Mar 142012

Are you guys ready for a new Leica announcement/Event? On May 10-11th in Berlin we will find out what Leica has in store for us in 2012. Exciting!

My guess as to what is to come? Well…the date is May 10th and I feel they need to release an update to the X1 and the M, as I was told by Stephen Daniel himself 2-3 years ago that their goal was to release a new camera update to the M and X line every three years. We shall see :)

Also, I just set up a new Facebook page to discuss all of the (rumored) new Leica products on the way – be sure and visit it and LIKE it here as i hope to update it live from Berlin on May 10th-11th.

Mar 122012

Shooting wide open in the sunlight with fast glass

So you went out and bought that Leica Noctilux ASPH or SLR Magic Hyperprime T0.95 for your Leica M8 or M9 and you are one of those who want to shoot the lens how it is meant to be shot…WIDE OPEN! Yes, lenses like the Noctilux ASPH are meant to be shot WIDE OPEN and do not let anyone else tell you otherwise! Why else would we spend many thousands of dollars for a 0.95 lens? Well, we wouldn’t! This is also why these types of lenses are generally not meant for every day use. There are better lenses to use stopped down due to the weight and size of these super lenses so when we use one of these masterpieces of lens designs we WANT that 0.95 aperture!

The problem is that many of us who own these expensive but unique lenses realized that we can’t shoot in daylight when the lenses are wide open! I live in AZ and Here in Phoenix it is crazy tough when the sun is blazing down. Even at the base ISO of 160 with the M9 I would normally have to stop down to F/4 or f/5.6 just to shoot the lens, which means if I want that 3D look, that creamy shallowness, and signature look then I am out of luck…UNLESS I buy an ND filter.

I am sure that the majority of you know what an ND filter is but just in case you do not, an ND filter is simply a glass filter you attach to the front of your lens that will block most of the light from coming into your camera and hitting your sensor, allowing you to shoot wide open at slower shutter speeds even in full harsh sunlight.

For lenses like the Noctilux and SLR Magic I would recommend (and I own) a high quality filter such as the B&W 1.8 64X multi coated ND filter. The Noctilux takes a 60mm filter and the SLR magic takes a 62mm filter.  With this filter attached you can set the lens to 0.95 and shoot away, even at high noon in the harshest of sun. When the light goes down you simply take off the filter. I tested out my ND filter at the renaissance fair this past weekend and it worked out great. Usually I would shoot something like a 50 1.4 or 90 f/2.5 at these types of events but I decided to see how the ND filter would handle shooting at 0.95 all day long.

I found minimal vignetting and that crazy cool 3D effect you can get when shooting in the sun at 0.95. I found out the same thing as Ashwin Rao when he shot the Noctilux wide open using an ND filter but I used the SLR Magic T0.95 Hyperprime, and I was wowed by the performance yet again from this lens. If you have ultra fast glass for your 1/4000th second Leica M9, think about picking up an ND filter for daytime use. Not only can you get some unique and beautiful images, you can also have some fun with it.

All images below were shot with the M9 and SLR Magic Hyperprime T0.95 LM lens. Some out of cam JPEGS and a few from RAW. Without the filter, I would not have gotten this “look” which many love and many hate.

Speaking of the SLR Magic…after shooting more with the lens I have to say that it is indeed just as good (if not better) in IQ than the Leica Noctilux ASPH. This lens has a sharpness and 3D pop that is absolutely incredible. Never a focus problem, never un-sharp, and NO CA in any of the shots I took this weekend. Amazing. It certainly is not inferior to the Leica and I think many of you saw that as well since SLR Magic sold out of their 1st run of this lens in a matter of hours last week. The only issue with this lens AND the Leica is that the depth of field is EXTREMELY shallow when wide open. You can see the effects of this in some of the images below. Even with that, it is great to have a lens like this in your arsenal, even if they are insanely expensive. Enjoy!

Click the images for larger, sharper and better 1800 pixel wide versions

Mar 092012

Goodbye DSLR’s, traveling light with the Leica M9, Panasonic G3 and Olympus E-P3

by Neil Buchan-Grant – Visit his site HERE

Last year I was commissioned to shoot a travel guide covering the island of Sicily. I had, only the previous year, sold all of my heavy DSLR equipment. Although it weighed a ton, that equipment included AF lenses which covered a wide range of focal lengths from 16mm to 560mm. My M9 kit spanned from only 28mm to 75mm.

Having done a few of these travel commissions before, I knew that the extra range would be greatly missed. So to produce the bulk of the photos, I used an Olympus EP3 and a Panasonic G3 which I used with not only the Leica lenses, but also Olympus mft lenses ranging from 12mm to 600mm. The M9 handled most of the travel portraits, each shot with the 50mm Summilux ASPH lens.

Before, when I used the Canon equipment, my travel work was mostly concerned with the places, the landscapes and the light. Now with the M9/50 lux combination in particular, I feel that portraits of the people I meet in a country will become the heart of any future commissions. I know of course there are fast primes available in other systems and I’ve used most of the Canon ones, but none have offered me the opportunity to record people in such a visually beautiful way as the Leica equipment has. So its safe to say that using this equipment has changed the way I take photographs.

I traded a big heavy rucksack for a small shoulder bag and a belt pack. These are some of the pictures, I came back with.


Mar 062012

Leica needs a grand slam camera announcement in 2012 – will they deliver?

It has now been just about 2 1/2 years since Leica had their big event to announce the full frame M9. FINALLY we all thought at the time! A full frame digital rangefinder by the masters of RF design, we will never ask for anything more we said. When it hit, those of us who were lucky enough to get a hold of one were immediately in love with the familiar design, and of course, the amazingly creamy sensor made by Kodak. I was so excited to get one of my own at the time, I remember it vividly. When I finally did I couldn’t stop shooting it and it never left my side when I left the house! There was an excitement in the air and in my bones when that M9 arrived and it was due to not only the camera itself being my dream machine but the excitement from everyone else who was waiting for this camera. It was Special. Leica actually created a grand slam with the M9/X1/S2 releases and turned their whole business and profit around. Pretty amazing.

Leica succeeded in making 2009 THEIR year and even today they have been enjoying a huge success with M camera sell outs, and lenses that they can not seem to make fast enough. The prices are sky-high but even in this economy (that many say is so bad) Leica continues to sell out $11,000 lenses and $8000 bodies. On the other hand, the little camera that could, the Leica X1, is not doing so well these days. Sales have slumped for the last few months ever since the Fuji X100 release and prices on the used market have dropped quite a bit. Leica will need not only something new in the M line but also the X line. Who knows, maybe they will shock us and release an all new line of camera :)

Then again, I am also worried about the $$ situation as they seem to raise prices any chance they get and it is starting to get to the point where I am being priced out of the cameras wether I like it or not, and I know many out there feel the same because I hear it all the time. I am not rich by any stretch of the imagination but I own a Leica M9P and a couple of lenses. Why? Well, mainly because I feel a connection to this brand we call Leica, and I also happen to think the output is still today 2nd to none. Yes, I really do. I have bonded with my M like many of my fellow M shooters who are reading this very article. It has given me the best photos and memories of my life so for me, the M will always be with me but if they release a new M at $10k or $11k, I am out.


This is 2012 and it is no longer the “year of the Leica”, 2009. Cameras have evolved so fast over the past three years that many feel that the Leica M9 is now “old tech”. Sure it has a horrible “worst of the worst” LCD and yes it has a painfully slow buffer, and yes it is noisy (but usable) at ISO 2500. BUT what do we get in return when we put up with all of that? We get amazing file quality when using good lenses and that quality on many occasions has rivaled medium format. Slap on a Leica 35mm or 50mm and be amazed at the detail in your images. But then again we have to take a look at costs because we are talking about spending $7000-$8000 on just a camera BODY and spending that kind of cash TODAY, as in RIGHT NOW is tough. Especially when we have all of these new cameras on the way.

Yes! IN 2012 this is getting a bit tricky because we have cameras like the Fuji X-Pro 1, and I have to say that the more I see of it, the more amazing it appears in regards to image quality. The lenses are sharp and the file quality appears to be equaling the M9 in many of the samples I have seen to date. The styling is like an RF, and it even has a modern-day hybrid EVF/VF and a much better LCD. The Fuji IS NOT an RF but you can surely use your Leica glass on it and take advantage of it having no AA filter. The Fuji has even better color than the M9 and at 1/4 the price of an M9, it will be serious competition to those who have not yet gone with a Leica due to cost, but wanted to. Those who bought an M9 and had focus issues or cracked sensors or have become disappointed with the luxury brand for one reason or another  will flock to the Fuji X-Pro 1 (or even the new OM-D which also look phenomenal) in droves. Others simply see the X-Pro 1 as a viable alternative to the M9..those who are not diehard rangefinder shooters.

Many have been saving for an M9 or M9-P and I have heard from quite a few that they will take that savings and invest in the Fuji X-Pro 1 instead. Superb IQ, great styling, great lenses, 1/4 the cost. It makes sense. Even cameras like the NEX-7 are capable of amazing output with Leica glass attached. So what does this mean for Leica in 2012?


Leica has not yet made any new product announcements but I am hoping and guessing they will do so very soon. If not, they will be in some big trouble as I predict their M9 sales will eventually slow down to a halt while everyone enjoys the new stuff from Fuji, Sony, and Olympus. There is a genuine excitement in the air about these new generation photographic machines in the photography world. Again, keep in mind I am not talking about die-hard Leica guys switching to Fuji, because people like me LOVE their M and will always have one. I am referring to that group of new customers Leica has not yet attracted and those who even went with an M to find it frustrating. I feel if Leica does not announce something amazingly special that this will NOT be their year and they may even lose some sales.

Will they announce a new X or M soon? I do not know… but one thing I hope for is that there is still someone at Leica with a creative mind and that they are really looking at what we want in a new model. I am not hoping for massive mega pixels or a new design. I am hoping for a more “mature” digital M. One that can focus accurately, one that has an LCD  that can let you know if you nailed focus when you look back at your image and one that can possibly have less noise at higher ISO. When you think about it..what CAN Leica do to create a HOME RUN camera?

BTW, I will have a review of the new Pentax K01 by the end of the weekend and the Fuji X-Pro 1 should be arriving to me SOON, so stay tuned! Like I said, this is the calm before the storm :)

Give me YOUR thoughts on what you are hoping to see from Leica. Leave your comments below!

Mar 012012

Travel + Your Camera = Living

By Scotty Graham

Steve has had a great deal of travel articles on his site lately, so thought one more wouldn’t hurt. This is not a review of the Leica M9…just a fun article about my last trip to China during Christmas and New Years (with my M9 and family)…

Life is short. I know this, and you know it too. 2002 was TEN years ago!! Ten years!! Remember that song, “Time” by Pink Floyd? The words of that song have stuck in my head since my college days…


…And then one day you find ten years have got behind you

No one told you when to run you missed the starting gun

And you run and run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking

Racing around to come up behind you again…


There is nothing like travel to rid one’s “missing the starting gun”. If you haven’t done so yet this year, plan a trip. It doesn’t have to be a trip to a new country or to the other side of the world…it could be a weekend trip to the mountains or ocean, or a trip to a neighboring city to visit friends/family or just a day trip to a park…but plan one, and BRING YOUR CAMERA. Even planning a trip can be liberating. As they say on the Nat Geo Adventure channel, “GET LOST”…get adventurous and have a story to tell when you get back. That is living. If you do this often, the sun slows down and you won’t always be trying to catch up with it.


Travel + My Leica M9 + Family/Friends = A Ton of Fun = Living Life to the Fullest

I wanted to end 2011 with a trip somewhere, and I wanted to start 2012 on a trip. My destination choice was China…Yangshuo, China…located in the South of China. Good and bad choice. Good because it was low season, few tourists, relatively cheap, easy to get to (I live in Indonesia), and a great place for photography…bad because the weather completely sucked. It was cold and drizzly the entire time we were there…we didn’t see the sun for 10 days.

Photographically speaking, I was bummed (at first). Where was the sun? I knew it would be cold, but nowhere in my research on the net did I read it would be so hazy, drizzly and foggy. However, I am an optimist…I still went out everyday with my camera on long walks, and even managed to get seriously lost on a couple of occasions.

None of the photos below are HDR…hehe…Surprised?…AND no Photoshop was used. I did use Lightroom, and I used Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 to create the black n whites.

Side Note: One of the things that drives me crazy with the M9, and I should have mentioned this in my last article I wrote about the M9, is how dirty the CCD gets, and how easily it gets dirty. My most used tool in LR is the spot removing tool, and now you know why.

If you go to this part of China, take the cruise down the Li River from Guilin toYangshuo. Well worth the money!! Incredible scenery, and I mean incredible! Unfortunately for us, we could barely see the “karst” peaks as they were shrouded in clouds all day…BUT, the clouds did make for some “mystical” photographs. I was told the best time of year to come to Yangshuo is between May and October. I am sure the place looks totally different in the Spring…will have to go back, I guess.

My daughter, Kayla, bored with all the rain…


Need a hotel recommendation? We couldn’t have been happier with our choice,  The Yangshuo Mountain Retreat. It was located outside of the main town of Yangshuowhich meant taking a taxi into town, but it was so nice being out in the country. The scenery outside of our hotel was unbelievable, and the best part is you could walk out of the hotel and onto hiking trails to explore the countryside away from the tourists.

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

The view from the front of our hotel


The charming little town of Yangshuo was just a 10 minute taxi drive away… lots of shops, cafes, and restaurants. Since the weather was so bad, the town was quiet. However, on Friday and Saturday night, the streets were packed with Chinese tourists…we saw very few foreigners…they were smart, I guess, and knew to come back in May.


Where are the customers?

Inside Lucy’s Cafe

Hard core shoppers only (like my wife)


The best part of the trip, for me, was getting out every day for long walks in the small villages near our hotel. Some of the buildings in the villages dated back to the early 1600’s. I had a photo walk every day, and it’s those walks that really make me feelalive…meeting the locals and seeing how the Chinese live their daily lives in rural China…great stuff!!



Taking photos of people in China is not easy. Here in Indonesia, people LOVE to have their photo taken, and they ask you to take their photo when you are walking around. In China, most people, especially the older people, don’t like to have their photo taken. I always asked before snapping shots of people, and most of the time, I got a nice smile, but a wave telling me, “no photo, please”…so, I would just move on. After a while, I just gave up and concentrated on the landscape and buildings…the three shots below were practically the only “people” shots I got the entire trip (except for photos of my family)…


a typical scene on the streets…men playing cards

this guy just happened to walk out the door when I was taking a photo of the wall and door.

This old guy guided me through a very old building in a remote village…I couldn’t understand a word he said, but he was very animated and proud to show me around. He reluctantly posed for me after I asked for a photo.

One thing I noticed quite often were photos and posters of Mao hanging in homes in the small villages I visited. I found that interesting and intriguing.


I would love to end this little article with a nice sunset photo, but…uh…no sun…so, here is one last shot of the incredible landscape of Yangshuo.



Hey, thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope you all have a wonderful 2012!! Take a trip…or two…or more this year, and of course, bring your camera. Live 2012 to the fullest cause before you know it, it will be 2022.

Scotty is an expat Photography Teacher living in Jakarta, Indonesia for the past 17 years. You can follow him on Google+ or his photoblog at

Scotty can be reached at [email protected]

Feb 292012



Leica Camera selected as one of 19 winners in the eighth annual competition recognizing standout hotels, museums, retail spaces, travel products and more

Allendale, NJ (February 29, 2012) – Leica Camera, Inc., the legendary German camera manufacturer, has been bestowed a Travel + Leisure Design Award for the Leica D-Lux 5 Titanium Set, a special edition in the highly successful D-Lux line. Honored in the category of “Best Camera,” the D-Lux 5 Titanium Set has been selected as one of 19 winners in the eighth annual competition and joins an elite group of standout new products, buildings and destinations that embody the many ways in which thoughtful design enhances and defines the travel experience. The winners of the Travel + Leisure Design Awards are featured in the magazine’s March issue, now on newsstands, and can be viewed online at

“We are thrilled that the D-Lux 5 Titanium Set, which was created for connoisseurs of excellent design, has been selected for this honor. The ideal camera for those who love to discover inspiring moments when exploring the greatest cities in the world, the D-Lux 5 Titanium is the quintessence of style and is crafted from the highest quality materials,” said Christian Erhardt, Vice President of Marketing at Leica Camera, Inc. “An all-inclusive package with a premium titanium-colored leather case and the latest Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® professional image-processing software combined with superior image quality and unparalleled ease of use improves the lives of travelers using the D-Lux 5 Titanium Set and makes their travel experience more memorable.”

The annual Travel + Leisure Design Awards are selected by a distinguished panel of experts in their fields. This year’s jury was moderated by Travel + Leisure’s Consulting Design Editor Chee Pearlman and included Fashion Designer Derek Lam, Artist Michele Oka Doner, Interior Designer Muriel Brandolini, Friends of the High Line Co-Founder Robert Hammond, Priestmangoode Founding Director Paul Priestman and Todd Williams Billie Tsien Architects Co-Founder Billie Tsien. The Leica D-Lux 5 Titanium and other 2012 Design Award winners will be recognized at an event held in Berlin, Germany on March 7, 2012 hosted by Editor-in-Chief Nancy Novogrod and VP/Publisher Jean-Paul Kyrillos.

The special edition D-Lux 5 Titanium features the same advanced technical specifications of the standard model Leica D-Lux 5. An ideal tool for a wide variety of photographic opportunities, the 10.1 megapixel D-Lux 5 Titanium incorporates a fast zoom lens with a focal length range from 24 to 90 mm (35 mm equivalent focal length). Perfectly attuned to the lens, the 1/1.63” CCD image sensor is particularly large for a compact camera. This sensor, together with the camera’s electronics and software, produces images with outstanding natural color rendition, superb sharpness and high brilliance.

With a wide viewing angle and 460,000 pixel resolution, the camera monitor displays extremely high quality images both before and after capture. Clearly laid-out functions and straightforward operation of its comprehensive range of features and manual settings ensure intuitive handling of the camera in all photographic situations, from creative image design to spontaneous spur-of-the-moment shots, or when using the 720 pixel HD video function.

For additional product information, please visit the Leica Homepage at

About Leica Camera:

Leica represents a union of craftsmanship, technology and experience. It is at once an extension of art, knowledge and philosophy, providing a state-of-the-art optical experience in a precision, hand-made photographic instrument. Leica Camera has a simple mission: to provide users with an incomparable experience, an instrument that defines an unsurpassed heritage and sets a standard of excellence for the industry to meet.

About Travel + Leisure:

With an eye for the authentic, the innovative, and the irresistible, Travel + Leisure (, @travlandleisure, and fuses expert reporting on culture, food, style, and design with stunning photography, transporting readers to the places—and the travel experiences—that matter now. T+L, the monthly title from American Express Publishing and the long-standing authority in its field, has the largest audience of any travel magazine and is an indispensable guide for global nomads. Travel + Leisure has a network of international editions, including Travel + Leisure Mexico, Travel + Leisure Turkey, Travel + Leisure China, Travel + Leisure South Asia, and Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia.

FYI: B&H Photo has a mint 10 condition D-Lux 5 titanium set available!  – As you know though, this is in reality a Panasonic LX-5 in Leica disguise. You can read my full review of the D-Lux 5 HERE.

Feb 282012

Quick Comparison: SLR Magic 50 T0.95 vs Voigtlander 50 f/1.1 on the Leica M9

So today I received in the mail, courtesy of (they rent almost ALL Leica glass and cameras), a Voigtlander 50 f/1.1 Nokton. My main goal was to test it out and compare it to the premo offering from SLR Magic, their king of the hill 50 LM T0.95 Lens. Many of you have e-mailed me asking me why this new SLR Magic lens is so expensive and “why wouldn’t someone just buy the Voigtlander 1.1 which comes in at $1100″? So I was curious to see myself how the lenses would stack up. In the coming weeks I will be doing a side by side comparison with the Leica Noctilux ASPH as well. Should be fun :)

I knew even before I received the Voigtlander that the build quality would easily go to the SLR MAGIC because I reviewed the Voigtlander a while ago HERE and it was a very lightweight somewhat hollow feeling lens compared to the Leica Noctilux F/1 I compared it against at the time.

The SLR Magic 50 T0.95 LM Hyperprime

Voigtlander 50 f/1.1 Nokton on M9



The SLR Magic…

In the hand the SLR Magic feels every bit as solid as the Leica $11,000 50 Noctilux ASPH. Period. I’ve been using this lens for weeks now and have not had one issue. The build is solid, the slide out hood is nice and overall the lens has a feeling of quality. BUT this is a $4300 lens and the Voigtlander is $1100. BIG difference so I would expect the build quality to be superior, and it certainly is. It is also now the fastest 35mm lens made today, taking that title from Leica (SLR Magic is an f/0.92) so with its Leica like build AND performance AND three-year warranty, the cost seems to be about right if not a tad high (though I wish it could have been $3500). BTW, this has a click less aperture ring which I did not care for at 1st but have since found it to be pretty nice. It’s smooth and solid at the same time and have had no issues with it going out of the desired spot. For video, this is a blessing as you can change aperture without clicks. Focusing is super smooth on my copy of the lens.

The Voigtlander Nokton

The Nokton is also nice, and you have to remember that the price is a tad over $3000 LESS than the SLR Magic lens so the build seems cheaper as the lens is much lighter. I also think the SLR Magic uses higher quality glass. When shooting with the Nokton though, it is easier to focus due to the knurled focusing ring though the feeling of the focus is rougher than the SLR Magic. I mentioned to SLR Magic I would have preferred a knurled ring but maybe they wanted their lens to look more like the Leica. Who knows. The Nokton is lighter so is easier to carry on the camera and the lens also has a more vintage look/design. So which you prefer is up to you.

My winner for build and feel – SLR Magic Hyperprime LM T0.95 (but Voigtlander is lighter)


The SLR Magic…

The SLR Magic 50 T0.95 LM lens has BEAUTIFUL bokeh. I mean, it meets or exceeds the Leica 50 Noctilux ASPH in this department, at least that is my opinion after extensively shooting both. The out of focus renderings are buttery smooth with no business or headache inducing harshness. You can see many examples of this in my rolling review but below is a sample shot today in my yard to test this and below that will be a sample from the Voigtlander. The sample below was shot at t/1.1-ish – click it to make it bigger.

The Voigtlander Nokton…

The Nokton 1.1 is a fast and much less expensive alternative to Leica lenses but it’s string point is NOT the bokeh quality. The Bokeh from this lens is a bit harsh when compared to premium Leica lenses and to many, this is a reason to NOT go for this lens. Then again, others are perfectly happy with it. As mentioned, it is much less expensive than a Leica counterpart. :)

My winner in the bokeh dept – SLR Magic Hyperprime 50 LM T0.95


The SLR Magic…

The SLR Magic lens is SHARP, even wide open at T0.95 it is as sharp if not sharper than the Leica $11k beast. Due to the sharpness, super micro contrast and smooth Bokeh, this lens has the capability to pump out a nice 3D effect as well. Below is a shot at T0.95, wide open for this lens.

The Voigtlander Nokton…

The Nokton is a bit softer wide open at its widest aperture of f/1.1 but the rendering is also a bit flatter than the SLR Magic lens and with its busier bokeh it doesn’t have that same “wow” effect that the SLR Magic lens has. Still, it seems to perform great for the price of the lens. These days $1100 is cheap for a Leica mount lens :)

My winner for sharpness wide open – SLR Magic Hyperprime 50 LM T0.95


The SLR Magic…

I will let the pictures do the talking but it is obvious who is sharper. Not sure if the Voigtlander was suffering from focus shift or if it is just not pin sharp. All shots were tripod mounted.

You must click each image to see a larger version and true 100% crop!

The Voigtlander Nokton…

My winner for sharpness stopped down – SLR Magic Hyperprime 50 LM T0.95


I know from using it that the SLR Magic has some barrel distortion so I was curious to see how the Voigtlander stacked up here. It appears the Voigtlander has less from this sample. You can see this distortion when you shoot straight lines. This was shot on a tripod with both lenses and both lenses were set to 1.1. Distance was about 1m. Click images for larger views and true 100% crops.

The SLR Magic…

The Voigtlander Nokton…

My winner for distortion – Voigtlander Nokton 50 f/1.1 – It has less than the SLR Magic.


SLR Magic…$4388

Voigtlander Nokton f/1.1 – $1049

Winner – Voigtlander Nokton 50 1.1


The SLR Magic focuses down to .7 meters, the same as a Leica 50 Summilux ASPH. The Voigtlander only focuses to 1m, like the Leica Noctilux so the advantage is clearly with the SLR Magic. Below is an example image shot at the closest focus distance of each lens.

SLR Magic…

Voigtlander Nokton…

My winner for close focus – SLR Magic because it focuses closer.

Botton Line Conclusion and the winner – The SLR Magic 50 LM T0.95

Well I have no doubts, the SLR Magic lens is indeed the better lens here, and I prefer it by quite a bit. From it’s 3D rendering, buttery smooth bokeh, tank like build, .7 meter close focus, and smooth easy to focus operation it is easily the better lens when compared to the Voigtalnder Nokton. It is also sharper than the Voigtlander Nokton wide open AND stopped down and distortion wise, the Nokton edges out the pricier Hyperprime but even so,  SLR Magic does a bit better in the corners when it comes to sharpness. So the big question comes down to money. Do you want to spend $3000 more for the SLR Magic? That is in no way cheap but the lens is one that should last a lifetime and it is in fact comparable to the Leica Noctilux ASPH in its rendering, detail and even color. It is now the world’s fastest lens for 35mm in production and speed always costs big bucks, especially when it is associated with quality.

The Voigtlander Nokton is a good lens if you don’t mind somewhat busy bokeh at times, less sharpness wide open (which hinders the 3D effect a bit), lighter construction (which can be a blessing) and farther minimum focus distance. After using both it would be hard for me to go back to the Nokton after using the SLR magic simply due to it just doesn’t have that same MOJO, and I am a fan of super MOJO :)

The Voigtlander lens is available now from B&H Photo

The SLR Magic lens will be available September 2012

When I do the Leica Noctilux ASPH head to head it will have many more samples and tests including tests for CA, a portrait test, and more extensive sharpness and distortion tests. Cant wait!


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Feb 242012

What is it about new cameras that make us crazy? It’s called G.A.S.

by Steve Huff

2012 – It’s madness, it’s mayhem, it’s one of the most exciting years in digital camera releases EVER and I can see it…we are all going crazy and are filled with excitement for all of these new camera releases..yes my friends, G.A.S. is alive and well and damn, we don’t even know what Leica is announcing this year yet! All I know is that when I get a hold of all of these new cameras (and yes, I am buying them all to test) I will be like a junkie getting his fix. But why is that? Why do we get excited about new cameras, new lenses, new equipment? One thing to know is that this “disease” is NOT just in our hobby. I see it in EVERY hobby.

G.A.S. or otherwise known as “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” is real and it is alive and well, more so than ever. From the mirrorless craze to the Leica love, we all want a camera that we can depend on, grow with and love but when we find it something new arrives and the cycle starts all over again. I guess websites such as this one do not help the situation but what can I say? I ‘m just as much a gear head as many of you.

The manufacturers of these cameras know all about G.A.S. and they are not helping to cure us with the latest round of new cameras coming out in the next 30-60 days. Cameras appear  to be popping out of the woodwork and it is driving many of us MAD, including ME! The new Sony NEX-7 is JUST NOW starting to ship to the masses after a several month delay due to the flooding and just today I received my Zeiss 24 1.8 but still no body, but I expect that to arrive SOON. The Fuji X-Pro 1 is now moved up to a March 7th expected ship date by B&H Photo, which is coming QUICK. I had mine pre-ordered on day 1 so I hope to get it soon.

The Olympus OM-D is set for April but may come out a little sooner and with their new lenses including the new 75 1.8 with all metal construction, it appears the Olympus may be the hottest ticket yet for someone wanting a complete and mature system.

The new Olympus 75 1.8 all metal construction lens – WOW. Imagine this with the 12 and 45. Perfect trio! A fast 24mm,  90mm, and 150mm! 

I am already starting to see the Olympus 45 1.8 selling out again from those who have pre-ordered the new E-M5. With a camera such as this and these new lenses, there will be little left to be desired in the M4/3 world. Add in lenses like the all metal “Leica-Like” Voigtlander 17 0.95 and 25 0.95 and wow. I have a feeling that this OM-D will be amazing as an overall system. As for those few who are comparing it to the Panasonic G3, don’t. The only thing they have in common is the megapixel count and swivel screen. The Olympus adds weather seal, better design, more solid build, better controls, 5 Axis IS, faster almost double FPS, the fantastic Olympus JPEG colors, art filters, and the ability to add the optional grip. I’d take the Olympus in a nano second but this is where the G.A.S. is setting in. See, the G3 is a perfectly good, perfectly capable camera but the OM-D has that something…that one thing that is tugging at my heart that says “NO, YOU WANT ME!!!”, and YES I DO.

Let us not forget then we have the black sheep of the new camera releases…the Pentax K01. In my opinion, I feel the Fuji will sell EXTREMELY well but may be buggy (just a guess), the Olympus will be their best M4/3 seller yet and the NEX-7 will of course do great as it has been doing (if Sony can get them out the door). The Pentax will most likely sell the least but maybe it will be the best of all in regards to image quality! We can never know until we get a hold of them, and get a hold of them ALL I will! My excuse is that I HAVE TO so I can let YOU GUYS know all about it! Besides, I write my reviews and sell what I do not need or can not keep at a minimal loss, all in the name of keeping all of you guys informed of my findings.

Oh, I almost DID forget – we also have the upcoming Nikon D800E, which I know will be a spectacular DSLR, if a DSLR is what you desire. B&H Photo is still taking pre-orders for the D800E and they say it should ship April 12th.

So hang in there everyone! New cameras, lenses, and reviews are coming soon! Lot’s of exciting things heading our way and just think, we have not even heard Leica’s announcement yet :)

As for whats coming up immediately for me and the site, I plan on re-visiting the NEX-7 as soon as mine arrives, soon. My review for the camera was ALL JPEGS because when I reviewed it months ago there was no real RAW support, and the Sony software was awful taking forever just to process one image. I am hoping to compare the RAW of the NEX-7 against all current comparable cameras, even the M9.

I also am adding to my SLR Magic T0.95 review by doing a head to head against the $1100 Voigtlander Nokton 1.1. This should be interesting! Also have a new bag review on the way and much more so keep checking back here every day!

So see how I started this article out talking about G.A.S. and it has now ended up probably giving all of you guys even MORE OF IT. Sorry!

Feb 202012


Shooting with the Leica 75 Summilux f/1.4 Lens on the Leica M9P

by Steve Huff

Hello to all! It’s time for another Leica write up here at the site and I am pretty excited about it. Just recently I have been shooting my M9P more and more again as it is still the camera that gives me the image quality I love and crave. This is still my favorite digital camera EVER, even after almost three years and using “old” tech. I happen to be one of those who believe that shots from a Leica M9 and great fast lens provides a look that you just don’t exactly see with other cameras. Take an M9 and pop on a lens like a 50 Summilux, 50 Noctilux or even the upcoming and pretty damn amazing SLR Magic offering and you will always get results that scream “UNIQUE”.

Out of all the Leica lenses I have shot with, reviewed and wrote about the one lens I have always been curious about but have NEVER really used is the Leica 75 Summilux 1.4 lens. There was a guest article posted on this site a while ago about it by Kurt Kamka but me, I never really used it or even held it. Just recently a friend of mine offered to send me his so I could use it, test it, and shoot it. When it arrived it was much smaller than I thought but that may be due to the fact that I have been used to the SLR Magic 50 LM T0.95, which is a BEAST. The 75 IS indeed a large lens, but compared to a Noctilux, it is not so bad at all. It looks pretty nice on the chrome Leica M9P as well. See below…wow…there it is! I’ve been waiting YEARS to try this one out!

This post will be more about my experience shooting with the lens and the results I achieved with it. As most of you know, I don’t mess with techie talk and I do not measure lenses as I personally feel that is ridiculous (no offense to those who like that sort of thing, just not my cup of tea). Sure you can look at measurements and get to know what to expect from a lens but until you get out there and shoot it, you really DO NOT know what to expect. Using a lens for what it is made for is really the only true way to test it in my opinion, but I am a photographer and not a scientist :) Charts do not measure character and when dealing with Leica lenses I often find gobs of character.

Don’t get excited just yet… this lens is NOW DISCONTINUED?!?!

Before you get excited about this beauty..and in case you did not already know this…sadly, the 75 Summilux is a lens that has been discontinued and is no longer in production. Not that it matters though because if it were available new, there would be a year-long wait to get one anyway, lol. This lens started life in 1980 and then its life was ended in 2007 by the powers that be at Leica HQ. The good news is that you CAN find these used if you are patient and lucky :)

Today this lens is in demand by those seeking a superb and beautiful portrait lens. Look at what this guy below did on a dare when he was offered a 75 Summilux….well, not really :)

Back before the M8, this lens was NOT a popular lens. It had its believers and fans but for the most part the 90 Summicron outsold the 75 Summilux by a mile. I remember a few years back looking at the used section at B&H Photo and I counted 9 used 75 Summilux lenses available with prices ranging from $1100-$1500! WOW, I wish I had my crystal ball back then because I would have bought them all and saved them up until all of the M9 madness, and then I would have sold them all for $3k each! These days it is tough to find a 75 Summilux because most people who own it do not want to let it go. This lens has a reputation for being magical and similar to the F/1 Noctilux in its rendering but I feel it is sharper than the old Nocti by far, even wide open. But magic? It does indeed have some of that Leica magic and it is not as sterile as the newer and current production 75 Summicron. With that said, it may not be AS magical as the Legendary Noctilux f/1 but it is also about $5k cheaper on the used market, is lighter and focuses closer. Hmmmm.

The following image was shot wide open at f/1.4 – click it for a larger view

Using the lens – Build, feel and FLARE!

The 75 Summilux is a typical Leica lens when it comes to build quality. It is rock solid, beautiful, and feels amazingly smooth when you focus, change the aperture or even slide out the built-in hood. Yes, the version I have been shooting with has a silky smooth slide out hood which probably should be used as it does seem to flare a bit as you can see in the sample below…

The 75 Summilux is a Mandler designed lens and it shows..I won’t rehash what Kurt Kamka said in his review of the 75 Lux but I will quote him about the lens design when he spoke of three things that make this a magical and desirable lens…

“First, lineage. Dr. Walter Mandler, Leica’s legendary lens designer responsible for the design of the Noctilux, based his design of the 75mm summilux on his design of the Noctilux. If that bit of DNA doesn’t impress you, then maybe this will. In an early 1980’s interview with Tom Abrahamsson, Dr. Mandler felt that the 75 summilux was the favorite of his designs based on its balance between performance and size.

Second, old school, pre-aspherical perfection. It’s amazing how good Leica’s latest lens designs are in providing sharp, wide-open performance. In the digital era, sharpness is the mantra, as digital shooters like to blow up their images at 100% and evaluate their results. This emphasis on sharpness, however, is sometimes achieved at the expense of harsher backgrounds and more abrupt transitions in and out of focus.

The 75mm summilux is certainly not as sharp wide-open as Leica’s newest line-up of aspherical low-light superstars, but the lens should be prized for providing a brilliant combination of softness, sharpness, light gathering and color rendition. If you like to shoot with fast lenses, the 75mm summilux is a fine-art dream. Wide-open, it provides just the right amount of softness and shallow depth of field for portraits and painterly landscapes. Stop the lens down a few notches, and it’ll perform at a level that is close to the newer aspherical designs.”

Kurt knows what he is talking about and I agree with everything he had to say about the lens except I do find it incredibly sharp even wide open, if you want it to be. Which leads me to this…


Is this a sharp lens, soft lens or a dreamy lens? 

The Leica 75 Summilux is a special lens, no doubt. From the moment it arrived and I snapped my typical “quick test shots” around the house I knew it was going to be a lens I would end up lusting after. I have heard many say that this is a dreamy lens but when I started shooting it and seeing just how sharp it is, even wide open, I put that rumor to rest. It is NOT a soft or dreamy lens in any way. If you own a 75 Lux and get a soft image at 1.4, then something is in need of calibration. The best way I would describe the qualities of this lens is that it is more classic than modern for sure but at the same time, your focus point will be razor sharp while the background melts away into a blur of tasty bokeh. My buddy who owns this lens showed me some AMAZING portraits he took and there was unbelievable sharpness in the eyelashes. I was blown away by what I saw but hey, it IS a Leica lens. I shot most of my samples in a poorly fluorescent lit building but even so, the images are penny sharp for me, and I prefer this kind of rendering over the sometimes overly clinical ASPH designs.

Wide open at f/1.4 – focused on the mans face – click image for larger

Below: The 1st test shot I snapped – click image for larger and yes this was wide open – The bokeh is not as smooth as the SLR Magic 50 T0.95 but it is pretty nice

Not Quite a 50 or 90 – is this a useful focal length?

I used to own a 75 Summarit which I loved but I ended up selling it when I realized I never really used the 75mm focal length. For me it was always 35, 50 and 90. The 75 seemed to be in an odd area and was never used for me. If I wanted a portrait I pulled out the 90 and for my every day shooting it was the 35 and 50. I was always wondering where a 75 would fit in and after a while I realized it didn’t! BUT this lens is a bit different. The way it renders is beautiful and not at all like the summarit or summicron. After a week or so with this lens i have already come to the conclusion that if I wanted a 75 again, TIHS would be the lens. My 2nd favorite would have to be the little 75 Summarit as it offers crazy good bang for the buck.

I think the way the 75 Summilux renders a scene is gorgeous. Sharp at the focal point and creamy smooth as the background melts away. 

Two versions – Canadian-made and German-made – is there a difference?

If you own this lens take a look at the lens barrel and you will either see a “MADE IN GERMANY” or a “MADE IN CANADA” stamped on the side. Leica transferred production of this lens later on to Canada but make no mistake, from everything I have seen and heard, the Canadian made version is every bit as good as the German version. In fact, the friend who loaned me the lens has one of each and the portraits he showed me that were so amazingly beautiful were done with the Canadian version. The one I have been using is the German-made lens. Both are the same in regards to quality but it appears the German-made lens is still the most desirable and usually sells on the used market for about $3800, with case and box. It seems the Canadian versions fetch a lower price (only a little) but both are the same lens.

Wide open indoors at 1.4 – click it for larger!

So what is my final word on this lens? 

Bottom line? This is one of the most beautiful lenses I have ever shot with. Even though I only have had it a short time the results I have been getting are beautiful and just what I always expected from this lens. On the Leica M9 it is magical and  I had ZERO focus issues with it. I was using the Leica 1.4 Magnifier though and HIGHLY recommend it for your fast 50’s, 75 or 90’s. It is not cheap, but I finally broke down and ordered one after all of these years. You can buy it at B&H Photo HERE. I also have found it useful when shooting the SLR Magic 50 T0.95. AT $299 it is insanely pricey but for aging eyes like mine it is well worth the investment, and besides…it has the LEICA name in it so the resale will be golden if you decide to part with it one day.

Do I recommend this lens? YES I do. If you come across a mint version, with box and case expect to pay anywhere between $3400-$3900 for it. If you find one without a box, case and it is made in Canada you may be able to score one for $3000. That is not chump change but in the Leica world, and for what this lens is all about, it is actually a good buy. But be careful! At f/1.4 the depth of field is TINY (see the last image below which was close up and at 1.4 creating a big NO for portraits) so when you shoot a portrait I recommend at least f/2.8. The  good news is that this lens is sharp wide open or stopped down some.

If you are in the market for a 75mm lens for your Leica M, I would say FIND A LUX. I have shot them all now and this is my fave 75 hands down. No contest. Not even close. If you want to save some money and have a mix of modern and classic then go for the small SUMMARIT. It is also fantastic but nothing like the creamy and magical 75 Lux. As time  goes on this one will be harder to find so if you see one, nab it! It belongs up there with the legendary status of the Noctilux f/1!



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!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page and Google +  page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader!

Feb 182012

Hello to all! Hope you are having a great weekend. As I sit here at midnight on a Friday night/Saturday morning I am flabbergasted at the amount of information that has amassed here at this website, and I give so many thanks to all of you who come here to read and catch up every day and to those of you who contribute as well! I have been seeing more and more of you send in your reports and articles and it is GREAT, so keep on sending them in! (email me here if interested in contributing) – Seems like it was just last week that I sat down and write my 1st camera review ever.

When this site started almost 3 years ago I kind of had a dream..a fantasy. I envisioned starting a site that at the time did not exist. A site with real world reviews of cameras showing what we could really expect from it when we took it out to shoot real photos. Easy to read, easy to understand, genuine and honest. Sure there were a few mega sites out there but none of them grabbed my heart..none of them had me excited to read reviews. I would read them anyway but I usually skipped to the conclusions and samples. I wanted to see a site with all of the good stuff and none of the boring stuff. So I created the site I WANTED TO SEE and READ. Turns out I was not alone in my desires because right from the get go I have been hearing from so many of you who had the same thoughts as me.

People who love photography and have a strong passion for taking photos and shooting cameras. Even if you just shoot your kids, animals, family or whatever – doesn’t matter. You have a passion for something that makes you happy, excited, and yes, even sometimes BROKE, lol. I feel we all need a passion of some kind in life – something that drives us and adds to our quality of life. (besides love and family of course as those are always 1st) For some people it may be a fast car, a boat, a set of primo golf clubs, Hi Fi equipment (guilty on this one as well – want some real world Hi Fi reviews? Lol), computer gear or all of the above!

My passion is still as strong as ever for photography AND even more so for this site as it is growing in content and now this content is always here, for anyone to reference. I can’t wait to see what the next three years bring.

I also want to thank all of you who have been e-mailing me lately. One e-mail in general came in just today that touched me a bit. It made me realize that what I have been building here is indeed turning into what I have envisioned. For me it’s not about traffic , it’s not about money (though every little but helps)…it’s about the community..the art..the gathering of like-minded people who share information because let’s face it – none of us know EVERYTHING. It’s about honesty and truth. It’s even about love because so much of it goes into this site every day, It is about reaching out and about our common interest.

The fact is that without each and every one of  YOU this site would be nothing. It would be one of the thousands of blogs that shut down every week. I mean, I get decent traffic but it’s not even close to the big 4-5 sites, and I am OK with that as it keeps it a little more “intimate” – kind of like seeing a musical artist in an intimate venue. Keeps things flowing smoothly. I’d rather have 10 faithful readers daily instead of 1 happy and 9 miserable. :)

But the bottom line is that I am so proud, happy, and excited that there is now a large database of articles and information here, and it continues to grow each and every week. I did not even realize it until I started browsing the user reports section and the site that was just added a few months ago. Wow, so many great user reports on cameras, lenses and even film. So many articles here…written by not only me..but also written by you guys!

In case you missed some of them, check it all out at the links below…articles galore



This section is filled with the best posts from the readers. YOUR experiences and views on cameras, lenses and photography in general. Lots to read and see so if you missed it, go check it out!



Have hours to kill? Check out a listing of EVERY single post ever made to this site. After that, don’t forget to go to the original site still hosted by apple :)



An ongoing listing of any worthwhile post related to mirror-less cameras.



If you are a Leica fan, this is the page with all of the best Leica posts and reviews!


Enjoy the weekend, and get out there and shoot! BTW, don’t miss the classifieds here – they have been rocking lately!


Feb 172012

(a not so) quick crazy Comparison: Nikon V1 vs Panasonic GX1 

Hello to all! Hope everyone is having a great week wherever you are and whatever you are doing. While anxiously awaiting for the new cameras to start shipping (Olympus OM-D, Fuji X-Pro 1) and my NEX-7 to arrive I decided to bring out the Nikon V1 and do a super quick comparison to the Panasonic GX1, just a daylight shot to see how each camera renders color and sharpness. I recently had a GX1 sent to me again with the 14-42 X Power Zoom lens and figured I would do some side by side testing with the smaller sensor underdog Nikon V1. I have to say that the X power zoom lens is quite nice in fit and feel. Looks great on the GX1. BUT, for some reason I prefer the standard lenses as zooming in with this lens feels like I am using a camcorder. It is great for video but for photos give me a standard zoom ring any day. Still, the lens is nice as it is small and compact, and that is always a good thing when it comes to a take around camera but at $949 it is a little on the pricey side for this camera with no EVF and a slow zoom lens.

So..just one quick grab from each…click on them for larger

1st the Nikon V1 and 10mm (27 equiv)  2.8 at f/3.5 

and the GX1 with the zoom at 14 (28 equiv) f/3.5

Seems the Nikon is sharper but it also has more grain when viewed at 100%, which is not a bad thing for this kind of camera as I feel it is that little bit of grain and sharpness that gives it the look it gives, which many like and many hate. I like it as it is different to the smooth and softer GX1/Micro 4/3 sensor. But many say the output of the V1 looks like a small sensor P&S, and in some ways it does. That is due to the smaller sensor being used. Still, in use I prefer the V1 for everything it does well and for most of us who just share images online of print small, it is plenty good enough. Either camera is.

The few shots down below were shot as I was going through my weekly auto car wash – some are with the V1 and others with the GX1. Just shows that for 90% of our uses, any camera will work. Even one with a smaller than M4/3 size sensor. The things I look for these days in my “take everywhere” body is a combo of image quality, usability, speed, focus speed and accuracy, feel and build. These days there are many cameras that give this to you and many that do not. For me, the V1 is perfect for a 2nd body, take anywhere body, or do it all body as long as you do not want shallow depth of field. That is just about it’s only weakness when compared to a Micro 4/3 body (well, the lack of lenses as well).

With the new bodies coming though, it seems like it will be a royal rumble…every camera for itself – The Fuji X-Pro 1 (Coming March 20th) will deliver outstanding colors and IQ with amazing low light but still slower than average AF (my guess). The OM-D E-M5 will be the best M4/3 yet (again, just my guess) and have just about everything you can ask for but a full frame sensor. I think that the Fuji will be better in lower light and deliver those Fuji colors many of us love so much but it is also more expensive and larger. The Sony NEX-7 is still going string and starting to ship next week finally (I think). I should have mine soon and when I do I will be taking a 2nd look at it now that I can process the RAW files. Remember, my review was comprised of JPEG only images!

We also can not forget about Leica…where are they and what are they up to? I wonder if they are eyeballing the competition or just having a cocky attitude about it. What about the new Sigma DP series that has been revamped and promises to be the best quality compact? Will be interesting over the next few months…but this right here and right now is the calm before the storm. We are all waiting for the reviews and samples from these new cameras to surface and I am ready to rock and roll.

For now, can you tell which page was shot with the V1 and which was taken with the GX1? EXIF is there so it’s not a contest but could be fun to guess.

and a series from the V1 using THIS cheap light kit that I have in my living room – of course I added filters using Alien Skin Exposure to give it a creepy moody look

Oh, the site may look a tad different today. I am expirementing with the colors – I added some black in as I felt it looked a little bolder but still unsure about it. I may try a few things this weekend so if you come here and it looks a bit different, that is just me messing around with it. Have a great weekend and shoot all you can! I will be heading to a tattoo convention with the M9P, 75 Summilux and SLR Magic 50 T0.95  so hopefully I will be able to do my review on the 75 soon and add to my 50 review as well!

Feb 172012

The Leica M9 for Fashion by Simon Lipman

from Steve: I always enjoy seeing when others are using the Leica M series in professional situations. If I had $2 for every time someone e-mailed me saying it is not possible or feasible to shoot the M9 for pro work I’d have some serious cash sitting in my bank account. I found the photos here from Simon to be pretty damn beautiful, hope you enjoy the post!

Simon’s Website

My name is Simon and I’m a UK-based editorial and fashion photographer.

I wanted to share with you a little insight, something that I think is somewhat relevant to you and your audience. After beginning my career shooting with a Hasselblad and digital back (I was one of the last generation of ‘film’ assistants, and was therefore very keen to add some soul to my shooting!), I finally succumbed to using the dreaded “C” word – Canon, making working life a little easier, quicker, more stable and a whole host more reasons.

Then came the day that an old boss of mine lent me his M9. I fell head over heals in love. As countless others have and still do before me, I drooled over internet sites with nothing short of obsession!! I had to make it mine. Fortunately for me, i had a tax break – and my chance! I ordered my M9-P!!

Since then I have tried to use it wherever possible, on as many jobs as possible – usually finding my opportunities during editorials – free of commercial and creative restraint. Something special happens, not only with the results, but between the photographer and the subject. Many say the same – in their own fields, now I was finding it shooting fashion. After spending years turning up to shoots with countless Pelican cases and equipment bags, i was now arriving with a tiny bag with a Macbook Air, and the M9 with three Cron lenses, a reflector and NOTHING else!!! It was, and still is a dream.

The M9 is often (quite rightly so) labelled as a documentary / journalism camera. And indeed it excels at that. I often use it for my personal work. However, when researching the camera, there seemed to be a lack of photographers using the M9 for fashion! I’m here to say otherwise – it is the perfect fashion / portrait camera. There is no end to what I could say, but with your permission, I’d love to send you some of what i have shot with it!

Your reviews of the M9 greatly influenced me when looking into buying this system and it has in no way disappointed… Indeed, it has exceeded my expectations in every way!! Keep up the good work…


Feb 162012

Unloading the Baggage

By Eric Carlson

In January, I said “Bon Voyage” to my Nikon gear: a D700, 17-35mm f/2.8, 135mm f/2 DC, and 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6. It was my Nikon “dream team”– a kit that I had lusted after for several years. Yet, it seemed as though the larger my setup grew, the less inspired and passionate I was about photography. As an aspiring wedding and portrait photographer, I found this a little unnerving. I can’t imagine the thought of pursuing anything but photography for the rest of my life… yet I was faced with a dilemma. In the weeks following the surfacing of these emotions, I did a quite a bit of soul-searching, and gave it a lot of thought. At last, I came to the conclusion: it wasn’t my love for photography that had changed, but rather, my feelings towards the tools of my trade.

Now, I’m not one of those sadomasochists that relishes and delights in pain. I didn’t particularly enjoy the sore neck or blisters I’d get on my hands after a full day of shooting with the Nikon D700. I resented the fact that, after devoting many hours to reading the instruction manual and months of using the camera on a daily basis, I still couldn’t “consistently” navigate my way through Nikon’s dense, over-saturated menus. I was disconnected from the photographic process, and I began to feel as though (and please excuse the cliché here) I was taking pictures instead of “making” photographs. I missed the sense of empowerment, the nostalgia, that using an M-system camera has to offer.

I’ve always believed that if you’re unhappy with something, you should take the necessary steps to change it, and so I did. That’s not to say I didn’t have my reservations; I was most certainly apprehensive about the transition to a different system -a different breed- of camera. While I had experience with the Leica M4 and M5, I had only brief exposure to a digital M, as my dad had purchased an M8 on Ebay, and he had graciously let me borrow it for a couple of weeks. Needless to say, it was love at first sight, and this trial period with the M9’s older brother prompted me to ditch my complicated brick of a camera in exchange for pure simplicity and functionality. I listed everything on Ebay, and it sold quickly– a week later, I had my M9.

There’s very little I can say about the M9 that hasn’t been said already, but one thing is for certain… it has reaffirmed my passion for photography, and I simply won’t leave home without it. We all know how fleeting time is, and how quickly those “decisive moments” come and go– in the blink of an eye. Countless times I’ve missed a photo-op because I left my cumbersome kit in the car or at home. I’m happy to say, those days are over.

Eric Carlson

Feb 152012

My Favorite Camera Strap!

The Leather Braided Barton Strap 

For the past several months I have been shooting my M9P with a strap that I have fallen in love with for several reasons. You may have seen it in pictures with my M9P, in fact, I know some of you have because I get at least one e-mail a day asking me where to buy this strap! First of all, it is an all leather braided strap and is very well made. It is soft, and stretches so if you are shooting with a heavy lens this stretch takes the strain off of your back/shoulder. I have had zero issues with the strap over the past months and in fact, it has broken in quite well. It also always gets the looks and compliments.

You would think that a strap like this would set you back over $100. With the Artisan & Artist straps fetching well over $100 and more for their silk straps and about $70 for their really good cloth straps (my fave in the A&A line, and they are here) this hand braided leather strap comes in at $79 SHIPPED. Yep, shipped. You can browse the straps at and they come in several colors. Red, brown, blue/grey, black, etc.

I can HIGHLY recommend this strap and it even comes in a cool box. I may order a couple more and even try one of their bags soon. I love a good strap and there are so many out there that are good but this one represents great quality, great price and a great experience.

You can browse ALL of the straps they have to offer at their strap page. Looks like there are quite a few to choose from, even a double braided for $10 more!

Feb 132012


From Leica 3A to X1 – a 51 Year Journey by John Shingleton

John’s Blog:

Twelve months ago I purchased a Leica X-1.It was an impulse purchase and the latest step in a 51 year journey.

Way back in 1960 when I was just 14 my high school biology teacher started a school camera club.At the inaugural meeting he handed around his Leica-I believe it was a Leica 2–and prints from his 1930s travels in India and Burma.From the moment I handled that jewel of a camera and saw the pictures it produced I was hooked– I had to have a Leica.

It took me 7 years to achieve my ambition–a 30 year old Leica 3A –with F2.8 Elmar lens, lens hood, accesory brightline viewfinder and Leica neckstrap- purchased for $35 in1967. The thought of purchasing a 30 year old camera today other than as a collectable item seems absurd but progress was much slower then and a 3A was still regarded as a serious working /hobby camera although the Japanese SLRs ,particularly the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic ,were making rapid inroads into the market .

The 3A served me very well for about ten years before I stood it down and purchased one of the fashionable Japanese SLRs–an Olympus OM-2.I kept the 3A and still have it — complete with accesories–although I have not put a film through it for over 30 years.

In the years since I have taken tens of thousand of photos all over the world.I have won competitions and even a few useful prizes. I had a home darkroom, I have done black and white printing and even dabbled in Cibachrome ( reversal color) printing which was both difficult and expensive and even for reasons which I have long forgotten I home processed color slide film. I have owned a few Leicas and Leica lenses but my relationship with Leica was not monogomous. I owned an Olympus OM outfit and later a Canon EOS outfit .But I have never been a “photo gearhead” . In 52 years I have only owned 11 cameras. I used my M6 for 18 years .My interest has primarily been in taking photos not in collecting gear.

I particularly liked Leicas because of their precision almost watchlike feel , the fact that they were rangefinder cameras and above all for their magic lenses which had and I believe still do have a unique quality .

I was an early adopter of digital and acquired a film scanner in 1997 and I won an early Kodak digital camera in a photo competition in 2000 . My first serious digital photos were taken with a Leica Digilux 1 which I acquired in 2003 .This is an odd camera which takes surprisingly good photos even by today’s standards. I have recently revived it and the images have really surprised me .

In 2006 I purchased the then newly launched Canon G7 as a “point and shoot” camera and its capabilities and its compactness convinced me that compact was the way to go . My days of carrying around a big bag of gear were over . Besides anything else I was just getting too old for all that weight and airport security checks were becoming very difficult .

I also had a new passion -old Porsches — and I was restoring a 1971 911. I was “over”analogue photography so I sold most of my gear including my lovely Leica M6 outfit and ploughed the money into the Porsche restoration.

I kept a watching eye on the world of Leica but from a distance. I was not impressed with the M8 and that crop factor and it confirmed for me that I had made the right decision to sell my outfit when I had .

When the X-1 was announced I handled one at a Leica dealer in Sydney and came way seriously underwhelmed . I thought that it was overpriced ,very plasticky and lacked that Leica feel although I was impressed by its simple controls and what I had seen of its image quality in reviews although these same reviews were very luke warm about other aspects of the camera

I decided that I was quite happy with my little Canon but then in July 2010 I visited an old friend and serious Leica enthusiast at his home in Italy. He had an M9. It was gorgeous and I loved the feel of it and the solidity and the simplicity of the controls. It stirred old enthusiasms .

In January of last year I was in Auckland,NZ, when I saw the then newly announced black X-1 in the window of a camera dealer . My Leica M6 had been black. I could not afford an M9 and anyway “compact ” was now my mantra so I decided to set aside my misgivings and buy myself a black X-1 and to rejoin the Leica world . It was a rash, hasty decision.

My longstanding and expert Leica dealer in Adelaide, South Australia , found one for me immediately and it arrived in the post in the first week of February . It did not work out of the box . The silly pop up flash unit would not retract.To say that I was annoyed would be a major understatement. I had spent $2000 on this camera which I had major doubts about and it arrived in this ridiculous over the top packaging with a note signed by the quality control manager and it was defective. Shame on you Leica.

To cut a long story short Leica did not have the parts available to repair a black X-1 and black new cameras were on back order so I ended up with a replacement silver model after a few weeks . Not an auspicious start -particularly as I had already purchased a black Voigtlander optical viewfinder .

The first few weeks with the replacement camera were awful . I found the fixed focal length lens even more limiting than I had feared . The camera took beautiful images but it was slow and I was very nervous using it as I felt that it was fragile . I was beginning to think that maybe I had made a major mistake and then I started reading the Leica X-1 forums which were overwhelmingly negative and I was soon convinced that I had made a major mistake!

I seriously considered selling it on e-bay. In April I went for two weeks travelling in Vietnam and took it with me . I took some great photos on that trip but I was still struggling with it and undecided as to whether to keep it. Gradually I turned around . I took it on a trip to Europe in July and to the US and Canada in September and I came back with more great photos -some arguably as good as I have ever taken. It stayed. Now I love its strengths but still hate its defects. I still worry that it is fragile . But the lens/sensor combination is superb . The IQ is brilliant but it falls down in so many areas you really do have to be a mellow, understanding and committed Leica enthusiast to live with it and I do not believe that is who it was designed for .

Would I recommend the X-1? Not an academic question as I was stopped when I was using it on the street in Chicago in September by a man who said his daughter was graduating from college and wanted an X-1 as a graduation present -would I recommend it? I gave a highly qualified “yes”. I hope that he was not too confused.

So there you have my 51 year Leica journey .From Leica 3A to Leica X-1.

As for my X-1 photos I have always taken what interests me . I now put some of them up on my blog and what you see here is a small selection .The first two very neatly link the 3A and the X-1 . The first was taken in 1974 on the 3A on Kodak Tri-X film and home processed and shows my wife and daughter. The second is that daughter’s daughter taken with the X-1 in 2011. Three generations taken on two Leicas arguably three generations apart. The others are some of the output from the X-1in its first 12 months.

John Shingleton

From Steve: Want to share an article with the tens of thousands of readers who visit this site every day? Send an e-mail to me HERE and let me know your idea! My goal when I started this site was to hopefully one day have a community of passionate photographers who could share their stories, photos, techniques and inspirations and that goal is finally being accomplished thanks to all of the amazing readers here on this site. 

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