Dec 222014
 

wedm

Sixty Weddings with a Leica M 240

by Joeri van der Kloet

Hello to all of you! Thanks Steve for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with your readers again. I’ve posted a couple of times on shooting weddings with a rangefinder, but I thought it would be nice to give you an update.

I’m quite sure I’m a lucky person. 2014 was a crazy year and it’s not over yet. I just kept getting emails from people who were getting married and asking about availability. It was a very busy, yet immensely rewarding year. With an ever-increasing competition among (wedding) photographers this is something I don’t take for granted. I have found that staying true to the way I work does pay off. I don’t stage anything besides the group portraits and I shoot real moments only. Just snapshots of beautiful moments. Nothing more, nothing less. Sometimes my clients tell me it felt like I was just one of the guests, who happened to be there with a funny little camera. The M helps in this approach with its modest proportions, but behavior is just as important. I wear a suit if that’s the dress code, I mingle with the other guests and even my camera bag fits in. It may seem like just common sense, but you’ll be surprised how often this is forgotten.
Besides my documentary wedding work, the number of customers for my workshops are growing. Lots of rangefinder users are interested in the way I use my camera and they’re especially interested in my focussing training techniques. I really love this work, because I can help people to get more fun with their cameras.

In the last two years I’ve shot 60 weddings with my Leica M240 and although I already reviewed this camera here before, let me give you an update after many hours of shooting.
After having shot around seventy weddings with my M9s, a few years ago, I had gotten used to this camera. While I was on a four months journey around the world, I heard about the new M and I was quite excited, but also in doubt. A CMOS sensor? Liveview? Video? Seriously? Like most of you, the first pictures we saw that were taken with the new flagship were somewhat disappointing. Soon after that, the CCD vs CMOS discussion took off. And we’re still having this discussion today. Of course I also read about red skin tones, the lack of ‘crisp’, ‘pop’ and ‘3D’. However I also read that the M240 featured 2 extra stops in ISO sensitivity, a more silent shutter and a better responsiveness in general. For me, the increase in ISO sensitivity was enough to spend the 6300 Euros and start working with it.

The number one reason for me to work with the M240 instead of the M9 is ISO. I’ve really needed those two extra stops for low light circumstances. Even with a fast 35/1.2 I have used the highest ISO setting quite a few times. Of course the wedding receptions are the hardest moments to capture. As a rule of thumb I can freeze people who are dancing at 1/90th and at 1/60th, even though it will start to get slightly fuzzy, the look is very moody. People that are dancing slowly can be shot at 1/15th and still be sharp enough. By the way, sharpness is never my main concern. Emotion has top priority, then composition and only then sharpness. Flash is no option as far as I’m concerned, since I try to be as unobtrusive as possible. So for ISO only, I’d choose the M240.
Next is overall responsiveness. The M9 has a somewhat gritty shutter button, while the M240 has a clear two-step shutter button. The shutter itself is more silent and lacks the whining noise of the M9. Button wise, the M240 is more responsive, although I have heard people complaining about the start-up time. With my M, I have no problems with that and whenever I use my M9, it feels slower to respond on the buttons. Handling wise, I prefer the M9, simply because it significantly lighter. Don’t underestimate these 100 grams. You will notice the difference.

Much has been said about the M9 screen. Yes, it’s a joke, but it never troubled me. It was good enough to browse through the menu, check my histogram and check composition. If you’d want to check for sharpness, forget it. Though the M240 is not very good for checking for sharpness either (just compare it to the 5D3: now that works!) it’s a lot better than the M9.
But then the menus: I prefer the M9, simply because it’s more intuitive and easier to work with than the M240. Also, setting the ISO on the M9 triggers a clever menu: by clicking down you’ll increase one stop and by clicking to the right you increase your ISO with ⅓ of a stop.

Then there is the live view. First I thought I’d never use it on the M240. When I started using it, I discovered some benefits of this system. It always works, no matter how dark it is, whereas the EVF might get so dark that it’s almost too hard to focus. Live view also provides a way for very precise focussing. The drawback is that live view is very laggy. For me, during action it’s unusable, but for more static subjects it’s great. It’s also great for checking if your rangefinder is still calibrated properly. I do not use it a lot, but I wouldn’t want to miss it in a next M.

Battery life of the M240 is very good. With my two M9s I used to carry six batteries to a wedding. Now two is enough. So that compensates for the increase in weight of the camera itself. Sort of.

Issues then. The M9 has had quite a few and one more recent issue can be added to the camera: corrosion of the sensor. While the M240 has had its share of bad luck, it seems to be problem free at this moment.

The most important feature of a camera however, is its output and that’s what most people are talking about. It’s the CCD versus the CMOS. Yes, the files are different and everyone had to get used to these new files, myself included. Technically, the M240 files are superior: they have more dynamic range, less noise and they’re just more flexible. The issue with the skin tones has been fixed, though it never bothered me much. The M240 needs a little more punch than the M9 files: increasing the contrast a little is usually a good thing. For me, I’m really happy with the output the M240 delivers. Of course, you’ll have to shoot in raw, just like with the M9. Where the M9 really shines is base ISO. Those images, where light is good and focus is spot on are almost unbeatable. But as a pro I don’t shoot on base ISO that much. I don’t get to choose the light on a wedding and often it is dim, or very contrasty. So what do I want? Low noise high ISO and flexible files with a good dynamic range. And that’s what the M240 delivers. If you’re shooting in other circumstances and you don’t need to make any money with your camera, I can perfectly understand why you’d prefer the M9 over the M240. In fact, I still have my M9-P which I will keep as long as possible.

Maybe you don’t even need to make a choice between the M9 and M240. When I switched to the M-system, the M9 was the only full frame compact camera body in the world. Lots has changed. Sony has made the full frame compact system camera accessible for a much bigger group of people with the A7 series. I have seen many great reports about the A7 and A7s. Steve here rated his A7s as his number one camera! On the other hand: DSLRs have acquired features that make them more interesting for the documentary approach as well. The Canon 5D3 for instance, is just as silent as the M240 in its silent mode. Also, its AF-system is a lot better than the 5D2, which makes the 5D3 a pretty good smallish, silent camera for the documentary wedding pro. For me, I just like the way the M-system works with its simple lay out and its intuitive controls. I wouldn’t want to change that. Also, my M is my best marketing tool ever. Whether I like it or not, it sells.

So, in conclusion, can we finally say which camera is better? No, we can’t, because image quality should be one of the most important factors in deciding which camera to buy and this image quality can’t be described in numbers and sometimes not even in words. I just wanted to explain why I still prefer the M240 over the M9 after having read the renewed CCD vs CMOS discussion. Whatever camera you buy, get the one you can afford and just shoot with it. That’s what they’re meant for.

My wedding website: www.luta.nl
My workshop website: www.joerivanderkloet.com

and now, the photos!

1 Magical moment. The couple started dancing on our tiny boat on the Amsterdam canals. The sun came through and I just knew I had the best job in the world. With 28 Elmarit.

1

2 The dance. They just kept dancing on this wedding and everybody had such a good time. Very low light, but I think I nailed it on 3200 ISO on 1.2 at 1/125th with the terrific CV35/1.2.

2

3 Bride getting ready. I love to use whatever there is available for natural framing. With the small but very good 35 cron.

3

4 The car. This bride just loved the classic Porsche 911 the groom arranged for their wedding. And it even worked with the dress. Shot with the CV35/1.2.

4

5 Intimate moment during one of the speeches. I’m constantly looking for these moments. With the 50 cron, my workhorse.

5

6 Waiting for the groom. While the bride was peeking through the window, this dog jumped on a chair and started peeking as well. I couldn’t have been happier of course. CV35/1.2.

6

7 The vows. This was an intimate outdoor wedding and the couple had ordered birds made out of paper from Japan as a styling detail. I decided to shoot the vows through this curtain of birds. With the tiny 28 Elmarit.

7

8 Father and child having fun. Shot at 6400 ISO at 1.2 at 1/60th. Is it sharp? No, but it conveys the message. CV 35/1.2.

8

9 Bride and groom and umbrellas. It was a rainy day and the couple moved from the wedding venue to the next venue. I liked this scene and shot it quickly. With the 35 cron.

9

10 I noticed this little moment just after the ceremony between the bride and her daughter. Shot with the 50 cron.

10

11 The moment after the kiss. Couples relax after all the offical things are done and you can tell by just looking at their faces. WIth the 28 Elmarit.

11

12 Soap and sunshine. During the ceremony it was dark and rainy, but when the couple got out the weather had changed completely. They were hugging each other and I liked this scene with its warm colours and all the reflections on the bubbles. With the 28 Elmarit.

12

13 The laugh. While returning from a group shot, the groom (probably) told a joke and the bride laughed out loud. I like the flare and the soft light as well. With the 50 cron.

13

14 The cake. This lovely couple just had a terrific day and I love the little moment with this interaction between the newly weds. With the 50 cron.

14

15 The look. The groom was listening very carefully while the bride was secretly looking at her husband-to-be. I love, love this light and the way the 50 cron renders the scene.

15

16 Magic light. When the couple walked towards their car after the ceremony they literally stepped into a ray of light. Smooth, warm, just beautiful. And the 50 cron has no trouble in rendering this scene.

16

17 Boy and car. When the groom went for a cup of coffee, the kid sneeked in the car, an Audi R8, and pretended to drive the car. I could hear him imitating engine sounds. With the 35 cron.

17

18 Smooth. The CV 35/1.2 is not just a low light lens. It’s also suitable for getting this smooth look. I’m not sure who the bride was looking at, but I just like this shot.

18

19 Friends. Well, this one doesn’t need any explanation. Best friends captured with the 50 cron.

19

20 Getting ready. I like the expression of the bride and the soft light from the window. Shot with the 35 cron.

20

21 The kiss. An intimate wedding with only twenty guests. Being able to mingle with guests is even more important than at big weddings. With the 35 cron.

21

22 Almost ready. After many years of shooting I’m still surprised that my clients give me the opportunity to capture all these delicate moments. Here the bride, probably quite nervous and so beautiful in the last moments before she’ll meet her groom. With the CV 35/1.2

22

23 Light from above. This couple lived on a boat with windows in the ceiling. When the groom stepped on board, the bride heard him and looked up, trying to get a glimpse of him through the window. Shot with the 35 cron.

23

24 The quote. While we were heading out for a boat trip we came across this quote and I quickly focussed on it. The groom turned his head to read it and I took the shot. CV 35/1.2.

24

25 Kiss me honey. The bride reaching for a kiss in a train somewhere in Rotterdam. With 28 Elmarit.

25

26 The first look. It was very narrow and I didn’t have much space to shoot the couple during the first look. Luckily, there was a mirror. CV 35/1.2.

26

27 Father and bride. Long after the wedding, this bride told me that this picture made her father cry. I’m still honoured she took the effort to tell me that. Shot with 50 cron.

27

28 Kiss and dance. Working with a rangefinder in low light conditions can be hard, but also very rewarding. The couple loved this shot and so do I. CV 35/1.2.

28

Dec 172014
 

Rediscovering Old Friends Part 2 – With film

By John Tuckey

Hi Brandon

In my recent post about rediscovering the ‘Lux 50 I mentioned that there was film in the lab and that I’d send in a  film post when it was back… well, here you go. I’ve picked out a handful that directly correlate to the digital shots in the last post for those who still haven’t had enough of the film vs digital debate ;-)

For those who missed the first post here’s the digital shots http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/12/05/rediscovering-an-old-friend-the-lux50-asph-by-john-tuckey/

These have all had the same tweak to contrast and black level as they came into lightroom but are otherwise edit free beyond cropping. Hope you enjoy them!

M2, ‘Cron 90, Ilford Delta 400

unnamed
M2, ‘Cron 90, Ilford Delta 400

unnamed
MP, ‘Lux 50, Ilford HP5+

unnamed
Lux 50, Ilford Delta 400

unnamed
ux 50, Ilford Delta 3200

unnamed
Lux 50, Ilford Delta 3200

unnamed

Best regards

John Tuckey

Dec 112014
 

Japan with Leica M-P 240

By Dan Bar

Hello Steve,

Here i am again hoping sending some more photos from Japan with my Leica M 240 hoping you will like them Japan is a colorful country especially in October and November when all the leaves turn red which is the most wonderful scene to watch. Japan is a great country for photographers as Japanese people seemly love to take photos and be photographed , which is a blessing for street photographers.

I took my Leica MM as well but the beauty of this country simply forces you to shoot color

As for the M 240, I really fell in love with the camera. I  know i was skeptical about it after shooting for so many years with the M9 ( had to sell it in order to buy the M-P 240). but the ease ,the great shutter sound , and the fantastic results with Leica lenses ( 50 LUX, 35 LUX ) made me completely change my mind.

Thank you,

Danny

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

unnamed

Dec 082014
 

The Zeiss 35 1.4 Distagon ZM (Leica mount) Lens Review

by Cemal Sagnak

zeiss-35mm-f_1-4-zm

Many People belief, a Leica Camera needs native Leica lenses, although there are Alternatives by other German Companies like Carl Zeiss with a long optical history in making lenses and Rangefinder cameras. As a passionate Leica Photographer, I always search and look for high quality alternative lenses for my Leica M Typ 240.

One of my favorite lenses is the Carl Zeiss Biogon T* 2/35 ZM, a versatile documentary and Photojournalist lens with outstanding optical performance and my standard Lens on the M.

I was very tempted to read the announcement during the last Photokina in September about a new fast 35mm f/1.4 hoping this can match with my Biogon 35/2 in optical performance but with a fast f1.4 aperture.
I could not be happier when last week my Demo Lens arrived.

My initial impression was extremely good, although the Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM is larger (lengths 87,3 49mm Filter, 381gr) vs. the Biogon T* 2/35 ZM (lengths 68mm, Filter size 43mm, 240gr) the finder blockage is still moderate. You get immediately a feel of the build quality, all metal finish, robust and made for the next generation, something I definitely expected from a Carl Zeiss Lens.

The Distagon is build with 10 Elements in 7 groups with and the10 blades can be set in 1/3 steps giving you a good haptic feedback, you can feel comfortably each click on the aperture wheel. The focus wheel is on the right spot, perfectly accessible and smooth in handling, Rotating is not to tight and not to loose, which is important for a fast lens shooting at f/1.4 to achieve precise results.

The lens is equipped with the T* anti-reflective coating to control flare we will see later how good it performs using the Distagon against strong sunlight. The Distagon is made to be used under low light condition or for a clear separation of the subject from the background, don’t be surprised to see many pictures shot at f/1.4.

The Data sheet is promising; with a relative distortion of less than -1% the Distagon beats the Summilux –M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH on paper. Lets see how it performs.

Non-Leica Users need to know that sharpness of a rangefinder lens is relative and depending on the skills and eyesight of the User behind the Finder.

Before I took the Lens out, I did some shots at home on a tripod to see if there is a focus shift or misalignment. One shot through the RF and one with the LCD of the M and no surprise, all was good, as you can see in the crop of the image taken through the RF.

BTW, I tried the EVF of the M240 but I come to the conclusion that I am better and faster with the optical RF and composing is much easier. I turn on the LCD just when I use a 21mm lens to control the frame. I maybe would use the EVF if someone puts me a Noctilux under the Xmas tree and for sure with Leica – R lenses. But coming back to the Distagon…

My first session was taken in my new hometown Cologne, known as the capital of German Photography and this is not because of the Photokina only.  Pictures are DNG files converted into jpg in LR 5.7 I took some random street shots including the Xmas market to get warmed up with the character of the lens.

crop below the image

L1002334

L1002334-2

-

Crop below the image

L1002358

L1002358-2

The Bicycle shot shows rich and contrasts colors with a nice background blur and a great sharpness on the flowers. I tried similar with people, I am glad my daughters share my passion so they are always great models to try new Gear.
My second opportunity using the Distagon was a fashion shooting with the lovely Dana, who is running a fashion blog and needs regular shots of her in the seasons dress-up.

A 35mm lens is not the first choice for Portraits and People. Still the results were highly satisfying, color and focus are as well. Flare is not always welcome but in this case I used it as an element. Unfortunately Zeiss did not deliver a Lens Hood with this demo unit. I recommend purchasing a hood with the Lens.

Distagon_4

L1002503

Distagon_1

Beside some lens flare, I identified chromatic aberration, which appears when shooting wide open. Nowadays nothing software cant fix and also visible in some of my Summilux pictures. The third part of my Test was the low light capability of the lens, using it in some urban lightning and using it for what it was made for, wide open in low light, I travel much, so taking a tripod with me is a hassle and 100% of my shots outside are handheld. Maybe this is the case for many Leica Users.

This leads me to the Part 3 of my test…. Paris! A perfect Place using a Leica Camera and going for a photo walk along the river Seine and visiting places where Grandmasters of Photography took many iconic pictures. The Zeiss Distagon performs well wide open and paired with the great ISO abilities and Dynamic range of the M240, you will be able to get extraordinary results shooting this combo in the dark.

Here one Bokehlicious shot from a brigde in Paris.

L1002689

After all, I am pretty impressed by this new lens. I have owned the Leica Summilux 35mm ASPH (pre-FLE) and use currently the Biogon 35/2 which are the natural competitors. Before I come to my personal conclusion here is a price overview (Prices in Euro )

LEICA SUMMILUX-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH – 4200 Euros
CZ Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM – 2000 Euros
CZ Biogon T* 2/35 ZM – 1050 Euros

L1002899

L1002354

L1002577

L1002654

Now my question before I started this lens test: is it worth to pay almost double the price compared to the Biogon 35/2 for one f stop faster? For me it is, not that everybody needs an f1.4 lens but if you like shooting fast lenses, this is the lens, which delivers the image quality sharpness and details starting from f1.4.

Please find below the comparison shot at f2.0 between the Distagon and the Biogon. The Distagon is clearly sharper, I plan some more shots for a detailed comparison. Is the Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM capable to compete with one of the best available lenses the Leica Summilux 35mm ASPH FL?

35 Biogon f/2 at f/2

Biogon

-

35 Distagon 1.4 at f/2

Distagon

Based on my experience with the Summilux , the Distagon is definitely worth to consider and not only because its half the price. Sharpness is on par between both lenses. I would like to do a lens comparison but I assume difference is very small and can be better measured in a LAB test rather then comparing pixel.

35 1.4 Distagon and then a crop

L1002300

L1002300-2

The Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM is announced to be ship at the end of 2014.

You can order the lens HERE at B&H Photo.

Cemal Sagnak

https://cemalsagnak.wordpress.com

Dec 052014
 

Rediscovering an old friend, The Lux’50 ASPH

By John Tuckey

Hi all!

The last couple of months I’ve been pretty much exclusively shooting the new M-P, but ironically not for the main reason I bought it.

As a B&W obsessive I was very happy with the M-Monochrom and I bought the M-P pretty much exclusively for the EVF to use with my noctilux f/1 at minimum range – focusing that single digit stop at 1m was a hard gig, and the EVF made the world of difference – yay! So much so, that I bit the bullet and sold my f/1 off and ordered the newly announced silver 0.95 nocti – a suddenly empty wallet of course but hurrah! Cue excitement! Not a moth to be seen! Except, nearly two months later it hasn’t arrived yet – oh, curses :-(

So my last few shoots have been with my previous standby the Summilux ’50mm ASPH. It’s hardly a hardship, much as I’ve neglected it the last year the ‘lux is a truly gorgeous lens with a very different character to the super soft f/1 nocti. It will be interesting to be able to compare the 0.95 to both when it finally arrives.

Anyway here’s a selection of frames from the last couple of months with the M-P (type 240) and the Summilux 50mm ASPH. The last of these (09) was accepted by vogue italia into their own photo gallery, which I always see as a huge seal of approval. I hope you enjoy them all as much.

For those who enjoy film, yes there’s ilford film in the lab for most of these shoots which might well come to a film friday soon ;-)

PS to the genius at leica who decided that ‘M10′ was too long or complicated a name, I add my name to the list, you were wrong. M10-P (11P, 20P or even 50P) would have been quicker to either type or say than M-P (type 240) and then we wouldn’t have the fringe ‘MP – oh do you mean digital M-P or analogue MP, M9P or M-P’ marketing side plate going on now. And, no you don’t get out of that one by dumping the MP and just selling the M-A with no built-in light meter unless you’re planning on giving us a new leicameter ‘M-D’ which will talk to the M-A body and give the same in camera functionality the MP already does. And breathe – Just sayin’ ;-)

 ‘Victoria’ Leica M-P, Summilux 50mm ASPH f/1.4

-jrt-shuff-01

-

 ‘Jason’ Leica M-P, Summilux 50mm ASPH f/1.4

jrt-shuff-02

-

 ‘Belle’ Leica M-P, Summilux 50mm ASPH f/1.4

jrt-shuff-03

-

‘Land & Freedom’ Leica M-P, Summilux 50mm ASPH f/1.4

jrt-shuff-04

-

 ‘Iris’ Leica M-P, Summilux 50mm ASPH f/1.4

jrt-shuff-06

-

 ‘Masques’ Leica M-P, Summilux 50mm ASPH f/1.4

jrt-shuff-07

-

 ‘Tillie’ Leica M-P, Summilux 50mm ASPH f/1.4

jrt-shuff-09

-

‘Raphaella’ Leica M-P, Summilux 50mm ASPH f/1.4

jrt-shuff-05

Best regards

John Tuckey

Dec 042014
 

Petzval and the Leica M

By Vince Tan

P1110016

Hi Steve and Brandon, My name is Vince Tan and  I’ve been a big fan of your site for a few years now.  Like many of your readers, I too suffer from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome)  and am constantly looking for  a fix.  I am fortunate enough to have bought some stuff from Steve to fuel my GAS without breaking the bank.  This however is my first time writing about a lens that I got. I have been itching to get the Petzval ever since they did the Kickstarter campaign but just never got to it.  Just recently, I decided to get the lens.  First impression when I opened the box was they really did a great job designing the packaging of this Petzval lens.  It is quite upscale and the included book was a nice touch.  The lens itself is a thing of beauty.  The brass finish of the lens is perfect.  It makes this lens so different from all the rest.  The focusing mechanism looks as if it was from the late 19th century.   The lens is very solid and quite heavy. Even the  front lens cap is made of brass.

*Steve’s Review of the Petzval is HERE*

I immediately mount the lens to my Leica M Type 240 using a Nikon F to Leica M adapter.  Talk about going retro.  The Leica M with the Petzval mounted is really a sight to behold.  Since there is no RF-coupling, I have to use the electronic viewfinder in order to focus properly. One of the main reasons to use a Leica is to be discreet but with this lens mounted to the Leica, forget it.  It is almost like yelling to everyone to look at you.  The Brass finish is just eye-catching.

The screw mechanism for focusing the Petzval was designed when cameras were mounted on a tripod.  It looks cool and retro but using it with a Leica M body was a little different.  I had a hard time getting used to the focusing mechanism of this lens.  The sleek body of the M without the grip makes it  just not easy to hold and focus.  This lens has a short travel for the full focus range,  therefore you have to turn that focusing knob slowly.   My other issue using this lens is with the Leica M’s EVF.  It takes a second or so for the camera to be ready after each shutter actuation.

The Petzval was designed as portrait lens that provide a swirly bokeh when you shoot it wide open.  I find that this kind of bokeh is really subjective.  Some people like it and some don’t.  Looking at the images I took, I would say that I prefer the bokeh of some other lenses better.  I find the bokeh of this lens to be too distracting.  For me, the Canon f0.95, Noctilux or even the 75mm Summilux is more pleasing.  But again, that is all subjective.  This lens is still quite unique and at the current price, it is worth giving it a try.

Regards

Vince Tan

 

 ISO200 f2,2 at 1/1000th

L1001210
ISO200 f2.2 at 1/3000th

L1001214
ISO200 f2.2 at 1/4000th

L1001217
 ISO200 f2.2 at 1/4000th

L1001219
ISO200 f2.2 at 1/2000th

L1001222
ISO200 f2.2 at 1/4000th

L1001224

Dec 032014
 

The Great Venice Beach Fire of 2014

By Huss Hardan

Hello Steve and Brandon,

The night of Saturday, October 25 started off like most in Venice Beach, CA. Tourists, drunks, drunk tourists. The usual motley crew including yours truly. But then things changed with the smell of smoke. Now this wasn’t the usual smoke smell that wafts through the neighbourhood – due to 90% of the population suffering from glaucoma – but an acrid smell that warned of more serious events afoot. Something was on fire, so the normal reaction was to grab a camera and go take a look.
It was easy to track down, as I just followed the plumes of smoke, and the sound of sirens. A storage facility was the culprit, one that required 365 firemen to be summoned!

More at : http://www.dailynews.com/general-news/20141026/venice-storage-fire-burns-for-14-hours-injures-eight-firefighters

It was quite the scene with moments of absurdity mixed in. One that sticks with me is the dood cycling through the fire trucks holding his munchies, without a care in the world! Ahh, Venice, don’t ever change!

I used a Leica M-E with Zeiss ZM 50mm Sonnar 1.5. All shots were at 1.5 and ISO 1250 1/125 sec . The intense strobe lights from the trucks made the auto meter go nuts – exposure readings flickering from 1/4000 to 1/30 sec, so I set it manually and stuck with that. As the Leica has an optical view finder, the viewing image was constant, but I wonder how an EVF would have coped with the strobe lights.

Peace out

Huss

VeniceFire3

VeniceFire2

VeniceFire4

VF1

VF3

VeniceFire10

VF2

Nov 252014
 

Crazy Comparison! Leica 50 APO, Sony Zeiss 55, Voigtlander 40 2.8

Hey to all! Happy Tuesday! Just a couple of days until the big Thanksgiving feast and I am lounging around my home relaxing an injured knee (which is improving and on its way to a full recovery). I have had quite a few emails in the past week asking me to compare the Leica 50 APO miracle lens to the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8. I have done this before but this time it is more controlled and using indoor natural light, which believe it or not was quite dim in reality. I had my blinds slightly cracked open to allow some light to come in and I snapped a basic image to test for out of camera color, sharpness, micro contrast, etc.

 THIS IS A “JUST FOR FUN” CRAZY COMPARISON!

Below is a quick size compare. All are smaller lenses that are fairly light and trouble free. The Sony is the largest but light. The 50 APO is compact but solid and the Voigtlander is small and light with the Jupiter being featherweight. NONE are large or cumbersome in any way.

lenses

Yep, a $8300 lens vs a $999 lens and then I also threw in the $400 Voigtlander 40 2.8, which is actually a GREAT buy for a very nice lens. I also included the very cheap Jupiter 8 50mm f/2 just for fun. (and it is not bad at all I must say)!

I have been doing Crazy Comparisons since the first week my website went up, and they are always popular but sometimes controversial, which is understandable. ANY comparison that is done will always be controversial as those who own Lens B want to know why Lens A appears better. Those who have lens C will say I did the test wrong and I must have misfocused or those who own Lens A will argue about something. Just take it for what it is, a snap shot at the same aperture for the 50 APO and the 55 1.8 (f/2), Jupiter 8 and one at f/ 2.8 for the Voigtlander, which is wide open for that lens. ALL lenses were manually focused (The Sony was as well for critical correct focusing and to rule out mis focus).

To me, when I click on the images below I see a richer color in the 50 APO as well as MUCH more detail and micro contrast. The Sony/Zeiss flared a bit (no hood on the Sony and the APO did not have the hood pulled out, so no hood on either), was softer and had a less vibrant color. The Voigtlander shows its weakness here against these two lenses and is softer still with less contrast and color depth.

The 50 APO and the Sony A7s is pretty amazing. I mentioned it last week HERE but every time I use this combo I am thrilled with the results, and the cool part is that it is easier to obtain perfect focus on the A7s than it is on the Leica M itself.

Click the images below to see the larger versions with full 100% crops embedded. As it is, the Leica is the better lens. Better made, smaller, jewel like, better optics, better color and flare resistance..but it is 8X the cost of the Sony/Zeiss! EEK! $8300 vs $999. The Leica BETTER BE BETTER! I think the Leica, in the real world, is worth about $4500 but Leica being Leica..well..that will never happen. All I know is for me, Leica makes the best optics in the world. The 50 Lux, the 50 APO, the Noctilux..all special, unique and amazing 50mm lenses. Buying them all would set someone back about $24,000. I know of some towns in the USA where you can buy a house for $24,000 :)

When the Zeiss Loxia lenses come in I will pit the 50 f/2 against the APO, and I expect that one to be pretty close.  See my 50 APO review HERE, see my Voigtlander 40 2.8 review HERE and see many shots with the Sony 55 1.8 HERE.

CLICK THESE IMAGES FOR LARGER and 100% CROP! THEY ARE DIRECT FROM RAW!

The 50 APO at f/2

50apof2

-

Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 at f/2 – Manually focused 

sonyzeiss55

-

A Jupiter 8 50mm f/2

jupiter8

-

Voigtlander 40 2.8 Heliar at 2.8

voigt

Nov 212014
 

A taste of the Leica 50 APO on the Sony A7s

Many have been asking me “when is your part 2 of the Leica 50 APO coming out”?!? To be honest, I have been so busy with other cameras and lenses that this one has fallen to the wayside. I felt that my part 1 review of the 50 APO was quite complete in what I wanted to say about it. Quite simply, it is the finest 50mm lens I have ever tested or owned, and it is one of 2-3 lenses that bring out the best of the Leica M 240 or M-P (others are 21 Elmar and 90 APO).

50apofull

I have been using it here and there on the Sony A7s with the Voigtlander adapter and it holds up just as well on the Sony with gorgeous color (the main signature of the APO) and sweet sharpness. What I mean by “sweet” sharpness is that the lens is sharp on the M and Sony but not in any kind of clinical or harsh way…at all. It has all of the ingredients of a legendary lens. Sharp, no distortion, no flare issues, VERY low CA and outstanding color. These ingredients bring the images to life no matter the camera though I feel it does its best on the M 240 or M-P or MM.

My part 2 review will be up within 2-3 weeks (first will be the Sony 16-35 lens review) using the Sony A7s but for now I wanted to show a couple of files so you get an idea of how gorgeous this lens can do on the Sony A7s. This lens is insanely expensive and is in reality a “statement” piece from Leica to say “look what we CAN do”. The lens has jumped in price since launch to over $8,000. It is tiny, it is built to Leica standards and it is a modern-day marvel of optical quality. The 50 Lux ASPH can not compete with it in any area of optical quality and that 50 Lux ASPH is considered a legend as it is. (It is also half the price of the 50 APO).

As for the Sony 55 1.8, I will be doing another side by side using the A7s. The under $1000 Sony vs the $8000 Leica. Will we see $7k difference? No. I do not think so. I have used both lenses extensively and the Sony/Zeiss is fantastic. The Leica is better (for color and character especially) but with Leica you pay the price for jewel like build, small size, and stellar optics. Just how it is and always will be. I will also pit it against the Voigtlander 40 2.8 that I recently reviewed. Should be fun :)

See my part 1 review of the 50 APO here, and an extension of that HERE. Part 2 soon!

A couple of dealers may have one of these in stock. If you want one, check Ken Hansen, The Pro Shop or PopFlash.com 

Sony A7s – Click this image for larger..

leavescolorlight

leaves2

-

Click this one to see the true 100% crop

sonyshoe

-

and a couple more…

50qpo1

-

one at ISO 3200 and zero NR

sqjpeg3200

Nov 182014
 

Leica Sale: INSTANT Cash Discounts..here is the list..

leica_logo

With the holidays coming even Leica is in the giving mood (sort of) – with $750 off on the Leica M 240 and $250 off of most lenses, this is a chance to save a little more on your new Leica lens purchases. Below are direct links to B&H Photo and each lens that took me over an hour to compile..by using those links to purchase anything it will help this site move on and continue ;) So I thank anyone in advance that uses any of my links on this website.

You can also get these discounts at my other recommended Leica dealers – Ken Hansen ([email protected]), PopFlash.com, LeicaStoreMiami.com, and the Pro Shop. 

THE LEICA M 240 – $750 OFF, NOW $6500 NEW

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/893170-USA/Leica_10770_M_Digital_Camera_Black.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837/BI/4399/KBID/4837

Here is a list of Leica lenses on sale:

18 3.4 Super Elmar – $250 off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/609382-USA/Leica_11649_18mm_f_3_8_Super_Elmar_M_Aspherical.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 21 Super Elmar f/3.4 – $250 Off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/798854-REG/Leica_11145_Super_Elmar_M_1_3_4_21mm_ASPH.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 21 Summilux f/1.4 – $250 Off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/586191-USA/Leica_11_647_21mm_f_1_4_Summilux_M_Aspherical.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 24 Summilux f/1.4 – $250 Off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/586206-USA/Leica_11_601_24mm_f_1_4_Summilux_M_Aspherical.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 28 Elmarit f/2.8 – $250 Off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/461972-USA/Leica_11606_28mm_f_2_8_Elmarit_M.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 28 Summicron f/2 – $250 Off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/214061-USA/Leica_11604_Summicron_M_28mm_f_2_0_Lens.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 35 f/2.5 Summarit – $250 Off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/520349-REG/Leica_11_643_35mm_f_2_5_Summarit_M_Manual.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 35 Summicron f/2 – $250 Off!
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/134723-USA/Leica_11879_35mm_f_2_0_Summicron_M.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 35 Summilux f/1.4 – $250 Off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/720355-USA/Leica_11663_35mm_f_1_4_Summilux_M_Aspherical.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 50 f/2.5 Summarit – $250 off!
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/520350-USA/Leica_11_644_50mm_f_2_5_Summarit_M_Manual.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 50 f/2 Summicron Original – $250 off!
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/86059-USA/Leica_11826_50mm_f_2_0_Summicron_M.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 50 1.4 Summilux ASPH – $250 Off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/332585-USA/Leica_11891_50mm_f_1_4_Summilux_M.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 50 0.95 Noctilux – $250 off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/586190-REG/Leica_11_602_50mm_f_0_95_Noctilux_M_Aspherical.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The  75 2.5 Summarit – $250 off
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/520351-USA/Leica_11_645_75mm_f_2_5_Summarit_M_Manual.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 75 f/2 Summicron – $250 Off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/378040-USA/Leica_11637_75mm_f_2_0_APO_Summicron.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 90 f/2.5 Summarit – $250 off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/520352-USA/Leica_11_646_90mm_f_2_5_Summarit_M_Manual.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 90 f/2 Summicron APO – $250 off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/162726-USA/Leica_11884_90mm_f_2_0_APO_Summicron.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 135 f/3.4 APO – $250 Off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/162727-USA/Leica_11889_Telephoto_135mm_f_3_4_APO.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The 90 f/4 Macro – $250 off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1054674-REG/leica_11670_90mm_for_4_macro_elmar_m.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

The Wide Angle Tri Elmar – $250 off

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/461969-USA/Leica_11626_Tri_Elmar_M_16_18_21mm_f_4_Asph.html/BI/4399/KBID/4837

Nov 132014
 

Photographing the bride on my own wedding

by Milan Swolfs

On the 27th September this year my wife and I got married in Belgium. We both like vintage clothing and love all things from the 20s, 30s, 40s till 50s. My wife www.macheried.com is my muse and we often do (commercial) shoots together.

I couldn’t resist taking some pics of my wife during our wedding with my Leica M9P and Noctilux f0.95 ASPH.

Thanks to your excellent reviews Steve I bought now the Sony A7S together with the Voigtlander Close Up adapter and use it with my Noctilux too. It’s much easier to focus and I can use it at night.

More of our work you can see on my website www.milanswolfs.com

Keep up the good work.

Kind regards

Milan

Milan Swolfs

L1008402-bewerkt

L1008415-bewerkt

L1008422-bewerkt

L1008427-bewerkt

L1008444

L1008446

Nov 112014
 

The Sony A7s – Handlheld Antelope Canyon

Using the Voigtlander 15 4.5 and Leica WATE

During my Southwest Road Trip one of our stops was Antelope Canyon. With 28+ of us inside we broke it down into four groups and went to different areas so we would not all be crowded together. Most had tripods (which are 100% recommended for shooting Antelope Canyon) and only a few were shooting handheld which meant they would need a camera capable of great high ISO performance. Me, with my Sony A7s and very slow aperture Voigtlander 15 f/4.5..I knew it would be a challenge even with this powerhouse as the Canyons are dim and dark. With an f/4.5 lens, could the Sony pull off some handheld shots at high ISO and keep the dramatic color and light needed for these kinds of shots?

Before I get to those, let me share an image I took with the A7s and Voigtlander 15 at Horseshoe Bend (our 2nd stop on this tour). This image has some PP and color boost to give it some drama but with the A7s and 15, no corner fix is needed. It does not have the same issues that the lens has on the A7 and A7s.

Click it for larger version to see it the correct way – the light was not ideal at all on this day but was still a great experience.

horseshoeb

As we traveled through the Canyons I was a little worried. I had others on this road trip who were shooting with some SERIOUS gear, costing as high as $65,000. Some were shooting with M9’s, some with M 240’s, some with Sony A7r’s, and some with Nikon D750’s and D800’s. Many had the Olympus E-M1 or E-M5 and I was the only guy with the A7s because the mindset here was MORE RESOLUTION is better. In this case, yes, that is true. Shooting landscape is always better with more resolution if you want a very large print. If you want a 20X30 print you will see more details up close with an A7r, D800 or Leica M9 even. But for just hanging a 20X30 in my office, from normal viewing distance, 99% of people would never see a difference between my A7s and a D800 file.

In any case, I had to crank the ISO to 3200, 6400 and in some cases 12,800. The good news is even at these high ISO’s the Sony did fantastic. Are they 100% noise free? No, of course not but they look pretty damn  good for these high ISO’s.  Just think, if I attempted this with digital cameras from 3-4 years ago it wold be impossible. Images would be grain city, washed out, harsh…but the Sony A7s, as I have been saying since its launch, is quite special. It is an ANY light camera capable of so much. To see more from this trip using the A7s click here.

I was using the Voigtlander 15 for many shots and they looked great. When I switched to the Leica WATE (borrowed) it got even better with color and contrast. NO edge issues with either lens on the A7s but the WATE is a much better lens (as it should be for 12X the price).

SO yes, I still adore my Sony A7s. 

Below are a few images, all handheld. Some with the Leica WATE, some with the Voigtlander 15. All without ANY NOISE REDUCTION. What you see is what you get. 

DSC04502

DSC04491

canypn

-

Some of the images looked interesting in B&W and what we were looking for here were shadows, light, texture and detail. 

DSC04531

DSC04538

DSC04365

DSC04345

DSC04344

DSC04507

DSC04519

 

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.

Outside of the USA? Use my worldwide Amazon links HERE!

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!

Nov 062014
 

Street Photography to Me

by Steve Huff 

P1070579

Many have asked me about doing a video on my thoughts about Street Photography. Why I am FAR from an expert on shooting Street, I do in fact enjoy it and I enjoy the interaction with the subjects as well. Not everyone shoots the same way, and me, I prefer to go about it in a couple of different ways. Sp enjoy the video below as everything is explained there :)

Nov 042014
 

DSC04293

The new Artisan & Artist CLCAM-1000 Camera Bag

Artisan & Artist have released a new camera bag, the CLCAM-1000 in a new Navy Color, and it is a beauty! This bag is perfect for a mirrorless system or Leica M system. In fact, a Leica M would be perfect for this bag as it would fit a 1-2 bodies and 2-3 lenses as well as a charger and accessories. It has “Rangefinder Bag” written all over it and is up there in quality with the best I have seen (in this niche) :) It is made of canvas and Leather.

Artisan & Artist sent me the CLCAM-1000 for review and it is one clean-looking design with the typical Artisan & Artist usability and functionality…and of course, the usual A&A BEAUTY.  The new Navy color is fantastic and is not usually seen in higher end camera bags. It is a step away from the typical black or brown leather and canvas we usually see in these sorts of bags. Artisan & Artist have always been in my top three bag companies with my #1 longest lasting bag coming from them. These days I enjoy a few bags from Wotancraft, Hold Fast Gear, CosySpeed and Ona but also have fallen for this bag from Artisan & Artist. I may need an extra room in my house soon to house all of my camera bags, lol. (maybe a giveaway soon)?

DSC04292

DSC04291

Many love higher end fashion camera bags and many complain about them not understanding why anyone would want such a pricey bag. Me, I love all bags but there are so many fantastic camera bags out there. How do we find the “right one” for our needs when there are so many awesome companies making these higher end super quality bags today?

DSC04295

DSC04296

It’s all a personal choice really. Wether we go for a high end beautiful luxury bag or a low end $49 special, all that matters is that WE like what we use and buy. If I hate a bag I will not use it. If I love a bag it will go with me everywhere and be functional, doing more than just carrying my camera. When I first started getting into really nice bags, Artisan & Artist was my 1st choice. I used some of their bags for years..taking them all over the world in rain, sleet, snow and blistering heat. From airport to airport and on the streets, on the beach and everywhere in between. I had a nice large one that I used for travel and it never let me down in construction or stealthy looks. These days I use a very sweet Hold Fast Roamographer for my travel but when I need to go on a day outing with a Leica M I have found that this new A&A CLCAM-1000 can easily fit the bill. Sure, many bags can but some may adore the classic styling of this bag as well as the gorgeously functional interior. The front flap snaps into place instead of using buckles or velcro, which is nice.

DSC04297

The new CLCAM-1000 exudes class and is yet another bag in the A&A line that will get compliments on the design and looks of the bag itself. The padded interior is typical Artisan & Artist Red and as stated, large enough for 1-2 Leica M’s and a couple of lenses. A Sony A7 and 3 lenses or something like an Olympus E-M1 and a few lenses. It’s a mirrorless bag for sure, not really for a DSLR system. I was able to fit my 13″ Macbook Air inside but it was tight. I think it would be best with an iPad Air or the smaller Macbook Air. I see this as a day trip bag or something to keep you beloved mirrorless safe and sound when in use and when not in use.

Some bags I have used over the years age very well and some do not. The ones that have has always been from Ona, Artisan & Artist and Domke. I have not used my other bags long enough to speak about longevity but this one gives me no doubts. The inner flap is lined with zipper pockets to hold memory cards, film, or cables. Even your iPhone.

Overall this is a fantastic looking, feeling and functional bag. Add it to the growing list of useful camera bags that not only perform but look the part as well. The price for this bag in the USA comes in at around $500.00. I was not able to find any dealers selling this bag, nor was I able to find any information about the bag on A&A’s own website, which was odd..but I did see one on E-Bay for $530 and shipping from Japan. I am sure the USA dealers will get a hold of this bag SOON. It is expensive, and there are many other options out there for the same or less money but if you are an Artisan & Artist fan like me you may just fall for this one.

Things I would have changed about this bag? Maybe a rear pocket could have been added (I find these very useful). That is about it.

Artisan & Artist dealers I recommend are PopFlash.com and LeicaStoreMiami.com

 

 

Oct 312014
 

titleashwin

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

By Ashwin Rao – Follow him on Facebook HERE

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

Leica M9 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux-ASPH

ash1

-

M240 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux-ASPH

ash2

-
Leica M9 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux-ASPH

ash3

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

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

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

ash4

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

M9 and 50 mm Noctilux f/0.95

ash5

-
M240 and 50 mm APO Summicron-ASPH

ash6

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

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

M240 and Summicron 28 ASPH

ash7

Leica M9 and Noctilux 50 mm f/0.95

ash8

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

M240 and Noctilux f/0.95 – Lauren

ash9

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

M240 and Noctilux f/0.95 – Andi

ash10

-

M9 and Noctilux f/0.95

ash11

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

M240 and 90 mm f/4 Macro Elmar

ash12

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

ash13

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leica M9 and 35 Summuilux FLE

ash14

-
Leica M9 and 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH

ash15

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

M240 and 50 mm APO-Summicron ASPH

ash16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ash17

M240 and 35 mm Summilux ASPH FLE

ash18

© 2009-2014 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved