Nov 072012

The best camera bag for any Mirrorless or Leica M system! Think Tank Retrospective 5

So I was looking back at all of the camera bags I have tried over the years..from cheap but functional Crumpler bags to fancy Billingham bags to very fancy FOGG bags. Artist and Artisan has also been around my shoulder (and still is) but there is one bag that was just made in a way that reeks of functionality and quality when it comes to small mirrorless or a Leica M system. Plenty of room for a camera and up to 3 lenses along with accessories and an iPad mini. The bag is small, discreet, looks cool and has a comfy strap.

This bag is NOT new and most sites wrote about this one a loooong time ago (even me) but just wanted to give it some love again as it is a fantastic bag that does just about everything right. I made a new video for it below so you can see it on me and hear my explanation as to why it is such a deal at $137.

You can go direct to Think Tank for one, or B&H Photo.  It is also available in Slate Blue.

Below is the new video I posted yesterday to my YouTube channel! Enjoy!

Nov 052012

A Film Legacy by Jason Howe

Hi Steve

I’d really like to share a recent discovery with you, I am posting the full version on my blog HERE but I know this will reach far more people if you show it so thanks so much for helping me achieve this.

I’ve featured my own work on your site several times before but on this occasion I’d like to present the work of a deceased doctor and amateur photographer from New Zealand called Roland G Phillips-Turner who in the 1950’s and 60’s travelled around remote regions of New Zealand’s North Island doing medical research and documenting his travels with his Leica M5 and Hasselblad 500c.

A Film Legacy

I clicked on the email attachment, whilst the image of assorted camera equipment wasn’t the best the list was clear enough….. Leica M5, 35mm Summicron f/2, 90mm Elmarit f/2.8 all caught my eye, words that meant nothing to me only a couple of years ago were now very much etched in to my photographic brain. Other lenses in both M & R mount were listed amongst a myriad of Leica equipment. The email arrived via the father of a friend, word of mouth regarding my fondness for all things Leica had ensured it found its way to me, good fortune indeed. I phoned the contact number and made arrangements to view the items at the earliest opportunity and in doing so acquired not only a wonderful collection of vintage Leica equipment but also the opportunity to show the world the photography of Roland G Phillips-Turner, his film legacy so to speak.

As I carefully packed away the equipment, the daughter and I began to chat about her late father and his photographic exploits, as I listened intently my connection to this newly inherited equipment grew stronger with each spoken word. All vintage equipment comes to you with a history, more often than not it’s imagined on the part of the new owner, to actually know the story behind it makes it very special indeed. With this history comes what I would almost describe as a sense of duty, one I would come take very seriously, lenses have since been serviced and as I write this the M5 is at DAG in the US receiving the attention it deserves. Indeed, upon its return from CLA the 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1 made its debut for me HERE.

I’d describe myself as a rational person, I don’t believe in such things as fate and destiny, but I have to admit it has crossed my mind when it comes to this equipment. From opposite sides of the world, separated by two generations and via a huge slice of good fortune this equipment has landed in my possession, the survival and continued use of this Leica equipment is now ensured.

In addition to the equipment I was also entrusted with his slides, these have only been seen by the family prior to this post.


Image 1 – Hasselblad 500c – KODAK EKTACHROME

I was so pleased to find this amongst the negatives, after some research I’ve been able to establish that it was taken at Marokopa Falls in the Waikato, New Zealand. It was also fascinating to discover that the photographer used the Hasselblad 500c for the medium format work. I had also purchased a 500c from the USA a month or so before coming across the slides, just another wonderful coincidence.

Image 2 – Hasselblad 500c – AGFACOLOR DIA

Kuia with a moko – “Kuia” being an elderly woman, grandmother or female elder and the “Moko” is the Maori facial tattoo.


Image 3 – Leica M5 – KODAK KODACHROME

Image taken with the Leica M5 and most likely with the VISOFLEX that was also included within the set of equipment.


Image 4 – Hasselblad 500c – KODAK EKTACHROME

Deer Hunters in the Urawera’s, a rural scene that is no doubt still repeated in the present day.

Image 5 – Hasselblad 500c – AGFACOLOR DIA

In this image Mount Ngauruhoe appears to be active. You may recognise this volcano as Mt Doom from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.


Image 6 – Hasselblad 500c – AGFACOLOR DIA

Traveling amongst the indigenous people in these rural areas whilst doing his research must have been the most incredibly rewarding experience. Add to that the opportunity and ability to photograph them and it really must have been a joy on many levels.

Final Thoughts

In years to come will people have similar experiences to the one I have just shared with you? What is the likelihood of my photographs being rediscovered 40 or 50 years from now? You would have to say, highly unlikely! Film has made this discovery possible, it has preserved these images beautifully and ensured their survival to date.

Boxes of slides, stored in an attic, a garage, who knows where, you open it, hold it to the light and instantly you can see the magic, will people recover digital images from old hard drives in this way? I can’t see it myself……..only film can make this possible. I already had an affinity with film, this experience has strengthened that bond still further, I never say shoot film over digital, I always say shoot both. There is true value in both media.

The images posted here are indicative of the collection I have been entrusted with and I will continue to share them over the coming weeks and months, I hope you’ll join me and follow these posts with interest.



Nov 032012

From Steve: Wow, look at this B&W quality from the old tried and true and quirky M8. The M8 always ha da great B&W quality about it and if you think about it, you could find a used M8 and use it as a Monochrom camera if you never want to shoot in low/dim light. The only thing holding it back is ISO and lack of full frame but the results from the M8 are always….classic. Thanks Vincent!

Hi Steve,

It’s been 13 years since I’ve welcomed our daughter to this world. Ever since that moment I am in a constant awe. Maybe that sounds a bit exaggerated to you or the many readers of your awesome site, but I can assure you that it’s a genuine statement. As your life is in a constant flux everything is impermanent, so is your parenthood. It’ being confronted with a new-born that you realize how fast it’s changing. A dear friend of mine gave birth to a beautiful baby boy recently and she not only gave me the opportunity to take photographs of their 5 days old child, but also asked me to use them for their birth announcement card. Obviously, that has been quite an honor to do. As I was taking pictures of their child, I had a flashback to the time that our daughter was a baby. Words cannot describe how your life changes when you become a parent. It’s not about being more happy or having a more fulfilling life. It’s just different…..and just….awesome.

The pictures are shot with my ‘old’ but trusty Leica M8 with the Voigtlander 75mm 1,8. Processed from RAW in Capture One and used with the Rollei Retro preset in DxO Filmpack 3. Hope you like it and good and inspiring enough to publish it on your site!


Vincent van Kleef


Nov 022012

The Leica Monochrom – My final words and samples and comparisons…for now.

So here I am, a few weeks in with my Leica Monochrom and still loving the damn thing. I was hoping I would see it as a camera that is a gimmik..a joke..a camera that is no different from any other Leica M digital but that has not been the case. Yea, I love Leica. Always have. I have also criticized them when it was warranted and when they released sub-par products that was beaten by the competition at a much cheaper price.

The Monochrom is a tricky beast. The price leaves it well out of reach for most yet there are so many photographers who lust for one. Others have the opinion that it is overpriced camera without features or…COLOR! But I see it as a unique one of a kind tool that does indeed beat the Leica M9 for tonality and high ISO capability.

“Little Man” – Leica Monochrom – 50 F/2 Summitar  – cropped  – Click it for larger version. BTW, this has not had any Photoshop work.

In case you missed them, you can see my previous entries in my ongoing Leica Monochrom review below:

Part 1: Understanding the Camera

Part 2: Low light, High ISO and using Filters on and off the camera

Part 2.5: More thoughts on the camera

GALLERY: The Leica Monochrom Gallery – New images added weekly

 “Zombie Jake” – Monochrom with 35 1.4 – ISO 320 – You must click this to see the detail in the larger version! 

The Monochrom is a real tool..for real photographers..for those who adore B&W photography

I have said this before but not everyone will understand it. Those who refuse to even think about spending this kind of money will instantly bash the Mono on that alone. Others will bash it because they want it but can not afford it and others will bash it because they will say their camera is just as good. Others will say “NOTHING will ever match film”, which is 100% true but why would I pay $8000 to match film? I personally feel what comes out of the Monochrom beats film in many ways. The ones who bash this camera are the photographers who do not get it, and therefore not the target market Leica was aiming at when they released the Monochrom.

The beautiful Zeiss Sonnar f/1.5 on the MM


and a $250 Canon 50 1.8 LTM


I have already stated that I feel the camera is overpriced but the reason for this is because it is indeed a “one of a kind” product. No one else makes a camera such as this and yes, there is a difference in the B&W quality between this camera and a Leica M9 converted file. Is it better? Well, not everyone will agree but I think so. In part 2.5 I posted three images. One from the M9 that was a converted B&W and two from the Mono. I saw the difference in tonality and I will show more below. But is it enough to fork over this kind of cash? No, not really.

What makes this camera worth it to many is because of what it is and that is PURITY. How can a digital camera be pure? By being a simple, old school, B&W only camera. That is how. It is just as pure as film and has capabilities that surpass film. Many film die hards will disagree and I am not bashing film because I also love film, I just do not shoot it these days due to cost and time.

 “In Flight” – Monochrom with 50 1.5 Zeiss Sonnar – ISO 320


As I walk the street with my Monochrom I sit and think… What am I doing owning a $8000 Leica camera body when I am not in that upper income bracket that Leica is so marketing this camera to? Why should I own this beauty when there are other more deserving photographers who can make better use of it?  Why do I NEED this camera? Then I think some more..and the answer is clear. Because you only live once and if I can say anything about life is that we all need to LIVE IT in a way that makes us happy. We do not get a 2nd chance, life is not a dress rehearsal. We are here and then we are gone and if this camera makes me a happy man then I deserve to have it and use it and adore it.

That is basically the attitude I have with all Leica gear. I certainly should not be spending cash on Leica lenses and cameras but at the same time I do not own anything else extravagant. So why not? :)

The fact is that I love the Monochrom. I have shot it all over the place and what I see coming from it are results in B&W that are “different from any other camera I have shot with and converted. It has a look and a feeling. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and truth be told..when you start shooting the camera it takes some getting used to. The 1st few weeks I always saw shots I wanted to shoot in color. Today when I go out with the Monochrom I do not see color. I see only in black and white.

“Fresh Pie” – Monochrom and 35 1.4 – direct from camera on a harsh bright AZ day

Compared to the Leica M9 – Tones

Many have wondered why on earth they should buy a Monochrom when they may have a Leica M9 already. Let’s forget about other cameras for the moment because if you shoot an M you want to shoot an M. You want that experience of shooting with a rangefinder, a hand-built work of art. If you love Leica then you want a Leica.

So let us say you have an M9 and you have been itching for a Monochrom but you are not sure if there is even a difference between the files when at the end of the day you can convert a color M9 file to B&W.

I have been shooting with both the M9 and Mono for a couple of weeks and comparing results. What I have noticed is that the main things that set the Monochrom apart from the M9 is the fact that you will get MUCH less noise at higher ISO’s and you have the capability to go up to ISO 10,000 with the Mono when the M9 goes up to 2500. The Mono also gives you the Sapphire screen of course but in regards to noise and B&W tonality, IMO the Mono takes the prize when it comes to B&W photography.

It appears that ISO 2500 on the M9 is pretty close to the Leica Monochrom at ISO 6400. Even ISO 10,000 is usable on the Monochrom. 

and just for fun, and ISO 10,000 crop on the Mono vs the OM-D in Mono mode – NR off.

It has never been a doubt that the Monochrom is good enough in low light to take images in just about any situation. Since there is no ugly color noise we get a nice looking noise pattern, even with a high ISO setting such as 6400. 10,000 is grainy but some may like this look. Sort of like shooting Delta 3200.


How about tonality? Can the Mono deliver results that look better than the M9 when an M9 file is converted? Well, maybe not better but the images are certainly different.

1st shot is from the Monochrom – 35 1.4 – ISO 320 and 1/4000s – this is the full size file so you can click it to see it full size.

When I focused the M9 shot I realized after I was back home that the focus was off a bit so this is not to compare focus but to compare tones after the B&W conversion. I used Alien Skin exposure. Same camera settings. See a difference?

One more to check for tones – 1st the Monochrom…BOTH converted using the same preset…

And the M9 converted…

I’ve noticed the whites with the Monochrom are a bit more grey. The grey tones are darker grey than what you will get from the M9 converted color file. So is it better? Possibly, for some yes. For some no. I think what it all boils down to is if you want to get into the “Monochrom Mindset” and only shoot B&W. If so, the Mono will force you to do it. With an M9 you will sometimes keep the color file and therefore you may not start seeing in B&W as much as you would if you were shooting with a Monochrom.

“Kids 1st Zombie”  – Monochrom with 35 1.4 – noise added via filter in Alien Skin

“Beat the Drum” – 35 1.4 – filter applied in Alien Skin with grain. EXIF is embedded.

So what is my overall bottom line conclusion on the Monochrom? Well, there is nothing like it. Period. To have a Leica M body in all stealth charcoal black without markings that only shoots in B&W is quite the conversation starter. It is a camera that you really can’t get until you use it…hold the shutter. Is it worth $8000? To me, no. To you? Maybe. The files that come out of this camera when a shot is properly focused with a good lens are mind-blowing. Prints..I can only imagine (coming soon..big prints from the Mono).

There is a richness and tonality to the files that come out of the Mono that are very pleasing but do take some getting used to. You can get results that are very grey and flat but you must have that eye in B&W mode to find the right situation for a good B&W photo. Once you get that down as well as the processing and filter use then you can start to feel comfy with the camera.

The Monochrom is not for everyone but for those who dare step into this territory then I feel you will be happy knowing you have one of the most different cameras on the market. A full frame Monochrom only sensor camera with classic beauty, classic handling and even classic usability. Mixed with the ultra simple controls of focus, aperture and shutter speed and you have a winner for those of us who want to shoot in a pure way. The Leica Monochrom gives us that.

Only you can decide if it is for you. B&W only, Superb ISO performance, Gorgeous files in a Leica M body. $8000.

“Hey Brother can you spare some Brains”? – Mono with 50 Summitar


Where to Buy the Leica Monochrom?

If you want to buy one of these and are prepared to take the heat from your significant other about it then you can buy from one of the following dealers, all of whom I recommend:

Ken Hansonemail at [email protected]

B&H Photo

Dale Photo

Pop Flash

The Pro Shop  – 561-253-2606

The only problem is that this camera is back ordered and usually dealers have wait lists going on. Be sure to check with all dealers to see where they stand on stock and tell them I sent you!

Zeiss 50 Planar at 2.8



What else can I say?

After 3 previous parts to this review and several other posts prior to these I feel that everything I could say about the Monochrom has been said. It is what it is and you know if it is something for you or if you would benefit by owning one. All I know is I am in love with mine and will continue to use it during those times where I feel B&W would suit. I may even be inspired to go out and start a new series like I used to do when I had more time. Maybe pick up on my Homeless Project where I left off a few years ago. The Mono motivates :)

Zeiss Sonnar 1.5




PLEASE Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

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Nov 022012

Leica Noctilux f/0.95 in stock! 50 Lux ASPH in stock! 

Just an announcement for those of you looking for these lenses! The 50 Noctilux is now in stock at B&H Photo HERE. They go quickly so if you have been waiting, it is there right now!

Also, The Pro Shop for Photographers has the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH in stock in BLACK or SILVER! Best to call them at  561.253.2606 if you want one. 


PSAs I have done for 3+ years I post when hot lenses and cameras are in stock, with a service to you. Sometimes I will get a small credit for this which is what keeps this site alive as I cant run it and pay for it on my charm alone :) Both B&H and Pro Shop are sponsors of this site and I recommend them highly along with Ken Hansen ([email protected]), Dale Photo and PopFlash.  

Nov 012012

1st image samples from the new Leica M have been spotted! 

There have been some sample images posted on a Hong Kong forum from the new Leica M taken with the Noctilux. So what do you think? You can see them by clicking HERE. There is also a peek at the new meaty battery on page 3. Looks like several higher ISO samples as well are posted. I can not wait to get my M..again, I am #1 on my dealers list so can not wait to get it and review it and see if it beats the M9 in overall IQ :)

READERS: Thanks for the 8 e-mails this morning to alert me to this site that had the samples! You guys are awesome!

The new Leica M will be shipping in the 1st part of 2013. Some say Feb, some Say March and a fe Say January. At a cost which is the same as the old M9 price, $6950 Leica has kept it in range for most M users. What do we get for our $7 grand? A weather sealed digital M! Live view so when our RF goes out of whack we can still focus, a super crazy 24 MP SENSOR with up to ISO 6400 capability, new Maestro processor, 3″ high res LCD, 1080P video, and R lens capability with an adapter. Unlike any other M that has come before.

Dealers are now taking pre-orders..

B&H Photo

Ken Hansen – Email to [email protected]


Dale Photo 

Oct 282012

Zombie Apocalypse! My weapons of choice? Leica Monochrom, M9 and Olympus OM-D!

Halloween is just about here and what better way to celebrate it than to attend a good old-fashioned Zombie Walk? I went out yesterday in Phoenix AZ strapped with my Leica Monochrom, a borrowed Leica M9 and my Olympus OM-D and a few lenses to see if I could snap any images of the undead without them eating my brains. The images below were all shot with one of those three cameras.  I also had the Panasonic 8mm Fisheye for M4/3 and LOVED using it at this event. I am writing up a review of that lens so will only include a couple of images here from that lens but it is great fun as fisheyes always are, even with their limited use.

This is just a quick Sunday post for fun as well as a quick POLL to see how many of you can spot the Leica M9 image below when mixed with two Monochrom shots. This site is always about the fun and passion in photography over the technical stuff and’s Sunday so I am not going to get to involved and sit at my desk for 5 hours :)

Zombies in Monochrom 

A few of the images in this post are from the Leica Monochrom which made me think of the original “Night of the Living Dead”, which was shot in B&W. Zombies really pop in color but they can also look pretty cool in B&W.

BTW, One of the three images below was shot with the M9 and converted to B&W. Can you spot which one? HINT: The M9 converted to B&W will give off a different look to the Greys/whites than the Monochrom.




Can you spot the M9 image? Vote in the poll below and cast your vote: WHICH IMAGE IS FROM THE M9? 1, 2, or 3?

10/29 – ANSWER: The M9 shot is #3!

Be sure to click the images for larger versions! In my upcoming part 3 review on the Mono I will have some full size 100% files for you to check out from the Zombie walk. It was loads of fun shooting with the Mono though I have to say..these walking undead zombies POPPED in color!

Zombies in COLOR

While at the walk I was blown away with some of the make up and effects some of the “walkers” did on themselves. There were zombies everywhere! Teenage zombies, old zombies and even kid zombies :) It is amazing how popular the whole Zombie genre is these days. There were entire families showing up as zombies and it was super cool to see and interact with everyone. The cool thing is that everyone there LOVED getting their photos taken. Take a look at just a few of the shots I snapped below using the various cameras and lenses.

The M9 and 35 1.4

The OM-D and the Panasonic 8mm Fisheye

OM-D and 12mm f/2

Leica M9…this guy wanted to eat the camera and then feast on my brains!

OM-D and Fisheye

The OM-D and 75 1.8..this lady had the hair but no makeup so she resembled a troll doll :)

Leica M9 and 50 Summitar 

The OM-D and 75 1.8

M9 and 50 Summitar

I have to say that if there is a Zombie Walk in your neighborhood  next Halloween then GO! It is loads of fun, there are a gazillion photo opps and everyone is friendly and having a great time, which makes for some great image making possibilities. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!


Oct 252012

My Camera

by Ofri Wolfus

Hi Steve, I thought I’d share with you the story of my cameras. It turned out quite long, so feel free to post it if you like (I’ll be honored :). Also, English is not my mother language, so sorry for any mistakes.

The Nikon D90

I started being interested in photography about 5 years ago. Having no experience at all, I started doing my homework before deciding which camera to buy. At this time my only experience has been with phone cameras and P&S, and I didn’t even know what a DSLR was. Scanning the universe of the internet taught me about DSLRs, lenses and so on, but it was all theoretical. I never used one, and had to base my decisions about what other people say, having no self preference. Finally, after a lot of hours reading reviews, I got my very own, brand new, Nikon D90 with the a 18-105mm kit lens, a nikon tripod and a small camera bag that fitted the kit.

I remember taking my first shot with the D90 – I was absolutely blown away! I never experienced shallow DOF before, and the quality compared to my old P&S was simply stunning. Soon I started to learn anything I can about this camera. I learned what the Shutter, Aperture and ISO are. I learned about different lenses, RAW, JPEG, saturation, contrast, etc, and the more I learned, the more I wanted a wide-angle lens. It turned out that my favourite subjects are landscapes, and so I bought myself a Tokina 11-16mm. Other lenses came in as well, but this Tokina has been (and still is) my favourite by far. It is sharp, really fast for its focal length (f/2.8), takes regular screw in filters, and most importantly – ultra wide. It’s also worth to note that I quickly found the joy of using primes rather than zooms, and didn’t touch the 18-105 ever since.

I had a lot of my best shots taken with the D90 and the Tokina. They served me well in almost any situation, from long trips to late night shooting (it’s amazing what you can shoot handheld with an f/2.8 ultra wide). The problem for me was that the more I used this combination, the more I suffered. I really liked the shots that came out, but the actual picture taking experience has been a pain. The D90’s interface has tons of features that I don’t use and don’t care about, and together with the Tokina it’s a pig. It’s heavy, big, and doesn’t fit in my bags (I became a hater of dedicated camera bags, and use only “regular”, unpadded, bags). Also the fact that I always carried an extra normal fast lens (either the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 D or the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 DX) with me didn’t help. And so my search for alternatives has began.

The Zeiss Ikon

IIRC, this search is what had led me to your site, Steve, and your passion about Leica made me spend many hours reading about rangefinders. Unable to afford a digital Leica, I realized I’ll had to use a film camera if I wanted the best possible combination of price, quality and compactness. This was not an easy choice. I never shot film in my life before. At some point, I finally made my mind and decided to give it a shot. I bought a new silver Zeiss Ikon together with three lenses: Voigtlander 15mm, Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.4 MC, and a Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f/2 (the last two thanks to your reviews! :).

I started by getting a bunch of films like Tri-X, Velvia 50, Provia and more. It was such an alien feeling after the D90, but every time I held this Zeiss with any of these lenses I simply had a huge smile smeared on my face. I can’t explain it. It’s such a unique feeling shooting a film rangefinder.

This part of my story sadly has a sad ending. Before I got a chance at being any good, the only store in my area that developed slides stopped doing it. This was a major problem but I hadn’t given up yet. I bought myself a Plustek OpticFilm 7600i from B&H together with a bunch of tools for home development. I also went to a local store, and got myself a kit of E6 and BW chemicals. Now all I was missing is actually knowing how to develop… :)

The more I learned about E6 (which was my main interest), I realized I’ll have to somehow control the temperature of the development tank, but I couldn’t find a reasonably priced solution. That also didn’t stop me, and I sorta built my own. I took a big polystyrene box and filled it with a mix of hot/cool water until I reached the desired temperature. Now in order to maintain that temperature, I took a big resistor and connected it to a variable transformer. I then threw the resistor into the water and varied the voltage in order to control the heat produced by the resistor. This was mostly a trial and error, but after playing with it for a while I was able to keep the temperature constant enough for about an hour or so.

As you can probably imagine, this setup is far from ideal. I had to keep an eye for too much stuff simultaneously, and more often than not I’d ruin the films. I even got electrocuted at some point. Since the voltage was low no harm has been done, but it’s not something I’d like to do for fun :) That said, what finally made me give up on film was the scanning. It took forever and it wasn’t easy (at least for me) to get good colors out of the scanned files. At some point I found myself finishing a bunch of rolls and simply avoiding developing them knowing it’d take me a full day to get everything done. And that’s for 3 rolls at best.

The Ricoh GXR

At this point I was again looking for alternatives. Lucky for me, I found about the wonderful Ricoh GXR. At that time the M mount module was not yet available, but it has already been announced. Again, following your reviews I decided to get myself the 50mm module and wait for the M mount to arrive. Shortly after receiving the 50mm module I went on a two weeks trip, and took the D90, Tokina 11-16 and the Ricoh with me. During that trip I found myself using the Ricoh much more than the D90 for two main reasons – color and portability. The GXR produced so much better colors and was so much easier to carry. Even though I’m a landscape addict I kept using the Ricoh for these two reasons. Honestly, I had about zero keepers from the 50mm, but it was so much more fun.

Shortly after the GXR M Mount was available, and after seeing a bunch of reviews about it, I got myself one. It was probably the best camera purchase I’ve made. Using it is so much fun and the results are so rewarding that I always want to take it with me. I have three lens combinations that I use. My goto choice is only the 50mm Zeiss. Every time I use it I’m simply stunned by the IQ. However, 50mm f/2 on the crop sensor is sometimes too long for me. For these occasions, as well as when shooting at night or when feeling nostalgic, I pick the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4. It’s qualities are nowhere near the Zeiss but it has its uses. It’s also the smallest of all my lenses and so if I’m not sure whether I’m going to use the camera or not it’s a nice fit. Finally, there’s my trip configuration. When going on a trip I take the Voigtlander 15mm together with the 50mm Zeiss, and leave the 35mm at home/the hotel. For me these are the ultimate combinations that fit everything I do.

Finally, I’d like to talk a bit about the GXR body. IMO it’s a spectacular camera. It’s incredibly compact and produces wonderful results. It’s by far, the most capable and fun camera I’ve ever seen. There are, however a few things I’d like Ricoh to fix:

1. Take away all the junk menus. When I first bought the GXR it had a few simple menus with all the needed functionality and then some. However it was still focused enough that I could take advantage of everything I needed. Sadly with every firmware update they’ve been cramming more and more stuff into the poor menus and now I can’t find anything. It takes forever to get to the right option.

2. Somewhat repeating the above, Ricoh please remember we really only need shutter, ISO, exposure control and color control. Actually even color control is usually done afterwards on the computer. Personally, I leave shutter and ISO on auto all the time and only touch the color presets. Fuji seems to get it with their X100 (so I heard), so why can’t you?

3. There are way too many buttons on the body that have useless functions. Really Ricoh, how often do you use the self timer that you need a dedicated button for it?

4. Why is magnification hard wired to a long press on the OK button? It drives me crazy if I do it by mistake and now have to circle through all magnification ratios in order to get back to the full frame.

5. Finally, please add a full frame sensor. It’s such a shame to waste half the area of the wonderful M lenses, but it’s also incredibly annoying to work with the crop factor. Want a fast 35mm equivalent? Have fun finding a 24mm with f/2 or faster. AFAIK the only option is the Leica SUMMILUX 24mm f/1.4 which is way above my budget.

To sum up, I think there are three groups of people: those that only care about the final photos, those that care only about their cameras and their technical abilities, and then there are people like me who care the most about the experience. I may not take the best photos or own the best cameras, but I try to have the best possible experience and simply have fun :)
Ofri Wolfus

His Flickr is HERE and he has some gorgeous photos so check it out!

Oct 242012

Leica Monochrom Ongoing Review part 2.5. More thoughts on the camera, on Leica in general and many more sample shots from this unique camera. 

Part 3 is now up HERE!

It has been about a week since I have last written anything about the Monochrom. In part 2 of this ongoing review I wrote about the low light performance of the Monochrom as well as touched on the use of filters on the lens and in software while processing. In part 1 of the review I spoke about understanding the camera. Since then I have been shooting with the camera more and more and finding out that even after a few weeks of almost daily use I am not tired of seeing the gorgeous “Mono” files that come from this already “classic” tool.

I say already classic because as you all know, this is a black and white only camera body. Even if you come across a super cool scene in color, you can not shoot it in color. With the Monochrom it is all about “seeing” in Mono, something that I admit I am not 100% trained on just yet. Even so, I am having a wonderful change of pace shooting with it. It is like I have been transported back to a time without color film, color TV or color anything. Shooting this camera just feels nostalgic.

I have also been having some fun shooting with a Hoya R72 IR filter, and yes, it works giving beautiful results. Finally, I have been really enjoying seeing what Kristian Dowling has been getting with his Monochrom so read on to see a couple of IR samples as well as Kristian’s breathtaking and amazing images with this camera.

Let me get one thing stated up front..this camera is indeed overpriced. There is just no way on earth it is actually worth $8,000 US dollars to me (to you maybe). Yes, it has the gorgeous and classic Leica build and styling and the solid feel as well as the feeling you get when shooting with a classic rangefinder but it is $8000 for a body only and at this price it is in reality reserved for those with an upper end income, and I get the feeling Leica wants to keep it like this. Kind of sad that there are so many who are lusting after this but know deep in their heart they could never afford it. When you add in the cost of a lens it gets really outrageous and beyond the scope of 90% of shooters.

But this is Leica my friends and it is who they have been for many years and they show no sign of changing their ways though the new M is actually reasonably priced IMO for a full featured Leica M, and that is one camera that I am very excited about because if Leica nailed the IQ and usability then for some it will be the last M they may ever buy. For others that camera was the M9 and for some it was the M3, M6, M7 or MP. I am not sure that the Monochrom is the last M anyone would buy just due to the limitations of shooting only in Monochrom. Then again a Monochrom and something like a NEX-6, OM-D or Fuji X-E1 would be a good combo as well if you do not want to break the bank.

Back to Leica. Over the past few years Leica has changed a bit. I have seen them go from a small struggling company who were making many bad choices in the digital age, even bordering in bankruptcy at one point, to a company enjoying huge success and growth. They went through many digital growing pains and if it were not for the M9, Leica would not be where they are today. The M9 was THE was their golden ticket. This camera, the “golden child” M9, changed the whole world of photography because it attracted so many new Rangefinder users, and this was good. The M9P that was released as a “new” old camera did not even come close to selling in the numbers that the M9 did, and this could be an issue for Leica. With so many happy M9 users how many will jump to this Monochrom or the new M? The new M could sell less than the M9 or blow it out of the water sales wise depending on user reports and experiences.

With the M9, It did not matter if you were a pro or hobbyist, the reason for shooting these cameras was clearly for the passion, the fun, the excitement and the pride you got from using such a precision and well made tool. It also happened to deliver the most gorgeous and unique image quality of any camera at the time  when you used  the right Leica lens. Lenses like the 50 Summilux ASPH, 35 Summilux and 90 Summicron. The Noctilux and even the classic 50 Summitar. Yes, it was expensive but it was more versatile than the Monochrom because it shot color or B&W. So many stretched their budgets to buy one, and many fell in love with the camera just as I did.

Leica came back in a big way in 2009 and I am a VERY humble guy but this time have to admit that my blog..THIS blog.. was at the forefront of the M9 rush. It was my favorite camera ever and it stayed by my side day after day. My M9 review has had over 3 million views and I have had THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of e-mails over the past three years from those who have bought M9’s just due to my review and were sharing their story with me. I have heard heart warming stories as well as horror stories. Many Leica users flock here due to the my love of Leica and the images and stories shared by the many who submit their images. But I am the first to admit there are many cameras that can shoot beautiful photos and no one “needs” a Leica to do so. No..we do not need a Leica M, but many of use get so much pleasure from using one that in many ways, for some of us, it enriches our lives.

A bold statement for sure but it is true. I have met so many of you at workshops, events and all over the world and the one thing I see is consistent. There is a passion in those who shoot Leica that I just have not seen as much with other brands. Even though we can make gorgeous images with ANY camera, there is just something about a Leica that gets our hearts beating. A Leica may not be any better at preserving those precious memories than other cameras but to those who own one, it gives us something..something we may not be able to put our finger on exactly but it has some MOJO that other cameras can not match.

I admit to being in this group which is probably why I also am in love with the Monochrom even though I can get great results with any camera shooting B&W. So, is there a real difference between cameras when shooting in Monochom or converting color to B&W? That is what everyone wants to know, including me. Shooting a NEX-7 or OM-D can give you fantastic results but for those who have that love and passion and desire to shoot Leica it does not matter as shooting other cameras is nothing like shooting an M. So what is the point of  doing such comparisons? Well, there will always be those who hate on Leica and those who hate on cameras that are NOT Leica. There is always a debate in life no matter what the topic of discussion which is always good to have. After shooting other cameras with the Mono I have no doubt that anyone could get an award winning B&W shot with just about any camera out today, but I will compare them so you can see what the Monochrom offers over the others as everything is not as black and white as it seems. But this will be in PART 3 next week :)

If you have not yet read part one and part two of this ongoing Monochrom review then you should :) This is officially “part 2.5″ because part three was supposed to be the comparisons. I am not finished with those just yet so I added this in as an in between review post. After a while with this camera I am seriously enjoying it because it does have some serious charm. In past installments I spoke about how you can get any look you desire from this camera. Contrasty, flat, or however you like it. I also went around the internet and looked up over a thousand film images and after seeing some of the work from Kristian Dowling and his Monochrom I concluded that yes indeed, for me, this camera can easily and does easily take the place of any 35mm film. I will have those yelling at me over that statement but look at the key words..”for me” is what it is and nothing will change my mind. 

Would I rather save $6500 and buy an M6 and hundreds of rolls of film? Me? No because that would limit me to whatever ASA is in my camera. It would limit me to 36 images per roll. It would cost me quite a bit of cash to have all of those processed and scanned. If I scanned myself I would have to spend money on a very good scanner and spend hours per roll scanning. Then they would need to be tweaked anyway. For what I shoot and my style I just do not have  the desire to go through all of that again. Film has a special place, and I enjoy it every now and then but with this Monochrom available and in my hands I just would not go back to film except to shoot the occasional roll here and there.

A Quick Sneak Peek – Leica Monochrom vs Leica M9 at ISO 320 – Click for full 100% crop. OOC results are scary similar but noise is where it is at. THIS IS NOT FOR SHARPNESS! This was hand held, indoor low light. This is to show tonality and ISO at 320. ISO at 320 on the M9 = ISO 2000 on the MM. 

Infrared with the Hoya R72 FIlter

Infrared photography is something I have always been interested in but never really tried it when shooting film. I experimented with it years ago with a Sony F707 digital camera and again with a Minolta Dimage 7 but was never happy with my results. So why not try it again? Not all cameras can shoot IR and many photographers end up converting their digital cameras so that can shoot like this.

Many have told me that you can not shoot IR with the Monochrom but I had to try. I bought a couple of IR filters and the one that gets me the results is the Hoya R72. I bought one to fit my 35 Lux FLE and gave it a shot. One thing to remember when shooting with these filters is that if you focus normally with your Monochrom your image will be severely back focused. It is a hit or miss and you will also need a tripod. The key is to focus a few feet in front of your subject. I have not shot too much with this filter yet but hope to do more soon.

Greens to white :)

So the Monochrom is basically a camera that will appeal to a select few. A few who have the funds to sink into it as well as the hardcore dedicated B&W shooters who salivate at the thought of a B&W only camera that allows them to concentrate on their vision more than anything else.

Part 3 will be up really soon with comparisons between the M9, OM-D, NEX, etc. The Mono with straight RAW files and the others with converted color files. The M9 is easily capable to shoot B&W but the main #1 difference between the M9 and Mono is the noise levels. ISO 320 on the M9 looks like ISO 2000 on the Mono. This opens up possibilities for night shooting but how will the new M be with noise? With ISO 6400 capability the new M may be really good at 3200 but the Mono goes up to 10,000 and is usable at that speed.

Those who are interested in the Mono just need to know it is a back to basics as  you can get.

Some amazing Monochrom imagery by Kristian Dowling

Kristian and I have been chatting through e-mail for quite a while now and after he wrote the article about the Noctilux I was blown away with what he could do with an M. Just so happens he was out shooting the Monochrom as well and he has allowed me to share some of his images here. I am so itching to go take a trip with my Mono soon but Kristian is one of those photographers I respect, admire and hope to be as good as someday. You can check out his website HERE. These shots below are all MASTERFUL photographs.

Oct 222012

My First Week Fuji X-E1 Review… with X and M-Lenses by Amy Medina

By Amy Medina 

I’ve been watching the mirrorless market evolve from its beginning. Small and light cameras have become a top priority for me in the last few years, and it was one of the original reasons I switched from a Canon 5D (the first one) to a Leica M8 back in 2007. I’m a woman who never carries a purse and who hates lugging around a camera bag, so if it doesn’t easily sling over my shoulder and fit in my pocket, it doesn’t come with me. I have always been a fan of what Olympus has been doing, but have also been watching Fuji closely.

The new Fuji XE1 is the closest thing to perfection to come along since the dawn of the eletronic-viewfinder, large sensor camera, at least when it comes to my needs. The image quality of the files is nothing short of amazing. They are sharp but natural — “film like” I’ve heard said by others. High ISO performance is clearly one of the best in the APS-C market, and it leaves me amazed at just how good it performs in low light. I’m not primarily a low-light shooter, but it’s certainly nice to be able to set the camera to AUTO-3200 — and even AUTO-6400 — and not in the slightest way be worried about too much noise. The color rendition of the files is beautiful, and the auto white balance seem to be bang-on. The hype you’ve heard about the JPG files? It’s true… with both the x100 and now the XE1, I don’t bother shooting RAW because the JPGs are just that good. And did I mention sharp? Wow, is the XE1 ever capable of producing some really sharp results, due in part to its lack of AA filter. But disclaimer: I’m not a technical person :)

A lot of questions about this camera revolve around the new electronic viewfinder (EVF) Fuji has put inside it. I’ve been shooting with EVF cameras for quite a while now and have become quite used to them. I will put it out there to all of you, if you’ve never shot with a camera that only has an EVF, you need to give yourself at least two weeks of steady use before you can even begin to make a decision whether you like it or not; one or two tries in the store isn’t enough. ALL viewfinder methods, from DSLR optical to rangefinder to EVF have their downsides, and to make a fair judgement you should give yourself enough time to get used to it before you decide either way. Some people legitimately don’t like EVF-only cameras and that’s fair enough, but don’t make that judgement based on borrowing a friend’s camera for a day or only trying it out at the photography counter in a store.

The EVF on the Fuji XE1 is probably one of the best I’ve used in color, contrast and clarity. It’s essentially the same one used in the NEX-7, though with lower refresh rates. Where this matters most is in darker settings. I haven’t noticed too many problems outside or in brightly lit environments. The only issue that arrises is in poorly lit spaces… this is where the slower refresh rate becomes more noticeable. In practice, with a fast lens like the 35mm f/1.4, I wouldn’t anticipate too many snags — however, manual focusing in a darkly lit environment, because of the slower EVF, might be more challenging. For me, if I’m going to shoot in that kind of dark environment, I might leave the M-lenses at home in favor of Fuji’s very good (and fast) primes.

Compared to the x100’s EVF, the color is better, resolution is clearly better, and the contrast is better. In the brightest sunshine it sometimes still requires a hand cupped over the top of the eye-piece to be able to see it best. I don’t know if EVFs are usually judged by dynamic range, but it seems like the XE1 does better seeing the difference from highs to lows. For example, when pointed at a window with bright sunshine outside, I can see the details in the shadows better than I can on the x100.

The size of the camera is nearly identical to the Fuji x100, and obviously smaller than the XPro1, but it feels solid and well-built. I went for the silver one, and the silver is a very slightly lighter color than on the x100. The little grip on the front and thumb “ridge” on the back make the camera feel great in the hand. On my x100 I have a thumbs-up, but I won’t need that on the XE1, which is good because it would probably cover the magnify wheel anyway (more on that later). Ergonomics of the camera are also similar to it’s fixed-lens cousin, with a few added buttons (like the Quick Menu button, which is well placed and a nice feature to access common settings). The AFS/AFC/MF switch is on the front of the camera, easy to access when needing to switch focusing methods. Shutter speed and exposure compensation are still in the same spots on top, along with the little Fn button for quick changing the ISO (the default setting). There is no wheel-pad on the back like with the x100, instead there are four directional buttons — and personally, I like it better; I always found the wheel-pad a little fiddly and the directional buttons feels more solid.

For manual focusing M-lenses, it’s quite easy. Put the camera in MF mode (switch on front). With camera up to your eye (or using the LCD), you can push in the mini-thumb wheel and it magnifies to 3x. Rotating the mini-thumb wheel to the right changes to 10x magnification (and back to the left for 3x again). I find the 3x much more useful for a few reasons. First, you’re seeing more of the scene, so it’s easier to get your baring on just what it is you’re focusing on. Second, in the 3x mode there is almost a “shimmer” that happens when the area you’re focusing on actually comes into focus. This is a hard thing to explain, but it’s almost as if the edges of the focused area appear over-sharpened… and it’s most noticeable in the 3x magnification mode. The 10x magnification mode is great for double-checking focus in more difficult situations, and it’s so simple to toggle between the two.

There is no focus-peaking feature. This would be a welcome addition to the camera for using manual focus lenses… However, I will say that so far, with the CV 21mm f/4, the 40mm f/1.4 Nokton and the 50mm f/1.5 Nokton, I’ve had no problems getting my shots in good focus. However, it’s important to note that the longer the lens and the wider the aperture, obviously, the harder it is.

I did not spring the extra money for the Fuji M-Adaptor… but went for the cheaper Fotodiox one. I’m not sure if it makes a huge difference as I’m not using many genuine Leica lenses, and the ones I am using are the “antiques” with lots of flaws and character. There is no button on the Fotodiox adaptor, so getting into the manual focus lens menu requires going into the camera’s menu system the traditional way (to change focal length). Also, the built-in correction options are grayed out (like distortion correction). It’s not a deal-breaker for me, but if it is for you, spend the extra money for the Fuji adaptor.

So far I’ve tried out a few M-lenses…. so I’ll give my impressions along with photos:

The Voigtlander 21mm f/4 Skopar 

This one has been my favorite so far. I do wish it had a wider maximum aperture, but I can live with the f/4 for now. Focusing was a breeze, as expected with a wide f/4 lens. This lens has a great reputation on Leica cameras… sharp and contrasty, and quite small. It’s a great size-match for the Fuji XE1, and makes for a really nice street shooter, especially if you like to zone focus or set for hyperfocal shooting. The downside — and this is well-known on many mirrorless cameras using M-lenses, not just the Fuji — is that there can be “smearing” on the edges (due to the way the light enters the lens and hits the digital sensor at greater than 90 degrees — not something I completely understand). I knew this when I bought the lens, but can live with it for my style of shooting. If you want your photos tack-sharp edge-to-edge, look elsewhere. It’s important to note as well, from the research I’ve done, having the Fuji adaptor doesn’t makes a difference. It cannot correct for this smearing. It comes down to the specific M-lens… and some do better than others.

The Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4 Nokton

This is my favorite lens on my film rangefinder… and the focal length was quite nice on the XE1 (60mm equivalent). It’s small size was also a nice match for the Fuji body, and focusing was quite easy, even wide open. Because it’s slightly wider than the 50mm Nokton, it was slightly easier to manually focus. The 21 and 40 together make a nice kit for a day out shooting; The lenses are both small and their 31mm/60mm field-of-view equivalence is a great combination.

The Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Nokton

50mm on APS-C starts to get just a little long for my taste, but this lens didn’t disappoint either. It was harder to focus wide open than the 40mm Nokton, especially in very bright conditions because of the “glow” around edges that is characteristic of this lens. I did notice that bokeh was just a little harsher on the XE1 than the way it renders on my M8, which is usually buttery smooth — though in fairness, the day I was out testing the light was pretty harsh. Honestly, I’m probably not likely to use this one much on the XE1 unless I need the added focal length… the 40 was just a better match to the Fuji for me. Of course, the results were so nice, I might change my mind on that.

Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon

This one surprised me most, mainly because it’s my favorite lens on the Leica M8. I got some of that “smearing” at the edges, which I didn’t expect with a focal length of 35mm. And though it was easy enough to focus, I didn’t find the results as sharp as they should be. This lens is super-tack sharp on my M8, and performed very well on my Olympus EP2 and EPM1 the times I used it there, so I was a little disappointed it didn’t pair up as nicely with my new XE1. However, Fuji’s own 35mm f/1.4 lens is just so good, I think I’ll survive without the Biogon on this camera. In defense of the Zeiss, I was pretty short on time the day I tested it and the light has been pretty harsh all week, so take my opinion on this one with a grain of salt.

Leica 50mm f/2 Summitar

This was the last one I tested out paired up with the Fuji… and keep in mind, I expect warts and wackiness with this lens! You don’t buy a 1953 inexpensive Summitar without expecting unique bokeh and unusual flare and flaws. It was a fun one to use, and retains its wonderful character across to the Fuji camera — but admittedly for me it has a specific purpose and doesn’t get used all that often. However, its performance surprised me on the XE1 (better than I expected), so it may get more use than I originally thought!

For the Fuji Lenses

I have the 18mm f/2 and the 35mm f/1.4… and the latter will likely stay on the camera a great majority of the time.

Fuji’s 35mm f/1.4

I love the 40-50mm field-of-view in general and this lens performs so well that there’s honestly no reason to look elsewhere for a 35mm lens. Fuji has done a great job with it, and the reviews you hear from others on just how good it is are true. It’s light but well-built, renders smooth out-of-focus areas and produces sharp, contrasty results. My only complaint is that I wish it was just a little smaller, but it’s undoubtedly not all that large either; its light weight more than makes up for it’s slightly larger than maybe-unexpected girth. It renders in a way that reminds me of the M8 + 50mm f/1.5 Notkon, which is a good thing since it’s one of my favorite combos to shoot with.

And the 18mm f/2

The 18mm on the other hand, it one I wasn’t sure about when I got it. I’m not always a fan of the 28mm field-of-view as it’s just a tad wide for me. Of course, it’s very appealing because it’s got a pancake style design: very small and very light; and the f/2 maximum aperture is welcomed, if not a little surprising for something this wide. I decided to give it a chance because I enjoy the 14mm f/2.5 on the Olympus EPM1 (28mm equivalent)… and it didn’t at all disappoint.

One of the problems with the 18mm Fuji lens is that the 35mm one is just so good, so expectations are high going into its little brother. Honestly, I certainly find it easily sharp enough, and its small size and quick performance are reasons alone to give it a chance. From what I’ve read about it, you’d sometimes think this lens is a bad egg, but that’s far from the case. Though there is some distortion present, it’s quite a capable little lens, and certainly sharp enough for me.

Other thoughts…

The XE1 feels mature. I think Fuji has learned a lot over the last year from the release of the x100 and XPro1, and they’ve done a good job listening to feedback from the photographers out there using their cameras. Overall operational speed on the XE1 is good; not blazing fast like a high-end DSLR, but certainly fast enough for many of us. It’s less fiddly than the x100 (keeping in mind I’ve enjoyed the x100 immensily!), and from what I hear from XPro1 owners, autofocus speed is drastically improved with the latest firmware, which is already on the XE1 and available since September on the XPro1. I was a late adopter of the x100, with the latest firmware, and never understood what all the fuss what about with focus speed… but that’s likely because I bought it late, after Fuji had already made big improvements.

Autofocus is certainly fast enough (at least for me), though on some occasions with the 35mm lens, it had a little trouble locking on exactly what you want it to. I’d say it’s comparable in speed to the latest round of Olympus cameras when paired with the 20mm f/1.7 lens (which admittedly isn’t their quickest lens) — or at least it seems pretty close. to that, maybe just slightly faster. The biggest problem in judging autofocus speed is that some of it ends up feeling quite subjective… what is fast enough for me, is probably not fast enough for someone else. As an M-shooter, as someone who has been pleased with all the olympus cameras (back to the EP1) and as someone who never shoots sports or wildlife, in day-to-day use, the Fuji is certainly focusing quick enough.

A lot of photographers want to know whether to buy the XPro1 or the XE1 — and that’s a question I struggled with myself, especially since there are some great deals out there for the XPro1 right now. Both cameras have the same autofocus speed (when the XP1 has the latest firmware), and both have the same image quality (same exact sensor). So the differences come down to just a few things:

The Fuji XE1 is smaller and lighter. It has built-in popup flash you can even bounce. It has an EVF only, but the EVF is better quality.

The Fuji XPro1 is slightly bigger and heavier. It doesn’t have a built-in flash. It has the hybrid viewfinder for optical or electronic views, but the EVF is lower quality.

Since I like small, and since I plan to use the camera with M-lenses, I decided the XE1 was the way to go. I want all the help I can get with manually focusing, so the better EVF seemed the right decision for me. Also, having had the x100 with hybrid viewfinder, I find I never use the optical view, so giving that up was easy. I know others who swear by the optical view of the hybrid finder, so for them (or you) it might be harder to give it up. That comes down to a personal choice.

More 35mm f/1.4 Photos

I expected to like the x100 when I first bought it, but I didn’t expect to like it quite as much as I did. It was the first camera I’ve bought in a really long time that I felt I enjoyed as much as the M8, and that’s saying a lot. I bought the M8 in 2007 and still use it to this day… I will never sell it. The x100 was my introduction into the Fuji world and it helped me seal the decision on buying the XE1, and in this first week of use I can already tell that my M8 will be staying home even more. Don’t get me wrong… I will love my Leica until the day it ceases to function, but now that it’s five years old, I fear I’m closer to that reality and need a camera that I can “jell” with just as well… it feels like the XE1 can be that camera… to the point where I may have this one five years from now (but don’t hold me to it)!
I’ve already gone on way longer than I expected, but I’ll end by saying that I’m happy Fuji dared to put these cameras out. They have given us something interesting: cameras aimed at photographers who want a great mix of modern technology and tactile, ergonomically well-designed, but small bodies; And these are cameras capable of stunning image quality. I also appreciate that Fuji seems to be a company trying to listen to what it’s customers want, and they will be a fun company to follow over the next few years; they already have been this last year. With the x100 and XE1, they definitely have me on their side.
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Oct 202012

Leica 35 Summilux 1.4 FLE in stock..ONE in stock!

Was just informed by Tony Rose at PopFlash that he has ONE Leica 35 Summilux FLE in stock right now! Yep, at this moment there is ONE of the most in demand Leica lens sitting in his shelf. I know there have been many of you waiting for this so if you want it,


Oct 192012

Leica Digilux 2, did Fuji base the X100 on this?

By Gary Perlmutter

Normally I am an early adopter of new cameras, one of the first to get an X100 and the Nikon V1 for example. (See previous articles by myself on Steve’s Blog) However it took me 8 years to discover and purchase the Digilux 2! I can’t remember how I originally came across this camera, but once I had seen photos of how gorgeous it looked and read both Steve Huff’s report on his blog and the superb in-depth articles by Thorsten Overgaard, I knew I had to have one! Finally about a month ago one turned up on eBay and now I am the lucky owner of a mint Digilux 2.

So why am I so excited about this camera you ask? Well in looks it resembles one of the Leica rangefinder family, in fact an M9 owner the other day mistook it for an M9! It’s also very well-built. Now remembering that this camera and its sister the Panasonic DMC-LC1were manufactured from 2004 for just 2 years, before being replaced by the Digilux 3, it sports a host of amazing features for its time. For instance shutter speed dial, aperture selection on the lens, built-in EVF, full manual control. Sound familiar? Isn’t this exactly the same as the X100, which came out some 7 years later and has been heralded as a game changer! (Ok so no OVF). In addition a unique feature is it’s two-stage pop up flash. The 1st stage pops up at a 45 degree angle for bounce flash, how cool is that!

Ok, to use today it’s comparatively large 2/3 sensor (for a point and shoot) is only 5 megapixel, but the superb Leica 28-90 Vario Summicron f2 lens renders beautifully sharp and defined photos that frankly can put rival higher megapixel cameras to shame. Downsides compared to modern cameras are that, max ISO is only 400. It can only use standard SD cards and then only with a 2GB maximum capacity, but then with smaller file sizes then we are used to today, this isn’t really a problem. The EVF image is quite small and not the best resolution, but I find it perfectly usable. On the plus side the battery life is good for a day’s shooting and runs down gradually unlike the X100. Manual focus is very usable. Just switch to MF on the lens barrel and as you focus you automatically get a magnified image on the EVF or LCD depending, which you are using. Then with very little twisting of the lens barrel, (again unlike the X100) once in focus, a slight press on the shutter shows the full image ready to shoot. The menu system is also very simple, no manual needed here. I find out of the camera jpegs are really usable especially the black and whites. I have attached a few samples of images taken with the Leica. In my opinion it’s a shame that the X1 and X2 didn’t follow the already perfect design of the Digilux 2.

So if like me you lust after the red dot and can’t run to a digital M or even the M8, then take a look at one of these the next time one pops up on eBay or your local store. Trust me you wont be disappointed!

Related articles:

Digilux 2 Memory lane by Steve Huff

Thorsten Overgaard – Digilux 2 extensive review


Twitter: @gazonthestreet

Flickr: My Flickr photostream


Oct 182012

Thursday News Updates…Fuji X-E1, Monochrom, Olympus 75 1.8 and more!

Hello to all and happy Thursday! As always it has been a hectic week for me as I have been shooting with an M9, Monochrom, OM-D with 75 1.8 and trying my best to get to most of my e-mail! Just wanted to write a quick post about what is coming over the next couple of weeks as well as share a couple of videos that were posted to my YouTube account over the past two weeks but not here on the site.

Fuji X-E1 Review SOON from Amy Medina

Things have been great on this end. Traffic is up, new cameras are flowing in for review, the weather here in Phx is finally cooling down to the 90’s and there seems to be some excitement in the air lately  – lots of passion pouring in from readers with some really great guest articles and reports (which will all be posted soon). I will soon have a review of the Fuji X-E1 using Leica M glass from Amy Medina. She has been shooting the camera all week and by next week her review should be up with loads of samples from her. If you do not know Amy, she has written quite a few articles here but also has a website of her own here.

There will also be articles coming next week on “The other way to scan your film”, “The Leica Digilux 2: Another Flashback”, “The Monochrom In Madrid: Bullfights”, and a new film article by Ibraar Hussain! PLUS even more than that but I will leave some as a surprise but one post will feature some of the best images I have seen all year from anyone. :) I will also be showing off some new straps from which are AWESOME!


The Olympus 75 1.8 Lens Review – Next Week!

I have had the Olympus 75 1.8 for almost two weeks now and it has been glued to my OM-D. I have been trying to get shooting time in with it and so far I have found that it is a fantastic lens but for my tastes too long of a lens. It is the equivalent of a 150mm lens in focal length and absolutely gorgeous in its build and image quality. If you want a stellar portrait prime for your Micro 4/3 camera this is about as good as it can get. This is a serious hunk of glass my friends and if you do not mind longer lenses then it is a lens that will last you a lifetime. See the video below of the lens on the camera…

I am finding more and more than the OM-D with the 12, 45 and 75 lenses could be just about all anyone really needs. It is fantastic and that Sony sensor inside seriously rocks.

OM-D AND 75 AT 1.8 – click for larger

The Leica Monochrom Review will continue..

I am still shooting the Leica Monochrom and still finding that I have a way to go before I really get to where I want to be with processing the files. There is just so much you can do with them..create any look you want.  I saw some of the best shots from the MM to date from Kristian Dowling. HIs shots can be seen on this facebook Monochrom group.  Kristian is a master photographer and knows his craft. He also happens to be a great guy!

I will be doing my part 3 of the Monochrom review showing some comparison shots between the M9 converted to B&W and the Monochrom. There is indeed a difference but what look one prefers is all personal preference. The pros with the Mono are the much better high ISO, improved Dynamic Range and of course the higher resolution. Shooting at ISO 8000 at night is good where with the M9 2500 is the max you can go and it is noisy.

I do know that when I shoot the Monochrom I feel differently than when I am holding an M9 or even OM-D or Sony NEX. It seems to put you in a “Mono Mood” :) – Part 3 should be up next week as well.

The Monochrom with the 35 1.4 FLE – RED filter on the camera and an OOC shot. The RED filter enhances contrast considerably deepening blacks. 

The old 1940’s 50 Summitar looks delicious in the one quick test shot I snapped in my yard so I will be using it more on the Mono. 

Using an IR filter gets expected results – this is an OOC shot… just to test the filter..

Other reviews on YouTube…Kindle Paperwhite, Grado PS-500 Headphones

I have also posted a couple of non camera related reviews on YouTube so take a look below.

Orange Nikon J2 – Ready for Halloween?

Looks like Nikon released the J2 in ORANGE! How about this for a halloween shooting treat? Lol. At least cars could see you at night! B&H Photo has it in stock with the 10-30 and 30-110 lenses for under $700. Then again, the Sony RX100 has a better sensor and faster zoom lens. In reality the J2 is more like a J1.1.

Be sure to check back later today and all next week for all of the new stuff! Also, if you have not yet done so you can subscribe to my YouTube channel as I sometimes upload videos there and not here so if you are interested in seeing them you can subscribe to my channel HERE. I also will post sample images to my Facebook page from various cameras before I write about them here so if you have not yet “Liked” that page, you can do that HERE! As always, thanks for reading and stopping by! I appreciate each and every one of you who do!


Oct 172012

The new Leica M-E is now in stock at a few dealers. For those looking for the new “M9”, well, this is it. It is a newly color schemed M9 without the frame lever preview. Looks pretty nice but not everyone digs the color. I am happy Leica is making the M-E for those who want to stick with the M9 look and feel as I heard it from a little birdy that the new M’s image quality will be a bit different in look and feel so maybe, just maybe some will prefer this M-E at the end of the day. THE GOOD NEWS (if you can call it that) is that the new M-E is lower priced than the M9 with the body only coming in at $5450 US. That is $1500 less than the M9 and $2500 less than the M9P sold for in their prime. :)

B&H Photo now has the camera IN STOCK

Amazon is now sold out (shipping from Amazon) but a few other dealers have them there.

Ken Hansen MAY have a few and you can e-mail him at [email protected]

Dale Photo is sold out but had them for the past two weeks and PopFlash is also sold out but they do have some good used M9 deals.

Oct 162012

Left-Brain vs. Right Brain: Photographing the Democratic National Convention

By Peter Sills

For the last three election cycles, I have had the privilege to photograph the Democratic National Convention. It has been a wonderful experience, meeting interesting people, celebrities and politicians alike. Unlike the vast array of photojournalists at the event, I was hired directly by the Democratic National Convention. My job has been to document the event for the archives. This has allowed me to shoot alongside photographers from the UP, Reuters, etc. as well as venture backstage and capture the infrastructure of the event itself.

I have always used my trusty Canon gear when embarking on such a rigorous assignment. This time, through the efforts of Mark Abraham of the Washington Press Corp., and Scott Andrews of Canon, I was able to borrow a new Canon 5D MkIII and a bevy of lenses, including the amazing 400mm f/2.8 L IS.

I also brought with me my new Leica M9-P and the triumvirate of lenses: 35mm Summilux, 50mm Summilux and 90mm Summicron (the entire kit weighs less than half of the Canon 400mm alone). Unlike the gear which was on loan from Canon, this was MY camera, and I was very anxious to use it to shoot something different from the standard convention photos.

Having used the Leica for only a few months, I knew it would be impossible to photograph the convention in my usual manner. Distances were too long for a meager 90mm, and things moved too quickly for manual focus. However, there was a lot for which the standard Canon kit was inappropriate and the Leica ideal; those close-in moments, those more contemplative moments, the more subjective moments. These were the shots I had never really tried to get at a convention before.

However, before continuing, let me step back in time a bit.

I turned 50 this year. I have been a photographer since I was 16 years old. My professional life was outside of photography, so I had put it aside for a number of years, only to pick it up again once the digital age of photography began. I have always used Canon gear, only once “dabbling” with Nikon before returning to the fold.

Well, this year I began to become bored with photography. It was not that great images didn’t excite me any more – they did. I still bought plenty of photo books and I loved going through each new issue of LensWork and American Photography. What was wrong?

As I examined it, photography was becoming more and more “Left Brain”. It was all about High-ISO noise, Image Stabilization, Frames per Second, Megapixels, etc. The camera was becoming more and more of a computer. Newer cameras now have the ability to “re-crop” your images into more pleasing compositions, scene modes detect how the entire camera should behave with little to no user interaction, face detection chooses the focus, in camera HDR provides for the “artistic-look”, etc.

I started looking through my images over the last twenty or so years. Back in the days of film, I would take one image of a subject and move on. I would think about the image, compose it, consider it carefully, and press the shutter. The more I went on, up until today, I noticed that the time spent on an image decreased while the number of images increased. With digital, I could just press the button and worry about it later. It was less and less about taking an image, and more about choosing one later from the 15, 20, or 30 that had been shot.

It was becoming almost impossible to take a “bad” shot. The last straw came when I began to see DSLRs everywhere. I saw an older woman taking photos of what I can only assume were her grandchildren in a park. She was toting a Nikon DSLR and a couple of lenses. What was I doing?

After a lot of soul-searching and reading on the net, I came across Steve’s site. While I had always heard of Leica, I had never used one. Perhaps this was it? I ordered one, along with a 50mm lens and felt my “Right Brain” re-engage. I was hooked.

With the Leica, I was once again studying my subject as opposed to simply trying to “get the shot.” I thought about aperture and exposure, instead of letting the camera do the thinking for me. I pre-focused and waited patiently for the moment I knew was coming, rather than simply grabbing a long sequence of shots and choosing the right one later. I even chose my lens based on what I was shooting and the look I wanted, where previously I simply bolted on a zoom lens and just had at it.

I use the analogy of the Portrait Painter and the House Painter. Both are called “painters” and both are capable of producing tremendous work. However, one relies on the technical nature of the tools they are using (such as rollers and sprayers) as well as the objective means by which their work is judged. The other requires more refined tools for their work, which is judged on a far more subjective basis. One lasts through the ages, the other until another coat is needed.

Enough philosophizing, back to the convention.

Now, when your job/life depends upon “getting the shot” there is nothing wrong with a camera and setup which makes absolutely certain that this will happen. For this task, the Canon 5D MkIII is the best camera I have ever used. Its focus and metering is spot on. It’s extremely fast, only bested by the Canon 1Dx. If you need the shot, aim it in the general direction of what you want to capture, set the camera to “P” and press and hold the shutter until the buffer is full. Trust me, the shot is in there.

For those shots I “had to get” this is what I used; as did all of the other professional photographers from the New York Times, Washington Post and the other news services. We all got the same shots. Side-by-side, same equipment, firing like mad when there was a gesture or look we thought our employers would appreciate. With few exceptions, if you took all of the photographs taken by everyone and mixed them up, no one could claim their own.

During the week I was in Charlotte for the convention, I shot more than 6,000 images. Of the images I shot, only about 400 or so were shot using the Leica. These were my images. These were the ones inside the convention, outside the convention, at the Bill Clinton party, the protest rally, or just heading home at the end of the day. These were for me.

The Leica makes me think. It makes me plan. It makes me create rather than capture.

Given its size, the Leica is with me most of the time. Given its simplicity, it has become the tool of choice when photographing for myself. I am far from being as proficient with it as I am with my Canon gear (after all I’ve been using Canon for decades), but the Leica is the camera I now prefer to use. Is it for everything? Obviously not.

Can the Leica compete in the “land of the giants,” the 400mm, 500mm and greater lenses? In a word, no. When the shot has to be in perfect focus, clear in almost no light, and of that microsecond moment that disappears in an instant – the Leica would not be my first choice – we have computers for that; computers made by Canon, Nikon and now Sony.

At the end of the day, I have edited most of my 6,000 images, handed them in to the convention, and posted some to my stock agency. Those that I printed, those that will go on my walls, those that I am the most proud of, came from my Leica.

My Right-Brain is engaged once again, creating images which will hopefully last.


I’m off to go find some abandoned Steel Mills! 
(and thinking of a Leica MP!)

Thanks Steve for letting me ramble on so. Shooting with the Leica has been a joy. Keep up the great work.

(Thank YOU Peter!!!)

Now the images:

90mm, ISO 160, f/6.7, 1/250 sec.

The police were brought in from around the state to deal with the protest march. I focused on the lines which this image sets up, as well as the banner with the word “Allies” on it. Note the name of the street is West Trade, though everyone mistakes it for World Trade. An interesting juxtaposition.


Castles in the Sand

50mm, ISO 1250, f/8, 1/90 sec.

 Designed to promote tourism to Myrtle Beach, this enourmous sculpture of Barak Obama was built leading up to the convention. Situated so all of the delegates would have to pass by, it presents an interesting portrait of the president, both massive in scale, yet ephemeral in composition.


Charlotte, Night

50mm, ISO 1600, f/2, 1/25 sec. EV -.7

Walking out of the convention late one night, looking up to see this brilliantly lit building dwarfed by two adjacent and boring office complexes.

Chris Matthews, MSNBC

50mm, ISO 500, f/2.8, 1/60 sec. 

One of my favorite images from the convention. MSNBC had set up their own pavillion in an outside mall. Climbing to the top floor and looking down on to the Chris Matthews show. The two separate worlds, one on stage – calm, back to the audience, to the camera – the other in the audience, all jumbled together, no single focus, almost without purpose, drawn to the spectacle.

Girl Power

90mm, ISO 160, f/5.7, 1/180 sec.

Taken during the protest march. Many, many messages in the crowd. Almost too many to grasp any continuity in the meaning. Spotted this girl being held aloft. Always wonder if she has any idea regarding the meaning of the sign she carries.

National Guard Rail

90mm, ISO 160, f/2.4, 1/180 sec.

 North Carolina police officer (more than likely brought in from a surrounding district) awaits the protesters.

On the Big Screen

50mm, ISO 400, f/2.8, 1/60 sec., EV -.3

Obama speaks to the convention. While not as effective in “getting the shot” as a 500mm from the same location, the Leica does a much better job of getting the feel of the event. The house was packed. Walking around with the M9 allowed me to move more freely through the crowd.

Pool Feed

50mm, ISO 500, f/2.8, 1/90 sec.

These are three of the Pool Feed cameras, cameras which supply video to all of the networks of the main event. During rehearsal, when the stage is blank, the operators are still there. There is often even time to catch up on one’s reading, as seen here.

Step Right Up

50mm, ISO 400, f/1.7, 1/90 sec., EV -1

Managed to wrangle an invite to the private Bill Clinton party for the State of Arkansas. As usual, Bill was quite late in making an appearance. His speech was more of a talk, preparation for his speech on the floor the next day. I waited to see that Clinton “sparkle” which he is well known for. Standing at the platform, he seemed almost the consumate carnival barker, the reason for the toning of the photo as shown.

Waiting for the Shot

35mm, ISO 500, f/2.4, 1/60 sec.

I was standing in front of the opening to the floor a few days before the convention began and this photographer strode up, he was shooting everything (though there was really nothing to shoot yet). Suddenly he dropped to the floor and started shooting the entrance as if the King of Siam was coming through it. He took so many shots that I had plenty of time to take out my Leica, bolt on the 35mm and shoot him. I took two shots. I think he must have had thirty or more.

Wherever You Hand Your Hat

50mm, ISO 800, f/4, 1/60 sec., EV +.3 

One of my favorites. The last day of the convention, heading back to my hotel. On the transit sign, the local police officer who was assigned to guard this entrance, had hung his hat and bag. He was no where to be seen. It was over.


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