Aug 282014
 

VIDEO: The Leica M-P and Silver Monochrom

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Ahhhhhhhh, the beauty of Leica. No matter what anyone will ever say, there is nothing like the beauty and feel of a Leica M camera, and I feel this way about the M3, M6, M7, M8, M9, M9-P, Monochrom and M 240/M-P. To me, they are just what I want in a digital camera and have all that I could ever need (except an affordable price and super low light which the A7s covers for me very well). Even after all of these years the Leica M is the ONLY digital rangefinder on the planet (not counting the no longer made Epson RD-1) that is available. So if you are an RF fan, this is it.

Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus..none have even attempted it although I was hoping Nikon would do so a few years ago. So as of today, mid 2014, Leica is the only game in town if you want a real life back to basics digital rangefinder camera and NO, Fuji do not have ANY RF cameras (some seem to think they do).

With that out-of-the-way, here we are a couple of months before PHOTOKINA where all kinds of goodies get released and announced. I am sure Leica will have something new, Sony will have something new and huge and Nikon and Canon will probably have the same old same old. Olympus will have something new, probably Panasonic as well. But just a couple of months early Leica not only announced but released the black paint M-P.

The M-P is basically an M240 with a larger buffer, sapphire LCD screen and all black paint without any markings on the front. This means NO “M” and no RED DOT! On the top you have the classic Leica logo which appears just as it did in the M-9P (which was crazy popular, sold out at launch for months). The M-P is not selling out at launch and that is mainly due to the fact that at the price of $8,000 it is too expensive in 2014 even for a Leica. With Sony rocking the A7 series that have an even better sensor at 1/3 the cost it makes it hard to justify a digital Leica today. With that being the case, why did i just purchase TWO of  them? EEEK!

The deep rich tones of the MM (with a Zeiss 50 Planar, one of my fave M lenses ever due to bang for the buck)

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Well, part of it is passion. Part is foolishness. Part is from my heart and the rest is due to the fact that no matter how many times I drift away from Leica…I ALWAYS COME BACK. I have an emotional connection to the M and when I am out with it I enjoy it more than any other camera, even if other cameras can do more for me. The Leica M 240 is my favorite camera of all time, previous to this it was the M9. When the Sony A7s was released it was tied with my M 240 and I said “why would I keep this M when I love the Sony so much”. So I sold my M 240 and banked the money.

Two months later, while I still am in love with the A7s and have no desire to get rid of it, the M has creeped back in to my head. Just days before the M-P was announced I was looking for a used deal on an M 240 yet again. So away I go and email Ken Hansen who said “I will have the M-P week, if you want one let me know”. Too easy. Bam. Ordered. He also said “I have a few silver chrome Monochrom’s in stock” – and that was it, BAM! I went crazy..I was foolish..but do I regret it? No, because I now have an M-P which is the most beautiful M 240 yet and the chrome MM is a sight to see and about as unique and pure as a digital camera can get. Both have their uses as does my Sony A7s.

In fact. I will use my A7s for low light, macro,  and some times when I need a hassle free AF camera. I will use the MM on those occasions when a pure B&W mode strikes me and the M 240 on all other occasions. The great thing is that the lenses can be used on all three cameras without issues.

Here I am almost 45 years old and still being stricken with GAS. Today though I will acknowledge that the prices required to get into a Leica M system are way too high, but for those who gain happiness and joy from it then it doesn’t really matter as long as you can swing it. Life is short and I would rather LIVE IT than sit around on my couch all day watching TV, waiting for something good to happen to me. So that is what I do and how I live life.

So the new Leica M-P is available and shipping NOW! For those interested, you can order them at Ken Hansen, PopFlash, Pro Shop, B&H Photo, Amazon and Leica Store Miami. The Chrome MM is also available from all of those dealers.

Below is my video featuring both cameras. Enjoy!

Aug 142014
 

 Sigma DP Quattro in the house! 

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Today the UPS guy brought me a package from B&H Photo with a shiny brand new Sigma DP Quattro, so this is an EARLY 1st look with a few snaps from around my house in the past 30 minutes. THIS IS NOT MY REVIEW, that will be coming soon.

In the past I have used the Sigma DP cameras and while I have always enjoyed the image quality from these little powerhouses I always hated the design, the cheap feel, the super slow operation, the cranky autofocus, awful high ISO performance and the awful battery life. The DP2 Merrill was jaw dropping for static subjects in good light but everything else, forget it.

When Sigma announced the DP2 Quattro and shown everyone what it would look like the reactions were split in the photography world. Some thought it was super cool and others thought it was ridiculously ugly. I was in the “super cool” camp, but hey, I am cool, so what can I say? Lol.

As soon as I saw the design and read that many of the issues were fixed with the Sigma DP cameras I had to take a look because I LOVE when camera manufacturers think outside of the box, and there is nothing like the design of the DP2 Quattro. In fact, it may be one of those cameras that end up as a classic just due to the design. I would not be surprised to see it in a camera museum in 30 years.

One thing that really irked me with the previous DP2 Merrill that I reviewed (see it here) was the AF speed. It was a camera only good for static subjects, period. I can state that after just taking 20 snaps with the Quattro, the AF is indeed faster than the previous DP cameras. Is it fast enough? No, not really. It will not be a camera one grabs to snap their running kids. Instead, it is really made for things like beautiful landscapes and colors, along with portraits. The Foveon sensor is very special for thing such as this as the detail and quality of file it can pump out at base ISO in good light is extraordinary.

High ISO also suffers with the Sigma DP series and I can say that the Quattro looks better at ISO 800 than the previous model but at the same time, I have noticed that for color work, nothing over ISO 800 will do. For B&W, even ISO 3200 can look good. Even so, I can tell that the Quattro will not be a threat to the amazing Sony A7s for low light shooting.

In the hand the Quattro feels good, looks cool but different and is faster than any previous DP series camera. While still slow, the new Foveon sensor inside is pumping out beautiful color and details even when shooting JPEG mode (all I have tested so far). One thing I already dislike is the fact  that there is no viewfinder of any kind, no swivel LCD and the side SD card door is not a door but a piece of rubber that will break off eventually after so many card changes. Not sure who thought up that design but for me, it is a fail. I can already tell that if the DP Quattro had an EVF, swivel LCD and an SD card door, I would buy one without hesitation.

A few images below, all JPEG from the Quattro within 30 minutes of it arriving to my house. My full review will be up in about two weeks. You can order the Quattro HERE.

ALL JPEGS from the Sigma DP Quattro

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Below an image resized to 1800 pixels wide, shot in B&W mode with the Quattro, JPEG..then a 100% crop! Click them for larger, how they were meant to be seen. 

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and the 100% crop (you MUST click on it) in JPEG mode. Pretty damn good for JPEG mode!

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The color right from the camera in 1X1 mode

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and another 1X1 shot with 100% crop embedded. Must click it to see it correctly. ALL JPEG!

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iso 3200 B&W mode

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Jul 292014
 

A look at the Lumu iPhone Light Meter

By Brandon Huff

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Ahhh now here we have it! The Lumu, which is an external iPhone light meter! This little device plugs right into the headphone jack of an iPhone. Once you do this, all you have to do is download the Lumu app which then shows Aperture, Shutter speed then ISO you simply use it like a normal light meter, putting it next to your subject or pointing it in the direction of which you are shooting press measure then it shows all the information needed. Take this information and set your camera using it and you should have a perfect exposure!

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The light meter and app itself are very snappy. Let’s say you want to shoot at ISO 800 and need the shutter speed info for your lighting situation…you simply set the meter app to ISO 800 and then press the”measure” button and it will give you the shutter speed and aperture needed for that scenario. Same goes for if you want to shoot at f/2  – set the app to f/2 and it will tell you what ISO and exposure to use. Simple.

BUT! In use I have encountered one little issue. After you get used to the app and actually take a photo I noticed it was slightly underexposing when using my Nikon V1 to  test it with.  You can calibrate it inside the app although it does not really explain how to do it perfectly, but I was finding my shots slightly underexposed. This is great for preserving highlights but it is not a 100% correct exposure. See the samples below…

Using the Lumu  – Nikon V1

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Using the cameras built in light meter – Nikon V1

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These photos are straight from camera JPGS and there has been no editing of any kind. Yes, the difference is not huge and its nothing too crazy that a little Photoshop can’t fix but it is not perfect.

The price of this Device is $150 US Dollars and you can buy it direct HERE. In my opinion it is worth it if you wish to have a small yet useful light meter. Problem is when your phone dies you have no light meter, other light meters batteries last way longer than an iPhone battery will which makes them more reliable.

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So I decided to try the meter in direct sunlight, F4 with the Nikon 30-110 lens I must say it really underexposed on this one,  now could this be user error? Sure, it could be! I have only used this tiny guy a little bit, but imagine if I was shooting out of an old TLR and I thought all my images were coming out correctly, when all I’m actually doing is wasting film and money for images that may be unusable. I verified I was using the meter correctly and following the directions supplied with the device. It says to bring the phone by your subject and aim the meter towards the camera. This is what I did and you can see the results below:

Direct sun Lumu Metering

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Direct sun aperture priority mode – Nikon V1 meter (overexposed)

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The Lumu always seems to underexpose it and the in camera meters have slightly over exposed this photo, it seems you just have to mess with it a little bit, figure out what you are looking for. In the above situation the Lumu gave me the preferred exposure as I can always lighten that image up but can not really fix the blown highlights in the V1 exposed image.

If you are using strictly analog I recommend getting a proprietary light meter, however if you shoot mostly digital but film sometimes I strongly recommend this Lumu.  Another good feature of this little gizmo is that you can measure light intensity in the room at a constant scan rate. For the price though this product isn’t too bad. IMO it is better than spending $400+  on a light meter if you don’t need or rely on one all the time. It is pocketable and you can even wear it around your neck with the included necklace or carrying case (that will connect to your strap).

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If you are thinking about purchasing one of these Id look to see if it will work with your device if using Amdroid, I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 and it won’t register even though I have the app. Its made for iPhones more than android devices and it works great on my iPhone.

Brandon

Jul 092014
 

USER REPORT: The Sony RX100 III, a very quick first look

by Rob McKay

Hey Steve,

Picked up the Sony RX100 III (At B&H or Amazon) for my pocket/travel/biking digi rig and love it!

I mainly shoot Leica, and especially love shooting film through my MP and M3 but still need a small digi for quick docu shots and instant chimping satisfaction. My fav pocket digi has to be the Ricoh GR, but the smaller RX100 with its 21mm f/1.8 to 70mm f/2.8 zoom lens can be a bonus and a great range (for me). Unlike the 4/3rd or NEX setups that need the lenses to be taking off (zooms) before truly making them compact/pocketable, the RX100 III is almost flat when turned off.

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First impressions, love it, but time will tell.. Attached a few snaps of the bike trails I recently used the camera on.

Great site and keep up the great work!

Rob McKay

https://www.flickr.com/photos/caughtintheair/
http://bokehenstein.com

Click images for larger and better viewing

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Jun 302014
 

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Hey guys! HAPPY MONDAY! Not many of us love Mondays but I always do as it gives me a fresh start to the week with a purpose and goal, and this week is a big one!

I have just arrived back home from an 8 day road trip vacation and have already started writing my Sony A7s review. Not sure how long it will take but the words are flowing about this little wonder. It is no secret that I loved it but I will tell you and show you exactly WHY that is the case. So look for the review in the next 24-48 hours! I shot the A7s with the Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8, Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 and the Voigtlander 15 VM lens as well as a few with the Mitakon 50 0.95. 

Take a look at the shot below at ISO 80,000 and 1/10s with the Voigtlander 15. This is a 100% OOC JPEG with NR on its lowest setting.

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I have so much to say about the A7s and will say it all in my review..so stay tuned! You can order the Sony A7s at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE.  Some have already started shipping but mass shipments start TOMORROW!

Steve

Jun 232014
 

Having a blast with the Sony A7s

So I am on day one of an 8 day road trip through various parts of California with the Sony A7s and so far so good! Day and Night one brought us to Landers, CA where we stayed at Kate’s Lazy Desert which was a really fun time. We had the whole place to ourselves, six classic airstream trailers and a wonderful night under the stars. We leave this morning and area heading to see some friends in Crestline, CA and then we will be on our way to Santa Clarita for two nights. After that we will be heading to Santa Cruz, San Francisco and then to Long Beach before heading back home to Phx AZ. Will be shooting the A7s for the entire trip so I can evaluate it fully for my full review which will be up soon.

Yesterday and last night I shot with the A7s along with the Voigtlander 15 and Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8. Below are a few of the shots, which are all OOC JPEGS from Lightroom. Just using my tiny Macbook Air for this trip so for me, it is hard to do any editing..so what you see is what you get.

You can pre-order the Sony A7s at Amazon or B&H Photo.

ISO 12,800, 15mm, 1/10s – Handheld

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Voigtlander 15mm, tripod long exposure. 

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Inside one of the Airstreams with the 15mm – I think I was using the “Clear” color mode…but man, love this 15 on the A7s! Finally usable in color on a FF digital. This lens did not even work good on the cropped Leica M8 but on the A7s it is nice. 

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Zeiss 35 2.8 – It was a bright day and around 105 degrees at the Lazy Desert, but we had a blast regardless. 

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15 VM 

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15 VM – They have a little pool so we had some drinks and went swimming for a while before cooking up some dinner.

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15VM – The Camera m ay have been in Vivid for this one.. I used spot metering here.

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35 2.8 – The little Zeiss 35 is a fantastic lens.

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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.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. Thank you!

Jun 182014
 

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The Sony A7s: 1st Look…Testing the limits.

Hello to all! Just to let you all know I received the Sony A7s just today, just about 9 hours ago. In the past few hours I have taken it out and tested it for the one thing that it is claimed to be so good at which is LOW LIGHT and high ISO. I also shot some normal ISO images as well. Armed with the Sony Zeiss 35 2.8, the Sony Zeiss 55 1.8 and the Mighty Mitakon 50 0.95 I gave the A7s a workout with some intensely low light scenarios..even one that needed iso 102,400 with f/0.95. YES, that dark. How about that for a torture test? I mean, if you need ISO 102,400 with an f/0.95 lens then you KNOW it is DARK.

The A7s is a beauty of a camera for many reasons. One of them is that the sensor is a fat full frame with only 12MP. This means the file sizes are small and the low light capability is better. The pixels are nice and fat and this is how I prefer it. I have always preferred UNDER 20MP for my full frame sensors but it seems that most are trying to push the limits of MP on a sensor. Sony decided to make an A7 series camera that will be amazing for video, photo, low light and good light all while allowing for file sizes that will not require a mega computer to process. The shutter is also more damped it seems (not sure if it is or just my imagination but the shutter seems a bit quieter and gentler than the A7 and A7r). There is also the new SILENT mode which means you can use the A7s in complete silence. No beeps, no shutter sound..nada. Silent. That is the beauty of mirrorless.

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The camera feels great (same as the A7 and A7r) and again, not sure if it was my imagination but the AF seemed quicker as well to me. I was able to shoot in near darkness, using AF (with AF assist OFF) and the camera would AF. I had no issues with speed or accuracy.

So far so good but take this for what it is. My 1st 8 hours with a Sony A7s. I will be shooting it much more over the next week for a full review that will come within 2 weeks. For now, enjoy the 1st snaps from my 1st day with the camera. For me, it is the most desirable A7 already due to the low light capabilities, the silent mode and the lower pixel count. It truly is the KING OF THE NIGHT TIME WORLD.

You can pre-order the Sony A7s at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE.

Click HERE to see the 1st test with the Voigtlander 15 Heliar and click HERE to see a comparison with the Leica M 240.

The following images are all JPEG. What you see is what you get. ISO ranges from 100-102,400. Click images for larger view. Review within 2 weeks! These are just the 1st snaps I shot in the 8 hours I have had the camera, to wet your appetite. 

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1st shot, ISO 6,400 indoors. Sony 55 1.8 – click for larger

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ISO 320 from this afternoon with the 55 1.8

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ISO 100 – 55 1.8

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55 1.8 at ISO 100 – f/2

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VIVID mode, 55 1.8

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ISO 100 – 55 1.8 at f/2

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ISO 100, f/3.5 with the 55 1.8

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55 1.8 – ISO 100

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ISO 8000 – 55 1.8

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ISO 400 – 55 1.8 at f/2

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Mitakon 50 0.95 wide open at ISO 5000

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ISO 32,000 with the 55 1.8

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ISO 102,400 at f/0.95 with the Mitakon..insane!

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ISO 125

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ISO 125

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ISO 64,000!

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ISO 1600 – Mitakon 0.95

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ISO 1600 – 35 2.8

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FULL SIZE DIRECT FROM CAMERA – ISO 3200 – 55 1.8

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NEXT THREE – ISO 25,600  – 50 0.95 Mitakon

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and ISO 32,000

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ISO 80,000 – 55 1.8 NR OFF

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Mitakon FLARE – 102.400 ISO, 0.95

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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.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

One other way to help is by donation. If you want to donate to this site, any amount you choose, even $5, you can do so using the paypal link HERE and enter in your donation amount. All donations help to keep this site going and growing! I do not charge any member fees so your donations go a long way to keeping this site loaded with useful content. Thank you!

Jun 152014
 

The Sony A7s and Silent Shutter mode!

I just might have the Sony A7s THIS WEEK but check out this video showing the Silent Shutter mode. The #1 complaint of the A7 series, the loud shutter, seems to have been remedied in the new insanely low light capable Sony A7s. Take a look at the video below:


The focus confirm beep should be able to be turned off for a fully silent mode, so this is pretty cool. I should have the A7s any day now for review, hoping to get it before my big road trip. If I get it this week I will do a first look video the day I get it. You can pre-order the A7s at Amazon or B&H Photo. 

May 242014
 

New Leica Silver Monochrom, 28 Summilux SE and 90 Macro set!

Most of you gave probably seen all of this already but Leica introduced a couple of new items this past week, which some of you may be happy about and some of you may not as they all cost a pretty penny. First up is my fave, the silver chrome Monochrom camera. Up until now the Monochrom was only offered in a matte black finish, which I feel is beautiful. When Leica released the special Ralph Gibson edition of the Monochrom I was in awe of the beauty of the camera in chrome as it closely resembled an MP ousted of an M. I secretly wished that Leica would release the standard Monochrom in silver chrome and they just did. Coming it at the same $7995 as the standard, the chrome should start shipping anytime now. I may even have one to check out and if so I will do a new video on the Monochrom and my thoughts on the camera today. Sure it is damn expensive for a B&W camera but Leica has been VERY successful with this model and one thing rings true..all who own this camera adore it and say it is their favorite camera ever. I have many friends who own it and will never get rid of it. I know of a couple who have bought TWO so in case one dies of gets damaged or lost they have another. Crazy huh? There is something to be said for an all B&W camera that is optimized for B&W. Especially when it is in the form of a Leica rangefinder.

There has been rumors and evidence of a new version of the Monochrom coming for Photokina, the M type 230. Could this be a new Monochrom in an M 240 body? Possibly. Also, the M Monochrom silver chrome edition below is said to be a limited run. 

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You can pre-order the silver chrome MM at B&H Photo HERE. Ken Hansen also is taking pre-orders as is PopFlash and The Pro Shop

Leica also announced a new 90macro adapter that is best used with the 90mm f/4 lens they sell. Gone will be the old Macro kit and in its place the new macro adapter. Will start to ship in June.  This will allow macro photography with the M, which is pretty damn cool considering this was never really possible (in any easy way). 

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Finally, Leica introduced an all new limited edition kit, metal suitcase and all! A combo of the new M-A film camera (which is basically based off of the MP), a special edition Monochrom and the new 28 f/1.4 Summilux, ALL MADE FROM STAINLESS STEEL. Yes, a 28 summilux! The new lens is not released on its own yet but it will be within a few months (My prediction)  – For now, the only way to get it is in this limited edition kit, of which only 101 have been made. This will set you back around $30,000 USA. INSANE! Stainless steel must be pricey these days :)

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leica

Starting Price: € 22.000 (or $30,000 US)

This year, Leica Camera AG is celebrating 100 years of Leica photography. On the occasion of this special anniversary, a uniquely special highlight will be presented in the course of the official opening celebration for the new Leica headquarters in the Leitz Park complex in WETZLAR on MAY 23, 2014: the Leica M Edition 100. The first set will be auctioned at the WESTLICHT SPECIAL AUCTION “100 YEARS OF LEICA” on May 23rd in Wetzlar.

As the first Leica special edition of its kind, the Leica M Edition 100 brings together a purely mechanical rangefinder camera for film photography – the LEICA M-A – with a digital Leica M (LEICA M MONOCHROM) in one set. The combination of these two cameras is unique. Its symbolic character as an homage to the beginnings of Leica 35 mm photography and, in particular, to black-and-white photography makes the centennial edition truly special. This applies, above all, to its high-quality construction and finish: for the first time ever, both Leica cameras and the lenses in this set are made from solid stainless steel.

Both cameras stand as symbols for the origins of Leica photography and the present day. The Leica M-A, with technical specifications based on the currently available Leica MP film camera, is a direct descendent of the Ur-Leica. Alternatively, the second camera, a Leica M Monochrom, is the contemporary variation of the theme composed a century ago by Oskar Barnack.

The set also includes THREE SUMMILUX-M LENSES with focal lengths of 28, 35 and 50 mm. Renowned for their combination of extremely compact size, speed and exceptional imaging quality, they ideally reflect the characteristic performance criteria with which Leica lenses contributed to the establishment of the brand as a legend.

The M centennial set will be supplied in a black anodized aluminium case constructed by Rimowa especially for Leica. Inside, the case is subdivided into compartments precisely tailored to the individual components of the set and lined with real leather in black.
The set also includes Kodak TRI-X 400 black-and-white film for use with the Leica M-A.

SPECIAL ENGRAVING on the top plate of the body commemorates the centennial, as do the unique serial numbers that end with the four digits of the years between 1914 and 2014.

The Leica M Edition 100 is strictly LIMITED TO 101 SETS for the entire global market. The cameras and lenses will be available exclusively as sets from Leica Stores and Boutiques from June 2014; none of the items contained in the sets will be available as separate items (For example, there will never be a stainless steel 28 Lux made available for sale separately, but there will be a black 28 Lux sold separately – I imagine the same will go for the M-A as I bet they will release it to replace the MP in black or chrome eventually) 

 

May 212014
 

Hail to the King of the 50’s. The Leica 50 Summicron f/2 APO.

If one thing is sure to stir up controversy, it is something written positively about Leica on these pages, lol. It never fails. Well, if Leica is a touchy subject for you..turn away now my friends as I have a doozy for ya. Today a package arrived from USPS and inside was a brand spanking new Leica 50 APO ASPH f/2 Summicron lens. Yes, the one that sells for an eye popping, wallet busting, bank draining $7400. The one I called OUTRAGEOUSLY overpriced at launch (before seeing what it could do) and then when I was able to use one for a couple of days I fell hard and fast for it on the M240. WHY? Well, this is the ONLY lens on the M 240 that I feel can fully do justice to the sensor when it comes to detail and color. It also is THE lens for the Monochrom according to many at Leica.

FACT: This lens renders colors totally different than any other lens on the M. When looking at this lens side by side with the old cron or even 50 lux the colors of the older lenses appear a bit dull and different. They are still fantastic though and there is nothing quite like a 50 Summilux but when Leica says this 50 APO is the best lens they have ever made, believe it because it truly is. Really.

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This lens excels in all areas. In color, contrast, sharpness across the frame, distortion, bokeh and absolutely no CA or color issues etc. It is a cost no object design, which is what they set out to do from the get go. It is a statement lens that they expected to sell to a few here and there but it has ended up becoming one of the most desired lenses in the Leica lineup due to the fabulous rendering it creates. The problem is that Leica can only produce a small handful of these every month as they are so challenging to make. Many of the 50 APO’s never make it out of the factory as if they are not 100% perfect they get tossed and I believe Leica is even losing money on this lens, but they still make it because it is a lens that shows what they can do.  There is no way Leica could make this lens and sell it for $3k or $5k. It just would not exist as it is. It is an optically corrected lens and 97.9% perfect. That kind of perfection costs, and no, there is no other 50mm lens in the 35mm world that can compete with the Leica 50 APO. No Canon, no Nikon, No Pentax, None.

So for over a year I have wanted this lens and I have been shooting with the standard 5o Summicron for a while now preparing for the new APO to arrive. The new lens is now here and I stick by what even I said over a year ago. This lens is the best lens Leica makes, period. It is near perfection in a 50mm lens. No distortion. No flare. No CA. Amazing rich color. True Leica build. Smooth operation. Small size. Oh so slight Vigentting at f/2 and gone by 2.8. It even has a sweet twist out built in hood that is genius.

The detail capability of this lens on the M 240 is jaw dropping. It is as close to medium format as you can get in 35mm and the only lens that will deliver near Medium Format quality on the M 240. I predict that in 4-5 years this lens will be selling closer to $9,000-9,500 than the $7400 of today. Buying and owning a lens like this is “money in the bank” as I always say.

The original Noctilux for example sold new for $3500 when I bought a copy from B&H Photo many years ago. Today it sells USED for $7000. I bought a 35 Summicron for $1300 new about 9 years ago, today they are $3200. So Leica lenses appreciate, especially the rarer special lenses like the 50 cron APO.

Now of course, all of this amazing-ness will set you back a cool $7400 if you want it, but don’t fret! The good news is that there are many other lenses out there that get you 80% of this cron for MUCH less. For example, the 50 Summilux at $4000 will give you a much different rendering but one that is gorgeous at the same time. The standard 50 Summicron at $2300 will get you the cron look with lesser/duller color and not as nice Bokeh, but it is in the same family. The Zeiss 50 Planar ZM for under $900 will get you closer still in the color department but lose out in distortion and some loss of detail wide open and again, has some messy bokeh at times. So yes, $7400 is insanely expensive, and not a lens for everyone but that $7300 buys you a special lens.

This is a lens for the 50mm connoisseur. One who loves the 50mm focal length and wants the best of the best. I even prefer it to the $11k Noctilux in Color, Bokeh, sharpness and most of all, Size. Of course this can not give you the Noct shallow DOF look but the Noct can not give you what this cron does either. Size is perfect here. One thing to keep in mind is that this lens sells for about the same as a used Noctilux F/1, the old version of the Noct. Leica lenses are not cheap and never will be.

For most of you, the 50 Lux is the #1 lens to get for the M. It is beautiful and has its own unique style and character and is probably the best selling Leica lens of recent years for good reason. For those of you with a 50mm fetish like me, you must at least TRY the 50 APO at least once in life. I have no clue if this one will stay with me long term as I get all weird about spending so much on a lens but I at least wanted this one for the next few weeks to take with me on a vacation I am taking with Debby. I will use the lens and when I return I will write up my full review of it with comparisons to the current 50 Summicron NON APO and the 50 Zeiss ZM to show you exactly what that extra few grand will get you. If my jaw drops and I get shots that blow me away I will keep it as my main lens for the M.

A video from last year when I 1st took a look at the 50 APO along with the 50 Lux and 50 Noct

Review coming soon

So stay tuned for a full written review and video review and comparison coming in the weeks ahead. I have had the lens for only a few hours so only had a chance to take it around the house for a few snaps but wow, I am blown away by the detail, the Bokeh, the color and the beautiful build of this little jewel. When I get out there and get serious with it in the coming weeks I feel this lens will really speak to my heart. Damn, it should at the cost. But hey, this is Leica of course ;) To be clear, No one..NO ONE needs this lens. This is a lens that will be bought out of lust, foolishness and passion. :)

Mine came from Ken Hansen at [email protected]. I believe he has a pretty hefty waiting list as do all dealers. You can do like I did and shoot a standard 5o cron while you wait for a year on the 50 APO ;)  FInally, to see my last report on the 50 APO that was written up over a year ago, click HERE.

A few snapshots around the house from today, YOU MUST click them for the larger versions to see them correctly.

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The image below is a 100% full size file. Right click it and open in a new window to see the detail. The focus point is on the piece of bark sticking out near the middle of the frame. 

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and the rooster shot from my 1st look..

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Does anyone here own the 50 APO? If so, what are your thoughts on it after using it for a while? Feel free to chime in below.

May 022014
 

The Nikon V3 Arrives. 1st Impression report.

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UPDATE: A quick super fast generic J1 vs V3 JPEG OOC test is HERE.

My V3 review sample arrived today and I was excited to test it. FINALLY, the V3 we have been waiting for! WooHoo! Many of you here know I was and am a huge Nikon 1 system fan and my fave was the original V1. 

Then I opened the box and took the camera out. Uh Oh. 1st impression is that Nikon dropped the ball. The V3 is TINY, feels cheap (The $200 J1 feels nicer and better made), the EVF is cheap without a swivel and is quite small..but the killer for me? The V3 now takes MICRO SD cards! YUCK! Gone is the SD card slot and it is replaced by an itsy bitsy teeny weeny Micro SD card slot. I am not a fan of using Micro SD cards in a camera, especially one that costs $1200 as the V3 Kit package does.

So yes, my 1st impression was not a good one. I decided to load up the battery and take it out in my yard to test the AF and all of the other good stuff such as the new 10-30 Kit Zoom. Maybe it would wow me with something cool and unique or its overall abilities when in use…

…AF is very fast but no faster than the new $700 Sony A6000. Shutter sounds pretty nice, but no nicer than the new $700 Sony A6000. IQ? Same as the V1 and V2 in my limited snaps out back (which I do love). The new kit zoom seems softer than the old one. For $1200 Nikon has delivered the cheapest feeling and smallest V body yet. In comparison, the failed AW1 felt like a tank in comparison. Not sure who is making the decisions at Nikon these days but they do not seem to care about the 1 system nor the users who fell in love with the nice V1 and V2.

With such disappointment out of the gate I may not even do a full review. It does nothing to inspire me or motivate me. It feels cheap, it is too small, has nothing special about it and is a step backwards from the V1 and V2 in build, feel and maybe even IQ. The Micro SD card was a bad move as well.

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The new 10-30 zoom has pretty noticeable barrel distortion as well (looking at OOC JPEGS).

In the $1200 price range I would take many cameras over this V3, and even save some money while I was at it. I have been a huge Nikon 1 fan since the V1 but Nikon let us down with the V3, at least that is my opinion after an hour or so with it. Way too much competition with better cameras and lenses for less money. After messing with the V3 around the house for a while I would say that this camera should come in at around $399-$599 today simply because there is much better out there for less money (The Olympus E-M10 with lens for under $700 is a much better buy than the V3 and will outperform it in every way). This may be the nail in the coffin for the 1 system as what Nikon has delivered in a V3 falls really short of what was needed in todays market. I have some nice 1 system lenses so I may buy a V2 once it goes to fire sale clearance. I will be skipping the V3.

YOU CAN CHECK OUT THE V3 AT B&H PHOTO HERE. Maybe some of you will enjoy it :) For me, it is too much of a letdown as it could have been so much more. While I look at the positive in everything, I really have very little to say about the V3 that is good…or positive besides the fast speed that we always have had with the 1 system but I get this with the V1 and J1 already. I mean, it is a good 1 series camera but why buy a V3 that feels cheaper, is smaller, uses an external EVF when you can get a V1 or V2 that has a better feel, built in EVF, etc for much less?

Just a few of the alternatives that are a much better buy IMO: Sony A6000, Fuji X100s, Olympus E-M10, Panasonic GX7, or a Nikon V2. Maybe even a Leica C.

My next reviews? Sony A6000, Sony A7s, Leica C, Voigtlander 75 1.8 on the Leica M

Apr 012014
 

The new Olympus SH-1 compact delivers style and performance for under $400

16MP, TRU PIC VII, 11.5 FPS, FAST AF, ISO 6400, 1080P 60FPS, 25-600 ZOOM, TOUCH SCREEN AND 5-AXIS IS! 

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Available for Pre-Order in SILVER from B&H Photo

Available for Pre-Order in BLACK from B&H Photo

MAN, OLYMPUS IS ON A ROLL! This new SH-1 looks phenomenal and PRICED RIGHT. Look at all of the features packed into this compact beauty:

INFO:

The silver Olympus Stylus SH-1 Digital Camera is a sleek, PEN-styled point-and-shoot featuring a 16MP BSI CMOS sensor and TruePic VII image processor to produce high-resolution imagery with notable low-light sensitivity and quality. The combination of these two technologies form Olympus’ iHS technology, which serves to realize fast performance throughout the camera system, including a full-resolution continuous shooting rate of 11.5 fps and the FAST AF system, while also maintaining low image noise with a native sensitivity of ISO 6400. The sensor and processor also support recording full HD 1080p movies at 60 fps as well as HD 720p movies at up to 120 fps.

Benefitting the imaging capabilities of the SH-1 is an expansive 24x zoom lens, which provides a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 25-600mm. Counterbalancing this lens’ long reach, as well as aiding this camera’s use in low lighting, is an advanced 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization system that corrects for angular, rotational, and translational types of camera blur.

For image monitoring and review, a 3.0″ 460k-dot touchscreen LCD is incorporated into the camera’s design. Its touchscreen capabilities avail an intuitive means for navigating the menu system and for utilizing a host of camera features, including touch AF control, a built-in intervalometer, and adjustment of Live Guide settings, as well as for accessing the built-in Wi-Fi connectivity for seamless sharing of imagery to, and remote control from, a linked mobile device.

16MP BSI CMOS Sensor and TruePic VII Image Processor

A 16 megapixel 1/2.3″ backside-illuminated CMOS sensor and TruePic VII image processor work together to enable iHS (Intelligent High Speed) Technology, which benefits both the overall image quality and performance throughout the SH-1. The BSI design of the image sensor realizes notable sensitivity to ISO 6400 along with reduced noise levels to enhance image quality, especially in regard to working in difficult lighting conditions. Complementing the sensor’s duties is an apt image processor, which benefits both the look and feel of imagery as well as enables a top full-resolution continuous shooting rate of 11.5 fps for working with fast-moving subjects. Furthermore, iHS technology also supports the use of the Intelligent Auto shooting mode, with accelerated scene recognition, as well as an enhanced FAST AF system.

24x Optical Zoom Lens and 5-Axis Image Stabilization

Incorporated into the compact body design is far-reaching 24x optical zoom lens, which provides a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 25-600mm, covering wide-angle to telephoto perspectives. 2x Super Resolution Zoom and 4x digital zoom can also be utilized to effectively increase the zoom magnification for working with even more distant subjects.

Benefitting this lens’ expansive zoom range is 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization, which minimizes the appearance of yaw, pitch, roll, up and down, and left to right types of camera movement, to realize sharper imagery with slower shutter speeds, longer focal lengths, and during macro shooting. In addition to the 5-axis sensor-shift stabilization, a hybrid 5-axis electronic stabilization system can also be applied for further refinement.

Full HD Movie Recording

Full HD 1920 x 1080p video recording is supported at 60 fps, as well as high-speed 120 fps or 240 fps recording, for slow-motion playback, in the HD 1280 x 720 format or 432 x 324 format, respectively. Beyond straight movie capture, full-resolution photographs can be simultaneously recorded during filming and a dedicated Time-Lapse Movie mode automatically compresses up to 5 hours of interval shooting into a 20 second movie.

Body Design

The SH-1’s PEN-inspired body design incorporates a large 3.0″ 460k-dot touchscreen LCD monitor to allow clear, bright live view monitoring, image playback, and intuitive menu navigation. The touchscreen functionality enables the ability to touch to focus and release the shutter as well as a simple means for navigating controls and settings.

Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity

Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity enables seamless sharing of photos and movies from the camera to a linked mobile device for instant sharing online. Utilizing the Olympus Image Share app, you can also remotely control the camera from the smartphone or tablet, including the ability to zoom in or out, adjust exposure and focus, and release the shutter. Additionally, utilizing the location data from a mobile device, you can geotag your imagery for plotting to an interactive map.

Other Camera Features

A built-in electronic level gauge helps to ensure level horizons and plumb verticals when shooting.

Interval shooting allows you to choose between 1-99 frames, with 10 second to 1 hour intervals and up to a 60 minute timer, to create time lapse imagery of slowly moving subjects.

The manual exposure mode permits control over the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO settings, with the ability to check the results on the LCD prior to shooting.

The intuitive Live Guide settings allow direct adjustment over brightness, color saturation, and color tone settings using an intuitive slider system facilitated by the touchscreen monitor.

Face Detection AF, AF Tracking, Selective AF area (using the touchscreen interface), and AF Lock focus modes are available to suit working with a wide variety of subject types.

Photo Story is a creative mode allowing you to create a multi-perspective narrative within a single image, with multiple templates available to choose from.

Backlight HDR automatically combines multiple exposures within a single frame to realize an extended range of tones with greater shadow and highlight detail than a single exposure can record.

Hand-Held Starlight mode helps to create sharp, blur-free images of nighttime scenes without the use of a tripod.

A built-in Panorama mode allows you to create in-camera panoramic imagery, up to 360° across, by simply panning the camera about the scene.

11 different Art Filters can be applied to creatively enhance imagery: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Color, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Dramatic Tone, Fish Eye, Sparkle, Reflection, and Fragmented.

Three different Picture Modes can be applied to alter the overall quality of imagery: Vivid, Neutral, and Muted.

In-addition to the standard 2 second and 12 second self-timer delays, a custom self-timer can be set to record 1-10 pictures in a 1-3 second interval with a 1-30 second start timer.

In-camera image editing: Resize, Crop, Audio Clip (record 4 sec. audio clip for an image file), Red Eye Fix, Shadow Adjustment, Rotate Image, and e-Portrait (smoothes skin tone for viewing on an HDTV).

In-camera movie editing: In-Movie Image Capture (captures pictures from a movie file) and Movie Trimming (erase unwanted portions from a movie file).

Language support: English, French, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, European Portuguese, German, Italian, Russian, Czech, Dutch, Danish, Polish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Croatian, Slovenian, Hungarian, Greek, Slovak, Turkish, Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Korean, Simple Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Thai, Arabic, Bulgarian, Romanian, Persian, Indonesian, Hebrew, Malay, Vietnamese, and Japanese.

Available for Pre-Order in SILVER from B&H Photo

Available for Pre-Order in BLACK from B&H Photo

Mar 242014
 

The new Panasonic 15mm 1.7 available for Pre-Order!

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Panasonic is kicking some serious behind in lenses lately. I have been shooting with the new Panasonic/Leica 42.5 f/1.2 Nocticron and it is one of the best lenses I have ever shot with, on any format. Sharp wide open, creamy Bokeh and a sort of Noctilux style rendering, but on M 4/3. It also resembles the $11k Noctilux in design though not nearly as hefty as the Leica counterpart. The Nocticron is a special lens for Micro 4/3 users and even has a manual aperture ring (but this is not usable on Olympus bodies which control aperture with the dial).

In fact, the Nocticron is so good that I am 90% sure I am going to purchase one even though the price is sky-high.

Add to that the new Panasonic/Leica 15mm f1.7 which also has a manual aperture ring and uses a 46mm filter size. This is a duo that will give you a 30mm and 85mm focal length equivalent for your Micro 4/3 body while giving you pro quality color, contrast, detail and bokeh.

The new 15 1.7 comes in at $599 and is available for pre-order NOW in Black or Silver at B&H Photo. It is also available HERE at Amazon. 

The Nocticron is available NOW for $1598 – EXPENSIVE YES but $9500 cheaper than a Leica Noctilux and 85% as good :)  Amazon also sells the Nocticron and it is IN STOCK. 

I am reviewing and using the Nocticron now on an E-M1 and will post my review soon (but it is a light sucker and rocks at night just like the real Noctilux). The 15 will be shipped to me at release for review so will get on that one as soon as I get it! I am telling you..Micro 4/3 just keeps getting better and better for those who are in the system. Pretty exciting stuff IMO as it is the lenses that make the system and no one beats M 4/3 for lenses in the mirror less world.

With these new Leica partnered lenses…makes me wonder if the new and rumored “Leica T” will be a Micro 4/3 body. I HOPE SO. I would much prefer it to be M 4.3  than a new lens mount APS-C. Using a Nocticron and 15 1.7 on a new Leica mirrorless…could be interesting.

Mar 132014
 

The Nikon V3 is here..MINUS the built in EVF!?!

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So the long-awaited Nikon V3 is just about here and what did Nikon go and do? They made is small like a coolpix, took OUT the built-in EVF which made it so enjoyable and once again re-designed a lens. The new 10-30 lens will be released with the camera but for me..I am disappointed in the design and style. Me, I LOVE the look, design and feel of the V1. It is like a mini Leica M in FEEL and design. The V2 was ugly but at least it had a built-in EVF and was a joy to shoot. When many were predicting the demise of the 1 system, I knew there was a V3 on the way many months ago. What I did not know was that they would take out the EVF! Grrrr.

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The V3 has been completely re-designed. Now the camera has the ability to shoot 120FPS HD video in slo-motion at 1280X720 resolution. THIS IS sort of a big deal for some video people. Continuous shooting on the V3 will get you 20 FPS at the full 18 MP resolution or even 60 FPS stills using one focus point. The one thing they kept with the 1 system and improved upon is indeed the SPEED. They also added some sort of quasi image stabilization mode. Not sure what it will be like though.

The GOOD news I guess is that this is an all new Nikon 1. They are not dropping the line but instead they beefed it up for even better video capabilities, speed and also packed it with a tilt EVF and a new 18 MP sensor. You CAN add an external EVF but that always just adds a hump, which these days there is NO reason for. Cameras today are FINALLY getting away from the add-on EVF humps, so why Nikon ditched their internal EVF is a mystery to me.  You can now pre-order the V3 with the new 10-30 PD lens for $1196.95 at B&H Photo using THIS link.

There is not only the new 10-30 at $296 but also the new 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 NIKKOR 1 LENS at just under a grand. This lens with the Nikon 1’s 2.7 crop will give you an astounding 189 to 810mm equivalent with VR. There will also be a new grip for the V3 to add some size for larger hands. 

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For me, the best Nikon 1 lenses are the incredible 32 1.2 and 18.5 1.8. 

So the new V3 is here. Maybe that means there will be a fire sale on the V2? Let’s hope so as it may be the last 1 camera with a built in EVF! When this one is released I will be taking a look because mate it will be just like the V1, the Camera I expected to hate!

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