Nov 182014
 

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a list of Leica lenses on sale:

18 3.4 Super Elmar – $250 off

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

The 21 Super Elmar f/3.4 – $250 Off

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

The 21 Summilux f/1.4 – $250 Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 35 Summilux f/1.4 – $250 Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 75 f/2 Summicron – $250 Off

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

The 90 f/2.5 Summarit – $250 off

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

The 90 f/2 Summicron APO – $250 off

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

The 135 f/3.4 APO – $250 Off

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

The 90 f/4 Macro – $250 off

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

The Wide Angle Tri Elmar – $250 off

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

Oct 092014
 

The CicLaVia ride to East Los Angeles

By Huss Hardan

A group of us just participated in the CicLaVia event. “What is CicLaVia?” I hear someone ask..

www.http://www.ciclavia.org/.org

Their website says it better than I can:

CicLAvia catalyzes vibrant public spaces, active transportation and good health through car-free streets. CicLAvia engages with people to transform our relationship with our communities and with each other.

CicLAvia makes the streets safe for people to walk, skate, play and ride a bike. There are activities along the route. Shop owners and restaurants are encouraged to open their doors to people along the CicLAvia.

Ciclovías started in Bogotá, Colombia, over thirty years ago as a response to the congestion and pollution of city streets. Now they happen throughout Latin America and the United States.

Connecting communities and giving people a break from the stress of car traffic. The health benefits are immense. Ciclovías bring families outside of their homes to enjoy the streets, our largest public space. In Los Angeles we need CicLAvia more than ever. Our streets are congested with traffic, our air is polluted with toxic fumes, our children suffer from obesity and other health conditions caused by the scarcity of public space and safe, healthy transportation options. CicLAvia creates a temporary park for free, simply by removing cars from city streets. It creates a network of connections between our neighborhoods and businesses and parks with corridors filled with fun. We can’t wait to see you at CicLAvia!”

Got that?! In practice what this means is that a route is chosen (this October it was about 12 miles in length) in Los Angeles where the streets are closed to vehicular traffic. Pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders etc are all welcome. Just no motos! The vibe is really neat, one of celebration and unification, taking advantage of the four-hour opportunity to see the city in a way that would not normally be possible.

My group chose bikes, and I shot while in motion on my bike. Like most people at the event we took the Metro train into downtown LA. My gear was simple – a Leica M5 with Zhou half case (more on this in a bit), a Zeiss Planar 50 (with ND filter), a Leica Summicron Asph 35 and one roll of Kodak Portra 400 rated at ISO 200. I shot one-handed while riding, and the Zhou case really helped as it has grips on the front and back of the case. I was able to focus with one hand as the Zeiss lens has a ribbed metal focus ring so I could turn that with one finger. I had to zone focus the Summicron as it only has a focus tab which I was not able to use while holding the camera with one hand. Oh yeah, one hand because the other one was steering the bike!

It was an unusually hot day – about 100 degrees – but it was a lot of fun. The next one is in December and I highly recommend it.

Peace out
Huss

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Oct 072014
 

The Classic Leica 5cm Elmar f/3.5 Collapsable Lens on the Monochrom

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Hello to all! Happy Tuesday! It is 9 AM, I am sitting down at my desk to write this article with my morning coffee and a cookie. Life is good. Today I want to share my experience with an old classic lens. The gorgeous and TINY collapsible Leica Elmar 5cm f/3.5 Lens (50mm f/3.5). Yes, it is old, it is slow in aperture, but it is a beauty for shooting in decent light, especially with the Monochrom, which I absolutely adore. So why do I adore the Monochrom when it is just a black and white sensor camera? I mean, any camera can shoot in B&W, right?

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Yes. You can also convert using the pricey software solutions. Even so, I find there is nothing quite like using the Monochrom, or the quality I get from it when it comes to tonality, detail and overall look of the files. I also love using a rangefinder and since this one is based on the M9 body with a CCD sensor, it has a different look than most CMOS sensors made today. I especially like the fact that it is so simple. When using it you know what you are going to get. No color issues, no color casts, any lens can be used without issues and you do not have to fiddle with White balance or worry so much about high ISO as this guy shoots up to 10k with ease.

But today I want to talk briefly about a VERY classic lens. The Leitz 5CM f/3.5 Elmar. It is chrome and looks stunning on the Monochrom. It is tiny and weighs next to nothing. It is built and made to Leica standards and my copy that I found locally for $200 looks like it just rolled off the assembly line.

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My lens was made somewhere around the 1940’s but this lens was made through 1961. Even though my lens is more than 60 years old, it appears and functions as brand new. I bought it mainly just to have it, and seeing that it was so affordable I could not pass it up. I never thought it would get much use but I took it to Las Vegas with me last weekend when meeting up with some great guys from Germany at CosySpeed testing out some cool products.

I decided to take a 30 minute stroll around the strip to see who and what I could photograph. I found many people staring at the camera, some asking me if it was a film camera and others just saying “cool camera”! While most were shooting with iPhones, iPads and even quite a few Sony NEX cameras, no one was shooting with a Chrome Leica Monochrom with this classic lens attached :)

The lens will render in a classic way as it should for being a 60+ year old lens. 

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Being limited to f/3.5 Aperture scared me as I am used to shooting wide open at f/1.4 or f/2 most of the time. I realized that I may have a large DOF but hey, the old masters shot with lenses like this if not this exact lens for a while. I am nowhere NEAR as good as those guys..I am not even a pimple on their chin..but to use a lens that some of them used felt good and I knew the limitations and I accepted them. After I thought more about it I realized there were no real limitations and in fact, it should be easier to shoot with a lens like this as focusing would be made easier with a larger depth of field!

So away I went, walking, smiling, interacting, laughing and observing…

When you walk in Vegas be prepared for many who are only out to have a GREAT time..for many this is a break from stress, work, and their hectic lives so most are friendly and will be happy to let you snap their image..

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It was easy to use and shoot with this classic lens and I am pretty quick with a rangefinder and manual focus. I usually prefer to do more “street portraits” than “street shooting”. I find most street shots that people post online are usually quick sneaky grabs of people and many of them are not so good. I prefer some form of interaction with these people, some form of eye contact. A few words, or even a nod and smile. If they are receptive then I take a shot. Sometimes they are not and I still grab a shot but its all part of the experience of being immersed in the action…

This is one of the guys who pass out the cards for female strippers and escorts who come to your room..they usually hate their photo being taken, but this guy just gave me an odd look when I nodded and asked for a photo. He was probably wondering what I was using to snap the shot. 

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While this Elmar will not be a favorite of mine, it will be pulled out from time to time when I want to feel nostalgic and classic :) It’s a beautiful lens and if you find a mint copy for a good price SNAG IT! I find it worth it to have it in my collection for  the price I paid of $200.

A few more images below using this lens, at wide open at 3.5:

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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!

Sep 232014
 

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Jupiter 8: A cheap and lovely character lens for your Leica M or Sony A7 camera

The best $30 I have ever spent? This old, beat up, tiny 50mm f/2 Jupiter 8 Russian lens. Yes, I bought this lens on the cheap locally here in Phx AZ along with a Jupiter 9, which is an 85mm f/2 for $70 or so (though the 9 is a tad off with focusing on my M). I never owned a Jupiter though they have been around forever and what has kept me away from them is the fact that many say they are not very good lenses, will not focus correctly or are just plain cheap in construction. Well, taking all of that in to consideration I decided that $30 would be a no brainer way to test out the Jupiter 8 and I am glad I did as this is truly a “no guilt and no buyers remorse” lens. For $30, it could easily be resold if I did not like it, but again, at this kind of money, this lens will always be in my kit for when I want the character of this lens. I am a huge fan of classic Rangefinder lenses and many of them are better to me than modern-day pricey lenses.

Shot wide open at f/2 on the Sony A7s with the only purpose being to show the Bokeh. This was shot up at some trees and defocused

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I have always seen these lenses for sale on E-Bay for pretty cheap prices but samples online that show the softness, low contrast and strange rendering put me off on the Jupiter 8. While I am looking around for a decent Jupiter 3 now, the 8 has actually surprised me with just how sharp it can be, even at f/2. In addition, it has that classic Zeiss Sonnar rendering that I recognize. I will say though that an article on this very website is what really had me really wanting to give these lenses a shot. You can see that article HERE.

At f/2 focusing correctly on the Leica Monochrom. Yes, this lens focuses great on my MM. Click the image to see just how sharp it is, you may be amazed that a cheap lens such as this one can do this!

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…and it works just as well on the A7s, even for B&W :)

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Dreamy, Creamy and Classic

Basically what this lens will deliver is nothing like what a Leica Summicron or Summilux will bring you. I have talked any times about lenses being like the artist’s brush. Choosing a specific lens will help you create the vision you are looking for whether that is in the form of a Leica Noctilux, Canon Dream Lens, or a Zeiss 50 Planar. This Jupiter 8 reminds me most of the Zeiss 50 Sonnar but for 1/30th the price! While not as nice as the Zeiss in build, feel, or IQ, it has something unique about it that I can enjoy from time  to time. IN color on the Sony A7s it is gorgeous (for me) even though the Bokeh is a teeny bit nervous at times. Other times it is silky smooth.

These three test shots were taken to show the rendering and bokeh and color. All on the fantastic A7s. Click them for larger and better viewing experience! 

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Portraits

Some people use this lens for portraits due to its softer look when wide open (when compared to critically sharp lenses like a 50 Summicron or APO or 90 APO) and I tested it and found it to be lovely. The lens does feel cheap in construction but it has lasted this long so I assume to will last me many more years to come. At this price, the Jupiter 8 is a bargain of massive proportions. A fun lens to have around and mess with when you want a classic creamy look.

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So for anyone who wants to try out a new lens but you do not want to put a dent in your wallet, give a Jupiter 8 lens a try. It may surprise you. Many say that when being used on a Leica M that the lens may need shims to get it to focus correctly. My copy did not need this but I guess some do. It is a small, light, oddball lens but it works nicely for some applications. I will be using it again and again, and for Sony A7 shooters, using this lens with the Voigtlander close focus M to E adapter, it is lovely and a breeze to focus.

Highly recommended!

Steve

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

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

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

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

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

Sep 042014
 

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The Sony A7s Experience: Ongoing thoughts on a Fascinating Camera

By Ashwin Rao - Follow Ashwin on Facebook HERE

Hi everyone, here’s an update with my thoughts on the Sony A7s. This is a camera that seems to be gaining interest, particularly for those individuals who enjoy low light photography or who have a set of rangefinder lenses in place and are looking for another body. I posted these thoughts at one of my favorite forums, and wanted to share them with you, along with a few new photos, just in case you were considering buying the camera in light of the 2014 Photokina announcements.

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In summary, I LOVE my Sony A7s. It’s given me a burst of creativity and joy in shooting that I haven’t experienced since my early days with the Leica M Monochrom (and M9 before). Here are my rolling thoughts. In general, it’s the best non Leica full frame digital solution for M mounts to date, though there are compromises (for some).

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Here are some thoughts, in no particular order:

1. The camera does well with Leica M lenses. Only the 28 Summicron ASPH lens has performed “poorly” on the camera, and even it is usable for non-critical work where sharpness at the edges may not be as important. Everything else that I have thrown at it works well or is easily fixed in post processing using the lens vignetting correction tool in LR5.

2. RAW colors are solid. The camera exhibits different palette than Leica’s M9 and M240 (I prefer the look from the M9, personally, but it’s a matter of taste), and the palette seems tweaked compared to the A7R and A7 cameras, though that may just be my own eyes fooling me. Skin tones tend toward orange, but it’s quite easy to fix (unlike the M240, which I struggled to get right for peoples’ skin tones). I find that it’s quite easy to get the look that you want from A7s files with a bit of post processing

3. Dynamic range: To me, solid, better than my M bodies (no banding through most of the ISO range), but maybe not quite as good as the A7R or A7 in recovering shadows and highlights…this seems borne out by DXO testing

4. The silent shutter option is amazing: Absolutely awesome feature, that I believe re-defines this camera for those who employ it. I am surprised that Sony doesn’t allow a programmable custom button to quickly access this feature. A firmware upgrade here would be perfect. I use the silent shutter feature for nearly all of my shooting, as it eliminates any shutter shake effect (the size and design of the bodies does not allow the present A7 bodies to be very well dampened to vibraation), and the silence makes photographed subjects not know when you are shooting, which can be helpful on the street. The silent shutter does not work well in low light scenes where fluorescent lights are at play, due to interference/banding effects due to the frequency of light interacting with the frequency of the electronic shutter.

5. Class leading shutter speeds: The other nice feature not spoken about regarding the shutter, is that it’s possible to shoot up through 1/8000 shutter speed, so in bright light, one can use very fast lenses for creating DOF without the need for a neutral density filter.

6. ISO: yup, it’s great. I have had no issues shooting through ISO 12,800 (though some detail and DR is lost at that ISO), and I have gotten usable shots through ISO 40,000+. I don’t typically push past ISO 40,000. I consider the A7s to be an “ISO-less” camera, in that I don’t consider ISO to be a limiting factor any more for my style of shooting. Paired with fast glass such as f/0.95- f/1.4, one can literally turn night scenes into day. Color fidelity appears to be preserved as ISO’s are pushed up, meaning that colors don’t get too muddy as ISO’s jump up into the stratosphere. That being said, the camera is just as good in normal light. What doesn’t get stressed enough is how good the camera is across its ISO range

7. Using the Voigtlander VM-E mount adapter with close focus opens up now possibilities with close focus and macro work with the M…this is MARVELOUS, for those of you who like to do macro. I am re-discovering macro in this manner. The adapter is pricey, costing around $300, but it’s worth it and allows standard and close focus use in a cleverly designed way. I have found that you have to be a tad careful about infinite focus, as the adapter seems to allow telephoto lenses such as the 90 summicron to focus just a smidge past infinite.

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8. Autofocus: The camera focuses much better in low light, but the change is not really revelatory. I have the 55 FE lens, which I enjoy, but don’t use much ,as I can manually focus faster in low light (or really in all light). The 35 FE is supposedly a lot better, but I don’t own it at this time.

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All in all, I have found the A7s to be a revelatory camera. The combination of camera design (flip up LCD, EVF, M mount capacity, silent shutter, ISO performance, close focus with VM-E adapter) allows me to be creative and to shoot discretely in ways that were not possible before. Is it perfect? By no means…here are some things that could get better.

1. EVF: Solid, but there’s room for improvement (higher resolution, faster refresh rate), particularly when using focus magnification and focus peaking in concert. Now that Zeiss is producing Manual Focus E mount lenses, I am hoping that Sony incorporates more design elements into future E mount bodies to maximize the utility of manual focus lenses

2. Megapixels. For me, the 18 megapixel range (m9, M Monochrom) is a sweet spot, balancing quality of pixels and size of files. I would hope that future A8s or whatever they are called will increase MP counts without compromising ISO performance or M Mount lens compatibility.

3. M mount lenses. As mentioned, they work great on this body…really! But put the 28 Summicron on the body, and you’ll see there’s room for improvement. Hopefully Sony will recognize that these bodies could really stand to use smaller lenses, in which optical elements lie closer to the sensor, and design sensors that accomodate smaller lens design (i.e. rangefinder/retrofocus lenses)

4.Camera haptics. Sony cameras don’t quite have the joy of handling as do other manufacturers (i.e. Fuji, Leica), and simple tweaks to camera button layout, grip, viewfinder placement, and menu structure could go a long way to making the cameras joyful to use for more people. I have many friends who love the quality of Sony files, but don’t really like how the cameras operate.

Okay, hopefully that “mini” review of my present thoughts helps some who are considering taking the plunge. I have zero desire to upgrade or change cameras, because the A7s is an outstanding photographic tool as is and does so much.

All the best,
Ashwin

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Aug 122014
 

Copenhagen with the Leica M 240 and 50 APO Summicron

by Howard Shooter

Copenhagen is a difficult city to shoot. The buildings are spotlessly clean and beautiful, the roads are spotlessly clean and beautiful and guess what…the people are spotlessly clean and beautiful.

This presents the street photographer with a problem; no urban decay, no old men with interesting creases which tell the story of their lives and therefore no photography which is focusing on the contrast of modern society. Denmark, like their most famous invention, Lego, is designed beautifully.

My wife and I managed our lucky annual weekend away without our gorgeous children to have a little of us time leaving our three children, happy as could be with the grandparents.

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Copenhagen is famous for Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid”, Canals that look like they are straight out of Amsterdam, (as a result of the Dutch building some of them), interior shops, posh designer food, beer beer beer, bicycles and a design ethos which is evident everywhere.

I was looking forward to using and testing my newly acquired Holy Grail of lenses, the Leica 50mm APO Summicron with the Leica M240.

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These shots are a miss mash of images and colours taken from around the city. I didn’t take hundreds of shots as I was there to relax and soak up the atmosphere rather than document it but I was pleased and I’m still learning all the time what this lens is capable of. I feel I always need about six months to a year to understand a lenses characteristics and this little gem is no different.

Now I think this is a lens which once purchased needs some financial justification as it is stupidly priced. I am not rich, I am quite sane (sometimes), and I am not a man who easily jumps on bandwagons. However I am a professional food photographer, I did sell two lenses to help pay for this piece of glass and I do use the Leica for the odd professional celeb chef portrait when the opportunity arises. I had ordered one of these, cancelled it and then six months later wanted to see what all the fuss is about.

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I think with lenses there is a misconception about what quality is all about when all of these graphs and charts and grids are produced by scientists who are comparing various tolerances across various apertures. I’ve seen enough shots of bookcases and scenes of toys with colour charts to last me a lifetime. Lenses are not solely about sharpness and yet this lens is sold partly because of its incredible sharpness. This, in the grand scheme of things definitely isn’t the main part of this lens that interests me. I did have a Leica 50mm Summilux and on the M240 it does display a little softness but it is a beautiful, quiet lens displaying subtlety and beautiful bokeh which is arguably nicer than the 50mm APO.

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What this lens does better than any other on the M240 is incredible dynamic range to the point where shots properly look like medium format film. The bokeh is nice but not incredible in my opinion, but the 3D pop combined with the sharpness and dynamic range is remarkable. It gives this lens a versatility like no other. Images can be deliberately overexposed and look subtle and beautiful without the whites bleaching out, and yet dark shots are rich and saturated with black blacks and eye popping colour. Black and white converted RAW shots look so authentically Bressonesque in their tonal values that the digital Leica feels like it has come of age.

The big question surely is “is it worth the money?”….. well for me it makes using extra lenses on the Leica seem superfluous and to that extent if you have a few lenses and traded up to the 50mm APO you wouldn’t be disappointed… I wasn’t… but blimey…. how much!

Howard Shooter

www.HowardShooter.com

Jul 302014
 

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My Photo and Camera Journey

By Steven Crichton

The first act: Style and Ergonomics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Then suddenly. Something worked.

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

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

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

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The Second Act:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I had money!

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

The Final Act:

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.zuikomedia.com/

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Jul 152014
 

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The Sony A7s: A New Camera for Leica M lenses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jun 102014
 

Tibet with my M9

By John Kurniawan

Hi Steve/Brandon,

I am a frequent visitor of you side after I got my first M9+cron 35asph. I have not using rangefinder type of camera for 20+ years since my FM2 rest inside the drawer as I am busy building up my business.

Around 10 years ago when I got a second daughter I start to get D300 and shot occasionally not seriously yet till last Jun we are on a vacation trip where I have to carry bag pack, a DSLR+zoom lens and for sure shopping bags…..

Leica M9 has been my dreams since it launch but back and forth hesitate to get one as have the mind-set difficult to focus, everything else must be manually set, so last August I took the plunge and get a pre-owned M9 from a friend. The first 2 weeks quite frustrating to get use to it, but I determined must get over it and since then every where I travel only one cam and one lens to off some of the load.

Herewith I attached some shots of my recent trip to Tibet, hope all of you enjoy the colorful Tibet.

Cheers

Gangway

Prayers

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Jun 092014
 

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The Phoenix Comicon. Portraits with the Leica M, 50 APO and Alien Skin Exposure 6.

Hey guys, I know it is only a few days after I posted Part 1 of the Leica 50 Summciron APO review but I just wanted to sit down and write-up a quick photo article as I just got in from shooting the M 240 and 50 APO at the Phoenix Comicon and once again, the lens continues to impress me when used on the M 240. Take this as a companion to part one of the review. Part 2 is still to come! 

Make sure you click on each image to see it larger. A few of these have a filter applied (where noted) using the new Alien Skin Exposure 6 film filter set. I have used Alien Skin Exposure since Version 1 and love it. You can download a free trial of the new Version 6 HERE.

Shooting the 50 APO on the M is a dream. The focus is easy and I used the Rangefinder 100% of the time. Take a look at the image below which was shot wide open, all natural light. A quick grab shot and it has that medium format look. This was shot in the sun at 2PM in Phx, AZ so you know it is harsh light. This combo did excellent. 1st a B&W conversion, and 2nd, direct color out of the M 240.

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Again, the color is superb. Add to that the sharpness without being harsh or analytical and you have a winning combo. I used the Alien Skin Exposure 6 Astia preset for this one. 

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Click the images to see them larger, PLEASE! They look much better ;) The detail in the full size shot of this one is amazing. To see that full size, click the image below (open in new window for best view)

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The Bokeh of the 50 APO is ethereal with some similarities to the Noctilux (when the Noct is at f/2 or so). For this one I used an Alien Skin filter but can not remember which one. There are so many to choose from and it is fun just experimenting with them all. 

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1st…Here is an OOC JPEG, cropped. The 2nd is using a film filter from VSCO. Not Alien Skin but VSCO, which is a bit different as it applies the filter to the RAW file itself.

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Had some shade for this one..again a B&W conversion using the new Alien Skin Exposure 6 (I have used Alien Skin since Version 1, and love it). Below it the color version. 

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Again, the harsh sun..no problem even with the high contrast of the 50 APO.

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Beautiful detail, tones and color once again in less than perfect light. I do not use flashes, ever. 

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Every one of the images here were shot at f/2, wide open where this lens is designed to be shot. In fact. I am not seeing more sharpness at f/4. You just lose the oh so slight vignette that is there at f/2.

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Two girls having fun taking a selfie with a dude wondering why I am taking their picture ;) He looks confused. 

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As hundreds were in line shuffling in I was snapping images from anyone who looked my way. Alien Skin B&W filter without the noise added.

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A Mother and Son who were exited for the event. I wish they had these events when I was young, my Mom would have so taken me in costume!

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This guy asked ME to take his image..

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There were tens of thousands of people at the event. I believe there was an estimated 70,000 there on Saturday. Next year I am going for all three days and hanging out for a few hours a day. Not only did I get to see some cool costumes and take photos, I met a couple of other photographers as well! This couple went all out…

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The color, Bokeh (see the reflection in the BG), the sharpness from edge to edge..nice. 

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I meant to take a picture of the Minecraft head guy, but noticed the other kid smiling at the camera, so focused on him instead. 

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In the harshest most brutal mid day Phx AZ sun…I did not use an ND filter. Used an Alien Skin Neopan filter minus the grain. 

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and inside just ONE of the many sections/buildings – it was a MADHOUSE!

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Inside this guy looked a little spooked when he saw me pointing the camera at him..

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So there are just a few photos from my hour or two at the Phoenix Comicon. I was not prepared for the mass amounts of people so did not enjoy it inside so much but it was a blast outside. Next year I am going all three days just to hang outside. If any local Phx area shooters want to go with, let me know! Will be a blast. The M 240 and 50 APO is as one would expect, a rock solid pairing. The lens is also literally made for the Monochrom. But I will state again as I did in part one of my review for the lens…you do not need a lens of this caliber to get good photos. The old Summicron is also lovely as is the 50 Summilux. The old cron can be had for about 1/4 the price so it is up to you to decide if the perfection and qualities of the 50 APO are worth it to you in money and in the long wait required to get one.

Happy Monday!

Steve

Jun 062014
 

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The Leica 50 Summicron f/2 APO Review, Part 1

by Steve Huff

Technically, the best 50mm lens I have ever shot with. Period. End of Story. Done Deal. No contest. Really!

This is part one of a 2-3 part long term review of this lens. When all is said and done I will have shot this lens on the M 240 extensively, I will have shown you comparisons with the standard cron and other 50mm lenses, I will have shot it on the Sony A6000 and A7s and will do a complete video breakdown on this lens and what and why it is. For now, enjoy part 1 which is basically the introduction to this special lens for the Leica M system. Enjoy!

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The perfect 50mm lens..does it even really exist? Many say that this exact lens that I am about to write about is the best 50mm ever made, without question or doubt but I will tell you that what is determined as “the best” for you comes down to personal preference. To some, the best 50mm lens may be a 50 f/2 Rigid Summicron or for others it may be the 50 Summilux pre-asph, for others the classic 50mm Summarit or Summitar.

If someone were to want the 50mm lens with the most perfect specs, this Leica 50 Summicron APO f/2 would be the ticket though, without question. It would also be the one that will melt your credit card because at the price of $7,350.00, this is not a lens to consider lightly, nor is it a lens that is really “needed’ by 99% of us.

Yes my friends, perfection does not come cheap and this is a wallet buster for sure, even if you are well off or have cash in the bank. For quite a while I was upset that Leica priced this lens the way they did and I remember early on after the announcement I was ready to give up my Leica for good as they were pricing so many out of the M system. I mean, $7,350 for a 50mm f/2 prime when the still current non APO sum micron is $2300?

Well, time has passed since then and it was not until after I really understood what it was, and how hard it was to make and the that Leica is reportedly losing money on this lens that I decided to really take a look at it. When I actually had one in my possession for a while, which just happened recently, I realized how special the lens is. Even with that said, no 50mm lens is really “worth” $7,350 to 99% of people but I do understand why it is priced at this level and I do understand why so many of us Leica M shooters lust after this particular piece of glass.

Sure, I enjoy using a $600 50 Summarit just as much as I love using this APO cron but one thing is certain, I can not fault this lens in any way. From packaging, to construction, to quality, to the hood, to the size, to the pride of ownership that comes with it. It is a thing of beauty and just holding it you can feel the quality and care that went into making it.

It is beautifully made, beautiful in size and technically the best 50mm lens I have ever used. No distortion, amazing contrast, super detailed and sharpness, sweet color and smooth as you can get bokeh in an M mount 50 next to the $11,000 Noctilux. But just because this lens has all of those qualities does not mean that other 50’s now have to be dumped. In fact. Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander make some fantastic 50mm lenses for the M mount and they come in at a fraction of the cost. One could buy a Zeiss 50 Planar f/2 for $800 and take the $6500 saved and go on a massive photo trip :) One could buy the original summcrion for $2300 and save $5000 to use for whatever else they desire. Just because this lens is as good as it gets in a 50mm for 35mm does not mean it is needed to create good photos. I have taken many bad photos with this lens, I should know :)

The Leica M 240 and 50mm APO Summicron makes for one hell of a combo, but at $14,000+, it is pricey combo.

One thing I love about the M system is that I can capture moments just when I want to. Here I was prefocused and waited…looking through the viewfinder until the one moment that I wanted to capture happened. Ahhh, to be young.

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At the cost of this lens and how long it takes to get a hold of one (9-24 month wait after ordering) I do not expect many to actually buy or own this lens. Only the camera crazy G.A.S. stricken few will dare take the plunge into this kind of investment for a single lens, especially when it is a common focal length, 50mm, and common aperture of f/2. But yes! There is a long line for it and that line extends at some dealers for what would equal a good 2 year wait.

But me, I bought one as I have spoken with a few of you who have bought one and swear up and down about this lens. I also never did get a chance to do a full review of this lens so as a service to all of my Leica readers here, I felt I owed it to all of you to write about this lens, lol. Well, that is my way to justify buying it. That and I remembered just how good it was when I had it for a few days over a year ago.

But it is even better now because the latest version of this lens that is shipping has now been fixed of the “flare” issue that was reported on this very lens and the earlier batches. It seems if you bought one early on then your lens may have a flare issue, which was a big no no as this lens was supposed to be perfect. Well, Leica admitted the problem and fixed it. If anyone has an older version of this lens and it fares you can send it to Leica and they will send it back to you flare free. My version would not and could not flare so I know mine is the latest and greatest

Shot at f/2. this one has detail and pop. 

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50mm = the new crack

In reality, I am a 50mm junkie. I think I have tried just about every 50mm lens ever made for the Leica M system. I have loved many of them, even the old 1940’s lenses. Lenses like the Canon 50 0.95 were very cool and fun to use and the old summitar was beautiful and cheap.

I have used the 50mm Summilux ASPH for years, and feel that it is a legendary lens. A lens that is still expensive but more realistic in price at $4,000 (though still high compared to other 50mm lenses). The 50 Summilux offers a faster aperture at $3300+ less than the 50 APO, so for most, THAT is the ultimate Leica 50mm lens. I have captured many precious memories with a 50 Summilux ASPH on the M6, M7, M8, M9 and M 240. It has stood the test of time and still today is probably the most sought after Leica 50mm lens. With the Summilux being so good, why would one spend $3300 more on a slower aperture lens?

That is what I wondered myself but again, the 50mm Summicron APO is for those who want perfection and those who want the best technical 50mm lens ever made. For Leica, this lens is a statement lens. A lens that shows that you do not need a big fat housing to have a perfect 50mm lens ;) Proof that you can have no distortion, nearly no CA and perfect across the frame sharpness even at f/2, when the lens is wide open. The Bokeh of the 50 APO is much nicer than that of the older 50 Summicron, which has been known to have “busy” bokeh. The ONLY fault of this lens is slight vigneting when wide open, but it is slight and adds to the photo IMO. This lens uses very high-end exotic glass, the  best Leica can source.

ISO 3200, Leica M 240, 50 APO at f/2. Click it for larger and see just how nice this looks at 3200!

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or in color. Even at ISO 3200 in a dim restaurant the M creates acceptable color and smooth bokeh with minimal non offensive noise. 

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A True Masterpiece

The 50 APO is tiny. Smaller than a 50 Summilux. It is also gorgeous and has the coolest and smoothest twist out built-in hood ever. It is like a fine jewel in feel, use and in quality. The lens even ships in a large deluxe box that houses a fancy presentation case much like the Noctilux box does. The lens comes with two lens caps, one old school brass (black paint) and one plastic. I keep the black paint one in the box so I do not lose it and just use the standard plastic one. When on the camera it feels like I am shooting the normal standard summicron but when I look back at the pics the level of color fidelity and contrast and pop is on another level.

In use the lens is a joy, It has a focus tab so is easy to focus but I do have one quibble. The aperture ring is a little too loose. I keep the lens at f/2 as it is PERFECT for my tastes at this aperture. I find that sometimes it has slid to f/2.8 and I do not realize it until after the images has been taken. It needs to be a little stiffer to avoid shifting on accident. Other than that, I can find no negatives with this lens at all.

I know that when I grab my Leica M and head out the door for a day of shooting and this lens is attached..well, I know that when I return home and load up my photos to my large 27″ screen that I will be in awe of the colors, the details and the beauty of the files. Being who I am though, I know that I will also be telling myself constantly “You spent HOW MUCH on this lens…you could have used that money for something much more responsible”. So with my guilt of spending so much money on a small tiny lens, when this 2-3 part review is all done, it MAY go up for sale but then again, seeing that this lens makes such an amazing one lens kit with the M, that would be very hard for me to do. :)

Here are a few more of my 1st photos from the 50 Cron…

Bokeh is about as good as it gets in a 50mm Leica M lens (besides the ultra creamy and smooth Noctilux, but that is a whole new look all in itself) f/2

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Mid Day in Prescott, AZ – This little guy was looking at me, probably thinking “Damn, that is a sweet camera”! Click image for larger and more detailed version. f/2

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Debby enjoying the day. This is right out of camera at f/2.

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The color pops with this lens and the M 240

Many who shoot the M 240 notice that some of their favorite lenses performed quite differently than they did on the older M9. Color was different, the POP was a bit different, the sharpness was even different. In the case of the 50 Summilux ASPH I noticed a big difference in rendering from the M9 to the M 240, though I enjoyed both cameras way of presenting the files. Even so, the color was the trickiest part of the M. With this 50 APO, the color coming out looks rich, deep and much like a nice slide film. As close as you can get in digital anyway. For color on the M, there is nothing like the 50 APO. From pop, punch, depth, and tone…this lens rocks color on the M.

Kids playing at a mall in Scottsdale AZ. Click the image for larger size to see the detail and color depth. Shot at f/2, which is where this lens SHINES.

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The 50 APO is a lens that brings a little bit of medium format to the Leica M. Not fully, but a hint of that look from file richness to detail to perfect sharpness and no distortion.

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Smooth..

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This lens, in my opinion, is meant to be shot at f/2. Wide open BABY!

With most lenses and camera systems such as DSLR’s we have been trained to know that stopping a lens down from its wide open aperture will always deliver better performance. In the case of the Leica 50 APO Summicron, I do not feel this is the case. While you will lose the slight vignette that is there at f/2 when stopping down to f/2.8, you will also start to lose some of the signature of the wide open look that this lens creates. When shot at f/2, this lens creates a look that is part classic, part modern but never in an analytical way (which is what I thought it was going to be when I first tested this lens over a year ago). It has a beautiful smooth presentation and at f/2 you get all of this character. Stopping the lens down, say to f/4..well, this is when you will start to lose some of the reason you paid so much for the lens as there are quite a few 50mm lenses out that there perform just about perfect by f/4.

So if you test this lens, buy this lens or borrow this lens make sure you are NOT afraid to shoot it wide open, which is where it has been optimized to be shot.

More images shot wide open at f/2 and  feel free to click them for larger versions! EXIF is embedded in each image. 

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Full Size files:

The files coming from the M 240 when this lens is used, to put it mildly, is the best I have ever seen the M 240 files. The complete lack of distortion, fitness or soft corners is amazing. There can be teeny amounts of CA but it is the best I have seen.

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This is a TORTURE test for CA. The 50 Summilux and 50 Noctilux would be full of CA in this shot. The 50 APO is amazing. 

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The 1st photo in this article, but this time full size…right click to open in a new window for best viewing

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One more full size…

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Wrapping up part 1 of this lens review

Again, this is only part 1 of a 2 or 3 part review. I have lots of shooting and comparing to do with the Leica 50 APO Summicron lens but so far, so good. It is a beautiful lens with amazing build and contrast and sharpness across the entire frame, even wide open at f/2. After my 1st couple of weeks with it I feel that I could be just as happy with a 50 Summilux or maybe even a 50 Zeiss Planar (well, almost as happy). While this lens surpasses those other lenses for all out performance, as I said early on, performance of a lens will not instantly make you a magical photographer. I feel that this lens is for those who crave, desire and lust after the “perfect” lens. I am on of those nerds myself, so I love it but I do have hesitations about spending so much money on this little guy, especially when that money could have been used elsewhere that is, in reality, more important. Still, I am having a blast shooting the lens and over the next few weeks I will be taking this lens to the always photo rich Comicon, to the California desert and Lazy Meadows Airstream park/hotel, Joshua Tree Park, San Francisco and all of the photo opps it has to offer, Long Beach, CA, the Queen Mary, and a few cool spots as I go on a 7-10 day road trip in about 2 weeks from today with the love of my life, Debby.

I will be posting part 2 when I return, so in about 3 weeks. I will also be doing comparisons with the original 50 Summicron and Zeiss 50 Planar, two other 50mm f/2 options. ;) So stay tuned and check back soon for all of the good stuff. I will leave you with a few more early shots with this lens and the Leica M. BTW, my 50 APO came from Ken Hansen ([email protected]) but no one has this lens in stock, there is a wait but you can put your name on that list. Or you can pick up a standard 50 cron or 50 lux or 50 summarit :)

katie

at2.8

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

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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!

 

Apr 292014
 

The Voigtlander 75mm f1.8 Heliar Classic Lens Review

by Johnny Ciotti

(from Steve: I will be reviewing this lens on the M 240 in the next 2 weeks. For now, here is a review from Johnny on the Sony A7! Thanks Johnny!)

With so many individuals moving on to the growing trend of the more sensible mirror less interchangeable lens camera bodies more than a few are finding a lacking in the tele range. Well, at least without destroying the smaller form factor by using larger SLR adapters and lenses or breaking the bank.

Voigtlander 75mm 1.8 Heliar Classic mounted on Sony a7 via Voigtlander VM-E close focus adapter

Voigtlander 75mm 1.8 Heliar Classic mounted on Sony a7 via Voigtlander VM-E close focus adapter

Enter the Voigtlander 75mm 1.8 Heliar Classic. Before getting into my thoughts I’d like to share with you a few tid bits of information in hopes of giving this some credibility and not just a “this guy bought the lens and rambled on about it” type of post. Being a photographer can mean many things to many people. A hobbyist, a professional, a collector, we all have different reasons for our purchases. So take what you will from this review but I’ve written it for the most decirning digital photographer who might enjoy premium quality at an affordable price. Myself being one of those that doesn’t care to own more than a few pieces of glass in the effort of simplifying the way he shoots. My clients shouldn’t have to pay for my gear acquisition syndrome when I can get the job done with a lot less.

As with most modern Voigtlander lenses, this 75mm is beautiful in a classic sense and refined to meet todays standards. No frills, no extras, just a clean black metal barrel and bright beautiful glass. Lens caps front and rear do as they should with my favored center pinch on the business end. Screw in metal hood feels wonderful and still allows for the front cap to be positioned properly when stored. All that needs to be visible is crisp and easy to read. No sloppy or unneeded branding to tarnish the over all aesthetic of this short tele focal lens.

Voigtlander 75mm Heliar Classic without lens hood attached

Voigtlander 75mm Heliar Classic without lens hood attached

The feel is better than what would be expected from such a bargain. The aperture ring clicks smoothly and precise with little effort. As effortless as it is to hop up or down a stop I’ve had no issue bumping into the wrong setting even with “rough” use. The same characteristics are followed by the easy to use manual focusing ring, clean and well dampened are the best way to describe this short throw. People often toss around the term “cheap” when they mean inexpensive, this lens is not “cheap” even though it is beyond affordable with a meager asking of sub $700 new.

The barrel extends slightly when focusing adding some length to this long piece of glass.

Barrel fully retracted

Barrel fully retracted

Barrel fully extended

Barrel fully extended

With having hit the ball out of the park in the presentation and tactile sensation department, I’d like to focus on the look the lens provides to the user while peering through it and not at it. Because this is what is important, right? You know, the images we make and not how awesome we look while making them. Voigtlander is not new to the lens manufacturing game. The company as a whole has been around since 1756, that’s not exactly a short stint. The new lenses have been manufactured by Cosina since 1999, another reputable name in optics. I hate to think of any piece of glass with such heritage as second-rate.

The lens provides a wonderful rendering of depth, sharpness, and contrast in appropriate proportions for such a piece of kit. The colors are as accurate as you are at insuring the proper white balance is selected. Vignetting is mild at most for a lens like this.

Vignetting

From left to right f1.8, f2, f2.8, f4

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From left to right f5.6, f8, f11, f16

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Clarity being one of the stronger aspects, taking a back seat only to the fantastic out of focus qualities and subject separation. The lens is more than sharp enough at f.18 for anything that needs to be shot at f1.8. Stopping down quickly takes these 3 groups of 6 conventional spherical elements from above adequate to what would be considered ridiculously sharp.

Bokeh

From left to right f1.8, f2, f2.8, f4

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From left to right f5.6, f8, f11, f16

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The multi coated process allows for deep contrasting that compliments the in and out of focus portions of any well thought composition. The straight 10-bladed aperture creates a lovely organic display of bokeh that is typically only found in much pricier prime optics at this focal length.

Iris opened to f1.8

Iris opened to f1.8

Having used this lens in many situations I have noticed flaring occasionally in the studio environment where a flag might have not been used with other more modern designs. This isn’t necessarily crippling for a rather flawless lens as it is easily correctable in most situations. Outdoors I haven’t noticed any flaring as long as the lens hood is implemented.

When possible I highly recommend shooting with a lens hood/shade, especially when it is this good, as it increases contrast by not allowing stray light to bounce around in your nifty chunk of glass. Often times sharpness is confused with lack of contrast and can plague the reputation of lenses from the miss informing improper user. The lens hood should be considered a part of the lens design for delivering optimal image quality. Why skimp when you’ve paid for the tools to be made available to you?

Raquelle Lawrence was gracious enough to model for this lens review.

High contrast outdoor location for recent head shots. Voigtlander 75mm f1.8 Heliar Classic & Sony a7 stopped down to f9

High contrast outdoor location for recent head shots. Voigtlander 75mm f1.8 Heliar Classic & Sony a7 stopped down to f9

The compatibility of legacy glass has been often questioned with digital sensors and their performance together. I find in this particular combination between the Sony A7 and the Voigtlander 75mm f1.8 Heliar Classic that the two work together most desirably. User skill level and purpose for creating the image should be questioned as often as image quality. How sharp do you need the bottom right pixels to be if it’s a faded off-white stucco wall?

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100% corner crop also showing minor color fringing.

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This lens really wouldn’t be my first choice for something demanding critical corner to corner image quality. Use a tilt shift and/or stitch multiple frames if that is the case. Picking the proper technique and tool for the job will make things work much easier. Now what this lens does do well is allows for a no fuss operation in creating wonderful stories with heaps of character. This is really important for me as I’m a dedicated wedding and headshot photographer. My equipment needs to allow me to make connections with my subject in a natural way.

Are we really looking at corner sharpness?

Are we really looking at corner sharpness_

The biggest draw back of this lens is it having such a long minimum focusing distance. Common with rangefinder lenses, this can be problematic if you work in cramped conditions often. A false sense of breathing room can be created with the coupling of the Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus Adapter. The two increase the usability of the lens and open up a new world of creative options while giving the ability to increase subject separation in close foreground objects.

VM-E Close Focus Adapter

VM-E Close Focus Adapter

Now while I seem to praise this lens in high regard for its technical merits I cannot stress enough that the joy of using the lens as an artists tool can often help produce more meaningful images for yourself or clients. The way it feels and operates is ever as important as how many coatings the elements have. From day one it felt like an extension of my eye, something that if it cost even more could not be afforded.

You can buy this lens and the adapter from CameraQuest by clicking HERE. 

Mar 312014
 

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The Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5 f/1.2 Lens Review & Comparison

By Steve Huff

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT AMAZON HERE

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT B&H PHOTO HERE

Hey hey! It is review time again and I have been a busy man shooting this Panasonic/Leica Nocticron lens for the past two weeks and let me tell ya, it is a serious lens my friends. It is large, it is expensive, and it is FAST with an f/1.2 aperture for those “NOCTurnal” moments.

Panasonic decided to create a “statement lens” to show that Micro 4/3 users can have some fun with shallow DOF, subject isolation and 3 Dimensional POP just as much as the APS-C guys :) The only problem is that they must have forgotten that Olympus has the 45 1.8 Lens that one can now buy for $350 or so. Yep, almost the same focal length and almost as fast in the aperture department for about $1100+ less. Oops.

But is it really an Oops? I do not think so because this Nocticron is so so so good that it beats the 45 1.8 in most ways (besides size and weight and cost). Is this Panasonic jewel $1100 better? No, but the Nocticron is a lens for those who want the best of the best..the unique draw and style, a taste of a real Noctilux and yes, the LEICA name.

Indoors, a coffee shop..I raised the Panasonic GX7, aimed, and fired. F/1.2 wide open and sharp as a tac. This Nocticron offers it all. Color, contrast, sharpness, gorgeous bokeh, build and more. Click the image below for a larger and much better view. 

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It seems that some think that Leica makes this lens. They do not. It also seems that some feel Leica supplies the glass for this lens. They do not. This is a made in Japan Panasonic lens made by Panasonic. Panasonic has a deal with Leica where they use the Leica name on certain lenses because Leica helped with the design. So in reality, Leica did help with the design but the construction is all Panasonic, made in Japan.

So does the LEICA name on the front of the lens mean that this lens at least has some of that Leica mojo and magic? Previous lenses from Panasonic with the Leica name included the now legendary 25 1.4, which has been considered as the best Micro 4/3 lens available when you want that Leica look and quality. There is also been the older 45 2.8 Macro, which was astounding in the IQ department though slow to focus. Panasonic also recently announced the new 15mm f 1.7 with the Leica name and that one looks like a 100% winner at $599. A 30mm equivalent with a fast 1.7 aperture. Yummy.

After using this lens extensively I would say that YES, it does indeed have a little of that Leica look, feel and rendering..or as I call it “MoJo”. I will go a bit farther and say that this is an overall better lens that the old Leica F/1 Noctilux that sells for $6500 or so used.

Olympus E-M1 with Panasonic Nocticron at f/1.2 – IMO, nothing beats Olympus colors.

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So if we look at pricing..the “PanaLeica” 25mm 1.4 is around $529. The 45 2.8 comes in at $719. The new 17 1.7 will be $599.

So why is this Nocticron nearly $1600?

Well, the real answer is because it is a costly design AND an amazing performing lens and as I said earlier, a Statement piece from Panasonic. Panasonic will not sell loads of these due to the cost and the fact that it is really a specialty lens. So they can not spend millions to design and create it only to sell it for $500! Even the old 45 2.8 is $720, for an f/2.8! This Nocticron is not or in any way a $500 lens. In fact, when I first saw it and held it it reminded me of the real deal, the $11,000 Leica Noctilux f/0.95. It has the same design on the outside. In that regard it has some “Noctilux” character to it. The Leica is $11,000 for a 50mm f/0.95 and that lens is a tour de force of optical magic. Is it worth $11,000? No. But it sells well at that cost for Leica because there is nothing like it, at all. It is one of a kind and sharp even at 0.95 with a creamy Bokeh that melts into the frame.

The Panasonic is $1600, or $9400 less than the Leica Noctilux! While the Panasonic is NOT a Leica Noctilux it does indeed offer some of the flavor of that big money lens, for MUCH less money..MUCH less. I will state right up front that the Panasonic Nocticron has the best Bokeh I have seen next to the real deal. It competes and compares with the Leica Noctilux in this area 100%. The Bokeh is amazingly creamy, dreamy and NOT headache inducing like some lenses. Many exotic lenses fall short in this area..the out of focus background areas. Not this lens!

This is also the area where the 45 1.8 falls a bit short as the Bokeh can get busy and neurotic during certain scenes. The Panasonic has gorgeous Bokeh quality above and beyond any Micro 4/3 lens I have seen to date. In fact, I will call it the “Bokeh Master” of the Micro 4/3 world.

E-M1 and Nocticron at f/1.2 – click it for larger

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Is smooth and creamy background blur worth $1600? No, not really but in this review I will be taking a look at this lens as a whole from build, to O.I.S., to AF speed to sharpness at all apertures, bokeh and a comparison with the Olympus 45 1.8 and Voigtlander 42.5 f/0.95 (that comes in at $1000 but is manual focus only). Then I will decide if as a whole “is this lens worth $1600″?

I have used this lens exclusively for the past two weeks and what you will read below is my experience with it in all aspects. If you do not want to read the full review let me just say that after my time with the lens I bought one for myself from Amazon right HERE. Yep. I found it is just as special as the real Leica Noctilux (in a Micro 4/3 kind of way) and offered me more character, more pop, better contrast,  and much nicer Bokeh than the $350 Olympus (which I also own). I guess that answered my question of “is it worth it” pretty quickly! I will get more into why I bought one of these expensive lenses when I already own the $350 marvel in the conclusion of the review :)

The Nocticron Arrives

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I originally rented this lens because I did not want to buy one to review it. I figured I would rent it for a week or two, use it, review it and say “Buy the Olympus 45″ and be done with it. But as it went, I was wrong. When the lens rental arrived I pulled it out of a case only to say “wow, this LOOKs like the Noctilux”! It is not built like the Leica Noctilux, not even close…but it does resemble it. It is much lighter than the Noctilux as well. Still, this lens looks and feels mighty impressive for a Micro 4/3 lens. I instantly knew that this was the best built AF lens for the system, hands down. While all Olympus primes are built nicely and feel like little light jewels, this Panasonic is more of a brute..a serious light gathering machine..more importantly “An Artist’s Tool”.

Olympus E-M1 and Nocticron at 1.2 – ISO 12,800

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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I say “An Artist’s Tool” because this lens has that capability, that extra something that is lacking in most lenses to call it just that. The rendering when wide open, at the right distance from your subject gives you the 3Dimensional Pop (not as much as an f/1.2 lens in full frame) as well as the color and contrast characteristics of high end lenses. The Micro Contrast is also very good here, among the best I have seen with Micro 4/3 (Olympus 75 1.8) and the Bokeh is phenomenal.

But before I go on and on about the qualities of this lens, let me start by talking about the specs:

Focal Length 42.5mm – Comparable 35mm Focal Length: 85 mm (classic portrait lens)

Aperture Maximum: f/1.2 – 16.0 (starting at a super fast f/1.2 this gives us true light gathering of an f/1.2 lens, so for night this is #1 in M4/3)

Camera Mount Type Micro Four Thirds

Minimum Focus Distance 1.64′ (.5 m) (pretty close min focus, Leica Noctilus has a 1 meter min distance)

Elements/Groups 14/11 – (14 elements, 11 groups)

Diaphragm Blades 9 (for better and smoother Bokeh. The Fuji 56 1.2 has 7 blades)

Image Stabilization Yes – (built in O.I.S. which is what makes it so large)

Autofocus Yes

Filter Thread 67 mm

Weight 14.99 oz (425 g)  -(Leica Noctilux is 700 grams)

Additionally, there is an Extra-low Dispersion element that increases contrast and sharpness and an Ultra High Refractive Index element allows for a uniform look to the edges of the frame.

The above specs are impressive for this lens no doubt and one of the most controversial will be the f/1.2 aperture. Micro 4/3 hater and naysayers always are quick to point out that an f/1.2 lens in Micro 4/3 is like having an f/2.4 lens in full frame. Well, this is not true. FOR LIGHT GATHERING AND LOW LIGHT USE, this is a true F/1.2 lens. Period. For DEPTH OF FIELD it is more like a 90mm f/2.5 lens. Something like the $1800 Leica 90 f/2.5 Summarit but with a closer minimum focus distance and true f/1.2 light gathering ability and for less money. :)

The lens breakdown…

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The key to this lens is that you are getting pure state of the art performance for your Micro 4/3 camera and yes, Micro 4/3 is a legitimate format that is used by pros, enthusiasts, amateurs and every day camera Joe’s. The performance of the latest M 4/3 camera bodies (specifically from Olympus) is up there with any APS-C, and as I have reported about before, in some areas they are better. Cameras like the E-M1 are a whirlwind of performance in every way. I also feel, after using everything out there, that Micro 4/3 offers the BEST quality lenses for any mirror less camera system (besides Leica M). They are that good in build, speed, and IQ.

These Leica/Panasonic lenses take it up another notch when it comes to color, contrast, micro-contrast and overall IQ.

Was in my kitchen table at night, Brandon was in front of me and I called his name and fired. The E-M1 was at ISO 800, lens was at f/1.2. CLICK it for larger and sharper.

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This lens will work for portraits..

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or even candid street moments..

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Bokeh is smooth and free of the nasties, even in a bokeh torture test condition like the one below  – click for larger. E-M1

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Yes this lens works well with Olympus or Panasonic bodies

This lens works with the Olympus Micro 4/3 bodies just as well as it does with the Panasonic bodies. Yes, I have been shooting a GX7 and E-M1 side by side and I get consistent results with the E-M1 in regards to color and lower noise. The GX7 files have SLIGHTLY more noise (RAW, without NR) even at base ISO and I prefer the color rendering, build, and quick menu of the Oly system. But the GX7 produces IQ almost the same as the E-M1 with some color differences but the build is of a lower standard with the Panasonic GX7 vs the E-P5 or E-M1.

It is a fact! The Olympus bodies are built so so well. The E-P5 feels like a solid brick of metal with quality switches and dials. The GX7 feels plastic with lower quality dials and levers.

But with that said, the lens works well on either camera and on Panasonic bodies you will be able to use the manual aperture dial. On Olympus bodies the Aperture ring is useless and can not be used so you just use the normal aperture thumb dial on the E-M1. It is a give and take I guess.

The manual aperture dial reminds me of quality Leica M glass, much like the real $11k Noctilux (which I have owned long term in the past). 

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So wether you have an Olympus OM-D or PEN this lens works wonderfully. If you have a Panasonic you get the Aperture dial function.

Inside of a restaurant at f/1.2 – Olympus E-M1

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Built in OPTICAL IMAGE STABILISATION

The Panasonic Nocticron has O.I.S. built in, so for all of you Panasonic body shooters this is very important and useful. For Olympus shooters that have one of the 3 or 5 Axis IS bodies then you will want to use the in body 3 or 5 Axis over the lens O.I.S. as the Olympus IS system beats the lens O.I.S. hands down. I have said it before and I will say it again, there is NOTHING like the 5 Axis IS of the Olympus bodies, nothing. The few who put it down just do not shoot Olympus and prefer Panasonic but the real story is that the 5 and 3 Axis IS systems of the Olympus bodies is revolutionary and offers HUGE benefits, even for video use.

Below is a snippet where I tested the built in O.I.S. of the lens vs the Olympus E-M1’s 5-Axis IS – same shutter speed but the 5Axis provided a clear image vs the lens OIS blur.

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So having the OIS in the lens is good for those who shoot without a body that has the advanced IS built in. On the GX7 this is mandatory to have in a lens like this so it is good that Olympus packed it in, they really had no choice.

A Closer Look

Below is a comparison between the amazing little Olympus 45 1.8 that comes in at around $350 as well as the Voigtlander 42.5 f/0.95. It seems I had an issue focusing the Voigtlander on the Panasonic GX7 due to the small EVF. When the 42.5 Voigtlander is focused correctly it is razor sharp, even wide open, in the center of the frame. See my review HERE. 

1st up, YOU MUST click on the images below to see them correctly. 

The Nocticron is 1st at f/1.6, then the Olympus at 1.8 and then the Voigtlander (slightly mis-focused, sorry!)  The Olympus has more magnification going from 85mm to 90mm and is quite good for a $350 lens! The Olympus offers more of a “telephoto” look with more compression..flatter. The Nocticron offers a gentler more 3D rendering similar to a real Leica lens.

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Below is a more visible example of the difference between the Nocticron rendering and the Olympus 45 1.8.

Click the images for correct and larger versions..

The 1st image below was shot with the Noctiron and GX7 at f/1.2, wide open. Here you can see the 3D pop between the subject and the background. There is a clear distinction between Debby and the background, with a superb fall off from in focus to out. This is the hallmark of a good lens IMO. 

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Below is the Olympus 45 1.8 and when you click and view this side by side with the Nocticron you can see the differences. To some, you may not even see it. To others it will be huge and to some it will be slight. The 45 rendered the image in a duller way from color to a flatter look. As good as the 45 1.8 is, it does not approach the Nocticron, which is one reason why the Noct is so expensive. 

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And now and image from over a year ago in the same spot taken with the Leica Noctilux at f/0.95 on an M 240. This is the most 3D of them all but it should be considering the combo of lens and body will run you about $18,000. :)

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Full Size Files and a crop

I am finding the Nocticron to be sharp even wide open but at the same time it is not clinical in any way. It is more organic and flowing, much like the original F/1 Noctilux from Leica. It has a certain character to it wide open that I like, a lot. Below are two full size files, one wide open at f/1.2 and one that should have been f/4 but the EXIF reads at f/3.2

Thanks to “Baby” my little Chihuahua we rescued for being extremely still while modeling :)

1st up, wide open at f/1.2. Right click image and open in new tab or window for full size from RAW

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again, right click and open in new tab or window for full size at f/3.2

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The lens is RAZOR sharp wide open and gets sharper as it is stopped down. I actually love the lens at f/4 as well as f/1.2. It is an all around great performer and for this focal length, the ultimate lens for Micro 4/3. HERE IS ONE MORE wide open at f/1.2 – look at the sharpness, color, detail and Bokeh. Amazing..

CLICK IT for larger and better version – the way it was meant to be seen..AMAZING detail at f/1.2, superb color and Bokeh. This was shot with the GX7. THIS simple test shot reveals why this lens is so special. Bokeh gets an A, sharpness gets an A+, color gets an A, 3D pop gets an A. 

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Distortions

While shooting this lens in real word scenarios I never saw any kind of distortion or had an issue with CA. I do not do scientific tests nor do I shoot white walls looking for vignetting, because if I do not see an issue while using the lens for what it was designed to do (take photos) then I do not see a problem. When shooting the Panasonic Nocticron I had no issues with Vignetting or Distortion. Period. The lens does have slight vignetting wide open though but so does the Noctilux f/1 and 0.95.

The one shot that slightly missed focus but this so reminds me of the Leica Noctilux F/1 Rendering! I love it.

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AF Speed

The Af speed of the lens is VERY quick in good light and slows down in low light but it always locks on and the only time it missed for me is in the above shot of the dog but I think it was trying to focus on the dirty glass instead of the dog, so maybe it did NOT miss. AF speed was a TAD faster on the E-M1 vs the GX7 but both were comparable.

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VIDEO USE

This lens SHOULD be a video shooters dream. I have yet to shoot video with this guy but plan on it soon and when I do I will post a sample video right here :) So check back in a week or two!

Bottom Line Conclusion

So is this lens worth $1600? THAT is the question, especially when we have lenses like the Olympus 45 1.8 which is similar in focal length and slightly slower in aperture speed for $350. The Olympus is also MUCH smaller and MUCH lighter and slightly faster to AF. So wouldn’t the Olympus be the “No Brainer” decision? Why yes, it would.

BUT! If you are like me, and DO notice those small differences such as contrast, color, bokeh quality and rendering then you might want to take a serious look at this Nocticron. The Panasonic/Leica lenses have all been SUPERB. The 25 1.4, the 45 2.8 and now the Nocticron all use a Leica design and in the case of this Nocticron, more exotic glass than a normal Panasonic lens. When good glass is used you can tell and this lens has a way of lighting up a scene just like a real Noctilux does.

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Sometimes a lens comes along that is special. This is one of those lenses. It has it all built into one monster shell, though it still comes in smaller in size and lighter in weight than a comparable full frame lens. Built in O.I.S., great sharpness and rendering at f/1.2 AND Auto Focus, something that the Voigtlander lenses are missing and those lenses can be tricky on a smaller EVF camera like the GX7. I am thrilled that Panasonic created this lens.

Many will argue that this is not an F/1.2 lens, but it is indeed a true f/1.2 aperture lens. I will repeat: THIS IS A TRUE 42.5MM f/1.2 LENS.

Yo will get f/1.2 light gathering capability. You will be able to shoot at f/1.2 in the dark and you will be using a true f/1.2 aperture with 1.2 light gathering ability. THIS is what an f/1.2 lens is made for..low light and in that regards the Nocticron is true to its name..NOCTURNAL.

The image below was shot on the E-M1 at ISO 10,000 at f/1.2. It was inside my house at night with barely ANY light at all. ZERO noise reduction. Reminds me of something that would have come out of the Leica Monochrom! Good lenses can make all of the difference in the world. 

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So if you shoot Micro 4/3, Olympus or Panasonic, and you want a fast portrait length prime that offers a bit of EVERYTHING such as fast aperture, delicious bokeh, amazing sharpness and detail/micro-contrast which also happens to shoot great video then PUT THIS LENS ON YOUR LIST. Yes, it is $1600 and yes it is expensive but this lens will hold value over the long-term, moreso than a standard M 4/3 lens.

Micro 4/3 has come a long long way since the early days and today it offers astounding IQ, fast speed, the best built mirror less bodies as well as the fastest and the best collection of glass out of any mirror less system. From wide to tele and macro, there is nothing that a Micro 4/3 system can not do. Olympus and Panasonic are rocking it big time and this lens just solidifies the fact that Micro 4/3 will NOT go away despite the doom and gloom of some large sensor fans. Many have asked me about the new Fuji 56 1.2, which is also a fast portrait prime for the X system. I have NOT tried the Fuji yet but HAVE handled it. The build of the Panasonic is better. I have seen numerous shots from the Fuji and they look gorgeous as well but no OIS in the lens OR body for Fuji. Also, the Bokeh from the Fuji is a little on the busy side in comparison.

If a man came up to me and said pick one and keep it..for free. Either a Fuji X-T1 and 56 1.2 or an Olympus PEN E-P5  with finder and the Nocticron, I would not hesitate for a nano-second. It would be the PEN and Nocticron. Easy choice for me. Still, Fuji is another company that seems to “get it” when it comes to releasing what many of us enthusiasts want. I say, keep ‘em coming!

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I feel that the Panasonic Nocticron 42.5 f/1.2 lens is the best built AF lens for the Micro 4/3 system. Period. It is also the fastest aperture AF prime for the system. It is a true “Noct” lens in its rendering and style and deserves to be up there with other well-known “Noct” lenses that cost MUCH more than this one does. For me, I had to own one so I bought one after shooting the review sample for 2 weeks, so that may say something right there.

In regards to the 45 1.8 which I also own, I bought the Noct as it inspires me more to go out and shoot with it. It offers am ore creamy and organic rendering over the 45 1.8, better color and contrast and is more of an Artists tool than a lens. I am a sucker for fast glass and I did not believe for a nanosecond that I would spurge and purchase this lens, but it is that good. It has more Leica than Panasonic it seems, and that is a good thing as you can not get a real Leica lens for less than a few grand new (50 Summilux f/1.4 is $4300). This is why I purchased one for myself.

So I highly recommend this lens for any and all Micro 4/3 shooters who WANT and DESIRE a lens such as this.

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WHERE TO BUY THE NOCTICRON!

You can buy the Nocticron using the direct links below to Amazon or B&H Photo. Using these links will help me to keep this site going and costs you NOTHING extra so if this review helped your decision, I thank you for using the links below!

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT AMAZON HERE

BUY THE NOCTICRON AT B&H PHOTO HERE

More samples from the Nocticron!

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

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

To help out it is simple. 

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

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

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

AMAZON LINK (you can bookmark this one)

B&H PHOTO LINK – Can also use my search bar on the right side or links within reviews, anytime.

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

Mar 052014
 

colintempletont

In praise of the Leica Monochrom

by Colin Templeton

Hi Steve,

I’ve been a regular visitor to your site over the years, and thought it was time I contributed something, rather than continue to sit on the sidelines.

I work for a national newspaper in Scotland. I love my job – I’m based in Glasgow, as is my newspaper, so much of my work is in and around the city, although I also get to see a fair bit of Scotland.

But the city is what fascinates me. And when I’m not working I get out and about with my Leica M Monochrom. I love to document everyday life on the streets. I’ve owned, and used, a Leica M6 since the mid-nineties, and always liked the images it produced. They seemed to have more life to them, dare I say it, more soul than the pictures I got from the Nikon F5 I used for work, and the rangefinder camera was simply much more fun to use.

When I started at the newspaper full-time, around five years ago, they supplied the camera gear needed for the job, so I was left with all the Nikon kit I had used as a freelance. I sold it all (thank you, eBay) and bought a Leica M9. That camera was a revelation – essentially the same as the M6, but with the advantages of being digital. And when it was announced that Leica were launching a black and white only M, I didn’t hesitate – I traded in the M9, and found myself with an M Monochrom. I’d been converting the majority of my shots into black and white anyway.

Eighteen months later, I’m still smitten by this camera. Picking it up make me want to go out and shoot with it. And I do, pretty much every day (I post a daily photograph on Blipfoto: http://www.blipfoto.com/contraflow). A lot of praise has been heaped on the M Monochrom, and I find myself much in agreement. The camera is very small, light, unobtrusive, a joy to shoot with, and the files it produces are like nothing I’ve seen before. You can step on them hard and they just don’t break up. Not that you need to be hard on them, because if exposed correctly, they need hardly any work. Everything is in the file – it just needs to be breathed on a little to coax the best from it.

One of the best things about the M Monochrom is that you get to use Leica lenses on it. I’m an ex-Nikon user, and now a full-time Canon user, so I know all about the image quality of those two systems. But the tiny Leica lenses have detail and character in spades, by comparison. It almost seems ludicrous how heavy and large a pro Canon DSLR is, when the diminutive Leica has the same size sensor, and much smaller, faster, sharper lenses. Any DSLR I’ve ever used feels like the computer it is. I can’t bond with it. And when I see the results, they fulfil the brief, but it almost feels as though the camera made the picture, not me. That’s a good thing, because it makes the job easier. But there’s no fun involved. Using a Leica rangefinder is fun. You have to really slow down and think. Just take a single shot and make it count. When I get a picture from a Leica M that I’m happy with, I really feel as though I made the image, not the camera.

My two favourite lenses for the M Monochrom are the 50mm M Summilux ASPH, and the 28mm Summicron ASPH. Occasionally I’ll use an old 1960’s 90mm Tele Elmarit “fat” version 1, but generally it’s just the two lenses for me. And mostly it’s the 50mm. A lot has been made about the modern aspherical lenses being too sharp, too clinical in their rendering for the M Monochrom sensor, but I just don’t see it. I think the modern 50mm and 28mm render beautifully, and with plenty of character. But maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, I could go on and on. I adore the M Monochrom. It doesn’t get in my way, it just allows me to take great pictures. It’s like my M6, loaded with an endless supply of all my favourite black and white films.

My website is: http://colintempleton.com/

I’m also a member of the Elephant Gun photography collective: http://www.750grain.com/colintempleton/

And I’m on Twitter: https://twitter.com/colintempleton

Very best wishes, and thank you,

Colin

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Feb 132014
 

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The Leica 90 Summarit f/2.5 M Lens Review

By Steve Huff

Welcome to yet another Leica M lens review! It has been a while since I have posted a Leica lens review mainly because I have already reviewed nearly all of them over the past few years. But!!! There are a couple that I have not reviewed and one of them is this 90mm Summarit that I just received from Ken Hansen (Thanks Ken) Yep, the “lower end range” of the Leica line! The 90 Summarit may be lower in price when compared to the mega buck 90 f/2 Summicron but I’ll be damned if I do not like it BETTER than that megabuck 90 cron on the 240, and that is no lie or exaggeration!

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I guess that comes as no surprise as I preferred the old f/2.8 90 Elmarit to the 90 Summicron as well, mainly due to size and weight and of course, COST.

One from the 90 at 2.5, converted to B&W on the M 240

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Always, always click on the images to see the better and larger and sharper versions that are not down sampled like what you see embedded below!

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Many of you have seen my review of that older 90 Elmarit 2.8 lens and 4+ years ago when I wrote that review it was indeed my favorite 90 for the Leica M system. It all came down to size, performance and the fact that I had zero focus issues with that lens which is always nice when it comes to Leica.

I’ll just go ahead and spoil it now but I like the 90 Summarit just as much as the Elmarit and now that I have been shooting with it for a while I realized how much I enjoy this focal length on the Leica M 240. It is a joy to shoot with, a joy to focus and the results coming from this lens with the M 240 ROCK & ROLL non stop all day long. Results are rich, sharp and have nice sharpness and texture. Colors can pop and Bokeh is quite nice.

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In the past, with the M9 and M8 I was not a huge fan of the 90mm focal length because it seemed that no matter what 90mm lens I picked up there was a slight to massive focus problem (Until that old Elmarit). With the M 240 this 90 Summarit is extremely easy to focus and spot on when using the rangefinder, and what a relief that is. There is nothing I hate more than a mis-focusing Leica M camera and on a few occasions it has frustrated me so much that I almost gave up on the M all together. But since the new 240 I have not had any issues with focus (except when I dropped my 1st M, almost off of a cliff during the last Palouse workshop) and it has been smooth sailing ever since its release.

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These days I enjoy the M with a Voigtlander 15, Voigtlander 35, Leica 50 and this Leica 90. I am close to pulling the trigger on the 21 Super Elmar to finish it off and maybe in the next year I will save up for a classic Noctilux F/1. Maybe. But one thing keeps nagging at my brain and that is the fact that these lower cost Summarit lenses are just OH SO GOOD on the M 240. It really is all one needs. A 35 Summarit with a 90 Summarit would be a superb combo and add in a 50 Lux for those times you want that Lux look and you would be all set. A nice mix.

Click the image to see a larger 1800 pixel wide version. Plenty of sharpness with fantastic color pop.

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The size and performance of the Summarit line is perfect and they are just as good in the IQ department, if not better, than their more expensive brothers and sisters (Summicron and Summilux). Yes, just as good in the sharpness, detail and color. They will offer a different “look” in the Bokeh and rendering but this does not make them lesser than the more expensive lenses. What it comes down to is SPEED, and SPEED costs big fat money in Leica land.

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Yes Sir! The Summarit Line is SUPERB but seems to get the least attention…

This is a true statement. I have used all four of the more affordable “Summarit” lenses including the 35 f/2.5, the 50 f/2.5, 75 2.5 and now the 90 f/2.5. All three lenses share the same semi-fast aperture speed, the same build quality and the same price range. They all come with a protective carrying bag instead of a leather case but all are Leica in build, feel and use as well as the most important..IMAGE QUALITY. But for some reason many Leica fanatics disregard these lenses because they feel that if they are less expensive they must be compromised in some way. This is not really true.

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The only compromises that come with the Summarit line is that the aperture is not f/2 or f/1.4, it is f/2.5. So it is all about speed. The focus rings are quite nice and I prefer them to some of the more expensive models. Focus distance is also a tad longer at 0.8 meters instead of 0.7 for the 35, 50 and 0.9 for the 75. The 90 has a 1m minimum focus distance.

All in all, the entire summarit line is quite amazing because they give us a mix of classic and modern rendering. Actually, the 35 Summarit has some of the best Bokeh to be found in a Leica lens and is also smaller than the cron or lux!

Just take a look at the image below of a bird I too a very quick shot with using the 90mm at f/2.5 on the M 240. This is a full size file so RIGHT CLICK it to open in a new window to see it in its full size form.

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If you viewed the entire full size image above in a separate window (right-click the image, then open in a new tab or window) you will see that the Summarit 90 is sharp even when used wide open at f/2.5. The Bokeh melts into a creamy classical blur that resembles a painting with rich color and nice medium to high contrast. In fact, this lens makes my M 240 render somewhat like an M9 but with extended Dynamic Range and better color, and yes, I 100% feel that the M 240 has MUCH better color performance than the M9. Perfect? No, but no digital camera is. NONE. The M 240 offers better color, better dynamic range, better noise performance, better battery life, better LCD, nicer feeling and sounding shutter, better RF experience with the light up frame lines, live view if wanted and so far, no focus issues. After one year with the M240 I still prefer it in every way to the M9. Every way, IQ included.

Like to keep your distance? The 90mm focal length will help you do just that :) 

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So to be clear, the Summarit line of lenses is 100% Leica all the way giving Leica results. The funny thing is that I have shot with them all and NONE of these Summarit line of lenses have ever given me any focus issues (besides an early 75 Summarit that had a loose element inside). The 35, 50, 75 and 90 always focused spot on. I can not say the same for the 90 Summicron..at all. Not only is it large, heavy and very expensive..two of the three that I have had in my possession were a bit off in the focus. That is why I gave up on the 90 cron quite a while ago. Don’t get me wrong, the 90 Summicron is very special and magical when it is “on” but when something is special most of the time and frustrating some of the time I tend to drop it after some time. After four 90 Summicrons over the past 5 years I decided to stick with a slower 90 for my Leica, if I have any 90mm at all.

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One thing to note…Many who own the 90 Summicron and have focus issues feel like it is them who is making the focus errors. I have spoken with quite a few 90 Cron owners who were having issues and two of them I met in person during a meet up. I tested out the lenses on their camera and mine and I was able to verify exactly what I told them it was, which was a mis-focusing lens that needed an adjustment.

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When any Leica lens is adjusted and focusing properly it is EASY to nail focus. This goes for the Noctilux 0.95, 90 Summicron, 50 Summilux, etc. Focusing a 50 0.95 at 0.95 is just as easy as focusing a 28 Elmarit at 2.8. When that focus patch lines up you are in focus. If your image shows you otherwise something is out of whack.

The 90 Summarit is never frustrating. It just seems to deliver the goods no matter what I decide to aim my M at and not one shot was out of focus during this review period.

Click the image below to see my dog in all her sharp glory :) The 90 at f/2.5..no problem-o!

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Compared to the classic and legendary 90 Elmarit f/2.8

As already mentioned, back in 2010 I reviewed the now discontinued Leica 90 2.8 Elmarit. I LOVED and still do LOVE that lens. I no longer own it but do remember when I reviewed it that I enjoyed it immensely. That lens along with the M9 created eye-popping quality and sharpness. I am not sure why Leica discontinued the lens but they did, and its replacement is this lens here, the Summarit. They did downgrade the hood as the 90 Elmarit 2.8 had a built-in slide out hood where the Summarit has a screw in hood. (sold separately) I much prefer the slide out hood but you can’t always get what you want. Some prefer a screw in hood. Leica wanted to create the Summarit line of lenses as sort of a classic styled lens. They give a classic metal lens cap with the Leica logo and hoods are screw in.

Whatever the reason, I remember when I used this 90 Summarit on the M9 I found it to be a little more clinical than the Elmarit. When shooting the Elmarit the results seemed organic and very rich. When shooting the Summarit back then on the M9 it seems al title “colder” and not as rich or warm.

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Now with the M 240 being the hot M I decided to give the Summarit another shot and I am glad I did as it gives me much of what I enjoyed with the Elmarit on the M9 – contrast, pop, color depth and sharpness. There is a very evident color difference with the new M 240 over the M9 (warmth vs cool) , and I prefer the M 240 100%. I feel it is much more natural though there may indeed be a pinkish hue going on with the M 240 but then again, it could be the off color hue of the M9 images making the M 240 look off because I now see a green/yellowish hue to the M9 images that I shot back then.

One thing I learned is that when editing images I just go with what looks good to MY EYE instead of worrying and stressing over calibrated displays, etc. I have sold images for thousands of dollars without stressing about any of that. I just enjoy shooting and eyeball the color. With the new M it seems easier to get a rich warm color I like. The M9 with this Summarit was cooler in the output. Take a look below…

First the 90 Summarit on the M240 here in 2014

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…and now the 90 Elmarit on the M9 in 2010

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This is the least expensive NEW 90mm Leica lens for your M! 

When the Summarit line was launched (BEFORE the M9 was launched during the end of the M8 days) the 90 came in at $1600 or so. Today it is $2150 because Leica lenses go up in price every single year. This means if you bought a Summarit back then and wanted to sell it today you could probably get about what you paid for it.

This is the good thing about Leica. If you buy a lens and keep it for a long time you will not lose money. The Leica lenses are legendary and due to the fact that they have the balls to raise prices every year means that a Leica lens is indeed and can be an “investment” if you keep them long-term.

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At $2150 the 90mm Summarit is NOT cheap..no way, no how. BUT, it is a REAL Leica German optic and a REAL Leica lens! Anyone who says differently has no idea what they are talking about. It feels, shoots and gives the IQ of a pure Leica lens and like I said, the value does not drop like a rock after a few years, instead, it holds value. You also get the warranty when buying new so that is always a good thing. The 90 is on the higher contrast side when looking at out of camera images (most of what you see here) but of course with the extended DR of the M 240 you can make  them much loess contrasty if you wish.

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Detail..is this lens sharp?

Yes, this lens is sharp. Take a look below and click on the image to see the 100% crop embedded inside.

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My conclusion on the Leica 90 Summarit Lens

My lens reviews always seem to be short, especially when a lens is fantastic and has no real weakness. The 90 Summarit is one of those lenses. It is small, light, high quality in build and feel and performs exceptionally well. The rendering is a mix of modern and classic and can be as sharp as a tac. The colors are rich, saturated and lovely, especially on the new M 240. (See my M 240 review here). While I have not traditionally been a 90mm shooter I am starting to enjoy it more and more and understand why so many love this focal length.

An all summarit kit would be killer for those wanting the true 100% Leica experience without going bankrupt buying the Summilux and Summicron models. All you lose is some speed (which may not really even be needed), a slightly longer minimum focus distance and the Leica leather case (instead you get a nice felt style cloth bag).

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If you are not 100% committed to the 90mm focal length I suggest giving the 90 Summarit a try. It may not be as exotic as the Summicron but for me it was more enjoyable to shoot due to weight and no focus issues with the Summarit. Highly recommended for those wanting a 90mm solution for their Leica M!

Mine came from the legendary Ken Hansen who is a TOP Leica dealer with amazing service that has to be experienced. Ken is the man. He has this lens in stock and if you mention me, who knows..he may cut you a deal. (Don’t hold me to that though..I have no idea if he can or not). :)

You can e-mail Ken at [email protected]

I will leave you with a few more snaps that I shot around town from the 90 Summarit on the Leica M 240!

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