The Leica M9 is STILL my Fave “Pro” camera and here is why…
By Steve Huff
Over the last couple of years I have used the M9 mainly as a pro tool. I have taken it across the country on three tours with musician/photographer/friend Seal as well as had a few select shots chosen for his new CD release “Soul 2″. I could have taken something like a Nikon D700 or Canon 5DII or even a Nikon D3s, but nope…I wanted to shoot with a Leica M, even with the challenging light conditions of a fast paced show. The metering, the manual focus, and shooting with wide aperture lenses was a challenge indeed. Many times the M9 would be plastered to my eye with hand on the lens barrel constantly adjusting the focus as the action moved at a frantic pace. I even had a 3 month long rash on my right eye due to having the viewfinder on it so much over a 4 week period. Now that is dedication! Lol.
The truth is I sit here every day and I write about cameras. To many it may seem I have fallen out of love with my Leica. Well, that is not true. The Leica sits on the shelf much more, mainly due to the cost and the fact that I want to reserve it for pro work if and when it comes up. I have at least 3-4 cameras come through my house EVERY month these days so I get to try the latest and greatest cameras like the Sony NEX-5n, NEX-7, Olympus E-P3, Nikon V1, Ricoh GXR M Module, and more.
As much as I love these small mirrorless cameras I have yet to see ONE of them that would or could replace the M9 for me in a pro situation. Sure they have fast AF, good high ISO, decent metering and even awesome video but none can deliver the kind of image a Leica M can with a good Leica or even Zeiss lens, even older classic glass. For personal use I prefer to just grab one of the little guys like the NEX or V1 as the quality has jumped up in the last year or two quite substantially for these cameras. Still, if there is a situation where I need good low light performance or a “magic touch” there really is no substitute for an M camera.
The heat of the action..I wait for the jump…the M9 is being focused at a blistering pace..then BAM – fire and catch the shot at 1.4 with the 50 Lux ASPH. The M9 with a good lens will render an image unlike any other camera. This is FACT. No other camera will render the subject this sharp while melting away the background so smoothly. It’s all about the transitions and when I do shoot the M9, my images are always a cut above any other camera I have shot with. Some will not agree with me, but I know from experience and thats what counts.
The fact is though is that the M9 is CRAZY INSANE EXPENSIVE. It does have issues at times as well and is not perfect but when it nails it, it nails it. There is just something about the images from the M9 and I appreciate them more when I do not shoot with one for 2-3 months. I then go back and say “Oh Yea, that is why I paid so much money for that camera”. So for pro use, at least in my uses of shooting live shows it delivered time after time.
Yes this is out of focus but I still love it
I have been really enjoying shooting the Nikon V1 and NEX-7 recently, both great cameras but so different from each other, and the Leica. People say a good photographer can shoot with any camera and get results no matter what but honestly, if I shot the images I am showing here with a different camera, the images would NOT have been the same or had the same impact. The Leica gives a bit of “uniqueness” to your images WHEN you use certain lenses. What lenses? Stupid expensive ones like the 35 Summilux ASPH, 50 Summilux, 50 Noctilux will give you that something special in your photos.
You will not be able to focus close, you will only have manual focus available, the camera and lens will at times give you out of focus images but at the end of the day it always came through for me, even in Paris France this year when my rangefinder was out of alignment and almost evert image I shot that night was off a bit in focus. Even then, one image from that night made Seals new Album cover, “Soul 2″, mis-focus and all.
Speaking of Soul 2, I had 7 images from my M9 shots make it into the album cover, back, and booklet and for me, this was the most exciting news of 2011 :)
So even after over 2 years the M9 is still very relevant in the digital camera world, which is why Leica has a slower recycle rate when it comes to their digitals. They make a camera with the basics we all love. Build quality, image quality and control. I feel the company is sometimes off track but they do what they do and they have had their best years ever since the M9 was introduced. Personally I feel it was due to all of the internet exposure on blogs that have popped up in the last year or two. I started writing about Leica because I love the brand and what it stands for. Others jumped in to make quick sales and a quick buck with their established blogs while others created all new blogs devoted to Leica. So today Leica is enjoying the most publicity it has ever known in the history of the company.
Today I wrote this post because I just wanted to point out to the naysayers and doubters who screamed out from day one about the M9 not being able to be used a s a pro camera, that it can indeed in fact be used for pro work! Ive seen many others do the same with their M’s. Some of the highest paid wedding shooters are using M cameras these days. They do this because the M gives them an advantage over the guys who shoot with the D3’s and 5D’s. Like it or not, the M9 and good lens can capture light like no other camera I have seen to date. Having limited ISO up to 2500 is not really a deal breaker when you shoot with 1.4 lenses. Most of my live shots were shot at ISO 160 because I shot the lenses wide open, how they were meant to be shot.
There will always be those who say that a Leica has no edge or difference in their photos. In many cases it will not but you will see the difference when you slap a Leica Summilux or Noctilux lens on your M. That is a fact.
The Leica M9 requires patience. It requires dedication. It requires that you learn how to get the most from it by shooting RAW and correctly processing the files. The M9 can be temperamental at times but if you take care of it then it will reward you with images that have that “little bit more” than other cameras give you and it is my belief it is all about the lenses. The cool thing is that the Leica lenses usually APPRECIATE on the used market so while they cost an arm and a leg, if you hold on to them they will always be worth just about what you paid. Sometimes more, sometimes a little less.
With an M10 supposedly coming in 2012 the M9 may still be preferred by many if Leica puts in an EVF and video and other modes into the new model. My crystal ball saw some kind of EVF for the next digital M…but it was still a bit fuzzy :)
For those that own the M9, enjoy it and know that you have a camera capable of shooting almost whatever you want (besides macro and telephoto that is) with some of the best quality I have seen in a 35mm digital camera yet.
INVITATION TO SUBMIT ENTRIES FOR THE 2012 LEICA OSKAR BARNACK AWARD
Solms, Germany (November 16, 2011) – Leica Camera AG invites professional photographers to submit entries to the Leica Oskar Barnack Award, an international photography competition. Photographers wishing to take part may submit their projects online between January 16 and March 1, 2012. The terms and conditions of entry can be downloaded from www.leica-oskar-barnack-award.com shortly before the start of the competition.
The winner of the 2012 Leica Oskar Barnack Award will receive a Leica M9-P camera with lens worth approximately €10,000 (approximately US $14,000) in addition to a cash prize of €5,000. A second honor will be awarded in the category‘Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award’, for (aspiring) professional photographers aged 25 and under. The winner of the first prize in this section will also be awarded a Leica M9-P complete with lens.
Competition entry conditions: An international jury awards the Leica Oskar Barnack Award/Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award to photographers whose unerring powers of observation capture and express the relationship between man and their environment in graphic form in a portfolio of up to 12 images. Submissions must be a self-contained series of images in which the photographer perceives and documents the interaction between man and his environment with acute vision and contemporary visual style – creative, unobtrusive and groundbreaking.
With this competition, Leica Camera AG remembers Oskar Barnack (1879–1936), the inventor of the Leica. From 1914 on, he increasingly used the prototype camera he developed, the so-called Ur-Leica, for photography. The history of photojournalism is closely tied to his invention, as, beginning in 1925, the compact and easily carried Leica cameras were instrumental in enabling entirely new and expressive forms of photography.
The Leica 21mm f/3.4 Super Elmar Lens Review by Alwyn Loh
After switching to the Leica platform a few months ago, I was keen to add a high performing ultra wide angle lens specifically for landscape, travel and outdoor daylight photography to my lens kit. I almost settled for the 21mm f/2.8 Elmarit Asph, and just before I bought the lens, Leica announced its replacement with the new 21mm f/3.4 Super-Elmar Asph lens, along with the M9-P in June 2011. Copies only really started shipping in late October and I am pleased to have become an owner of a copy. Here is my short write up and personal thoughts on this new high performing ultra wide angle lens from Leica. I am thankful and grateful to Steve for giving me the opportunity to share this with his viewership.
The lens is very well built, like all other modern day Leica lenses. Mine is black in aluminum, very solid to the touch. Depth of field and distance markings are engraved onto the lens barrel. Size wise, without the screw on hood, the lens is similar to that of the 28mm Summicron without its hood as well. It takes 46mm filters and I have a B+W UV filter stacked in front of my lens. The screw on hood will attach on just fine with the filter on it. The lens does block a small lower right portion of the camera’s viewfinder, though most users of this lens will likely be using an external finder to properly compose and capture their images. It is small in size compared to its f/2.8 and f/1.4 brethren, balances well on the M9 and easy to carry around mounted onto the camera body. Leica says it weighs around 280 grams and I count 8 blades on the aperture’s diaphragm.
While I was told by Leica Singapore that the first batch of this lens was recalled due to a focusing problem – which apparently could cause the lens to lock up. I have not experienced any issues with the focusing on my end so far. Focus is buttery smooth from end to end, the tabbed focusing working well for my smaller hands and fingers to effectively turn the small focusing ring well. The barrel of the lens extends by about 2mm when focusing from infinity to 0.7 meters and it brings up the 28mm frame lines in the M9’s viewfinder. With a focal length of 21mm, it is easy to use zone focusing with this lens. The aperture ring clicks at half stops and is somewhat easy to bump, even with my smaller hands and fingers, to smaller apertures indadvertedly when taking pictures. Sometimes, I find that I have been shooting at either f/4.0 or f/4.8 without as a nary of an idea that I had adjusted the aperture on the lens, so its been a habit of mine to periodically “flick” my index finger to ensure that I am shooting this lens wide open – not only to exploit the traditional performance at maximum aperture, but also to ensure that I don’t accidentally lower my shutter speed when shooting in the shade.
This lens is very sharp in the center and all the way into the corners. Bearing in mind depth of field considerations – for example focusing on subjects at infinity will yield the foreground to be slightly blur, I have absolutely no complaints about the extraordinary imaging quality of this lens. This lens makes up for its smaller maximum aperture by producing images with razor sharp detail edge to edge. I have absolutely no doubt in its ability to perform wide open. In fact, the only reason why I stop down when using this lens, is when the daylight scene in front of me causes the shutter speed to exceed the maximum 1/4000s of the M9. When I first downloaded the images into my computer, I felt that the imaging quality is as good as, or just maybe exceeds the performance of the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon – popularly used by some landscape photographers as a standard ultra wide angle lens. Stopping the lens down does improve lens performance and it reaches its optical peak at around f/5.6. Images and 100% crops are post processed slightly in Lightroom, with the default Lightroom sharpness of 25 being used during export, and a second round of default sharpening for screen in output.
and a couple 100% crops from the above image – (click the image to see the full 100% crop)
There is some chromatic aberration with this lens. At f/3.4, there were a few observed instances where I could make some purple fringing show. One was in a bland shot with fine tree branches against a brilliantly bright cloud – which necessitated the use of 1/4000s shutter speed to tame the exposure. Another was when some guard rails were in the picture reflecting an overcast sky. I note that the purple fringing typically appears more towards the edges and corners of the frame when bright and dark subjects are overlaid with each other. Even then, chromatic aberration is at a minimum for this lens. For all practical photographic purposes, such CA can be easily removed in post processing and has not been an issue for my own photographic work. If you want to exploit the weakest link in this lens and try to generate CA, you will find it, just that for every day shooting purposes, I rarely come across it and notice it even less.
This lens captures color brilliantly well in typical Leica fashion. Colors are vibrant, life like and have a certain richness to them. My only proof for this comes from the normal presets that I typically use for post processing in Lightroom. Colors come out more vibrant, much richer and visibly more brilliant by default. A personal standard preset that would have yielded a good color output with other lenses from other systems seems to “over do” the punchiness of the color saturation and fidelity on image files taken with this lens. Even in the shade, there is a natural glow in the color of the images it captures. Bearing in mind that the color in the final image is a combination of both lens, quality of raw file and post processing, it will be unfair to say that this lens produces the best color of them all. However, I would say that it does produce files that can be easily worked on to output beautiful colors depending on your needs.
Wide open, contrast on this lens is brilliantly high, so much so that I have to add a degree of “fill light” to open up the shadows in post production. Shooting images in the shade and with some post processing indicates that along with the dynamic range of the M9, it is possible to other crush the dark tones or else overexpose for the highlights without really trying to do so. I usually shoot the M9 with either a +0.3 or +0.7 exposure compensation in order to open up the shadows and find that I have clipped the highlights on numerous occasions. It has come to the point whereby I just shoot with no exposure compensation to avoid this happening. It does make for noisier shadows and dark tones though, so that should be kept in mind. On the bright side, photographers that prefer strong contrast in their images – like some in landscape or black and white photography, can yield high contrast images in the default raw files. My anecdotal experience is that I need less of an adjustment to the “curves” with files taken with the Super-Elmar as compared with my other Nikon/Canon lenses of a similar focal length to gain roughly the same degree of contrast in the output for a given scene.
So far, I was not able to make this lens exhibit any flare. Leica recommends the screw on hood be used at all times to prevent stray light from hitting the front element at an obtuse angle.
Depth of Field
At 21mm and with a maximum aperture of f/3.4, plus a minimum focusing distance of 0.7 meters. It is possible to make some measure of bokeh appear in the imaging frame, just that there is so much depth of field with this lens that one has to deliberately shoot subjects that are less than one meter away, with a background much farther off in order to stoke up any semblance of background blur. For my expressed purpose of landscape photography, hyper-focal distance is reached with subjects beyond 4.5 meters, so I don’t think serious buyers or users of this lens are out to exploit its bokeh potential and characteristics – which are okay but nothing to shout about. A 21mm lux would obviously be better suited to such a purpose. Clear depth of field scales are marked on the barrel for your reference in shooting with zone focus.
Leica indicates that there is a degree of distortion with this lens. Like most ultra wide angle lenses, subjects that are close to the lens and placed in the corner of the frame inevitably experience a degree of distortion, with objects slanting towards the center of the frame. For landscape purposes, I cannot see any barrel or pincushion distortion. This image has not been aligned, rotated or cropped in any manner and as far as I can tell, the straight horizon looks straight to me. Likewise, lining up vertical lines properly yields straight lines which stay reasonably straight throughout the frame with some slight barrel distortion visible in this brick buildings shot. Compared with the offerings from other lens manufacturers, I’d say that this performance is very well corrected for such an ultra wide angle lens. Your mileage may vary, however it is sufficient for my shooting needs.
In practice, shooting with this lens initially is a little bit clunky. For those who have never really shot with the use of an external viewfinder in general. I started out originally by framing the shot with the external viewfinder, moving my camera body viewfinder to my eye to gain focus and then back again to double check the composition and then finally to take the picture. With some practice, it gets easier. Then I realized that the easiest way was to perhaps just use zone focusing, stopping down my aperture slightly at a loss of some shutter speed and then using the external viewfinder as my all in one solution to frame and fire off the shutter. With a lens of such a wide focal length, slight shifts made during the crossover from one viewfinder to another do not really affect overall sharpness or composition. Besides, composition with an external viewfinder is somewhat clumsy at best, with the finder only giving a very rough gauge to the overall scene being captured. I think most people will get used to it with practice. It took me a while to do so, and it is now like second nature to me. The good thing is that depth of field is in your favor and with such a wide focal length, some slight shifts in the composition in between focusing and shooting are not really that noticeable.
Leica 21mm Bright Line Finder
Foolishly, I bought the 21mm Leica Bright Line finder to go with this lens. To be very honest, I hate this external viewfinder, but find myself stuck with using it because I paid through the nose and way above the market value buying it locally and cannot bear to sell it at a loss. The view inside the external viewfinder itself is reminiscent of the M3’s 50mm frame lines. The frame is marked with curved lines in the corners, along with markings that indicate the 21mm field of view on the M8. I find that markings for the M8 are incredibly distracting, but have now gotten used to them – using them as compositional aids on one hand, and as a bonus for spectacle users like myself – they nicely mark out the 28mm frame lines when using such a lens, so one does not need to do eye acrobatics in order to see the entirety of the 28mm frame line inside the M9’s own finder. The external viewfinder is actually brighter than the M9’s viewfinder itself. However, for just over half the price and twice the brightness, I would recommend the Zeiss 21mm finder wholeheartedly instead. It is a stunningly brilliantly bright finder with sharp markings for the 21mm frame lines and no other distractions.
Light Fall Off
Initially, I observed a limited degree of light fall off towards the corners of my pictures when shooting with my M9 on older firmware. If you are not running on the latest Leica M8/M9 firmware, you will most likely need to update your camera’s software, so that the lens detection can work and corner fix do its work on your images taken with this lens. After I updated the firmware, the dark corners were gone and I have to admit that Leica has done a great job in ensuring that the images come out evenly illuminated when shooting at maximum aperture. Ironically, the latest firmware busted the use of my SD card and my 32GB one could no longer be used with the camera because the infamous read/write error. I had been SD Card problem free for as long as I owned my M9 until I had to update the firmware to best optimize this lens on the digital body. A 16 GB card in my M9 is now the staple as a result of this firmware update.
I have opted to share post processed images on this review to show what this lens is capable of. For myself, I believe that it is somewhat unrealistic to post 100% unedited images to share – because straight out of the raw file, these files do indeed come across as bland, boring, grey and washed out. For myself, digital photography is part art and part science and post processing is part of the aforementioned “science.” I see the world in color and find it hard to shoot images in black and white, strongly preferring warm reds, vibrant blues and brilliant greens in my images. As such, my post processing style is typically somewhat traditional – looking towards the color palettes of Velvia film for shots taken in direct sunlight and a more subdued Kodachrome output when shooting in the shade, when people are in the picture or when I prefer a slightly more subdued color tone in output. I apologize if the images in this review come across as harsh, over saturated, uninspiredly uninteresting or tacky. For the most subjective output of “color” and “contrast” – a good lens such as this can reduce the amount of work done in post processing, yet I believe that a certain degree of post production is also necessary, in my opinion, to truly get a representative idea of what the lens is capable of when you finally print an image and hang it on the wall for show.
Leica produced a winner with this lens to well succeed the Elmarit Asph. For a slightly slower maximum aperture, one gains a tiny jewel of an optic that takes 46mm filters, is smaller in profile, light for easy travel and boasts stunning imaging quality across the frame. It is easy to use, bearing in mind the need for the not-so-optional external viewfinder to best gauge framing. I am very impressed with this lens, very satisfied with my purchase and it is my hope that if you are seriously considering this lens, to consider testing out out and seeing if it suits your photographic purposes. The only drawback that I can really think of it obviously its smaller aperture – which sometimes lands my shutter speed into the 1/12s-1/24s zone at f/3.4 when shooting in the shade or indoors. But that is not a fault of the lens itself. If you have $3000+ dollars to spare and are in need of a high quality ultra wide angle lens and don’t mind the slower aperture – this lens is for you.
Leica released the new M9 firmware this week which addresses the issue of mysteriously vanishing files on SD cards. I have used nothing but Sandisk Extreme Pro SDHC cards and never had one issue but some have. Leica still says NOT to use the Sandisk Extreme Pro cards. You can get the new firmware update HERE.
USER REPORT – A Visit To India with the Leica M9 by Bob Boyd
Hope you’re doing great. I just returned from southern India last week. It was, to put it mildly, an unforgettable trip. Amazing people, and so much amazing color. I just wanted to share a few of the shots with you.
I went with co-workers to check on schools our church had funded for some of India’s neediest children – including one in Pondicherry – an area directly impacted by the tsunami in 2004. No doubt, need is evident on some of these busy city streets but there is also hope in the bright eyes of the beautiful children.
B&H Photo just announced they have a few of these in stock. The 50 1.1 Nokton M mount lens by Voigtlander. My review was posted long ago HERE but this has been a highly sought after lens as it is a super fast 50 that performs GREAT. $1049 is a deal for a lens of this nature as the closest lens to it, the Leica Noctilux f/1 usually sells for $7k used.
I wrote an article for Steve’s site soon after I bought my M9 14 months ago (you can see that article HERE). Here is a “follow-up” to that article after taking nearly 15,000 photos with this camera.
Buying the M9 was probably one of the most difficult purchasing decisions I have ever made. I actually put more thought, and did more research when purchasing this camera than I did when I bought my car. My research led me to Steve Huff, and I guess I have Steve to thank (or blame) for my ultimate decision to sell all of my Nikon equipment and go for the M9. I am sure many of you reading this article are going through the same decision making process I went through, and are still sitting there on the edge of some abyss trying to decide whether or not to jump. I cannot guarantee my update will convince you one way or the other, but I can give you some (as Steve would call it), “Real World Advice”.
If you are looking for a detailed review of this camera, stop reading now. I am not a technical person, and I am not a pixel peeper. Like Steve, I will not give you graphs, charts or tables or a bunch of tight crops of DNG files to compare. There are plenty of sites that can provide that kind of stuff for you. Instead, I want to give you some information that I myself searched for when trying to decide whether or not to purchase this VERY expensive camera…more of the “practical” stuff.
WARNING:This article contains some HDR images and images enhanced with Photoshop. If you don’t like HDR or you don’t like Photoshop, that is cool, but I don’t need to hear about it. I am not here to debate the merits or faults of HDR or Photoshop. However, I would love to write another guest article on that subject as I do have strong opinions on the subject. I am not the stereotypical Leica shooter. Although I like black n white, I am not big on it. I love colors…big vibrant colors that pop off the page. If you are looking for that “Leica Look”, you probably won’t see it in my photos. I am not a street shooter, nor a photojournalist. The images in this article are some from this past year, and are only included to add some color to the article. My previous article was about switching from my Nikon DSLR to the Leica M9. I am not using the photos in this article to say, “Hey, look how much better my photos are with my Leica than my DSLR”…far from it. The photos from a Leica are no better than photos from any other camera. Each and every photo you see in this article could just as easily been taken with my iphone or any other camera. I hope you like my style, but if you don’t, please don’t tell me to change mine to be more like yours. Thanks in advance.
Size DOES Matter
I was reading some recent comments on Steve’s blog, and one reader had commented how he was sick of hearing yet another story of a photographer tossing his heavy DSLR gear for the smaller Leica. It really has become cliché…however, after using this camera for the past 16 months, there is a huge difference in what I carry now compared to my DSLR days. I do A LOT of traveling. It takes me 5 minutes to pack my Leica gear for a trip, and it all fits in a fanny pack. When I arrive in a foreign city ready for a photowalk, I have my Leica around my neck with the 35mm Summicron attached, and the 18mm Super Elmar and an extra battery in a small pouch on my belt…and that’s it. Talk about freedom. It is fantastic. I can now go into a restaurant for lunch, and can easily put the camera on the table beside me. Compared to my old days of carrying a large camera bag with my Nikon, the three pro lenses (14-24, 24-70, and 70-200), and a heavy tripod (my tripod now weighs half as less if not more), I can tell you for sure that size IS a factor, and was one of the reasons I had (contributing to the cliché) for getting the Leica.
Having said this, if size is your only issue, then spending big bucks for the Leica is not a good idea. It is still a fairly heavy camera. It is small, but it is built like a tank and is as dense as one. Nikon’s new D5000 and D5100, as an alternative, are small and light. Strap on Nikon’s smallish 18-300mm lens, and you will have an excellent, versatile camera that is not a huge lug to carry around, and you can capture most anything you want with that lens (which is actually an excellent lens). I bring this up because I was out shooting here in Jakarta with my buddy who had this exact set-up…he walked away with some great shots, and was no more burdened with his setup as I was with my Leica…So much for the “Heavy DSLR argument”…
Size, on the other hand, was not the only issue for me. I wanted a full frame camera with a large sensor, and a camera that could mount the world’s finest optics. I wanted robust files that I could blow up poster size for my massive 44 – inch printer. What other camera besides the Leica can offer small size AND full frame AND mount the finest optics out there AND have gorgeous files that can be printed two meters wide?? None that I know of…
AM I A BETTER PHOTOGRAPHER NOW THAT I USE A LEICA?
Hell no. For those out there that say a Leica will improve your photography, don’t believe them. It is much more difficult shooting a Leica or a rangefinder. It was a huge learning curve for me. You have to THINK, you have to know what the hell you are doing. You have to be skilled. I take no better photos with my Leica than I did with my Nikon. It is true that you see things differently with a Leica in hand. You have to see things differently because you are using a fixed focal length. DSLR shooters, believe it or not, also use fixed focal lengths. Their transition to the Leica is easier than those, like me, who grew up with zoom lenses. I used to “see” in the 90 – 200mm range (my most used lens with my Nikon was the 70-200mm lens). I would compose most of my photos with my Nikon in this range. I now “see” differently…I now “see” in the 50mm and wider realm. This small change does affect my style of shooting, but in no way am I “better” because I shoot with a Leica.
HOW ABOUT THE “FUN” FACTOR?
This is huge. This is what Steve writes about when he talks about the Leica. Is it worth the money? Alone, no…but it sure makes you feel good about your purchase and helps with any “buyer’s remorse”.
The Leica is FUN to shoot. I don’t think I could say that about any of the other cameras I have used, and I am a camera addict. It is challenging, and I like a challenge. The simplicity of the camera makes it a pleasure to use. I get a feeling of excitement when I see my Leica on the table and I pick it up to go out shooting…hard to explain, really. I guess it is one of those things you just have to experience for yourself. Believe me, it is fun, and different from shooting other cameras. I just can’t wait to get back out there with my Leica…I didn’t have that feeling with other cameras, and can’t really put my finger on the exact reason that is.
The other thing about the Leica is that it is cool. My students always say, “your camera is so Retro, Mr. Graham”. Hardly anyone else is shooting one. On my trip to Italy a year ago, I think I saw only one other Leica. The feeling of taking photos with the same style camera as the past legends is pretty cool. When you do meet someone else with a Leica, there is an instant bonding, even with those you have only met on the internet (Steve and Ashwin to mention two). I own a ’66 VW Bug here in Jakarta, and when I see another VW Bug, there is that same kind of instant bonding with the driver. Owning a Leica is unique, and you become a part of the “club”, and that’s something a Nikon or Canon user really doesn’t experience or least not at the same level.
DO I MISS MY NIKON?
Yes, I do sometimes. I miss my large screen on the back of the Nikon, and its lightning fast recording to the CF card. I miss those 8 shots per second, and up to nine bracketed shots for an HDR sequence. I miss the battery life I had with my Nikon. I miss the ability to take video between taking photos.
The other thing I miss with my Nikon is the ability to focus really close-up. With the Leica, I need to be a meter away, and that is frustrating at times.
Yes, I miss the high ISO capabilities of my Nikon. However, I have adjusted. When you think back to the film days, how often did you buy film faster than 800? I dare say, not often. I find the Leica does extremely well up to 1600…I rarely need an ISO beyond that…so ISO is really not an issue for me.
These things I miss are not things that would force me to sell my Leica, or regret getting rid of my Nikon. They are only minor things to me. I rarely need to shoot at 8 shots per second, and rarely would I need more than 5-bracketed shots for an HDR. The screen on the back of the Leica is adequate (but should be a hell of lot better for such an expensive camera). The writing speed IS an issue for me (seems like forever) as well as the battery life, but I am not going to sell my Leica because of that.
WIDE ANGLE SHOOTING
Now this is where the Leica absolutely rocks!! It is probably the Leica optics that make it rock, but I just LOVE this camera for wide-angle! First off, my 18mm Super Elmar’s size and weight compared to the Nikon’s 14-24mm “beast” is something to consider. The files are sharp from edge to edge… No more needs to be said. For wide angle shooting, I can’t see how you could go wrong with the Leica M9.
My true passion is Underwater Photography. My first professional camera was an underwater camera, and it is what sparked the fire in me for photography. After 4000+ dives, it is underwater photography that keeps my interest in diving alive. What I really want to do is take my M9 underwater. I shoot mostly wide-angle underwater, and I think the M9 would make a wonderful underwater camera (for wide angle). To all you mechanical engineers out there, how about it? Want to partner with me in developing a nice underwater housing for the M9 that we could all afford? I know of only one housing ever made (for the M8), but it is incredibly expensive. It may not be practical to take an M9 underwater, but it sure would be cool to give it a try…
MY GENERAL FEELINGS ABOUT THE LEICA M9
I do think the Leica is too expensive for what you get. But, it is what it is, and there is no other camera like it on the market. The Nikon D3X is also an 8,000-dollar camera, and you get more for your buck with the D3X. I considered the D3X, but ultimately it was the size factor and the Leica optics that tipped the scale for me towards Leica. I wonder if the Leica were to cost 4,000 dollars or even $5,000, would more people buy one? The D3 would probably be the closest competitor, but it is a big camera too, and is only 12MP vs 18MP from the Leica. The cost is the huge decision factor for most all of us, and is what stops most in our tracks. It is A HUGE amount of money to fork out for a camera.
The way I look at it, and it is the way I rationalized the money, you only live once. Photography is what I do, what I love. Might as well get what you feel is the best, and have fun with it before you leave this life. It’s only money…
I get asked all the time…”Scotty, how’s that $12,000 dollar camera working for ya?”
I am happy, very happy. Once I was able to get my bank account back to a fairly healthy state, even happier. Who was it that said, “The best camera is the one you have with you”? This is the camera I have. I don’t have another camera… this is it. I made the decision to sell all my other stuff to have this camera. I have to live with it, use it to the best of my ability, have fun with it, and get out there and shoot. It is a great camera, no doubt. Are there other cameras that are better? Maybe, but I don’t have one nor want one. Knowing that I have the top optics strapped to my camera, its small and easy to carry, and that the files I work with are amongst the finest available is enough for me. I am no longer searching for the next model of camera that comes out every six months. This is a camera that could possibly be my last camera, and I can live with its limitations.
If you are still on the edge of a decision, good luck. I have never met a photographer that didn’t enjoy life and all it has to offer. Whatever you choose, you will still be ahead of the rest because you are a photographer.
Fun is the name of the game.
Here are a few more photos from the past 14 months…
Scotty Graham is a high school photography teacher at Jakarta International School. You can see more of his work via his photo websites:
The Sony NEX-7 with wide angle Leica lenses – A quick test and GXR comparison!
UPDATED WITH A SONY NEX-5n vs NEX-7 COMPARISON for COLOR SHIFT
It’s FRIDAY and I am in the best mood ever today. Why? Well, It’s gonna be a killer Halloween weekend. I love Halloween, and this year I am going to a couple of parties and am planning on bringing my camera along with me. Which one? Probably the E-P3 and Panasonic 20 1.7 due to it’s fast AF. I will not be bringing the NEX-7 because A: It is not mine and B: I have to send it back on Monday to Sony. I have enjoyed my time with the camera and shot with it daily for the last 3 weeks or so and it seems my last ISO comparison between the 7 and 5n stirred up some controversy (and traffic..and some commenters that wouldn’t stop)! Bottom line is that I shot each camera in that test how they were meant to be shot. I was showing what you can expect from each camera when using it and letting the camera choose the exposure. It is what you will get in real life, not scientific testing. Besides, the NEX-7 was NOT underexposed. But anyway….enough of that. The bottom line is that the 5n is a little better at high ISO than the 7, but we all knew this already didn’t we? Besides, who here shoots at 3200 and up on a regular or non regular basis? Not many. I am sure other sites will be doing all of the scientific testing soon so for those who crave that…patience!
LensRentals.com Sponsored this test!
Thanks to LenRentals.com I was able to do some quick tests on the NEX-7 with some wide angle Leica lenses! – Visit LENRENTALS.COM as they rent more than just Leica. They rent Sony, Olympus, Leica, Canon and Nikon – bodies, lenses and accessories!
So seeing that I wear able to get a hold of some lenses for a couple of days today I wanted to post some QUICK shots I snapped with the NEX-7 and these wide angles. I only had these lenses for three days so did not get to shoot much with them at all. I have been extremely busy with this site, e-mail, and personal things as well so I was just able to get out yesterday to shoot and I also brought along the Ricoh GXR M mount module (which I also have to return on Monday to Ricoh..contrary to popular belief, I do not get to keep anything).
But again let me thank LenRentals.com as they were kind enough to send me these lenses at no charge so I could do this test and add to my NEX-7 review. Without their help I could not have done this. So thank you LENSRENTALS!
Onto the Images!
So the images you see below are all quick and dirty test shots out of the camera. They are not meant to be good photos, just test shots that should give you an idea on how these lenses can perform on the NEX-7. Let’s face it. There is no way I can shoot winning photos 7 days a week in Phx AZ :)
One thing to notice in some of the images below and that is that the Leica 21 Elmarit and the Voigtlander 15mm have the bad magenta color shifts on the NEX-7 with the magenta edges/corners. The GXR does NOT do this so this shows how Ricoh got it right when designing their dedicated module, as they should have. It is a dedicated one trick pony module designed to do one thing and one thing right, and they succeeded. The 15 may not be perfect on the GXR but it is miles better than it is on the NEX-7. UPDATE! Just tested the 15mm on the NEX-5n and it is perfect! No color shift. This is disappointing to me and now I am am going to have to slightly alter my “conclusion” in my NEX-7 review. You can see the samples below…
The NEX-7 was obviously NOT designed for Leica glass. You can see that using lenses 24 and wider can get you some nasty color shifts, just like the M9 used to do (and still does with the Voigtlander). But the GXR and 5n are clean. Why the 5n works well and not the 7 is beyond me.
One other thing I noticed is that the Sony can put out a very sharp image when using 35mm and longer Leica lenses. The GXR is a tad sharper though. The 35 Lux performed wonderfully on the NEX even with the CHEAP adapter I used today that was a bit loose and wobbly. I accidentally left my good one on the 5n at home but it still worked out even though I had a few out of focus shots from the NEX, and IMO, this is due to the wobbly adapter.
OK, NOW the images!
CLICK EACH IMAGE FOR LARGER 1800 PIXEL WIDE VERSION
The NEX-7 and 35 Summilux ASPH at 1.4 – This one was from RAW (Capture One)
Again, the 35 Summilux wide open at 1.4 – focus peaking made this easy along with the tilting LCD (From RAW)
The 21 Elmarit at 2.8 (From RAW)
The 24 Summilux on the NEX-7 (JPEG)
Next three shots…35 Lux once again at 1.4 – (JPEG) – Notice the 3D effect in the Life Cereal shot – The word Cinnamon sort of jumps out when you view the full size image.
Some quick comparisons with the Ricoh GXR
These were all converted from RAW. The GXR has a totally different color signature than the NEX.
This 1st shot was with the Leica 35 Summilux at f/4 – click image to see 100% crop – SHARP!!! (from RAW)
Here is the same scene but shot with the Ricoh GXR and 21 Elmarit at f/4 (from RAW)
Sony NEX-7 with the 21 Elmarit at f/5.6
GXR with 21 Elmarit at f/5.6 (again, from RAW and letting each camera choose the exposure to see how each camera will expose the same scene)
Here is a shot from inside a restaurant/bar with the NEX-7 and 24 Summilux at 1.4 (click image for larger)
Now the GXR, same lens, same aperture – totally different color signature (click image for larger)
Magenta Color shifts – The NEX-7 has them – GXR does not! NEX-5n DOES NOT!
1st shot – NEX-7 with the Voigtlander 15 at 5.6. Out of camera JPEG. This is the color that came out of the camera. Not good.
Now the same lens, same aperture, same OOC JPEG but from the Ricoh GXR
and the NEX-7 with the 21 Elmarit, same scene – still there but not as bad – more evident due to the light sky
and the NEX-7 with the 24 Summilux – still some magenta color shift in the corners
AND ONE MORE COMPARISON BETWEEN THE 5n and 7
First the 5n with the Voigtlander 15 at f/8
and now the 7…disappointing .
So there you go. Some quick shots to show how these wider angle lenses work on the NEX-7. You do get the magenta color shift with the 15, 21 and even slightly with the 24. The GXR does much better here and did not show any shifting with the 21 or 24. The 5n also does wonderfully with no color shift. Hmmmm.
As for shooting these bodies, I did in fact enjoy using the Sony NEX-7 more as I stated before due to its EVF, superb peaking, and body feel/grip, which is just about perfect for my hand. The GXR, in use, was a little awkward in comparison but if you never see the Sony EVF or Peaking I can see someone being thrilled with the GXR in use. But all of the control and ease of use in the world means JACK if the IQ doesn’t stack up. If you are looking for a back up to your M and have been considering the GXR or NEX-7 AND have wider Leica glass, then the GXR would be your best bet. It does indeed work best with Leica lenses in regards to color shifting, and color in general. At the same time, if you just want to shoot an occasional 35 or 50 Leica lens and want to take advantage of everything the NEX-7 has to offer, then the 7 could be your solution. Overall, it is a powerhouse.
Then again, there is the Sony NEX-5n which just may be the one to go for as it has great high ISO performance (best of the three) and has no color shifting issues. Decisions decisions…
If the NEX-7 had the microlenses like the 5n obviously does, then I would call it a slam sunk between the three cameras. One of the reasons I wanted an NEX-7 was to shoot Leica lenses and now it appears the NEX-5n and GXR do a better job in this area. Arg! You can pre-order the GXR M mount A12 Module HERE, or the NEX-5n HERE.
Anyway, here are a few shots with some Post Processing just for fun, something I did not do to the images in my NEX-7 review, which I just updated. PP can add some excitement to any image and the Sony files seem to very robust, especially since all of the images below were taken from the OOC JPEG and then enhanced.
Thanks for reading, coming soon my Ricoh GRD IV review and my Nikon V1 review. Coming down the road, a review of the Panasonic/Leica 25 1.4 Summilux for Micro 4/3 and yes, the Fuji X10.
Leica Camera expands S-System with new wide angle lens
Solms, Germany (October 27, 2011) – Leica Camera AG expands the range of lenses for the Leica S-System with the new Leica Elmarit-S 30mm f/2.8 ASPH wide angle lens. With this latest addition, the portfolio of lenses for the professional S-System is now comprised of five focal lengths. The fastest medium format lens in this focal length, the Leica Elmarit-S 30mm f/2.8 ASPH will be available beginning December 2011.
The field of view of this new S-Lens corresponds to a 24mm lens in 35mm format and this wide angle of view opens up a multitude of new opportunities in creative composition, particularly in the fields of interior, architectural and landscape photography. Additionally, a fast maximum aperture of f/2.8 makes the Leica Elmarit-S 30mm f/2.8 ASPH ideal for available-light photography and the conscious use of selective planes of focus. Thanks to outstanding imaging performance from close focus to infinity at all apertures and brilliant color rendition, the Leica Elmarit-S 30mm f/2.8 ASPH guarantees perfect results in a wide range of photographic situations.
The highest priority in the development of all Leica S-Lenses is the dedication to creating tools that fulfill the stringent demands that professional photographers place on a camera system in their everyday work. Even wide open, the Leica Elmarit-S 30mm f/2.8 ASPH fulfills these demands and offers high resolution and extremely low distortion throughout its entire focusing range. Software-driven image optimization is unnecessary with this lens, allowing photographers to concentrate purely on the creative side of their work. A further highlight of the Leica Elmarit-S 30mm f/2.8 ASPH is its excellent control of flare to ensure high-contrast images, even when shooting a backlit subject.
The design and construction of the Leica Elmarit-S 30mm f/2.8 ASPH is tough, reliable and built to last a lifetime, a characteristic found in all Leica S-System products. The lens features an extremely robust bayonet mount and is fully sealed against dust and spray, ensuring absolute dependability even under the harshest shooting conditions.
The Leica Elmarit-S 30mm f/2.8 ASPH will be available from authorized Leica dealers beginning December 2011. The lens is supplied complete with a rectangular hood designed for optimum suppression of extraneous light. For further product information please consult the Leica Homepage at www.leica-camera.com and www.S-League.net.
Leica Elmarit-S 30mm f/2.8 ASPH
High-speed wide-angle lens with two aspherical lens surfaces to ensure superior imaging performance
All Leica S-Models
Approx. 84°, 74°, 53° (diagonal, horizontal, vertical), corresponding to approx. 24mm in 35mm format
Number of elements/groups: 13/9; aspherical surfaces: 2; position of the entrance pupil: 33.3mm (from 1st lens element)
Distance range: 0.5m to ∞, combined scale meter/feet, Smallest object field/largest repro ratio: approx. 330 x 495mm/1:11
Electronically controlled diaphragm, selection dial on camera, including half values, Lowest value 22
Leica S quick-change bayonet with contact strip for Leica S-Models
internal thread for E82 filter; filter mount does not rotate
Just found out that B&H Photo has a small number the black M9P in stock HERE. As reported yesterday, Ken Hansen also has some black in stock as does Dale Photo. Looks like no chrome to be found (which has been the most sought after color).
Some HOT Used Leica Deals! Amazing lenses available now….but not for long!
Was just browsing the used gear over at B&h Photo and found some cool lenses for sale. Also talked with Ken Hansen and he informed me he has black M9P’s in stock NOW. You can e-mail him at [email protected]. He usually has used Leica gear as well so you may want to ask him what he has available if you are looking for something special. OK, on to the USED deals! Well, I can’t say that they are DEALS as we are talking about Leica prices here…but they are just about the going rate. Also, if you use the links below and make a purchase through B&H I will get a small credit that helps me keep on going with this site. So if you do, I thank you!
I will start off this review of the long awaited Sony NEX-7 by saying that this is probably the hottest and most anticipated “Enthusiast” camera to be announced in a long time. No scratch that… IT IS the most anticipated camera to come along to us camera and gear nuts… well, probably EVER and for so many reasons. As I said before in a much viewed post, SONY GREW SOME BALLS and produced a camera that so many of us wanted to be made! Yes, the NEX-7 is HOT. Even more so than the super hot and hyped Fuji X100 (which I am still in love with by the way). So lucky me…I have been fortunate enough to have been shooting with the final production version of the NEX-7 for the last two weeks and have learned its ins and outs as well as its strengths and weaknesses. I’ve been studying it, shooting with it, and even waking up at night from nightmares of a NEX-7 floating above my bed. No joke! Guess I really get into my job and my passion huh?
I know many have been waiting for this and I am going to say it like it is in this real world use write up/review. I also want to say thanks to Sony for flying to my home to hand deliver this review unit to me along with the Zeiss 24 1.8 and Sony 50 1.8 lenses! THANK YOU SONY!
(NOTE – Due to the devastating floods in Thailand, this camera MAY be delayed in the USA but also MAY NOT BE. I spoke with Sony and they said they are still investigating if there will be a USA delay, so there might not be one. Still, a camera release means nothing in comparison to what so many have lost in Thailand. My heart goes out to all who were affected by the flood.)
Me with the Sony NEX-7 and Zeiss 24 1.8 in my hotel in Chicago – White balance was way off in the original and still a bit off here. To be fair, the X100 had the same issue with AWB in this room.
The Myth, The Hype..the NEX-7!
There has been a lot of suspense about this camera and wether it is even possible to live up to the hype that has been spread like wildfire online. Of course on paper it looks amazing. The build, the design, the features, the video capability, the new sensor, the built in OLED EVF (which is super duper uber FANTASTIC), and the tri-navi controls are everything the enthusiast market has ever wanted in a small take anywhere camera. Hell, I suspect the NEX-7 may even create more of us crazy gear heads because even when Uncle Joe sees this camera he is going to want one. It has a way of making people wonder what the hell you are shooting with, and when they learn about it they seem to want to own one for themselves. This has happened to me three times while out and about shooting with the NEX-7. BUT the real question for me while shooting was to determine if it did indeed live up to the hype and was worth shelling out $1200 for the body alone, which to be fair is $6800 less than a Leica M9-P and you can still mount your favorite Leica, Zeiss ZM and Voigtlander M mount glass on to! Hell, you can mount just about any glass to this NEX-7, which makes it pretty damn special right there.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy reading my flowing thoughts on this camera in 9,000 words. As I write I am just basically talking and spewing my thoughts about what I feel and what I have experienced while using the camera and lenses. My reviews (as most of you know) are non technical and always have been. I just write about the real world use of the camera. Its feel, its usability factor, its image quality, ease of use and speed. Also its versatility. I test what I can with what I have so what you see in this review is the result of my passion, my excitement, and my love for photography. I also am a HUGE believer in actually showing REAL photos in my reviews. It’s not always easy to go out an find new things to shoot when I am always reviewing gear but I do my best. I feel seeing real photos instead of photos of walls and newspaper is a much better test of a camera.
The mirror less camera market has been interesting recently and most releases to date have been really good but lacking in one way or another. Could the NEX-7 be the “One”? Hmmmm, you never know.
Keep in mind that I will be adding to this review over the next 1-2 weeks as I shoot more with the camera. This review should be final by the end of October or 1st week of November. BTW, this camera is scheduled to ship by mid November.
Also keep in mind that most images in this review were shot as JPEGS because RAW processing is not available in lightroom, aperture, or photoshop yet. I did get a copy of the Sony software but found it painfully slow and lethargic on my iMac so I ended up using Capture One on a few samples. Capture One is supporting the NEX-7 in its latest release and it did great, even better than Sonys own software. Go figure.
First things first – A Video Overview
Below is a video showing the menu system, build, and controls. It is 18 minutes but goes over many of the features of the camera. Yes, you should watch it!
So as you can see, the NEX-7 is jam packed with all kinds of goodies and features that just over a year ago would have had most of us drooling. The only thing lacking in this camera body in my opinion is IN BODY image stabilization. If it had included that, from a design, control and functional standpoint it would be perfect. As it stands now, in those three areas it is just about perfect. No complaints. So far so good, so let’s get deeper into this camera.
Below: Shot with the Sony 50 1.8 AT 1.8!! I dialed in -1 Exposure Comp using the easy Tri Navi dial system and brought out the richness of the scene. I shot this from my car on the road (was not moving). This was converted from RAW using the Sony Software (which is PAINFULLY SLOW)! But when you click on the image to see the larger version you can see some nice detail and again, this was shot at f/1.8 with the new Sony $299 50mm.
Below: NEX-7 with the 24 1.8 at f/2, ISO 100, JPEG. This lady called herself “Mrs. State Fair”.
A QUICK HISTORY OF THE NEX SYSTEM
For those who may not be aware, the NEX-7 evolved from a line of cameras Sony introduced just over a year ago. The NEX series of cameras were brought out to market to compete with cameras like the Olympus E-P2/E-P3 and the Panasonic series of micro 4/3 cameras. Also, cameras like the Fuji X100 and Leica X1 are in the same kind of category due to the larger sensor and small bodies.But the Fuji and Leica, while being FANTASTIC picture taking machines do not have the ability to change lenses, and they are sort of slow with the auto focus so shooting your moving kids will be pretty tough, especially for the Leica X1. The Sony NEX line all had pretty fast AF and interchangeable lens capability, which is what MANY of the photographer hobbyists want.
Son one day, Sony decided to design and create the worlds smallest interchangeable lens camera system with a larger APS-C size sensor. They did this with the original NEX-3 and NEX-5, I remember reading about them and then seeing them in a Sony Store in Las Vegas. I immediately bought a NEX-3 and 5.
These were pretty amazing cameras in many ways but mainly because they were the 1st TINY bodies with large sensors that also had incredible high ISO capability. Problem was… I had a love-hate relationship with the original NEX-5 due to the fact that the only lenses out for it were the 16mm pancake and the 18-55 Kit zoom. The 16mm was good but nothing to rave about and the 18-55 was large and had quite a bit of distortion. So early on with the NEX system, while super cool suffered from lack of lenses, a bad control system, and an odd menu system. The potential was there but it would take Sony a while to straighten out all of the quirks, which they soon did with firmware updates that added button customization, focus peaking, and eventually by releasing the Sony NEX-5n. The 5n brought us one step closer to an enthusiast camera but for us crazy camera nuts it wasn’t enough. Good for most but for someone like me..I still wanted more control and a built in EVF. But the NEX-5n is a fantastic little MONSTER OF A CAMERA!
The NEX-7 at F/4 from outside my car window. OOC JPEG, ISO 100
The Zeiss 24 makes for great up close portraits
Below – ISO 160 at 1.8 with the 24 to show Bokeh
Below – 24 1.8 at F/2 and ISO 100
When the NEX-5n was made available I reviewed it immediately and that review became one of my most popular reviews ever with almost 100,000 views on its first day. This told me that not only enthusiasts are interested in these small “do it all” cameras but everyday consumers are as well. The NEX line is coming into its own and with these latest updates Sony has taken one step closer to creating the “Perfect” walk around camera system. The 5n is superb with amazing high ISO capability and a TINY body that can take great photos AND video. The only negative with that camera is the size may be a but TOO small, and the controls are not the best due to the lack of buttons. There are also the lenses, which are huge when compared to the size of the body and this seems to be a big complaint among many readers here. On the 5/5n the lenses do seem large.
So Sony decided to listen to photographers who wanted a solid body with manual control dials and a built in EVF. When Sony designed the “7” they designed it for you, me and all of us who enjoy not only photography but also quality and capable equipment. We are “The Enthusiast” and the NEX-7 is sort of like the “Bionic NEX” – they made the 5n better, faster and stronger :)
After just over a year of pumping out the NEX line, Sony now has announced the NEX-7 and there are currently 7 lenses available for the system. They now have the 16 2.8, 18-55 Zoom, Zeiss 24 1.8, 30 Macro, 50 1.8, 18-200 and 55-210 zoom lens. With past complaints about lack of lenses, I think those worries can start to fade because the new 24 1.8 and 50 1.8 are REALLY REALLY good lenses. Also, this camera can mount almost any lens via adapters and when using old manual glass the focus peaking feature kicks some serious booty! The lens size issue has not been addressed but I was told by Sony they are WELL AWARE of this and also told me it is not really possible to create small tiny lenses for a sensor of this size, but they are working on it and trying. Not sure how Fuji did it with the X100, but to be fair, the X100 lens is a bit soft wide open so maybe the Zeiss 24 1.8 is better? Also, Fuji only had to concentrate on ONE Lens for the X100 as it did not need to be compatible with other lenses and to be fair, the X100 lens is just as fat as the Zeiss 24 but the Zeiss is longer, and also a little faster at 1.8 vs 2.
The Zeiss 24 1.8 QUICKLY became my favorite lens on the NEX-7. While it is not clinicaly sharp, it has character… and to me, that is way more important that hyper sharpness. Remember, click images for larger and better versions. The Zeiss Sonnar has a “smooth” character.
So what are the main features of the NEX-7?
The “7” is jam packed full of features and no one in their right mind could complain about everything Sony packs in this little body. Take a look at all of the good stuff below:
DSLR Quality in Your Pocket (It would NOT fit in your pocket with a lens attached)
Here’s the same APS-C sensor size as a DSLR, with higher resolution than most DSLRs and the interchangeable lenses that make DSLRs so attractive. Yet the camera is about half the size and weight of a typical DSLR camera. Removing the conventional mirror box and viewfinder makes it possible
You get incredible detail and gorgeous enlargements thanks to a 24.3 megapixel sensor. It’s the highest resolution among pocket cameras as of August 2011
World’s First OLED Viewfinder
There’s never been anything quite like the Tru-Finder OLED electronic viewfinder. For size, speed and brightness even after sunset, this is a gem. This eye-level, through-the-lens, viewfinder begins with 2359K dots for amazing resolution and high contrast ratio for incredible depth. OLED reduces motion blur to a bare minimum. You can also see the results of camera adjustments in real time with superb color and detail
Up to 10 Frames Per Second Shooting
Capture the decisive moment in sports and get the ideal baby photo. Up to 10 fps continuous shooting at full 24.3Mp resolution with exposure and focus fixed at the first frame. Standard continuous shooting at up to 2.5 fps
DSLR-Class APS-C Image Sensor
Sensor size is the key to picture quality. The APS-C class sensor provides gorgeous imaging with 58% more area than Micro Four-Thirds sensors and an amazing 13 times the area of a point & shoot image sensor
Full HD Movies at 60p/60i/24p
Capture HD Movies in your choice of super-smooth 60p, standard 60i or cinematic 24p, all at Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution. AVCHD codec delivers stunning picture quality. MP4 codec offers smaller files for easier upload to the web
HD Movies with Full Manual Control
Now you don’t need to surrender control when you shoot HD movies. Enjoy the full expressive potential of Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority or Manual (P/A/S/M) control in HD movie mode
Tri-Navi Manual Control
Perfect for experienced shooters, Tri-Navi control gives you three separate control dials for direct, hands-on access to three settings at a time. As just one example, the dials can set aperture, exposure compensation and ISO
Built-In Pop-Up Flash
Enjoy the convenience of flash photography everywhere you go. Guide Number 6
Hotshoe for Alpha System Flashes
Take your photography even further with access to the entire range of Sony Alpha system flashes and flash accessories
Accepts A Mount Lenses Via Adapters
Both the LA-EA1 and EA2 adapters (sold separately) allow you to attach the full range of Sony A mount lenses
Phase Detect AF with Adapter
The LA-EA2 lens mount adaptor (sold separately) is the world’s first with Sony’s award-winning Translucent Mirror Technology. This provides super-fast and accurate Phase Detection AF when used with Sony A mount lenses
Tiltable 3.0″ LCD
Sony’s 3.0″ Xtra Fine LCD monitor has 921K dots for superb resolution. The TruBlack screen includes a special resin layer to suppress internal reflections, increasing contrast compared to conventional LCDs. Sunny Weather mode boosts visibility even further. Tilts down 45° and up 80° to frame high- and low-angle shots that would otherwise be hit-or-miss
Object Tracking AF
Locks onto a specified object and maintains focus even as the subject moves. Unpredictable subjects stay in focus even while zooming. You can concentrate on composition without worrying about focus
World’s Shortest Release Time Lag
Helps ensure that the image you want is the image you get. Once auto focus occurs, release time lag is the delay between fully pressing the shutter release and when the camera actually starts taking the picture. Long lag makes it harder to capture fast-moving objects. The Sony NEX-7 boasts the shortest release time in the world (as of August 2011) at only 0.02 seconds
Accepts Sony E-Mount Lenses
Compatible with Sony’s expanded line of E Mount lenses. These smaller, lighter lenses are specifically designed for Alpha compact interchangeable lens cameras. Opens up a world of creative options
Manual focus becomes much easier because peaking highlights the edges that are in focus in your choice of three colors (white, red, or yellow). This is especially helpful during macro or portrait photography where your focus setting can make or break your shot
3D Sweep Panorama Mode
Capture vast scenic vistas and 16:9 shots in spectacular 3D. As you sweep across the panorama, the camera records separate right-eye and left-eye images that make landscapes come alive on your 3D television7. Records both JPEG and MPO file formats
Sweep Panorama Mode
Capture expansive landscapes automatically. Press the shutter, sweep vertically or horizontally. The camera does the rest, continuously shooting images and stitching them together
Leverages the fast BIONZ processor to capture six images in a fraction of a second, and then combine the data. The result is an incredible single image that controls blur in Anti-Motion Blur mode or gets cleaner, sharper nighttime pictures in Hand-held Twilight mode
High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography captures more scene contrast than a single exposure can handle by combining the best highlight detail from one shot and the best shadow detail from another for one incredible shot
P/A/S/M Modes for Video and Stills
Enjoy a full range of controls for video and still shooting from the beginner’s iAUTO mode to P/A/S/M: Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual. On-screen prompts help you refine your skills, build your confidence and exercise greater creative control
Intelligent Auto Focus
Pre-focuses as you compose the shot, further reducing focusing time to a bare minimum
Unifies and simplifies Sony intelligent technologies. Takes advantage of Intelligent Scene Recognition, Face Detection technology, and Optical SteadyShot image stabilization without leaving auto mode so you always get the best shot
BIONZ Image Processor
The brain of the camera is a Sony’s BIONZ image processor substantially upgraded for the demands of 24.3 megapixel photography. Chroma noise reduction delivers high-resolution, low-noise photos even at ISO 16000 sensitivity. Also enables fast processing for up to 10 fps continuous shooting of data-intensive 24.3Mp images, 2D/3D Sweep Panorama modes and 6-image layering
Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO)
Improves results with backlit subjects and recovers details hidden in shadows. Settings include Auto, Level with a choice of five operating levels and Off
Accepts Non-Sony Lenses Via Adapter
You can use the camera with a universe of lenses from Canon, Nikon, Leica, Olympus and others. The success of Sony’s NEX series, combined with the ultra-short 18mm flange back distance has inspired third-party manufacturers to provide lens adaptors. In addition, Sony has disclosed the E Mount specification to Carl Zeiss, Cosina, Sigma and Tamron
25-Point Auto Focus
25 sensors cover a very wide area of the scene, for accurate focusing even when the subject is far from the center of the frame
Enjoy HD movies and stunning still images on a compatible HDTV. The camera includes an HDMI output
Stamina Battery Power for Up to 400 Shots
Take up to 400 shots on a single charge with Sony lithium ion Stamina battery power (using LCD monitor). Sony’s InfoLITHIUM battery system enables you to see the percent of power remaining, so you can keep shooting in confidence
Sony Exmor CMOS Sensor
Sony Exmor technology uses column-parallel A/D converters for high resolution and high frame rates. Double noise reduction minimizes image noise, even in low light
11 Picture Effect Modes
Discover innovative ways to make your images and videos pop. These include Posterization, Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color, Soft High-key, High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-tone Monochrome, and Miniature
Ultrasonic Anti-Dust System
Dust on the image sensor leads to blemishes in the picture. To protect the sensor, Sony incorporates an advanced ultrasonic system, which effectively shakes dust off the sensor surface
The Zeiss 24 at 1.8, OOC JPEG, 1/60s, +.3 EC – Window light in a dark room.
The GREAT things about the NEX-7 – Shooting with the NEX-7 – The build, feel, and usability factor..and best features.
Many of you have been waiting and waiting for the release of this camera because on paper it seems just about perfect for so many of us. The Size, the build, the sensor, etc. On paper I have to say that the NEX-7 and Zeiss 24 1.8 actually is the PERFECT camera for taking with you wherever you go. When I got a hold of it I was crazy excited and I told myself I would be shooting with it every day for two weeks to learn it and to shoot as much as I can with it.
When I hold the camera it feels REALLY good in the hand. The nice grip protrudes perfectly for my hands and the Tri-Navi dials are incredible in real life use. The Tri-Navi system consists of three dials. The top of the camera has two dials and the dial to the left controls my Aperture and the right dial controls the Exposure Compensation (when I am shooting in “A” mode), which you can see the effect of in real time on the LCD of OLED EVF. The control wheel on the rear, which is the 3rd control in the Tri-Navi system controls ISO. Just a quick flick of the wheel at any time and you can change the ISO as easy as you change your socks. Well, even easier actually. The Tri-Navi control system make all the difference in the world and is reason enough to buy the 7 over the 5n if you have the budget. It is that good. There is a demo of this in the video above if you did not watch it yet.
The beautiful EVF! The OLED masterpiece of an electronic viewfinder that is in this camera is splendid! The clarity, the color, and the contrast is all TOP NOTCH and makes the Olympus VF-3 or Ricoh EVF look like an old 70’s TV playing a VHS tape. The OLED in the NEX-7 is more like a modern HDTV and that is a good thing. In fact, it is so good I think I am done with cameras that do not have a built in VF. Shooting the Fuji X100 and now the NEX-7 made me feel that way and there is no excuse for Olympus to NOT have a built in EVF. It just makes shooting so much more natural sometimes AND when there is bright full sun, it makes it MUCH easier to see what you are shooting. This EVF to me is the best I have ever shot with. Period. It is the same as the one in the external EVF they sell for the 5N but feels great being built in to the body. There is no swivel feature like the external but it works well.
The 3″ 920k swivel LCD on the back is big and looks great. Its swivel mechanism is a bit different than the one on the NEX-5n and is super easy to swivel out and up and down. The shutter button and on off switch is perfectly placed and the shutter SOUND is MUCH better than the old “5”. The 7 sounds much like the new 5n due to it’s new Electronic First Curtain Shutter. Only one shutter movement is required now so instead of a click and thunk, we here a smooth and quick “snick”. Much improved but if you like the old snick and clunk you can always turn it back on in the camera settings menu, LOL. I demo this in the video at the top of the page.
Also, this camera has the WORLDS SHORTEST SHUTTER LAG, and this is AMAZINGLY cool. When you press the shutter on the NEX-7, it is going to fire instantly and you will not miss your shot. Many cams have longer shutter lag which means if you are shooting something coming into the frame, and it is fast, you may miss it with other cams due to the lag (time difference between when you press the shutter and when the picture is actually taken). The NEX-7 is excellent in this area at only 0.02 seconds!
The weight. Even with the Zeiss 24 1.8 mounted the camera was still pretty light but at the same time it felt solid. The 24 is about the same size as the kit 18-55 zoom lens but maybe a tad lighter. So overall, in the build, handling, and usability department this camera gets a super high score and if I were doing a 1-10 kind of deal, it would get an 9 in this area. Usability and control is MUCH improved over the 5n. So much so, it is like a totally different animal (and it is). Even the HD video is amazing and I found no clicking noises while testing the video recording. If I had to say something I would say that the Zeiss lens..it would have been great if it were a bit smaller but overall it has a nice feel and balance on the camera. Does not feel awkward at all.
The Zeiss 24 wide open (1st pic) and at 2.2 (2nd pic) – from JPEG – May have been set to VIVID
The GOOD things – AF speed & HIGH ISO Noise levels & My thoughts on the color and sensor
HIGH ISO NOISE. The big worry from many of you who were waiting for this camera is the high ISO capabilities and noise. Many feared that with so many megapixels (24) being squeezed on to the sensor that the low light/high ISO noise would be worse than that of the NEX-5n. Well, after shooting at all ISO’s with this camera I can say that it is a little worse at high ISO when in low light than the 5n. This is to be expected but at the same time, shooting at up to 1600 in low light is acceptable and ISO 3200 is easily usable. I was using the camera with Noise Reduction set to WEAK as I hate when the NR is high and smears the details. Overall, the 7 is just about what I expected when it came to high ISO noise performance. Still excellent but not as good as the 5n. But me, I have been happy with the M9 high ISO of 2500 and feel most of us top out at 1600 anyway. In this regard the NEX-7 is great.
Keep in mind that with ANY camera when you shoot at high ISO in LOW light you will get much more noise than if you shot it in decent or good light at the same ISO. The next there samples below were indoors with no lights on in the room and using the 24 1.8 at 1.8 and ISO 1600.
The following two photos were shot indoor in low light at ISO 1600 and shot as JPEGS. Do you see noise? Yes… but remember, there were no lights on and the curtains were closed so you will see noise even with the 5n or most other cameras at 1600.
Super High ISO – Is it even usable?
The NEX-7 is a camera that can go as high as ISO 16,000 but for the most part, when cameras include these crazy ISO’s they are useless. The only camera I have shot with that had usable ISO past 6400 is the Nikon D3s, and I am still not sure how they did it as no one else has matched them to date. I went out to my front yard one late night and set the NEX-7 to ISO 16,000 and snapped a pic of a tree. You can click the image below to see a larger version with a 100% crop embedded. Now keep in mind, this was NIGHT time and the only light was the two light bulbs on my garage. So, it actually did better than I thought and if you were in a pinch and needed ISO 16,000 you COULD use it if your end result was the web or a small print.
Click the image below to see a larger version and a 100% crop from this ISO 16,000 image…
…and what review would be complete without some high ISO crops? The 1st image was shot at 1600.
So the NEX-7 may not be as clean as the NEX-5n at higher ISO (you can see my high ISO 5n tests HERE) but it is still as good as most will ever need. It could have been better if Sony stuck with the 5n sensor, but again, I have no complaints on the high ISO as I rarely go above 1600, and 3200 if needed. Both of which is acceptable for web or print from the NEX-7. See a 6400 ISO shot below resized to 1200 pixels wide. Not bad, and there was no light source. This was in my office with a window ABOVE the boxes and the blinds were closed. No lights were on in the room.
Here is the ISO 6400 shot resized to 1200 pixels wide, JPEG, NR set to WEAK.
More….ISO 3200 processed from RAW using Capture One
And two of the same fish – One with the NEX-7 and Kit Zoom at ISO 1600, the 2nd with the Olympus E-P3 and SLR Magic 12mm at ISO 1600
1st – NEX-7, 18-55 at ISO 1600 – Click for larger
and the Olympus E-P3 at ISO 1600 with the 12mm SLR Magic lens…
As you can see, when resized to 1800 pixels wide the Oly and NEX-7 seem almost neck and neck at high ISO quality. The Olympus pops more due to the 12mm 1.6 aperture lens. Both cams are very useful at 1600.
HIGH ISO – NEX-7 vs the NEX-5n
Ok here you go! I had a ton of requests for this so I decided to add this to the review. A high ISO test of the NEX-7 vs the NEX-5n.
I shot the scene with both cameras using the Zeiss 24 at f/5.6. I shot one at ISO 100, then followed that with 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, and 12,800. I processed each file from RAW using Capture One which is supporting BOTH cameras. I left everything at default but turned off Noise Reduction so this was at 0 for each file. I wanted to show the RAW performance of each sensor not the JPEG Noise Reduction performance.
ALSO, I did NOT match shutter speeds. I shot these at f/5.6. Same lens as stated above. I did NOT match shutter speeds as I prefer to test a camera for real world use. In other words, if camera “A” chooses one exposure and camera “B” chooses a slightly different exposure then that is what you can expect from each camera. Matching shutter speeds when and if a camera chooses one slightly different is not showing what you will get from the camera when out shooting with it, and to me, this is the ONLY way one should test a camera. REAL WORLD as I have said from day one. Not “Scientific” as “Scientific” is not how we shoot.
I made 100% crops of each at full resolution. 24 megapixels of the 7 and the 16 of the 5n. I then resized the NEX-7 files to the same size of the 5n files to see how they stacked up in this way. Below are the results, let me know what you think!
First a web resize to 1800 pixels wide (click for that size). The NEX-7 at ISO 3200
and the same image with the 5n, resized to 1800 pixels wide – ISO 3200
and now the 100% crops from the NEX-7 and 5n at all ISO’s tested and at the native resolution of each camera
and finally, the 100% crops with the NEX-7 files resized to the same size as the 5n.
It is no question that the 5n does a bit better at high ISO. The NEX-7 is using the same size sensor but crammed way more pixels on to it. This will cause more noise which is why I am a big believer in large sensors and less pixels :) But overall, they are not really THAT far off. Up to you to decide how important higher ISO shooting is. The files above were all straight RAW conversions and again, with ZERO noise reduction. Hope this helped some of you who were looking for this test!
AUTO FOCUS SPEED – Not the fastest in the world :)
As for Auto Focus speed, I am happy with it but not THRILLED. The Micro 4/3 format Olympus E-P3 beats the NEX-7 for AF speed but it should! Olympus boasts the fastest AF in the world on the E-P3 and their pro E-5. The NEX-7 is good, but not blazing. In low light it hunts a teeny bit but that seems to be an issue with most contrast focus cameras. I also had a few “misses” in low light with the “7” which tells me the AF could have been improved a bit. Now do not get me wrong!! The AF is fast… much faster than the Leica X1 or Fuji X100, but not as fast and accurate as the E-P3’s AF. I set the review sample to the center point which is how I ALWAYS shoot with ANY camera and sometimes it still wanted to focus on what was BEHIND my subject. For me, the E-P3 remains the contrast detect focus champion in regards to AF speed and accuracy. The NEX-7 is about the same as the NEX-5n, so it is fast, just not BLAZING.
The NEX-7 and the Sony 50 1.8. At $299 this lens is a must own for any NEX owner. This shot was taken at f/4 but the lens focus quickly and accurately.
Shot with the Zeiss 24 at 1.8 – processed from RAW with Phase One’s Capture One
and another with the 24 1.8 at 1.8 using the JPEG High Contrast B&W setting
THE NEW 24 MP SENSOR – My Thoughts on it and the NEX-7 JPEG output
I am in the camp that says Sony probably should have stayed with the same sensor they used in the NEX-5n. The 5n sensor seems to be a perfect medium of resolution, ISO noise performance and file size. The 24MP sensor in this NEX-7 means more pixels on the same size sensor and this means more noise and sometimes more issues. I know some manufacturers try to wow us with super high Megapixels but it is not needed. I am hoping Leica sticks with under 20MP for their M10 and they concentrate on noise, but I have a feeling they will pull a 30+MP sensor out and wow everyone with super high res stats. For the majority of us, 12MP of resolution is PLENTY! Even the old Nikon D2h had a measly 4MP but those were some GREAT Megapixels! Big and fat which provided super color and a unique feel to the photos. I also printed many 20X30’s with that camera that were beautiful. While this sensor is VERY good in its performance, I just feel like my 3 year old iMac is getting bogged down when I process these RAW files. But I guess I can not complain, the sensor puts a good quality image and that is all that matters at the end of the day when it comes to sensor technology. With that said, Canons new pro DSLR, the 1d-x has only 18MP and shoots 14FPS. Seems Canon may know that the MP race was starting to get out of hand. Damn, I remember when 2 Megapixels was a BIG deal and considered “pro”.
With that said, the JPEGs out of the NEX-7 are really good but I know it will get even better with fully supported RAW conversions. Most of us will be shooting RAW as soon as Adobe and Apple release compatibility for the 7 but the JPEGS have been great so far. As already mentioned, some of the images in this review were RAW’s converted with Capture One which does support the NEX-7 files somewhat. It worked GREAT and better than the Sony software. They have a free demo here if you want to give it a shot with your NEX files.
But with that said, the three shots below are from camera JPEGS!
The HD Video Performance of the NEX-7 – Two samples
The HD capabilities of this camera are pretty astonishing. The NEX-7, like the 5n has a plethora of options when it comes to shooting video and you are only limited by your imagination and lens you attach. The NEX-7 provides much better video quality than the Olympus E-P3 mainly because it not suffer from the nasty Jello effect that plagues many other digital cameras and this made me very happy. With the E-P3 you can not even shoot video unless you use a tripod due to the Jello effect where the video gets wavy and unstable. No issues here and the video looks great in low light as well. It’s pretty amazing because I used to be big into video and remember the old video cameras would always choke at night with horrible grain and bad color. I remember paying $1600 for a video camera back in 1990 that was AWFUL in low light and just OK in good light. Today we have a camera like the NEX-7 that costs $1200 and provides amazing HD video in any HD format you desire and does amazingly well even at night. Technology is good. No complaints here. Want to shoot at 24P? No problem! 60P? No problem! 60i? Go for it! 1080 resolution? Of course! Sony obviously knows video and it shows in this camera.
The video may not be as rich as what you get from a full frame camera like the Canon 5DII or the upcoming Leica M10 (Hmmmmm) but for the cost and what it is, this makes the NEX-7 worth it just for the video! The 18-55 kit lens and 50 1.8 also have Optical Steady Shot. The Zeiss 24 does not even though the video below was shot 100% hand held with the Zeiss 24 at 1.8.
UPDATE: After obtaining my own NEX-7 I have come to realize that the camera will overheat and shut down after just 3 minutes of continuous video. NOT good. So much for making the NEX-7 the official stevehuffphoto.com youtube video camera :)
Sample 1: Hand Held but static shots – Here is a sample video shot at 24p at night, various ISO’s from 100-1600
Sample 2: Handheld with some movement – LOW light and HIGH ISo, no JELLO effect. All KIT Zoom Lens!
*Shooting Leica Lenses on the NEX-7 - Yea it’s GOOD!
The Leica 50 Summitar is one of those classic lenses I just love. I’m shooting only classic Leica glass right now and love it. So does my bank account. The shot below was converted from RAW with Capture One.
Below: The SLR Magic Hyperprime T0.95 Leica Mount
This review could not be written without at least SOME shots taken with Leica glass. I have had about 50 e-mails asking for requests to shoot the NEX-7 with every Leica lens under the sun. Sadly, I am not rich, I am poor. SO, I do not own any wide angle Leica lenses. :) Contrary to popular belief I do not have a room loaded with Leica cameras and glass. The good news is that LENSRENTALS.COM sent me out a few wide angle Leica lenses at no charge just so I could test them here. SO THANK YOU LENSRENTALS! If you ever need to rent a camera body or lens, you must check out their site.
As most of you have seen I have been shooting with the Ricoh GXR A12 M mount module as well and because of this I was able to decide which camera I liked better for shooting old manual Leica glass with. Read on…
I can say RIGHT NOW with 100% CERTAINTY that the NEX-7 is a DREAM to use with manual focus Leica glass, or any manual focus glass for that matter. The combination of FOCUS PEAKING and the gorgeous built in EVF seals the deal. It just feels amazing with a Leica lens attached. As I have stated, I did compare SIDE BY SIDE with the Ricoh GXR A12 M mount module and I took both of these cameras out on three occasions and each time had the same conclusion. The NEX-7 won every time in the usability department, this was NO CONTEST. Now the NEX did not only win in usability but I also preferred the IQ from the NEX-7 most of the time when shot with a 35mm or longer lens. Check out some shots below as well as a side by side FROM RAW. Some may prefer the output of the GXR but I am telling ya, usability is amazing on the NEX-7.
1st the NEX-7 shot at f/4, then the GXR at f/4 – BOTH from RAW conversions – NO PP – You must click the images for the larger versions and TRUE 100% crops.
I had a blast shooting in this way and the NEX-7 made it so easy and foolproof. Their focus peaking just works, a big thumbs up. BUT all is not perfect! When you shoot a Leica lens 21mm and wider be prepared for the magenta color shift issue. Yep, it is here on the NEX-7 but it is NOT on the GXR (or the 5n)! So if you plan on shooting wide angle Leica glass and are looking for a small body to do so, I would suggest the Ricoh or the Sony NEX-5n. If you want a body for longer than 35mm lenses, the NEX-7 would do the job nicely.
The magenta color shift is here when using Leica mount wide angle lenses 21 and wider. See it here on the 15mm
NEX-5n with Voigtlander 15 – No color shift.
Two more shots with the Leica/Nex combo with the 50mm and 35mm Summilux ASPH – more are at the end of this review.
with the 35 Summilux ASPH
The Sony/Zeiss Lenses – The Zeiss 24 1.8 and Sony 50 1.8
As you can see from all of the photos in this review, I have shot with the Zeiss 24 1.8 quite a bit, and I like the lens a lot. It has a very smooth classic character with good color and contrast. It is not a cheap lens but I feel that anyone who is going to buy a NEX-7, and NOT use it with Leica glass or other manual focus good glass, well, the Zeiss is mandatory. It just goes with the camera so well. It’s not perfect and it did not really WOW me at 1st but the more I used it the more I appreciated it. Same with the NEX-7 itself. It is not a beginner camera! It took me about a week or so to really get a feel for what it can do and how to use it properly. But the Zeiss lens is fantastic and from what I am told even comes with snazzy packaging, a lens hood and nice pouch. You can order the lens at B&H Photo or Amazon and the cost is $999. But hey, It’s a Zeiss :) I HAVE A FEELING this will be one of those “Very hard to find lenses” for a while. I pre-ordered mine on day one of the Amazon Pre-Orders so I hope to get one in December when it is released, just in time for Christmas! Below you will see a wide open 1.8 shot and I will be adding some f/8 and f/11 tripod shots soon to this section.
Wide open indoors at 1.8 – OOC JPEG
The Sony 50 1.8 lens is $299 and IMO a MUST own if you are buying a NEX-5n or NEX-7. It’s priced right and puts out gorgeous results with color that pops, contrast that pops and it’s sharp even wide open. You can order this lens at B&H Photo. Here are a few more from the 50…
Shot at f/4 with the Sony 50 1.8 during the “Golden Hour” – click for larger – This is an OOC JPEG
This one was shot at 1.8 as I got the stare down from this dog in the street…JPEG
and check this one out at f/2.8 with 100% crop – JPEG
Accessories for the NEX-7
As of this writing there are not many accessories for the NEX-7 but I predict that this camera will be THE MOST POPULAR OF ANY SONY CAMERA MODEL IN 2012. PERIOD. I expect many accessories and I was already sent a prototype tripod bracket by J-Tec who made some awesome cool accessories for the NEX-5 and they are getting ready to launch some cool things for the 7 as well. So keep an eye on their site and this site as when they are released I will write about them. One accessory you will want to buy for the NEX-7 or even the 5n if you plan on shooting Leica glass with it is the BEST Leica lens adapter available. It’s not cheap but as I said in my 5n review, I have had three cheapie Leica adapters that I picked up on Amazon and over time they became loose, and that affects performance. The only adapter that has withstood the abuse and test of time has been THIS ONE by Novoflex. If you want a cheapie you can buy this one at Amazon. My thought on this is that if you are using LEICA glass, you want a good adapter. Makes sense.
As for other things for the NEX-7, you will want a good SD card and I recommend THESE LEXAR PRO cards if you do not want to spend a fortune or if you want the super fast bad ass cards, this one is FAST. The NEX-7 puts out some big files when shooting RAW!
Compared to…all the others
Here we go. I will get the question! I always do. WHICH ONE SHOULD I BUY? Well, as always, I can not answer that question! It is all personal preference. Do you want an interchangeable lens system? Would you prefer smaller? What features do you need? Ask yourself if THIS camera will FILL ALL YOUR NEEDS. If so, then it may be for you. Look at the features, the size and the sample photos above and then decide if the NEX-7 could be the “one” for the long haul. If that doesn’t work…
Look below for a QUICK written comparison against the usual suspects.
NEX-7 vs The Olympus E-P3 – The E-P3 focuses faser, has better lenses available, and has a cool retro design. In silver it’s simply beautiful. But it still has the same 12 MP sensor as the E-P1. The ISO noise is not far behind the NEX-7 at 1600 but the E-P3 does not have a built in EVF or a tilt able LCD. The 7 has a larger APS-C sensor, the E-P3 has a smaller 4/3 sensor. In all fairness the E-P3 is more fun to shoot and provides results that you just can not complain about. It has a cool factor and some serious mojo even with its limitations and I own it and am keeping it. BUT the NEX-7 is more serious with more potential. NEX has to win this if we are taking body to body. Lenses, Oly wins but then again, Leica glass just works better on bigger sensors, and the NEX-7 has the bigger sensor.
NEX-7 vs Fuji X100 – Totally different cameras. The X100 is a fixed lens 35 mm equivalent. You can not change lenses, it is slow and quirky to operate BUT it’s files are gorgeous and I prefer the colors of the Fuji over the NEX-7, NO CONTEST. But usability and versatility go to the NEX-7. Apples and Oranges. Classic vs Modern. If you can live with a 35mm f/2 and slow operation, go for an X100. GREAT camera. If you want versatility, speed and ease of use, go with a NEX.
NEX-7 vs Leica M9 – Again, totally different. The NEX-7 is NOT an M9 killer by any means. You do not get the Leica glow or the feel of a manual rangefinder camera even with the Zeiss lens but mount a good Leica lens to the NEX-7 and you get closer but again, totally different camera, feel, and price point! M9 is full frame and all manual. NEX-7 is APS-C and more like a hand held computer. One is $1199, one is $7-8,000 :)
NEX-7 vs NEX-5n – This one is important to many readers. The 5n I reviewed was SUPER. BUT….if you are going to invest in the NEX system, and are trying to decide between the two, go for the 7. The body, the controls, the whole package. It IS better in that regard. The high ISO may be a little better on the 5n but that is about it. The built in EVF of the 7 makes all the difference in the world as does the Tri-Navi controls. if you already have a 5n and EVF, you are really only missing the controls and larger body style. In that case, buy yourself the Zeiss 24 and call it a day. :)
NEX-7 vs GXR with Leica Mount – If you are looking for a cheaper solution to shoot Leica glass with besides an M9 or are looking for an M9 backup and have been thinking of the NEX-7 or GXR I feel the NEX-7 offers much more in this regard. Ive shot both side by side and the Sony is easier to shoot with and gives just as good results IN MY EXPERIENCE. The OLED EVF in the 7 is large and vibrant and Ricoh’s is small and dull looking in comparison. The Sony will switch to the EVF when raised to the eye, the GXR has to be manually changed via button. Focus peaking on the 7 is better and easier to use than on the Ricoh. Picture quality wise I slightly preferred the Sony files. Again, this is just MY opinion after shooting both. I love Ricoh but have to give credit where credit is due.
NEX-7 vs Leica M8 – Now this is an interesting comparison. A used Leica M8 runs anywhere from $2000-$2600. The NEX-7 is $1199. So almost double for an M8. If you buy an M8 you MUST buy the UV/IR filters for each lens you own, and the tops ISO for that camera is around 640 before it starts getting unsightly. It’s an M though and a joy to own and use. The M8 has a 1.3 crop and the NEX has a 1.5 crop so the M8 will be using more of your lenses than the NEX-7 will. If you are only shooting in light and want an RF, and M8 may be the way to go. If you want to shoot in all lighting situations and use higher ISO, the NEX is the way to go. Again, all personal preference but the M8 will most likely give better image quality if you have light, plus…it’s a Leica!
Pros and Cons of the Sony NEX-7
SUPER body, Great control and the new Tri-Navi setup is a godsend
Build is solid but camera is fairly light
OLED EVF is best ever (at the time of this writing). Period!
Swivel LCD is useful, should be on all digital mirror less cameras
Best mirror less body by far (to date) for using Leica lenses (besides a Leica)
Customization is amazing with many programmable buttons (see video)
The NEX-7 and Zeiss 24 make a great pair, could be one lens on body combo
ISO goes up to 16,000, but really usable up to 3200.
24 MP is plenty enough for ANYONE
Camera is fast in operation, not sluggish at all with a fast SD card
Kit Zoom performs great on the camera
Nice presentation box, strap, lens cloth all included.
Sony’s new 50 1.8 is exceptional in real world use
I feel the cost of this camera makes it a deal.
HD video capabilities are wonderful and the video does not suffer from the “Jello Effect”
Has a built in sensor dust shaker to keep dust bunnies off your photos
This is Sony’s Bionic Camera – Better, Faster, Stronger.
High ISO is not as good as it is with the cheaper 5n
Sometimes focus hunts in low light and sometimes misses its mark
Auto Focus is not as fast as the Olympus E-P3
Lenses are bigger than they should be
Sometimes the camera would underexpose when using the Zeiss 24
Rear LCD not as gorgeous as the one on the E-P3
Images do not have much 3D “POP” with the Sony lenses. Leica glass cures this.
No in body IS. Boo.
When shooting Leica glass with an adapter, lenses wider than 24mm have some magenta color shift issues while the 5n does NOT.
The Bottom Line Conclusion and my full thoughts on the Camera
Ok, so there you have it. I shot with this camera each and every day that I had it. I shot it with the Zeiss 24 1.8 and the new Sony 50 1.8. I even slapped on a Leica lens and did a side by side with the Ricoh GXR. Sony did in fact “Grow Some Balls” when they decided to design and release the NEX-7. On paper it appeared to be absolutely PERFECT and I ordered one through Amazon the day they started taking orders. In fact I pre-ordered the 24 1.8 and the NEX-7 kit. I just KNEW it had to be amazing. A small body, great build, EVF, fantastic controls and a 24 MP sensor that has Sony tech behind it. I mean, how could the NEX-7 be anything but absolutely GORGEOUS?
Well, when I first started shooting with this camera I was not that wowed or impressed. But I am jaded. I am used to my Leica glass and the M9 putting out stunning 3 dimensional beautiful files and that is what my brain has gotten used to. There has not been any camera that has come close to the M9 IQ until the little Fuji X100 came along, but as wonderful as the Fuji is, it is still tough to shoot with (at certain times) due to its slow speed and clunky interface. Another favorite of mine that I adore is the Olympus E-P3. The new lenses for Micro 4/3 are nothing short of spectacular and helped to make the E-P3 a daily shooter for me along with it’s super speed and great out of camera color. The one problem I have with the Olympus though is there is no built in EVF or swivel LCD. Once I shot with the Sony for over a week I was spoiled with its best ever OLED EVF and swivel LCD.
So here I am raving on and on about the perfect body of the NEX-7. What about the image quality? Well, judge for yourself. I posted tons of images in this review with all lenses. I posted out of camera JPEGS, I posted RAW conversions and I posed a couple of comparison shots with a GXR and E-P3. What I noticed with the NEX-7 files during this whole process is that they seem a little bit flat out of the camera, but this is the same look that every NEX camera has had, even the 5n. Nothing that can’t be fixed in a RAW conversion or by using a good old fashioned Leica lens. When I attached a $300 Leica 50 Summitar the 3D pop surfaced.
The NEX-7 is not a camera you will open up and shoot on day 1 and get amazing results with. You have to shoot it, learn it, learn the controls, and learn when to apply Exposure Compensation (which is simple with the Tri Navi controls). Once you dig in and set it up to your liking you will be able to shoot just about anything with this camera. In many ways it is like a computer instead of a camera, but that is Sony for you.
Sony now has 7 lenses for the NEX system. The 16 2.8, the 18-55, Zeiss 24, the 30 Macro, the 50 1.8, 18-200 and the new 55-210 zoom. The ones to buy in my opinion are the Zeiss and the 50 1.8. I hear that Sony has a new Zeiss lens planned for 2012 as well and I am guessing it will be something like a fast portrait prime. So for those of you who are saying there are no lenses for the NEX system, there are plenty. In addition, this camera can mount hundreds of other lenses using adapters. Mount Nikon, Canon, Leica, Zeiss glass….Just buy the adapters and go to town. This is where this camera really shines…as a body for all of your old glass, well, sort of. Just know that if you want to shoot wide angle lenses that you may get some magenta color shift at the edges of your photo. This is a disappointment because the NEX-5n does NOT have this problem, and it is the cheaper NEX body. Makes me REALLY think now that Sony should have stuck with the 16MP sensor of the 5n for the 7.
With that said, using the camera is a breeze and so enjoyable with the focus peaking and huge and super clear EVF. It really is a joy.
The video on this camera is the best I have shot with in a non full frame camera. The options are a plenty and the quality, even in low light is GREAT. Pop on a lens with IS and you will get smooth and saturated jello free HD video. You can shoot at 24P, 60P, 60i all in 1080 resolution. The video of the stock NEX-7 kit is exceptional and beats most $1000 video cameras.
The things I did not even talk about in this review..
There are a few things I did not even go over in this review mainly because it would have been a rehash of the 5n review. Things like SWEEP PANORAMA and the other cool features built into the NEX-5n are all here in the 7. The way I look at it is that the NEX-7 is an enthusiast camera and most of these gimmicks will not even be used by those who buy this camera. The Sweep Pano is the one I would use but the others not so much. So this camera has everything you can imagine inside. Huge resolution, great HIGH ISO, superb video, amazing body design and usability….the list goes one.
Would I buy one? I already had my pre-order in and am keeping it. It’s not perfect (see my con list) but it’s REALLY good and the lenses being a little big did not bother me at all in real use. The body is bigger than the 5n so it’s a bit more comfortable to shoot with the Sony lenses. Yes, the “7” is here! So as I wind up this 10,000 word review all I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the camera and lenses. It doesn’t compete with the M9 but not much does in my eyes, and besides…it is $5800 cheaper than an M9 body. :)
All in all, this is a killer camera system and the NEX line has now matured into a camera that most of us have been asking for over the past 2-3 years. This will be a big one for Sony. Mark my words!
UPDATE: I will leave you with a few more images from the NEX-7 and Leica glass, this time with some post processing (which I did not do to any of the images above) – click on them to make them larger and ENJOY!
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Is it April Fools? No, but it feels like it! New special editions…
The Sigma SD-1 Wood Edition – $13,800 body only
Just saw this today and laughed. I mean…I get it. I understand the luxury market as it appeals to all of us, even those of us with no cash flow. I am a Leica camera fool and even though it is way above my means I found ways to own an M9 and M9-P. Not the smartest thing in my situation but you only live once right? Lol. But sometimes I think things can be taken over the top. For example, the Sigma SD1 “wood edition”. Only 10 are being made at a cost of $13,800. They are being offered to the German market though. Will they sell? Hell, I was not even aware that the standard SD-1 was selling! Below you can bask in the goodness of the SD1 “wood edition” made of Amboyna Burl root wood. Very exotic looking but how does that puppy feel in the hand? It can be yours for $13,800, body only of course! Oh, and it is a snap on accessory. You can take it off when you want to go shoot.
The new Leica Red Leather M9-P – $16,000
For a mere %16,000 you can pick up a Red Leather Leica M9-P with 28 Elmarit lens. For a $500 up charge you get a grip, a strap and red leather covering. Only 30 are being made and these will be available in Japan. Now, this one I can get into looks wise, but the cost? No. Well, not for my budget anyway. If I were loaded with serious cash…maybe this one would tempt me. Then again, the chrome and black M9-P are sexier so….
So what do you guys think of these? The Sigma is a bit odd to me but maybe someone else would see the beauty in it. Maybe?
A reader sent this to me last week and though it was kind of…funny. Decided to post it for all of you to enjoy and discuss :)
The Breakup Letter
“Dear Leica M9,
This may come as a shock to you, but I have decided to leave you. I
still love you but I can’t live with you. I’m going back to my old
mistress Canon. She’s not as beautiful as you. I don’t love holding
her the way I love holding you but I cannot live a lie any longer.
I’m tired of missing shots because you’re too difficult to focus
accurately. I mean, you tell me you’re at your best wide open, but you
give me a hit n miss focus system, especially close up
I’m fed up of your crappy lcd screen. You’re so last decade.
And I’ve have enough of standing around waiting for you to let me know
what the image I just shot looks like. If I try to take several shots
at once, you take a hissy hit and make me wait and wait and wait….
And while I’m at it, how come that despite the fact you’re no slapper,
I struggle to get consistently steady images at 1/60. Mistress Canon
has no problem showing me the slow love with her fancy IS. You just
shrug your shoulders at me and make me feel inadequate.
I want to strangle you every time I lift you to my eye and you’re
still asleep. Why do you take so long to wake up?
And did I mention – you’re high maintenance too. Everything about you
is me, me, me. I had to buy a grip just to hold you right. Your lenses
are ridiculously expensive and did I tell you that Madam Zeiss is just
as good. There I said it, your not so special any more.
So I’m asking myself, what do we really have in common?
You’re really not that interested in landscapes
You’re incapable of close ups
You’re temperamental when it comes to portraits
You keep telling me that you’re a street walker. I’m sick and tired of
you dropping names like Henri Cartier Bresson. He was a friend of your
grand fathers. I doubt he’d be that impressed with you.
It’s true that you blend in when I take you out into the street, you
certainly do look the part. But the harsh reality is that I miss more
shots because you’re slow than I do with Canon because she wears
tattoos and gets noticed. In fact you draw more attention to me
because I need to fiddle your focus. Canon is just sooooo fast. Lift
But what has really broken my spirit is the fact that yet again I have
missed a shot because you couldn’t tell me that your lens cap was on.
That was a brilliant image I had, right in your self centred little
frame lines and I blew it because you couldn’t be bothered to let me
know you couldn’t see.
It’s not me Leica, it’s you!
PS – your recent little makeover hasn’t fooled me either. Taking your
badge off and asking me for €500 for your nip n tuck is just taking
the mickey. Goodbye!”