Jan 132012
 

Let It Snow!

By Allen Liu

Hi Steve,

Hope you had a great new year!

Here is my second blog entry to your great site (you can find my first blog entry about my trip to Hong Kong here…).

A few weeks ago, Julie and I decided to spend our winter vacation in Montreal, QC. I was particularly excited about this decision; living in California, I had never experienced a “white Christmas” before.

For the first few days there, the sky was clear, and temperatures dipped below freezing. We were actually a bit disappointed because we really wanted to see snow (I know people who need to shovel snow out of their driveways all winter long are secretly hating me now).

Then, on the last day of our trip, our prayers were answered.

A tiny Christmas miracle.

It snowed.

All photos are shot with one camera and one lens then post processed by Silver Efex Pro 2.

Please feel free to visit my Montreal album 

I hope you enjoy them.

Allen

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Jan 062012
 

Another Open Letter to Leica

By Ashwin Rao

Hi Leica,

It’s me again, Ashwin (from my last letter about a year back… I hope you had a chance to read it). Well, it’s that time of year to read the tea leaves of wish aloud on the interwebs, Thus, here I am again, thinking it’s time to write a letter and get your attention….

With the new year upon us, the photography world has seen many interesting developments. Last year, there was the Fuji X100, copying your style and going toe to toe with the X1, sporting new innovations and a friendlier price tag. It was nominated as one of the most innovative cameras of the year, despite the X1 before it….

Later in the year came the announcement of the Sony NEX7 and the release of the Ricoh GXR. Both are remarkable cameras, Leica, and you should be taking notice….after all, demand for Leica, Zeiss, and Voigtlander glass is at an all time high, as many folks are adapting these lenses for use on these bodies as well as Micro 4/3 cameras such as the Panasonic GX-1 and the Olympus EP-3….

There is a veritable plethora of choices for using Leica lenses. Focus peaking, hybrid viewfinders, and other tech have made it quite feasible to adeptly manually focus rangefinder lenses, which have been notoriously moody lenses to focus in the first place….

Now comes a new announcement….the Fuji interchangeable lens camera, the Fuji X-Pro1. It’s not yet official, but by the time you read this article, it may well be. I’m sure that your insiders have whispered in your ears about this camera (and the threat that it could pose to your install base. It will arrive, apparently, with capable and tiny 28 mm f/2, 50 mm f/1.4, and 90 mm f/2.5 equivalent lenses (when accounting for its APS-C sized sensor). It will have a refined hybrid viewfinder. It will be autofocus (and hopefully improve upon the design of the X100’s AF system). Companies like Novoflex and Fotodiox will surely make adapters for it, so that all Leica M mount lenses will be useable on it. I suspect that the X-Pro1 will have a high “lust factor” for photographers such as myself…..I am already telling myself to look away….look away (likely in vain)….

So why am I writing this letter, you may ask? To brag about other systems, new cameras, and fascinating innovations? To rave about focus peaking and novel uses for M mount lenses? To blather on about 2 MP EVF’s, cross utilization of lenses, and flexibility of systems. No, I am writing to coax you to stay relevant to your target market: folks like me who love photography and who love innovation….folks like me who want to see Leica lead the way, as you did with the M9. Folks, unlike me, who haven’t yet invested in a system, and who would love to try a Leica, but can’t as it is too pricy. It’s time to do grow into new markets, leica, or risk further cornering yourself into a niche.

Now, Leica, I know that you have big aspirations. All of this talk of staying small, refining your base, um….I’m not so sure that I believe you. Why else would you partner with Blackstone to provide more funds for growth and development? Why else would you build new plants to produce lenses and cameras? Why else would your CEO speak in LFI about expanding your production base to meet future demands that the market is setting?

The time of large sensor compact cameras with high performance is upon us. DSLR’s will continue to thrive, but less than in the past decade, as smaller cameras become more capable. Smaller cameras will lead the way through this decade.

Is it possible that the time of the Rangefinder and getting back to the roots of photography are in front of us? Is it possible, Leica, that your greatest days are in front of you? As a fan of your work, I hope so. But I think you need to continue to innovate and refine….

…and if you do, the Rangefinder will thrive. And if you don’t, the RF way could die (well, not really, I wrote that to rhyme and for dramatic effect …)

So, here’s what I hope, Leica. I hope again, against all odds, for a digital CL solution. My prior arguments, essentially remain the same. I think that the time is upon us for you to develop a product that sits between the X1 and the the M9 as a interchangeable lens camera that brings forth and tests Leica’s best innovations.

What should this camera be? It should be a rangefinder, first and foremost. Leica, this is what you are good at, but we need more from you. I feel that the hybrid VF idea is great, if properly implemented, and I suspect that you feel similarly. Having the best of both worlds, a true optical rangefinder focusing mechanism while carrying forth some added ideas such as focus peaking, which has worked wonders on the NEX and GXR camera lines…would be a great way to explore new tech that you can eventually bring to your top teir cameras such as the Leica M10.

The camera should be priced to compete too…Yes, Leica, we all know that you are vain. Your vanity is both the best and worst part of you…it’s why we cherish you and at the same time sneer and mutter at your prices….but once again, in order to win over more market share rather than lose some of your base to Sony, the M4/3 consortium, and Ricoh, you need to compete at their level. You still need to enforce a slight air of superiority by pricing the camera bit more than Sony, Ricoh or Panasonic/Olympus would feel comfortable with. But you need to price a digital CL in such a way as to the Leica brand and pricing structure…how about a $2500 solution, with an APS-H or APS-C sized sensor?

How would this camera be different form what’s out there, and what’s coming? Well, you gotta keep the rangefinder focusing mechanism intact. The manual focus that defines Leica is why I buy into the system. The lenses are now good on many systems, so the Rangefinder focusing system will distinguish you.

The camera’s gotta keep Leica’s style and substance! Metal build, vulcanite, old school looks, and new school technology. Like a German Car (Beemers, Mercedes, you know the ropes)…..

I am sure that from now on, Leica will remain relevant for its lenses. But the lenses work best with the system that they were designed for: The Rangefinder system. And it’s that system that is endangered by cameras like the new Fuji, which looks a lot like a Leica, but has Autofocus as an option, and at a price less than 1/3 of an M9….

So Leica, it’s time to stay relevant with your cameras. I know that you can innovate. You certainly did so with the M9 and the M8 before it (and for all of each cameras flaws, they are great cameras)….But you need to keep those cameras great by refining them and pricing them in the stratosphere for all of the longtime Leica customers. However, there are so many people out there who deserve to be part of the experience. The students, the newbies, the artists, who cant afford such a pricey body as the M9.

So design something for those people, a little sister to the M9, with a lower price, with a rangefinder focusing scheme, and with an M mount….oh yeah, and focus peaking would be nice too if there’s a hybrid VF in the works…

You’ll win over a lot more customers, and you and Blackstone will both be happy for a long while to come!

Your friend, fanboy, and voice of both content and discontent,

Ashwin

Jan 042012
 

Question and Answer Wednesday – Your questions answered!

A couple of years ago I used to publish a weekly Q&A post where I would answer some of the questions sent in by readers. With questions flooding my inbox every day, and many of them asking the same things, I figured I would bring this back so those asking can see the answers here because I can not get to all of the e-mails. If I did I would not have time to do any reviews! So here are some recent questions that were sent to me. Want YOUR question answered? E-mail me HERE with the subject heading “Q&A”.

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Question:  Hello Steve. My names Rich and I live in the UK. Despite my name I am not a rich or wealthy person and living in these austere times I need to make some perfect decisions regarding money making with my camera. The help bit.. I’m looking at the M8 with a , as yet undecided, genuine Leica M lens- all secondhand. I want a very basic set-up that can output raw files to make high quality prints from. What kind of print size can I max out at while keeping very high quality? The M9 is impossible for me, unfortunately, so the M8 is my main choice followed by the X1. Now the M8 is affordable would you recommend them having seen their output yourself? Especially shooting landscapes, cityscapes, street and portrait people+pets. Hope you can help Thank you. Rich

Answer: Hi Rich! Thanks for the question. The Leica M8 is still, even today, a wonderful high quality camera. The output can be gorgeous and yes, sometimes it can be garbage. All depends on the light, the lens, etc. The M8 excels in good light as the high ISO and low light performance by todays standards is pretty bad. If you shoot the M8 and a decent lens in good light it will reward you with wonderful color and rich sharp files. I always felt the M8 had a different look and feel to the files than the M9 files. The M8 is sharp and more “raw” where the M9 can be more smooth. It is a joy to shoot but even at the used prices of $2000 for the body it is still a major purchase for most.

Something like and M8 with a 35mm Summarit would be great. The 35 Summarit (if you can find one in stock) is really just as good as any other Leica 35, just slower in its aperture speed. This would work for your needs and as for printing, I never had any issues printing from an M8, large or small. I can not tell you details about sizes but that would not be a worry unless you wanted to print billboards. Even so, I feel the M8 could even do that. (Ive seen it with much lesser cameras and resolution).

So ask yourself if you can live with the low light limitations AND whatever you do, be sure to get the UV/IR filter for whatever lens you get as these are MANDATORY IMO! The X1 on the other hand can be found used for about $1300 these days and the quality is puts out is also spectacular. The X1 is still a great choice as well but it is slow to AF. The M8 will give you more control, bigger body, RF focusing and ability to change lenses. The X1 is small, simple, and gets out of the way of your shooting but it is slow! I have been expecting Leica to release new cameras in 2012 and my guess is a new X is on the way as well as a new M. Maybe even something else thrown in? Who knows, I sure don’t but I do remember Stefan Daniel telling me their goal was “every three years” for their major product refresh. M9/X1 was 2009 so here we are in 2012. What does this mean? That MAYBE prices of the M8/X1 will go down even further on the used market. We shall see!


Question:  Hi Steve, I just got a M9 + 50 noctilux f 0.95. Makes a shot where there is no shot :-). One amazing combination. The only issue I am noticing is that the within the exif info of the photos the f-stop is not being recorded properly. i shot bunch of pictures @f.95 but the exif info of the pictures shows f1.2 Have you noticed this? Thanks, Rohit

Answer: The EXIF info on the M9 is an approximation. There is no aperture data transferred between your lens and the M9 body so your processing software is “guessing” the aperture. The M9 can not tell you what aperture you shot at. The 6-Bit coding is only there to tell the camera what lens is on so it can apply software correction if needed.


Question:  Hi Steve -Thanks for all the time you take answering questions – Love QA Wednesday ! What are your thoughts on storing lenses when you are not using them – I have a few lenses I hope to keep for a lifetime and wondered if there is a better way to store them ? I understand about not getting them to hot or cold but is there a preferred way to store them – Leica glass is not getting cheaper  Thanks – Gordon

Answer: Hey Gordon! Storing Leica lenses is easy. If you are not going to be using them for a while and have the box, I would put them in their case and in the box and keep them in a room or closet until you want to use them again. If you use them occasionally just keep them either in your bag, or on a shelf, cabinet, etc. If they are in your house then they should be fine for many many years to come. Once lenses get to be used and many years old they could always benefit from a CLA (cleaning, lubrication and adjustment) but lenses really require no special treatment in my experience. I know people who have had lenses in a cabinet for 20+ years and they are as good as new.


Question: Dear Steve, My girlfriend and I just got a Leica M6 this past Christmas. We found it at her parents’ house where it’s been stored in a closet for several years. (The camera was donated to an auction by Ralph Gibson and they bought it for virtually nothing!). The camera seems to be in excellent condition and has a 50mm Summilux Lens on it. Needless to say, despite having read the manual, we know very little about it and would appreciate any tips on how to operate (and enjoy) it. i.e. best film, lenses, guides, references… ANYTHING. Happy New Year and thanks in advance, Ben

Answer: Lucky you! You just acquired one of the best 35mm film cameras of all time. The M6 is fantastic but if you have never shot with a rangefinder it may be tricky trying to figure out how to meter and focus with it. I won’t go over details as that would require thousands of words but for the basics just attach the lens (the lens you have is one of the best so keep it and shoot with that one for a while) and look through the viewfinder. You will see a small square “patch” in the center. Notice when you move the focus dial of the lens that the square patch separates. To get your images in focus you aim it at your subject and turn the focus ring until both square boxes, or patches, come together. If shooting portrait I usually focus on an eye and then recompose and shoot.

Then there is the metering. For starters you have to set the aperture on the lens to your desired stop. Lets say you put it at f/2. You then look through the VF and if batteries are in the camera and working you will see a dot and arrows. Turn your exposure dial on the top of the camera until the red dot is lit up. This means your exposure is now correct. It takes some time to get used to and is not an auto focus or speed demon camera. With that said, once you learn it and use it, the images you can get out of it will have some of that classic film magic. Enjoy!


Question:  Hi Steve, Happy New Year!! Since a couple of weeks now I am following your blog/site, and I REALLY like it! Thank you for sharing your passion. It is truly inspiring!! Also sharing the work of your followers is awesome. I really think that you influence and challenge them to bring themselves to the next level. Thumbs up and keep up the EXCELLENT work:-)

One question I have. I am really looking forward to read your opinion about your thoughts are about the camera of 2011. According to your readers, the X100 is the winner. But, do you agree:-)? My sense is that you also like the EP-3 and the V1. Looking forward to read your comment! Thanks, Jeroen

Answer: Hey Jeroen! Thanks for the kind words. My favorite camera of 2011? That is not so easy as there were so many great and capable cameras! I love the E-P3 and probably had the most fun and use from that camera than any other in 2011. Of course  the Fuji X100 was the groundbreaking camera of 2011 with it’s EVF and superb color and quality BUT it is/was kind of slow and quirky so it became less and less fun to shoot for me. BUT the quality can not be denied from the X100. Then the V1 appeared and did 98% of everything right when it came to performance, ease of use, fun factor, video, color, metering, EVF, etc. The V1 is the camera I ended up taking with me almost every time I left the house, taking over the E-P3’s spot in my bag. The V1 and 10mm did what I wanted it to every time.

Of course we can not leave out the NEX-7 but I am seeing that as more of a 2012 camera because only a handful have actually shipped so far.

For breaking the mold and providing an APS-C sized sensor in a rangefinder styled body with a great and fast 35mm equivalent lens and wonderful Hybrid EVF I have to give the camera of the year to Fuji for the X100. The image quality is fantastic as is the style, design, and MOJO of this photographic tool. I’d give 2nd place to the Nikon V1 for sure. Again, I am not including the NEX-7 as I am considering that a 2012 camera due to the delay in shipping.


Question:  Hey Steve! Love your site and the insight you provide! I own a Sony Nex-5, and is currently interested in investing in the Nokton 40mm! The only thing that I have not been able to thoroughly research is, what adapter to use? I would think that all adapters did the same thing…yet I find adapters ranging from prices from 30-to the hundreds! I do realize that some of the adapters offer macro focusing and decrease in minimal focus range, but does that really matter if I plan on using it for a walk around lens? Thanks!

Answer: Thanks for the question! There are a few adapters you can get for your NEX-5. The best of the best in regards to fit and function is the NOVOFLEX adapter but it is really expensive at over $250. You can see it HERE. I owned the Novoflex for a while and it always did great with a tight fit and no hassles. I also owned a couple of cheap adapters that I purchased from Amazon, like THIS ONE. The problem I had with TWO cheap adapters is that after a few months of use both of them had a loose and wobbly fit and sometimes my pictures would not be critically in focus. I chalked it up to the cheap adapter. So you get what you pay for though many are using the cheap ones effectively.


Question:  Hi steve, I love seeing your works that I decided to ditch my slr for Leica. Without the slr, im really confused on which 3 lens should I get for the M9? Do you think wate+35+90 is a good combination? Or should i stick to 30-50-75/90 and use voigtlander lenses for the wide angle? Thanks, Gerry

Answer: Hey Gerry! Congrats on the Leica! This is really a question I can not answer for you. All I can do is tell you what I would do if it were me, but you are not me! If I were you I would go for a 28, 35 and 50. I have had them all and every time  I had a 90 I never ever used it! BUT that is just ME and MY experience. What do you want to shoot? If everyday life all you need is a 28 and 50 really. The problem is, the Leica 35mm lenses are sooooo good! First, look at your budget. Then decide what you will be shooting. I could be content and happy with a 28 and 50 but I just shoot daily life and street sometimes. The 28 Elmarit is so good on the M9, and not a bank breaker like the 28 Summicron and the 50 Summicron is also a fantastic lens but the Summilux is the ultimate for M9 shooters it seems. Everyone I know with an M9 seems to always end right back up with a 35 or 50 as their main goto 90% of the time lens. It seems that the M was made for those focal lengths.

 

 

Look for more Q&A next Wednesday! If you want to see your questions answered here, send them to me with the subject “Q&A Wednesday” to my e-mail HERE.

Jan 042012
 

From Steve: Coming later today is another edition of “Q&A Wednesday” but for now I’d like to share with you some of the most inspirational images I have seen in a while. I have known Peter for years now and his images always go right to my heart and soul as he truly does capture “Life’s Little Moments”. Enjoy!

Dear Steve,

In follow-up to my previous contributions “Life’s Little Moments“, “The M9 for Sports” and “All I know about photography in 25 words” , I wanted to make another contribution to your fine website.

These were taken over the past year and I hope they continue to convey my philosophy of image creation, that is, “seeing and capturing the beauty of life’s little moments.”

I’d be honoured if you posted them.

Either way, I wish you (much deserved) ongoing success for 2012 and beyond!

Your friend,

Peter | Prosophos.

www.prosophos.com


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and one more image for Jan 2012!
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Dec 262011
 
Event Photography- Photographing a Restaurant Opening
By Ashwin Rao – Ashwin’s blog can be seen HERE

 

 

Hi everyone, it’s Ashwin, back with a short and sweet post (hopefully) as the New Year fast approaches. As many of us have gotten increasing experience with our cameras, we have received opportunities to port our cameras to events, such as weddings, sporting events, and gallery openings. Recently, I had the pleasure to be invited to the grand opening of the Seattle Restaurant U:Don, a Japanese noodle station in which the udon noodles are manufactured in house and served in a variety of delicious preparations.

 

I am acquainted with the Station’s owner and family members, and so I had early access to the big opening. Of course, along with me came the trusty Leica M9 and my fast-developing favorite lens, the 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux Asph FLE lens, as well as the nice 21 mm f/3.4 Super-Elmar and 75 mm f/2 APO-Summicron Asph.
A busy opening night….21 Super Elmar

 

I had a blast photographing the event, after polishing off a delicious bowl of wonderful noodles, with beef brisket, and all of the fixings. A happy belly makes a happy photographer, or so they say (wait, I think I just made that up).  Regardless, I had the opportunity to take a nix mix of photos of the grand opening of U:Don, and present them here.

 

The Line Chefs in Action: 35 FLE

 

I primarily shot the lenses wide open, hand-held, at ISO 50, using Auto-WB (though fluorescent settings would have worked fine as well. I kept shutter speeds about 1/45 s, in general, though I took some liberties to shoot as slow as 1/24 sec with the 21 mm Super-Elmar. I only mention this, as a good rule of thumb for shooting hand-held is to shoot no slower than 1/focal length. That is, for a 35 mm lens, shoot at 1/35 s or faster shutter speed, and so on.

 

Head chef Tak Kurachi: 35 FLE

 

Line Chef/Noodle Master: 35 FLE

 

 

Event photography poses many challenges, and variable lighting is in fact a big one. As you can see from the pictures, U:Don’s décor incorporates a variety of palettes, including warm neutral wood stock, red and brown accents, and sheet metal, along with reflective surfaces. I used a variety of perspectives, focal lengths, color/b&w profiles, and angles to capture the opening event in a way that I thought was representative of a typically busy night at this restaurant, which I hope will be a great success, not only as I know the head chef, but also because the food is fantastic, and good food should never go unrewarded.

 

Chef and Sous-Chef: 75 APO-Cron

 

Patrons Lining up for the Goods: 35 FLE


Sure, it would have been nice to have a camera with ridiculous high ISO performance, Vibration control/image stabilization, and crazy zooms, but me, M9, and 3 lenses seemed to do the trick just fine. In fact, keeping a simple kit of 1-3 lenses and 1-2 bodies is suffient for nearly all perspectives for your photography. You may find that the simplicity of shooting in this manner stimulates and challenges your creativity in ways that are both refreshing and rewarding. I certainly have….

 

U:Don Sign: 35 FLE

 

Chowin’ down: 35 FLE

 

Servin’ Up the Tempura Fixin’s

 

If you are ever in Seattle and are craving a soup/noodle/Japanese cuisine fix, you can find U:Don in Seattle’s University District, at 4515 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105….U(just ful disclosure, that I have no stake in U:Don, other than a satisfied customer with a happy belly and some fun photos to share).:

 

Happy holidays to everyone!
Ashwin
Dec 252011
 
Leica — Love and Hate
By George Sutton

 

Owning a Leica M9 has been a real love/hate experience.  I am frequently on the verge of selling it because it is outrageously expensive and limiting then I get a shot that is so stunning I just want to get out and start shooting it again.  Here is why I decided to keep the Leica and some other random thoughts after a year of use.

 

The M9 is unmatched if used as a smaller and lighter substitute for a DSLR in situations where there is time to manually focus.  The clarity is remarkable.  The attached photos exemplify this.  Both were taken at a 1,000 year old Hindu monastery in Cambodia named Bantay Sri.  Its carvings are among the most detailed and elegant I have ever seen and the Leica captured that very well.  Both shots are cropped yet the detail is still crisp and clear, almost three dimensional.  I hope viewers on the website can see how the clarity just jumps out of the photo.  I think even a larger format camera would be challenged to take a better shot.
Click image for larger version
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That is the Leica’s strong point, and it is a very strong point.  But the frustrations can be almost as big.  

 

The Leica is not a replacement for a DSLR.  It doesn’t have the versatility to take most kinds of shots.  For example, it is hard to shoot people close up.  I can get many more keepers with my Canon 85mm f1.8 and even a 24-105 f4 zoom.  Both lenses autofocus and are very sharp.  Unless a person is posing or holds still, or you are able to take a lot of shots in the hope that one will work, manual focus is just too hit and miss when you want to take a shot from ten feet away wide open and hope to see the pores on the person’s skin after the shot is cropped.  I can get that shot with the Canon.  I recently spent time with a pro who mainly takes candid shots people in everyday life.  He carries two Nikon DSLRs that clip onto a belt he wears on his waist, one with a zoom wide angle and the other with a zoom telephoto.  He only shoots JPEGs because he doesn’t have time to edit raws and he shoots many shots as fast as he can and doesn’t want raw photos to fill up his card and camera buffer.  He tried my Leica and said it would be much easier to carry around but he would miss most of his shots.

 

The M9 is also not useful for very wide or long photos.  I shoot a lot of landscapes in the southwest.  Many of my best shots were with a fisheye lens.  The Leica can go 21mm or 18mm but as Steve points out in his lens reviews you usually need a Leica lens to shoot wide angle and avoid color problems at the fringe.  Effectively the M9 has no telephoto capability.  90mm is slight telephoto and 135mm, the maximum for a Leica rangefinder, is too inconvenient to carry in addition to a 90mm.  My full frame Canon DSLR will go much wider and longer with no fringing problems.

 

Leica’s software is relatively primitive and colors are hit and miss.  Sometimes they are great.  Others times there is a yellow or orange cast.  On the other hand, no other camera I have used does as good a job in long exposures on a tripod.  Take a shot in moonlight and it will come out like it was day.

 

I hope you find this interesting.

 

George Sutton
Dec 242011
 

Just saw that popflash.com has the Chrome Leica M9-P IN STOCK. The chrome version is the one that is high in demand so it will probably sell quick. Of course you can buy this chrome M9-P and give it a hot pink paint job like crazy Kai over at digital rev. Lol. Maybe I should paint my M9-P green and red for Christmas. Hmmmmmmm.

Dec 162011
 

PRESS RELEASE

NEW FIRMWARE UPDATE FOR THE LEICA D-LUX 5

Solms, Germany (December 16, 2011) – Leica Camera AG announces the release of a new firmware update for the Leica D-Lux 5. Users wishing to bring their camera up-to-date can now download the firmware update and an installation guide from the ‘UPDATES’ section of the D-Lux 5 page on the Leica Camera website.

This new firmware offers D-Lux 5 users the following updates:

  • Improved autofocus speed in the wide-angle domain
  • Enhanced functionality when using manual and automatic focusing
  • Increased automatic white-balance precision in adverse lighting conditions
  • High-ISO-noise reduction for ISO 1600 and ISO 3200
  • Incorporation of an ‘Active mode’ for image stabilization and new ‘Miniature effect’ in the ‘My colors’ mode (available for photo and video modes)
  • Continuous autofocus with the shutter button half depressed
  • Increased longest shutter speed from 60 to 250 seconds
  • Addition of manual adjustment of the LCD monitor and the external viewfinder to the camera settings menu

About the Leica D-Lux 5

The Leica D-Lux 5 is a true representation of the Leica design vocabulary and philosophy. Its flat, smooth and uncluttered design ensures its timelessly modern look. The Leica DC Vario-Summicron 5.1-19.2 mm f/2-3.3 ASPH. offers a faster lens than previous models and a zoom with an extremely practical range of focal lengths. Furthermore, the 10.1 mega-pixel D-Lux 5 guarantees exceptional image quality and superb sharpness while its intuitive controls ensure ease of use. Its 720-pixel HD-video function in memory-saving AVCHD-Lite format and optional accessories make the D-Lux 5 the perfect camera for capturing truly distinctive images.

Dec 152011
 

UPDATED! MEGA WORKSHOP: Los Angeles – January 27th, 28th and 29th 2012 – FIVE Great presentations, Street shooting, Lighting, models, and a VERY special World Premiere Lens debut!

SELLING FAST! A few seats still remain!



Lots of surprises, lots of shooting, and lots of PASSION!

After many requests I am bringing a MEGA meet up/workshop to Los Angeles and I have been setting it all up behind the scenes for the past few weeks. I found the perfect location with the help of Todd Hatakeyama who has allowed me to have base headquarters at his new studio right in the heart of Los Angeles.

Hatakeyama Studio will be where we will converge, talk, have presentations, share our passion, shoot on the street, shoot models, learn about lighting, learn about basic technique and even witness a new world premiere of a special lens as well as learn how to create an online presence with your photography! 

You can read about past workshops like the one in Seattle, Chicago and New York. They were all super cool and everyone had a great time, made new friends and even learned a thing or two. This one in Los Angeles will be the biggest and best yet as I have so much planned we had to stretch it to a 2 1/2 day event!

Base camp for the weekend will be at Hatakeyama Studio in Los Angeles – Plenty of space! Check out Todds Leica site HERE

There will be FIVE presentations over two and a half days and FIVE special guest speakers. The biggest yet. Some of what is in store…

1. Photographer Jay Bartlett will speak about lighting, and even shooting portraits with the Leica M9 using studio lighting. Jay knows his stuff and his website can be seen here.

2. There will also be a special guest who will be showing off the WORLD PREMIERE of a brand new amazing lens that is VERY special and very high end. Those who attend will see it first and will have a chance to see it and shoot with it. The 1st in the world in person look at this special item. He will also give a talk on lenses and design.

3. There will be a great presentation/lecture from Elizabeth Wang-Lee on Street Photography. She will go over the masters as well as talk about what makes for a great street photo. Elizabeth recently had a Daily Inspiration posted on the site HERE.

4. We will also have Sean Armetta, fashion photographer (we WILL be in LOS ANGELES right?) giving a presentation.

5. Ashwin Rao will be in attendance as well and he will give a talk on how to build your online presence in the photo community as well as share some of his best photos with us all.

6.. A  pro model will be on hand so we can each shoot studio portraits with lighting. We will share our shots later in the day. (more info soon)

7. Other surprises to be announced soon as well as detailed itinerary and we may have some Leica gear on hand as well for those who would like to try out an M9 or lens.

 

The Seattle workshop hosted by Ashwin Rao was a huge success – Photo by Ashwin Rao

We will hit the pavement as well! Street shooting in LA as well as trying our hand at studio/model portraits!

1st of all, everyone is welcome! Not just Leica shooters! At my last workshop in Chicago we had a wide variety from Micro 4/3, Leica, Olympus 4/3 and DSLR’s. We had a little bit of everything and we ALL came away with some great shots.

The Los Anegeles workshop will start on Friday evening Jan 27th where we will do our introductions, go over what our goals are with photography and then we will settle in and discuss what we will be doing over the weekend. On Saturday Day 2 we will have some presentations on lighting and fashion and will each have time with the model to get some shots. On Day 3 we will have some street shooting presentations and we will head out to shoot people on the street, we will shoot life as it happens. We will go outside of our normal boundaries and be inspired to get the shots we want. On Sat and Sun lunch will be paid for by me and we will have a GREAT lunch. Just because its free doesn’t mean it will be skimpy! I will be posting the full detailed itinerary SOON but do know it will be jammed packed.

There will also be processing and critiques on a big screen as we go over everyones shots. As with my last two workshops I will be giving away a prize to one lucky winner. After day two ends we will have a goodbye dinner and drinks (the cost of this is not included, every man for himself)!

Seattle 2011 – Ashwin Rao

How to GET IN and ATTEND this Special Weekend! 

Mark your calendars for Jan 27th, 28th and 29th. This is a Friday/Saturday/Sunday. There will be two and a half days of hanging out in Los Angeles, five presentations, four guest speakers, street shooting, studio shooting, processing and critiques, a world premiere of an amazing new product and two days of lunch provided by me at no cost and dinner and drinks on day three for anyone who wants to hang out after (this dinner is NOT paid for by me).

The days will typically start between 8-9am and last until we are done for the day, which usually is around 6-7pm. We usually all head out for dinner and drinks afterwards.

RESERVE YOUR SPOT NOW!

The cost of this weekend event is $595 and this includes lunch on both days (will announce where we will be eating soon). If you sign up before Jan 1st you can save $50 and your total cost will be $545. I am limiting this to 15-20 people. Every workshop in the past sold out so if you want to go be sure to get locked in quick!

I can accept credit cards through google checkout so if you want to attend this special weekend, e-mail me HERE and I will get you all set up.

Again, Lunch on BOTH days is included. Will also have coffee and snacks each morning provided. Many hotels are nearby including this Sheraton 5 blocks from base camp which is where I will be staying.

More details will be posted soon! Bookmark this page and check back every week for more info on this event!

 

Seattle 2011 Group as we all gathered on Ed’s “Beast”

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Chicago 2011 Group at Chicago’s oldest camera shop Central Camera

Dec 122011
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the pictures below for a more empirical overview.

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

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

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Dec 092011
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 062011
 

PRESS RELEASE

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

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

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

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

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

About the Leica M9 and M9-P:

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

 

Dec 022011
 

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

By Steve Huff

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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The 35mm Focal Length – A Classic

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

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

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

The Nokton at 1.2 or 1.4 

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The Version II Nokton 35 1.2

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

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

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

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

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

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Speaking of Sharpness

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

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

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

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

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

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Even at 1.4 it is plenty sharp. No complaints.

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

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

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

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Vigentting?

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

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

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Now at f/4

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

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The Bottom Line Conclusion

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

debbycolorvoigt

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

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

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

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

This lens is gorgeous on the Monochrom as well.

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PROS AND CONS

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

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

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

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

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

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Dec 012011
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sensor sizes in the following examples…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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