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Apr 172017
 

Using the Leica M, Nikon D810 and Olympus EM5

by Tamer Erden

Dear Steve,

First of all, I’d like to thank you for this enthusiastic web site hosting those either amateur or professional photographers’ creations. As you might remember, I submitted a user report regarding the M43 system before (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/04/18/the-olympus-e-m5-using-dramatic-tone-by-tamer-erdem/).

After that I had used Nikon D810 for more than one year. Actually I’m really satisfied with the results. Mainly I had used it with Sigma 50mm 1.4 art and 180mm 2.8 lenses. Since I am dealing with the aesthetic and plastic surgery, shooting the portraits of people is my main subject of interest in photography. And now I’ve been shooting with a Leica M (Typ 240) and Zeiss 35mm ZM 1.4 Distagon for last three months. It cannot compete with the Nikon’s better dynamic range and super-detailed images, but it creates very filmic images that I really love, also known as Leica look.  I’d like to add some portraits taken by aforementioned cameras. Thanks for your feedbacks and inputs.

 

Figures 1-13 Leica M (Typ 240) and Zeiss 35mm 1.4 ZM Distagon, wide open.

Figures 14-18 D810, Sigma 50mm art, wide open

Figures 19-21 E-M5 75mm 1.8, wide open

Tamer Erdem

 

Interested in sending in a guest review, post or article? See HERE for instructions. 

Mar 132017
 

The Leica M240 still inspires

By Steven Jones

Hello Steve and Brandon, thank you for allowing me to write this user report. My name is Steven Jermaine aka 5amtoday, and I am a photographer. Wow, it has been one year and a little over five months since my last report on my trusty Leica M240. I figured I’d do an update on my experience with this amazing camera. I’m happy to say that for me this camera lives up to the hype that comes with it. This camera inspires me to shoot. Which may seem like a weird thing to say, a camera inspires you, but it does. It is a camera I carry with me every day. I have shot portraits, events, and many various projects with it.

Now with great hype comes great responsibility. Responsibility to those who may wish to purchase this camera for their own purposes. This camera is not the end all be all camera for everyone. You have to understand the pros and cons of this system if you would like to use it as your main camera. You may love the image quality, the phenomenal battery life, and the way the camera disarms subjects. You may not like the minimum focusing distance, the fact fast movement is difficult without constant practice, and even then you will miss something, and even the fact that rangefinders go out of alignment. The alignment issue has plagued my camera twice since I purchased it and is quite annoying if you do not live close to Leica NJ. Bottom line, if you haven’t used a rangefinder, please run and try one. Most Leica stores will let you borrow one for a few hours or a day depending on the store.

For me, the experience of owning this camera has kept the GAS demons away. GAS is something I have been plagued with but once I purchased this camera I felt as if I had found the camera for me. Why, well first the camera is capable of shooting everything I love to shoot, whether it’s street or portraits. For example; I’ve recently started an Artist Project where I highlight photographers, poets, and musicians, etc. asking them three questions, who are you? Why do you do the art you do? What are your future plans or goals?

Simple questions but the responses I get have been amazing. My goal is just to get more art out there, let people know that there are others who do art and love art and that you can still do it despite having a 9-5 or 8-11. The Leica lets me stay engaged with the artists, most of them are not intimidated by the camera, and it’s an excellent conversation starter.

So in closing is the camera amazing? The answer is yes. Last time I did a user report of this camera, I was living in Washington D.C. I have since moved to New York City, which is a very artistic place to live. It has given me many opportunities to meet new people who are very like-minded in their pursuit of art and enjoyment of art. Which in turn has pushed me to pursue more personal projects and continuously attempt to grow and educate myself about photography and art. I hope the pictures reflect these attempts. And I know before I said this camera took away my GAS demons, I recently traded it in for a Leica MD. That user report will come soon. I thank you for your time.

PS. Most of these were shot with the Zeiss 50mm f2 Planar.

Website: 5amtoday.photography

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Feb 232017
 

A few thoughts about the Fujifilm X100F

By Olaf Sztaba

This is not a review per se. I have been shooting with the X-series cameras for the last six years (starting with the original X100) and I have enjoyed shooting with them tremendously. I have never been paid by Fujifilm, its subsidiaries or other camera manufacturers. The only bias in this short piece is my uncontrolled joy of shooting with the X100/S/T/F cameras but this state of mind is only of my own making. – Olaf

I had the opportunity to shoot with a pre-production X100F for a few weeks and for those interested I would like to share a few selective thoughts, which are important to me as a street and road photographer.

UNIFICATION

If there is one trend common to all recent releases from Fujifilm is an attempt for unification between the X-series cameras. Many professional and amateur photographers shoot with two or more cameras and switching between them should be easy and effortless. A different battery, menu setups or button placement makes it difficult. Therefore, the latest X100F gets an exactly the same battery the X-Pro2 and X-T2 uses. The placement of the buttons and knobs have been moved to the right thus allowing one-handed operations and it is now in unison to other X-series cameras. The focus point selector has been added and it is placed in almost exactly same spot as on the X-Pro2 and the X-T2. The top plate is an exact copy of the X-Pro2. A new ISO shifter has been added. Although I read some complaints about its operations I personally like this solution a lot. One glance at the top place, a simple operation and my ISO is set and confirmed with no fuss.

LENS

Even before the camera came out many people were calling for a new lens. Perhaps some would like to see F1.8 or faster, others are looking for “sharper” glass. Although I understand and fully support the first argument, I have to admit that the whole sharp and sharper debate makes me yawn. (I believe the next frontier for Fujifilm and other lens manufacturers should be to achieve a unique rendering/look/depiction.)

Going back to the X100F and its 23mm F2 lens, yes it appears to be the same lens used in previous versions.

All four X100’s from the original to the newest F

IMAGE QUALITY

I have been shooting with the X-Pro2 and the X-T2, which have the same sensor as the X100F. Although the X-Pro2 and X-T2 were granted a higher megapixel count, the X100T was the only X-series high-end camera that was left at 16. Now, a brand-new 100F has joined its siblings with a 24.3-megapixel APS-C-sized sensor. As of writing, there is no LR support for RAW files so it is difficult to evaluate the sensor’s dynamic range but I fully anticipate it to be at least as good as it is in the X-Pro2. Let’s remember that since the X100F is not an interchangeable camera, placement of the sensor in relation to the lens could be optimized for image quality.

I am not going to go deep into a discussion about the X-Trans vs. Bayer sensor as this issue has been debated to death. I like the look of the files and I respect if you don’t.

Looking at JPEGs (all images in this review), the image quality is excellent and well above what most of us need. Of course, as with the X-Pro2 and the X-T2 there is a range of Fujifilm film simulations to choose from. My personal favourites are ACROS + R + weak grain (street, travel), Classic Chrome (street, travel or even some portraits), Velvia (landscapes) and Provia (family, portrait).

WISH LIST

I really believe that the X100F should have been weather-sealed. For a camera that you always have with you, some rain and snow protection is a must.

Although the X-T2 is clearly aimed at a high-tech crowd who wants to have it all, in my view the X100-line should remain a photographer’s camera. What I mean by that is limiting non-photography-related functions to a minimum or eliminating them altogether. For example, I don’t see the point of video in the X100F or panoramas and filters…you name it. A plain, well-made, easy to use camera is all that’s needed.

I also envision a X100F sibling with a 56mm lens. Then I would own just two small, portable cameras and forget about everything else.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Since the introduction of the X100, each successor has brought changes and improvements that photographers asked for. The 100F is not revolutionary but rather an evolutionary camera and that’s a good thing. With a new sensor, large EVF/OVF, improved and unified (with the rest of the X-series) operations (and battery) and the same, excellent 23mm F2 lens, the X100F is in my view a flagship X-series camera.

ORDER THE X100FAMAZONB&H PHOTOPOPFLASHCAMERAQUEST

 

Feb 142017
 

The HASSELBLAD X1D Street Review

By Thomas Ludwig

When HASSELBLAD presented the X1D medium format mirrorless camera in 2016, I was very impressed. And glad and happy for HASSELBLAD for this bold move after some shaky times in the last two years. Some weeks later I got the chance to hold the X1D in my hands–boy, what an amazing camera! My first thought was that this will be a huge success for HASSELBLAD. And I was asking myself if I could use it in street photography as it is relatively small and unobstrusive. So let’s have a look!

Marc Lethenet from HASSELBLAD was so kind to loan me one of the pre-series X1Ds for a day in the streets of Hamburg. Together with my friend Marco Larousse (www.marcolarousse.com ), street photographer and host of the Photofocus.com podcast, I gave the cute Hassi a try. Attached to the X1D was the 45/3.5mm lens, which is roughly 35 mm in FF terms. That’s quite perfect for street photography and furthermore it fits equaly perfect in the new CAMSLINGER Streetomatic+.

Hamburgs new and amazing Elbphilhamonie in the background

Mirrorless technology has come a long way since 2008 and is now entering the medium format world. Hasselblad and FUJI aswell are about to ship there new systems. While the FUJI has a more functional, maybe a bit boring design, the HASSELBLADs shapes, lines and materials are outstanding and inspiring. I would say that’s art. And as soon as you hold it in your hand, you’ll be amazed by the ergonomics too. But how about all the stuff under the hood?

The sensor has 50mp and is well known from other medium format cameras. It’s size of 44 x 33 mm is clearly bigger than full frame 36 x 24 mm, but it’s pretty far away from film medium format with 60 x 45 mm or even 70 x 60 mm. So it is a bit of a deception package. However the image quality should be very good. Unfortunatley the day I had in Hamburg was cloudy and foggy, but the details I saw on my PC screen when editing my shots from that day was simply amazing.

Images are very flexible and cropping is no prob at all

My setup fort he day in Hamburg: HASSELBLAD X1D | HASSELBLAD XCD 45 mm F 3.5 | Spare battery | All packed in a CAMSLINGER Streetomatic+

The orange clothes in this image look like in real life.

Image Quality is amazing! Images have a very natural appearence. Colors are true to life and I have the feeling that one can see that medium format look. This might be subjective, but I think they have more plasticity than smaller sensors could deliver. I’m mostly happy with my micro 43 cameras, but these files play clearly in another league. The look, the colors, dynamic range and of course noise–simply amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Hassi was metering rarely spot on. Mostly it was under exposed and if not, images were over exposed. That’s not a big deal, as you have so much dynamic range to work with, but it’s not perfect. Marc from HASSELBLAD told me that my sample unit has not the final firmware installed and this and AF speed will be fixed.

Below are some dynamic range and low light samples up to ISO 3200. The first one, a 70’s TV, got an exposure compensation of +2(!) steps in LR. See the 100% crop and the grain, which is however quite nice.

I’m blown away by the portraits that the X1D and 45/3.5 deliver. People look so real and natural. Maybe portrait photography is the best genre for the HASSELBLAD X1D. As it is so small (for a medium format camera) you can grab street portraits without people getting annoyed. Images right out of cam have so much flexibilty for editing. The image below is edited by Marco Larousse and even if contrast is relatively high, there are plenty of fine details.

The handling oft he X1D is somehow perfect. It is so nice and safe to hold. All knobs and dials are in the right place and the touch screen is quick and easy to operate. The menues are easy to access and everything else than complicated. Well done Hassi!

Due to the not final firmware I cannot say much about operating the camera. My sample however had a long blackout time after taking a photo and needed some seconds to be ready when switched on. So I didn’t switch it off and had it always in stand by. That was eating batteries. I had to change the first one after 150 shots only, but that’s for sure while I needed some time to get used to all the functions while using the display quite a lot. The second battery was lasting another 150 images and was at about 50% at the end of the day.

The viewfinder is big and bright and very responsive. But I would like to see a viewfinder (or at least a backscreen) in the X1D that can be swiveld. It’s so typical to medium format cameras that one can view the scene from above that I really missed this feature.

Focusing abilities are a bit restricted with the current firmware, but single point auto focus was relatively quick and in 95% spot on. The only problem I had with the X1D was the long blackout time after taking a photo. I hope this will be fixed in firmware and that’s what Marc from HASSELBLAD said. As for manual focusing this is pretty easy due to the huge electronic view finder and the magnification abilities.

In the moment there is no face detection available. Especially when taking portraits, this is a neat and deal breaking feature. Hopefully Hassi will introduce it in a future firmware update.

So here is my conclusion: Would I buy a HASSELBLAD X1D for street photography (if I had the budget)? Probably. I think a micro 4/3, aps-c or full frame mirrorless camera has more features, speed and smaller appearence to offer, which makes them on the streets the possibly better choice. For my “normal” days of street photography, I’m happy with an OLYMPUS OM-D or LUMIX. But everyone has their own preferences and when your preference is amazing image quality and a look to your images, that is beyond what smaller sensors can deliver, well, than the X1D might be a camera for you.

However I was extremely impressed by the IQ of the HASSELBLAD X1D and could imagine to use it for fine art projects in street photography or certain projects, especially in street portraiture.

What impressed me on the same level is the georgeous design of this camera. HASSELBLAD did what many others don’t do: They had the courage to walk new ways. And the result is already iconic to my eyes. The HASSELBLAD X1D offers AMAZING image quality and it’s design is contemporary arts. It’s a camera for the fine art street photographer.

Links

www.hasselblad.com

www.marcolarousse.com

www.cosyspeed.com

B&H PHOTO FOR COSYSPEED

COSYSPEED Online Shop USA and Canada: www.cosyspeedshop.com

COSYSPEED Online Shop rest oft he world: www.cosyspeedshop.de

Feb 032017
 

TIPS: Working in Cold Weather with Olympus Cameras

By Olympus Visionary Jay Dickman – His Website is HERE

Snow, rain, fog, all sorts of “atmospherics” that keep most sane people inside, can be very productive photographic environments in which we can work. While everyone else is hunkering before the fire, the avid photographer puts on their or cold weather gear to brave those elements. Why? Because those conditions can provide so many great photographic opportunities.

So how does that photographer prepare for the elements, especially the cold? Here is my list of what you can do to prepare to walk out into that wonderful world of the cold.

Olympus Visionary Jay Dickman out in the Elements with his Olympus Gear – Antartica

Exposure issues When shooting in snow, if in the Antarctic or photographing the kids building a snowman to shooting the skiers, exposure is impacted by those super-bright conditions. Your Olympus has really intelligent design in the metering system and a specific exposure mode for these conditions. On the E-M10, E-M10 MkII, E-M1, E-M5 and E-M5 MkII, there is a “SCN” mode on the exposure mode dial on the top left of the camera. Turn the dial to the SCN mode, on your monitor you’ll see a choice of scenes (a very powerful tool on the camera, as it offers a number of different choices,) scroll through the choices until you come to “Beach & Snow”.

Canadian icebreaker cutting through multi-year ice in the Northwest Passage

Jay Dickman on Mt Washington, New Hampshire, on assignment for National Geographic

In the Canadian High Arctic, a wave breaks in front of an iceberg in Queens Harbour

Weddell seals and Adélie penguins near Brown Bluff in the Antarctic

When taking photos in conditions of super-bright ambient light, the camera’s meter is trying to make that snow or bright sandy beach an average exposure, which is 18% grey. Normal metering of any camera will, in these conditions, create an exposure that looks a bit “muddy.” This is absolutely correct as the meter’s job is to find a bright area, and present the ideal exposure of that mid-gray of 18%. In normal metering mode, what the photographer does is to actually “add” light thru exposure compensation: anywhere from 2/3rd’s of a stop to 1 ½ stops of “+” exposure compensation. “Add light to make it bright” is a great mnemonic to help recall this process. When looking at your histogram, it should be biased towards the bright side, the right, for a correct exposure..not clipped, but definitely biased towards the right.

Ice fjords near Ilulissat, Greenland

Icebergs in the Southern Ocean

Late day sun breaks out on tabular icebergs in Grand Didier Channel in Antarctica

Here’s where that “Beach & Snow” Scene mode can work for you. The engineers at Olympus have cleverly built this mode for these exact conditions as the camera will automatically create a perfect exposure based on algorithms set into the memory of the camera. Pretty clever and very accurate! You don’t have to make any adjustments to you exposure compensation when in this mode that produces a beautiful jpeg.

Jay Dickman while on assignment in the arctic

Protect your gear: If you are the owner of an Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkII (or E-M1) your camera is already well protected from rain and snow, as are your Olympus Pro lenses. Still, I always carry a chamois cloth or two in my bag. Not the artificial ones, but the real, leather based cloth found at your local auto supply or Walmart/Target. I use these to wipe of heavy amounts of precipitation, or use it as a “raincoat” to cover my gear in a downpour. It can be used, if very clean, to wipe of rain from your protective filter, but don’t use it on the front element!

National Geographic Expeditions members fight a blizzard on Whalers Cove along the Antarctic Peninsula

Ultra-cold conditions: I was on a shoot on the Arctic ice, many miles north of Barrow. The air temperature was well below zero, which creates a different world in which the photographer is working. Not only battery life being an issue, but being aware of conditions into which I was carrying my gear. We were staying in an ice station, built for this event, so one could walk into a hut that was 100 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. This could play havoc on the gear, that huge temperature differential causing my camera to instantly turn into a blob of condensation, due to warm interior air meeting a frozen camera. First time I did this, I immediately stepped back out, which only caused that drenched camera to instantly freeze the moisture on its surface. Okay, I learned from that one. After that, when entering the temperate climate of a heated building from a cold exterior, I’d put my camera gear into a large plastic freezer bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. This created a “micro-climate” from which there wasn’t much moisture to create that large amount of moisture. Often, if going in only to warm-up, I’d leave the gear outside so its temperature matched the air temperature. Did I mention batteries take a hit in the cold? I’d always carry extra batteries in a pocket that stayed a bit warm.

Near Baffin Island, a polar bear luxuriates in the cold weather

Whaler’s Cove in the Antarctic, penguins hunker down in teeth of a blizzard

One of the other fun thinks that can happen (and did, several times) is inadvertently placing the frozen camera to my eye, having slid down the protection of my face mask, only to have the camera freeze to my nose. Remember the scene in “A Christmas Story” when Flick stuck his tongue to the pole in freezing temps? Well, it does happen just like that.
Don’t try to blow snow off your camera or lens with your humid breath. This can result in the snow melting to your gear, and possibly refreezing immediately, creating a frustrating situation. Instead, brush that snow or ice off with a small brush or that chamois I convinced you to carry.

At Elephant Island in the Southern Ocean, the spot where Shackleton’s men over-wintered as he sought help, ocean ice with Point Wild landmark in background

Tabular icebergs and sea ice in the Grand Didier Channel in the Antarctic

 

Keep your Battery Warm: Batteries are such a necessary part of today’s photographic experience as everything in digital is power-based. I always carry a couple of back up batteries, fully charged, and usually residing in a pocket of coat or jeans. This ensures that the battery will operate at its top capability.

Handwarmers: Obvious idea, but too many of us forget these small wonders until the morning we want to go out and photograph in cold conditions. Pick up a package from your local outdoor store—REI, Cabela’s, Sierra Trading Post, Bass Brothers or your local sporting goods store will be a good source for these. In really cold conditions, I’ll stick one in my pocket with the batteries as well as one inside each of my gloves, and interior of boots. A battery of any kind will work better when warm.

Macaroni penguin “porpoising” through waters of South Georgia

A polar bear near Baffin Island in the Canadian high arctic

Gloves: This suggestion will elicit a big “Duh,” but are your gloves ideal for photography? Traditional mittens, which are the warmest hand-coverings are very efficient for maintaining warmth when outdoors, but if not photo-specific, these can be a barrier to the shooting process. The availability of your digit finger & thumb, to press the shutter or change settings is critical, so I’ve listed a few popular styles of photographers gloves. These have either a very think covering over your fingertips, or the fabric can be pulled back to provide that critical tactile feel.

Polar bear walking across ice in Canadian high arctic

Two King penguins in morning light on Gold Harbour, South Georgia

Rucpac Professional Tech Gloves for Photographers won’t allow you to pull covering off of digit finger and thumb, but a thin glove that’s well insulated and is touchscreen compatible.

Freehands Stretch Thinsulate Gloves gloves with good insulation and provide the ability to pull back covering for digit and thumb, critical for total tactile feeling.

AquaTech Sensory Gloves—I use these in polar conditions where I may have my hands in or very near frigid water.

The Heart Company’s Heat 3 Smart Cold Weather Gloves—I’ve worked in the arctic (below -45 degrees) and in those conditions, you really can’t expose your skin for more than a few seconds before frostbite or serious freezing can occur. These gloves provide an internal membrane, under the mitten cover, with a fabric that not only provides a great tactile feel, but will work with electronic touchscreens.

Polar bear considering going back into water in Canadian high arctic.

Antarctic peninsula

Iceberg melt, Svalbard

In Canadian high arctic, a polar bear shakes after emerging from the cold water

Polar bear in Canadian high arctic diving back into water

 

If you’re going to Yellowstone in the winter, or Gates of the Arctic to photograph the aurora, you can be in dangerously cold conditions, be prepared.

Boots: Nothing will bring your cold-weather adventure to an early end quicker that cold feet or hands. A good investment before you go, there are a number of very good brands. Sorel, Kamik, Muck Boot Company, all make good boots for frigid conditions.

 

Jan 252017
 

A Leica M10 Review

by Momofuku Ando – See his website HERE – His Instagram is HERE

Through a recommendation, I was offered to have a crack at the leica m10 for several days before its official announcement. i probably spent more time ogling at the camera than making images with it. this is my personal account of the initial impressions of the camera. i am not sponsored by or obligated to leica to write this post. whiskey and insomnia were responsible.

the naming of the camera finally eliminated years of numerology confusion for me. i had the m7, m8, m9 and suddenly came the m240. i had to apply the logarithmic curve to predict how the germans might name the next camera, and the answer was m73494. thankfully, it is named m10.

Mesmerizing

Remember your first Leica? She was captivating and a sight to behold. She was like your first love. Then she got pregnant (m240) – still very lovely but chunky (with the video function). The Leica M10 is akin to the post-natal m240 – more elegant, simpler and slimmer. Yet she still retained that familiar charm and has matured beautifully.

The Leica M10 sheds 20 grams off her previous form, that is like 1 stone in human terms. She is thinner by around half a cm, that is akin to losing 3 sizes off the jeans. That said, all these enhancements might be superfluous for the leica collectors/connoisseurs vis-a-vis their heavy cognac leather bag loaded with chrome lenses.

What is important to me is that I felt the Leica M10 handled better than her digital ancestors.

Minimalistic

The Leica M10 is the zen garden of the camera world. The number of operation buttons halved from 6 to 3. The menu screens were simplified. The underused video function has been retired. The M inscription vanished. Even the file sizes remained small.

I almost had the urge to break out in meditative yoga poses when I am near this camera. It was that tranquil.

It is so simple to navigate and use that I don’t need to refer to the manual. It was also because I wasn’t given one.

Massive

The viewfinder is amazing. period. I felt like a flightless superman with good vision. I am cancelling my lasik appointment.
like my waistline, my choice of lenses are getting wider. so this higher magnification viewfinder might not work towards my favour in the long run.

Monochrome-able

I mainly make black and white images and I have the leica monochrom (mm). so i am curious how the new leica m10 might be used for that purpose. i cranked the machine to use dng+jpg and use the monochrome filter and voila, i have the mm’s spirit in this new body. The Leica M10 is capable of seeing and producing monochrome photos but I will be still keeping my mm for a while.

Magical (almost)

My mate once quipped about a camera he had “the iso is so good i don’t need to change light bulbs anymore”. The leica M10 can operate up to iso 50,000. Fifty freaking thousand. I have this theory that Leica should price their m’s relative to the iso ability. The m240 is around usd 6,400. Fortunately, the new leica m10 will be priced with sanity.

I reckon I can use iso 20,000 comfortably with this camera, that is a massive 3 stop gain over the iso 3200 I currently use with my m240. Now I can make creepy photos at night.
There are some ongoing debates on what is usable iso. 20,000 isn’t going to smooth (for that you have the freaky meitu app). I can live with the noise and color shift at iso 20,000. your mileage will differ.

The following image is one example of high iso. I have not converted it to black and white but I would imagine it being decent.

 

Misses

A couple of quirks I experienced with the pre-production unit – several of my dng files were corrupted and cannot be imported into Lightroom. On two occasions, I could not switch between live-view and non live-view (powering off solved the issue, just like conversations with some of my apparent bosses).

The dials are a little stiff too. I wished I wouldn’t need to pull up the iso dial to change the settings.

and in case you are wondering, in true m legacy, the camera hung.

I would love the new camera to have in-built gps too.

M-app

I was excited when I first got the loaner Leica M10, mainly because the marketing people I picked the camera from are generally cute and this – wifi connectivity between the camera and my iphone. Finally, stealth shooting with the leica m series using the iphone and transfer of images. i commented during my leica q review I did some time back:

Now not only I look creepy, I have the technology to match.

Here’s the bummer.

The connection between the camera and the ios app is painfully slow – 25 seconds for the camera to become wifi-able, another 10-15 seconds for my iphone to connect with the camera wirelessly, 5 seconds to go through a 3-tap sequence to get the app to start interacting with the camera. that is a 45 second cycle to set this up. I remember the leica q wireless setup to be a lot speedier and less clunky.

If the camera goes into sleep mode, it is the same cycle all over again. occasionally, the camera asked for the same password again. i wonder if it because my password was “wifi2slow”.

I need this for street (or voyeurism, they are the same), i’m not shooting flowers or gross collection of rare antique lenses/cameras (i am sure no leica users buy equipment for that purpose, right?).

45 seconds is the download speed for a movie these days. I hope this might be improved significantly with firmware upgrade.

The layout of the app is simple and well-laid out. this is my 2nd most favorite app this week- the first is using the meitu app to make freaky androgynic photos of people.

More images

The following images were edited from dng for exposure and down-sized for internet use. i chose leave the colors “as-is” for this post. a quick processing with vsco yields rather remarkable results.

For those who asked and were stuck in the eternal vortex of discussing m9 ccd versus m240 cmos, click here.

Jan 132017
 

Photography is for memories, not pixel peeping.

By Dennie

Hi Steve!

I hope you are well and happy. I have been reading your website since you review the Olympus PEN E-PL 1.

My name is Dennie, I’m from Bandung, West Java, Indonesia

A lot of people think that a pro photographer is an expert but I say no, not entirely. A Professional is somebody who makes a living by doing it … making money, marketing, dealing, shooting, printing … client happy … job done.

But, in the world of the enthusiast like this one … it is another story. In this world, a lot of dangerous stuff, starting with new lens or new camera body, latest technology, the best high ISO, the best low light, the sharpest lens, the super aperture 0.95, the king of the night, the mega pixel monster, the fastest AF of the world, the lightest body, bokeh king, leather straps, the expensive bags. Even though we buy cameras to take pictures … saving the moment … right?

Thats why I love this site, coz the review is to be USED … not compare the spec!  For the enthusiast of this site, I wonder if the picture is not labeled, or embed with exif, can u tell the difference ?

Some of my images below with various cameras…

I wrote this when I finished reading Steve’s article about “Should we buy camera gear with our heart or our brain?” I just want to say that, what is really important? Your pixel peeping ? Or the moment it self that is being captured?

I will just tell u guys that I use the following:

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 5
  • Olympus E-PL1
  • Olympus E-PL3
  • Olympus E-PL5
  • Canon 600D
  • Canon 5D classic
  • Canon 5D mk2
  • Canon 6D

Cheers!

Jan 132017
 

Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L review

By Erwin Hartenberg – See his Blog/Website HERE

I have, like many of you, bought and owned a LOT of camera bags. Lowepro’s, Thinktanks, Domke’s, you name it and I probably owned it. Over the last years as I have settled on a smaller kit, I ended up using ONA bags mostly. They are well made and beautiful bags that are simple to use. For commuting, I often carry a Prince Street that also holds my laptop and some other small stuff next to my two bodies. If I want to go really small, I carry a Brixton.

With the addition of a Nikon DF to my two Leica’s, I needed a bag that could hold all three camera’s and still be comfortable. Also, I wanted the weight on my back, and not on my shoulder so I set off to look for a camera backpack. I ended up buying the Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L. And boy, do I like it!

The bag comes in two sizes, the other option being a 30L, but the 20L is perfect for me. I ordered both bags and the 30L was simply too big for me. I want the bag to carry my gear mostly and room for some other stuff but not too much. I am 1.92 meters and the 20L fits me well. The bag is very well made with incredibly clever design that you appreciate more and more as you use it. I have been in Scotland this week and was able to put the bag to the test. First by carrying it around Edinburgh for a few days and after that going on a long hike on the island of Skye (where I ran into someone carrying the charcoal version of the Everyday Backpack). Both Edinburgh and Skye are highly recommended but let’s stay with the review of the bag J.

I bought the grey color which looks really nice with the brown leather handles. Everything feels solid about this bag. The bag is somewhat understated as well, it does not stick out. You can setup the inside of the bag however you want to with the dividers that come with it. They can fold into different shapes and I have settled on a setup where I carry the two Leica’s below in their own compartment and have the Nikon DF up top.

This leaves ample room at the very top for a jacket or other smaller stuff. In the same pocket is also a smaller storage space for a passport or other personal documents. This pocket is closed with a magnet which provides it easy access but also keeps it somewhat hidden.

In the back pocket, there is room for a laptop (it holds my Microsoft Surface Pro perfectly) and/or a tablet. There is a smaller pocket in there as well.

On the sides, there are smaller pockets for batteries and other accessories you may need.

The bag carries really well, and the 20L is the right size for easy slinging to get access to your gear. The 30L did not sling as well as it’s just a bit too bulky for that. I’ve had the 20L on my back the whole day, every day, on this trip and it works very well with the access to gear. Also, it does not strain the shoulders as much. This is due to the chest strap that is very easy to put on as well as the waist strap that you can put on and take off very quickly as well. This is key as you will sling the bag over your shoulders to get to your gear.

The final thing to call out that really underlines the amount of thought that was put into this bag is that the access to your gear can also be ‘locked’ by looping the zipper pulls through attach points so potential thief’s can’t just open the side access.

In summary, this bag comes highly recommended.

Jan 042017
 

India in B\W with the Leica 262+ 50 APO Cron /28 Cron

By Dan Bar

Hello Steve!

So here I am again in India with my lovely Leica 262. India is a fantastic country for street photography.

1. people simply love being photographed.
2. It is the most colorful country I ever saw, and yet I love black and white photos. I thought I shall send you some B\W as well.

As I wrote before I sold my 246 for my 262 as I knew it was a place I had to take a colour camera with me, and at the same time I did not want to carry two cameras ( too heavy+ too expensive). I am a usually 50\35mm photographer but I thought I could use a 28mm especially in those narrow streets where 50mm is not wide enough. Leica M cameras enable the photographer to shoot in B\W + color at each shot so this is what I did. I saw both options and decided what I liked better.

Thank you

Danny

Jan 022017
 

Travelling light through Brazil with the pre-ASPH 50mm Summilux 2nd version

by Pedro Amorim

Since my last text on the kinoptik, I had a few ideas on other lenses to write about, and Steve was kind enough to let me pick one and turn into a new user report.

Turns out I acquired one very impressive lens this last year, and as it became my go-to lens for most excursions through Brazil, rural or otherwise, I collected more than a few impressions about it, enough to make my mind about sharing the experience with you. Also, as I noticed, my 2nd version is somewhat under-reviewed. It is a good thing to fill the gap and help someone decide whether to buy such lens (the short review ends here: go get it).

I travelled a lot in 2016. That was a good thing. But for safety and practical reasons, I travelled light. When out on the street, I would bring only two lenses on a small Nat Geo bag and it would be more than adequate for any of my purposes. As a street photographer, I have the impression that less is always more. Truth is, it doesn’t matter how big and comprehensive your collection back home can be: a couple of fast lenses with distinct focal distances will do the trick on the road. My personal choices are the summilux and a 35mm V.4 Summicron.

Now, keep in mind that you will find a slight confusion on the internet about the summilux versions. The first summilux (1959 – 1961) used a very different and somewhat inferior lens design compared to the classic pre-ASPH configuration that would come out in 1961 (take inferior with a grain of salt. A lot of people I know actually prefer this rarer version). Few were produced and its cosmetic design is almost identical to the version that came out only two years after this first build.

The second version runs from 1961 to 1991, with significant cosmetic changes in 1969, when black became the standard color for its metal barrel. Still, the optic remained the same and the exterior design didn’t change enough to justify its categorization under a new version.

The third version was produced from 1992 to 2004, had some new coating and very different exterior design. It was still Walter Mandler’s classic design, though. It was later replaced by the well-known Summilux ASPH, by Peter Karbe.

The Summilux pre-ASPH is unassuming and surprisingly small. This is, as most Leica enthusiasts will tell you more than once (even if you don’t ask. We are just like Doctor Who fans, really), a big deal. Yes, you might find a few better 50-ish/1.4s out there. But they are very few and quite certainly more expensive options. Most of them are huge and so damn heavy. Sticking a Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 at some strangers face in nighttime Brazil should be quite the awkward experience.

The lens creates sharp images towards the center. Even when wide open. This alone is no big deal nowadays. But keep in mind that the 3rd version of Leica’s Summilux came out in 1962 and remained almost the same until 1991.

Click images for larger and better versions

Plus, not only will the lens retain its sharpness, but will remain contrasty and render vivid colors at any opening. Some will feel it doesn’t have the same contrast at f1.4, but will work perfectly when stopped down at f/2.0, but I really believe said difference is negligible in most cases.

It is not as contrasty as the ASPH, though. And the colors do come with that leica signature some people carve. The texture rendering is smoother than its newer counterpart, too.

 Ouro Preto, Brazil

Tiradentes, Brazil

The ASPH is also razor sharp, no doubt. This is not the case with the second version: its sharpness is good enough, but by no means perfect by contemporary standards. Sometimes you will find some minor glows over the areas in focus. This issue will be more noticeable if the area in question has been illuminated by a focused light source. Yet, it never brought me any problems, as you must zoom-in a lot to notice something, so why bother.

Goianá, Brazil


The monochromatic tones have some unique character and good contrast when wide open, enough to create amazing straight-from-the-camera JPEGs. Below, a comparison between edited (second photo) and raw (first photo) JPEGs:

(Image 1: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil [unedited JPEG])


(Image 2: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

It is true that when stopped down to a tighter opening, this lens increases greatly its sharpness in the outer areas of the image. The glow also goes away. Give it a try at f/8 and then at f/11.

If you are the kind of guy that believes a 50/1.4 lens is to be used only in 1.4, keep in mind that many will buy a 50/1.4 lens to use it stopped down, too. It is light and good enough to justify its use in both low light and bright places. You might want to buy one as your main 50mm lens for all around photography, as I did. During the day, for example, with some fast shutter speeds and a small opening, the colors and textures of some Brazilian small towns become a delight.

And when wide open in bright places, its dreamy 3D signature will show up.

It is a suitable lens for straight or pictorialist photography, documental or experimental work, since its out of focus areas render very painting-like textures and colors, maintaining reasonable sharpness and contrast all over the place, with critical quality on the center. At the same time, when stopped down, it is a reliable precision tool as good as any other Leica lens. Good enough to zone focus with its smooth focusing ring, sharp and wide enough to apply some hyperfocal distance. Whether you find inspiration into William Klein’s work, or on Dorothea Lange, Antoine D’agata, Brassaï and Cartier-Bresson, the 50mm Summilux will, most of the time, help you explore your own photographic creativity in a way other lenses will not. It is one of the most versatile lenses out there, and one you can trust will deliver nice pictures regardless of your aesthetical choices.

The fact that this is a classical focal distance helps. A lot of great photographers used a 50mm coupled to their cameras for most of their lives. A fair share of history’s most iconic images was shot with a normal lens, so you’ll always have thousands of good photographs as pictorial reference for your study. This is one of the reasons that, in my opinion, getting yourself a good 50mm fixed lens will boost you learning curve like few things would.

I came from the street photography background, and the lens helped me in both street and portrait photography in ways I wasn’t used to. Night photography took a radical turn with it. Portraits with more context and shallower depth of field helped me in a very emotional and intimate journey on my essay about solitude.

At the same time, I shot many Brazilian street scenes with it, even during rainy days (when coupled with my weather-sealed A7 through a good adapter, the kit will be able to take some water without complaining). As a discrete lens, it almost never drew any unwanted attention on daily shootings.

Rio Novo, Brazil

Now, the drawbacks. One thing some people will complain is the lens design. I like it. It’s kinda cool in a seventies way. But its body is a bit elongated. That slimness might cause some ergonomic issues. If you like chubbier lenses better, go for the third version. It’s the same thing with a modern twist. Oh, and its minimum focusing distance is 1 meter, which is a bummer. The lens is also prone to flare. Once again, I found a generic hood and solved this problem, but don’t point the lens directly toward any close light source when wide open, unless that is your idea from the beginning.

Miraculously, little to no flare here

It is also a manual lens. Meaning it won’t autofocus unless you have one of those expensive new M – Alpha/FE adapters that comes with the autofocus function even Leica modern cameras or lenses lack (come on, it kinda ruins the magic, right?). So, get your camera in full manual mode and enjoy the lens the way we all do: by playing with the focusing ring or using some old focusing techniques like the ones I mentioned earlier on (zone focusing and use of the hyperfocal distance).

Things get a little harder when you’re working at night. Nailing the focus at 1.4 in low light requires experience. But the lens is sharp and good enough to give you some great results even when the subject is slightly out of focus. Out of focus images are surprisingly acceptable then, and I even created some of those deliberately. Keep in mind I’m taking straight photography as the standard when saying out of focus images are ‘still acceptable’. Lack of focus is a stylistic choice as good as any, so go outside to have some fun and please don’t fight on the internet.

I used the camera a lot this last year, and that was, at some level, due to the new possibilities the Summilux V.2 brought to the table. It comes in good time, as I get in touch with new photographers and image theorists on a serious quest about expanding creative and aesthetic horizons.

São Pedro da Serra, Brazil

The Summilux is now a 55-year-old resilient jewel.

It survived the introduction of the ASPH, gathering its own following cult among photographers, old and young. People who would pick an older design based on its character and history instead of a cleaner, sharper and more accurate model.

It has a legendary Mendel signature on its glass design. Is flexible in its uses, unobtrusive and looks good on the A7. The contrast just works perfectly for me, and the colors and textures are so beautiful it leaves no doubt on why did Leica get all that reputation.

The cons are common signs of the time in which it was developed and created. Flares, slim vintage looks and a somewhat low contrast, if you are used to the ASPH, should be expected. Yet, the price you get on the used market and the joy of using one of those classics might outweigh any downsides, leaving you with an amazing experience in artistic creation.

At the end of the day, and much like the Kinoptik, the Summilux It is a timeless low-light lens well suited for contemporary experiments and classic documentary photography alike. And for everything in between.

Congonhas do Campo, Brazil

Again, I can only thanks Steve for the amazing support, not only towards my reports, but on many more being published every week.

You can see some more of my work by clicking on the links below.

https://www.instagram.com/jackhasacamera/
https://500px.com/pedroamorim

Dec 292016
 

The Sunwayfoto XB-44 Ballhead Review

By Robert Falcone – His website is here.

What a great past 2 weeks it has been in my world of photographic subjects, and it was perfect timing to put the Sunwayfoto XB-44 Low-Profile, High Performance Ballhead through its paces!

A quick recap of those events are: a very late blooming of a beautiful Lily shot in HDR, The Majestic and Powerful Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and the current Supermoon, not seen since 1948!

Sunwayfoto has been manufacturing photographic support equipment for many years, and their product line is a very compete one. This review is focusing on one of their Flagship Ballheads’ the low-profile XB-44. It is the SMALLER one in the XB series, but still extremely strong (40kg load), ROCK SOLID and SILKY SMOOTH! It is an Ellipsoidal, Progressive design, so as the ball is tilted it ‘tightens’ up a bit to reduce camera flop while maintaining total control.

As an owner of other Sunwayfoto gear, I have come accustomed to and appreciate their packaging. Like their products, the packaging is all business, no frills, very strong and protective!

The contents are protected in egg foam on all sides:

Speaking of contents, in addition to the Ballhead, included are a cleaning cloth, tools, ¼ to 3/8 tripod mount adapter and manual. Also on the box are the product picture specifications, which is very handy indeed.

This Ballhead is one of the newer generation of low profile ones, and low it is! This helps keep center of gravity to a bare minimum, especially when the camera is tilted into the Drop Notch. By the way, this head, as do some others in Sunwayfoto’s lineup, has two Drop Notches, which is quite a convenience. Normally, I like to have my Ballheads controls in front of me, so the large knob which handles tension and tension lock is on my right hand side, the pan lock directly in front of me, and the clamp lock above the pan lock or to the left, depending on weather I am using a camera mounting plate or a lens mounting plate. This gives me a tilt slot to my left for portrait shots, and directly in front of me for a low frontal tilting shot. The control knobs are simple and well laid out: The large knob is the Main Lock Knob, the little wheel on the front of it is the Friction Control Knob, the smaller knob to the left is the Panning Knob, and above is the Clamp Knob. Also on the Ballhead is a Panning Base Scale and Index Mark.

A few pictures of the Ballhead:

Here are some size comparisons to its larger brother, the XB-52. The XB-52 is on my 4 series studio tripod.

Next, we compare the XB-44 to a few traditional Ballheads in Sunwayfoto’s lineup, the DB-36TR and the FB-28. Note the XB-44 is much shorter than the DB-36TR, but has a much larger ball diameter AND over twice the load capacity! Also, in comparison to the FB-28 it is about the same height, but the ball dwarfs in in size and has almost four times the capacity!

Here it is mounted on the T1A10 Table Top Tripod, perfect for product shots:

Now, let’s look at the measurements of XB-44’s specifications to check Sunwayfoto’s production tolerances. Weight is listed as 460g, which, at almost half a kilo might seem a bit high. However, once you hold this instrument and use it you will appreciate what its solid build provides you. Silky smooth controls, and as near perfect performance a Ballhead can provide! The elliptical ball’s diameter is listed as 44mm (hence the 44 in the name!), the base diameter is listed as 58mm and height is 79mm. It comes standard with a 50mm Arca Swiss Compatible Clamp with an Offset Bubble Level. The opening ranges from 34mm closed to 38mm wide open. This covers all of the Arca Compatible plates I can think of. My own Sunwayfoto plates work fine, as do my ProMediaGear Lens Plates and Camera L-Brackets. Here are my real world measurements of the above:

I would have to say that Sunwayfoto’s Manufacturing tolerances are spot on. The small variances are probably due to my sub $100 Digital Scale and Caliper. I have done the same with my other Sunwayfoto Ballheads shown here and they are just as perfect in measurement.

Here is my test setup, the Sunwayfoto XB-44 mounted on my Carbon Fiber Series 4 Travel Tripod.

Yes, a traveler that is a Series 4! I get and use heavy duty equipment, as the rigidity and build quality pays off in the long run! My Camera is the Canon 7D MarkII DSLR with Canon BG-E16 Battery Grip. Yes a REAL Canon Battery Grip! Lenses vary depending upon which shot I took. The Lily was shot with the Canon EF 70-200 f2.8 L IS II. The waterfall was shot with the Canon EF 24-105 f4 L IS. The moon shots were with the Canon EF 600mm f4 L IS.

As I mentioned earlier, my field testing couldn’t have come at a better time, as some great events just seemed to fall into place.

First up is an HDR shot of the aforementioned Lily. If you are not familiar with HDR photography, the camera takes a series of (in this case) 3 shots at different exposure settings, baseline plus and minus 2 stops to make sure all shadows and highlights are properly exposed. This was shot with my Canon EF 70-200 f2.8 L IS II lens and my Canon 7D Mark II body. They were mounted on my Series 4 Carbon Fiber Traveler Tripod/Sunwayfoto XB-44 combo. The Canon 7D MarkII not only performs the HDR process IN CAMERA, but also will join all 3 pictures into one. No post processing needed!

This procedure requires a ROCK SOLID Ballhead, as ANY slight movement will show up as a blur when the 3 frames are merged together. Beautiful!

Next up was a visit to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where one of my stops was to visit and photograph the Tahquamenon Falls in Paradise, Michigan. There are two falls, the Upper and Lower. The Upper Falls (pictured) are one of the largest east of the Mississippi, has a drop of over 50 feet, over 200 feet across and a water flow of over 50,000 gallons per second. WOW! Water Falls, Rivers, Streams and waves are fun subjects to photograph.

Do you freeze the action, or smooth out the water flow? Opting for the second requires again a very sturdy Tripod/Ballhead combo. Again the Sunwayfoto XB-44 was mounted on my Series 4 traveler Carbon Fiber Tripod. Shot with my Canon 7D MarkII, Canon EF 24-105 f4 L IS lens. Exposure settings to smooth out the water flow were as follows: ISO 100, f22, 3 seconds and an ND64 filter. For a 3 second exposure, your support equipment MUST be up to the task. Notice the tree in lower right foreground and trees in the background are in crisp focus! To further add torture, NO mirror lockup or shutter remote were used. This accomplishment is a testament to the Sunwayfoto’s XB-44’s Superior Build Quality.

Finally, my field testing concluded with the current Astronomical Event of the Supermoon. Our Moon is this week closer to the Earth than it has been since 1948! I have been waiting a lifetime (and more) for an event like this to photograph, and have shot quite a lot of it. Below is my favorite. It was shot with the following equipment/settings: Series 4 Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod, Sunwayfoto XB-44 Ballhead, Canon 7D MarkII, Canon EF 600mm f4 IS lens, ISO 400, f8 and 1/250 second shutter speed. This shot was when the Supermoon was straight overhead to minimize any distortion created by our atmosphere when happens shooting towards the horizon. This was at 2:24 am.

In conclusion all I can say about the Sunwayfoto XB-44 Low Profile Ballhead is totally positive. My experience with this Ballhead showed off its Excellent Build Quality, Extremely Tight Tolerances as well as Precise and Silky Smooth Controls and Operation. During the unpacking, weighing, measurements and field testing I found absolutely NO NEGATIVES or IMPERFECTIONS. This is an off the shelf normal production unit. Over my many years as a Professional Photographer and Videographer I have owned numerous Ballheads from different manufacturers, many of which are name brands, including the ‘Big Boys’. The Sunwayfoto products easily compete and in many ways exceed the competition. This is no easy feat; however they have and continue to pull it off all at a very competitive price point.

The Sunwayfoto XB-44 is available at B&H Photo HERE. 

 

Dec 222016
 

Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f/1.4 II Lens Review: GOING RETRO

By Craig Litten

I love Voigtlander lenses! I’ve loved them since the first time I discovered them about five years ago. Some say that they are a poor man’s Leica lens, which may be true, but I don’t necessarily agree. I think it’s more like comparing apples to oranges. Many agree that Leica lenses are the best-of-the-best, and they most likely are, but Voigtlander lenses are great too, and have their own character and charm. I know a few Leica owners who shoot Leica and Voigtlander lenses. In fact, my first Leica (the Leica M8.2) was used with a borrowed Voigtlander lens for the first several months, and I loved it. Voigtlander lenses are very affordable too, which is a big plus. You can actually own several of them for the price of just one Leica lens! This lens reminds me of how lenses were built back in the 80’s, when I was a kid and fist got into photography (as the older lenses from the 70’s were still in circulation. It looks very similar to the older Nikon (pre-AI) lenses: all metal, super smooth and built like a tank. What’s not to love? If you’re remotely interested in Voigtlander lenses, I think it is safe to recommend Stephen Gandy’s CameraQuest since he is one of Steve’s sponsors. But be warned though, Camera Quest is a treasure-trove of wonder and knowledge, and if you go there you’re likely to get stuck in his web of Voigtlander goodness and never leave.

As a former photojournalist shooting for a daily newspaper, Voigtlander lenses were off my radar so to speak. To compete in that field you needed to match what the guy next to you has, and that means the old standard f2.8 zooms. When news is happening fast and in front of you, you must get the shot or lose your job—there is no time to change lenses. I can’t remember exactly, but I’m pretty sure the first time I heard of a Voigtlander lens was right here on Steve Huff Photo back in 2011. This is when I started reading this blog and learning about Leica M lenses and tiny mirrorless cameras like the Sony NEX line. What did it for me was Steve’s review of the NEX 5n HERE. I purchased it along with a pair of Voigtlander lenses from Camera Quest. I got the Voigtlander 21mm f/4 Color Skopar along with one of my all-time favorite lenses, the wonderful Voigtlander 35mm f/2.5 C Color Skopar—I love that tiny lens. But these lenses were VM Mount (Leica M mount) lenses made for the Voitglander Bessa (film) or the Leica M, not a DSLR lens like this Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL II that I’m reviewing here. This is a Nikon mount SLR or DSLR lens.

I no longer shoot with Nikon cameras, but did back in the film days (the F4 is still one of my favorite cameras of all time), and again in the late 2000’s during this present digital age). But today, I only shoot Sony mirrorless. So I’ll be testing this lens on my Sony a7II and Sony a7s with an adapter. Nonetheless, the review is not about the camera nor its sensor, but about the lens. One of the beautiful things about Sony mirrorless is that you can adapt nearly any lens and still get all of the lens’ goodness. So to be clear, all of the photos in this review were shot with a full frame sensor—no crop-factor here. So if you’re looking to “discuss” sensor size, move along, nothing to see here.

NIFTY FIFTY

I had a lot of fun shooting with this lens, and it was a pure pleasure to use. I love manually focusing on the Sony bodies. It’s easy, fast and accurate, and that extra act of pulling focus really makes you feel like you’re participating in the act of photographing. In fact, if I didn’t have a few other pieces of gear that were pressing right now, I’d look into getting one for myself. Since I’m not shooting with this on a Nikon body, but adapted to my Sony’s, that may be the only negative for me personally.—that it’s not a native E-mount but requires an adapter. But if you’re a Nikon shooter, good news, because this lens has a native Nikon F mount and will fit any Nikon body for the past 30 plus years. CameraQuest has a cool section with a brief history of the Nikon F mount here. Perhaps Voigtlander would consider making this lens for the Sony E-Mount in the future.

Unlike Steve who calls himself a 50mm guy, I have always preferred the 35mm focal length as my all-arounder. If I could only have one single lens, it would be a 35mm f2 lens, but that’s most likely because of my journalistic/documentary background. When you put a 50mm f1.4 on your camera though, oh my, that is when the creative juices begin to flow. Personally I have always thought that those who really want to learn photography should start out with only a 50mm lens only for the first year. It’s such a versatile focal length, and perhaps even more flexible than a 35mm. This lens is a 58mm not a 50mm though, so it’s a tad bit tighter, but it’s close enough.

One of my favorite photographers since the early days is Ralph Gibson. He shoots almost exclusively with a 50mm lens which says a lot about the lenses versatility. He’s build an entire career on one focal length, or close to it. A few years ago I went on vacation to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and decided to take only one lens with me to keep it simple and light. I chose the 50mm (focal length) and never regretted it. In fact, looking over the photos now they sometimes appear to be shot with a wider lens, and sometimes look like they were shot with a telephoto lens, but they were all shot with a 50mm.

MADE IN JAPAN

Physically speaking, this lens is very satisfying. It checks all the boxes and fulfills the nostalgia and dreams of shooting for the White House Press Corps during the Kennedy era, LOL. The lens is made of metal, real metal, and glass—no plastic, bubble gum machine junk here. It is solid, grippy and smooth as silk. If you’ve ever used the 1960’s-early 70’s Nikon F prime lenses, it feels and looks much like they did—almost an exact replica. I love Voigtlander as a company. They are keeping the past alive, giving us new, modern lenses that work for our high resolution digital cameras yet allowing us the control of manual focus and the quality of an all-metal build. And they are affordable and good lenses. Thank you Voigtlander. From the way this lens feels, it will last a lifetime, or probably longer than you’ll want to keep it. Today we have what photographers of the past did not—an incredible amount of choices. The only problem with that is that most of us get “curious” about something new every now and then, and put the old on a shelf. But that is what this site is all about right: showing us what’s new and exciting in the world of photography.

The version I’m testing is the silver version, and it’s simply beautiful. The only difference between the black and the silver version is the color of inner lens barrel itself. Instead of black, it is silver, and it really adds a touch of class. The barrel itself (and front lens element) extends (but doesn’t rotate) in and out as you focus, which reveals more of the silver inner barrel and adds to the nostalgia of the lens. While out shooting I actually had someone comment on the “old” lens I was using, and how much he liked it.

The design of the lens reveals large smooth grooves around the entire lens barrel with matching grooves on the aperture ring. This is where it differs from the Nikkor-S 1959-1962 version. This design looks great and contributes to the old fashioned look of the lens, but it’s more than just cosmetics because it functions even better than it looks. Between each of the grooves is grippy, etched metal (Voigtlander calls it scalloped) to give you a sure grip while focusing. The barrel turns very smoothly, but has resistance or stiffness to it which is just about perfect. You’ll need more than just a single finger or thumb to turn it. These type of lenses usually get better and a tad looser once broken in. The aperture has secure click-stops, and is stiff enough that it won’t be easily bumped our of place. On the top of the lens, at the f5.6 mark, there is a protruding fork. When mounting the pre-AI Nikkor lenses (similar to this one) to the old Nikon film bodies, you had to turn it to the correct f-stop (if memory serves me correctly, it was f5.6) to mount the fork between a lever. It was a very clever design but has long since been discontinued, so I question the reason Voigtlander added this to the lens. If you own any of those old Nikon film bodies, you’re good to go. If not, it’s kind of a nuisance and my only negative mark against the lens. If I were to buy this lens, I think that I would remove it as it got in my way more than a few times.

Looking into the lens and turning the aperture is a thing of beauty, and seeing the large front element and feeling the weight of the glass is very satisfying indeed. The lens has clearly painted numbers and markings on it using the old Nikon colors and fonts, it’s very clear, easy to read and nicely done. One other small negative though is that the focusing line doesn’t stand out as clearly as it could or should. This serves as the aperture mark also. Nonetheless, the colors and design almost fools you into thinking that you’re holding some old Nikon glass. The attention to detail is admirable and should be commended. Even “Lens made in Japan” is beautifully etched into the silver band that surrounds the lens. For build quality alone, it is well worth the asking price. But will the image quality hold up to justify the price?

GRATIFICATION FACTOR

There is something special about shooting with an all-manual lens, especially one built and designed as well as this one is. It is just such a pleasure to use, and you really feel as though you’re participating more in the act of photographing, which I think one of the major appeals of shooting with a Leica rangefinder body: the turn of a shutter, the click of an aperture, and the pulling of focus. When shooting with a camera like that, you’re constantly checking all three, always engaged and always participating in the act of photographing. This is much unlike the wiz-bang DSLR’s we’ve become used to, where it’s essentially a high-powered point-and-shoot. When you miss focus on using a lens like this, it’s your own fault, but that’s part of the fun and challenge of it. Auto focus misses too, a lot—well, not so much on the modern mirrorless cameras, but everyone reading this knows what I mean. When I first started shooting sports, I was using manual focus lenses. The fastest motor drive at the time was about 5 frames per second, and you only got 36 shots per roll of film, then the camera buffered. Buffering back then was in the form of rewinding your film, marking it with a Sharpie, and loading another roll. While covering football back then, I remember literally praying to get one or two good frames from an entire half, which was all the time allotted to shoot because of deadlines. The point is, manual focusing can be learned and mastered, and I especially find that focusing with Nikon lenses are more intuitive, for me anyway, as the focus turns opposite of most other brands. It just feels natural to me.

A manual focus lens like this is a great tool for the amateur, the artist or the enthusiast who wants to really get into photography and feel more a part of the process. It’s also good for the professional who wants to slow down the process, and hone his or her craft while not shooting for a paying client, but for personal work or on a personal project. Your camera may still have all the bells and whistles, but the simple act of pulling focus changes the game. Honestly it does.

If you’re new to photography or perhaps started shooting during the digital age and have never experienced manual cameras or manual focus, you’re in for a real treat should you decide to buy this lens. If I were to recommend just one manual focus lens for your kit, it would be in the 50mm range. If you’re a Nikon shooter, this could be the lens. But after shooting with this on my Sony a7’s, I think that it’s a perfect fit for the Sony’s too, maybe even better because of the high resolution EVF and focus peaking. It is surprisingly well balanced—especially with the MkII bodies, and even with the adapter it’s still shorter in length than my Sony/Zeiss 55mm f1.8. If you’re new to manual focus, and I suspect there are a lot of readers who are, fear not. When pairing this lens to a Sony a7, focusing is a breeze—even if you are brand new at it. You can turn on focus peaking and set it for either red, yellow or white, but you can also set the intensity level to low, medium or high. I have mine set to red and with high intensity. I like red because I shoot in B&W mode (RAW+JPEG) a lot, and red really shows up well in B&W. Red also shows up really well if you have a lot of foliage like here in South Florida. And you can have it set to “zoom in” on the scene as soon as you touch the lens barrel for more critical focus. It’s actually fun.

IQ

Ah, the big question we all want to know is “what is the image quality like?” Well, in answering that I hope that you will take the time to really examine the images, click on them to view them large and download them to your computer—especially if you’re really seriously considering this excellent lens. In shooting for this review I decided to just carry the camera with me as much as possible and shoot everyday, ordinary situations and things. This is different from past reviews where I set out to purposely shoot certain things. For this review I wanted to shoot with this lens the same way I would if I owned it. If the lens belonged to me, I would mostly use it for personal work and daily use. I’d use it for the sheer joy of photographing and the act of participating more in the process by manually focusing. Not that it’s not good enough for paid work, because it is. It’s good enough for any studio portrait session, magazine spread or food shoot (I don’t shoot food), but most of the time I need AF because of the fast-paced nature of my work.

The image quality of this lens stunned me. Several times while out shooting I really didn’t think that I had any really good pictures, or anything special—even when viewing them on the back of the cameras. But when I got home and downloaded them to my computer, I was wow’d several times. Not because my shots were anything special, but because of the way this Voigtlander lens drew the scene and rendered the image. Several of the shots made me feel like I could actually reach into the photo because they have a real 3D effect. I know this term is overused, but in this case it’s true. I also know there will be scoffers out there, which is fine because we are all entitled to our own opinion, but the proof in the photos. Not every photo has this effect of course, but when the light, aperture, distance from the lens and subject-matter all camera together, it’s simply magical. One example is the simply B&W photo of a woman with dark hair sitting in front of a window at night with a plain white wall behind her.

It’s not a great portrait by any means. I caught her in mid-sentence, the frame is crooked, etc., but the way the lens draws the scene is stunning in my opinion. The portrait was shot wide open at f1.4, ISO 2500. Another shot is the one of the three retirees sitting in lawn chairs on the beach facing the ocean (shot at f2).

I also attempted to shoot at each aperture setting, and did, but mostly concentrated on the wider apertures because that’s where most of us who buy this lens will be shooting. At f1.4, the lens is stunning at night in very low light. I’ve included many samples. For some reason the lens seemed to do better wide open at night in low light than it did outside in bright sunlight. The lens is very sharp right from f1.4 in the center. There is some vignetting at f1.4 and f2, but it really starts to clear up by f2.8-f4. Of course this is to be expected for such a wide aperture lens, and it will actually work in your favor for portraits and people shots. The lens renders beautifully from f1.4 on through f8. The shot B&W shot of the rock with the tide hitting it was shot at f8, and it has a beautiful Zeiss-like glow and clarity to it in my opinion.

The bokeh is also very pleasing to my eye, but you may be a little more selective or have a better eye for that than I do. It’s not as smooth as some lenses are (like the Sony FE 28mm f2 which is amazingly smooth for such an inexpensive and wide lens), but it’s never offensive either. Again, the proof is in the photos, but I’ll let you determine that for yourself.

There really isn’t anything negative to say about this lens. The only thing I found is very minor lens flare in a very strange situation. During the time I spent shooting, I only encountered lens flare once (see color photo of tree trunk shot above at f11). It happened when taking a photo of a tree trunk with the sun behind and to the left of camera—nowhere near the lens. Somehow though, the light was reflecting off of the tree causing the lens to flare. I tried a few different angles from the same spot, but all of them caused the lens to flare. I don’t think lens flare is really a problem with the lens, but wanted to mention this one example. I saw similar type of lens flare with the older Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f1.7 VM lens (the pervious version to the one that is currently for sale).

I also attempted to see how the lens renders sunstars. I tried a few shots directly into the sun, stopped all the way down to f16, but wasn’t able to get any satisfactory sunstars. The coating on the lens seems quite good. I did however get sunstars reflecting off of the water in one shot (see attached photo cropped to about 1/3 its original, horizontal frame), so it is possible.

CONCLUSION

If you’re feeling a bit stagnated in your photography, perhaps this lens is just what you need. Will any gear really improve your photography? Perhaps. But this lens could by inspiring you to get out and photograph more because it is satisfying in so many areas. The build is fantastic, it feels great in your hand and makes you just want to hold it and use it. The images, rendering, price, focal length, etc., are all really good. If you’re looking for a good lens in the 50mm range and don’t mind manually focusing, I don’t think this lens will disappoint. In fact, I think just the opposite, that you will be very pleased and proud to own and use such a fine piece of glass. I highly recommend it!

See more on this lens at Cameraquest HERE

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