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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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!

 

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

May 192014
 

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The Voigtlander 75 1.8 VM Heliar Classic Lens Quick Review

By Steve Huff

Lens is available to purchase HERE

Hello to all! Today is Saturday, May 17th 2014 (the day I am writing this, not posting it) and I am sitting down at my desk for the 1st time in 10 days to write something new. For the past 10 days I have been away in Southern Illinois visiting family and spending time with my Mother for Mother’s day and the site has been running on auto pilot all week with scheduled posts..not how I like to roll but hey, I need some vacation time too! After that I went to New Orleans with Olympus to test out the new Tough TG-3 (Which was SO cool) and shoot more with the E-M10 (which I reviewed HERE)

While my trip to Illinois was a pleasure, there was also a ton of business/work happening but the good thing is that I find photography and testing new gear to be exciting and a fun experience so while I was working during my vacation I was having a good time with it as I always do. Life is good, so we should enjoy it and I try my best to do just that each and every day.

So today as I sit here I am going to write a short, quick and mostly photo based review of the Voigtlander 75 1.8 Leica mount Heliar Classic. A fast 75mm lens for your Leica M mount camera for under $700. Yes, under $700! Thanks to Stephen Gandy at Cameraquest for sending me this lens to check out for a couple of weeks. He sells the entire Voigtlander line and has the best prices and even free overnight shipping on certain lenses, this one included. You can see it on his site HERE.

Before I get started be sure to check out the recent guest post review of this lens HERE by Johnny Ciotti. Johnny tested this lens on the full frame Sony A7. ;) My test is 100% on the Leica M 240 which after 14 months is still my #1 and all around fave camera today (which is followed by the E-M1, then RX-1)

Using the 75 1.8 was easy as pie, even wide open. On the M 240 it works very well with great color pop and the classic Voigtlander look. This one is of my Nephew shot wide open at 1.8.

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Testing the 75 1.8 in a real world way

For some reason I never did use this 75mm lens on my M and while it has been out for a while I never was really into the 75mm focal length so it kind of slipped under my radar until a reader submitted a guest post review of this lens on a Sony A7. Then I remembered! OH! The 75 1.8 from Voigtlander!!

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At that time I knew I would have to try it on the M 240 as it is a Leica mount and I do know that the 240 loves all glass, even Voigtlander and old classic lenses. In the past I have tested the Leica 75 Summarit, which is their “Budget” lens and the performance is stellar. It is crisp, contrasty and very sharp. With a minimum aperture of f/2.5 the Leica is a little slower than this Voigtlander but I will state right now that the Leica has a much more “modern” look than this Heliar Classic. I think the word “classic” was used for a reason as the images have a softer more rounded look to them over other more modern lenses like the Leica Summarit or Summicron.

I decided to snap on the 75 to my M 240 and use it as my only lens for a week while visiting my Mother. I also had the Leica C and Sony A6000 with me but I was determined to use this 75  to see exactly what it was all about.

Again, wide open the lens is sharp but has a rounded rendering. The Bokeh is nice but not perfect. Still much better than what you see on some $1500 lenses. 

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So away I went, M in hand with the 75 attached for almost the entire week I was on my trip. Being called a “classic” lens I imagined that the 75 would be a little soft, a little cloudy, some duller colors and without the bite and snap of the Leica 75 Summarit.I mean, let’s face it…most classic lenses are just that. Some are amazing, some are average but none are like the modern lenses of today. The cool thing is that sometimes a lens that renders in a classic way is sometimes preferred over a super sharp clinical modern lens to help keep those imperfections away during portrait sessions.

During my 1st tests with the 75mm lens in real world photo conditions I found the color to be vibrant and with tons of pop. In fact, I was surprised at what came out when I shot my Mother on a swing. The greens were very vibrant and her pink shirt popped as much as it could possibly pop.  I found the sharpness wide open to be a little bit soft, especially in the corners. I found it to have classical but pleasant bokeh. In fact, it performed just as I thought it would but the color pop exceeded my expectations. At $700 with free shipping, this lens already started to seem like a bargain. I mean, the Leica 75 Summarit 2.5 is not built better than this lens, is a little slower in Aperture at f/2.5, a SLIGHTLY farther minimum focus distance (The Voigtlander focuses to .9 meters)  and is more expensive..ALMOST triple the price at $1900. Go to the 75 cron and you are looking at nearly $4000. Remember, this lens is $699.

My Mom on the swing in the park. Shot at f/1.8. 

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I was walking around town when this kid just kept staring at my camera. He seemed to be intrigued so I said “Want me to take your picture”? He immediately smiled and posed with his football. Was shot at 1.8. This one is pretty sharp so when I say the lens is a little soft at 1.8, I do not mean it is “SOFT”, just softer than the Leica 75mm lenses.

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The lens was a snap to focus on the M using the rangefinder and was just sharp enough wide open to make me happy. Again, as I walked around and shot with the lens I was happy with the super smooth focus barrel, the solid clicking aperture ring and the build and heft of the all metal lens. At $700 shipped, I kept saying “THIS IS A STEAL”!!

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But I am still not a 75mm guy. I prefer my 28, 35, 50 and sometimes, on rare occasion the 90mm focal length.  With that said, if I were in the market for a 75mm this would be the lens I would buy just due to the massive bang for the buck involved. There is nothing currently made for Leica mount at this cost that will get you this quality.

Just an old mailbox I cam across while doing a 7 mile walk with my Mom and Son. Shot at 1.8. 

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Nice color pop, great Bokeh effect. At mid distances this lens shines for 3D pop.

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The Auctioneer, 20 years later. Voigtlander 75 1.8 at f/2. Here you can see the barrel distortion that is evident in the corners. While this is a crop, the top of the frame shows the distortion. 

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The Build of the lens is solid. Typical Voigtlander. Anyone who has shot with a Voigtlander lens knows what I am talking about. All metal construction, smooth focusing and aperture and an overall feeling of quality. The build is different than Leica but not far off in feel and use. The images have the smoother Voigtlander look and not the snappier Leica look that would come from something like the Summarit or Summicron.  The cool thing is that this lens can also be used on the Sony A7, A6000 or just about any mirror less camera with an adapter.

Trees of green. Click for larger. Shot at f/2.8 I believe.

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ISO 1250 at f/2

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After one full week of daily use I realized that while not perfect, the Voigtlander would be the perfect lens for those who are looking for a lens that will give them that rich 3D pop and nice color in a portrait focal length. While I think the Leica 75 Summarit is a little bit better, it is almost $1900 and going from $700 to $1900 is a HUGE step! The Voigtlander will be a little less contrasty, have a little less pop and have a little barrel distortion. The Leica will be more perfect and crisp and will not have the barrel distortion. The Voigtlander does indeed come with a metal hood while the Leica does not. Bokeh wise, they are both about equal with the Voigtlander having the more creamy Bokeh. So in my eyes, looking at the pros and cons like this leads me to realize that this Voigtlander is a huge winner and a deal for the cost of $700 with free overnight ship, which is what cameraquest is selling it for now.

My Mother on her Graduation day in May 2014.

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My Nephew in the park

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Overall this lens gets a high recommendation for those looking for a great 75mm lens for the Leica mount for a great price while offering fantastic, if not “classic” performance. When I review a lens I do not bother with charts, graphs and numbers as I feel that has NOTHING to do with photography, at all. What matters is how the lens performs when using it to take photos…what it was designed for! Yes, what a concept! Using a lens  to go out ad take real photos to see how it does in real life. I do not care what numbers say, I care about what the results say and to me, this is a fantastic lens with many more positives than negatives. In fact, the only negative I found was the slight barrel distortion which is only evident in some shots with straight lines at the top and bottom edges. It may give you some CA in certain situations but I have not found a Leica lens yet that does not do this (besides for the 50 APO cron at $7400).

So if you have been looking for a nice 75mm lens, take a long look at the Voigtlander 75 1.8. If you like the quality of the shots here, this is what you can expect when using it with a Leica M 240. Just know that is will be a little soft in the corners wide open up until about f/2.8 when it sharpens up quite a bit. If you want the ultimate in performance in the 75mm focal length, check out the Leica 75 Summicron. It is much sharper, more modern in rendering and much more expensive.

As always, thank you for reading this quick review! If you want to see my Leica 75 Summicron review (an oldie) , click HERE.

Steve

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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.

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

May 182014
 

Leica M 240 Art di Mano M Cases in stock.

Just a heads up to some of you who were looking for the Art di Mano cases for the M 240. Leicastoremiami.com has TWO in stock now! These are the standard cases to fit the M without a grip. After my review of the grip model they sold out quickly it seemed! They have one in all black and one in black with white stitch. Expensive but hands down the best case you can buy for your M in fit, finish, craftsmanship.  Just click the images to go direct to the page for the case in stock:

 

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May 132014
 

Site Update: I’m traveling but new reviews are on the way!

Hello to all! Just want to update everyone on what is happening here at SteveHuffPhoto.com. For the past eight days I have been on a vacation spending time with my Mother and Sister in Illinois. While I did do work while on the trip (testing the Sony A6000, Leica C and Voigtlander 75 1.8) I had a blast doing so and did not update the site all week. While it DID get updated, it was all on auto pilot and those posts were all scheduled before I left.

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So coming up in the next 7-10 days I will have reviews for the above mentioned cameras and lens. Stay tuned!

I am home today and leave again tomorrow for a 3 day New Orleans trip with Olympus USA to shoot the E-M10 (my review HERE) in style and to test it out in the swamps and in the city so I will also have a new report on the new Olympus stuff and my experience using it in all kinds of cool situations in New Orleans.

Some quick tidbits:

The Sony A6000 is absolutely the best APS-C NEX style camera from Sony yet. NO longer called NEX, the Alpha 6000 is sleek, attractive, quick, feels great in the hand and has superb IQ. Built in EVF and pretty solid for under $800 with lens. I have been shooting it with the kit zoom and the Mitakon 50 0.95.

A6000 OOC JPEG with Kit Zoom

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The Leica C surprised me. While it has a teeny tiny soft EVF, the camera is well made, has a killer design and look and using the B&W mode of the camera gave me some pretty cool B&W images. Easy to use, tiny, EVF, fast and good quality. If I wanted a P&S with style, this would be my choice. Of course the C is the Panasonic LF1 in a new shell but Leica offers software and a better warranty with the super cool style (double the price). B&H Photo has the C in stock.

OOC JPEG from the Leica C in Dynamic B&W

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The Voigtlander 75 1.8 is a Leica mount lens and it works well on the M 240 providing a classic look with big time color pop. Under $700, a no brainer if you want a fast 75mm for your Leica on the cheap. Superb build, feel, easy to focus and while a little soft wide open this is a good thing for portraits! Cameraquest sells the 75 1.8 with free next day shipping for $700!

The Leica M 240 and Voigtlander 75 1.8

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May 072014
 

The Sony A7r & 55 1.8 along with the M9 & Noctiluxf1

By Julien Ducenne

Hi Steve and Brandon,

My Name is Julien Ducenne, I am a filmmaker living in London and working on images for about 12 years now.

Since long time my dream was to have a Leica M and couple years ago I bought the M9 with a CV 35f1.2, I was amazed by the quality of both and quickly bought a Noctilux f1 to continue my personal learning and exploration on images. I really love shallow depth of field, and the bokeh was great…
Until the day when the Sony A7r was available, I bought it with the FE55mm 1.8 and with a bokeh result really close to the Noctilux ( at equal aperture), I had more details and Sharpness on my pictures. I did not regret the Noctilux at all and I will continue to Buy M mount lenses but I will use both…

…At the end gear is only gear and the result only matter…

Have a great day.

Julien Ducenne

My Flicker : http://www.flickr.com/photos/ducenne/

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May 052014
 

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An engaging Leica M3

by Dave Lewis

Hi Steve,

I’ve been a long time reader of your site, but I’ve not as yet taken the opportunity to contribute. My name is Dave Lewis, I’m 27 years old and I’m a keen photography obsessive with a growing pile of gear (GAS attack) and an even larger mountain of unedited images! Work for my company (I’m a miniatures designer, sculptor and photographer for tabletop games) has taken up most of my time for the last 5 years.
However, this week my life took a major (awesome!) turn and I thought you might be interested in a different sort of story for your blog. To cut a long story short, a little while ago I hatched this crazy plan to propose to my girlfriend of 7 years by hiding the ring inside the film chamber of a Leica M3.

Leica M3, 50mm Summicron collapsible at f2, 1/15th, Fuji Acros 100

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Why an M3 you might ask? Well, I’ve been fortunate enough to own and use a ridiculous number of cameras in the 9 years I’ve been what you might call a ‘serious’ photographer. The laundry list is a bit disgraceful really, but here it goes: Canon 400D, 40D, 5DMkII, Zeiss Contax IIIa, Super Ikonta C, Super Ikonta IV, Contarex Bullseye, Contax-T, Leica 1A, iiif, iiib, M3, M4-2, M9-P, Kiev IV, FED-1, Zorki 4k, Minolta SRT-101b, Minox B, Rolleiflex Old Standard (two of these), Rolleiflex 2.8E, Fuji G690BL, Ensign Selfix 820, Sinar F and a home-made 4×5. Worryingly, this isn’t the full list and I won’t even get into lenses!
Having used all these cameras and more, I have to say that in my opinion, nothing can really hold a torch to the mighty M3 for the purpose I had in mind. The M3 is wonderfully simple, eternal in both life and design and somehow ‘zen’ in a way that few cameras can match. Out of all those tools I’ve been lucky enough to own, it’s always the M3 that makes me smile most. I think it will never be beaten as a film camera for what it’s good at (obviously it’s a bit of a non-starter for action and wildlife). The viewfinder is wonderfully large and utterly clean, the build quality easily surpassing even today’s MP (whatever Leica will try to tell you), the smoothness of operation and connection with the user is something every photographer should experience. An all-time classic which the world will not see the like of again, modern economics being what they are.
Digital was instantly ignored in my selection process. I love my M9-P (having put over 35,000 frames through it), but it will almost certainly not last the next 5 years, let alone a lifetime. It’s a wonderful workhorse and has more soul than any other digital camera I’ve used. However, digital rot kills anything with a screen and even today a 60-year-old M3 can be serviced and used like it has just left the showroom. I intended this camera to be an eternal companion for the love of my life in the same way that a diamond ring is, going with us whenever we get some time to escape work and experience the world.
So, having decided on the M3, what would I do next? My first thought is that I didn’t want this to be just any M3. It had to be her M3 and unique, with more than just my choice of object shaping it. I’d always been interested in doing a custom job on a camera and this seemed the perfect moment to try it. I build and design intricate miniatures for a living and I’ve been obsessed with making things my entire life, so this seemed do-able to me. My plan was to re-cover the camera with purple kid leather. Bex (that’s her, by the way) has always been a fan of purple (it was even her nickname at one stage), so it was the obvious choice.
My first port of call was Camera Leather. It’s a site I’d been aware of for years, although online reports were mixed. I thought I’d try them out on one of my own cameras first to test the waters. A red Kiev-4 seemed like it would be fun, and my Leica iiib needs a new covering anyway, so I ordered both. After almost 100 days and numerous emails I’m still waiting for them, so needless to say I abandoned this route. I gather that the guy who runs the site is somewhat overwhelmed – just don’t order from them if you’re in a hurry!
In the end (and with purple being such an unusual colour) I realised I’d need to do the job myself. No matter, I’d enjoy it and it would be much more romantic this way! I did a lot of reading online about leather types; a perilous quest since it’s very easy to buy the wrong thing. It needs to be full-grain (not composite) leather, top-grain and properly treated to ensure longevity. It also needs to be pared down to a maximum of 0.8mm thick for a Leica – any thicker and it would protrude, disrupting mechanisms such as the self-timer and catching on things. Sourcing the right shade of purple goat skin was a real nightmare and in the end I bought an entire hide from J Hewit and Sons – we can use the rest for other projects in future.

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So, I now needed to get the camera! I wanted the camera to be as clean and unblemished as possible. This presents a major difficulty with the M3, as in its time it was NOT the shelf queen that many modern Leicas (sadly) are. It was a peerless professional workhorse of a camera that practically defined photojournalism for 10 years. This means that of all post-war (non-collector) Leicas, the M3 is the hardest to find in good condition, despite it being their most popular ever M series model. I’d been watching the stock lists of local dealers for months (London is privileged to have many good ones). I eventually found what I was looking for at Red Dot Cameras. I’ve bought things from them before and they’ve never let me down. The shop is the most extensive Leica treasure trove I know of in the UK – well worth a visit for fans of the brand!
I left the shop with a clean 1959 single-stroke M3 and a 50mm Summicron collapsible lens. I have one of these myself and I think it’s the perfect companion to the M3. It matches the camera in build quality and finish and can be collapsed when not in use. This is important for a camera that’s supposed to be compact – it will fit into many more cases and bags with a collapsible lens! While not the sharpest optic in the world for digital, it’s superb on film and wide open lends an appealing glow and excellent bokeh – great for portraits!
I got the camera back to the workshop and got started. The first stage in the job was to remove the original vulcanite covering. This M3 had a few covering chips already, which made me feel slightly better about what I was about to do (I don’t think I could have done it with a pristine example!) A lot of information can be found online about how to do this. Some paint strippers will help with careful application, although here in the UK it’s hard to get the strong stuff needed, and perhaps it’s best avoided anyway. I opted for the painstaking, slow but sure-fire method of chipping it away with a scalpel. Once all the vulcanite had been removed, I scraped off most of the residue under the covering, leaving a smooth surface for the new one to adhere to.

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The next stage was to make a pattern (guide) for the cutting for the new cover. The best way to do this is with paper and a certain amount of measured guesswork. It may take a few attempts, but the aim in the end is to achieve a perfect fit with paper before moving to the leather.

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Once I’d done this, it was time to attack the hide. The best leather is to be found either side of the spine at the back, so that’s where I cut the parts from. It also leaves a large unblemished area to use for other projects at another time. Although Hewit’s did their best, I needed to pare (thin) down the leather a little more to get it to the desired thickness. Emery cloth and more elbow grease did the business here.
Once done, I used the paper guide and a VERY sharp scalpel to cut the panels. The M3 needs one for the rear door and two for the sides. You could do the sides as a single piece, but it’s much easier to do it with two and small join under the lens. Getting the exact fit with the leather required a lot of trial and adjustment. I needed to re-cut a whole panel at one stage as I didn’t take into account the radius of the curved side (since the leather is thicker than the paper it will lose a mm or so as it curves round – best cut it too large and work down!). The last part was to use a black permanent marker to darken the edges of the suede – they were a light blue here and didn’t look good where they showed a bit.

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Once I’d got the fit right it was time to glue on the panels. Contact glue works well for this (Evo Stik Timebond is good in the UK). I took my time and was exceedingly careful – you can’t afford to make a mistake with contact glue! Once adhered, I worked on the edges with super glue (generally to be avoided but seals frayed edges well when used VERY sparingly). After a total of over 10 hours work, the M3 was done!

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Lastly, I needed to give some thought to accessories. A Billingham Airline Stowaway bag in black, a small mountain of film (Acros 100, Ektar 100, Tri-X 400 and Portra 400) and custom-made box fitted the bill. I also managed to trace a matching purple strap from Artisan and Artist. This was a special edition and I could only find one in Spain and Miami. I ordered it from Spain and it dispatched promptly although the Spanish postal service let me down (it arrived today, a little too late). No matter, hardly the most crucial thing! Lastly, I gave the camera a full clean and got the lens serviced so it would focus like new.

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I won’t go into the other details (like the ring, obviously – a whole different minefield!), this is a photography website so I’ll confine myself to camera stuff. Suffice to say I got a beautiful diamond solitaire ring from Hatton Garden (THE place to go in London) and placed it in a leather pouch in the film chamber of the M3 before sealing the box. I cooked Bex the best meal I could manage and presented her with my gift. I’d been utterly top-secret through this whole escapade and she had absolutely no idea! In short, she found the ring, I proposed and she said YES!
Next week, we’re off the US for our first holiday as fiancé and fiancée and the purple M3, my own M3 and M9-P will be coming with us. I’m a very happy man indeed, and lucky to have such a wonderful soul mate who will (no small thing!) put up with my photography obsessions!

Leica M3, 50mm Summicron collapsible at f2, 1/1000th, Fuji Acros 100

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Thanks for reading, and good luck in love and life to you all.

- Dave Lewis (a very happy man from England!)

If you’d like to see any of my commercial work, it can be found on my company website (all the imagery is my work – both the designs and the photography) www.hawkwargames.com

If you’d like to see any of my personal work, it can be found on my photography website (most images here are a few years old – I’ve been too busy to update it recently but there’s lots on there!) www.aperture2image.co.uk

 

May 022014
 

The Leica T Software Correction Conspiracy!

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It appears that long running camera review mega-site DP review has found out that the Leica T applies software correction to the 18-56 zoom lens in JPEG output as well as when using ACR for processing the RAW. By reading some of the comments in that article it appears that the Leica haters are out yet again and acting surprised or shocked at the news..like it was some kind of conspiracy and Leica was trying to hide the fact that they apply corrections. But I am here to tell  you that there is No conspiracy!

But the truth is, this is not a big deal AT ALL..it is the norm. Why? Well, because just about every camera today provides software corrections to fix barrel distortion or vignetting in lenses. It is a fact of life in digital camera world today.

So what are just a teeny sampling of amazing cameras that apply corrections?

The Sony RX1 and RX1r for starters. When you turn off the correction in these cameras you will see massive barrel distortion. This does not take away from just how special and good the RX1 is. In fact, it is still, IMO, the best 35mm IQ you can get today and yes, at $2800, the RX1 applies software correction to their 35mm f/2 Zeiss lens. They have to as the lens is so close to the sensor. It takes nothing away from the IQ or experience or value. In fact, it helps to make it what it is.

The Leica M9 and M 240. The Leica M’s apply correction to the M lenses to fix vignetting and corner color shifts. Again, it is a sensor/digital thing. Even the $11,000 Noctilux needs some correction in camera.

Various Sony, Fuji, Nikon, Canon, Panasonic, Olympus and DSLR’s. They all apply some sort of in camera correction to many of the lenses. It is just how it is with digital and one reason why results today are better than they were many years ago when this digital thing was still new. This is no longer the old film days, we are high-tech in 2014.

So it should come as no surprise at all that the Leica T, just like the M and X-Vario and other brands of cameras apply software correction so the image quality comes out as we expect it to. To keep sizes small, and quality high software correction is needed, and they all use it. Yet by some of the reader comments over at DPreview you would think that Leica broke some law or rule by doing what all other cameras already do. Strange. Again, nothing new here at all.

When I viewed the camera and lens in NYC with Leica (before getting a review sample in a private meeting, just me and them) and questioned the high price of the zoom I was told “but these are real Leica lenses, superb performers”. Leica never said to me that they did not apply software correction with the T, but they never said they did either. Then again, I did not ask! Why? Because it is to be expected as EVERYONE does it, even Leica with the other (much more expensive M and X) cameras. It is nothing new, or shocking or earth shattering. If the T did not use corrections it would be an incredible feat, even beating out what the M and the latest Sony tech can do.

Did they tell DP review that there were no software corrections? I do not know, I wasn’t there. If they did, that was silly of them to say.

To me it is a non issue. All that matters is the final output and if that final output is superb and up there with the best, it is indeed a non issue. Now just how bad are the files without corrections? I am not sure… but again, not really an issue as I have not witnessed any distortion or problems with the shots I took for the review. Why? Because they were corrected automatically as they should be  :)

I remember my 1st day reviewing the Sony RX1. I looked at the JPEGS and they were awful with barrel distortion that I did not expect. I approached Sony and asked what was going on. They said “Oh, you have to enable corrections”. I asked “why are they not enabled out of the box”? Of course they had no answer but once I enabled the corrections there we no issues and I was rewarded with the best IQ I have ever seen from a 35mm camera. Again, a non issue! No one made an issue of that one yet the Leica haters are already starting the nonsense like silly children bickering on the playground. It is quite amusing.

Leica does not have a secret magical method to avoid what no one else can as it is a digital/sensor thing. What matters at the end of the day is the output and if the user is happy with it. if it takes corrections in camera or in RAW to do this then so be it! I’d rather have this then a lens 2X the size and 2X the cost.

Do I think the zoom is overpriced? Yes of course I do. Just as I said in my review I feel it is overpriced by $600 or so. Nothing has changed :) Even so, many will buy it and many will love it to death as it delivers superb results, and that my friends is all that matters from any lens. It is the best 18-55 style lens I have had the pleasure of using when it comes to IQ and build but it should be for the cost. So again, no surprises. 

My T will be here at the end of the month and I am excited to test it with the 23 f/2 as that seems to be the jewel of the two for the look most Leica users are searching for.

For those that did not feel the need to read what I wrote and skimmed down to the bottom? MORAL of the story…

ALL cameras these days use software correction. Leica M, Leica M9, Sony RX1, A7, Leica X Vario, Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic, Nikon, Canon, etc etc. It is the reason why IQ is so good today and why cameras concentrate on the processing engine and software. It is one reason we enjoy such amazing quality from all cameras. Even the Canon 24-70 is corrected by some Canon bodies. That is a $2200 lens. Leica never said TO ME that they do not use software correction, they said the lenses are real Leica lenses and of high optical quality, which they are. Corrections on the 18-56 mean nothing just as it means nothing when the Sony RX1 is massively corrected or the Noctilux is corrected on the M. ALL that matters is the final output, period. With the T the final output is superb.

If Leica made the T zoom in Germany and it was optically corrected to the level of a Zeiss Otus and lets say they made it f/2.8..well, it would be HUGE, HEAVY and about $5,000 and people would be up in arms attacking them for it. Look at the cost of the WATE M lens that gives you 16-18-21mm. People just have crazy expectations and somehow think Leica would release Zeiss Otus quality glass for $1000. Leica will never be low priced, ever. If it is not for you it is not for you.

Anyway, Have a great weekend everyone! I will be traveling next week so will be on the road shooting the M, the Sony A6000, and a couple of other things ;)

The site will still be updated as always!

May 022014
 

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Arte di Mano review, My favorite half case for the Leica M!

By Steve Huff

You can buy  these lovely cases over at LeicaStoreMiami HERE.

Hey guys! It’s Steve here, your favorite Leica, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Nikon and overall “any good” camera fanboy with yet another cool accessory review. This time I am reviewing something very special, very beautiful, very functional and very expensive. For the Leica M 240 there are many kinds of half cases available. They run the gamut from $50 to $500 and the one I am reviewing today is up there with the most expensive of the lot, of not THE most expensive of the lot. No, it is not a Luigi case but  speaking of Luigi, his cases have now been copied up and down and left and right. Luigi used to be the one and only original..the only case for the Leica M that you would buy if you wanted the real deal premium. Hand crafted, hand stitched, big beefy leather and quality. Not anymore. In fact, many tell me that Luigi has been slipping in quality lately, and if that is the case I feel it is because he is so busy and also trying to stay competitive with the new competition.

My video review of the Arte di Mano case is below, check it out :)

The only Luigi case I have ever owned was a let down for me. The cutouts were way off and borderline crooked on the back. It did not fit my M9 well at all. I mean, it fit, but it was not a “fit like a glove” style of fit. It was a more of a loose goose style of fit. I never used it due to the bad fit and awkward feel. Luigi has many fans and I can say he has huge passion for his craft. In fact, I have seen others who own his cases and they look gorgeous and over time they develop a rich patina. I have seen many with superb fit and finish so I may have just gotten a bad apple with mine. Then again, lately many have told me they had issues, so I ruled out Luigi for my M 240 case quest.

With me, since I run a review site I am always exposed to the newest products for cameras. I get companies constantly wanting me to review their products from cases, straps, iPhone cases, iPad cases, bags, and all kinds of accessories. 75% of the time I decline the offer (if it doesn’t really make me say “wow”, that is cool I will not review it) and other times I get the product and am let down by it, so no review.

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Cases for the M 240 that I have reviewed so far:

Gariz – (My review here)

I have had my share of M cases and have reviewed a couple of them on these pages. The very 1st was the Gariz M 240 case which I really think looks amazingly sharp on the camera. It is basic, does not wrap around the top and fits like it should. A glove. It is attractive, it feels nice (but not luxurious) and comes in at around $220. You can see my review for it HERE. .

Classic Cases – (My review here)

The classic cases M 240 case is pure old school and quality craftsmanship. In fact, when it arrived I replaced my Gariz with it so I could review it. After a while I appreciated it for its thick and sturdy quality. The classic cases M case is one you would like if you want thick sturdy leather that will age over time into a softer richer look and feel. When it is new though it is stiff. Also, my copy was not cut perfect. Since my review I was told they are now cut perfectly to avoid any issues.

FYI: I have also tried cases from Leica and Artisan and Artist that were not very good at all. The fit was loose and sloppy and the feel of the cases were not up there with the better cases. I found them to be not worth the money.

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and now…The Creme of the Crop

When the M came out I remember seeing a line of cases appear that everyone was raving about. Arte di Mano. These cases were handcrafted masterpieces with a snug fit that made it appear that the M was made for case instead of the other way around.

This is a case I immediately wanted but when I saw the price I refused to pay that much for a case. I mean, $390 for a half case? Nonsense. Well, that was my 1st thought. But as time went on, I really wanted one. I saw a couple of others who had them and wow, they felt so nice and had zero fit issues. I started to think..the camera is $7000. What is $390 for a case to protect it and give it a better grip? Nahhh, I ended up not being able to go to $390 so I ordered the Gariz for $200. But then I received the classic cases model. After a while, and seeing a friends Arte di Mano case I reminded myself of a rule I made to myself recently. BUY ONCE and be done with it. Meaning, do not buy the things you really do not want..save up for the ones you want. This will keep you from losing money in the long run.

Here is a video showing the process of making a case for the Leica X1. All by hand with attention to detail. Each case is also unique as each one is made by hand. No mass production.

So I decided to save up a little stash of cash every month until I could buy the Arte di Mano (I do not use or own even one credit card, by choice. I am all cash or nothing) case and possibly a new strap to match and soon the time came. I logged on to Lecia Store Miami where they sell the entire line and saw something new from Arte di Mano for the M 240. A few new cases actually. Uh oh, I had not planned on this..new cases and new (more expensive) prices.

They now have the standard case with grip built into the case or the cases that can be used on the M OVER the Leica M grip ($300 accessory) or even the M grip with GPS. The new cases looked amazingly cool. So I said “screw it” and placed an order for the M case that is for use with the M grip (which I also ordered). I ordered the extra long classic strap and then the leather pouch to hold my Leica EVF when I am not using it (snaps on to the strap). I told myself I was nuts but spent the cash anyway. The very next day my boxes arrived. Once I took them from the boxes and put the camera in the case I knew I made the right choice. “Ahhhhh..perfect” is what i said as the camera slid down into the supple soft leather case. After a couple of days shooting the camera with the case and using the strap I do not think I will ever buy any other brand of case for the M ever again. Really. I may review other brands but it will be very tough for anything to approach this level of fit and quality IMO.

From the fit, that could not be any better to the soft and supple luxurious leather it already feels like a nicely worn in leather case. The quality of the case is beautiful and is really for those of us who appreciate beautiful things such as this. If you own and love your Leica M then you would adore this case. That is IF you like half cases. Many of us M shooters prefer to shoot the camera naked ;) If you enjoy using a half case and enjoy a nice strap, this set is about as good as it gets but as Chris Kringle says in Santa Clause is Coming to Town “Be prepared to pay!”

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I have seen hundreds of M half cases in use from meeting so many of you out there over the years. I am telling you now..if you are not 100% thrilled with your half case fit, or are in the market for a half case then take a serious look at the Arte Di Mano line. I know of what I speak.

Leica Store Miami (Dale Photo) sells the entire line from cases to straps to EVF pouches. As for the EVF pouch it is so soft and well made. Again, luxury. Previous brand have always used the very hard stuff leather. This is like a fine leather glove. The way I like it.

So the Arte Di Mano line gets my 100% highest recommendation if it is quality you want. For pricing, they are in the stratosphere but I am afraid you do have to pay if you want this level of quality for your M. There are many choices in a case for your M but not many up to this level. Damn, am I now a Arte Di Mano fanboy? 100%!

A few of the styles of M case that are available from the Arte di Mano line starting with the version I have:

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Direct links to what I bought:

The case I bought for my M

All of the Arte di Mano cases

The strap I bought

ALL straps

The EVF Pouch I bought

and the Leica grip I purchased.

Arte di Mano also makes cases for the Leica M9, M-E, Monochrom, X-Vario and X1 and X2. I expect there to be a T case as well coming soon so if you own a different Leica you can still own a taste of case perfection.

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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.

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Apr 302014
 

Big and small: in the field with a D800/55mm Otus and an A7r/35mm Summilux

Andrew Paquette

www.paqart.com

My background is as a visual artist, not a photographer. I started out as an editorial artist in New York, then became a comic book artist, a 3D artist in the video game industry, a special effects artist in the feature film business, and then an art director in video games. Throughout my career I have made extensive use of cameras, but only in a utilitarian way. For an illustration I did for Travel & Leisure, I took reference photos with a Polaroid. For an issue of the comic Nightbreed, I used my Nikon 2020 to shoot some friends in my loft, again as reference. For the movie Spider-Man, I used photos taken by one of my colleagues to build part of the 3d New York City set. For my paintings, though I preferred to paint subjects “live”, I sometimes took photos with my D70 for reference. On one painting in particular I had the nagging feeling that if only I’d had a better camera I could have skipped painting it. It turned into a fairly popular poster, but even today I think that a photo of the same scene would have done just as well or even better. Now that I have that better camera, I am fairly sure that is true.

I have read in many places that it doesn’t matter what kind of camera you have if you have a good eye for a picture. I would say that if you don’t have a decent eye for what makes a good picture, it won’t matter as much what kind of equipment you use, but it will still make a difference. If you do have some experience making pictures, the equipment can make a huge difference.

At the moment, my two favorite camera/lens combinations are almost exact opposites. One is huge, the other is tiny. On the big end of the spectrum, I love my D800 when paired with the Zeiss 55mm Otus lens. On the small side of things, I am equally pleased with my Leica 35mm Summilux ASPH when mounted on an A7r. The difference between how these two kits handle cannot be understated. The D800 + Otus is so ponderously heavy that I literally injured my hand using it (and even had to go to the doctor as a result). The A7r + Summilux is so tiny that I can carry it in a hip pouch and forget it is there. At face value, one might think that the small setup is the way to go but I have found the images I get out of the D800 + Otus so compelling that I take it out for a walk just as often as I go out with the A7r. I have not put the Otus on the A7r as others have done because for me, the purpose of the A7r is to have something lightweight and discreet. If I’m going to use the Otus, it won’t be discreet no matter what it’s mounted on, so I may as well have the higher frame rate offered by the D800.

When I bought the A7r, I was planning on switching to an all Sony/Leica system so that I could travel more easily with my photography gear. At first, I thought that was how it would work out, but then the Otus was released and I got curious about it. The next thing I knew, I had the Otus and found that it was capable of a wonderful medium format look. The A7r/Summilux would have been a perfect combination to shoot the subject I painted that was mentioned earlier, but the D800 + Otus would have been better for another painting I made shortly thereafter. Despite the extra weight, I found that I wanted to keep the D800 (and all my Zeiss lenses) and the A7r. Now, I use the A7r whenever I travel by plane, have to stay in a hotel, or if my arm is not feeling up to walking around with the Otus. Otherwise, I almost always use the Otus. For special occasions, other lenses will get a ride on the D800, but these days I almost always use the Otus.

I should also give a plug for Zacuto viewfinders here. After using the Sony’s vastly superior electronic viewfinder on the A7r, I was too spoiled to be satisfied with the optical viewfinder or live view on the D800. I use the Zacuto Z-finder pro 3x on both cameras now, and hardly ever misfocus as a result. As an added bonus, my exposure is much improved thanks to the Zacuto’s ability to isolate the LCD from exterior light. For the D800, I leave the mounting plate attached to the camera body, then snap on the viewfinder when I need it. For the A7r, I do not attach the mounting plate, but wear the Zacuto on a lanyard around my neck instead, then hold it up to the live view panel when needed.

With all that preamble out-of-the-way, here are some photos. Most were taken in Amsterdam, but several were taken on a recent trip to Geneva with the A7r. See the captions for more detailed information.

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1 The A7r+35mm Leica Summilux ASPH

Carnival ride, Amsterdam. There was a carnival in Dam square a couple weeks ago when I shot this image. The ride was moving so fast that I was amazed I could get any shots at all with the manual focus Summilux, but got several regardless. The real problem was that the seats on this ride spun from the arm they were attached to, meaning that I only occasionally had riders facing the camera.

A7r-01

Breakdancing at Museumplein, Amsterdam. There is a troupe of breakdancers that I have now photographed three times at Museumplein. The first time I shot them on an overcast day with a Zeiss 15mm Distagon, then with a 55mm Zeiss Otus, and here with the 35mm Summilux. Like the carnival ride, I was worried about shooting fast action because of the A7r’s comparatively slow shots per second, but it worked out fine. I didn’t get as many shots as the D800 would have provided, but it was enough to get the exact shots I wanted.

A7r-02

Indian magic trick at Leidseplein, Amsterdam. Although I avoid doing so with my other lenses, I love shooting backlit subjects with the A7r/Summilux combo. It isn’t that I never get decent shots of this type with other lenses, but this combination yields terrific contrast in these situations.

A7r-03

Horse-drawn coach, Amsterdam  I’ve tried several times to get a decent shot of this horse, and finally got it with the A7r. One thing I love about the 35mm Summilux is its ability to provide context to a subject, as in this case by showing the environment around the horse.

A7r-04

Particle beam casing and magnets, CERN, Geneva. My friend, Dr. Richard Breedon, has been associated with one of the experiments at CERN for as long as I’ve known him. Recently he offered me an opportunity to come to Geneva and take some photos. I think he gave me something like two days’ notice, but I’d wanted to do it for quite a while, so I got the plane tickets right away and flew down. Taking pictures at CERN was made difficult by the poor lighting and the bizarre colors almost all the machinery was painted.

A7r-05

Scientist calibrating panel at CERN, Geneva. This was one of a small number of shots I took at CERN that has a human subject in the frame to give a sense of the scale of the beam magnets. This scientist is standing at the base of one of these things, which are about 30 meters in diameter. Like most of the shots taken in this area, I converted it to black and white to get rid of all the brilliant green, red, and yellow painted objects.

A7r-06

Skier at Chamonix. Richard and I drove down to Chamonix the day after photographing CERN, to have a look at the slopes near Mont Blanc. This shot was taken in an ice cave at the top of a perilous cable car ride. From here, it was all downhill. Most of the shots I took in Chamonix were taken with ISO 50, f 16, and 1/4000 shutter speed. This was one of maybe three shots that had more normal settings. I would post some of the others because I like them, but anyone who has ever been to this location will have very similar shots because there are only a few places to take pictures from unless you want to risk life and limb.

A7r-07

Geneva auto show, Geneva. This shot looks pretty bright, but it was an indoor space lit with artificial lights, so it wasn’t that bright. This is where having a 1.4 aperture option comes in extremely handy. At ISO 400 I was able to shoot this at 1/400th of a second. One thing I should mention here is that I avoid shooting the A7r at less than 1/200th of a second to avoid shutter vibration, even if it means a higher ISO than I would normally use. In the 1/60-1/125 range, shutter vibration is noticeable, so I just don’t use those settings at all.

A7r-08

Swan on Lake Geneva. I took about 20 shots of these swans, all in attempt to get one shot of water dripping off their beaks. After thinking I’d missed the shot every time, I found that the first shot got exactly what I wanted.

A7r-09

Pedestrian, Geneva. This was taken after sunset. Streetlights were just coming on and it was starting to get difficult to see. Despite the lack of light, the Summilux delivered a very nice tonal range.

A7r-10

Missing the pocket, Amsterdam. When I spotted this couple walking down the street, I had to get a shot of them. I turned around and snapped about five or six shots before they disappeared into a crowd. I particularly like shooting with the Summilux slightly after sundown because of the rich blue violet shades that permeate images made at that time of night. The same evening I took some other nice shots of boats and lights reflected in the canals. Absolutely gorgeous light.

A7r-11

Roman Road golf course, Wales. I took this on the last day of a conference I attended in Wales. Until that morning, the region had been buried in deep fog that made it almost impossible to shot anything. I was grateful when the sky opened up a little to allow this image to be taken.

A7r-12

2 The D800+55mm Zeiss Otus

Parked cars, Bergen op Zoom. In the Netherlands, it is very common to see trees trimmed like the ones in this image. Coming from the U.S., I think this looks a bit strange, but interesting. In this shot, I like how the shallow depth of field blends all the twigs together in the background, creating a kind of smoky bramble above the cars.

D800-01

Looking and not looking, Amsterdam. To get this shot, I parked myself in front of the violet lamp-post, focused on it, then waited for people to walk by. When I got home, I was fascinated by how sharp the lamp post is. I’m still not used to this quality the Otus has. The Summilux has terrific color and contrast, but the neutral color and outstanding sharpness of the Otus are mesmerizing to look at.

D800-02

Artist, Spui, Amsterdam. This shot looks about as cold as Siberia, but it wasn’t very cold at all, nor has it been all winter. We didn’t even have snow this year. Normally I don’t like to take pictures of paintings unless they are mine, but in this case I liked the large amount of white space interrupted by these couple of spots of intense color.

D800-03

Couple, Museumplein, Amsterdam. This shot, like many other shots taken with the Otus, looks like medium format photography to me. It also reminds me of the colors one finds in color photography from the 1950’s. The people in the Netherlands tend to be tall, and I like how this man looks like a giant in a tiny seat as he eyeballs my camera.

D800-04

Girl with braid, Amsterdam. The primary reason I shot this is because of the colors in this little girl’s clothing. While I think of the Summilux as being particularly good at dealing with blues and yellows, the Otus seems to like pinks and greens more. This may just be my imagination, but it has led me to shooting specific colors with this lens because I think they look better with it.

D800-05

Hands with tiny camera, Amsterdam. Unlike the monster I shot this with, the camera in these hands is barely visible. I had wanted to get a picture of this man because of the complex pattern on his jacket, but he ducked into an alcove, took a picture of a building across the street, then went back the way he’d come. I took this in anticipation of him coming out of the alcove in a moment, but he didn’t do it.

D800-06

Green and red, Haagse Beemden, Netherlands. I may be the only person in the world that likes this photograph of practically nothing, but I really do like it because of the colors. It is just a garbage can and a big red cylindrical building on the edge of a manmade lake, but I like the combination of red and green.

D800-07

Organ, Amsterdam. I have taken a lot of photos of cathedrals, but not as many of the organs, which are usually so high above the ground that it isn’t worth the trouble to shoot them with less than a 100mm lens. This one was lower than most and had great color.

D800-08

Breakdancer, Amsterdam. A problem had with the Zacuto is that the D800 live view screen will go black after the shutter is pressed until the image is finished saving. This meant that as I tried to follow the breakdancers with the camera, I could only frame the first shot by eye, and then the rest (if shot in continuous mode) I had to guess. For this reason, I have decided to use the Zacuto for initial focus when shooting action, but will remove it after it is focused so that I can track the action. For this type of shot, I thought the A7r was easier to use because I didn’t have to deal with the Zacuto getting in the way of the EVF.

D800-09

Skater, Amsterdam. To me, this skater looks almost like a superhero in this shot. I have at least a hundred shots of skaters in this park, but this is easily the most elegant of the group.

D800-10

Intersection, Amsterdam. It almost seems criminal sometimes to turn some of these images to black and white, but in this case I felt it was worth it to enhance the effect of the light falling between buildings on the opposite side of the street, silhouetting the man on the near traffic island.

D800-11

Bubbles, Carnaval celebration. This is another one of those shots that demonstrates how brilliant the Otus typically is. It’s pictures like this that have me wanting to think up some decent staged shots, find some models, then do some deliberate shoots to get a specific composition instead of hoping to find something interesting while walking around town.

D800-12

3 Conclusion

I have a hard time saying that I think either of these kits is better than the other because they are both clearly very capable systems. A funny thing about the handling of them is that while I wish the Otus didn’t weigh so much and was less bulky, using it is in some ways more comfortable than using the A7r. The A7r is easier to carry and less obtrusive, but I feel less in control of making the image than when I am using the Otus. I think this is because of the long throw on the Otus, which allows more fine focusing. With the A7r, I always worry that I’ve tapped the little focusing knuckle ring a little too far or not enough when taking a photo. Since I can tell whether it is in focus or not by using the EVF or Zacuto viewfinder, it is a silly concern to have, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling more confident when shooting the Otus. Having said all that, when selecting images for this article, I initially had almost twice as many Summilux shots as Otus shots as candidates. Is this because I unconsciously favor the Summilux? I wouldn’t know.

AP

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

Vingette-top

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

Vingette-bottom

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

Boek-top

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

Bokeh-bottom

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?

Gate

Gate

100% corner crop also showing minor color fringing.

cropgate

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. 

Apr 292014
 

englishmaninny

An Englishman in New York.

By Paul Bartholomew

After following this site for a number of years and being intrigued by how a rangefinder camera experience might work out for me, I finally pushed the boat out and bought a pretty pristine used M9. My first lens was a Carl Zeiss f/1.5C Sonnar – I felt it would match the sort of portrait and model work I normally do with my 5D MKIII.

As a low depth-of-field junkie, I had this lens calibrated to focus at f/1.5 (it focus shifts and is set at f/2.8 by default but can be adjusted). Although I love the lens (and I still have and use it), it was the wrong first lens for me. Once I had the Leica, I was eager to get out of the studio and on to the street. Once there, I found the field of view of the 50mm was too restrictive for street work – I knew I would need another lens at some point.

Then, a few months ago I needed to go to a book-writing symposium in Michigan – both my wife and I were co-authors and we decided to spend a couple of days in New York en route. I knew that I would need that new lens
if I wanted to get some nice street images while I was there. After much deliberation looking at reviews of 35mm and 28mm lenses at this site (thanks Steve!) and others, I ended up buying the Carl Zeiss ZM 28mm f/2.8 Biogon. I’d already worked out that I was going to be shooting with a zone focusing technique at around about f/5.6 and so I felt that the Zeiss 28mm f/2.0 lens would just cost me more and be larger without giving me much more bang for my buck (or pound!). Of course I did look at Leica and Voigtlander options too, but the Carl Zeiss offerings just seemed to hit that sweet spot of image quality, build quality and price!

So, how did the lens choice work out? Below I offer a set of images configured as a bit of a photo-essay. All images were shot with the little 28mm lens, all have been square cropped and all were taken within walking distance of our midtown hotel. It was tempting to try to just shoot the edgy and the eclectic, but instead I wanted to acknowledge my identity as a tourist – an Englishman in New York, and to produce images that captured that context.

Below then, I first offer an index image to the photo-essay series and then the individual photos in a sequence. After the images, I finish this report with a few words by way of reviewing this great little lens and offer my thoughts on my adoption of the Leica M system. But first…

9 Blocks: An Englishman in New York

Image 1: Lure of the Empire

Lure of the Empire

Image 2: Lady on the Corner

The Woman on the Corner
Image 3: A populated space

A Populated Space
Image 4: Argument

Argument
Image 5: Nonstop

Nonstop
Image 6: Lunchtime

Lunchtime
Image 7: Skate

Skate
Image 8: View

View

Image 9: Don’t Walk

streetwalk

Why a Leica M?

Prior to buying my M9 I had hankered for a way of shooting that was more involving than the technically focussed SLR experience. I’d had a Olympus E410, a Canon 5DII and then my current Canon 5DIII. All capable tools – the 5DIII especially, but the experience of shooting DSLRs is, to my mind, rather like flying-by-wire – you control the electronics of the camera and the camera takes the shot. It’s all a bit sterile. My initial foray into trying to pull myself more into the shooting experience was to buy a Lensbaby Composer for my Canon – it forced me to focus manually, take my time and choose my moment. All good training for the Leica M to come!

When I invested in the Leica I was rewarded with exactly the sense of engagement I had hoped for – only it was much harder to shoot than I had anticipated! Using my 50mm f/1.5 at f/1.5 on the street was laughable - everybody moved too quick, I couldn’t keep up. Stepping the aperture down and zone focusing gave better results but the 50mm frame size was way too small for me to get decent results. I knew I needed a wider lens and (as you know) the 28mm f/2.8 was my choice.

So how does the lens perform? Well, on the streets of New York (and elsewhere since) it has been a fine choice. It feels really nicely made, the lens hood I bought for my 50mm seems to work just as well on the 28mm (I like to use a hood to protect the front element) and the quality of the images I have been getting – in terms of sharpness, contrast is exemplary.

Couple the image quality with a compact form factor and ladies and gentlemen we have a winner! Although I have little experience of other lenses on the M system, I still recommend this lens highly. I do have a bunch of Canon L
lenses and I would say the little Zeiss 28mm is my second favourite of all the lenses I own – second only to the rather special Canon 85mm f/1.2L II.

I know my M experience is limited, so perhaps I’ll splash out on a Leica lens for my M9 at some point – just to compare, but in the meantime the price and quality point of the Zeiss lens line up remains tempting and furthermore I’d contend that the ZM 28mm f/2.8 Biogon is right up there at the zenith of the quality/price curve.

Thanks for reading.

Paul

Nine Blocks

Apr 252014
 

Leica buys Steve Huff Photo!?!?! Whaaaat?

leica-ralph-gibson-m-monochrom-5-650x433-c

Hahahaha, got ya didn’t I? No, Leica has not bought this site even though a very few of you are leaving idiotic comments in my latest T review (see it here) implying that they did just because I loved the new T. I mean, really guys?

In any case, no..the site is not and has not been for sale and I will keep on and continue doing what I love to do here each and every day. That means that yes, more passionate reviews will be here over the years when something comes along that tugs at my heart and soul. Cameras that have done this in the past? Olympus E-M1 (where I was accused of being paid off by Olympus)..the Sony RX1 and RX1r (where I was accused of being in Sony’s back pocket)…the Leica M (where I was accused of just being a “fanboy”) or even the Nikon Df (where I was accused of now being a Nikon fanboy and paid by Nikon). Again, these are just comments from a very few, a teeny percentage of those who comment but it is absolutely ridiculous to even have one comment like this.

It is so funny to me that when I write a review with a lot of negatives or issues then people seem to get happy. Why is that? Are people just so negative and bitter that they love it when negative things are written? One reason I made the choice to NOT review cameras I do not like is because of this fact! See, I am ANTI negativity in life and ever since adopting this 5 years ago my life has changed for the better in every way, shape and form. A total transformation in my stress level (I have ZERO), happiness (I could not be more happier), and joy of life. It does not come from money (I am far far far from rich, live in a small cheap house in a not so great neighborhood) it comes from just being happy and knowing that we have one life to live here on this earth. Why ruin it by being bitter, nasty and negative all of the time? If you do not like something then so be it but to attack the messenger, that is nonsense.

Negativity come from jealousy, hate and an overall lack of happiness in life. It can be turned around if you really want it to.

To come to this site and leave idiotic comments such as “Leica must have paid Steve” or “Steve should change the name to stevehuffleica.com” or “Sony paid off Steve” or “Olympus owns Steve“..well, those are just comments that spawn from hatred, jealousy and people who are just not so happy in life…or people who own camera brand A when I praise camera brand B, something that fanboys do to attack me when I am not so nice to their chosen brand.

Many people in life (and I come across many of them) love to put others down because in some odd way it makes the feel better for a moment or two. They feel like they know it all, when they know absolutely NOTHING about what they are commenting about! I always laugh when people leave expert opinions on cameras they have never seen, touched or used. It really makes me laugh out loud sometimes. My written reviews are from experience using the cameras, and I use ALL cameras even though I do not write about all of them. So my opinions are based on actual use. Does not mean you have to agree with me, as we are all different in what we like, but what you read is always my honest opinion. Period.

To those saying I have always been paid off by Leica, let me fill you in on a history lesson because yes, you need to learn as you know nothing about my situation with Leica.

Back when I started version 1 of this website I started it by reviewing Leica gear. The Leica M8 to be exact. I started this very website (over at the now defunct stevehuffphotos.com, with an “s” at the end) 6 years ago only because I loved the M8 so much that I wanted to share my love for it with anyone who would be willing to read it. I did NOT want to start a review site at that time, I just wanted to write down my real thoughts from the heart on that camera that was getting some bad press from those who never even touched one (users, not reviewers). Again, the know it alls who knew nothing about the camera! I was taking the best photos of my life with that camera and those little M lenses and I thought it was an amazing thing, even if it had IR problems and high ISO noise after 640.

So yes it had issues, (which I wrote about in that review) but for its time, there was nothing quite like it in IQ or Usability/Feel. For me, it was a revelation and made me want to go out and use it every day, and I did just that. To me, that is #1 in a camera before ANYTHING else and is why I despise bug DSLR’s for daily use. Sure DSLRs have great quality and IQ but when they are so huge and heavy with a decent lens attached it makes me want to NOT use them! So I fell for the M8 hard because at the time, it was the only thing around that was high quality and inspired me.

After writing the M8 review on the old iWeb blog I started something very strange happened. After just a few days I started getting e-mails from those who found and read the review telling me how much they enjoyed it. Many said they went on to order the M8 for themselves. “Wow” I said to myself. That is so cool. I was able to convey my emotions and love for this “electronic memory maker” so much that a few readers bought one! It ranked up on the 1st page of google after a few days somehow and people were seeing it and some people were buying the M8 due to what I wrote.

Then more time goes by and each week is a repeat of the last with even more emails. I’d say each week I would get double the e-mail about that Leica M8 review. It was crazy. Then something really cool happened. I received an e-mail from the music artist Seal telling me he really enjoyed my review. Then he said “we should chat sometime about it”. Now here I was, living in Indiana in a VERY small town in a VERY inexpensive house with literally NO income (was taking a year off after selling a small Ice Cream shop) and all I did was share my thoughts on a Leica M8 camera and I was getting e-mail after e-mail thanking me and now and e-mail from a guy whose music I used to jam in my car and home. How cool is that? I ended up shooting his Chicago show a couple of months later and it was an amazing experience for me, as that was one of my goals in life..to shoot a concert like that with no restrictions. One of my images made his next tour program from that night.

As time went on Seal and I became great friends. He then introduced me to a Leica dealer named Ken Hansen who I immediately called to place a Leica order for the then new 28 Elmarit ASPH lens. I owned the M8 and then went for the 28 as my next lens to see how I would like it. Ken asked how I heard of him and I told him I was told all about him by Seal so he sent out the lens without getting payment up front. “Send me a check when you get it” he said. Wow. Amazing.

In any case I soon came up with an idea that would help benefit me and Ken but I had no idea if Ken would go for it as my site was so new with such little traffic. At the time there was no lens rental shop where I could rent Leica equipment so I asked Ken if I could rent lenses from him, review them and then send them back. I would pay him $50 or so for a week or two and in exchange he would get a link mention telling everyone that he supplied me with the lens. He was game for it and sent me a few lenses to try out. He told me he would send me used lenses if he had them and if he sent me a new lens he would sell it as used at a discount but he was up for seeing how it would go.

So I started reviewing Leica lenses on the M8 early on and each review got better and better and I really started to enjoy doing  them. No one online at the time was doing “real world” reviews. They were wall old school DP review tech style that were long and boring, to me anyway. None of them were done by anyone with real passion for photography. It was all about the money and business.  So I was indeed a bit different and was the very 1st real world review site that included all real world use photos, intense passion and even some personal posts that let everyone know just who I was and am. I even coined that real world term and because I reviewed in the style that I always wanted to see, and I was passionate at doing it it started to grow and grow. Much like the rock band KISS and how they started (now celebrating their 40th anniversary).

They started KISS because they wanted to be the band that they always wanted to see. At the time, most bands went up on stage in T-shirts and jeans and sang while standing still. KISS came out in makeup, outfits, and used fire and bombs while prancing around like maniacs. It worked because they brought excitement to the stage and with their passion and excitement at full force it brought the excitement level of the audience to the top. It was a great formula and one I used when creating this site.

I wanted to see a camera review site that I liked yet no one was doing it, so I decided after a few reviews to do just that and I dedicated myself to working on it every single day, and I did.

After the new reviews the site traffic was growing steadily and Ken Hansen decided I did not need to pay him a penny for the rentals. (as I was helping him by spreading the word about his services so he was getting a few orders). Ken has always been an amazing dealer and today I consider him the ONE guy that really made it possible for me to do this website, a true friend. Without his “rentals” early on this site would not exist today. Leica was no help at all back then and refused to even answer an email from me when I requested gear for review. That is, until traffic started to really grow and they started seeing the reviews and comments. Then they started to send me lenses by request and I no longer needs the Ken rentals ;)

As the new Noctilux came out, Leica sent me one to try for a few days. I always only had a few days, usually 2-4 days with a Leica product before they wanted it back. But I was just happy to get review samples. They then sent me a WATE for review.

As time went on Ken always helped me when he could and Seal helped me tremendously by inviting me on a couple of his tours and things just clicked. As I was on the Seal tour I met a ton of people who were fans of mine as well! It was so odd when walking in the airport one day with Seal and his band and someone ran up and said “are you…STEVE HUFF“! Lol. It was amusing to say the least. But that was not a regular occurrence. It happened sparingly but was still very cool to meet those who enjoyed my reviews and talk cameras for a bit.

So the more I shot with Leica the more I became attached to the cameras and lenses. I shot the entire Seal tours with a Leica M9, Noctilux and 35 cron. Many said I was nuts to trust it but I never had an issue that wasn’t fixable (until my noctilux fell apart during a show). I even managed to get an album cover using the M9 and Noctilux. So to me, Leica has always been my camera of choice due to MANY reasons, not just image quality. It has given me some of my best memories and usability also goes a long way with me. I remember  one night Seal handed me a Canon 1d MKIV or something like that and told me to try it out for a show. It was nice, it was HUGE, it was a beast and weighed as much as my Mini cooper. I did not like the experience of using it. I missed my M9 and manually focusing as it was a challenge. Snapping away with blazing AF and a zoom was NOT a challenge for me. It was boring and dull to me so I ditched that 1d and went back to the M9. Ahhh, heaven.

As time went on and the site grew and grew and more users were leaving comments, anytime I reviewed a Leica product I was called a “fanboy” by a few in the comments section. The Leica “haters” who hated Leica for one reason or another but probably because they could not afford it or because they see Leica as an “elite” brand who offer no value for the money, which is 100% not true BTW.  For the record, I was one who could never afford Leica but because I skimped on everything else in life I managed to get by with the M8, then M9 and a lens or two. I was not rich, not even close to it..not even well off but I knew that if I could own one thing it would be a Leica M. It gave me enjoyment in life.

As for the silly Leica hating commenters, for whatever reason they were always there, the minority of course, but they would come to my FREE site and bitch that I wrote nice things about a product that did amazing things for me. Made no sense. Over time I learned to laugh at these individuals as they were clearly so bitter in life that they felt better by attacking me. I would just reply with “I am a Leica fanboy 100%! I love their cameras as to me there is nothing like them and if that makes me a fanboy then so be it”!

As time went on I continued to review Leica and other camera brands that ticked my buttons. As Micro 4/3 was taking off with the E-P1 and GX7 one time Leica told me via email “stop reviewing that Micro 4/3 so much and write more about Leica”. This is from someone who is no longer with the Leica company but I responded with a chuckle like “yea, right”. I thought that was odd. But the more I wrote about other cameras the more I was ignored by Leica. Did not really matter to me at all but I thought it was a bit rude. I always had Ken to get my back if I need a product for review so all was good with me. Time marched on, Leica announced the X2 and Monochrom. I was invited to Berlin, surprisingly, to see the launch of the New revolutionary MM. I flew from AZ to Berlin (courtesy of Leica which surprised me) to witness the launch and I thought I would be able to test the camera so I could write a 1st look report and inform all of the readers here about the capabilities of the MM!

That was not the case.

When I arrived I saw familiar faces like Thorsten Overgaard, Eric Kim, Jono Slack, Sean Reid and many others who were also flown in for the event (though I think Thorsten drove). We all had dinner, had fun and attended the big shindig that night. What I saw was mostly over the top people with bow ties and suites, and from what I gathered, very rich people who were also acting the part. Nothing at all like me or my personality. I said to myself “So is this the real Leica? Not many here are anything like me..maybe they do want these cameras for the red dot and the prestige”. It was clear many there did only want that but there were also a handful there who were just like me, passionate about their cameras and photography. All was not lost.

I walked the room and was stopped every few feet by someone who recognized me from my reviews. I chatted with those people and had a great time. Then the camera was launched and then it was over. What? I do not even get to touch an MM? I flew across the USA to Berlin for a 3 hour event without even getting to touch a Leica MM? I was surprised by this for a few reasons but one of them was because a few of the guys I know who also write reviews.who were here..well, they all had an MM (besides me and Thorsten) in hand, with them. But when I asked my contacts at Leica they gave me a quick “let me see what I can do” and then ignored me and dodged me most of the night. Even my then buddy Seal called one of the top Leica guys and said “you really should get a camera into Steve’s hands so he can review it. It would be beneficial”. But no luck. I did not expect to take home an MM for review, just to hold one, fire off a few shots. I mean, they had them there but for some reason was not allowing me to see one. So why fly me there? Just thought it was odd.

At the end of the night I went to my room and wrote a report on the event and mentioned there were no cameras to be found for me to try. Maybe they were not happy that I was covering the launch with my Olympus E-M5 :)

The next morning it was magically arranged for me to test an MM camera. It was presented to me in one way but the reality of it was that it was set up by Leica through a third party to allow me ONE HOUR of use of the camera, with a chaperone. :)

That was good enough for me as I spent that hour walking the street of rainy berlin and was able to report on the camera so all of the readers here could see some info and my input on it. It was perfect and worked out great.

I was told I would get a review sample soon. But that was drug out and I was one of the last to get one for review. It was fine with me though as I did not care, I just wanted to review it. Besides, Ken Hansen would have helped me out if Leica didn’t so it did not mater to me. In fact, I preferred to go through Ken at this point and did purchase one from him.

Fast forward to the M. By now Leica was not sending me review samples anymore. In fact, my one contact there was gone and no one wold reply to my emails. I remember even Thorsten Overgaard trying to figure out what was happening and he called Dr. Kauffman on my behalf to tell him that they should really set me up with a contact in the USA for review samples. Still, no go though I was invited (but not flown out) for the M launch after Thorstens phone call. But I could not make it as it was the same time as my Photo Cruise! No M 240 review sample for me…

…So Ken hooked me up with the M 240 as I was put on his pre-order list as soon as I knew it was in the works. In other words, I was at the top of his pre-order list because I put myself there before anyone. I may have been 2nd or 3rd but I was able to by one from Ken. So I did a huge review of the M 240 (here) praising it as the best thing ever, and to me it was and still is (I still own it)! I love this camera. During that review there was so much hatred from Leica bashers and I was called the same things by those same few people and a few new ones who could not fathom the value of an M…”fanboy”, “Leica paid off Steve”, etc. Little did they know that Leica was not even communicating with me at this time and they did not even send me a review unit yet I was hearing things like “Steve gets free cameras from Leica, that is why he is positive to them“. But I let it bounce off of me as always and did not care as I still loved the Leica M 240 and knew it was the camera for me and I would never change my stance when it is all based on honesty, as all of my reviews are. If there was any bitterness between me and Leica that did not mean I would hate their camera, not at all. If it is good it is good. Expensive yes, but for me worth it.

Then came the X-Vario where I tore it apart and exposed the weaknesses and praised the positives. I was hard on it because it has a few issues that bothered me in real world use, though IQ was not one of them. After that review I had emails from some saying that I pissed off Leica! How could I piss them off if I was just being honest? Being honest about a camera is how it should be so the companies can FIX the issues in a later version or with firmware. Same thing I did with Fuji. I was hard on them because they had issues, real issues that other cameras did not have, at least in my eyes. They fixed just about all of those now in the X-T1. That is how companies get feedback. But a few of these camera companies are something else. Write bad things and they ignore you (as Fuji does with me to this day) but write positive things and they love you. Them moral of the Story is that I am always honest in what I write, it comes from the heart. Any excitement you see or read is legitimate and is how I truly feel. I could care less if that means a camera company stops sending me review samples because today I can just buy or rent them if I want to review them.

Paid off by anyone I am not.

So with the X-Vario I predicted a sales flop and it was/is. I predicted the X2 would not even come close to the X1 sales, it did not. I predicted the X1 would sell in droves..it did. I predicted the M9 and M 240 would do very well, they did and are. So my track record is good when predicting Leica sales.

With the new T I predict a winner for Leica. They WILL sell a ton of these just as they did the original X1. I say that not because I am paid off by Leica, but because I truly feel that after using the new camera for just a a week. It is a good product and as I said in my review, to those who like to own nice things, including a camera, then the T will be appealing to them. There is nothing wrong with the T, it is a highly capable camera and produces beautiful files from the camera. I could also care less if the sensor is older..even if it was 10 years old I would not care as long as it performed, and it does. Plain and simple. Is it the perfect dream camera? NO! Not even close but it is the 1s Leica to break ground and be original, and yes, it is original in its build, feel, in use and quality.

When I made the Sony RX1 my camera of the year for 2102 I was labeled a Sony fanboy .When I made the Olympus E-M1 the camera of the year  for 2013 over the Leica M, I was labeled an Olympus fanboy and many wondered why I did not make the M 240 my pick. When I tore apart the Fuji X-Pro 1, I was labeled a Fuji hater who only loved Leica and Sony. When I praised the Nikon Df I was instantly a “Nikon fanboy” which made me laugh out loud. I mean, to those saying these things..are you really that miserable in life that you have to sit around on web sites like mine just to make bitter and mean comments that have zero truth to them? Does it really make you feel better about yourself? If so, then you may need help. :)

I mean, ridiculous statements and comments that are not only rude but disrespectful to me..the one who works day in and day out to provide FREE information while getting very little back in the way of monetary compensation. I do this as it is my a passion of mine. Something I love to do. I live a simple life in a small cheap house, a small car and not much in life besides my cameras and HiFi because I love it. I would not have it any other way as it is a part of me. If you do not like what I say then there is an easy solution! DO NOT READ what I write! Go on, I dare you! The funniest thing is that those who complain always come back for more. They can not get away from the site and read all reviews I write. I guess that is why this site now enjoys the success that it does. The haters are even regulars :)

No matter what company makes a camera..if it is good and gets me excited to shoot it then I am in and will state my honest feelings about it.

As for me and Leica, well yes they did supply me with the T for review but in all reality, they had no choice. Look at the review. It has now had over 150,000 views and well over 400 comments in about 28 hours. That is a HUGE amount of exposure for them and the new camera. If it was a bad camera I would have said so. It is what it is! I am happy to work with any and all camera companies to test and do real world reviews of their products but beware, I will be honest. Like I said, it is a passion of mine and I will never go through the motions and rush a review. When I really like something, wether that is from Leica, Sony, Olympus, Nikon, etc then you will indeed know it.

So there you go. To all of you who have been coming here over the years I thank you all for your support, friendship, kindness and help in keeping this baby of mine going. To those who come here to bitch and moan, I do not feel you should come here but I appreciate you as well as yo do indeed add to my hit count at the end of the day! To those who will be offended at what I said here then I am guessing you will leave a nasty comment (never fails) in reply yet again. Well, it will be deleted if you do or not approved. Not dealing with it and it has no place here (one guy who felt offended and said I aimed my post at him dared me to approve his comment..seriously?). Don’t like it, move on back over to the other sites that welcome such nonsense and hate.

I hope you all have a great weekend and see you back here on Monday! BUT there is more to come today so check back later :) I will be out this weekend with the Mitakon 50 0.95 for E mount with the A7 and new A6000 (which is pretty sweet BTW).

1st test shot with the A6000 and Mitakon 50 0.95 at 0.95! This lens will focus as close as .5 meters. 

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