Sep 022012
 

Hey Steve –

I’m attaching a few images which may interest you.

These have been shot in Mumbai, India on the Leica X2 – in “monochrome” – actually in BW high contrast mode!! I really love the overall tonality one can achieve in-camera, without having to convert colour into BW in post-processing. The X-2 does such a cool job of it. Just a few minor touches to ones taste in LR or CS6 and you’re on your way!! Although it doesn’t possess the bells and whistles of its competitors, the photographic IQ of this camera is just incredible!!

Its nothing short of the ideal street camera – the lesser side of an “M”!! Small, stealthy and super slick!!

Keep up the great work with your website!! Always a joy to visit!!

Cheers

Sharookh Mehta

Aug 312012
 

Leica 50 Summilux ASPH IN STOCK AGAIN!

B&H Photo sold out of their 50 Summilux ASPH stock after I posted about them the other day but I noticed today that this lens is still in stock at a few select dealers and you can get one now if you are still looking for one.

PopFlash.com has BLACK AND SILVER in stock – They also have a slightly/lightly used one for $3697 in black! 9.88 out of 10 condition!

Dale Photo has the black in stock HERE.

Ken Hansen should have some as well. You can e-mail him at [email protected]

Also sold by Adorama HERE with 4 in stock

Aug 312012
 

The Leica M9 Does Spain

by Aravind Krishnaswamy

Earlier this summer I went on a tour of Spain with my 7 months pregnant wife, starting in Madrid and finishing in Barcelona. We were part of a tour group and over the course of about a week we got to enjoy the sights and tastes of primarily Andalucía, but also bits of Castilla La-Mancha, València and Cataluña. The last time I did a European tour, it was 2006 and I had only my DSLR so I lugged it along. Time time, I had the option of the Leica M9 and wanting as small and light a kit as possible I took it along with the 21 Super Elmar, 35 Summilux ASPH FLE and the 75 Summicron APO. All of this fit in a Tenba Mini Messenger along with a 13″ Macbook Air for editing my images.

About a week before departure, the anxiety of having so much expensive equipment with me drove me to try and pack a DSLR kit into the same bag. I took only one lift of that loaded bag to my shoulders to convince me it was a bad idea. My Leica kit went with me everywhere, to all the sights, all the meals, and no point during the trip did I feel “camera bag fatigue” nor was I tempted to leave the camera behind in the room safe.

On the way from Madrid to Seville is Cordoba where there is a Cathedral-Mosque, a world heritage site. The place has a long history, starting off as a pagan temple, eventually becoming a Visigoth church. After the Umayyad invasion of Spain in the 8th century it was turned into a Mosque and over the next couple of centuries expanded much in size. Then during the reconquest of Spain, a Catholic Cathedral was built in the center, giving the place a combination of architectures you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.

One of the distinct advantage of not having a big mirror flapping around is the low shutter speeds you can get away with. I made the above image hand held at 1/3s. I managed to brace myself by a railing and fired off a couple of shots to be sure to get a sharp one. You can see in the inset how much detail the 21 Super Elmar can capture wide open even at such slow shutter speeds.

On the evening we arrived in Seville, we were treated to dinner and a wonderful Flamenco performance. I didn’t want to spend the entire performance behind my camera, so I opted to make the occasional image and it was the perfect chance to use the 75 Summicron APO. I initially focused on creating images at high shutter speeds to freeze the dancer’s motions.

Then, I started experimenting with blurs. Again, since there wasn’t mirror slap to worry about, I could hand hold the 75 Summicron at shutter speeds of about 1/30s to freeze the dancer’s faces but get motion blur on their arms and dresses.

The next morning, one of the first places we visited was Plaza de España. This scene may look familiar to some as portions of Attack of the Clones was filmed here (some scenes taking place in Naboo). With the incredibly high contrast of the scene I decided to capture this scene with multiple exposures with the idea of merging them with HDR later. Since I didn’t have a tripod, again this was done hand held.

I did use the M9 for what it was intended, photographing people on the street. My pre-trip anxiety on carrying all this expensive equipment was completely unfounded as it turned out. The M9 is very discreet with most people not even noticing my presence. In fact, another person in our group with a Canon Digital Rebel and a kit lens got a lot more attention as a photographer than I ever did. The ability to shoot without having many people stare at you was somewhat new for me and was a very liberating experience.

The M9’s lack of auto focus was never an issue, a bit to my surprise. Of course, I wasn’t trying to photograph fast action, but even with this young boy moving all over the place, the lack of AF didn’t get in my way. It naturally took a bit more work to make the image but in the end I still got what I wanted. One of the things I notice about a lot of images made with the M is how the subject gets put in the center. This is understandable since you have to use the center patch to focus. I’m finding that as my experience increases with the M, I get faster with focusing and then recomposing or just estimating focus distance and using zone focus.

I made several images while just walking by and this was one of them. On a city tour of Carmona, we encountered a film crew mid-shoot. They were setting up for the next scene and we were rushed through the streets of the set so that we could get from end of the street to the other. Again, my fairly discreet set up let me grab a quick shot as we walked by these three actresses. Several seconds before, I knew I wanted an image like this one, so I pre-focused using zone focus estimating what my distance to the actresses would be as well as stopping down to ensure sufficient depth of field to account for any focus error. Then as we walked by all I had to do was frame very quickly and release the shutter.

Another example of a quick, discreet image. As I was walking up to the candles, I knew that if possible I wanted an image of someone lighting a candle. Then, as I was walking by, on my way out I saw this couple, turned around focussed quickly and released the shutter. One of the observations I’ve made in the few thousand images I’ve put through the M9 relates to focus. I find that I have virtually no images where the focus is completely off. There are plenty where there are small focus errors, but usually that’s not noticeable unless the image is printed very large. In contrast, I’ve found DSLR autofocus to actually give me more grossly out of focus images, though also a higher percent of perfectly in focus images. Its not a tradeoff that can work in all situations but in many its one I’m happy to make.

I had a great time walking through the crowded markets of Barcelona, making images of the people and especially the food. Since the first day of the trip I discovered just how much Spaniards love their ham and it turned out to be a staple during the remainder of the trip.

In one of his previous posts Steve said that the M9 has brought him more joy and passion to his photography than any other camera since his MP. I feel the same way, minus the MP since I never had the chance to shoot with the MP. I have tried to figure out what exactly it is that brings this joy and am not sure its any one thing. I know that with my Leica lenses I spend a lot less time post processing, the colors and tones are usually spot on with minimal adjustments in Lightroom. Perhaps its the interface of the camera, where everything just works as I expect it to with nothing getting in the way. Whatever it is, the M will definitely be coming with me on future travels.

About Aravind Krishnaswamy

 

Aravind Krishnaswamy is a nature photographer based in San Jose, California. His current work focusses on making images featuring wildlife in their natural landscape. His work can be viewed at

http://www.akimagery.com

Aug 302012
 

Olympus OMD 95% – Leica M9 5%

By Neil Buchan-Grant

It’s been about a year since I last sent you anything Steve and a lot has happened in that time. I sailed to New York on the Queen Mary and had christmas in the big apple, just me, the M9 and a Sony NEX5n. I visited B&H for the first time, (what an amazing place) and picked up the last EVF they had for the NEX. Needless to say the M9 didn’t get too much use for the rest of that trip, but I had a great time with the NEX.

In March I finally got hold of an Olympus OMD just in time for a number of European trips I had planned. I liked it so much that the Sony and all of its lenses went straight on eBay! On each trip I religiously packed the M9 into my slingshot with a 50mm and a 35mm. In France, Portugal, Montenegro, Ireland and on 2 trips to Croatia, I carried it everywhere but only used it a handful of times. I had started to wonder why I bothered to carry it everywhere. Then I had the opportunity to shoot a theatrical company visiting my local theatre. Although I used the OMD for most of the shoot, the pictures I took with the M9 really stood out and added a genuine touch of class to the set.

So the numbers in the title of this piece roughly show the usage for each camera over the last 6 months. The main reason for this has been the wonderful Panasonic Leica 25mm Summilux lens which has been almost welded to my OMD for most of that time. Wide open, its has excellent sharpness and micro-contrast and a tiny bit of CA which lightroom disposes of in a click of the mouse. Okay, you don’t get the same level of subject isolation as you would with the 50 lux on an M9, but it’s still a dreamy looking result with a sweet bokeh. I’d say the pictures look just like my 35mm lux ones on an M9, but with a 50mm perspective.

As a system camera for travel photography the OMD has to be the best I’ve used so far. I won’t go over the same ground you and so many others have already covered but its a joy to use. As for the M9, its still the daddy with a great sensor and the best glass on the planet. When you want special results and you have the time, the pictures it makes are quite unique! So I’ll continue to pack it in my bag wherever I go. Hopefully one day there might be a full frame Leica M body with a great EVF and a rangefinder.

The other thing that has changed over the past year is my growing interest in black and white photography. So I’ve been finishing a lot of my work off in Silver Efex Pro 2. I’m afraid I won’t be in the market for an MM though as I love the flexibility the colour channels give me in processing and I’m more than happy with the resolution the M9 or for that matter the OMD give me.

Here are some of the black and white pictures I’ve shot over the past 8 months with all the cameras mentioned above.

NYC with the NEX5n and the Leica 35mm Summilux

NYC NEX5n Leica 35mm Summilux

NYC Leica M9 50mm Summilux

Galway, Ireland OMD PL25mm

Dubrovnik, Croatia  OMD PL25mm

Dubrovnik, Croatia  OMD PL25mm (an Italian tourist, I told him he looked like a bald George Clooney:)

Dubrovnik, Croatia OMD PL25mm

Dubrovnik, Croatia  OMD PL25mm (sorry about this one but I think its just ‘the dogs bollocks!’

Manchique, Portugal OMD PL25

Rovinj, Croatia OMD PL 25mm

Galway, Ireland OMD Olympus 75-300mm @85mm 

Oxfordshire OMD PL25mm

Rovinj, Croatia Leica M9 50mm Summilux

Winchester, Leica M9 50mm Summilux

Winchester Leica M9 50mm Summilux

More can be seen as usual at my website www.buchangrant.com (and click on the ‘Unique’ tab to see my new ‘portraits only’ site)

Thanks again Steve, wish I could join you all on that boat, sounds like a lot of fun, maybe next year!

Kind Regards

Neil

 

Aug 292012
 

New Leica compact system coming to Photokina? My crystal ball says MAYBE…

So I dusted off my crystal ball last week and in between writing for and maintaining this website 40-50 hours a week and doing some Paranormal Investigating with my son 20 hours a week I figured I would find time to dust off the old ball to see what Photokina will bring us from Leica….

Now, this is just a crystal ball prediction like I have done many times in the past so take it with a grain of salt :) Maybe I should say “for entertainment value only”

In any case, as I gazed into the ball I saw a Leica rangefinder…it was matte black and I soon realized this was the Monochrom which should be delivered to the USA within 3 weeks or so. I also saw the X2 but it was fading into the background. The X2 has been lackluster in the sales dept, especially when compared to the X1 which was a huge success so maybe the was why it was fading.

Remember the R lens solution? Well I thought I saw a small solid Leica like body fly by the crystal ball through a haze of M and R lenses…then a German man was jumping for it saying ME ME ME!! with $3500 in USA cold hard cash in his hands… So odd…

Maybe Leica will have a new German-made body at Photokina that will accept R and M lenses via adapters or maybe it will be something like a mini M..or a new versatile all in one. Not sure. I thought I saw a huge letter “C” fly by as well, which I took as APS-C. This would make so much sense..the digital CL we have been asking for but Leica usually never gives us what we ask for.

That is all I saw so it will be exciting to see if Leica surprises us with this new camera.

As for an M10…I saw a sad face like there have been difficulties with it..maybe it is not ready but I do not see an M10 being available until MID 2013 and maybe THIS will be the “R” solution. Imagine a CMOS – LIVEVIEW M that can take R glass as well. Hmmmmm. The M10…I wouldn’t expect a working demo unit to be unveiled in September but maybe can announcement about it.

I also saw a lens…was pretty damn large too..wide angle. But who knows what that meant :)

DISCLAIMER: I did not read ANY of this from a rumor site (I do not visit them) and no insider or friend told me this information. I guess we will see what happens in September, just three weeks away! I will be on the Photo Cruise but will try to report when I can that week on whatever I can!

Aug 272012
 

The Leica Monochrom M has arrived!

By Jon Barker

Hi Steve,

The MM arrived a bit less than a couple of weeks ago. I had been going to order an M9 until I saw the sample monochrom files on the web. I’ve spent 3 months wondering if I had made a huge mistake, but the quality of the monochrom has not disappointed. (The quality of the photographer is another matter of course). There are birds in some shots I hadn’t realised were there when I pressed the button. I can zoom in to 1:1 in lightroom and identify them as pigeons. It has really quite astonishing resolution.

I’ve attached some pictures for you to look at. All taken in the wilds of Leicestershire, UK. All shot with an MM plus Zeiss Biogon 35mm f2 and B&W 22 Yellow filter. (The split toning is, hopefully obviously, not that serious an attempt…) The light today was not hugely inspiring, but it hasn’t been for weeks to be honest and I had to get out today when I had the chance.

The two big realisations for me today were that I have a lot to learn, but also that this camera will allow me to learn. It’s so very easy to use. Now that I have genuinely direct access to aperture and speed adjustments and can see the results of changes I make in real-time in the meter I have finally twigged how the zone system works. I knew all this technically before, but it didn’t make intuitive sense until I was shooting with such a transparent bit of kit. Transparent is definitely the word for it. My OM-D is lovely, but I hadn’t understood quite how many decisions it had been making for me (and all the other modern cameras I’ve owned have done this too). For me, until I have to do it I don’t learn it, and now I am doing it. I also finally understand what people mean when they say the camera gets out of the way. This one certainly does. Negatives? Well, yes it is easy to clip highlights irreparably. But it’s not hard to check the histogram and take another shot. It’s only monochrome, and although I am currently deliberately taking out only this camera until it’s become familiar it is likely that I will carry the MM and an OM-D in future, particularly when all the red berries come out in a month or two. Can’t think of any other negatives to be honest, and I can’t think of many things that an OM-D and an MM wouldn’t be able to handle. However, I could see my OM-D being traded in for the next model in a year or two. The MM is looking like a companion for life.

Cheers,

Jon Barker


Aug 242012
 

Taking Photos in “The City of Light” – The Leica M9 and Fuji XPro-1 in Paris

By Ashwin Rao

Hello, everyone. It’s been a few months since my last post, though I have been quite busy, photographically speaking, trying to travel as my job and personal life allow and take photographs along the way. One observation that I have made, and this may be purely my perspective, is that people tend to take more photos with their newly purchased gear, and recently, the release of new gear has slowed down, as companies ready for big camera announcements at Photokina. The past year has seen the release many wonderful cameras have been introduced this year, many of which Steve has covered, including the fantastic Olympus OM-D, Fuji XPro-1, Sony RX100, Panasonic GX-1, Nikon D800, and Canon 5D Mark III. With Leica, there was this May’s announcement of the Leica M Monochrom, which has yet to see the hands of paying customers but a represents a camera full of promise. While new gear is always fun to try out and test, we shouldn’t discount tried and true gear as tools to channel our collective photographic muses. The release of newer products does in no way invalidate yesterday’s cameras of choice. Thus, while Photokina may see the release of a Fuji X200, Olympus EP-4, Leica M10, a professional Olympus OM-D, and many other tasty tidbits, the Fuji X100, Olympus EP-3, Leica M8 and M9, and OM-D will remain as amazing tools for capturing photos.

M9

XP-1

M9

I wanted to take the time to celebrate my longstanding favorite camera, the Leica M9, and one of my new favorites, the Fuji XPro-1, as amazing photographic tools by which to grow my photographic skills. I used both cameras extensively during my recent visit to Paris this past July, and the exercise of photographing this city for a week validated my vision for the city by capturing it in the way that I saw it. We currently live in a golden age of photography, where cameras are truly fantastic tools for creative expressionism. Every camera will have strengths and weaknesses, and one should choose a camera that suits their needs and style, and go out and make images. For some, it’s the iPhone that suits their needs the best. For others, tech cameras with medium format backs are necessary to capture the required image. For me, over the past 6 years, the digital rangefinder has been the camera that suited my needs, and in particular, the Leica M9 was an digital realization of the ideal rangefinder camera. Remember that while the M10 may soon replace the M9 at the top of Leica’s supply and production food chain, the Leica M9 remains and will continue to be a fantastic tool for those who love rangefinder photography. Similarly, the Fuji XPro-1 is a fantastic option for people liking cameras in a smaller form factor, with rangefinder styling. It is far from perfect, with quirky autofocus being its primary issue, but the images acquired from its innovative sensor have the potential to wow both the photographer and his or her audience. Let me talk about my experience using these cameras, while walking the streets of Paris….

 

M9

 M9

M9

During my visit, I used the M9 about 75% of the time, preferring its responsiveness and build, and I used the Fuji XPro-1 about 25% of the time, particularly when the lights dimmed in the city. I found the XPro-1 to be wonderful for the street, but a bit challenging with faster moving subjects (even in street life with the motion of peole). The M9 in contrast, rarely, in the way… I have become so accustomed to the rangefinder way, that this, in large part, was why I used the M9 more. It’s a camera that I have grown intimately comfortable with, through travels in Egypt, Venice, India, and other far away places. It’s through the M9 that I have grown to be comfortable with the 35/50/90 mm way of seeing the world. That being said, once one learns its quirky and at times exasperating focus system, the Fuji XPro-1 will reward you duly with wonderful images. I have provided you with my perspective of this camera as well, in a separate article. In practice, the XPro-1 takes a bit more planning to use as a street camera. With both the M9 and the XPro-1, one must practice seeing the image before it actually happens. That being said, the autofocus of the XPro-1 can hold one back when capturing the decisive moment, in certain times when acquiring quick focus is necessary, but if you get the hang of pre-focusing with the camera, that is locking in on a field of focus by holding half way on the shutter release to capture the point of intended focus, you can then find your moment and capture it. Just pointing and shooting with the XPro-1 can be dicey as a way of shooting, so it forces a new way of setting up and capturing your shot. The M9, for me, was an easier tool to use, partly due to my familiarity, probably because I didn’t have to rely on autofocus to nail my intended plane of focus and quickly snap my image. I found that using both cameras at the same time was disconcerting, and I decided that a better way to use these cameras was to choose one to take out and use it for both its strengths and its limitations. Thus, on my trip, the M9 became my daytime camera, while the XPro-1 was often used later in the evening and night or when AF would be helpful. Ultimately, I feel that one should travel using a camera that they are comfortable with. In this way, the camera will not get in the way. For me, the M9 never got in the way, and when grabbing the camera out of the bag, the M9 came out ¾ of the time, compared to the XPro-1, which I had slightly less comfort with.

M9

 M9

And yes, Paris, J’taime (I love you!)….what a great city it is….For any of you whom haven’t had the privilege of visiting Paris, please do. Paris is a city of great history, cultural diversity, and a vibrancy in its people and visitors that breaths a literal life into the paved and picturesque cobblestone streets . Many writers, photographers, philosophers and poets and travelers have romanced about the city for years. I myself visited the city as a youth, now nearly 2 decades ago, and have carried with me many fond memories that have added to my own romance with the city. It’s a city of its people, its coffee shops, its wonderful croissants and wines, its young couples in love, its museums and art, its glorious architecture, and endless activity. It’s a city of quiet alleyways, ageless cemeteries tucked in the midst of a bustling modern city, and grand churches full of gothic splendor. It’s the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph, and Sacre Coeur. And through the sum of its parts, it is much more. Go yourself, and you enjoy discovering this for yourself. To describe Paris doesn’t do it justice.

M9

M9

M9

I had a wonderful opportunity to visit Paris this past July, as I have family members who live and work in the heart of the city. What an opportunity to travel and have a local guide (family, again) to show me the inner workings of the city. I’d almost always recommend this. If you know someone locally, see if they’d be willing to show you around. You’ll see so much more and get a feel for much more than if you stick to tourist routes. It’s been a longstanding desire to shoot the city using a rangefinder, which for me is a perfect “street” camera. I mean, if Henri CB earned his chops here, what better photographic playground could there be for a rangefinder nut like me. So off I set to “the City of Light”, M9 in hand. Along with the M9, I decided to pack my Fuji XPro-1, a relatively new addition, in order to test it out as a “street” camera. The XP-1 also offers the photographer amazing low light capacities, far superior to the M9 sensor’s ability in this venue, so I thought that the XPro-1 would be a nice tool for lower light work.

M9

XP-1

Lenses, you may ask? What did I bring? Well, along came a 21 mm Super-Elmar, 35 mm Summilux FLE, 50 mm Summilux asph, and 90 mm APO-Summicron. All of this fit comfortably in my Fogg-B-Laika bag, which is an AMAZING bag for all you small camera nuts. It is discrete and has the capacity to carry a lot of gear. This was the bag that ended my “bag acquisition syndrome” a couple of years back…I wish it cured my “gear acquisition syndrome (GAS)”, but I haven’t been quite so lucky on that front.

Once I arrived, it was immediately off to walk the streets. I had the great privilege of having family members, including my brother Pree and his fiancé Hadley (who writes a fantastic blog regarding life in Paris, http://laviemaraisienne.com; go check it out!), escort me around town so that I could gather the lay of the land.

M9

XP-1

M9

XP-1

M9

 

XP-1

Our journey began in the Marais district, where family lives. Le Marais has historically been a center for Jewish culture in the city, and has gone through many phases of evolution. In its present incarnation, it is a beautiful district of fantastic squares (le Place de Vosges), streets bustling with commerce and cuisine, and sleepy nooks where Parisian life really takes place. Le Marais was my home during this drip, and it served as an incredibly convenient starting place from which to see many of Paris’ sites. While thoroughly travelling through this district, I was able to visit many more places, primarily by foot. Paris is well known for its metro and bus routes, but it is a city best experienced by foot. For those who enjoy cycling, Paris has one of the most unique and well developed public cycling commuter establishments, with citywide access to drop off and pick up points for these bikes. One can easily rent these bikes by hour and experience the city by wheel (much less frustrating than Paris’ infamous traffic).

 

M9

 

XP-1

My journeys by foot, bus, and metro landed me all over the city. I visited all of the typical sites (Eiffel Tour, Monmartre, Notre Dame, les Invalides, the Latin Quarter, le boulevard Saint Germain. Along the way, I frequented many patisseries and boulangeries, visited expansive cemetaries, and saw the city from its alleys and from great heights and elevation. I sampled many baguettes and croissants, a crepe here or there, wonderful local and ethnic cuisine, and even 2 orders of escargot! So tasty! All of this, I saw in many instances, through the viewfinder of the M9 and XPro-1.

Here, I have posted a summary of my pictures taken and edited for you all, from the trip. I hope that you enjoy them:

SET: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashwinrao1/sets/72157630481465554/with/7558740324/

SLIDESHOW: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashwinrao1/sets/72157630481465554/show/

What I present to you beyond my words are my images. I hope that they motivate you to take your own photos, visit places both near and far, and enjoy the process of making your own images. Sith whatever gear you own and use. New cameras will come and go, but what remains are memories and the images by which you captured them. For me, the visit was a reminder of what wonderful cameras we already have, and what great tools they are to use to capture and preserve these memories right here, and right now!

Until next time, my fellow Huffites, farewell, and I hope that this post sees you well!

All the best,

Ashwin

P.S. A few more pics for your viewing….

 


Aug 232012
 

 

OFFICIAL: Leica M9 and M9-P Markdown 

Great news. The Leica M9 and M9-P are officially marked down in price. Last week I mentioned that Dale Photo had a $1000 markdown on the M9-P and $500 mark down on the M9. You can read about their specials HERE. 

This week, B&H Photo joined the price slash bandwagon and I was told these are now official markdowns. M9-P goes from $7995 to $6995 and M9 from $6995 to $6495. This is a huge savings for a camera of this caliber. Never in the history of Leica do I remember anytime that they cleared out stock of cameras at a reduced price.

PopFlash.com also added the markdown and I am assuming Ken Hansen is also in on the action (his e-mail is [email protected])

WHAT COULD THIS MEAN?

Well, I read this as Leica trying  to clear out mass amounts of M9 and M9-P stock before the M10 is launched in 2013. I think Leica will announce and show an M10 at Photokina and deliver the M10 by March of 2013. Just a hunch really but between now and then they will need to sell off the M9 and M9-P’s sittin on dealers shelves and their own warehouse. It’s no secret that sales of the M9 have slowed down dramatically lately because many are realizing that an M10 is close.

This may also mean that the M10 could be priced in at $7995 or even $8495. Less than the $9500+ I had previously thought. Maybe Leica has finally decided to NOT up each release by a couple of thousand dollars. I really have no clue but we shall see soon enough as Photokina is right around the corner.

With the new price drops we should start seeing used prices of the M9 and M9-P drop a little more as well.

If you want to pick up an M9 at these prices check out the links below – You must add the cameras to your cart to see discount!

M9-P Chrome at B&H Photo $6995

M9-P Black at B&H Photo $6995

M9 Black at B&H Photo $6495

M9 Grey at B&H Photo $6495

and Dale Photo has their specials going as well HERE – You must add camera to cart to see discount! I am sure Ken Hansen has the specials and you can e-mail him here.

PopFlash.com has ’em too so you have MANY choices to get your M9 fix…or you can wait for the upcoming M10 :)

Aug 212012
 

The Noctilux 0.95 Unplugged

By Kristian Dowling

From Steve: This is a great piece with amazing photographs to show it off. Kristian is a talented photographer who I have been in contact with for quite a while through e-mail and I am pleased to publish this because in my opinion, these are some of the most beautiful photographs to come from ANY Hollywood photographer and really showcases what this lens can do ;) – Thanks Christian!

Many know the Noctilux 0.95 as a luxury lens, mostly suited to people with deep pockets, especially since lack of supply has pushed used prices beyond new prices. For me, it is a daily tool, which I used almost exclusively wide open at 0.95. Working in Hollywood, I have access to many great photographic opportunities with some great artists and talent. Having the right tools is essential, but I have to admit, I do not ‘need’ this lens. While it’s a tool, it’s one that is also quite extravagant and not easily justifiable because it isn’t essential to my work to shoot at f/0.95, and it doesn’t make me any more money compared to using a f/1.4 lens.

Quality

I won’t get too much into the build quality as Steve and others have already summed it all up nicely. Let me just say that build quality of materials, precision engineering and assembly don’t get any better than this. In terms of image quality, this would have to be the highest performing and most consistent ultra-fast lens ever produced. Consistency from wide open at f/0.95 is amazing and maintained throughout the aperture range until diffraction kicks in from f/16.

At 0.95, the image is very sharp, honestly very close to the amazing Summilux 50/1.4 ASPH at f/1.4. Using the lens wide open allows amazing isolation and fast drop off of focus to blur. So much so, that it’s almost too much, too fast at times.

One other quality to note is how well it controls flare and internal reflections. It’s amazing how well contrast, sharpness, and color are maintained when a strong light source is either inside or just outside of the frame. Make sure to remove any filters though if you want to totally avoid any signs of flare or reflections. In some of my examples you will see how the filter has caused a reflection that I actually like.

In use, and focusing accurately

While the Noctilux is large and heavy for an M lens, it handles extremely well. It’s focus ring is smoother than the f/1 and it’s focus throw is the perfect length. Not too short and not too long, making focus fast and easy to get right, especially for such a fast lens.

Despite being front heavy and large, it does balance quite well on the M9 and will intrude into the frame lines creating a blockage of your view. The key to accurate focus with this lens, especially in low light is to turn the focus ring past the focus point, then bring it back into alignment. I also focus bracket very important images, allowing me a choice of shots with slightly differing focus. This entails taking 2-5 shots of the scene while slightly adjusting focus for each frame, both in-front and behind the focus point.

See this video I made

 

Character and Signature of the lens drawing and bokeh at 0.95

This lens while being the upgrade from the f/1 version is not exactly what I’d describe as an upgrade. It’s more like a side step. I believe there’s room for both of these lenses in the marketplace but unfortunately, Leica discontinued it. While the f/1 version is known for it’s dreamy, swirly bokeh with a very distinctive signature, the 0.95 does not display these characteristics. Shooting at 0.95 doesn’t give the ‘appearance’ of a more obvious isolation as people would think, and this is because it’s a very, very well corrected lens. It’s aberrations are mainly obvious towards the corners, while the f/1’s aberrations are what made it famous.

Put simply, the 0.95 draws just like it’s smaller brother, the Summilux 501/1.4 ASPH. Both are highly corrected and produce bokeh that is very clean and corrected, representing the out of focus areas clearly and with little distortion of objects, lines and shapes. This is very important for my kind of work, because the environment in my backgrounds is usually important to my pictures and completes the story I’m telling. In contrast, the dreamy look of the f/1 version would distort the reality of my pictures, which can be great for generic portraits where the background is irrelevant to the subject or story.

I’ve been able to use the 0.95 for my work mainly because it is sharp enough at 0.95 and the M9’s sensor makes good use of the light entering that large aperture opening. Unless my clients wanted a soft dreamy look, the f/1 is not sharp enough at f/1 for most commercial uses, especially for today’s standards.

Need for speed or character?

Photographers buy these kinds of lenses for different reasons. Some for speed, and some for character. Most will say both. For me, it was about speed. If I wanted character, I’d buy the f/1 or the Zeiss C-Sonnar 50/1.5. Alongside my Leica, I also use the Nikon D3/D3s/D4 and lately the D800E, which all offer low light ISO qualities that easily surpass the M9’s sensor.

Therefor, when using the M9 in low light, the ‘need for speed’ becomes very apparent and there’s my justification for the 0.95 aperture. Hopefully, the M10 will improve enough that using this lens at 0.95 isn’t as important anymore. I say this because as digital camera ISO quality increases, I see thing differently to the general market.

Most people like high quality ISO so that they can use faster shutter speeds while shooting wide open. Whereas, I see the ability to stop down more, gaining extra depth of field and increasing the overall sharpness of the picture. I’m not afraid to bump up the ISO because I’d rather have a grainy sharp picture, than a smooth soft one due to camera shake and/or subject movement.

Issues with using the Noctilux

Some may see the size and weight and issue, but considering what this lens does, it really isn’t so large, and compares closely in size to most SLR 50/1.4 lenses.

All super-fast lens designs have compromises in the pursuit of perfection and the Noctilux 0.95 is not exempt. The biggest issue with the Noctilux is it’s purple fringing problem when shooting wide open against strong light sources, especially with bright backgrounds. While it’s an issue at times, I wouldn’t call it a ‘fault’ of the lens, as it’s not designed to be used in such conditions. Luckily, the new CA removal tool in Photoshop CS6, can completely remove just about any CA and purple fringing in its RAW conversion software – it’s quite amazing actually.

One issue I have with this lens is not due to it’s own fault or the fault of it’s designers. It’s about the mindset of the photographer when using this lens. Shooting at 0.95 can be very tricky and while it’s nice to isolate subjects, the urge to shoot wide open is very strong and may not always be the most appropriate aperture to use – but you do, because it’s right there in your face > 0.95!

I see way too many shots ruined by photographers because they’re in this ‘wide open’ mindset. The background in pictures is very important to telling the story in the picture and 0.95 may not always be the best decision when using this lens. I pretty much only used this lens at 0.95 because that’s what I bought it for, but there are some pictures I took where I wish I stopped down. Taking good photographs with this or any lens should be about choosing the most ‘appropriate’ aperture, and not the one you paid $11,000 for. Let me ask you this…..how many of the world’s best historical pictures were taken with backgrounds blurred beyond recognition?

Why you should and should not buy it

The Noctilux is a lens that is commonly bought and sold, sometimes 2-3 times by the same photographer. That is because it’s a huge expense and large size that many photographers find difficult to justify, especially in regards to keeping this lens over a long period of time. Once sold, the photographer often misses it and lusts after it once more.

I highly recommend the Noctilux to those who feel they ‘need’ the speed and know that they will use this lens on a regular basis for all kinds of work, shot wide open and stopped down. I cannot recommend this lens to those wanting to collect or use this lens for effect only. The effect of this lens is minimal in my opinion and if you’re interested because of the f/1’s rendering, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

The Noctilux 0.95 represents Leica’s ability to create an almost perfect high-speed lens. It’s rendering is spot on and out of focus is very clean with little to no signature – meaning it draws very accurately, even when out of focus. So for professional photographers or those after authentic and accurate representation in their photographs, this is the very best high-speed lens available, in any format.

Kristian Dowling

www.kristiandowling.com

Aug 202012
 

MY THREE LEICA KINGS by Tuananh Nguyen

A shout out to Mr. Steve Huff for setting us up with the sweetest and most bitchin’ photography site to date! I also have to thank all of you folks that have written some of the most entertaining, knowledgeable, and opinionated “inspirations” that have not only inspired my photography, but I am sure also to the growing members on this site. Although I understand the need for numerous reviews on newer products, I’ve always enjoyed reading articles on the “classics”, if not just as much, but maybe event a tad more. So on this note, I wanted to share my knowledge on three of Leica’s classical lenses, or what I would call as “my three kings”.

After my initiation into the Leica clan many years ago, I’ve had a chance to use some of the best optics in the world in both the pre- and post-digital age. I started out this love affair with my beloved Leica M2 and 50mm Summicron Dual Range, which I believe is as perfect as a camera can be. Its classic lines, dependability, and “glowing” images matched my style of photography and it also gave validation for my abandonment of the SLR idea. I’ve since owned both the M8 and M9, which I feel are the epitome of the digital rangefinder. The M9’s pixel count, full-frame CCD image characteristics, and classical build were all that I would ever dream in a camera (even in light of the advent of the M10 release).

Over the years, I’ve had countless opportunities to lend and own a long list of Leica lenses. But after a lot of “soul searching” I’ve concluded that there are three lenses that I found to have earned the title of “My Three Kings”: 50mm Noctilux-M (f/1.0 attached hood), 35mm Summicron-M (Type IV), and 90mm Summicron (Generation II, red numbering). Below, I will briefly summarize why I believe that these lenses are my favorite, but I will also include drawbacks when it is necessary.

 

Leica 90mm Summicron (Generation II)

After trying out a diverse group of Leica-M 75mm, 85mm, 90mm, and 135mm lenses, I’ve concluded that the 90mm Summicron was the best for me. Although the lens is much larger than the later editions, especially with the built in tripod mount, and odd filter size, I felt that it gave the most character out of all of these longer focal length lenses. As a portrait lens, the 90mm Summicron is soft and gives a nice glowing rendition, which is even more pronounced in the B&W images that it produces. Although not the sharpest lens in the Leica lineage, its excellent DOF/”bokeh” is silky smooth and excellent as a pure portraiture lens.

 

Leica 35mm Summicron-M (Type IV)

In the 1990’s, Leica lenses were expensive but not to the extent as they are today, especially in the used market. I was able to collect several editions of the 35mm and give them a thorough “shootout” before I decided which one was the keeper. I also tested out some wider angle Leica lenses, but I realized that the additional viewfinder was often obtrusive and it just didn’t fit my style of street photography with the Leica M2. The Type IV, also renowned as “The King of Bokeh” was my choice, simply because it was very compact and light, the replaceable lens hood was very affordable and easily attainable, and the new concaved focusing tab was an excellent focusing tool for such a small lens. This lens is exceptionally sharp but maintains that Leica “glow” and signature, more so than the other generations at this focal length. I chose this lens above all other wide-angles and aperatures because I felt that it had great balance for price, image quality, and compactness.

 

Leica 50mm Noctilux-M

Many Leica users and experienced photographers collectively know that the Noctilux is a very prized optical monster. It doesn’t just quiver under low-light condition; it actually lives for it, as Dr. Mandler would agree. This is my unequivocal favorite lens of all time. You might read online and various literature about the Noctilux’s focusing issues with the digital-M, lack of sharpness, extreme vignettes, enormous size, and countless other complaints. What is my response to all of these issues? Yes, I would have to agree with all of them! But I guess this is what taming a beast like the Noct is all about. Yes it requires a little love from the elves to make it perfectly adapted to your digital-M body. Yes, it is not the sharpest lens, but that’s the reason for its magic glow and signature bokeh. Images shot with a Noctilux can only be described as watercolors to me; the background always gives a very distinct paintbrush flavor while the outline of the subject usually glows with a warm soft texture. Yes, vignettes are a part of this lens’ repertoire, some folks hate it, but many like myself love it. As for the size argument, although the Noctilux is one of the largest of the Leica lenses, it is by far much smaller than many other normal focal length lenses in production. I was tempted to swap my classic Noctilux for the newer f/0.95, but after several days of using it at the Leica Akademie last year, I decided that the older model’s characteristics was more preferable for my taste.

These three lenses have many different attributes, yet the unique characteristics that they showcase are unmistakably, Leica. Will I use other cameras and lenses in the future, I am sure I am not immune to the shutterbug nor am I too stubborn or ignorant to say that this brand or that brand is the best for everyone. What I can say is that I love the Leica M system, for its simplicity, signature images, and obedience to what the idea of photography truly is – an art form.

Aug 172012
 

 

WOW! $1000 of brand new Leica M9-P and $500 off M9 at Dale Photo NOW!

WOW!! So you want that new M9-P but do not want to shell out $8000 for one? Well Dale Photo is offering a $1000 off special RIGHT NOW on all Leica M9-P cameras and $500 off  new M9 cameras! Direct Links to these specials is below!

When you add it to your cart the discount gets applied. AMAZING! I have never seen a special like this on Leica cameras, ever. So save some big bucks NOW.

HERE ARE THE LINKS to order!

The Silver Chrome M9-P – $1000 off at $6995

The Black Paint M9-P – $1000 off at $6995

The Black Paint M9  – $500 off at $6495

The Steel Grey M9 at $500 off at $6495

Dale Photo is a reputable Leica dealer and these are legit deals. These go through Halloween or until they sell out of course.

Aug 172012
 

Video: The Sony RX100 Protective Case, OM-D With Leica Summilux and SLR Magic’s Bokehmorphic!

Hello to all! Welcome and happy Friday! Yep, it’s Friday already…damn! This week has flown by!! Today I put up a video showing the new Sony RX100 Protective case, the one from Sony, and it is a beautiful case that protects the camera well, is made for a perfect glove like fit and does not hamper on the use of the camera like some cases do. This is NOT a leather case and comes in at $89, which is a bit on the high side but there is no mistake that this is a gorgeous case for your RX100. I leave mine in it at all times and when I take it with me now I just sling it around my shoulder. Perfect vacation camera and case!

I continue to be impressed with this little guy – the speed, the IQ, the color, the video..all great and I find it easily beats ANY of the Canon S series compacts. Easily.

Take a look at the video below where you can see the case with the camera in it. I also added some other things such as the OM-D with that beautiful 50 Summilux lens and the SLR Magic Bokehmorphic lens on the NEX-7. I will be reviewing this lens soon!!

You can buy this case at Amazon HERE

B&H Photo also sells it HERE

Aug 162012
 

LENS LUST: The Leica 50 Summilux ASPH on the Olympus E-M5 and NEX cameras

Lots of people wonder if spending the bucks for a Leica lens is worth the crazy cost when shooting with a NON Leica camera. We all know how insane the prices on these lenses are these days and the legendary and drool worthy Leica 50 Summilux ASPH is no exception. Coming in at around $4000 these days, this 50 Summilux ASPH is one of Leica hottest selling lenses right above the new 35 Summilux ASPH FLE. With rumors of a new 28 Summilux 1.4 for September coming one can only imagine how much these lenses will be going up in price (and value) in the next year or two. Leica raises prices every single year and I do not see them stopping this practice anytime soon.

My now 16 year old Son Brandon – OM-D with the Lux at 1.4

One good thing we can say about these prices is that those who have owned the best Leica lenses for a long time have seen their lenses appreciate like mad. Those who are buying new TODAY…well, that is a different story. With the cost of the lenses so high, many have been asking me if it is worth it to buy them for use with a Micro 4/3 or even NEX camera. I have shot the 50 Summilux ASPH on the Sony NEX-5n with gorgeous results.

On a NEX, the 50 becomes more like a 75mm equivalent making it nice for portraits (though you still get the characteristics of a 50mm).

The Leica 50 Summilux on the NEX-5n wide open, where it is meant to be used :)

On an OM-D E-M5 this lens becomes a 100mm equivalent, which is quite long. You still have the light gathering of an f 1.4 lens so in reality it is like shooting a 100mm f/1.4 though your DOF will be different due to the smaller sensor. With the new Olympus 75 1.8 out any moment now at $800 buying a $4000 Leica lens may not be the smartest decision financially but if you want to feel that Leica quality in your hand and see  that quality in your photos then it is worth it. Plus, if you hold on to the lens for a few years you may not lose any money when you sell, and you may in fact make money on it when Leica releases the snazzy new M13 :)

What a gorgeous lens. Well worth lusting after :) Wide open again at 1.4 on the OM-D E-M5

A lens like this is WELL WORTH it when shooting in a Leica M camera as you will see the full beauty of it. It is well worth it when using them how they were intended to be used and in my opinion they become a little crippled on other smaller sensor formats like Micro 4/3. Using them on the NEX or Fuji X-Pro 1 may be a different story though because you have an APS-C sized sensor which gives us more of the lens goodness to work with. The more of the lens surface we can use the more beautiful the results.

With that said, shooting a 50 Lux ASPH on an OM-D is quite nice and it will give you beautiful results that prove that it is all about the lenses. Even on the E-M5 you can see the Lens character shine through and it looks “Leica”-ish. This shows that the lenses are what makes the Leica magic, not the cameras (though the full frame M9 rocks because it uses all of the lens like an M7 or MP or M3 would).

Using a legendary Leica lens like the 50 Summilux ASPH even on the new Olympus OM-D or the established NEX-7 can be quite magical. This goes to show that it is indeed all about the glass when it comes to photo image quality, and in my opinion, Leica M lenses are the best in the world and well worth their high cost if photography is your lifetime passion.

So should you be one of those who are wondering if a Leica lens is worth it to own for your Micro 4/3 or NEX cameras or even Ricoh GXR..I would say…yes and no. Yes if you desire quality in build, feel, and want that Leica look to your images (and yes, there is such a thing as the Leica look) and you have some cash in your wallet. Leica glass is always a good investment though I can not say the same for buying a brand spanking new M9P as the value will drop on the cameras every time. Lenses though, they will eventually appreciate. On a NEX system this lens really shines due to the larger sensor. It may not be full frame but still, it is great on the NEX cameras.

I said NO because I think that with a system like Micro 4/3 there are so many great lenses already available for much much less that you could buy the full set of 12mm f2, 25 1.4, 45 1.8 and 75 1.8 for MUCH less than this one 50 Summilux 1.4 ASPH. $2700 vs $4000. You will not get the same look as this 50 Lux with any of those but you can get close (with the new 75 it appears). I found the combo of the OM-D with 50 Lux to be a pretty damn impressive combo and I had zero issues focusing. None were OOF.

Brandon at 1.4

I guess what I am trying to say is that this lens on the mirrorless cameras is gorgeous and you would NOT be disappointed. At the same time, it is not needed to get gorgeous photos with these systems. Again, like I said about the Monochrom, it comes down to what you WANT more than need :) I love the combo and when this lens is attached to the OM-D it feel amazingly solid. I used the EVF for all of the shots here and it was a joy to use.

The Leica 50 Summilux ASPH is still a tough lens to find in stock but you can always try Dale Photo, PopFlash or email Mr. Ken Hansen for availability. This is one lens that will always be a great investment as it is Leicas top selling lens and most desired lens as well. If you want to try it out on your camera you can also rent it at lensrentals.com (which I have been using quite a but lately BTW, they are great)!

One thing this lens has is amazing micro contrast as well as contrast, sharpness and color. It gives photos an almost “glassy” look. 

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this little snippet of Leica lens lust. The 50 Summilux ASPH is a legend and the best 50mm in the world, well, until that new 50 Summicron APO hits. :) This was not meant to be a review of the lens as I wrote one LONG ago and you can see that review HERE. This was just a piece to say that I still love this lens and is my 2nd fave Leica lens ever. My 1st? The new 35 Summilux FLE.

Steve

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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Aug 152012
 

Dear Steve,

As a loyal reader of your site, I’d like to offer my thoughts on a digital vintage – The Leica M8.

We consumers/photo enthusiasts have the tough job of chasing the latest camera technology with our wallets and savings. We are always tempted to look ahead (M10, anyone?), and easily leave behind great machines that are barely 1 or 2 years old.

Case in point: Leica M8, a controversial product released by Leica way back in ’06 that was conveniently forgotten soon after M9 came out.

A month ago I had to send in my M9 to repair due to “chipped coating on the sensor” (sign of digital life span?) after just one year in possession. I needed an interim substitute that could offer me the same M-series built and handling. For the price of an X2, I purchased an M8 in pristine condition (thanks to dedicated Leica collectors in HK).

Immediately I felt connected to M8, because it was so similar to M9 in terms of look and handling.

Here are things about M8 I liked:

– 1.3 crop factor (not full frame, but still beats any mirrorless out there today)

– Interchangeable lens

– Rangefinder-style focusing (no need for EVF or LCD display)

– Leica M-series solid built and minimalistic handling

– Acceptable ISO up to 640, which in reality has ISO 800 sensitivity

– ISO 160 image quality almost as good as M9

– Same battery as M9, which means the camera could live on if M9 or Monochrom remain in production

 

And a couple of functions I wish M9 had retained from M8:

– Bigger text display on the menu pages

– dedicated battery indicator

I recently traveled to Locarno, Switzerland, and brought my M8 along with Pre-ASPH 35mm Summilux. The combo produced stunning images. I’d like to share some with you and your readers. With the imminent arrival of M10, the price of M8 will probably continue to fall. I urge anyone who’d like to get into the world of rangefinder photography to pick one up. f you are interested in viewing more of my pictures, please go to my website: www.dingyuinshan.com

Cheers,

Shan Ding

From Steve:

Don’t forget that the M8 requires the use or IR/UV filters for each lens you use on the camera! These are a MUST with the M8 if you want the correct color and IQ.

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