Feb 172012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb 172012

The Leica M9 for Fashion by Simon Lipman

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

Simon’s Website

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

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

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

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

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

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


Feb 162012

Unloading the Baggage

By Eric Carlson

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

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

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

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

Eric Carlson

Feb 152012

My Favorite Camera Strap!

The Leather Braided Barton Strap 

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

You would think that a strap like this would set you back over $100. With the Artisan & Artist straps fetching well over $100 and more for their silk straps and about $70 for their really good cloth straps (my fave in the A&A line, and they are here) this hand braided leather strap comes in at $79 SHIPPED. Yep, shipped. You can browse the straps at barton1972.com and they come in several colors. Red, brown, blue/grey, black, etc.

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

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

Feb 132012


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

John’s Blog: http://therollingroad.blogspot.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Shingleton


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

Feb 102012

USER REPORT: The Sony Nex-7 with Zeiss ZM lenses.

By Dirk De Paepe 

Hello Steve,

First of all, I’m not a photographer. I’m a publisher (living in Belgium, so pardon my English language mistakes) of a trade magazine for the music business (that’s really a niche market). Besides that, I’m a photography enthusiast for more than 50 years, since my late father (who was nothing more than an enthusiast himself) learned me how to shoot with a Zeiss Ikon. Beside that, I never had any photography education what so ever. My education was music, and maybe (I hope) I got a sense of aesthetics from there.

Because I wrote some comments to some articles on your website before, maybe you know that I love your site very much, because of your real life and “human” approach that really appeals to me.

The reason why I write you this time is double. First of all, I use the Sony Nex-7 (one of the most anticipated camera’s of the last year) now for quite some time, since December 30 to be precise. And I think that I’m probably (one of) the prototype(s) of the Nex-7 user: a real enthusiast who wants to enjoy shooting pictures as much as possible.

Second reason is that I’m also a huge Carl Zeiss fan. And with the Novoflex adaptor, I can use my ZM lenses on the NEX-7 body. I use three lenses: the Biogon 2,8/28 ZM, the Planar 2/50 ZM and the Tele-Tessar 4/85 ZM. When I bought my previous camera, a NEX-5, it came with the Sony E 3.5-6.3/18-200 OSS. I’m keeping this lens, because of its 200mm capability, but I have to say that up till now, I never felt the need to use it, because I find shooting with the Zeiss glass to be so much more fun!

Why am I not a Leica fan? Well, in fact I am, but more in the sence that the Leica M9-P is my dream camera. But it’s simply to expensive for my kind of use. It’s simply not justifiable. So I guess it will remain a dream. But hey, isn’t it nice to have a dream?!!

In my opinion a photography enthusiast is somebody who’s not taking pictures as a profession (although in my job I regularly use my own pictures), as such he doesn’t take as many pictures as a pro, but he nevertheless tries to use his equipment to the fullest and is always looking for the best possible shot. So he’s definitely not a point and shoot photographer. We both now that many of your site visitors are enthusiasts, so what I write about my NEX-7/Zeiss ZM experience is probably very relevant to many of them. When I look at the “Daily Inspiration” publications on your site, sometimes I see pictures that really “Waw!” me. They are shot by great pro photographers, who can do things with their camera that I simply can’t. Maybe they shoot in better light circumstances, most likely they know better how to process the image afterwords and surely they use different material (the Leica M9 sensor for instance is clearly superior to the NEX’s). Not to forget that they developed “a better eye” than most enthusiast ever will. So many of your site visitors will, like me, never be able to reach that level. The more relevant I guess it is, to see what an average, but nevertheless serious enthusiast can realize with this material.

I know you did some testing of the NEX-7 with Leica glass, but honestly, I don’t think that this combination is really relevant for enthusiasts. When I’d want to spend that kind of money for my lenses, I wouldn’t doubt for a second to by an M9. But I simply can’t justify to spend Leica kind of money for my “on the road” camera. Nevertheless the idea is good: the NEX body can easily work with M-mount lenses. To me it’s almost as if the NEX-7 was conceived to be used with M-mount glass. And luckily there are other brands then Leica that make this glass for a considerably lower cost. Amongst them, Zeiss has always been my favorite, being of the same brand as that fabulous first camera of mine, a Zeis Ikon Ikonta C, that shot so unbelievably sharp on 90x60mm film, although it had no light meter, and no focus system what so ever. But it learned you right away what the technique of photographing was really all about… :-)

From a budget point of view the combination of NEX-7 with Zeiss ZM lenses is about the best one can get. And I know that in some circumstances there is a magenta color shift on the NEX-7 with M-mount glass. But really, when I consider that I just took shots as always, I must say that as far as now, it has never bothered me. And I even shot the Biogon wide open sometimes. But, probably like many enthusiasts, I don’t ALWAYS shote wide open. I recently visited the NAMM show, a big music trade show in Anaheim, CA, for my job and took quite some pictures there for our publication and just for fun. (Unfortunately the skies were grey during our visit.) When I shoot the exposition booth of our clients, it’s important that one can see as much as possible, so the DOF must be as large as possible. Also when I want to give a general impression of the fair, I think one must see as much as possible. In those pictures, my goal is probably different of yours. When I want to paint the atmosphere – I don’t want to focus on only one particular detail, but I need to show everything that’s going on there. This is important for our readers and our clients as well. Coming from that background, I always have been oriented towards an as large as possible DOF, with as much as possible detail. And that’s where the Zeiss lenses (in my opinion) outshine.

It’s only since buying the NEX-7 and finding the SteveHuffPhoto website, that I also targeted towards shallow DOF and that I tried to achieve this very beautiful 3D effect, just for fun. How come? Well it’s undoubtedly thanks to the NEX-7/Zeiss combination. To me the camera size and weight is perfect. I can have it around my neck permanently, without being bothered by it in the slightest way. Yet it’s just a little bit bigger than the NEX-5, that a found just too small to be practical. And of course the wonderful view finder (I NEVER AGAIN want to shoot with a camera without view finder!) and the extra control knobs make it such a tremendous joy to work with. I have never shot that much pictures just for fun! I can do everything manually again, but now in a very easy and smooth way. And this brings me the real joy of photographing.

You know, I’m an enthusiast. My goal is not to shoot “The Picture of The Year”. My goal is to enjoy shooting pictures, and at the same time trying to take nice pictures and to continue improving. The NEX-7 gave me already so much more inspiration and ideas to improve my photographic skills, mainly about where to look at while focussing, and how to do this fast. I believe that if one is really trained in manual focussing, he will focus almost as fast as an automatic focussing system, surely when using the ingenious focus peaking, and a good lens like the Zeiss ZM. The focus peaking allows you to immediately and purposefully focus on any point in the view finder. In my opinion (correct me if I’m wrong) this beats any automatic focussing system – surely in joy of use (and remember, that’s my #1 motivation!). To me this opened a new world. Where I used to really take time for every shot, thinking about DOF, pointing, focussing, holding the release knob half ways and reframing, I now enjoy instant shooting, but still framing and focussing in the best possible way. Only now I can do this instantly. What a joy! Many of you will think that it’s pretty remarkable that I only begin to shoot in this way in my late fifties, but hey, I’m just an enthusiast! Of course, shallow depth of field is something I’ve known for whole my life. But I never achieved it in my pictures so much until recently. Nevertheless, I don’t get why anyone would ALWAYS want to achieve THE MOST shallow DOF possible. Sometimes, like in my waitress picture, I want it to be 3D with a shallow background, but I believe it’s better for the atmosphere of the picture to still have some notice of the surroundings, instead off just having some light stains “to make a nice bouquet”.

Do I have other remarks on the NEX-7? Yes. Well, everybody must communicate to Sony that in a future software update, they must provide that the camera can stay in standby while hanging around your neck. “Waking it up” by touching the release knob seems a good idea to me. When I’m out to take fast shots, I’d want it in the on-position all the time. Now this drains the battery in a few hours time. (I measured around 3.5 hours, but maybe that depends on the light circumstances.) Luckily, the battery is small and I have three of them, thanks to my NEX-5. So it’s not a big deal to me. But still…

And yes, I sometimes accidentally start filming. So I delete those. That’s about it guys, and it really doesn’t spoil my joy of using this camera. For the rest, the balance and the feel of the camera is superb. And with the ZM lenses on it, my hand just doesn’t get tired. Ever!

Do I have other remarks on the Zeiss ZM lenses? No. I’m utterly pleased by them. They are sharp, nice bouquet, great 3D, fairly lightweight (without feeling cheap), so easy to use, beautiful and offer the best quality for the money, by far. I told you, I’m a fifty year Zeiss fan. I’m probably not the most objective person, when it comes to Zeiss (after a love of 50 years, who can blame me), but you know, I’m no photography reporter, nor a professional photographer, so I think I can permit me more… :-)

Do I have special comments on the NEX-7/Zeiss ZM combination? Yes. To work with, it’s just a perfect combination. The joy of use is tremendous. Never experienced that in my 50 years of shooting! (I owned more than 10 different camera’s.) Also, the price is right. Lenses and body “play in the same league”. They seem to be meant for one another.

And then there is the magenta color shift. I can’t deny that it’s there. It is. Sometimes. Very rarely in my use. And only with the Biogon. With large aperture. But even then not always, or not noticeable. And when it appears, sometimes it’s only very slightly. Which doesn’t bother me. You know I don’t shoot wide open all the time. From the about 1000 pictures I took up till now, the magenta really bothered me only a very few times – two or maybe three, I already forgot it… Would I want to get rid of it? Sure! Will I buy another camera for it? No way!! Maybe Sony can fix it in a later software update, although I doubt it and I don’t hope for it. But if they do, I surely want the update. If the don’t I stay happy as it is.

My only real comment and regret on the NEX-7 is it not having a full frame sensor. I really would like to get rid of the cropping factor! So maybe the last camera I’ll ever buy will be a full frame NEX-10?? ;-)

I hope you still can enjoy the pictures of a non-pro, who, I’m sure, sometimes will do things that “are not done” in a professionals opinion. If you can give critic of any kind, that can improve my shooting, you are so very welcome! Besides that, I guess the pictures can be very relevant for all those enthusiasts, who want to see what quality they can expect from this NEX-7/Zeiss ZM combination for themselves. Me being one of them!

The pictures shown here are all taken out of hand, without flash, as jpg’s and often slightly processed with Photoshop Elements. I find the Shadows/Highlights function to be very effective, I sometimes somewhat skew and of course sometimes crop a little. Also I sometimes use a very small amount of Unsharp Mask. Oh yeah, also the Adjust Color for Skin Tone sometimes works very effectively. Those functions make it possible to work very fast, being designed to process photo’s and some of them are not available in the regular Photoshop. That’s why I prefer Photoshop Elements for my “normal” pictures, and Photoshop CS Extended for pictures that need to be printed in the magazine.

Have fun shooting!

Feb 092012

Pics of the Fuji X-Pro 1 with Leica M Adapter and Lens

Some pics today leaked out on a Fuji Facebook page showing off the X-Pro 1 with the Leica M adapter they are making, along with an M mount lens attached. Looks pretty slick! You can still pre-order the Fuji X-Pro 1 at B&H Photo or Amazon. Body only is $1699.





Feb 062012

Photos from the Los Angeles workshop Attendees!

Hello to all! Sorry for the delay in the updates today…I was in beautiful Sedona AZ with my fiancé for the weekend and just arrived back home. I wanted to share with everyone some photos shot by a few of the Los Angeles workshop attendees as there were some truly great images captured. This was the BEST workshop yet with amazing presentations, a great group and amazing food :) Looking forward to the next!

For those who attended who do NOT see your images here, send me an e-mail with 2-3 of your best shots.


Without further ado, here are the images!

Various images shot at the workshop..courtesy of Todd Hatakeyama

The group inside just one of the many rooms in Todd’s studio/gallery..

Jay’s presentation on Day 2

Sean Armenta giving his talk on Fashion Photography

Getting ready to photograph the model in the studio on Day 2

On the way to lunch

Actor/Comedian Jeff Garlin giving his talk on Street Photography (which had us ALL laughing) – I will be posting the video of Jeff’s talk soon!

The prize giveaway – Dave Grady won the $200 B&H Photo gift card!

Elizabeth with Andrew from SLR Magic as she tries out the Hyperprime on the Ricoh GXR (Todd shot this with the Leica Noctilux)

and one from Greg Townsend…

…and now onto the images shot on the street from all who attended the workshop. These were taken during day 3 which focused on Street Photography

Stephen Patterson using a Leica M9

Shane Phillips with his Ricoh GRD III

Jay Bartlett shooting with a Leica M8

Brent Matsuno – Nikon D3s

Dave Grady

Judd Weiss with his Sony NEX-5n and SLR Magic LM T0.95 Hyperprime

Tyson Kindstrom – Olympus E-P3

Joel Scheiner

Dawen Huang

Elizabeth Wang Lee – Leica M9

…and her GXR with SLR Magic Hyperprime T0.95 LM lens

Rinzi Ruiz – Fuji X100 and Nikon D90

Todd Hatakeyama  – Leica M9

Alexander Getty

David Valera

I will add more as I get more photos from the group!

Feb 042012

UPDATE: Lots of nonsense has been spread about this lens on the internet due to one person’s comments and one persons lens. I have never had ONE issues with this lens and I found it to be solid, well made, beautiful and to render even better than the $11k Leica Noctilux (for my tastes) all for less than half the cost. The claims that were made were uncalled for as Andrew from SLR Magic is one of the nicest guys I have met in recent years as well as one of the most helpful and generous. The SLR Magic Hyperprime is now shipping with full production versions of the lens in full production packaging. It comes with a great warranty and is a solid great performing lens. Again, my experience with it has been nothing but positive and in some cases amazing. I am not the type of guy who says “It’s only Leica for my M”  as there is tons of GREAT glass out there besides Leica. Whatever works I always say and this lens just “works”. 

Thanks again to Andrew for all he has done for everyone AND even releasing this lens which no one else had the balls to do.

The SLR Magic Hyperprime 50 LM T0.95 Lens Rolling Review…let’s get it started

With all of the hype and craziness this lens has been causing since the Los Angeles workshop I decided to start writing a rolling review for the SLR Magic Hyperprime 50 T0.95 LM lens. Basically this means I will be adding to this review, right here on this page instead of making posts every day about it. As I get new images and new thoughts I will add them here. Almost like a diary of my use with the lens over the next few months as I put it through its paces before its official release.

I am lucky to have one with me for the next few months (a black stealth edition no less) so I can test it, use it, abuse it and put it through its paces. One thing to note..this is a taste of what is to come of this lens. SLR Magic is still tweaking and improving on the lens and if I run into any issues they will fix them before going into production. They are already making a couple of improvements before shipping lenses out to the workshop attendees who agreed to be volunteers for lens testing as well. Yes, the lucky ones who were at the workshop had 1st crack :)

I already know that the image quality holds up extremely well to the $11,000 Leica Noctilux ASPH. In fact, I may prefer the rendering from this lens over the Leica, and that right there is saying a lot. Actually, now that I read that back, that is HUGE. My curiosities with the Hyperprime is to see if the build quality holds up. By the look and feel, it feels like a solid tank but you never know. Not everyone associates SLR Magic with high quality but it appears with this and their 12mm Hyperprime they have decided to go with quality, and I welcome it.

BTW, for reference you can see my Leica Noctilux ASPH review HERE that was done when the lens was first released.

If you did not see the posts I have already made about this SLR Magic lens you can see those HERE, HERE, HERE,  HERE and finally HERE.

A Brief History Of This Lens

Probably close to a year ago I heard from SLR Magic and they told me they were designing a new Leica M mount lens from the ground up. A 50mm f/0.95 lens for the Leica M mount. This was not going to be a copy of their old Hyperprime that they sell for the M4/3 mount and NEX mount. Those lenses are nice, but not “amazing” because they are soft and glowy when wide open. They are also smallish but at the same time very well built and made. Still, SLR Magic wanted to create something special that more Leica M shooters could afford. A lens much like the Leica Noctilux but at a more reasonable price.

After they mentioned their ideas they started sending me pictures of prototypes that looked great. The lens started out semi small (smaller than a Leica Noctilux ASPH) and beefy. But the images that they were happy with that they snapped with the M9 and their lens, I was not so happy with. I told them if they were going to do a lens like this, they needed to do it right. I mean, Leica users shoot with Leica for quality. We do not want to spend money on crappy or overly soft lenses. If a lens has a .95 aperture, then we want to be able to use it at that aperture! As it was at that time, the lens they were creating was really good, but it did not have any magic to it in the image quality dept. They built the lens and it was built like a tank. Solid, smooth and heavy. BUT the lens vignetted strongly and wide open it lacked sharpness and contrast. The color was a bit dull as well and I told them that I would not buy that lens for what they would have to charge for it.

They decided to go back to the drawing board, keeping me in the loop with samples, prototype images, etc. Then one day I received a couple of shots, that to me, looked pretty damn close to the $11,000 Leica. I asked them to send me a lens as soon as they could and a month or two later they did just that. When it arrived I immediately made a quick post on it as I found it very impressive. The build, the feel, the heft… it was all LEICA LIKE. It was performing scary close to the $11,000 Noctilux ASPH. Yes, the lens that has up to a year waiting list and is almost impossible to find used. If you do find one used the prices are usually jacked up to $13k. Crazy. $13,000 for a lens.

Once I saw the quality I immediately sent SLR Magic an e-mail telling them that this is a lens they should be extremely proud of. The only negatives I found with the lens was that it had some evident barrel distortion and that damn green ring on the front. I mean, the green ring looks pretty cool on my SLR Magic 12mm 1.6 for Micro 4/3 mount but on a lens of this caliber…well, it deserved a black ring! Other than that I found the lens to be pretty damn amazing even though it was one of only 6 in existence and basically still a prototype. The lens ring is even stamped with the word “concept”. With the LA Workshop approaching, Andrew from SLR Magic decided to join us and fly down with all 6 lenses. This way, you guys wouldn’t have to take my word for it but you could see what other shooters came away with who were able to shoot with the lens. If it was a bad lens, they would say so as most of these guys love their Leica lenses. I even told Andrew we could do a Noctilux/Hyperprime shootout and he welcomed it. Shows he has confidence in their design. I will in fact be doing that shootout soon so we can see just how much difference there is with sharpness, flare, bokeh, and build.

The Lens In Use  – from me and others

If you have been reading my blog posts on this lens then you know that the lens was a huge hit in Los Angeles. There were quite a few guys trying to give Andrew the cash for the lens because we all saw it the same way. The SLR Magic Hyperprime is a well built, well made, nicely engineered hunk of glass. It is not cheap and it is not a toy. In fact, it is quite the opposite of what most people thought it would be. The lens is not perfect due to the barrel distortion but it is pretty close to the Leica $11k monster. In some ways it is BETTER than the Leica, and in others it is a bit weaker.

The ways this lens is better is that it will be coming in at many thousands of dollars less than the Leica. I do not know a price but if I had to guess I would say it will run about $3500-$4000 (The price has now been announced at $4288.00 US). Others at the workshop were thinking it would be $5500. No one knows yet but if you are someone who is into the whole Noctilux ASPH lens look, then saving $7000 or so and picking this lens up would be a pretty sweet option because the Hyperprime can focus closer, is actually faster at f/0.92 and has the same great color and sharpness as the Noctilux. The areas that are weaker is that this lens has distortion (barrel) so shooting straight lines up close will reveal this. Then again, we do not buy a lens like this for architecture. It is also longer and a little but heavier though when holding both in each hand, they feel about the same. No dount about it, this is a specialty lens, and for speed and special effect freaks. Not everyone’s cup of tea. BUT for Bokeh lovers, this lens is the creamiest 50mm lens ever made for 35mm. Click the images below for larger and sharper views…

As I sat there last weekend at the workshop looking over shots with this lens as well as the Leica Noctilux I was thinking “WOW…pretty amazing that a small company such as SLR Magic were the ones to create something like this”. This lens is serious competition to the Leica, and I am not exaggerating. Here is a comment from Bill Fulcher who shot with the Hyperprime at my LA Workshop:

” Shot both and saw many images with both last weekend. The Hyper is at least as sharp at all apertures as the 0.95 Noct. The Noct has slightly better ergonomics for still shooters and is more compact. It is also backed by Leica. The Hyper has slightly better IQ, focuses closer, is much better for video and is a skosh faster. It will also be a lot less expensive. All around the pre-production Hyper impresses me as the superior lens. But I wouldn’t really argue the point if someone heavily values the areas where the Noct has the edge. Best, Bill”

So if you do not care about the name, and the slightly larger build you could save thousands of dollars by going with the HyperPrime. If the Leica name, backing and reputation is worth up to $7k then go for it. It’s all personal pref but as for performance, this lens is just about equal to the mighty Leica in regards to sharpness, and as for Bokeh it is even more creamy. Color is about the same as is the contrast.

Andrew told us that some of the lens elements come from Germany and other China. The lens is assembled in Hong Kong by hand and will NOT be able to be mass-produced due to the tight tolerances and calibration required. The 6 samples at the workshop had no issues focusing, which I found to be pretty amazing as I have had Noctilux’s that were all over the place. Not sure how they managed to pull off what Leica can never seem to do reliably. Then again, there were actually only 4 RF coupled versions there and they were each the 1st lenses made so I am sure special care went into them. I was told that each lens made will have that same special care in regards to build and calibration. I can say that Andrew was a fascinating and very passionate guy and he was truly excited about this product.

SLR Magic? Green Rings?

So who the hell is SLR Magic and why the hell are they called SLR Magic when they do not make ANY SLR products? I wondered the same thing so I asked Andrew when they started and how. SLR Magic are based in Hong Kong and started up 6 years ago making adapters for cameras and SLR lenses. They also started selling hand-made leather straps and other fun products. Soon they started the toy lenses that came in for great prices and provided fun results. They decided to start building lenses from the ground up and released a couple of NEX lenses and the fantastic 12mm 1.6 for Micro 4/3 that I LOVED. When they started telling me about this lens and showing me versions with green rings I asked for a black ring and suggested that for a Leica mount lens they may want to sell it with black instead of neon green. At the workshop mostly wanted black, but a couple liked  the green. After much thought Andrew decided on selling a “stealth” edition with some other goodies possibly to be included. Ahhhhh…much better :)


Who needs a lens Like this?

The easy answer? No one really NEEDS a lens like this. Just like no one NEEDS a Leica Noctilux ASPH. Lenses like this are purchased with the heart because they are special..they are unique..they can give a look like no other lens and it’s also super fast for this nights you want to shoot in the dark. I used the Leica Noctilux last year on tour with Seal and came away with some great stuff. I made his new album cover as well. All with the Noctilux. Lenses like this are very useful and can provide results that help separate you from the crowd but it is also very easy to get carried away with the shallow depth of field. Use it wisely and lenses like this can deliver magical results. Overuse it and it gets gimmicky. It is also NOT an everyday lens due to the weight and size, but for those times you want some magic injected into your photos a lens like this or the Leica will give it to you in mass quantities.

Some readers were commenting how this lens has no real use, but I disagree. It was a lens just like this Hyperprime (The Leica Noctilux ASPH) that gave me this shot and made me some much-needed money in 2011. These lenses do have their place and I enjoy having a super fast special effect lens on hand and in my stable.

QUICK comparison with the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4

Below are two straight from camera shots. The 1st from the SLR Magic at T1.4 and the 2nd from the Leica 50 Lux ASPH at f/1.4 – Click each image for the full size 18PMP file. What do you think?

New Sample Images – Full size and crops – and shooting stopped down…

More updates! The images below are all out of camera (from RAW) images using the SLR Magic lens. The T stop is written on the image and you must click each image to see the full size file. Check out how sharp it is when stopped down! This lens is simply amazing and I am loving shooting with it. I took some personal shots and it was  the only lens I shot with while in Sedona AZ for the weekend.

The 1st shot is at T/2 which is more like f/1.8. Click image for the full size and check out the blue duster, which is where I focused. Wow. 

Below is a full size out of cam shot at T/4…click image to see the full size!

Another at T/4  – not full size but you can click for larger

Wide open at .7 meters…

At f/5.6 this lens is just as razor sharp as it is at any aperture – click image for large size with 100% crop embedded

Love the rendering wide open…

The price of this lens… $4,288.00 – It is NOT cheap!

SLR Magic has announced that this lens will come in at $4,288.00 US. Quite a hefty amount of cash outlay for a lens made by SLR Magic. But, they are not mass producing this lens, and each one will be hand assembled and calibrated for rangefinder use. For a Leica M mount that has the build, feel and IQ of the $11k Leica, the price of this lens is fair. BUT at this price point you have to start to think a little. Would you prefer a Leica 50 Summilux ASPH at $4k? It’s smaller..and a Leica. But, it is not f/0.92. Speed is expensive, just take a look at the Noctilux. IMO, this lens is better than the Noctilux F1, better than the Voigtlander 50 1.1 and just about equal to the Leica $11k Nocti. Just about but not quite. So at $4288 vs $11,000, one can now have an alternative to spending that huge sum of cash for a lens like this. Since this lens is hand made and assembled, SLR Magic can only produce 10 of these per month. So, I expect they will sell them all. I also expect they will fetch a good price used as well.

SLR Magic is giving a 3 year warranty with this lens and it will be available in September 2012, after Photokina. 

More samples…all wide open

Shooting this lens on a Sony NEX-5n – IN THE DARK!

When I held my Los Angeles workshop in January, Andrew from SLR Magic brought along 6 copies of this lens for all to try. We had 30+ attendees in all shooting and trying out the lens, well, most of them did. One guy, Judd Weiss had a Sony NEX-5n and was a newbie to photography. He told me the week before he learned what “Aperture” meant, lol. Great great guy though and he was able to take the SLR Magic lens, attached to his NEX-5n to a party on Saturday night to test it out. He told me that all of the photos below were shot in “near dark” conditions but the lens sucked in the light and made them appear brighter than it was. IN fact, I remember him being pretty excited by the fact that even though the room was dark, the images make it look like there was light.

He shot all of the images below wide open at T0.95 and still appears he needed faster shutter speeds, but here are a few examples from Judd in a situation where the large aperture made a difference.  When shooting in dark conditions such as this, no lens will give you razor sharp details because you are shooting in the dark at low shutter speeds and high ISO. But using a slow lens and no flash is impossible so sometimes you need the speed if this is the style you want to go after. You can visit Judd’s blog HERE.

ALL shots below were taken by Judd Weiss with his Sony NEX-5n and the SLR Magic Hyperprime WIDE OPEN, IN NEAR dark conditions!

The Barrel Distortion – How bad is it?

Many of you guys have been asking me to update this with some examples showing the barrel distortion I have been talking about. It has not really been noticeable in the images posted so far but it is there and it is EASILY seen when you shoot up close to straight lines. The closer you get to straight lines, the more pronounced the “barrel” effect will be. This is about the only area where the Leica Noctilux ASPH beats out the SLR Magic. The distortion is disapointing but out of 500 shots or so with this lens, I have noticed it maybe 6 times. It is fixable in Photoshop but even then it is not perfect. I never noticed ANY barrel distortion with the Leica Noctilux ASPH but the question is…can you deal with this fault if you are saving $7000?

This lens has a fantastic 3D effect and is sharp as a tac wide open but get up close to straight lines and you will see distortion. The middle of the image pops out while the sides get sucked in. If you do note shoot any lines, you will most likely never notice it. But it IS there.

A quick and dirty attempt to fix using photoshop during the RAW conversion – took about 2 seconds. 

So seeing that is is pretty much fixable, we have to ask ourselves what we shoot and what we would shoot with this lens. IT IS NOT a lens for architecture that is for sure. So far, this is the only negative I have found in comparison with the Leica 0.95.

UPDATE – February 19th 2012 – More images

Took this lens with me to a tattoo convention today but I was mainly shooting the Leica 75 Summilux. I did snap off a couple shots wide open though and MAN OH MAN, this lens performed flawlessly. I am convinced it is SHARPER wide open that the Noctilux ASPH! Again, no focus issues, no focus shift, it perfumes up close, mid distance and far distance. I continue to be more and more impressed with this lens. It seems to have the sharpness (or more of it) than the $11k Noctilux ASPH but with a bit more 3D pop and even better bokeh..oh and less CA. See the lamp below? The Nocti would have had purple fringing there :)

The 1st image below is wide open – focus on tattoo artist – THIS is one hell of a lens!  – Click the pic for larger – all other images below the 1st were also at T0.95!

UPDATE Feb 22nd 2012 – Some notes from SLR Magic on this lens to clear up some confusion

I heard from Andrew at SLR Magic today and he mentioned a few things about this lens that he wanted me to pass along. Here is what he said:

1) The CINE and LM version are different mechanically. The LM version is a mechanically different version in both mechanical design and materials for RF coupling compatibility. The only thing that is the same about the two is the optical design. Differences in materials, mechanical parts, and labor involved to calibrate the lens is the cause of the price difference. If used on a mirrorless camera with an adapter the two versions will look the same optically.

2) The lens is designed to be a professional cinema lens. What this means is that the lens does not have breathing, no focus shift, and calibrated in T stops. Breathing is when focusing will cause the angle of view to change while focusing. This is common for many lenses. Focus shift is when focal point is shifted as a lens is stopped down. This is very obvious when seen through video with the lens. T stop is the true stop of the lens so that when filmmakers switch between lenses there will be no jump in brightness. With a regular lens F stop is calculated and not measured so it will be different across lenses even from the same brand. Lastly is the stepless round aperture blades. This means you get to have everything else in between. Could help when using A mode and looking at the desired shutter speed. A bless for some and a nightmare for some.

The fact that it is a cinema lens does NOT mean it is a cheap video lens as many think. There are a lot of requirements to a good cinema lens. Lenses designed to Cinema specs can easily sell for 30-40K a piece!

What he said about focus shift and lens production…

3) Focus shift is not killing our production rate. Focus shift depends on optical design and we do not have issues with focus shift. The part where I mentioned we switch out for elements by dissembling and assembling the lens all over again is to make sure ALL copies of the T0.95 lens performs with superior optical quality (sharpness and centering). This limits our production rate for all lenses. We do not ship sub par T0.95 lenses so the answer is YES. The prototypes are hand picked. This hand picking process will also apply to every T0.95 lens that ships.


UPDATE: Feb 27th 2012 – The Leica Noctilux ASPH vs the SLR Magic LM on a Sony NEX-7

Ok guys, this was an image that someone took in SLR Magics shop in Hong Kong. A Sony NEX-7 was used and each lens was wide open – below are the full size images, out of camera, no PP, no tweaks, etc. Click the images for the full size 24MP files! What do YOU see? Notice one seems more zoomed in that the other? That is because the Noctilux is in reality a 52mm lens and the SLR Magic is a true 50.


UPDATE: The Sony NEX-7 with the Hyperprime 50 T0.95

I was out and about shooting the NEX-7 with an ALL NEW Leica to NEX adapter made by SLR Magic and was very happy with the results. Also, keep an eye here for news on this adapter because it is very unique. It is an adapter that you can twist and make the minimum focus distance of the M lenses disappear. You can focus super close now with your M lenses on the NEX system, so this is really cool. The adapter is not ready for sale just yet but seems to work very well. Check out the images below of the lens on the Sony NEX.

On the NEX-7 and super close focusing using this all new adapter. 


Look at the rich colors and depth…this is wide open with an ND filter. T0.95

Again, wide open…click any of these images for larger versions! – ISO 640

T0.95 at ISO 1600 on the nEX-7

Shooting this lens on the NEX-7 was super easy. The focus peaking allowed me to focus quickly and accurately, even when wide open. The one negative about this setup though is that the lens is so front heavy on the NEX body. It is almost borderline ridiculous but with this lens on the camera be sure and hold it by the lens, not the camera body. I plan on shooting this bad boy much more on the NEX-7 as I am really liking what I see. I mean, it’s almost up there with the M9 files except they are not full frame so we get a bit of a different look. If you missed my NEX-7 review, be sure and take a look here.


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Feb 012012

The Ancient – M9, 35 Summilux ASPH II, ~f/2.8, 1/350s, ISO 160


USER REPORT: Landscape Photography with the M9

Aravind Krishnaswamy

I am a nature photographer. For several years that meant I mostly photographed Avians and Wildlife with some Landscapes thrown in for good measure. I recently started moving away from Avians to concentrate more on Wildlife and Landscapes. I have a backpack filled with a 5D Mark II and Zeiss lenses for my landscape photography and I’ve generally been happy with the images that kit generated.

However, I wanted something more compact which could also do double duty while traveling and also early last year my interest in the Leica M9 got piqued.

The River Rushes – M9, 28 Elmarit ASPH, ~f/22, 1.5s, ISO 160


I got an initial M9 kit with just a couple of lenses and started doing some shooting. The image above is one of the first images I made with the kit and immediately both the delight and the challenges became apparent, especially since I photographed the same scene with my Canon kit. One of the biggest challenges when working with an M9 on a tripod is framing. With my 5D Mark II, I use Live View extensively to get perfect framing and my depth of field precisely the way I want it. However, upon looking at and comparing the files later, it was clear that the M9 was producing accurate colors requiring little adjustment as opposed to the images from my Canon kit (You can see and read more about the difference on my blog post on the subject: http://blog.akimagery.com/2011/07/goin-leica.html).

Lonely House – M9, 50 Summilux ASPH, ~f/6.7, 1/1500s, ISO 160


One of the advantages of having accurate colors (and generally good color separation) is that it improves tonal separation in black and white images. I like making black and white images when I want to use the color information in an image to manipulate the tonal relationships in an image that would otherwise not be possible if it remained color. This only gets better with the fact that the M9 images withstand a lot of abuse in post processing.

The M9 is in many ways well suited for landscape photography. There’s no mirror to cause vibration and I do use a remote cable release for those times when the camera is on a tripod. I have found that there aren’t too many regular repeating patterns in landscape work to cause moire or aliasing which can in other photography be an issue due to the lack of an anti-aliasing filter. I’ve also observed that the 24″x36″ prints I’ve made from the M9 have as much if not more detail than what I’ve produced with the 5D Mark II.

Summer Storm – M9, 50 Summilux ASPH, ~f/6.7, 1/250s, ISO 160


Generally speaking, I’m not that fond of tripod photography as I have found that it keeps me from exploring interesting angles, but I’ve usually stuck to tripods for my landscape photography. As time progressed, I found myself spending more time making images with the M9 handheld rather than affixed to a tripod. I can’t be sure for the reason, perhaps its the difficulty in framing when on a tripod or perhaps its just because the kit’s diminutive size makes it so comfortable in the hand that I feel like wandering a scene and making images.

Aged Branches – M9, 18 Super Elmar, ~f/13, 1/250s, ISO 160

Late last year I had the chance to pick up the 18mm Super Elmar right here in Steve’s buy/sell which I’m using for the wide work. Of course, accurate framing in this case requires the use of an external viewfinder but I’ve found that I’m not that fond of them. I made the image above without the external finder but just approximating the framing and taking a lot of test images. It ended up working out as the result you see is an uncropped file.

One of the things that really becomes obvious after working with some of Leica’s finest lenses is how superb the optics really are. My favorite lenses are landscape photography are the 18 Super Elmar, 28 Elmarit, 35 Summilux and 50 Summilux. All of these lenses when stopped down are exceptionally sharp across the frame regardless of focus distance and all have very pleasing color reproduction. I have generally found that the amount of color post processing working I have to do with my M9 images are significantly less than with my other cameras.

Clearing Storm over the California Coast – M9, 28 Elmarit ASPH, ~f/8, ISO 160


I typically use a lot of filters in my landscape photography, particularly graduated neutral density filters. I find that trying to get the dynamic range down to control at capture time saves a lot of hassle when it comes to post processing. However, with the M9 using filters is tricky since you can’t visualize directly through the lens and hence I don’t use my graduated neutral density filters (though still use the circular polarizer). In scenes where the dynamic range is high, I’ve had to resort to capturing multiple exposures and fusing them together in post (such as the one above). One thing you have to be careful about is getting false colors on high contrast edges, so I’ve found that its important to set all sharpening to zero when exporting the individual exposures to whatever HDR software you use (I use Photomatix and almost exclusively the Exposure Fusion option for the more realistic results it produces).

Pismo Pier – M9, 35 Summilux II, ~f/4, 8s, ISO 160


Neither the M9, nor the M lenses are weather sealed. When working in an area such as beach, it can be a little distressing when you realize how much money you’ve got in your hands so close to electronics destroying water or spray. I just tend to be extra paranoid in such situations, I’m not sure there’s much else you can do there. Since I mainly work with prime lenses, I’ve found that its important to visualize an image at a scene before putting the camera out and attaching a lens. To that end, I’ve picked up Voigtlander’s 15-35 zoom viewfinder which is compact and useful for this purpose.

Light Portal – M9, 50 Summilux, ~f/4, 1/30s, ISO 160


Landscape photography with the M9 certainly has its challenges. The rewards however are the exceptional image quality delivered by M glass and the fact that my full kit fits in a small shoulder bag. If a future M10 adds Live View and a better screen on the back I don’t see why I wouldn’t switch to M system for most of my landscape photography work. I say ‘most’ because I still use tilt/shift lenses and there are currently no such offerings for the M system, though if Leica does add Live View it might then make sense for them to develop such lenses.

The wonderful thing about the M system is not just that I use it for landscape photography but also as a general travel and family photography kit. The same lenses are use for making 24″x36″ landscape prints can be used for photographing people in low light and best of all no one gets freaked out or self conscious when someone is pointing an M at them as opposed to a large SLR. This combined with its small footprint is why the M9 is becoming my go to camera and why I stick with it in spite of the challenges.

Jan 302012

The workshop attendees shoot the SLR Magic 50 LM T0.95 Hyperprime on the M9 and NEX-5n

Since I am now back home at my desk I can go over more images that were shot at the workshop using the new SLR Magic lens. These were shot by me and a few others at the workshop, credits will be before the photos…enjoy! Oh, and just for fun I threw in a shot taken with the 50 Noctilux ASPH. Which one is it? Check out the two from Jay Bartlett below and see the difference. ALL shots below are wide open and the title shot above of Max was taken by Ashwin Rao with the 85 Zeiss Sonnar on his M9. 

First, A few more snaps of the gang from me.

Stephen, the resident male model of the workshop shot at 0.95 – click image for larger and sharper view

Below: Andrew from SLR Magic talking with Max on Sunday during our Lunch at El Cholo

…and speaking of Max Klimov, he shot some GORGEOUS shots with the Hyperprime – look at the rendering of the model shots

and one of his street shots as well…

Jay Bartlett took these at 0.95  – but one is from the Noctilux ASPH – one from the SLR Magic! Which is which? I can tell…can you?

BELOW: Ashwin Rao snapped this amazing shot while we ate dinner at the Yardhouse on Saturday night. It was DARK!

BELOW: Dave Grady tried his hand with the Hyperprime on the M9  – The 2nd shot has some CA (which the Noct ASPH has as well)

BELOW: Judd Weiss tried the Hyperprime on his NEX-5n

BELOW: Our awesome host, Todd Hatakeyama shot the next couple with the Hyperprime and his M9

I will be shooting with the lens for a few weeks/months and will be posting a full review down the road with many images, full size and comparisons with other lenses. I plan on flying down to Seattle to hang with Ashwin and do a thorough shoot out between this one and the Leica Noctilux ASPH. We may be able to even throw in the Voigtlander Nokton 1.1 in the mix as well. Should be a blast. Also look for a post this week with a wrap up on the LA Workshop including everyones fave images from the weekend. As for the SLR Magic hyperprime, it is a special lens and I am eagerly awaiting pricing info. When I find out, I will post the news here.

FAST FACTS and why this lens is pretty exciting:

The SLR Magic 50 LM (Leica Mount) T0.95 Lens has 12 Lens Elements, 12 aperture blades and focuses to .7 meters (also the equivalent of an f/0.92 aperture at T0.95)

The Voigtlander 50 f/1.1 Nokton has 7 Lens Elements, 10 aperture blades and focuses to 1 meter

The Leica Noctilux ASPH has 8 elements, 9 aperture blades and focuses to 1 meter

Jan 302012

SLR Magic REALLY IS Magical…the LM 50 T0.95 ROCKS

WOW! So today was the last day of the workshop in Los Angeles and I have to say that this was the most amazing workshop to date. It was a jammed packed weekend with lots of cool guest speakers, many amazing passionate attendees and lots of shooting in the studio and on the street.

Today we had an education when uber talented Elizabeth Wang Lee gave us a detailed and thorough talk on street photography. This was an amazing presentation and we all learned from her detailed explanations and samples. THANK YOU ELIZABETH!

Actor/Comedian Jeff Garlin also popped in to deliver a hilarious talk on street shooting, and at the same time informed us all that he is producing a documentary on Chicago street photograoher Vivian Maier. So cool! Jeff was a RIOT and everyone had a blast, so THANK YOU JEFF!

Me and Jeff, Shot with the iPhone 4s and the Tadaa app!


Andrew from SLR Magic was with us yet again and he gave everyone a chance to shoot with the new 50 LM T0.95 Hyperprime Leica M mount lens. I will put this out there right now…THIS LENS IS THE REAL DEAL FOLKS. Flat out AMAZING. It is not just me saying this, but everyone who shot with it this weekend was ready to plunk down their cash for this lens NOW. I am hoping to post many samples from everyone who shot with it soon, not just my samples. Samples from the NEX system look amazing as well so stay tuned for those…

I will also be shooting with this lens for the next few months so I can give it a thorough testing and review. I was able to bring home a special “stealth” edition of the lens which means it has a BLACK ring instead of the day glow green :) YES! (this black ring will be an option when ordering, and the ring you see below is not the final production ring)

All I can say now is that this lens blows away (yes, strong words but true) the Voigtlander 50 1.1 and is on par with the Leica Noctilux ASPH with some of the workshop attendees preferring the rendering of the Hyperprime. My feeling is that it is just as sharp at equal apertures but the Hyperprime gives a teeny but more of a classical look, but at the same time it is mixed with the sharpness of the Noctilux ASPH. The look you prefer will be up to YOU.

From what myself and many others have seen this weekend, this lens is a real giant killer in regards to image quality. Wow. There are differences but they are slight. The bokeh is “fatter” with the SLR Magic due to the larger rear element. The SLR Magic also focuses to .7 meters compared to 1 meter of the Noctilux ASPH and yes, the Hyperprime appears to have much less CA than the $11k Leica.

The Hyperprime is a 12 element non aspherical lens.

Shot wide open at T0.95 – look at the 3D effect – straight from camera – M9-P – and shot through a coffee shop window Sunday morning while buying coffee for the group. 

Like the Noctilux, this lens is a BEAST, even more of a beast than the Noctilux f/0.95. In reality, the Hyperprime is actually faster than f/0.95 so it appears this will now be the fastest lens for 35mm in production. How amazing is that?

In build, I am sure the Leica is built better but the SLR Magic is built just as solid, and is slightly heavier and larger. It is a solid lens and nothing like the old Noktor Hyperprime that I was NOT a fan of.


This is NOT the old Noktor lens. PERIOD! So many people are confusing this with the old $1000 lens and this is an all new, built from the ground up LEICA M mount lens. It is insanely better, larger, beefier and with superb quality glass and construction.

In fact, over the past 9-10 months SLR Magic has been sending me samples from prototypes for this new M mount lens and I have been telling them “NOT GOOD ENOUGH, I WOULDN’T BUY IT”  – so they kept re-designing and finally they ended up with what we have here today. The only question you and many others have now is…how can I  get one?

BELOW: Shot by Ashwin Rao at T0.95

SLR Magic has some cool touches up their sleeve that I won’t spill the beans on just yet but they plan on officially releasing the lens in September. A long way off but there will be a few testers of the lens until then to make sure it is solid, dependable, and high in performance. The 1st ones to get a crack at the lens were those who attended the LA Workshop so hopefully this lens will make it to a few more shooters soon for more real world tests.


SLR Magic has not announced pricing yet but I do expect it (of course) to be MUCH less  than the Leica Noctilux ASPH which now comes in at $11k. At the same time, I do not expect this to be some $1000-1500 lens either, as it is a specialty lens that will be hand made and calibrated, not mass produced. It is not constructed of cheap parts and the lens oozes quality when you hold it.

Many at the workshop who held it, and shot with it were guessing and afraid this lens would come in at $5500-$6k (goes to show what others who used it thought of the quality) but my guess is that it will come in lower than that. Hopefully we will see pricing soon. No one knows at this point so it is all speculation. All I know is  that if I had a choice of buying this or the Noctilux but could save something like $7,000 by buying this lens, I would. End of story. Of course we all want and dream of the Leica but for those of us who do not have $11k in our lens funds, something like this would make an excellent alternative.

The sharpness wide open is INSANE – Click image for larger view and full 100% crop at 0.95

It appears Andrew and all of those at SLR Magic are very proud of what they have created and I am glad I had a hand to get it to where it is today in the quality department. It is a lens they should be EXTREMELY PROUD of and if the build quality and dependability hold up over the next few months I am going to say that this is indeed a GIANT KILLER of a lens. But you won’t have to take my word for it, there should a few others writing about this lens soon. Keep your eyes peeled.

More to come…but for now a few more shots from this lens and the M9-P. I chose these simple shots because I feel it shows the many qualities of the lens. Enjoy!

This was AT NIGHT and it was pretty dark. No flash required :) And all three of these guys wanted the Hyperprime and tried to give Andrew their order already. You can see Judd (far right) using one on his NEX-5n. Imagine the video capabilities of this lens…

Smooth, silky but oh so sharp (click image for larger version)

3D glasses not required :)

The depth of field is insanely shallow at T0.95

and one for fun…1st shot is with the Hyperprime at 1.4 in near darkness (hotel bar late night) and the 2nd is from the Leica 50 1.4 Summilux ASPH at 1.4. Bokeh is a little different here…”fatter” as some would call it.


Jan 282012

The SLR Magic 50 T/0.95 in the Studio – Noctilux vs Hyperprime

So here we are at Day two of the LA workshop and everyone is having a blast. The day started with an amazing talk and presentation  from Jay Bartlett  on studio portraiture. Everyone took to the studio with their M9’s, E-P3’s, Fuji X10’s and X100’s and even a GRD III. The results were amazing and everyone came away with some beautiful shots. Mostly due to the great lighting setup from Todd as well as our lovely model, Jade Corrin. The image above was shot by Ashwin Rao with his M9 and Zeiss 85 Sonnar, one of the most beautiful portrait lenses ever for  the M system. I decided to shoot a quick portrait with the SLR Magic 50 T0.95 Hyperprime and I fired off 3 shots and 3 shots only to see if this lens would be acceptable stopped down for portraits. The Results?

Click the image below for full size file. I cropped some off of the left and bottom but the is STRAIGHT from camera, processed as RAW. M9-P, SLR Magic 50 LM Hyperime T/0.95

Not bad huh? Thats about as sharp as you can get and for a lens optimized for 0.95…what else can I say? Beautiful color and rendering. Everyone at the workshop who has shot with this lens wants one. Now.

Just for fun comparison – Bokeh wide open at minimum focus distance – Noctilux/Hyperprime

The following images are in no way scientific. We were at lunch and messing around with the Hyperprime and Noctilux and decided to do a quick “minimum focus distance” comparison, wide open. The Noctilux at f/0.95 and the Hyperprime at T0.95, which as you may know is FASTER than f/0.95. Add in the closer focusing capability and the depth of field is extremely shallow. The good news is that this lens performs amazingly well stopped down as well.

Many of us have been shooting the lens here in Los Angeles and no one has spotted any focus shift or lack of performance when stopped down which is pretty incredible when you think about it.

On to the “just for fun” comparison…click each image for the full size out of camera file.

As always…more to come. Tomorrow is our full street shooting day here in Los Angeles…can’t wait!

one more to show how sharp this lens can be wide open. Focus was on the eye as you can see…

A group of the Hyperprimes  – Notice the all black “stealth” version on my M9-P :)

and finally a few more with the SLR Magic.

From left to right – Andrew from SLR Magic, me, and Ashwin Rao. Wide open!

Once again, using the lens at the aperture it was meant to be used at. Testing low light and wide open performance at a distance…no problems. Oh and this image below was shot at ISO 2500.

Jan 282012

Day 1 Workshop Report: Night shooting with the Hyperprime 50 T0.95

Woo Hoo! Day one of the Los Angeles workshop has wrapped up and with over 30 of us in attendance it was an amazing night! This is gearing up to be the best workshop yet and today we all gathered at Hatakeyama Studio in downtown Los Angeles to talk cameras, lenses, passion, and everything photo

The highlight of the night was the new SLR Magic 50 T0.95 Hyperprime lens and Andrew from SLR Magic was the special guest who told us all about the new lens as he passed around 3-4 samples for everyone to try out.We then hit the streets with cameras in hand. Everything was here from M9’s, E-P3’s, GXR’s, and even a NEX-7.

Myself, Ashwin Rao and Elizabeth Wang Lee were hunting in the dark for photos as we each had our M9’s (Elizabeth was shooting it on a GXR with M mount) armed with the Hyperprime 50 T0.95. At one point during our walk we heard a loud “THUD”! We looked back and the Elizabeth’s strap came loose on her GXR and the camera and lens fell to the concrete. The Hyperprime was dented but still performed flawlessly. Guess the weight was too much for the GXR stock strap.

But only one word sums up our experience with the lens…STUNNING.

But don’t take my word for it, check out our samples below. Yep, I will let the photos speak for themselves today. The 1st set is from me and my M9P and the 2nd set from Ashwin and his trusty 2 1/2 year old M9. No PP here, just processed from RAW.

Tomorrow I will post a side by side test with a Leica Noctilux 0.95 ASPH as a few of us will be doing the model shoot with both lenses. Should be interesting! But for low light, this lens ROCKS. Any softness of NON shaprness you see is a result of missed focused, slow shutter speeds and high ISO. The lenses we were using were all calibrated spot on – and remember to click the images for larger versions!

Steve’s Set – ALL shots wide open at T0.95, which is closer to F/0.8


Ashwin’s Shots – ALL wide open

Yes Leica M shooters…you WILL want one of these lenses. More to come…

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved

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