Jul 082015
 

The crazy colorful world of the LOMO LC-A Art lens

by Huss Hardan

Hello Huffsters!

Brad Husick wrote a nice initial impression piece on the new LOMO LC-A Art lens. A pancake lens, rangefinder coupled for M mount cameras. Which also means that with adapters it can be used on almost anything.

It’s the cheapest, new with full warranty (2 years) M lens currently available. The parts come from Russia (nothing like your Nikon D610), and the bits are assembled in China (just like your Nikon D610).

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Anyway, enough of the small talk. What’s it like? Well….it’s meant for use on film cameras which is what I really bought it for – to use on a Leica MDa (a Leica M4 without a rangefinder or viewfinder). So on a digital Leica like my M it will smear in the corners just like any wide-angle non Leica manufactured lens (think most Cosina Voigtlanders). It will give wild colour casts and deep saturations. It will give sharp results in the center, not so much away from it. It will give some hefty barrel distortion.

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Much of this – the colour casts, the distortion – can be fixed post. But that defeats the purpose of this lens, as if you are going to do that you will just be left with a mediocre boring lens. Instead of a mediocre interesting lens!

It is the flaws that what make it, and so should be embraced. Otherwise shop elsewhere.

Of note: In the images here I did not boost colour saturation. This is what the lens does. I also noticed that I had to increase exposure by one stop in auto mode on the M.

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All images were taken the day I got the lens, down the street from my gallery – www.huzgalleries.com – in San Pedro, CA. Come visit us, it’s lovely!

Peace out

Huss

Jun 102015
 
QREVIEW

QREVIEW

The Leica Q Real World Camera Review

by Steve Huff

When I was told I was being sent the new Leica Q camera for review, weeks before it was to be announced, I was excited. I have heard rumblings and rumors about what this Q could be, and most of it was pretty exciting, and sounded to me like Leica was finally getting it “right”. While I usually do not take stock in Rumor sites (as they have one mission, kill the surprises and to make loads of money) I was hearing some things that I liked about the supposed new “Q”.

It appeared that Leica was finally caving..giving us, the Leica fans, something very close to what we have been asking for all of these years.

I was  critical of the recent Leica Mirrorless concotions..Leica X-Vario and Leica X, and while I adored the original Leica X1, and loved the X2, the Vario and new X lagged behind for me due to many reasons. I did enjoy the T, VERY much, but it too was not what everyone wanted, so it lagged in sales. So if we look at the recent past 2-3 years Leica has had some not so successful cameras, and I feel that is because they were not listening to their base of users.

YOU must click the images below to see them correctly. DO NOT judge them from these resized soft samples. Click ’em to see them larger and better.

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What we asked for and wanted:

A TRUE Mini M. Full Frame. EVF/RF built in. Scaled down from the real M to allow a lower price so more could enjoy the true Leica quality and feel. Simplicity, Beauty and Built by Leica, not Panasonic. 

The First fail for me with the X was no EVF or VF built in. We were forced to buy a $600 external wart of an EVF that killed the looks and usability of the camera. Then there was the sensor size of APS-C. It appeared Leica would never release a smaller true M like camera with a full frame sensor as they would be afraid of hurting their M sales. So they kept releasing APS-C sized cameras, and each one lagged in sales as everyone was crying for full frame, and we were correct to want full frame, as we wanted to shoot our Leica’s but here we are with Sony who released the stunning RX1 and RX1r years ago..without an answer from Leica. To be honest, the RX1 was more leica like than the X Vario and X 113.

One of the main issues with the X Vario and X were the slow and clunky lenses they attached to them (well, the Vario anyway). Clunky, slow in aperture and in AF, these cameras just did not feel “finished”. Sure the lens on the X 113 was and is a Summilux f/1.7 but even so, the fact it was not full frame and had no EVF/VF killed it for me and while IQ was stunning I remember telling myself..“if Leica releases a full frame version of this with a nice fast lens and EVF, look out”!

Enter the new Leica Q

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Well, they have now done just that with the new Leica Q. The Q is a 24 MP full frame camera with a beautiful sensor that can shoot up to ISO 50,000. It has a built in EVF that is quite good and a great LCD on the back. It is not a rangefinder, nor is it an interchangeable lens camera, it has a great fixed lens.  So while it is not the true Mini M we had asked for, it is damn close.

The menus are very M 240 like and very clean and simple. The Lens is a 28 Summilux f/1.7. Not sure why they chose 28mm instead of 35 but I enjoyed having that slight bit of “extra” as I have been getting more and more in to the 28mm focal length. It shoots HD video and man, the color out of this camera is SO SO DELICIOUS. Best color I have seen from any camera since the original X Vario. Always been a fan of the color from the X line, and this Q keeps that color but improves on it slightly.

My 1st look video on the Leica Q. Check it out…

So yes…

I have used and shot with the new Q, and it is beautiful. In fact, for Leica, it changes everything as we now have a full frame M shaped body with fixed lens and EVF all in a pretty polished and finished feeling camera with gorgeous Leica like IQ, pretty fast AF and simple operation. 

YOU must click the images below to see them correctly. DO NOT judge them from these resized soft samples. Click ’em to see them larger and better. 

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While only having this camera for a whopping three days, I managed to take it with me EVERYWHERE I went over those three days as I wanted to get as much use with it as possible so I could write this review after having 72 hours with the Q, and wow, for the 1st time in years I am truly “wowed” by a Leica camera that is not an M version! This is good, for all of us and for Leica. 

This little Q has most things I/WE have been begging Leica to make for the past few years:

1. A full frame sensor and a damn good one. The color, detail and tones this camera can produce is stunning. It has the true Leica look with the full frame sensor and fast glass attached. It renders much like an X or X Vario but with the full frame look and rich files.

2. It has a built in EVF, and it is a good one. FINALLY! No need to add on that huge external ugly $600 EVF.

3. It has a fast 28mm f/1.7 Summilux lens, and it is astounding in quality giving that same Leica X vibe but with a creamier rendering and faster aperture.

4. They kept it shaped and styled like an M. This is good as it keeps with the classic Leica design and feel. 

5. The camera is simplicity  – we have a shutter button, aperture on the lens, a macro feature (on lens), fantastic manual focus or pretty fast and snappy auto focus, and an exposure compensation dial (something the M doesn’t even have) and shutter speed dial. We have a movie button as well, and a great LCD on the back. This camera is beautiful in every way and I so want one. In fact, as soon as I tried it I contacted Ken Hansen ([email protected]) and said “Leica’s next new camera, put me on the list for whatever it is and whenever it comes out”. Seeing that I signed an NDA I could not utter the words “Leica Q”..so I hope he knew what I meant! 

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Here are the official stats, direct from Leica:

• 24-megapixel, full frame, CMOS sensor precisely matched to its lens. The Leica Q delivers richly detailed pictures with almost noise-free, richly detailed pictures at ISO settings up to 50.000.

• Fastest autofocus in the compact full-frame camera class. Precision focusing in real time.

• High speed burst shooting. The newly developed processor from the Leica Maestro II series sets an enormous pace in this category with continuous shooting at a rate of ten frames per second at full resolution.

• Integrated 3.68-megapixel electronic viewfinder. The highest resolution viewfinder of its kind displays both the fixed 28 mm view along with focal lengths of 35 mm and 50 mm on demand.

• Conveniently placed functions provide instant access to all the essential controls needed when taking a photo. Not only can you control the focus manually, but the Q is also equipped with a touchscreen that can select a focus point with a simple touch of the fingertip.

• Ability to save two versions of the photograph. The JPEG image files are saved in the selected framing, while the RAW files in DNG format preserve the entire field captured by the 28 mm lens.

• Video recorded in full HD. Depending on the scene, users can choose between 30 and 60 frames per second for video recording in MP4 format. The video setting also features a wind-noise filter which guarantees crystal-clear sound.

• A WiFi module for wireless transfer of still pictures and video to other devices. The app also allows you to remotely control settings such as aperture and shutter speed from your smart phone or tablet. The free Leica Q app to access these features is available on both the App Store and Google Play Store for iOS and Android.

• Free downloadable Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6. This processing software offers a comprehensive range of functions to enhance and edit your Leica Q images.

• Full range of accessories. Just like the camera, every item in the range of accessories and technical equipment for the Leica Q is functionally designed for easy handling and manufactured from only the finest materials to ensure versatility, reliability, and durability.

The Leica Q, priced at $4,250. 

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This mini review will be full of my thoughts on the camera and light on the comparison tests as I only had it for 3 days, and did not have time to do loads of comparisons. In fact, those three days felt like 6 hours..it went by so fast. When you are doing something you love and adore, time flies.

What I can tell you is that this Leica Q is stunning in almost every way. Every time I snapped a photo with it and saw it on my display at home my jaw would drop at the color and overall character of this lens and sensor combination.

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Shots that I thought were bad, soft or just not good turned out to be fantastic. I experienced no issues with focus, dynamic range, speed, reliability or ANYTHING. I was having a blast shooting this camera as it was such a joy to shoot. In many ways I felt like I was walking around with a true MINI M, but with an EVF and AF and fixed lens. It was a beautiful thing and when a camera is such a joy to shoot, you just want to shoot, shoot and shoot more. This happens with some cameras and not very often. The M gives me that feeling, the Olympus E-M1 does as well. The Sony RX1, which this camera is VERY close to, does as well.

It is silent, stealthy and also has a touch screen LCD if you want to shoot by tapping the screen and pick you focus point. Works very well. Leica has finally caught up. :)

I loved the Sony RX1 and even made it my camera of the year when it was released. It had that special MoJo about it and it delivered amazing rich quality files. How does the Q stand up to the now 3 year old RX1?

Well, it not only stands up to it, it exceeds it in a many ways and says  “I’m the new premo fixed lens full frame mirrorless champ”! That is in NO WAY knocking the Sony, as it is still today a legend, a beauty and a camera capable of amazing things, better than most modern day cameras. It does need an update though with a built in EVF, better battery life, faster AF, etc. Maybe Sony is working on it right as I type these words ;)

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But yes, Leica delivers here and gives us a TRUE German made Leica with TRUE Leica images quality and design. Adding the full frame sensor really changed everything as full frame offers richer color, better dynamic range and in many cases better “everything”. It’s a camera that gave me no quirks, issues or problems during my little 3 days with it. The IQ is very different from the Sony RX1 image quality which I felt was organic, rich, delicate but beautiful and WOW. The Leica Q delivers snappier color, a wider angle lens that is slightly faster, and a crispness that I see in Leica X files but with a full frame character. In other words, the IQ is fantastic.

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Back to the old RX1..yes, I feel the Q beats the Sony RX1 in many ways. Body style, built in EVF instead of external, AF speed is a bit faster with the Q, manual focus the Q wins as it is just as joyful to Manual Focus as use Auto Focus. Manual Focus feels like true manual focus here.

The other areas where the Q wins for me is color performance and “SNAP”! These Leica files just pop with a crispness and bite that give it that “WOW” factor. Exposure is usually dead on or slight overexposed to give it some glow, and the focus locks on quick with 100% accuracy.

YOU MUST click the images here to see them in much better quality. DO not judge the IQ of these files unless you click them 1st!

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Leica seems to have finally created the camera many of us have wanted for so long. Like a true digital Leica CM.  Even in the dark, just shooting by firelight, the new Q had no issues with AF or getting the shot. The camera has an impressive ISO range and while not one of those night time high ISO kings, the Q does a decent job for being a Leica…a brand that seems to lag behind in the high ISO race. Even shooting at ISO 4000 in the dark yielded nice results.

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So finally Leica has created the camera I begged for since the original Leica X1. They have come a long way since that little slow poke of a camera that did so well for them. NOW we have a fully featured, matured and highly capable camera that I can see many enthusiasts wanting as it will be much less expensive than buying a true M 240 or M-P and a lens. Maybe 60% cheaper.

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The camera has no issue with sharpness or detail or color…

More images below that when clicked on will show you the color, detail and pop that the Q puts out.

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ISO Performance

Below are some samples from ISO 1600 to 50,000. When I get the camera for a longer loan (or when I own it) I will do a more comprehensive set of tests and comparisons. But take al look and click the images below to get them to pop up larger.

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My Final word on the Leica Q after my 3 Day Evaluation

The new Q is not cheap. Leica never ever is and while I was hoping for $3500 (I feel that would have been PERFECT and sold a ton of these for Leica), it appears the Q comes in at $4250, about $750 over my “hoped for” price. Yep, $4250. True Leica style ;) I loved my time with the Q. It felt nice (though not nearly as solid as an M), it looked nice and it shot like a dream. Quick (Though not Sony A6000 quick), and a joy to use and shoot. It inspired me, gave me excitement to want to go out and shoot and that is one way I judge a camera. If it makes me WANT to go shoot with it, then it is a winner in all ways to me.

The Leica Q does just that and if you have a spare $4250 and always have wanted a true Leica, the time is now as the Q has landed. You will get “better than M 240″ quality with better color, more crispness and more pop. The lens is, after all, designed for  the sensor and camera body. It’s a perfect match. Now to see what Sony comes up with…RX2 on the way? Hmmm.

Keep in mind the original RX1 was $2795 without the EVF which set us back an additional $450. So the Q is priced about $1000.00 over the RX1 and EVF at launch, beats the RX1 in mist ways, and is a true German made Leica. When you look at it like that, the price is fair for being Leica. To those who will moan about the cost, you must not know how Leica operates, it is normal and yes I feel this Q will indeed be the one  that breaks Leica’s slow streak.

At least I hope so, it is a lovely camera worthy of the Leica badge.

For now, I will say the Q is the best mirrorless fixed lens camera made today if IQ, beauty and simplicity are at the top of your list.

The only way this would have been better is if they made it in a body only version for $3500. Then we could have added our M lenses to the Q for more options. Then again, why would Leica kill M sales by releasing a Q version at half price? They wouldn’t , and there ya have it.

Below are pre-order options for the new Leica Q, all from dealers I highly recommend and use myself…

B&H Photo Pre-Order the Q

Ken Hansen – E-mail him [email protected]

PopFlash.com

Leica Store Miami

BEST THING about Pre-Orders? You are not charged until it ships, it is cancelable at any time, and you are 1st to get it ;)

A few more snaps I shot with the Q before I had to send it back…click them for better versions! 

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

Hello to all! For the past 7 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 dedicated 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, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!

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, in money and time. 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)

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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!

Jun 032015
 
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When Leica announced the M60

By Kristian Dowling – http://kristiandowling.com

My Leica M quest started some 22 years ago with the Leica M6 (classic). I haven’t shot film for over 12 years, and in this time I have developed an insecurity that has been derived from digital technology, allowing me to view images immediately after pressing the shutter button. This insecurity has led to many missed opportunities, missed moments, and ultimately – missed shots, and this results in a form of failure. Sure, I’ve learned to accept this failure by knowing that the security of ‘being sure’ I have the shot saved on a plastic card is reassuring enough to understand it’s all worth it…..but what if the LCD was taken away?

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When Leica announced the M60 (LEICA M EDITION “LEICA 60”), the news was met with a lot of mixed emotions. Its claim to fame is that it is the only Leica M camera ever made in complete Stainless Steel. Described by Leica as ‘The essence of photography’, and ‘an homage to the art of photography’, you wouldn’t really understand unless you shot with a Leica film rangefinder camera…..or with the M60. Why? Because they decided to remove what’s most valuable feature to the modern photographer. The one thing we all rely on, and the one thing that makes us insecure when shooting – the LCD. Now I know what you’re all thinking. “I’m not insecure because I use the LCD. I don’t NEED the LCD. Why would they remove it, when it’s the one feature that completes a digital camera and truly makes it useful?” – let me answer that shortly.

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There were 600 Leica M60 packages produced, and they’re almost completely sold out now, yet I haven’t seen many photographers out shooting with them. This is a shame because while it is a highly collectible camera, it’s also designed to be a ‘shooters’ camera, and in my opinion, begs to be used! I first came into contact with the unique camera in Singapore recently, where my good friend Alwyn Loh showed me his new baby. When placed into my hands I could not believe the feel of it. Super solid, sharp lines, more heft than any M, and looks to die for. The finish on the camera is impeccable and really shows that Leica has maintained their standard of first class finishing into the 20th century.

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A week later in Bangkok, one of my friends, Lawrence Becker pulls out what looks like an M60, only he tells me it’s ‘not quite an M60’. Upon further investigation I see that it’s actually an M60 prototype, 9 of only 11 made, with matching lens and body. The beauty of purchasing Leica packages like this is that you can be assured that the body and lens are calibrated perfectly to each other, ensuring ultimate calibration, and perfect image quality. After doing some research I haven’t been able to find any information that points out the differences between the prototype and the M60, so felt there’s only one thing left to do – shoot!

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The design of the M60 is minimalistic and clean. There is nothing on there that is not essential to basic picture taking. The shutter release has no option for soft release, and there are no lugs, so there is no way to attach a strap, unless you use the included leather case/strap combo, or buy an aftermarket strap that attaches to the tripod socket on the bottom plate. As there is no LCD (replaced by ISO selector), there are no menu options. There is no way to select white balance (AWB only), but there is a button allowing you to see how many frames you have left, as well as battery percentage in the viewfinder – very smart, and needed. All files are recorded in RAW only.

In the hands, the camera feels like no other digital camera I’ve handled before. It is the same thickness and shape as the current M240, yet has a higher weight, and the edges are much sharper. The covering is grippy and really well done, with little grove cut-outs I’ve not seen on an M camera before. The finish is smooth to touch, and doesn’t show finger prints, unless you have a lot of oil on your hands. Put simply, it’s the best-finished digital M to date, possibly alongside the M9Ti.

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Walking around carrying this exquisite piece of Stainless Steel in your hands comes with an initial fear of dropping it, and exposing the steel underneath the finishing. After a while, the fear turned into confidence once I got my feet wet and snapped a few frames. After using standard M’s all my life there is something special about carrying around such a unique piece of machinery. Sure, it’s essentially an M240, but the heft, finish and rarity instil a feeling of excitement too.
The M60 is designed to feel and function like a film camera, with the versatility of being about to record images in digital. Where the LCD is usually positioned, on the back cover, you now find the old ISO selection wheel, completing the film-camera look and feel.

When shooting, the first thing I noticed was the shutter. I assume it’s the same in all-digital M240 variants, but what changes is the sound. Due to the acoustics of the stainless steel frame, the shutter sounds sharper, faster and quieter. The next thing you notice is that what made you insecure when shooting is no longer present, and now you’re in withdrawal. It’s an empty feeling knowing that you cannot view the picture you just took, especially when you know you’re using a digital camera. At that moment, I’d never felt more insecure shooting, ever.

Upon shooting my next few frames, Déjà vu struck! I began to reminisce about the good old days where I would shoot without thinking about the camera, or the photos. Photography was ‘all about shooting’, and not reviewing, and now I could be free of my insecurity and be 100% in the moment. I can’t explain how refreshing this feeling was. Needless to say, I was happy, and felt my love for photography starting to re-evolve. I know it sounds corny, but wow, what a feeling of relief.

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The next question I asked myself was ‘what do I do about exposure?’ In the past I used a handheld meter and rarely relied on the built in meter. Sure it is good as a guide but it’s certainly not 100% trustworthy because it meters off reflected light, and not the actual ambient light falling onto my subject/scene. Since moving to digital, I’ve never used a light meter in a camera. My 22 years shooting in manual with a hand held meter allowed me to record a mental database of exposures I recall and input into my camera……but, I usually use my LCD to confirm I am correct, or at least close, then adjust accordingly.

Seeing there is no option here, I would have to rely on my mental database, and use the built-in meter as a guide if I was unsure, as I had no access to a handheld meter at the time. Once I became comfortable with this, I was free to shoot without concern. I only had about an hour with the camera, but in this time I could see why Leica took a chance and created the M60. From the very beginning, Leica cameras have always been about keeping things simple, and putting total control into the hands of the user, without gimmicky functions getting in the way or becoming a distraction. The less the user has to think about the camera, the more they can focus on the moment and capturing it with total focus and concentration.

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I even noticed that interacting with subjects is easier because they can see that I’m not looking at my camera to review images, and this has a huge effect on my ability to get what I need from a situation. While there are a lot of benefits from sharing the images with subjects during a shoot, there are a lot more benefits of not sharing, especially in street and documentary scenarios.

The M60 (prototype) is ALL about the experience of shooting – taking photographs in the exact same way as you would with film, yet with the advantage of being able to view, edit and distribute the images immediately with convenience of digital technology. The results were pin sharp, as sharp as I’ve ever seen from a 35/1.4 ASPH on any Leica M, somewhat like the pin-sharp results from an M-Monochrom. Again, this shows how important it is to have a lens and body perfectly calibrated to obtain the best possible image quality.

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From my limited experience, I believe the M60 concept is a winner. Not just for collectors, but for those who value top quality Leica products – along with the added benefits of shooting in such a pure way. The price of the kit has just dropped by 12%, and there are some good deals to be had. Worst case, in years to come, the lens alone will hold the value of the kit, considering there are no more stainless steel lenses/kits like this produced.

Blending the worlds of analogue and digital may sound like a stretch on paper, but in reality it really proved to be a rewarding experience, and one I would love Leica to pursue further. I’m not saying they should remove the LCD’s from all their cameras, but it would be nice to see them releasing a version of the M without an LCD to cater to those who value the true and traditional M shooting experience. I know for me, it’s a very good fit for those times I want to shoot and be completely in the moment and focused the way I’m supposed to be.

Kristian Downling

http://kristiandowling.com

You can buy the M60 from Ken Hansen ([email protected]) or Leica Store Miami.

May 222015
 
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The Zeiss 35 1.4 Distagon ZM Leica Mount Lens, my 1st look. Wow.

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Just tried out the new Zeiss 35 1.4 ZM lens and wow, the reviews and user reports are true, this is up there with the Leica 35 FLE though different in the way it renders and image. Some will like it better, some will not, but either way it is FANTASTIC. I’d say we can get most of the FLE out of this Zeiss, but with a whole different character and feel. It may not be as sharp as the Leica 35 FLE at 1.4, but it is close, and it offers a more “organic” rendering that I simply love. Smooth Zeiss pop on my Leica Monochrom 246 or amazing bold color and snap on the A7s or A7II. It’s a lovely lens, and I enjoyed the lens I rented so much I really want to own this lens for my new MM. From the few shots I have snapped so far I feel it makes a perfect match, and as a bonus it will work well on the Leica M 240 and the Sony A7 series as well. Yes, I rented the lens but will own it as soon as I can.

I will have a full review eventually here, maybe in a few weeks  – using it on the new MM and the Sony A7 bodies. But for now, Amazon has 2 in stock, via prime, in black. $2190 which is $100 less than normal. For less than half the cost of the Leica 35 FLE you can have a lens that is in reality just as good, but with a different character (which I prefer). The build is solid, the aperture click is AMAZING, best I have felt on any lens and the glass is beautiful. IT IS NOT large, but it is larger than the Leica 35 Lux by a bit. Reminds me size wise of a 50 Summlux ASPH.

The rendering is just what I like, and all Zeiss. I will own this lens as soon as I can afford it!

You can order this lens at Amazon (via PRIME) HERE. You can also buy it at PopFlash.com, or B&H Photo. 

A couple of samples on the Leica Mono 246:

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And a few with the lens on the Sony A7II:

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May 112015
 

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The New Leica 90 Summarit f/2.4 Lens Quick Review on the M 240

By Steve Huff

I recently posted my very positive experience with the new set of Summarit lenses from Leica. Mainly, the 35, 50 and 75. I have now finally had a chance to shoot some frames with the 90 f.2.4 and as before with the old Summarit, I love it. It continues along the same lines as the previous version but adds a closer minimum focus, an f/2.4 aperture vs 2.5 and now comes with a full Leica leather case and metal hood at no extra charge. The rendering of the lens is very nice, and leaves you wondering if you really do need that larger, heavier, more expensive Summicron!

This is not so much a full “review”, but it is sort of an “addition” to THIS 90 Summarit review (which sums up this lens just as well) and THIS recent post. Read those 1st, then come back here to read this short but sweet article.

The video I did a few weeks ago showing the Summarit lenses and the new Leica M-P Safari set. 

Thanks Ken!

Also, before I get started let me thank Leica Legendary Dealer Ken Hansen for sending me these lenses for review. I could not even get them from Leica, so Ken sent them my way to borrow so I can test them to see what I thought. I just packed up all of them for their way back to Ken. SO THANK YOU KEN! If you need ANYTHING Leica, be sure to EMAIL him at [email protected] and ask him for it, he deals in NEW and USED and has it all in stock. All of it.

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The New Summarit. Is it so different from the previous line?

This little and very light 90mm F/2.4 Summarit is a beautiful lens, and I admit, I am not a 90mm or telephoto guy. If I owned a 90 for my Leica it would probably be used twice a year. I prefer to shoot 21, 35 and 50 as I like to get up close and converse with my subjects. Even so, the 90 is fantastic when you want to shoot a portrait as you get NO distortion, and nice separation of your subject from the background..or as some like to call it “3D Pop”.

But what about the last 90 Summarit f/2.5? Is this lens better in image quality? No, not really..in fact, it seems about the same to me as the last 90. The new f/2.4 vs f/2.5, well, let’s just say there is really no measurable difference in that speed. Many say the old Summarit was really f/2.4 but Leica marked them as 2.5 as to not cannibalize the Summicron sales.

Where this 90 F/2.4 excels over the old 90 F/2.5 is that it is a new design, comes standard with a Leica leather case and metal hood where the previous version came with a felt baggie and the hood was a separate purchase. It is nice to see Leica upgrade these things as even though the Summarit lines is the cheapest new production lenses in the Leica lineup, they are NOT cheap! The 90 here comes in at a hefty $2350. YES, IT IS STILL A LEICA ;)

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I am not a 90 guy..but I did enjoy this lens. 

I know many who love and adore the 90mm Focal length though and some who call it their favorite focal length while others never touch it, especially with a Leica.

But…

There are many shooters who love them some reach. Some do not feel comfortable getting in close to their subjects and a longer lens helps them do this without being noticed. Others use them as they would any other lens, as I do, pulling it out for that portrait or when it is needed. It will deliver the depth and pop of a good 90 though the Bokeh of this Summarit, well, I much prefer the Bokeh from the 90 Summicron. But hey, the 90 Cron is $3995, close to be double the cost of the Summarit, so you will pay for that 90 Cron creaminess if you indeed want or need it.

Even so, the 90 Summarit is fantastic.

Click images here for much better versions and to see them correctly

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The 90mm focal length has long been considered the goto for portraits, and that is for many reasons. No distortion that most wider lenses will give you, nice subject pop and a good 90 will give you nice bokeh, nice detail and be just about perfect for head and shoulders type of shots or just headshots. Now the 90mm focal length is not only for portraits of course, but most of those who I know who uses a 90mm uses them for people. Others use them simply to get more reach. One thing is for sure though, Leica does not make a bad lens. Buy a summart, summicron or summilux and ALL of them will deliver what you want although they will all have a different character.

With Leica it is all about the “character” of the lens and how it renders and this is what makes them special, as there are not many lenses out there that refer quite like a good Leica lens.

As with all posts here on this website, clicking the images below will open up a much nicer and larger version, how they were meant to be seen. All images below with the Leica M-P 240 and 90 Summarit. 

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VINTAGE MODERN

The entire Summarit line, for me, renders in a way that is a mix of classic, modern and everything in between. It has the sharp crisp details that Leica is known for (modern) and also gives you a bit of that classic feel without being soft or too “vintage”. I’d say 80% modern, 20% classic. My time with the 90 was short as I rarely use a 90 but if I were a guy who loved this focal length, it would be a choice between this and the Summicron. I have owned and loved the cron, and have to say I do prefer the rendering of the APO Summicron but it is MUCH heavier, larger and expensive. This Summarit is just as good if not better than the previous summarit, and again, my review of THAT lens is HERE. It is also just as good as the old and very much loved 90 2.8 Elmarit, which is now discontinued.

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ANY ISSUES?

Not much to say here but this 90 will give you some CA (purple fringing) as you can see below in Wyatt Earp’s hat. Even the $11,000 Noctilux has CA, as do the Summilux line. For me it doesn’t bother me but I do not shoot critical work where it needs to be printed at 60 inches wide for public display, so for me this is just part of the digital course. Many say CA is a sensor issue, others say it is the lens. But it is common in good fast lenses when shooting digital… Always has been and unless the camera itself corrects for this, it will be in your photos. It is also easily taken care of with your favorite photo editor.

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The bottom line is that this version of the Summarit excels over the old version with a closer focusing distance of 0.9m, included metal hood and leather case and in use, the lens is buttery smooth to focus. I had no issues with the lens, focusing or anything.

This is a solid performer and while I did not use it a ton (again, I am not a 90 guy) I did see it’s potential. It would be very tough to choose the 90 Summicron APO over this at $4000 vs $2350. But that is all personal preference. I know what I like, and for me, I prefer the 90 Sunmicron rendering but I prefer the price of the Summarit.

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MY OVERALL FEELINGS ON THE SUMMARIT LINE as a WHOLE?

These lenses are beautiful, gorgeous, and the performance is what yo would expect from a Leica lens. Just because they are considered the “starter” or “budget” line does not mean they are sub-par. The 50 is my favorite summarit followed by the 35 and then 75. The 90 is my least favorite simply because I am not a 90mm shooter. The lenses are ALL fantastic, and one could never go wrong with any of the Summarit lenses. You will save some cash, and have some of the most beautiful and compact lenses ever made.

5 STARS for all of these because for the price, for the name, you are getting great performance at a much better price than normal.

WHERE TO BUY

You can buy these lenses from Ken Hansen, PopFlash.com, The Pro Shop, or B&H Photo. Even Amazon sells them via PRIME.

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Apr 292015
 

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A User Review of the Zeiss 35mm Distagon f1.4 ZM on a Leica M 240

By Howard Shooter

I must confess to being a bit of a Leica fan. I love Leica and the purity of the rangefinders’ back to basics approach to photography. Up until three days ago I have veered towards only Leica glass and my thoughts have been mostly positive. I was niggled and irritated by the slight softness of the 50mm Summilux on the M240mm compared to the M9 and the ever so slight lack of contrast, which means I sometimes have to give the files a bit of the proverbial kick in Lightroom. The shift from M9 to M240 was another learning curve in appreciating subtlety and nuance for me and took longer than I expected to really love the new signature of the much debated cmos sensor.

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I always loved the 35mm focal length, as it’s such a versatile lens for so many situations from landscape to portrait. I wanted the Leica 35mm summilux but the price is too steep for me to justify the outlay.

Zeiss have always had their avid and similarly loyal followers and the Leica fit Zeiss lenses have generally reviewed well and been passionately spoken for.

I ordered the Zeiss 35mm Distagon f1.4 ZM a week before they came in and the initial online reviews were scarce and very favorable. At approximately one-third of the price of the Leica equivalent I was looking forward to testing out the lens and deciding if my long and loyal following to owning only Leica glass was now dwindling.

Physically the lens is a little heavy for my liking; bulky and substantial, not balanced perfectly with the body. This isn’t a deal breaker for me as the optics far outweighs the extra size but it is a consideration and a minor irritation. The focus ring is a little tighter than I’m used to but the aperture is wonderfully smooth in third stop increments. The lens blocks the viewfinder a little but not enough for me to care. For all of it’s differences it is a beautifully well made lens in the true tradition of Zeiss and feels and looks better than in the Zeiss promotional shots.

Incidentally I am not going to post shots of my camera with the lens as you can see other reviewers do this. I am not a “professional” reviewer so I’d rather share my hopefully interesting opinions and see if this helps you decide on whether this lens might be of interest to you.

I’m in my favorite photographic haunt again of Aldeburgh, Suffolk, a fishing town with a wonderful English appeal and atmosphere.

The following shots were all taken with the Leica M240 with the Zeiss 35mm lens at various apertures. All were processed minimally in Lightroom with a little post processing but the essence of the lens’s signature is preserved. After you’ve looked at the shots I’ll let you know my personal opinion.

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Shot 3 Lobster cages

Shot 4 Boats Windows

Shot 5 Gone Fishing

Shot 6 Boat Silhouette

Shot 7 Fisherman Sorting Catch

Shot 8 Woman On Beach

Shot 9 Boats at Dawn

Shot 10 Man by house

 

I hope you like these shots because in some ways they really surprised me. Now this may seem strange but the lens seems to give more pop and contrast than most Leica lenses I have used on my M240. The signature almost reminds me of the look I used to get with my M9. In other words if you are missing the M9 pop from your M240 and are looking for a 35mm lens I think you can do no better then with the Zeiss.

Just to re-iterate, when used with the M240 this lens gives you the subtlety of the M240 cmos sensor with the pop of the M9… a perfect combination.

This leads me to wonder if the colour and contrast of this lens on an M9 might be a little too saturated and contrasty but I am merely speculating. I love this lens and think that it actually feels very old school Leica rather than modern day Zeiss. It isn’t overly clinical in my opinion but is very sharp, handles flare extremely well, is very adaptable with various subjects and in the right light gives plenty of pop but at a third of the price. The bokeh isn’t distracting but also isn’t class leading either as subjective as this always is. I think reds do come out a little too red and saturated on the M240 which means they need toning down a little but the black and white conversions are wonderfully filmic. The M240 has always been very good for black and white and I think with this lens you get a real sense of depth and dynamic range.

I can strongly recommend this lens. Have you got this lens and do you share my opinions….?

Shot 11 Staircase

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Shot 13 Aldeburgh Town

As always many thanks for reading,

Warm wishes

Howard Shooter
www.HowardShooter.com

(From Steve: POPFLASH has one Zeiss 35 1.4 in stock in black!)

Apr 152015
 

West Coast Monochrom

by Phillipp Wortmann

These are photographs taken along the California West Coast during a trip in march 2015. The route was roughly LA – San Clemente – Joshua Tree – Morro Bay – Big Sur – Santa Cruz – Point Reyes – San Francisco.
As I like to keep it simple I brought only my M6, 35 Summicron IV and a bunch of Kodak TriX film. It doesn’t matter if it’s cameras, lenses or film – if I bring more than one I can never decide what to use so limiting myself in that way actually gives me a lot more peace of mind.

For the past year or so I have been almost exclusively shooting 35mm color film but for this trip I wanted to give the black and white another go. This decision was actually made a couple of weeks prior to the trip when I went through my archive and rediscovered some of my older black and white film photos. You can check my little user report on that HERE.

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Another reason for going with black and white was that I had already been to do southwestern US the year before where I shot all Kodak Portra 160. So to avoid ending up with very similar photos from two different trips using Kodak TriX 400 made sense. If you like you can see the color shots from last year here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/derphilipppp/sets/72157648794789646/

So overall the trip was a blast and although I didn’t shoot as much as I had hoped/planned/anticipated I’m really happy with some of the shots I got. I will probably need to find a darkroom to do some prints soon.

The entire album can be viewed here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/derphilipppp/sets/72157651692347201/

You can also see more of my photos here: lifeon35.tumblr.com and instagram.com/derphilipppp/

Best regards and thanks for the opportunity to showcase my work!

Philipp

Apr 132015
 

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The NEW Leica Summarit Lenses. 35, 50, 75 and 90 2.4. Part 1.

These lenses were sent to me to review by Leica Dealer Ken Hansen. He has these and many other Leica items in stock, so email him if interested at [email protected].

**This review will be in two parts. This part will mainly focus on the 35 and 50 with a few 75 samples thrown in. I will show many images and talk about the character of the lenses. Part 2 will feature more 75 and 90 and go over my final thoughts on the Summarit line as well as some comparisons. So my conclusion, comparisons, and more images will be in part 2 in about 1-2 weeks. Enjoy!**

1st, a video showing the Summarits with my new Safari Leica M-P 240 

Man, these brand new 2015 Summarit lenses from Leica REALLY surprised me, and these days it takes A LOT to Surprise me. The fit, the finish, the build, the design, the smoothness, the hood’s, the caps, the whole package with these little Summarit line has gotten better than ever before with the new improvements. Optically they are STUNNERS and IMO beat many of the classic Leica lenses. For example, I prefer the new 2.4 Summarit 50 to the older 50 Summicron f/2 (non APO). The 35 Summarit is TINY but STUNNINGLY sharp. The 75 is probably the coolest of the lot with its 2.4 aperture, close focusing distance of .7 and the slim slender profile. I loved the old summarit line (which are not really that old) that Leica introduced at the end of the M8.2’s life as they released them to create a more affordable lens for what would be the M9. They did a great thing with that lens line as they were Semi Affordable in Leica terms and they were fantastic performers. 

The new line is even better with a new design, new metal hood designs, new metal lens caps, new silver or black finish, improved optics, new closer focusing distances, and each lens comes with a real Leica leather case (the old line came with a bag). So the prices have went up from $2000-$2350 but they are still the least expensive REAL Leica lenses made today for the M and they give up nothing in performance to their more expensive siblings.

The 35, 50, 75 ad 90..look at the stunning silver finish. I am not a HUGE fan of the black focusing rings on the silver body but I would still choose Silver for my Safari M-P. 

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After shooting with the 35, 50, 75 and 90 I can say that I would love to own the 50 and 75 AND 90, but may end up buying the 50 for now, and one of the other telephoto options later. I own a 35 Summicron so do not need another 35 but man oh man. The details and color..some of these have that old M9 pop that many look for IMO – all from Leica’s latest and most affordable lens line for the M.

Click this image for a larger 1800 pixel size to see the details, and depth. This was with the 50 f/2.4 and it is STUNNING at any price. If Leica packaged this as an all new special 50 with a new name, they could have priced it at $3000. It is crisper than a Summilux, sharper and has better color than the old 50 Summicron, along with a smoother Bokeh and it is smaller and sleeker and looks amazingly beautiful on the camera. Click the image of the Cowboy to see the depth, detail and character of his face. Amazing lens. 

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When you view the above image, you will see that Leica pop and look from the contrast, sharpness, color and the WOW. It is in a class of it’s own. The gentle transitions from focus to out of focus is organic, the color is scrumptious and the glow is here as well. Take a look and click on the image below. From raw, wide open at f/2.4 on the new 50 Summarit.

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But let us keep going as I think I want to make this review more image based as the images are what tell the tale.

Click on the image below for a larger sized version. Here, you can see Leica’s color signature, the glow, the detail (see the eyes) and the smooth transition from sharp to butter. :) This 50 2.4 is a smashing lens. Many will feel they need a Summicron or Lux and they will miss out. Today, there is no need to spend more for better. Each Leica lens, the Summarit, Summicron and Summilux each have a different character, but ALL are stellar and better than any DSLR 50 ;) 

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The 35 Summarit inside at ISO 2000. Still crisp, still “leica” in the feeling. Nothing special about the image but it does show that even in dark indoor interiors the 35 Summarit and M 240 can pull it off.

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Always love old doors and this one was taken in Tombstone, AZ at an old abandoned building. The 35 now has a .8 meter close focus distance, is made to a higher standard, has improved optics and again, comes with metal hood, leather case and the full Leica treatment. This 35 goes for $2250, much less than the 35 Summicron or 35 Summilux. This lens feels amazing on the M. Small, solid, smooth focus. Not much more you could ask for. Click images for larger. 

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Another with the 35, right out of the camera (RAW)…

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The 50 has its own unique mojo and character that sets it apart from the Summicron and Summilux. I know of one guy who has ALL of the Leica 50;s and chooses which one he wants to shoot depending on what he is going for in looks. For me, the 50 Summarit provides a crisp and “perfect” style of image while not being analytical or hard in any way. Look at the image below. The man WAS this red as he had a slight sunburn and he was HOT wearing his MARSHALL uniform. The Leica did color here better than my A7II did the same day and place. So Leica has finally got the old color issues settled. Now I see Leica color I remember. 

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Another with the 50, which became the most used Summarit for me while having them all. I shot with the 90 the least as I never use 90 but it is beautiful none the less. Look again at the detail the Summarit gives as well as the overall character of the rendering. 

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A quick grab shot this guy was a blast. He hung around all day dancing and playing his finger instruments. Never hounding anyone for money, just smiling for all who passed by. I used the 50 here again. 

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These two were on the street in the harsh AZ sun and I thought there is no way this image would come out OK. Usually these harsh sun images lead to faces in shadow, uneven exposure, etc. When I arrived home I was able to easily pull out the shadows on the faces while retaining highlights. 

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RICH reds here with the 50

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Again, the 50 shooting a happy young man on the Trolley Tour. LOVE the way the 50 renders images..so crisp and so colorful..with ACCURATE color. I think Leica enhanced these for use on the M 240 as the color that comes from these lenses is superb. 

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The 75 is a lens I have a love hate relationship with. Not because it is a bad lens, because it is SO GOOD and SO gorgeous, I want it. Problem is, I rarely use anything above 50. Even so, I will own this lens one day. I loved the old version of the 75 Summarit and this one is even better. Retains the Summarit look of crispness, great color, smooth transitions and this time with the new 75 we get .7 meter close focus, which is AWESOME. 

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Horse with the 75 in the direct sun. Look at how it handles the harsh light. Contrast is a but high but that is what gives these lenses the pop and 3D separation. 

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The local high school band from Nogales Mexico in Tombstone. They sounded great! The 75, even from across the street gave me detail, snap and pop. Color is spot on and the M handled the harsh light VERY well.

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I saw this lady having a BLAST watching the parade..she had her bubble machine and was getting the biggest kick out of it. She was enjoying life with a smile. I snapped this one with the 50..

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One more with the 50..love the dog ;) 

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Just a simple shot to show the detail and the Bokeh of the 75mm at 2.4

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…and a shot with a 100% crop from the 75 inside my home, no special light. Wide open at f/2.4. 

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It is safe to say that I am enjoying these Summarit lenses. I will be shooting over the next few days with the 75 and 90 more so my next report, which will be part 2, will go over these lenses more as well as a couple of comparison like the 35 Summarit vs the 35 Summicron vs the Zeiss 35 Loxia on the A7II.

REFERENCE: My old 35 Summarit review is HERE. My old 50 Summarit review is HERE. My old 90 Summarit review is HERE.

So that is all I have for now on these fantastic new lenses from Leica. ALL are stunning in their build, performance, styling and included accessories (Hood, caps, leather case, etc). The Summarits are now better than ever and are in no way handicapped by the more expensive line besides being a tad slower at f/2.4 vs f/2 or f/1.4.

If you want to save some cash and some weight, you will still get that Leica quality from the entire line of Summarit lenses. Watch for part 2 SOON which will have more on these beauties. Again, these came from Ken Hansen, email him and mention me for a GREAT buying experience ;) His email is [email protected].

MORE SOON!

Steve

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Apr 092015
 

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Leica M-P Safari Set & Summarit Lenses Hands On Video Overview

My Safari set came from PopFlash.com 

The Leica brand has always been known for crazy special edition versions of their M camera line. Some speculate they do them when they want to clear some stock of bodies (and paint them to match the special editions) and some just accept it as part of Leica’s way of doing business. Like it or not, Leica has a base of fans and buyers who LOVE the special edition sets. From the Titanium M7 and M9 to the Stainless Steel M 60 to the Safari sets that go back to even the R bodies.

My video look at the Safari and Summarit Lenses

I remember when Leica released the Safari M8.2 and I wanted it badly. At the time, it came with a silver 28 Elmarit and was under $10k if I remember correctly. I loved the Olive Drab color and thought it was a great looking camera while others thought it was tacky and ugly.

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When Leica released the M9 there were no Safari sets but they did release many M9 and M9-P special editions such as the all WHITE edition and the Hammertoe LE set. Today Leica has the Lenny Kravitz Correspondent edition as well as the new M-P 240 Safari and of course the M 60. Out of these sets, the best value is with the Safari because it actually comes in CHEAPER then if you were to buy the pieces in the set separate in a normal standard production run color.

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The M-P 240 is a Leica M-P 240 ($8000) with a Leica 35 Summicron f/2 Lens in Silver with an old school Lens hood and metal lens cap included. This lens in standard black will set you back $3200, so already with the M-P and 35 Cron we are looking at $11, 200. Add in the strap and accessories and you can easily add another $300. So say $11, 500. THAT is if you went out and bought a standard black or silver set yet this special limited run of Safari sets will set you back $9800, or in some cases a little less. So yes, it is odd that Leica did this as usually their special editions cost you MORE, by anywhere from $1000 to $10,000. So if you can deal with the Army green color you will save a couple thousand dollars, and have a limited edition to boot!

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The set is complete with an amazing display box, typical of Leica Special Edition cameras. Open the top box and you will see the camera in Olive green with silver knobs and dials. You will see a 35 Summicron with old school metal lens hood and metal cap. An exclusive Leica leather strap and wallet is also included. I acquired this set in a trade deal from POPFLASH.COM. They had six of these in stock when I acquired this one, not sure how many they have now but I do know the Safari set has sold pretty well considering Leica sales have been slowing lately (just due to not having anything new and WOW….yet).

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I like the fact that Leica did the Safari in the M-P style and not the standard M 240 style. So we get the Leica log engraved up top and the special Sapphire LCD as well. So if you have the itch for a new Leica M, and want to save a couple grand over a black or silver and do not mind the Olive Green, this set is actually the rare deal from Leica where you will spend less and get more. I think this may be a first ever. ;)

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This set came from PopFlash.com and they are a fantastic Leica dealer, highly recommended. Their Safari set page is HERE. You can also pick this up from Ken Hansen (email: [email protected]), Pro ShopLeica Store Miami and B&H Photo. 

Also, all four of the new Summarit lenses have come in for review, so you will see them here soon (they are also shown in the video above, beautiful set of lenses)

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Apr 062015
 

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A Change Of Perspective – The Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 III

By Alan Schaller – My Flickr linkhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/alanschaller/

Buy the 15 lens HERE at CameraQuest or HERE at B&H Photo

Hello everyone. First off, a big thank you to Steve for giving me the opportunity to write again on his great site.

I heard very good things about the first and second versions of the Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5, namely their low price, compact size and classy rendering. They were however known to colour shift on the M9, M240 and the A7 series, meaning many digital users used the lens as a black and white tool. From what I can tell from my pictures colour shifting has been completely sorted in this third version of the lens, which of course is a great thing. Also worth mentioning is the incredible lack of distortion.

I happened to have a holiday booked to the South of France a few days after I received my lens, and thought it would be the perfect place to let this super wide-angle flex its muscles! The region I went to (The Côte d’Azur) features crazily photogenic villages, street scenes, the sea and mountainous areas, so I had a lot fun shooting in a variety of environments with the 15mm on my Sony A7s and Leica Monochrom. The shots in this review were all taken on that trip.

Sony A7s ISO 2500 – f/4.5 – 1/40 sec

Picture 2

I had not extensively used a lens wider than a 35mm before getting this 15mm prime. My main reason for buying a super wide angle lens was to shake up my shooting style. I can confirm that it has, and recommend trying one if you haven’t already! I enjoy the 50mm focal length most of all, and being so used to looking for photo opportunities through the ‘eye’ of a 50, what I was seeing through the 15mm viewfinder initially seemed almost comical. The first day I had the lens, I walked around London with it on the Monochrom, initially marvelling like a child at how I could get whole buildings in frame whilst standing a few meters away from them.

I eventually calmed down and started thinking about how I could get the most out of my new lens. It seemed immediately obvious that it would be useful for shooting landscapes or epic sky scenes, but being primarily a street photographer, I wanted to try and use it on the streets too. Initial test shots proved this to be tricky! A lot of the time you have to get extremely close to the subject to make an interesting shot. The silent shutter on the A7s made me feel more confident to do so. It’s something I am going to enjoy experimenting with.

The thing I have found most interesting and creatively rewarding about using this super wide angle lens is the way it presents an image with such an unfamiliar perspective to the human eye. A 50mm lens is great as it is so familiar to our field of view, but I am really interested by the way this lens is so unfamiliar. Certain scenes that would be very mundane with a standard focal length can become surprisingly interesting when you use a super wide angle. This one was taken on the plane going to France:

Leica Monochrom – ISO 320 – f/4.5 – 1/30 sec

Picture 3

The Monochrom gets on very nicely with this lens! Images are detailed and have great contrast. If you stop down to f/8 the depth of field is impressive. Also, as the DOF is so deep on a lens this wide, at f8 the lens is focusing from its closest point of 0.5 meters all the way to infinity, so there is zero need to adjust focus! This is a welcome attribute as it takes more consideration to get a shot perfect with a 15mm due to the extra surrounding context inevitably being in frame, and not having to worry about nailing focus helps speed up the whole process.

I have found sharpening to be totally unnecessary when using this lens on the Mono. This lens and camera combo feels great to use, and is perfect in terms of size and weight. They feel seriously solid together in the hand, and look great too! Same goes when it is used on the A7s. It feels well-balanced.

I expected the lens to work fantastically on the Monochrom (as the previous version did too), but I have been super impressed with the results on my Sony A7s. The colour is to die for!

Sony A7s – ISO 100 – f/8 – 1/200 sec

Picture 4

Sony A7s – ISO 100 – f/8 – 1/250 sec

Picture 5

As many people know the A7s is a low light monster, which meant I could shoot at any time of night despite the fact that this is a pretty slow lens. Simply crank the ISO to 8 or 10 thousand and snap away handheld, knowing the images will retain great detail and colour. Simple! As I mentioned before, the edges retain their colour well, even under pixel peeping scrutiny, so hats off to Voigtlander for taking the time and putting in the R&D to revise this lens so well for digital sensors. Chromatic aberration seems very well controlled, but can still be spotted if you pixel peep. I am sure Voigtlander will sell many of these, as the price, although an increase from the previous generations of the f/4.5 15, is still way way below the outlay for similar offerings from Leica or Zeiss. Despite being relatively cheap, the lens is built excellently, has a metal hood and body, and takes sensible 58mm filters. Most importantly, from what I can tell, the image quality is right up there with those more pricey offerings from Leica and Zeiss.

Leica Monchrom – ISO 320 – f/5.7 – 1/125 sec

Picture 6

I can already tell that this lens is a keeper, which means more of my shots taken with this lens will be going up on my Flickr page for the foreseeable future! So if you are interested in seeing more shots, feel free to have a look!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/alanschaller/

Mar 242015
 

paul

LENS BATTLE: CANON  vs LEICA 

by Paul Bartholomew

Dear Steve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canon21mmf2.8

Voigt21mmf2.8

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

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

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

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

Canon21mmf5.6

Voigt21mmf5.6

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

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

Canon21mmf8

Voigt21mmf8

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

Voigt21mmf1.9

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

Canon28mmf2.8

Zeiss28mmf2.8

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

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

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

Canon28mmf5.6

Zeiss28mmf5.6

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

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

Canon35mmf2.8

Jupiter35mmf2.8

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

Canon35mmf5.6

Jupiter35mmf5.6

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

Canon35mmf8

Jupiter35mmf8

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

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

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

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

Canon85mmf2

leica80mmf2

Jupiter85mmf2

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

Canon, then Leica, then Jupiter

Canon85mmf2.8

leica80mmf2.8

Jupiter85mmf2.8

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

TOP: CANON – BOTTOM: LEICA

Canon85mmf1.4

leica80mmf1.4

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

Canon85mmf1.2

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

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

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

Canon85mmf1.2Edited

leica80mmf1.4Edited

Jupiter85mmf2Edited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canal1

Canal2

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

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

Cheers

Paul

—–

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

Mar 182015
 

New black chrome Leica 35 Summicron and 1959 50 Summilux ASPH!

Two legendary lenses, the Leica 35 Summicron f/2 ASPH and the Leica 50 Summilux 50 1.4 ASPH are getting a facelift from Leica in the form of all new black chrome versions. The 50 Lux ASPH is GORGEOUS in the new finish as they designed it much like the older classic 50 Lux lenses, in fact, from the 1959 Leica 50 Summilux! I WANT IT just for the beauty of it, and of course being a LEGENDARY lens.

The black chrome 50 Summilux ASPH 1.4

11071729_10152611519942735_6196446257428815848_n

While these are the same tried and true lenses from Leica, we do get the striking black chrome finish with red accents. I feel the above 50 Lux is so much more beautiful than the standard version.

Here is what Leica says about the new lenses:

“Leica Camera now offers the Leica Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 ASPH. and Leica Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH. lenses in an alternative black chrome version. The matte black surfaces lend both reportage lenses a unique look and the extra benefits of a particularly robust and resilient finish.

Up to now available only in black anodised and silver chrome versions, the new black chrome lenses also offer new design features. For example, the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH. revisits the classic design of its predecessor from 1959. Typical features of this are the scalloped focusing ring with knurled segments and the finely knurled aperture ring. In addition, the focusing scale in feet is picked out in red on the black chrome lenses. The new version also includes a round lens hood and a lens cap – both made from metal.

The Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH. is the standard lens for the rendition of subjects in their natural proportions. Its high speed makes it ideal for available-light photography, the use of selective sharpness and art photography and also makes it a first choice when building a basic stock of Leica M-System equipment.

10850182_10152611519487735_3721564539627390007_n

The Leica Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 ASPH. is distinguished by its excellent sharpness, high contrast and exemplary resolution at all aperture and distance settings. Despite its high speed and exceptional imaging performance, it remains an astoundingly compact lens. Equipped with this 35 mm lens, every Leica M-Camera immediately becomes an extremely compact, versatile and elegant photographic tool.

11044552_10152611530392735_7700532194730860259_n

In terms of its technical specifications, the lenses are identical to the serial production versions. The lenses will be available through authorized dealers at the end of April 2015.

PRE-ORDER from:

KEN HANSENEmail him at [email protected]

POPFLASH.COM!

LEICASTOREMIAMI.COM

THE PRO SHOP for photographers! 

Mar 132015
 

The Sony A7s with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm Planar and the Leica 50mm Summicron V5.

By Alan Schaller

Flickr link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/127753524@N02/

Picture 0

I am sure everybody reading this will be aware that Zeiss and Leica prime lenses are fantastic. This article is not going to be focused around laboratory grade comparisons of which one delivers the sharpest corners wide open, or the most pleasing bokeh or the nicest rendering. I shall go into my findings regarding these things a little bit later on, but surely it is safe to say that at this level of lens construction everything is more than good enough to help capture great images!

The Sony A7s has replaced my beloved Leica M9, which I sold after trying out the Sony in a camera shop in London. The M9 can deliver outrageously nice images in the right conditions, but I feel my reasons for wanting to keep it after trying the A7s were emotional rather than practical. The A7s has delivered stunning image quality in pretty much every environment in which I’ve used it, and as a bonus is compatible with my Leica lenses (50mm Summicron and 35mm Summicron ASPH). I am keeping my Leica Monochrom however, which to me still has unique qualities, but having said that the A7s does make some worryingly impressive B&W conversions, this one using Silver FX:

Sony A7s -Zeiss Loxia 50mm – ISO 2000 – f2.2 – 1/100 sec.

Picture 1

I have never used a camera that gets out of your way and lets you be creative like this one. Yes the Leicas are purer in operation, which I love, but with the A7s you don’t have to worry about noise at high ISOs (within reason, I have found up to 64000 to be really useable), and consequently you don’t have to worry about setting high shutter speeds or not being able to stop down your lenses in lower light, which is so liberating!! Also, it can be set to be completely silent.

I am one of those people who prefers using a great feeling manual focus lens over anything else. I prefer the experience to using autofocus to the point where I shot a wedding last month entirely using manual focus because I feel I deliver better results that way. I consider myself first and foremost a street photographer, and when in a street environment, being able to pre focus and having a small discreet manual lens suits my needs well, and outweighs the potential benefits of having a machine gun autofocus beast of a lens!

The Loxia series of lenses have been designed specifically for the A7 range, and have been optimised for digital sensors. These two bits of information got me sufficiently interested to check them out. When I first twisted this updated 50mm Planar onto the A7s, I was struck by the high quality feel of the focus ring, which has a considerably longer throw than my 50mm Summicron. I must admit I have never thought to myself “I wish my Summicron was capable of more precise focusing”, so initially I thought it was a bit unnecessary. After using it for a few days however, I got used to it, and it soon blended into the background, letting me get on with snapping.

It feels great mounted on the A7s and is at the same time reassuringly weighty but not overly bulky, reminding you every time you interact with it that it is a quality 50mm lens. Being well accustomed to the tiny retractable hood of my 50mm Summicron, the twist-on metal hood of the Loxia appeared quite large at first, but in reality, the A7s/Loxia combo is still very compact and discreet compared to Canikon offerings capable of comparable image quality.

The colours it produces are natural and at the same time characterful. The files show a touch less contrast than that of the Leica lens, and the colours are not as bold (or are more neutral depending on how you look at it!), but I find this great for editing purposes, where the relative honesty and neutrality of the Loxia means you can have great scope for saturating the colours and boosting contrast without the risk of them looking ugly.

The Sony A7s has inspired me to shoot in colour again. The main reason for this is simply that the colours out of this camera are amazing. They speak to me in a way the colours from my M9 did not, for some unquantifiable reason! Colours as you will see, come out quite differently on each of the two lenses:

 Sony A7s – Leica Summicron 50mm V5 – ISO 250 – f2.0 – 1/100 sec.

Picture 4

 Sony A7s – Leica Summicron 50mm – ISO 50 – f16 1 – 1/125

Picture 7

The Loxia to my eyes is a bit more ‘forgiving’ in terms of sharpness wide open than the Summicron, and appears a little softer at f2, which I think is a great thing for portraiture, where the Summicron can be brutally honest! By the time both are stopped down to f4, the sharpness and detail these lenses capture is incredible. I shoot wide, or close to wide open most of the time, so it is great to see the Loxia performing so nicely in this way. I can’t see a particularly modern character in the rendering of my Loxia images, unlike the ones I took on the blisteringly sharp Zeiss/Sony 55mm 1.8. Whilst being an outstanding performer it looks a bit clinical to my eyes compared to the Loxia and Leica glass I have experienced. This is in no way an attack on that lens, for many people it will be a perfect choice. I just like a smoother classic character voicing to my lenses.

Both lenses perform equally well, albeit differently, for B&W duties. The Loxia 50mm is more than capable of the famous ‘3D’ effect, which is more exaggerated than that of the Leica lens. The Loxia’s ability to focus 25cm closer to a subject than the Summicron is a welcome feature. Both lenses draw the OOF areas very nicely, and the Sony’s fantastic full frame sensor helps this along too.

Zeiss POP! Sony A7s – Zeiss Loxia 50mm – ISO 250 – f2.0 – 1/160 sec

Picture 8

 Sony A7s – Lecia Summicron 50mm – ISO 1250 – f2.0 – 1/200 sec

Picture 9

 Sony A7s – Leica Summicron 50mm – ISO 2000 – f2.0 – 1/100 sec

Picture 10

One thing the Loxia lens does on the A7s which the Leica cannot, is automatically magnifying the image onto your subject when you turn the focusing ring. I have found that I am getting close to rangefinder focusing speeds with this feature, after only a week of practice. This should improve over time. Unlike rangefinders however, you can be 100% guaranteed that you have focused accurately using the magnification function, and when looking through the EVF, you get a 100% accurate representation of your framing, unlike the quirky Leica rangefinder system! This is something I have come to appreciate. The Summicron has to be attached to the Sony A7s via an M to E mount adapter. I chose one by Novoflex, as it felt well made. As it is attached by the adapter it cannot transmit the aperture data to the camera body, and it cannot automatically trigger the magnifier. This is not an issue unless you want to use the focus magnifier obviously, and I am sure some people will not.

To summarise, I think the Zeiss Loxia 50mm is a perfect mate for the A7s. The images are just plain great. If you are more into your 35mm lenses, the Loxia 35mm Biogon is equally capable I am sure. If you already have a 50mm M mount lens that you use on a Sony camera, I think it is justifiable to have both, as they present images differently, and offer a different user experience. If you do decide to get one or have one already, you have chosen well and are in for a treat!

Feb 202015
 

28 images from the A7s, A7II, E-M1, E-M5II, Fuji X-T1, Fuji X100T, and M 240

Hello to all and HAPPY FRIDAY! After I posted my recent E-M5II Camera review (see it HERE) many have been asking me THIS question:

“NOW I AM CONFUSED! What camera do I buy? The E-M1, E-M5Ii, A7II, M 240 or Fuji?!?!

Yes, I get these questions daily and I never give a definite answer as this choice is personal. That would be like asking “what car should I buy” or “which house should I get”? A camera is a personal choice and the reason these reviews are written is so all of you can read and make an informed decision. I understand how hard it is, believe me. But just know that any of these cameras mentioned are truly fantastic and can get the job done. If you are in love with PHOTOGRAPHY and the art of making memories and making art, ANY of these will do.

If you are a pixel peeper it is best to go for something super high res like a Sony A7r as that will give you something to zoom in on and measurbate to. Me, I prefer real photography and making memories as I go on this long journey that we call life. A camera, to me, is made to capture those moments we lose and those memories that in 10-20 years will be very foggy for our aging brains. Looking back at images remind us of the many good times, the family, the friends, the sad times and the exciting times. THIS is what it is all about for ME. I do not pixel peep, I am against it. I occasionally will post crops just to show those who love that sort of thing how much detail we can get but overall it does not matter. At all.

Any of the cameras below can make LARGE prints (I have a 20X30 from E-m1, it is gorgeous. I have larger from my A7II, beautiful). So remember, ANY camera will get you the memories you want to capture but the main difference between them is HOW YOU GET there!

Yes, some cameras make it a joy to get your memories while others make it a pain. Some will get you there with amazing technology and others with their simplistic charm. Some will offer you bold looking files and others a more natural looking file. Some will offer you tools to help you (such as 5 Axis IS or a nice large EVF) while others make it a challenge (Leica M RF).

Below I have chosen 7 images from the A7 and A7II, Olympus E-M1 and Em5II, Fuji X-T1/X100t and the Leica M 240 so you guys can see in one place, the differences between full frame, APS-C and Micro 4/3. Depth of field will be different, color will be different and the overall vibe will be manufacture specific. I have no secrets here on this blog and I always tell it like it is..FOR ME and MY tastes. Not everyone will agree. But enjoy as I share my thoughts on these different mirrorless systems.

SONY A7s and A7II

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The Sony A7 series appeared with a bang when the A7 and A7r were announced. Full frame small mirrorless cameras that performed amazingly well with rich files, rich color and decent usability. While slow in Auto focus and a bit clunky with the early models, the newer A7s and A7II improved things such as AF speed and accuracy, high ISO capability and in the case of the A7s, amazing capabilities with Leica M glass. I love the A7s and A7II with a preference to the new A7II for its better build, 5 Axis IS, and gorgeous IQ (for me, the best of the A7 series IQ). If you want that full frame creamy look with massive shallow depth of field, Full Frame is where it is at. APS-C or Micro 4/3 can not do it to the level of full frame.

If you want the most dynamic range, usually a full frame sensor will give it to you as well. On the other hand, shooting fast lenses on full frame can be difficult as the Depth of Field can be so slim and narrow many times people misfocus. But when you nail it, it can be gorgeous.

The Sony system is still somewhat new, less than 2 years old yet there are many lenses out for the system already, and me, I like to use Leica M glass and old exotic lenses with my Sony’s.

CLICK all images for larger and much better view

The A7II and Leica Noctilux at 0.95

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ISO 32,000 with the A7s – Mitakon 50 0.95

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The A7s – click the images for moire detailed versions! What you see here is NOT the best way to view them. You must click them!

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The Sony A7s and 55 1.8

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A7s again..

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A7II and Noctilux..and amazing combo

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An OOC JPEG at ISO 8000 using the 35 2.8 Zeiss lens

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The Sony A7II represents the best of the Sony A7 line for me. It has all you need to create beautiful rich files. Wether you use native lenses or Leica M glass or old vintage rangefinder lenses, this is the camera that can handle it. The A7s is the king of the night, with amazing low light and high ISO abilities. The A7II can not come close to this ISO performance but IMO beats the A7s in overall IQ. The A7 series is doing VERY well for Sony, above expectations so this is good and can not wait to see what they come out with next.

Fuji X-T1 and X100T

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Ahhh, Fuji. Many love Fuji and they have some hardcore fans, that is for sure! Me, I like Fuji. I used to LOVE Fuji back in the days of the S5 pro and original X100. Today I feel they went a bit backwards with the X Trans sensor. I just do not like it as much as the original sensor from the X100. When I look at any Fuji images (not just mine) they have a look to them from the X Trans that while nice, is not my preferred look. In fact, its at the bottom of the heap for me. There is something un-natural about the files for my tastes but even with that said, this is a personal thing and what I may dislike, someone else may love to death.

Many love Fuji and that can not be denied. They sell well and they do “Fuji Color” very well. Where it falls flat for me is true low light ability. The files get “dirty” and “mushy” in low light and this is why all of the really great Fuji images in recent years were shot in amazing light. Give the X Trans amazing light and it will reward you. Give it dull or low light and it will not. For me, the Sony files and the Olympus and Leica files below beat the Fuji when it comes to overall IQ.

Body wise, the X-T1 is fantastic. Its a wonderful body but still compared to the A7II, E-M1, and M 240 it feels the lowest quality of build. It is not bad in build, but when you compare side by side with the competition, it feels a bit lacking and hollow. Much better than previous Fuji bodies though. Fuji has come a long way since the X-Pro 1. Now they have much faster AF, world class EVF (best there is), nice external controls for all of your needs and great usability. If Fuji still used the old X100 sensor I would own an X-T1 :) That X-T1 above looks AMAZING doesn’t it?

Typical Fuji look in normal light..

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I always have issues with the X-Trans blowing highlight, even if using the extended DR modes (which make the image look very flat imo) – Here the bird is exposed correctly but the highlights have blown. There are many examples of this and i never have this issue with my other cameras. Nothing I did could save the blown out highlights here or in other X-T1 images. 

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The good thing about Fuji is they support their cameras NON STOP. Firmware releases are regular and they fix bugs that pop up, improve AF speed and do good things AFTER you buy the camera. They are improving their bodies non stop as well, and the X-T1 is a winning body without question and I am sure they will keep coming out with better and better cameras. One of these days I will buy myself a Fuji :)

Olympus E-M1 and E-M5II

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To me, this system is so mature and so well executed today that these are some of the best cameras you can buy today, regardless of mirrorless or DSLR. There are a thousand reasons for this from size, build, pro level features, freeze, shock, weatherproof…huge EVF, super fast AF, amazing 5 Axis (best in the world), awesome video in the new 5II as well as the rich files with superb color richness as well. Some of my favorite images of my life were shot on 4/3 and Micro 4/3 systems and I place this just behind the Sony A7II and Leica M for IQ.

Today, the E-M5II and E-M1 meet or exceed nearly all APS-C cameras for build, speed, features, capabilities, color and yes IQ. It can not beat a full frame model for Dynamic Range, Details or high ISO but it holds its own and then some for APS-C and for me, the E-M1 is probably the best camera body I have used, ever. I am talking about the whole package… build, features, speed, controls, versatility, what is possible with them, etc. As I said, IQ is just behind the full frame models. It really is.

Even so, Olympus is doing great things and they are the inventors of Live View, Dust Cleaning in camera, 5 Axis IS, and more. Good to see them still innovating. I also feel the best lenses next to Leica M are right here for Micro 4/3, from the Nocticron to the 75 1.8 to the 40-150 to the 12mm f/2 to the f/0.95 Voigtlanders. So many choices.

Shot with the 17 1.8 at 1.8. Amazing lens with just the right amount of detail and tones.

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The 40-150 – the color here is WOW. JPEG. The way I brought this out is by using SPOT metering. 

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The 12-40 f/2.8 pro zoom. One of the best standard zooms I have used. 

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The 17 1.8 again, smooth, sharp and wonderful bokeh.

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Nocticron goodness…f/1.2

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The Voigtlander 25 0.95 at 0.95 – THIS is a special lens. 

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Olympus have created quite the tool for the PHOTOGRAPHER who puts his priorities at capturing the image, the moment, the memories. The Af doesn’t let you down, the controls are spot on and the build is the best of the lot. Lens choice is plentiful and its only weakness is that it will not give you full frame shallow depth of field (but neither will APS-C). For me, the E-M1 and E-M5II beats most APS-C camera as a whole, without hesitation, even factoring in size. Now there are some great bodies by Panasonic as well but for me, they do not have what it takes to take on Olympus’s E-M1 and E-M5II.

Leica M 240

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Ahhh, the system I loved and used for many years, ever since the film M7. I have had an M ever since from the M8 to M9 to MP (film) to M9P to M-P 240 to Monochrom. I have had them all and loved them all. For me, this is the pinnacle of simplicity. Real photography. Not much in the way of features but this is how it should be with an M. Just you, the camera, and the subject. Nothing to worry about  – just focus, set your aperture/exposure and shoot.

The Leica M is an all time favorite of mine, hands down. The only issues today is with cost. Buying an M 240 and 50 APO will set you back $15,000. Buy a used M and used Voigtlander lens and it will still set you back $6k. You have to be majorly dedicated and have a nice padded bank account to jump in today,  so not everyone can.

Today with cameras like the Sony A7II leica seems to be losing some ground. Back in the M9 days they ruled the roost as there was nothing quite like the M9 in use or in age quality. Today, there are  a 1-2 mirrorless cameras that meet or exceed the M 240 image quality and color and for much less money. While you will never get the experience of the M from a Sony, Fuji or Olympus and you will never get that true pride of ownership with anything else (once you feel and shoot with an M it is tough to go to anything else) you will get IQ that can beat it from other cameras. Today Leica is not “the best” in IQ but they are “the best” in lenses, experience, build, and feel AND simplicity. The M lenses are the best in the world IMO and they are SMALL and built like mini tanks.

I love Leica, and I love the M 240. Period. It’s has some magic in the bloodlines but today it is getting harder to justify unless you REALLY only love RF shooting and have a big fat bank account.

The M with the 50 APO

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The M with a Voigtlander 50 1.5

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The M with a 90 Elmarit

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50 APO again

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Noctilux

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35 Cron

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As I look back at these random images I chose for this article I study them and not only am I looking at the file quality and character but I am remembering the times I had shooting those images and according to my memory, the most fun I had shooting was with the Leica M, hands down. Then it would be the E-M1 and E-M5II, then the Sony A7II and A7s and then the Fuji. All have the capability to capture your frames in high quality but the one you choose will be part of your personal journey. The one that speaks to YOU, not ME. So next time you get ready to send an email asking “What should I buy” – ask yourself this question and go with you 1st gut instinct. That is usually the correct choice :)

You can see my full reviews of the cameras listed above:

Sony A7IISony A7s Fuji X-T1Fuji X100T Olympus E-M1Olympus E-M5IILeica M 240

Jan 192015
 

My Time With the wonderful Leica M8.2

By Justin Halim

Hello everyone!  I’m a long-time reader of Steve’s site and I’d like to share my experiences with the most influential digital camera I ever owned – the Leica M8.2.  I really can’t describe just how excited I am to write this post, as nothing I am about to write about would ever have happened if not for Steve’s site.

First some background:

A few years ago, I was starting to really get into photography with my new Canon T2i.  I loved that thing and was shooting mainly macro and still life, just learning the basics about exposure.  However, one day I was rummaging around and happened to find a Leica M6 and 50mm Summicron (in perfect condition) in my father’s cabinet.  He had completely forgot he had it, so he gave it to me.  I had always heard about Leica and its status, so I couldn’t have been happier, or luckier for that matter.  After putting a few rolls of film put through it, I was in love.

Fast-forward a couple of years; I was finishing my sophomore year of high school.  The M6 had followed me everywhere, but it was getting difficult to justify the cost of shooting primarily film (I didn’t have a job), and using the Canon just wasn’t the same after using the Leica.  So, I began toying with the idea of a digital M to get the best of both worlds – the convenience of digital, and the experience of shooting a Leica rangefinder.  I researched the M9, and was immediately turned away by the price ($6000 at the time).  Discouraged by the M9, I looked into the M Monochrom, thinking a B&W camera would be cheaper (I was pretty naïve).  Let’s just say I was disappointed once again.  I had never felt so discouraged, until one day I remembered that, numerically speaking, there must have been an M8!

With newfound hope, I did more research, but was again discouraged to find countless reviews bashing the M8, particularly for its “lack of features.” I lost hope of ever owning a digital Leica. But one day, I found Steve’s site, which had many glowing reviews of the M8.  As I read them, I began to realize that these were the first “real-world” reviews I had found of the M8, from real photographers, and not some clinical spec chart from pixel peepers.  And every single one of those reviews praised the M8 for its unique shooting experience, which was exactly what I wanted.  However, what really sold me were the pictures taken with it, which looked so much like the images I took with my M6.  Now I had my mind set on an M8.
So over the summer before junior year, I got a job and worked 60 hours/week to save up for an M8, which was a much more realistic $2000.  By the end of the summer, I had saved enough not only for the M8, but an M8.2, which I found for a great price.  I also managed to scrape enough for a Voigtlander 15mm 4.5 II (for landscapes) and Voigtlander 35mm 1.2 II (general purpose), to accompany my 50 Summicron (for portraits).

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The camera:

I won’t go too in-depth with this, as just about every other M8 (and every other M) review covers this, but this was perhaps the most solid and attractive camera I have ever owned, aside from my M6.  Compact, sturdy, and beautiful.  I had the M8.2 black version, which adds the sapphire screen, black paint, and quieter shutter.  The M8.2 just exudes stealth and beauty.  No one would see or hear me shooting with it, which made it the perfect street photography/candid camera.  If people did notice it, they were always  intrigued by it and loved having their pictures taken (Leicas are a surprisingly good way to make friends).  One especially nice quality was how clear the rangefinder was, which was much brighter than the one in my M6.  But what was most important was how surprisingly versatile the M8 was. With the 15mm Heliar, the M8 makes an astounding landscape/architecture camera – the rangefinder is especially useful when using ND filters since the viewfinder doesn’t black out when filters are mounted, which can be a problem for SLRs.

The M8 practically introduced me to street, portrait, and landscape photography.  Don’t listen to anyone who tells you Leica M’s are not practical cameras – I used the M8 for just about everything except video and macro, and got much better results than with any other DSLR I used, as well as having a lot more fun.

The experience:

Picking up an M8 after using the M6, I felt almost no difference.  The M8 is astoundingly similar to a film camera in both look and feel.  At its heart is the infamous CCD sensor that records in that unique, Leica-film way.  Even with the luxury of unlimited digital frames, I still found myself being picky about which shots I took, taking around the same number of shots as with a film camera.  Anyone who writes about M cameras mentions their zen-like experiences, and as much of a cliché as it must be at this point, I just have to emphasize this – THE M8 HAS SOUL.  It’s indescribable, and it can’t be put in a spec chart, but it is there, and it makes all the difference.  It’s why we put up with manual focus, manual exposure, and limited focal lengths.  With the M8, there is nothing between the subject and how I portray it.  And that’s what makes the M8 so versatile, just set your exposure and take the picture – no distractions, no worries or second-guesses, just confident shooting – just like with film.  I take the picture, not the camera.

Of course there were many “issues” brought up by others – 10MP, no IR filter, poor low-light capabilities, and low-resolution screen.  Honestly, I hardly noticed them:

·      – 10 MP is more than enough for me, and if anything, it forces me to get the composition right the first time around to avoid cropping later.

·       – The lack of an IR filter was never a problem – Leica gives two free IR/UV filters with every M8, even if it’s pre-owned.  But having no IR filter has its perks too: the M8, with decent glass, is blindingly sharp, and makes for a fantastic B&W and IR camera.

·       – The poor high ISO performance did get to me sometimes.  The M8 really maxed out at ISO 640, but could be pushed to 1250 if it was in B&W.  To avoid extreme post-production noise, you really have to nail the exposure at higher ISO’s.  However, my Voigtlander 35mm 1.2 (a fantastic lens) solved all my problems.

·       – The low-res screen is a very overrated “problem,” even for the M9 I suppose.  It’s perfect for working the menus, and it gives a decent view for image playback. But the M8 is so much like a film camera that I often wouldn’t even look at the image playback.

·      –  In my experience, one could easily learn to work around the M8’s supposed issues, and, if anything, become a better photographer in the end.  To anyone wanting to get into a digital Leica system, the M8 is still a great choice even 8 years after being released.

I had the M8 for a little over a year, and I took it everywhere – out into the sands of the Jersey Shore, into the bustling streets of New York City, into the festive alleys of Barcelona, and into the rainy, overcrowded streets of Shanghai and Beijing.  I used it to photograph all my family events, and even used it for the school yearbook.  Unfortunately, I sold it because my neck strap broke and the camera fell, which ended up damaging the shutter.  When I got it back from repairs the circuit board failed and it wouldn’t turn on.  I sent it back again, but decided it wasn’t worth keeping anymore.  I sold it and moved onto a Canon 6D and a Hasselblad 500CM, as I needed a video camera and wanted to try medium format.  But that doesn’t change the fact that an entire year of memories was recorded, quite beautifully, by my M8.  To this day I still regret selling it – when it worked, there really was nothing that could compare to it.  While I’m only a teen with limited experience, I definitely learned more than I ever thought I could with my M8, and that makes it all worth it.

Now I am saving up for the day I can purchase an M9.

Thank you everyone for reading, and thank you Steve for letting me write for your awesome site!

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

http://instagram.com/justinhalim/

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© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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