Jul 202015
 
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Getting a Grip on the Leica Q: The Match Technical Thumbs Up EP-SQ grip Review

By Ashwin Rao

Hi everyone,

I recently had a chance to test out a production proof of the Thumbs Up EP-SQ grip for the Leica Q. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Match Technical’ s Thumbs Up grips, they are mountable on a camera’s hot shoe and provide a nice firm rest upon which to rest the thumb. Many people who shoot Leica cameras, which can be slippery in hand at times, prefer to add these grips to the camera. They act similar to how the film-advance levers of days-gone-by work as thumb rests. I can honestly say that this is a great ergonomic addition to the already fantastic Leica Q, adding that little extra bit of purchase that makes Match Technical’s Thumbs Up grips so popular.

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One “criticism” of the Leica Q is that the thumb indent, which Leica astutely placed on the camera’s rear, is a bit too far off to the edge of the camera and creates hand fatigue if solely used for gripping. I definitely found this to be an issue and addressed the issue in part by adding Leica’s own baseplate/grip. The EP-SQ design uses the indent as a method for securing the grip in place, while adding a nice rest that places the photographer’s thumb in a more comfortable position for shooting.

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One important added benefit of this Thumbs Up is that its design limits inadvertently bumping the Diopter adjustment dial(adjacent to the EVF), which often does go out of whack without protection. The grip effectively limits access to this dial, which is a good thing, as it prevents shirts or other factors to bump the deal and cause your EVF to be thrown out of focus.

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Unfortunately, by mounting the Thumbs Up EP-SQ on your Leica Q, lose access to the hotshoe, but with the Q’s ISO capacities, a flash is rarely needed. This, to me, is a small price to play for the ergonomic benefit of having a better grip on the camera.As an owner of the Thumbs Up Grips for the Leica M8, M9, M240, M246, X1, and Fuji XPro-1, I can confidently say that that Thumbs Up EP-SQ does much of the same for the Leica Q as it does for those cameras….it adds a nice secure grip if one feels that they require more than the Leica’s own offerings.

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I personally use the Thumbs Up in conjunction with Leica’s baseplate grip, for a really firm grasp and a camera that’s well balanced for me (not front heavy). However, may prefer to use their cameras with just the Thumbs-Up Grip, and I can confirm that using the camera in this manner feels quite secure as well.

Below are a few more pictures of the grip. I have been a fan of the Match Technical’s Thumbs Up designs for nearly a decade, and I suspect that you too will enjoy the experience of using a Thumbs Up on the Leica Q.

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You can find pre-order options for the EP-SQ through Match Technical’s own site, or through many of Leica’s own authorized dealers.

http://www.matchtechnical.com/Pages/purchase.aspx

Steve’s Leica Q Review – HERE

Ashwin’s Leica Q Review – HERE

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.

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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. 

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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..

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

Nov 252014
 

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The NEW Wotancraft THOR and Ryker Brown Camera Bags!

I love Wotancraft bags. Today, at the end of 2014, I have tested and tried bags from so many companies. Many have been reviewed here, some were used and not reviewed (when I did not care for the item) and a few were used and given away to readers on my Facebook page.

One company that NEVER EVER fails to impress me 100% of the time is Wotancraft. When it comes to QUALITY and FUNCTIONAL and FASHIONABLE bags, Wotancraft is #1 in my book. Sure, there are some mighty fine bag companies out there making beautiful bags today. Artisan & Artist, ONA, Billingham and Hold Fast Gear. Sure, there are bags that are basic and cheaper and VERY functional. Bags like Think Tank are #1 when it comes to function but stylish they are usually not.

Some people could care less about style, and others MUST have style along with the function. For me, the best I have seen EVER for this kind of bag (style and function) is from WOTANCRAFT, without question. This is what makes them my #1 favorite bag company ever. In my last review of their Ryker (black) I was so excited about this bag that they sold out quickly after my review. Many waited 2-3 months for their Ryker as they are produced in limited runs. Many asked me “do they make this beautiful bag in Brown leather as well as black”?

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Well, I am happy to announce that yes, the Ryker is NOW available in Brown as well as black. The brown and black are both here sitting next to me at my desk and I can say that both are just BEAUTIFUL. I feel the brown will wear in better over the years and develop a rich patina but both are equally as impressive in the looks, build quality and materials used as well as FUNCTION, the #1 reason we need a camera bag. This brown would look SO SO good with a silver chrome Leica M housed inside, or even a Fuji X100 or X-T1, Leica TOlympus E-M1 or a Sony A7 series camera. Have a Leica X, that will work as well :)

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In fact, I find for my use that the Ryker is the most functional bag I have owned when using a Leica M or mirrorless system. It’s really that good. 

The new Brown Ryker can be seen in my review video below where I talk about it and the new Thor bag (which is a beautiful beast of a bag). Both are beautiful as well as the best constructed bags I have ever used, tested or owned.

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The new Thor is very interesting as it comes in at a VERY high price tag of $849 USD. Yes, just $150 less than a cool grand. EXPENSIVE? HELL YES. Worth it? Well, that depends in YOU and how m much you are comfortable with when buying a bag of this quality. These are high end bags and are made to a very high standard as well. If you want quality, as in, lifetime quality, these bags will stand the test of time without questions. When you buy a bag such as the Thor ($849 USD) or Ryker ($379 USD) you can expect to own it for the rest of your life. It will travel with you everywhere and only develop character scars from your own use. Patina will develop over time and in 20-30 years the bag will be rich in history and beauty. That is the kind of bag you can expect from Wotancraft. One thing I have learned in my 45+ years on this earth. Buying quality 1st saves you money later as you do not have to replace your items when you buy the good stuff up front. ;)

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I have nothing but high praise for Wotancraft. Premium materials, premium construction and build and super function. These pieces are as good as it gets for me. Highly Recommended.

You can see more about these bags or order them at WOTANCRAFT direct using THIS LINK. You can also see more of what they offer by clicking HERE. 

Wotancraft is also having a special for the Christmas Season. Anyone who buys a bag will receive a very nice travel pouch with their order!

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Sep 152014
 

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HoldFast Gear: The Roamographer Bag and Money Maker strap

To see all of these goodies in more detail, check out HOLDFASTGEAR.COM!

A couple of weeks back I received a message from Matthew Swaggart, the owner of HoldFast Gear. He asked if I would like to review their Roamographer bag, small lens pouch and Money Maker strap system. I knew of HoldFast and knew that they sold only uber high quality and functional gear that also looked fantastic. All leather, all quality hardware and based right here in the USA.

I told Matthew to send me whatever he wanted me to  take a look at and a few days later I received a package containing the new Roamographer bag in Great American Bison Leather, a Navy lens pouch bag and the Money Maker strap in Water Buffalo Tan. When I took everything out of the box I was in awe of the quality. The last time I was this pleased with the quality of an accessory was when I wrote about the Wotancraft bags recently. Like the Wotancraft bag, the HoldFast Roamographer just oozes quality and workmanship.

BUT beware! It is a LARGE bag. This is not a tiny mirrorless system bag, not at all. This is a full-fledged large carry all bag, or what I like to call a “travel bag” as it is one I would personally use for traveling or large jobs, just like the one I did yesterday. It even has a super nice hang tag called the “luggage tag wallet” that can hold your phone, cards, ID, etc that can be added to it (or it can be used alone). When I say it oozes quality, I really mean it. This is up there with the best I have seen, even equaling bags I in the $1200 range. So if you are someone who loves function and style and quality craftsmanship, I am telling you now that you MUST take a look over at the HoldFast site because they offers some of the most unique accessories for photographers that I have ever seen. Gear for pros such as wedding shooters, sports shooters, portrait shooters and even things for enthusiasts who just want the best quality they can get a hold of, all while being very fashionable.

In other words, the HoldFast Gear products all have a certain kind of SWAGGER so it is no surprise that the owners last name is “Swaggart”, lol. Just yesterday Debby told me “I am stealing this bag for our trips”! I told her, “sure thing, just take out the camera insert and you can use it as a normal travel bag”. It’s very versatile.

The Roamograoher is a gorgeous bag my friends but be prepared to pay the fee for that beauty, quality and usefulness. The Roamograoher comes in at $535, but in all reality, it is worth it because this is one of those bags that stay with you for life, and can even be passed down for generations. It will age well and develop a natural patina and softness over the years. This is a bag I have already been complimented on SIX times while out and about with it, people asking me “where did you buy that bag”??

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We have all seen those old classic leather bags from 20-30-4-50 years ago. They usually have a uniqueness to them, a very cool vibe that tells a story. THIS will be one of those bags in 20-30 years. Of all of the bags I have tried, tested, reviewed and used, this is up there with my other favorite, the Wotancraft Ryker.  The Ryker is my go to mirrorless bag that is already breaking in so so well. The Roamographer will be my #1 goto for travel, big treks, jobs and times when I need to carry more such as my macbook air, chargers, lenses, and 2 or 3 bodies. It is perfect for those with a DSLR system as well. Walk into the job with this bag and the money maker strap system and you will look the part and feel it.

Below is a video overview of the bag I did while on location shooting in the Domes of Casa Grande, AZ. It was 106 degrees, I was hot and Brandon was shooting (sorry for the audio dropout part of the video). As you can see it is a gorgeous bag:

One thing I love just as much if not more than the bag though is the Money Maker Strap system. I have known about this for a long while now but never thought I would need it. HOW WRONG WAS I! Man, after getting it all figured out, which took me all of 3 minutes, I started to appreciate the usefulness and versatility of this amazing strap system. The Money Maker is just that, a strap that pros will be able to take serious advantage of. They will gain speed, comfort and will have access to 1, 2, or 3 cameras instantly without fuddling around for a bag, or adjusting a shoulder strap. It is quite the amazing design.

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The MM strap fits around your body comfortably as it is 100% adjustable to your body size. A camera can sit to your left, waist level, to your right and in front of you. It is absolutely comfortable. Many wedding pros use this strap and swear by it. They would not use anything else. If I shot weddings, concerts, or anything where I used more than one camera, this would be my #1 go to accessory. It really is that amazing.

I am wearing the strap below with all options ON, set up for three cameras. Image below shot with the A7s and 15mm Voigtlander.

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The quality is so so good and my strap is the Water Buffalo version. The feel, the coloring and the wrinkles in the leather all make it appear to be a really high quality and fashionable product. It looks awesome on and feels just as good as it looks.

You guys who follow me know that when I REALLY love something I REALLY like to let that be known. This is one of those occasions.

 Below is a video from Matthew Swaggart explaining his Money Maker Strap system. 1, 2, or 3 cameras!

You can read MUCH more about the Money Maker Strap system here and see it in all of the available leather colors by clicking HERE. Prices start at $200 and for me, this is very fairly prices at $200. Really. I have seen straps for $175 that were just plain old little leather straps for one camera. THIS is a SYSTEM for carrying your cameras that allow you to carry up to THREE of them without the cameras even being close to each other. They stay in place at your side and when you need one of them you slide it up to your eye in a natural movement. For pros with multiple cameras, this is a must own IMO! I wish I had this when I shot those Seal tours as it would have come in handy and stopped me from banging up my Leica’s at the time.

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I also was sent a cool little lens pouch that will strap on to the Money Maker Strap system so if you are shooting with 1-2 cameras you could use this pouch to hold a couple of lenses or even a mirrorless camera. It is gorgeous and the one I was sent is made of blue canvas with a sheep skin interior. It has the softest most protective interior I have ever seen in a camera bag, period. This little guy is called the Explorer Lens Pouch.

You can read more about the pouch here. For me it helps to complete this as a system. You can carry cameras, lenses and some accessories without even realizing you are doing it.

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Bravo to HoldFast Gear. These are some super cool products for enthusiasts and pros and I was so thrilled with the quality and versatility that I asked Matthew if he would like to be a site sponsor and he took me up on that. When I see quality gear that is made with passion and superb workmanship I really want people to know about it. Hopefully some of you can go checkout the site at HoldFastGear.com and browse what he has to offer. Thank you Matthew for letting me experience what you are all about, love your products!

Aug 302014
 

An inexpensive yet great quality cable release for your Leica Monochrom

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I have had about 2 dozen ask me where to get a basic cable release for the Leica Monochrom. The one I use is HERE at Amazon and under $15. Bought it almost two years ago and have used it about 6-7 times. It can come in handy sometimes when you want absolutely no vibration (hands pressing the shutter) and are tripod mounted. The image above is my Monochrom with the cable release attached as well as an old minty vintage 50 Elmar 3.5 lens. Classic :) This cable release will work with any camera that is compatible with mechanical cable releases.

You can buy the cable release here at Amazon (Prime eligible) at the link here. Have a great weekend everyone!

Jul 302014
 

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My Photo and Camera Journey

By Steven Crichton

The first act: Style and Ergonomics.

I suppose the first time I realised I had a look to my work was when a lecturer watched a group project and exclaimed “That’s a Crichton shot if ever I saw it”. I suppose it was at this point it dawned on me that I’d finally achieved the personal nirvana that so many of us dare not mention to ourselves in our work. I had a style unique to me.

I’ve been involved in photography since about 1996, when a few friends were applying to go to Art School. I looked at their portfolios and said to myself, “I can do that” and that was the point at which I paid £5 for a beaten up Fuji ST501, started to invest my pocket-money and hard-earned cash from a dishwashing job in film. I was abysmal!

I tried every technique. Read every book. I could never stick to one thing and dipped my toe into every known stylistic pattern I could achieve with a 50mm lens and a darkroom. Just the other day I found a bundle of solarised prints, no doubt borne out of a section in a book borrowed from the library on Man Ray, along with a passage in a John Hedgecoe Darkroom Techniques.

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Anyway as time went on I jumped about gear too. As I aged, my credit rating aged, my earning capacity increased and by the end of my initial film use period I was deep into a canon EOS system. With a healthy splattering of M42 adapted lenses. A Russian fisheye and a motor drive meaning I’d achieved 7th heaven for a then aspiring Skateboard photographer. However, around this time I started wearing glasses and this is where the second part of the tale comes in.

I’m left eyed. I wear glasses. Find me any camera designed for eye level use for a left eyed glasses wearing photographer! My right eye had been damaged by spray painting accident as a 5-year-old in helping dad fix the car. An incident where a man underneath a dismantled engine, holding a crankshaft doesn’t sometime have the time to realise he forgot to put the safety cap back on the spray can. I cried yellow and didn’t get the chocolate I was promised. Other than that I became predominantly left eyed and forever the last person the R&D department of every camera manufacturer would think about.

Back to the rest now.. It was about the time of starting university that I gave up taking photos as voraciously as I did before. I stopped carrying a camera and concentrated on playing the Guitar. Also as many camera toting musicians will know if gear is addictive in photography, with electric instruments my word the possibilities are endless to allow your hard-earned money pour from your pockets. Anyway, University ended, I bought a car .. cue next money / energy waste. Then I met a girl! (I had met them before, just not a significant one)

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She was an art student and did a film course. Bang I was back. Starting out with the most beaten up canon F1n you had seen. I alas didn’t get to meet Crocodile Dundee whilst using it ( I later stupidly refused an offer to buy the actual camera from the film ), but I found my love again. This combined with a purchase of a proper film scanner a DSLR and a Seagull TLR camera I dipped my toe back in. Excited as well by the advent of Flickr. A wonderful place where we can all have our backs patted and have a serious amount of paid work time wasted if your then employer doesn’t understand what you really do for a living.

Hasselblads, Contaxes, Leica R’s, Nikons (to which I stayed loyal on the periphery) , Linhof’s. Even a B17 Bomb-door Aero-Ektar mounted into a Graflex to shoot handheld. I jumped about a lot. My nose firmly planted behind the back of each of them. Glasses pressed to the side of my head. Still jumping between a lot of things as formats and my taste changed.

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Then suddenly. Something worked.

It’s that moment I hope all of you will have one day that. The camera comes up and goes down. You don’t look at the screen and you know what you saw you captured as you intended.

It came in the form of a Bessa R3a and a 40mm Nokton. Plus add into the mix Kodak UC 400 and Ilford HP5. I’d bought the hand winder, so no more poking my face winding on. I’d bought the grip to push the winder into my hand that looks like a dildo. Plus I’d actually read and paid attention to the wonderful font of knowledge that Roger Hicks and Frances Schulz bestowed upon us in their book of Exposure. ( for anyone looking at it .. take older sensors as slide film and newer ones a little more like print film)

It’s about this time things became consistent. I found my eye.. I found the lenses that fitted my thoughts. Then got an M2 then an M4-P to use in tandem. Looking back now at work from then it’s almost the same as it is now in the composure, the colour and ways I’ve torn a set of shapes my brain was faced with into a picture to draw someone in or hopefully let them see a little of what I saw in someone.

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The Second Act:

Life sometimes deal’s strange a strange hand to us and I was given the opportunity to study an Imaging masters at Duncan of Jordanstone art school in Scotland. I jumped at the chance, after being so angrily denied previously by my parents.By then video in DSLR’s had hit, I had a D90, I’d wasted countless hours reading about T stops, Focus Pulls, made dubious home-made rigs and all the like. I’d even written my own video editing software as by trade I’m a programmer. I sold almost all my film stuff keeping the M4-P and 2 lenses and hit Nikon hard for a range of lenses, tripods and bags.

The Crunch. No one tells you how much you will hate something when you are forced to do it!

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Creative work for me had been an escape. It now became a battle when I had to justify it with research and abstraction in every way. I wished people would get it ..

“If I think it’s interesting and cool and so do you, why do I need to back reference this to some made up back story or delve into the battle that art has with science”.

As you all can gather in an art school this is like presenting a lecturer with a freshly scraped up piece of roadkill. So I stopped. Completely. I graduated and stopped. 3 years passed and thankfully, the bitter taste of pressure gone, I wanted to enjoy the process of photography again.

Moving to a city such as London, you downsize, rapidly and totally. I went from a 4 bedroom house to a single room, so the loss of equipment was brutal. No more Leica’s, 1 Nikon d300s and an old F3 I had if I wanted to shoot some film. After a year of the city I left, but in the strange hand of fate kept a full-time night job with the Tate gallery, as well as my new full-time position back in Scotland at a Medical School in Dundee.

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I had money!

I mean I had the kind of money you either put a deposit on a house with or you consciously waste on every childhood dream toy you ever wanted. I drove a fast car, toted a Nikon D3s. Had the best zooms, the best primes (according to reviewers) and still had the same style! At last consistency in my work. Alas my nose and my eye hated placing a D3s shaped brick to it, but I went on.

The Final Act:

Then I sold it all. 4 backpacks of lenses bodies, supports, diopters you name it. If there was something in a drawer and it had Nikon or was “compatible” I put it in the camera bags I had and jumped on the train. 8 hours later standing in the North of Scotland I had an M9. Along with it, 4 lenses and the viewfinders needed. I genuinely felt like I had just come back home.

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A bit of time with adjusting the focus to allow for my eye being at an angle to the viewfinder and a soft release to boot I haven’t looked back. Throughout all of this time since getting it my shots look like my shots, I know what to expect and I know how it will all sit together still.

Then all of a sudden I’d expanded this kit a bit. G.A.S struck! Things like the voigt 12mm the summicron v4 etc .. all lenses that are according to the internet “sub par” on an M9. Little do they know .. I don’t shoot test charts and I actually print stuff I like out. I also work to the limits of what they can do. Then came along came Sony!

The crowning glory that Sony have managed, that is ignored by all. Is that the A7 range cameras can use every lens known to god and can nearly accommodate a part Italian Scottish nose when combined with a left eye. People bang on that lens X is awful, and continue to do so. “You need a Leica M240 or if only they had …” I say to you, when you use it does your style show through? Does it fit you? As nothing else matters. (unless it’s a biogon lens then yes they are awful… sorry Zeiss and sorry for the double standards people of the internet these are bad on the A7 ranges even adobe’s DNG light field correction filters can rescue them).

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So what do I grab now? I grab what works. I don’t assume a lens will deal a magic blow and I don’t assume the camera has an automated mode that makes me a grand master selling work for more money than I earn in a year. I grab the M9 or the A7 dependent on weight/laziness/feeling/weather and go out and shoot.
Probably by this time you are all very bored with this and looking for a conclusion. Well it’s in the Title; Style and Ergonomics.

If you can get a style stick with it, keep on working with it. If you can find something that fits you as a human, even if it’s not resolving 100000 lph or has a dash of vignetting and aberration, you will use it more than the 20kg Zeiss Otus that your wrist screams at. For me it’s a badly worn M9 and an A7 with a ragtag bag of lenses and I’ll be keeping it that way for years to come.

http://www.zuikomedia.com/

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Jul 102014
 

Using a Zoomfinder

By Steve Tsai

Hello Steve Huff Photo community, I have stumbled across an invaluable side benefit of a zoomfinder in my photography process and would like to share my experience with it. It is for wide-angle application and architectural interior photography in this report, but hopefully it can be beneficial for other applications as well!

For those unfamiliar with a zoomfinder, it is an external finder with a zooming capability for compositional aid, typically used on a rangefinder or a non mirror-reflex camera. It mounts to the hotshoe and there are a few choices out there. In my case I use the Voigtlander Zoomfinder, Arca Swiss Vario Finder, and to a small extent the Alpa eFinder App on the iPhone.

Framing aid Apps on the smart phone is pretty handy indeed but the requirement of an external wide-angle lens adaptor and the annoyance of dealing with electronic device where multiple button presses, non-instantaneous viewing, and concerns of battery life hinder the speed and usability for me so I am skipping it in this report.

Below are brief descriptions of the zoomfinders in use:

The Arca Swiss Vario Finder

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Along with different masks it simulates framing including rise/fall and shifted lens positions. Users zoom the housing to desired lens focal length marking and put a corresponding metal mask on the front which clips on by the recessed magnets in the front frame. There are 3 masks in total but for my use I only need 2 of them. My finder is an older design, newer finders have guided pin slots which is even cooler for keeping orthogonal movements.

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The mask can be slid in both axis to show movement – each dot simulates 5mm of movement and can be seen through the viewfinder. Here is a view that simulates 10mm of rise and 10mm of left shift.

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The image quality is nice and bright, with apparent barrel distortion, gets much better when zoomed in though. The image appear to be slightly blurry on the periphery if your eye is not in the right position or not square to the eyepiece which acts as a clever visual feedback to put your eye in the right position for accurate framing. The proportion is 4:3 which corresponds to medium format digital back sensor size.

Here is how it looks like when mounted on the technical camera, it has mounting foot for both landscape and portrait orientation.

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Voigtlander 15-35mm Zoomfinder
This a well designed and solidly-built finder which operates similar to a zoom lens. There are notched positions for focal length presets similar to aperture ring on a M rangefinder lens and has a built-in diopter on the eyepiece. Depending on the model it will also indicate equivalent focal lengths for various cropped sensors. In use on a rangefinder it is a bit of a dance as Steve explained in a previous post. Metering and framing are carried out by viewfinder on camera and the Zoomfinder separately. Due to the larger distance it mounts away from the lens, parallax effect is more exaggerated for closer distance subjects with the super wide lenses. Here is how the zoomfinder looks like when mounted to the M9-P.

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The experience is similar to an SLR where views are masked instead of frameline overlay of a rangefinder, there is a dotted line on top to indicate close range frame edge. The images quality is excellent, distortion is very mild and zoom simulation works extremely well. There is slight fringing if you point at bright sources. The proportion is 2:3 which corresponds to small format sensor size. Here is a comparison showing 15mm and 35mm views, note the slight fringing.

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Now to the main point of the article – how the zoomfinder can make our lives easier. For years I have looked for solutions that will help with certain challenges I encounter on a shoot – which the zoomfinder eventually solved for me.

Here are the benefits:

1. Scouting Aid
Prior to the shoot, one can go around the space and preview contemplated scenes using various focal lengths in a very nimble fashion. For architectural interiors, one frequently gets pinned to confined space during framing, it is much easier to handle and preview with such a small and light device.

2. Visualization and Focal length selector.
For those of us sensitive to the compositional impact related to exaggeration of perspective inherent in various wide-angle focal lengths it is sometimes hard to choose the proper prime lens without preview. The zoomfinder shows the effect in combination with the physical distance to the subject. You can quickly decide if you want to stand back and use a 28mm or get closer and use a 24mm along with the look of each lens. It is such a time-saver. The relatively low optical distortion in the viewfinder just makes the preview actually enjoyable and non-distracting compared to lower grade viewfinders.

3. Stitching Preview
For those of us that use shift lens and stitching capture workflow it is hard to see the composition during the shoot. Through my own tests I have worked out equivalent focal length of the stitched focal length. The 24 PC-E becomes 18mm with cropped sides or 21mm safe frame. The 45 PC-E becomes 28mm with cropped sides or 35mm safe frame. Safe frame is for cropping out the corner vignette when maximum shifts are used. You can quickly preview the finished image with the zoomfinder. Here is an image that shows 3 images from capture and the finished stitch.

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4. Camera Position Aid
The effect of camera height is very important in interiors. With the viewfinder I can preview the scene and determine exact camera position very quickly. Once I identify the desired position, I will hold the zoomfinder in place with one hand and then drag the camera + tripod over with the other hand to match the optimal position quicker and then fine tune to suit.

For the benefits above, the zoomfinder has become so invaluable that I carry it on me during the shoot at all times. Previously I used a mini ballhead along with a tripod button and a safety noose.

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Early on in the year I dug into my luthier roots and made a stabilized hardwood handle for it. A belt clip gun holster provides easy reach and secured carry. I often have to move furniture and arrange items in the scene so the belt clip is the best carry as it will not swing around during active motions.

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I know this is a very specific application and a small camera with a wide zoom can achieve the same function. However the small size and simple, convenient use during a physical shoot just makes it so much easier for me. If there is a wish to make it even better… a 15 to 50mm zoomfinder would make it out right amazing although definitely not at the expense of distortion though! The experience is so important and can make your shoot enjoyable when scenes do not appear warpy like a Salvador Dali painting. I have considered a dual hot shoe that mounts both the zoomfinder and a separate 50mm finder but it will make the size much larger and stability would be of concern.

If one can make a custom precision mount that adapts the zoomfinder to a smartphone it can be used as a good quality wide angle zoom adaptor as well. Maybe it will be a project for the DIY crowd with a 3d printer out there!

Maybe in 5 years google glass will have a thought controlled view window that can zoom and crop to simulate a viewfinder – consider this a free idea if anyone wants to take this on with crowd sourcing!

You can find me at:

Website
http://www.stevetsai.photography/

Stevie Rave On blog
http://stevetsaiphotography.com/wp/

Flickr
https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevieraveon/

May 222014
 

titleryk

The Wotancraft Ryker Camera Bag Review

This is mainly a video review of the beautiful Wotancraft Ryker bag. I will add some words after the video below:

Not everyone is a camera bag kind of person. Many just prefer to take their camera and one lens out on the street with them and roll. Others like to have choices and bring a bag with a lens or two just in case they want to change it up while they are out. There are hundreds, if not thousands of bags manufactured in the camera world. Some are cheap but functional, some are mid priced and functional and some are high priced and built more for fashion then actual use. I have seen them all from Domke to Crumpler to Fogg to Billingham to Artisan and Artist. I have probably had 60 bags through my house in the past 5 years as many get sent to me for review. Many times they do not even get reviewed (if they stink) and they get thrown to the side and sent back.

Occasionally a bag comes along that I really like. For example, there have been bags from Tenba, Artisan & Artist, Think Tank, Fogg and Ona that I adored. I even enjoyed the Camslinger bag and still do from time to time. But never has a bag come through that spoke to me in the way this Wotancraft Ryker does. In fact, it is the most beautiful, well made, useful and overall nice bag I have ever come across in my life. I prefer it to the Fogg bag that I owned (that was more expensive), I prefer it to the ONA bags I have had (and still own) and I prefer it to just about ANY bag, ever. Why? Well, there are many reasons and I go over them in the video above. What it boils down to is that this is just about as perfect as a camera bag can get for those who want a nice looking, well made leather bag. It is stylish, it is durable and it is comfortable. It holds a Leica and 2-3 lenses as well as an iPad mini and accessories. It feels good across the shoulder and the inside is well padded and protective as well as being pretty snazzy with the purple microfiber lining. The leather is soft and pliable not hard and stiff.

Wotancraft has a reputation for making super high quality hand crafted bags and leather goods. They are not a cheap fly by night operation and this bag is my perfect bag, end of story. I even use it for a video rig I carry around sometimes with a digital recorder and other items. Makes me want a undone in brown, one for my camera and one for my video setup.

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The leather is durable but soft as you can tell just by looking at the image above. The protective zipper leather flap protects your goods inside in the event of rain or snow. I have had this bag all over with me and even took it to New Orleans for the last Olympus media trip I went on. The bag still looks brand new. It has so far survived rain, water splashes and being set down on concrete several times. It looks and feels brand new. There was even one point when a beer was spilled on the bag (about 1/4 of a beer). No cloth to stain, no worry of water getting inside, no worry of your camera getting scratched up while inside. There really has not been anything left behind. The iPad pocket is inside and is nice and protected as well with a pocket and all.

The price of the Wotancraft quality does not come cheap. At $379 it is an expensive bag, but one that will last you a lifetime. Again, for me, it surpasses any bag I have owned or come across in quality, design, usefulness, size, weight, materials, and style. Some will say it looks purse (or murse) like, but so do 90% of camera bags. When on and walking around it looks like a shoulder bag. A nice shoulder bag.

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At $379 US it is well worth the cost, especially when a Fogg bag will set you back $600+ these days. This bag is perfect for a Leica system or Mirrorless system from Sony, Olympus or Fuji. All will be great for this bag. I have had compliments on it already while traveling. What people have liked is the soft luxurious feel of the bag and the features such as the purple lining and leather flap that protects the inside.

You can order the Wotancraft Ryker HERE.

It was out of stock for over a year and most thought it would not return. It is back, but I have no idea for how long. A brown one should be coming soon as well, but not sure how long away that is. This bag is in the Urban Classic line.

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

Hello to all! For the past 5 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple. 

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

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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

 

Feb 262014
 

garizm240

The Gariz Leica M 240 case is in stock again, act fast!

When I reviewed this case a few months back they sold out on Amazon within a few hours. They not only have them in black but I noticed today that they also have 10 BROWN cases in stock over at Amazon via the seller “Viva Outfitters”. I have purchased a couple of items from them in the past and shipping was super quick, no issues.

In any case, one of my fave cases for the M 240 and it can be bought for $199.

If you want to take a look, see more or buy it, click HERE to go to the Amazon page. They also have it in RED. Also in BLACK!

See my review of this case HERE. 

Jan 312014
 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Classic Cases Leica M 240 Case

Hello to all! Today I wanted to share some news about a case I am trying out for my Leica M 240, made by classiccases.co.uk. Paul Glendell is the guy who is behind these fabulous cases and he makes them for the Leica Monochrom as well. You can see the Mono in his case HERE in my part 1 review of that camera. He also offers M8 and M9 cases and all of them have different options available (with back flap, without, etc). These are all hand-made with quality leather AND hands.

His M 240 case is of fantastic quality and it is a bit too stiff, and not too soft…which IMO will break in well over time, maybe a year or so. It is a case I really like and much different from the Gariz case I reviewed a while back (can see that HERE). While the Gariz was nice, small and fit like a glove the Classic Cases 240 case is more traditional when it comes down to the case design and offers a little bit of grip to hold on to. Not because there is a grip but because it adds a little size to the camera and those with larger hands will get a better grip when shooting the camera. It FEELS like a higher end product as well.

Take a look at the case on my M from all angles…

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I had planned to do a video review of 3-4 M240 cases all at once but the two others I was expecting over the past three months never showed up for review. Paul was the only one who sent in the case so his is the only one I will be posting about today.

In the hand it feels nice and the fit is very good (better than the Luigi I had for my M9 that I couldn’t use due to the fit being so off). In fact, the fit of the classic cases case is superb and if I had to complain about anything it would be that the live view button is slightly covered, which is a bummer (UPDATE: Paul told me he has corrected this for all future cases). It is tough to design a full half case for the 240 (that wraps around the full back, top and bottom) without this happening though. The upper sides, unlike the Gariz, are well protected and the leather feels like a real quality leather.

Some of you out there love cases and some of you out there hate them. I like cases but sometimes i prefer to go naked because it is much easier to unload batteries and memory cards without having to remove a case to do so. On the other hand, there were times when I went naked (my 1st M 240) and it got beat to hell when I dropped it. So these days I prefer a case.

There are quite a few cases out there for the M240 and this is the one of the good ones. It is not cheap at about $285 US Dollars (ships from the UK) but it is one of the nicest cases among the sea of half cases to protect that $7000 investment. Many wonder why a case would be so expensive but think about it. A full leather, hand-made and stitched case for under $300 to protect a camera you spent $7000 on (without a lens) is not bad at all. You can go up to $390-$490 and buy an Art Di Mano case which offers a different design and colors (my review of the Arte Di Mano is here, and it is a beauty) and spend even more for a famed Luigi. $285 is about right for the Classic Cases M 240 case and offers up some style, beauty, protection and luxury to your already luxurious M. You can get better but it will cost you almost 2X the amount.

if you are one who enjoys cases, you can check out all of what they offer HERE at the Classic Cases website. 

Jul 082012
 

LOADS of used Leica Lenses and Cameras NOW available!

Just browsed over at B&H Photos used department and saw all of these USED Leica lenses and cameras. Here is what they have available now and there are MANY lenses here!

Noctilux F1 – latest F/1 design – $7895.00

LEICA 90 SUMMICRON ASPH APO, with case – $2799

Leica 35 Summicron PRE-ASPH – $1999

Leica 50 Summicron f/2  – latest pre APO version – $1499

Leica 28 Elmarit ASPH 2.8 – $1949

Leica 24 Elmar 3.8 – “10” in box as new – $2394

Leica 135 f/3.4 Telyt APO – $2449

Leica 28 Summicron ASPH – $3499

LEICA 21 ELMARIT ASPH f/2.8 – $3699

and now some cameras!

Leica M9-P Silver Chrome with hand grip and in the box, 9 condition – $7199

LEICA BLACK PAINT MP – $3199

Leica M8 – $2499 – Black

LEICA M7 – BLACK – $2499

Leica X1 – Black – $1399

NOW THAT IS A LOAD OF USED GEAR! Hopefully some of you can find what you are looking for and get better pricing than new. Leica glass is always a good buy as they never really fall in value. Here are a few more I found at pop flash and Dale Photo!

Popflash also has a 50 Summilux 1.4 pre-asph for $2997

Leica 35 Summicron ASPH – $2797

Dale has a used Zeiss 50 Planar for Leica M – $900

Also a used 75 Summarit which is a GREAT lens!

Also, don’t forget Ken Hansen. He always has new and used Leica in stock. You can e-mail him with whatever you are looking for at [email protected]

Jun 052012
 

Great cheap goodies for your lenses – Soft micro lens pouch is a GREAT buy.

I had to let you guys know about these as my buddy Todd makes and sells these and I have been using them for the past month or so and LOVE them. They are called the “Micro Lens Pouch” and are made for smaller camera systems and the lenses that we pay so dearly for. The is a great way to protect your glass and offers much more protection than just throwing them in a bag. I have the 3 pack here and the small fits a Leica summarit or summicron type of lens, the medium fits my Panasonic 25 1.4 or equivalent size and the large even fit a Leica Noctilux. The lenses are super soft with great cushion and protection. The great thing is you can buy all three for $29.95 and they are sold at Amazon, and shipped by Amazon.

While Todd makes and sells these I am not writing this because I know him or because he paid me (he did not). I am writing about them because I feel they are truly a great buy. Ive been using them almost daily for a while now and they have held up well for me and even helped protect my little 50 Summarit when I dropped it out of my bag.

You can buy each size separately or the get the three pack of various sizes for $29.95

The three pack can be found Here on Amazon

You can also just buy the Small, Medium, or Large for just over $10 each. Highly recommended!

Also available in a 2-Pack, small and medium!

BTW, I might as well add a plug for the 2012 Photo Cruise since the guy who makes these pouches is also going to be joining us ! I still have a few cabins remaining and if anyone is interested I need to know before July 1st! Check out the cruise page here, but imagine a full week on the seas and photography at every stop! Of course guests are welcome and can participate in all shooting! Will be a blast and free lens pouches for all :)

and…Don’t miss the street strap!

The street strap is also a very cool strap that I have attached to my new black Fuji X100 and it is a black cloth strap that looks similar to the A&A Silk cord strap, but this is not silk and it is longer so you can wear it around you. This is also on Amazon and shipped by Amazon so no dealing with 3rd party vendors. I like this strap and I also like my Barton strap and A&A strap! Just like with bags and cameras, all personal preference. But if you have been wanting a nice black strap that is comfy and long enough to strap around your body when carrying your camera this one is great. You can check it out on Amazon HERE.

Feb 152012
 

My Favorite Camera Strap!

The Leather Braided Barton Strap 

For the past several months I have been shooting my M9P with a strap that I have fallen in love with for several reasons. You may have seen it in pictures with my M9P, in fact, I know some of you have because I get at least one e-mail a day asking me where to buy this strap! First of all, it is an all leather braided strap and is very well made. It is soft, and stretches so if you are shooting with a heavy lens this stretch takes the strain off of your back/shoulder. I have had zero issues with the strap over the past months and in fact, it has broken in quite well. It also always gets the looks and compliments.

You would think that a strap like this would set you back over $100. With the Artisan & Artist straps fetching well over $100 and more for their silk straps and about $70 for their really good cloth straps (my fave in the A&A line, and they are here) this hand braided leather strap comes in at $79 SHIPPED. Yep, shipped. You can browse the straps at barton1972.com and they come in several colors. Red, brown, blue/grey, black, etc.

I can HIGHLY recommend this strap and it even comes in a cool box. I may order a couple more and even try one of their bags soon. I love a good strap and there are so many out there that are good but this one represents great quality, great price and a great experience.

You can browse ALL of the straps they have to offer at their strap page. Looks like there are quite a few to choose from, even a double braided for $10 more!

Sep 202011
 

Fast and Prime Leica M9 Case/Holsster 1st Look Video!

Received the case I was talking about earlier today via Fed Ex from fastandprime.com and had a chance to give it a quick try and decided to make a quick video showing you guys what it looks like and how it works. Mine is the all black version which is fitting for an all black M9P :)

This is a hand made case from fastandprime.com, a brand new company that started up to provide these cases and accessories. There are thousands of M9 owners who read this site so I thought this would be interesting for those of you who enjoy cases and a way to carry your camera. This design is pretty unique as you can wear it around your waist or your body. It is a holster style that also locks in your M9, much like a gun holster actually.

When you want to shoot you simply pull out the camera and return it to its protective case when done. I could see this being great on all day street shooting outings. The case is quite firm and stiff out of the box but it would soften up with use. The case ships with a 5 year warranty card and a serial number stamped on the back of the case.

The only negative I found with it so far is it can be tricky to slide the M9 OUT of the case but this could be because I do not yet have the wrist strap (should be here tomorrow). Usually the wrist strap would be on and you could just pull it out in that way. This case is different than the Luigi cases which are made to stay on the camera at all time. This case is more for when you are out shooting with the camera and is a way to protect it in style, plus like I said, it is very functional.

You can also buy a lens case that slides on to the adjustable strap to hold an extra lens. Overall this is a very nice and premium product but it is not cheap! You can check out the options over at fastandprime.com and to see pricing options and color options click on “Catalog”. This will not be for everyone as many M9 shooters go naked but there are also many who love protecting their cameras when out shooting. Fast and Prime made a very unique case solution here IMO for those with the Leica deep wallets :) It is a beautiful product.

Jun 082011
 

Three bag ROUNDUP!

The Artist & Artisan 7000 and 7200 and the Think Tank Photo Airport Airstream video Review!


Today I wanted to do a video on three bags that are all SUPERB! The first two I have become quite fond of, the Artisan & Artist ACAM-7000 for the days when I want to carry along my laptop, Ipad and more than one camera and lenses. The GCAM-7200 is for those days when I just want to bring along something like an M9 and two lenses, or even an M9, lens and Fuji X100/Leica X1. I retired my Domke F-803 as I fell in love with the looks, feel and functionality of these A&A Bags.

I also purchased a rolling bag from Think Tank Photo for my airport travels, the Airport Airstream. This is a semi compact roller that holds a TON of gear and can be stored in an overhead compartment on an airplane. This is a TOP quality bag that is made extremely well. Watch the video for the details!

Where to buy?

Think Tank Airport Airstream – Buy direct from Think Tank Photo for great service, and fast ship.

Artisan & Artist ACAM-7000 – Dale Photo & DigitalPopflash also has the 7000, IN STOCK.

Artisan & Artist GCAM-7200 – Dale Photo & Digital or Popflash Photo

Here is the 15 minute video review of all three! Video shot with the Fuji X100!

 

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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