Jul 242012

Leica M9 and M9-P Firmware Update Version 1.196 now Live! 

Today Leica released new firmware for all M9 and M9-P owners! It seems they are still working on the SD Card issues that have plagues some users for a while as there are now more SD card improvements. Looks like they also added the new APO 50 Summicron to the lens detection and improved upon the power management. Overall a decent update. If you want to update your M9 to the latest and greatest, click here and then once you hit that page look to the right and click “UPDATES”.

Leica’s list of improvements this time around:

Further improvements of SD-Card compatibility.

Implementation of the Lens detection of the new APO-Summicron-M 1:2/50mm ASPH.

Improved power management.

The camera is now measuring battery stability internally. In case of weak battery stability, the camera switches off automatically.

Using old batteries could have lead to camera crashes and banding stripes under certain conditions with the previous firmware versions. Especially the usage of nearly 6 years old M8 batteries proved to be critical.

It is the nature of Li-ion batteries that the capacity weakens after a certain time.

We recommend replacing the batteries for the M8 and the M9 after 3 years at the latest. Heavy usage can even accelerate the aging process, and then batteries should be replaced earlier.

In case that the total amount of pictures, that can be taken with a certain battery, is significantly lower than before with Firmware 1.196, we recommend replacing this battery.

New batteries can be ordered at all Leica Dealers (Order Number 14464 )

Please be aware that your settings and your user profiles can be deleted after the firmware update. Please make a note of your settings and user profiles before you run the firmware update.

Jul 172012

Amazing RARE Leica Set for Sale – The LHSA MP-3 with SE 50 1.4 Summilux and Leicavit. 

MAN OH MAN!!! I remember when this set was available new at B&H Photo and back then I did not have the funds to click on “buy” but I so wanted this set! To me, this set is the pinnacle of Leica film cameras. Yes, there is the MP and the M6 but this special edition LHSA M-P3 set with 50 Summilux ASPH 1.4 (special knurled focusing ring version, which rocks) and Leicavit in classic chrome is THE set to own if you are a shooter or collector. I don’t thing these things should be bought and stored, I think they should be used to do what they were made to do, and that is SHOOT THEM!

I never ever see one of these sets go up for sale but Dale Photo has one and it is in excellent condition with presentation case, caps, and even plastic still on the bottom plates. My friend Seal owns this set and he has raved to me about it many times. I always used to think I would own this set and be done with it but sadly, at these price I never will.

So if you are into film, have loads of cash flow, and want one of the sweetest Leica LHSA sets EVER, click here to check it out. Many will scoff at this but it is a beauty and I know of many who have been looking for this set for a long time. SO, if you happen to call Dale, tell them you saw it here!


Jul 162012

Pics of the Leica M10 Leak out….seems it will have a top mounted EVF like the X2

So pics have finally leaked of the Leica M10! Don’t you just love it when leaked photos are out and they look god awful?  Looks like an M still but with a few enhancements. Notice the port at the shoe? It’s the same as what is on cameras that have a shoe that houses an EXTERNAL EVF. Hmmmm. I think the M10 will have live view, video, an external EVF and a CMOS sensor. My only question is, will this take away from the M digital quality we have come ti grow and love? The past M8 and M9 have used CCD sensors and these have a rep for having a certain look and feel. I’ve always been a fan of CCD but CMOS brings with it new possibilities for an M like Video, Live View and much higher ISO capability.

It also has a new dial selector and larger screen (finally, are they upgrading the antique LCD on the M9)?

In any case I expect this to be announced this year so stay tuned. Of course these are my opinions and guesses so let’s see how they play out. You can see more HERE.

I expect the M10 to be revolutionary. To do away with focus issues and problems. To be able to use longer lenses like the 135 without issues. I also expect it to come in at a heft price and after this is released I predict the M9 will become a much sought after “classic”. C’mon Photokina! Oh and thanks to Gideon Buurma for sending me the info on this one!

Jul 112012

New Leica Model Special Edition M9-P “Masterpiece”.

By David Babsky

Hi Steve,

Got my invitation to the latest “Leica Event” in Germany: to celebrate 10 years of the ‘Meister Camera’ store in Berlin, and the release of a 50-piece limited edition of the M9-P in matt black, wrapped in steel-grey leather, with a 28mm aspheric Summicron marked “Meisterstück” (Masterpiece).

But I’m so happy with the fifty-seven year old Russian Zorki 1d I’ve just bought, with its similar aged (1955) Industar-22 copy of the old collapsible Leitz 50mm f3.5. Small, quiet(ish), super sharp, perfect shutter, perfect lens. Just shot a jewellery exhibition with it, and can’t think of a more appropriate camera to use: it’s a jewel!



Jul 102012

Dear Steve,

After for quite long times seeing so many great photos of Leica lenses everywhere from your portfolios and many photographers,  the character… the overall signature that I myself can’t explain.. beside enjoying the results..All that poisons (oops.. sorry..) already built this desire to know and shoot it personally.

Three months ago, a friend from Munich, offer me this vintage Leitz Wetzlar Summicron-R 1:2/50. I know it’s not the Leica M mount but it’s way in the affordable range price in Leica league. Fortunately.. I still could manage to afford the Leitz.. its from 1969. After a 2 week wait for the old Leitz to arrive from Munich… I am so overwhelmed!  I already bought .. well .. not a Novoflex adapter (that would cost almost like the lens)… I can afford a generic adapter to M4/3 body.

I know the Cron R50 would crop 2x becoming 100 mm lens and that’s not my comfort zone ( I am just a beginner and get used to 50 mm range). Some friends said I am into nothing buying the big names a great lens, and match it with this unholy matrimony with Micro 4/3 body with old sensor . The combination will kill almost all the beauty and power from the Cron R50..well… I know guys.. I can only get some of the goodness.. but stubborn me.

For 2.5 months straight I’ve been using the combo every day. I think I have started to get used to them.. the unbalanced weight to the front… the very prone to flare character of the lens (CMIIW). Call me a nut but there is some mojo that comes from this unusual combo. It’s not the crazy bokeh definitely (imagine F2.0 in M4/3 body).. or not even the perfectness of Leica design (it’s a vintage Cron R50 , after all). Or maybe the Lens simply boost my spirit to keep shooting and practicing. Oh well.. I simply want to share my journey with the Cron R 50 for this 2 months (and still going).

At first…. I am so confused what to shoot . My first curiosity is why the Summicron becoming a standard or reference… some said because the sharpness. Some of my first shots are simply a test of sharpness. Some of daily things I met in my life … all are shots in F4.0.


 Vase and flower.. small vase.. Scale.. and Kettle… (somehow reminds me of Beauty and The Beast animation)


Shots of a restaurant kitchen… (ok.. I am fans of ratatouille animation movie)


Breads and Cakes


901.. Pile of Glasses in darkness

879.. The Chairs… I somehow captivated by the light and how it bounce to the floor


I also try to know how sharp it can be.. I think the limit in MFT body is F8.. and the Flare… definitely there

Statue in the garden on Sunset… (using the hood already)



ok… the Cron is good to shoot unmoving objects… not human..how about Humans ?? how about chasing a manual focus of Cron R50 with GF2 ?? counting only by live view LCD ? Can I do it ?? Here are some human object shots (street shots, candid) and how I get used to chase my baby moves with the Cron R50 and GF2

I shot some students doing a video projects .. a small commercial on the park.. and tested the bokeh in F2.0


Music for all.. the body is Rasta .. but the play the classic piece beautifully


a stranger relaxing and reading book


979 a chef is working behind the kitchen

She shoot.. I shoot


786 a violin teacher playing in the park

a trio violin …


Using cellphone while doing construction work..


woman washing her hand


a street beggar and his daughter


Ok… how about shooting quite fast-moving object.. its my baby… I learn to shoot people.. cause of her.. baby Daini. Can I cath her photos using Cron R50 in GF2 ? I think after get used to the manual focusing.. I can but not as fast and as productive as Pan Leica 25 mm AF.


my baby Daini in various expression .. Shots using Cron R50


Well… its been a crazy 2.5 months… forcing my self using manual focus only but man, I do enjoy the time.

I love the Cron R50. The lens can be sharp even in F2.0 but it is most appropriate sharp in F4.0 and while the bokeh is not very prominent (well F2.0 in a 2x crop body ??) the flare is definitely there. The 50 becomes 100.. it has the advantages of becoming a mid zoom. So what s a Leica look anyway ? After these shots.. and many more.. I really can’t tell.. I just feel it.. ok.. ok.. its absurd.. I know! But the main thing is.. I am having great times shooting it.

I can’t be technical.. I am just a beginner … this is not a review whatsoever.. it’s just my personal journey.



William Jusuf

Jul 082012

LOADS of used Leica Lenses and Cameras NOW available!

Just browsed over at B&H Photos used department and saw all of these USED Leica lenses and cameras. Here is what they have available now and there are MANY lenses here!

Noctilux F1 – latest F/1 design – $7895.00

LEICA 90 SUMMICRON ASPH APO, with case – $2799

Leica 35 Summicron PRE-ASPH – $1999

Leica 50 Summicron f/2  – latest pre APO version – $1499

Leica 28 Elmarit ASPH 2.8 – $1949

Leica 24 Elmar 3.8 – “10” in box as new – $2394

Leica 135 f/3.4 Telyt APO – $2449

Leica 28 Summicron ASPH – $3499

LEICA 21 ELMARIT ASPH f/2.8 – $3699

and now some cameras!

Leica M9-P Silver Chrome with hand grip and in the box, 9 condition – $7199


Leica M8 – $2499 – Black

LEICA M7 – BLACK – $2499

Leica X1 – Black – $1399

NOW THAT IS A LOAD OF USED GEAR! Hopefully some of you can find what you are looking for and get better pricing than new. Leica glass is always a good buy as they never really fall in value. Here are a few more I found at pop flash and Dale Photo!

Popflash also has a 50 Summilux 1.4 pre-asph for $2997

Leica 35 Summicron ASPH – $2797

Dale has a used Zeiss 50 Planar for Leica M – $900

Also a used 75 Summarit which is a GREAT lens!

Also, don’t forget Ken Hansen. He always has new and used Leica in stock. You can e-mail him with whatever you are looking for at [email protected]

Jul 072012
ATTN: Some of the photos below will contain nudity. If this offends you then do not read or scroll down. I personally find the human body beautiful and when taking shots like these from Vali there is nothing wrong with posting them. I say this because in the past many uptight readers emailed me complaining when I posted an artful nude from a reader. So if the human body offends you then do not read further :) 

“UNCENSORED SEXY with LEICA M9 – A GQ Photo shoot

by Vali Barbulescu

We live in a world where majority matters. This is true but at the same time we are all trying to stand out of the crowd. This is also happening in the world of professional photography. Most of portrait/fashion photographers (including me) use a DSLR or medium format camera for their work. Ease of use and excellent results. What if there could be more than that?

What if you can add a special “flavor” and also stand out? My answer for this was LEICA M9. The most famous rangefinder (and expensive) in the world could be the right tool for shooting portraiture or fashion if used properly. I always compare it to a Ferrari. You can get from point A to point B with a Honda Accord cheaper but not faster than with a Ferrari. Also with the Ferrari you’ll get that “unique driving experience” . Shooting fashion with a manual focus camera could be challenging. But once you start to “master” it, you will be amazed by that “shooting experience”. And this is where the M9 shines.

I decided to shoot a sexy fashion editorial for GQ Magazine with my M9 and that was indeed a good decision. And yes, you can do it. You need more “patience” with your shots and of course a little help from the subject. In my case, it was the astonishing beautiful model Delia Tudose and she did a great job keeping those poses still a little more and of course showing all that uncensored sexiness to my Leica. I used just two lenses. A 35mm Color Skopar f/2.5 Voigtlander and a 50mm f/2 Carl Zeiss Planar T* ZM. I wish I were rich enough to buy the 35 and 50 luxes from Leica but I need to save a little more for those after investing in my M9. I was definitely pleased with the results and the quality of the printed photos was amazing.

I also had to answer the classic question “Is this an old camera?” to some guys on the set and also I had to “explain” to the people in charge with the production of the shoot that they don’t need to “worry” as I was not using the “standard” DSLR camera for their editorial. I was extremely flattered buy some old (71 years old) visitor of the place where we shoot who spotted my Leica and exclaimed : “I love Leica!” And also he was “intrigued” that they still manufacture cameras like this, these days…

Overall I had an amazing experience shooting this editorial with my Leica M9. I will consider using it more and more for my gigs in the future and I also highly recommend this to every professional photographer: you need once in your life to shoot with a Leica camera ! Starting then, you could find a “dpow”.

Here you have the making of video of the shoot: (filmed with Nikon 1 V1 and graded with VSCO Film)

And here you have the final photographs:



Jul 032012

Hello Steve and Hello everybody!

Shortly about my self.

46 years, Male, Danish, use to be pressphotographer from 1985 – 2005. Lost my inspiration, my energy and my “photoway” of thinking. So I gave up and played some bass guitar instead. But I did not sell all my cameras, so on hollidays I took pictures like you do on hollidays. I still have a Nikon D200 and a 17 – 55 mm.

I have had all the professional Nikon cameras, often three or four at the same time. All the good lenses – incl. the brilliant 300mm f 2,8 ;-) The manuel one. AND I had the Leica M6 with some good lenses. I sold everything for digital Nikon system – and then – I gave it all up.

The past three – four years I have taking almost no pictures. Except with my iPhone. I had it always by my side. So I though that if I should have the inspiration back, I had to find a small camera with high quality that I could have on me all the time. I was thinking of my Leica M6 and the way I took pictures when I had that camera in my hand. I was more focussed and more creative than with my Nikon. Don´t ask why. Do anyone have an answer to that ?

I researched around the web and found the Leica X2 test on this site. So here I am. With a black beaty in my hand. Included the electronic viewfinder.

The X2 give me what I need. When I take it in my hand I feel we are a team. I use it fully automatic, and fully manuel – I only take black and white – I expose the pictures in BW and I run them thrue Photoshop and Silver Efex Pro 2. (I do not have the money for a Monochrome. Let´s see if there´s a M10 soon.)

Thanks for the X2 test and thanks for all the stories from around the world. You have all giving me a lot of energy and inspiration back

The chosen photos are all taking when I was on tour.or just down town.

All the best

Lasse Jorgensen



Jul 022012

Leica M9 in The Palouse

By Ashwin Rao – See his blog HERE

Hi, friends. My last article featured the Pentax 645D in the Palouse. As much as I was excited to try out a new friend, the 645D, on this trip, I brought along my long-term photographic muse, the Leica M9, for the ride. I continue to find the M9 to be the best camera for a wide variety of work. It is not often talked about  as a landscape camera, but the M9 (and all M’s before it) can do a great job capturing nature and landscapes in a variety of lighting situations. Along with with the M9, I used the 21 mm f/3.5 Super Elmar, the 50 mm Summilux Asph, and the 135 mm f/3.5 APO-Telyt to the beautiful Palouse.

Here are some of the images produced using the lovely Leica M9 and these lenses. I hope that you enjoy them as a set to accompany my Palouse 645D article.



Jun 302012

A question I get several times a week: Can a small mirrorless camera replace a DSLR? 

With the trend in digital photography today heading to the small powerhouse bodies with larger sensors many have dumped their DSLR’s for the likes of  a Sony NEX camera, an Olympus OM-D, a Leica X2, Nikon V1 or one of the many other small mirrorless cameras that are now flooding the market.

It seems that ever since digital cameras started being produced, photography has taken a turn of some sorts. Today, for many, it is just as much about the device being used as it is the images themselves. Many shooters today get more enjoyment out of the GEAR than they do the PHOTOS. This is a true fact, and I try to keep a balance myself as I love the gear but I also love and am passionate about photography. But what is the most important is that people are gaining joy from all of this and if buying a Leica X or Sony NEX makes you happy, then why not?

I feel it is important to use a tool that you can bond with..learn with and thoroughly enjoy. I have had a love affair with smaller cameras over the past few years because I was so tired of lugging a huge backpack around whenever I wanted to go out and shoot.

Back in the earlier digital days DSLR’s were everywhere as we did not even have a choice if we wanted small AND high quality. I remember going to disneyland about 6-7 years ago and seeing everyone with a large DSLR. I remember thinking ‘how could you lug that around Disneyland AND still enjoy your day”? Made my back and arms hurt looking at some of those rigs.

When I was there at DL I waltzed around with a Leica M7 and a few rolls of film and it was no problem though I do remember worrying that the rides would jar the rangefinder out of alignment but even after 3 days there and many rides the RF was fine and even with water splashing on the old M7 I had zero issues. I would not try this with an M9 though as it somehow seems more delicate due  to all of the electronics inside that can have water leak onto them since there is no weather sealing in an M camera. Yet.

Yea, those days with the old M7 were fine indeed. No worries. Compose, snap, shutter and wind. But before I go on a rant about remembering my easy days with the M7 I have to stop myself because that is not what this article is supposed to be about!

Many readers e-mail me and ask me if a small mirrorless can replace a large DSLR. That is a very common question I get these days but you have to remember that these small cameras are usually not as versatile as a DSLR. For example, if you want to shoot sports action, a DSLR will usually be the best bet, though someone like me and a few others would use an M9 without worry, lol.

For sports the only mirrorless choices are really the Olympus OM-D as it has the speed, the lenses, and the high quality and ISO performance that almost matches a nice DSLR. Something like an X2 would not be good for sports with its limited 35mm lens and slow operation. A Nikon V1 could do sports but with the slow zooms available you would need REALLY good light. The AF is good enough as is the IQ if you keep the ISO lower. The Sony NEX series is great for sports as well as you can use some kick ass manual glass to do so.

While the cameras mentioned can do great, a DSLR will still be the sports shooting king so if you are a sports pro a mirrorless would/could not replace a DSLR just yet.

But what about Street? Portraits?

For street I feel a Leica M is king. That is MY opinion as I can shoot a Leica M faster than I can AF with most when on the street. I do not consider myself a street photographer though I do enjoy it and find it to be a great exercise to get your confidence up. Street Photography is nothing more than recording and capturing moments of real life as they happen. This is easier said than done but some people out there are very good at it while others are awful at it. It seems that in the past 2-3 years “Street” has become popular and it has brought out some great photographers but it also seems that there is a lack of REAL street shots with impact, even from old pros who call themselves street shooters because they shoot every week. I think I see maybe 1-2 really fantastic street shots a month from the slew of guys on flickr and Facebook who shoot street every day.

Like I said, I do not call or consider myself “street shooter” though I do shoot with an M and have shot street. I have tried my hand at it with MANY cameras and the Leica M just works. I had a hard time with the original Leica X1 but with that camera and the new X2 you can set the camera to manual focus and use Zone Focusing to shoot quick and easy so they also can work well. The Fuji X100 is also a great street camera as is the Nikon V1 (I have an upcoming Guest article with samples and they have def have impact). The NEX series can also do great with street and I had fun with the NEX-5 and 16mm a year or so ago so just about any mirrorless made today can do street well if you learn the camera and features and best way to shoot with it while out in the urban jungle.

Bottom line? For street I would say a mirrorless is MUCH better than a DSLR as DSLR’s are too large and scare people away. 

How about portraits?

Today I was sitting in my office reading e-mails and noticed I had a slew of cameras around me. A Leica X2, a Sony A57 DSLR with 16-50 lens and a Nikon V1. I also have a Fuji X100, Sony NEX-7 and NEX-F3 here as well (the F3 and A57 are here for  testing right now). I have heard and seen great things from the Sony A57 and 16-50 lens as this lens is super sharp even at 2.8 wide open. It also will keep the 2.8 aperture throughout the zoom range, so this is one of the premo Sony lenses.

My nephew is here visiting so I called him in the room and asked if I could snap 2-3 shots of him with a couple of cameras. I was not even going to post these but after viewing them I was impressed by what the Sony did with that 16-50 Zoom lens at 2.8. The camera seemed to put out a nice file. When viewing the file from the Leica X2 I was also pleased with what I saw. There was that Leica sharpness and detail but it also had a different color signature. The Nikon V1 could not match the richness of the two larger sensor cameras but it can do a good job, but the color is not as good or rich due to the smaller sensor.

First the A57 file with the 16-50 Zoom at 2.8

The Sony A57 puts out a beautiful rich file but with the camera and zoom lens attached it is MUCH larger than a Leica X2 (but much more versatile, faster, and with gorgeous video) The Sony combo will cost you $1650. $650 for the body and $750 for the lens (and this lens is superb but don’t take my word for it, read the reviews at B&H). The 16-50 lens is a quality lens, easily used for pro work.

The Leica X2 is a small little powerhouse. A little slow when compared to the competition but it is indeed a powerful imaging device put into a small body, that is the one thing that is certain. If you can live with the 35mm focal length and only the 35mm focal length then it is a viable but expensive option. Below you can see the shot from the X2..

Both of those images were shot as RAW files and converted using ACR.

The A57 seems like it has a richer and smoother rendering while the Leica retains that Leica signature. For in studio portraits, as in..if I were a portrait pro, I would choose a nice medium format camera for the absolute best quality. Either that or a Nikon D800 DSLR because in the studio you need all of the quality you can get and even shallow depth of field, which is the weakness of cameras like the Nikon V1 and in some cases Micro 4/3.

1st image is from the Leica X2 and the 2nd is from the Nikon V1

So while a mirrorless like the X2, Nikon V1 and X100 or OM-D can do studio, for more versatility and overall quality cameras like a Nikon D800 or Canon 5D III would be better.

A Sony NEX-7 also works well in studio especially when you mount Leica glass.

The new mirrorless cameras that are available today ALL make for amazing every day cameras. You can take them anywhere, capture anything you want and do it without looking like a big dork with your DSLR, 70-200 and sun visor and fanny pack on. A Leica X2 or Nikon V1 or Fuji X100 can be taken with you where a camera like a Nikon D800 would most likely be left at home. So for capturing life’s little moments smaller is always better. For pro work like weddings, sports, action or even studio a DSLR would give you more versatility and quality.

With all of that said, I would take a Leica M9 anywhere and shoot anything with it :)

Jun 272012

Electrical Tape and the M9 in Havana by Erik Benjamins

Arriving in Havana on a late Wednesday afternoon unleashed welcomed waves of hot stickiness. I had arrived for the week to attend the 11th Havana Bienal. And it was this unique and privileged in into Cuba, coming off of years of unabashed romanticization, that tipped me over in deciding to invest in and put to first use, the Leica M9.

I don’t consider myself a photographer, but the practice proudly defines my technical skill set. Whether with traveling or working, moments when my relationship to photography veers into the analogue are preferred and savored. Travel makes up a substantial part of my professional and personal pursuits. In the past, that implied always bringing a film camera or two, my Nikon F2, Hasselblad 501 or maybe a borrowed Mamiya 7. For my personal work I still prefer to use my Toyo 45A, lending to my practice that is above all else, directorial and collaborative. As I finished up graduate school, I knew I couldn’t get away without owning a high quality digital camera for much longer. Gone were the privileges of free and hastily planned checkouts of 5D Mark IIs and the like for documentation and other jobs that would sporadically come and go. Considering the need for a digital camera I could not help but make assumptions about the tool and its effect on taking time, a variable I would argue is one of the craft’s most important characteristics. Flung into the digital realm of color calibrated computers, SD cards and CS suites, I perhaps stubbornly considered the sacred variable of time cast into the forever compressed, work-flowed and expedited by growing armies of shoot-by-the-hip dSLR pro-sumers.

The growing popularity of the Fuji X series, particularly the X-100, marked a point when I first started to seriously consider purchasing my own digital camera. I was looking for something light and compact, capable of producing superb quality images that I could use for pleasure (travel) and work (documentation). Further research led me inevitably to the holy M9 and Steve’s thorough and accessible site. Two observations were immediately made clear: one, Fuji and Leica’s contributions to the digital field are in completely different worlds and two, the M9, is a seductive and powerful beast that demands a very particular and patient kind of user. I was near immediately won over by the M9’s set of stubborn and confident qualities ensuring a long and continued life: the full frame sensor, the manual functions (especially the pleasures of manual focusing), the glass, the lens compatibility with its analogue predecessors, and yes, its “oooh-ahhh” factor. I don’t find a particular pleasure in street photography, which the Ms have been famously engineered for, but I do covet putting to athletic use a small, all-manual camera, with such welcome weight and feel, that just so happens to procure professional-grade digital files, saving costly trips to the film processor and negative scanner that begrudgingly add up. I didn’t want to worry more than I needed to about the fate of all things digital, their inevitable slippage into obsolescence. And while I’m arriving quite late in the game with a M10 around the corner, the M9 had what I needed and desired: simplicity, quality, and endurance. It had proven itself as a strong, unrelenting bastard, refusing to be placed on the shooter’s dusty camera shelf.

So my time in Havana was a most welcome and anticipated test-run of both the camera and my new identity as a traveler armed with, gasp, a digital camera. And with that I slung my new used M9 with 35mm Summicron around my shoulder (I’m a one lens kind of shooter for reasons of size and simplicity. I don’t plan on investing in another lens for quite some time, if ever). I had shot only about a dozen images by the time we landed and while I was quite comfortable with rangefinder operation given extensive use with the Mamiya 7, this was a whole new game. I’ll let the images speak for themselves, but a quick round-up of my thoughts in putting my M9 to heavy use for a week in Cuba includes the following:

The size was liberating and that weight just felt so… perfect. Shooting an all-manual, analogue’esque digital camera was an experience I had desperately longed for. The M9 in this regard made shooting the most fun and satisfying experience I’ve ever had with a digital camera, period. Understanding the shocking difference between the rather poor LCD playback screen and the actual DNG file allowed for a confidence and comfort in taking time to meter, compose, shoot, move on and not worry about reviewing or over thinking it. I have always preferred to compose in-camera and as such it took me a little time to get used to the framelines and parallax, but this was just an issue of practice.

I’m ecstatic, energized, quenched and even with faith in the possibilities of shooting digital. By no means am I giving up my cherished analogue films and formats, but the convenience of the M9’s size, image quality and operation is as unbelievable as it is unique as it is seductive. It took me a little to get accustomed to Lightroom, but I’ve embraced the software for M9 workflow and am really pleased with it. The price even in assembling a used kit is brutal and near other-worldly, but like many have said before regarding this, investing in a Leica is not about the money, but about shooting in a way that is opened up by closing down. Gone are the countless and overwhelming menus and controls that keep thumbs and index fingers over-exercised.

In Havana I covered my M9 and Leica logos with electrical tape. One day, another tourist walked by me once and then again, his eyes pointed slightly downwards. “I know that’s a Leica!” he cheered to me as a dSLR weighed down his neck. “I shot the best photos with mine years ago – what a great camera, what a great camera,” he waxed nostalgically with pride. We, two visitors, far from home, happily shared a few words about Leica and photography. And we were in mutual agreement: these really are damn good and damn unique cameras.

Erik Benjamins works in optimistic pursuit of a choreography between the culinary, performing and visual arts. He recently received his MFA in Studio Art from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in affiliation with Tufts University and now spends his time between Boston and Los Angeles. http://www.erikbenjamins.com


Jun 262012

Leica X2 Firmware Version 1.1 is ready for download HERE at the Leica site. It is said to improve higher ISO performance past 1600, improve auto white balance and have general overall performance enhancements. What the “general improvements and performance optimization” means I have no clue so I downloaded this firmware myself and tested out some shots at ISO 1600-12,800 and out in my yard to see if the camera still output overly warm colors.

I noticed the AF is actually a bit faster, or at least seems like it is. May be some kind of placebo effect but it seemed much snappier to me while aiming and shooting, and this is good. Feels a bit more responsive so this may be part of the overall optimization.

Here are some high ISO indoor shots this morning – nothing fancy, just snaps for testing – click them to see the full 100% crop embedded – from RAW

and one more OOC JPEG at ISO 3200

Below is another OOC JPEG shot in Vivid mode but at ISO 100. When I shot JPEG’s with the X2 and the previous FW I would get a VERY overall warm rendering. While this is very vivid in color it doesn’t seem as warm to me, so this is probably where the AWB was tweaked. 

AWB doesn’t seem to be as “warm”. Just my initial thoughts, remember, I tested it for just these shots to see if I noticed anything so don’t take these as cold hard facts. I have to shoot more with it to see how it goes. But am happy Leica put out a firmware update so fast, which is unlike them :)

UPDATE: I spoke with Sean Reid of Reidreviews.com and he has been testing this new firmware for a while now. Here is what he mentioned:

I’ve been working with various firmware revisions for the X2 for some time now. In his review of the X2, Steve noted that there seemed to be something strange about the ISO 3200 DNG files from the X2. He wrote:

“One thing I found odd is that at ISO 3200 in both sample shots from the X2, the one above of the bottles and the one below of the Polaroid (I tried three times, same results) show a blurred result. These are all from RAW and I did not add ANY Noise Reduction to any of the samples.”
Then, in another article he wrote:

“Here is what gets me scratching my head. In my review of the X2 I have found that anytime you shoot at ISO 3200, even if you convert the RAW and use ZERO Noise Reduction you still get details smearing. This does not happen at ISO 6400 or 12,500, only 3200. You can see the X2 crop below is smeared and blurred from in camera NR that is even applied to the RAW file when you do not want it there.”
He was right about that. There was a bug in the firmware that caused those files to be smoothed when they should not have been. We didn’t see the same kind of smoothing in the ISO 1600 or ISO 6400 DNG files from the camera and it wasn’t supposed to be happening at ISO 3200 either. So an important change in Firmware 1.1 is that this problem is now fixed. There may some other refinements but, in my view, that’s the key change. I was glad to see Leica release this fix fairly quickly.
Sean also has a review of the X2 up at his paid subscription site, reidreviews.com
Jun 242012

Lazy Sunday used deals! Well, some are deals! Leica, Olympus, Fuji, Nikon and more!

It’s the weekend and today I am going to be busy transferring all of the old reviews from my old iWeb site to this site because Apple is shutting down all mobile me services at the end of the month. So yes, I will be busy all day. Before I get to that though I thought I would mention that there are MANY great buys in the classified section here. Everything from a full Nikon V1 kit with everything included to a Fuji X100 with all accessories to a black OM-D from yours truly (have a silver on the way).

Check out the classified section HERE 

Also, noticed that B&H Photo had some used deals on Leica today…check out what they have below – click each image to be taken to their site for ordering or to check it out further. The 50 cron is the one I would go for because I would never spend the cash on the new 50 cron as we are getting to the point of diminishing returns, and yes, I have seen many samples from it that were unpublished. The new 50 will indeed be gorgeous, sharp and almost like a mix of the 50 Lux and 50 Cron but man, for $2100 you can get a mint as new 50 cron classic. $5k cheaper than the new one. Then again, if you have the cash…the new one is better but I do love the old one and many of my favorite M shots were taken with the classic cron (the samples in that link are not my faves, but shots with the classic on film and an M6).


BEST BUY HERE! A used Leica 50 Summicron in a 10 condition with box, basically NEW


A used 9+ in box condition Leica 35 Summarit, a lens I prefer in many ways to the $3300 Summicron!

A USED LEICA X1. in box, 8+ condition for $1299  – basically a slower X2

The Leica OVF for the X1 or the new X2! Used, 9 condition. 

HOW ABOUT A NOT SO MUCH OF A DEAL? Used Leica Noct F1 for about $8k!

I also found that Amazon has a load of special edition black Fuji X100’s in their warehouse deals, which means these are the customer returns they sell at a discount. You can see all of them by clicking the text below!

Fuji X100 Black Amazon Warehouse Deals!

Jun 222012

Crazy Comparison! Leica X2 vs Nikon J1

OK! Many of you have asked for a Nikon J1/V1 vs Leica X2 comparison to be done as a “Crazy Comparison” so here it is! There are a ton of Nikon 1 series fans who read this site and some of them thought this would make a cool post. So what do I do about it? Well, yesterday I headed down to Sedona AZ and I brought both the Leica X2 and  the Nikon J1 along with the Olympus E-M5 to see how each one would do shooting the same scenes, same aperture. I used the E-M5 for one shot only because this is mainly between the X2 and J1.

Keep in mind that the Leica X2 is $2000 and the J1 is $499 with a kit zoom, bag and SD card. So this is NOT a fair fight which is why it is called a “CRAZY” comparison. Just for fun guys so enjoy it!

The 1st one is from the Leica X2 from RAW – f/5.6 – click it for FULL size file

and now one from the little Nikon J1 – The sensor is much smaller and the J1 is only 10MP but the file looks pretty good! This one used the 10-30 Kit Zoom at f/5.6 and is from RAW. Click it for full size file.

and I couldn’t leave out the OM-D E-M5! This one is with the kit zoom at f/5.6

So here are a few more X2 and J1 comparisons…

The X2 at f/5.6 – from RAW – click it for full size file

and the J1 file

One more from the X2 – click it for full size

and the J1 – same deal, click it for the full size

So there you go! For those asking this should be cool – a few full size files from each camera. The J1 can put out a sharper (but noisier) file no question, but the X2 has the capabilities to print larger of course. The X2 also has the capability to shoot at f/2.8 and with the larger sensor would help speed, noise and depth of field (for those who want more shallow DOF). I can not tell a lie…in use, the J1 destroyed the X2. It was much faster, focused as fast as lightning, never missed and it was a piece of cake to use and shoot. The X2 was slower, missed a few times and had more motion blur doing indoor shots at the same shutter speeds (due to the IS with the Nikon V1 lenses).

These are two totally different cameras though with the J1 being a glorified point and shoot (but an excellent one at that) and the X2 being a more advanced enthusiast point and shoot :) Below are a couple of shots I snapped inside of a restaurant with each camera. These were not ever meant to even be comparisons and I did not use same settings but it is cool to see that either camera can give good results inside.

The X2


The J1

and more from the little $499 J1 – click them for larger versions – I went a little bold on the colors here…

One thing I learned from this test is I still stand by my opinion of the Nikon 1 series and that the J1 is a kick ass little camera for $499 that IMO beats something like a Canon S90 any day of the week. The Leica X2 is also a beautiful camera but is for those with bigger wallets of course, and for those who want the Leica experience, which many of us do it seems!

I am a huge fan of the Nikon V1 and if you are someone who mainly posts to the web and prints 8X10’s or smaller than there really is no need for more camera than this. One thing to also note is that the video on the 1 series cameras is also SUPERB..all Nikon needs to do is release some faster glass for these little guys and then we will really be talking. As for the OM-D, I still have yet to find any issues or problems with it. Flat out great camera, period.

UPDATE: Just for giggles, why not?

Just to test things I snapped this AC unit at f/4 with the X2 and Nikon V1 (yes the V1 not J1) – I used the 10-30 Kit lens for the V1 and both were at ISO 100.

I then took the 10 megapixel file from the V1 and blew it up to 16 Megapixels to match the X2, just to see how bad it would be

Those are 100% crops but you must click the image to see the full size crop!

and below is the Nikon V1 10 Megapixel native resolution crop – again, to see the full 100% crop click the image

You can see the warm color signature of the X2 (a little bit overly warm IMO) but the V1 is sharper without question. The X2 is “richer” and “warmer” and has less noise of course due to the larger sensor. The V1 has a built in EVF, is much faster, a bit sturdier, has great video capability and is $1850 cheaper (when adding EVF into the costs). I was going to sell my V1 but decided to keep it as it is amazingly fun to shoot and it makes me want to grab it when I go out the door, moreso than the other cameras around here.

I do not get the creamy files of an X100 or the color of the X2 or the lenses of the OM-D but I do get no muss, no fuss, sharp images and huge DOF, which sometimes is a good thing.

Jun 192012

Documentary wedding photography with the CV 35/1.2 II by Joeri van der Kloet

Hi Steve,

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to contribute something to your site! Many of the things I use every day were bought after reading reviews on your site. (from Steve: Thank YOU for reading and stopping by here)!

I’m a wedding and documentary photographer from the Netherlands and I shoot as much as I can in a documentary style. That means I won’t give any directions to the wedding couples I work for. I’m just there to capture whatever happens. The funny thing is that couples will hug, smile and kiss on a wedding, so there is no need to give directions how and when they should do this. The trick is to be there and be ready. As far as I’m concerned, this approach delivers true images and couples always say to me they really relive the day as they’re watching the pictures. For me, it makes my work one of the most rewarding disciplines of photography. I can really do what I like the most: observe and capture. I always say: the best training for documentary wedding photography is street photography. If you can do streets, you can do weddings.

I always liked to keep my equipment as basic as possible for documentary work: no zoom lenses, no flash, just fast primes and a couple of 5D2’s. One and a half year ago I switched to the Leica M9, after having played with a secondhand M6 for just a week. I totally fell in love with the simplicity of the camera and I figured it would be a great tool for my documentary wedding style. I practised for a number of weeks before I took it to my first wedding. The focusing was of course the hardest part. On the 5D2 I always worked in manual mode, so that did not change with the M9. For my first wedding I was pretty nervous, but the result was good. I didn’t miss a single shot and I loved the images.

I started with a simple kit: a 35 and 50 summicron and – an old, but very sharp – 90 tele-elmarit. I loved the simplicity of working with this kit and the look those summicrons gave me, in combination with the sensor, was a lot more pleasing than what I was used to. With the 5D2’s I mostly worked with two bodies and had a wide-angle attached to the first and a 50 to the second. Working with just one camera gave me some peace of mind and I liked that.

After a while I decided to buy the Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.2 II. At first, I bought this lens as some kind of ‘in case of emergency lens’. The M9 can be used up to 1600 ISO, only with very proper exposure, so that is about three stops slower than the 5D2 I used to work with – I’m counting 12800 in for the 5D2, though it gives much less detail than the M9 does at 1600 –

Buying a Noctilux was out of the question, so I turned to the new Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.2. It had good reviews and I was lucky enough to find one that focused perfectly on my M9. More importantly, low-light situations on weddings are generally also situations where you need a lens that is not too tight. For example, most brides get into their dresses in a slightly dim room. They don’t want their neighbours to spot them in their underwear of course. The first meeting between bride and groom is also quite often in a rather dark place: on the stairs, or in a hallway: both situations where a 50 would be too tight.

A fast 35 also makes a very versatile lens. You can use it for portraits, because the subject can easily be isolated. You can stop it down and get everything from the foreground to the background perfectly sharp. Moreover: it gives a very natural and ‘honest’ perspective. I can see why the Canon 35/1.4 is so popular. It is a very usable and interesting focal length and the 1.4 aperture only adds to this.

I have to say: the Nokton is quite heavy, but feels very good. Even better, it doesn’t block too much of the viewfinder, even with the hood on. The focus ring is smooth, but stiff enough. The aperture ring feels more solid than my summicrons and the sound of the clicks is lovely. I know, this doesn’t have any effect on the photo’s, but I think a lens should give you the idea you can rely on it. And this one does.

On the M9 and M8 it is a little heavy, but the balance is still good. If I use it a lot during the day, I really feel the difference with the 35 cron, but you could solve that with the grip that can be fitted on the M9. When used on the M8, a UV/IR filter should be fitted to prevent black colours turning into purple.

The Nokton 35/1.2 is quite sharp, even wide open. Sure, it isn’t summilux sharpness, nor summicron sharpness, but when used properly, sharpness is pretty good. Using it wide open requires precise focusing and makes it hard to recompose afterwards when the subject is rather close. Portraits taken on 1.2 should therefore have the eyes somewhere in the middle of the frame, or you should take into account that recomposing alters the focus a little. For me, it works perfectly. Sharpness is good in the center, but in the corners, it is a lot softer. Stopped down, center sharpness and corner sharpness improve.

For me, sharpness is good enough and I almost never stop it down further than 1.4, because I love the way the lens renders wide open. Also, I bought it to use it on 1.2, so why stopping down? Whereas in portraits sharpness is critical, in my documentary work, sharpness is less important than being able to get the shot and create a mood, look and style that suits me and the one that pays me.

Talking about its look, I just love it. The Nokton images show a dreamy, romantic rendering, with a beautiful soft background and plenty of sharpness in the center. The mild vignetting only adds to the mood: it makes the subject shine even more. Great for wedding work!

I bought the Nokton for situations where light would be so dim, my summicrons couldn’t do the job. After a few months of use I can say that the Nokton does its job very well and it has become more than a emergency lens. If you want razor thin depth of field- although you can’t compare to the 50/1.1 as far as DOF goes – creamy bokeh, dreamy moods and little vignetting, the Nokton is your lens. As a bonus it does not focus shift, is built very well, is cheap – Leica cheap, not really cheap – and has good sharpness.

However, for walking on the streets an entire day, I would prefer the 35 summicron, because of its weight, dimensions, better corner to corner sharpness, better hood, higher micro-contrast and the fact that it can be used in combination with my 50 cron and be processed similarly with the 35 cron files.

I haven’t stopped using the Nokton for weddings only. I have been using it for other documentary work where I wanted that specific look, but I also used it for portraits and street photography. The picture of the bike for example, was shot in the middle of the night, with just a bit of weak light coming from street lightning. It was shot on 1/15th at 640 iso, wide open at 1.2. Good sharpness and lots of mood and nice bokeh. Whereas the M9 is not regarded as the number one nightphotography camera, the Nokton might change things a bit. Heck, it even makes my M8 suitable for night photography!

Using a rangefinder for wedding photography is not a very common thing I have noticed. Sometimes people ask me whether I’m going to use that ‘point and shoot’ all day… Some older people know Leica from the old days and they all know how expensive it used to be. If I tell them what a M9 costs these days, they usually don’t believe me. The good thing however is that I get a lot less attention than when I was walking around with two big camera’s. I can get closer to people without being noticed and during ceremonies I appreciate the silence of the camera. For me, a rangefinder makes my work a bit more fun and that, I think, is very important.

You can see more of my work on my dutch website www.luta.nl


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