Jun 202014
 

Walking New Orleans with the Leica M

By Neil Gandhi

Hey Steve,

Finally got a chance to use my Leica M so I thought I’d share some photos from my recent trip to New Orleans. I had to ditch my A7 and the 5D MIII in order to be able to afford the M240 and after using this system, I think it has been one of the best decisions ever (mind you, I do miss both those cameras and I have captured some great images with them!). Here are some first impressions:

1. The Design. Pure genius in precision and engineering. Minimal, and allows you to quickly get to what you need. The Leica M may not have all the bells and whistles that other cameras in its category have, but to be honest, I did not miss them one bit. The menu and button layouts are intuitive and so easy to get to. It takes a no-nonsense approach by shredding the unnecessary and letting you focus on simply capturing the moments around you.

2. Rangefinder. The Rangefinder methodology of shooting takes quite a bit of getting used to. I found myself constantly missing opportunities simply because I had never used this system for focusing before. At the end of the trip however, I did find myself getting very comfortable using it and found a certain sense of joy in using it. Its like I was actually doing some WORK, prior to taking an image. I bought this book from the Apple iBooks store called “Work your Leica M” by Joeri van der Kloet (https://itun.es/us/KyvxV.l) and his exercises have helped tremendously in getting used to shooting Rangefinder.

3. Ergonomics. The camera is a beast…to hold. Ergonomically, it made me miss having the A7 or the 5D MIII and it kept slipping like a bar of soap from my hand when I initially got it. The leather half case definitely helps and the more I use it, the more I am getting used to holding it and composing my shots.

4. Viewfinder. The optical viewfinder is a joy to use. I do NOT miss having an EVF and the composition lines are wonderful to gauge whats in and out of the scene while composing.

5. Image Quality. As expected, the overall quality of the images processed by the M is just outstanding but the real star of the show was the 50mm f2 summicron lens. I got it used debating how good it would be but man, its sharp. I also used the Zeiss 35mm f2 but minimally as I was smitten by the summicron. Just great for street photography. Low light is a bit of a challenge with high ISO, but having a faster lens will probably help in that department.

Here are some images from the trip (probably more than you need so feel free to take some out for your post), more on my instagram page here: http://instagram.com/lifeinanimage.

Cheers,

Neil

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Jun 182014
 

Two full size high ISO JPEG images from the Sony A7s. ISO 3200 and 64,000.

Hey guys! Been busy all day shooting this Sony A7s and wow, I am impressed with the low ISO (up to 10,000 or so) more so than the high ISO (above 10,000). Shooting at base ISO is beautiful and I will have loads of images in my full review but I have had a few messages asking me for full size images, from raw, in color at higher ISO. Below are two shots, and both are from RAW, in color and shot with the Leica 50 APO on the A7s using the Voigtlander Adapter. 

You can see the ISO 3200 shot is quite nice. The ISO 64,000 is noisy, yes..but better than ANY other camera today at ISO 64000. This was in a dark area in the zoo today and again, they are JPEGs out of camera. The ISO 3200 shot was at 1/60th of a second. NR in camera was set to low.

The 50 APO is gorgeous on the A7s btw..wow.

 

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and a couple with the 50 APO at ISO 100. Click it for larger. 

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Jun 182014
 

My story with Leica so far, Part 2

By William Bichara

A month or two ago, Mr. Huff was kind enough to post a Leica-themed piece I had sent him as a note of appreciation of his informative blog and a recount of a personal experience I had with a recent Leica purchase from Ken Hansen ([email protected]). As with many stories, opinions and other notes posted to this forum, my piece drew some commentary, some kind and appreciative, some pointed and critical, and a few that I dismiss as bitter and inconsequential. Because of the suggestive nature of some of the critical feedback, today I feel compelled to respond, while at same time aiming for a second shot at properly representing my work.

To the folks who pointed out flaws in the pictures posted with my initial blog piece, those images were included only for their sentimental value – being the first few shots I took with the new M. They were test pictures posted as-shot while just playing around with my new Leica, and are by no means a final product meant to showcase my professional work – that wasn’t at all the point from my post. It was a heartfelt expression of great enthusiasm towards a camera meant to be shared with an audience with similar passions. To the rest of the commentators with kind and appreciative remarks, thank you for seeing the post for what it is and for taking the time to write your thoughts. To those of you who went the extra mile to visit my website and critique my work, your reviews are highly appreciated. I enjoyed your commentary and I view the few perceived shortcomings as mere creative differences.

Now that my very first post at stevehuffphoto.com is out and with it my nagging urge to share my enthusiasm about Leica in general, I’m ready to share other photography-related topics with followers of this blog and I would like to start with an overview of my background and my passion for photography, albeit with the same sentimental tendencies as before. I’m also sharing a set pictures from a recent personal photography trip that I feel may find interest among those of you who can appreciate the rawness of some of the images in this selection.

Growing up in the war-torn neighborhoods of Beirut, Lebanon, I was unsurprisingly absorbed into the harsh realities of everyday life, and haunted by images of the people touched by warfare, and the once happy and lively streets transformed into piles of rubble and skeletons of buildings. Coupled with my passion for photography from a very young age, these conditions have shaped my vision and style throughout my career path and made me consistently seeking to photograph the real and the raw. With a mind constantly swarming with deeply moving pictures, I found in photography the perfect medium to express my thoughts the way I experience them – mostly unrefined and evocative images.

My awareness of my preferred photography style started by a fascination with Leica cameras when I was a little boy. From the first images of Leica street photography I saw in the french PHOTO magazine spreads, to the time I bought my first Leica M system 30 years later, my pictures have always sought to speak the Leica language regardless which camera they were shot with.

One of my most recent photography destinations was Mexico, and as you may have already guessed, it was not the resorts and the touristic spots that I was after. One key location I was anxious to see and cover was the “Island of the Dolls”. Described as one of the creepiest spots in the world, this location is like a nightmare come to life, yet it was somebody’s superstition-filled reality at some point – a deserted shrine of countless forlorn dolls. This place was once a stage to a very different kind of human misery – a lonesome struggle with a supernatural enemy. I could not be more drawn to a less refined and more evocative subject.

Another destination was the University of Mexico “UNAM” where I photographed some of Mexico’s most treasured monuments – O’Gorman and Alfaro Siqueiros mosaic murals, and the Sculptural Space Park. For a reason I can’t really explain, these locations had a very special appeal to my passion for rugged imagery.

The rest of the photo selection is some other highlights reflecting random street pictures that captured my eye throughout my little excursion.

Sincerely,

William Bichara

www.williambichara.com | www.weddingsbybichara.com | www.williambicharasblog.tumblr.com

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Jun 162014
 

A classic! A Leica X1 review article

By Adam Grayson

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Greetings!

As long time follower of your site, I am excited at my first opportunity to contribute. I have written an article about the Leica X1, titled “Yesterday’s News: The Leica X1 Review”. Below is the review for your, um, review.  Yesterday’s news: The Leica X1 review!

Released 09/09/09, the Leica X1 is certainly not today’s hot topic (the T is the current title holder now) and has likely been forgotten about as yesterday’s news by most of the photographic community. Heralding in a new era of the digital camera world with its fixed focal length, APS-C sensor in a small body, retro look and manual controls, it was considered to be the first of its kind that started a trend continuing through today. As the Leica T system ushers in a new kind of interface to the photographic world, I thought it would be relevant to share my experiences with this quirky but still very capable camera that was the talk of the town in 2009.

My experience with the X1 started in late 2010, well after its initial release. Not being able to financially justify the hefty price tag of a new X1, I patiently waited until the price in the used market came down to what I considered to be reasonable enough to make the jump. At that time, the camera brought me mixed feelings. The image quality was outstanding when everything came together, but most other times it was maddeningly frustrating. Maybe because I expected it to be as quick and versatile as my trusty old DLUX 4, or as reliable as my M8, but my initial experience left me wanting. After a few months of dedicated use, I decided to sell the X1 and chase photographic glory elsewhere.

So began my search for the ultimate APS-C fixed focal length camera. This journey took me through almost every form of the genre released on the market; from the retro-rific Fuji X100, to the uber-compact powerhouse Ricoh GR. Even the X1′s replacement model the Leica X2 passed through my hands at one point. All of the cameras had their strengths and weaknesses, but none of them really grabbed me, not even the X2 (a whole other story).

The closest camera that came close to staying in my stable was the Ricoh GR; what an amazing camera! It bests the X1 in many ways but it still did not have that feeling; the tactility in my hands, the manual controls, the desire to go out and take pictures with it. Something was always missing with the other cameras. You know, that elusive feeling that comes every so often when you really connect with a camera.

So what brought me back to the X1? It took an epiphany while shooting with the venerable Contax T2 (a fixed lens compact film camera) to see what I have been missing all along; stop trying to use the camera like a modern digital and shoot it like a film camera. Use a slower, more deliberate style of shooting. After coming to this realization, I had only one camera in mind to test my theory out. The X1.

Fast forward to February 2014. Found a great deal on a black X1 and went into the experience with a new mindset; don’t treat the camera like an automatic small-sensor point and shoot, treat it as a film camera like the Contax T2. Guess what? Yep, things went much better. Where blood pressure raising frustration used to kick in, now the zen calm of measured photography took place. Is the camera perfect? No. Will it hit the 100% “keeper” zone, especially with my ever-moving two-year-old? Certainly not. That being said, I find my keeper ratio close to that of my film cameras, even with the toddler in questionable light. I only use a 2 or 4GB card to ensure that I do not get in the digital “shoot, chimp, dump and repeat” mindset.

For those that may want to look at the X1, here are a few tips to get you on your way. First, keep your shutter speed above 1/60. Although you may think that 1/30 would work (as it does for me with Leica rangefinders), it tends to let the image get blurry quick, especially if the light is less than optimal.

Second, shot in DNG, all the time. No, really, all the time. Unfortunately the camera only takes DNG+JPG, and not just DNG (something about the camera’s software that cannot preview DNG files, so it grabs a stinky JPG). Delete the JPG and keep the DNG, even for black and white conversions. The latitude that the X1 DNG files give is pretty amazing. I have taken some photos in the unforgiving Florida sun and have been able to recover most of the blown highlights or deep shadows from most areas. The X1 can be frustrating, and a lot of shots can be missed if the camera is not understood. Used properly the X1 will reward you with some amazing photographs. My first time with the X1 stands testament to that, which is a good part of the reason why I came back.

The hype and fervor surrounding the Leica T is reminiscent of what the X1 went through in 2009. As a photographer, I look for cameras that create a connection with me. While the Leica T will one day end up in my hands, the X1 will still be in my bag bringing me exceptional photos that will last a lifetime for me and my family.

my photo blog can be found at www.uninspired.me

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Jun 112014
 

Take or Make

by David Lykes Keenan

Are you a taker or a maker? 

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I had the pleasure of meeting photographer Robert Herman recently in my new home of NYC. We were meeting to compare notes about self-published vs. artist-funded photography books. These are probably the best two (the only two?) ways for artists not-already-famous to publish books of their work these days.

Robert, by the way, has self-published his book The New Yorkers to much success and acclaim. It’s been a ton of work for him but he’s now into a second printing which is almost unheard of for a self-published photography book.

During our talk, Robert suggested I find a book that has long been out-of-print. “You can probably find it on Amazon,” he said. He was right. My copy was either legally or illegally lifted from the University of South Carolina Museum of Art library and sold to me for $1. Only the library pull card was missing. The book is Mirrors and Windows: American Photography Since 1960 with an introductory essay by John Szarkowski, an untouchable if there ever was one, in the world of photography.

I usually just look at the pictures in a photo book, I call this the National Geographic Effect, but in this case, I read every word. My first impression was how timely to 2014 it felt even though it was written in 1978.

The first part of the Szarkowski essay focused on the impact that Robert Frank (and The Americans) and Minor White (and Aperture magazine) had on American photography after the 1950s.

The point of the essay (and the theme of the book) was to demonstrate how photography could be divided into two camps that Szarkowski referred to as “straight” (Frank) and “synthetic” (White). He was very careful not to draw to firm of a dividing line, leaving that open to artistic interpretation, but went onto discuss the new generation of photographers who emerged in the 1960s and how they were influenced by Frank and/or White to find themselves representatives of either straight or synthetic photography.

The photographs in the book are divided into two sections with many examples of each form. The names associated with this collection of photographs, we now recognize as a Who’s Who of iconic photographers. Erwitt, Winogrand, Friedlander, and Meyerowitz on the straight side; Capanigro, Uelsmann, Warhol, and Hass on the synthetic side. Among many others.

By the time I was nearing the end of the essay, the title of the book had completely slipped from my mind. In the closing paragraph, Szarkowski tapped his seemingly endless knowledge of the history of photography when he looked even further back than the 1950s and suggested that the father of straight school to have been Eugene Atget, and the synthetic to have been Alfred Stieglitz.

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Then everything about the book, about mirrors and windows, came completely into focus (pun intended) with the final sentence of the essay. “The distance between them (Atget and Stieglitz) is to be measured not in terms of the relative force or originality of their work, but in terms of their conceptions of what a photograph is: is it a mirror, reflecting a portrait of the artist who made it, or a window, through which one might better know the world?”

As I wrote earlier, change some of the names, add about 30 years to the dates, and Szarkowski could have been writing about photography of the 21st century, the essay would have a very contemporary feel. These two camps of photography haven’t gone anywhere.

I certainly have experienced this is my own photography and I strongly identify with my camp. I think this is why I found the Mirrors and Windows essay compelling enough to not give it the NatGeo treatment. I just never thought about it using the terminology adopted by Szarkowski, that is “straight” and “synthetic”, which does have a rather dated feeling in 2014.

I’ve always thought of this photographic divide to be between photographers who “take” pictures and those who “make” pictures.

As a street photographer, I definitely take pictures. Landscape photographers take pictures. A fashion photographer or a commercial photographer make pictures.

Of course, as Szarkowski was careful to point out, overlap is allowed. That, pardon my editorializing, ridiculous $7 million photograph of the Rhine River by Andreas Gursky was a made landscape.

Try as I might, any personal attempt at crossing over in the make camp has, well, not been pretty. My mind and/or photographic eye just doesn’t work that way. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing, I remind myself, it just is.

So, do you take photographs or do you make photographs? Are your photographs windows or mirrors?

David has been photographing seriously since 2006 when he left his software company in capable hands and has not set down his camera since. Presently he is managing a Kickstarter campaign to publish his book of street photography entitled FAIR WITNESS. You are encouraged to check the campaign and make an investment to assist in bringing FAIR WITNESS to the bookshelves.

From Steve: Please DO check out David’s Kickstarter and if you like what you see feel free to help get him to his goal. These things are tough and I applaud and respect those who go out there and make efforts to get it done. You can see his video below, great and passionate guy:

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

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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 :)

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

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

 

Jun 052014
 

The Kelpies – Scotland’s Most Beautiful Sculptures?

By Jonathan McAdam

Dear Steve & Brandon,

I have been taking photographs for only about 9 months now, and |’m grateful for the inspiration and encouragement provided your wonderful site. These are the first images I have ever shared as I’m still learning the art of photography, but I wanted to introduce your readers to an interesting new photographic location which I certainly found it very inspiring.

Recently I visited ’The Kelpies’ in Falkirk – Scotland’s newest work of public art and tourist attraction. The twin sculptures of the Kelpies – mythical Sea-Horses in Scottish Folk-lore – rise approximately 100 feet above a new entrance lock to the Firth & Clyde canal, and are intended as an homage to the Equine heritage associated with Scottish Industry. The sculptures were designed by the Scottish Sculptor Andy Scott, and are very dramatic and quite beautifully realised in Stainless Steel. Although I live in England now, I grew up less than a mile from these sculptures, and it makes me quite proud to see such amazing works of art being commissioned in my home country. I believe the 1:10th scale models were widely admired when recently on display in New York, and I understand they have since toured elsewhere in the USA.

These photographs were taken on my Leica M with 21mm f/3.4 lens, which allowed me to get in really close to the sculptures. It was late afternoon in early May and the sky was very moody, giving the opportunity for some tricky (for me..), but dramatic photography – although I suspect the sculptures are so beautiful in the flesh that it would be hard for anyone to take a really bad photograph of them. Although the surrounding parkland will need some time to mature, I suspect this site will become quite iconic in the future.

Anyway, I hope you and your readers like these images.

With Best Regards,

Jonathan McAdam
St Helens
England

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May 302014
 

Friday Film ‘Death of an M2′

By John Tuckey

Hi All.

My M2 just died, but it died as it lived – in action.

On my last shoot I decided to indulge in a bit of an experiment. Rather than shooting with the Nocti and MM and leaving the ‘Lux 50 on the film body for inbetweeners, I decided to invest a little time in a set of comparison shots between the ‘Lux 50, Sonnar 50 and the Noctilux f1. All three lenses on digital and then on film. My own chief interest was comparing the Nocti at 1.4 to the 1.4/1.5 rendering from the Lux and Sonnar. Why? Well I love the Noctilux f1 for that romantic glow it kicks out wide open, but I’m usually at its 1m minimum distance where f/1 is a hard aperture to shoot. So I was interested in how much of that glow would still be there at 1.4 and 2, and how that would compare to the 1.4 kings? If enough of that glow survived at 1.4… that’d be like having the cake and eating it. I brought the M2 as I wanted to see the film DoF compared to the digi on the same shots – and I figured the film comparison would interest folks on here too.

So I packed the M-mono, an M2, and the three fifties in my kit bag along with a pen and a clapper board. With some assistance from the extremely patient Iris FitzGerald (who never wants to tie another bow in her life), I set out making my comparisons. Same model, same light, same scene, same distance – you get the picture. (I’ll gloss over the digital experiment for now, the files are here http://media.jrtvintage.co.uk/public/files/25wq-a2h325n3 for those who want to see the comparison and draw their own conclusions).

So, I shot all three lenses on the M2 loaded with some Ilford Delta 100, but part way through some sonnar shots it seems that it developed a shutter problem. From there in I got a few frames of odd exposure banded shots and then a steadily increasing series of over exposures. By the time I got to my second set most frames where unusable :(

Thankfully some of the early exposures where very nice, in fact I think the Noctilux images from the camera’s early death throes are my favourites from the whole set! Much nicer than a comparable overexpose from a digi would have been, and a bonus in so far as it was something I wouldn’t have set out to do intentionally, but will certainly play with going forwards.

Finally be forewarned, these are home developed in perceptol and scanned on the epson v750 with all the authentic dust and crud included, that’s part of the fun after all ;-)

I think that although it’s nice to be able to shoot at 0.7 when you only have one lens, the reality is that if you’re shooting a 50mm at 0.7 you should probably be shooting a 90mm, Summilux 50mm ASPH f/1.4 at 0.7m

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Summilux 50mm f/1.4 at 1m

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I’m assuming the odd banding is a shutter issue, which would tie in with what happened after, but happy to be corrected if anyone has a different explanation from past experience, Sonnar C at f2 – The moment of failure

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We’re on the downward spiral now – so a bit more exposure than I intended, but this is probably my favourite image from the set, Noctilux f/1 at 1m

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Back to the Sonnar at 1.5, but we’re closer to the end now, much brighter than expected (compared to the digital shot taken at same EV). After these shots it starts to white out :-(
Sonnar C 50mm

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Maybe melodramatic as I’m pretty sure it’s fixable, but I will have to see what the cost will be. I suspect it’s a write-off and it might just be time to go for an MP instead!

R.I.P

Finally, before I sign off, I have a plug for everyone. This year I’m a nominee in the UK’s ‘National Vintage Awards‘ under the Best Photographer category, it’s a voting contest and if you enjoy my work every vote for JRT Vintage Photography ‘here‘ is very much appreciated. Thank you!

Best regards

John Tuckey

May 262014
 

Photowalk and Workshop Thoughts

By Ben

Steve and Brandon,

The first photography workshop that I attended was the street photography workshop you hosted in Chicago during September 2011. It was a wonderful experience.

I recently had the opportunity to teach a street photography workshop hosted by the local camera shop in my area. I met very passionate photographers and was able to share my thoughts with them. I learned from them as well. I think that workshops are fantastic and I wish they occurred more frequently. I wanted to share my thoughts with you and your readers regarding photowalks and workshops.

Photowalk is not a word that can be easily be found defined in a dictionary. I understand it to mean: An informal organized gathering of people whose intent is to stroll around leisurely taking photos, enjoying themselves, and learning from one another through interaction and observation. I think that photowalks are analogous to photography workshops. They can be considered one and the same.

Workshops and photowalks are great investment and idea for photographers at every skill level. Here is why:

Education

No explanation is necessary. We all benefit from instruction. Regarding workshops in general, photography related or not, I always take something away from the experience.

Interaction

Workshops allow for more individualized attention. Studies have shown that more is accomplished with a smaller teacher to student ratio. A smaller group size allows for more opportunity for communication. Sometimes individual student/teacher time is included during a workshop. Before a workshop I determine what it is that I want to get out of the workshop. I prepare a list of questions ahead of time. Many of these questions are naturally answered through the content of material presented. The other questions I will ask the instructor during a one-on-one session.

Informality

Workshops typically consist of ten or fewer students. In my formal career I have had the opportunity to present, teach, and mentor numerous times. There are benefits to learning in smaller groups. I have seen it with my own eyes. In larger groups and in classroom settings it is harder for people to speak up and ask questions. I once taught a night class at the local college that only had seven students enrolled. The restraint and sheepishness of students was almost non-existent. In that situation I felt less like a teacher and more like a big brother type of mentor. The atmosphere was very relaxed. People felt comfortable. I have observed the same type of social synergy in photography workshops. People interact, they speak up and communicate.

Time

Workshops are generally scheduled for a full weekend or less. I’ve heard time and time again that the best way to become a photographer is to keep your day job. Like most of us, I have a 9 to 5 career. There isn’t time available in my busy life to enroll in formal photography or art classes. Workshops are great because they generally occur over the weekend. They are usually held at a very great location and thus can feel like a mini vacation. One day workshops that are held on a Saturday seem to fit me well. My wife and I will generally travel to the workshop destination on Friday night after work. Saturday day is taken up with me at the workshop and my wife shopping or checking out the tourist attractions that are offered. We meet up in the evening for dinner and a night out on the town. I also use this time out with my wife to get some street shooting in as well. It’s great to multitask street shooting while out on a date with your love. The day ends up being a full day of photography for me.

Camaraderie

People like to spend time with other like minded people with the same interests. Workshops mainly consist of time in a classroom followed by shooting time. During this shooting time there is much interaction. This is where I approach or am approached by others to chat about what has previously discussed during the day. Conversations typically start with “I really agreed with your comment regarding……” or “I have the same camera. Do you like the lens you are shooting with? I’ve considered buying it.” Advertising for workshops should include “For sale: instant friends, just add cameras”. I have met many great people attending photography workshops. Someone usually facilitates email address exchange at the end. I can say that I keep in contact with some people I’ve met through email or simply following and commenting on their blogs, social pages, etc.

Attached are several photos that I captured during the second session of the workshop I taught. All photos were taken with a Leica M9 and Voigtlander 35mm Skopar PII.

You can view more of the photos at:
www.photographsbyben.com
www.photographsbybenmiller.blogspot.com

Thank you Steve and thank you Brandon for keeping such a wonderful website and giving all of us something to look forward to everyday.

Cheers,

Ben

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May 242014
 

New Leica Silver Monochrom, 28 Summilux SE and 90 Macro set!

Most of you gave probably seen all of this already but Leica introduced a couple of new items this past week, which some of you may be happy about and some of you may not as they all cost a pretty penny. First up is my fave, the silver chrome Monochrom camera. Up until now the Monochrom was only offered in a matte black finish, which I feel is beautiful. When Leica released the special Ralph Gibson edition of the Monochrom I was in awe of the beauty of the camera in chrome as it closely resembled an MP ousted of an M. I secretly wished that Leica would release the standard Monochrom in silver chrome and they just did. Coming it at the same $7995 as the standard, the chrome should start shipping anytime now. I may even have one to check out and if so I will do a new video on the Monochrom and my thoughts on the camera today. Sure it is damn expensive for a B&W camera but Leica has been VERY successful with this model and one thing rings true..all who own this camera adore it and say it is their favorite camera ever. I have many friends who own it and will never get rid of it. I know of a couple who have bought TWO so in case one dies of gets damaged or lost they have another. Crazy huh? There is something to be said for an all B&W camera that is optimized for B&W. Especially when it is in the form of a Leica rangefinder.

There has been rumors and evidence of a new version of the Monochrom coming for Photokina, the M type 230. Could this be a new Monochrom in an M 240 body? Possibly. Also, the M Monochrom silver chrome edition below is said to be a limited run. 

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You can pre-order the silver chrome MM at B&H Photo HERE. Ken Hansen also is taking pre-orders as is PopFlash and The Pro Shop

Leica also announced a new 90macro adapter that is best used with the 90mm f/4 lens they sell. Gone will be the old Macro kit and in its place the new macro adapter. Will start to ship in June.  This will allow macro photography with the M, which is pretty damn cool considering this was never really possible (in any easy way). 

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Finally, Leica introduced an all new limited edition kit, metal suitcase and all! A combo of the new M-A film camera (which is basically based off of the MP), a special edition Monochrom and the new 28 f/1.4 Summilux, ALL MADE FROM STAINLESS STEEL. Yes, a 28 summilux! The new lens is not released on its own yet but it will be within a few months (My prediction)  - For now, the only way to get it is in this limited edition kit, of which only 101 have been made. This will set you back around $30,000 USA. INSANE! Stainless steel must be pricey these days :)

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Starting Price: € 22.000 (or $30,000 US)

This year, Leica Camera AG is celebrating 100 years of Leica photography. On the occasion of this special anniversary, a uniquely special highlight will be presented in the course of the official opening celebration for the new Leica headquarters in the Leitz Park complex in WETZLAR on MAY 23, 2014: the Leica M Edition 100. The first set will be auctioned at the WESTLICHT SPECIAL AUCTION “100 YEARS OF LEICA” on May 23rd in Wetzlar.

As the first Leica special edition of its kind, the Leica M Edition 100 brings together a purely mechanical rangefinder camera for film photography – the LEICA M-A – with a digital Leica M (LEICA M MONOCHROM) in one set. The combination of these two cameras is unique. Its symbolic character as an homage to the beginnings of Leica 35 mm photography and, in particular, to black-and-white photography makes the centennial edition truly special. This applies, above all, to its high-quality construction and finish: for the first time ever, both Leica cameras and the lenses in this set are made from solid stainless steel.

Both cameras stand as symbols for the origins of Leica photography and the present day. The Leica M-A, with technical specifications based on the currently available Leica MP film camera, is a direct descendent of the Ur-Leica. Alternatively, the second camera, a Leica M Monochrom, is the contemporary variation of the theme composed a century ago by Oskar Barnack.

The set also includes THREE SUMMILUX-M LENSES with focal lengths of 28, 35 and 50 mm. Renowned for their combination of extremely compact size, speed and exceptional imaging quality, they ideally reflect the characteristic performance criteria with which Leica lenses contributed to the establishment of the brand as a legend.

The M centennial set will be supplied in a black anodized aluminium case constructed by Rimowa especially for Leica. Inside, the case is subdivided into compartments precisely tailored to the individual components of the set and lined with real leather in black.
The set also includes Kodak TRI-X 400 black-and-white film for use with the Leica M-A.

SPECIAL ENGRAVING on the top plate of the body commemorates the centennial, as do the unique serial numbers that end with the four digits of the years between 1914 and 2014.

The Leica M Edition 100 is strictly LIMITED TO 101 SETS for the entire global market. The cameras and lenses will be available exclusively as sets from Leica Stores and Boutiques from June 2014; none of the items contained in the sets will be available as separate items (For example, there will never be a stainless steel 28 Lux made available for sale separately, but there will be a black 28 Lux sold separately – I imagine the same will go for the M-A as I bet they will release it to replace the MP in black or chrome eventually) 

 

May 222014
 

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The Wotancraft Ryker Camera Bag Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can order the Wotancraft Ryker HERE.

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

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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)

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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!

 

May 212014
 

Hail to the King of the 50′s. The Leica 50 Summicron f/2 APO.

If one thing is sure to stir up controversy, it is something written positively about Leica on these pages, lol. It never fails. Well, if Leica is a touchy subject for you..turn away now my friends as I have a doozy for ya. Today a package arrived from USPS and inside was a brand spanking new Leica 50 APO ASPH f/2 Summicron lens. Yes, the one that sells for an eye popping, wallet busting, bank draining $7400. The one I called OUTRAGEOUSLY overpriced at launch (before seeing what it could do) and then when I was able to use one for a couple of days I fell hard and fast for it on the M240. WHY? Well, this is the ONLY lens on the M 240 that I feel can fully do justice to the sensor when it comes to detail and color. It also is THE lens for the Monochrom according to many at Leica.

FACT: This lens renders colors totally different than any other lens on the M. When looking at this lens side by side with the old cron or even 50 lux the colors of the older lenses appear a bit dull and different. They are still fantastic though and there is nothing quite like a 50 Summilux but when Leica says this 50 APO is the best lens they have ever made, believe it because it truly is. Really.

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This lens excels in all areas. In color, contrast, sharpness across the frame, distortion, bokeh and absolutely no CA or color issues etc. It is a cost no object design, which is what they set out to do from the get go. It is a statement lens that they expected to sell to a few here and there but it has ended up becoming one of the most desired lenses in the Leica lineup due to the fabulous rendering it creates. The problem is that Leica can only produce a small handful of these every month as they are so challenging to make. Many of the 50 APO’s never make it out of the factory as if they are not 100% perfect they get tossed and I believe Leica is even losing money on this lens, but they still make it because it is a lens that shows what they can do.  There is no way Leica could make this lens and sell it for $3k or $5k. It just would not exist as it is. It is an optically corrected lens and 97.9% perfect. That kind of perfection costs, and no, there is no other 50mm lens in the 35mm world that can compete with the Leica 50 APO. No Canon, no Nikon, No Pentax, None.

So for over a year I have wanted this lens and I have been shooting with the standard 5o Summicron for a while now preparing for the new APO to arrive. The new lens is now here and I stick by what even I said over a year ago. This lens is the best lens Leica makes, period. It is near perfection in a 50mm lens. No distortion. No flare. No CA. Amazing rich color. True Leica build. Smooth operation. Small size. Oh so slight Vigentting at f/2 and gone by 2.8. It even has a sweet twist out built in hood that is genius.

The detail capability of this lens on the M 240 is jaw dropping. It is as close to medium format as you can get in 35mm and the only lens that will deliver near Medium Format quality on the M 240. I predict that in 4-5 years this lens will be selling closer to $9,000-9,500 than the $7400 of today. Buying and owning a lens like this is “money in the bank” as I always say.

The original Noctilux for example sold new for $3500 when I bought a copy from B&H Photo many years ago. Today it sells USED for $7000. I bought a 35 Summicron for $1300 new about 9 years ago, today they are $3200. So Leica lenses appreciate, especially the rarer special lenses like the 50 cron APO.

Now of course, all of this amazing-ness will set you back a cool $7400 if you want it, but don’t fret! The good news is that there are many other lenses out there that get you 80% of this cron for MUCH less. For example, the 50 Summilux at $4000 will give you a much different rendering but one that is gorgeous at the same time. The standard 50 Summicron at $2300 will get you the cron look with lesser/duller color and not as nice Bokeh, but it is in the same family. The Zeiss 50 Planar ZM for under $900 will get you closer still in the color department but lose out in distortion and some loss of detail wide open and again, has some messy bokeh at times. So yes, $7400 is insanely expensive, and not a lens for everyone but that $7300 buys you a special lens.

This is a lens for the 50mm connoisseur. One who loves the 50mm focal length and wants the best of the best. I even prefer it to the $11k Noctilux in Color, Bokeh, sharpness and most of all, Size. Of course this can not give you the Noct shallow DOF look but the Noct can not give you what this cron does either. Size is perfect here. One thing to keep in mind is that this lens sells for about the same as a used Noctilux F/1, the old version of the Noct. Leica lenses are not cheap and never will be.

For most of you, the 50 Lux is the #1 lens to get for the M. It is beautiful and has its own unique style and character and is probably the best selling Leica lens of recent years for good reason. For those of you with a 50mm fetish like me, you must at least TRY the 50 APO at least once in life. I have no clue if this one will stay with me long term as I get all weird about spending so much on a lens but I at least wanted this one for the next few weeks to take with me on a vacation I am taking with Debby. I will use the lens and when I return I will write up my full review of it with comparisons to the current 50 Summicron NON APO and the 50 Zeiss ZM to show you exactly what that extra few grand will get you. If my jaw drops and I get shots that blow me away I will keep it as my main lens for the M.

A video from last year when I 1st took a look at the 50 APO along with the 50 Lux and 50 Noct

Review coming soon

So stay tuned for a full written review and video review and comparison coming in the weeks ahead. I have had the lens for only a few hours so only had a chance to take it around the house for a few snaps but wow, I am blown away by the detail, the Bokeh, the color and the beautiful build of this little jewel. When I get out there and get serious with it in the coming weeks I feel this lens will really speak to my heart. Damn, it should at the cost. But hey, this is Leica of course ;) To be clear, No one..NO ONE needs this lens. This is a lens that will be bought out of lust, foolishness and passion. :)

Mine came from Ken Hansen at [email protected]. I believe he has a pretty hefty waiting list as do all dealers. You can do like I did and shoot a standard 5o cron while you wait for a year on the 50 APO ;)  FInally, to see my last report on the 50 APO that was written up over a year ago, click HERE.

A few snapshots around the house from today, YOU MUST click them for the larger versions to see them correctly.

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The image below is a 100% full size file. Right click it and open in a new window to see the detail. The focus point is on the piece of bark sticking out near the middle of the frame. 

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and the rooster shot from my 1st look..

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Does anyone here own the 50 APO? If so, what are your thoughts on it after using it for a while? Feel free to chime in below.

May 202014
 

Art of the Grind

By Huss Hardan

Grind: Definition: A skateboard trick where the skateboarder slides on the trucks.

Skateboarding is part of the scene in my home town of Venice, California. Most days when I’m not at work I’m down at the beach on a long board, with my dogs and a camera in tow.
There is a big skate park just off the board walk, which attracts dare devils as well as on lookers.

I took these shots using Leitz 18 and 28mm lenses on a Leica M-E. I found the manual focus rangefinder perfect for this work, as I would pre-focus on a spot, while the optical viewfinder allowed me to keep both eyes open so I could time the release as the rider came into view. This enabled a lag free experience.

I concentrated on the shadows created as I was going for a different look than the usual action shots. This also allowed me to shoot down removing distractions from the frame. I set the camera to add an extra 1 2/3 stops as the extremely harsh reflections from the concrete bowl would normally cause drastic under exposure.

Peace out
Huss

husshardan.com

Art of the Grind 1

Art of the Grind 2

Art of the Grind 3

Art of the Grind 4

© 2009-2014 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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