Oct 202012
 

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

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

GO GET IT! 

Oct 192012
 

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

By Gary Perlmutter

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

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

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

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

Related articles:

Digilux 2 Memory lane by Steve Huff

Thorsten Overgaard – Digilux 2 extensive review

 

Twitter: @gazonthestreet

Flickr: My Flickr photostream

 

Oct 182012
 

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

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

Fuji X-E1 Review SOON from Amy Medina

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

There will also be articles coming next week on “The other way to scan your film”, “The Leica Digilux 2: Another Flashback”, “The Monochrom In Madrid: Bullfights”, and a new film article by Ibraar Hussain! PLUS even more than that but I will leave some as a surprise but one post will feature some of the best images I have seen all year from anyone. :) I will also be showing off some new straps from Barton1972.com which are AWESOME!

 –

The Olympus 75 1.8 Lens Review – Next Week!

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

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

OM-D AND 75 AT 1.8 – click for larger

The Leica Monochrom Review will continue..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orange Nikon J2 – Ready for Halloween?

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

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

Steve

Oct 172012
 

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

B&H Photo now has the camera IN STOCK

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

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

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

Oct 162012
 

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

By Peter Sills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enough philosophizing, back to the convention.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next?

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

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

(Thank YOU Peter!!!)

Now the images:

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

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

 –

Castles in the Sand

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

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

 –

Charlotte, Night

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

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

Chris Matthews, MSNBC

50mm, ISO 500, f/2.8, 1/60 sec. 

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

Girl Power

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

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

National Guard Rail

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

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

On the Big Screen

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

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

Pool Feed

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

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

Step Right Up

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

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

Waiting for the Shot

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

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

Wherever You Hand Your Hat

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

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

Oct 142012
 

A few more Leica Monochrom image samples from the past week…with some full size from RAW images

Many of you have e-mailed me asking me for more sample images from the Monochrom. I have included a few in part 1 and 2 of my ongoing review and plan on posting more including some full size out of camera images and comparisons but for now I decided to throw up a few more than I have taken with the camera over the past week. EXIF is embedded and every image was shot with the Leica 35 Summilux ASPH FLE lens. Some images have had filters run through them and others have not. Some have had contrast tweaks and adjustments and a couple are just about right out of the camera.

I am a fan of contrast and deep blacks myself but I know others prefer a more neutral rendering. That is the beauty of this camera and digital in general. You can get whatever look you want. One thing is for sure, with a camera like this it is a HUGE commitment to B&W photography. I feel it should come out when the time is right so after my review is completed the Mono will not be an everyday camera but a camera that comes out when I am going for B&W only. With B&W the way you look at everything is different from the light to the shadows. I have not yet perfected it and I have shot B&W for many years on and off. It’s an art form that I may never master but I am having fun trying :)

Part 3 of the review will be up in 7-12 days :)

Shot at ISO 320 at night with some contrast tweaks and dodging – click image for larger

Applied a Tri-X 400 filter in Alien Skin Exposure 4

Some black level adjust during RAW conversion

Out of camera candid

If you click this image to see the larger version you will see that I focused on the man inside the bus. Shot at 1.4 with the 35 when I should have stopped down to 2.8

Slight level adjust – took 5 seconds

Some dodge, some burn and some sharpening

HIGH contrast

Almost OOC but with some level tweaks

Some level adjust

and now a few full size from RAW

CLICK THESE TO GET THE FULL SIZE IMAGES

Oct 132012
 

The Leica Monochrom Review Part 2: Low Light, High ISO and Filters

This part of my ongoing Leica Monochrom review will go over Low Light and High ISO shooting as well as using filters on the lens and off the lens. The images here were all shot by me at high ISO or in low light. I will have many more great samples in parts 3 & 4. For now, Enjoy part 2 and feel free to leave your comments about the Leica Monochrom!

Read Part 1 Here which goes over what the camera is all about as well as a quick comparison with 35mm film. I also added some supplemental photos HERE. Part 2.5 is now up as well! Thank you!

katiebabycrop

My Monochrom Journey Continues…

After reading part one of my continuing Leica Monochrom Review (you can read it here) you now realize what the Leica Monochrom is all about as well as who it is for and NOT for. You also know it is an $8,000 B&W only camera that does not shoot color. I have been shooting continuously every day with this camera and I have to say that after two weeks I am really connecting with the Monochrom on a level even more so than I did with the M9, which was my camera “soulmate”..or at least I thought. The more I shoot the Mono, the more I think that this one may be “the one” that sticks by my side for as long as it can. I shot the M9 for 3 years and only gave it up to get the Monochrom and I am not in any way disappointed with this decision. In fact, I feel 100% happy with this choice that I made and after daily shooting with this I can say it is a camera that is VERY capable of creating some fine photographs and in the right hands, works of art. Low light, high ISO..yep, the Monochrom is the real deal my friends.

The Leica Monochrom is a serious tool even at night on the street at ISO 2000. I shot this in San Francisco while taking a street walk and was very happy with the results. Please click the image for a larger 1800 pixel wide version.

BTW, I edited this to have the darker gritty feel. I like this high contrast deep black look when shooting late night street and the Mono gave it to me. I could have easily taken the flat grey low contrast look as well. Many Monochrom haters initially said the camera was incapable of producing blacks yet when I compare this to my high contrast film shots on my HD this looks much better to my eyes. 

and one more with a less harsh look

musicman

Vision

With the Leica M9 we all had (or still have) a tool that can deliver mind-blowing results with the right lens and of course the right vision of the person behind the camera. There  are indeed limitations though because the M9 is limited with high ISO. Even shooting the street at night with an M9 and 35 1.4 was a little tough at times because the max ISO is 2500 and at that level it is pretty damn noisy. I have used ISO 2500 on the M9 in B&W to great effect but it was still grainy and noisy and that was it… The ceiling was hit with nowhere else to go in regards to low light. Well, that is not true actually. You could always grab a Noctilux f/0.95 for a cool $11k. :)

When Leica announced the Monochrom they touted it as a camera that will put an end to B&W film. After using it for a while and getting the hang of the processing I almost believe that statement. I still feel B&W film like Tri-X will never fully die due to the film die hards who will refuse to ever give it up and admit that anything digital can beat it but here we are in 2012 and more and more B&W films are fading away and being discontinued. Neopan 1600, T-Max…it’s a sad time for those who love shooting silver B&W. Many faves are dying away and there is nothing to replace them with. They each had their own look and feel and even smell. Can the Leica Monochrom deliver the goods for those who love those films that are now gone?

I think so..if you have the vision to create what your mind sees and wants.

ISO 1600 – I slightly back focused my 35 1.4 but the result is still gorgeous. While other guys were using strobes and flash I went “au natural” with whatever light was in the room and I like the result much better than the deer in the headlights look. Again, I processed this to have more contrast and deeper blacks. I could have went with a lower contrast look. Remember no lighting was used here so the shadow on her face is due to this. 

It Delivers the Goods

The really nice thing about the Monochrom is that it delivers the goods *if you know how to use it and process the files from it*. Many shots from the Monochrom, even from a couple of well-respected shooters and reviewers look a but flat because the files need a little bit of work to make them go from great to WOW. I am not saying that my shots are “WOW” but I have come a long way from my 1st samples in Berlin which showed the flat grey look that many are getting with this camera. I am speaking of the look of the files, the tones..the pop..the beauty. In my opinion, the Leica Monochrom is a box full of hidden potential and it may take me a year to really get the most from it. The one thing I know is that it certainly CAN deliver, and it is the real deal if you take the time to get to learn it and become one with it.

Here is an example I shot on the streets at night at ISO 8000. Yes, 8000. I processed it to give it a high contrast pop and as you can see, it has it. Gone are the dull greys you saw in earlier samples. LIke I said, this camera is VERY versatile and can get any look you desire once you learn how to work with the files. 

When I say it “delivers the goods” what I mean is that it can do just about anything you need it to do in the B&W world. Do you like flat grey shots? No problem. Do you like gritty high contrast? No problem! Do you like a Tri-X look? The Mono can do it all but to help it along it is quite simple. I always shoot RAW for the best quality file and then during RAW processing I tweak the exposure, black level and contrast to where I want it. I then process the RAW and use either an Alien Skin Exposure filter or bring it in to Silver Efex Pro (which comes with the Monochrom) to finish it up.

Using Software Filters with the Monochrom

You do not have to use any kind of filters with the Monochrom but they can add the look of your old fave film and get pretty damn close to it. You can go for rich blacks, high contrast, low contrast, grit and noise, or anything you desire just by running an image through Silver Efex Pro or Alien Skin Exposure. I love Alien Skin Exposure 4 and have put a sample below as to what it can do for a photo from the Monochrom.

This 1st image is direct from the camera with no adjustments at all. As you can see it is a bit flat and dark…

I took that image and ran it through Alien Skin Exposure using a simple preset (but I did it without adding grain). This example now pops more and has more contrast. This is just a generic example of a 3 second filter added. You can get as complex as you wish and you can also choose different looks for your photos. The arsenal of film stock filters and customization of these software packages are a must for any Monochrom owner. 

So if you are buying a Monochrom or already own one I highly recommend at least playing with some of these software filters. The camera actually comes with Silver Efex Pro which is the standard by which all others are measured. Alien Skin Exposure 4 can be downloaded here with a 30 day trial.  I highly recommend it not only for the Monochrom files but also for any digital files. Mess with it and get creative..step outside of  the box and see what you like. You may be surprised. I am happy that the Monochrom puts out flat files. Remember, this is a GOOD thing! This gives us the room to process the files to our liking. If the files came out all contrasty and slick then we would have less freedom to create our vision.

The Monochrom is just right and does what it does for a reason. It is not a camera for beginners.

The software filters also allow you to get as creative as you want by adding frames and more noise..ISO 2500 – I cropped this one and it shows the effects of the filter I applied. 

Using Actual Filters on your Lenses. Red, Yellow, IR and ND. Old School B&W.

With the Monochrom you are shooting just like your Father or Grandfather (or even you do today) did back in the day. Many B&W film shooters use filters on their lenses to enhance their skies or skin tones and you can also do this with the Monochrom. When shooting just imagine that you are shooting film because what worked when shooting with B&W film will work with the Monochrom. I feel Leica should have included a set of nice filters with the camera for those who want to take it all the way old school and get back to the ultimate B&W frame of mind.

They didn’t include any so I went out and bought a few. I picked up a B+W Red, Yellow and IR filter as well as an ND filter for those bright sunny days when I want to shoot with a wide aperture. With the minimum ISO of the Monochrom being 320 it is impossible to shoot at f/1.4 in full sun or mild sun. Adding an ND filter solves the problem. I bought this one for my 35 Lux FLE.

IR filters

I bought one of these out of curiosity. Here is the description of what it should do:

The B+W 46mm IR Dark Red (092) Filter is used for infrared photography with digital cameras and specialized infrared films. This nearly opaque filter blocks all visible light up to 650nm, lets 50% of radiation pass between 650 and 700nm, and more than 90% of radiation pass between 730 and 2000nm. Infrared film sensitivity is rarely greater than 1000nm, so this filter essentially allows most perceivable infrared radiation to be transmitted. Due to the nature of infrared photography, the filter factor for this filter is highly variable and depends largely on your film sensitivity and lighting conditions.

This was shot with a B+W IR-695 filter. I wanted to expiriment a bit with one. This one was at f/1.4 with the 35 Summilux FLE. 

Red Filter Usage and Example

The Red Filter when used on the Monochrom or with B&W film will add massive contrast. If you use this to shoot clouds in the sky you will get very dramatic results with borderline “Thunderstorm” effects. Unfortunately I live in Phoenix where there is rarely a cloud in the sun filled sky so all I have for this section is a shot that shows an OOC JPEG from the Mono with a red 25A Red filter. In most cases you would not want to use this filter – only for dramatic effects in skies IMO. When I get a nice sky shot using this filter I will post it here. I bought a cheaper red filter as I will rarely use it. 

Yellow Filter Usage and Example

Using a yellow filter will help bring out some contrast and can help skin tones a little as well. It’s a mild filter that can help bring more pop out of the camera to your files from the Monochrom. Using a yellow filter for B&W is pretty standard and is usually the goto filter as it will help your skies from being too bright as well. If you get one filter for your Monochrom, get a yellow. I use a B&W  Medium yellow which is a very high quality filter. The image below was shot with the yellow filter on the camera. Click it for a larger view.

Using filters can be part of the fun and creativity with the Leica Monochrom and will bring you back a bit. Pick a filter for your specific use and go with it. You can also buy other filters but these were the ones I bought for my Mono as they are the most used in B&W film.

Really High ISO & the Monochrom

With the Leica Monochrom you no longer have to be limited to ISO 2500 because you can shoot up to 10,000 ISO with this camera and get usable results. I have already shown an ISO 8000 shot earlier in this review but below you can see more from ISO 3200 and up. What amazes me about the Monochrom is the detail that is kept even when there is noise and grain. Even when shooting at night which is a torture test for ANY digital camera and high ISO the Monochrom keeps its cool and delivers stunning results in detail, tonality and overall wow factor.

Click the image below to see a larger version. BTW, this was ISO 8000 on a DARK street. The detail that is here is quite amazing. The tones are rich. IMO, this beats film because I was not stuck with one film in my camera. With the Monochrom I have ALL B&W films available at all times. 

Another ISO 8000 with crop – click it to see full crop embedded

ISO 6400 with a little more light shining in…and none of these shots have had ANY Noise Reduction of any kind. What you see is what you get.

Real world ISO 6400 on the street at night…not the best shot but you can get a feel for the noise level when there is no light around..This is direct from camera with no filter applied at all..

ISO 2500

The bottom line on the high ISO and low light is that this camera is SUPER FANTASTIC! This camera is really  a treat and so nice to shoot at night and in low light because it just does what it should and that is to have every kind of B&W film loaded up and ready at your command. Dial in ISO 320 to 10,000 at any given moment and be surprised by the results you will get. The Mono keeps the detail and sharpness and the noise is like a nice grained film. I was very happy with the results and when combined with a fast Leica lens like a Summilux or even Noctilux you can be king of the nightime B&W world. There is no color camera that can do what this one does with the tones nor the experience. The Monochrom is a different camera than anything on the market right now and many scoff at the idea of a B&W only camera but at the same time many are drooling over the thought of owning one.

Shooting in B&W requires passion and a love of the art of photography. You will get out what you put in and the camera can either reward you with beautiful files or disappoint you with flatness. For all of you getting this camera be sure to work with the files using lightroom or Photoshop as well as filter plug-ins and physical filters. This is when you will start to really appreciate what the Monochrom can do for you. I feel that this camera also inspires and when you tale it out to shoot you know you have something special in your hands. I may not agree with Leica’s pricing on this camera but I have to tell it like it is and the fact is that I adore this camera. End of story.

BTW, I am loving the combo of the 35 Summilux FLE with the camera and is my favorite Leica lens ever. My perfect kit would be a 28 Elmarit, 35 Summilux, 50 cron APO and a 75 of some kind. No way I can ever afford the 50 APO but it is a killer lens on the Monochrom.

For those that want to replace B&W film with a camera that can do it all in the B&W world but were worried about high ISO..well, don’t be. The Monochrom delivers :)

Part 2.5 is up HERE.

To buy the Monochrom you need to get on a list or pre-order. Mine came from Ken Hansen ([email protected]) but you can also buy from Dale Photo, PopFlash, B&H Photo or Amazon!

Look for part three of this ongoing review  in 7-12 days where I will have side by side comparisons (full size samples) with cameras like the M9, Fuji X, OM-D and others :) I also plan to do prints with the files as well so bookmark and check back often!

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Oct 082012
 

Leica M Duochrome? – Split Tone in Venice

David Nash, September 2012

www.davidnashphotos.co.uk

Leica M9, 28 mm Elmarit

Recently I’ve been playing around with split-tone processing in Lightroom as an alternative to black & white, and also reading the publicity around the Leica M Monochrome. That inspired me to write this short article on my “Duochrome” take on Leica M photography – split-tone Venice images all taken with an M9. I’ve also included tips on optimising images for split tone conversion and customizing Lightroom split tone presets to give you full control over the look of the final image.

For those not familiar with split tone images, think of them simply as black and white images with highlights tinted one colour and shadows tinted another colour. Split tone technique dates back to the days of film – but now of course can be simulated quickly and easily in the Lightroom Develop module. (Or by using Photoshop etc.)

I’ve been taking photos in Venice on and off for decades. I love the quality of the light, the reflections and the endlessly varied – and mostly crumbling – architecture. And a huge plus for photography – no cars!! The downside of course is that it’s really hard to take photos that are not hackneyed. Using black & white is one way of avoiding the obvious travel shots, but for Venice I do find that black & white images can often lose a bit of atmosphere – particularly with daylight shots. I’ve tried sepia presets in Lightroom but to my taste the results often look a bit too nostalgic. Enter split tone. To me, split tone images combine the attractions of black and white (emphasis on composition, tone, textures etc.) with a wider expressive range. This seems to better suit the atmosphere of Venice, particularly when using cold (bluish) tints for the shadows contrasting with warm (orangeish) tones for the highlights.

M9, 50mm Summicron

As ever, a computer screen will never have the look and tonal subtlety of a good print. I find these shots print particularly well on A3+ Harmann Matt Baryta paper – preferably using a printer that has extra grey tones like the Epson 3800.

M9, Zeiss 35mm Biogon 2.8

 

Lightroom Split Tone tips and techniques: Key steps (further detail below)

• Choose a suitable image: split tone doesn’t work well for everything

• Optimise the image (particularly its tone range) before conversion

• Choose one of the split tone presets as starting point (you’ll find them towards the bottom of the “Presets” list on the left pane of the Develop Module)

• Customise the preset using Lightroom’s Split Toning sliders (located below the Colour/B&W mixer panel on the right pane)

• Fine tune the result by revisiting the other tools – particularly tone (highlights, shadows, curves etc. and/or grad filter effects) and local contrast (clarity)

M9, Zeiss Biogon 35mm 2.8

Choosing a suitable image/optimisation

M9, 28mm Elmarit 2.8

Photos that work in black & white are good candidates split tone, with the one qualification that for split tone you need a full tonal range to start with – otherwise you will lose much of one of the 2 tint colours. Areas of smooth tonal transitions from lighter to darker look great – particularly if they change from one tint to the other (see detailed example below). For the shot above I increased highlights and darkened the sky (using the blue luminance slider) before converting. This increased the overall tonal range and made the right of centre sunlit building and its reflection stand out more.

Split Tone Conversion

Which 2 colours?

Your first decision is which colour to use for the highlight tint and which to use for the shadow tint. These can be any two colours, but the general view is that “opposite” colours work best – e.g. red and green, blue and orange, yellow and purple. Generally I prefer the cold bluish shadows setting off warm highlights that are the basis of the Lightroom Split Tone 1 preset. This is the preset I used as a starting point for all the images in this article

Cannaregio Canal, M9, Zeiss 35mm Biogon 2.8

Customizing presets: color and/or saturation

Split toning adjustments start with separately optimising colour and/or saturation for Highlights and Shadows. Colour optimisation uses the Hue sliders – personally I tend to leave them where they are for Split Tone 1 preset. Saturation controls how blue the shadows are and how warm the highlights are. Subtlety is the best approach. For some images you might wish to leave the blue shadows but set the highlights nearer white by reducing the highlight saturation.

A key difference between the 2 shots above is the highlight saturation slider settings. The left hand example uses the saturation preset – for the right I’ve considerably reduced the highlight saturation and also darkened the sky so it picks up more of the colder shadow tone

Balance Slider

In many ways the key control is the balance slider. In simple terms this sets the crossover point in the tone range from darkest to lightest for the transition from the shadow tone to the highlight tone. Experiment a lot with this slider – some images will look better with bluish midtones – others better with warmer midtones. I particularly love the smooth transitions from warm to cold over broad areas that the balance slider allows you to control. In the image at the top of the article you’ll see this transition from dark cold to warm mid in the skies. With a different balance setting this effect would have been lost:

There is little transition from cold to warm in the sky in the left example – the balance slider is set towards blue keeping the midtones bluish. On the right (the final version) the balance has been set towards the warm highlight tone, so the sky tint ranges from blue at its darkest to warm mids

Finishing touches

I often find that even with these adjustments I still haven’t got quite the look I want for a particular image. So it’s back to the general Lightroom tools – particularly tone adjustments (highlights, shadows, grad filters) and local contrast again (clarity – sometimes combined with a grad filter as in the example below).

Burano Washing Line, M9, 50mm Summicron. After conversion to split tone, I added a grad filter from the top to darken sky and building top half. But this subdued the highlights in the washing so I used the brush on the washing highlights to locally increase the exposure. I then used a grad filter over the foreground paving and significantly increased clarity. Lastly, I added a slight “post-crop” vignette.

Next steps: Fuji X100 Duochrome?

 

Golden Horse, Alpe di Siusi, Dolomites. Fuji X100.

Thanks for reading!

 

Oct 052012
 

The Leica M Monochrom Review Part 1. Understanding the Camera and VS film. 

After reading this, Part 2 is now up HERE.

Part 2.5 is up HERE – Part 3 is up HERE

The Monochrom and Zeiss Sonnar 1.5 – Some slight PP to enhance the contrast

slepp

 

After posting about the arrival of my Leica Monochrom I have had quite a few e-mails asking me to do a “rolling review”. Well I thought about it and even though I have only had the camera at this point for two full days I decided “why not”? The 1st installment will be about the Monochrom, my thoughts as well as some 100% crop comparisons with Tri-X and HP-5. Nothing technical, just real world and the thoughts from a guy who has shot ALL Leica cameras extensively. Over the coarse of this 4 part review I will cover just about EVERYTHING that can be covered from comparisons, to filters on your lenses to filters in Lightroom or Photoshop. I will go over real world high ISO shooting as well as show off some cool accessories that will complete your monochrom if you choose to buy one for yourself. So here we go….

Again, this review will be done in at least FOUR parts. Part one is presented here “Understanding the Camera”. Part 2 will follow next week and so on. With a camera as special as this I figured I would make it as thorough as I can without getting all boring and technical. There will be MANY samples with this camera and various lenses and as each new part is posted I will post links to each page so you can easily find all of the parts. I hope you enjoy this as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

As for the Leica haters who will be posting nasty comments let me remind you to that you must keep comments relevant and keep the nasty attacks to yourself. They are not warranted or welcome here. Of course I know you can shoot B&W with ANY digital camera made so this is why I am going to be testing this camera for a long term review. To see exactly what it can and can not do.

The Unboxing of my new Monochrom 

So far so good…and yes, it can replace B&W  film for most of us. Didn’t take much time for me to figure that one out.

I have only had this (production) camera for TWO days and let me state right up front that it is indeed my own personal camera. Not a loaner or rental but MINE. Why did I decided to ditch my M9-P and pick up the Monochrom knowing damn well you can shoot the M9-P and convert to B&W using Silver Efex or Alien Skin? Well, after shooting this camera in Berlin for an hour at the launch event…yes, just an hour..I was already hooked. I knew that the files coming out were a tad flat and grey but I also knew this camera had serious potential. Much more so than the Leica M9 being converted to B&W.

100% crop – To see the intense detail click the image below which is a 100% crop shot at f/1.5 with a 50 sonar Zeiss lens. This is what comes out of the Monochrom at ISO 4000 and is a crop of the image at the top of this page. Some my say it is too smooth but think of the possibilities here..any ISO for any situation. If you want grain, set it to 8000 and shoot away, or add it in post.

iso4000crop

No a 100% crop from a film scan – Leica M7 – 50 Cron – Tri-X – Coolscan V – Makes the shot from the MM look like Medium Format and keep in mind that he crop above was shit as ISO 4000..below is an ISO 400 film and it has more grain than the Monochrom.  You need to crank the MM to ISO-8000 to get this kind of grain. 

Leica M7 and 50 cron with Ilford HP5 – Nikon Coolscan V

Now I know my  statement here of “yes, it can replace film” is going to piss many hardcore film shooters off and have some hate slung at me but I say what I feel and what I feel is that this is a definitive B&W camera for those who are passionate about the “art” of photography, the “emotion” of photography and the “beauty” of black & white photography. Black & White Film has always been the heart and soul of photography, especially for those who have shot with Leica cameras but these days shooting film for many is a pain in the ass. The cost, the processing, the chemicals, the darkroom, etc. Let us not forget that If you scan your film you are digitizing it anyway and when printing on a printer at home you lose the true qualities of that film. I have scanned thousands of B&W frames in my day and I am saying with 1000% conviction that the files I am seeing from the Monochrom are the closest I have ever seen any digital come to film but not 35mm film because they look more like rich medium format files. 

But how can it replace film when you will not have the full experience of the darkroom? Some crave that experience..I know this. Well in that area it CAN NOT replace film. When I say it can kick some film to the curb I am speaking from my experience with film (shooting an M7 only for a year and processing film, scanning film, working with film, etc).  The fact of the matter is that the Leica Monochrom is the only digital camera I have used to date that I feel can finally meet and yes even exceed the qualities of 35mm B&W film. Like I said the Monochrom needs to be compared to medium format more than anything..or even a Sigma DP2m :)

How can you say this Steve?? You must be stricken with some sort of Leica MM fanboy disease!!!

Lol, well after shooting with the Monochrom I have found that the files coming out of the camera can be flat and very very grey (just like a film scan actually). But work on them just a little and you are rewarded with absolutely insane detail and resolution that kicks not only 35mm film to the curb but also kicks the the M9 along with it. Again, I am speaking about B&W film and the detail and resolution and even DR.

CLICK the image for full 100% crop. All I did here was adjust the contrast – 35 Lux FLE

Looks like a nice quality film to me but with even more detail. Click it for larger view which will look much better :)

The Monochrom means busine$$.

For starters this camera has some serious Medium Format quality resolution and you would think it was a 36MP sensor instead of an 18MP sensor. Yes, it is that good and literally does things that even an M9 can not do. Then again, the M9 does color as well and it is cheaper so the Leica Monochrom is ONLY for those who seriously want to get into black & white photography. Doing this means changing your whole brain and how it functions for going out and shooting. Shooting in B&W means “seeing” in B&W and that is much different than seeing in color.

I added some grain to this one to give it a teeny bit of grit.

When shooting color it is easy to see a shot and think “this will look amazing”. When shooting B&W you have to know what will look good, what lighting will work good and what kind of tones are in the shot. If you thought shooting an M9 made you think then this Monochrom makes you think even more. But this is a good thing.

L1003316

L1002857

Just after two days with this beautiful machine I am adoring it. Loving it and even though the price of admission is sky high it is 100% unique. There is NOTHING like it. NOTHING. This is part of the reason why Leica had the balls to price it where they did. They know there are some who would give even more than $8000 for a camera such as this. They are not shooting for volume here as this is a STATEMENT piece from Leica. It brought them loads of press (free advertising) and they are delivering it in teeny tiny quantities and selling all that they can make.

Sure the new M is coming at $6995, $1000 less than the Mono and it will shoot color, have higher MegaPixels and even do video. A jack of all trades. But in my opinion if you are a black & white person even the new M will not match the Monochrom. It can come close but can’t match it.

A great case for the Monochrom is the hand made and hand stitched M case from classiccases.co.uk. I keep the back flap up so I avoid the urge to chimp :) (preview files on the LCD) I am not usually a case guy but this one feels great and is not so bulky like some of the popular M cases. The fit is also superb.

UPDATE: My case broke after a couple of weeks as a snap fell off for no reason. Never had that happen with any case in my life so just a heads up.

To Understand the Monochrom…

The Monochrom is a camera much like the Leica MP. A lifetime camera. Of course many will say a digital camera can not be a lifetime camera but I beg to differ. If you are 12 then maybe not, but if you are like me, in your 40’s or older then this is a camera that could easily last our lifetime as long as Leica stays in business and supplies service and batteries. Even their Digilux 2 is still in service and they still repair them and it is well over 12 years old. The Monochrom is not one of those cameras you buy and sell a year later for something new..unless you bought it for the wrong reasons like style and flash or curiosity. For those who live, breath, eat and sleep B&W this is YOUR camera. Period. No film stock to buy. No chemicals to inhale. No time consuming scanning film for hours. No ISO restrictions. This is about as good as it will ever get for B&W only cameras. It simply can not get any better than this when we are talking 35mm format and compact.

If you are thinking of this camera then you have to ask yourself these questions BEFORE pulling the trigger:

  1. Do I live and breathe to shoot in Black & White and do I want just about the best B&W results I can get digitally without the cost of film?
  2. Am I ok shooting ONLY B&W, even if it means missing shots that scream for color?
  3. Can I afford a Monochrom and an M9? Or a Monochrom and something else that shoots color?
  4. Am I 100% sure I do NOT want to shoot B&W film (you can do this much cheaper with an M6 and Tri-X but with restriction and not the same qualities)
  5. Do I enjoy shooting with a Rangefinder/Leica M? 
  6. Do I already own Leica M mount glass?
  7. Am I ok with a low res crappy LCD on the back of my camera?
  8. Do I want to shoot my M at ISO 3200 or 6400 or even ISO 10,000 and get great results?
If you answered yes to the majority of these then you will most likely love the Monochrom. End of story :)

Check out the Dynamic Range and subtle tones..the way the Monochrom handled the highlights here is beautiful. Not blown out or underexposed – just right. 

debbybwconv1

About the Leica Monochrom Sensor. Why is it so special?

The Leica Monochrom looks like, smells like, feel like, and shoots JUST like a Leica M9 or M9-P or even new M-E. It is the same M9 body that we all know and love (and some hate) with the same LCD, same rangefinder system and same limitations that all rangefinders have (at least until the new M arrives). The only difference with the Monochrom is that it has a very special sensor that records your photos in MONO. I can sit here for an hour and write up how and why this is but I will keep it simple as other sites have went into the technical qualities of the sensor. In basic terms this sensor, because of the lack of color filter array the Monochrom sensor can capture more light but not capture the color. There is also no need for demosaicing (combining color info) so this sensor is capable of capturing insane amounts of detail. It is in fact a hot rodded M9 18MP sensor but you will get more detail than the M9. Like I said, out of the camera the files are smooth as silk up to ISO 2500 and after that you get some nice grain (I will go over this in future installments) so you choose how you want your files to look.

Just know that the files from this camera and sensor are very “tweakable” to get whatever look you want from it. I am excited to see what others can do with this as I expect we will see some flat out astounding shots from the Monochrom in the near future as everyone gets their own personal processing prefs down. As for me, I much prefer this camera to shooting B&W film. I even shoot it with the LCD covered using my classiccases.co.uk case and it is similar to shooting film (without the advance lever of course). I like having no restrictions and that is what this camera is about. NO RESTRICTIONS.

Want to shoot in bright light? No problem though an ND filter will help as the ISO low spot is 320, high for full sun and fast lenses. Still better than being stuck with 400 or 1600 film in your camera in sunlight. Want to shoot in dark? Slap on a 1.4 lens and crank the ISO. Results will be there with some gorgeous film like grain.

Same shot – 1st one right from camera with a little sharpening…

Next shot is with an Alien Skin Tri-X 400 filter added – contrast boosted, whites are whiter and looks a little more rough

I have read a few comments from Leica haters who are saying that it is ridiculous that you need to process files from this camera because it cost $8000. Well, every digital camera in existence, even film cameras, will give you files you can use right from camera. If you want to take that extra step and give more life to your photo you may want to process. I know people who spend HOURS in the darkroom dodging and burning their prints from film. With digital it is no difference and to suggest we shouldnt need to do work to photos is sort of ridiculous. Even $30k medium format cameras could use their files tweaked. It’s actually what makes part of being a photographer fun. Working on your files. Unless you are one of those who go out to shoot 1000 frames a day, then I could understand it. But if that is the case then you should just forget about processing photos. Hire someone to do it :)

To understand the Monochrom you have to know what it is all about. I have explained it in this post which is part 1 of 5 in my ongoing Monochrom review. This camera is not for everyone and yes you can get great B&W conversions from many cameras. Leica M8, M9, Nikon D800 and others but the Monochrom is not only about shooting in B&W, it is about shooting in a style that some of us love so much. It is a true rangefinder which is not an experience you can get from a Nikon D800. It is compact and you can not get this from a D800. It has a jewel like build (also not with the D800). The lenses are the best in the world and SMALL. Shooting a rangefinder puts you in a different mindset. I have spoken about this many times but it is true and to those who are the Leica haters, that is OK. Everyone is entitled to their opinion just as I am to mine. Not everyone likes shooting with an RF.

As for the pricing I feel Leica overdid it. I wish this camera came in at $5500 but I also understand what Leica is doing with this camera. Like I said it is a niche specialist statement piece to show everyone that it can be done in 35mm and by Leica, the one company who SHOULD be doing it.

*Just know that the Monochrom is just like an M9 though it does have the Sapphire glass cover over the low res antique LCD. 

L10025802

I feel Leica will be on another roll here soon with the new M-E already in stock and the new M coming soon with it’s all new features there are interesting times ahead indeed.

Part TWO of this review is coming in about 7-12 days. I will go over high ISO and have a load of sample images. I am hoping that for parts 3-5 I can do some comparisons with other cameras such as the OM-D, D800 and Leica M9 and M. Stay tuned :) As soon as part two is completed it will be linked from THIS at the top and bottom.

cablecar2

I want to give a shout out and THANK YOU to Leica dealer Ken Hansen ([email protected]) with whom I was #1 on his list for this camera. I am happy to finally have it in hand :) I think Ken has the new M-E in stock right now as well. He also has some great lenses in stock so give him an e-mail if you are looking for something special. PopFlash.com is also getting stock of lenses and M-E’s as they sold out of their 1st batch in one day. These are my sponsors so treat them well!

Until next time!

Steve

Part 2 is now up HERE

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Oct 032012
 

My Leica Monochrom Arrives! Unboxing Video with review up in 3 weeks…

So finally…after months and months of waiting and being #1 on the waiting list of Ken Hansen my Leica Monochrom has come in. Ken only received ONE this week and this is it. Leica has been super slow in getting this camera out for some reason. Not sure if they are trying to keep the stock low to make the demand look high or if they are just restricting the numbers made for other reasons but it has finally arrived, so I am happy.

The Monochrom is one of those cameras that NO ONE else has even dared to take on. No one else besides Leica would even dream of making a B&W only camera so why did Leica do it when it could have spelled disaster for them due to cost and the basic fact that you can not shoot color with this oh so basic old school rangefinder camera? $8000..black & white only. This is not for everyone.

The video below shows an unboxing of a production and final Monochrom

The release of this camera has caused quite the controversy because mostly all of the samples (besides the official Leica samples they showed off at the Berlin event) that have been shown to date on various websites (including this one) has shown results that are mixed. The fact is that the files from the Monochrom appear flat right out of the camera with loads of grey tones. They look very “UN”…un-exciting, un-dramatic and un-soulful. MOst of the time. If you have that perfect lighting you will get amazingly detailed rich files right from a JPG but most of the times these files need some work to spruce them up.

There is a reason this camera ships with codes for Lightroom 4 and Silver Efex Pro. I feel to get the most out of the Mono you must use plug-ins like Silver Efex Pro or Alien Skin Exposure. With that said..why would or should we have to do this with a camera such as this? If we wanted to convert why wouldn’t we just keep our M9 and convert? Is there REALLY a difference?

I feel the B&W images from the Mono do have a different look than a converted M9 file and it is going to take me some time to get it all figured out which is why I will be taking this camera out for the next few weeks and taking my time with the review. I feel once we learn how to properly process these files that the results could be stunning. At this point I am still experimenting.

All I did today was fire off a few snaps with a 35 Lux to test the focus and I can happily say it is amazingly spot on :) What I have noticed so far is the Monochrom has gobs of detail, much more dynamic range than an M9 and high ISO up to 10,000 will be nice to have. So right there it is an improvement over an M9 (though again, no color here). If you have the bucks this camera and the new M should make an unbeatable combo. Even this mono and an M9 or new M-E would be sweet. Again, if you have the bucks and enjoy the Leica experience (such as I do).

Yes indeed this camera will cost you big time but if you have the passion for B&W photography and you have the cash then it really wont get much better than this. Of course I am speaking of 35mm full frame/compact size. After just a full day with it I am really loving this camera, and no, I am not even close to being rich. You do not have to be rich to buy a Leica. I just live a simple life in all other areas. Small cheap house, cheap car, no other expensive hobbies. This is now my only M camera. My M9-P was sold  to fund the new M. So it is B&W only for me for the next few weeks as I dig into this new MM. Full Review in a few weeks.

BTW, the case I have on the Monochrom comes from classiccases.co.uk and I will review this case with the Monochrom :) But so far it is a PERFECT companion for the MM because it has a back flap that covers the LCD..no chimping allowed!

Now some snapshots I grabbed right after the camera arrived to make sure all was good…click them to see them the right way.

Here I am with the Mono at 1.4 – click all images to see them the right way and just how detailed they are!

The 35 Lux out of my office window at 2.8 – had some fun with a Alien Skin filter but click it to see the tones!

An old antique 1940’s doll – added an Alien Skin filter

The detail is insane. This is at 1.4 with the 35 – click the image for larger size and 100% crop. ISO 640. Look at the detail on the crop of the hand.

The 35 wide open..cant get any sharper

Detail Detail and this is an OOC JPEG! The 35 at f/2 – click it to see full crop!

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!

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!

Oct 032012
 

Leica Consumer Behaviour 101

By Louis Stevenson

Hi Steve,

These must be exciting times for you and a lot of us out there are waiting with bated breath on your upcoming reviews. Amidst all the hype from Leica’s new products, I’ve developed some thoughts on the responses by most people and I thought it would be interesting to look at the general feelings towards the release of Leica’s new products. In my observation, the new Leica Monochrom, M and ME have caused much joy and disappointment all at the same time, depending on what type of user you belong to. Here is an attempt to list a few groups:

1. The Conservatives. These are very experienced users who believe that film can never be replicated digitally and hence no amount of new technology can ever put the digital M on par with film. So anything new that Leica introduces to the Digital M would never impress them one bit, in fact, it goes directly against their philosophy of the M. Film is timeless, au natural and soulful. Digital is clinical, impatient and artificial. To them, the Leica Monochrome makes absolutely no sense and anyone who tries to artificially replicate digital files to look film-like gets shot down instantly. In fact there were several Monochrom shots that I find simply amazing, yet they were so quickly dismissed to be “plasticky”.

My very 1st time pressing the shutter release of a film camera, only to realise that I did not advance the film after loading. Leica M6TTL/ 35mm Lux Asph/ Kodak Tri-X 400

 

Shot in Film or Digital?

2. The Pragmatics. These consumers look for the best price/quality balance in a camera. They often compare specifications head-to-head, dollar-to-dollar and choose the camera base on their price-quality preference. Comparing across the market is common. It does not matter to them that Leica produced the first digital RF that is capable of shooting video, but it matters that Leica is the last to have video function in the industry. Hence, again Leica is seen as a failure for being the last. Leica will never meet their expectations in price vs quality terms. It’s common to hear them commenting that such an image shot by a Leica could have been easily shot with a cheaper camera or lens.

I ended up liking the iPhone shot more.

Iphone 4S shot (edited with Tadaa App) vs Leica M9/ 35mm Lux.

 

3. The Minimalists. They like the fact that Leica has kept to the essentials… Up until now. To them, each new upgrade should focus on image quality and functionality, that’s it! No more, no less! Hence, better sensors, ISO performance, weather sealing, LCD are very important to them. To introduce video into Leica M baffles them since more effort could’ve been focused towards improving image quality rather than wasting time on the video function. To repackage the M9 into the ME is almost insulting their intelligence. Leica fooled none of them with cosmetic updates for the ME/ M9P and should have introduced a M9.2 instead. I share their disappointment with the ME too. However, there are those who celebrate the marketing gimmick of the ME that would inadvertently drive down prices of used M9. Those who were waiting for the chance to upgrade would find this excellent news, and I’m happy for them!

4. The Enthusiasts. The RF experience is highly regarded by these users. They appreciate the characteristics of film and digital and are open-minded enough to make the next jump that Leica M has to offer. As long as the additional bells and whistles do not hinder the RF experience, then its good. These users are also open to new ways of using the RF. Using the new M to shoot videos RF style is a welcome addition but remains to be seen. Leica has got these bunch excited, but now Leica has to deliver. I hope for the best!

I have to say that this categorization is somewhat extreme. You may be one of them, caught in between, or you may have your own category! So what purpose does this article serve you may ask? Well, nothing, if you are looking for a review. Whats interesting here are the dynamics between these groups that result in diversified views that can be very informative and enlightening. Sometimes, disagreement may arise when different groups argue from a different perspective and that’s where the fun begins, until it gets ugly. But there is one thing that we all have in common, that is our love for capturing moments, and sharing them to people who matter.

End of the day, it’s the memories I’m after. A fellow pilot trainee who just cleared his 1st solo flight with a splash! A tradition practised by many.

Leica M9/ 35mm Summicron Asph

Thanks Steve for this website.

Sincerely,

Louis Stevenson

 

Here’s my Flickr as well as my other article contributions:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tanlouis/

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/03/26/taking-the-leica-m9-off-the-streets-and-into-the-wild-by-louis-stevenson/

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/02/24/tasmania-overland-track-with-the-leica-m9-by-louis-stevenson/

 

Oct 022012
 

My first month with the Leica Monochrom

by Gage Caudell

From Steve: MORE Monochrom coverage! This site has had the most coverage of the Monochrom since the camera was announced. To get up to date you can see the 1st article HERE, the second HERE, the 3rd HERE, the 4th HERE, 5th HERE, 6th HERE7th HERE and just last week THIS ONE . Now, enjoy the article below by Gage Caudell.  My thoughts and full review of the Monochrom will be up soon as my own personal Monochrom arrives TOMORROW thanks to Leica dealer Ken Hansen – BTW I was 1st on his list for this and it JUST NOW came in as Leica has been slow as MOLASSES with this release. I will continue to cover this camera as well as have upcoming reviews of the Leica D-Lux 6  and of course as soon as I get the “new M” the RV Road Trip Review with 4 of the readers of this site will get under way! Enjoy!

Steve,

I read Ashwin’s post the other day and enjoyed his thoughts and pictures. I was fortunate to get a Leica M Monochrom the second week they were released in the United States. I’ve been shooting with it almost exclusively and have been amazed by the amount of detail and quality of the images. As Ashwin mentioned, the pictures right out of the camera are flat but because they hold so much information in the midtones, shadows, and even highlights (the ones that are not blown out), once processed the pictures are quite good.

Most of the pictures below were processed in Lightroom 4 and a few in Silver Efex Pro 2. I’ve always been an Apple Aperture guy but they currently don’t support the M Monochrom. Also, I converted a few of the “dng” files in Ligthroom to “tiff” files and imported to Aperture and was not happy at all with the processing. I’m unsure if this is because Aperture software is not as good as Lightroom or because I’m not processing the same image type and therefore loosing some date when exporting to a “tiff” file. Nonetheless, I’m extremely impressed with how Lightroom processes these images and found my self using Silver Efex Pro 2 less.

I agree that it is important to under expose your images and I typically shoot at -1/3 to -2/3 exposure. Blown out highlights can easily occur and must be considered each time you shoot in well-lit places. I routinely focus on my subject and then point the camera to areas of increase light or to area in my scene that I believe will give me the best exposure and lock my exposure by pressing the shutter button halfway (you have to hold it there) and then compose and take my picture.

Last, this camera obviously is not for everyone. The price point alone and or the ability to only shoot black and white will make most uninterested. I have a strong interest in black and white photography, and I felt this camera would suit me well. I enjoy shooting people, especially family and friends. I’m unsure how much I’ll use it for landscape but I did provide a few landscape shots.

P.S. Thanks for providing such a terrific website. I always enjoy reading your post and the many guest that post. I also find the comments very useful, especially when they are positive (most are). (Thanks Gage!

Gage Caudell

My website: www.rangetraveler.com

iso 320 1/90 sec f1.4 35mm summilux

iso 320 1/90 sec f2 35mm summilux (made Leica “M” Master shots)

iso 8000 1/45 sec f1.4 35mm summilux

 –

iso 4000 1/60 sec f.95 50mm noctilux

iso 2500 1/250 sec f4 50mm noctilux

iso 320 1/750 sec f1.4 35mm summilux

iso 320 1/60 sec f1.4 35mm summilux

iso 320 1/4000 sec f8 35mm summilux

iso 500 1/250 sec f2 50mm noctilux

Sep 292012
 

It seems Willoughbys who posted they had the new Leica APO Summicron in stock yesterday were not being truthful. They do NOT have the lens in stock. I did see Kurland listed two in stock and supposedly Amazon is getting them in the next week. But Willoughby’s DO NOT have this lens in stock as they said. I spoke with Ken Hansen and he does not have any as of yet so it seems Willoughby’s was using slimy tactics by showing an IN STOCK status when they were NOT in stock.

 

The new Leica 50 Summicron 50 APO is IN STOCK NOW at Amazon and sold by Willoughby’s who have a 4.9 star rating (which is SUPERB). They have 19 lenses IN STOCK at the time if this posting. MAN OH MAN if I only had the cash. I have seen many unpublished images form this lens and they were beautiful. A mix of the classic cron and 50 ASPH with a little but “extra”. If i had the cash I would buy one but sadly I do not so maybe some of you out there have been waiting…get it at the link below:

 

Sep 272012
 

Sony RX1, NEX-6, NEX-5R and A99 Previews and samples the week of the 8th!

Hello everyone! Happy Thursday! I hope everyone is having a great day wherever you may be at this moment..work, home, school, travel, hotel..wherever! I am EXCITED and the reason why is that the week the 8th-12th I will be posting LIVE updates from San Francisco and Carmel, CA at the Sony Media Event where I will be shooting with a Sony RX1, NEX-5, NEX-5R and A99. Even the new Action Cam and other new Sony products will be there for me to shoot all week. Upon checking into my hotel on Monday the 8th I will be handed a camera bag full of cameras and goodies so THIS is a big deal for me. I am thrilled to be shooting the RX1 especially..to see how it is in real use. Of course I will be posting updates and samples here from all of the cameras as I shoot them.

We will be going to some amazing scenic locations that week to put these new products through their paces and you guys get to read about all of it HERE. I will not be the only web guy there so I am sure there will be floods of samples available that week from many of the other photo bloggers and websites.

Sony seems to be on top of their game this year because if I was running things at ANY camera company I would do the same thing they are doing. Getting these new products in the hands of some of the top websites so they can report on them show they not only have confidence in what they are putting out but that they know how to promote these products as well. They have had media events before but this one is going to be HUGE and pretty special. Race cars, helicopter rides, Big Sur…I can not wait!

So stay tuned here the week of the 8th-12th and you will see all of my updates on the new Sony gear. 

Oh…The Leica M RV Tour and Review

BTW, I have been toying with an idea to rent an RV that will hold up to 4-5 people to trek across route 66 testing the new Leica M and Monochrom. Would be myself and 3-4 others who would want to join in and share costs involved with the main goal of shooting the hell out of the new cameras along the Route for a week or two. At the end of the trip we would all combine our words and photos in to a massive review to be posted here. If this happens I would like to find 3-4 others who have experience with Leica and know how to use them. Having some great lenses would also help :)

This would be great press for Leica so now let us see if they agree to send me a camera or two for 2 weeks to see if it can happen. If not I will wait until my orders come in which would be sometime in 2013. Either way it will most likely happen..but stay tuned for details :)

Sep 272012
 

Year long wait list no more..Leica Noctilux in stock at B&H Photo & Ken Hansen

UPDATE: B&H Sold Out

What was once a year-long wait list for this lens has now dwindled as last week popflash.com had them in stock and this morning B&H Photo has some in stock and Ken Hansen does as well. You can check out the B&H Photo page for it HERE and if you want to contact Ken you can email him at [email protected]. Earlier this week when I posted about three lenses available at popflash (including the ever hard to find 35 lux FLE) they all sold within minutes so I know there are many of you out there looking for these lenses. My review on the Noctilux can be seen HERE. To really see what it can do check out THIS article or check out these photos.

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