Oct 312014
 

titleashwin

From the Leica M9 to the Leica M240…and Back to the M9

By Ashwin Rao – Follow him on Facebook HERE

Hello my friends. It’s Ashwin, back to talk about my recent GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) journey with Leica. I have been a huge fan of both the Leica M9 and Leica M Monochrom over the course of the life cycles of these cameras. I have always enjoyed the rangefinder way of seeing, from the time I first came upon my very first rangefinder, an M6 TTL. I joined the digital rangefinder transition, as did many others, with the Leica M8, and while that camera had many benefits (incredibly clear and crisp sensor), it was not quite ready for prime time due to its IR sensitivity issues and operational foibles, all of which have been well documented. That being said, many Leica M8’s remain in service today, over 8 years after it first came into production in September of 2006. The Leica M9 was released to much fanfare on September 9th 2009, heralded as the first full frame digital rangefinder, featuring a high quality CCD sensor with the same pixel pitch as the M8, and some cosmetic and operational refinements. The infrared sensitivity issue ,which plagued the M8, was mitigated for the M9, and for many, it is considered a modern legend of digital photography. I received my first Leica M9 in December of 2009, and soon thereafter wrote my first article for Steve, reviewing the M9 and a “travel camera extraordinaire.” 5 years later, I believe those same words hold true. The Leica M9 remains a remarkable camera, capable of capturing the decisive moment and motivating the eager photographer.

Leica M9 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux-ASPH

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M240 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux-ASPH

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Leica M9 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux-ASPH

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With time comes progress (right?) and in September of 2012, Leica announced the Leica M240, or in short, the Leica “M”, the first full frame sensor to feature a new CMOS sensor, which would permit higher ISO shooting, and importantly, live view. In theory, the Leica M240 boasted many performance and design refinements learned from the limitations of the M9. It also allowed rangefinders to compete with other modern cameras in providing an option to focus lenses with live view and it can shoot video. For many rangefinder enthusiasts, particularly those with aging eyes and a large collection of R lenses, the M240 represented an option by which to focus more accurately and use their R lenses, which have not been supported by a modern digital Leica R.

Like many, I was very curious when the M240 was launched. I kept a close eye on those who were able to use the camera early in its production cycle, such as Steve, Jono Slack, Gary Tyson, and others. As the camera became more widely available, I regularly browsed online photo forums and facebook enthusiast pages to find compelling images and reasons to justify upgrade….this process was a year long journey, and one accompanied by great struggle. I truly loved my M9, the “CCD look” that I perceived to be true, and had truly bonded with the camera over years of use, but new cameras are always compelling and entice the prospective buyer with the promise of new features and improved image quality. I also struggled with the concept of investing another $7000 in a camera, when I had just done this a few years back.

Leica M9 and 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH pre-FLE

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Finally, in the spring of this year (2014), I purchased the M240. It was a harrowing, yet exciting moment. In the year that I had debated whether or not to purchase the M240, I remarked that the color palette, dynamic range and look of files from the M240 was vastly different M9 files. Initially, the M240 seemed to be plagued by inconsistent white balance, but over the year, through firmware upgrades, Leica seemed to improve upon this. Yet, the colors coming from the camera, and skin tones in particular, seemed so different, warmer and more red/orange (a common problem with CMOS digital sensors, by the way), than what I had accommodated to with my M9, which provided a seemingly cooler skin tone profile. As I reviewed images, I came to compare the M9 and M240 images to different image stock. Ultimately, I was compelled to try the M240 to see if I could adjust to this different way of seeing.

M9 and 50 mm Noctilux f/0.95

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M240 and 50 mm APO Summicron-ASPH

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In the process of buying my M240, I quickly sold my M9 to be able to focus on one color rangefinder option. I set into getting to learn my camera, and was able to have the M240 around for a very important part of my life, that is, my wedding and the months around this event. I managed to shoot the camera regularly.

What were my conclusions, you might ask? What was my conclusion from this costly experiment? Well, the title of the article summarizes the basic experience, but let me elaborate. I simply couldn’t get used to the M240 and I could not find a bond with the camera. First, and most challenging for me, was the color reproduction of the camera and its inconsistent white balance reproductions under artificial light, particularly in rendering skin complexion. I often found skin tones to render excessively yellow or orange, and I simply could not find ways in Adobe Lightroom, to get skin tones to look as I enjoyed. I could get close, but adjusting skin tones would often affect the color reproduction of the rest of the image. Apparently, I had accommodated to the look of the M9, and I could not get close enough with the M240. Second, and disappointing to me, was an issue with banding at higher ISO’s. Whenever I took a shot that was underexposed, lifting the shadows resulted in noticeable banding at ISO’s of 3200 and higher (and occasionally at ISO 1600). I was able to remedy the banding issue using software fixes (Nik software’s has a de-banding tool that’s very useful). In practice, shooting in low light was nearly as limited for the M240 as it was for the M9, which has a practical ISO limit of around 640, after which banding behaviors are the norm with image adjustment.

M240 and Summicron 28 ASPH

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Leica M9 and Noctilux 50 mm f/0.95

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For the M240, I also struggled mightily with the “start up time” of the camera. When powering the camera on, it takes about 2-3 seconds before the photographer can actually take a shot. Initially, I thought this was a camera defect, but trying a few friends’ M240’s, I found the behavior to be universal. I tried to remedy this by leaving the camera on all of the time, given that the M240 sports a much-improved battery than the M9. However, after prolonged periods when the camera went back to sleep, I noticed the same lag. There were several instances where I missed an important shot , and this became an increasing turn off as I used the camera more.

M240 and Noctilux f/0.95 – Lauren

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As I used the M240 more, I became increasingly aware of the weight of the camera. At first, I felt that the camera felt more confident, more solid, less “airy” in hand, but after some time, I found the added bulk to be unwanted. My shooting arm would get sore. Not a huge deal, but enough of a difference to be annoying. After all, there was an outcry when the M8 and M9 were built with much thicker bodies than previous film M bodies, and here was a camera that provided even more bulk and heft to a shooter (myself) who valued size and discretion in his camera.

M240 and Noctilux f/0.95 – Andi

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M9 and Noctilux f/0.95

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Finally, I became increasingly annoyed over time with the menu layout. I wasn’t entirely sure when to press the “Menu”, “set”, and Info buttons. It was not nearly as intuitive an experience as to how best to adjust settings on the fly as it was with the M9. Even the ISO adjustment methodology seemed more cumbersome to me, who had gotten used to the simplicity of the M9’s menu and button implementation. The M240 had new buttons in unexpected places, and on occasion, which thought I was capturing images, I had accidentally triggered video shooting.

M240 and 90 mm f/4 Macro Elmar

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M9 and Rigid Summicron 50 mm f/2 (v2)

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As you read this, you may feel that I am unfairly bashing the M240, and that with more time, I would have adjusted to the cameras many quirks. While this may be true, I kept coming back to my struggles with the M240’s image rendering. As I looked on my screen at old M9 shots, and compared them to the M240 images that I had captured, I took note of several things. I find the M9 to have rendered a more “crisp” pixel, while the M240 renders a slightly softer pixel. Further, the M240 renders with much more dynamic range, but for some reason, images taken with this camera seemed to exhibit less 3D pop that I saw with my M9.

In summary, I began to find reasons to return to my Leica M9, and in August, after 4 months, I sold my Leica M240 and returned to the M9. I can say that I am happy with this choice and much more settled with keeping the M9 and its awesome CCD sensor and way of rendering.

Well, I spent a lot of time bashing the M240, no? Let me bash the M9 for some balance. The M9 is a camera full of quirks and deficiencies. First off, it has a completely inadequate and dated 200,000+ pixel LCD. It was an out of date LCD the moment it was released, and 8 years later, it’s ridiculously poor…One cannot count on confirming clear focus with the M9’s LCD. Further, there’s a slight delay between when the image snaps into focus on the LCD, making images seem blurry for a moment.

There are times when the M9 freezes operationally and won’t take a shot. And I don’t just mean when the buffer is full. At times, I have missed important shots because the M9 simply refused to take the shot. Further, battery life is quite poor (300-400 shots), compared to the far improved M240 sensor. The M9 has an ISO limitation that stems from its CCD sensor. It’s only capable of being shot reliably through ISO 640 (or 800 if you are willing to live with lost dynamic range, muddier images). Compared to today’s sensors (think Sony, Fuji, Olympus, and Panasonic), this ISO limitation seems arcane. Compared to the M240, which offers clean ISO’s through 1600 and inconsistent but occasionally decent performance at ISO 3200, it seems old as well. Yet, at base ISO through ISO 400, the M9 offers something unique. It offers a lovely color palette. Images, particularly of people jump off the screen. Skin tones and rendering can take on a lifelike look, while the M240 occasionally presents skin tones in a waxy (CMOS) manner. You’d never see this on your cell phone or laptop monitor, but on a calibrated larger home monitor or large print, there’s a difference there that’s continued to be noticeable to me.

Ultimately, I came to accept the limitations of the Leica M9 to gain its benefits. The M9 turns on and is ready to shoot instantaneously. It’s silent shooting mode is cleverly implemented and useful when employed. It’s a lighter and airier camera and is less fatiguing to hold in the hand for prolonged shoots. It’s menus offer operational simplicity, which seems to echo the rangefinder way of seeing. It’s CCD rendering (yes, I believe that the CCD “look” is real…sorry to all of the naysayers) is awesome and increasingly unique in a world where CMOS sensors have taken over.

I believe that the Leica M9 continues to represent the pinnacle of Leica’s imaging achievement. Like many countless others who’d hope for a camera that offers the best of all worlds, I strongly suspect that such a camera will never materialize. I doubt that there will ever be another CCD-sensor Leica. And thus, I am “stuck” with the M9, and of course, my beloved Leica M Monchrom. For those times when I desire revelatory ISO performance, I have moved to the Sony A7s, which I have used extensively (nearly exclusively) with Leica M lenses, and I find that its limitations (primarily the 12 megapixel sensor and tunnel view SLR way of seeing) don’t bother me all that much. The Sony is not built anywhere as confidently as the Leica (in terms of feel), but it’s a great camera worth checking out for a modern CMOS option. IT’s colors are not Leica colors, but I have found that I can get skin tones that I like with this camera.

Leica M9 and 35 Summuilux FLE

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Leica M9 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

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Thus, for me, the Leica M240 is now part of my photographic past. The Leica M9 has returned to my kit. It represents my photographic present. I certainly hope and expect that Leica will continue to re-invent itself with new innovative products and improved rangefinders. The Leica M240 was not the right camera for me, but I hope that the next iteration will be a better fit. At that time, the M9 will remain with me. It’s a lifetime camera, unless Leica finds the guts to go back to CCD or a sensor the renders similarly. It offers a unique rendering that blends so well with M lenses. It’s a great option for photography, even today.

M240 and 50 mm APO-Summicron ASPH

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I imagine that many of you will take exception to my thoughts and comments. I welcome your thoughts, your debate, and your criticisms to this argument. It simply represents my opinion and current thinking on the matter.

Here’s a summary of what I consider the strengths and weaknesses of the 2 cameras discussed:

Pros of the Leica M9
• CCD sensor – per pixel microontrast and dynamic range at low ISO
• Menu and operational simplicigty
• Weight
• Heft
• Instant On
• Silent shooting mode

Cons of the Leica M9
• ISO limitation
• Rear LCD is terrible
• Poor battery life
• Indoor and outdoor white balance inconsistency
• Reduced dynamic range compared to modern sensors
• Occasionally the shutter doesn’t fire
• IR sensitivity is still there, though less so?

Pros of the M240
• ISO improvements (though banding limits realistic ISO to < 3200, and in some cases, 1600
• Moderate Dynamic range improvement
• Solid battery life
• Build Quality
• EVF capacity, for those who want it
• Much improved shutter sound and less shutter shake
• Fantastic Black and White Conversions

Cons of the M240
• Heavier
• Meno complexity and dials
• Adds complication to a simple RF concept (i.e. video, EVF, etc)
• Unnatural Color reproduction of skin tones
• Indoor white balance inconsistency
• Shooting lag, when camera is first activated
• More IR sensitivity?

Feasible areas of improvement for the next Leica M:
• Improved color stability for white balance
• Improved color rendering of skin tones
• Reduced banding artifacts for high ISO, particularly when adjusting images
• Baseplate access to the battery and SD card
• Make the camera thinner, rather than thicker
In fairness to bias, my time with the M240 was self-limited to 4 months. My time with the M9 has extended to nearly 5 years. There may be much in that difference in experience that may explain some of my experiences with these cameras. All the best to you, and most importantly, keep your hand on the shutter and keep making images, regardless of camera.

M240 and Rigid Summicron 50 mm f/2 (v2)

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M240 and 35 mm Summilux ASPH FLE

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Oct 302014
 

cams

Which one? Sony Zeiss 35 2.8 FE and the Voigtlander 40 f/2.8 Heliar

HELLO TO ALL OF YOU PHOTO AND GEAR NUTS OUT THERE!

I posted a very 1st quick look at the new Voigtlander 40 2.8 Heliar a few days ago and one question was: “Why would I want this when there is already the Sony 35 2.8 Zeiss lens that has Auto Focus”?

My answer to that is that not everyone will! Some of us NEED Auto Focus and others much prefer a mechanical old school lens with a solid build, gorgeous appearance and the fact that we need to manually focus the lens! When you have an old school (but brand new like this lens is) lens on the Sony A7 series of camera, manually focusing is not only very fun, it is also a way to slow you down, take your time, calculate your shots. It is an alternative to the quick AF snaps we so often do. It will have us looking more and taking our time with the composition.

In other words, I much prefer a solid manual focus lens over an AF lens when using the A7 series. Especially M mount glass, classics and new lenses alike.

The Voigtlander 40 2.8 is TINY but hefty and solid. It has a Nickel finish and looks amazing. The sharpness? Just as sharp as the Sony/Zeiss at half the size and cost. All you miss out on is Auto Focus yet you gain small size, solid build and a much more beautiful lens to look at..as well as a $400 savings.

Below is a video I made on the two lenses with my thoughts on them and after that a quick comparison shot with full size images direct from RAW from the Sony A7S. Also in the video you will see the striking new strap from Artisan & Artist, which is their new ACAM-310 silk strap. Also, the wooden sticky shutter release from Artisan Obscura and the shiny metal buttons on the back of my A7s from rluther.com. 


This is how each lens performed on the camera, and I let the camera choose exposure for each lens to show how each lens will behave on the camera. They are similar for sure..both are sharp yet each lens made the camera expose slightly different. I also see more of a 3D look to the Voigtlander lens. Both of these were shot wide open at f/2.8. Click them for full size.

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So which one is for you? That is easy..the one you feel most drawn to! Do you need AF? If so, the Sony is the one! If you prefer manual focus and some old school charm, plus a smaller and better made lens, the Voigtlander is the one to beat. :)

Where to Buy?

You can order the Voigtlander 40 2.8 at cameraquest.com HERE

You can order the Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 at Amazon HERE

You can order the cool all wood sticky shutter release at Artisan Obscura HERE

You can order the Shiny Buttons or read about them HERE

Oct 292014
 

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First Week with the Nikon Coolpix A

by Julien Hautcoeur

Hello Steve,

I’m Julien Hautcoeur from Bust it Away Photography.

You posted one of my blog posts that I sent to you last February about the Voigtlander 40mm F2 Ultron.
Thank you very much for that; it was very nice.

I wanted to share with you the rest of my experience. I still have the Voigtlander 40mm and I love it so much that I also got the 58mm f1.4 to add-on my D700. As I really love wide angle lenses I was thinking of getting the Voigtlander 28mm f2.8, which is the same size as the 40mm. But even if those lenses are pancakes and make my D700 less bulky, it is still not a very pocketable solution.

After hours of thinking and hesitation (as usual with cameras) about getting the Voigtlander or an other alternative, I found a refurbished Coolpix A for a very reasonable price.  When this camera was released last year I went to see and try it in my local store and I really liked the feeling.
It is a robust and very small camera with a high quality sensor and a nice 28mm (FX equivalent) f2.8 lens.  It’s only problem is its price which is debatable.

Anyway, the refurbished price was low enough to make me order it and I received it just before a two-day trip in a yurt in the middle Gatineau Park close to Ottawa, Canada. I took it with me and decided to only use this new camera. I had the D700 in my bag in case the Coolpix A’s battery would be too short, but finally I got enough to cover the whole week-end.

My experience with the Coolpix A has been really great, the biggest advantage compared to my DSLR is definitively that I don’t disturb people, it is very quiet and discreet in my hand. My main concern was the AF, but by using the Fn1 button set on AF-ON it is quite responsive and I have been satisfied with it.

The most important point is that I got pictures that I am happy with. The 28mm if wide enough to be close to people and to get that life feeling.  It also captures beautiful landscapes as well as details. The low Iso are very clean, and I used it up to 2000 Iso. The color pops and it fits quite well in my Nikon D700 flow. You probably understand that I’m happy with my choice.

The Coolpix A won’t replace my DSLR, but it will be my little camera option for my every day photo opportunities: 28mm on the Coolpix A and 40mm on the D700.

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Thank you
Regards,

Julien Hautcoeur @ Bust it Away Photography

http://bustitawayphotography.com
https://www.facebook.com/BustItAwayPhotography
http://bustitaway.tumblr.com/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bustitaway/

Oct 272014
 

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The SLR Magic CINE 10mm t/2.1 Lens Review

by Amy & Tony Medina

Generally, I’ve really enjoyed the SLR Magic lenses, as I already own the 23mm f/1.7 Hyperprime and 35mm T/1.4 CINE, and use them on my Fuji APS-C cameras often. When Steve asked me if I wanted to review the new SLR Magic CINE 10mm T/2.1 for Micro 4/3, I jumped at the chance.

To start with, I think that overall, if you’re a fan of SLR Magic lenses, this one will not be a disappointment.

The time I spent with this lens, I shot it primarily on the Panasonic GX7. They paired well, but I think on a slightly bigger body it would be every better. My husband paired it with the GH1 for video, and he thought it balanced on the camera really well. SLR Magic lenses in general are well built, and they aren’t what I would call light. They have a nice heft to them, and they pair well with bodies like the Fuji XT1, Olympus OMD-EM5 and the Panasonic GH Series that themselves aren’t the smallest of the mirrorless cameras. It did work well on the GX7, and I’m sure it would feel good on equally small bodies… I just think they pair better with bodies that seem a touch more solid themselves.

One nice feature right off the bat that those of you with SLR Magic lenses will appreciate… no screw-on cap this time. Finally! It was your typical snap-on-type lens cap. Ya know, sometimes I like the fact those screw-on caps stay put, but most of the time I find them to be a royal pain in the butt, so I really appreciate a “normal” lens cap on this one.

Call it a pet peeve, but it really irks me that not all SLR Magic lenses are built the same. Some have the f-stop (or t-stop) control on the outside ring, furthest from the body… others have this ring closest to the mount. When I switch back and forth between their different lenses, I find this quite annoying! As a photographer, to me all f-stop dials should always be the furthest one from the body. Of course, it’s mostly just a minor annoyance, and it’s not something that would keep me from buying the lens, but I just wish they were ALL made with the f-stop control in the same place.

As for image quality, there were no surprises. I feel like I know what to expect with SLR Magic lenses, and that consistency carried through to the 10mm T/2.1 CINE.

SLR Magic lenses have that wonderful character they’ve become known for… a bit of a dreamy retro look around the edges, but nice and sharp in the middle. Typically, they shoot just a little flat.. they aren’t super contrasty lenses straight out of the camera, but they grade beautifully and just have so much charm. I find their color rendition quite neutral — not too warm or too cool — and I’m never disappointed with the images I get out of their lenses… it was no different with the 10mm T/2.1. I was very pleased with nearly every photo I took with the lens.

First one is straight out of the camera, the second is post-processed to my taste…

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In my opinion, SLR Magic lenses perform okay stopped down, but that isn’t why we buy them. Sharpness edge to edge, that’s not usually the priority of the SLR Magic user. These lenses are really meant to be used wide-open, or more on the open side of things, where they shine and show their unique personality. They provide excellent subject isolation while delivering a lovely “magic” image quality.

The front element is rather large (77mm in diameter), which isn’t a surprise on such a wide lens. Of course, that seems to make it a little prone to flare. However, I find the flare itself to be of the attractive type, and I have the kind of personality where I like to use flare to my advantage to enhance a photo. With a lens like the 10mm T/2.1, where I find the flare so pleasing, I’m often tying to introduce it rather than eliminate it.

It’s up to you whether you want to let that flare creep in or find a 77mm wide angle lens hood that will work to keep it out. The lens does not come with one.

A bit of flare…

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I can’t say 10mm is my favorite focal length on micro 4/3, but that’s a really personal thing honestly. Sometimes I did find it a bit awkward… but that’s no shocker when I tend to gravitate more towards the normal focal lengths from 35mm to 55mm (full frame equivalent), or I go for the ultra-wides, like 15mm. 20mm, to me, is just at that point a bit in-between.

Now, my husband on the other hand, when shooting some video tests, loved that it was right there in between… he told me that he liked that it didn’t give that overly distorted look that ultra wides often do, but certainly gave a wider, much more unique perspective than lenses in the mid-normal range.

What’s interesting is that we often disagreed a bit about this lens: some of the things that I would criticize are things he would really liked. An example is that he loves the clickless aperture dial, where that’s one of the things I generally don’t like about SLR Magic lenses (I think I even mentioned that in another review here on Steve’s site). But seriously, that’s not at all unexpected when it comes to a photographer’s vs. a videographer’s opinion.

It’s part of their CINE line of lenses of course, which means it’s optimized for video and has some of those built-for-videographer features, like click-less aperture and a focus ring that will mate up with follow-focus gears. The focus throw is smooth as silk, and comfortable for shooting both photography and video.

For my husband, the wide angle helped minimize shakiness when hand-holding the camera, and having a lens so wide, but also fast, can make for some really cool shots.

All of the footage below is just test footage shot by my husband, and we thought we’d share it. It has been color graded a bit… but most serious videographers will appreciate that rarely are you using footage that you don’t color correct and enhance.

This was all shot on an original GH1.

 

In conclusion, the best way to express how much we both think this is a great lens is to share that we indeed plan to buy it.
For me, even though the focal length was a little “in-between”, I think I can find use for it in my growing arsenal of wide angle lenses that I use for work. And since my husband and I will share it, and he loves it, the biggest downside will be us fighting for it when I want to use it. LOL

As I started off by saying, if you’re an SLR Magic fan already, there’s a lot you’re going to like with this lens. It delivers exactly the way you’d expect it to. It’s wide without being fisheye-distorted, and it’s fast to let in tons of light and allow that great depth of field control.

Overall, it delivers quality images with tons of personality — exactly what we’ve all come to expect from an SLR Magic lens.

 

You can purchase this lens at B&H Photo HERE.

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Oct 202014
 

PORPUBTT

Portraits from the Pub with an Olympus E-M5

By René van Wijck

Hello!

After many years of making photographs I got a little bored by it and I lost my inspiration.

Two years ago I bought myself the Olympus OMD-EM5. This little machine changed my life! It was and is such a pleasure to work with that I have it all the time, wherever I am with me.

I work as a bartender downtown Rotterdam in Holland and started to make pictures of my guests. They all come alone to the pub, and most of the time leave alone.

I gave myself a few rules: no color,no flash,no drinks in the pictures. Most of them I shot with the 45 mm 1.8. I’ll hope you like the results!

You can see more of it on flickr.com/photos/renevanwijck

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Oct 162014
 

LESSONS

Three lessons I have learned from shooting the streets.

By Steve Huff

Street Photography has enjoyed a huge resergance in recent years. With the many blogs writing about it, workshops showing others how to do it, and the constant barrage of street shooter hobbyists sharing their photos, street shooting has seemed to meld into all sorts of things, much of the time having nothing to do with the old school style of which most everyone was inspired. My favorite street photographs of all time were shot by none other than Vivian Maier. Not only are her photographs very special, they bring back memories of a time before I was even born. The cool part for me is that her amazing street photos were all shot in my hometown of Chicago, giving me a glimpse of the people of the past. If you are not familiar with her story, I urge you to watch the documentary “Finding Vivian Maier”.

I consider Vivian’s work to be more than “street photography” as many know and practice it today. I see her work as something special, something magical and more along the lines of “street portraits” much of the time. She loved shooting people and she had a talent for it that many of us (including myself) do not. As I browse through the book of her work “Out of the Shadows” (which I HIGHLY recommend, amazon link HERE) I am over-run with emotion as I am taken back to the past, to slices of life that we will never see again. Because Vivian captured this fraction of a second on to film, a memory was made. A time capsule if you will. I have said many times that we already have a time machine here on earth, and it is called a camera. While we can not physically go back in time, looking at old photos will take us there in our hearts and minds. A camera is a powerful tool when used in the right way.

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When I started shooting street images I was horrible at it (and still consider myself a street hobbyist with so much to learn). I was fearful to let anyone know or see that I was taking an image of them. I was afraid to lift it up and make eye contact with the subject, and I usually came away from a day of shooting with nothing to show for it. Eventually I told myself “you must never fear taking a photograph”! Fearing the actual act of taking a photo was killing my passion for photography and that was not good. If I wanted to get out on the street and snap those special moments, those slices of life, the people I meet and those time capsule memories…then I needed to just do it and NOT think about it.

*The 1st lesson I learned is to never fear shooting in public. Just do it, and act as if it is as natural as looking at someone and giving a smile. But also you must use your instincts as to WHEN and when NOT to shoot.*

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After a while I realized  there was absolutely nothing to fear when out shooting people out in public. 99% of the time I get a smile back, a nod or a grumpy face but never have I been attacked and I think that comes from my instinct. What I mean by this is that after a while you start to get an idea of whom to approach, who to raise your camera to and who NOT to do this with. I can sense if someone will have an issue with me taking their photo, and in these cases, I skip it. Many will say “take it anyway” but I believe in respect when shooting on the street in public. I also believe in some sort of acknowledgement if you want a “street portrait”. Not setting up the scene but making sure the person is OK with you taking their portrait.

Rio Brazil: Saw this happy smiling man sitting on the street and sat down to chat with him for a while. He did not speak English but he wanted me to take his portrait after he saw my camera, so I did. For me, making a connection to strangers is one of the appeals of taking street portraits. 

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Las Vegas NV: I noticed a rowdy bunch of guys on the street selling nightclub tickets so I walked up and asked if I could grab a shot of them. When I approached I was calm, cool and confident as confidence usually gets your subject to feel comfortable. Below you can see the shot and below that shot is an image of me taking the shot :) Shot using the Leica Monochrom.

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Walked by this Security guy who was directing traffic and people on the strip in Vegas. I passed him up then decided to walk back over to him. I made eye contact, nodded my head and snapped. It all happened so fast he said “you did not give me time to smile” 

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Many times I will sit down and chat with whoever I want to take a snap of. If they are OK with me shooting them after this, I will. If not, I thank them and wish them a great day.

*So the 2nd lesson I have learned for my style of street shooting is “be respectful to all and use your instincts”. Usually when you do this, you will also be respected back instead of someone getting angry and wanting to tear your camera away and smash it.*

Not all street scenes are portraits of course..all depends on the scene. Many like to catch human interactions and be invisible to the subject. I have seen some astounding images shot in this fashion from others and it is also a style that is nice to take on, but it requires patience. Many street shooters I know who shoot in this fashion will stay in one spot for hours..waiting for the one moment where they will get a nice shot. While I prefer human interaction, I do not always have a chance to chat first, and when this happens I just shoot.

When shooting street it can take years to be able to develop your senses or how to “see” things worthy of a photo. I am no expert on this, not even close but I have learned over the years that you should always keep your eyes peeled as many things happen in a split second while other situations need to be observed for a while.

*The Third thing I have learned is learning how to “see” and “observe” as things usually move quick on the streets*

Rio, Brazil: Seeing this elderly man sit down on the bench I observed his actions for a while. He was just sitting there like a statue for 10-15 minutes, moving very little in this time. What I saw is a man, sitting like a statue next to a real statue. The three younger ladies behind him were enjoying the Ocean view in Rio while this man may have been looking back on his life while listening to the water. 

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St. Petersburg Russia at Midnight (yes midnight) – Saw this couple ready to kiss with the midnight sun behind them and the boat chugging along..raised my Leica M9 and shot. For me this captures the romance of this city perfectly.

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Recife Brazil: This woman was not the friendliest looking person but who knows, she may have been sweet as pie. The look on her face tells me she may punch me if I snap, but then again, maybe not. I wanted to get a profile but as I snapped she looked behind her. This is not a technically great photo but it is edgy. I was recently asked if I like “Beauty” or “Truth” and I always say “TRUTH” as that is reality. Beauty and fake beauty is everywhere but truth trumps all. 

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Seattle: Saw this girl having a great time on the beach. The sun was setting and the weather was amazing. Wanted to catch her laugh to show that in this one moment in time, this person was having a great time in their life. Happy and full of life. 

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Inside of a truck stop somewhere in middle America: Was eating lunch when I saw a kid outside the window begging his grandmother for money so he could buy a toy he saw inside the shop. She refused at first, telling him NO NO NO! She then relaxed, pulled out a smoke and gave him her coin purse. Seems the cigarette gave her some peace :) I was watching the interaction take place for a while before deciding to snap a shot.

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Berlin Germany: While in Berlin I saw this couple cuddling and holding hands so I followed them down the street for one minute. At a street crossing I saw her embrace him and right after I shot this she smiled at me as she knew I captured some love right there :) 

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New York City: Hanging around NYC was a blast and it is a street shooters dream. I love this one that I caught of a man coming out Penn Station

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Rio Brazil: A woman massaging her man’s neck and back as she whispered sweet nothings to him. They acted like they were all alone and oblivious to the surroundings. I squatted down, snapped the shot and afterwards the guy looked and gave me a  thumbs up. I was alone on this walk in Brazil with my Leica and never hesitated to shoot.

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Scottsdale AZ: At a bar just before Christmas I was greeted by a dog at the bar. He was shaking everyone’s hand who came in and was just like an old bartender, but friendlier. I had to snap this hand shaking dog so I could always remember the laughs we had that night. 

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Berlin: Shooting people on a bus can be interesting. This woman looked deep in thought and I wondered what she was thinking about..of course I will never know that, or her, but I like the photo. 

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Somewhere in Brazil…another Bus shot. 

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Rio: I was eating lunch at an outdoor cafe near the beach when I saw these two guys. I raised my camera, gave them a nod and they gave me a pose :) 

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Seattle: A street performer who has been here for a long time singing to all of the tourists…

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Berlin: I saw this man riding a bike with some pretty nifty socks.Had to get a shot.

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While walking down the street I saw  these two parking attendants arguing. Usually one would stay out-of-the-way of  two guys getting into an argument but I snapped without them knowing until AFTER I snapped the shot. They were cool with it and ended up laughing at themselves in the end. 

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Seattle: Seeing this little boy skipping, dancing and enjoying an apple at the Gum Wall. I snapped when he looked over at me as he was taking a bite out of his apple

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So basically the moral of MY story is when I dropped the fear of taking images of strangers, and when I learned to use my instincts of when and when not to shoot and when I learned how to “see” better it all added up to improve my street photography to a higher level than when I first started. While I have lots to learn, and I do not do too much street shooting these days, I always have fun with it, which to me is the most important! If you do not have fun with photography then it will get old..fast. So always shoot what YOU enjoy shooting, even if it is flowers, leaves or trees. Whatever makes YOU happy is all that matters!

OF COURSE there is much more to it than those three things but that is a good starting point. Also being comfortable with your camera and lens will help you along the way. ;)

Recife Brazil: Two girls on the beach. This was late night and I was out with my M9 and Noctilux. When they saw my camera they said “TAKE OUR PHOTO”!! To me, this is what it is all about..interaction with others, having a great time and nailing a nice photo to take you back to that moment.

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SMILE! This one was taken somewhere in Seattle and she loved having the attention and her photo taken :) 

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Talin Estonia: Shot this girl on the street during an early morning walk

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To those who want to get better at shooting images on the street can start with losing the fear of shooting strangers, learn to develop their eye and how to observe and also to be respectful to those we approach and want to photograph. Most of all, have fun.  While I will never be a master of the street. I have loads of fun doing it :)

Steve

Oct 102014
 

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1959 Rolleiflex 2.8E – Shooting family, friends, fashion and famous!

By Andy Jackson

Hi Steve,

Thanks for all your great dedication to your site bringing us all sorts of articles, new gear, digital or film and your never-ending enthusiasm! So, about four years ago you published a Daily Inspiration from myself, shots from my Leica CL. The images were mainly of my son, who was about 2 years old at the time. After reading your write up on the Rolleiflex Hy6 (which to be honest, I didn’t even know existed!) I thought I could do a User Report on my 1959 Rolleiflex 2.8E.

My friend Ludi – this was shot on Rollei Retro 400.

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I’d shot film/transparency for a long time as a photographer working on a snowboard magazine and acquiring the Leica kind of reignited the idea of shooting analogue again. This time I was more interested in shooting black and white and was partly inspired by another article on your site by Max Marinucci about home processing. My late Uncle also had an influence on me from an early age, with his camera in hand, his slides and his black and white prints of me as a kid. I’d done darkroom work at my first job many moons ago at a design company in London, so I knew how it went, but had never done it at home. Having bought the necessary bit and pieces and some chemicals (totaling €80!) I started to develop the negatives from the Leica. Yup, the same grin factor as getting my transparencies back after a snowboard shoot but with the extra satisfaction of doing it myself! Now, I’m not even going to go into the practicalities or convenience factors of digital over film, as to be honest, as you said in your article “Analog is a different beast than digital in almost every way.” If I’m processing film or going through a digital shoot on the computer I like to get ‘in the zone’ – cup of tea and some decent tunes on the stereo and off I go!

Branko from Croatia, I used the Rolleinar close-up lens for this.

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My good friend Doris, a yoga teacher. We’d been for a hike on the mountain and I had the 2.8E in my bag along with a Hassy 500cm, this is from the Rolleiflex.

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So on to the Rolleiflex! After searching around on Fleabay and websites and doing some homework I realized I was going to have to spend a decent amount of money for a good one. At the same time I bumped into a friend here in Innsbruck who’d seen some of my film shots online. He told me his mum used to be a professional photographer and that she had a few old cameras left from her working days. I asked if any had two lenses on the front, he said he seemed to remember playing with something like that when he was a kid and he’d ask his mum. Two days later he calls me and tells me she still has her old Rolleiflex. He gives me the serial number and I track it down to a 1959 2.8E. Oh yes, the Carl Zeiss Planar. He’d been online and checked out the prices, not cheap really, a good one is at least €1000. He offers to sell it to me for €250 – I can hardly contain my excitement. So, off I go to meet his mother, she’s actually thrilled to be able to sell it to someone who’s actually going to use it, it’s been doing nothing for about 40 years. As you can see from the shot, it’s in pretty good shape. I sent it in for CLA to a company in Salzburg, it needed some work, lightmeter was replaced and some bits in the shutter – €400, so in the end I still have a sweet deal and the camera stays in the area.

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Preparation and handling.

The Rolleiflex is not a heavy camera. It fits nicely into my Lowepro Event Messenger 150 bag, leaving enough room for the Leica or my FM2 or OM2, lightmeter and film in the front pocket. I’ve replaced the old leather strap with a modern one, this puppy is not gonna end up on the floor. Once you get used to it, it’s a quick camera to pull out and start to shoot with. Take a light reading, set aperture and shutter speed, flip the lid and focus. So, we have aperture from 2.8 – 22 with half stops marked. Shutter runs from 1 sec 1/500th plus B. Loading film isn’t too tricky, just remember to put the paper through the bottom rollers then close the back and start winding on with the lever. There’s a mechanism that ‘senses’ when the film goes through these rollers and then the exposure window starts to register, wind on and it will stop on the first frame. Ready to rock. I’ve also acquired a Rolleinar 1 close-up lens for it, these are rare as rocking horse pooh because of the Bayonet 3 mount and some people ask silly money for them – I paid £120 for mine, I’ve seen ‘em go for a lot more.
Looking through the viewfinder you realize everything is in reverse, this takes a bit of getting used to, especially trying to keep things level. We get twelve shots and twelve shots only, so patience and practice will pay off!

I shoot the odd landscape. Dolomites, Italy.

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Francois, from, er, France. My friend was looking after his Indian motorcycle that broke down on a run here in England. He came back to pick it up. How could I not shoot this portrait.

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Shooting family and friends and others.

I use this camera a lot for shooting images of my son. Sure, I could use my 7D and autofocus as he runs about (and I do) but over the last few years he has learnt that when daddy points the two eyed black box thing at him, he must stay still! It’s not about getting the right camera for the child but training the child for the camera ;-) Sometimes he’s not in the mood for stillness, so I leave it for a bit. Using a TLR at the right time though, I think is the secret. When he’s focused in on something or climbing a tree, I just ask him to stop and look up. Nine times out of ten he does. Candid racing about shots are best suited to newer technology, what I want from my Rolleiflex is the more thoughtful images, maybe even posed, if you can call it that. I prefer to look at it as shots where I have his attention, where we have our connection. Having the twelve shots makes me choosy about when I hit that shutter, I really have to be sure it’s what I want. I usually take one shot of a ‘scene’ and leave it at that then move on. Sometimes I don’t even move on, a roll can sit in the camera for days or a week or two. There’s no rush with this camera, no incessant need to snap everything in sight, it’s way more about gathering some great memories for me, of my little man growing up.

Rolleicord. My son Noah on a rainy afternoon.

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If any one photo sums up why I love this camera, it’s this one. I took one shot of this scene, kept my fingers crossed that I’d nailed the focus and kept the camera steady, 1/30th of a second.

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Zeiss Ikon Nettar. This camera is small when folded, very small for 6×6. Beautiful results.

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Shooting friends is a little easier, they know how to sit still. The Rolleiflex instills a sense of wonder in everyone. I get the usual question – “Do they still make film for that” and the remarks about how beautiful it is. I’ve used it a lot at weddings, it’s a talking point for guests, certainly breaks the ice. Bride and Groom are always super stoked on receiving a set of hand printed images, the Rolleiflex shots are the highlight without a doubt. I’ve noticed people feel way less intimidated with the Rollei than they are with a DSLR.

Like the Leica, the Roleiflex has it’s own brand of magic dust it sprinkles on your images. The awesome depth of field, that ‘otherworldly days gone by’ vibe where your natural light shots look like from another era, which in a sense they are! 6×6 analogue is affordable for nearly all of us, whereas digging into our pocket-money for a digi Hasselblad or Leica S2 isn’t such a do-able proposition (well not for me at least!) I love the 2.8E, I love to photograph people with it, I love the results and I love the fact that I have a fixed lens (with option of close-up). It takes 25 minutes to develop a roll of film, then about half hour to hang up and dry. Scanning is painless on my Canon flatbed 9000f and results are ok – it’s no Nikon Coolscan but I get 50cm by 50cm scans out of it. My favourite shots I print in my darkbathroom ;-) but that’s another story.

Stephen Bartels, gallery owner of the same name, London.

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Sir David Rodiagn, MBE (left) and his agent Ricky McKay (right). David is a living legend Reggae DJ, radio DJ (BBC), famous throughout the world. Ricky presented him with a 50cm x 50cm framed print of this shot for his 60th birthday. Proud moment indeed.

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Terje Haakonsen, one of the world’s most famous snowboarders. This is part of a series I made of Snowboard Legends in 2013 and was published in a couple of magazines. This is one of my few flashed shots with the Rollei.

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Tomi Toiminnen, ex pro snowbaorder, shwoing his tattoos ‘Never Forget’ one for an old friend of his who died too young, the other for a friend of ours who lost his life in an avalanche.

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If any readers have ever thought about getting into analogue medium format photography but are put off by the hassle of processing their own films, don’t be! It’s way easier than you think and once you’ve successfully hang up your first roll to dry you’ll be hooked. As for colour. Well, that’s turning out to be a pricey business these days. Colour negative processing has just doubled in price here, about €8.99 per roll, so include the film cost and you’re looking at €18 at least for twelve shots (without scans). My friend has just started doing colour at home because of this and is really happy with the results, I will go the same route very soon.

I’d like to also mention two other cameras as a much cheaper alternative to a 2.8e or such like. I acquired a Rolleicord IV with a 75mm 3.5 Schneider Kreuznach Xenar for €120, see attached images for comparison. The other camera that really surprised me is the Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518/16 with a 75mm 3.5 Novar-Anastigmat – I picked this up from a local flea market for €35 in fully working order! This is a zone focus camera so I got my hand on a Voigtländer rangefinder that attaches to the cold shoe, this helps loads. The images form this camera are also sublime though a bit slower to use than the Rolleiflex, the output is worth it.

Lisa Marie, test shot for her model agency. Available light coming in through a window.

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Ludi again.

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Viktoria. Test shot for her agency when she was starting out two years ago. She’s all over the planet now.

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So, in conclusion, I use my 2.8e for just about anything and everything as long as it’s not running. It’s light and very, very quiet. It can be discreet as you can just stand in the street looking down and press the shutter and no one really knows (I guess this is how Vivian Maier took a lot of her shots). There’s still plenty of specialists servicing and repairing them and has a strong enthusiast following and collectors worldwide. Shoot one roll of film on this and I’m sure you’ll be hooked. At the end of the day it’s just another tool for us to realize the images we want to create and like each of us has our own favourite bits of kit to do the job we all end up in that ‘special realtionship’ with one or two cameras. Happy shooting people

All the best,

Andy Jackson

Shoe repair dude, Goodge Street underground station, London. It was very dark.

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Paul Clements, photo journalist, Beatles and Dylan fan, guitar and sitar player at Stephen Bartels Gallery, London (with our 3 Leicas huddled together)

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Feeding the duck and goose on a rainy afternoon in the Lake District, Cumbria, England on a visit to my mum this year.

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Reflection in a pond.

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Ice cream on a Sunday.

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Rolleicord. Kayla, my Siberian Husky and test model, never to be trusted off the line in a forest, or anywhere for that matter. Highly successful hunter.

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Ingemar Backman, Swedish snowboard legend shot at the Air & Style contest here in Innsbruck. Google him for insanely high backside air shots!

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A friend of mine asked me to shoot a wedding shower for her friend. Grandma showed up and watched the proceedings from this chair. One of my favorite shots ever despite the light leak.

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This is Glenn, I used to work with him on the snowboard magazine. He works in Thredbo Ski Resort in the Aussie winter then travels around Europe to visit his adoring friends. The man is a legend.

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Rolleicord. Forest scene. A much cheaper alternative but not the build or lens quality of the 2.8. Still not bad at all!

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. Gabrille du Ploy shot in her gallery, Zebra One, that specializes in music photography amongst other things. That’s part of the complete set of original images shot for Beatles Abbey Road sleeve on the wall. And you thought a Leica was expensive…

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Sort of street photography shot in Charlie’s mens hairdresser in Camden, London.

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Alex, a yoga teacher friend of mine, we did some shots in the forest near me. A reflector was used to light the face.

Alex yoga - Rolleiflex

Oct 082014
 

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The Lomography Petzval Art Lens Review

You can buy the Petzval Art Lens at Cameraquest using the direct link HERE

A long time ago in a land far far away there was a special and important portrait lens invented. The 1st usable portrait lens ever created, and it was designed by  Joseph Petzval in 1840. It was made of brass and it was very large, intended for cameras of the time. The unique look of the images from this lens was normal at the time, as it was the only useful portrait lens around. Even so it was a lens designed to cut down on exposure time from 30 minutes to mere seconds.

More on Joseph Petzval from Wikipedia:

Joseph_Petzval

“Petzval’s greatest achievements lie in his work with geometric optics. In 1839, Louis Daguerre presented the Daguerreotype, the first commercially successful photographic process. Fox Talbot’s calotype was discovered earlier but did not enjoy commercial success. Petzval learned of the invention from his friend, Viennese professor Andreas von Ettingshausen. The daguerreotype was problematic in that it required exposure times as long as 30 minutes to create a portrait. With Ettingshausen’s urging, Petzval set up a workshop and laboratory at Kahlenberg in Vienna and, after six months of complex computations, produced designs for improved objective lenses for both portraiture and landscape photography. Because the artillery was one of the few occupations that used advanced mathematical computations at the time, Archduke Ludwig lent eight artillery cannoners and three corporals to the computational efforts. The calculations these men carried out in tandem with each other have been regarded as an early (albeit human) example of a parallel computer.

Petzval’s portrait objective lens (Petzval Porträtobjektiv) was an almost distortionless Anachromatischer vierlinser (double achromatic objective lens, with four lenses in three groups). The luminous intensity of this flat “portrait lens” was substantially higher than the daguerre standard of 1839, the Wollaston Chevalier lens (f/16). The screen f/3.6 with a focal length of 160 mm made crucially shorter exposure times possible — using exposures of only about 15 to 30 seconds compared to the 10 minutes previously. Thus, snapshots became possible for the first time.”

So Mr. Petzval is an important guy in history as he was responsible for creating the first usable portrait lens. Photos from that time all have a unique classic yet surreal look due to the photo process AND the lens being used.

Enter Today’s Re-Creation of the famous Petzval Lens

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As time went on of course lens design became more of an advanced art and therefore lenses became sharper, well corrected, and with more sharpness across the frame. Today most lenses are perfected for optimum performance as we can do things today that could not be done in 1840.

Personally, I would say that many of the expensive lenses made today are almost too corrected! Sure, there are many more uses for a perfect lens than a not so perfect one but sometimes I get bored with that “perfect” look as it is the same look everyone has in their images today. Many of us are constantly seeking perfection it seems when it comes to our cameras and lenses, so I say it is a good thing when we take a slight curve or u-turn into a surreal dreamy world ever now and again :)

When something unique comes along TODAY that goes against the normal then I am always interested to take a look, so this new Petzval lens made by Lomo attracted my attention from the get go. Over a year ago now in August of 2013 Lomography put up a kickstarter for an exciting new portrait lens. This lens was the NEW Petzval, recreated in a smaller for full frame Nikon and Canon mounts. While much smaller than the Petzval of the old days, this one retained the same shape, design and brass construction. It also kept the insane swirly bokeh, soft edges and classic out of this world fantasy land look. The new Petzval inspired lens was announced as an 85mm f/2.2 design and promised a classic look just like the old version put out.

As you can see, an original Petzval lens is on the left..the new version (which was a prototype) is on the right. Much more manageable in size :)

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As soon as I saw the Kickstarter I WANTED THIS LENS but for some reason my funds were low so I was going to wait to contribute enough to get one of the first lenses. Then, I forgot about it and before I knew it the Kickstarter raised 1.4 Million (they had a $100,000 goal). It was insane! Almost one and a half million was raised which really showed not only the power of Kickstarter but also showed there was a true demand for this amazing new recreation/re-imagining of the first classic portrait lens. So while the signature of the bokeh and rendering is not for everyone, plenty of backers contributed and gave money for this project so they would be assured of a lens for themselves.

 Even though this is an f/2.2 lens and not an f/0.95 design, the Bokeh effect is insane. Some will HATE it, some will LOVE it. Me, I adore it and feel it is a great “every now and then when the time is right” kind of lens. To be honest, the lens is so beautiful to see and hold, I wanted one just to have it on my shelf! Even if I use it only a few times each year it will be worth it just to have this tool in my arsenal. I shoot it on my Sony A7s which is IMO, the best camera available today for using all kinds of cool lens via adapters. Can’t beat a small full frame with intense low light capabilities.

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So yes, I wanted to try one…

A year or so went by and I forgot about the lens until a site sponsor, Cameraquest.com informed me that they were now a Lomo Art Lens dealer and they had the lens IN STOCK! $599 with free shipping.

I was asked if I wanted to review it so of course I could not pass it up. Soon, Stephen Gandy shipped me the lens and when it arrived I was literally blown away by the gorgeous packaging that went into the lens. A gorgeous quality box, a full book about the lens and the history of it with many sample photos, the aperture system and a few other things. For $599, to me, this seemed like a steal. When I pulled the shiny brass lens out of the bag it was in I was very impressed. The look, design, weight and quality was so nice down to the engraving of the name on the lens barrel.

The lens is made in Russia, and it looks and feels TOP NOTCH. The only issue I have found is that the lens cap, which is also brass, always falls off. It is not tight enough so I always find it at the bottom of my bag. Lomo may want to adjust this in future production runs.

Below is the video I made when the lens arrived. You can see the packaging and hear my very 1st thoughts on it:

Love at 1st Sight

After I had the lens for 3-4 days I knew I wanted to commit and buy it. I contacted Stephen at Cameraquest and told him I was going to make the purchase. I also needed the adapter as I was using a Nikon mount version on a Sony A7s, so I needed a Nikon to Sony E-Mount adapter, which Stephen also sells and sent out to me for my testing and eventual purchase as well.

A lens I recently re-reviewed here on these pages was the Canon Dream lens. A lens I had bought not once, but twice in Leica M mount and when I bought my 2nd copy for $3100 I vowed to NEVER sell it… until I received an offer impossible to pass up for it via email. Then I did indeed sell it as I knew I would be a fool to pass up that offer. Even though I sold that lens for much more than I paid, I missed it as soon as it went out the door and started searching for something unique again..something that could give me a similar vibe..and when the Petzval arrived, THERE IT WAS! Just what I was looking for.

With this Petzval lens coming in at only $599 I can get a taste of that Canon dream lens..a bit of that flavor for MUCH MUCH less. While this lens is not the same as the Dream Lens I owned (IMO) I do feel it is a bit similar in rendering with a different signature at the edges and slightly in the Bokeh. I like the dream lens better but for the money, now that my 2nd dream lens was gone, buying the Petzval for my special effect lens was a no brainer.

Color or B&W..does not matter. What you will get is the same Petzval rendering and look. 

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Using the Petzval Lens…

As stated, my Petzval was purchased in Nikon mount which makes it easy to convert for use on the Sony A7s or Leica M 240. The lens is slightly long and manual focus only. The Aperture system is the old waterhouse system meaning there are aperture plates you put into the cameras aperture slit. Me, I use this lens at f/2.2 or f/2.8. By f/4 it sharpens up so much it almost renders like a normal lens, making the Petzval a Jeckyl and Hyde kind of lens. I feel the unique selling point of the lens is the swirly Bokeh effect and soft edges. So I basically always leave the f/2.2 aperture plate in. If you remove the plate you get a TEENY bit more speed according to Lomography and possible flare issues but when I tested this I saw no real difference in Bokeh or Exposure or flare. For those hoping to see more craziness without a plate, there really is none. Many would ask “Why use any plate at all”? Well, without an aperture plate inserted you are allowing dust to float down into the lens, and this is never a good thing :)

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The way you focus the lens is also unique. There is a dial on the left of the lens and this is what you rotate to focus. It is VERY simple and works well. In fact, I wish more lenses worked like this! It seems much more precise. It was so easy to focus on the Sony A7s with the nice big clear EVF that I never had a focus issue. It’s brilliant!

More in COLOR – All wide open at f/2.2

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On the Sony A7s I just plopped on the Nikon to E Mount adapter and then the lens. That was it, ready to rock and swirly roll. Using the lens was a piece of cake. I feel an EVF based mirrorless makes it easier to use this lens because with a Nikon DSLR you are looking through an optical viewfinder and it makes it very very hard to nail focus using the Petzval. I prefer the what you see is what you get type of thing.

It’s NOT an Everyday Lens!

If you are looking for ONE lens and one lens only, this would not be it. While fun, interesting and unique, the look can be overdone so I would reserve it for certain situations or scenarios. I have seen GORGEOUS portraits with this lens and I have seen AWFUL portraits and mis-use of this lens. Using it takes some practice as not everything will look good with it. Some subjects may look really awful using this lens and it probably takes a month or two to really get to know it inside and out. Me, I have been shooting with it for only two weeks so I still have some learning to do before I create my own Petzval “Masterpiece”.

I bought the lens for those few times a year I get the itch for an “artistic” lens. Lenses like the Noctilux, the Canon Dream Lens, Canon 85L and this lens are what I call “Art Lenses” because they create images that can sometimes appear as paintings. They specialize in the surreal and I LOVE these kind of lenses.

Take a look at a few more samples using this very crazy lens – click them for larger versions that look better, especially if you are using a large display (I use a 27″)

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What to expect from the Petzval

If you buy this lens one thing to keep in mind is that when shot wide open you will get images just like you see here. Swirly Bokeh, soft edges and corners, sharp in the dead center of the frame and lower contrast (which is easily fixing in post). All of these ingredients add up to create the signature look of this lens. I can already make a prediction: Many comments here will say “The Bokeh makes me dizzy or sick”, “Those shots are awful”, “I could never use this lens”…then others will say “Wow, that is a cool lens” or “I own one and love it” or “I want one”!

People are usually split on these kinds of swirly lenses. This is one thing that makes the world so great and interesting, no two individuals are alike :) 

Many classic lenses render in a similar way though not so extreme. When shooting this lens remember it is manual focus, manual aperture and will work perfect with the camera set to aperture priority mode. Focusing via a nice EVF is, for me, a breeze. Also, this lens was made for full frame sensors and to get the most out of it this is how I would recommend using it. When taking a full frame lens and using an APS-C or smaller sensor you lose part of the lens signature which is why I never use Leica M glass in Micro 4/3. This lens would be fantastic on the A7s (all images here with the Sony) or even the Leica M 240. All you need is the adapter for each and you are in business. Of course, you can also use it on any Nikon DSLR or if you buy the Canon mount, any Canon DLSR.

This lens is indeed an “Art” lens and I would love to see a 35 or 50mm made just like it as sometimes I find this focal length of 85mm a little long. Lomo should create wider versions with the same design..a trio if you will.

Man I just love the swirl in this shot. Surreal, dreamy, with just the right amount of softness for the portrait. I shot this to show the background rendering of foliage as well as the swirl.

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When shooting this lens expect the Bokeh performance of a faster lens. For some reason it blows out the background like an f/1 lens. It’s crazy but for me, it is beautiful (on most occasions).

My Bottom Line Conclusion on the Petzval Lens

When this lens was announced I WANTED ONE in a bad way. Then I was busy and forgot about it. When it was finally released and I saw samples, the early samples, I was not so impressed. As time went on I studied some of the amazing samples available online and knew I would eventually own one. When Stephen Gandy offered the lens up for review I could not pass it up. I would be able to test it and if I liked it, I could purchase it. Once I saw the attention to detail in the packaging and design as well as the build of the lens and accessories, I was hooked. After shooting off 10 frames or so I was sold.

The lens is not an everyday lens but it is one that will be used from time to time when I want that special dreamy effect. Much like the Canon Dream Lens I recently re-visited, this lens has some craziness to the rendering, but I am a crazy guy so I love it. But…I would tire of it if I used it daily, really quick.

Depending on the background of your subject you could end up with a nasty busy mess or a beautiful ethereal image that looks like a painting. It takes reality and distorts it a little, giving us a taste of what it is like to be an artist. Those photographers with the eye and vision for the unique will get it. Others will not. 100% personal preference. But it does take practice to determine the best distance from subject to lens and subject to background. Get these just right and the images deliver the look you want. It’s a hell of a lens! While shooting it in Las Vegas I had so many ask me about the lens. When eating a waitress saw it and had to ask all about it telling me she wanted one for her son. It will get attention, but it was all good attention. People were genuinely curious about it due to the design and looks.

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I am happy I decided to make the purchase as it can be used on my Sony A7s or on a Leica M-P. It also sharpens up more at f/2.8 and by f/4 will give you pretty nice consistent results without the swirl. Using the old-fashioned aperture system is quite nice actually. I haven’t lost one yet and I love the process of pulling one out and using the next, though I admit, I feel this lens is made for wide open use so I RARELY change it.

If this type of image rendering suits you, I highly recommend this lens. I feel in 10 years it will be desirable and one day even collectible if they stop production of it. Look at the Canon Dream lens. A few years ago you could buy one for $900, now expect to pay $4500-$5000 and up for a clean M mount version. (what I sold my last one for).

At $599, it is priced more than right IMO. You get a great experience from opening of the box, to holding the lens, to using it. There is only ONE complaint from me and that is the lens cap. It always falls off, so I usually leave mine off unless it is sitting on the shelf. Other than that it is just what I expected and I am really surprised that this lens was not priced a little higher due to the superb packaging, build quality, brass design and novelty of it.

Thanks Lomography!

You can buy this lens from Stephen Gandy at the link HERE. He ships FAST and is a great guy to deal with.

You can buy the Nikon to E-Mount adapter from him as well, using the direct link HERE.

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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 5 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 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 received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

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Oct 062014
 

ttlexrev

The Leica X Typ 113  Review in under 3500 words. Gorgeous IQ, but with a flaw.

by Steve Huff

When I found out that Leica created a new “X” camera with a Summilux lens and a faster aperture of F/1.7 I was VERY happy. FINALLY! Leica created the X many of us have wanted…or did they? With all new stylish looks, a larger size using the X-Vario body, and a very GORGEOUS brown and silver color along with the stealthy black Leica has left out the built in EVF that 90% of us have been begging for. Why oh why? If an EVF was put in this camera it would have flown off the shelves!

Since the X was announced I have had no less than 100 e-mails telling me something like this:

“Steve! If the new X had an integrated EVF I would have pre-ordered instantly”!!

This also happened with the X2 to some extent but not like this. See, the X2 did not sell as well as the X1 due to the fact that it was so much like the X1. Same body, same lens, same everything besides a new sensor that at the time helped with high ISO. The X1 sold VERY well, it flew off of the shelves because it was the 1st of its kind, at the time. The X2 did not do as well as the X1 sales wise and Leica assumed it was because it did not have a zoom lens, so they made the X-Vario with a slow slow aperture zoom. The Vario sold even less than the X2. Ugg.

So this time, here in 2014, Leica decided to give us Leica fans (almost) what they wanted! An X camera with a FAST fixed Summilux lens. Usually a Summilux is an f/1.4 design but on the X it is (supposedly) an f/1.7 design. But before I get into the lens, let us get back to the missing EVF, that so many cameras today have.

I think I know why Leica did NOT include it (intreated EVF) in the new X, and in my opinion it is for a couple of reasons. Mainly, I think and would guess that they used the X Vario shells that did not sell to make the new X. The X-Vario did not have a built-in EVF so this one could not as well. It also seems they do not have the know how to do it as none of their German-made non Panasonic cameras have an EVF built-in. It could also be that they just want to milk us for more money so we buy the external $600 EVF that kills the beauty of the X camera (IN MY OPINION).

Who knows the true story but I was willing to overlook the EVF issue and just enjoy the camera, because it is one hell of a beautiful looking camera.

But is that beauty only skin deep?

The X look is here in full effect! I shot this at night as I was flying high in the sky in Las Vegas. I love the crisp look and vibrant colors. ISO 1,000, and this one was shot wide open as the subject was very far away, allowing the f /1.7 aperture to be used.

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With the excitement of the new faster Summilux lens I was ready to try it out and take some close up portraits just to see how nice the Bokeh would be when shot at f/1.7. Finally, we can get shallow DOF with an X! YES!

With a 23mm lens giving a 35mm equivalent this camera will still not be capable of extreme Bokeh effects because with the wide-angle lens (23mm) it is tough to get a very shallow DOF unless you shoot up close to your subject. No biggie right? I mean, how much shallow DOF do you need? Shooting this lens/camera up close at 1.7 would and should provide plenty of shallow DOF if that is what you are looking for. Better yet, it will open up to allow more light in for when you are in low light. Well, this is what I thought anyway.

First off, The X has the same 16.2 MP APS-C sensor as the X2 and X-Vario. Nothing new. It is basically an X-Vario with a new faster Summilux prime. Period. Basically the same AF performance, same IQ, same color signature, etc. So there is no need for me to re-hash the IQ performance. You can see that in my X2 and X-Vario reviews.

So off I go to start shooting the new X and I immediately see the same beautiful image quality that I was able to squeeze out of the X2 and Vario but one  thing was frustrating me…

This camera will NOT let you shoot at f/1.7 much of the time, unless your subject is far away! Well, FOUR FEET away.

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Frustration was kicking in as I was manually setting the aperture to f/1.7 using the MANUAL dials yet when I went to shoot an image the camera would change the aperture electronically to 2.5 or 2.8, even when the dial said 1.7! I thought it was a glitch, a firmware issue… but nope, I soon found out that this was done purposely by Leica!

What has been said is that this lens is not so good at close focus wide open when it does to image quality..meaning, the IQ suffers when shooting close wide open. So if you try to shoot wide open, for a head and shoulders portrait for example, you will not be able to. You lose that extra shallow DOF ability and what you get is VERY similar to what you would get from an X2. In fact, for 90% of my use the camera always went to f/2.5 or f/2.8. Why would I want to shoot a landscape at f/1.7? Close to mid focus distance will get you f/2.2 to f/2.8. Leica should have said this was a “Variable Aperture” lens as this is what it acts like I am sad to say.

Out of 100 images during my testing the camera shot around 4 or 5 at f/1.7  – the rest were between f/2.2 to f2.8. For me this negates the whole reason for the faster lens!! I mean, I may as well have been shooting with an X2! It is smaller, has no lens quirks and offers the same good looks and can be found for less money.

For me, if a lens is advertised as an f/1.7 lens it should shoot at f/1.7 when you want it to, not when IT wants to. No Leica should override your manual settings, period.

You need to be at around 4 feet from your subject to use f/1.7. Before that it works like a sliding scale from 1.7 at four feet down to 2.8 at its minimum focus distance. It will give you f/2, f/2.2 and f/2.5 depending on how close you are. 

Leica X – set for f/1.7 and camera shot it a 2.2 – self-reflection

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That X Image Quality..so beautiful!

As always with the X series, what struck me was the image quality. I love it. The crispness, the colors, the sharpness across the frame. Same as the X2 and Vario 100%. It is nice, I will give it that. The camera looks fantastic around you or when pulling it out of your bag and  it delivers gorgeous image quality in good light and good IQ in semi low light. It starts to fall apart in real low light and the focus starts to hunt some. Speed wise, it is pretty good considering this is a Leica :) With each release Leica seems to improve the AF ever so slightly.

Take a look at my X2 review HERE and my Vario review HERE to see the similarities in IQ. 

This is the DOF you can expect at f/2.8

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Basically though, this camera is pretty much an X2 in a Vario body and/or a Vario with a 23mm fixed prime lens. I have written extensively about those two cameras and to just write more of the same would be silly. This new X has the Vario body with an X2 and Vario sensor. Leica have done away with the small X1 and X2 size bodies and from now on will produce the X in this larger size, which is more like an M4 when it comes to size.

Truth be told, without a built-in EVF, it is not very inspiring to shoot. I had my A7s, Leica MM and this X with me for a Las Vegas weekend and using the X was odd compared to the other two cameras. I was constantly holding it out looking like an amateur or tourist and for me, this goes against the whole Leica philosophy!

Leica cameras have always had a viewfinder (in the past, the golden years) and these days, even with thousands asking for an X with a Summilux lens and built-in EVF they cripple it without an EVF and even cripple the lens by not allowing us to use it wide open in most scenarios! As I said, a bit odd but Leica has always been a bit odd, a bit quirky and a bit “we do it how we want, deal with it”.

While it retains the beautiful design, build and gorgeous IQ, it is less versatile than something like the Sony RX1. The RX1 is smaller, is full frame, will focus closer and has a magical Zeiss 35 f/2 lens built-in. The Sony also left out the EVF but I have a feeling that if and when an RX2 arrives it just night have an EVF. I sure hope so. The RX1 delivers more in low light with as much shallow DOF as you could want and while it does not have the brilliant color and crispness of the X files, it has its own unique full frame quality and look that is very desirable.

Many have asked me this question and NO, the new X typ 113 is in no way a Sony RX1 killer. Not at all. The X is a camera for those who want a beautiful camera to look at and use during decent light without expecting too much in the way of shallow DOF or high ISO abilities. At ISO 3200 it starts to get noisy and the AF lacks in these low light scenarios as well. This is not a low light camera even with the new lens. When I say low light I mean night-time indoors, or even evening indoors. This will not be a camera for those low light moody shots in a bar, for musicians on a lowly lit stage or even  on the street once the light goes down. Instead, the X excels in decent light where it can show off the amazing color and snap it has to the files that no other camera has.

It’s a strange thing really…

I love the camera for its design and image quality in most situations but I dislike that it has been crippled with the aperture as well as having to buy an expensive add on EVF that kills the looks and design (as well as making it harder to put into a bag). So for me, I will not be purchasing an X but I can understand how some will want to. Many of you may not have interest in shallow DOF or low light high ISO work. For you, this camera is a treat. It is smaller than the Vario due to the smaller lens and it feels really nice in the hand (unlike the vario which was odd with the long lens) and as I have said many times already, the IQ is fantastic with that Leica feel and look.

Click the image below to see them larger and see what I mean about the crisp Look.

The 1st one was shot at 1.7 but the camera gave me f/2.5, ISO 500

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 A reflection shot  – this one was shot at f/9

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Below at f/11. Good light, stopped down..nice looking files. Look at the red color how rich and distinct it looks. 

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So who will want this camera? X or T?

If you have been wanting a German-made Leica that has the beautiful looks of an M with the image quality of the X and you do not mind the aperture issue when shooting closer subjects OR the fact that the high ISO in low light is not as good as other competing cameras then I suspect you could be extremely happy with the X.

FULL SIZE SAMPLES:

Below are two full size samples from the new X. The first one is full light at f/2.8, ISO 100 and the second in actually quite good light, indoors with dull open doors and windows allowing light to flood in, yet the camera needed ISO 1600 at f/2.8. Click them for full size.

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FOCUS:

The AF is decent, and I had no issues with focus, at all. Engaging manual focus is easy, just twist the lens out of AF mode and away you go. There is even a distance scale on the lens for manual focus use that seemed to work well. Also, The LCD will show you the expanded magnified view so you can easily nail it, but for me, this method of focusing is slow. AF works just fine.

Nothing else gives the unique IQ of the X Series of cameras, but the T does since it shares the same sensor. I love the Leica T and the fact that M lenses can be used on it. It provides the X IQ but with a choice of lenses and in a more modern styled unibody. You can read my full T review HERE. The T will set you back more than the X because it is $1900 for the body only, and lenses are NOT cheap. The EVF for the X or the T will set you back $600. Yes, $600 for a wart that sits on top of the camera, IMO, destroying the looks of the X but with the T it seems to fit. The X is classic looking Leica, the T is modern-day Leica.

Again, set to f/1.7 but camera decided to shoot it at f/2.5. B&W High Contrast out of camera JPEG

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ISO 3200. If you click it you can see the camera starts to lose some DR at higher ISO, as well as color changes but still looks very nice and is 100% usable.

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Set for f/1.7 but camera gave me f/2.8 – ISO 1000  – put of camera B&W JPEG

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My final word on the Leica X with 23 f/1.7 Lens

I have been seeing a sort of backlash against Leica from new early owners of the X camera who are a bit upset at the fact that this camera will not let you shoot with the aperture set to f/1.7, as advertised, in many and most situations. If you want to shoot a head and shoulders portrait at 1.7, you can’t. If you want to shoot up close for a Bokeh effect at 1.7, forget it. Many have e-mailed ME complaining about it as if I were Leica and as soon as those emails started coming in I knew there would be more to come.

Leica probably could fix the issue with firmware but I am not sure they will as they chose to cripple the lens for a reason, supposedly that reason is due to the fact that the lens close focus wide open performance is below the quality levels they want to see. They do not want images online showing softness when wide open so to fix this they set the camera to automatically change the aperture if shooting up close wide open. Yet they advertise it as the new X with a Summilux f/1.7 lens even though you need to be around four feet from your subject or more to use the lens at f/1.7. Leica does not advertise this in their marketing blurbs, they just advertise it as an f/1.7 lens:

“The extremely fast initial aperture of its Leica-Summilux 35 mm f/1.7 ASPH. lens creates an exceptionally beautiful bokeh, as a result, the exploration of the creative possibilities of selective focus is fascinating and particularly rewarding with the Leica X. The lens is almost completely insensitive to flare and ghosting affects. And all this is possible without an extra lens hood. It delivers bright, clear, and incredibly sharp photos – from infinity to a close-focus distance of only 0.2 metres. As well the CMOS sensor of the Leica X fulfills what its APS-C format promises: outstanding photos with exceptional colour fidelity and the finest rendition of details – even in unfavorable light.”

Odd.

With that said, if you are up close, just like with the X2, you can shoot at f/2.8 and still get a shallow DOF, but you have to be CLOSE. The bag was my subject.

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For some this will not be a deal breaker, for others it will. Add to this the fact that they once again ignored the option of an integrated EVF and we have more who will not buy this camera. Then we have the same old sensor from the X2 and Vario, with no real enhancements to low light performance. Some are saying this is an old sensor in a snazzy new body.

The fact is that the new X CAN AND DOES deliver in image quality, giving that unique X look that other cameras do not give you. Even at f/2.8 you can still get some shallow DOF when shooting up close (as shown above) but still not as much as we expected to get at f/1.7. It is a gorgeous camera made to Leica standards and is like owning an X Vario body with a faster fixed prime lens. If the X-Vario was something you lusted after but with a smaller and faster prime, here you go. Just be aware that in many situations you will not be able to shoot wide open. Also keep in mind that this is still not a night-time or very low light camera. It is still at its best with good light.

The Leica X comes in at $2295, not as much as I thought considering the X2 came in at $1995 with the slower lens and smaller more compact body. At this price point there are many options out there from Sony, Fuji, and others. For example, the new X100T looks fantastic and comes in at $1295. It also has an APS-C sensor, and an f/2 35mm equivalent lens with a classic RF styled body including an integrated and super nice hybrid EVF/VF. It is a proven design that many adore. The Leica X has easy to navigate menus and is simple to set up and operate. That is one thing Leica excels at..simplicity…but are they trying to be too many things at one time?

I feel Leica should stop trying to be so many things for so many people. I believe they should offer just the M and T series but make another T with a built in EVF. Then we have an APS-C modern Leica and the classic full frame M series (both the MM and M versions). Both interchangeable lens cameras, and systems they could focus on 100%. I personally feel they should just drop the rest along with the Panasonic clones. Of course this will not happen but it seems that Leica may be losing sight of who they once were and what they need to offer to those who love Leica and what they stand for. With a C, X, M, T, D-Lux and V-Lux it just seems to be to much IMO.

Do you want the new X? The questions to ask yourself is: “Do I want a real German made Leica”? “Would I mind the negatives of this camera”?

$2295 is not cheap. It is a lot of money. For me, I was  bit let down due to the fact that when shooting I had to hold out the camera like a  tourist and in most cases, unless focusing close, the images lacked pop (for example, street shots). No internal EVF takes the excitement of the X down for me, as does the lens issue but at the end of the day I will always love that X IQ. It’s a tough call but one thing that can not be discounted is the IQ. It is superb. It is pure Leica X, and for that, for many, will be enough.

Steve

Below is my 1st look video on the Leica X before I discovered the Aperture issue:

WHERE TO BUY?

You can buy the Leica X from the 100% trusted and recommended dealers below:

Ken Hansen – email him at [email protected] (tell him I sent you!)

PopFlash.com

The Pro Shop

Amazon

B&H Photo

Leica Store Miami

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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 5 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 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 received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

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. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

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Oct 022014
 

samstroudleica

The Leica M: A Working Review

by Sam Stroud – His website can be seen HERE

A few weeks ago I picked up Leica’s M typ 240. In my own research, while looking to buy one, I couldn’t find a lot of reviews from the wedding industry on those who were using it. I wanted to post a little bit of my thoughts about it now that I have had a few weddings under my belt with it.

First let me say, what this wont be. I am not going to talk about the technical details much. As odd as this sounds, I don’t quite care about that. I am not a pixel counter. I knew well in advanced that the quality of the image was going to be fantastic. No surprises there. For me shooting with this camera had to be about a few things;

1. It couldn’t inhibit the process of creating
2. It absolutely had to push me beyond the place I was currently in. I didn’t want to spend money on something that would allow me to just keep doing what I am doing. What’s the point in that?

Those two seem kind of vague I know. But it was important to me that I could get the image I set out to create, and that at the same time I wouldn’t be tied to creating the same kind of work I have been.

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The Basics

The M typ 240 is a 24MP Full Frame, Manual focusing camera with a CMOS sensor. It comes in Black and silver. (I chose black) It also has an optical view finder that is easily used to frame and compose your subjects. There are a lot of other really neat technical details that I honestly couldn’t care any less about. Oooh wait… it has a movie mode.

There aren’t a lot of features to brag about. I think it is purely a digital rangefinder. No frills. It wont shoot 100 frames per second and it wont HDR an image for you. Looking through the viewfinder is about one thing and one thing only. Composing, framing and taking the shot. There IS a red dot above the lens mount that reads “Leica”. So there is that.

Using It For Work

Focusing

I don’t think there is any question you could buy this camera and without feeling any pressure to get anything right, could go and shoot some street photography and be really pleased. But for me, in my work, there is a certain level of pressure not to miss anything. With that pressure, for me, comes the absolute need to know my camera. To know how everything works together. And to be honest I struggled with it at first. And that has nothing to do with any kind of limitation of the M. It has everything to do with my current system and setup. I could legitimately close my eyes and in a matter of seconds set my MK3 to be ready to shoot in any situation and get the image I want right away.

That isn’t a bad thing at all. But when you introduce an entirely different system it becomes a problem. So at first I kept it simple. The first wedding I stuck with using it exclusively for the getting ready shots and portraits. Focusing was tough. What can I say? The MK3’s auto focusing system is incredibly fast. I don’t know how it compares to a Nikon and I don’t care. For me, the MK3 AF system works and acquires focus so quickly!

So to move to a completely manual system was again, intimidating. And slow. You want to be precise, and you don’t want to miss. At first, yes I was slow with it. And for me photographing natural expression, including during the bride and groom’s portrait sessions, is paramount. It’s tough to try to be precise without making it, seemingly, awkward. But I knew the more I did it. The faster I would get.
Once you’re used to it there isn’t an issue. Focusing is as easy and as fast as moving the focusing ring clock or counter clock wise. There is a box in the center of the view finder. Find your subject, and align the boxes. That’s it.

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Low Light

Again the MK3 is king. Throw the 50mm 1.2 on and you are ready for any situation. I was really excited to see totally usable images up to 6400. I had read online, some people saying files were only really usable up to 3200. I found that not to be true at all. The beauty of this is that I knew I could totally use the M in darker spaces like during the reception. More specifically during the first dances where really beautiful images can be created.

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Battery Life

I will keep this short… I shot two weddings this past weekend on one charge. The battery is big. The charger is kind of awkward. But it did come with a car charger. So that’s cool. I am not sure I will use it. But regardless, the fact that the battery lasted two weddings is a huge positive.

The Experience

Handling the camera feels amazing. From the moment I picked it up I was impressed. It feels good. I don’t know how to properly describe that. It just feels like a camera should feel. The dials are tight, the size just right, and the sound of the shutter click is quietly sweet. The menus and buttons are minimal to say the least. You can quickly and easily move around once you are familiar with where everything is located. It is a sturdy build and is surprisingly heavy.

Here is where I really care about this camera. Using this camera has been a completely different experience for me. I started out using the Canon 5D, and have been using Canon exclusively. So with that in mind, from the moment I picked up the Leica I was both intimidated and confused. And I am not new to the rangefinder. But first using the M I could tell I was going to have to undo a lot of terrible habits I have picked up over the past 4 years.

The look and feel instantly creates a different atmosphere for creating your work. It also requires from you a level of patience and “slowing down” that I haven’t experienced in quite some time. I think the initial inclination is to fear what you may miss. But when you think about it, if you are comfortable with your gear, and you are required to slow down and pay more attention to whats happening, you will be infinitely more connected to your subject. And if you are connected to your subject you will create better work.

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Conclusion

I have now been asked on so many occasions (so many times that now every time I hear it I want to smash my face with a mallet) one of two things;

1. “Is it worth spending $7500 to shoot with something that is on par with other cheaper systems like the MK3 or D800″

2. “Can you really tell a difference? You can’t really tell a difference.”

Honestly, I cant answer that for you. All I can tell you is that for me it absolutely is worth every single penny. For now at least. And if you are asking for my recommendation, I would tell you unequivocally, yes buy it! And for so many reasons. But mainly because of the experience. There is an experience that exists between me and my subject that is realized when shooting with this camera. And I would of paid double to have it because of that reason alone. Yes, the images are beautiful. Yes the technology behind it is fantastic. And yes there are very very few companies who make a better lens. All of that absolutely matters. But more than anything and above all of that, it is about the simple and beautiful process of creating and nothing else.

Sam Stroud

Oct 012014
 

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Supermoon Photoshoot at 1620mm with Nikon V3

By Joe Marquez – see his website at http://www.thesmokingcamera.com

(from Steve: This is one of the coolest posts I have placed here in a long time…love it! Thank you Joe for the beautiful work and showing what the Nikon 1 system is capable of)

A couple of months ago, while out shooting with the mirrorless Nikon V3 and 70-300cx lens (189-810mm equivalent field of view – FOV), I noticed a hiker on a nearby ridge top – and a beautiful, bright moon above. I took a few shots and was quite pleased with the results. The V3 and it’s tiny sensor does surprisingly well in good light. Now I wondered how it would look if I attached a super telephoto lens and photographed the hiker directly in front of the moon. What about a ballerina silhouette? I decided to find out.

As you may know, the Nikon V3’s one-inch sensor results in the equivalent of a 2.7 increase in FOV. In essence when a Nikon FX lens is attached via the Ft-1 adapter, the V3 becomes a 2.7 teleconverter with no loss of light. Thus a 600mm lens becomes 1620mm.

Initially my plan was to photograph a single ballerina in front of the super moon. However, I began considering everything that could go wrong: weather, inability to focus at night, DOF issues, instability, inaccessibility and of course all the unforeseen inevitable mistakes I normally make. So I decided to increase the number of shoots to insure I would get a decent image or two.

Now I had to get my hands on a $10,000 Nikon 600mm f4 lens. So, I went to the only camera store in Hawaii with uber cool rental equipment, told them about my project and they agreed to sponsor my efforts. Here’s a formal thank you to Hawaii Camera (www.hawaiicamera.com) for supporting this little moon project of mine.

Using a number of online programs I determined optimum times and locations to photograph the moon as it crossed the ridge. And because the ridge runs north south I was able to shoot as the moon rose in the east and several hours later as it set in the west. Thus, everyday I had two opportunities at the moon. So over the course of a week I planned fourteen separate photo shoots. Only later I realized, I didn’t factor in time for sleep. Oh well, can’t think of everything.

I then called upon many friends – models, performers, cosplayers, ballerinas and dancers as well as fellow photographers to assist. Altogether 43 people were involved in this moon project. Call times ranged from late afternoon to early morning before sunrise. Most participants had to hike the steep ridge at night with headlamps. We required a spotter or assistant for safety and we communicated via two-way radios or cell phone. One cosplayer’s outfit weighs 133 pounds and required ten trips to get the costume into position. A super thank you to everyone who participated.

While the models and spotters were climbing the ridge, I and an assistant down below had to deal with traffic, trees, wires, poles, houses, basketball players, dogs, golfers and sprinklers.

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In the end everyone had a fun and unique experience and a good number of wonderful photos. In addition, I learned a tremendous amount about shooting the moon. Foremost is the moon moves so quickly when viewed at 1620mm there is often only a moment or two to get the shot. Secondly, the moon has quite a variety of looks due to clouds, time of day or night and so on and I had to constantly and quickly change my exposure settings. Finally, the Nikon V3 did an excellent job on this project and I wouldn’t hesitate using this little camera for other super telephoto projects.

In fact next month at full moon, I plan to again use the Nikon V3 and experiment with lighting, fashion, a bride in her wedding dress, video and a surprise or two. Amazing what is possible when you utilize a camera’s strength to its fullest.

Sep 262014
 

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A quick 1st look video on the Petzval Art Lens!

Received this gem yesterday from Cameraquest.com and upon opening the package I was surprised at the quality of the packaging, and then the gorgeous hefty all brass lens inside. For me, at $600, this lens is priced JUST RIGHT as you are getting not only a unique lens for those times when you want that classic look and wild bokeh, but you are also getting a piece of art in the lens itself, which is a huge conversation starter. Go out shooting with it and you will be stopped throughout the day asking what you are shooting with.

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Besides being an 85mm f.2.2 lens, it is a classic formula and will give you a classic look. The original Petzval lens was created by Joseph Petzval and this one is sort of a replica though not quite the same of course. Even so, this lens will give you some crazy unique portraits with bokeh that is out of this world. My full review will be up within 2-3 weeks but for now, check out my 1st look video below! I will state that it is easy to focus using focus peaking on my Sony A7s, no issues at all, and quite easy to nail/hit focus.

You can order this unique lens at CameraQuest.com HERE. 

Sep 262014
 

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A quick 1st look video on the Leica X Typ 113!

Yesterday the new Leica X arrived to me direct from Leica for a 2 week review period. When it arrived I took it out of the box and sapped maybe 7-10 shots in my yard to see if the output is similar to the X1, X2 and X-Vario or if it was changed. I am happy to say it retains the same image quality as the previous X2 and X Vario. By that I mean it has the same color signature, the same crisp snap to the images and the same overall rendering. This time though we get a more “Leica Like” rendering with the new Summilux f/1.7 lens.

The X is GORGEOUS in the flesh (or metal) and it will indeed inspire and provide true pride of ownership. The camera focuses about as fast as the X-Vario and behaves just like an X. It starts up quicker and has a nice metal lens cap included in the box as well. While not a speed demon when comparing to the super  fast cameras, it gets the job down from what I have seen. BUT this is a first look only, my full review will be up within 2 weeks or so where I will know MUCH more about how the X Typ 113 operates.

Check out the 1st look below BUT LEICA, C’MON…GIVE US A BUILT IN EVF ALREADY! If you did this it would sell in much larger numbers.

You can pre-order the X from Ken Hansen ([email protected]), PopFlash.com, Pro Shop, B&H Photo, and Leica Store Miami 

 

Sep 252014
 

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The New Upgraded Wotancraft Scout and Ranger bags 2014

“With signature elements of rugged authentic leather and distressed hardware,
new City Explorer integrated WotanCraft’s latest developed exclusive “WAL canvas spec.1.6”
a composite waxed fabric material never seen in camera bag creations,
combining 3 crucial features of a protective bag:

WATERPROOF, ABRASION-RESISTANT, LIGHTWEIGHT”

Hey guys! I have a new video review of two new upgraded bags from Wotancraft, the new SCOUT & RANGER bags from their City Explorer line. If you remember my last Wotancraft review it was for the Ryker, which is my #1 fave every day bag ever. I use it every day and it has been with me everywhere, been rained on, been in the swamps and has been sitting in the 110 degree heat in the AZ desert. It is only getting better and better. The only issue with the Ryker is that it is too small for traveling and carrying larger things like camera gear, laptop, chargers, etc.

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The new 2014 Ranger AND Scout have a new material that is 50% lighter, waterproof and abrasion proof. They are attractive, feel great on and look great as well. THEY LOOK RUGGED and feel rugged. They are not as fancy as the Leather Ryker but they are just as beautiful and many will prefer this look over the Ryker for their personal use.

The entire City Explorer line has received the new material treatment, which is pretty fantastic.

Check out my look at these two bags in my video review below:

When the Ranger arrived to me I was VERY impressed. The bag arrived in a nice cloth outer bag to protect it and WOW..the construction is just off the charts. The hardware, the function, the features and the style..love it all. After the Ryker I became a huge Wotancraft fan. After the Ranger and Scout, I am even more of a fan. I also started to check out the other goods they sell and am impressed with what I see on their website as they have some pretty cool and beautiful accessories, even watch straps!

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For traveling the Ranger will be a good bag to choose. For every day, the Ryker or Scout is the one for me. 

You can read much more and see more and order these bags over at Wotancraft by using the direct link HERE

  

Sep 242014
 

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Weddings through a Leica

By Bailey Wang

I’m one of those wedding photographers with very limited experience in the old world of photography, you know using film and rangefinders. Sure I got to muck around with my old man’s dust covered Canon EOS-1, that seemed like a great idea for him at that time to have, but it wasn’t anything really of substance. So you could say I’m a relatively upcoming, though after 6 years in weddings it doesn’t so yesterday, DSLR totting photographer.

After 6 years of gun-slinging two testosterone-induced DSLR bodies weekend after weekend, the wear and tear on my temple of love became so impeding that it was high time something had to be done. For quite some time, I had one of those creative impulsive ideas of “I’m going to make things hard for myself and go hardcore manual” and so it was an opportune moment to investigate on a smaller form factor system that would be viable for weddings.

The move from the bulky world that is DSLR to a more physically-asian-friendly system started with my ventures with the Fuji X100, Pro and the more recent Sony A7, all of which for sure that their benefits and quirks. Extensive field testings I carried out in tandem with my D3s worked a dream with the beautifully light systems, and I was this close to getting jumping ship over to the A7r system. Until I was silly enough to, funny enough, bump into the StevenHuffPhoto soon-to-be online bible of reviews. Though I liked what I had with the A7r, it didn’t quite fit the bill, it’s slightly confusing button arrangements and ergonomics wasn’t as pleasing as it was visually, so when I dug deeper into the trove that is the SHP website, I kept hearing about this Leica business. Woe is me for having been so foolish – at least to the wife’s constant um verbal battering of the soon-to-come spending spree.

Many a midnight oil burnt sessions later, I hungrily sought out a local supplier (in Sydney Australia) that would let me touch and feel one of these blasted bodies (Leica M Typ 240). I’d have to say it wasn’t a particularly easy thing to do! After all, what if the foolish potential customer mishandles this “overly-priced snob camera” (as some may call it)? Thankfully one such supplier was more than happy to spend the time to unfold it’s gorgeous packaging for a on site field test, that eventuated with my renowned impulse (to the constant annoyance of the Mrs) buy. What can I say? I fell in love.

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Despite many discussions with my peers on this topic of going hard at it with the manual controls, on whether such a system would be suitable for a fast-pace photography discipline, I just had to have it. It was very much the case of once you go manual you won’t go back. I shoot manual anyway, just not manual focus. So for the next few weeks I lived and slept with the M Typ 240 and 50mm Summilux-R, she became my mistress (hey at least it was out in the open and the wife was always around).

The first wedding shot through the M was such a refreshing experience. It very much is the Apple of the camera world. Minimalist. Gorgeous. Functional. And it just works. With how technology is outpaces today’s technology, and marketing has become the guidance for product development, it is so easy to be lost in wanting the biggest and most badass specifications in one’s kit. Sure the Leica M system seems archaic with no autofocus, built-in USB, WIFI, touchscreen, 24 burst scatter gun shutter, and other plethora of marketing-tech-dribble, but what it does it does so well and for that I’m so thankful that I took the dive into the old (new) world.

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It slows things down. A heck much slower than what the DSLR can do. I love that. Bringing photography back to what it should be, to composition, great lighting and pre thought before pressing down on the shutter makes things so much more pleasing. Not that I was ever the photographer that would put the D3s on burst mode and scatter the hell out of a wedding day to come back with 3000 photographs. Certainly it was frustrating on the first wedding, not knowing exactly how slow the shutter & buffer was in comparison, and certainly things were missed that wouldn’t’ have been missed with a DSLR. But then again, I wasn’t over shooting anymore!

So how did the first wedding go with all these slow-mo things happening? Very well! Considering it was a quasi Lebanese & Portuguese mix wedding, and if any of you have been to these ethnic weddings, there’s a hell lot happening on the day. They sure know how to party it up! Given most of my couples have the Middle Eastern background splashed with the Hispanic, a big high-five for team Leica on keeping up with the pace!

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Concerns that surely the manual focus is not built for a wedding, that the rangefinder system is really for street (some say random) photography were totally dispelled. The experience of framing through a rangefinder became a beautiful perspective of documenting one of the most important milestones in life. And this is where I have come to enjoy photographing weddings through Leica.

I’m not overly concerned about all the technical mumbo jumbo of IQ, sharpness, lines, focus shifts…etc all that comes with any technology. I’m not really all that concerned about the individual performance of each spec, or rather in comparison to say what the modern world of DSLR can avail a photographer. After all I’m after emotion, after drama, not after winning awards for technical prowess. So if you were to talk to me about how each of my lenses fair for a wedding, well…buggered if I know how they technically fair. Hell looking at my photographs, you could probably point things out of whack that may not technically be awesome, but I’m not at all that interested in those aspects of photography.

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Instead, what the Leica system has allowed me to do is to bring me back to the real reasons of why I left my IT job with HP, and onwards to the world of capturing…the world of love, romance, laughter, life and connection. Without all the geeky things to swoon over (funny for a IT geek to comment on), it gives me connection with the day. Not with the camera.

One thing I will confess to geek-love though is how beautiful the Leica swirly bokeh is! I’m a wide-open shooter at heart, even in the world of DSLR, and so having access to so much gorgeous light, bokeh and softness has become as far geek-love as it gets.

So 11 weddings now since having stumped up the cash for the Leica M system, my kit on the day looks like:

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Soon to be added to this kit is a 75mm ‘lux and Canon 50mm 0.95 (damn you Steve), hopefully Fedex hauls ass so that I can have it on next weekend’s weddings. Slightly a kit freak, but each one has it’s own beauty. Oh I still have my 50mm ‘lux-r that I’ve been undecided on whether to sell off or not! The M6 is also on temptation’s list that may or may not make the cut, depending on whether I’m feeling impulsively daring enough to introduce film, but hey every other wedding photographer seems to be jumping on that bandwagon right now!

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I’m still learning about this wondrous Leica system, I’m still finding my way in composition and to bring more life into the weddings I shoot, and I’m loving it. Most importantly, my couples love it.

Bailey Wang

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