Dec 122011
 

Canon 50 mm TV lens f0.95 for Leica M by Konstantin Mihailov

The “Dream Lens” – that’s what they often call it. Of course, the famous Noctilux is also a dream lens but I get the feeling it is not only a dream lens because of how it renders but also because every Leica user at one point or another dreamt of having a Noctilux. Canon 50 mm f0.95 TV lens is perhaps less of a dream to own but it surely lives up to an other definition of a “dream lens”. Before continuing with the review, I should perhaps make a disclaimer that I have never owned any Noctilux version and that perhaps at one point in the future I will dream of it. For now, even this is a bit too much for me to handle.

In an attempt to get to know the lens better, I had it mounted on my M9 for almost the entire duration of my ownership of it (about a month). The lens ergonomics leave much to be desired – it is big, and I mean big – I am sure the Noctilux is also big, but the fatness of this lens combined with its shortness and the close proximity at which it sits next to the body, makes it very difficult to even hold on to the camera. The Noctilux has a tapered end which allows the fingers of the camera holder to use the space between the lens and the body for better grip. The smoothness of the focusing ring is also incomparable to the usual Leica buttery but this is not really an issue and perhaps is an added bonus with a lens which requires so much attention when focusing.

When the lens is actually put to use, one quickly discovers that it focuses to the usual fast-lens minimum distance of 1 meter which I always found limited and disliked (Leica Noctiluxes as well as older version Simmuluxes were also limited to that distance). It interferes with the viewfinder but this has never disturbed me personally.

The photographic qualities of the lens are even more subjective – at f0.95 it is quite soft and the photos exhibit a considerable glow, with a somewhat harsher bokeh than one would expect; at f1.4 it is already with improved contrast, sharpness and definition and this has been the aperture at which I’ve used this lens most often, and if focused correctly, it is quite satisfactorily sharp; my limited use of the lens at other apertures makes it difficult to judge it further on this.

To my mind, this lens would be ideal for portraits, some journalistic situations but few nature/landscape situations. On the other hand, the Leica Summilux 50 can serve in all of these situations quite satisfactorily so my personal choice would now lean in this direction, while even entertaining the use of the Simmicron C40.

See the pictures below for a more empirical overview.

You can see more of my work at my blog HERE.

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Below is a picture taken recently from the top of the Rathhaus in Hannover. This was shot at f8 and it is composed of two pictures stitched together. The sharpness I discovered to be suboptimal (compared to, for example, my Summicron C40) which for this kind of pictures may be undesirable 

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Dec 092011
 

 A Day at the Zoo with my Leica M9-P and 50 Summitar f/2

Since I live in Phoenix AZ I get to enjoy mild and beautiful winters. Full sunshine, and mid 60’s in December makes for a perfect time of year to head outdoors. In the summer when the heat rises to a blistering 105-115 degrees I tend to stay indoors. That could mean my house, my car, in a mall, or in any building with Air Conditioning. Today my son and I decided to take a photo stroll through the Wildlife World Zoo in Phoenix to enjoy the nice day and get some cool snaps out of it  as well. My son Brandon has really been getting into his Nikon D2h lately. Such a classic but oh so huge! He doesn’t seem to mind it but he is eyeballing the little Nikon V1 and Sony NEX-7 that I have been carrying around. Good thing he only uses small primes with his D2h. He hasn’t felt the full pain of lugging it around with a 70-200 VR yet, hahaha.

Many years ago when he was really young we would go to this same Zoo and I would have to rent a stroller. NOT for him, but for all of my camera gear! I used to shoot with a Nikon D2h myself and I had the typical lenses most Nikon shooters had at that time. The 70-200 VR, the 85 1.4, the 24-70…all big and heavy lenses, especially the 70-200. It performed exceptionally well but at the end of the day I was so tired of lugging it all around AND having to push a stroller through the zoo.

These days I always travel light as possible so today I was the one with the smaller cameras. My M9-P and Tiny super old 50 Summitar made it in my bag along with the Sony 50 1.8 OSS and NEX-7. Some of my shots with the Sony will be in my 50 1.8 lens review either later today or tomorrow but for now I wanted to post a few snaps I shot with the M9-p and 60+ year old 50 Summitar. I have written quite a bit about this classic 50 and I am one of those in the camp that love the lens. It can provide crazy swirly bokeh at f/2 with a classic softness thrown in and by f/4 it is super sharp and crisp. The colors can be pastel like at times but I enjoy the lens. The cool part is that if you can find one used they usually go for $250-$350, which is super cheap for a Leica.

If I ever find another super clean copy I will probably buy it as a back up. It is a wonderful lens LOADED with character. As I walked through the Zoo today with two cameras and two 50mm lenses I loved the fact that I didn’t have a huge zoom like everyone else at the zoo that day. Usually the zoo shooters come in with their huge lenses just like I used to do and they end up with photos that look like everyday Zoo snapshots. When shooting with a shorter lens on something like a Leica M9 or even NEX-7 you have to think a bit differently. You lose that power to zoom in on the animal faces but at the same time you gain the power to be different. Pretty cool huh?

Next time you take a stroll through the Zoo leave the zoom at home and shoot with a 50mm. You may enjoy it! Below are a few snaps I took today as we casually walked around. You can click on the images to see larger and better versions.

This kangaroo was just relaxing in the sunlight and enjoying the cool 60 degree afternoon. He didn’t mind when I got right up to him (they are not caged, but free roaming)

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I have taken pictures of these McCaws a couple times before when I was reviewing the Olympus 45 1.8 lens and the Ricoh A12 Module. Personally, I love the way the M9 and 50 Summitar renders the light and colors. Click on them for larger views.

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This warthog saw us and started walking up towards us looking for food. The light was shining down and the nearly 70 year old 50mm rendered this with a crispness and glow that I am pleased with. 

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This Meerkat was on the lookout. I have a similar shot I took with the NEX-7 and 50 that will be in my 50 review but as you can see in this M9-P shot with the old 50, the Bokeh is sort of swirly and crazy. The Meerkat is sharp though, and I like this look. Many do not as the background can be distracting. I shot this at f/2 because I knew this would make a good example of the Bokeh this lens produces wide open.

Dec 062011
 

PRESS RELEASE

LEICA CAMERA OFFERS FIRMWARE UPDATE 1.176 FOR THE LEICA M9 AND M9-P

Allendale, NJ (December 6, 2011) - Leica Camera, Inc. announces the latest firmware update, 1.176, for the Leica M9 and M9-P, the world’s smallest, full-frame digital system cameras.  Users wishing to benefit from the new offerings can download the firmware update from the Leica Camera website.

Firmware update 1.176 eliminates a rare fault occurring during the formatting of SanDisk cards, ensuring compatibility with the Leica M9 and M9-P in accordance with the cameras’ respective standards. All card types available from SanDisk have been fully tested by Leica’s expert technical team and firmware version 1.176 guarantees their proper function, resulting in the previous constrictions on the cards being revoked.

Leica Camera is dedicated to providing products that exhibit mastery in optics and mechanics, high-quality design and outstanding craftsmanship, resulting in an uncompromised customer experience. The company thanks all affected customers for their patience and support in searching for the cause of the compatibility issues as well as SanDisk for their intensive technical assistance.

For installation instructions and to download firmware update 1.176, please visit: http://en.leica-camera.com/service/downloads/rangefinder_cameras/m9_m9-p/index.html.

About the Leica M9 and M9-P:

As the world’s first digital rangefinder camera with a 24 x 36 sensor, the Leica M9 carries the proud heritage of the Leica M system into the digital age.  A truly professional camera for authentic Leica M photography in the familiar, classic and timeless M design, the M9 is the perfect contemporary tool for those who set the highest standard in image quality and are committed to creating images of enduring value. The Leica M9-P provides an alternative, even more discreet and resilient design that further reinforces the classic nature of the M9 and specifically meets the needs of professional photographers. The M9 and M9-P are compatible with nearly every Leica M lens in existence.

 

Dec 022011
 

Voigtlander Nokton 35 1.2 Aspherical II Lens review on the Leica M9

By Steve Huff

With the rising costs and seemingly impossible chance of seeing the “IN STOCK” notice on current Leica lenses, those of us who shoot with a Leica M camera are constantly on the lookout for used deals, bargains, and some of us with fatter wallets are even finding  “UN-Bargains” with jacked up pricing on hard to find lenses. Many of us who are forever attached to our Leicas sometimes forget that we have options in the world of lenses that will mount onto our cameras. While Leica glass IS the best glass to shoot on your Leica M, there are lenses from Zeiss and Voigtlander (see all of my Leica reviews here) that cost much less than their Leica counterpart and can give really great results with our beloved M’s. For most of us mere mortals it can be hard to buy a $7-$8000 camera body followed by a $5000 lens.

Let me get this clear up front: I LOVE LEICA GLASS. Period. They set the standard for quality and that is indeed a fact. If you deny this fact you are simply in denial or obviously never used lenses like the 28 Summicron, 35 Summicron, 50 Summilux ASPH or even the 50 Noctilux ASPH. Leica M glass is expensive but it is the best in the world of 35mm photography and the size is just right as well. Small and solid. The best thing about Leica is their glass as that has always stood the test of time. The big problem these days is the lack of available lenses as well as the cost. That leaves many of us M shooters without lenses but as I already stated, we have options!

While I have not been a huge fan of some of the Voigtlander lenses I do applaud them for releasing some of their superb lenses like the 50 Nokton f 1.1, the classical rendering 35 1.4, and even the 15mm wide angle. Voigtlander has been releasing some very fine lenses lately and today I am going to write about and share my experience with one of the best lenses, if not THE best “M” mount lens that they make, the new 35mm Nokton f/1.2 ASPH Version II. Yes, 1.2!


The 1st version of this lens was loved and adored by many who owned it for it’s unique qualites and low light abilities. Images from the Nokton always had a sort of interesting creamy artistic feel and I shot with one for 2 weeks over two years ago with the intent on reviewing it. At the time I had only a Leica M8 and the copy of the Nokton I had was not focusing right so I never did review it. It was also very large and fat and seeing that I already had a Leica 35 Lux that I was in love with I was not really into the Nokton so much. The super fast 1.2 aperture did intrigue me, and I was seeing some great results form others who was using the lens but like I said, it was not focusing correctly so I never could get into it.

When I did get an in focus shot the rendering I saw was almost like a 50 Noctilux f/1 because of the crop factor of the M8, (but not quite) and at under $1000 it was a nice lens if you could not afford the Leica Summilux, and you got one that focused correctly.

So here we are in 2011, almost 2012, and Voigtlander reworked this lens as a version II because they said the old version was too hard to make. Hmmm. Does this mean version I is the more desirable lens? I was not so sure but I was attracted to Version II because it is a little smaller and thinner (though not by much really) and from what I have heard even sharper when shot wide open, which to me is important.

One of the key reasons Leica glass seems so magical is because it is so damn sharp at its maximum widest aperture. When you have your subject in such sharp focus with the background blurred out so smoothly it translates into a somewhat unique and, as some say, “magical” image.

With the previous Version I of this lens I could never get that look because it just did not have the ultimate sharpness wide open like a Leica 35 Summilux did at 1.4. So how is version II? Read on and I will share my real world experience with this lens from Voigtlander in words and photos, but this one will be kept short as there is only so much I can say in a real world lens review.

The Nokton wide open at f/1.2 – click image for larger. Focus was on his eye.

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The 35mm Focal Length – A Classic

A Leica M9 kit does not seem complete without a 35mm lens. There are so many great choices available in the 35mm world and my personal favorite has always been the Leica 35 Summilux. The newest FLE version of the lens is spectacular with a modern draw and amazing 3D separation and depth. It’s just about as perfect of a 35mm lens as you can get in my opinion and when I say “perfect”, I mean the qualities of the images from the lens are just about perfect. Sharp, great micro contrast, fantastic color, etc.  The only problem with that lens is that it will cost you $5000 and it is almost impossible to find. You may have a 6-12 months wait on the dealers waiting list to be able to have the privilege of laying down your $5000 for the Leica. Kind of insane really when you think about it. But it is not necessary to spend $5,000 on a Leica 35mm as there are a couple of other choices being made today new from Leica.

My other faces in the lineup are the Leica 35 Summicron and the Leica 35 Summarit lenses. All are GREAT choices really and the little Summarit has an amazing mix of modern and classic looks all at the same time but it is a slower lens with a f/2.5 aperture. It is nice and small though and this makes it a great travel lens for the M9.

I keep going back and forth as to what is my favorite focal length for shooting on the M9 and it alternates between 35 and 50. Sometimes I go for months shooting only a 35, then again a few months with a 50. Right now I am in a 35mm sort of mood. This focal length seems just about perfect to capture life. To add just that little bit more in the frame that would be left out with a 50mm. The 35mm focal length is a classic Leica M choice. Simple and effective. Pure and sometimes just what you need.

The Nokton at 1.2 or 1.4 

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The Version II Nokton 35 1.2

When Version II of this lens was announced and I heard it was smaller and slimmer than the previous version while being sharper I knew I had to try it. As time went on I kind of forgot about it because I was not reading  too much about it and I was so busy testing other cameras and lenses. Then one day while browsing B&H Photo for in stock M mount lenses I saw the Nokton listed as IN STOCK at $1399, about 1/3 the cost of the Leica 35 Summilux ASPH.  I added the lens to my cart and hit the purchase button. A few days later the lens arrived and just as I had imagined it was still pretty large. Heavy and large but built VERY well and the focus ring was extremely silky smooth. The aperture ring was nice and smooth with solid clicks, but never rough feeling like some cheaper lenses sometimes can be. In the build area, this lens scored an A from me.

When the lens arrived I mounted it to the M9-P and took it out with my son and best friend and then headed for the park. It was 4:30PM and a beautiful sunny day. I knew the sun would be going down soon so I set the aperture to 1.2 and shot with it wide open for many shots, and then stopped it down to f/1.4 and f/2 for a few others. I had no idea if the shots were sharp or not due to the lackluster M9 LCD but what I was seeing in the previews looked promising. The depth of field is very shallow at 1.2 on the M9 but of course I LIKED IT :)

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I found the lens to be a little weighty but not offensive. I had no issue carrying it around though I must admit, any of the Leicas would be smaller and lighter. Then again, they do not open up to f/1.2. The difference between 1.2 and 1.4 is so tiny though that I am not sure there is even a real noticeable difference. Still, it is nice to know it is there for when the light gets low or for shooting indoors, which was something I wanted to test out. It kind of gives you confidence in low light…”Hey, I can open up to f/1.2″!

From what I saw at the park, the lens performed really good. The bokeh is not bad at all in my opinion and actually I find it quite pleasing. When shooting this lens at wide apertures it gives a unique rendering with sharpness just about on par with the Leica 35 Lux ASPH (version I) along with the classic look of some of the older Leica 35’s.

At f/1.2 the lens is pretty sharp (for being f/1.2). This is a straight out of camera file from RAW. Click it for larger.

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Speaking of Sharpness

So how share is this lens? Can it come close to the performance of the Leica 35 Summilux ASPH? I have shot the Leica ASPH Version I extensively and can say that at f/1.4 and f/2 this lens is pretty damn close to the Summilux, possibly even a little sharper! The rendering is not quite the same though with the Nokton seemingly giving even shallower depth of field effects for some reason. The Nokton almost reminds me of the 1st Leica Noctilux f/1 in the way it renders the image when shot at wide apertures. It has an artistic way of drawing that makes people say “WOW, how did you do that”? In fact, I have gotten that many times from every day people who know nothing about photography. When I show them an image shot with a Noctilux or a fast lens they are amazed at the look of the photograph because they are so used to seeing flat and dull point and shoot images.

So this lens is very “Artistic” in the way it renders but at the same time sharpness seems to have improved from the older version. See the shots below to see the 100% crops and see for yourself.

You must click on the images to see the larger versions and true 100% crops

This 1st shot is from inside a mall at 1.2 The 100% crop shows that even at f/1.2 this lens can be sharp. F/1.2!!

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Again, I snapped this one in the mall but this time stopped the lens down to f/2. Just by looking at this I can tell that this lens has a really nice smooth rendering. I like it.

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Even at 1.4 it is plenty sharp. No complaints.

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I happened to focus on a fly at 1.4 and the focus was so dead on it captured the fly in motion. No focus issues with this lens that I found. Wide open or Stopped down.

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How Does the Nokton do in Low Light? It’s BOKEHLICIOUS!

This lens has the Nokton name for a reason. Much like the other Nocts in the lens world, this lens just seems to BEG to be shot in lower light. I still find the Leica M9 to be a superb low light camera when you have a good fast lens attached. Seeing that we all can’t afford a $10,500 Noctilux ASPH and seeing that this 35mm 1.2 reminds me in many ways of the original Leica Noctilux, I assumed this lens would do great when the lights got lower. It did not disappoint, and after seeing shots I snapped in this Christmas themed bar (The Coach House in Scottsdale, AZ) I knew right then and there that I wanted to keep this lens. I LOVE the way this lens renders out of focus areas and it reminds me even more of the f/1 Nocti after seeing these on my iMac 27″ screen. It’s a bit dreamy and surreal at times.

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Vigentting?

I took a test snap in my living room at f/1.4 and  then f/4 to see if there was any noticeable vignetting in real world images. Instead of shooting a white wall to see it, I just took a snapshot of my room and you can see some slight vignetting at 1.2 but none at f/4. The lens also sharpens up considerably at f/4 as you can see in the crops.

Click images for larger versions – the 1st one was taken at f/1.2, straight from camera (RAW) – Notice the CA on the light but even the $10,500 Noctilux does this. 

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Now at f/4

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and the crops to see the sharpness – camera was tripod mounted

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The Bottom Line Conclusion

This review is shorter than usual but I have no need to rant on and on about it because it is what it is. A super fast 35mm f/1.2 lens with an almost Leica like build, a Leica feel, and super results even at f/1.2 that only get better by f/2. The contrast is good at f1.2 and superb once you hit f/2, the color rendering is nice and the focusing is spot on at all apertures. This lens is really a creature of the night but also works well for everyday shooting and I would not hesitate to use it for just about anything my M9 can handle. I bet this would take amazing shots at a live concert :) I really like the way this lens renders light and color.

debbycolorvoigt

Ok, here it goes...The Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2 is the bargain of the century in the world of super fast 35mm lenses for Leica. At $1399 it is thousands less than Leicas own 35 Summilux ASPH FLE and while it may not have the crispness and overall perfection of that lens it does bring something unique to the table and that is its unique rendering and the 1.2 slightly larger aperture. The lens is indeed large and slightly heavy but nothing in comparison to a Leica 50 Noctilux ASPH. I do wish it came with a hood but Voigtlander is now charging an extra $109 for it. Boo. That is really my only negative on this otherwise outstanding lens. It’s a mix of modern and classic and would be wonderful for environmental portraits, kids, low light, or just about anything. The lens has a look of its own and I really really am enjoying the hell out of it and can’t wait to take it with me on my next  trip. This is an easy recommend for any Leica M9 shooter. I do not own an M8 anymore so I could not try it out on that camera but I am sure it would perform equally as well but be aware of the 1.33 crop which would make this somewhat close to a 50mm equivilant.

Compared to the prevoious older version Leica 35 Summilux ASPH, this lens is right up there with it in my opinion. Compared to the new FLE 35 Summilux, it is not as crisp, nor modern looking…it is not as “perfect”. The 35 Summilux ASPH FLE is the king of 35’s and it has insane micro contrast that just makes your subjects pop. My review for that lens is HERE. Still, that lens is $5000 and VERY hard to get and some may prefer a more modern/classic mix anyway, which is where this Voigtlander excels. Is the Leica worth $3700 more? No, not really but that depends on your tastes and your wallet, not mine.

Me, I have grown less picky as I get older so I am actually pretty thrilled with this 35 Nokton. It really does have it’s own brand of “mojo” that can create some very cool photos when in the right hands. HIGHLY recommended.

B&H Photo is where I bought mine and you can go get it HERE.

This lens is gorgeous on the Monochrom as well.

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PROS AND CONS

PROS: Great build and feel, focus ring is smooth as silk, aperture ring is silky smooth with solid clicks, no focus shift, sharp even wide open, medium contrast, great color rendering and out of focus areas render very nicely with no real headache inducing swirl or nastiness and by f/2 it is just about as good as any Leica 35, a bold statement I know. No noticeable distortion in real world images that I noticed.

CONS: Slightly heavy, no hood included, no case included.

I will leave you with a few more images from this lens on the Leica M9. Click on them to see the larger versions. Enjoy and feel free to discuss this lens below in the comments. What do you think? Would you buy it or would you stick with Leica?

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ALL I ASK! HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

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

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Dec 012011
 

 Just for fun: Sensor sizes compared for Bokeh – Small, Medium and Large

This is a “just for fun” post. I used to do these kind of things all the time not because they are really extremely useful, but because there are some readers out there who are absolute newbies (been getting lots of e-mail on this lately) and they do not even understand that there are different sensor sizes in digital cameras, and the effects the sensor size has on the final image, so this post is for you guys! I decided to post about this after shooting yesterday with three very different cameras. The Leica M9, Nikon V1, and the Sony NEX-7.

Some quick info for the newbies on depth of field and full frame sensors…

The Leica M9 as most of you know is a full frame digital camera. This means that the sensor size is the same size as a full frame of 35mm film, I will call it LARGE size. When shooting with your 35mm lens it is indeed  a 35mm lens with a 35mm field of view. You use the entire lens with a full frame sensor camera and this is how the 35mm format has always been. Even today full frame cameras are still few and far between when compared to the smaller sensor cameras. They are also the most expensive cameras on the market…well, before heading up to medium format, which is an even larger sensor size. The full frame cameras usually offer the richest and nicest image quality if you know what you are doing.

Other cameras with full frame sensors are the wonderful Canon 5DII, Nikon D700 and the pro body Canon 1ds and Nikon D3 series. Full frame cameras often excel in lower light, dynamic range AND allow you to create images with more shallow depth of field. If you do not know what depth of field is you can read up on it HERE.

In some cases you may want a large depth of field in which everything in your image is in sharp focus. A landscape for example always requires a pretty large depth of field so most of us tend to shoot them at f/8-f/11 (at least I do). Others CRAVE shallow depth of field. This is when you have your subject in sharp focus and the background is out of focus, usually melting away into a creamy beautiful artsy blur. The best fast prime lenses give you the best quality blur, otherwise known as “Bokeh”. If you want this blurred out effect you would want to use a “fast” lens. A “fast” lens is not a lens that focuses fast, it is a lens that can open up to a large aperture letting in the most light and at the same  time, giving you the shallow depth of field effect.

A fast lens and a large sensor can create very shallow depth of field – Leica M9 and Voigtlander 35 1.2 II

For example, I have a Leica M9 which as I mentioned above is a full frame camera. I have a 35mm f/1.2 lens, which is a VERY larger aperture lens. The lower the number of the aperture, the faster the lens. BTW, the “fastest” lens in production today for the 35mm full frame format is the $10,500 50mm Leica Noctilux ASPH which has a crazy f/0.95 aperture. It is the low light bokeh king of lenses. Gorgeous but insanely expensive. The 35mm f/1.2 Voigtlander lens I am speaking of is $1399. Still expensive but about 1/4 the price of a Leica 35mm Summilux.

With this 35mm lens I can do some creative things. If I open up the lens to f 1.2 on the aperture ring I can shoot in very low light as the lens is now “wide open”. If I focus on something semi close I can isolate the subject which will be sharp while the background would then melt away into a blur.

On the other end of the spectrum, If your lens is “slower”, say an f/2.8=f/3.5 lens, then it is not really “fast” and it will be harder to get shallow depth of field. If you lens is a wide angle, even harder. Mix a wide angle with a smaller sensor and forget about it! (Nikon V1). But shallow death of field is not something you want in every photo anyway so each type of sensor and lens has its place.

So, to summarize…The best shallow depth of field effects come from “fast” prime lenses of 35mm, 50mm and up.  To get the most depth of field you have to “stop down” your lens (f/8-f/16).

The sensor sizes in the following examples…

As stated, the Leica M9 is full frame and I already spoke about the benefits of a full frame sensor. The other cameras I used for this example are NOT full frame. The Sony NEX-7 still has a nice large sensor but it is the same size that is in most DSLR’s these days, and that would be what I call the MEDIUM size, or APS-C with a crop factor of 1.5 (your 24mm lens behaves like a 35mm  lens in the field of view). The Nikon V1 is even smaller, with Nikon calling it “CX”. I call it “small”.  It has a 2.7 crop factor so a 14mm lens would become a 35mm equivalent. Even HARDER to get shallow depth of field.

When I shot the examples below I wanted them all to be in the 35mm focal length, so with the Leica I used the Voigtlander 35 1.2 ASPH II. With the Sony NEX-7 I used the Zeiss 24mm, which due to the smaller sensor ends up becoming the equivalent of a 35mm field of view. Since the lens is wider, we get less shallow depth of field. With the Nikon V1 I shot the 10-30 zoom set at 14mm which was close to 35mm. You can see the examples below and click on them to see the larger versions.

What these simple samples will show you is the differences in the depth of field you will get with the different sensors sizes. So if your thing is a shallow blur then you may want to find a full frame camera. If you don’t care about blur of bokeh then a smaller sensor camera will do the trick! Enjoy!

The M9 and Nokton 35 1.2 – Full Frame “LARGE” 35mm Format Sensor – Most shallow DOF

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The Sony NEX-7 and Zeiss 24 1.8 (35mm equivalent) – “MEDIUM” APS-C Sized Sensor – Less shallow DOF as the lens is wider and sensor smaller

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The Nikon V1 and the 10-30 at 14mm (35mm equivalent) “SMALL” CX sensor – Largest DOF yet due to super wide lens and much smaller sensor

Nov 302011
 

LEICA CAMERA PRESS RELEASE

NEW ONLINE PORTAL FOR LEICA S PHOTOGRAPHERS

Solms, Germany (November 30, 2011) – In collaboration with Leica Camera AG, LFI Photographie GmbH presents a new online portal for the Leica S-System, www.S-League.net. The website illustrates the wide range of photographic opportunities covered by the Leica S-System and provides a platform for photographers to present work shot with the medium format Leica S-System to a broad international audience. In addition to viewing current advertising campaigns and editorial portfolios by prominent international photographers, visitors to the site can keep informed on the latest trends in commercial photography and explore S-Magazine, a new publication allowing professional photographers to freely publish contemporary photographic ideas.

Leica S photographers can submit their latest campaigns and editorials and also apply for a free loan of Leica S equipment on the website. An application for publishing work on www.S-League.net can be found in the ‘Apply & Take Part’ section.

About the Leica S2

The Leica S-System is a revolutionary digital camera concept to meet supreme professional requirements. With a resolution of 37.5 megapixels, the S2’s 30 x 45mm CCD sensor features an aspect ratio of 3:2 and an area nearly 60% larger than that of a traditional 35mm camera, resulting in stunning image quality. The S2’s full range of features includes autofocus, high-speed MAESTRO image processor, highly durable design and optimal size and ease-of-use for professional photographers.

 

Nov 282011
 

NEW Reviews that are coming soon! Sony 50 1.8, Nokton 35 1.2 II and more!

 

 

THE SONY 50 1.8 E MOUNT LENS ON THE NEX-7

Currently working on and shooting with the NEX-7 and the Sony 50 1.8 lens and will post my thoughts on the lens VERY soon. At $299 it is a  no brainer if you own a NEX camera. I hear the NEX-7 will start shipping in December BUT that is not from an official source. To all of you who pre-ordered it from Amazon and did NOT cancel, should ship soon! The lens review will be up by the end of the week, and if not then by Monday of next week! I have now been shooting with the NEX-7 for a while now and it is really a powerhouse of a small camera. Not perfect, but I have yet to find a perfect camera. My review for the NEX-7 is HERE in case you missed it.

One from the NEX-7 and 50 1.8 – click for larger

THE VOIGTLANDER NOKTON 35 1.2 APSH VERSION II

I am also shooting with the M9-P more once again and also shooting the Voigtlander 35 1.2 ASPH Version II. This is a super fast 35mm lens for the Leica mount and is pretty special on the M9. Many who own this new version think it beats the original 35 Summilux ASPH and it is 1/4 the price! It is a larger lens but smaller than the old version (not by much). Look for my review soon of this lovely lens on the M9. The lens came in stock at B&H Photo last week along with almost every other fast Voigtlander M mount Nokton lens. Check them out HERE if you are looking for good but cheaper glass for your M! These lenses are so hard to come by these days!

MIA – The Ricoh GRD IV

I have been shooting on and off with the Ricoh GRD IV for a few weeks and have to say it is a truly pocketable and GREAT camera if you are after a P&S (point and shoot). The Ricoh IS a P&S but it is a very well made and feeling P&S! It fits in my front jeans pocket and is always ready with its 28 1.9 lens. The problem I am having with it is the IQ is a downgrade from cameras like the micro 4/3’s, Nikon V1 and other smaller and sometimes equally priced cameras. Also, I am not seeing much of a difference between this and the older III (my review here), well, enough of one to warrant a full on new version of the camera. Maybe it is just me but this camera seems a bit pricey for what it is at $599. It looks like a III, feels like a III, shoots like a III, has the same menu as the III, same filter effects as the III, same low res video as the III and maybe has a slight improvement in IQ (same great lens) over the III but in real use, to me, it is really not that much better than the III. AF IS indeed a little faster.

Still, if you want pocketable with a fast lens and small sensor then the GRD IV is one of the best in that “pocketable” market. I would take a GXR over the GRD though. Just my personal opinion.

The GRD IV at halloween – “always in my pocket” is the strength of the GRD series.

Nov 262011
 

From Steve: Hello to all! Happy Saturday! It is the weekend and the last 2-3 weekends I have taken a break from the site to get some rest and clear my head but today I wanted to post some great shots sent in by a reader using his Leica M9 and all kinds of lenses, even some classic beauties. He sent in way more than 3 images so this is kind of an extended ‘weekend edition” of the Daily Inspiration, more of a showcase of great shots and the equally amazing Leica M9 and glass! Tomorrow I will post part 2 with his samples from his Hasselblad and Canon. Enjoy and remember that you can click on any image below to see a larger version, as always!

Weekend Inspiration – Part 1 – “The Children, the M9, and all of the lenses”

by Bjarke Ahlstrand

As most of us, including you Mr Huff, often end up shooting and testing gear on the “models” we have at hand, I thought it might be interesting to share some of my private shots, taken with a variety of lenses, with you. After being a steady Canon shooter for years, my (photographic) life changed when I purchased a digital Hasselblad H3D, and later the Leica M9, and now the M9-P, but the motifs remain pretty much the same, even though they age a little bit.

I’m including two samples of each Leica lens I’ve ever tried and if you scroll to the end (NEXT MAIL, STEVE) you’ll be able to compare with Hasselblad and Canon lenses.


LEICA M9 + LEICA 21 MM ELMARIT F/2.8

Berlin, Summer 2011. A fine little lens, even though I had to get used to the extra 21 mm viewfinder. However, I thought it lacked some contrast, so after long consideration, I passed it on.

LEICA M9 + LEICA 21 MM ELMARIT F/2.8

Copenhagen, Summer 2011.

The 21 mm gives a nice wide angle perspective on a full frame camera in my opinion.

LEICA M9-P + LEICA 21 MM SUMMILUX F/1.4

Copenhagen, Autumn 2011.

Since I just got the 21 ‘lux, I haven’t had the oppurtunity to shoot a lot with it yet, so here’s one from it’s virgin trip two weeks ago, including me, and shot by my friend, Thomas Larsen.

LEICA M9 + LEICA 35 MM SUMMARIT F/2.5

Thailand, Spring 2011.

My first Leica lens, which I purchased along with the camera. I’ve since sold it, and replaced it with a 35 Summilux, since I’m a sucker for light, and often shoot under dark conditions, but this Summarit actually performed wonderfully on the M9. I know most of us seek those Summicrons and Summiluxes, but this is a very nice lens actually

LEICA M9 + LEICA 35 MM SUMMARIT F/2.5

Thailand, Spring 2011.

Being Leica’s “cheapest lens” (ha!), it’s still a wonderful performer

LEICA M9 + LEICA 35 MM SUMMICRON F/2 ASPH

Copenhagen, Summer 2011.

The classic 35, deadly sharp and with a nice rendering.

LEICA M9 + LEICA 35 MM SUMMICRON F/2 ASPH

Knuthenborg Safari Park, Summer 2011.

A Leica M9 and a 35 ‘cron is a very nice and portable combo, and it’s even animal friendly :-)

LEICA M9-P + LEICA 35 MM SUMMILUX F/1.4 (PRE-ASPH)

Dyrehaven, Autumn 2011.

Those Lux’es are fantastic, also this 40 year old version, which is a bit unpredictable when it comes to how it deals with artificial and sunlight.

LEICA M9-P + LEICA 35 MM SUMMILUX F/1.4 (PRE-ASPH)

Copenhagen, Autumn 2011.

My son and the sun

LEICA M9-P + LEICA 35 MM SUMMILUX TITANIUM F/1.4 (PRE-ASPH)

Copenhagen, Summer 2011.

An extremely expensive and relatively new Titanium version that I borrowed for a couple of weeks from Photografica. If money wasn’t an issue, then I would by that glow god!

LEICA M9-P + LEICA 35 MM SUMMILUX TITANIUM F/1.4 (PRE-ASPH)

Copenhagen, Summer 2011.

At the childrens’ school they did a fundraising for homeless children in Cape Town and I spent a whole day watching and shooting those hopeful youths, a truely amazing experience, and I think this image captures the situation perfectly. 

LEICA M9 + VOIGTLÄNDER NOKTON 50 MM F/1.1

Copenhagen, Summer 2011.

I borrowed this lens from my friend and fellow Leica-shooter, Klehmann, and even thought it to be a bit too stressy, it sure is amazing how much light it lets in

LEICA M9 + VOIGTLÄNDER NOKTON 50 MM F/1.1

Copenhagen, Summer 2011.

Shot in the dark. F/1.1 · ISO 200 · 1 SEC

LEICA M9 + LEICA 50 MM SUMMICRON F/2 (THE LATEST VERSION)

Copenhagen, Summer 2011.

My ex-girlfriend’s baby alongside my youngest son, and some absolutely wonderful colors. This is one of my favourite aspects of the Leica — those colors…

LEICA M9 + LEICA 50 MM SUMMICRON F/2 (THE LATEST VERSION)

Knuthenborg Safari Park, Spring 2011.

That 50 ‘cron is so easy to focus and the sharpness is unbeatable

LEICA M9 + LEICA 50 MM SUMMICRON F/2 (50+ YEAR OLD VERSION)

Spring, Summer 2011.

Those old Leica lenses are sometimes pure magic, and this one, which I’ve borrrowed from a colleague’s father, is a favourite of mine. Notice the glow on the Obie Trice text.

LEICA M9 + LEICA 50 MM SUMMICRON F/2 (50+ YEAR OLD VERSION)

Copenhagen, Summer 2011.

Young Yedi-knights on the play field, as captured by an old lens.

LEICA M9 + LEICA 75 MM SUMMARIT F/2.5

Copenhagen, Winter 2011.

A (young) superhero with a mission

LEICA M9-P + LEICA 75 MM SUMMICRON F/2

Copenhagen, Autumn 2011.

The sharpness, the bokeh, the colors — this lens is an absolute winner in my eyes. Btw, it’s not his real teeth, but the Halloween-ones.

LEICA M9-P + LEICA 75 MM SUMMICRON F/2

Copenhagen, Autumn 2011.

Mirror mirror on the wall

LEICA M9 + LEICA 75 MM SUMMILUX F/2

Copenhagen, Summer 2011.

I ended up buying the 75 ‘cron for professional reasons, but this 75 ‘lux I had a hard time letting go off, after having borrowed it for a couple of weeks. That ‘lux glow…

LEICA M9 + LEICA 75 MM SUMMILUX F/2

Copenhagen, Summer 2011.

At f/1.4 this lens is absolutely unbeatable when it comes to bokeh and that sweet, sweet Leica-glow

That’s all from me this time around. I hope it was useful. Part 2 is posted HERE. Also,you can see more of my creations here:
Best,
Bjarke

The Leica M9 is available at the following recomendded dealers - B&H Photo, Dale Photo, PopFlash and Ken Hansen via E-Mail ([email protected])

Nov 252011
 

BLACK FRIDAY! Hot and in stock cameras/lenses AND used Leica deals!

It’s BLACK FRIDAY! The day after Thanksgiving when all of the retail shops and online shops have deals on select gear. What you see below is a mix of black friday specials, hot in stock cameras and lenses and a few used deals as well. Just a note, if you use any of the links below and make a purchase it will help support this website. You pay the same of course but I get a few dollars to help keep this site going, so SHOP AWAY! The X10, X100 is in stock (at the time I wrote this) and they tend to go quickly! Some cool stuff is coming next week – great guest articles, new reviews and more things PHOTOGRAPHY! A cool Daily Inspiration will be up this afternoon as well.


The Fuji X10 is IN STOCK NOW!

The Fuji X100 is ALSO IN STOCK NOW!

Adobe Lightroom only $99 for the next two hours! Then $149

Leica classic PRE- ASPH 35 Summilux

Yet another Leica Pre-ASPH 35 Summilux 

Nikon V1 Black Friday reduction – – –  NIKON V1 Leather Half Case, now in stock! — NIKON V1 Leather strap also in stock today!

$100 OFF! OLYMPUS E-P3 PRICE REDUCTION! (Add to cart to see THE $100 reduction)

A Leica lens, new and in stock – The 24 Elmar – $2495 (review here)

A great Artist & Artisan camera/laptop messenger bag! 

Kindle Fire, in stock and immediate ship!

The Panasonic 25 1.4 Summilux for Micro 4/3 at Amazon!

Olympus 45 1.8 IN STOCK!

ALL OF AMAZONS BLACK FRIDAY DEALS!

LEICA M6 – classic chrome, USED DEAL

Leica X1 USED deal!

 

Nov 172011
 

LEICA PRICE INCREASES 2101 – Buy your lenses NOW!

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Better buy those 35 an 50 Summilux’s now people because as of Jan 1st 2012 prices are going up on all Leica lenses! Of course, you would be buying them NOW if you could get them…I know, I know. I find it odd that Leica shipped like 50 50 Luxs last year yet raise the price again so those who have been trying to get one all year have to pay more. Well, I am sure they shipped more than 50 of them, I was just being a smart ass but honestly, the price increase every year is starting to get annoying. The one good thing is those who bought lenses a few years ago and held on to them have quite the nice investment now :)

The new price for the 50 Lux ASPH is about $4,000, or about what they sell for used these days. The rest can be seen below. There is always THIS new and pretty sweet and affordable (for M glass) alternative for your 35mm needs. 

18mm f3.8 ASPH. $3,195.00

21mm f1.4 ASPH – $6,995.00

21mm f3.4 ASPH – $2,995.00

24mm f1.4 ASPH – $6,995.00

24mm f3.8 ASPH – $2,595.00

28mm f2.0 ASPH – $4,295.00

28mm f2.8 ASPH. M-Elmarit  $2,195.00

35mm f1.4 ASPH $4,995.00

35mm f2.0 ASPH $3,195.00

35mm f2.0 ASPH. Silver (E39) $3,195.00

35mm f2.5 Black $1,895.00

50mm f0.95 ASPH $10,995.00

50mm f1.4 ASPH. Black $3,995.00

50mm f1.4 ASPH. Silver $3,995.00

50mm f2.0 $2,295.00

50mm f2.5 Black $1,495.00

75mm f2 ASPH $3,795.00

75mm f2.5 Black $1,895.00

90mm f2.0 APO ASPH $3,995.00

90mm f2.5 Black $1,895.00

90mm f4 Macro-Elmar set $3,995.00

16-18-21mm f4.0 M-Tri-Elmar+finder $6,295.00

135mm f3.4 APO  $3,495.00

Nov 172011
 

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.

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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

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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.

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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 :)

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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.

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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.

You can buy an M9 at Dale Photo, B&H Photo and Ken Hansen. The M9-P is also available now at Dale and Ken Hansen.

BTW, you can now Pre-Order Soul 2 at Amazon or iTunes. Here is a cool preview of the album…

Nov 162011
 

PRESS RELEASE

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 €5,000A 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.

Nov 162011
 

The Leica 21mm f/3.4 Super Elmar Lens Review by Alwyn Loh

Introduction

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.

Build

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.

Focusing

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.

Sharpness

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)

Chromatic Aberration

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.

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Color

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.

 

Contrast

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.

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Flare

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.

 

Distortion

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.

Shooting

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.

Post Processing

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.

Conclusion

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.

Where to Buy?

You can buy this lens from Leica dealers Ken Hansen (e-mail: [email protected]), Dale Photo or B&H Photo.

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