Jun 152012

CALL OF THE WILD: Stalking the Perfect Nature Shot with Art Wolfe in the Rainforest

By Todd Hatakeyama – See his blog HERE

As much fun as I’ve had shooting the concrete jungle with savvy street photographers like Eric Kim and Steve Huff, my first and foremost passion has always been for natural, not man-made, landscapes. Therefore, when I had the opportunity to take a workshop-in-the-wild with the man widely regarded as one of the finest nature photographers since Ansel Adams, I packed up my gear and rain covers in my Naneu Pro U60 backpack and headed to Washington state for a lot of muddy hiking and an unforgettable experience.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Art Wolfe…shame on you! In a career spanning more than thirty years, Art has roamed every continent on the planet, taking pictures of the wilderness that have appeared in National Geographic and other magazines and in a string of award-winning books. His captivating photos of wildlife, panoramas, and native cultures have garnered such honors as the Alfred Eisenstaedt Magazine Photography Award and the National Audubon Society’s first-ever Rachel Carson Award. He has been named Outstanding Nature Photographer of the Year by the North American Nature Photography Association and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. And his public television series Art Wolfe’s Travels to the Edge rocks–I’ve seen every episode. This was my chance to share in the adventure.

Me and Art – NEX-7 with Leica 90mm Elmarit-M f/5.6 1/100 sec ISO 100 handheld

From the outset, Art advised us to carry as much gear as we could lug in order to be prepared for both macro and landscape shooting and the changing light and weather conditions we might encounter. “If you have it, bring it,” he said, “because you will probably use it.” With this in mind, I stuffed my Naneu Pro bag with the Leica M9, a Sony NEX-7 with a Leica adapter, a Leica 21mm Super Elmar, a 35mm Summilux, a 90mm Elmarit-M, a Hyperprime 50mm f.95, a Sigma 30mm 2.8, a Sony 55-210mm, a Vanguard 225CT carbon fiber tripod, a Feisol CB-30C head, ND filters and graduated ND filters, some polarizing filters, 128gb of SD cards, Micro Lens Pouches to pad my lenses, and a couple of Street Strap camera straps. Any more than that and I would’ve needed a Sherpa to carry it all into the woods for me.

Naneu Pro bag with the Leica M9, a Sony NEX-7 with a Leica adapter, a Leica 21mm Super Elmar, a 35mm Summilux, a 90mm Elmarit-M, a Hyperprime 50mm f.95, a Sigma 30mm 2.8, a Sony 55-210mm, a Vanguard 225CT carbon fiber tripod, a Feisol CB-30C head

On Thursday night, I flew into SeaTac airport, where I rendezvoused with my friend S.K., a fellow alumnus of the Steve Huff workshops. By the time we made the two-and-a-half-hour drive in our rental car from Seattle to Port Angeles and checked into our hotel, it was 2 a.m., so we missed the initial evening meet-and-greet with Art Wolfe. Although Art encouraged all the students to do a pre-workshop shoot at dawn on Friday morning, S.K. and I needed what little sleep we could catch before the big day ahead.

SK and me – NEX-7 with 55-210 at 94mm f/5.6 1/13 sec ISO 200 handheld

We woke in time to grab a hasty breakfast, then joined our new classmates for Art’s two-hour introductory presentation. Illustrating his lecture with stellar examples from his own work, he told us what to watch for out in the field and offered us some tips with regards to composition, camera settings, and tripod techniques, among other topics. There were thirty workshop participants in addition to Art’s helpful assistants, Jay Goodrich, Bill Edwards, and Libby Pfeiffer, all of whom are accomplished photographers in their own right. S.K. and I were the only non-DSLR shooters in the group, he with his M9P and Pentax, me with my M9 and Sony NEX-7. I realized that it was going to be difficult to capture any quick-moving wildlife with the manual focusing Leica and without a long zoom lens. Ironically, that challenge was part of what appealed to me about the workshop with Art Wolfe. Having followed his work for years, I knew that he is a Canon DSLR shooter and frequently shoots with 300 to 500mm lenses. I accepted that I wouldn’t be able to get anything close to his shots with my Leica gear, but I was eager to see what I could do with the Leica despite its evident disadvantages for this kind of photography.

M9 with 21mm Super Elmar f/11 1/8 sec ISO 800 handheld

 Following the seminar, our entire group picked up some sandwiches at the local grocery store for lunch and set out for our first field shoot. Our goal was the Marymere Falls, located amidst the old-growth trees of the Sol Duc Valley in Olympic National Park. The weather wasn’t great– overcast skies with some light rain that turned the ground a bit muddy–but it could have been a lot worse. The most troublesome aspect was probably the wind around the waterfalls, which made them difficult to shoot with the mist blowing right into the camera lens at the closest and best vantage point.

M9 with 90mm Elmarit-M f/14 1.5 sec ISO 160 with tripod

I’d brought along my Vanguard 225CT carbon fiber tripod since Art recommended having one with me, but I rarely shoot with a tripod as my style of photography is more spontaneous and fast-moving. All of the DSLR shooters had their huge tripods and 70-200mm telephoto and wide angle lenses, some of which they set up in the streams to get a perfect shot of the waterfalls. S.K. and I, however, leisurely wandered around shooting the forest and anything we found interesting but without the use of a tripod. Once I reached one of the waterfalls, I set up the Vanguard and alternated between the M9 and NEX-7, experimenting with some long exposures. In addition, I would switch between handheld and tripod shots depending on the situation. It sprinkled intermittently, so I would shoot with the NEX-7 when it was wet and the M9 when the rain let up. The M9 is not weather-sealed, and I did not want to risk any water damage. Truth be told, the NEX-7 isn’t weather-sealed either, but at one-sixth the cost of the M9, it seemed less to risk in the rain. To my surprise, some of the shots came out so silky smooth that they are among the best shots of a waterfall I’ve ever taken.

NEX-7 with Leica 90mm Elmarit-M f/16 1.3 sec ISO 100 with tripod

After our excursion, we returned to Port Angeles and enjoyed some down-time with Art at the Downrigger’s Waterfront Restaurant which, as its name implies, had a nice view overlooking the coastal waters. We didn’t dare stay up too late, however, because Art was determined that we should make the most of the following day’s prime light. Although he mercifully scheduled Saturday’s field shoot for the afternoon, he encouraged the early birds among us to take pictures in the dawn hours as well.

After breakfast and a quick meeting Saturday morning, our Wolfe pack headed off to the Hoh Rain Forest. Speaking of wolves, the Hoh Valley is perhaps best-known as the location where the Twilight movies were shot. We stopped to pick up lunch in the nearby town of Forks, but I didn’t see any brooding, James Dean-wannabe vampires, shirtless-hunk werewolves, or pouty, overrated actresses.

Team Jacob, our rental car in the Twilight forest

The rain forest is also notorious as the wettest spot in Washington, and it lived up to its reputation. It rained off and on for much of the day we were there–unfortunately, more on than off. We made it to the Hall of Mosses without getting too wet and set up for some shots of the amazing trees, but Art heard the rain coming and told us to take cover under the forest canopy to keep us dry. It rained for a good 45 minutes, and we were all impatient to continue shooting. I had my umbrella with me so I was able to take a few shots in the rain, but after a while S.K. and I decided to head back to the Visitor Center to relax and dry off.

NEX-7 with 55-210 at 144mm f/5.6 1/40 sec ISO 400 handheld

When the rain stopped, we decided to take a different trail, where we ran into some of the other participants, socialized a bit, and continued snapping shots of the forest. We completed the mile-long loop and returned to our car, ready for dinner at a local pizza place, courtesy of Art.

NEX-7 with 55-210 at 55mm f/5.6 1/15 sec ISO 400 with tripod

Well-fed, dry, and recharged after our meal, we headed to the outer edge of Washington to Second Beach, so-called because it’s one of three beaches along this section of the Olympic Coast. This is an amazing beach with huge, majestic rock formations just offshore, but there’s a fairly steep 0.7-mile hike from the parking lot. This keeps the beach uncrowded, making it the ideal spot for a possible sunset shoot. We spent a few hours on the beach, as everyone attempted to capture the rocks against the setting sun, each of us trying to find the perfect camera placement and achieve the best results possible in the not-so-good conditions.

M9 with 21mm Super Elmar f/19 1/60 sec ISO 200 with tripod

But the waves were coming in and the clouds weren’t clearing. For awhile, it seemed we might not have a sunset photo op at all. At the last minute, a ray of light emerged, and we saw person after person scrambling up the beach in search of the ideal vantage point. A row of tripods sprang up along the shore, photographers clicking away, waves soaking their shoes as the tide rose higher and higher. Fearing for my Leica gear, I stayed furthest from the water and did the best I could to get a decent shot, but the photos I ended up with were only so-so. I’m not sure if anyone in the group managed an amazing shot, but I’m anxious to see the results once the gallery is up on Art’s blog.

M9 with 21mm Super Elmar f/19 1/4 sec ISO 160 with tripod

We then had to make the long, tiring hike back to the car in near darkness as night descended. During the two-hour drive back to the hotel, we stopped at McDonalds for a snack to fuel us up, because we needed to burn some midnight oil in order to sort through our photos and select the three best images for Art’s critique the next morning.

We woke up early again on Sunday, tired and sore from the past two days of hiking, driving, and shooting. With our three best shots prepared, we “Wolfed” our breakfast before meeting with the group for the critique. Art allowed us to submit previous work as well as pictures taken during the weekend workshop. I couldn’t find three new shots that I was really happy with, so I included one shot of a field of wildflowers I’d taken on a past trip to Paso Robles. The photos were loaded in alphabetical order by first name, so S.K. and I were near the end of the list. Art gave each of us an astute evaluation, and Jay Goodrich spruced up the photos with a few adjustments in Lightroom. Although many of the participants submitted good raw photos, Art had good, constructive criticism on how most shots might be improved. I really learned a lot about how to compose certain scenes and how to do the best editing in Lightroom.

M9 with 50mm Noctliux f/4 1/2000 ISO 160

Finally, S.K.’s turn for review came. Art rotated and cropped the first shot, which did make it better. Art really liked S.K.’s second shot and didn’t have any suggestions, but the third shot was his least favorite of the bunch. A few people later, I was up. Hoping to make a good first impression, I started off with the field of flowers. Art suggested I shoot lower and nearer to the first row of flowers, simulating the point of view of a bee. For my shot of the people in the tunnel, he suggested cropping closer and a bit off center to increase visual interest. His favorite shot, however, was my final photo, a view of the forest with its drooping moss and bright flowers. Despite my earlier misgivings, I guess some of my pictures from the workshop weekend were pretty good after all!

NEX-7 with 55-210 at 60mm f/5 1/100 sec ISO 800 handheld

Art commented that he had no idea what to expect from S.K. and me since we seemed to be ambling casually around the forest with our little cameras, eschewing tripods for the most part. But he was pleasantly surprised and impressed with our work, which was the best compliment I could hope for from the weekend. I had accomplished my goal of keeping up with the DSLR crowd. What’s more, my backpack was half the weight of everyone else’s!

NEX-7 with 55-210 at 89mm f/5 1/250 sec ISO 800 handheld

After reviewing my workshop photos, I found that I was not satisfied with the results of the NEX-7 with the 55-210 lens. The photos lacked contrast, were overexposed, and just didn’t come close to the quality of the Leica lenses. I suppose you can’t expect much for $350. On the upside, if anything were to get soaked and damaged in the rain, I would rather have it be that low-price combo than anything else I had in my bag. I did switch to the NEX-7 with the Leica 90mm Elmarit-M, which gave much better pictures, as well as the Hyperprime 50mm f/0.95.

M9 with 50mm Hyperprime f/0.95 1/1000 sec ISO 400 handheld 

I’m returning the Sony lens and am now seeking something better for a long telephoto option. Possibly the Sony 70-400mm with the Alpha adapter, or back to a Canon L lens with the Metabones adapter. I rarely shoot longer than 50mm so I have time to research the best option before I head out again with Art, perhaps on one of his incredible international photo tours sometime in the next year or two.

It was an amazing weekend of photography, learning, and fun. If you ever have the opportunity to enter the wild with Art Wolfe, I highly recommend doing it, regardless of the expense. I’ve taken many workshops in the past six or seven years, and I can honestly say I got more out of these three days than any other workshop. I can only imagine how exciting it would be on a 11+ day photo tour with Art in Patagonia, India or Myanmar.

Someday, I hope to do more than imagine…

Jun 142012

Unscrambling The Monochrome Egg

By Patrick Clarke –  see his Blog HERE

When Leica announced “Henri”, the M9 Monocrom on May 10th, it caused a lot of fervor on blogs and photography websites. The all black camera, named after the legendary black and white Leica photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson was devoid of almost all Leica markings and seemed niche even for the niche camera maker.

First, it was a monochrome only sensor. Leica had worked with True Sense Imaging (what used to be Kodak’s Sensor division) and took the KAF-18500 color sensor found in the M9 and made a black and white version. Secondly, it caused a lot of talk not only because it was black and white only, but at $8,000, it cost MORE than an M9 that could shoot color and have its shots converted to black and white in software!

Does it really cost more to create a black and white sensor, or is Leica just artificially creating a price point for such a unique Leica camera? And why would we want a black and white only sensor anyway?

As a black and white film shooter, I’ve looked at digital cameras as hindrance to getting to my final monochrome image. Even the best DSLR doesn’t have the dynamic range and clarity of a good black and white film, and there is a lot of time spent editing color photos to make them look like film. And since I spend my work days in front of a computer, the last thing I want to do is edit color photos in Aperture all night.

If you’ve seen the test shots from the Leica Monocrom, (more here) you can see that this camera shoots digital that looks more and more like film. It has grain instead of noise. The idea of a black and white only digital camera, to me, is a great thing if I can get shots that are the best things I like about film, with the advantages of digital. But I don’t have $8,000 to spend on such a thing and I don’t think Leica will send me a camera to play with anytime soon. So, I guess anyone like me is out of luck if they wanted to play in the black and white only digital land.

Luckily Leica isn’t the only maker of black and white only cameras today.

That company is LDP, LLC, and it’s website MaxMax.com. They have been converting cameras to black and white and other spectrums for some years now. You see, all camera sensors are black and white at their base. It’s a lot like film at this point, but to “see” color, manufacturers add microlenses, CFA “color filters” in a Bayer pattern that software takes and makes a color image and an Optical Low-Pass Filter to get rid of inherent aliasing and moire problems with the Bayer pattern. The black and white sensor gets stacked like a sandwich to make pictures. Yes, pictures that we black and white lovers spend hours converting back to black and white.

I got the opportunity to chat with the President of LDP, Dan Llewellyn and ask him a few questions about what they do to convert cameras back to their black and white roots. Read on.

When did you decide to try to convert a digital camera to black and white?

I had been thinking about it for over 10 years. About 4 years ago, we started doing experiments. It took about 2 years before we started having some good success. We have a box of broken sensors and went through lots of prototype custom machines.

Why did you do it?

To get a higher resolution picture. A color sensor typically has 1 red, 2 green and 1 blue sensor for every 4 pixels. This means if you take a black and white test chart and illuminate with a pure blue LED light only 25% of the cameras will see the chart. 75% will see black.

Another reason is that the sensor’s microlenses and Color Filter Array (CFA), block most of the UV light. A UV-Only monochrome camera can see 6 x better than the same camera with the microlenses and CFA. A Visible-Only monochrome camera gains about 1/2 stop from a stock camera. An 715nm IR-Only monochrome camera has about the same sensitivity as a 715nm IR-Only color camera.

Wow. If you are an IR shooter it certainly is quite the gain, and a half a stop is nothing to sneeze at. There is an often argued notion that a piece of 100 ISO Kodak T-Max black and white film has 2300 lines of resolution in it. A consumer level Canon T2i has around 2500 lines of resolution in it’s color form, but lacks the sharpness of film. Do you know how a converted camera compares to traditional black and white film?

I haven’t tried a test versus film. Interesting idea, but I haven’t shot with film for quite a while!


I know you do other conversions, like Infrared and “Hot Rod” as well as Black and White, so, what do you do to convert a camera?

IR UV-VIS-IR and HR conversions are much, much easier. To convert B&W, you have to remove the sensor coverglass and the CFA. Neither operation is trivial! The biggest issue with converting any camera is doing a clean conversion. There are shops out there that consist of a guy converting a camera to IR-Only on his kitchen table. But to do it well with really clean glass takes special equipment and techniques.

As far as monochrome conversions, we are the only shop that we know of that can do it. I once talked to a guy that runs the largest camera repair business in the USA with over 1,000 technicians about the monochrome conversions. He said they tried and came to the conclusion that a monochrome conversion was impossible. I found some discussions many years ago from some experimenters that used some hot toxic solvents, but, they never showed more than a small sample of their conversion and seemed to have given up.


Wow. So, no small task. Why not just do what Leica did and buy a black and white sensor and put it in the camera?

It’s not an option. If the manufacturers wanted to make a B&W camera, they could easily do so. Kodak made a B&W DLSR at one point. The problem is that the B&W market is small and the manufacturers want to sell large volumes. Texas Instruments makes a Digital Light Projection chip for video projectors. The normal visible chip costs $65. They also make a special version that has a UV transparent window that costs $2,000. The problem is that to make the UV chip requires shutting down the line for a small run. Leica is better suited to make a B&W camera because they are a small volume manufacturer, but, even then, their costs are probably quite high to make the B&W chip.


Is there anything that makes the purpose-built Leica sensor better than a converted one?

The Leica is going to be a more perfect camera since it was made to be monochrome. Typical conversions can have small traces of CFA left typically around the edges or other minor stuff that can be an issue for the pixel peeper types, though not an issue for practical shooting.


The cost of the Leica is often debated. Since it’s a “simpler” sensor, shouldn’t it cost less?

The cost of the Leica monochrome camera probably reflects their cost to make a very limited run of sensors. For the manufacturer, it is easier to make a monochrome camera that a color camera since all they have to do is not add the CFA during the manufacturing process. The problem is that to make the limited run and market the camera costs a bunch of money. We start with a color sensor and have to work backwards removing about 7 microns off the surface of the sensor without killing it in the process which is a bit like unscrambling an egg. For them, they just don’t need to crack the egg.


Since they are Leica and Henri Cartier-Bresson was such an influential photographer, I can see why they would create such a camera. Do you think Nikon, Canon or Sony will do the same?

For any monochrome or other specialized camera, the biggest problem is that it is specialized. The market is not that big, so even if you figure out the technical side, you still have to find the sales. For the big guys like Sony, Olympus, Nikon and Canon, the sales numbers for niche cameras will kill the line. For a little shop like us, we can find customers, but, keep in mind that we convert cameras to IR-Only 590nm, 630nm, 660nm, 715nm and 830nm; to High Resolution (no OLPF), UV-Only, monochrome, UV-VIS-IR, vegetation stress and more. And cameras are only one part of what we do which includes specialized cameras filters, phosphors, lights and inks.


Let’s get back to your conversions. What you do sounds very complex and time consuming. How long does it typically take to convert a sensor to monochrome?

That depends on the camera model and how well it goes. It is not uncommon to kill a sensor and have to start from scratch with a new sensor, though we are getting better with each conversion. Some sensors are harder to work with than others. We usually budget at least a day of work at this point though it can sometimes take a few days.


What is the most difficult part of the process?

Aside from the monochrome conversions, the hardest part is getting the glass that goes in the camera really clean. You can’t use optical wipes, swabs and solutions for the really small particles. Small dust is bound to the glass by electrostatic force. On really small particles, the electrostatic forces are incredibly strong. When you look at the glass under a microscope, the dust looks like the it is held by a magnet. Any time you touch the glass with anything, you leave something behind. To get the glass clean to an atomic level, you need special equipment and things like a clean room. That’s why the guy doing the conversion on the kitchen table cannot possibly do a clean conversion. In addition to that, you need to understand how the glass you put in the camera can change the focal plane of the camera not to mention how to take the camera apart.


That brings up a good point. There are a lot of “Dirty Sensor” cleaning kits out there, what’s your advice for people?

We tell our customers to never touch the glass unless absolutely necessary. Any time you touch the glass, something will be left behind. Hopefully, it is less than what you removed by touching it, but we have seen customers destroy their ICF/AA (the glass in front of the sensor) by trying to clean every spec of dust that can only be seen by shooting a white field at F22 and inspecting the picture in Photoshop. If the dust isn’t causing a problem for normal pictures, don’t create a problem for yourself by touching the sensor. Aside from ignoring the dust, the first type of cleaning should be using clean, compressed air cans being very careful not to tip the can too much. If you tip the can too far, you can get the can liquid squirting out the tip which will leave a residue that is even harder to get removed.


What about other types of cleaning?

The clean room swabs are our 2nd choice, but this always leaves little bits of the swab on the sensor. Liquid cleaning is the last option because this has the potential to cause big problems. When you have a solvent on the sensor, that solvent is never 100% pure. That means that when it evaporates, something will be left on the sensor. We have tested lab grade 9.99999% solvents (known as 5 nines), and even that leaves a visible line where it evaporates last.


That’s amazing, and scary at the same time. I don’t think I want to open up my camera any more. While you are doing a conversion, is there anything else you do to check on how it’s going or potentially change on the sensor?

We can also do things like measure the camera’s spectral response and quantum efficiency which helps us understand exactly how the camera’s sensor sees various light frequencies so that we can design some very specific products.


Does the size of the sensor have any effect on how long or complex the conversion is?

The bigger sensors have more surface area so they take more work. Some cameras are really complex to take apart. When we take some cameras apart, you end up with over a 100 small parts on the workbench. Other cameras are more straightforward.


As of this writing, you only sell converted Canon’s in monochrome. Are there plans for other camera’s like Nikon, or Sony?

We have converted Nikon cameras to black and white, but the biggest issue with them is removing the sensor cover glass which is epoxied to the sensor without damaging the sensor. While we have converted the Nikon cameras successfully, we still have a high enough failure rate that we aren’t ready to release them for sale. We have had inquiries to convert Sony and 4/3 cameras. We will eventually try some other brands, but, for some brands, the manufacturers won’t sell the sensors we need for R&D, so we have to buy older cameras to salvage the sensors.


Ha-ha. Well, if you ever want to try a Sony DSLR conversion, I have an A100 that would love to be converted! I love the idea of a true black and white digital camera and the Leica Monocrom intrigues me that it is on the market. Do you think we’ll see more mainstream monochrome cameras?

Most people would just as soon convert to black and white in Photoshop rather than having a dedicated monochrome camera. Not many understand the difference between a monochrome camera versus converted a color picture to monochrome in post. A limited range of hardcore black and white photographers and scientists understand the advantage of a monochrome camera, but I don’t think it will ever be mainstream.

That is very true. I’ve seen a lot of conversations on this subject and either people don’t understand the reason for a black and white image at all, or they don’t understand, nor care about why a true monochrome camera would be better for black and white.

What amazes me about what MaxMax does, is that for around $1,900, you can get a Canon T2i that will shoot better than a higher end Canon that shoots color, and if you look at the examples, with the removal of the Bayer Array, the sensor has “grain” and looks more like film than any converted color images.

I see guys throw down the same amount for a lens, so the idea of a dedicated black and white shooter isn’t out of the realm of reason for a lot of monochrome lovers. If I was a Canon shooter, I would have one of these cameras, but since I’ve invested in Sony/Minolta, I just can’t justify a whole new system just for monochrome digital shooting, but it’s oh-so tempting for sure.


You can visit their website and read more about the black and white conversion and what it does, view sample photos and even download some RAW versions to play with yourself. I highly suggest you do. Check out their cameras for sale here, and let them know you heard about it on this blog!

I’d like to thank Dan for taking the time to answer my questions, and shedding some light on something that black and white film photographers take for granted.

Jun 142012

19 Used Leica Buys including many Lenses!

Hey! Just realized there are many more Leica used buys over at the used section at B&H Photo, Dale Photo and PopFlash including a 50 Summicron! Check out the list of what is available below!

LEICA M9-P CHROME – In box, 9 condition WITH Hand Grip included! $7199

LEICA M9 – STEEL GREY – 10 condition as new in box – $6599

LEICA 28 SUMMICRON F/2 LENS – 9+ condition in box $3699

LEICA 24 Elmarit  – 9+ – with box and hood – $3449

Leica M8.2 – 8 Condition – $2899

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

Leica 50 Summicron f/2 (latest version) – 8+ – $1599

Leica M6 TTL – Black  – 9 CONDITION – $1699

Leica X1 – Black – In Box – 8+ – $1399

Leixa X1 – Steel Grey  – In Box – 8+ – $1299

LEICA 40 SUMMICRON F/2 – 8+ with hood – $774.95

Leica 35 Summicron ASPH – BLACK $2600 – – CHROME – $2700

Leica 90 Elmar f/4 – $200

Leica 75 Summarit – $1400

Leica 90 Summarit – $1300

Another used chrome M9-P for under $7300

Black M9 – $6197

Leica 24 Summilux  – $6497

Jun 122012

JUST GO SHOOT! By Aaron Hardin

Steve, I’ve been a Leica shooter for a few years now and have used an M4-P and Voigtlander 35mm exclusively for one of my projects over the past 2 years. It would be nice to have an M9, but you can buy a TON of Tri-X for that kind of money (not to mention a few plane tickets). The following project called “Abyssinia” is a long-term project I’m working on in Ethiopia (primarily in and around Addis Abeba).

Though travelling internationally with film can be a real pain in the neck, I’ve managed to make it through without much hassle. I really wanted to shoot the project with all Tri-X due to the beautiful texture and longevity of its aesthetic. I also like T-Max 100 from time to time.

Now that the gear stuff is out-of-the-way, I wanted to encourage those frequenters of your site to GO SHOOT! I’ve spent countless hours researching gear, looking forward to the next big thing or pining over cameras far out of my price range (read “M9”). But what does it all matter if you aren’t going to take that little machine and produce something with it. We all have a voice and an eye and often times something to say. So don’t be afraid to MAKE A PHOTO.

I had many peers that thought I was crazy to fly halfway across the world with just a camera, lens, light meter and bag of black and white film. No digital camera. No color film. No excuses. We forget that Cartier-Bresson likely used the same body for many years and maybe 2 lenses for his whole career… and he changed photography forever.

Keep clicking,

Aaron Hardin


Jun 112012

Video: The Leica X2 Ever Ready Case – $200 but where is the EVF/OVF holder?

So I had a Leica X2 Ever Ready case pop in my house today. You know, the nice full leather luxurious brown one you see advertised sitting next to the new X2? Looks nice huh? I remember the case they sold with the X1, the grey one. That thing was awful. Hard, horrible fit, bad choice of color. Not sure who designed  that one but there were much better 3rd party choices for the X1 when it came to cases.

This new X2 case was advertised on a few websites as coming with an External EVF holder that attached to the strap, but mine did NOT come with one. You kind of need something like  this if you use any kind of VF with the X2 because you can not put the camera in the case and close it with the EVF or OVF on the cameras shoe.

When I researched the case on Leica’s own site I did not see any mention or picture of any kind of case for  the viewfinder. So, it may be a mistake that some stores (even Amazon has it listed as coming with a VF case) have listed for some reason. Either way it seems like an oversight as many will be using this new feature of the camera, using an EVF or the classic OVF. So this case can not really be used if you do like to have a VF to look through, unless you want to keep the $550 Leica EVF in your pocket.

But how is the case and fit?

The actual quality of this case is GORGEOUS. Not only is the leather quality outstanding this time around, the fit is nice. It’s not a tight fit by any means but it is also not all loose and wobbly. It fits about right. The case is an “ever ready” case and will hold and protect your X2 completely. Meaning, it covers the back and front of the camera. If you want to shoot with the X2 you un-snap the bottom and the front flaps over letting you shoot. One thing to note is that you can NOT use this as a half case as the front does NOT come off. I thought it would, which would have been cool…but it doest as the front flap is sewn into the bottom half.

The strap it comes with is nice and soft but for me a little on the short side. Leica should have made it a little longer because if you wear this around your body it is a few inches too short, and if you are tall then it will be even shorter on you. Other than the lack of a place to store your viewfinder and the short strap this is a lovely case. Made very well with high quality leather, nice fit, nice color, very classic looking and it protects your X2 fully. This would be a great case to store your camera in more than anything as using the camera with the case on is a little cumbersome. But that is just a nitpick. Only you can decide if $200 is with it to spend on this bad boy. It looks the part, feels the part and even smells the part.

This case is available from all of my recommended dealers:

Ken Hansen – E-Mail only at [email protected] – he can wheel and deal :)

Pop Flashhttp://www.popflash.com  – beware description here also says comes with VF holder and even says it works with grip (it does not). $187

Dale Photo – They have the case HERE at $190 and free shipping as well.

and of course B&H carries the case and you can see their stock status HERE – $199

FINALLY, Amazon has these and they are prime eligible. – $199-$209

Leica also sells a black half case and D-Lux style case for the X2. The black half case is the only one really compatible with the EVF/OVF unless you want to continually remove it and put it back on. 

Jun 102012

For those who were waiting..the new comparison – Leica X2 and X100!

As you have seen in my last post I found that a new Leica X2 that was sent to me with the official Version 1 firmware seemed to be much sharper than the one I had for review (the one Leica sent as a review loaner) which had a previous Firmware version on it, which was obviously not final. After more boring test shots today it is clear that there is some kind of issue with the review sample X2 as the new one I have received is much sharper. It does not seem possible that a firmware revision would have any effect on focus or lens quality so either this review sample has an issue or was dropped or just was not right out of the factory.

I took a new test shot today just to see if each X2 would perform the same. Both were set at f/4, ISO 100, 1/500s. So same settings, same model camera. But as you can clearly see, the new one did much better. I also threw in a crop from the Fuji X100 (f/4 – ISO 200 – 1/900s) for those who are interested. You can clearly see the color difference as well. These were converted from RAW with ACR.

Ok this is the test shot. Below the image you will see the crops from each camera. 

100% crop #1 – from the new X2 with version 1.0 firmware

100% crop #2 – from the review sample X2 with pre-production firmware – It appears to be out of focus but the camera confirmed and locked focus and the shot was taken three times. Same result.

100% crop #2 – From the Fuji X100

So there you go. The Leica X2 is sharper than I had previously thought simply due to the fact that the review sample was not focusing correctly or had some issue with the lens assembly. Results look to be on par with the old X1 but of course with more megapixels and better low light and high ISO performance. After shooting both the X2 seems a little quicker to AF than the Fuji X100. It’s close though. Below are a couple of more test shots to show how sharp the X2 really is. I updated some sections of the X2 review as well. Thanks to all for reading!

and one with some PP – converted with Alien Skin Exposure

Jun 092012

A tale of two Leica X2 cameras

(This one is for you Betty) :)

Hey guys! Happy weekend, it is Saturday and I plan on relaxing some today but just so happened a package was delivered to me today thanks to the speedy shipping of Leica dealer Mr. Ken Hansen. What was in the box? A new black Leica X2 and with newer firmware than what was on the review sample Leica sent me (The review sample seemed to have some sort of prototype firmware, which I did not realize until last week). In any case I snapped off a few shots out in my yard and not only does this new X2 seems “snappier” than the other one it also seems a little sharper AND is giving me different AWB results which means different color and not as “warm” as what I was getting from the 1st. Not sure if its sample variation or if it is the firmware.

So I will test this one out further and if it does indeed give better performance than the review sample I had I will do another comparison  – this time with the old X2 and the X100 again so we have all three. I will also update my X2 review if this is the case.

UPDATE: One quick sample with both. f/2.8, 1/200s, ISO 100 on both – either the review sample is not focusing correctly (though it confirmed focus) or it is not as sharp..and I think that it is not focusing correctly 100% of the time. Remember, the review sample did not have final firmware.

One quick test for sharpness wide open with the new X2 and Firmware 1.0  – click it for larger and full crop – it is SHARP. The sharpest result yet from the X2 for me.


and a self portrait wide open  – click to see the sharpness

and check out how sharp this is (click it to see this test shot)

ENJOY THE WEEKEND! It’s a hot one here in Phoenix again!

**Oh, and in case you are wondering..no, I was not aware that the FW of the original review sample X2 was not final as I was told by Leica that this was a factory fresh ready to go X2 and that I could even purchase it if I wanted. So I assumed this was it, ready to roll until I spoke with Sean Reid a few days ago who told me that FW I had was not a final FW. 

See my FINAL comparison HERE

Jun 082012

The M3… for kids’ sports?

Hi Steve,

Last year, I wrote a short article for your site called “The Leica M9… for sports?” .

This year, I’m still photographing my kids’ sports activities with an M9, but two weeks ago I decided to take my M3 instead.

I did it for a couple of reasons: Firstly, I just like the look of film. Secondly, I thought it would be fun.

Well, 3 rolls of Tri-X 400 later, I ended up with some keepers. Actually, I ended up with a whole bunch of keepers, and I’m sharing a few here.

Incidentally, if any of your readers are interested in learning about how I process my B&W film, they can read about it here.


Peter | Prosophos


Jun 082012

Leica X2 and Fuji X100 side by side one more time…

Since I have done a few comparisons lately with the X100 and X2 I still have gotten several emails asking for more. Again, what you will see in the images below is NOT scientific but I had both cameras slung around me and shot the same image with each camera keeping the same ISO and aperture, letting the CAMERA choose exposure. As always it seems the Fuji can tend to overexpose at times. It seems the big question in my mailbox this week is “Which should I buy”…

Well, I can not answer that question for you but I can tell you a few facts about each camera that may help you decide.

The Fuji X100

Nice size. Not too small, not too big. Nice feel in the hand.

Faster lens at f/2 but wide open it is somewhat soft and lower contrast – pin sharp by f/4

EVF/OVF is fantastic, but I mainly use the EVF as it is accurate – WYSIWYG

AF is faster  than it used to be but still can be a little sluggish compared to newer cameras. Still not an action shooting camera and have had some misses with AF.

Low light and high ISO is about on par with the X2

Colors out of camera can be on the cooler side of neutral at times

Camera is silent in operation if you turn off all sounds

There is some lens barrel distortion

Camera tends to overexpose, so dial back on the Exposure Compensation

Battery life is average

Lens is prone to flare (which can yield creative results if shot into the sun)

Not really a pocketable camera

Macro capability

$1199 Silver – $1699 for the Black kit with accessories

The Leica X2

Nice construction, quality feel

Improved dials are now stiffer

No real distortion from the lens

Warm colors, higher contrast

Sharp at 2.8 but sharper as you stop down

More prone to hand shake than the X100 at same shutter speed

High ISO is great, same as X100

Has the Leica IQ and feel

EVF is extra but swivels so more versatile than a standard EVF

LCD is low res

Simple and Basic. Just about photography.

Made in Germany Leica by Leica

AF is as fast as X100 is now but spot on accurate every time

Can fit in a jacket pocket easily, more compact than an X100

No real flare from the lens

No close focusing capabilities

$1995 for Black or Silver

Basically both are great and can give you great results if you know what you are doing with them. The Leica will have a more pleasing color and higher contrast where the Fuji can have somewhat flat files right out of camera. Both of these cameras will give you a different vibe and feel from most other mirror less cameras. Truth be told, I really like both of these. Problem is, both are 35mm equivalent. The Fuji has the VF and classic RF styling and the Leica has the more modern-day Leica style and more pleasing color and contrast. Both have the same high ISO capabilities and AF speed (just about) and both are capable of superb results. What it comes down to is do you want to pay extra for the Leica or do you prefer the Fuji? Only you can decide :) Below are some more side by sides though, and most are full size so you must click them to see them.



I prefer the Leica rendering of the colors and light in the 1st example. The X100 here looks a little more flat and has a color cast. Both from RAW with zero mods – no sharpening, etc.

This next set you can see the Fuji did overexpose. This is important to know because when you go out with the Fuji you will at times need to take back the EV dial. If you do not you will get an overexposure in certain situations. Both of these are RAW conversions without any modification or sharpening added. I prefer the X2 rendering here again, but they are so close.

Notice the lights on the 1st X2 shot…or UNDER the lights – I prefer the X100 here due to the way the X2 is drawing the light..

Not there on the X100 shot

and a straight from camera ISO 3200 shot from each – both in camera B&W – BOTH JPEG and both set to a HIVGH CONTRAST B&W mode. Seems like the Leica puts out a higher contrast which is why the truck is darker. It is not due to less DR. With that said, I prefer the look of the X2 here again – Look at the back wall and ground. I see more detail in the X2. 

So there you go. Identical snap shots taken with each camera in the same lighting and moment using the same ISO and aperture. The experience shooting both was good and each camera focused just as quickly as the other. The X2 really is accurate with focusing. Since some have questioned my statement of the X2 seemingly (in my experience, with this body) needing faster shutter speeds to get steady shots I have went ahead and ordered a black X2 setup for my personal extended testing and use. The new one coming has the latest firmware and the one I tested here does not. So to be 100% fair and for you, the readers (well, and me of course) I will not be shooting the X2 and X100 as well as my OM-D and M over the next few months so I can get an extended use feel for each of them. At this point I can not say which I prefer as both do a great job. Sometimes I prefer a shot from the X2 and others the X100.

So always check back to the site for more and again, thanks for reading.

Jun 072012

The Leica X2 and all accessories are IN STOCK!

The Leica X2 and all accessories are NOW IN STOCK at the following dealers: 

Dale Photo – Black X2Silver X2Full CaseEVF

Ken Hansen has it ALL – just e-mail him at [email protected] – tell him I sent ya!

B&H Photo has the EVF showing IN STOCK as well as the Brown Full case

Popflash may have the silver in stock as well.

BTW, It seems that the Silver is in limited supply at most dealers and is the hottest seller.

Here are a few more X2 images taken recently if you want to see more from the camera. Also, the review is HERE.

Here is an out of camera JPEG shot in High Contrast B&W mode

and a full size out of camera file shot in B&W mode (High Contrast)

Jun 062012

Fun Comparison: Olympus OM-D with Leica Noctilux and Nikon 50/1.2 AIS

by Brad Husick

Now that I am learning to use my new OM-D and enjoying the process, I thought it would be fun to mount some super-fast 50mm lenses and see the results. The two lenses I own in this category are the legendary Leica 50mm f/0.95 ASPH Noctilux ($12,500) and the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS ($695). Both are manual focus lenses. The Nikon has been produced for decades and uses no aspheric glass elements so Nikon has been able to keep the price low for this amazing lens. The Leica 0.95 may represent the state of the art in fast lens design and costs more than most used cars, and about the same number of (nominal) dollars that my parents’ first home cost in the 1950’s.

I think both lenses are capable of some amazing photos. The Noctilux is magical at the widest aperture and quickly sharpens as you stop down. I think its performance is equal to the Leica 50mm f/1.4 ASPH Summilux from f/1.4 to f/16. The Noctilux weighs in at 28 ounces while the Nikon weighs half that amount.

Both lenses were shot at their widest aperture, so this is intended to show what each is capable of producing, rather than a direct comparison of their performance at a given f-stop. I like to shoot these lenses wide open, so that’s the test I performed. I have no doubt that the Noctilux will outperform the Nikon at any given aperture, but you don’t need an advanced degree to guess that. You can buy the Nikon and give one to each of your seventeen best friends for the cost of the Leica.

All the photos were shot in RAW then opened and saved in Lightroom. No adjustments were made except for resizing.

Enjoy the images, and thank you to Starbucks for allowing me to shoot when Seattle is giving us typical June weather (rain!)

click these for the full size crops at 800 pixels wide (shown here at 680)

Jun 052012

Great cheap goodies for your lenses – Soft micro lens pouch is a GREAT buy.

I had to let you guys know about these as my buddy Todd makes and sells these and I have been using them for the past month or so and LOVE them. They are called the “Micro Lens Pouch” and are made for smaller camera systems and the lenses that we pay so dearly for. The is a great way to protect your glass and offers much more protection than just throwing them in a bag. I have the 3 pack here and the small fits a Leica summarit or summicron type of lens, the medium fits my Panasonic 25 1.4 or equivalent size and the large even fit a Leica Noctilux. The lenses are super soft with great cushion and protection. The great thing is you can buy all three for $29.95 and they are sold at Amazon, and shipped by Amazon.

While Todd makes and sells these I am not writing this because I know him or because he paid me (he did not). I am writing about them because I feel they are truly a great buy. Ive been using them almost daily for a while now and they have held up well for me and even helped protect my little 50 Summarit when I dropped it out of my bag.

You can buy each size separately or the get the three pack of various sizes for $29.95

The three pack can be found Here on Amazon

You can also just buy the Small, Medium, or Large for just over $10 each. Highly recommended!

Also available in a 2-Pack, small and medium!

BTW, I might as well add a plug for the 2012 Photo Cruise since the guy who makes these pouches is also going to be joining us ! I still have a few cabins remaining and if anyone is interested I need to know before July 1st! Check out the cruise page here, but imagine a full week on the seas and photography at every stop! Of course guests are welcome and can participate in all shooting! Will be a blast and free lens pouches for all :)

and…Don’t miss the street strap!

The street strap is also a very cool strap that I have attached to my new black Fuji X100 and it is a black cloth strap that looks similar to the A&A Silk cord strap, but this is not silk and it is longer so you can wear it around you. This is also on Amazon and shipped by Amazon so no dealing with 3rd party vendors. I like this strap and I also like my Barton strap and A&A strap! Just like with bags and cameras, all personal preference. But if you have been wanting a nice black strap that is comfy and long enough to strap around your body when carrying your camera this one is great. You can check it out on Amazon HERE.

Jun 042012

UPDATE: That X100 still rocks!

NOTE: I have had no less than 30 emails this morning asking what strap I had on the X100. Well, here it is on Amazon! It’s called a “street strap” and it is comfortable, soft and looks amazingly like the A&A silk strap at a much lower cost. It is also longer than the A&A so easily worn around your body. 

Wow. After many months of NOT owning or shooting with a Fuji X100 and then picking one back up again I remember why I fell in love with it in the 1st place. I am now the proud owner of a Black Fuji X100 and after just a couple of days of shooting with it, and the latest firmware, I enjoy it much more than I did back when it was released, and I loved it then too! Now, many of you know I love Leica. I have been labeled a Leica “fanboy” by many and I always said that if really loving a camera system makes me a fanboy then so be it! I simply love the Leica M9 and consider it one of those rare digital cameras that will go down in history as a classic. The words “Digital” and “Classic” are indeed rare and a couple of other cameras I can think of that are now digital classics in my book are the Leica Digilux 2 and even the old original Olympus E1.

The Fuji X100 at f/2 – With some basic adjustments in the RAW processing. This little camera is impressive. Click it for larger.

So while I love and adore Leica cameras, what they stand for (or maybe what they used to stand for) and their quality, the fact is that I am also open to other camera systems. Always have been. The only problem is that there has not been much that could sway me from Leica until just recently. When I say “sway me from Leica” I do not mean I would stop shooting Leica, I just mean that there has not been any other camera that would make me set the Leica down more often than not. While there are cameras that out spec Leica cameras by far, say what you will, Leica does indeed have a quality and charm that is unique to them. Some see it clearly and some do not but when you work with digital files daily from almost every digital camera your eyes sort of become “trained” to spot the differences. With Leica there is a smooth sharpness and color that other cameras haven’t really matched. But I feel it is in the lenses they make much more so than the bodies.

For example, the Leica X2 is really good in the IQ department but I think it is mainly due to the 24 Elmarit lens Leica have created for it. So yes, the X2 is fantastic in the IQ department, especially when it comes to shooting PEOPLE. But the X2 is lacking in other areas like overall speed, crappy LCD, no built-in EVF, etc. The fact that it is $2000 in todays competitive market means it may be a tough sell for Leica, especially when the X100 is still $1199 and in some cases, a bit less. But one thing to remember and ask yourself is that would you expect Leica to sell the X2, a made in Germany REAL Leica for less than that? No, not really. That would not be so “Leica Like” of them now would it?

So with the cost of the X1 and X2, many have went to the X100 from Fuji, which when launched promised to be “the professionals choice’. It was hyped and hyped and hyped even more and when it was shipped many were frustrated with the laggy menu system, the slow AF and buggy performance. I still really loved the X100 because the output was beautiful, though different than the X1 I had at the time. Eventually I sold the X100 and X1 because they were just too slow for real use. I became frustrated with missing shots, much like I did with the new X-Pro 1 and when that happens, it is time to say goodbye.

So fast forward to  now, June 2012. Fuji have been releasing firmware updates to the X100 to improve its speed, functionality and overall snappiness. Everyone was telling me how great it was so I caved and as I stated at the beginning of this article, I now own one in black. Bottom Line? With the new firmware it is like a new camera, and the black? Gorgeous. So after a day of shooting at the park with the X100, X2 and OM-D I can safely say that the X100 still rocks :)

X100 – f/2.8  – this is one of those cameras that give out a really nice vibe

Decisions Decisions…

Over the past few days I have had many emailing me and asking what camera is better…The Fuji X100 or the Leica X2. Well, there really is no clear answer as BOTH are really good in regards to output and quality. Which camera someone buys for their use all depends on personal preference. Which camera speaks to you the most? When you look at them, hold them or try them...which one talks to your heart? That is how you have to look at it and in the end, no matter what you choose, these days ALL cameras are really good. A new camera will not improve your skills of course but one that you can bond with and feel good about shooting will help MOTIVATE you and unlock that passion you have for it. That may be the Leica, that may be the Fuji. It may be a Canon or Nikon or Sony. Only YOU can figure it out as everyone is different.

I have to say that I have enjoyed shooting the Leica X2 but The X100 is really fantastic.

This one does have some PP – I did add some grain as well as crop – again, that Fuji flare is there

The shots you have seen here so far have all been taken with the Fuji X100 in RAW, and converted using ACR. I often get asked what PP I do to photos like these and I always say NONE..sometimes. All I do is adjust sliders in the raw processing to add contrast or lower contrast. To saturate or desaturate. To add black level or take it out. I then add some sharpening and the image that pops out is what you see here. I found the X100 files to be pretty robust and with good color, sharpness and decent DR.

But… I found the OM-D to have even better Dynamic Range than the Fuji in real world use. Take a look at the two images below:

The X100 file..this one I did do some PP on as I used the burn tool to try to calm down the blown highlight on her foot as I couldn’t get the detail back in the RAW file. Still, looks good. 

and now the OM-D file. Seems to have better DR as I had no issue with blown highlights with ANY shots I took with the Olympus yet the X100 had some and the X2 had the most. 

That damn OM-D is quickly becoming “the” camera of 2012. Pair it with one of the great lenses available (12, 25, or 45 but my fave is now the 25 1.4) and you will have a really great powerhouse DSLR quality camera, even for low light/high ISO. Even so, the Fuji and even Leica do offer a more “analogue” look.

Thank you Fuji, for the continued support and updating of the X100.

Instead of rushing out a new X200 already or even an X100.2 Fuji released firmware updates to this camera that improved on it each time, which shows me  they are great at listening to their customers. I wanted to thank Fuji for this as it has brought this camera back to my bag after giving up on it for being a bit clunky and frustrating. The X100 is still not a perfect camera but none really are (though I have yet to find a negative with the OM-D). It is a much different camera than the Olympus OM-D and for me, I am glad to own both. The Fuji for the times I want that Fuji look and a nice fast 35mm lens and the Oly for when I want speed, responsiveness, video or versatility in focal length.

Of course there is still the Leica M9 that comes out when I get serious :)

But the X100 is good for color, B&W conversions and every day photography. It is sharp as I will ever need an image to be.

The big question. The X100 or the new X2?

Again, as I have stated above this is all about personal preference. Is the X2 just as capable as the X100? Yes, of course BUT it is different. Different color signature, different in handling and use and well, no video and no hard to see in the sun LCD. It doesn’t have a VF built in and the one you can buy make the camera bulky and odd-looking. It also seems to be prone to the teeniest but of hand shake as many of the shots I snapped with the X2 of Shea (the girl in these photos) had some sort of blur or they were not sharp if the shutter speed was lower than 1/100th. I was able to get sharp images with the X100 and OM-D in the same light where the X2 was giving me unsharp images in some situations. For me, it was a joy to shoot the X100 and OM-D and the X2 was a tad slower and odd without using the EVF. It was also tough to frame in the sunlight without a VF. Other than that the IQ is stunning when you nail it and colors may be the best from the X2 which is no surprise as I preferred the X1 colors to the X100 as well. 

Overall The X100 has a more “smooth” laid back kind of feel and the X2 has a more crisp brilliant feel but with that said, I managed more keepers with the X100 this weekend.

If you are into the whole Zen like X2 vibe, it would be the one for you. I like the X2 and wish I could afford to have one around in addition to the X100 but sadly this is not the case. For me, I found the X100 to be the better buy due to the cost and capabilities but I do really see a different look with the Leica in the X2 files. Like I said in my X2 review, as long as you know what you are getting when you buy it and do not mind the cost then the X2 is great. You can clearly see the difference in the X2 look below and the flare in the X100 :)

One from theX100 and the  X2 – each looks different and the X100 flare is actually beautiful in some situations. Both at f/2.8.

So yes, even today, a year after it was released..I can recommend the X100. 

The X100 is better today than it was a year ago when Fuji released it. That 1st version of the firmware at release was AWFUL. The menus were choppy, the AF slow and the AF missed quite a bit as well, especially with the OVF. Today 95% of the X100’s quirks have been solved with easy to implement firmware updates. So if you still have an X100 go out and shoot it. If you have been deciding on a small camera/large sensor camera to buy and have been waiting for these new released like the OM-D and X2 then I can say ANY of them are more than capable of delivering results that are better than mostly all of us can achieve.

The Leica, The Fuji and the Olympus are all image quality monsters. Go with your heart :)

A few more random shots with the X100…

ISO 3200 – X100 – f/2

and yours truly at iso 200 in the mirror :)

Jun 022012

Comparison Re-Do – Leica X2, Fuji X100, Olympus E-M5 and Sony NEX-7

Ok guys here you go. A bandwidth busting set of full size images from four different hot mirrorless cameras. This time the cameras were all set on a solid surface before shooting so there is zero chance of hand shake or motion blur. You can click on any image for a full size file converted from RAW. Things to note. All cameras were set at f/4. All cameras used their own metering to expose and meter the scene. I converted from RAW and applied ZERO sharpening and changed nothing, so what you see if what came from each camera as covered by Adobe Camera Raw. Also, this was in full, harsh, mid day AZ sun. The light did not change during this 5-10 minute test.

To be honest, the fastest focusing camera here is the E-M5. This is followed by the X100 and X2 which are tied for AF speed and the NEX-7 is the slowest of the bunch for AF (with the Zeiss 24) though it is still very good. All cameras have fast and acceptable AF. Take a look at the files below and leave a comment with your thoughts.


OK, 1st the Leica X2 – base ISO –  No possibility of camera shake – f/4. Price as tested – $1995

Now the Fuji X100 at f/4 – base ISO – Price $1199 for silver$1699 for black set

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Olympus 17 2.8 – Base ISO – F/4 – Price as tested $1299

Sony NEX-7 and Zeiss 24 – Base ISO – f/4 – Price as tested – $2300

Jun 022012

Some fun low light shooting with the Fuji X100, Olympus E-M5 and Leica X2

Here I am, wide awake. It’s early Saturday morning, around 2AM. I have been up at my computer for the last 2 hours checking out some photos I shot last night in Phoenix at “first friday”. I drove down there to see if there would be any cool photo opps and to test out the Black X100 , OM-D and Leica X2 in low light, night-time situations. Mainly I wanted to see how the AF did with all cameras in challenging situations so why not? I had nothing else to do and it WAS Friday!

My 1st shot of the night was with the X100 and I did not nail the exposure perfectly but it came out nicely anyway. The camera focused FAST..much faster than it did when I reviewed it long ago. The new firmware did indeed fix a few things like AF speed, menu speed, and overall gave it a snappy feel. I am impressed with what Fuji has been able to do. Click image for larger. It was shot at ISO 1600.

If you saw my post from yesterday you would have seen I had a black Fuji X100 kit arrive to my house. Yes, I caved and bought one after dwelling on it for months. With all of the talk of the new firmware greatly enhancing the speed I had to give it a shot. I also wanted to see how it did side by side with the Leica X2 and seeing that the X2 is brand spanking new I figured it would trounce the X100, but that was not the case. But in reality, the X2 focused amazingly well in the dark. MUCH better than the X1 but IMO it still did not beat the X100. They are about equal in IQ (with the Fuji possibly taking the lead) but the X2 did impress me with its new-found speed and high ISO performance. ISO 3200 wasn’t a problem, even in low light. It is indeed a nice improvement to the X1 in regards to AF speed and high ISO performance when using it for taking photos :)

The X2 at ISO 3200

As I sat here at my desk and reviewed the photos I shot I was amazed at how far these small cameras have come. It has gotten to the point now where you can literally take a small and light camera like and X2 or X100 with you anywhere and anytime and get AMAZING results, even at night. Fast AF, great low noise performance and overall amazing designs. I applaud both of these cameras for night low light use. I did prefer using the VF on the X100 though and felt a bit odd holding the X2 out (did not bring the EVF) at arm’s length.

Another ISO 1600 X100 shot. I focused on the barrel in front so she would be out of focus with the flame in the sky. I like this one.

I was having so much fun shooting the “X” cameras that I forgot I brought along my little OM-D powerhouse. On the camera was the Panasonic 25 1.4 and I have to tell you, this combo seems like they were made for each other. Fast AF, no rattlesnake noises and superb sharpness/bokeh, even when wide open.

OM-D E-M5 ISO 640 with 25 1.4 at 1.4 and then 6400! – click for larger

even adding noise to this ISO 1600 image looks great. BTW, this is the girl who was breathing fire in the images above..

and ISO 6400 on the little Olympus? No problem..the next 4 images were all shot at ISO 6400 on the E-M5. No way the E-P3 could have pulled this ISO off. Also,  THIS WAS the fastest focusing setup of the night.

So while I only shot about 30 shots in all, I had fun with all three cameras because they all performed without fail. They all focused quickly and gave me great results and they all have their own kind of user experience and file quality. Yes, I have been talking quite a bit about these cameras lately but I believe in not only talking about my experiences but also showing images from my experiences so you guys can see what comes out of these new cameras.

Take your pic. They are all good and yes, It’s a good time to be into photography. :)

In case you missed them, you can see see my original reviews of the Fuji X100, Olympus OM-D and Leica X2

OM-D at ISO 1250

X2 at ISO 320

X100 at ISO 1600


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