Stormy Weather: A resurrected Leica X1 goes on a bush walk
There is an oft-recited Australian poem by Dorothea Mackeller the second verse of which is:-
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!
The poem perfectly describes Australia. The line “droughts and flooding rains” is particularly apt with the weather we have experienced this year. Over much of the east coast of the country, from March to September there was little or no rain. The winter months — June, July and August — were unseasonably warm and dry. The inland agricultural areas have been ravaged by drought. The dams are running low. There has been talk of water restrictions in Sydney and farmers are hand-feeding their animals to keep them alive as the paddocks (fields) are just brown dirt.
Then, in the last two weeks, we've had exceptionally heavy rainfalls along the east coast of NSW and, fortunately, some of this rain has extended inland into the drought-affected farming areas. It’s not enough to end the drought in those areas, but enough to give the farmers hope.
It is a definite case of flooding rains here on the coast and, after ten days of rain by last Friday morning, I was beginning to experience cabin fever. Yes, I know it’s a good thing that I don’t live in the UK. Quite simply, I’m not happy when confined indoors and spending six weeks in hospital last year was hell for me. Even worse than going to a camera club meeting. Only a joke — calm down camera club members.
Now, regular Macfilos readers will know of my long-standing affection for the Leica X1 and will have read that on a recent trip to Romania, my X1 disassembled itself for the second time. The first time, four years ago, the small latch holding the battery in place snapped — a well-known fault. This time the latch mechanism came apart but remained intact.
Anyway, same result — a non-working X1 — so when I returned home I posted it to Leica Australia’s service agent, Camera Clinic, located in Melbourne. Within ten days they had repaired the latch, cleaned and adjusted the camera and posted it back to me in a very smart foam-lined Leica Customer Care box. Impressive. This is an eight-year-old camera, remember.
I collected the camera from the local post office last Thursday and decided to kill birds with one stone on Friday — to make sure the camera was functioning correctly and cure my fast-developing cabin fever.
The X1 is the ideal camera to take on a bushwalk because it is small and light. Oskar Barnack developed the first Leica, the Ur-Leica, to fit in a pocket so that people could take it hiking and climbing mountains. Hence, taking the X1 on a bushwalk — Australian for a hike — is a very “Leicarish” thing to do.
So, on Friday morning I went along the first stretch of the beautiful Coastal Track in Bouddi National Park on the Central Coast of New South Wales. I started from Putty Beach — just 20 minutes’ drive from home — and walked to Maitland Bay and back.
I am very fortunate to have such a beautiful stretch of national park within a short driving distance.
The first part of the walk is straightforward as it is on a spectacular boardwalk — see top photo. The boardwalk runs from above Putty Beach towards Bouddi Bay which is just visible in the picture.
The dark clouds in the photo are storm clouds. I knew that I was tempting fate heading in their direction, but decided to press on anyway. By good fortune, I made it to Maitland Bay in the dry and was about two-thirds of the way back, having covered about five kilometres uphill and downhill, when the heavens opened very suddenly.
It was like standing under a waterfall, and there was nowhere to shelter because gumtrees do not offer much cover at all. I am sure the weather-sealing qualities of the X1 are zilch. I doubt if it is even teardrop proof, so my immediate concern was to get the camera deep into my backpack and then to save myself from getting really cold as well as very wet by walking back to the car as rapidly as possible. It is very exposed on those cliff tops, and sometimes the wind was so strong that the rain was coming horizontally. I had on my rain jacket, but my shorts, socks and boots were soaked.
The bottom of the two photo shows the tip of Lion Island in Brisbane Water taken from the track in a sunny break on the way out to Maitland Bay. Not visible but about 70kms to the south of Lion Island is the Sydney Central Business District.
These were the only two photos I took on the walk. I had planned to grab a few more on the home stretch, but nature intervened. Not to worry as these two convinced me that the camera is working as well as ever.
Now I am not into pixel peeping, but take a look at the top photo at the end point of the boardwalk in the very far distance. Two figures are just visible if you are looking on a big monitor.
Above is a huge crop of that section. The figures are clearly visible, and you can see the backpack on the rear figure and, behind them, the blue/grey National Park directional sign. This exercise shows how good that simple little eight-year-old camera still is. It begs two questions: Have cameras really advanced in the past eight years? And is good-condition, used X1 the best camera bargain around?
You can find more from John Shingleton at The Rolling Road and on Instagram at therollingroad.