Jan 262016
 
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The NEW Olympus PEN-F Camera Review. Just. Wow.

NOTE: Be sure to click the images here to see them larger and how they were meant to be seen.  ALL images here are Out Of Camera JPEGS, 100% (No real RAW support yet) and I mainly tested the new dedicated Monochrome Mode in mode 2 which simulates something like TRI-X so this is the look that mode gives and the Chrome/Slide Color mode as these are new modes for Olympus. Enjoy my look at this new exceptional camera from Olympus but be prepared for a slew of Monochrome images! Next update I will show images from RAW which will be the more standard color and B&W profiles. 

My 1st look VIDEO on the new PEN-F

 

It’s been an amazing last few days. I am here in Austin TX and have had the opportunity to shoot with the brand spanking new Olympus PEN-F every day which is by far, the best Olympus digital PEN EVER. Hands down, no contest. No Hype, No B.S., No Lie. This review will be one of the very 1st full REVIEWS in the world of the PEN-F. Enjoy!

The PEN-F with the 12 f/2 – Using the new Monochrome Mode 2 (Tri-X Style Simulation but with all grain OFF)  – Click it to see it correctly!

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With its gorgeous retro style. swivel screen, 5 Axis IS, 50MP High Res Shot mode, Live Time, Focus Bracketing, new color modes, new Monochrome mode, 10FPS or 20FPS with its electronic shutter, silent mode, 1/8000th s standard shutter, 1/16,000 electronic shutter, large and clear EVF, shortest lag of any other camera in this class, touch screen, and loads of other cool features Olympus have hit it out of the PARK with the PEN-F.

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Yes my friends, this is quite the camera and while not up to Full Frame sensor cameras it can stand up to any APS-C sensor camera made today IMO (been saying this since the pro E-M1) and if given a choice between the new PEN-F and ANY APS-C Mirrorless or DSLR, the PEN-F wins in a huge way, for ME. Maybe not for you, but for me, 100%. I LOVE the PEN cameras and always have, so this one really struck a chord with me.

This may end up being the most loved Olympus Digital yet by the camera buying public as well as enthusiasts because it has cool factor, speed, great construction and feel, some of the best lenses made today available for it and superb image quality. I see it as a “Super Enthusiast” camera with great design and control, just what an Enthusiast wants and just what camera companies need to be doing..making special cameras that people will WANT to use and shoot over their smart phones.

Yes yes yes, this is one of those cameras that can do it and put a big grin on your face while doing it.

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THE BEST PEN EVER

Long time readers will know, I have had them all from the EP1, E-P2, E-P3 and the EP5 and some of the in between (EPL Series) models and this new PEN-F has more than ANYONE would ever want in a  mirrorless camera, and for me, (and others I have spoken to who are using it with me) it beats ANY DSLR made for usability, fun factor, features, size and style, again, my opinion. Oh, and the performance is the best yet from Olympus as well and while it does not have the weather sealing of the Pro level E-M1, in many ways, I’d rather have this than the aging E-M1. In fact, if given a choice I know the PEN would have my heart instantly.

With an all new 20MP sensor is inside, upping the Ante over the usual 16MP in Olympus Micro 4/3 cameras, we finally get a new higher MP Micro 4/3 sensor, and it does not disappoint. In fact, I am seeing some of the sharpest most detailed M 4/3 images yet, and I have only seen JPEG’s so far. I am sure the RAW files will be spectacular.

The new 20 megapixel sensor is indeed an improvement over the old 16MP sensor.

They are even releasing some gorgeous leather accessories for it as well as a half case and the grip. The Leather accessories look pretty sharp to me…

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MONOCHROME & MORE!

I will state right now, the PEN-F is BEAUTIFUL and the new MONOCHROME mode is great to have and quite stunning.

I am thrilled to see a camera company concentrating and working on Monochrome imaging…with a camera under $1200 instead of $7000 like the Leica Monochrom. Of course this is NOT a dedicated Mono sensor but take a look at the B&W images direct out of the PEN-F camera below. Nothing at all to complain about. The way the new sensor handles light is quite stunning. This is a $1200 camera, and believe me, well worth this cost when some cameras these days cost much more and in some cases, give less.

MUST click it for better version! This one with the 17.5 Voigtlander 0.95 at 0.95 – OOC JPEG MONO MODE 2

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When this new PEN-F was handed to me I was super excited as soon as I saw the design and held it in my hands. The Chrome model is GORGEOUS, SEXY and SLEEK but the black is much more stealthy and just as handsome. I am not 100% sure which I prefer. I love the looks of both though the Silver has more definition to the dials as they pop out more giving more of a retro vibe.

I still have an E-P5 on my shelf at home along with my OM-D camera but this one WILL be replacing my E-P5 and may become my main shooter for a while due to the fact that it can do whatever I need it to do except for very super low or no light shooting, which I reserve for my Sony full frame A7 series cameras. But take this and some nice fast primes like the 12mm f/2, 17 f/1.8,  Panasonic Nocticron or even the AMAZING DROOL WORTHY Olympus 300mm f/4 and you will have a camera capable almost anything you need.

Voigtlander 17 0.95 on the PEN-F – MONO MODE 2 (Tri-X Style)

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Now with the awesome Olympus 8mm f/1.8 Pro Lens

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But right here, right now, the big buzz among those shooting the new PEN-F here in Austin along with me? It’s all about the MONOCHROME MODE. Not sure if its a mental thing, a nostalgia thing or a combo of both but we all seem to love it and have had a hard time shooting in other modes. Olympus did a great job with this, and it is NOT a new Art Filter. It’s a new MODE. Very cool. 

As for the Monochrome mode, to me, it is FANTASTIC.  Take a look at these OOC JPEGS while in Mono mode #2. No PP here at all.

CLICK THEM for much better version! These are all MONOCHROME MODE 2 (Tri-X style, so the “look” you see is emulating this film. Deep black, high contrast. 

Next 11 images were shot with the Olympus 45 1.8. A true no brainer lens at $299. Bargain of the decade. 

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The Olympus 17 1.8

Tri X simulation Mode 2 with heavy grain (you can choose OFF, LOW, MED, HIGH)

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The $299 25 1.8

Mode 2 with medium grain

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WITH A FLICK OF THE SWITCH!

With the flick of your finger you can swap modes easily while your eye is up to the EVF. Go from standard to monochrome to chrome/slide and EACH mode has three presets with unlimited customization of each and every preset! It’s quite amazing and may take a day or two for you to learn how it all works but once you do, it is as easy as 1-2-3.

In Mono mode you can choose color filters just as you did with B&W film. For example, using the RED filter will darken and enhance the sky and lighten skin tones. You can also choose the grain and have it off, low, medium or high. The grain is also film like as Olympus made sure to make it as much like film grain as possible. This is NOT the old grainy B&W mode, it is all new.

The nice dial right on the from of the PEN-F allows you to easily select which mode you want, if any

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Myself and others here see the new PEN-F as competition to the new X-Pro 2 or even a Sony A6000..but with the new film modes that look VERY good, along with the gorgeous design and high quality parts and construction, this would most likely be my choice over any APS-C counterpart due to size, speed, lenses available, features, IQ and the gorgeous design and control and customization.

For me it is always MUCH more than just output as a camera needs to have MANY things going for it for me to LOVE it. The PEN-F is blazing fast, has one of the best selection of high quality lenses of ANY brand (I put them 2nd only to Leica for high quality and small size) and has the highest fun factor of ANY camera I have used beating Sony, Leica, Fuji. etc.

THIS PEN IS NOT A TOY ;) 

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But do not confuse FUN FACTOR with it being a Toy as the PEN-F is no toy. It could be used for anything from family snaps to pro work (I know many pros who use Micro 4/3 with gorges results) like weddings or events. When choosing a camera as an enthusiast or amateur or someone who just loves taking photos, never worry about wether a camera is labeled as “PRO” but look at a cameras capabilities, features and how versatile it is. I said it many times in the past but Olympus makes some of the most versatile cameras EVER. I see so many online who stick by their brands and like to call other brands “toys”  – which I feel is ridiculous. NO camera that is made for enthusiasts use is a toy. That is just ridiculous. ALL cameras at this level are very good to great, and it is hard to make a choice on IQ alone, which is why you must look at everything the camera offers you, how easy it is to operate and what it can do FOR YOU and your photography.

The PEN-F motivates and really makes you want to shoot it.

The new PEN-F even has a cool mode where you can be framing your image with the EVF while using your thumb on the back LCD to move your focus point. AMAZING! These are the things that set Olympus apart from other cameras made today. They are truly the leaders of Innovation with digital imaging and I have said this for years. There is a silent mode as well with a 100% silent shutter. I mean SILENT. This one may have all YOU need.

OOC JPEGS with no PP at all. These were shot in the COLOR WHEEL mode 3, which is simulating the super saturated slide and chrome films of the past. If you want a bold color pop that still looks good (it really does look much like some old slide film) use mode 3 when you have your wheel on COLOR. You choose mode 3 in the super control panel which makes camera settings a BREEZE. 

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AN EVF ON THE PEN, FINALLY! 

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The PEN-F is the first Olympus PEN digital to include an EVF. Something I have wished for since the E-P1. The PEN-F uses the same EVF as the one in the latest E-M10 Mark II. It’s VERY good and I would say in the top 3-4 EVF’s made today with the Leica SL being the best I have ever seen or used. Even so, this one is fantastic and it is so cool to have. My fave way of shooting the PEN-F was to close the LCD (which also has the nice leatherette covering) and just shoot with the EVF, while NOT reviewing the images. Was like shooting film ;) So THANK YOU Olympus for making this one with an EVF!

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SHUTTER  – MECHANICAL OR ELECTRONIC

The new PEN-F has the traditional shutter which can go up to 1/8000S or you can activate the Electronic Shutter and enjoy up to 1/16,000S. When using the E-Shutter the camera is 100% SILENT. Super stealth here. This means that if you want to shoot an f/0.95 lens in the sunlight wide open, it will not be a problem.

This camera has just about every tech feature you can imagine.

PEN-F VS LEICA MONOCHROM? WHAT?!?!?!

When I look back at my Leica MM shots I do not see a major WOW difference between those and what I can get with the PEN-F and a nice fast prime when it comes to B&W tonality. I do see more pop with Leica due to the full frame sensor and $3500 Zeiss lens I used but as for tonality, I slightly prefer the Olympus. Crazy. But I like that Tri-X style and I like to get there easy. ;)

THIS tells me that the new PEN-F is special, and quite the accomplishment from Olympus. I SO can not wait to slap on the Nocticron to this. My guess is that it will be a match made in heaven for Monochrome portrait work.

Being Micro 4/3, it still has that super high ISO/Low Light weakness next to full frame but as long as you do not need ISO 50,000 then the PEN-F just may be all you need. If you need the best high ISO low light performance I would look to a Sony A7S or A7SII.

In black with the new Olympus Grip which is much like an RSS style grip. ITS A MUST if you want more grip ;) 

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Yes, the PEN-F is retro and it is beautiful. It is modeled after the original PEN-F film camera which was a half frame camera to cut down on size but quite cute and attractive in its own right.

The Original Half Frame Film PEN

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The new digital PEN-F uses a new 20MP sensor and it is much more than a pretty face, I can assure you of this. As with all Olympus mirrorless cameras these days, the cameras are mature and the lenses are some of the best out there for ANY system. Sure the sensors are smaller, but these cameras are all about FUN, SMALL SIZE, and FANTASTIC QUALITY in build, feel, control and IQ.

PEN-F, Olympus 17 1.8 Lens (review of the lens is here) – Chrome Color Mode 3 (Super Saturated Slide Film)

Remember, click images for better versions!

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Below are the key things I think make the PEN-F one hell of a camera, and things I have really enjoyed about it in my 2-3 days of non stop shooting…

  • MONOCHROME MODE! On the front of the PEN-F is a chunky metal dial that will switch to different color modes. The new MONOCHROME selection is beautiful and provides quite nice out of camera B&W images. Mode 2 recreates slide film and ALL OF IT is 100% customizable to your tastes. Just a switch of the dial with your finger as you look through the new built in EVF is all it takes to go to go to MONOCHROME, SLIDE/CHROME COLOR, ART FILTERS or STANDARD. 
  • The Exposure Compensation Dial! This is new for Olympus and it is much welcomed. Now you can adjust EV comp on the fly. 
  • Tilt OUT LCD – Just like the E-M5 II, this is great for all kinds of things. Video, Selfies, Vlogging, etc. 
  • Speed – As with all of the current Olympus models, this one is blazing fast to AF with most lenses. 

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  • The new BUILT IN EVF! For the 1st time EVER in a Digital PEN we have a nice big EVF. It is the same EVF as the one in the E-M10II, and it is quite nice. I have been asking for an EVF in a PEN for YEARS, now we have it!
  • DESIGN is gorgeous. Not one visible screw. Classic/Retro design that looks like a classic PEN-F. Olympus did this one justice.
  • IT’S FUN AND JUST WORKS! Olympus PEN cameras have always had something special about them to me. They are fun are fast, and just work. They are small, light and powerful with gorgeous color and overall performance. The new PEN-F is no exception and is probably the funnest PEN yet. 
  • CUSTOMIZATION. The new Monochrome or Chrome settings have three presets each but can be 100% customized to your liking. It’s quite intense at first but once you get the hang of it, then it is quite nice. 
  • Best 5 Axis IS inside and Olympus has THE BEST Image Stabilization on the market 

NEXT THREE IMAGES – THE NEW CHROME/SLIDE COLOR MODE (COLOR MODE 3, Super Saturated Slide) – Olympus 17 1.8

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When in mode 3 using the new Color modes, you are getting CHROME/SLIDE with super enhanced color, just like some old slide film that has HUGE color pop. You can turn that back a tad by going to mode 2 while the front control knob is on COLOR…

Color MODE 2

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I have been shooting the new PEN-F here in Austin with 15 or so other journalists and we all seem to be enjoying it IMMENSELY. After speaking with most of these guys the one thing they all agree on is that the Monochrome mode rocks and the camera is amazingly fun and easy to use, and the results and IQ can be BEAUTIFUL with the right lenses. I can not wait to get my full review unit and put it through paces with lenses like the Nocticron and other fast primes.

Slide Film Mode 3

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The PEN-F construction is special as well. Not ONE screw is visible anywhere on the camera. It is made VERY well with a magnesium alloy base and solid feeling knobs and dials. Nothing on the camera feels cheap and while not built like a Leica M, the build of the PEN series has always been very nice. The PEN-F is even better. lovely.

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JPEG DETAIL 

Again, every image you see here is an out of camera JPEG as there is no RAW support for this camera yet. When RAW support is available I will do an updated post with RAW files and tests. For now, take a look at some detail coming just from the JPEGS!

YOU MUST CLICK IMAGES TO SEE TRUE 100% CROP AND CORRECT SHARPNESS!

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ISO TESTS

With the new 20MP sensor, how does the camera do with high ISO while in low light? Let us see…

1st the whole image..

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Now the 100% crops (no need to click these as they are already 100%)

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Monochrome Modes Explained

The PEN-F has three Monochromatic modes. Mode 1, 2, and 3.

Mode 1 is more of a neutral B&W (click them for much better version)

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MODE 2 has several options with grain and offers a more contrasty Tri-X style of rendering. Below is a samples of Mode 2 with grain off, low, medium and high.

*Must click them for best view*

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Below is Mode 3 which is sort of like an Infrared simulation which is why the images below look like IR with grain and the blowout look. Many love this look, many hate it . ALL OOC JPEGS as with every image in this review. 

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So while the Pen-F offers normal color modes (That I did NOT use here but will add some over the next two days)  it also gives us the Chrome Film simulations and the Monochrome simulations, and I feel these are the best film simulations on any digital camera to date. Easy squeezie to get these results with OOC JPEGS.

Pros and Cons of the Olympus PEN-F

PROS

  1. It’s small, light, but VERY well made
  2. It is GORGEOUS in design and controls
  3. Super customizable
  4. MONOCHROME MODE
  5. SLIDE FILM MODE
  6. Swivel out to the left LCD get for video or Vlogging
  7. New 20MP sensor is fantastic
  8. Some of the best lenses out there are available for this system
  9. Under $1200
  10. NOW A PEN WITH AN EVF!
  11. Control dial on front adds a cool look and is very functional
  12. 5 Axis IS best so far
  13. Touch LCD screen can even change focus point with thumb while viewing through the EVF
  14. Wonderful Image Quality
  15. Decent low light high ISO capabilities though better can be had with some APS-C and Full Frame
  16. Super fast AF, very accurate AF, Fastest I have seen in M 4/3 so far
  17. This is a street shooters DREAM camera, well if not yours, it should be
  18. Exposure Compensation Dial!!! A 1st for Olympus
  19. SO many cool modes – Live Time, Focus Bracketing, Color Controls, Art Filters are still here, so so many things that are so functional that no other cameras have.
  20. Nice quality Leatherette covering, even on the back of the LCD if you want to close it and shoot without it.
  21. SILENT shutter option, and I mean SILENT!
  22. 1/8000 mechanical shutter or 1/16,000 electronic shutter. No problem for fast glass in the daylight.

CONS

  1.  No weather sealing but then again, at this price point and for what it offers I would not expect it to be there.
  2. I would probably prefer large buttons on the back as they are small, and seem hard to push. For example. the focus assist magnify button is very small and she I tried using a manual lens and using magnify I constantly had to take my eye from the EVF to find the button. I am sure after a couple weeks of use it would be second nature though it could have been bigger.
  3. Some of the MONO modes some may consider harsh but it is supposed to be emulating a Tri X style of film. So this is how it is supposed to look. If you wang normal smooth Monochrome, use Mode 1 which will offer less contrast and lighter blacks.
  4. NO MONO MODE IN RAW, only JPEG. But as I said, it is NOT a Monochrome camera, it simulates one very well.

THAT’S IT! It is one of the most “likable” cameras I have ever reviewed.

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My Final Conclusion

This camera is one of those that I love because it has everything I like and really nothing I do not. It’s an inspiration and if you are not a crazed pixel peeping maniac who only views 40-100 MP files at 100% you may not like Micro 4/3. But at the end of the day, Micro 4/3 offers shooters a real alternative to the bulk and size of many Full Frame offerings, even the smaller ones like the Sony A7 series but it does not offer full frame performance in ISO or IQ or DR. It does however keep up with APS-C, and I have proven this in the past with the E-M1. This has a better sensor. What you see here is all OOC JPEGS. My next update will be with RAW (when support is available) but my old E-M1 always did amazing with RAW and this one should be a tad better.

The PEN-F has been a long time coming and I am so thrilled that Olympus created this. There are many PEN fans out there and I feel they will FLIP over this one. I am replacing my old E-P5 with it so yep, I am ordering it even though I have an E-M5 around. I much prefer this to the E-M5 II and what sealed the deal for me was the COLOR DIAL allowing me to go from slide film like color to gorgeous Monochrome or even neutral if I so desired. The new EVF is nice (same one that is in the E-M10 II) and I just really LOVE LOVE LOVE the design here. Olympus outdid themselves and the PEN-F is 100% bonafide winner.

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With that said, for many hardcore enthusiasts and pros it will not replace a full frame camera (it’s not mean to) but for 90% of the camera loving public, it offers much more than most at this price point of around $1200 and if you want a HUGE step up from a smartphone or aging camera (even APS-C), THIS would be the camera I recommend to any and all from now on. Truth be told, if this camera was released in December, it would have been my Camera of the Year 2015 due to everything I just said about it, and the price which is excellent for what you get here. Its small, thin, and so easy to use and shoot. It JUST WORKS!

With its Electronic Shutter which is SILENT and allows up to 1/16,000S shooting or even the normal shutter at 1/8000s you are covered shooting fast glass in sunlight. With its fast AF, 10-20 FPS depending on the shutter mode and even the fantastic video capabilities (that I have not yet tested) along with the best 5 Axis IS in the business, this is a serious camera with a serious fun factor. The best part is that it delivers on all fronts from build to speed to usability to IQ.

The PEN-F will start shipping in March 2016 and will come in at $1199.00. 

Leave a comment below and let me know what YOU think of the new PEN-F!

WHERE TO BUY THE PEN-F & ACCESSORIES?

You can pre-order the PEN-F at B&H Photo & Amazon Below:

Order the PEN-F in Black at B&H Photo HERE

Order the PEN-F in Silver at B&H Photo HERE

Order the PEN-F In Silver at Amazon HERE

Order the PEN-F in Black at Amazon HERE

Accessories…

You can order the premium Leather bag at B&H Photo HERE

The grip is available HERE at B&H Photo

The half case is available HERE

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More Samples from the PEN-F!

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Below, with the new 300mm f/4 – THIS IS A DROP DEAD GORGEOUS LENS giving a 600mm FOV and easily hand holdable. 

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FULL PRESS RELEASE FROM OLYMPUS

OLYMPUS’ ICONIC MASTERPIECE: THE NEW PEN-F® COMBINES TIMELESS DESIGN WITH SOPHISTICATED COLOR PROFILE CONTROL FOR THE ULTIMATE STREET PHOTOGRAPHY TOOL

20 Megapixel Live MOS Sensor, 5-Axis VCM Image Stabilization, Fully-Customizable Monochrome and Color Profile Control, and Interactive OLED Electronic Viewfinder in a Classic Rangefinder Design

CENTER VALLEY, Pa., January 27, 2016 — Olympus is pleased to announce the PEN-F, a compact system camera created by fusing cutting-edge digital technology with craftsmanship handed down from 80 years of Olympus camera manufacturing. As the digital update of the original PEN-F, the world’s first half-frame SLR, the new PEN-F is packed with incredible performance advancements for photographers seeking superior image quality and creative control. The 20 megapixel Live MOS Sensor is combined with Olympus’ 5-Axis Image Stabilization, a built-in 2.36 million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder, and a new Creative Dial on the front of the camera that accesses a host of controls to deliver a captivating shooting experience, all included in a design that exudes timeless beauty.

Elegant, Meticulous Design
The PEN-F’s classic body lines and silhouette are inherited from its predecessor, which debuted in 1963. The top and front covers of the body are crafted from magnesium, and the precision metal dials (along with the bottom of the body) are crafted from aluminum. Olympus engineers devoted extraordinary resources to ensure superior quality and craftsmanship, so much so that even screws are undetectable on the camera’s exterior. Simple, stylish touches — like the included camera strap and the leather-grained exterior of the camera body and the back of the articulating LCD monitor — provide a unified look and feel. Customizable buttons and dials are positioned for easy operation while the user looks through the viewfinder, and the new Exposure Compensation dial and four custom modes on the Mode Dial offer instant access to registered settings for simple, direct control.

Ultimate Image Quality in Every Situation
The newly-developed 20 megapixel Live MOS Sensor is paired with the latest TruePic™ VII Image Processor to bring out the amazing image quality of Olympus’ M.ZUIKO® lenses. The sensor’s low-pass filterless construction delivers high resolution and a low sensitivity ISO LOW mode equivalent to ISO 80. In addition, the powerful 5-axis VCM (Voice Coil Motor) image stabilization compensates up to 5.0 steps* of shutter speed for one of the world’s highest levels of compensation performance. This technology allows users to capture clear images of night scenes and other low light situations with minimal noise, without raising the ISO. Focal length may be set manually, so that even legacy manual-focus lenses can be image-stabilized. The PEN-F’s High Res Shot Mode captures 50 megapixel equivalent images that reproduce incredible subject detail in ultra-high resolution, perfect for architecture and still life work. Plus, Olympus Viewer 3 Ver. 2.0 image editing software has been updated to process High Res Shot RAW images.

Complete Freedom of Expression
The PEN-F’s new Monochrome and Color Profile Control functions allow photographers the ability to emulate their favorite films of years past. These functions differ from using photo editing software after shooting, as they allow users to apply and check effects in Live View while shooting to create their own original images. Both functions include quick-select presets designed to give images the look of classic film. Or, settings can be completely customized to achieve specific looks. The camera’s front-mounted Creative Dial accesses Monochrome Profile Control, Color Profile Control, Art Filters, and Color Creator, all with a simple twist.

Monochrome Profile Control combines five photographic effects — Color Filter effect, Shading effect, Film Grain effect, Monochrome Color, and Highlight and Shadow Control — for a variety of monochromatic expressions. In addition to the default setting (Preset 1), there is also Classic Film Monochrome (Preset 2) for a monochrome film effect with high contrast, and Classic Film Infrared (Preset 3) for an effect that mimics infrared film. In Color Profile Control, users are able to adjust the color saturation of 12 individual colors in 11 steps. This is combined with Highlight and Shadow Control for limitless color expression. In addition to the default setting (Preset 1), there is also Chrome Film Rich Color (Preset 2), which provides deeper tones in images, and Chrome Film Vivid Saturation (Preset 3), which creates high levels of color saturation. The PEN-F’s rear lever lets users easily toggle through the various effect controls, including Highlight and Shadow Control, a feature that also allows for the adjustment of midtones within plus or minus seven steps for advanced customization.

High-Visibility Interactive Viewfinder
The PEN-F is equipped with a built-in 2.36 million-dot high resolution OLED Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) with a 100-percent field of view and a magnification rate of 1.23x (35mm equivalent: approx. 0.62x) for a clear view without aberrations, even at the edges. Simulated OVF (S-OVF) Mode expands the dynamic range and provides an image similar to what would be seen with the naked eye. The magnified display function and Focus Peaking (which offers three levels and four colors) allow for extremely precise lens focusing. In addition, the PEN-F’s vari-angle, touch-enabled LCD monitor lets users compose Live View shots from a variety of angles, high or low.

Super-Fast Response for Comfortable Shooting
The PEN-F features blazing-fast speed with the shortest shutter-release time lag of any compact system camera** at 0.044 seconds. The 1/8000-second, high-speed mechanical shutter provides superior performance for capturing fast action, and shutter functions can be customized according to the scene. Silent Mode is useful for shooting in situations that require complete silence, and Anti-Shock Mode allows users to prevent shutter shake. The AF Targeting Pad enhances control by allowing users to set focus points by touching the rear monitor with their thumb while composing their shot in the viewfinder. Face Priority AF and Eye Priority AF detect and continuously adjust the focus on faces or eyes for easier portrait shooting. Enhancing the detail of every shot is AF Target Spot Metering, which links the AF Target and the metering area, while Super Spot AF and Small Target AF make it possible to focus on small subjects.

The PEN-F offers additional compatibility with users’ legacy lenses by enabling them to register the information of lenses without electronic contacts for inclusion in images’ EXIF data. The lens information may be recalled with the press of a button. Up to 10 lenses can be registered, including the lens name, focal length and aperture value.

Even More Creative Control
Other creative features include Live Composite Mode, which allows users to extract and composite the brightest areas from multiple, sequentially shot images to capture incredible cityscapes and star trails. With the PEN-F’s built-in Wi-Fi®, users can utilize the Olympus Image Share app for Android® and Apple® to adjust settings and monitor the progress of the image as it develops in real time on a smartphone or tablet. In 4K Time Lapse Movie, the camera captures up to 999 images automatically at intervals ranging from one image every second to one image every 24 hours, and combines them into a stunning high-resolution 4K video, all in-camera, without the need for additional software.

For those who enjoy macro photography, Focus Bracketing captures multiple shots at the touch of a button, all with slightly different focus depths. The new Live View Boost 2 makes it possible to easily focus and compose shots while checking visible stars in Live View. The PEN-F’s high-speed sequential shooting capabilities let users capture all the action at 10 fps with the mechanical shutter, 5 fps with C-AF, and an extraordinary 20 fps with Silent Mode.
Premium Leather Accessories
Optional accessories include the External Metal Grip (ECG-4) that lets users replace the battery without removing the grip, featuring a Quick Shoe Compatible Rail on the bottom for direct connection to a compatible tripod head. Premium-quality leather accessories are also available in limited quantities. The Premium Leather Shoulder Strap (CSS-S120L PR) features high-quality leather with a two-tone design and a thickness that helps reduce shoulder strain. A Premium Leather Wrapping Cloth (CS-48 PR) made of finely textured genuine leather is perfect for wrapping the entire camera with a large lens attached. The Premium Leather Camera Bag (CBG-11 PR) is a compact, genuine leather camera bag produced under the direction of AJIOKA Co., Ltd., a Japanese leather manufacturer, with thorough attention to details including pockets, a shoulder pad, and shoulder strap. The Genuine Leather Body Jacket (CS-47B) is designed to protect the bottom of the Olympus PEN-F from bumps and scratches.

U.S. Pricing and Availability
The PEN-F is available now for an estimated street price of $1,199.99 (U.S.) and $1,499.99 (Canada).

Jan 212016
 
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COOPERGF

VIDEO BAG REVIEW: The Tenba Cooper Series 8 and 13 Slim

It’s that time again…more bags! It seems there is NEVER a shortage of camera bags to house your camera gear. Choices are everywhere and I have seen and tried so many over the years. Some of my faves have been Billingham, Wotancraft, Artisan and Artist, Think Tank, Hold Fast Gear, Fogg, and now TENBA as they have created a VERY attractive bag here in the Cooper series, and the cool part is that these are VERY well made and super functional as well as lightweight and attractive. Will the Cooper be for you? Maybe, take a look at the video below to see more!

More on the Tenba Cooper series can be seen HERE. 

 

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See more on the Cooper at Tenba HERE
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Jan 202016
 
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Leic

New All Weather – Underwater – Any & All Situation Leica X-U

Leica has announced another new camera in the form of a new X (Type 113). This time around Leica beefed up the construction to make it UNDERWATER, ALL WEATHER and ALL SITUATION. It is shock resistant as well. Basically a take anywhere, anytime Leica X 113. This is an X 113..same sensor, same insides, same IQ but it is built to be TOUGH.

Take a look at the Leica Press release below and see what they are saying about their new addition to their ever-growing line of cameras.

Where to order?

You can pre-order with Ken Hansen ([email protected]) or PopFlash.com or B&H Photo. PRICE? $2950

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BELOW: PRESS RELEASE FROM LEICA:

Introducing The First Outdoor & Underwater Camera From Leica: the Leica X-U (Typ 113)

The new shock-resistant, waterproof and dust resistant compact provides outstanding picture quality under even the harshest conditions

January 20, 2016 – Leica Camera today announced the newest addition to its range of cameras, the Leica X-U (Typ 113) – the first model designed specifically for extreme outdoor and underwater use. Incredible ruggedness and easy handling make this waterproof, shock-resistant, winterized and dust-sealed camera the ideal companion for every outdoor tour or expedition; great for action and underwater adventures, travel and landscape photography, even in full HD video.

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Optimal picture quality with the Leica X-U is guaranteed by the same cutting-edge technology of all cameras in the Leica family. Combined with the high performance APS-C format CMOS sensor of 16.5 megapixels, its Leica Summilux 23 mm f/1.7 ASPH lens ensures natural color reproduction with maximum detail and sharpness, while the camera’s fast maximum aperture of f/1.7 allows for selective focusing. With its rugged underwater protection filter, the fully waterproofed camera guarantees pictures with exceptional brightness and clarity under even the harshest conditions and at depths of up to 49 feet.

Although all settings and features can each be changed individually, the intuitive handling of the Leica X-U follows Leica’s philosophy of a focus on the essentials. The options for automatic functions and the high-resolution, 3-inch LCD monitor help photographers find the precise settings in seconds, to avoid missing a moment. For the underwater photographer, the underwater snapshot button makes it easy to capture an image at the press of a button, without having to search through a menu.

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Made in Germany in collaboration with Audi Design, the stylish and minimal design of the Leica X-U ensures easy, intuitive handling and ultimate precision. The sleek, eye-catching camera features a top plate made from premium aluminium and an anti-slip TPE protective armor. Aluminium control dials show an attention to detail and an integrated flash above the lens provides exceptional picture quality when no natural light is available. Finally, the X-U’s non-slip body features a hardened protective cover for the monitor screen, with a failsafe double locking system for the battery compartment and memory card slot, to ensure total safety and control in all conditions.

When a single photo is not enough to capture the moment, the full HD video function of the Leica X-U makes it easy to capture moving pictures in high definition quality. The camera records video in a choice of 1920 x 1080 or 1280 x 720 pixel resolution at 30 frames per second in MP4 video format, delivering high-quality results that perfectly capture any adventure or journey.

The Leica X-U (Typ 113), priced at $2,950 will be available by the end of January at your local Leica Store, Leica Boutique or Leica Dealer.-U

Jan 192016
 
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A trip to the top of the mountain with the Fuji XT-1

by Mohamed Hakem (NOW THESE ARE GORGEOUS FUJI IMAGES! BRAVO to Mohamed’s beautiful eye and skill – Steve)

Hi Steve! I am back again with another adventure! I decided to climb the highest mountain in Egypt with my Fuji XT-1

First please visit my website http://www.hakemphotography.com
Follow my FB page on http://facebook.com/hakemphotography
Instagram: http://instagram.com/moh_hakem

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People who go Hiking knows what it means to have a heavy backpack on a rough mountain climb. The Hike here was up to the top of Mount Moses in Saint Catherine Mountain in Sinai, Egypt. Saint Catherine Mountain is not the toughest hike in the world, it is 2422 meters up, you have to walk 8 KM ion extremely rough grounds. The place is magical and full of culture and history that dates back to the Ancient Egyptians. They first built a city in the shape of a fortress at around 1000m high it as part of the road from Egypt to Jerusalem. This area was then converted to the famous Saint Catherine Monastery which has tons of religiously important heritage for Christians, Muslims and jews. There is also a place during the climb where it is believed that this was the place God talked to Prophet Moses (peace be upon him).
To prepare for such climb, the first thing you think of is weight you hold as a burden on your back. you take minimal things, energy bars and water, you should not take anything else. but what about us photographers!? the answer is simple, it was impossible for me , a man with moderate health and stamina to lug around a DSLR body, tripod and two lenses that would be around 4-5 kilos minimum, My D800 was 945g+ (14-24)950g +70-300 (700g) + a big tripod = a break in your back!
to solve this problem I took with me the XT-1, the 10-24, 8mm fish eye and the 55-200 lens + plus the 3leggedthing punk tripod. all of these combined did not cross 2.5 kilos.

The path is rocky and extremely rough but its not dangerous. We took 3 hours to finish the main stage then 1 hour to climb what the bedouins call the stairs, vertical rock formations that forms natural stairs. Its not easy at all but its doable. Your second enemy other than the gravity is the Cold! it really was cold. We were all wearing heavy coats but the thing is during the climb your body becomes sweaty, so whenever you stop you instantly feel the cold to your bones!. reaching the top! after finally reaching the top,we had two hours till sunrise so we took the most uncomfortable nap in the world. Your sweat is freezing inside and you really can’t wear anything more. After waking up extremely tired and cold I packed my equipment and went for the sunrise. Sometimes I couldn’t feel the camera in my hands, I wanted to press the shutter button but I can’t feel my fingers! somehow after managing and warming up you begin to see the magic! a sunrise that you will never forget! Stunning sky colors, stunning rock formations, the place really touches your soul! every minute the colors change and the scenery changes magically until you see the sun and all your problems are gone! you instantly become warm and energetic.

The experience was never to be done without a mirrorless camera. I sometimes held it on my neck to capture on the go, it was never doable with a DSLR. as for the quality I will leave the judging to you.

That is me on the top of the mountain (shot by a fuji X100)

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Note the Bedouins below…click images for better versions!

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Saint Catherine Monastery

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Jan 152016
 
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best

The Last Best Bit of Him. Capturing my Father Before He’s Gone.

By Greg Turner

Hi Steve,

As ever thanks for all the effort you put into your website. I check it pretty much every day and enjoy the contributions from so many talented photographers as well as your own insights and thoughts. It’s something I look forward to at the end of the day.

Lately my photographic journey has been going through a ‘purple patch’ and I’ve been trying to find an answer to the question ‘what kind of photographer am I?’ Most likely this is just a mid-life crisis but there’s a lot from my childhood that I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to understand and come to terms with and so now I find myself doing that through the medium of photography. Some might think that pretentious. I don’t care. They’re my demons I’ll exercise them any way I like!

One of the things I did over Christmas in pursuit of finding an answer to that question was put together a website. The process of ‘curation’ was fascinating and insightful in itself and it was precisely that process that I hoped would lead me to insight. If I am going to select what I show, I should be able to say why I am showing this and in doing that, come up with an answer to my question.

I named the site ‘Tears in Rain’, the line comes from the film Blade Runner (which has been my favourite film since way before it was cool to say that!) and references the idea of memories being ‘lost, like tears in rain’. I don’t want the memories to be lost; I want them to be captured after all, that is the essence of photography. And since the film and the book on which it’s based, deals with the notion of what it means to be human, I find myself coming up with my answer.

I’m just an amateur photographer, motivated to understand the world and the people who live in it a little better through the medium of photography. The website address is www.tearsinrain.co.uk

Which brings me to the project I really wanted to share with you and one that has had the most profound impact on me personally.

My father was always my inspiration for my interests in life; my hobbies and pursuits all come from him (I get my work ethic and intellectual drive from my mother). It was he who introduced me to photography for example.

About eight years ago he got quite ill and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. As a consequence of this, he had a small blood clot cause a minor stroke of some sort, which in turn resulted in part of his brain tissue dying, the area around the frontal lobe. The consequence of this has been a slow but very noticeable decline in his cognitive ability, empathy and behaviour. He’s formally diagnosed with ‘frontal lobe dementia’ and the condition is progressive. It took a long time to diagnose and for many years we struggled with the subtle but difficult shift in his behaviour. Now that subtlety has long since passed and being with him is a lot like being with a young child.

So as we all watch him fade, and as we struggle to manage his behaviour, it occurred to me that I really needed to both capture the essence of who he is/was now before it’s gone and also, in the process, reconnect with him in some way. So we arranged a photo shoot and these are the pictures I wanted to share. I don’t think the individual pictures need much commentary. For those that are interested (and I see no problem with that), they were taken with a Sony A7s and either the 35mm Sony Zeiss f/1.4 ZA (the B&W image shot at f/1.4) or the Sony Carl Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 ZA with the LA-EA4 adapter (the colour versions, shot at f/5.6 and with off camera flash). There are other images and these at a larger size under the ‘Projects’ folder on the website. The project is called ‘Dad’.

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The Creeping Darkness

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This was also my first attempt to shoot with a flash, either on or off camera, though for this shoot I went off camera with a single light source shot through an umbrella. I think the results, good or otherwise as they are, are more good fortune and luck than anything else. But I am very pleased with the results not least because the process of looking and thinking engages us with the subject and it’s been a long time since I properly did that with my father.

Best regards

Greg

Jan 052016
 

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A Sony RX1R Mark II Camera Review, in Iceland

by Chad Wadsworth – His site is HERE

In 1988, The Sugarcubes debut album “Life’s Too Good” was getting heavy rotation in my cd player and served as an introduction to the quirky band’s native Iceland. Over the years other Icelandic bands like Sigur Ros and Of Monsters and Men, continued to sonically and lyrically paint an enticing canvas of their native homeland, further cementing the small country on my bucket list of places to visit. So this fall, while friends planned their winter vacation to warmer climes, I pitched the family on an adventure in the land of Ice and Fire. My wife has come to accept my odd predilections and the kids were just happy to get passports so we booked the flights and began our planning.

Anxious to capture the beauty of Iceland, I still had to be realistic about the nature of the trip. This was a family vacation, not a photo tour or workshop so I had to pack light and work quickly. Luckily, a friend was in possession of a loaner Sony RX1RII from B&H Photo and offered it up for use during the trip. This friend is building some impressive 3D printed Arca Plate compatible grips for compact cameras that add almost zero weight. Check them out HERE. – highly recommended.

With the RX1RII secured, I committed to use it for the majority of vacation shooting (everything presented here was shot with it unless otherwise captioned). Some may question why use a camera with only a fixed 35mm focal length but not everyone wants to play the roll of conspicuous tourist sporting a DSLR and zoom lens. On the contrary, the RX1RII embodies the classic concept of a decisive moment camera, similar to film compacts like the Konica Hexar AF that enabled pros to pack a much smaller kit when traveling, without sacrificing quality. The a7RII along with the Zeiss Touit 12mm and a Leica Summitar 50/2 also made it into the travel bag, but the primary test was to determine the RX1RII capabilities in real world shooting under some extreme conditions, not a traditional lab review with test charts.

While light was at a premium, what was available (about 5 hours per day around Christmas) was wonderfully diffuse and photography friendly. The weather in Iceland is quite variable with multiple daily changes in climate and conditions as we roamed the countryside. Unfortunately, there was record snow in December and persistent cloud cover so the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) were hidden from view, but that didn’t stop us from hitting everything else on the itinerary. With good planning, you can easily maximize the available winter light and complete a full day of activities. Based for part of the trip in a small coastal town named Stokkseyri (pop 445) we managed to drive our rental car to Gulfoss, Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls, the wreckage of an American DC-3 on the black sand beach of Sólheimasandur, the Dyrhólaey promontory, Vik, Geysir, Seljavallalaug swimming pool, the Jökulsárlón glacial lake area and of course Reykjavik and the Blue Lagoon.

Must click on the photos in this report to view them correctly. Also, all images are from the RX1RII unless noted. Some are from the A7RII. 

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Image below…a7RII 50/2 Summitar

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Back to the RX1RII Shots

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Reflecting back over the week spent with an RX1RII as a primary tool, there are few cameras that would have been more satisfactory for the task of vacation photography in this environment. The compact size allowed for easily accessible stowage in a jacket pocket, a more challenging prospect for big brother a7RII or even the Leica Q. Why was this important? While the camera was well protected from the weather – see below for thoughts on its weather handling – I still wouldn’t want it exposed to the cold and rain if needn’t be. Second, for many activities, not having a camera or bag swinging around or in a difficult to access backpack was a big plus. The fixed lens meant no concern for switching lenses in extreme cold, humid or dusty conditions and by using a small hood I was able to keep most of the foul weather off the front lens element. The RX is also by nature of its small size and with the new flip screen, extremely inconspicuous, perfect for street scenes and easy low perspective photography.

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Using the RX1RII in the field is a significant improvement over the first generation in terms of user interface and speed of operation although the speed of image review is rather sluggish. I’d like Sony to take note of what some competitors do to increase the appearance of playback speed – immediately display a low resolution JPEG image when you hit the play button as the buffer clears and the higher resolution RAW becomes available. This is a nice trick that would make playback more responsive.

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Autofocus is greatly improved over the original RX1 with advanced modes like object tracking and eye-AF that are not just gimmicks to be ignored. Being able to lock-on to my subject’s eyes or face with the push of the button is a useful feature that enables a more effortless and accurate off-center composition, compared to a traditional focus and re-compose technique. Sony claims a 30% improvement in AF speed and that figure feels about right – maybe 40-50% in some circumstances. Really we are at a level of AF performance with these cameras that is beyond good enough for most purposes.

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Since the majority of my work takes place in front of a music stage, I don’t normally expose my gear to the elements in a way they were in Iceland. Both the a7RII and the RX1RII were used unprotected in significant exposures to rain, snow, waterfall spray and sub freezing temperatures. I came away with new found confidence in the weather handling capabilities of these cameras. On the RX1RII I even used the EVF in the rain which I was initially worried would expose the camera to water due to the pop-up mechanism. The one criticism I can lay on the RX is the poor battery performance in cold weather. The little battery just couldn’t hold the juice when the temperature dropped below the freezing point. With a pocketful of spares, I never ran out of power but the hassle of swapping batteries in -15 C was not an overly pleasant experience. There are solutions available, such as using an external power pack via USB and I may look closer at those options if I was to use the camera extensively in such cold environments again. Comparatively, the a7RII battery held up quite well and I never once had to change it in the field.

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The Zeiss Sonnar 35mm f2 lens that the public and reviewers raved about in the original RX1 makes a return in the new camera matched to the resolving power of the 42mp sensor first introduced in the a7RII. The Zeiss was magic on the original and none of that mojo has been lost on the RX1RII. The Zeiss renders almost like a Planar design, with softer/smooth bokeh, while retaining a Sonnar’s critical sharpness in the center wide open and across the field when stopped down – an almost perfect recipe for a 35mm lens. No one should call this Zeiss clinical, but rather images have an organic feel that is hard to come by in modern designs. The lens appears to be resolving every single one of those 42mp, especially evident in scenes with a distant subject such as a landscape. I am simply staggered by the level of detail this combination is resolving in many of the Iceland scenes. Even more impressive was the few handheld panoramics I attempted. The results were beyond expectations; the 42mp sensor in the tiny RX1RII is capable of generating impressive high megapixel stitched images. One shot on the Svínafellsjökull glacier tongue resulted in a 162mp file with levels of detail unheard of in a camera this size.

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Image below…Sony a7RII 50/2 Summitar

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A7RII and 12mm Zeiss Touit

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All images here are shot in RAW so I can’t comment on JPEG performance but working with the Sony files in post is a pleasure. Dynamic range is as expected – stellar – and having continuity between my a7RII and the RX1RII is a big deal as it can be a challenge to match output on a shoot from different camera models. Color is subjective and easily manipulated but I enjoy working with the base Sony color space. So far there haven’t been any surprises or ugliness in terms of how the files react to edits -no artifacts or banding, just rich malleable data.

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To wrap it up, if I measure the RX1RII based on the resultant images, the satisfaction while using it and the desire to keep using it, this field test in Iceland can only be categorized as a success. As groundbreaking as the original RX1 was, expectations were high for the new camera and if my experience can be used as an indication, Sony delivered a worthy successor.

Camera talk aside, I hope it is obvious that we fell in love with beauty of Iceland. Thanks to Steve for sharing our little trip and if interested please visit my site where I have a full day-by-day travelogue with details of each stop.

Chad

Jan 042016
 
PROS

PROS

My experience with the Mamiya RZ67

By Prosophos  – See his website at www.Prosophos.com

Happy New Year to my fellow photography enthusiasts! To start off 2016, I thought it would be nice to put together a brief post and contribute back to the inspiring community that my good friend Steve Huff has worked hard to build and sustain. In the past, I’ve written about using the Leica M9 to photograph children’s sports  and family vacations . Similarly, I’ve written about the Leica M3 in the same context.

This time around, I thought I would switch gear(s), so to speak, and discuss something completely different… the Mamiya RZ67.

The Mamiya RZ67

Yes indeed, a discontinued medium format film camera.

Did I mention it’s 2016?

(Let’s proceed anyway.)

Now, you may notice something different about this camera vs. the previous gear I’ve used: it’s, um, ever-so-slightly… bigger.

Well, it’s not just bigger – it’s a whole lot bigger.

In fact, when I first decided a few years ago to purchase a used RZ67, I thought for sure I had made a big mistake. Besides being a lot larger and heavier than anything I’d previously used, it was decidedly slower. For a photographer who enjoys photographing Life’s Little Moments, I was embarking on a journey that would likely limit me to photographing Life’s Lagging Moments.

So why did I ever consider the RZ67?

The answer lies partly in the fact that I really enjoy creating images with film (something about the way the light is captured on this venerable medium that is simply wonderful), and medium format has always been a kind-of a “Holy Grail” format for me.

You see, I grew up in the pre-digital camera era where “real photographers” used medium format. Silly notion, I know, since many of the best images I’ve seen have been created on 35mm film (and 35mm digital) and these days impressive images are created using iPhones. Still, it was a mental block for me that I needed to push through. I had to scratch that itch, climb my personal Mt. Everest, (insert your favourite cliché here) and dive into medium format.

The rest of the answer has to do with my view that photographing family and friends is an important and worthwhile pursuit (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/04/02/photographing-your-family-with-the-best-photo-equipment-you-can-afford-by-peter-prosophos/ ). My research on the Mamiya RZ67 had brought me to the realization that images from this camera had a special quality to them that I suspected – beyond the inputs provided by the camera, lenses, and of course photographer – was attributable to the larger “sensor” size. I wanted to harness the qualities of this larger sensor to create images of my loved ones.

How large a “sensor” does a medium format film camera (like the RZ67) have vs. digital “full frame” cameras (or even medium format digital cameras)?

Here’s a graphic I put together to give you an idea:

2. Prosophos Mamiya RZ67 (sensor size)

Now, not too long ago, 36MP digital sensors were introduced into 35mm (full frame) cameras. Not too long after that, many photographers concluded that these pixel-rich 35mm cameras out-resolved medium-format film cameras and rivaled even medium format digital cameras. That may or may not be true, but the resolution in an image vs. the overall “look” of the image are very different concepts, and the “look” you get out of a larger sensor is perceptively different: the tonal transitions are subtler, the separation of subject matter from the background is more natural, and the overall rendering is somehow “more grand”, especially in the context of portraiture.

…and this brings me back to what I wanted to accomplish with the Mamiya RZ67: to create images of my family and friends that were imbued with a quality I couldn’t replicate with either 35mm digital or 35mm film.

Did I succeed?

I’ll let you judge. We all see things differently, figuratively and literally, so I don’t expect everyone to agree.

Finally, since I prominently feature the name of my camera – the Mamiya RZ67 – in the title of this post, I suppose I should provide some information about it. However, getting into technical details would be beyond the intended scope of this post, so I won’t discuss any of that here.

What I will say is this: contrary to my initial apprehension, I’ve found this camera a joy to use. The RZ67 was obviously designed for photographers and it’s clearly engineered to mitigate the sometimes foolish things we do to mess up shots and ruin rolls of film. With this camera it’s difficult to get into any sort of trouble because it is virtually fool-proof.

I wish all modern cameras were as thoughtfully designed.

It’s a large camera for sure, but it’s modular, allowing you to switch film backs and lenses and viewfinders and film orientation, and so on… on the fly. But, it never gets in the way of the photographer and in the end he/she is left unencumbered to click the shutter and get the shot.

I’ve unfairly limited most of the discussion above to the Mamiya’s sensor size, but I would be remiss if I didn’t comment a little about the Mamiya 110/2.8 lens I use. Simply put, it is my favourite lens for portraiture. Combined with the built-in bellows function of the RZ67 – which allows you to get really close to your subject – it’s a portrait photographer’s dream.

Currently, you can pick up the gear I use for the price of a digital compact, so if you’re even remotely interested, I would certainly recommend that you “go for it”.

And now, some images.

7. Prosophos Mamiya RZ67 - H

8. Prosophos Mamiya RZ67 - C2

4. Prosophos Mamiya RZ67 - C

13. Prosophos Mamiya RZ67 - Honey

14. Prosophos Mamiya RZ67- E

10. Prosophos Mamiya RZ67 - D

11. Prosophos Mamiya RZ67 - G2

9. Prosophos Mamiya RZ67 - H2

3. Prosophos Mamiya RZ67 - H&N

12. Prosophos Mamiya RZ67 - O

6. Prosophos Mamiya RZ67 - B

5. Prosophos Mamiya RZ67 - G

15. Prosophos Mamiya RZ67 - R

All of these were shot within 200 feet of my house (inside joke) with the Mamiya RZ67 and the aforementioned 110mm f/2.8 lens using either Kodak Tri-X 400 or Portra 400 film. I develop the Tri-X myself, hence most of my photographs are in B&W.

(Disclaimer: If you are not impressed with any of my images, don’t blame the camera. Many other photographers have created hauntingly beautiful photographs with it and so I encourage you to research others’ images.)

Once again, I wish you all a wonderful 2016,

–Peter.
www.Prosophos.com

Jan 022016
 
TTTG

TTTG

A look at the Zeiss 50 Sonnar ZM on the Leica SL

By Steve Huff

Ahhh the Zeiss 50 Sonnar C ZM lens. A sort of “classic” in the way it renders and draws, especially wide open with its classical bokeh and subject isolation. I reviewed this lens around 7-8 years ago at my original website and I loved this lens on my Leica M8 and M9 back in the day for its unique way that it would render a portrait. My original review is long gone, but my follow-up on the M 240 and MM can be seen HERE.

Not everyone is a fan of this lens as it has a way of creating bokeh that can, at times, be nervous and odd. But on many occasions, it can create an image with gorgeous beauty in the way it will deliver the subject and background, usually allowing the subject to POP off the screen.

The Leica SL with 50 Sonnar. Nope, can’t shoot THIS lens on a Nikon or Canon ;) Works amazing on the SL. Click image for better version..

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After testing this lens on the M8, M9 and 240 I wondered what it would be like on the Leica SL. I feel the SL sensor is a mix between the M9 and M 240 with much more contrast and pop than the 240 but much nicer color than the M9 (IMO). The SL feels like a 3rd gen product and while it is a first gen, the camera is amazingly intuitive and delivers consistent results. Since I love the 50mm focal length, I am testing all of my fave M 50’s on the SL this year and will be doing little follow ups like this all year with the SL and Leica M lenses. The  fact is, these lenses render much differently on each Leica camera. The way a 50 Lux renders on an M8 is not the way it renders on an M9 or M 240 or SL. So with the little Zeiss, I wanted to see just what the Sonnar gave me and I have to say, I really really love what it can do, though it has some negatives I will touch on in a few…

Good ol’ Olive. She has learned to sit still and pose for me as I have been shooting pictures of her since she was a puppy. This was at night, in my bedroom, shot at f/1.5

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Last week I wrote a refresh on the Leica 50 APO. The world’s best 50mm lens with the world highest 50mm price of $8200. The Zeiss 50 1.5 Sonnar, luckily, comes in at around $1200 and it is worth every cent of that $1200, especially when you compare it to other Leica big money lenses. But those who ADORE something like a 50 APO may not jive with the 50 Sonnar as it is much different. Expect soft corners in detail landscape shots, expect Bokeh that is a tad busy at times and get ready to take a step back as the close focus distance is 1 meter, not the usual .7 or .5 meters of many M lenses.

Ashwin Rao during his visit to AZ. We hung out all day with Jurt Kamka and shot with SL’s and an S006 (Kurt’s). It was a Leica day for sure ;) 

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Kurt Kamka talking with Ashwin. This is an OOC JPEG, f/1.5 

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Just a cowboy at Goldfield Ghost Town in AZ, shot wide open at 1.5. This should put to rest the myth that this lens is soft at 1.5. On the SL or A7RII, there is no softness issues as focus can be spot on every time.

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If you are OK with the 1m minimum focus and the unique classical bokeh, the 50 Sonnar is quite nice. Some would say “special” as it is for many, one of those “artistic” lenses allowing you to create very unique photos as nothing renders like a 50 Sonnar. The C in the name stands for COMPACT and CLASSIC. This lens is tiny, and on the SL it worked out fantastic. Focusing with the EVF was a breeze and very quick and easy. I have gotten the hang of focusing with the SL and M lenses without using magnification and I can be quite quick if I need be.

Saw this poodle who had sandals on and snapped even though I blurred out the sandals! Even so, the lens shows it can be quite sharp in the center of  the frame ;) 

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Ashwin Rao and Kurt Kamka. Two names you probably know if you have been in the Leica community for a while. Both great guys with a serious passion for photography. I shot these wide open with an ND filter. 

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The Zeiss 5o Sonnar is a lens that everyone who shoots and M or SL should at least try. While it it not technical perfection like a 50 APO, and while it is not quite like a 50 Lux in character or bokeh, it does render so pleasantly at times I feel like I want one around at all times for when I want that look that this lens can give (but of course I do not NEED one). In some ways, I prefer this to the APO or any 50 made. In other ways, I do not but even so, it’s a lens one can use for low light or portraits or street as it will offer you a look that no other modern production lens can. At times, it appears to have the bokeh of an f/1.2 lens and I have seen some call it the poor mans Noctilux for the dreamy cool look it can give, but I would never compare it to the Noct as its not a Noct.

I would say that if you want a fast 50, and do not want to spend $4000 and up, take a long hard look at the Zeiss 50 Sonnar C and see if it works for YOU. I can tell you that it does very well on the SL. It’s a lovely lens. Jewel like in its build and feel and as I said, under $1200.

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AND NOW A FEW FROM THE LENS ON MY SONY A7RII – ALL AT f/1.5

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You can buy the 50 Sonnar ZM at B&H Photo HERE.  This is where mine came from ;) More on this lens from me can be seen HERE!

Dec 242015
 
titleashsl

titleashsl
Through the Looking Glass – A In-Depth Review of the Leica SL

By Ashwin Rao

Dear friends, I am here with a review of the Leica SL, Leica’s latest system camera and its first serious foray into the mirrorless digital interchangeable camera market – if you don’t count its rangefinder cameras. By now, you know that the SL is Steve’s 2015 Camera of the Year. He praises the camera for its design, build, utilization, and amazing VF, as well as its overall implementation. I wanted to offer my own experience with the camera, having spent several weeks using the camera with its native 24-90 lens, a variety of modern and vintage Leica M lenses, and several Leica R lenses. I have found the Leica SL to be the modern evolution of Leica’s ethos and vision, representing both its present and its drive to create a bright future.

Leica’s marketing campaign for the SL highlighted its professional attributes and its ‘mirror-less’ designation. For Leica, this is much like viewing the story of Alice in Wonderland “Through the Looking Glass”, in which Alice climbs through the mirror into the new and fantastic alternate world beyond. This turns out to be a very appropriate analogy for Leica’s effort with the SL.

If you are not interested in reading past this first paragraph, I will say this: The Leica SL is a highly useable, well-built, well-conceived, functional camera that targets both M users and new users seeking the Leica brand with autofocus implementation. Its clean design harkens to such well-designed cameras as Leicaflex and subsequent R system cameras. However, some of its design queues come from the M system. Its layout, once learned, allows the user to meld his or her photographic style and eccentricities with the camera’s functionality. In many ways, as I will come to discuss, the Leica SL represents Leica’s ultimate bridge camera, a “Jack-of-all-trades” device that ties together many systems into a cohesive package. And, you know what? It does a great job accomplishing this task in a way that only Leica can achieve.

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At first glance….

I first caught wind of the SL like many of you, in the weeks preceding its official announcement. Reading the tealeaves and given the recent release of the incredible Leica Q, I presumed that Leica was set to release an interchangeable Q or something of a Q/M hybrid. It only made sense to carve out a niche aimed squarely at Leica’s base, that is many of us who enjoy quality craftsmanship coupled with the Joy of photography. Given Leica’s install base of rangefinder users, many of us who are not getting any younger, a mirrorless camera, less reliant on the RF focusing mechanism, made sense to permit its users to focus their manual focus lenses with precision while being afforded an opportunity to use newly designed AF lenses. A compact, sleek competitor to steal back those of us, including myself, who had taken to using our M lenses on Sony A-series bodies for a compact solution.

Well, Leica certainly threw most of us a curve ball when they officially announced the SL. At first glance, I was dismissive. Here was a camera, that looked much like an overweight Sony A series body. It seemed boring in its design, offering nothing new that others had not already designed. I was doubtful that it would be ergonomically useful for M lenses. I was uncertain that a camera/lens system using contrast-detect focus only could achieve reliable and quick focus. As much as I love the size and functionality of many Leica cameras, including the M series, I also am a huge fan of a camera’s haptics (how it feels in hand) and design cues (how it looks). With the Leica SL, I was far from convinced on first viewing. However, coming from my overwhelmingly positive experience with the incredible Leica Q, I decided to reserve judgment and keep my order in place with Ken Hansen (honestly, one of the best Leica dealers on the planet) to see what Leica had up its sleeve.

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In the weeks that followed, the initial reviews by such great reviewers as Jono Slack, Kristian Dowling, Sean Reid, Jeff Keller (DP Review), Jim Fisher (PC Mag), and Lori Grunin (CNET), who had the privilege of first trying the camera, were overwhelmingly positive Despite its new release, it was never described as a limited first generation product. Very few bugs were encountered, other than those described as issues related to user preference (grip size, for example). The camera was described as operationally fast, built to the highest standard, and remarkably facile as an image-maker.

I was able first to test out the Leica at the Leica Store Bellevue (another great dealer) when the regional representative, Brad Weeks, brought in the camera for a first look. My first impression on holding the camera was…doubt. Yes, on first handling, I admit that I became even more uncertain about the camera. While I found that it was incredibly well built, it felt immediately larger than expected. The body itself is not much bigger than a Leica M, until you factor in its large grip. At first, the grip was a turn off, to be honest, but over time, I have found it to be very well implemented (more on this later). Further, as I attached the SL 24-90 mm lens, the only lens available for the camera on launch, onto the SL, I was daunted by how large the camera felt…It felt like a bulky SLR!!!!

I had given up on such cameras due to size years ago, as I found that I could produce more pleasing images with smaller cameras. Now, here in my hands was Leica’s SL (minus the R)…a funny play on words/letters/what have you, but drats, it felt like an SLR. Next up on my concern list was the button system and menu layout. On first handling the camera, I found the lack of clarity and definition around the buttons to be frustrating. I was not sure what buttons to press, or how to press them to get the camera to do what I wanted. I was quickly told how to focus magnify, and then futzed around, taking a few shots, leaving me with an uneasy sense that I was not sure how to use the camera…
Bummer, right?

Well, not exactly. In fact, not at all… Read on…..

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Learning the interface, and giving the camera second chance

I must say that the Leica elves in Wetzlar sure had magic up their sleeves. The more that I ended up using the camera which I first doubted, the more I began to see an output that is a genius of design implementation. Let’s get into this a bit more….
Let me come out and say it right away. The Leica SL is not an immediately intuitive camera. However, in the case of useability, all good things come to those who wait and who actually use this camera. At first, I was daunted by the camera’s “4 button” (IT’s actually got a few more than 4) interface, but as I began to sort the camera out things became clear.

1. Each button has different purposes. A quick push gives you one level of access, primarily allowing you to get into the camera’s menus. A LONGER push & hold allows custom assigned tasks to come to light. Even better, one can custom-set each of the button’s functions to suit one’s user preference. For me, I set the camera’s principal 4 back buttons to select: 1) ISO, 2) Exposure Comp, 3) lens selection – to choose what M lens or R lens, if such a lens was not coded), 4) white balance. I set the front black button to select metering mode.

2. The rear scroll wheel, if pressed and held, allows access to P, A, S, M modes. When shooting with M or R lenses, I generally use aperture priority or manual modes (with aperture set to whatever I want). In Aperture priority mode, the camera can be set to recognize the 6-bit coding of a lens and correspondingly set minimal shutter speed to 1/focal length or other options. I personally chose 1/2x-focal length)

3. The top scroll wheel is not active for aperture priority mode with manual lenses, but in manual mode becomes a shutter speed dial. Nice implementation again…

4. The joystick: Another great way to move around in the menu systems, as well as a way to review and zoom through images. It also functions as an AEL button. Now, with an updated firmware, the joystick is repurposed to allow focus magnification with Manual lenses mounted…This is a great update and allows one to use his/her thumb to zoom in without having to use his/her other hand to magnify field of view and achieve critical focus.

5. Menus. Once you get used to moving around in the menus, using both the 4 buttons and the scroll wheel, things become gradually more and more easy.

The Leica SL represents a product of clean, modern, minimalistic design. I found that it took me a few days to adjust to the menu design and layout of the camera, but once set, I have not had to make any changes, save for updating the firmware and thus permitting use of the joystick for focus magnification, making the camera even more pleasurable to use.

In the end, I settled on the following configuration for my assigned custom functions:

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Key feature – the viewfinder

Many of you have experienced the Leica SL’s incredible 4.4 megapixel “EyeRes” electronic viewfinder. In my opinion, the SL’s viewfinder represents the state of the art as of 2016. In decent light, the viewfinder’s refresh rate seems fantastic, and there’s no lagginess. Even in low light, the EVF performs admirably. Leica has even implemented a focus aid that many have not talked about. When magnifying the image (when an M or L lens is mounted), the image is artificially brightened. This effective trick is effective even in the lowest of light, and such enables accurate focus with M and R lenses in circumstances in which focusing may not be otherwise achievable.

When you first stare through the EVF, you’ll be amazed. It’s much like viewing a 4K TV for the first time. The experience is a bit overwhelming, and while it’s not quite as clear as looking through an optical viewfinder in good light, the benefits of being able to “see” in any light with the added perk of additional focus aids or shooting information makes the EVF spectacular.

Further, the viewfinder feels HUGE, providing a 0.8x magnification, one of the best available on the market, far surpassing the EVF’s produced for Sony and Fuji cameras. Thus, we have a huge viewfinder, capable of providing the user with accurate and precise focus in any light. Might this sound like a great non-rangefinder solution for your M lenses? Um, yes!

On further use with M lenses, I found that I could achieve my post precise focus with lenses with narrow depth of field. Lenses such as the Leica Noctilux, Konica Hexanon 60 mm f/1.2, and all Summilux lenses, have dramatically shallow depth of field that is incredibly easy to focus using the EyeRes view finder. In fact, it could be said that slower lenses with deeper depth of field (particularly wide lenses), take a bit more effort to focus critically, and one should be sure to focus-magnify to confirm critical focus.

Speaking of focusing aids, the EyeRes EVF permits focus peaking. However, when enabled (somewhat awkwardly by selecting different views by quick pressing the bottom right button), focus peaking effects are quite light. For me, using the “red” focus peaking permitted the easiest-to-see focus peaking effect. That being said, I am not sure that most people would need to use focus peaking to confidently achieve focus with their manual focus lenses on the SL. The viewfinder is that good, and the EyeRes viewfinder sees the plane of focus quite easily.

Manual focusing with the SL is a true joy, and the SL’s viewfinder is a convincing complement for autofocus composition as well.

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Haptics (How the SL feels in hand with SL, M, and R lenses)

In hand, The Leica SL is a surprisingly comfortable and responsive camera. It’s equally nimble working as an autofocus camera, when the SL 24-90 mm lens is mounted, though in this manner, it become a large, hefty camera, very similar in field to most medium size SLR cameras. Thankfully, it’s as responsive as most of its SLR cousins, though I’d imagine that a Nikon D3 series or Canon 1D series may be more responsive for sports shooting.

Make no mistake. The SL 24-90 mm f/2.8-4 lens is bulky. It’s not terribly heavy, though when mounted on the camera, the set up does feel somewhat front heavy. I certainly do hope that Leica future lens efforts for this system balance somewhat better and are somewhat smaller, though I suspect that Leica is not going for a size win with the SL. The upcoming SL 50 mm f/1.4, which is rumored to be the optically best 50 mm lens ever made, looks rather bulky. Certainly with all of the extra real estate, Leica can really push the performance of these lenses to the bleeding edge.

The camera does change character when using Leica M lenses. Instead of feeling large and voluminous, as it feels with the 24-90, it becomes far more nimble. The SL body in fact occupies a footprint that’s not all that dissimilar to a Leica M with half case added (with grip), and thus, after using the camera with M lenses via the M-adapter-T accessory, the camera began to feel like a great option with larger M lenses, such as the Noctilux. Even smaller M lenses, including the 50 mm f/2 APO Summicron, feel like nice fits for the camera, though truth be told, they seem slightly small on this body.

With R lenses, the difference is split. R lenses seem, in many ways, to be a natural fit for the camera. They are mounted using a slightly awkward dual lens adapter setup, coupling the M-adapter T to the R-adapter-M. Doing so then permits access to the R lens menu, which allows the camera to correct appropriately for any lens specific aberrations. Thankfully, the dual adapter set up works well, though I am personally waiting for the R-adapter-SL to be introduced to make things simpler and potentially to enable additional features in ROM lenses. With R lenses mounted, the SL is transformed into a “small SLR” in terms of feel. R lenses seem to be appropriately sized for the SL, particularly its prime lenses, and are a joy to use on this camera. For those of you looking for a more permanent set up for your R lenses, the SL is a far better body for your lenses that the M240 body.

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Image quality

So how does the Leica SL perform? How is image quality? I can say convincingly that the camera’s sensor performs admirably, producing fantastic, beautiful, natural colors in outdoor/natural light. Some inconsistency is encountered, particularly in skin tones, when certain indoor lighting or mixed lighting is present. Skin tones, as with many digital sensors, tend to take on an orange hue, and the red channel seems overemphasized. Some have commented on a “tomato face” tendency of recent Leica sensors (M240, in particular), and at times, in artificial light, the SL does not escape this. It takes a bit of effort to adjust colors to obtain pleasing skin tones. Yet the possibilities are there. All of that said, I continue to prefer the M9’s color palette to the current Leica offerings, but the SL does reasonably well to produce nice colors most of the time.

Such affects are generally abated through careful selection of white balance. The SL adds a nice “Grey Card” white balancing feature which can be very helpful in achieving consistent white balance. Colors coming from the sensor behave much in the same way as output from the Leica Q, and as many have postulated, I suspect that the sensors are very similar or exactly the same.

However, I will say that the high ISO and shadow performance of the SL surpasses the Q, with less banding when underexposures or shadows are lifted. In general, the camera does a great job at suppressing noise or producing tasteful grain-like noise through ISO 3200. At ISO 6400, dynamic range is noticeably decreased, through grain is reasonably controlled and detail remains crisp.

In good light, the SL is a dream camera, producing some of the most natural and convincing images, regardless of lens used. I have used modern and vintage M glass, R lenses, and the SL24-90, and the sensor seems to play quite well with many types of glass from many different eras. In darker, muddier light, the SL tends to perform well through ISO 6400, and I generally have avoided ISO’s higher than 6400.

Many of you would ask if I prefer the output of the SL at base ISO to the venerable Leica M9? For me, finally, I have found a camera rivals the M9 in its color and crispness reproduction and sensor that suits me so well for my M lenses. I loved my M9, using it steadily for 5 years, but ultimately moved on to try new gear due to the limitations and issues with the M9’s sensor (limited ISO, corrosion). I was first impressed by the output of the Q, and now, I am equally impressed, if not more so, by the SL, which improves upon the Q’s sensor performance while performing admirably with SL, M, and R lenses. Colors are natural, and white balance is more consistent than the M9. Images from the SL do pop in that 3 dimensional way, much like M9 files. And to benefit the SL, ISO performance FAR exceeds the M9’s CCD sensor output. Summicron lenses are capable in low light. Noctilux lenses can see in the deepest and darkest of nights, in the shadows of this mirrorless world.

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Autofocus performance

The Leica SL achieves accurate autofocus of daily life activities without any issues, as long as a scene is reasonably light with reasonable contrast. I would say that AF is quite convincing in bright light almost all of the time. I have only occasionally had issues achieving infinity focus when shooting low contrast images (such as a hazy horizon), but this is a rare occurrence.
The Leica SL’s focus algorithms are challenged by very fast moving subjects coming in and out of plane (such as a sporting event), and I am yet to be sold on the camera as an autofocus option for fast moving sports (US football, soccer, basketball) That being said, it’s quite possible that my own technique is the limiting factor, though my hit rate, using both AF-S and AF-C, with various frame rates, was variable at best. I suspect that for slower moving action (such as fashion shows, slower moving sports, and weddings). Ultimately, I do not believe that the SL is designed with sports photographers in mind. After all, how many sports photographers would shoot a 1 lens rig (24-90 is all that’s available) at a 12,800 price tag? Not many that I know, especially when Canon and Nikon offer so many more options.

That being said, there are many professionals who will adore the SL and will find its autofocus capabilities to be exemplary. I suspect that the camera may well be aimed at professional wedding photographers, particularly those who can afford an expensive rig. Destination photographers and fashion photographers would be likely added targets. In fact, most pros that have invested in a Leica S system may well be suited for using the SL as a back up or second body, particularly when an S lens adapter is made available.

All in all, I have found autofocus performance with the Leica SL and 24-90 to be more than adequate for most shooting circumstances, save very fast moving sports in which the action is unpredictably moving in and out of the plane of focus.

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SL lens performance

While I can honestly say the the SL 24-90 lens deserves its own review, I will say that performance of the SL is equal to having a selection of primes within the focal length range. If you are willing to live with the size of the SL 24-90 and its variable and somewhat slow aperture, the lens produces incredible results on the SL, with pleasing out of focus (bokeh) areas and critically sharp in-focus areas (save at 90 mm, were there’s a subtle drop off in sharpness, which I’d call minor).

A camera with Multiple Personalities

The Leica SL is truly a camera with multiple personalities, depending on what system of lenses is employed on the camera. As mentioned earlier, the system feels very much like a pro SLR rig when the 24-90 lens is used. I can see this as a perfect camera set up for wedding and landscape or wildlife photographers, who benefit from weather sealing, fast autofocus, and incredibly image quality of the SL lens.
The camera becomes a “big” M camera when using M lenses. With R lenses, the camera feels like a compact SLR.

As mentioned above, performance of the Leica SL 24-90 mm lens is admirable. Similarly, Leica M lenses perform very well on the SL, and I have yet to see any images, which would have been improved by using the M240/9/Monochrom sensor, in terms of edge performance. I have found that using the SL with M lenses provides a different, yet equally effective way of seeing the world with M lenses. Many will prefer the rangefinder focusing method, particularly those with good eye sight and familiary with RF focusing, but for most others, it will be easier to focus your M lenses on an SL body with far more consistency.

R lenses perform equally well. To date, I have tested the 50 summicron R, the 80-200 Vario Elmar f/4, the 60 mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit R, and the 180 mm f/3.4 APO-Telyt lenses. Leica R lenses are known to be exemplary performers and will surely do well on this 24 megapixel sensor, which does not stretch the lesnes’ resolving powers to the max. Given the telecentric design of R lenses, they are likely to perform marginally better at the corners than M lenses, though many, including Sean Reid and Jono Slack, have tested M lenses and found them to perform well on the SL (and not as well on Sony full frame bodies).

All in all, the Leica SL performs admirable in all of these venues. It’s truly Leica’s bridge camera, allowing users to tie many systems together, use any number of lenses on the body with adequate to admirable performance. Leica should be applauded for managing such a feat in a body that’s designed to be its own high performance pro camera. Color me impressed…

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Who is this camera for?

I can see the Leica SL as an appealing camera for several types of customers.

1. Leica brand loyalists who wish for a bridge camera with the Leica badge
2. Individuals with reduced eye-sight and a large install of M lenses or R lenses
3. Previously abandoned R lens users
4. Wealthy amateurs or pros who want the Leica brand in a pro rig
5. Leica S users wanting a second body
6. Individuals not pleased with M240 image rendering (preferring the M9’s rendering…this camera is closer to that)
7. Landscape and destination photographers who benefit from weather sealing
8. Wedding photographers seeking brand identity and the highest possible IQ

Ultimately, the market will dictate the case regarding who the SL is aimed at. I consider myself to be a Leica brand loyalist, and I am a dedicated M camera shooter. My eyesight (so far) is fine, and I don’t have a large install of M lenses. I occasionally shoot professionally, but most of what I shoot is for my own pleasure. Leica’s are my one life’s guilty pleasure, and thus, I am inclined to try what they offer as long as their offerings provide a new appeal. The Leica SL is a camera with great appeal, a camera that will likely grow on you with time. I imagine that a mature SL line may eventually steal some M users, but at the end of the day, may create more fans of the Leica brand by offering a camera that’s capable of broad appeal and impressive functionality.

Pros
1. Incredible EyeRes EVF – 4.4 megapixels, 0.8x magnification, minimal lag – best in class (for now)
2. Build quality – Built like a tank
3. Weather sealed for use in all conditions (with SL lens mounted)
4. “Jack-of-all-trades camera” – Can take M, R, SL, Cine and eventually S lenses. Works well in many settings, using different approaches to imaging focus and composition.
5. Clean interface (once you are used to it)
6. Color reproduction, particularly in natural light
7. Robust high ISO images.

Cons
1. Bulky if thought of as an M camera replacement
2. Grip may not suit everyone. Best for big hands
3. Haptics with small M lenses is a bit unusual, though functional
4. Learning curve. The camera is not immediately intuitive
5. Very limited native lens selection

Pride of Ownership

Over the years, I have owned and used many camera systems from many manufacturers. Each camera that I have used has had its merits and weaknesses, and some have engendered an intense pride in ownership, given a number of factors that made me excited and motivated to take photos. For me, the ultimate example of such a camera for me was the original M Monochrom. I found intense joy from this camera, as it both challenged and inspired me to become a better photographer. I was and am proud to own one, and when showing off photos taken with the camera, I will happy report that the image was made with this camera.

Each camera engenders a joy of ownership for different reasons. It’s the rare camera that engenders a pride of ownership. The Leica SL is such a camera. When you use it, you feel the confident build of the camera. You experience the detail and effort that was put into designing a tool for you, the photographer. You sense the history of the Leica brand as it stands by this product, with Leica’s incredibly rich history to back up and substantiate the camera’s existence. Yes, the Leica SL is a 1st generation product. While it may be the natural successor to the Leica R system, it’s really a unique system with its own strengths and weaknesses. Sure, it’s not as compact as an M system camera. Yet, it uses M lenses with aplomb. Sure, it does not have the R system’s amazing optical viewfinders, but this mirrorless camera offers a novel way of seeing, with a clarity not seen before. The fact that you can use literally any Leica lens within Leica’s own ecosystem engenders further confidence that this is a camera that has enormous capabilities. In your hand will be a camera that can handle many styles, many perspectives. IT can serve as a color solution for your M lenses. It can serve to give re-birth to your dormant R lenses. The SL 24-90 may be the best performing normal zoom lens ever designed.

All in all, I am proud to own the Leica SL. I am excited to present the images here as representations of how the camera has inspired me. I am sure that if you elect to pay the steep price for this camera, you will be similarly motivated to go out and shoot, and that you will be impressed by the results coming from the camera. I hope to see you out and about, Leica SL in hand. Ready!….Aim!….Image Capture!

Best,
Ashwin

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Dec 212015
 
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The Leica 50 Summicron f/2 APO Lens Review Part 2 – Leica SL

By Steve Huff

Ever since shooting the $8,000 Leica 50 APO on the Leica M 240 a year and a half ago I have been smitten by this tiny, compact and amazing performing 50mm lens. I have never experienced a 50mm quite like it and it was the ONLY LENS I used on the M 240 (and I used them all) that made the camera perform on another level than it normally does. The color, the contrast, the pop, the details, the smooth bokeh that is reminiscent of classic and modern, the super smooth slide out hood, the complete lack of distortion and CA, the ability to turn 35mm full frame into what starts to look like Medium Format.

I have never used any lens like the 50 APO as it has the ability to bring out the best of your sensor when used on the Leica M 240 or SL. When used on the Sony A7s and A7SII it is equally as amazing but on the A7RII it does suffer from soft edges and a tad bit of softness in general when compared to using it on the A7S or a Leica. I will show you a side by side later on down in this review of just that.

50 APO, f/2, SL. Love the way this lens and camera does B&W. MUST click the image to see it the way it was meant to be seen.

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But let’s be clear, this lens is made for a Leica. Also, it is better than my photo abilities and skills, and would probably remain so for the rest of my life. :) At this price, it SHOULD be reserved for real pros who earn income from their photographs, well, that is how I would expect it to be, but us enthusiasts also love it as many of us dream about this beautiful hand constructed 50mm masterpiece. I think many of us WANT IT simply because of the claim it makes…BEST 50 IN THE WORLD. Some even say BEST production lens in the world, period.

The Color. The Rendering. The Buttery Smooth Bokeh. Leica SL + 50 APO

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If you missed my review of this lens on the Leica M, check HERE. Then click HERE to see some shots on a Sony A7s (gorgeous rendering). Then see more of it on the M when I shot some COMICON photos.

This lens as shot on the M 240.

The 50 APO and the M 240 are a perfect match, without question, best lens I have used on the M 240, ever. More of these are at my Comicon report HERE. Had great lighting that day as well!

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OK, so here we go!

This Part 2 review will mainly go into how it does on the SL, Leica’s new, and IMO, best ever digital camera (and my camera of the year 2015). The SL is a marvel for SO MANY reasons. It is so hard to convey in words and the fact is, no one will really “get it” until they use one for a day or two and use it with M lenses as well as the native 24-90. Then you will say “Holy Shit, this is amazing in all ways”.

As of today, December 21st 2015, the SL is my #1 go to daily camera with a 28 Elmarit M lens and the 50 APO with a 90 APO to be added soon (when I can afford it). No camera, even the M, has given me as much joy of use as this SL. It truly is like shooting a Mini S Typ and the EVF WILL SPOIL YOU, it really will. But hey, we are here to talk about the 50 APO on the SL, so let’s get to some samples!

This shot was taken at night, in my home. The only light source was the one behind Debby and the one above her, in my Kitchen. So indoor Kitchen lights. Shot at f/2, this is pretty damn good for the circumstances. 

YOU MUST CLICK IT to see it correctly! 

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…and a quick and dirty B&W conversion, just by sliding down the saturation, no filters or tricks. 

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If you read the 50 APO review as used on the Leica M, you will see that it gave some of the best color, contrast and pop ever seen from the M sensor. This lens performs mostly the same way on the SL. It has striking contrast, gorgeous color, and sharpness anywhere you need it. Again, click on the image below of this CD cover and marvel at the detail. bokeh, color..and keep in mind, this is out of camera as shot at night in my Kitchen, with my nasty Kitchen lights. The AWB nailed this, and the lens brought out the amazing pop of this lens.

CLICK IT! Shot at f/2 wide open, where this lens LOVES to be shot. In fact, it is optimized for f/2 and I would NEVER shoot this lens at f/8 as that would be a crime. IN fact, once you get to f/8 diffraction will lower your IQ, so stay with f/2-f/4 for the best IQ and character. 

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Using an ICE LIGHT 2 that I am testing, I shot this with the light at its lowest output setting in a totally dark room. ISO 4000, f/2, JPEG

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Details and Bokeh. Look at the detail where I focused (crop can be seen when clicked on) and look at the silky smooth bokeh. No, the 50 Lux can not do this, I tried. 

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It will cost ya!

The Leica 50 APO lens price sounds absurd to 99.9% of those who love photography. Some get mad about this lens as I see some saying “My 50 1.4 Nikon can do this”, or “My 50 Lux beats the APO”…this happens with people due to the cost of the lens. The high price makes some out there get negative and mad without even realizing what it took for Leica to even release this lens. This lens was a nightmare for Leica early on. HUGE amounts of finished lenses would be thrown in the dumpster as they were not perfect.  A much higher number of lenses were thrown out than kept and Leica was probably starting to regret ever having this lens made. The 1st batch sold had flare issues, and had to be corrected yet again by Leica. Today though, all new 50 APO’s sold are perfect, or at least they should be. Leica has the production of this lens down by now, without question. Mine is distortion proof, artifact proof, flare proof and gives me the same bite and color in any light I use it in. It’s a special lens for sure.

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It was also a statement piece from Leica to tell everyone “This is the best lens we can make at this time, period”. Coming from the king of optics, Leica, we knew it had to be special but I am a big fan of the old 50 Summicron, which I still adore.

But when side by side the color difference between the two is MASSIVE. The micro details with the APO are just not there in the standard, the Bokeh of the old version was considered by MANY to be awful. I never had an issue with it but it could get busy in some situations. Not the APO. This lens has the best of everything, and while we do not get the classic slight bokeh swirl of a Summilux at f/1.4 we do get a unique rendering that is very pleasing to the eye.

Many I know who own it call it “BUTTER”.

The rendering is just so nice. I shot these roses at a gravesite and added some Vignetting myself for effect. The 2nd shot, again, in my home at night! The color, bokeh and details are incredible. 

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This lens was designed by Peter Karbe. A genius and IMO, probably the best and coolest lens designer in the world. See the video below where he talks about the 50 APO. Then click here to read an interview with him by Thorsten Overgaard where they discuss the details (and Thorsten’s skepticism) of the 50 APO.


The old 50 Summicron was designed by Mandler and is one of his last designs. It is also a legendary lens that has stood the test of time again and again, always considered at the top of the 50mm heap. It has a way of shooting poeple and portraits that borders on magical at times, if your lighting is just right. With the new 50 APO, it seems any light is OK as this lens takes what you aim it at, and somehow, even in the worst of light makes it look great. It is a huge step up from the old version but even so I still love the old one as it gives a totally different rendering.

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1st image  – in my office, no light on, at night. Only light source is my display. I shot this at ISO 2000 on the SL with the 50 APO at f/2. Click it to see how smooth it is, how fantastic the color rendering is, and how it just looks so good, even at ISO 2000 without any noise reduction. Must click it!

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This is my dog Olive sitting in a light patch that was coming in from my window. For this I converted to B&W and enhanced contrast more to give a striking look. I missed perfect focus on this one as she was moving her head..

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Using the 50 APO on the Leica SL was a treat. No rangefinder to worry about (going out of alignment) so nailing focus was pretty easy (unless you are trying  to focus on something that is moving, then the 24-90 would be perfect) with that massive bright beautiful EVF (which should be on all cameras today) I managed to use no peaking, peaking and magnification and nail photos. The best method though for me, using a manual lens is using the magnification. It will ensure you nail focus every time. I maybe missed focus on 1 out of 10 shots using no peaking, and maybe 1 out of 20 using peaking. By comparison, using it on an M you can get 100% in focus shots if your RF is in alignment. If it is not you have to learn tricks on how to nail focus and it’s a hassle and rarely works, until your M’s RF is fixed. So on the SL this lens is a joy to use. Never frustrating.

More 50 APO..all should be at f/2. Click them for larger versions. 

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But who would pay $8k for this lens when a 50 Lux is less than half price?

That is the question and to be 100% honest, this lens will not make anyone a better photographer. As I said, it goes beyond my skill set but I still love the lens. Do I need it? NO WAY. Would the older 50 cron do me just as good? Sure, as I no longer shoot pro for money. My main shooting these days, personal shooting, consists of family, trips, friends, etc. Something my Sony RX1000 IV is perfect for. So why do I have a 50 APO? Because I love camera gear, lenses, and many of you do as well. We know we do not “need” an item such as this, but we “want” it and wanting something like this is dangerous!

Luckily there have been special prices on this lens recently. Overstock cleared out three of them at $6000 last week (see post here) and you can find special prices every now and then on PopFlash.com or by emailing Ken Hansen. I received mine, new in box, as part of a trade deal I did with Ken Hansen because there is no way I could just part with $7-8K for a lens like this. The mental strain would be awful as I would constantly be saying to myself “Why did you buy this…you do not need an $8000 lens”!!! Lol.

With that said, shooting with and owning  this lens is a special thing. I feel blessed to actually own it, along with my other gear (SL, A7RII, RX100, RX1, etc) and I know that one day wether that is tomorrow or next year, I will get a shot using this lens that I will want to frame, and then it will make it all worth it. Hell, the joy I get from it is massive and I do indeed prefer it to the 50 Summilux ASPH I just traded towards it in all ways, though I still love the 50 Summilux.

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LENSRENTALS.COM TESTED THE TOP 50’s, and here is what they found..more HERE. The 50 APO beats the others..OTUS, SIGMA ART and more..so no, the Sigma or Otus or any other 50 does not technically match the smallest of them all, the 50 APO.

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Leica has a way of making you want ALL of their lenses. If I had 10 million in the bank I’d buy them all, and just put them in a shelf/case to use when I wanted. But as it is, I will be happy with my 28/50 and eventually my 90 cron when I can get it.

I know of over 10 who own this 50 APO and all of them love it and say its a lifetime keeper. Many prefer it to the Noctilux as the Noct look is magical but must be used sparingly otherwise your images start looking the same and you may start relying on the 50 Noct bokeh to make your images stand out (many do this). I feel shooting a lens like a 50 f/2, any version, will make you think about composition more than a Noct as with the Noct your main effect is blowing out anything but your subject. While it is a cool effect, once you shoot it daily for 2 weeks you will tire of that look. With a lens like this, the 50 APO, that will never happen. This is a legend already. A classic even today just a few years after its release. There is today, no 50mm like the 50 APO from Leica. Many may claim there is, or that their 50 can do the same but they really have no clue as you can’t until you use it. Put this lens in the hands of someone who can do magic with it and it will create magic.

if you have the cash and want a special 50mm for your M or SL, I’d go for the 50 APO hands down. If you do not have the cash, the 50 Lux, old 50 Cron or even the Zeiss 50 Planar can do the trick. All three of those have completely different rendering and I know a couple people who own them all and use them all. The 50 APO is about having the best 50 ever made, and I agree that it most certainly is the best 50 ever made so far. Yes, better than the big DSLR Zeiss Otus.

CLICK the images for larger and better!

The 50 APO is like going from full HD 1080 to 4K

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Quick Test By Request: The 50 APO on the SL and A7RII…

Sure, you can use the 50 APO on the Sony A7s and A7SII and get results up there with using it on a Leica. On the A7RII though the edges softness is there when shooting an image that would require sharp corner to corner performance such as a landscape at infinity. On the A7RII I’d take the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 over the 50 APO as you may get better results in most areas. 

Many asked me to do this comparison, so here it is. One landscape, and a couple of more normal shots.

Take a look below at two landscape style shots that I snapped. One with the SL and 50 APO and one with the A7RII and 50 APO. NO, these are not scientific as I do not do that for so many reasons. These are basically shots where I put the APO on one camera, aimed and shot and then did the same with the other. I was only testing here for soft edges, to see if it was an issue on the A7RII with the 50 APO. I’d love to see something from Sony like an A9 PRO that steps up the build, adds weather sealing, provides an EVF like the one in the SL and offers perfect performance for M glass, as the A7 series could be an amazing platform for M glass. They are almost there..and I feel like they will release a PRO body soon that aims at the SL. Just a hunch.

OK, here are the two quick shots. Take it for what it is. A shot with each camera using the same lens, same aperture. 

YOU HAVE TO CLICK THEM to see the crops correctly. 

1st up the Leica SL shot. Click it.

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Then the Sony A7RII shot..click it.

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You can see the soft corners on the Sony shot, and this is not a fault of the Sony, it is because this is an M lens adapted to be used on a camera it was not made for. Each generation of Sony A7 (now on Gen 2) improves on the M lens experience. As for now, the SL wins this one when using the 50 APO on each camera.

How about in normal shots?

Now, this is where it gets interesting. When shooting normal day to day shots of poeple, things, and generally shooting anything close in and wide open, you will not see these issues with the Sony and M lenses. Take a look:

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I STILL prefer the SL colors here but you can see the lens is now usable and workable on the Sony as the issues ONLY come into play when you want sharp edge to edge performance like the shots of the landscape above.

Yea, this lens is awesome..BUT…

This lens is a stunner but it’s not something we need to take great shots. Any lens can do that as the skill lies with YOU, not the lens. The lens becomes your paintbrush and yes, having as good of a lens as you can get will make your photos look better, it is up to you what you like in a lens or camera. Many will prefer cheaper alternatives because all lenses have different characteristics but if you want buttery smooth files, bokeh and micro contrast for days..the 50 APO will get you there.

VS the Zeiss 50 Planar f/2

One of the highest rated RF M lenses by Ziess is the 50 Planar f/2 which is an alternative to the old Leica Summicron, and yes, even the APO. While not as sharp, and with busier bokeh and some barrel distortion, the Planar will never match the APO but it will get you 75% there for under $1000. Here is a comparison.

1st Image up top, the 50 APO and SL – MUST click it to see crop.

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And now the Zeiss 50 Planar at f/2. Not nearly as sharp, has some distortion and the Bokeh is more nervous. But even with that, at under $1000 this is a great lens. 

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I will be shooting the 50 APO lens more and more and will be adding more images to this review over the next 3-4 weeks (Already added many new images since posting this a week ago). You can also check out my Leica SL gallery which will also be added to every week with the SL and all kinds of lenses. You can see that page HERE. 

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You can buy this lens at my preferred Leica dealers if you are interetsed:

Ken Hansen – [email protected]  – just e-mail him with any questions!

PopFlash.com – See their website, they will sometimes have great buys on this lens!

B&H Photo – The #1 photo shop in the world!

Amazon – You can find this lens there, even with Prime shipping often.

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HLPHH

PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!!

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link (not the B&H) and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

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Dec 182015
 
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The Sony RX1R Mark II Review

by Steve Huff

If you are interested in the RX1R Mark II I recommend the dealers below 100%:

B&H Photo – Click here to order the camera or see more info on the B&H Page

Amazon – Order via Amazon Prime RIGHT HERE!

Here we are at the last edge of 2015 and about to head into 2016. YES! We are NOW in the future! Remember back in the 80’s? Well, if you are old enough you do..when many TV shows and movies would be set in the future..like 2010 or 2020 and the vision of earth was always full of either flying cars or spaceships or the world was already gone due to nuclear wars. One thing they always tried to predict was technology, and usually it was way over the top. In any case, as we launch into 2016 we have cameras that beat the pants off of cameras that were launched just 2 years ago. Technology is here, and it is good. While not “Buck Rogers” kind of good, this new Sony is beautiful, but I never doubted it would be anything but.

RX1RII – Also some PP work with this one ;) (Blur, Contrast, Smudge)

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Yep, but back in the day we would shoot film. Remember the cheap disc film or the 110 film? AWFUL quality but those cameras and film were had for cheap, and they fit in your pockets ;) Today top end cutting edge digital cameras are made for professionals, enthusiasts and serious hobbyists. They have to be as these things are costing more than they ever have it seems. A Leica SL for $7500 without a lens. A Leica M for $5600, no lens. A Sony A7RII for $3400, no lens. A Leica Q for $4300 which is a single fixed lens camera, and now this…ladies and gentleman…I give you the long-awaited…

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Enter the new Sony RX1R Mark II

When the original RX1 was released it quickly became my #1 favorite go to camera for SO MANY reasons. I put up with its faults simply due to the fact that it gave me the best image quality I have seen up until that point. Rich, creamy, full of life, detailed, sharp, gobs of micro contrast, nice bokeh and an overall character that approached the look of Medium Format. It was the 1st 35mm full frame digital that I felt this way about and it even beat out my then previous 3 year love affair, the Leica M9. I suggest reading or refreshing with that old review HERE to see the main character and feature set of the RX1R II as it is mainly the same as the old version with a host of new features, all of which I will talk about here.

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Somehow Sony created a 35mm full frame camera in that original RX1 as it gave and produced output VERY much like Medium Format but less sterile, as in, it was almost perfect but still had plenty of character. This was my view on it and it quickly became my all around take everywhere camera. After the RX1R (R stands for RESOLUTION as it had No Low Pass filter) was announced and I reviewed it, I then fell in love again even though the camera was the same, just without an AA/Low Pass filter for even MORE detail. It boosted the RX1 up a bit with more of everything that made it great.

Unfortunately it (The RX1R) also kept all of the things that frustrated most about the camera..AF speed was dog slow and the lens looked like a 90 lb weakling trying to push 300lbs. It was slow but most who loved the RX1 and RX1R loved it for what it rewarded their patience with. Some of the most beautiful IQ ever seen in 35mm. The original has sort of collected a cult like status with users who own them vowing to NEVER give it up.

All three image below are from the new RX1R Mark II. Click them to see them correctly.

Kurt Kamka – Lunch Meeting in Phx AZ

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My son Brandon sleeping in until noon..

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My beautiful Debby once again helping me test cameras ;) 

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Then there was the Q

In mid 2015 Leica announced and released the Q, which is a camera that aimed directly at the Sony RX1 and RX1R. It is sort of small (though the Sony is quite a bit smaller) has a 28mm f/1.7 lens instead of a 35 f/2 like the Sony and well, it is a Leica. It has the red dot and all and is assembled in Germany. Coming in at $4300 which is $1000 more than the Sony, many felt it would be a Sony killer, and to be honest, it was. It took on the original RX1 and upped the ante with a BUILT in damn good EVF of which the RX1 lacked. It also has a touch screen, a beautiful LCD and has VERY fast AF. It’s a snappy all in one camera that also manages CRAZY GOOD IQ. Now, I do not feel the IQ can match the medium format look of the Sony but it is up there with the best there is in 35mm.

Overall, the Q beat out the old Sony and many were quick to fork over $4300 for the Q, and many still are. It’s one of Leica’s more popular digital cameras of the last 3 years or so. The 24MP sensor in the Q is stunning, so much so that they use it in the new top end SL that comes in at $7,500 (and won my Camera of the Year for 2015, see my review HERE). You can read my Leica Q review HERE.

So how would Sony answer Leica’s RX1 clone, the Q? And would it beat it?

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Enter the Sony RX1R Mark II!

It’s HEEEEERRRREEE and BOY, were MANY waiting for it. This camera has made my  inbox explode more than any other camera in recent memory. Most of you know I am a HUGE fan of the original RX1. I consider it a legend already due to the IQ alone. Now that we have the Mark II version with a FEW new things, it’s closer to perfect that it has ever been, and for me, this new R2 beats the Q. This will not be a huge LONG review as this at its core is still an RX1. Same body design, same feel, same lens, same controls, etc. So this review will focus on real world use while sharing thoughts and images from my 3 weeks with the camera that I have had the pleasure of shooting for the past few weeks.

All images in this review should be clicked on so you are seeing the correct version

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The RX1RII and its 42 MP sensor deliver “delicate detail”. It’s never analytical in its rendering but instead it offers what I like to call an ‘Organic Flow” to the rendering. For example, in the boring image below look at the screws, the web, the areas between what IS and what is NOT in focus. It’s falloff is fantastic and that is thanks to the Zeiss 35 f/2. This is a powerful camera that fits in my coat. Wow.

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Color & Light

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Click on this one to see the beauty in the rendering. 

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Lovely Blues from the Sony Sensor…

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Sony did not rest and now RX1R Mark II is here. That’s a mouthful, so I will call it the R2 from now on this this review. 

The new RX1R 2 looks the same, feels the same and yes, even smells the same as the original RX1 and RX1R. Upon closer inspection you will see the built in flash has been removed (not many used the flash, including me as this kind of camera does not need a flash) and now we have a very nice and sleek built in EVF that at first glance looks like an afterthought but in reality is a very nice powerful EVF, slightly improved from the A7RII!

So we now have the camera with a built-in EVF and most importantly faster auto focus which was the main #1 complaint on the original RX1 from those who used it or owned it. The new R2 has 30% faster AF, and I believe it as it is much much snappier than the old one, and even competes head to head with the Leica Q in AF speed. Also, I had no AF issues with the camera.

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So what is new in the new R2? All of the below!

  • New backlit 42MP full frame sensor. Yes, the same sensor as the A7RII!
  • New built-in and pop up EVF that is slightly better  than the A7RII EVF!
  • The new Af is 30% faster than the old RX1 series. This is evident as soon as you use it. 399 Phase Detect Points.
  • Swivel LCD screen this time around
  • Adjustable or Defeat-able Low Pass/AA filter! This is now an RX1 and RX1R in one body!
  • Eye AF now in this model
  • WiFi and NFC inside
  • Uncompressed 14 Bit RAW
  • Multiple Aspect Ratio Support
  • Smart Zoom to crop in camera without losing quality..use this with Macro mode ;)

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moooo

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The Sony RX1RII uses the same battery system as the old RX1 and RX100 line. It is one of the weaknesses of the camera so be sure to invest in 2-3 more batteries (you can get generic versions VERY cheap) to get you through the week.

The more I shot with the RX1R2 the more I was falling in love again, just as I did with the original. But at the same time, I have shot with the competition, THE competition that copied Sony and made a better camera than the old RX1 (Mark I). That would be the Leica Q.

The Leica Q vs the RX1RII

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While the mighty Q beat the old RX1 and RX1R in just about every way, how will the Q stack up against the latest and greatest from Sony? With this top of the heap technically advanced 42MP backlit sensor, how could the Q compete? Well, lets take a look..but 1st, see my video on the RX1R II vs the Leica Q:

NOTE: I incorrectly spoke at one point with the Leica Q in this video. I said it will stop down the lens automatically when closer than 1M. I was thinking of the X. The Q does not do this but will stop down when in Macro mode. 

So at the end of the day, for me, I prefer the new Sony but it’s VERY close. My main reason? The Sony is $1000 less expensive and gives me slightly superior IQ, or at least “different IQ”, and is smaller… though I have no issue with the size of the Q. But do not take my word for it, let’s see some comparisons. Who knows, you may prefer the Q!

Away we go…

1st up. ISO

Let’s get this one out-of-the-way 1st. High ISO. Let’s face it, below these high ISO’s both cameras are comparable, but how do they stack up at 50,000 ISO? Let’s see…

Sony RX1RII – RAW – ISO 50k  – MUST CLICK IMAGE!

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LEICA Q – ISO 50K – RAW – MUST CLICK IMAGE!

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Sony wins, the Leica has banding at its max ISO, and Sony still has steam pushing along to ISO 102,000..Sony Wins the ISO here.

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Portrait? These are all good IMO. One is from the Leica Q, one from the RX12 and one from the Leica SL with 50 APO (which is easy to spot). Can you spot which is which? EXIF info is in the photos..

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Same shot. The 1st one is the RX1R 2 as you can tell from the longer focal length of 35mm over the Q’s 28mm. 

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Sony is handling the color better so far…also, bokeh effect will be more pronounced on the Sony due to the longer focal length.

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Boots…1st up, Sony

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Leica Q

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1st, Sony

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Leica

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Coming in at $4300, the Q is expensive but hey, it’s a Leica. People love the idea of Leica and when they released the Q, and it exceeded expectations, well, the old RX1 kind of became forgotten. It was much slower than the Q and was dated in comparison. As you can see above the Sony delivers the goods. Some will prefer the Sony rendering, others the Leica. There is no wring choice here but for me, the RX1R II delivers the goods in a bigger way while being smaller and less expensive by a grand.

Now there are areas of the Q that beat the Sony. For example:

  1. The Q has a 1/16,000 shutter speed so you can shoot wide open in full sun, Sony does not
  2. The Q is a bit snappier to AF but only by a little
  3. The Q Design is Nicer IMO
  4. The Q menu is simpler than Sony’s
  5. The battery life is better on the Q
  6. The Q has a touch screen, not on the Sony.

With that out of the way, the Sony has some things to like over the Q…

  1. Latest sensor tech with the 42MP Backlit sensor from the A7RII Flagship delivers stunning results
  2. Swivel LCD
  3. Smaller size, can indeed fit in a coat pocket, Leica Q can not
  4. Better high ISO performance means better night time shooting
  5. files have more of a medium format look over the Q’s harder look
  6. More dynamic range from the Sony
  7. $1000 Less expensive than the Q
  8. You can turn on or off or adjust the AA filter. Want to avoid MOIRE? turn it ON. Want max detail, turn it OFF!

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What I tell everyone when they ask “Which should I get” I say “go with what you feel would make you the happiest and don’t look back”. There is no perfect camera but they are getting mighty close these days! The new Sony RX1RII is a stunning machine with power that you would never think could come from a camera this small. I had people looking at some of my sample shots telling me “did you use the Pentax 645”?!? It’s something that Sony is doing these days but the images that come from their latest cameras do indeed have a medium format feel to them.

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And the black and White conversions can be stunning!

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The Details…

Remember, this guy packs the 42 Megapixel sensor of the top of the heap FLAGSHIP Sony A7RII (See review HERE). That is FORTY TWO MILLION pixels in your coat pocket! That is the draw to this camera, not “Which one is better”. This is the smallest full frame camera you can buy as far as I know, and according to Sony, it offers the best IQ of any camera they currently produce. This is the top of the heap for IQ when it comes to Sony full frame. At the same time, it is not the best for video, and even Sony will tell you this. This camera was designed for the enthusiast and passionate shooter who wants a no compromise camera  – one they can shoot day, night or anywhere in between all the while getting top of the line quality that will beat just about any full frame camera around well past its price point.

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The camera also has an adjustable AA filter meaning if you want MAX RESOLUTION turn it OFF and you have an RX1RII. Turn it on and you have an RX1II. Adjust it and you can customize it to your needs. Me, I left it OFF at all times as I am ANTI AA filter. I RARELY EVER have Moire issues, so always leave it off.

But let’s see some shots with 100% crops to check details…

These bricks…this is a JPEG but click it to see the full 100% crop

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Again…

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…and again…

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…you get the drift…

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corner to corner this camera is sharp..this is an OOC JPEG

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Any reports you may have heard about the Sony RX1RII’s image quality not being as stellar is it was hyped up to be..well, not sure what to make of those (must have had a stinker) as I think the camera is as good as it gets in this class of camera. It bests the old model easily in speed, usability, and image quality. It’s more versatile with the nice pop up EVF and delivers a fantastic experience. In all other ways it is the same as the 1st version. Same menu system, same size, same style, same lens, etc. So there is nothing to report on there.

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I did hear something about Sony stopping production for a few weeks but I have not confirmed this nor do I know what it is about (I do not go by rumors or “he said/she said”). If this is the case, and fact, then the issue is not in my camera that I have here. 


-For me, my three full frame references are the Leica SL, Sony RX1RII and the Sony A7RII. To me, these are as good as it gets in 2015, heading into 2016 for cameras that deliver the goods. Expensive? Yes, very. Worth it? Only you can answer that one.

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Is the Sony RX1R II for you? Maybe..maybe not! My Final Word.

Think about it like this. The Sony RX1R II is like having an A7RII and 35 Loxia with AF in your coat pocket. Tiny, small, but uber powerful. There is nothing not to like on the Sony RX1RII. It’s beautiful in build, feel, and the EVF is fanatstic, even besting the one in the A7RII and it easily hides away when you do not want it. It delivers the best IQ of the Sony line due to the matched lens to sensor (which I talk about in my original RX1 Review HERE). It’s as good as it gets in an all in one, with the Leica Q right on its heels.

I love this camera as I loved the original, and it has earned a place at the top of my “keeper heap” in the Huff Household.

But I have many cameras. Many here will be using this as their one and only camera, so if this is the case I would say to make sure you are OK with only shooting 35mm as that is all you will get. There is no zoom on this guy, but that is the beauty of it. In many ways, using only the 35mm focal length for a year can greatly improve your photography, so for many this could be a welcome change from those big huge DSLR’s.

If you like what you see here from the camera then you will love it when it is in your hands. It’s a superb upgrade to the Mark 1 and while not a huge revelation when compared to the old one, it is a very nice step in the right direction for this series.

One more detail shot using an OOC JPEG! Click it for the larger version with 100% crop.

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Where to Buy?

If you are interested in the RX1R Mark II I recommend the dealers below 100%:

B&H Photo – Click here to order the camera or see more info on the B&H Page

Amazon – Order via Amazon Prime RIGHT HERE!

sony-rx-1r-ii-compact-camera-front

——————-

HLPHH

PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I receive 100-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I could use YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis. 

To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!!

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time (250 hours a month, and about $3000 per month).

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link (not the B&H) and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – (not bookmark able) Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!

You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. ;)

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees nor do I (nor will I ever) charge for reviews, so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. If you choose to help out, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Dec 172015
 
tomertt

tomertt

USER REPORT: A Leica SL Review

by Tomer Vaknin

Hello Steve and to all Steve’s readers!

Since I made a switch from my Leica M camera to the new Leica SL, I’ve been getting a lot of messages on what do I think about the SL vs the M, so I’ve decided to write this review and share my point of view about the new Leica SL.

The Leica SL is a pill that for many M users will be hard to swallow because let’s face it, the SL is going head to head with the M, so a lot of M users who love and worship their M (which until today have never seen any competition from any other camera), is now seeing competition from Leica itself!  After many days of reading online and looking at my beautiful M sitting on my computer table, while I’m working on a new and old moments that I captured with my M, I’ve decided to let it go… What can I said, I’m just not a two cameras kind of a guy and I know that if I had both the M and the SL, I won’t use any of them… I love to go with my camera to anywhere I go, you can’t catch me without it. The second I’ll sell my M, I’ll feel less of an “artist” and I believe that this feeling is shared by many M users. The M Classic look and the rangefinder it’s just work great!

Now after I deal with my problems, (and I believe with most M users problems) let’s get down to business. The SL is the best camera I have ever used in my life. That’s all. You can stop reading right now and just look at the pictures if you like LOL!

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I’m going to compare it just against the M because the M is in a different level from all the rest cameras out there, so there is no point to start compare it to any other camera just because the SL does not have a rangefinder, and by the way this is the all beauty of the SL it’s M on steroids just without the Rangefinder, simple as that.

It just feels amazing in the hand and gives you the same look and feel of the M with better colors, details, feel and pop. It really gives you the Leica/M look only with better of every thing, And as a tool the SL just feels so right! It’s a camera you just have to hold for yourself and go out and shots with it before you understand what I’m trying to describe here.

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I don’t want to go in to much technical details, but I shot with the master class Leica M 50mm APO on the M and on the SL and the different is just unbelievable, only then I saw how rich and amazing the files that the APO produce are. I never understand what so special about the APO (+7000$ f/2 50mm lens) until I saw what it capable on the SL (three images above were shot with the APO). I remember buying the Leica Noctilux 50mm f/0.95 and return it after one week only. It was heavy and uncomfortable to use on the M, (and I am not talking about focusing with this lens on a rangefinder, this is a different story) The Noctilux just feels so natural on the SL body and so beautiful. And now that all the calibration rangefinder stuff that stuck you without your camera twice a year is history it’s a real pleasure.

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I will summarize it with a something i said to my friend Dan who is a big Leica fan and great artist.  When he try the SL he told me ״this is the best camera in the world but too bad it’s not a rangefinder״.  Then I realized that I’m holding in my hands the new M only without the rangefinder. In a year from now, (when the new M will be release) it will be very easy to describe the SL. It’s just an M without the rangefinder.

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The lenses that I used with the Leica SL for this article are:

Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon

Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH

Leica 50 APO

if you like to see more please come visit me at my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/tomer.vaknin.5

Thank you very much.

Tomer Vaknin.

Dec 162015
 
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Visiting Prague with my Olympus OM-D E-M1

by Trent Cooper

Hi Brandon and Steve,

Love your website. I have been enjoying it; reading your reviews as well as getting inspiration from  you and your readers. Your website was instrumental in my decision to purchase my Olympus OMD EM-1. Another factor was the retro feel and look of the camera, which was further enhanced by my  burgeoning interest in fixed focal length lenses. If the greatest photographers throughout history could  make incredible photographs using one lens, I could at least give it a try to get lucky enough to get one or two good shots.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Recently, my wife and I took a trip to Europe that included a visit to the incredible city of Prague.  During this trip, I challenged myself to spend time shooting only with my fixed focal length lenses, often  going out with just my camera and one lens. I have the Olympus 12mm, 17mm, 25mm, and 45mm lenses,  all of which are small, light, and of very good quality. I would estimate that I used the 17mm (35mm full  frame equivalent) about 75 percent of the time. I discovered that it just worked for me and it was  definitely my favorite focal length. (So much so, that upon returning home, I found a good deal on a used  Fuji X100S, to continue my retro, fixed focal length theme.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I purposely did very little research before arriving at our destinations. I wanted to discover the  cities for myself, and not be tempted to try to replicate the work of those that have been there before me.  I found the city to be absolutely magical, and the photo opportunities are endless. I must admit, there  were a couple of occasions where I could have used a long zoom to compress the perspective, or reach  out to an interesting subject some distance away. However, generally speaking, after the initial  adjustment, I didn’t miss having a zoom lens at all. I found shooting with fixed focal length lenses to be  rewarding, interesting, challenging, and just plain fun. I felt like an old-school photographer, following in
the footsteps of Cartier-Bresson or Kertesz.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Having spent many years shooting a DSLR with a range of zoom lenses, limiting myself to shooting  with fixed lenses was an interesting challenge. I found that it definitely forced me to look at things  differently, to slow down, and to work harder to find the best vantage point to allow me to get the shot I  wanted. It forced me to become more deliberate and thoughtful in my shooting. It required me slow  down, think, and work to get the shot. It also forced me to accept that there were shots that I just  couldn’t get, given the limitations of the equipment I had with me at the moment. I quickly learned that it  was okay, and to just move on and find the next good spot.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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With zoom lenses, I have a tendency to shoot  many frames, adjusting the focal length of the lens in the hopes of getting something interesting. Most of  the time, I would just end up with a bunch of shots I wasn’t happy with. With a fixed lens, I had to work  harder to get the shot I wanted. I actually had to move my feet! Interestingly, and somewhat  contradictory, I found myself wanting to take my tripod with me when going out and about. I used my  tripod more often than I ever have while travelling. By slowing down and being more deliberate in my  shooting, the use of the tripod did not feel like the burden that it often does. The end result? A higher
percentage of shots that I was happy with.

Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts and my photos.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/trentcphotos/

Dec 102015
 

SCOUTXMAS

New Wotancraft Scout Special Christmas Edition Bag – Get it here.

ONE OF THE BEST camera bags ever made from Wotancraft, the SCOUT has just been made up in a special edition light green Christmas Edition. Besides the Ryker from Wotancraft (see my review here ) the Scout is my 2nd favorite bag from them. Its gorgeous, functional and made to last forever. It’s tough, comfortable to carry and this Christmas edition is easily holding my Leica SL, 24-90 Zoom and a 50 Summilux ASPH, which I am finding to be a perfect SL kit ;) My Ryker does not hold this kit, but the Scout does, and it fits nicely all snug inside of its protective housing.

This bag would be perfect for a Leica M system with 3-4 lenses, and accessories. It could also work with a DSLR or any Mirrorless system out there from Sony to Olympus to Samsung to Fuji. It’s not large but it’s not small, the scout is just right. It doesn’t look like a man purse, instead it is rugged and gives off a sense of adventure. It’s a beautiful bag…

front

Once you open the top flap you will see a protective cover that keeps your gear from rain or snow. I LOVE This feature of the Wotancraft bags. Zip this open to reveal the inside..

top

which has even more protection that covers your expensive gear. Flip open the flap and you will gain access to the interior…

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Inside is my Leica SL, 24-90 and a 50 Summilux ASPH. I can also fit the charger, sd cards, cables, and my iPad mini in the back.

open

back

Everything is of high quality with all Wotnacraft products. The Scout is for those who prefer a Canvas look instead of all leather like the Ryker…

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topdown

I also received a VERY nice lens pouch from them (HOBBIT LENS POUCH) along with the bag that is above and beyond most lens pouches in regards to materials used and protection. I will use this without question and it will stay with my Scout.

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You can order this special limited edition Wotancraft Green Scout Christmas Edition NOW right here at Wotancraft direct. Mine arrived in 3 days and it is LOVELY in every aspect. You can see my review of this bag HERE. Same bag, new special color. 

Specs:

  • Light green canvas + light colored leather
  • The Wotancraft W.A.L canvas is based on tough Cordura fabric, with underside PU-coated to prevent water seepage, and further treated to look like natural cotton canvas. W.A.L stands for
  • Water-repellant, Abrasion-resistant, and Lightweight
  • Designed for mirrorless system (you can demo with Leica SL or your latest A7 system)
  • Becomes an everyday office / messenger bag once you remove the shock-resistant insert
  • Now on till 2015/12/31, order of Wotancraft camera bag comes with one HOBBIT camera lens / travel pouch as Christmas gift

– photojournalist’s most desired WOTANCRAFT camera bag. Inconspicuous, protective, with a slight touch of WWII military equipment aesthetics

– removable shock-resistant insert that fits mirrorless camera set x2, flash x1, and additional accessories

– padded compartment for 10″ laptop or iPad

– interior flap with zippers (bronze YKK with rustproof coating) ensure dust and rain resistance in ourdoor environments, with upstanding rim to avoid gear scuffing against zipper tooth

– back pocket with leather rain cap (tucked in by default), designed specifically for photojournalists to quickly access field journals

– curved ergonomic shoulder strap pad for maximum comfort when bearing weight, with anti-slippery padding lined underneath

– vegetable tanned full grain cowhide and sheep skin leather parts, with tough rugged skin creases and pores clearly visible

– bag exterior:
31 x 12 x 23 cm
removable insert interior:
27 x 10 x 20 cm
front pockets:
14 x 2 x 16 cm
back pocket:
30 x 15 cm
interior padded compartment:
29 x 23 cm
interior hidden pocket:
18 x 15 cm
shoulder strap:
adjustable between 90-130 cm
weight:
bag 0.725 / insert 0.36 / shoulder strap 0.245 kg

– package include:
SCOUT bag x1
padded divider (no cap) x2
padded divider (with cap) x2
adjustable shoulder strap x1
dustproof bag x1
“REMOVE BEFORE ADVENTURE” military ordnance tag key chain x1

Dec 082015
 
chadtt

Leica Q – Impressions from a Sony RX1 Shooter

By Chad Wadsworth – Visit his website HERE

Over the past few years Sony has disrupted the DSLR industry with their full frame a7 mirrorless line, but the camera that started it all was the original RX1. Since its release in 2012, the RX1 has been labeled a modern classic – a full frame compact that you could use as your main tool without compromise. But technology moves fast and today there is competition in the space from both the Leica Q and the just released update to the RX1, the RX1RII.

The Leica has received praise from the online community so I was curious about how it would compare to my beloved RX1. The 28mm Summilux presents a wider fov compared to the classic 35mm of the RX1 – a positive to some, negative to others. The Q has a touch screen, built-in high-resolution EVF and Leica claims one of the fastest AF systems on the market. It was all certainly enough to have me interested. At the same time, I hoped the RX1 replacement would be announced soon and sure enough, Sony revealed the RX1RII in October, sporting the potent 42mp sensor of the a7RII, 399 phase detect autofocus points, a new pop-up EVF, tilt screen and the worlds first variable optical low pass filter – quite a feature set.

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Finding a Leica Q to play with proved difficult but a couple of weeks ago a good friend purchased Ashwin Rao’s camera and allowed me to use it to shoot the Fun Fun Fun Festival in Austin, TX. Two days of intense shooting with the Q definitely informed my opinion on the camera.

No denying it, the Q is lovely. In comparison to the bulky, Bauhaus on steroids design of the new SL, the Q pays closer homage to the M line with classic rangefinder sensibilities. It looks and feels as if it was carved out of a solid block of aluminum with fine workmanship throughout the build. I particularly like how the thumb grip is inset into the back of the body. I received many compliments on the camera and even ran into one other shooter backstage.

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Comparatively, the RX1RII hews to the same retro aesthetic but with a more modern twist. Build quality is similar but the design adds a unique pop-up EVF and a tilt screen for a more stealthy experience on the street. There is also a direct control dial on the front for focus settings – including a continuous mode with advanced features like AF Lock (tracking) and Eye AF (eye tracking). Even with these modern features an RX1RII shooter is going to field regular questions from strangers on whether the RX is an “old film camera”.

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Initially I was surprised at how large the Q is, but it fits the hand well and isn’t so big that I wouldn’t use it in the same capacity as the RX1. The Sony is smaller and lighter (507g vs 640g), more of a jacket pocket camera. The size of the Rx1 is a major positive if you are looking to travel as light as possible with a full frame sensor. The Q actually weighs more than the original a7 with the FE 28/2 lens mounted (only 604g for that combo).

The 28mm Summilux f/1.7 permanently mounted in front of the Q’s sensor is wonderful. The highest praise I can give it is that when I first loaded images into Lightroom I thought, “wow, they look like they came from an RX1.” Of course the RX1 sports a Zeiss Sonnar 35/2 – the fifth highest rated autofocus lens in the DXO Mark database – and many feel it to be one of the finest 35mm lenses made, but I have no doubt that if scored, the Summilux would do very well. So pick your poison, 28mm or 35mm, both are truly excellent. I prefer 35mm so my choice is clear, but the Q does have a nifty digital zoom feature that lets you auto crop your images (even in RAW) to either a 35mm or 50mm fov. In typical Leica fashion, this digital zoom doesn’t result in a true magnification within the viewfinder, instead digital frame lines are overlaid in a quasi rangefinder effect. A novel implementation, but composing at 50mm with just a small portion of the scene within the frame lines was not ideal. I would at least prefer a menu option to select whether the frame lines or a full screen zoom were activated. Keep in mind that with the plentiful pixels of the RX1RII (42mp), that camera also shares the ability to crop into longer fovs (50mm or even a 75mm), greatly expanding the usability of the fixed 35mm prime lens.

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FFF 2015 - Peaches

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FFF 2015 - Omar Rodriguez-Lopez

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The EVF in the Q is high resolution and comfortable to view, with little to no visible lag. There is some smearing deep in the corners but it isn’t too bad. I personally find the EVF too flat and with poor color balance compared to the Sony EVFs, which tend to have more contrast and very accurate color. I noticed that shadows often had a blue tint while highlights were yellowish. When I had a chance to try out the Leica SL with its huge EVF I noticed the very same color and contrast characteristics.

Where I was more impressed with the Q was in the autofocus performance category. One of my first shots of the day at Fun Fun Fun Fest was this image of a skateboarder flying up a ramp. He was traveling at a high rate of speed with only a fraction of a second to capture the moment. The Q’s AF was very quick and nailed the focus perfectly. My original RX1 could not have done the same. The a7RII with the FE 28/2 felt like it came close to matching the speed of the Q, but I at the time of this article I don’t yet know if the RX1RII is blessed with all the same AF capabilities of its big brother. I did get a chance to try the RX1RII at Photo+ and the AF seemed very speedy inside the Expo but I couldn’t test it in a wide variety of environments. As long as your subject has good contrast you can count on the Q to grab focus very quickly and accurately – we are talking faster than SLR speed in many circumstances. Having a contrast detect system, the Q will struggle a bit in low contrast scenes, but overall the focusing experience with the Q in the field was a non-issue and that is a very good thing.

FFF 2015 - Skate BMX

FFF 2015 - Wrestling

FFF 2015 - Skate BMX

FFF 2015 - Skate BMX

So we have established that the Q is a handsome camera with great build quality, a stellar lens, a nice EVF and exceptional autofocus capabilities. The original RX1 had only three of those five characteristics, lacking a built-in EVF and excellent autofocus, and the new RX1RII looks to have all five. A camera is worth more than the sum of its parts though and the most critical aspect of any comparison is image quality.

I’m not going to be subtle about this, the Leica Q produced files that disappointed compared to the output from my Sonys. Specifically, dynamic range was relatively anemic (Ming Thein quotes 12.5-13 stops in his detailed review of the Q) and color balance was erratic in cloudy weather. With over 14 stops of dynamic range, the Sony RX1 and a7 bodies dominate when it comes to shooting in challenging light conditions where one would desire to recover highlights or pull detail from shadows. With the Q files I simply could not recover to the same effect and it wasn’t really close. Working with the files felt like I was a generation behind – I don’t like going backwards. Was I happy with many of the Q images? Absolutely, but the overall experience of editing Q RAW files and the number of images rejected due to a lack of depth in the data was dispiriting.

I also witnessed an alarming problem with banding in some Q files. In the image below, note the horizontal banding at the top of the image over the black tarp of the stage. This photo was taken at a moderate ISO and I did not heavily edit the shadow or black levels so I can only surmise that the banding may be due to the electronic shutter feature of the Q. Using silent shutter on the Sony a7 cameras will result in similar banding but with the Sonys you have the option to turn the feature on or off. On the Q, whenever your shutter speed exceeds 1/2000th of a second, the camera automatically activates the electronic shutter which enables faster speeds. There is no option to turn off this feature so if it is indeed responsible for the banding, you are stuck with it. On the RX1 and RX1RII there is no electronic shutter feature and the cameras are limited to 1/2000 when shooting wide open (1/4000 when stopped down).

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Compared to the a7RII

On day two of the festival the weather was particularly nasty so I left the Q home and packed the a7RII and the little Sony FE 28/2. That lens is sensationally sharp with great bokeh for a 28mm so I was curious to see how it would stack up against the brilliant Summilux on the Q. I have to say that I see little difference in sharpness between the two which is impressive considering the $450 price point of the Sony lens. The mix of photos below are from both Q and a7RII, you should have a hard time discerning which camera they came from.

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FFF 2015

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After shooting over a thousand frames with the Q in a challenging environment, even with the more limited dynamic range and banding problems, I was still impressed with many of the images that the camera produced; but at the end of the day I still prefer the Sony RX1 files with their rich depth and malleability. Given the killer 35mm Zeiss Sonnar lens, the smaller size and weight, the increased resolution, more advanced AF, class leading dynamic range and lower cost, my RX1RII order is safe.

See below for more samples from the Q.

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FFF 2015 - Peaches

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