Jul 292014
 

My first serious try with the Leica M Monochrome

By Chris

This is my very first photography blog ever. I hope to share with you all my passion in photography and photographic gear.

It’s been a year or so since I first purchased the Leica M Monochrom. There’s no shred of doubt of its image quality while able to understand what Leica has done to the sensor. On paper there’s nothing special about its specs. Some might even question if there’s a need for a camera that only produces Black and White images. We all know there is some decent film simulator software like SilverFlex Pro, DXO Film Pack, VSCO cam….etc or even some fairly good LR presets out there will do the job for converting color images into black and white with great detail. So, is there a need? If you are a massive black and white photography fan, often make large prints for appreciation and are a LTM lens user then this is the camera for you. I am not going to go through any A&B tests or spec comparisons because they are widely available on the web. What I am going to do is walk you through my first serious try with the Leica M Monochrom.

On the evening of the14th of February 2014, I started to pack my gear for my trip to Paris, this being the second time visiting (family trip the first time, couldn’t get any good shots at all) my intent was to focus heavily on photography. I struggled with choosing what gear would accompany me when you know they can all produce incredible image quality. The Monochrom has been sitting in my drybox for at least a year, I blame myself very much for that but greed is the nature of humans when you get to choose from colour and have the ability to convert to black and white later on versus to strictly black and white from a colour blind sensor; of course the choice will be colour (M9-P). However, my love for black and white photography has always been strong and constantly growing. Finally I had enough courage to take the M Monochrom and left my M9-P behind for this trip. What lenses then? This was an even harder task than choosing which camera to take. From what I heard the Leica M Monochrom works very well with vintage Leica screw mount lenses. Not long before this trip I managed to purchase the Leica 28 f/5.6 Summaron from a collector. Wide angle? Check., What about a standard lens? Leica 50 F/2 Summicron Collapsible Radioactive. Right. I am good to go!

First day, Eiffel Tower. Pre-booked to skip the line – Eiffel Tower package from easypasstours.com* which was very useful. The queue was scary and learned a lot more about the history of the Eiffel Tower (tour guide was being very informative). I spent the whole afternoon there until the sun went down and the view from the Summit was incredible and weather that day was in full cooperation! Seeing the sun setting with amazing colour I once again felt if I had brought the wrong camera but after taking a few shots and being able to see how amazing the light falls on Paris without the disturbance of colour was just incredible! The Leica 28 F/5.6 Summaron did an awesome job for capturing every bit of detail.
*A warm reminder regarding the Summit, it has a metal net surrounding it for safety reasons, therefore large lenses cannot be used effectively.

This has been mentioned many times but I had to repeat – there are a lot of people complaining about how flat the M Monochrom files look, but being flat is a positive thing because those RAWs give you massive freedom to do postproduction! However, please remember not to overexpose too much for the highlight as I found the recovery of the highlights wasn’t on par with most of the top CMOS sensors out in the market, like the Sony A7R. So is this bad? Not at all. You just have to go with the character of this sensor, treat it like a slide and try to expose accurately for every frame. There are so many details / information you can recover from the shadows. Sometimes the shadowed areas can get a bit grainy but hell, I love the grain; it looks nothing like Digital Noise (disgusting). Just unbelievable!

The Leica 50 F/2 Summicron Collapsible Radioactive batch I owned has average glass with hairline scratches and cleaning marks in the middle but surprisingly none of those factors affect the images. Images are very solid. This particular combo is my current favourite due to its compactness. I would agree more sharpness / detail / resolution can be achieved with modern lenses like 50 F/1.4 Asph or 50 F/2 Asph APO but the resolve power which the The Leica 50 F/2 Summicron Collapsible Radioactive batch is more than enough (this comment also applies to the Leica 28 F/5.6 Summaron) and to be honest, I prefer the optical characteristics from vintage lenses. I have the Leica 50 F/2 Asph APO on order. When it arrives I will share a few samples and possibly AB tests.

I am no stranger to black and white photography but the M Monochrom has allowed me once again to focus and explore even deeper without the distraction of colour. You can never get enough from this camera. Some say Monochrom is the new colour and I very much agree with this theory because there is so much to see in monochrom!

I hope you all enjoy the images. Please be sure to leave any comments and feedback by either emailing me or leaving me a message on my Facebook page! Thank you!

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FotografiePorter

Tumblr: http://fotografieporter.tumblr.com/

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Jul 272014
 

Black and White Storytelling

by Ben Miller

Steve and Brandon,

I think that all photographers are searching for the perfect camera and a photographic style that they can call their own.

My main focus in photography is black and white storytelling. I find that the sum of several photographs which tells a story can be greater than one just one perfect image. I have found the gear that best suits my focus. In my bag is a Leica M9 and an Olympus OM-D E-M5. Both of these systems allow me to get close to people without being obtrusive. I believe in prime lenses and do not own any zooms.

I recently was commissioned to shoot an event with my M9 and E-M5. During the gathering I was pulled away and asked to join a few gentlemen in the parking lot. I wrote the following story to accompany the captures of what occurred:

 

At every party there is a secret party.

One that only few know about and are invited to.

I was lured away from the crowd to one of these clandestine gatherings.

I turned down the smoke as it is not my thing.

I partook in drink instead.

They handed me a big shot of Fireball whiskey.

I gargled the cinnamon spiced liquor and then swished it around in my mouth.

After swallowing I asked if they had handed me water and if there was anything stronger.

As I raised my Leica to my eye I said “document everything”.

I then smiled and said “don’t worry…..

I’ll only capture you from the nose down.”

 

Attached are the images from the photo story.

You can view more of my work on my website and blog:

www.photographsbyben.com

www.photographsbybenmiller.blogspot.com

Thank you Steve and Brandon for having a wonderful website that so many of us look forward to everyday.

Cheers,

Ben Miller

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Jul 212014
 

My few days with the very fun Leica C Camera

By Steve Huff

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A couple of months back I had the opportunity to try out the Leica C for a few days. Usually, I am not a BIG fan of small P&S cameras as they always lack something in regards to image quality. For me, I would normally rather take out a camera that is slightly larger as there are many that will give me much better performance, then again, sometimes we want to go SMALL, and the Leica C is a very attractive came that also happens to perform very well for a small and tiny P&S. It even has an integrated EVF (though not to the level of the Sony RX100 III, which my review IS coming soon).

The Leica C is basically a Panasonic LF1 with a new facelift and design on the outer shell. The Leica has some snazzy accessories available for it as well where the Panasonic is sort of “plain jane” when it comes to appearances. If you want to stick out in a crowd and say “look at my beautiful camera” the Leica would be the one to get over the Panasonic, which to my eye is sort of plain and dull looking. We all know that the looks of a camera do not make the images, YOU DO and the cameras guts, or internals, is what pumps out the files for you. IN that regard, the two cameras are the same. Period.

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The LF1 comes in at $319. A very good price for this camera as I found it to be quick, stealthy, quiet and with very nice image quality for a small sensor P&S camera/

The Leica C comes in at $699, NEARLY $400 MORE. So what do you get for that $400? For starters you get Adobe Lightroom software, a better warranty and the Leica design. For some, this is worth it as many “want” a Leica. While not a “real” Leica, it does have the red dot which tells everyone else who has no clue about the details, that yes, this is a Leica.

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The good thing is that it does look like a Leica camera, and if that inspires you to get out and shoot more, then yes, it could be worth it. Just remember though that the Panasonic is $380 less, and is in reality, the same camera besides for the outer design.

With that out-of-the-way, this is not going to be a “review” but my thoughts on the camera after a few days of real world use while on vacation a while back.

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The Leica C is beautiful to look at and hold. It is small but felt nice in my hand. I found it to be quick, snappy, and with a nice menu layout. The EVF was a but on the almost too small side but would do in a pinch. For 90% of shots I used the LCD. The LCD does not swivel, so that was one thing I missed but for a small P&S, this was a little firecracker and while not up to the level of the $798 Sony RX100 III, it had its moments.

I enjoyed shooting this camera in high contrast B&W, which is where it did really well for OOC images. I also found the OOC JPEGS to be crisp with great color. Probably my 2nd fave P&S camera ever, next to the new Sony RX100 III which is the smarter buy at about $100 more, but then again, the Sony doesn’t have the red dot!

Below are a few images I snapped with the Leica C. I had fun with it, and for me that is key. If I can have fun with a camera instead of having frustration, then it goes on my list of “must think about” cameras. The Leica C is not a low light type of camera but it is an every day, take everywhere camera.

You can buy it from Ken Hansen, PopFlash, The Pro Shop, B&H Photo or Amazon! It also comes in a cool dark black or a nice white. There are also deals to be had and you should not have to pay retail on this guy. For example, Amazon has them for $590 right now, using Prime. 

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Jul 192014
 

40mm, the blind frame

by Daniel Schaefer

40mm, the blind frame.
As any photographer building out a kit knows, the stresses of balancing both budget, and usability when purchasing lenses is always a daunting challenge. When I was an SLR shooter, I always tended towards two fields of view, primarily 35mm for my everyday carry, and 50mm for portrait work. I was however always frustrated by the limits of the two and found myself stuck switching more often than I would like.

I was never entirely able to settle the frame in a way that I liked, 35mm was near perfect horizontally, but for a vertical portrait I found it unflattering, the 50mm had the opposite issue, near flawless for the vertical frame, but far too tight for any horizontal image, far too isolating to show scene the way I wished I could.

I was one day lucky enough to be handed a friends beautiful silver M6, with the task of putting the long retired workhorse back to good use. The task then came down to finding a lens to put the camera to use with. I’ve spent the past few years doing freelance Vintage equipment maintenance, resale and repair, during that time a lens that came across my desk time and time again, yet never managed to catch my attention was the oft forgotten Leica/Minolta Rokkor 40mm f/2

The particular lens is an interesting amalgamation of German and Japanese construction, German optics, shipped in brass tubes to Japan to be assembled under the Minolta monicker. The one hazard, was the lack of 40mm frame lines on the M6, I had the 50mm, I had the 35mm, but for my new weapon of choice I needed to figure out a way to compose…

So, blind to the edges of my frame, I began shooting, both from my eye as per usual, but with my new-found freedom that ignorance of the frame gave me, I began for the first time, shooting almost exclusively from the hip. I began to learn the frame, roll after roll I began to learn the space that the lens occupied, near perfect both horizontally and vertically, the lens sang just as sweetly for street, or portraits.

I’ve been shooting almost exclusively with the 40mm for the past six months, both on the M6, and now an M9. I always approach equipment choice by wondering what story it might let me tell, and so far, I’m enjoying the one the 40mm is writing.

—–


Photographer and Cinematographer

New York / Los Angeles / Firenze

- Outlierimagery.com -

 

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Jul 172014
 

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Fashion with the Leica M9

By Logan Norton

www.logannortonphotography.org

Hello Steve, Brandon and Readers,

Last year my friend Raine contacted me with ideas about a fashion shoot to introduce a new line of headdresses she had designed. We began discussing concepts for the shoot and I could sense from the start that this would be an ideal project for my Leica M9. Her designs feature vibrant colors, rich textures and exquisite details, characteristics for which the M9’s CCD sensor is magical. A few of the other factors that influenced this decision were the location (outdoor with three different settings spanning a 1+ mile area) and the number of models we would be working with (5). I knew that this would be a long day of shooting and would require a lot of physical movement on my part and I did not want to spend it dragging my Nikon D800e and lenses all over the place. The M9 allowed me greater mobility while still enabling me to capture images of the absolute highest quality. I was able to bring all of my gear in a small Ona Bowery bag with room to spare!

Steve has written extensively about the Leica M9 so I will not go over technical information about it but will instead focus on the shooting experience and how it fit into a fashion driven shoot. There are two things that I see as drawbacks to the Leica M9 as an on-location, fashion photography tool. The first one is easily remedied while the second presents the kind of stress that only photographers know. First is battery life. It isn’t the worst I have ever experienced but it isn’t very good either. As I said, extra batteries solve this issue easily (albeit expensively as this is a Leica after all and nothing comes cheaply…). The second is the single memory card slot. I hate this. A lot. Knock on wood I have never experienced a memory card failure but the possibility exists and the simple fact that no backup images exist causes me great stress.

With those negatives out of the way, let’s talk about what I loved about this experience. Most obvious is the overall size of the system. I shot this entire look with the 35mm and 90mm Summicron lenses on the M9. There was not a single moment I wished for a zoom lens, or for more frames per second, or more megapixels. I simply went about my business and when I was done, I still had enough energy to go to the after-party!

The second thing I noticed was that the models responded positively to the system. They loved the camera, admired its beauty and marveled at how quiet it was. It is impossible to say what affect this had on the way the models behaved or on the final images but it definitely felt like they were able to engage with me a little more than I have experienced when using a DSLR. Some of this may have to do with the smaller system being less intimidating or it may just be they were hypnotized by the undeniable attractiveness of the camera!

At the end of the day, my final assessment of the Leica M9 as a tool for shooting fashion images was very positive. The depth of color and contrast that it produces, along with the incredible freedom that I feel when working with such a manageable system far outweigh the anxiety caused by the single memory card slot. I can highly recommend this camera to anyone for on-location fashion work where mobility and stamina are crucial elements.

Check out more of Raine’s amazing work:

http://www.etsy.com/shop/gatodesigns

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Jul 152014
 

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The Sony A7s: A New Camera for Leica M lenses

By Ashwin Rao – HIs flickr is HERE, his Facebook is HERE

Hello, gang. It’s Ashwin, back from a bit of a hiatus to discuss the camera du jour, Sony’s impressive A7s. The A7s has gotten quite a bit of press, in particular for it’s remarkable ISO sensitivity/performance, for it’s 4K video, and for it’s buck-the-convention 12-megapixel sensor. It’s been hotly debate, in light of the already-exceptional performance of its two siblings, the A7 and A7R, which offer different full frame sensors. I have extensively shot both bodies, and while I enjoyed the experience, I was left a bit in the lurch for entirely selfish reasons. Unfortunately, extensive shooting bore out that the A7r is really not a great option for Leica M lenses due to the critical nature of the sensor and how it plays (poorly) with M lenses, causing excessive vignetting, color casts, and detail smearing at the edges. The Sony A7 is better with regards to its capacity with M lenses (most lenses 35 mm and above do “okay” to “great” on the A7), but after shooting these 2 cameras, I came to the conclusion that perhaps Leica M lenses were best suited to be used on Leica M camera bodies, from a purely imaging standpoint. One can argue endlessly about the rangefinder (beyond the frame lines) vs SLR/mirrorless (tunnel vision) way of seeing, and there’s really no right answer there, as it’s more a matter of preference. But until recently, while the A7R and A7 were capable of using M lenses, they didn’t really make M lenses shine. And thus, I moved on, continuing to genuinely enjoy my Leica M bodies for my M lenses.

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A few months ago, whispers of a new camera began, and what resulted was the Sony A7s….a low megapixel (in today’s market), high ISO monster reportedly designed for videographers ready to make use of its full frame sensor and 4K recording potential. What people did not speak so much about was whether it would handle Leica M lenses better than its siblings. Maybe it was a lack of interest, and maybe the conversation moved on, but for me, my curiosity was piqued. I wondered whether the sensor’s lower megapixel (less critical) sensor, coupled with its gapless sensor design, would allow it to handle rangefinder lenses, which notoriously bend light into difficult angles at the periphery of digital sensors. My curiosity was also piqued by the high ISO capabilities of such a camera. If the A7s could handle high ISO’s as well as was being made out, suddenly, one could use compact, relatively “slow” M lenses such as the f/2 Summicrons, f/2.5 Summarits, f/2.8 Elmarits, and f/4 Elmars in low light conditions at high shutter speeds. Further, faster M lenses, such as the f/1.4 Summiluxes and f/0.95-1 Noctilux options might allow the photographer to see into the dim light of night like never before, and the lenses remain relatively compact to top it off. Leica M and other rangefinder lenses are generally much smaller than their mirrorless (at least FF mirrorless) and SLR counterparts, and balance quite well on the A7(s/r) bodies quite well, so one could make incredibly versatile images at very low light, using a very small kit…..in theory.

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To top it off, the Sony A7s was soon announced to have a “silent shutter” option, allowing the photographer to shoot with a full electronic shutter that would not announce itself whenever a photo was being taken. To me, this was one of the huge potential benefits to the Sony…Silence means that a photographer can work discretely, and the A7s, for the first time, offered this option to the photographer choosing a mirrorless body for work…For a Leica photographer-nutball such as myself, the value of discretion is part of the “rangefinder way”, and now, here was a mirrorless body that did it even better than the Leica M3 through M7, with their lovely/subtle shutter sounds….Here was a camera that could offer silence when shooting (albeit with the risk of a rolling shutter effect for fast-moving subjects)….wow, the A7s was now really grabbing my attention.

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But, All of this was fine and dandy, but only, and only if M lenses would play well on the Sony….

So the early reports came in, including Steve’s own detailed, fantastic, glowing review of the camera, using mainly FE lenses…Steve was blown away by the camera’s AF performance, high ISO performance, and it’s overall handling, for a full frame camera. But the images that intrigued me most from his review, as well as those of others, was the performance of the tiny Cosina Voigtlander 15 mm Heliar lens. Many of you know that while this lens one of the widest fields of view for a rangefinder lens, it plays quite poorly with the M9 and M240, and doesn’t do well on cropped sensors in many instances, due to excessive color shifts (magenta) and vignetting, due to the physics of the optics at play and how they project light through the lens and onto most sensors…Yet, the Sony A7s was handling the CV 15 mm lens, no sweat.

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So off I went to my camera store, armed with a host of Leica M lenses, ranging from a 21 mm f/3.4 Super Elmar through a 90 mm f/2 APO-Summicron. After a few preliminary shots, I took note of dramatically less vignetting and what appeared to be more uniform color through the image field (i.e. no color casts). Hmmmm, great start, I thought….

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But what about smearing? One issue with using lenses 35 mm or wider at full aperture, is that many lenses start to smear details at the periphery of the imaging field. It’s a dirty little secret that Leica’s own wide angle lenses tend to do this on digital bodies, and this was one of the reasons that it took so long for Leica to introduce a digital rangefinder (and ultimately, the Leica M8 with it’s 1.3x crop sensor, designed to avoid the physics causing some of the issues mentioned). At one point, Leica’s CEO at the time mentioned that it might never be possible to produce a digital M body, but we know how that prediction turned out….

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Smearing has been a major issue for me with full frame bodies such as the Sony A7r and A7, and when added to intermittent color casts and high levels of vignetting, I had previously found that files just took too much work to get things right, and I gave up. Now, sitting home at my computer with a variety of files from a variety of lenses ranging from wide to telephoto, I was not seeing any objectionable colorcasts and much improved vignetting. How about smearing, then? Well, the jury is still out, but for the most part I have been entirely pleased. Of the wide lenses in my possession, I found that the 21 mm f/3.4 Super Elmar did exhibit slight detail loss at the far edges of the image, but this was not objectionable, just more than what I had seen on the M9 and M240 bodies. The lens that continues to “misbehave” on the A7s was the Leica 28 mm f/2 Summicron ASPH. This lens gives even Leica M bodies some trouble, and in the case of the Sony A7s, it has continued to produce moderate smearing at the edges. For real world street photography, in which edge sharpness may not be important, the smearing rarely matters, but if one were shooting landscapes, he or she would notice this, so it’s I lens I have considered avoiding for those moments when edge sharpness matters (For most other moments, the 28 ‘cron works great). Beyond that, I have had no issues with edge smearing. Everything works great. My Wide Angle Tri Elmar (WATE) works perfectly at 16 mm on the A7s, though this lens’ design plays reasonably well with even the A7r. My 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux FLE, which didn’t work well on the A7 due to odd vignetting, works perfectly well on the Sony A7s.

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To add to the story, I have found that the Sony A7s does a great job with colors. It presents a palette similar to that of the Sony A7 and A7r, so if you are used to the files that those cameras make, the A7s will be similar. One nice added perk is that at higher ISO, while dynamic range does start to drop off a bit (particularly past ISO 4000, though files are totally useable, in my opinion, through ISO 12,800), the color reproduction at those high ISO’s remains solid. There’s only so much you can push today’s sensor tech, in terms of dynamic range and high ISO noise and color performance, but the Sony A7s is today’s state of the art.

Ultimately, I have been thoroughly pleased with my time using Leica M lenses as my sole lens set up for the Sony A7s. Everything works well. High ISO – check! Silent shutter – check! Minimal muss and fuss with edge image quality – BIG check! Colors and skin tones. Check that as well. Handling of camera with M lenses…big HUGE check! It all seems to work well.

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In summary, I have found the Sony A7s to be a great option on which to use Leica M lenses. If you have an investment in rangefinder lenses, or intend to do so, the Sony A7s is the current camera that you’d want to have on a budget. Sure the Leica M9 is fantastic, but it has high ISO limitations. The Leica M240 is great, but tends to start banding around ISO 3200. Those are fantastic options and allow one to see in the “rangefinder way”. But separating yourself from that, the Sony A7s is an incredible imaging machine. Sure, it has a lower megapixel count, but 12 MP files are plenty for the vast majority of us. The camera’s incredible ISO performance allows for the use of slower lenses, and thus more compact lenses, in low light shooting circumstances. Suddenly, your Elmars and Summicrons become relevant options for night photography, and lenses such as the Noctilux allow you to pear into the night better than your own eyes….it’s rather incredible. Creative possibilities open up, and I see new photographic horizons ahead! The Camera’s EVF is sufficient to reliably focus lenses, particularly if one uses the “Focus Magnify” option to achieve critical focus. The silent shutter allows for very discrete shooting, and for most street photography moments, it’s a perfect option (I have yet to see the Rolling shutter effect for my style of shooting) that’s silent and discrete. And year, silent shutter means no shutter shake to blur your images at that pixel level. Speaking of pixels, the camera’s lower pixel count allows for easier achievement of sharp images at slower shutter speeds, if desired, as 12 MP is much easier to hand hold than 36 megapixels in nearly any circumstance…something to consider if pixel peeping for sharp images is your thing.

The list goes on and on, but you can see that I am quite convinced that the Sony A7s is a viable option for those of you who want to use small, high performance rangefinder lenses on a mirrorless body. It’s the way to go. By the way, every image you see here was shot with the A7s and a M mount Leica lens. Now go out, test one out, and see if it satisfies you. The Sony A7s has certainly satisfied me.

All the best to you, my friends!
Ashwin (July, 2014)

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Jul 142014
 

My favorite cameras for usability, ability and versatility mid 2014

By Steve Huff

Wow. It is already mid 2014. Half of this year has whizzed by faster than ever and as always we have a ton of cameras that we can choose from when it comes to photography. If we want something small that packs a punch, we have that. If we want something for low light, we have that as well. If we want something that is a joy to shoot, hold and use, well, we also have that. Do we have it all in one single camera yet? Well, not really.

There are always new camera seeing released though maybe not as many as the years past. DSLR production, as in new models, has seemed to slow down some from the constant barrage of new models that we used to see. Well, at least it seems like it. Even mirrorless offerings seem to be lasting a little longer between releases these days, and this is GOOD as we are at the point now where almost any camera will give us better results than most of us even need.

So far in 2014 we have had some cool releases and there are still fantastic cameras that were released in the past that are still perfectly usable. The question you need to ask yourself when deciding on a new camera is “What will I be shooting with it”, also “Do I value usability more than overall versatility”? “Will I be shooting mostly low light or in good light”? “Does it need to fit in my pocket”?

Once you decide what it is you want to use the camera for, be it portraits, your kids, vacations, or just an everyday shooter then you need to decide if you want simplicity in a fixed lens model or something that will allow you to choose and change lenses. The choice is yours as there is something out there to fit your needs, and I am going to talk about the cameras I like as of July 2014 with the reasons WHY I really like, if not love them.

My fave cameras made for Versatility

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Micro 4/3, Olympus E-M and E-P series

My favorite camera for ALL OUT versatility as of today is still the Olympus E-M1 or even E-P5. These cameras are beautifully made with a solid feel and gorgeous looks (in the case of the E-P5). They have some of the best lenses made for any system next to Leica from fisheye to telephoto and everything in between including some super fast primes like the Nocticron f/1.2 that is one of the best lenses I have ever used. With Micro 4/3 you have speed, you have the lenses, you have the build, you have the amazing 5-AXIS Image Stabilization and you have a smaller size. The lenses are so good, and not so astronomically priced. The color reproduction is beautiful and the B&W is not too shabby either. A camera like the E-M1 has it all and the only real weakness of this camera is that the sensor is smaller than full frame and smaller than APS-C. For this reason you lose out on some shallow depth of field and the images will be a bit more noisy at high ISO than full frame cameras.

Even so, if you shoot mostly in good light and want one hell of a system with unlimited lens choice and an all around great experience with pro image quality results, the E-M1 is still a gorgeous camera. The E-M10 and E-M5 are as well. I reviewed them all and you can read my reviews of these models HERE, HERE and HERE. Yes, you can indeed get DSLR quality and beyond with these models.

You can buy the E-M1 at Amazon or B&H Photo.

Three from Micro 4/3 – Super versatile cameras that do it all. 

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My fave camera for Point & Shoot, Vacation and SMALL SIZE!

Sony takes it here for me with the new advanced pocket rocket, the RX100 III. 

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The new Sony RX100 III is a hell of a camera in almost every way. It is small, made very well, has a pop up EVF, tilt LCD and stellar IQ for a small pocket camera. It’s a handsome camera as well and gives us an f/1.8 to f/2.8 lens from 24-70 (ff equiv). What is not to like? The color is great. the files are nice and I have seen some do amazing work with the RX100 version 1 and now Version III improves on that model in every way. This is, hands down, the best pocket camera I have ever seen or used, ever. Video is good as well. It does it all but will not give you the all out versatility or IQ of something like a Micro 4/3 or full frame model. For what it is though, it is the perfect camera for every day shooting, vacation, kids, family, events, etc. Whoever buys an RX100 III will not be disappointed. It is the real deal. I have been able to use one for a but thanks to B&H Photo but have not had serious time yet with it. Will be doing that this week. You can buy the RX100 III at B&H Photo or Amazon.

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My Fave camera for Usability

Without Question, the Leica M reigns supreme here

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The Leica M, any of them from film to the M 240 or Monochrom take this one for me in a huge way. These cameras are ones that you cherish and create an emotional bond with. For those who think that is nonsense, then you have never had that bond with a camera, and yes, it is real. The Leica M is a masterpiece of design, build, and usability. All manual focus using a rangefinder it is a very precision tool that actually can teach you a think or two about photography, framing and exposure. It is a tool one can use for a lifetime if you choose a film model, as they last forever. While the price is off-putting to many, think about it in a new way. This is a camera that will give you the most enjoyment from any camera ever..well, it has for me and not everyone is the same. From the moment you take it from its box all of your regrets of the money spent fade away.

The Leica M6, M7, MP, M8, M9, M240 and Mono will give you that Leica experience that no other camera will give you. As for IQ, others can meet or exceed the Leica in that area but nothing can beat it for usability or for creating that emotional connection. You can buy a Leica from many places these days but my faves have always been Ken Hansen, PopFlash.com, The Pro Shop and Leica Store Miami. These guys will treat you right.

Three from the Leica M 240

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My favorite camera for general every day and low light use

The Sony A7s wins this one easily. 

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You guys know how much I adore the Sony A7s and while it is not the most versatile (only due to lack of native lenses when compared to others such as Micro 4/3) camera it is indeed quite powerful. There is no low light situation that this camera can not tackle, period. When used with the 50 0.95 Mitakon I can see in the dark and when used with the native Sony lenses such as the 35 2.8 or 55 1.8 the camera will even AF in the dark. Amazing. The A7 also has better color performance than the A7 and A7r , better AWB, faster AF and better M mount lens compatibility. You can read my review here to see what it is all about but I now have one of these bad boys with a few lenses and love it to pieces. As I said in the review, the A7s is probably puns for pound, dollar for dollar my favorite camera that I have ever reviewed.

Low light shooters, this is a must try or own. The camera also is excellent in daytime shots and video. If more native lenses were around it would be unbeatable for me as of July 2014.

You can buy the A7s at Amazon or B&H Photo.

Three from the A7s, 1st one using the Voigtlander 35 1.2 wide open and a 100% OOC JPEG. 2nd one is from the Mitakon 50 0.95 and third and fourth is from the Zeiss 50 Sonnar 1.5. 

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Runner Ups

The Fuji X-T1 and Leica T are also very cool and very capable cameras. The Leica is different than other cameras in its interface and joy of use. It is a Leica and gives you the Leica style of IQ and pride of ownership. The Fuji is still a lightweight in the build but for Fuji fans, this is the best of the lot when it comes to Fuji interchangeable lens bodies.

Of course these are not the only cameras I like, but they are my faves as of July 2014. The Sony, the Leica, the Olympus..all superb in so many ways and unlikely  to leave anyone disappointed as long as you use them with good glass. The key is to get out and use them (for me it has been tough since it has been 110-112 every day and me and extreme oven like heat do not jive well for more than 5-10 minutes) and have fun using what you do own. The key is you more than anything, not the gear..though I admit..it is very fun to test and try new cameras!

Jul 132014
 

The best for me: Leica Monochrom!

by Francois Roosens

I think it’s the moment to send you some pictures from my Leica MM (Monochrom). Leica came into my life about 2 years ago, I sold my D4, D800e and all reflex kit to buy it.

The Leica MM is for me the best camera I have bought. I now own the MM(The best), M240,  A7r,  A7s (fabulous), and also the Lumix GM1 (it’s a perfect micro camera). I like your job.. Thanks for everything.

I am sending you some picture of « GILLES » from Belgium, it was in March for the « Carnaval » It was an important feast in my country. Early in the morning Gilles come pick  up other gilles and drink and eat at each house. in front of every house, they dance around… and lunch some oranges to give at children or at people for have a lucky year. I hope you like this.  The Leica 24 Summilux and 50 Noctilux 0.95 was used for that and I was up at 4AM.

Thank you!

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Jul 112014
 

A Leica M3 User Report in Pictures

By Logan Norton – His website is HERE

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Hello Steve and readers, I would like to present a review of my favorite documentary camera, the venerable Leica M3. As a long time Leica lover I have tried or owned every M camera iteration and I continually find myself drawn back to the original for its impeccable style, exquisite viewfinder and solid, mechanical feel. The M3 does not require batteries, as it has no light meter. It features a .91x magnification viewfinder that is exceptionally well matched to 50mm lenses.

The M3 started a long history of Leica use for reportage and street photography. Greats such as Imogen Cunningham, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Gary Winogrand, Helmut Newton and Diane Arbus all chose Leica cameras for their work. A Leica camera provides near silent operation in a small, easily ignored package; something that allows street photographers and reporters to blend into their surroundings and operate with minimal disruption of the events surrounding them. It was for these characteristics that I chose to bring my trusty M3 along when I went out to document a Peace March in Salinas, CA earlier this year.

In response to escalating violence involving the Salinas Police Department, members of the Hispanic community organized a Peace March. The march highlighted three shooting deaths of young Hispanic men at the hands of the Salinas police and called for open dialect between the city and the Hispanic community leaders.

In order to cover this event I paired my M3 with two of Voigtlander’s best lenses; the 50mm Nokton f/1.5 and the 28mm Ultron f/2. One of the downsides to the M3 is its lack of 28mm (or 35mm for that matter) frame lines. For my work I do not use an external finder for this lens, instead choosing to shoot with both eyes open and guestimate the framing. I have found this to be suitable for my purposes but would definitely not recommend it for everything. The images were all captured using either Kodak 400tx (my favorite film for these events) or Fuji Acros 100. The film was developed at home using Kodak Xtol developer and scanned with a Kodak Pakon F-135 Plus.

 

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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/

Jul 102014
 

Leica Monochrome Mojo

by Matthieu Fassy

My name is Matthieu Fassy I am a French expat in Dubai. About a year ago I started getting into photography, encouraged by my dear wife and some close friends. I decided to acquire a Canon 5D Mark III and a few lenses and started carrying the whole kit in each of my trips abroad. Pretty quickly I got really tired of carrying a huge and heavy bag around… I am shooting Street, Landscapes, Architecture and Sports. I found that the 5D was giving me great results in Sports photography but that for my favorite type of photography, which is Street, it was just not convenient at all.

So I went Leica…

I am a fan of Black & White and I must say that the M Monochrom is making me really happy. There is something difficult to explain about the rendering of the files coming out the M Monochom… Some kind of 3D / Sharp magic mojo giving a unique touch to the images! The M 240 is producing mellow colors which suit my taste well but I must say that I often convert those color images to B&W… As for the lenses they are perfection! Fast and razor-sharp! I only shoot in natural light and often wide open so for night Street photography, these lenses are great!

Anyway, my last trips were in Japan where I was in Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo and the Netherlands. Japan is a very interesting country, with great history, culture, food, art, architecture and traditions. It is a country of contracts in many aspects, very graphic and very photogenic. As for the Netherlands I was there during Kings Day (The King’s Birthday), which is a day of massive popular celebrations across the country! It is very colorful and full of orange, which is the Country’s color. Here are a few shots from these trips, which I wanted to share on Steve Huff’s WEB site, which is a great source of inspiration and a must visit site every day for me!

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Jul 082014
 

Neko Case

Taming the Nokton 50 1.1

By Manikarnika Kanjilal

My name is Manikarnika Kanjilal. I am a doctoral student and I devote my almost my entire (lately dwindling) free time in pursuit of photography. I was always interested in photography but started being seriously into it for the last couple of years – after I found a Digilux 2 on ebay. It was Steve and Thorsten Overgaard’s reviews that made me acquire the camera and thus start exploring my photographic vision. This post is however not meant to wax poetic about that cult camera but on another “controversial” lens about which the photographic community seems to be divided.

Last summer I acquired a second-hand Nokton 50 1.1 in a moment of insanity and went on to use it in a one-lens-one camera challenge to myself. What was even more insane was that I did this while covering a four-day music festival in my city.

Edmonton Folk Music Festival is quite the religious experience for a huge number of music lovers in this town. People queue up at the gates for a chance to place their tarp as close to the main stage since 3 am or some ghastly time like that. The main stage is at the bottom of a hill and people sit on the hill as a natural amphitheater. For four days tarps and their placements become an extension of the private space and ego for many of the audience members. For someone like me that attends the festival alone and spends most of it standing or walking or crouching to not get in the way of other photographers, tarp politics is fascinating. There are six side stages that hold simultaneous workshops during the day and the main stage performance starts at around 7 in the evening when audience from all these side stages come back to their tarps and settle down for the evening like homing pigeons.

My motivation for choosing a Leica film body and the Nokton f1.1 came from the fact that carrying a backpack full of stuff up and down a hill very soon starts to feel like I am carrying a backpack full of sins from all my past lives. In short, I wanted to travel light and be able to capture decent photos on stage after dark. I did carry my Digilux 2 as a backup but I liked the images from the film set-up way more. It was at times disconcerting because I had no immediate feedback like that in digital. I was being extremely cautious with achieving focus as well as not shooting too much and wasting film. It was quite the lesson in constrained optimization. I had a couple of rolls of Portra 400 in my pocket along with a 4-stop ND filter for when the sun was too strong. This was pretty much it. I ended up using a total of 4 rolls of Portra over four days. I shot everything either wide open or at f1.4. A huge advantage of working with such a constrained/minimalist set up is that this year I had a lot of time to enjoy the music instead of being glued to the camera viewfinder. Often I pre-focused and waited for the musicians to hit the spot instead of trying to track them in their movement. The other advantage of shooting a film rangefinder is that the photographer doesn’t hide behind the camera. With a little practice one shoots with both eyes open and it does wonders when actually connecting with the subject – be it musicians on stage or people on the street.

I ended my nokton-festival challenge with the portrait of a very young music-lover and her mom holding the Forever Folkfest candles in the dark. Nokton 50/1.1 is a beast that needs to be tamed. Using it on a film rangefinder feels almost like writing with a brush pen blindfolded and the challenge could be a source of constant excitement for any photographer.

Cheers!

Manikarnika

Website: http://kanjilalmanikarnika.com/

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

Havana d'Primera

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Portrait by the candlelight

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John Butler Trio

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Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires

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Jul 032014
 

A Leica wedding tryout

By Ronald Tan

Hello Steve
I’ve been an avid reader of your site and it has been a daily source of inspiration to me I’ve always been interested in the articles related to Leica. In my free time,i shoot weddings with a Canon Dslr.However, I’ve always toyed with the idea of shooting a wedding with a Leica

I came across this article on your site
http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2013/11/15/yes-i-do-the-leica-m240-as-a-wedding-photographers-tool-by-joeri-van-der-kloet/

and this inspired me to try shooting with my M9. So off I went on a wedding assignment with my DSLR and my M9 in tow!

I shot these images with my M9 and a voigtlander 50mm 1.1. I simply love the images from the M9 and so do the couple. Hopefully one day, i can be like Joeri and make shooting weddings with a Leica my trademark as well

Image 1:Leica M9 F1.4 1/125 ISO160

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Image 2:Leica M9 F1.2 1/1000 ISO160

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Image 3:Leica M9 F1.2 1/1000 ISO160

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Ronald Tan
http://www.flickr.com/redsun81

Jul 032014
 

Greetings from Upper Bavaria in South Germany with my M9

By Rainer
Hello!

I like to take pictures outside in the landscape of Bavaria with its picturesque atmosphere. Most of them are quite simple shots but every once in a while, I capture some really neat shots. This is not because I am a great technical photographer, but because I am actually there, right in the middle of the world that excites me the most. Even though I am not a pro, I still love to take photos just like you. These are the photos I would like to share with you

Located throughout the northern Alpine foothills, Upper Bavaria is home to pristine lakes, steep mountains and the famous metropolis of Munich. Today, I would like to share a couple of photos capture last week during the Corpus Christi Procession (also known as Corpus Domini) at Samerberg (Alp region), celebrated by the Catholic Church, the local society for traditional costumes and the mountain troops.

All the photos are captured with my Leica M9 and a Summilux 35 mm lens. (You can find more photos on www.samerbergernachrichten.de and www.rainernitzsche.de).

The Leica M is a fabulous camera to capture the colors of traditional costumes and the specific atmosphere in Upper Bavaria.

Take care, Rainer

Picture 1 and 2: Salute during Corpus Christi procession at Samerberg

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Picture 3, 4,5: The procession to different altars, representing the four corners of the earth.

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Picture 6 People join the procession in traditional clothes.

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Picture 7: After the procession, parishioners return to the church where benediction usually takes place.

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Jun 302014
 

leicaFW

Leica M 240 Firmware Update! Version 2.0.1.5

I just arrived back home from my eight day vacation and what do we have here? New firmware for the Leica M 240! Yep, Leica has released a new FW version for the M 240 and this is a BIG ONE! It fixes some bugs and adds some new features such as “Exposure Simulation” as well as the much waited for Auto ISO fixes! Yes, you can now customize your Auto ISO settings, which is very welcome. You can now turn OFF video and live view is available with EVERY lens made, even old screw mount lenses.

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Below is the list of ALL changes made but you can download the new firmware HERE. It is simple to install and takes about 3 minutes from start to finish. I updated my M without issue.

GET THE NEW FIRMWARE VERSION 2.0.1.5 HERE!

Improvements Firmware Update M240 Version 2_0_1_5_en

Improvements – Leica M (Typ 240) Firmware Version 2.0.1.5.

  • Improved description of the lens type in Exif-Data
  • Live view is now possible with every lens (including older screw lenses via an adapter) using“manual lens detection”
  • A “Video off” option is now available in the Set menu (see submenu item “Video recording”)The M-Button on the Top-cover is deactivated when this option is chosen.
  • The Horizon (level) is now visible in Live View, overlaying the live image. This additional info-screen is enabled using the menu item “Horizon”
  • New menu item “Exposure Simulation”Exposure simulation -> Permanent: Live View accurately shows image brightness according to the shutter speed and aperture set in manual exposure (as long as the chosen exposure time is shorter than 1/30s)Exposure simulation -> Release button half-pressed: Image brightness in live view is adjusted for best visibility, regardless of the actual exposure.
    Half pressing the shutter button shows the actual exposure.
  • Extended Auto ISO options
    All Auto ISO options are now visible using the ISO button
    Extra options for “Maximum Exposure Time” – 1x, 2 x, or 4x focal length – can be selectedto help avoid camera shake when using auto ISO and long lenses.
    “Auto ISO in M mode”is now offered as an option. This varies ISO sensitivity for correctexposure when shutter speed and aperture are set manually.
  • Crop marks
    In Live View, new crop marks for 3:4 / 6:7 / 1:1 / and 16:9 aspect ratios can be displayed. By pressing the up/down keys, the crop marks are superimposed on the live view screen (without additional information)
  • Korean language
    Korean is now available as a menu language
  • During video recording, 1/25s is now used instead of 1/24s. This reduces flicker effects with 50Hz mains voltage
  • Exposure bracketing settings are now saved when the camera is switched off
  • Direct exposure correctionAn “EV correction” option in the menu enables direct adjustment.
    So EV compensation can be altered by turning the thumb wheel, without having to press additional buttons.
  • New Light Metering Mode “Classic / LV disabled”
    In this mode, only Classic light-metering is possible; the LV button is disabled to avoid the activation of live view by accident.
  • New menu item “Focus Peaking”
    For improved visibility, the color of focus peaking can now be set to red, green or blue.
  • Better display of GPS location data
    Position is now shown for JPG files in Adobe Lightroom®
    Where the GPS signal is weak, the last position is now deleted after 5min instead of 24h as in previous firmware versions.
  • Bugfix in Live View at high temperatures
    Occasional malfunction of Live View at high temperatures has been fixed
  • Bugfix in light metering (Live view)
  • Bugfix regarding sensor cleaning function

 

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