May 242012
 

The Leica X2 1st Look Video and yes…Unboxing

The Leica X2 has arrived to my house for review so I made the video below to show you guys what it looks like. When the original X1 was released I did an unboxing video to show off the really cool box and the X2 keeps that same exact box and styling/packaging. Check it out below :) Also, I will be traveling this weekend so site updates will be slow until I return on Monday night/Tuesday. Enjoy!

May 232012
 

Leica Monochrom 1st Look Video and Sample – Review in July

 

 

OK! I have had this PRE-PRODUCTION Leica Monochrom camera for about 18 hours and have only shot a few things around the park and my house but did manage to make a quick 1st look video. 1st thoughts on the Leica Monochrom? It looks like an M9, feels like and M9, works like an M9 and even smells like an M9! Yep, basically, this is an M9 with a modified M9 sensor. No color channels. Pure B&W. Monochrome. My 1st thoughts are…who would pay $7,950 for a B&W only camera? Well, I feel many of you reading this will in fact do so because it is a niche camera..a specialty item that you can not get anywhere else. For those who love and adore B&W film and shooting, this camera is a dream. Sure, you can shoot an M9 and convert to B&W but will you get the same results? I did this test, side by side, same lenses, same subject and there are indeed differences with some subjects, not so much with others.

I will show these results in my upcoming review (Review not until July when I have a production camera) but can say that the IQ from this sensor is beautiful. Sharp, detailed, rich in B&W tones. During my week evaluation with this camera (Thank you Leica & Steffen K.) I am going  to decide if I want to buy my own Monochrom. If I fall madly in love with it, and that is possible, then I will. That means I would then use my OM-D as my color camera and sell my M9-P. We shall see, but my decision will be in my review as well, and that is a huge decision to make.

Also the X2 JUST ARRIVED to me 10 minutes ago so I will be doing a 1st look video and review of that one as well but it seems i have more time with that one so I probably will not start shooting with it for a week or so.

Here is ONE sample I want to show you. I shot this as a test for DR, Sharpness and Tonality with the Monochrom. Click it for the larger view and 100% crop.

I am taking the Monnochrom with me to Chicago this weekend along with a 35 and 50 Lux ASPH and I may be shooting around Navy Pier Saturday night. My review will be up in about 10-12 days and will be full of samples and even comparisons with the M9 files converted to B&W. Should be fun. Enjoy!

May 222012
 

SLR Magic Raises the price of the T0.95 Hyperprime Leica mount to $4995

Due to lens productions costs industry wide, SLR Magic has just raised the price of their 50mm T0.95 Hyperprime lens to $4995. I asked Andrew, head honcho over at SLR Magic why this was and he stated it was all due to cost of materials going up. Sony told me this as well as Leica so it is a true statement. SLR Magic sold out of the initial pre-order batch of this lens and there is now a 7-9 month wait for one after you order. This lens is amazing but if you order one, be sure that your camera is calibrated perfectly, just as you would need with a Noctilux. When your body is spot on, this lens is razor-sharp at all apertures. You can see my review HERE as well as some shots with this lens on an M6 HERE. I also used it with the Leica Monochrom HERE.

This lens is razor sharp, even wide open (which equates to f/0.92) – shot on Leica Monochrom

You can order this lens for Leica mount only and it comes in two versions. One that is RF coupled at $4995 (this allows you to focus using the rangefinder) and one that is not RF coupled (for use with adapters on NEX, Micro 4/3, etc). The price of the NON RF version is $2995. They do sell a Hyperprime for Sony NEX and Micro 4/3 but this is a totally different lens and not in the same league as the Leica M version.

May 182012
 

UPCOMING REVIEWS

Leica Monochrom and Nikon D800 with Zeiss 35 1.4

Hello everyone and Happy Friday to you all! This weekend I will be a busy man as I have a Nikon D800 and Zeiss 35 1.4 in hand to test out for the next week or so. THIS THING IS A BEAST! After shooting with all of these small mirrorless cameras and a Leica M9 for so long this D800 feels like a monstrosity and my wrist starts to hurt after 20 minutes of use BUT that is just because I am used to the small guys. Take a look at the image above with the D800 parked next to the OM-D and 12mm. The D800 makes the little Olympus look tiny and this is one reason why I appreciate those great Olympus lenses. Small size AND great quality.

But as you may well be aware, this Nikon D800 is a 36 Megapixel machine capable of beautiful rich quality. I have not yet taken it out for serious shooting (hope to get out this weekend with it) but did snap a few “snapshots” in my yard and around my house. The RAW files bring my aging iMac to its knees but other than that there is nothing to complain about. The files seem to be gorgeous. Rich full frame color quality, depth and some of that Zeiss magic from the $1800 35 1.4.

The very 1st snap I shot with the D800 to see how the image quality looked with the Zeiss wide open. 

This would be an amazing combo for serious pro work. Probably a live convert shooters dream. Then again, I am still happy with my Leica but you can not ignore the fact that the D800 and Zeiss 35 is still $2k less than a new M9. body. It appears that for all out image quality the D800 may be THE ticket for those searching for high res full frame magic. Maybe the M10 will share a similar sensor? Hmmmm. Look for a D800 review soon :)

Again, wide open to test DOF and Bokeh/Sharpness – click it for larger

The Leica Monochrom

To date I have only had an hour with this camera, and I really liked it. I liked it enough that I put my name down on Ken Hansen’s pre-order list. (you can get on his list by e-mailing him at [email protected]). I have been trying to get a review sample and just found out today that I will have a Monochrom next week and I will have ONE WEEK with it to review it. I was hoping for 3 (for a 3 week road trip to test the camera) but one week will do for a review. I will NOT be getting the new 50 to try so I will be testing it out with other glass.

So look for  this one in about 2-3 weeks from today. I will do as much as I can while I have it and I am excited to put it through its paces and see how it differs from the M9 when it comes to B&W performance.

So check back here often for Monochrom and D800 updates! 

Monochrom Pre-Orders – B&H Photo, PopFlash, Dale Photo

May 162012
 

Grab this card now, or a bunch of them as this deal JUST popped up at B&H Photo. $6.99 for a Lexar 8GB Platinum II SDHC card. I need to grab about 10 of these so act quick if you have been needing some good SD cards! YOU CAN BUY THEM HERE.

Also, for the Leica people…the wonderful Zeiss Sonnar 50 1.5 ZM lens is IN STOCK in Black and Silver right now as well. Enjoy!

May 132012
 

As requested: Full size Leica Monochrome samples

Many of you requested full size out of camera samples from the Leica Monochrome so here you go! These were shot during that one hour walk and they are RAW conversions without ANY adjustments whatsoever, so these are out of camera from RAW – what you see if what you get and this is about all I have :) This is NOT a review, just giving you guys the images you requested in full size, without editing. EXIF is embedded in the images. As stated in the previous article all images were shot with the Leica Monochrom and the SLR Magic 50 Hyperprime T0.95.

It appears I should be getting a Monochrom and X2 for review REALLY soon and if so I plan a long road trip for 2-3 weeks to review them both – The M for B&W and X2 for color. Stay tuned!

CLICK ON IMAGES FOR FULL SIZE FILES

DOG  – T0.95

BUS LADY – T/1.4

RAIN – T/2

T/0.95

May 112012
 

My one hour  with the new Leica Monochrome by Steve Huff

Hello and here I am once again writing from my hotel room in Berlin. I just ordered room service as it is pouring rain outside and I just returned from an hour long walk Sean Reid who e-mailed me this afternoon asking if I would like to use the M Monochrome that he has with him since I did not get a chance to shoot one at all from Leica. Very cool of him. He did already post a review of the M Monochrome and the X2 at his subscription site if you would like to check it out. So I thank Sean for letting me use the camera for an hour or so. Without that, I would not even have been able to really check it out at all.

1st, MY thoughts on this Leica event and how I would have done it differently

I have to first thank Leica for inviting me to this event. I was invited to the 09/09/09 event but could not make it out that time but I always said that when they announce their next set of cameras, I AM THERE! So I was excited to be here and enjoy the whole “Leica-ness” of it all. As we all knew from the rumors there was a dedicated  black & white camera coming from Leica and possibly an X2. Both of these things were indeed true.

No WiFi at the event

When I arrived to the event I walked in and was asked for my invitation (glad I didn’t forget it)! After handing it over I entered the building and noticed that there were MANY people there. It was a packed house, full of suits, dresses, and a few people I recognized. After talking with a few of the Leica people I made my way to the stage area and had a seat. I pulled out my laptop as I assumed there would be wifi there for the bloggers and press that were in attendance. NOPE.

If this were MY event, I would have wifi setup. No questions about it. The fact is there were many of the big players here and it would seem that Leica would want the press and live coverage. I was all set to do live blogging and was disappointed to find out that would not be possible. Sure I could have paid for some sort of card but I was told there would be wireless there so I didn’t.

No cameras to try out at the event

If this were my event, or if I were in charge of it I would have made sure to have a few cameras to pass around to the blogger guys/girls. The thing Leica wants and needs is coverage of these new cameras. I would have handed out one to every major blogging person and said “use it for the day tomorrow”. That would have been great. We would have all been able to shoot with it, evaluate it and write about it. But no cameras were to be found. I was able to stare at them through a glass case though and did eventually get to fire off 4 shots with Jonathan Slacks camera he has been testing. I shot 4 shots only because I wanted to take a quick look and Jono kindly handed over the camera. (Thanks Jono, his photos from the Monochrom can be seen here)!

No real WOW factor

I hate to say it as I love Leica and the guys that work there but I have to say the event was a bit on the dull and lackluster side. Sure there were drinks, food and people to mingle with but the overall presentations were lacking. Not a big deal but I remember a few occasions yawning as it dragged on and on it seems. We were all there for the announcements and the way they were announced was also a bit on the dull side.

IS Leica HIGH?

OK. I have to mention it. $7200 for a Leica 50 Summicron ASPH APO. I have to admit…when I heard that I was like..”MAN OH MAN..I AM DONE WITH LEICA”! I thought it was ridiculous and borderline insanity to price the new lens like that. I mean, a SUMMICRON for more than the legendary 50 Summilux? Really? We all know how amazing Leica glass is. That is their main claim to fame. The GLASS! But pricing the new lens at $7200 US is really alienating 75% of Leicas new users.

I know for a fact there have been thousands of you who read this site, who are NOT rich, who went out and bought an M9 even though they really could not justify or afford it. Many of us, myself included, stretched our budgets to be able to purchase the camera and one or two lenses max. Why? Because while we may not have all of the money in the world, we have passion and we want to shoot with what our heart tells us to shoot with. For me, it’s usually Leica.

There were so many new Leica users over the past three years and Leica has been enjoying this success. When they release a lens for $7200 and it is a 50 Summicron ASPH APO..well, I am afraid they just went and priced MANY of us out of the market, which may be what they want.

I know for a fact I will never ever buy the new lens, no matter how good it is. Why? Because the 50 Summilux ASPH is astounding, and cheaper. The old 50 Summicron may have some character flaws to some, but you can buy them used pretty cheap. $7200 to gain some sharpness and micro-contrast?

On the other hand I have a feeling they need lenses like this for their M10 which I think is coming at Photokina. I think the sensor in the M10 will be so high res and so capable of crazy detail that they needed a new lens to showcase it. I also have a feeling many changes are coming with the M10. I have no inside info, Leica tells me nothing… but my crystal ball thinks so.

I get releasing a new lens like this for those that want absolute perfection and beauty. Those who can afford it, and there are many, will buy the lens. I just do not see them selling them in any kind of mass quantity, which again, is probably what they want.

I happen to know the lens is amazingly beautiful in its design, size, and rendering. The samples I have seen from it blew me away. I am just disappointed in the price point as they knocked so many out of the game here.

But I assume they know what they are doing and maybe they just want to go after a specific market for their new cameras and lenses. Either way, I can not deny the fact that the new Monochrome M and the new 50 are gorgeous and this lens may be the best lens they have ever made. I will give them that for sure. I would love to do  full review of it using this new Monochrome so maybe one day I will get to try it out and let you guys know how it is. :)

My one hour with the Leica Monochrome

So as I started this article writing about how I finally managed to spend an hour with the new Leica Monochrome camera I will now talk a little about this camera and my 1st impressions after spending just under an hour with it. The images you see embedded here were all shot with the Monochrome and the SLR Magic 50 T0.95 Hyperprime lens.  Click on any image for a larger view.

So it was raining, it was grey and it was all kinds of dreary but I headed out for an hour with the new Leica Monochrome in Berlin, which is a beautiful gorgeous place to shoot. The people also seem friendly as no one had an issue with me taking their images. Had a great time for that one hour for sure!

It’s just like shooting an M9

The Monochrome is just like shooting an M9 or M9-P except you have no color available. It’s all black and white. Monochrome (that sounds cooler). You can read the techie reviews for the details on the sensor but basically, in real world terminology this sensor will yield better dynamic range and high ISO capabilities over the M9 or M9-P.

If I can be honest, I am strangely attracted to this camera even though it is priced at $8000, the same cost as a Leica M9-P. I remember years ago people on various forums were asking for a dedicated B&W sensor Leica M camera. It made sense right? Leica has always been known for classic B&W photography. So many of us shoot B&W with our M cameras or even shooting B&W film. So why not a dedicated B&W sensor camera? With the Monochrome you get better high ISO and beautiful B&W capabilities.

I know that as soon as I knew this camera was coming, I wanted one. I even came up with an idea to travel for a few weeks and shoot only B&W. Do a huge project. Take my time. Just me and the camera as one. Ahhh, sounds so good huh?

It’s true. B&W has a way of tugging at your soul, your heart, your brain. It’s simple. It’s basic. It’s real. No, it’s not real as in what we see with our eyes but for some reason when I view classic B&W images I can see deeper into the image. It has more emotion and soul. I LOVE B&W. The problem has always been that traditional digital cameras usually sucked with Monochrome imaging. Sure we can use plug ins like Silver Efex Pro or Alien Skin but imagine a simple camera we could have that just allowed us to be pure. To be MONO. Yep, this new Leica allows us to do that and gives us superb IQ, great sharpness, and the ability to capture that real emotion that so many of us love to see.

Shooting B&W takes me back to the time when I had my M6 or M7 around my neck with a roll of Tri-X loaded. For some reason that camera inspired me to get out and capture people on the street. I lost my fears and was motivated to shoot. Holding that Leica Monochrome in my hand, knowing its potential, well, that was enough to motivate me and get me excited to shoot today. It’s a funny thing these Leica cameras. They almost are like some alien life form that sucks you into wanting to shoot. Always happens with an M around my neck.

I walked and I shot and shot and shot, maybe about 75 images total. Not too many really and I knew that I would not get any great shots or amazing artistic images but I knew that shooting this camera for even an hour would let me judge it’s capabilities. Again, it is the same body and menu as an M9 or M9-P with a couple of minor things added. So if you have shot an M before, you will feel right at home shooting the Monochrome. In a way, reviewing this camera is easy as it is only about the images, the tonality and the high ISO performance. Notice in the title image how many tones you can see in the sock. Gorgeous.

$8000!

When I found out this body was $8000 I immediately said “WHAT”??? I mean, many will see this as a crippled M9! No color? Well, those are the people who either are not really into B&W photography or just do not get what this camera is all about. I know for a fact that I can not afford $8000 for this camera, but maybe if I scrimp and save and save some more than maybe I would be able to swing it, though I’d have to sell my M9-P to do so. I am NOT a rich guy :) Yes, this blog gets loads of traffic but that also means much higher costs to run it.

So after my one hour with this lovely camera I asked myself…”would I sell my M9-P to buy an Monochrome”? Well, I wouldn’t want to… but yes I would. Because after viewing my sample images I do see a difference between this output and what comes out of an M9 with conversions. Yes, $8000 is INSANE and much to expensive (it really is) but damn Leica, you always have a way to get to my heart and soul, and I feel that the Leica Monochrome, even at $8000, will eventually become a classic due to its simplicity, design, feel, use, and beautiful output. I do not think they will have a problem selling this one though I also do not think they will sell as many as they did the M9.

When I get more time with this camera I plan on spending MUCH more  time testing it with landscapes, studio portraits, and more street photography as well as some travel stuff. So c’mon Leica, send me one along with the new X2 so I can get started! :)

A few more samples during my one hour with the camera…exif is all embedded. I hope you enjoyed  this quick one hour walk with me :) Also, I have to say that this SLR Magic 50mm t/0.95 Hyperprime is GORGEOUS. Be sure and read all about it HERE. (UPDATE: Funny how there have been NO MORE reports of lens failures of this lens after  the 1-2 who went on the attack? Yep my friends this was a Leica calculated attack on a lens they were afraid of (I know because someone high up told me). I know of many who still own and shoot this lens without issue in focus or build and they all call it a masterpiece in image quality and build. Remember, I had an $11k Noctilux fall apart TWICE while using it professionally. Never did the SLR Magic do this. Think about it for a few…)

BTW, you can now pre order the M Monochrome for $7995 at the following sites:

B&H Photo – M Monochrome Pre-Order, 50 Summicron ASPH APO Pre-Order, Leica X2 Pre-order

PopFlash Photo – they are all on the main page!

Ken Hansen has a list going as well – E-Mail him HERE – he will ship worldwide

and a higher ISO with crop

and an ISO 10,000 – yes, it’s got grain

 

May 112012
 

My day in Berlin and the Leica Monochrome announcement video

What a day! Woke up early and had some great breakfast in the hotel and then took a stroll through the streets of Berlin. At around 1pm I met up with some other guys in the Hotel lobby as we were going to head down to Paris Cafe, which came highly recommended by Thorsten Overgaard. Thorsten drove his car (nicknamed “The Italian Stallion”  here from Denmark so that was our mode of transportation to the cafe.

I was snapping away with my Olympus OM-D and Voigtlander 17mm 0.95 lens, which I am really falling for (did I already say that in a previous post)? lol. It was funny as I saw at least 3 others walking around with the OM-D, snapping pics of the new Leica cameras. This seems to be a popular little camera, and for good reason.

As we were heading down the streets of Berlin, Thorsten was our tour guide and me and Eric Kim were in the backseat enjoying the ride :) After we made it to the Cafe we all sat at a table and apparently had many other Leica guys joining us. Even Anthony Suau, the Pulitzer prize-winning photographer who had some incredible stories about his work. I thoroughly enjoyed his conversation. You can check out some his work at a project he is working on right now at facing change.org. This guy is incredible.

Was a pleasure to meet Anthony Suau, World Press Photo of the Year winner 1987 and 2009

As always, when in a Cafe I like to check my surroundings and fire away at anything I find interesting. I found the little OM-D did quite well and using the manual lens on it was a joy. BTW, I never used the magnification or assist, just MF’d using the EVF without help. I find you can do this with the OM-D without a problem, and you don’t even need peaking.

So after the great lunch that we ate at the Paris Cafe we all headed back to the hotel to get ready for the Leica event..which was inching closer.

So I get to my room, take a quick shower and get dressed. We all had to meet down in the lobby as  shuttle bus was  taking us to the venue, which was literally 3 minutes away. I was excited as I was minutes away from seeing the new Leica gear, and figured I would even get a chance to shoot a few frames with it.

After watching an hour of the event, they stopped and gave everyone and hour break. Gave me time to roam around and meet up with a few online buddies that I have never physically met. I soon found that people were approaching me left and right. They knew me, but I didn’t know them! It was a pleasure to meet everyone though, it really was. That was the best part about this whole night, for me..to meet so many of the people who frequent this site!

So after the break the new products were announced. The M Monochrome, the X2, the V-Lux 40 and the special edition Hermes M9-P.

I was excited to give the new Monochrome and even X2 a spin but was a bit disappointed when there were no samples to handle or touch. They were all behind glass. I had hoped that I would be able to at least borrow one to shoot around Berlin with for a day but sadly, no.  So for those e-mailing wanting samples, my thoughts, or a review…know that I have none (except for the 3-4 shots I already posted after I borrowed the Monochrome from someone else) because I have not used either cameras.I literally have had 280 e-mails this morning asking me what I think of the new cameras…but I can not yet say so I suggest reading the reviews that have already popped up.

What I do know from seeing others work with it is that it appears to be pretty damn incredible. To me, it is back to basics and simplicity. Black & White…Monochrome…has SOUL. I have seen many images shot with this new M and let me say that the output is mind-blowing. Don’t go by my low light super high ISO samples, check out reviews by others who have been using it.

Jonathan Slack has written a short user review that I enjoyed. Sean Reid also has one but I haven’t seen it as his site is subscription based.

One shot with the Monochrome M at ISO 6400 and this was in almost total darkness…

So yea, I will review these new Leica cameras whenever Leica wants to give me review samples. We shall see! BTW, I know the site has been running slow for the past 12 hours as well as not even loading in correctly. This is being looked into right now so it should be back to normal soon.

Here is a video of the event if anyone wants to see the announcement. Enjoy!

Thank you for your patience with the slow loading!

Steve

May 102012
 

The Leica Monochrome has been announced! 1st shots with the camera in low light!

Hey guys! Sorry for not updating live but there was absolutely no WiFi or internet at the event, which I found odd but what can I do? The Leica event started at 6:45PM and is actually still going on right now at 11:30 PM (but I am back in my room).

As you all know by now Leica introduced the Leica Monochrome. A black and white ONLY sensor in an M camera. What does this mean? Well, long story short it means that you will gain amazing high ISO capability and huge dynamic range. Sadly, Leica did not give me a camera to test (though I am the largest Leica review site on the internet) out but I talked with others who did and have had one for months and they were floored by it.

They all said the same thing..amazing quality unlike what you can get with an M9 and conversions. For starters, the ISO capability is flat out amazing. Up to ISO 10,000 and usable at 10,000. The finish is a matte black and it looks great. Many will wonder why Leica would release this camera, and even so, at a more expensive price than the M9. Well, for those who want to shoot B&W this appears to be the real deal. But, I have not yet thoroughly shot with one though I have seen many shots from the camera and have been floored at the results.

I hope to get an Monochrome before I leave Berlin so I can review it but who knows. Have no idea why this would not be possible but you never know.

I shot some video of the event and took some shots and will have those up later but wanted to throw this quick post up showing some high ISO images that I snapped with the Leica Monochrome.

Keep in mind these were quick grab shots in darkness so I am not evaluating anything until I get to use the camera in daylight and while really concentrating on using it.

I literally grabbed a camera from Jonathan Slack and was able to get off about 4 shots, so here are three of them. Thanks Jono! I will soon have more info on the event, more photos and my thoughts on the new M and newly announced Leica X2, which looks like the X1 but is much faster to AF and has an external EVF (from Olympus).

Oh, and BTW…Leica has announced the new 50 F2 Summicron APO at a cost of about $7200 US – the M9 Monochrome will set you back about $7500-$8000 US. Wow. Shipping in August 2012.

Enjoy!

ISO 6400 – from RAW – no editing

ISO 10,000 – from RAW – no editing

ISO 6400 – from RAW – no editing

Apr 282012
 

Snusmumric’s Photothoughts

By Alexander Hessentswey

Good time of the day! Thank you very much, Steve, for the opportunity to participate in this great project! I visit this site every time a new article or some news appear. And I see here interesting photographs quite often. I’d like to tell you some thoughts. Sometimes it’s well known points of view that I share but sometimes that’s what I’ve noticed.

Panasonic Lumix G1 + Jupiter-3 (copy of Carl Zeiss Sonnar 5cm f:1.5, m39)

The Criticism of Elder Times

I meet this argument time to time: Our forefathers shot with the cameras that were way less perfect than ours and they’ve got beautiful photos. So a good shot isn’t about sharpness and quality. You can get it with any equipment. That’s right. You can make a good shot with anything. But, we have to notice some limitations here.

Photo industry produces lenses not better than 30 years before, in general. Sometimes you get more resolution and sharpness. But that classical rendering can come from old, not so well corrected lenses. All the time photography exists, lens designers try to compensate aberrations to get sharpness and neutral colour rendition over the frame field. (If the lens vignettes, it’s one of 3 reasons. It can be because of the current technology level, or it can be great in some other area (large aperture or great macro), or it can be cheap lens which you couldn’t compensate properly not making it 3 times more expensive.)

In fact, an SLR came out in 1960-1970 have ALL you need for a great photography. But there were two things that were improved in lenses – lens coating and sharpness. That’s it — beautiful old lenses grow blind shooting in the back light but modern ones do not. Lens designer will say it’s progress. And what do we think?

Panasonic Lumix G1 + Tair-11 f:2.8 133mm

Why are the old photographs, that were shoot with the less perfect equipment, better?

In the good old times when lenses had an aperture of f:3.5 and films with ISO100-200 had really big grain the things were different. Look at old photographs, the best ones, and you notice that sharpness isn’t so important. Even shoot with SLR focus could be not exactly on a subject. There were no autofocus nor focus peaking nor frame center enlargement. So large grain or slightly missed focus can’t show you how sharp the lens is. If you see a person with a trees behind him and focus isn’t on this person, it’s a good shot. And if it’s not close-up photo sometimes you can’t even see the face because of grain or lack of sharpness.

As for the digital cameras both sensors and image processors constantly improve. By the way, films improve too. And one more thing – light metering.

Panasonic Lumix G1 + Leitz Summicron-R II 50mm

In the first half of XX century photography was closer to painting and used its rules more often and so it could be better. Now there are lots of photographers and shooting is much easier, that’s a fact. (I’ve got film SLR Canon 300V with Summicron 50mm mounted via adapter. Shooting in aperture priority mode is easy even without autofocus. And then I take a film to minilab and scan it at home. I shoot film without even developing it. Film shooting is just as easy as you wish.)

But at what point is a modern lens better than an old one? What’s the purpose of sharpness?

Here’s my answer: sometimes details make all the difference — you either can see one’s facial expression or you can’t. When we need details we need sharpness.

Simon Bolivar the Sailing Ship, Panasonic Lumix G1 + MC Volna-9 f:2.8 50mm Macro 1:2 (m42) — click to enlarge and see some more details

You see, they want sharpness in modern photography… as they wanted art expression in old photography. And that’s expression that makes old lenses quite as good or better than modern ones. But sometimes an old photo could become a bit better if it could get a bit more modern lens. At least you could see a face on a beautiful photo.

So you can make a good shot with anything – an old lens or new lens and with any camera. But not EVERY good shot. Many shots need some image quality or camera options.

The Sand Snake, Panasonic Lumix G1 + Leitz Summicron-R II 50mm

 –

Way of Life

Now I’ve got several lenses so I can tell I like its rendering. All in all, you photograph ‘cause you like it. I think photography is important as a key to your memories, or as your way of life, or as a way to show something unusual or beautiful you’ve noticed.

So if we are talking not about your memories that are definitely important and not about a way of life. And if you show a shot to someone you’ve even never met. In that case you ask yourself is there something unusual or beautiful or important or remarkable on this photograph. And if yes – that’s enough.

Panasonic Lumix G1 + Super Takumar f:1.4 50mm (m42)

The Function of a Sunset

Do you know what’s the most terrible in photography? That’s sunsets and forest. Our eyes see trees as something solid, as a tree crowd. But we can notice a single tree from this crowd and peer at it. We feel this atmosphere, some feelings from this place. Our camera could literally scan a forest so we’ll get a tree crowd. It could keep white balance right. And it’s fail. What we should do is to add some expression and contrast and embrace single trees so that we finally get what we see and keep this place atmosphere. We can do this with an old town backyard much more easily than with a forest.

A sunset… We see these amazing vivid colours so we can’t believe this can happen on a sky. We press shutter release and we get this photo, one of the billions we can find on internet. That’s it, we need to be uncommon in this case. Or we need something that look close… to a painting. How can we? I don’t know…

 Steamboats Parade Day, Panasonic Lumix G1 + Tair-11 f:2.8 133mm

Equipment

We think of a camera as of a tool. We can use any. But every professional prefer to use quality tools. That’s the difference – if we know exactly what we are trying to do, the equipment can help us or prevent us to do this. And a good tool won’t trouble you at least. I never shoot sports and my camera can’t do speed shooting. It couldn’t be a tool for a sport photographer. Sometimes we need microcontrast or details and we need quality. Like a face in a crowd or wooden texture being an important object. So the wrong camera will loose details we need to save in this shot. And if this shot is somehow important it’s a sign that we need to acquire some other equipment. But we need neither sharpness nor details for most of the shots. In a portrait we need to show emotions and enchantment and it’s done not via megapixels or some camera chip. That’s a fortune this human meets his photographer. An argument about some tasks makes sense if you have that very task. If a shot don’t need that depth or details you can choose equipment more freely. BUT. When you shoot portrait the lens with portrait rendering will help.

Seddov the Sailing Ship, Panasonic Lumix G1 + Yashinon DS f:1.7 50mm (m42)

Lens’ Preferences

One day you figure out what you like more. Some focal lengths or particular lens rendering. May be they say to shoot with Lensbaby to come out of the box of the equipment you get used to. And one day you see if it’s what you need or not.

You can shoot the most of photos with almost any lens. One of the important exceptions is a portrait.

They say some lenses have a character. So I see an occasions when a lens and a person on a photo didn’t match characters. If this lens doesn’t match this human it can make shooting much harder. A photo you could get naturally while shooting will require a lot of hard work to look just bad and not extremely bad. It’s so strange to believe that your camera doesn’t matter and to find this obvious exception.

Sometimes this happens. You find the one you’ve been waiting for ages. The dream comes true. That happened with me and some of my friends. Someone appears and you feel you needed just him. That happened with some lenses. I start to photograph and feel THAT is the lens I can come with in various situations, that I can trust. It paints an image I just saw or I want to see and I like it. Now that’s fate. That happened with me and Leica Summicron-R II 50mm. That happened with Tair-11, Yashica, Jupiter-3 (a copy of Carl Zeiss Sonar 1.5), Pentax Super Takumar 50mm f:1.4, and others. I’d like to write about those lenses.

Panasonic Lumix G1 + Tair-11 f:2.8 133mm 

I met Summicron on various photo sites and every time I liked images. Than I read about it on Steve Huff’s site. And on some other sites. And once I’ve realised if I’ll get an SLR version for R mount, used, it will be expensive but affordable and I’ll be able to shoot digital and film and it will be That Very Lens, you know. From that time I go out from home every time with Panasonic G1 and Summicron.

I think, we choose lenses and lenses choose us.

I’d like to thank my camera. Panasonic G1 almost every time do its work great so it became a dream camera for me. Its image quality and beautiful colours allow to get great shots every time even without post processing. So that’s my turn. If something went wrong it’s about my skills, ‘cause this camera do all its best.

You know there is an art of seeing (perception, reading) and an art of creating, both are important. But there is an art of bringing something beautiful to life, some stories, also. And it’s much more important. To notice and create a fairytales in our lives. And if we’ve noticed a fairytale, why not to photograph one?

Bubbles, Panasonic Lumix G1 + Leitz Summicron-R II 50mm

Panasonic Lumix G1 + Leitz Summicron-R II 50mm

Panasonic Lumix G1 + Yashinon DS-M f:1.4 50mm (m42)

With the best regards,
Alexander Hessentswey
from Saint Petersburg, Russia

twitter: @snusmumric

Want to see YOUR article or post here? E-mail Steve and let him know what you want to write about! 

Apr 262012
 

PRESS RELEASE

GROUND-BREAKING CEREMONY FOR NEW LEICA CAMERA AG HEADQUARTERS IN WETZLAR

Solms, Germany (April 26, 2012) – Leica Camera AG commenced ground-breaking on a new headquarters at the Leitz Park in Wetzlar on April 25, 2012. Once complete, the new Schanzenfeld site will mark the company’s relocation from Solms. Attending the celebration were dignitaries from Salzburg’s ACM Projektentwicklung GmbH, the majority shareholder of the company, the board of Leica Camera AG and representatives from Leitz-Park GmbH, the project’s developers, in addition to Volker Bouffier (CDU), Prime Minister of the state of Hesse, members of the media and invited guests.

The plans, prepared by architectural firm Gruber + Kleine-Kraneburg, will bring forth an ultra-modern location for the production, administration and customer care divisions of Leica Camera AG in November 2013, with a projected ground-plan area of around 27,000 m² (approximately 290,625 ft²). The new site, built in accordance with the latest energy-efficiency standards, will then be a new home to around 600 Leica employees. Openly visible production areas, a Leica Museum, a Leica Galerie, a Leica Store, a photo studio and a restaurant expand the spectrum of engaging features for visitors, friends of Leica and anyone fascinated by photography. A central plaza will create a binding element between the new headquarters of Leica Camera AG and the existing facilities occupied by Weller Feintechnik GmbH and ViaOptic GmbH on the Leitz Park site. The overall investment volume for the Leitz Park construction project amounts to 55 million euros.

‘Leica Camera AG is a traditional Hessian company with a worldwide reputation for excellence. We can be proud that a company so important in the optical industry maintains its manufacturing and administrative facilities in our state,’ said Volker Bouffier, Prime Minister of the state of Hesse. ‘With the new company headquarters in Wetzlar, Leica remains loyal to its Hessian origins. I am certain that the company’s employees will ensure that Leica will continue to be an internationally renowned name that is always equated with the highest quality.’

‘The Leitz Camera set out from here to conquer the world and revolutionize photography almost exactly 100 years ago. Now that Leica Camera AG is returning to its birthplace, we are confirming the utmost importance the city possesses for the entire optical industry segment in Germany,’ added Dr. Andreas Kaufmann from ACM Projektentwicklung GmbH, emphasizing the signal sent out to the world for the ‘Optical City’ of Wetzlar by the new headquarters project. ‘Leica Camera AG is returning to Wetzlar, to a new home that will be open to visitors and photography enthusiasts and will offer a unique experience with valuable insights into the past, present and future of photography.’

‘The production and administrative buildings in the development are being built to the latest environmental and energy-efficiency standards and will allow us to rapidly satisfy the enormous demand for Leica products without the delays we have sometimes suffered in the past,’ stated Alfred Schopf, Chairman of the Executive Board at Leica Camera AG. ‘Our colleagues will enjoy a modern and attractive working environment that motivates, promotes creativity and enables us to provide Leica’s familiar technical perfection, satisfying the most stringent quality demands. The new headquarters development is a further milestone in the history of our company that benefits not only us but also our customers and visitors.’

 

About Leica Camera AG

Leica Camera AG is an internationally active, premium-segment manufacturer of cameras and sport optics products. The legendary status of the Leica brand is founded on a long tradition of excellence in the construction of lenses. And today, in combination with innovative technologies, Leica products continue to guarantee better pictures in all situations in the worlds of visualization and perception.

Leica Camera AG has its headquarters in Solms, in the state of Hesse in Germany, and a second production site in Vila Nova de Famalicão, Portugal. The company operates branch offices in England, France, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, Italy and the USA. New and innovative products have been the driving force behind the company’s positive development in recent years.

Apr 162012
 

TONS of Leica used deals and buys!

It has been a while since I posted used deals and special, mostly because I have been too busy to do so! But tonight I have been browsing B&H Photo, PopFlash.com and Dale Photo and found some used Leica deals some of you might enjoy :) Looks like many may be trading in their M9’s in anticipation of May 10th! At the time of this posting, ALL of these were IN STOCK from B&H, PopFlash or Dale Photo.

 

RARE FIND! LEICA 90 SUMMICRON F/2 ASPH!$3499 – Click HERE to see it as it is IN STOCK now!

Leica M9 – Black  – 9+ – IN BOX – $5899

Leica M9 – Black – 9 – In Box – $5799

Leica M9 – Black – 8+ – In Box – $5649

GREAT BUY! LEICA M7 – Black – 9+ – In box! $2749

Leica M8 Chrome  – 8+ – In Box – $2599

Leica 35 Summarit 2.5 – “10” – In Box as new – $1699

LEICA X1 – Grey – $1499

LEICA M6 TTL – .58 BODY – CHROME – 8+ and in the box! $1699

Leica M6 classic – chrome – $1699

Leica M7 SILVER CHROME – $2377

Leica Silver Chrome M9-P with less than 140 Actuations – $7297

Leica 21 Elmarit 2.8 – Used Deal

Black Leica M9-P with less than 120 Actuations – $7297

Black Paint Leica MP, almost new!

Used Leica Noctilux F1, latest and last version of the F1 – $7300

Summilux 35 ASPH (not FLE) – $4250

Leica 35 Summicron Black – $2900

Apr 132012
 

Sony NEX-7 with the SLR Magic Hyperprime 50 T0.95 and other ramblings…

I recently updated my rolling  review of the SLR Magic “Hyperprime” 50mm T0.95 lens, which is their statement Leica mount lens. I Just added a few images shot with it on the Sony NEX-7 and have to say it did great. You can see my full review of this lens, which again is a Leica mount lens, HERE.  FYI, SLR Magic sold out of their initial order run after just a couple of hours of being made available for order a few weeks ago. Not sure when they will be accepting more orders but do know that many are really excited to get their hands on one soon. The images embedded in this article were all shot with the NEX-7 and the SLR Magic lens. 

Bonding with your camera

It has been a while since my NEX-7 review. In fact, it seems like it has been a really long time and in fact it was about half a year ago already that I wrote about this new Sony flagship from their NEX series of cameras. Now that I have my own NEX-7 and have been using it more and more for my personal photography and family snaps I can say that I am really enjoying this camera more and more. That is saying a lot because remember, it is hard for a guy like me to stick with one particular camera due to the fact that it is my job to try out all of the new stuff!

The only camera that has always stood the test of time with me has been my Leica quite simply because I never found anything else I enjoyed shooting with more. But that doesn’t mean I do not enjoy shooting with other cameras, because I most certainly do. But I feel it has taken months to really get to know my NEX-7 like I know my M9. Not because it is so difficult to get to know, but because I really just started getting serious with it a few weeks ago. These days I have been shooting it more than my Leica M9 and I admit, for me, I have been preferring it to the Fuji X-Pro 1 as well mainly due to the fact that when I shoot with the NEX, I do not have the quirks I find with the Fuji but damn, I so love the Fuji IQ and look. The NEX-7 is not perfect but I have to say it makes a wonderful companion to the M9 and it is especially good with Leica lenses.

These days it seems to be about the latest and greatest for many shooters and gear heads. For others, they are happy to stick with the older ‘classics” and this is good as they can often times get BETTER results because they KNOW their cameras well. I am preparing an article on this subject because I find it so important to really get to know your camera. If you bond and know your camera as well as you know yourself, then your images can go to a whole new level of great. I feel this “bond” with my Leica M and this is the camera I pull out when it is time for me to get serious, simply because I KNOW THE M well. The same can be said for anyone, doesn’t have to be a Leica though. That is just my camera of choice. My #1 pick. Anyone can easily bond with whatever camera they really enjoy.

With so many mirrorless cameras coming out at a blistering pace I have narrowed down my faves to what you see on the “My Gear” page but there are always new cameras on the horizon so if a camera sticks around the Huff household for longer than 3 months that is pretty impressive :)

Choose your digital film stock

The fact remains, even in todays digital world, that a camera and lens is simply a box that gathers light. Instead of that light hitting a frame of film, it now hits a digital sensors. Most digital sensors today are good but all are different and when shooting different cameras it is almost like shooting different film stock. For example, Fuji cameras will deliver a different look due to their color signature and tonality. Sony is the same way as is Leica, Canon, Olympus, and others. So choosing a camera today can almost be like choosing a film stock in the past. Sort of. This is true when you shoot JPEG as the camera will process the colors, the contrast, the sharpness and any effects you choose. Shoot RAW and you will be controlling this using the software you prefer. Even with that said, there are differences in sensors and cameras even when using RAW files.

The way the camera renders a scene…

The Sony NEX-7 is sort of neutral in my opinion. Fuji gives us nice dynamic range and very bold colors. Canon gives us softer more pastel like colors. Nikon goes for rich lifelike colors and detail and Olympus has a signature many love with it’s great rendering of blues and reds. Leica gives us the much sought after “Leica Look” (which yes, does indeed exist) and colors but most of that is down to the lens and full frame sensor of the M9. After years of shooting these brands I can usually see an image and get a feel of what camera shot what image. Not all of the time, but most of the time.

But in this article I am talking about the NEX-7, which is a great “all around use” kind of camera – great reds that at times can get a little too bold if you are not careful, but nice natural yellows and greens and great depth when using a good lens. It is true what you hear, that lenses are the heart of any camera system. Once you pick your “film stock”, which is your brand and type of camera with the sensor you desire, you need a great lens to go with it. Attaching cheap kit zooms will give you decent results but attaching great glass will give you much better results. This is why Leica has the reputation it has these days. It’s not the camera bodies as much as the amazing glass they produce. I can safely say that todays Leica lenses are the best lenses made in the world. Period. If someone says otherwise they are either bitter at Leica prices, jealous, or has never seriously tried a Leica M lens. My Leica photos have always stood out more than others it seems and I would not be saying so if I did not believe this.

Now I am not here saying that the Leica M9 is the best camera ever made as it has been filled with flaws, cracked sensor glass, SD card issues, focus issues and the higher ISO of the M9 is not that great by todays standards. I love the usability of the M9 but at times it has been frustrating so taking breaks from it and shooting these smaller mirror less cameras has been great fun for me, and at times, eye-opening. I LOVE and ADORE my M but these days there are many great alternatives that get you in the same ballpark for much less cash outlay. None will feel like a Leica or give you the RF experience though.

Back to the NEX

I was out and about shooting the NEX-7 with an all new Leica to NEX adapter made by SLR Magic and was very happy with the results, even in the full ugly and harsh AZ sun (which is horrendous for photographers). Keep an eye here for news on this adapter because it is very unique. It is an adapter that you can twist and make the minimum focus distance limitations of the M lenses disappear! Yep,  you can focus super close now with your M lenses on the NEX system, so this is really cool. The adapter is not ready for sale just yet but seems to work very well though I did have a teeny bit of play when mounting my 35 Lux ASPH II and Hyperprime. The only adapter I have found that has no play at all is the $250 Novoflex adapter which is super pricey but rock solid.

I have been told this new adapter from SLR Magic is almost ready to be released so when it is I will post about it and show you how it works, and how to get one. The fact that you will have the ability to focus super close is pretty cool. As for the Hyperprime, I continued to be impressed with it and I believe it is one of the coolest lenses you can get for your Leica M. It looks damn good on the Sony as well.

On the NEX-7 and super close focusing using the all new adapter from SLR Magic.

So I guess what I am saying here is that I am still digging the NEX-7. I am NOT happy about the video capabilities anymore though as my camera has been overheating after a few minutes of constant video shooting, at which time the camera just shuts down. Other than that I have had no operation issues whatsoever. Great design, great body, great versatility and the ability to shoot Leica glass with focus peaking is fantastic. I have been enjoying the EVF quite a bit as well as the tiltable LCD. While its image quality and rendering is quite a bit different from the Fuji X-Pro 1 it is a great solid camera that one could easily bond with. :)

You can buy the NEX-7 kit here at Amazon.

Apr 092012
 

The Great 35mm Rangefinder Lens Shootout – Part 2 – Close-Up and Wide-Open

By Brad Husick

In part one of “The Great 35mm Rangefinder Lens Shootout” we tested several lenses in a typical landscape scene, setting the lenses at their infinity focus points and shooting at f/4. This represented a fairly typical scenario of grabbing a lens off the shelf, setting it for mid-aperture and taking a photo of a picturesque subject.

Quite often 35mm rangefinder lenses are used in other photographic opportunities. The 35mm focal length is excellent for tighter, indoor settings where the subject is closer. These situations also often call for wider apertures, demanding higher performance from the lenses. In part two of this test we have tested the lenses in both ways – A) a closer indoor setting and then, B) wide-open to see how they render out of focus areas – their bokeh.

For both parts of the test the subject was illuminated by a single 5500K continuous fluorescent light source in a small softbox and outside light was reduced to a minimum. The Leica M9-P camera was set to ISO 640, white balance of 5600K and each lens was shot at f/2.8, with the exception of the Perar that was shot at its maximum of f/3.5. For some of the lenses f/2.8 was also the maximum aperture, while others had wider apertures available. Shutter speed was set to 1/180 second.

In the part B “bokeh” part of this test the same light source was used while each lens was opened to its maximum aperture. For example, the FLE was shot at f/1.4 while the Zeiss was shot at f/2. Shutter speed was adjusted to maintain the same overall exposure. ISO was maintained at 640.

As in part one of the shootout, the RAW images were brought into Adobe Lightroom 4 and default settings were used to output full resolution JPEG images. 100% crops were taken in Adobe Photoshop CS5. The “bokeh” shots were reduced to 800 pixels wide for web display.

In this test we included six lenses from part one:

MS Super Triplet Perar f3.5 Mark II (Perar)

Zeiss Biogon f2.0 T* ZM Silver (Zeiss)

Leica Summilux f1.4 ASPH FLE (FLE)

Leica Summicron-M f2.0 ASPH Chrome (Cron)

Voigtlander C Color Skopar Classic f2.5 (Skopar)

Leitz Summaron f2.8 LTM/M circa 1959 (Summaron)

 

Part A: The Closer Subject

Despite careful focusing, slight variations in focus occurred across the different lenses. This is an important factor – precise focusing, even when using a tripod as in these photos, can be tricky. I suggest using a viewfinder magnifier when possible, and focus-bracketing your shots with minuscule changes in focus so that you can evaluate the images at 100% zoom on your computer to choose the best one. Leica makes the M9 without the capability of tethered shooting (some workarounds are possible but are mostly unreliable), the camera doesn’t offer live-view, and the LCD is not high-resolution, so critical focus is challenging in many situations. Many Leica shooters are hoping that Leica includes a more state-of-the-art LCD and perhaps live-view in a future M digital camera.

In the center crops of these photos all of the test lenses performed well. In fact, the images were all surprisingly good, from the least expensive to the most expensive lens. Center crops showed very little chromatic aberration, as was expected. There’s little variation here that can inform a decision to choose one lens over another.

At the corners the lenses started telling a more interesting tale. Corner sharpness of the Leica FLE was astonishing. It’s as if Leica engineers were told to solve this problem above all others when developing this new lens. Not far behind in corner rendering were the Zeiss and, surprisingly, the old Summaron. In general the Summaron is a lower contrast lens than the modern formulas, but that doesn’t reduce its ability to render detail. Post processing can add more contrast if desired, but it can’t make a contrasty lens softer without a loss of detail. The Summicron showed some about of distortion in the corner that the others did not. The Skopar is a lens that can achieve sharp results at the center but in my experience this falls away at the corners. Adding to the challenge is the fact that the Skopar has a very short focus throw – the number of degrees of rotation between infinity and close focus endpoints. This means that the smallest movement of the focus ring results in large changes. I resorted to focus-bracketing when shooting the Skopar, taking multiple photos with tiny adjustments to the focus in successive shots, then comparing the results in Lightroom and choosing the sharpest image. This is not my idea of entertainment.  The Perar was particularly challenged in the corners, showing distortion and lower resolution.

Interestingly and rather unexpectedly, the FLE lens showed a fairly high level of chromatic aberration in the specular highlights in the corners. I am including a couple of crops here to show you the unprocessed corner and the same shot when processed by Lightroom 4 using the “Defringe – All Edges” control in the Manual setting of the Lens Corrections panel of the Develop module. Default lens corrections using Lightroom’s preset lens profiles of Leica lenses reduced but did not eliminate the color fringing while the defringe control did a more complete correction. Again, the purpose of this test is not to show what’s ultimately possible with each lens given any amount of post-processing, but this example is particularly illustrative of how good software can help even super-expensive setups.

Leica 35 Summilux FLE corner crop

and after the Lightroom 4 “Defringe – All edges”

 

To my eye the old Summaron did a splendid job in this part of the test. I have a feeling the demand for Summaron lenses will increase soon!

Perar Center 

and corner

Zeiss Center

and corner

FLE Center

and corner

Summicron Center

and corner

Skopar Center

and corner

Summaron Center

and corner

 

Part B: Bokeh

I have included full frames reduced to 800 pixels wide for the comparison of the bokeh rendered by each of the lenses. I find little value in comparing 100% crops of the out of focus areas. Obviously the lenses that have the largest maximum aperture create the shallowest depth of field. These lenses throw the background out of focus most, usually giving the smoothest rendering and a very three-dimensional look to the images. The Leica FLE is an excellent example of this shallow depth of field.

In the time when film was dominant, most photographers were limited to relatively slow color films (ASA 25 or 64) and fairly slow black and white films (ASA 100 or 400). Consequently, large aperture lenses were necessary for most indoor subjects. There simply wasn’t a choice – you needed a fast lens to get any photo at all.

With the advent of today’s digital cameras, it’s common to shoot at ISO 640, 1250 or even higher. Lens speed isn’t critical to getting the shot, it’s now more of a creative choice. Photographers who love the look of a shallow depth of field reach for the Summilux (f/1.4) or even Noctilux (f/1 or f/0.95) lenses to give their photos that “look”. Many choose these lenses in bright light situations, mounting neutral density (ND) filters on the lenses to reduce incoming light by as much as 9 f-stops or more depending on the available light. The Leica M8 has a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 second while the M9 has a maximum of 1/4000 second, requiring one slower stop of light for wide open shooting.

Rather than trying to rank order the bokeh test shots, I present them here for you to study and draw your own conclusions about what type of rendering is most pleasing to your eye. Naturally, the Perar lens with its maximum aperture of f/3.5 will have the most in-focus background. There are small variations in the lighting between shots, but the overall look of the photos are easy to compare.

Perar

Zeiss

Leica Lux FLE

Summicron

Skopar

Summaron

 

Bokeh is an image attribute that can also be achieved in software. Alien Skin makes a Photoshop plug-in product called Bokeh 2.0 that does an admirable job of creating bokeh in images after they were shot, even going so far as to model the attributes of several well known fast lenses, although not Leica lenses. Photoshop 6 (now in beta test) has an advanced blur filter that also mimics the behavior of different lenses to give a natural-looking bokeh effect.

Some photographers eagerly use many tools to give them the look they desire in their photographs while others see the digital manipulation of images as something to be avoided, something that diminishes from the photographic experience. My personal view is that except for photojournalism where truth is paramount, creative control is in the hands of the photographer and creative tools have always been at our disposal, in the analog and digital worlds. The development of more advanced and even easier digital tools is not taking us further away from “real” photographs, it is making it possible for photographers to show us how they “saw” a scene from their own perspective.

Finally, it’s important to consider several factors when choosing from among these lenses. The size and weight of lenses can be important, so clearly the Perar, Summaron and Skopar are the leaders here. If size and weight are not an issue, the Biogon, FLE and Cron are the image quality leaders. One of these lenses is remarkably heavier than the others – the Summicron ASPH Chrome. It’s a solid-brass lens that feels extremely dense when you lift it to mount on the camera. All of these 35mm rangefinder lenses are small and light in comparison to 35mm SLR lenses from Canon or Nikon.

All of these lenses are easy to handle, except the Skopar due to its short focus throw. Even the tiny Perar with its pin-shaped focusing tab is easy to focus with just a little practice. As I pointed out in part one of this test, prices vary widely among this group of lenses, starting at just over $300 for the Color Skopar to more than $6000 for the Leica Summilux ASPH.

My advice is to first decide what type of look you like most in your photos, then see what choices there are at the prices you’re willing to spend for a 35mm lens in your kit. Some photographers like to have two lens “kits” to choose from – a “small-and-light kit” for maximum portability and a “fast kit” for low-light situations. At the 35mm focal length there are plenty of good choices for the rangefinder shooter.

Brad Husick

Apr 032012
 

Three Approaches to Shooting a Classic Screwmount Leica by Khoa Tran

See Khoa’s Flickr HERE

Before the introduction of their famous M-system of cameras and lenses in the 1950s, Leica (then Ernst Leitz DRP) produced a rangefinder system now known as the Leica threadmount, screwmount, or, simply “Barnack” cameras, after their inventor, Oskar Barnack, who developed the original Leica camera in the 20s and was one of the pioneers of 35mm photography.

Henri Cartier-Bresson developed his famous street photography style with one, and the mount was adopted by Canon, the Soviet Union camera makers, and a whole host of others. Though the youngest Leica screwmount cameras are now at least sixty years old, they remain plentiful and are inexpensive, relative to the more sought-after M-series cameras and lenses.

[photo: Leica IIIc with Summitar 5cm f/2, shot with a Nikon Coolpix P6000]

These cameras are steeped in history and romance. My own Leica IIIc was made in 1946, in allied occupied West Germany. It’s quite an understatement that the world was different then: the world powers had been rearranged, and the post-war boom in the first world was just getting into swing. Many lives had been lost, and many more would begin anew. I also have a Leitz 3.5cm Elmar lens, which, according to a serial number lookup, dates to 1939. One can only imagine what this lens has lived through. At the same time, a Barnack camera is cold, and practical, though in no way inelegant and un-beautiful. The top plate of the camera is reminiscent of the funnels and superstructure of an early 20th century dreadnought battleship. Made of nickel, steel, brass, and chrome, the camera is solid.There is no plastic of which to speak. The best description I’ve read is from Stephen Gandy, who says that these cameras are like “mechanical jewels.”

Shooting a Barnack camera isn’t incredibly difficult, but does require quite a few more steps than with modern cameras. First, there’s no film advance lever, but you have to use a comparatively slow knob to advance the film and cock the shutter. Secondly, you can only change the shutter speed once the film has been wound and the shutter cocked. Thirdly, the rangefinder and viewfinder are in separate windows. You have to focus first, then flick your eye over to the viewfinder to compose. Lastly, there is no hinged back to the camera, and the film, which you need to trim to fit beforehand, must be loaded from the bottom. Imagine being a photojournalist being shot at, while you’re trying to load your camera…

So I’ve thought about things, and have come up with a few ways of look at shooting with a screwmount Barnack Leica.

i) As a Point-and-Shoot Camera

I think, really, if Cartier-Bresson were alive today, he’d shoot with a camera phone or some sort of digital compact. He valued composition and rhythm and timing over technical image quality. His oft-underexposed, and ever-so-slightly-out-of-focus shots never killed anyone, and have become regarded as classics. So one way to get around the camera’s slow operation is to preset your focus and pre-expose for a given shooting condition. The adage “f/8 and be there” and the “Sunny 16“ rules work very well if you are willing to give up a tiny bit of pixel-peeping bragging rights, and if you accept that you can, with most negative films today, get two stops over and one stop under of exposure latitude at the expense of some dynamic range.

[photo: la rue du st-sacrement, Leica IIIc and Summitar 5cm f/2 on Ilford FP4+, developed in Caffenol C-M]

 

[photo: pass me by, Leica IIIc and Summitar 5cm f/2 on Fuji Neopan 400, developed in Caffenol C-M + table salt]

 

[photo: jean-talon, Leica IIIc and Summitar 5cm f/2 on Kodak Tri-X, developed in Caffenol C-L semi-stand]

 

ii) As a way to develop one’s “photographic skills”

A Barnack camera has no light meter, like most M-cameras, but is also significantly slower to operate for the reasons mentioned earlier. However, one can also look at it as: “if I can keep up with a moving subject whilst focusing wide-open, or learn to shoot slide film (which has basically no exposure latitude) without a light meter, those might be some worthwhile skills to apply elsewhere to “modern” photographic equipment.” Sure, you can look at it as being able to do arithmetic without a calculator. It’s not essential, but damned useful.

[photo: pour, Summitar 5cm f/2 on Arista Premium (aka Kodak Tri-X), developed in Ilfosol-3]

 

[photo: au coin de mill et riverside, Summitar 5cm f/2 on Fuji Sensia 100]

 

[photo: the droughte of march hath perced to the roote, Elmar 9cm f/4, Fuji Sensia 200]

 

iii) As a portrait and people-shooting camera

With the usual considerations for parallax on a rangefinder camera, a Barnack Leica can be a wonderful portrait camera. The lenses from that era may not be as pin-sharp as modern equivalents, but their signature (in addition to whatever “flaws” may have been picked up over the years) and rendition can be very special, and unlike anything made today. You might also get a positive reaction from your subject, using such an unusual camera, and this can only be a good thing in establishing a rapport and connection with him or her.

[photo: “m”, Summitar 5cm f/2 on Kodak Tri-X, pushed to ISO2500 or so in Caffenol C-L semi-stand]

 

[photo: “tessa,” Jupiter-8 5cm f/2 on Kodak Tri-X, pushed to ISO800-1250 in Caffenol C-L semi-stand]

 

[photo: “safe,” Summitar 5cm f/2 on Kodak Portra 400]

 

Any classic camera, well cared-for is a thing of beauty. In the case of my IIIc (literally, in the EverReady case), I found part of the box of what must have been the last roll of film shot by the previous owner of the camera. It was a Kodak colour film of some sort, ISO64. Was it Kodachrome? Was he or she the original owner? Has this camera lived a relatively uneventful life, or what, really, has it seen in its 66 years of existence? Thinking about all of this makes me feel less like a camera-owner, but more of a steward. This camera might belong in a museum or a collection, but I can still use it to make images that are satisfying and beautiful (to me, at least!). As long as film is still available, it might even outlast me; could anyone make this claim of any modern digital camera?

 

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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