Jun 222015
 
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The Leica Q…in Review

By Ashwin Rao

Buy/Order the Q from Ken Hansen, PopFlash.com, or B&H Photo. 
Let me just start by saying that the Leica Q is one of the most engaging, inspiring cameras that I have owned to date. I would also suggest that it is this decade’s version of the legendary Digilux-2…read more below to understand why….

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If that’s all that you take away from the review, that’s great. An educator once told me that you should say what you are about to say, then say it, and finish by saying what you jyst said. With this article, I intend to proceed as such. The Leica Q is a great camera… Even at it’s price. Even though it’s not a rangefinder. Even though it’s unlikely to be a Leica through and through. It’s capable of harnessing one’s spirit, capturing the decisive moment, and challenging the photographer all at once, all in the most facile of ways. See there you go, I have gone and said it again, in a slightly different way. Okay, now getting that out of the way, let’s dig deeper.

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Hello, my friends and photographers. By now, many of you have read the glowing reviews that came alongside the announcement of the Leica Q. Such luminaries as Steve himself, Jono Slack, Ming Thien, Sean Ried, Michael Reichmann, and others deconstruct, reconstruct, and then deconstruct the camera again. I am not here to re-hash this territory, other than to say that I agree with much, if not all, of what these reviews have said in their uniform praise of the Q. I am here to give you my own impressions and take on the camera, it’s build, its DNA, it’s capacities as a tool for photography, and it’s operation, and I have now had the chance to spend a bit more time with the camera, having been one of the first lucky few to have received my camera from the Leica Store Bellevue.

For those of you who have not read the reviews, here’s the low down. The Leica Q is a fixed-lens autofocus, Leica M-styled camera that’s not an M camera at all. It’s built to an incredibly high standard and sports a 24 MP full frame sensor and a fast 28 mm f/1.7 Aspherical Summilux Lens. It sports an industry leading 3.7 megapixel non-OLED EVF with a solid refresh rate (read not many shuddering images while moving the camera through the scene) and a design that allows for easy use even with glasses on (thanks for thinking of us old folks wearing glasses, Leica). It’s not weather sealed. It has a mechanical leaf shutter that moves from 1+ sec through 1/2000 sec, after which an electronic shutter kicks in, capable of achieving shutter speeds as high as 1/16,000 sec (thus, there is zero issue with shooting wide open in the brightest of daylight settings). The leaf shutter is nearly silent in and of itself, and the camera is thus very operationally discrete, while obviating issues such as shutter shake. There’s no built in flash, but this can be added via hot shoe. It records video, for those who care about video (I don’t). It’s layout is very simple. 5 buttons to the left of the screen, and a click wheel to the right. There are only 2 other dials up top, one for shutter speed and one to adjust exposure compensation, which is not marked. There’s the On-off toggle switch, which houses the shutter release. Oh yes, that video button (I don’t use it, unless I inadvertently push it). The awesome 28 mm f/1.7 Summilux lens has a very “M-lens” like feel, with a hood that echoes the most recent Summarit line. The hood screws on, once you remove the included protective retainer ring. The focusing tab on the ring allows you to easily focus manual, as the lens has a nice, shot focus throw, but also readily clicks into full AF mode by turning the barrel fully counter clockwise until it clicks into place. There’s a macro ring, that can be turned to enable a lovely macro option, that allows focus between 0.17 and 0.13 meters, while the standard non-macro setting focuses between 0.3 meters and infinity. The menu system is very clean and simply laid out, more so than even the current generation of M digital cameras. The screen is a touch screen, and one can use finger touch to set focus if desired. In image review mode, images can be swiped or pinched to allow for zooming or image review. Finally, there’s a small unmarked button on the back of the camera just below the shutter speed dial, that allows you to enable 35 mm of 50 mm “frame lines”, basically a digital crop for those who wish to use the camera at “other focal lengths”.

These are details that most of you already know, but I wanted to summarize it all in one place. With that summary out of the way, let’s dig deeper.

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Colors

The Leica Q offers a moderately different color palette than either the Leica M240 or the M9 before it. Leica has not announced from whom the sensor comes from. I have my theories, and will get to that later in the article, but suffice it to say that colors are punchy even for out-of-camera DNG files. Unlike the muted palette of the M9 and M8, there’s a lot more color pop up front from the Q, which can take some adjustment. However, once you get adjusted, what you are left with is a camera that produces some of the best colors seen in Leica land.

I struggled mightily with skin tones and colors when attempting to use the M240 during my brief sojourn with that camera. Suffice to say, I was quite concerned about a “repeat performance” with the Q, but thankfully, this is not the case. For those of you who enjoy the M240’s color palette, prepare for a different experience. Same goes for you who preferred the M9 color palette. However, I must say that many of us M shooters who enjoyed the M9’s color palette may be quite pleased by what the Q offers.

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At times, skin tones can drift towards an “orange” bias, but this is easy to fix in Lightroom or other similar applications when encountered. Fact of the matter is that most of the time, colors coming out of the camera properly represent the color palette of the scene. The camera is nicely transparent in this ways. Auto white balance does great outdoors, slightly less so indoors, but this too is easily correctible during editing, and truth be told, most of the time, colors under incandescent or fluorescent light are appropriate.

All in all, the camera performs very well in this department.

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ISO performance

Let’s get this out of the way. This camera is middle-of-the-road for full frame ISO performance. It’s totally adequate and appropriate in the ISO department through ISO 6400, but once ISO 12,500 is reached, things can get a bit iffy, particularly if processing heavily. If properly exposed, you get a very useable file through 12,500, but in general, I would hesitate going any higher, due to noticeable horizontal banding that is encountered within shadows. But with a fast lens attached at f/1.7, I rarely felt challenged by any low light limitation. While the Q is no Sony A7s, it stands up quite well to the Sony A7 and other cameras considered to be low-light stars or keepers of the night.

 

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Image quality

The image quality coming from the Leica Q is astounding. The 28 mm Summilux is capable of achieving incredible detail, while producing a pleasant, non-distracting, painterly out of focus. If I were rating bokeh, as I have in the past, the Q’s 28 mm Summilux rates as a 9/10. Images are nicely sharp, particularly in the center, at f/1.7, and by f/4, the images sharpen up from corner to corner. I suspect that the lens produces a slight curvature of field that contributes to softer edges on plane when shooting brick walls, but in real world application, this slight curvature of field may actually enhance subject isolation (for aspects of the image that are in focus) while creating a 3 dimensional effect, which can be very pleasing even for a lens this wide. Coupled with a fast open aperture, the whole image is rendered beautifully. While I will leave it to others to do ISO test and aperture comparisons, I will say that the Leica Q has simply never let me down in the image quality department. Coupled with the color performance of the sensor, the lack of an anti-aliasing (AA) filter, the Leica Q becomes a powerhouse, if judged only by the retina-searing quality of image that it produces.

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The 28 mm lens

did Leica use a 28 mm lens? For many, 28 mm is too wide. It is nearly impossible to get a portrait shot, and if you do, you’ll get a ton of distortion, and your subjects will be mad at you, unless you step back a few feet.

Leica states that the 28 mm lens was designed in-house with a goal of allowing those who chose to use the camera a great option for street and reportage photography. While I think some of this is marketing know-how, I do feel that the 28 mm lens may well have been chosen for a few other reasons. First, the camera’s implementation and design makes it clear to me that Leica’s positioning itself for both its base (aging shooters with progressive vision deterioration), alongside a younger customer base with money to spend), bringing the camera’s operational capacities into the 21st century, with amenities such as wifi, NFC, phone apps for teathering, and a touch screen. 28 mm is exciting to the Leica base, as a lens that offers great opportunities for street and reportage photography. 28 mm is a popular focal length particularly popular with many shooters who don’t even know it: cell phone shooters. The iPhone, for example, has historically employed a 28 mm equivalent lens. It’s a great option not only for street photos, but for selfies, for family outings, for gatherings with friends. It’s the focal length that’s social-media savvy, and Leica knows it.

Second, Leica is trying to establish a branding identity and a sense of novelty in the market. Never has a fixed full frame digital camera been released with a fast-wide lens such as the incredible 28 mm Summilux. Most people who have shot the Q or thought about the purchase wonder: why not 35 mm or 50 mm for the lens? Leica saw the success of the Sony RX1/R with it’s 35 mm f/2 Sonnar lens, and saw an opportunity to make something similar, yet slightly different, to separate it from Sony’s past offering to which the camera is most often compared, as well as to any future RX2, which is likely to come sporting some of Sony’s latest and greatest tech.

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The lens does include a separate ring for macro photography mode. One turn of the inner most ring into “MACRO” allows the camera to focus (manual or AF) between 0.17 m and 0.3 M. In fact, turning the ring procures a separate focusing scale, which is hidden from view when the camera is used in standard operation. This feature is incredibly handily when shooting near-field objects (think food photography). The implementation of the MACRO ring itself is one of the camera’s few weaknesses, as it’s a bit hard to turn the ring when desired. Maybe that’s by intention, but it feels that the ring could have been designed for smoother operational execution.

I also suspect that Leica introduced the 28 mm lens, as it may have been particularly adept at working with the sensor that they are using in the camera. I find it incredibly fascinating that Leica is choosing not to disclose the manufacturer of the sensor, but here again, I have my theory, so read on to find this out . Ultimately, I suspect that to some degree, lens and sensor were designed with one another in mind, and the performance of the lens-sensor combination in the Leica Q is astounding.

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In hand

I find that Leica Q’s haptics to be fantastic. I have been using the camera since day one with the accessory handgrip and attached loop. The grip and loop make the camera very easy to hold steadily, with confidence and no fear that it may slip out of hand. The Q itself is a slightly airy camera, clearly lighter than the M line, but with the added grip, there’s an addition of slight heft that gives the camera more confident feel. Without the grip, the camera is truly a bit slippery, and the thumb indent that Leica added is positioned to far to the far edge of the camera to permit comfortable hand holding. The grip fixes this issue. ‘’

The camera’s edges are nicely rounded, and unlike the Leica T, with it’s more angular build, the Q does not seem to cut into skin as much. The Q is substantially heftier than the T series and it’s girth and bulk will feel quite familiar to users of the M system. Some may raise concerns that it’s not nearly as compact as Sony’s RX1/R, but then again, I think Leica made the proper choice in proportioning the camera as a Leica M to attract its base of M camera users. To the Leica M shooter, the camera will feel “familiar” in hand.

I do wish Leica would use traditional vulcanite leatherette, as the pebbled texture of Vulcanite used for older M cameras truly enhances the photographer’s hold on the camera. The Q comes equipped with a grip that may be familiar to X camera owners. It’s not as tactile, and looks decidedly more modern. It’s a decent look, but one that could use refinement.

With the accessory grip added, the camera’s haptics feel more complete. It’s heft is pleasant. The grip firms up the hold on the camera.

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In operation

It’s at this point that I will begin to GUSH about the Leica Q. Leica (and Panasonic) did their homework on this camera, and it shows. The camera is truly a dream to operate. The menu system is well laid out, complementing the camera’s operational simplicity. In fact, this is a camera that one can pick up, figure out within a few minutes, and begin shooting happily. It produces RAW files in the DNG format, thus immediately portable into most photo editing applications (in my case, Adobe Lightroom)

Autofocus is fast and accurate. This has not been talked about in glowing detail, but deserves to be highlighted. In my experience, the Leica Q has the most responsive autofocus of any mirrorless camera that I have tried. Not only is AF responsive, but also focusing is accurate. The Q gives the photographer the brilliant option of setting the focus point anywhere on the screen, and this system works well when the photographer is permitted the time to set the focus point (be it center or off to the side). Once focus zone is set, the camera nails focus every time. For many of us whose eyesight wanes with each year, having a camera with accurate and responsive AF in the design/build of a M camera (yes, not an M, but it sure feels like one, doesn’t it?) is a marvelous thing.

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While most of us will use the camera in single-shot focus mode (AF-S), the camera is quite adept at tracking focus if using the AF-C mode. Whole it’s not a sports shooter, it can easily track faster moving children and nail focus. The camera can be set to single- or multi-shot modes, and can acquire up to 9 frames in a second using the high speed burst rate. I was suitably impressed while employing AF-C with a high burst rate, while capturing fast moving children on a slip-n-slide, for example, to feel that the continuous AF mode coupled with burst shooting would allow me to capture a “mobile” decisive moment opportunity .
Using the lens in the field is also great. One can easily click into autofocus mode if one chooses, but one can also use the manual focusing option by rotating the focus wheel out of the AF position, at which point the camera uses focus magnification and peaking to aid the photographer in achieving focus. Coupled with the camera’s magnificent 3.7 megapixel EVF, focusing is not challenging. Added to the mix is diopter control, allowing the operator of the camera to adjust the diopter to his/her liking.
Menu layout is clear, clean, and intuitive, and the LCD screen can be used in broad daylight without much difficulty. Some may sight that the camera does not possess an articulating LCD, but this stands against Leica’s simplicity-is-utility design ethos, and I am fine with it. The less fiddly the camera, the better, in my opinion. With a clean user layout, and clean menu structure, operational simplicity, and very fast autofocus, what we are left with is a camera that is incredibly inspiring in operation. The Leica Q is a camera that simply does not get in the way of the photographer’s experience. I would say that the Leica Q’s operations enhance photographer’s user experience and motivates and inspires those who shoot it…to shoot it more. It’s that good. Really!

Crop Mode

I wanted to discuss crop mode briefly, as most simply cast this “feature” aside when discussing the camera. I belive that Leica considers the crop mode to be important, or else they would not have included a dedicated button to enable digital cropping. Implementation of the crop mode is fantastic. By clicking the button once, the EVF is “enhanced” by frame lines, thus producing a very rangefinder like experience. Shooting in 35 mm produces a 15 MP image, which is plenty sufficient to adjust in processing. Given that 28 mm and 35 mm are not that far apart, the camera can be used quite comfortably in 35 mm crop mode without much loss of feel.

Once cropped again, into 50 mm mode, things get a bit murkier. Now, the file produced is digitally cropped down to 7 MP. Editing becomes more of a chore, since less of the image is present to work with. Further, distortions present due to the 28 mm effective field of view are introduced, making portraiture in the 50 mm crop less than ideal.

I suspect that Leica envisions a certain group of photographers using the digital crop button to permit the camera to be used as a “Tri-Elmar” , but the compromises at play, while seeming acceptable at 35 mm, are less so at 50 mm.

All of that said, it’s nice to have a digital crop when operating the camera. Further, it’s nice to know that the camera has saved the full 28 mm field of view in the RAW file, so it’s easy to reclaim “lost data” in post processing if needed.

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Compared to the RX1

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Herein lies another question that comes up often, since the Leica Q was introduced. What’s Leica doing that Sony was not doing 2 years ago, when the RX1 was introduced and made its splash? Should I get the RX1 for it’s more desired 35 mm lens?

The choice of lens is a very personal. I would say that for those who don’t enjoy wide-angle photography and prefer 35 mm to 28, the Leica Q may not be an ideal companion. Further, the Q feels and is truly a bigger camera than the RX1, so if compactness is the ultimate goal, the RX1 achieves this better than the Q. Finally, image quality. The RX1/R produced and still produces brilliant files. This is no different today, and in fact, many, myself included, consider the Sony RX1 to be a modern legend in digital photography. Is the Q better? In a word: YES.

The fact of the matter is that the Q does so many things better than the RX1/R that the comparison is somewhat silly. The Q sports a built in EVF, which allows the camera to be used more like a traditional camera. Autofocus and operational implementation is far superior. The Q features a far more intuitive layout, with a less-is-more approach. While the RX1 is more compact, the Q feels fantastic in hand and retains enough compactness that it will fit in many of the same outfits for which the RX1 was purposed. Certainly, Sony’s RX2 (you know it’s coming) will feature a new degree of compactness, but Sony have never been known to design a camera for those who value simplicity and intention of use. Some complain that Sony cameras feel like computers. I don’t feel strongly, in this regard, but I will say that the Leica Q feels convincingly like a camera designed by and for photographers who appreciate simplicity of design. With the Leica Q, all of the key controls are readily accessible, while the rest are found easily in the camera’s sub menus.

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Compared to the Ricoh GR

Ricoh produced the pocket dynamite Ricoh GR 2 years ago, and it’s truly held up to the test of time as a camera that many street and documentary photographers carry in the pocket. Like the Q, the Ricoh GR sports a 28 mm equivalent lens, albeit on a APS-C size sensor.

The Ricoh GR has been one of my favorite cameras, and it’s a camera that I have had by my side for 2 years. It’s a dramatically different camera than the Q, as it is much smaller and is truly pocketable. Thus, the Leica Q will not replace or supplant the GR for my purposes. It’s form factor is just too different.

I would say that the GR’s file quality is more clinical, with better edge-to-edge sharpness wide open than the Leica Q demonstrates even when stopped to f/2.8. However, the Q offers a full frame sensor, Leica’s operational simplicity and haptics, and a fast/remarkable lens.

Both cameras are great. Choose the one that fits your needs the best. I chose both.

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Panasonic collaboration

Here’s the topic that no one’s really gotten into, and I wanted to shake a few trees and see what leaves fall down…Bottom line.: think it’s too much to say that Leica designed and implemented this most of this camera on their own. While the camera proudly reads “Leica Camera Wetzlar Germany” above the rear LCD, it does not clearly state “Made in Germany by Leica”, now does it? Nor does it say Leica Camera AG Germany. I say all this while laughing a bit, because none of it matters, other than in branding efforts. If you are reading this article, would you rather be buying a Leica or a Panasonic camera? I know where I’d fall in this regard
If one looks closely, the Leica Q has Panasonic’s fingerprints all over it. From implementation of the touch screen, to the wifi implementation, to the use of a Panasonic battery (DMW-BLC12) that’s been used extensively for Panasonic’s FZ1000 and Leica’s V-Lux line, this camera “reeks” of Panasonic influence. Heck, it’s clear to me that Panasonic had a strong hand in designing the Leica Q’s autofocus system. It’s too good to be a Leica design of its own. Some have gone as far as to say that it maybe Panasonic through and through, including the Summilux lens with an interesting f/1.7 maximum aperture, which is rare for Leica lenses but a common choice for Panasonic-designed lenses. Oh yeah, then there’s that sensor, which Leica refuses to disclose it’s source of manufacture, other than to say that the sensor is not manufactured by CMOSIS or Sony…Well, Panasonic is another company who sits ideally positioned, through its relationship with Leica, to offer up a chip of this high regard. Might not the sensor be of Panasonic manufacture? These are all of my theories, but ultimately, I suspect that Panasonic had a strong hand in designing the camera’s innards. From the outside, the Leica Q is truly, thoroughly a Leica, just like the Pana-Leica Digilux 2 before it….

Thus for me, the Leica Q is this generation’s Digilux!

 

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I find the Leica Q to be a fascinating, thoroughly enjoyable camera, one that’s inspired new levels of creativity in me. I am truly fascinated by the camera and would easily say that it’s one of my favorite digital cameras of all time. It’s really a perfect, take everywhere companion. It’s incredibly well thought out, laid out, and implemented in a way to appeal to photographers who want their camera out of the way and photographers who want to grow into their photographer ever more. The Leica Q forces you to grow, and for that growth, you will be rewarded by fantastic images.

I hope that you have enjoyed the photos, all taken during my first week with the camera. For those of you who want to see more, follow this link to my flickr site:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ashwinrao1/sets/72157654470404392
Enjoy the ride, and I will see you soon enough, just down the road, around the corner, Q in hand.

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Jun 212015
 
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More fun with the Leica Monochrom Typ 246

Hey guys! It’s Sunday, Father Day 2015 and I want to wish all dad’s out there a GREAT day. Today is a lazy day for me, so I am just chilling around the house but wanted to share a few snaps I shot last week while in Murphy’s CA with some friends. I had my Sony A7II with me as well as the new Leica Monochrom 246 and I was shooting it up to ISO 12,500 without any NR applied. Deep down in the darkness of the Moaning Caverns the Monochrom with Voigtlander 15 4.5 III did superb. Even with the slow aperture, the high ISO capability of the MM was able to take shots in very dark conditions, even though the images make it appear brighter than it really was.

So wishing you all a happy weekend, a happy Father’s day and just sharing some images from the Leica MM 246 for those still looking for samples from this beautiful camera.

CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER AND BETTER VERSIONS! All were shot with the Voigtlander 15 f/4.5 VIII

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Jun 172015
 

Simone & My X-Pro 1

By Jermore Santos

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Hi Brandon & Steve,

Great site you have going on, this is just a little write up on my shoot with Simone and my X-Pro 1. I decided to leave my Canon 5D Mk III with my L Series zooms and strip back my photography, my awesome talent, Simone had complete trust in that the images that come out of the Fuji with the 35mm prime would be comparable and so we embarked on a little photographic endeavour. As I adjust the aperture ring around my 35mm f1.4 Fujinon the image darkens anticipating the coming break in the clouds, revealing a beautiful golden autumn sun. My ‘guestimation’ is spot on, thanks to the camera providing real time exposure in live view.

The most amazing realisation as a photographer is how the photons bounce off objects, be it landscape, lifestyle or product. To create contours by bending the light around your subjects while framing the image to reveal only what you want around your subject. Shooting with primes forces your creativity to go into overdrive as the forced perspective creates limited options for composition onto your frame, with the Fujinon 35mm f1.4, I get a similar angle of view to a full frame format 50mm, an angle that is so similar to our eyes that this is probably why the nifty fifty is the world’s most popular prime focal length. Speaking of the 50mm, last year in I went to Japan, I knew it would be an excellent opportunity to snag myself a beautiful little vintage Canon 50mm f1.4 FD lens in one of those awesome used photographic stores in Japan at a fraction of the cost of what I would have paid here in Sydney. I managed to score the more expensive f1.4 at the price of one would pay for an f1.8 here in Australia. The beautiful vintage FD lenses aren’t as sterile or tack sharp as today’s lenses and they bring a warmth and some organic nostalgia back to photography, I use a cheap FD to X Mount adapter to piece it all together from eBay and the results can make any photographer giggle with delight.

We ended up getting rained out but not before catching some beautiful sun shower shots, images that you hope to get when ideas get thrown around in pre-production.

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Jun 152015
 
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Shoot what you love!

By Price Wooldridge

Hi Steve and Brandon,

More and more I stop by your blog for a little daily inspiration. Today, I thought I’d add mine, shoot what you love!
I recently found a working trolley line in Dallas, Texas, utilizing old trolley cars on original tracks in the downtown area. Today, I just dropped by and asked if they’d mind me shooting in their trolley barn, and explained my love and fascination with trolleys and trains. Don’t ever be too bashful to step up and ask, “do you mind if I take a few pictures?”.
Hope the group will enjoy these, shot with a Nikon D5500, Tamron 17-50 f2.8 zoom, and posted in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. As a side note, thought I always enjoy the challenge of shooting with a prime, I find when you step into a new, unfamiliar situation, a good walk around zoom really is most useful.

Hope you enjoy.

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Jun 042015
 
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SEEING RED! The Redhead Days Festival

by Ori Cohen

Hi Steve,

My name is Ori Cohen and I have been following your website for many years. I am an avid photographer, a computer science Phd student, and a graphic artist, but first and foremost I am a redhead, a redhead married to a redhead. As you well know redheads are usually singled out most of their lives and the and it may come as a surprise to everyone, but redheads share this unexplained bond; to a point where you walk down the street, lock eyes with another redhead and instantly there is some connection. You can probably guess why I married a redhead.

Once a year at the beginning of September there is a special weekend for all redheads. In the town of Breda, Holland, thousands of redheads from around the world gather in the redhead days festival. Our first time was two years ago, we went to the festival in order to see for once, how does it feel to be the same as everyone else around us. It is hard to explain the first shock of seeing so many people who kind of resemble you, and in many ways it is intoxicating. In the festival I had the opportunity to photograph a lot redheads; many became our friends and today we have a growing community of redheads on facebook. In fact, last year while travelling abroad, we randomly met a redhead that recognised us from the festival.

Photography wise, I like carrying as little gear as possible. I usually carry several small near-weightless primes. On our first visit I brought my trusty Sony A300 and a Minolta 50mm f/1.4, and on our second visit I had a Sony NEX-7 Sony 16mm\F2.8, Minolta 24mm f/2.8, 35mm f/2, Sigma 30mm f/1.4 and a Minolta 50mm f/1.4. For portraits on a crop sensor I tend to use 30mm, 35m, and 50mm as they allow me to shoot in situations when people are around me. For group shots, crowds, and In doors I used the 16mm or the 24mm, which allows me to get a better sense of the atmosphere in the room.

The festival holds several main events: the pub-crawl, the opening ceremony, and the gathering in the park. There is an atmosphere of friendliness all around, and I can shoot anyone without asking for permission. I usually just aim the camera at random people and they stop for me, for as long as I need.

The pub-crawl provides a wonderful opportunity to get to know new people and capture some of the conversations and playfulness that happens after dark when people are drinking A LOT of beer, and it’s also a wonderful opportunity to get to know new people from around the world.

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During the ceremony I try to find a spot on the balcony, which overlooks a crowd of several hundred redheads, while trying not to lose sight of my wife. I usually don’t need to worry about losing my wife in a crowd, but when everybody has the same hair color as her, I need to keep a watchful eye :). You will be surprise to learn that there are many types of “ginger” genes out there, not just for fair skinned people, even dark skinned people can get a reddish hue in their hair, as seen in some of my photos.

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Immediately after the ceremony, people walk slowly toward the park for the annual record-breaking count of redheads. Two years ago we even broke a Guinness world record. While crammed in one spot, it is a perfect opportunity to shoot portraits of people. My wife thinks that I only shoot pretty redhead girls, but I actually try to do as many portraits as possible (of everyone!).

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The festival is not only for redheads but also for their friends, anyone who wishes to participate can come, in fact the city is crawling with photographers and videographers from all around the world. Everyone is welcome!

Thank you for reading.

My facebook photography blog: https://www.facebook.com/oricohenphotography

May 192015
 
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Quick Photo Tip: Get to the level of your subject!

One thing I learned many years ago is that when taking a photo of someone or something, the image is usually better when taken at the level of your subject. The majority of you here know this, but some will not and it can greatly improve your photos. I see so may shots of parents who take photos of their children and the child is dead center of the frame, and shot from a high angle as the parents do not crouch down to get to the child’s level.

A quick way to improve those shots of your kids crouch down to their level and take the shot unless you are going for a unique angle. Getting closer and to the level of your subject will make the photo more interesting, intimate and will be more powerful most of the time. I remembered this yesterday when I was being lazy taking a picture of my dog Olive. I just pointed my camera down to her and snapped. Then I said to myself…”stop being lazy” and I crouched down to her level and snapped again. I much prefer the 2nd shot where I was to her level.

While  this is a pleasant image with great quality and snap, I am looking down to my subject. While I like this shot, I prefer the next one after I crouched down to her level. 

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Here we see more character in her face..her curiosity as to why I am in front of her with this black box in her face…it’s more personal and revealing I think. Works the same way with human subjects ;) 

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While I am not a guy who follows all the rules of photography (as I feel we should sometimes break the rules as this is how we can get out or ruts or even come up with an amazing shot) I do feel this one is a good one. Still, there may be some who prefer shot #1 to shot #2, which goes to show, we all are unique and like what we like ;)

Hope you are all having a great Tuesday! Later this week, the Sony 90 Macro lens review, A look at the Samsung NX1, a look at the Zeiss 35 1.4 ZM on the new Monochrom and much more!

May 192015
 
image025

Return to film: Spring flowers in San Francisco

By Dirk Dom

Hi!

The last two years I’ve been serious about black and white on film and I grew to enjoy grain very much. With my Hasselblad Xpan I shot Kodak Ektar and fuji Superia 400 and I immensely liked the results. My Olympus PEN digital camera is extremely good, but I got tired of color noise. Film grain is beautiful, digital color noise is ugly.

So when I went to san Francisco this easter, I had my Xpan, my canon F1 and my Olympus PEN with me. And, not to my surprise, I didn’t shoot a single digital shot.

I wanted a creamy and graphical look for my flowers. The cream comes from shooting with a Canon FD 85mm f/1.2, at f/1.2. The graphical part comes from Fuji Superia 800. I used a 3 stop ND filter all the time. I used extension tubes. I don’t think there is any modern camera system that allows this kind of shots with modern lenses. Digitally, the Sony A7 with Canon FD 85mm f/1.2 and extension tubes and a $30 adapter would do the job perfectly. But I shot at ground level a lot, you’d need to use the screen, then.

Today I got my negatives back and I’ve met my objectives. This was what I had in mind. Sharpness freaks will be disappointed: this is not about sharpness but about beauty and atmosphere.

Film is beautiful.

Enjoy!

California is in its fourth year of draught, so there weren’t many flowers. Still, I got nice shots.
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Pacifica. A lily.

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At the beach.

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Also near the beach.

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Poppy, Golden Gate Park.

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Golden Gate Park. Shot through a flower in the foreground, focused on a flower behind. With the Canon F1 speedfinder I can shoot right to ground level.

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Cherry tree.

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The 85mm sometimes gives rainbows.

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Beach near the Golden Gate: great diversity of flowers. Unfortunately, they were mowing the path when I got there. 

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Poppies at f/1.2.

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Grain. Love it!

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Bernal Hill, all the flowers were already gone.

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Bye,
Dirk.

May 082015
 

Spring time with the NEW Petzval Art lens

By Dierk Topp

petzval_box_01

Hi Steve & Brandon,

on October 8, 2014 I read about the NEW Petzval Art lens in your blog – http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/10/08/the-lomography-petzval-art-lens-review-surreal-beauty/

…and wrote this comment:

Hi Steve, you got me! I saw and read this and needed less that 30 min. to order it for my A7R. Two days later I got the lens and enjoyed very much shooting with it. After the gray winter I took it last week and started shooting in our spring wood. You wrote everything about the lens and I don’t have anything to add. Just a few quotes from your conclusion:

“…I was hooked. After shooting off 10 frames or so I was sold.”

“…this lens has some craziness to the rendering, but I am a crazy guy so I love it. But…I would tire of it if I used it daily, really quick. Depending on the background of your subject you could end up with a nasty busy mess or a beautiful ethereal image that looks like a painting. But it does take practice to determine the best distance from subject to lens and subject to background. Get these just right and the images deliver the look you want. It’s a hell of a lens!”

Here are my Spring Time pictures with this special lens, all with f/2.2 on the Sony A7R. These images and more here in my flickr album.

#1

Sony A7R with New Petzval 2.2/85mm@f/2.2

#2

Sony A7R with New Petzval 2.2/85mm@f/2.2

#3

if you look at this on a large screen, you get dizzy:-))

Sony A7R with New Petzval 2.2/85mm@f/2.2

#4

Sony A7R with New Petzval 2.2/85mm@f/2.2

#5

Sony A7R with New Petzval 2.2/85mm@f/2.2

#6

Sony A7R with New Petzval 2.2/85mm@f/2.2

#7

Sony A7R with New Petzval 2.2/85mm@f/2.2

#8

the new Petzval lens 2.2/85mm on Sony A7R

#9

Sony A7R with New Petzval 2.2/85mm@f/2.2

#10

Sony A7R with New Petzval 2.2/85mm@f/2.2

#11

and one from last October with this extreme bokeh again

The new Petzval 85/2.2 on Sony A7R@f/2.2

#12

I like it for stills as well

the new Petzval lens 2.2/85mm on Sony A7R @ f/2.2

#13

and of course for portraits, this one with f/5.6 for the shot you have to keep the eyes in the center and crop later in PP for the desired image

the new Petzval lens 2.2/85mm on Sony A7R

#14

here is the beauty on the Sony A7R

the new Petzval lens 2.2/85mm on Sony A7R

#15

and next to an other beauty, the Zeiss OTUS 1.4/85mm

shot with Sony A7R with Micro Nikkor PC 85mm/2.8, tilted

shot with Sony A7R with Micro Nikkor PC 85mm/2.8, tilted

regards
dierk

May 062015
 

JPDoublemoon

The Power of Symmetry

By José Pazó 

In this article, the third one I am sending you, I am going to talk about an unexpected camera: The Nikon S32.

It is a very simple, waterproof, Coolpix series, yellow piece of plastic. Probably, for many out there, one of the worst cameras anyone can buy. The specifications are incredibly basic: diminutive sensor, lots of noise and tones of glare. All types of chromatic aberrations and quirks of use. At least, very cheap. I bought it for my 2 years old daughter, but cameras are always nice temptations. At the end, like Homer Simpson does with his bowling ball for Marge, this camera was partially for me. Do not tell my daughter.

s32

My prior two articles have been about film, b&w film. I like mechanical cameras (Leica M3, Hassy 503), old glass and expected and unexpected results. I still keep some reservations about digital cameras. I have a semi-old Ricoh GRD and a Pentax K01 that I like because nobody likes it. Call me old-fashioned, but pixels are like gremlins in my deep reptilian mind. Preys for ghostbusters. So I bought the Nikon S32, and when into my hands this yellow piece of soap came (probably the most non-ergonomic camera I have tried –slippery as hell), and while playing with it, the miracle showed up in the ancient form of symmetry. ¡Symmetry!

I guess I am a very asymmetrical type of guy. Although I like and practice yoga, one of my legs is shorter than the other, and size and shape of my nostrils are very unequal. Maybe that is the reason why I love Japanese art so much, because of its tendency towards asymmetry. While asymmetry is humble, subtle, suggestive and dynamic, symmetry is solid, pompous, affirmative and static. Symmetry is in general very much related with power. Japanese art tends towards asymmetry, but Chinese art (and power) leans towards symmetry. Japan hides power; China shows it. So I guess that, with the Nikon S32, a Japanese camera, I discovered ancient China and its marks in the Western world and in my reptilian brain.

JP5floatertree

Symmetry creates admiration, or at least aw (The White House, the Taj Mahal). It also produces endless decoration (the Cordoba’s Mosque, the vegetal decorative motives of the Alhambra). Symmetry is also present in almost any altar or oratory in the world. Our bodies also tend towards symmetry (at least some bodies), our faces too. Studies have shown that babies prefer symmetrical faces, and religious iconography indulges in it. Greece was almost symmetrical, Rome was over symmetrical, gothic cathedrals and Viking homes were too, the Empire State Building is symmetrical. Butts are. Busts too. Eyes, fruits, shells… (When they forget Fibonacci, another aurean way of symmetry). Monsters and extraterrestrial beings are usually symmetrical. Hearts not so much. That is probably why they keep us unbalanced. But they produce rhythm, and rhythm is symmetrical. Trees are rotationally symmetrical and so are kaleidoscopes, one of my childhood loves.

JP4tree

 

Nikon S32 can produce symmetrical images. If I were a fashion photographer, I would be using it to play with models to create enticing, almost religious, visions. Since I am a mere dilettante, I am sending you a batch of everyday pictures. They are technically terrible, but visually addictive. Interiors, monsters, altars, flying trees and perfect landscapes. Etscheresque, for those who enjoy Etscher, the painter. At least for my obsessive brain. This first batch includes photos related with the vegetal world. I do not know if you are going to find enough merit in them to be published, not to even mention other batches. If so, thank you in advance.
As always, regards from Madrid to the whole Steve Huff’s clan. Keep your vision and very personal approach, I find lots of value in it. And the same for all of you who write or visit here. Tons of talent around. I do not have a webpage or similar. Thinking of making one but, for the moment, I enjoy just sending pics to others. So, hasta la symmetrical vista.

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JPflower

JPcorner

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JPgreenhouse

JPmountain

JPDoublemoon

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JP3tree

Apr 202015
 

Shooting Streets with the Olympus OM-1

By Justin Halim

With so many people buying the ever-more popular Olympus OM mirrorless cameras, I thought I would pay homage to the original OM – the OM-1 35mm SLR – with which the mirrorless system derives its name and styling.

The OM-1 is an incredible camera, period.  Based on the Leica M camera (it was even called the M-1 before Leica complained about it), the OM-1 maintains the same philosophy of its German inspiration – simplicity.  This has led many to call the OM-1 the Leica SLR – they have identical dimensions, similar dial placements, and similar shooting methods.  And like the Leica M, the OM is the perfect street photographer’s camera.  I actually got very lucky with my system – after Hurricane Sandy a couple years ago, I was cleaning my house and found a bag with four OM Zuiko lenses – a 28mm f2.8, a 35mm f2.8 SHIFT, a 135mm f2.8, and a 50mm f1.8, along with a beaten up Olympus OM-G (the consumer OM model).  I can’t even describe how excited I was by this – I immediately went on eBay and bought myself a nice OM-1 to mount the lenses.

Coming from a Leica M6, I found the OM-1 very intuitive and natural to use.  It is very small (it fits perfectly in a Leica M case), built incredibly well, and very elegant – it doesn’t have the “industrialness” of a Nikon F3, but more of a jewelry-like quality, like a fine Swiss watch.  The viewfinder is the biggest and brightest viewfinder I have ever looked through, the shutter makes just a soft whispery click, and the Zuiko lenses are simply amazing – they have a certain character that makes pictures pop out at you.  I actually often find myself preferring my OM-1 to my Leica M6.  And to top it all off, they are dirt-cheap – I got my OM-1 with a 50mm 1.8 for just $70!  For anyone looking to get into 35mm film, I highly recommend this camera.

From a shooter’s perspective, the OM-1 is like a breath of fresh air to shoot.  It is so easy and so simplistic – it is that rare camera that makes shooting just pure fun.  Everything about it allows for quick and efficient shooting.  With its portable and unobtrusive design, quick focusing system and versatile lenses, it is an outstanding street photography camera.  In fact, I only ever really use it for the occasions I shoot street photography, which is kind of a shame – it deserves to be used more. My parents both work NYC, so on the days they bring me, I spend hours just walking around with my OM-1 taking pictures of whatever, just because it is so much fun to use.   Using this camera is what makes me look forward to my visits to the city.

Thank you everyone for reading and thank you Steve for publishing this article!  I hope you all enjoy the pictures!  I believe all photos were taken with the 135mm f2.8 Zuiko and 50mm f1.8 Zuiko, on Kodak Ektar, Iflord PanF, and Kodak TMax.

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/112710288@N03/

Instagram: http://instagram.com/justinhalim/

Washington Square Fountain 

1 

This man noticed I was taking pictures, and approached me asking if I wanted a rap in exchange for a portrait and a couple of bucks.  I don’t regret saying yes.

2

In NYC parks, chess is a very popular game.  Chess tables are built into the ground, and many players will sit and call out to passerby’s asking if they want to play.

 3

There are hundreds of street musicians in NYC, but this musician is my favorite.  He plays in a duo called the Outlaw Ritual with whom I believe is his wife (I may be wrong), and they can always get a crowd going.

4

One of the many “Pigeon Men” of Washington Square.  They attract pigeons and let the birds perch on them.  Sometimes they hand pigeons over to tourists for fun.

5

I had never actually seen one of the people who hang the posters that line NYC’s streets, so I found this strangely interesting.

6

In the summer, the city boasts some surprisingly colorful gardens.

7 

Even among all the concrete, there are plenty of grassy spots to sit and relax (or study, as many NYU students do in the park).

8 

The other half of Outlaw Ritual.

 9

One of the many ways people get their voices heard in the city – chalking messages on the sidewalk.

10

Apr 102015
 

Medium format goes medieval: comparing a Nikon DSLR with the latest from PhaseOne

By Andrew Paquette – His Website is HERE

A couple weeks ago I started making plans to do a photo shoot at the ruins of a local castle. I intended to bring my D800 and a Zeiss 55mm Otus as the primary rig, along with an A7r with a Zeiss ZA 135mm for action and close-up shots. However, a few days before the shoot, my wife and I were talking about medium format systems, the photographer Jason Bell, and then PhaseOne medium format cameras. To find out more about PhaseOne, I performed a few searches on the Internet, but didn’t get very far with pricing information because every page led me to a form that I could use to get a free test drive of a PhaseOne system. I was primarily interested in knowing what a refurbished system cost, but since I had to fill out the form to find out, I filled it out. A few days passed, and then on the day before the shoot, I got a call from PhaseOne. Would I like to borrow a camera for a test drive? The rig suggested by the salesman was the 645DF+, the IQ250 50MP digital back (their first CMOS sensor), and a Schneider Kreuznach 80MM f/2.8 leaf shutter lens. This is the exact same rig Bell mentioned when talking about one of his shoots. Curious to see how it would work out, and with a little trepidation that GAS syndrome may have just had a peek in the room, I decided to try it out.

Dungeon corridor, shot with a PhaseOne 645DF+ and Schneider Kreuznach 80mm LS f/2.8

Settings: f/2.8, 1/5 ISO 400
Considering the slow shutter speed here, I really should have shot this at a higher ISO

Dungeon corridor

—-

Shot with a PhaseOne 645DF+ and Schneider Kreuznach 80mm LS f/2.8
Settings: f/3.2, 1/60 ISO 400

Robin in red

The primary reason I was curious about medium format in the first place had to do with my discovery that almost all of the photos I like the most were shot on medium format systems. In one case, a photographer had one shoot of many on her site that I liked a lot, while the rest were good but not as creatively inspiring. That one shoot was done with a PhaseOne. The more I looked, the more references to medium format and PhaseOne I saw. What finally decided me to look into it was a photographer who wrote how he had tried and tried to make images that had qualities he associated with his favourite photographers, like Annie Liebowitz, but couldn’t do it until he switched to medium format. Until then, he thought there was some problem with the way he was taking the photos, setting up the lights, or editing them in software. It wasn’t any of those things—it was the type of camera he used. After switching, he was able to get the look he wanted.

The D800 and the Zeiss 55mm Otus is a very nice combination for DSLR shooting. Short of the D800E or D810, it is about as good as it gets. The lens is the second-highest ranking lens rated by DxO labs (after the 85mm Otus), and the camera is one of the highest rated among DSLRs. The Phase One is similarly one of the best offerings from a brand that is popular among professional photographers. From my perspective, I wanted to know if the image quality difference would be noticeable, and if it would be worth the huge price difference between the two systems. Lately I have been gravitating toward portraits and fashion, both of which genres seem to benefit from medium format cameras.

Disclaimer:

This purpose of this article is to provide some information about how a high end DSLR system compares to a well-regarded medium format system, for those who are considering a switch. This is not meant to be a definitive scientific test. There are plenty of examples of beautiful work by professional photographers on the PhaseOne website, as well as on Nikon’s and Zeiss’s websites. These are great for showing the best possible results from the most highly regarded photographers, but it is hard to know from these gallery images what went into the shoots. What I found difficult to find were articles that compared DSLRs and medium format cameras by shooting something outside the range of normal technical tests, which are usually just a couple of distant buildings, a girl in the forest, and head shots of the camera salesmen at Photokina.

Expectations:

When I rode the train up to the PhaseOne dealer, I was fantasizing about getting some pretty amazing shots simply because I was using a PhaseOne. That said, I knew the possibility of that happening was remote. The D800 and Otus are an excellent combination and I had been using them for a year. Comparing that to an unfamiliar system automatically puts the PhaseOne at a disadvantage. Another problem is that the DSLR is much more useable in low light than the PhaseOne—or at least most medium format cameras, which operate best at 100 to 200 ISO (with 400 ISO the maximum). The IQ250 back I was using was different because it could go up to 6400 ISO. Despite this, I was thinking of the PhaseOne as a system that required studio lights, as opposed to the D800, which worked fine without them. I was planning on using a reflector and sunlight for the shoot, and had no room in my transportation for lighting gear. I hoped this wouldn’t compromise the PhaseOne too much, but that was what I had to work with so I’d just have to see how it turned out.

At the store, the salesman gave me a quick tour of the camera. During this short tutorial I shot a couple images of objects in the store. What I saw really surprised me: there were prominent green and magenta bands running along the edges of many white objects in the scene. Most of the Zeiss lens line have very little fringing problems, and the Otus has none. I literally hadn’t seen fringing for months because I have been using the Otus as my go-to lens. Even when I use other Zeiss lenses, like the ZA 135mm f/1.8, I rarely have fringing issues. Seeing fringing on the first couple of shots taken with the PhaseOne was disheartening, but on the other hand, the system I had in my hands was the same one used by the royal family’s photographer. There had to be a way around it.

Because of my concerns about the lighting and the lens, I was prepared for the test to go either way, but was rooting for the PhaseOne, if for no other reason but that it is always fun to discover a way to improve the quality of one’s images. It was a fairly dark day, so most of the shots were made with the camera mounted on a tripod.

Conclusions:

Ergonomics… The 645DF+ felt great in my hands, the menus on the touchscreen were easy to understand and big buttons were easy to press without accidentally pushing something else (as I do more often than I like with the D800 and A7r). The optical viewfinder was like looking into the detachable Zacuto viewfinder I use on my Nikon, but integrated with the camera and brighter. The live view screen was very nice, slightly higher resolution than the LV on the D800, and most importantly, the IQ250 has the built-in ability to transmit the live view and preview photos to an iDevice. I tested this on my iPad and it worked very well, using the free app provided by PhaseOne, Capture Pilot. This app can also be used as a remote trigger for the camera. This functionality makes focus checking trivially easy compared to the D800 (and probably the D810 as well) because of the much larger iPad screen. Overall, I felt that the camera was easier to hold, to carry, and to use in some ways than the D800. The only exception to this are the aperture and shutter control dials, which are smaller and thinner than their Nikon counterparts. This isn’t a big deal, but I found them more difficult to find and use than on the D800, probably because I’m not used to them.
The case this camera came in was much bigger and heavier than it needed to be for a camera that felt to be about the same weight as the D800 + Otus. As for overall dimensions, they weren’t much different there either. If I were to get one of these, I’d probably opt for a backpack instead of the gorilla-proof case I was handed for the tryout.

Image quality… Overall, I liked several of the shots from both cameras. In all but one of the examples where I shot exactly the same subject with both cameras, I preferred the PhaseOne result. I shot the PhaseOne in aperture priority mode because I wanted to avoid an excessively shallow depth of field in shots with multiple actors. This worked against the PhaseOne because I was able to use much faster shutter speeds with the Nikon. I initially had the impression that the Schneider-Kreuznach lens was softer than the Otus because the images themselves were softer overall, but the slower shutter speeds almost certainly allowed enough motion to lose some sharpness compared to the Nikon.
Despite the slight softness to images shot with the PhaseOne, in all but one example where I shot the same scene with both cameras, I preferred the PhaseOne because of the superior colours and tonal range. Both camera/lens combinations produced nice images, but the colours that came out of the PhaseOne were noticeably stronger.

I’m not totally convinced that the PhaseOne is hands-down better than the Nikon/Otus combination, but am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt until I have the opportunity to test it again*. I do know that the colour from the PhaseOne system and richer tones are very appealing compared to the more limited range available in the Nikon system.

*Update: I have retested the Phase One system and answered some of the questions left with the previous shoot.

1) The colour differences between the two systems are partly attributable to having used Capture One to process the Phase One shots but Lightroom for the Nikon shots. Despite this, the greater dynamic range of the IQ250 over the D800 is obvious.

2) The CA problem with the SK lens is very real but goes away at higher f-stops. I did some shots of dark tree branches against the sun at f/2.8 (heavy fringing) and f/5 (no fringing) as a test. If shooting at less contrasty subjects, the bigger apertures can be used. The Otus remains the winner in this category.

3) The SK lens is very sharp when setup properly. It really doesn’t like low light situations, and ‘low light’ for the Phase One is a lot brighter than for the D800. I had been setting the Phase One to match the Nikon settings—a big mistake because medium format requires more light than a 35mm.

4) The Capture Pilot utility is really awesome to use. It helps get steadier shots, and allows high resolution exposure and focus checks in the field.

Below are some more of the images from the shoot (and at the end, a couple of bonus shots from the more recent test):

Brigands. Shot with a PhaseOne 645DF+ and Schneider Kreuznach 80mm LS f/2.8
Settings: f/6.3, 1/15 ISO 200

Brigands

Dejeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the grass). Shot with a PhaseOne 645DF+ and Schneider Kreuznach 80mm LS f/2.8
Settings: f/2.8, 1/223 ISO 200

Renaissance battle_4

Thom. Shot with a PhaseOne 645DF+ and Schneider Kreuznach 80mm LS f/2.8
Settings: f/3.5, 1/111 ISO 200

Thom

Merlyn. Shot with a PhaseOne 645DF+ and Schneider Kreuznach 80mm LS f/2.8
Settings: f/9, 1/7 ISO 100

Merlyn 1

Merlyn. Shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4
Settings: f/7.1, 1/125 ISO 125

Merlyn 2

Unruffled. Shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4
Settings: f/5.6, 1/100 ISO 1200

Unruffled

Sparring. Shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4
Settings: f/7.1, 1/30 ISO 125

Sparring

Triple portrait. Shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4
Settings: f/4, 1/200 ISO 125

Triple portrait

Robin. Shot with a Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4
Settings: f/3.5, 1/100 ISO 200

Robin at the window

_______________________
The new test shots were made primarily to check CA and sharpness of the SK lens. All were shot with the 645 DF+, IQ250, and SK 80mm LS lens. Here they are:

Sunset fence 014

mirrored wetlands

RiverBend

Apr 072015
 

Lots of new stuff arriving!! Bags, Cases, Goodies..

Hey to all! Hope you are having a wonderful start to the week! It has been busy here for me with work, family time, hobbies and non stop LIFE happening. Time sure does fly when you are having fun, that is not a lie! In any case, just an update on some new things coming in, upcoming reviews and maybe a rumor or two…

The beautiful new Summarit 35..review VERY soon along with the 50, 75 and 90.

summ

LEICA

Leica seems to have been slipping a but lately but I am confident that they will bounce back with something new, special and WOW. I mean, they HAVE To. They have a new CEO yet again and maybe they are going to change strategies? If they got me into a meeting I would tell them to release THIS:

A REAL Mini M rangefinder. M mount. Basic, no video, no-nonsense. Just the camera, the exposure dial, the power button and the shutter. Make it mini-fied, not as solid as the M 240, but a compromise between a real M and something like an X. A mini rangefinder M camera WITH built in RF/EVF hybrid. A real RF though, not a fake on like Fuji uses. Price: $3500-$3700 MAX. THIS would be a hit. This and the new Summarits would rock the world. Will it happen? Probably not but one can dream, and it would boost Leica’s sales in a huge way.

Speaking of the Summarits, Ken Hansen (email: [email protected]) was kind enough to ship me ALL four new Summarits  so I can review them! (when I send them back he will be selling  them as Demo’s at a great price, so be on the lookout). I hear nothing but GREAT things about the new Summarit line and being Leica’s most affordable lenses, I am anxious to give them a try. My Safari M is waiting :) HOPEFULLY I do not fall for the 50, 75 or 90 as I will want to buy them. Being a reviewer has it’s pros and cons you know. Lol. I always review stuff that I want to keep.

So look out for the Summarit reviews in 2-3 weeks. 

Also for my Safari set I have a VERY cool bag and case on the way from Angelo Pelle. He is sending me his Henri bag in Camo as well as a Half case in Camo, perfect for the Safari. Angelo does amazing work, each case is hand stitched and takes a few days to make. He is working on mine as I type this. The bag will hold the Safari with lens and one other lens inside a lens pouch. Take a look at the bag, and the Camo case on a Sony A7II. Pretty sweet! When it arrives I will be doing a full video review of the bag, the case and my Angelo Pelle case for my A7II. Lovely hand made items for two amazing cameras.

See more at his website HERE. 

HENRI-BAG-CAMOUFLAGE

A7II-CAMO

Speaking of the Leica Safari M-P set, check with PopFlash.com and Ken Hansen if you want one while there are a few left. To me, it is the best deal ever for a Leica special edition as it comes in CHEAPER than if you bought the standard pieces separate! You save about $1000 and get a limited edition set with a gorgeous silver 35 cron. The cron is YUMMY. It’s a gorgeous set which I will also have a video on this week. But yea, the cron on the M is beautiful..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All 35 Summicron, at f/2 – the color, the detail the “organicness” is all there..at least I see it! I chose to make them VIVID with color pop! All test shots to see if my RF was focusing correct and it was.

cron1yellowhat

flagusa

sign

So Leica will be getting some attention here on these pages REAL soon. The Safari set, the new Summarit line and maybe even more surprises. To get you Leica fix, as mentioned, check with Ken Hansen, PopFlash.com, The Pro Shop for Photographers or LeicaStoreMiami.com 

MORE BAGS!

RCB01-BL-S-1

Check out  this beauty above. It is the HoldFastGear.com Roamographer Mini. I own the full size Roamographer and for me it is the highest quality bag I own, even surpassing the amazing and great Wotancraft bags for construction and quality. When the full size Roamograoher arrived I requested they make a MINI version, and they told me they were working on one, and here it is.

RCB01-BL-S-5

I love my full size Roamographer BUT for me it is a tad too large. I have a Mini on the way and will be reviewing it as soon as it arrives. For me it looks like it can hold a Sony A7 system with a couple of lenses or a Leica M system with a few lenses or an Olympus system with a few lenses. It is small enough to remain compact yet not so small as to cause a problem. I use my Wotancraft Ryker EVERY single day. I love my Wotancraft THOR..will the new Roamographer Mini be my new fave? Check back soon for a full review. If you want to check out the Roamographer in more detail, see my review of the original full size bag HERE or see the website at HoldFastGear.com for more.  Yes, some of you will cry MAN PURSE but hey, these are amazing quality bags from build to style, and I am confident as can be in my masculinity, so I like Man Purses. They do the job when I have to carry goods around with me. :)

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SONY

I still have to finish my Sony 35 1.4 Zeiss lens review (1st hand on look is HERE). This lens is a BEAUTIFUL beast. Large, in charge and outputs some serious IQ, in line with the Leica 35 1.4 Summilux. Only neg is that it is LARGE. I also hope to try the wide angle converters for the new 28mm lens (my review here) and the new 90 Macro should be arriving SOON. Sony is always releasing new goodies and I have a hard time reviewing them all, so I stick with what I know will be FANTASTIC.

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VOIGTLANDER

The new 15 f/4.5 Heliar is GORGEOUS. It fixes all past issues when used on digital full frame bodies. It works perfect on the Leica M or the Sony A7 series. No more colored edges or soft corners. THIS is a true 15mm wide angle with no distortion and yes, is the BEST choice IMO for a 15mm view on your Leica or Sony full frame. Price is $750 but it is about equal to other lenses in the $2-$5k range as far as I am concerned. A true deal if you enjoy wide angle from time to time. You can buy it at CameraQuest.com with free shipping and free BW filter. HIGHLY recommended.

1st three is the new 15 VIII on the A7II

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2nd set, all on the Leica M

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Other than that I know there is new stuff coming from Olympus, Sony and others. As always I will review the best of the lot and what I think you guys would enjoy. New bags, new cases, new lenses, new cameras…all on the way. Stay tuned right here as always! Also, keep on the lookout for my new one on one Sedona photo adventure..details soon.

Thanks to you all!

Steve

Mar 302015
 

Leica M-P 240 Lenny Kravitz Edition “Correspondent” Special Edition – Let’s get dead serious here!

By Dirk Dom

When I saw that camera, I thought it was pretty cool. Until I discovered the price. This was the first camera that made me feel sick to my stomach.

I happen to own the most brassed Canon F-1 in existence:

unnamed

This is just so totally different from this Leica. It belonged to a pro sports photographer who shot 400,000 images of soccer through it, with a motor drive attached. I bought it for 200 Euro’s, and it didn’t even need a CLA! It just worked and light metering was spot on. He had changed lenses so often and so brutally fast that the bayonet connecting groove had worn a millimeter.

After a year or so I got the idea of sanding off the black paint from the viewfinder and polishing it:

unnamed-1

For a while I was tempted to give the entire camera this treatment, but then I would take all the character away.

I also have a completely mint F1:

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Not even the tiniest scratch. I decided to shoot it. After two years, shock!!! – I found a trace of brassing at the strap connection. I must say I felt real bad about it, but I got over it and continued using it, after all, that’s what a camera is for.

Now, this craziness of producing a pre brassed Leica for $ 24,500.

I’d sell my Canon for that price. But not for $ 10,000; my Canon is unique. It’s more a work of art than a utensil. No one has a camera that went through 400,000 shots and I have it. Maybe I’ll put another 50,000 shots through it.

The Leica craziness to get to the purest photographic experience plus their limited series thing made me think. I’m an experienced machinist having 3D design programs, computer controlled machines, CAM and fast prototyping to my hands. I work together with the Product Design department of the University of Antwerp. Maybe I could design the unique, ultimate camera for the Leica man.

It proved both very tough and simple: A Leica Man discovers images, recording them is already below him, that’s for other people. He doesn’t need film or silicon to convey his vision.

So I came up with this design:

unnamed-3

Most importantly: the red dot.

No lens. The Leica man’s eyes are sufficient.

No film or sensor.

No settings

One hole to look through, superfluous, because the leica man needs no aids for composition. The hole is carefully crafted round because roundness is perfection, like the round red dot.

No rangefinder.

One hole for the strap.

316 stainless steel for thousands and thousands of years of non destructibility. Carefully partially deburred by hand by a dedicated, experienced craftsman while still showing the roughness of the initial machining. The 45 degrees angled edge is a very personal artistic statement and the only give to brutal functionality. The ultimate limited series of only one!

Price: if you want to know it, you can’t afford it, of course.

Sorry, I just had to get it out, this is what the Lenny Kravitz Leica does to me.

Dirk.

Mar 272015
 

One Camera, One Lens and One Faraway Destination

By Fahad A

Hey Brandon,

Thank you for featuring my previous post I shared earlier this year.

Last summer I decided to go on a quick vacation somewhere far, somewhere I have never been before or even thought about visiting. Looked up the map, found Korea to be distant, far, interesting and not top of mind destination for someone who wants to roam around and take pictures.

Without any preconceptions about South Korea, I took a plane to Seoul, accompanied with a small suitcase that barely carries a couple of shirts, and a backpack that for my laptop and camera.

Few hours before the flight, I had a quick debate with myself about which gear should I take along with my Leica M + Summicron 50mm (V4), should i take the tiny Fuji 100s ? or should I take along the Nokton 35mm 1.2.

I decided to keep both Fuji and Nokton lens at home. went to Seoul with only one camera, and one lens! which means I’m stuck with 50mm focal length for the entire trip.

Did I regret it? I don’t think so. I enjoyed the limitation of only one lens. and how I should adapt with the focal length rather than replacing it or take out another camera with a different lens whenever I need to.

I might have missed few shots that were easier with a wider lens, however I’d sacrifice them anytime for the experience I got from limiting myself to 50mm.

Fahad A

For the full set, please take a look here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/fahad85/sets/72157648593556971/

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Mar 242015
 

paul

LENS BATTLE: CANON  vs LEICA 

by Paul Bartholomew

Dear Steve

This is my second user report I’ve written for your great site but this one is quite different from my last one (An Englishman in New York).

I’ve been a Canon user for years having had a 5DMK II, a 7DMK I and the camera I shot for part of this review the excellent Canon 5D MKIII. I have a little Olympus E-PL 1 and a Canon G11 too but my pride and joy is my Leica M240. That camera is the second M I have owned having upgraded from an M9 about 18 months ago. And what an upgrade! I really can’t understand those who prefer the M9, the colours, the noise, the dynamic range – all much better on the M240 to my mind, with live view to boot with EVF support (this is important for this article).

I’m not exaggerating when I say the Leica M240 is the camera I had hoped the M9 would have been, but whenever I shot with the M9 I found the images a little muddy in their tones – like the files were missing some information – not so with the M240.

After bumping along happily with both the 5D MKIII and the Leica M240, I realised the Canon was mostly staying in its foam-lined drawer in my study, I preferred to shoot with the M240. This wasn’t something that had happened with the M9 – the 5D MKIII gave me better images, but not so when compared to the M240. So, I began to wonder whether I actually needed the 5D MKIII… Of course letting go of the body was one thing but letting go of the lenses was quite another. At this point in time I owned a 300mm f/2.8L (easy to get rid of, I seldom shoot long), a 24-105 f/4L – a nice enough lens but not one that I actually used that much, a 16-35mm f/2.8L II – a lens I was nervous to lose (the widest I had for the Leica was 28mm) and a 85mm f/1.2L II – a gem of a lens that I loved. These two lenses were the anchor of my Canon system – they were preventing me from moving on.

However, when I sat down and worked out how much I would get by selling the Canon kit new possibilities opened up, but first I needed to see whether I could fill the niches of my Canon anchor lenses with a couple of Leica compatible lenses. Here’s what I bought: For the wide end a Voigtlander 21mm f/1.9 and for the fast portrait niche a Leica 80mm f/1.4 Summilux R (with a Novoflex R to M adaptor) – my EVF for my little Olympus would be put to good use! These two lenses complemented my existing M lenses – a Zeiss 28mm f/2.8, a Jupiter 35mm f/2.8, a Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 (calibrated to f/1.5) and a Jupiter 85mm f/2. To be honest, I never really used the Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 that much – too long for street work and for portraits I found it to have too much contrast for my taste.

Once I’d secured the lenses I thought I would do a comparison shoot before I made a decision whether I could/should divest myself of the Canon kit (although by this point the 300mm had already gone). So, I booked a model that I’d worked with on previous occasions and set to work. Some notes first though… I’d never done a lens test before so apologies for any errors in the process I may have made, also – the M240 doesn’t record lens data from my non-coded lenses and estimates the aperture based on the exposure settings. In some of the pictures my model Holly is holding up fingers to help me record the aperture I was shooting at.

Long end first – the Canon 16-35 f/2.8L II @ f/2.8 at 21mm (TOP) vs the Voigtlander 21mm @ f/2.8 (Bottom) – click images for larger!

Canon21mmf2.8

Voigt21mmf2.8

Of course with all of the camera and lens changes, I forgot to let Holly know that the Canon would collect its own data! Indeed the EXIF data let me know that I was actually at 22mm, not 21mm.

I don’t think there is that much in it in terms of sharpness but the Canon lens shows less divergence of vertical. Nonetheless I prefer the tones from the Leica. I also think more shadow detail is captured, look at the purple sofa and Holly’s dress in the Leica/Voigt. combination. Unsurprisingly, both lenses show some chromatic aberration in the window frame.

At f/5.6 both lenses now have the chromatic aberration broadly under control:

Top is Canon, bottom is Voigtlander. Click images for larger!

Canon21mmf5.6

Voigt21mmf5.6

Differences in colour balance / colour rendering aside, the Leica/Voigt. combination seems to hold much more detail now and is much sharper at the edges of the frame, look at the green Tibetan chair-bed bottom left.

Peripheral sharpness picks up on the Canon at f/8 (TOP) but it is still outperformed by the Voigtlander (BOTTOM):

Canon21mmf8

Voigt21mmf8

This was enough to convince me that despite the 16mm to 21mm wide end variance, the Leica and Voigtlander would look after me. And…. The Voigtlander could shoot at f/1.9:

Voigt21mmf1.9

I then went a little longer and compared the mid-range of the Canon with my Zeiss 28mm f/2.8. First, wide open. TOP is CANON, bottom is ZEISS, both at f/2.8:

Canon28mmf2.8

Zeiss28mmf2.8

Here, it’s a mixed picture, more chromatic aberration in the window frame with the Canon but it is giving better shadow detail (look at the front of the cabinet) and it is sharper in the peripheries of the frame. The Zeiss is sharper in the middle and could be said to have greater contrast (the flip side of the lower shadow detail). I prefer the colours with the Leica/Zeiss combo though.

At f/5.6, the Canon looks really good, the chromatic aberration is under control , central sharpness is higher too. Slight exposure differences aside, the Canon is still showing less contrast than the Zeiss – which is now showing sharpness to rival the Canon right across the frame.

At f/8, it’s really only the higher contrast of the Zeiss that is separating them:

Canon28mmf5.6

Zeiss28mmf5.6

So, after all that I felt I was OK at medium wide – especially give the relative sizes of the two setups!

Just for fun, I thought I’d compare the long end of the Canon 16-35mm with my diminutive vintage Soviet – the Jupiter 35mm f/2.8 – I was not expecting comparable images and the differences were clear at f/2.8. Canon on top, Jupiter and M on the bottom:

Canon35mmf2.8

Jupiter35mmf2.8

The Canon, even wide open at the long end of its zoom range, seems to control chromatic aberration well and is offering significantly more contrast than when zoomed out. It’s pretty sharp right across the frame too. The Jupiter is another story altogether, unable to control the bright window light, the veiling flare lowers the contrast significantly and although centre sharpness is at least as high as with the Canon, it drops off drastically as we move away from the centre. Look at the candle on the left and even Holly’s feet on the right. I do like that vintage look though, it’s why I bought the lens.

Canon35mmf5.6

Jupiter35mmf5.6

As shown above, at f/5.6 there’s little to complain about with the Canon and it is significantly sharper than the Jupiter everywhere, including in the centre of the frame. And although contrast and sharpness is better with the Jupiter than it was at f/2.8 it can’t keep up with the Canon. This is the same for f/8 too, as shown below. Canon is the 1st image, the Jupiter is the 2nd.

Canon35mmf8

Jupiter35mmf8

Of course, the Jupiter was never going to be the equivalent of the Canon, but it is a fun little lens to have nonetheless. However, I may need to get myself a higher fidelity M lens if I want to shoot with precision at that focal length.

Now for what I think is probably the main event of this head-to-head review – a comparison of portrait lenses. Mainly, it’s about comparing the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II with the Leica 80mm f/1.4 Summilux R. But, I’m going to throw in the Soviet 85mm f/2 for good measure too.

First of all, at the widest common aperture of f/2, they really are quite different. The Canon is sharp and exhibits high contrast – it is crisp, as one might expect. But when you cast your eye from that image to the clearly softer and lower contrast Leica image, the Canon begins to look a little ‘crunchy’ – I wonder if others would agree? Then comes the Jupiter, like its 35mm cousin it is low in contrast, but nonetheless it does appear to be pretty sharp:

TOP: Canon 85 L at f/2, MIDDLE: Leica R 80mm at f/2, BOTTOM: Jupiter 85 at f/2

Canon85mmf2

leica80mmf2

Jupiter85mmf2

At f/2.8 things aren’t particularly changed – same differences, perhaps just a little less extreme:

Canon, then Leica, then Jupiter

Canon85mmf2.8

leica80mmf2.8

Jupiter85mmf2.8

Of course, one really buys these lenses to shoot wide open – we’ve seen the Jupiter wide open but what about the other two? Firstly, both at f/1.4:

TOP: CANON – BOTTOM: LEICA

Canon85mmf1.4

leica80mmf1.4

I don’t believe the Canon is any sharper now – look at Holly’s eyes on both. The Canon still has more contrast, but I am struck by the sophistication of the Leica image – sharp and soft and the same time. Also, look at the decoration on the wall and the edge of the sunlight, the Canon is exhibiting some chromatic aberration. OK, let’s see the Canon at f/1.2 – that aperture is the reason for buying this lens after all:

Canon85mmf1.2

To me, on the eyes – this looks a bit sharper that the f/1.4 shot. I was shooting from a tripod but perhaps this is just the difference between hitting the eyeball with the focus point rather than the eyelashes. I just don’t know – although Holly’s mouth is sharper too.

All this out of camera comparison is a bit artificial though isn’t it? I’m never going to shoot models (or any portraits for that matter) without editing – I pretty much edit everything. So, given that – if I had to work on the three wide open images from each lens (I pretty much always shoot portraits wide open), what do I get? I’ve deliberately over-edited a little – particularly the eyes (using a detail extractor) because I wanted to see what information was there to be had and to share it with you. They are all edited slightly differently but with the aim of them bringing the best out of the lenses while getting them to a fairly similar end point:

1st CANON, 2nd LEICA, 3rd JUPITER – all wide open

Canon85mmf1.2Edited

leica80mmf1.4Edited

Jupiter85mmf2Edited

I found the results surprising. The ‘crunchiness’ of the Canon (something I’d have never attributed to it prior to putting it against the Leica) was difficult to overcome. Transitions between light and shade seemed to accentuate really easily in the edit and I found the highlights difficult to control too (perhaps related to the sensor rather than the lens). The Leica on the other hand is, I think, quite beautiful – I’ve been able to reveal the sharpness of the lens (look at the eyes) but the softness and smoothness puts the Canon to shame – at least in my view. Then there’s the Jupiter – a dark horse: with a careful edit, it performs really well. Given that it cost me less than 5% of either the Canon (new) or Leica (used) that’s remarkable. I should say I used the EVF for both the Jupiter and the Leica. The Leica isn’t coupled so that was a must, but my Jupiter was designed for another camera and can be a bit focus shifted on an M.

For me the quality of the Leica has surprised me and shows that sharpness on its own can leave you wanting. This test allowed me to be happy to let the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II go, and with it the 5D III and the other lenses too. That’s allowed me to buy a Sony A7 II, a Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8, a Voigtlander close focus M to E adaptor and a Canon 50mm f/0.95 rangefinder coupled lens, which I will get back in a few days when its conversion to M mount is done. I’ve also bought a dinky Nippon Kogaku (Nikkor) 5cm f/1.4 SC for a bit of fun after having let my Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar go too. I’m finding I’m preferring a more classic low contrast look nowadays. So with those bits of kit and some LTM to M adapter rings, I can use all but the Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8 on both cameras and I’ve kept some autofocus capability for shooting moving targets too. Additionally, I think the A7 II with its in-body stabilisation might be useful for some low light work when the need calls.

Altogether I feel I have gained flexibility from making the change.

A final word on the Leica 80mm f/1.4 though… It might not stay. I love how it looks, I’ve included a couple of real (non-test) shots below, but as an R lens it is a bit of a pain to use. Shooting it wide open requires precise focus and it doesn’t exhibit enough contrast for focus peaking to be effective so focusing through the EVF (it can’t be done any other way) needs to be done in zoom. Since there is no coupling, this requires the button on the front of the camera to be pressed, the eyes located, precise focus found (without peaking), the button pressed again to de-zoom, and the frame recomposed. By which time your subject is frustrated. As am I.

So there you have it, a long and rambling lens comparison posting that started out as an exercise for me to inform myself. I hope sharing it will be of interest to others too. I’m not sure how many comparisons between those particular portrait lenses are out there – I haven’t come across any.

At the moment then, I’m really looking forward to getting the 0.95 Canon back, something I wouldn’t have been able to justify buying without selling on the Canon SLR kit and I do feel broadly happy with the lenses I have. I may yet get a stronger 35mm and I may yet swap out the Leica R too.

So, thanks for reading and I’ll leave you with a couple of shots that I made with the 80mm f/1.4 Summilux R. After all, I may not be keeping it for long…

Canal1

Canal2

I hope this reads alright Steve. I’ll send the images on in following emails – it might take two or three.

I hope you will be able to let me know whether you think it is suitable – I hope it is!

Cheers

Paul

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From Steve: As always, for your Leica needs I recommend Ken Hanson, PopFlash.com and LeicaStoreMiami.com

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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