Leica in Banff

september 2023

I have been taking pictures since I was a kid. I started with my dad’s Minolta, developed my own film and then moved on to digital. I have also never really traveled and really just spent time with my cameras taking pictures of things I had or people around me, so this was new to me. But I was falling out of love with my cameras and I just felt like I was mindlessly taking pictures instead of capturing moments. A friend of mine let me use their Leica for a day and it just brought back memories of me using film, and I was instantly in love.

Fast forward to now and I am blessed enough to have picked up a Leica M11, a Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH lens and a Voigtlander 75mm 1.5.  I took these two lenses to Banff. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how these photos would turn out or really how to capture landscapes since this was my first time. But here are the results as well as my experience with the lenses as well as a my review of the Leica M11 and the lenses.

The links in the article are affiliate links that help support my content and writing! Also note that almost all the images are slightly compressed and made to serve better for the web, if you did want some full res shots, feel free and email me! 

The Leica M11 is expensive but extremely well built, which is something I think everyone says when they pick up one of these cameras. But why would you ever pick one up? Is it to chase that “Leica” look? Maybe you just love the images it produces or all the lenses you can put on an M body? After owning one for half a year my opinion has shifted. I got it for that look it gives off, and now I realize it is a tool to help me capture moments and help me slow down in a fast paced digital world. It’s a feeling I get picking up the camera that makes me want to go out and take pictures, it’s a feeling that is so hard to convey. 

The body does have some issue though. Even on the latest firmware, it still freezes from time to time and you need to pop out the battery, which can make you miss a shot. The metering on it for exposure is weird to say the least. I found myself eventually swapping to center weighted for some shots since the highlight weighted mode just wasn’t working. It was always over expose. I also found myself under valuing the EV to about -2/3 for some sunny areas. This didn’t happen all the time, but enough for me to notice.

A view from where we stayed. Seeing the orange glow from other place with the mountains in the background was amazing. It almost felt like warmth in a cold place and made me feel secure.

The 75mm Voigtlander was used a lot of this trip to complement the 35mm summicron lens. I am so in love with the way the 75mm renders. Its sharp but colour wise, it has this almost delicate tonality to it. It’s easy to focus on the rangefinder, and overall just a lovely lens with a great focus throw. 

It does have some heavy vignetting wide open, but I’ve been told most Voigtlander lenses do. I did try Leica’s own 75mm variant and I have to admit, I much prefer the Voigtlander for it’s price and that particular something that it gives in it’s photos.

The Leica Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH lens is really special. I actually never really used a 35mm until this camera. I had always been a 50mm guy, but I wanted to do something more natural to my eye. I find myself shooting at f/2.0 more often than not and I liked the rendering of the cron more than the lux, so this was the best choice for me. I was not let down by this lens at all. It’s contrast is so pleasing and almost all my shots with it made me smile. It’s sharp at about every stop and has some beautiful bokeh.

However, I am still getting use to the 35mm lens. I feel as if I did use the 75mm more of the trip since I found framing easier for me, but towards the end something clicked with the 35mm and I started to use it more. I found using the 35mm produced shots that weren’t as dramatic or extreme and forced me to appreciate the area at was at more. I also found looking back at the 35mm shots made me feel a better sense of nostalgia since that is what I saw with my own eyes more so than the 75mm.

The food in Banff was amazing, there was a pretty wide selection of things to eat and I was surprised by how much variety we found. Although we did cook most days, we did find the odd excuse to go out and eat, especially after hoking all day. All admit, some days it felt cheaper to order than to cook, ingredients were very pricey. This is also where I found the 35mm to be amazing, I had never documented things like this before and if I did my brain would resort to using a 50mm and making it artsy, but it was nice to capture a wide area like this without moving much from my seat.

We spent the first day roaming around the Town of Banff because the weather wasn’t all that great, it was cloudy and had just finished raining pretty badly. That didn’t stop us all from exploring. We ended up at an out door market next to some wonderful scenary.

I took this with the 75mm as it was quite far and I was so happy with this. In all honestly the Leica M11 made me slow down and compose this, if I had my Fuji cameras with me I would have probably snapped a few pictures and moved out. This is also when I started noticing the camera’s images very filmesque and just has so much character.

I realize this is a really non-technical review of my time with the camera and lens but I hope it gives some perspective to anyone who wanted some real world shots and thoughts of the system. 

Battery life was impressive with the Leica M11. I never really reviewed too many photos, unless I was asked to browse through the camera by friends so after returning home from a full day or taking shots, I was left with about 20% battery life on my first day. I was impressed.

As the day cleared up we saw this rainbow. Of course I had to take a picture. This would mark the end of day one and we prepped to climb Tunnel Mountain the next day and plan more fun while we were here.

Our first hike proved to me a few things:

  1. I was out of shape.
  2. That the Leica M11 with the lenses I brought wasn’t all that heavy.

I pocketed the lens that wasn’t in use and had the camera on a strap around my shoulder and it was nice! No really big heavy gear to worry about. This also let me really take in everything around me. A small part of me wishes the day did not end while I stared out at these vistas. I’m very glad I got to capture these moments.

That would mark day 2 of Banff and my take aways were some crazy fun moments that I loved from the camera. I did however notice I was still sticking way to much to what I was comfy with, which was the 75mm. I wanted to change this.

But some more notes, the focus throw on the Voigtlander 75mm is incredibly smooth. I loved using that lens and definitely plan to take it on more adventures. Next up we took a gondola up another mountain!

I could have stayed here forever. I also really quickly learned that even the shots I missed focus on, were absolutely beautiful and had a very painterly effect to them. I loved that.

I was feeling very confident with the camera system. The Leica M11 was a very capable camera and I was constantly wowed by the images I was getting. However, there are some small things I found myself doing that came down to user error.

For example, there were a few times I forgot I put the lens cap back on! I would go to take a shot and because it’s a rangefinder and I’m looking through the camera basically, I wouldn’t notice. Then my exposure would be a 30 second one and I would have to either wait or turn off the camera. It made me miss a shot here or there, but something to note and now something to learn.

The other thing that I really like about the Leica M11 is that when you turn off the camera and go to change a lens, it closes the mechanical shutter to help protect the sensor. I love this. It gave me confidence that I didn’t have to rush to swap things.

We then visited Lake Louise. A small tip for anyone going, this place is very busy.  I struggled for a while finding places where I could capture a few shots. I ended finding a small area where no one was, which felt great. It was a magical area, that felt so surreal.

The color of this lake was insane, I did notice as the sun went down the shade of blue shifted to a more normal looking lake, but it was still a gorgeous view and I am so glad I was able to utilize the Leica Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH lens here more. Our next stop was a glacier.

I took a lot of these photos here. The colors perfectly translated to the camera. There was a beautiful atmosphere here that I just loved. Overall this is the most comfortable I’ve ever felt with a camera. It’s produced some of the best images I’ve ever taken. I even use it often with my professional work of product photography. I did find myself absolutely loving the 35mm focal length at the end of the trip and after reviewing the shots, I felt like I actually wanted a bit more from the photos. I ended up investing into a 28mm Summilux. So next adventure I go on I plan to just bring that lens so I will keep you posted. Here are some more images from the rest of the trip.

I hope you enjoyed this article! This is something I’ve never done before but I hope to document more of my journey learning about cameras.