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Tokyo-X-Vario: Shooting at Night in Ginza

Leica X-Vario at 28mm equiv. 1/15th sec F/7.1 @ ISO 1600. Leaning camera against light pole.

I thought I would continue testing the X-Vario at night to prove that it is possible to get great shots without having an F/1.4 lens or image stabilization (optical or sensor based). We use these types of specs as tools, but sometimes we need more than tools to get great images. In fact, sometimes limits help us to come up with unique solutions, and often we create images we would never have done with cameras with more tricks and specs. 

I like the mood of artificial lights at night, and how the direction of light is also very different from natural daylight. However, to capture this type of lighting correctly, you have to shoot at the right shutter speed. I find that shooting at night at super-slow shutter speeds is great for creating a sense of  motion. 1/8 to 1/120th of a second is best for painting this motion , such as moving cars or people. How is this possible with the X-Vario?

Leica X-Vario at 28mm equiv. 1/15th sec F/7.1 @ ISO 1600. Leaning camera up against light pole.

Now this camera doesn’t have optical or sensor based image stabilization, so how do you handhold 1/15th sec? I can get it sometimes, but it’s a hit and miss at that slow shutter speed. The best way to accomplish this is by using light poles or any vertical and stationary object to lean the camera up against as an impromptu tripod. Because the light pole I used was right next to the crosswalk, it forced me to work closer to the people crossing; but it also provided a barrier for me so people on the other side wouldn’t bump up against me.

Depth of field is also good for these types of shots, so shooting at a small aperture at the expense of shooting at a higher ISO is also necessary. This is where shooting with a smaller sensor camera actually helps since you get amazing depth of field; where shooting with a full-frame camera actually works against you with very shallow depth of field. I would say I’m happiest with the balance of the APS-C size format.

Shooting at night with the Leica X-Vario has its challenges, but with the right knowledge of how to shoot at night, it is possible to capture amazing images. I like the ability to see all my major settings and adjust my exposure without having to jump into a menu, and the ability to quickly switch from autofocus to manual scale focusing by turning the focus barrel. Shooting quickly is important, especially when shooting at night and shooting on the street, where lighting and the background and your subject changes quickly. 

I have more night shots to post and more tips to come. Keep checking back for more images from Tokyo with the X-Vario.