Feb 172014
 

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My favorite ND filter for fast Leica lenses!

Finally! I found THE ND filter to own for my fast Leica glass (Thanks Ken Hansen)! Yes my friends, in the past I have owned many ND filters and I always had to figure out which one I would get. When shooting a Summilux lens or Noctilux lens an ND filter is MANDATORY if you want to shoot your ones wide open where they were designed and optimized to be shot. Over the last few years I have had MANY e-mails come in asking me “which ND filter should I get”..and I am happy to say that the one I own now is hands down my #1 favorite that I have ever owned/used.

It is a made in Germany Heliopan Variable ND filter that gives you a range to work with..from 0.3 all the way up to 1.8 or from 1 to 6 stops. This means you can use this single one ND filter for all of your ND filter needs. From slight brightness to brutal harsh light (like I shot the images in below), this ND filter will give you what you need with a smooth twist of the front ring. When Ken Hansen told me about it I had to give it a shot.

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If you are not familiar with the purpose of an ND filter I will break it down for you very quickly.

Let’s say you love shooting your Leica and Noctilux but you love shooting that lens wide open at f/0.95. If it is sunny outside or the light is bright you will not be able to shoot wide open because the shutter speed in your 9 or M 240 only goes to 1/4000s. This means that without an ND filter you will have to stop down the lens to f/4 or f/5.6 or in some situations even f/8.

With an ND filter in place you can shoot that lens wide open as the filter blocks some of the light. With this particular filter you can adjust how much light gets let in and it is marked from 1-10. I tested this filter in the super harsh mid day sun of Phoenix AZ and my filter was usually between #3 and #6 with the Zeiss 50 Sonnar at f/1.5.

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Using this filter it allowed me to shoot wide open to retain that classic Zeiss Sonnar look that disappears once the lens is stopped down. I shot the SLR Magic Hyperprime 0.95 M lens a couple of years ago with an ND filter as well, and all of the images shot in that report were with a Leica M9, the images below were shot with an M 240 and the Zeiss.

You can also use an ND filter if you want to shoot at longer shutter speeds, for example, a running waterfall. The ND will block the light to your sensor and allow you to drag out that shutter for as long as you need.

Anyway, this is an amazing ND filter and is the only one you will need for ANY situation. No need for 2-4 ND’s, just one. The build is superb and of very high quality, the ring to adjust the strength of the filter is smooth as silk and this filter is available from Ken Hansen in the two sizes any Leica shooter would need. 46mm (35 Summilux, 50 Summilux) or 60mm (Noctilux 0.95). These filters are NOT cheap but no good ND filter is. I believe this one goes for $260 but I found it to be a very worthwhile investment because it is the last ND I will ever need and will fit any 46mm lens I attach to my camera.

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I tested it with the Zeiss 50 ZM Sonnar which also has a 46mm filter thread and the filter presented no issues or problems at all. The Zeiss ZM Sonnar is a very unique lens and when shot wide open at f/1.5 it almost resembles a Noctilux in its rendering. Not quite, but close. The best part is that the Sonnar comes in at around $1100. B&H is back-ordered but Tony at PopFlash has one or two in stock right now (in silver) for anyone looking for this now legendary classic lens.

You can e-mail Ken Hansen here if you want one or have a question. ([email protected]) Not sure how many he has but he did tell me he had a “few” available in 46mm and 60mm filter thread sizes and I recommend this filter 100% for ANY users of these filter size fast lenses (Leica). 

Below are the images I shot with the ND attached, all with the Zeiss Sonnar 50mm ZM and all wide open at f/1.5 at the local Ren Fair here in AZ. BTW, it was almost 90 degrees in mid Feb and the sun was HARSH. AZ mid day sun sucks for taking photos, but I purposely took these at the worst time to test this filter, which did fantastic. 

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Feb 142014
 

Film Friday with the Leica M7 and Noctilux F/1

By John Tuckey

Hi Brandon, hope you’re well.

Hands down, most of what I shoot is digital. But I always make an effort to shoot film ‘in between’. I frequently screw it up, but that’s the point. I believe that screwing it up with film makes me a better digital photographer as well. Especially in the case of B&W which I insist on developing myself – double jeopardy, double dust!

Anyway, here’s just a few shots to share from a recent shoot with the lovely Frankii Wilde. Bar one, these shots were taken on an M7 with a Noctilux f1 at f1.4, the film is Kodak Portra 400, drugstore developed and scanned by me and then converted to B&W in LR5.

The one exception is the shot in the window, which is ilford delta 400 shot on a Rolleiflex 3.5f, developed and scanned by moi.

For those interested in comparing film to digital the corresponding digital shots are on my 500px gallery at http://500px.jrtvintage.co.uk, all the digital shots are with the Leica Monochrom and the same f1 Noctilux lens at the same aperture and ISO.

All the best

John Tuckey

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Feb 132014
 

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The Leica 90 Summarit f/2.5 M Lens Review

By Steve Huff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Compared to the classic and legendary 90 Elmarit f/2.8

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

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

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

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

First the 90 Summarit on the M240 here in 2014

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…and now the 90 Elmarit on the M9 in 2010

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

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

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

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

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Detail..is this lens sharp?

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

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My conclusion on the Leica 90 Summarit Lens

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

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

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

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

You can e-mail Ken at [email protected]

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

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

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Feb 102014
 

M240 NIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY

By George Sutton

A recent post showed some photos taken with an M240 in New York at night. It generated a lot of comments, some quite snarky. There appeared to be a problem with skin tones and many commenters declared the camera useless for shooting under artificial lights while declaring their Nikons, Canons and Sonys would do a much better job. I own both a M240 and a Canon 5DIII with Canon’s best L lenses and my experience has been very positive shooting both cameras at night. The only difference I see is slightly better star effects from the Leica lenses, which may be due to the absence of an AA filter. Low ISO performance is excellent with each camera.

I perviously owned an M9 and it was a great camera but the high ISO performance was noisy, much more so than the M240. The following photos were taken in Cologne, Germany last December at the Christmas market held next to the Cologne cathedral. The cathedral is one of the most magnificent in Europe. Cologne is in an industrial region and I suspect air pollution has badly stained the outside of the cathedral. In daylight it is very dark and doesn’t photograph very well but illuminated at night it is spectacular. Below are two shots taken with my M240 on a tripod set to auto white balance, one at ISO 400 and the next at ISO 2500. Following is another photo I took at ISO 400 in the market next to the cathedral. These are the colors as they came out of the camera. Judge for yourself if the camera is up to the job.

Leica M240 with 18mm Super Elmar at f4, ISO 200, 8 second exposure:

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Same shot at ISO 2500, .5 second exposure:

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ISO 400, f8, 1.5 second exposure:

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Again, none of these have been color corrected. This works fine for me. The Canon would do as good a job but not better and would be harder to carry around. I carry my Leica in a small backpack. I also tried a Sony A7r and it took a great photo but not better than the Leica or Canon and I returned it, mostly because the autofocus was poor and more of a hinderance than a useful feature.

Feb 092014
 

Munichs oldest cemetery with Leica M and Monochrom

by Andreas Cornet

Dear Steve, my name is Andreas and I live in Munich, Germany. I follow your great blog for about a year but so far did not post anything. My photographic life started some 11 years ago when our daughter was born. I started shooting with several Nikon DSLRs with growing fascination. My entry into the Leica world happened with the D-Lux 3 and the brand did a nice job in “trading me up” with a M8 via a M9 to a M240 and a MM right now.

For a long time already I had the idea to start a photographic project on Munich cemeteries. Steves recent article on post mortem photography and Jim Fishers great cemetery shots together with fantastic light two weeks ago finally got me going. I chose the “old south cemetery” in Munich which was founded in 1563 for the many poor victims of the pest epidemic. At that time it was “extra muros” – outside the city borders. No need to explain that this has changed with the growth of the city … .

In terms of gear I took the M240 and MM together with a 35mm Summilux, a 50 mm Noctilux, and a 90mm Summarit. I did not use 50 mm a lot in the past but since buying a used Noctilux 1.0 (not the current 0.95 version) this has changed significantly. Most of the shots you see are done with this lens, only few are 35mm or 90mm. However, I do not use it wide open only. I also like it very much at 5.6 or 8.

Great winter sun, several crows/ravens and some nuns going for a walk created an almost surreal atmosphere. Like a quite island in the middle of the city bringing back the past. I hope you get part of that from the pictures. Although I liked some of the photos in color very much I decided to transfer the M240 files to b/w using Nik Silver Efex. If you are comparing the M240 with the MM files (that’s what I did …) keep in mind the MM shots were taken a bit later with sun fading away already.

Next will be the “old north cemetery” as soon as the light gets right … .

Thank you and best regards,

Andreas

Pic 1, M240, 50mm, f 5.6

Pic 2, M240, 50mm, f 1.7

Pic 3, M240, 50mm, f 1.0

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Pic 6, M240, 50mm, f 1.4

Pic 7, MM, 35mm, f 1.4

Pic 8, MM, 90mm, f 2.5

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Feb 072014
 

The Leica M 240 at Night

by Ivan Makarov

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to visit New York City for a few days, focusing only on photography. Well, I focused on the food too, as it’s kind of legendary. Because I live on the West Coast, near San Francisco, NYC was an eye-opening experience in many ways, as I discovered a new culture, new kinds of architecture, and a new big city I heard so much about but never visited before with my camera.

I also used the visit as a chance to keep learning my new Leica M, which I acquired last summer before the birth of our son Yuri who’s doing great, by the way and is sleeping in my arms as I type this.

Up to this point, I’ve been using Leica mostly during day light, and sometimes indoors for family snaps around the house. It’s an amazing camera in those situations. When I was choosing between getting a new Leica M or a used M9, one of the deciding factors that swayed me towards getting the M was the high ISO performance, which Leica delivered with the improved sensor. I knew that some of the most important family photographs I would capture with this new camera would be indoors, or in darker conditions and having the ability to shoot clean images using ISO1600 or ISO3200 was worth paying extra money, at least for me.

When doing my research on Leica, I came across a lot of images online that were taken outdoors, but at night, using fast M-mount primes. There was something different about those images compared to what I’m used to seeing from SLRs in similar conditions. The colors looked more natural and vibrant. The contrast was beautiful. The sharpness was always top-notch.

As I thought about what to shoot in New York, I thought I’d spend some time in the evenings after dinner testing how Leica performs in those night conditions, using my Leica M, and Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH lens. I did have 50mm f/1.4 Summilux on me as well, but I spent most the trip shooting with the 35mm lens, as I just bought it, and also found it more suitable for street photography.

So how did Leica perform in those night conditions? In short, I was very happy with the results.

My goal was to capture the lights of New York as my eye saw them. The beauty of New York City at night is that it’s full of colors, lights, and contrasts, no matter where I look. Leica proved to be a very good companion in recording those scenes – just how I saw them, or even more beautiful when coupled with the rich Leica bokeh.

I shot these images with the wide open aperture, and using ISO1600. They were shot at China Town and Times Square – two locations that are excellent for night street photography.

The one downside was that the files still came out somewhat on the warm side, which Leica M is now known for. I had to pull down the saturation in reds and oranges a bit during post processing to restore skin tones to their more natural color. I’m used to doing it now. The recent firmware upgrade fixed those issues somewhat, as you noted in your article, but it did not fix it completely.

As a result of this trip and my new experience of shooting at night, I am now incorporating night street photography in all my photo related travels, especially when it’s a city that offers plenty of life after it gets dark.

My site – http://www.ivanmakarov.com/

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Feb 072014
 

Hamburg with the Monochrom

By Dan Bar

Hi Steve

Just got back from Hamburg Germany, nice city with terrible winter weather.

It was cold and damp which made photography quite a challenge. My fingers froze under the gloves as the MM body is made out of steel. and it felt ice-cold. As a matter of fact i was afraid Leica won’t work but nothing of the kind happened. As a matter of fact i spoke with a Leica salesman later on and he told me he has a client who shoots regularly in Greenland where temperature is -20c and colder ( In Hamburg it was -7c and windy ,so it felt like -10c) yet his MM never stopped working. Good news for those who intend to travel to cold countries. Sometimes i do miss colour so i decided to buy the M9 again. I like the 240 alot but i love the M9 ( but that’s me :) . I got it from Ken Hansen who is a fantastic dealer and a great trusty person. Anyway in Hamburg i still did not have the M9 with me , so i am sending you some more black &white + 35 LUX photos. The MM is such a fantastic camera. BTW the german salesman in Hamburg leica store who listened to my complaint about the red plasticity tendency of the 240, said LEICA received a lot of complaints about it and that they fixsd it 3 weeks ago

All the best

Danny

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Feb 052014
 

Used Leica M 240 – $6495 – Owned by Mark Spitz

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Was browsing over at pop flash.com today to see if they had any interesting goodies and noticed that they have a black Leica M 240 for sale, used, for $6495. They say it was owned by Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz. Hopefully it never took a swim with Mark, lol.

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Either way, it appears to be a great buy for someone looking to save a little on a new M 240. Also comes with a Thumbs up, soft release and letter from Mark Spitz. You can see the details over at PopFlash.com HERE.

 

Feb 052014
 

Ralph Gibson Monochrome – 100% SOLD OUT at $28,000 each!

That was FAST. I had a feeling this special limited edition Ralph Gibson would indeed sell out because the set was absolutely jaw dropping gorgeous and there are always some out there looking for ways to spend their cash. Only 35 sets were made which included the Monochrom in a special limited edition color of chrome and black with a special Ralph Gibson signature on the top and a special edition 35 Summilux FLE. A fancy box and strap topped off this kit. Normally a Monochrom and a 35 Summilux would run you $13k so this one was more than double the cost of a normal set. It doesn’t do anything different but it sure is pretty!

So 35 lucky people out there have this beautiful set. The question is..how many will USE the camera and how many will sit the box on a shelf?

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Feb 032014
 

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A poor man’s road to Leica

By Westerhuis & Westerhuis

As our name ‘Westerhuis&Westerhuis’ already suggests: we are brothers. Willem Hendrik and Arend-Jan. It would be safe to say that we grew up with photography. Our father had a Leicaflex SL with a range of lenses. Back when we were kids, going out with the family meant that we would both get ‘one frame’ to shoot with the camera. That is how we learned to see the world through a frame: looking for the scene we wanted to capture.

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In May 2005 digital photography found it is way into our family. It was an Olympus E-300, which compared to the Leicaflex, was equipped with highly technical features such as automatic exposure and focus. Suddenly we were able to shoot more than six images a year, and dad did not have to share his Leica anymore. (Something that took a while for us to understand.) The learning curve suddenly became steep!

When we grew older and went to University, the camera spent more time in the closet than in our hands. Occasionally we used it for holidays, fraternity activities etc. Never too serious and certainly without ambitions..

Then something happened we had not foreseen: some friends were getting married and since they were on a low-budget, they asked me (Willem Hendrik) to shoot their wedding. Apparently they had seen me holding a camera the right way up and were somehow assuming I knew where to find the shutter button. I did not dare to bare the burden of a screw-up with only myself to blame, and so I asked my brother to come with me.

The results however surprised a lot of people, not only the bride and groom, but more important: other couples. Several weddings came along; we bought new bodies (Olympus E-600) and lenses (the legendary 50mm f/2 and 25mm f/1.4) and began enjoying photography again. We moved from weddings only to portraits, graduation ceremonies and group shoots. But most importantly it was street photography that got our attention.

We found that street photography was a powerful way of improving our photography skills. When shooting on the streets it rapidly became apparent that a great photo is not about sharpness, subject isolation or ISO performance, but about the narrative. A sharp, clear and in every term a high fidelity portrait of a cat is in the end just a photo of a cat. The technical perfection does not make up for the lack of talent. We found out it is more important to train yourself to ‘see’ notable things happening than to rely on your gear to create something out of nothing. Minor events can be captured and still tell a complete story on their own.

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Story telling in wedding photography

Naturally we began incorporating this storytelling style in all our assignments. This meant a observative way of working without interfering and only with the use of available light. We have shot in very different and difficult environments where we had to adapt to the conditions. The good thing about shooting a wedding is that you need to deliver; you have to know what you are doing to be able to get the best out of a situation

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Being with two photographers

Although we both did some weddings without the other, we stuck together for the most part. Shooting a wedding together has some major advantages: we always use a basic lens set-up such that one knows, based on lens and location, the type of photo the other is taking. Therefor one is able to take the corresponding shot from the opposite direction without being in each other’s frame. Because we both shoot with different prime lenses, a nice reproduction of the day from multiple perspectives can be delivered. Secondly, we are both very technical; if variables get tough, we communicate our strategy in ISO, aperture and exposure, we developed our own sign language for this to be able to come up with similar results.

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Buying a Leica

After launching our own website, the amount of inquiries was vastly increasing. This made us able to invest in our company, and so we decided to go back to our roots. And so two second-hand Leica M9’s were bought, despite our philosophy about gear being second to content (After all we are both engineering students and firmly believe in the ‘garbage in, garbage out’ paradigm. As for the lenses concerned: we bought a Summicron 35 and 50 from their first owner. Both versions IV, which are almost 35 years old. Not only did they feel very familiar, even the smell brought back memories. By using Leica we could also continue our philosophy of carrying the least amount of gear with us. Although the Olympus E-600 was one of the smallest DSLR’s around, we would rather carry M9’s for a day.

Of course we are, as much as any photographer in constant battle with the GAS (gear acquisition syndrome).The M240, 50mm Summilux, and 35mm Nokton are all nymphs singing their songs. For the moment we choose to sit tight with the old Summicrons we have. Our M9’s do not limit creativity in any technical way which is proven by legends from the past, as these lenses were the tools of many great photographers. If we cannot make this work then no mountain of gear can fix that deficit in our talent. At the moment we feel it is more important to master this simple camera than to acquire next gen lenses with their fancy appeals and new possibilities.

So yes, this is where we now stand. Both of us have a single lens setup. Which, as it turns out, is more than adequate for wedding photography. As always: it is not the camera that shoot people, we do.

Willem Hendrik Westerhuis

https://www.facebook.com/WesterhuisWesterhuis

http://www.westerhuisenwesterhuis.nl

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Feb 032014
 

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

My/the dream team for architecture:

Sony A7R with Canon 17mm/4 TS-E

By Dierk Topp

First I would like to mention, that I am not a Pro, I take pictures for my own pleasure and sometimes for others.

I bought the Canon 17mm TS-E for use with the ordered Leica M240, but when I got the M240, I sent it back after 2 days. The main reason (besides many others) was, that the focus field in life view was fixed in the center. Using tilt lenses with a focus only in the center of the frame is useless, and for shooting a portrait session, when you want the focus on the eyes is useless with a focus control in the center of the image, and shooting stills from a tripod with a fixed focus field in the center is useless as well.

I ended having no FF body for this lens! So I tried to use the 17mm TS-E with my Leica M9 and the MM and it was no problem. I used the 18mm finder for a rough composition and very often had to do only one or two test shots (no live view!) till I got, what I wanted (you will find two images from the M9 at the bottom).

When then the A7R arrived in October 2013, I discovered a big problem: my Metabones adapter Ver.1 was unusable, it is blocking the edges and the vignetting made it unusable. But I found the info, that the new Metabones Mk. III supports FF and I was very happy, when I got it a few days later and it worked perfect.

Why using a tilt/shift lens?

If you know about tilt/shift lenses, there is not too much to say about shooting this combination.

If not, here is an excellent post on shooting architecture with shift lenses:

Let me quote a few sentences, I hope you don’t mind James?

  • Point your camera up at a tall building. See how the lines of the building converge to the top of the frame? That’s an extreme case of perspective distortion. For a shot like that, sometimes it looks cool. But back up a good bit, zoom out, and try to shoot the entire building. More times than not, you’ll notice the verticals are not perfectly straight. It’s extremely difficult to get it right handholding the camera and trying to guess. That’s because in order to have no perspective distortion, you have to have the capture plane, be it film or digital sensor, parallel and plum with the building.
  • There is a lot of misunderstanding about tilt/shift lenses. Basically, it’s a lens that projects an image circle much larger than the frame it intends to cover. Then, it is allowed to be moved independently of the camera body to anywhere within the projected image circle.

If you are interested in the tilt function of this lens, you find an excellent description here at the site from Keith Cooper:

http://www.northlight-images.co.uk/article_pages/using_tilt.html

Now let the images speak for themselves.

  • images made with f/8 and tripod
  • as the camera is on a tripod, I very often just shoot additional shifted images and have more freedom during PP for stitching
  • very often prefer a different aspect ratio than what I get out of the camera and stitch images by shooting two or three frames with different shifted lens. And very often I shift the lens more than recommended and decide later, if I have to cut the outer (blurred) part of the image. With stitched images there is plenty of resolution for that. But you have to plan that during shooting.
  • if I want to get a wider angle of view and shift up (or down), I use two images with the lens shifted left and right up by 30° or 60°
  • if you have a close foreground and/or have to avoid parallax error with slightly differing images from moving the front lens by the shifting, you can use the special “Canon TSE Tripod Collar” from Hartblei: http://www.hartblei.de/en/canon-tse-collar.htm, this collar is mounted on the front part of the lens and keeps it in exactly the same position, while the rear part of the lens including the camera is being moved for shifting.
  • my post processing: LR 5.3, B&W conversion with Nik Silver Efex PRO2, stitching with PTGui or MS ICE (free for Windows)

The A7R or ILCE-7R with the Cannon 17mm/4 TS-E on Metabones smart adapter III

(I took the pictures with the NEX-6 and Micro Nikkor 85mm/2.8 PC, also a tilt/shift lens, on a Metabone adapter, tilted for more DOF)

the lens on this picture is shifted up for about 9mm, as you can see on the scale on the lens in the middle of it.

The front part of the lens for tilting is not tilted, you can see it on the second picture below.

The Metabones MK III adapter supports the electronic diaphragm and correct EXIF, this lens is manual focus (as all shift lenses) and I could not test the AF support of the adapter.

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

and here are some images made with this fantastic combination:

One shot shift up

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

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This one stitched of two shifted images (shift left and right), no HDR, 11.000×5.000 pixel

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift, stitch of 2 shifted images

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This is a 1:1 crop of this picture

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

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Gut Trenthorst

again from two stitched images, but this time the shift was 30° up to the left and right, to get the view upwards

Gut Trenhorst, A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E, stitch of two shifted

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from two shifted images (no HDR, the sensor has no problem with this high contrast!)

Gut Trenhorst, A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E, stitch of two shifted

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Now some pure architecture shots

 This is just a standard shot, lens shifted up

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

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HavenCity, Hamburg

Shifted full 12mm up, recommended is 8 to 10mm on the long side, the top of the building is getting blurred!

HafenCity Hamburg

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If the camera is perfectly aligned, buildings tend to look strange, as if the top is getting bigger,

just a bit perspective distortion could look more natural.

HafenCity Hamburg

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Bad Oldeloe, Germany

stitch of two images, shifted down and up

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E, stitch of shifted images

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Three images, shifted left, center and right

image size 12.000×5.000 pixel

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E, stitch of shifted images

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… the same, three stitched images

A7R with Canon 17mm TS-E, stitch of shifted images

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and Hamburg, Speicherstadt

Three images shifted, 11.000×5.000 pixel

Speicherstadt Hamburg

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…and two images, shifted up 30° left and right, 9.200×5.000 pixel

Speicherstadt Hamburg

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Last but not least:

You can even use this lens on a range finder. Here are two images made with the Leica M9 with a cheap adapter. I used the 18mm finder on the M9 for rough composition and one or two shots, till I got it right. The M9 has no live view for controlling the image before the shot! And for the electronic aperture you need a trick with an extra Canon body.

 The Marienkirche, Lübeck, Germany

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This is a special combination of shifted lens up on the M9 and rotating the camera on the tripod for much more than 120° view. I shot many very much overlapping images to make sure, that it will work for stitching – and I think it worked :-)

Leica M9 with Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift

Thanks for your interest and I hope, you find it informative and useful … and sorry for my English :-)

More images are on my flikr:

Canon 17mm TS-E tilt/shift (including A7R) and the Sony A7R images

thanks and kind regards

dierk

Feb 022014
 

New Leica T (Type 701) Camera Soon? First Images?

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Rumors are afloat once again and this time it is about the new Leica T type (which was rumored a few months back). It was hinted then that it may be an APS-C mirrorless camera with lenses made with a partner (for the most part) and some high quality primes to be made in Germany. When I 1st saw these rumored images (that were supposedly taken from the instruction manual of the camera which is said to be hitting in April) I hoped they were not real. Then I thought..no way..fakes. Then after seeing more, including a page from the manual..I thought..maybe. But who knows.

To me it looks like a Sony NEX from 3 years ago. 

So is it real? Is this the new Leica mirrorless that will be made in Germany but come in at a more affordable price? They do need to be making something in that shiny new factory so we shall soon see. But personally, I hope these are fakes. ;) 

If this is the new T type, what are YOUR thoughts? The image below has what appears to be a 23mm Summicron T, which would make it a 35mm in APS-C land. This would be the 1st mirrorless interchangeable lens camera made by Leica in Germany besides the M.

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Feb 012014
 

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Want a Leica M 240? No need to wait any longer as it is in stock just about everywhere..links below:

B&H Photo – Black

B&H Photo – Silver

PopFlash – DEALS!!!

Ken Hansen (E-Mail him at [email protected])

The Pro Shop

Leica Store Miami

Amazon – Black and Silver

Jan 312014
 

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The Classic Cases Leica M 240 Case

Hello to all! Today I wanted to share some news about a case I am trying out for my Leica M 240, made by classiccases.co.uk. Paul Glendell is the guy who is behind these fabulous cases and he makes them for the Leica Monochrom as well. You can see the Mono in his case HERE in my part 1 review of that camera. He also offers M8 and M9 cases and all of them have different options available (with back flap, without, etc). These are all hand-made with quality leather AND hands.

His M 240 case is of fantastic quality and it is not too stiff, and not too soft…which IMO is just right. It is a case I really like and much different from the Gariz case I reviewed a while back (can see that HERE). While the Gariz was nice, small and fit like a glove the Classic Cases 240 case is more traditional when it comes down to the case design and offers a little bit of grip to hold on to. Not because there is a grip but because it adds a little size to the camera and those with larger hands will get a better grip when shooting the camera. It FEELS like a higher end product as well.

Take a look at the case on my M from all angles…

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I had planned to do a video review of 3-4 M240 cases all at once but the two others I was expecting over the past three months never showed up for review. Paul was the only one who sent in the case so his is the only one I will be posting about today.

In the hand it feels nice and the fit is very good (better than the Luigi I had for my M9 that I couldn’t use due to the fit being so off). In fact, the fit of the classic cases case is superb and if I had to complain about anything it would be that the live view button is slightly covered. It is tough to design a full half case for the 240 without this happening though. The upper sides, unlike the Gariz, are well protected and the leather feels like a real quality leather.

Some of you out there love cases and some of you out there hate them. I like cases but sometimes i prefer to go naked because it is much easier to unload batteries and memory cards without having to remove a case to do so. On the other hand, there were times when I went naked (my 1st M 240) and it got beat to hell when I dropped it. So these days I prefer a case.

There are quite a few cases out there for the M240 and this is the highest quality/best made case I have tried to date. It is not cheap at about $285 US Dollars (ships from the UK) but it is one of the best cases among the sea of half cases to protect that $7000 investment. Many wonder why a case would be so expensive but think about it. A full leather, hand-made and stitched case for under $300 to protect a camera you spent $7000 on (without a lens) is not bad at all. You can go up to $390 and buy an Art Di Mano case which offers a different design and colors (hope to review the Art Di Mano soon) and spend even more for a famed Luigi. $285 is about right for the Classic Cases M 240 case and offers up some style, beauty, protection and luxury to your already luxurious M.

if you are one who enjoys cases, you can check out all of what they offer HERE at the Classic Cases website. 

Jan 292014
 

Photography is Happiness

By Van Styles

Hi there Steve,

Must say here long time fan of your blog. I stumbled upon it about 3 or so years ago and has proven to be a fun and helpful site. I love your real world reviews of cameras as well as suggested tips from camera straps to software. I also like their interactivity you offer by letting people submit for user reports which got me thinking about possible doing so.

I am 33 years old and have been doing photography for about 10 years. It wasn’t until about 4-5 years ago when it really hit me as to what photography meant to me…. which is happiness. By following my passion and my love I have landed myself in a blessed position. Back in June of this year I started my own t-shirt line based on my photography named V/SUAL. It is carried nation wide and is in such stores as Pac Sun as well as being distributed up in Canada and the U.k. So far it is has been received well which has enabled me to enjoy photography that much more by purchasing some amazing tools. For years the Canon 5D has been my go to camera especially with the price point. But this year I picked up a Canon 1DX as well as delving into the beautiful world of Leica.

I know you have been a big fan of the brand and I would always look forward to your reviews whether it was of a lens or of a camera. I started off buying a M6 but was having so much fun with it I bought myself a M 240…. then a Monochrome. Lenses…. needless to say it was like a whole new world. So I got the 28mm 2.0, the 35mm 1.4 the 50mm 1.4 the 75mm 1.4 as well as the mother of them all the Noctiux 0.95. I also was able to get the RX1R as well as the Sony A7R.

I also do a bit of traveling for my photography as well and thought I would share some photos with you. The images below were all shot with my Monochrome and Notctilux. Long story short thank you for your site and your positive outlook on life. Have a good one.

-VS

From Steve – Thanks so much Van!!! Glad to see you are enjoying the cameras and WONDERFUL shots!

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