Android phone print out the officially supported Cyanogen Mod phones and bring it with you to the store. Check to make sure the exact model number you buy is supported by Cyanogenmod (on the Settings->About This Phone page). I’d recommend just getting a Sony and flashing it as soon as you get home, mine took 30 minutes.

Chiang Mai, Thailand. July, 2014.

  1. Apple uses Sony sensors. This implies that either Apple is using better lenses or better software to get their better images. I’d put my money on software. [return]
Wed, Jan 14, 2015

The Fuji X100T came out recently and it’s easily the best camera in the Fuji X100 line. It’s faster than the X100S and much faster than the X100. But I would hesitate before buying the Fuji X100T.

Why buy the Fuji X100T when you can get an X100S used for $650? Why even buy the X100S when you can get an X100 used for $540?

For all practical purposes the X100, X100S, and X100T are the same. They’re the same design, have the same color rendition, and do 90% of the same things. All you really get buying a $1,299 X100T vs buying a $540 X100 is speed (see the full list of differences). This isn’t like buying an iPhone 6 vs an iPhone 3G. It’s like buying an iPhone 5S vs an iPhone 5.

Why am I even bothering to post this? Because two years I ago I would have updated from the X100S to X100T without question. Today I doubt it. I don’t think it’s worth it. You’ll find many bloggers telling you the X100T is the best camera in the world. That’s because most people make money when you buy a new camera. I want to be a voice encouraging hesitation.

My wishlist for every camera in the X100 series is for Fuji to put a manual focus scale on the lens. For me focusing and metering without looking through the viewfinder is the most critical feature on camera. The Fuji cameras already have aperture and shutter controls on the camera. Add a manual focus scale and a photographer can setup shots without ever looking at the camera. It’ll be huge.

You can see my favorite manual focus digital cameras at the end of this article. I’d get one of those over anything in the X100 series.

Wed, Dec 17, 2014

A few months ago I wrote about using a $100 256gb flash thumb drive as a mobile photography backup solution. Over time the drive got slower and slower to be almost unusable. I no longer recommend doing this.

Recently at a computer store in Phnom Penh I bought a 512GB SSD like this for only $200 USD. I put the drive into a cheap $13 housing like this, which was a totally non-intimidating process, and now have a lighting fast mobile backup solution for my laptop.

The drive is also fast enough to use as an external hosted library for my back catalog of images. In Lightroom you can add files from an external disk and as long as you build smart previews can even edit the images at close to full size without having the external disk attached. I wish I’d know about this earlier.

Current SSD prices are much lower than what I saw only seven months ago. For my trip I originally considered using a 480GB OWC SSD but balked at the $400 price tag. For $210 I think that the 512GB solution I outlined above is much more reasonable.