Feb 072011
 

LOOKS LIKE B&H SOLD OUT IN ONE DAY but if you still want one LENRENTALS.COM has ONE left in stock NOW! CLICK HERE TO SEE IT. – Well, lensrentals.com sold out within minutes!

Only 50 were made and once they are gone, they are gone. B&H Photo just listed as IN STOCK the Special Edition Leica M9 set (NOW SOLD OUT but LENSRENTALS.COM HAS ONE LEFT – UPDATE #2 ! Sold out too!) that is finished in SILVER CHROME (Not Steel Grey) and wrapped in brown ostrich leather. It comes packed with a chrome 35 Summicron lens and it also has the upgraded Sapphire glass. This set also comes with a nice leather strap and again, only 50 were produced. If you break down the price…A new M9 is $7,000, a new 35 Summicron is $3000 and the Saphhire glass option on the M8′s were over $1000 if I remember correctly. That is $11,000 right there. Add to this the matching leather strap, the fact that this is the only M9 you can get in chrome AND that only 50 were made and this is actually not too ridiculously overpriced. Basically you are paying an extra $2000 for the ostrich leather, chrome finish, strap and to be one of the 50 to own this set. I’ve been seeing these sell at various dealers and B&H probably only has one or two so if you have been itching for one, now is the time. Check it out HERE.

PS – Some of you may know that this was actually the M9 Neiman Marcus edition that probably didn’t sell very well when it was $17,000+! And yes, IT DOES COME WITH the 35 Summicron ASPH in chrome, some of you questioned this but it does indeed come with the lens. Again, B&H sold out but lenrentals has one left!

Feb 072011
 

UPDATE – ALL 15 Finalists have been posted! Congratulations to all! The winners will be announced on March 1st 2011!

Ok, as promised I am starting to post three finalists every night for the rest of the week. By Friday all top 15 will be posted on this page. Before I post the 1st three let me state that these are not in any order. I really had a hard time choosing for this contest but the 15 I did choose were ALL fantastic in my opinion. All of them told a story, and any of them could win the grand prize :) When I chose the top 15 I was not out there looking for image quality or even someone with amazing photo skills. I was looking for TWO photos that when put together told me the story that the photographer was trying to tell me. There were a few in the top 15 that had it all..superb photography skills and the story. For this contest it was more about the vision that the photographer had for his/her story.

With so many amazing entries I was having a hard time narrowing it down so I asked for help. Ashwin Rao, who contributes to this site on a regular basis, looked over my top 35 and chose his favorite 15. I then took his favorites and compared them with my favorites and then narrowed it down to the final 15 that will compete for one of two top prizes! The Leica M9 donated and signed by Seal along with my 50 Summitar is the grand prize, but let’s not forget there is also the brand new Leica V-Lux 2 that was donated by Leica Camera for the runner up! Also picortwo.com also had a huge hand in this so be sure to follow photographers there such as Seal and Heidi.

When all 15 have been posted the official judges, Heidi Klum and Rankin will be looking over  this page and picking the final winners. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Even to those who entered and did not make the top 15 YOU ARE ALL WINNERS! Why? Because this contest motivated you and got you out there to shoot. Your brain started working and your creativity was elevated. This contest had over 1300 entries and all of you did a great job. I am a humble guy but I have to admit, this contest ROCKED! I can not wait to see who will win the cameras as I am sincerely excited for all of you who made it.

One more thing before I start presenting the finalists. The decisions made here are final and as with every contest I have held or participated in,not everyone will agree with MY choices. BUT, I have gone over each and every one of these submissions to make sure I did not miss anything. I did this three times and every time I came back to the 15 that you will see on this page. These submissions are the creme of the crop and all of them completed the objective which was to create a photo narrative with TWO photos..basically, to tell a story. Yea, it was tough to do with only two shots but these finalists all did it! So please, no rude comments, none of the “my entry was better” comments and no bitterness! Besides, we may be planning a few more contests to keep everyone motivated and full of passion!

Without any further hesitation I bring you the first entries that will be part of the final 15.

PLEASE! Click on the images to view the larger version! They are MUCH better this way!

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Andy Allaway, Crystal Lake, IL USA - “Accomplishment”

Chalid Mawardi Nasution, Indonesia - “Octopus Hunter”

António Miranda, Portugal- “Just living.”

Bram Platel, Eindhoven –  The Netherlands - “Free as a bird in my own world”

Ann-Marie Hensley, Brentwood TN – “Dachshund Through the Snow”

Brian Wytcherley, Shuangliu, Chengdu China - “Shortage of rural doctors in China’s Yunnan province”

Daniele Zedda, Ciampino (RM), Italy – “Faith in Yourself”

Dan Hartwright, West Sussex, United Kingdom - “My first camera tastes funny!”

Amy Medina, Holbrook, NY“Saying Goodbye”

Sasa Gagic, Bosnia and Herzegovina EUROPE - “Everyday is a new struggle”

Megan Baker, Brooklyn NY - “A Solitary Game”

Dan Skjæveland, Rogaland, Norway - “Our Future Hope”

Helene Marie Pambrun - “Some scars can’t be hidden”

Jonathan Cook - “Guy Jones - My Arm Was My Pillow”

Jacques L. Gudé - “Dreaming”


The remaining three finalists will be added to this page on Monday Feb 14th. Tomorrow a new post will be put up with 10 finalists and YOU will be able to vote for your favorites. The three with the most votes by Monday morning at 9am Phoenix, AZ USA time will make it here to this page. Good luck to all and congrats to those who made it so far!

Feb 062011
 

WOW! Over 1300 entries came in for the M9 contest. Over 2600 photos!! When this contest started I thought there would be 300-400 entries max but you guys surprised me with your enthusiasm, creativity, and overall excitement for this contest! As the entries came in I separated them into one of three folders. Basically one folder for the submissions that were good, one for the submissions that were better and finally one folder with the submissions that, in my opinion, told a great story. The best of the best all had something to say and the entrants came from all over the world. Some were dark, some were humorous and some were erotic. Overall, every single entry was looked at carefully and I will be posting my top 15 anytime between now and Feb 15th. I want to go over each and every entry one more time to be sure but this is not going to be easy, not at all!

Also, when the top 15 is announced and posted I hope we can all remain civil and respect the decision made. This contest was all about storytelling, using two images to form a narrative. About 95% of you did this and did it well, so that makes my job even harder! No matter who makes it to the top 15 I congratulate all who entered just for getting out there and giving it a shot! I am thrilled that this sparked passion in everyone who participated and I know if I had to come up with two images that told a story it would drive me crazy trying to figure out what to shoot.

So once again, thanks to all who entered. Thanks to Seal for his generosity and overall “coolness” and thanks to the Judges, Heidi Klum and Rankin who will be picking the TOP two winners. Don’t forget to follow one of them over at picortwo.com! Keep an eye peeled every day as the top 15 can be announced at any time, just no later than Feb 15th!

Feb 052011
 

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For those who did not enter yet be sure to keep an eye on the countdown timer which is at the upper right of every page :) I can not accept ANY entry after the time runs out!

There is a discussion on the contest in the forums HERE. Be sure to check it out and chime in!

Ok guys and gals…it is 10:20 AM at stevehuffphoto.com headquarters (my little house in Phx, AZ) and I woke up this morning to 300+ e-mails, most of them entries for this contest! I am predicting that I will receive over 1000 entries in all by the end of the night. As of this writing there is just over 16 hours left to enter this contest and one of you WILL win Seal’s Leica M9! How exciting!! I know what I will be doing all day today :)

One thing is for sure…it is going to be CRAZY hard for me to pick a top 10 for this contest, so I may pick a top 15 instead. There are so many great entries so narrowing down to 10 would be almost impossible. Also, I have been asked if I could post them all (as in ALL of the entries) when the contest is over. Having over 1000 entries would mean I would have to post a page with 2000+ images and that would suck up loads and loads of bandwidth, but I will try to figure out a way to get it done.

Some entries have made me laugh, some have sparked my imagination, and there have been one or two that had me shed a tear. This contest has brought out the creativity in so many of you and your images have inspired me to want to get out and shoot even more! I have received entries from almost every part of the world. The power of photography is alive and well!

Once again I want to thank Seal for donating his M9 for this contest! If you have not yet entered head on over to the official contest page HERE for all of the details.

So how about a few more of the entries? All random selections once again. By  posting these here it does not mean they are in the top 15 or not in the top 15. Just some teaser entries for all of you who have been asking to see more…

Gypsy Musicians practicing at home by Branislav Brkic – Serbia

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Prison for the innocent – Vlad Dodan

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Blue Skies, White Sands and Gale Force Winds… by Charles Lee

Again, be sure to visit the forum for a discussion on the contest and one big final GOOD LUCK TO ALL!

Feb 032011
 

Capturing Beauty in Asia with the Leica M9

By Neil Buchan Grant - See his Website

A little background

I have been making landscapes and travel images for 10 years, using almost every digital Canon from the Ixus to the 1Ds Mk III. In the past few years I had started noticing the special quality of images shot with Leica equipment. When I started experimenting with micro four thirds cameras I bought a Leica 35mm Summilux and a 75mm Summicron to use with a GF1. Even with this cut-down sensor, I was amazed at the quality of the images coming from these lenses. The resolution seemed endless and the look seemed to be in a different class. It was as if I had been eating omlettes all my life and suddenly I was given a souffle. I hardly used my Canon equipment for over a year. Becoming more intrigued by all things Leica, I soon came across Steve’s site and devoured almost every page. Finally, last year, I realised that if I sold all of my Canon gear I could just about afford an M9 and 2 more lenses, a 28mm Elmarit and a 50mm Summilux.

Eventually after what seemed like a lifetime (only 6 weeks in reality) the box arrived! Compared to even the mighty Canon pro bodies, the build quality and materials used lent the Leica M9 a truly ‘industrial’ feel. Even its shape had a strangeness I soon came to adore. I found the transition from AF to MF was a bit hit and miss for the first few weeks, but I soon got to grips with the rangefinder focusing. These first full frame images simply blew me away, they even surpassed those of my best Canon primes. In particular, giving a beautiful ‘organic’ look to the out of focus areas. The sensor seemed to hold a ridiculous amount of detail in the dark areas of pictures. I had not felt so connected with the sheer joy of making photographs since I had used manual SLRs in the late 70′s.

An early shot with the M9 and a 50mm Summicron at f2

A new direction

As much as I love the aesthetic beauty of good landscape photography, I had been wanting to make more people shots for some time. There’s something very powerful and mesmeric about a well shot pair of eyes that no landscape can equal. In the best work of this kind there’s a perceived connection which can induce the full gamut of human emotions, and for me anyway, reaches the parts that landscapes cannot reach. I discovered a web-portal called Model Mayhem where models of all levels of experience often seek out photographers who could help them develop their portfolios, in a reciprocal trade of time for images. This discovery was soon followed by a long-postponed decision to visit my brother who lives in Jakarta, Indonesia in South East Asia. The trip would last 3 weeks so I set about using the website to find models in Jakarta who would be interested in a shoot with what I fully admitted, was a novice in this genre. I had very few responses but fortunately just enough to plan a few definite shoots. Having a set budget I decided not to go for 20 nights in a 3 star hotel or to stay with my brother for the duration. Instead, my accommodation would switch from a selection of nights in five star hotels to a mattress on my brothers spare bedroom floor! Of course I co-ordinated the shoots to make the most of the plush hotels.

Sheila, the first model I shot in Jakarta M9, 50mm @ 1.4

My first shoot was with Sheila, a lovely 19 year old girl who’s portfolio was full of very edgy, high fashion shots using extreme make-up and black leather costumes. As the shoot was to take place in the refined surroundings of a 5 star hotel, I suggested she wore something classy. She turned up in a stunning long sequinned gown which it turned out, she had worn to her prom night. The M9 came out and I went to work with the 50mm summilux and a simple 42 inch reflector disk. I shot wide open for most of the session, the lens’s wafer thin depth of field seemed to be designed for this kind of work. The methodical procedure of focusing on the models eyes and recomposing for each release of the shutter, seemed to create a steady rhythm allowing the model to anticipate the next shot and adjust her pose for maximum variety. I found the better we got at this, the quicker I shot and a few times I had to take a break to allow the M9′s CPU to catch up, as it processed a stream of RAW images. Undoubtedly, a fast-shooting SLR would probably be a more common choice in a fashion or beauty shoot, but I was really enjoying the slow, sure pace of the Leica. When I stopped to show the model some of the results on the screen, her reaction was one of complete amazement that such incredible images could come from such a simple looking camera.

Angie, my second shoot, M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Angie M9, 50mm @1.4

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Adik M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Adik M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Adik M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Paradiska, M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Paradiska 50mm @ 1.4

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Finally, after years of trying (and more often miserably failing) to photograph reticent friends, relatives, girlfriends or wives, I was actually taking photos of someone who actually ‘wanted’ to be photographed! It was nothing short of a revelation! The nature and pace of the interaction occurring here was quite unique, I’ve never experienced anything quite as rewarding as capturing a fleeting look that could melt an iceberg. There were no awkward silences or embarrassing screams of “Yeah Baby!” I was simply engrossed in the challenge before me, confident in the knowledge that the tools I had chosen were up to the job. The hours flew by.

Kartika worked in a sports bar, M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Over the next few weeks, the M9 (and mostly the 50mm) helped me make some pretty ok beauty images (by my own novice standards) which I burned onto CD and gave to each of the 10 models I photographed. The models ranged from a very professional girl who arrived with 10 fine dresses, 5 pairs of shoes and 2 large men (one of whom was a qualified make up artist!), to girls I spotted working in bars who were clearly beautiful and luckily upon further enquiry, had a desire to be photographed properly. Although I speak no Indonesian, many Indonesians speak a little English and its quite amazing how effectively an iphone’s picture library can act as a communication tool.

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From the roof of one of Jakartas hotels, M9, 28mm @ f11, 2 minutes (B)

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This was my first visit to Asia. Its no understatement to say that I was completely enchanted with the people of Indonesia. Mention Jakarta to many people who have visited more popular destinations in the far east, and you may hear stories, gleaned on a quick stop-over, which could put you off visiting. But for all its traffic problems, pollution and the obvious chasm between extreme wealth and desperate poverty, Jakarta was a fascinating and exciting city. I very much intend to return there whenever I get the chance.

A bus drives past a mural of President Obama wearing a turban, M9, 50mm @1.4

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Caddies from one of Jakarta’s many golf clubs, M9, 50mm @ f2

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Waiting for a bus, M9, 50mm @1.4

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This was shot with a 75mm f2 @ f2 on a Sony NEX5

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Shot in very low light at dusk with M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Shot in very low light at dusk with M9, 50mm @ 1.4

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Doing around 25 MPH M9, 50mm @1.4

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Batavia Square, Jakarta M9, 50mm @ 1.4

As for the M9, it was a joy to use. I shot 5,000 images in 3 weeks using only one spare battery, I didn’t run out of power once. The sheer discipline of manually focusing each shot gave me a much higher rate of in-focus shots than with any of the auto-focusing cameras I have used. I was quickly able to employ manual exposure settings regularly, which freed me up to interact with the subject and concentrate on their expressions. The M9 is a total workhorse and at the same time a tool capable of incredible finesse. Thanks for reading my story and keep up the great work Steve!

Feb 022011
 

Deadline almost here for the M9 contest! Get those entries in before the timer counts down!

Attention! For all of you who have not yet submitted your entries for the M9 contest I just added a countdown timer to the upper right sidebar. That is the exact amount of time you have left to submit your entries! If I receive any entries after the cut off time they will not be entered! I received nearly 100 entries today and am approaching 600 verified entries! There are so many great ones it will be VERY hard to narrow down to a top 10 and probably even harder still for Heidi and Rankin to pick the first and 2nd place. What I love about this contest the most is that it seems to have sparked mass amounts of creativity among us all! I can not enter but even I have been inspired by some of the images coming in so I thank all of you who have entered already and I thank all of you who still have yet to enter! Just get them in by the deadline! Just in case you haven’t seen it, here is the contest page!

Feb 012011
 

Some of you may have already heard but Ricoh has just announced that they are releasing a Leica M mount unit/module for their GXR camera system (see my review here). There have been rumors for quite some time about this and I knew they were working on it but had no idea  they were going to announce it already. The GXR system will be a nice little camera to pair up with some Leica glass. Ricoh has said “It will have as its image sensor a 23.6×15.7mm (APS-C size: total pixels approx. 12.90 million) CMOS sensor, and it will feature a newly-developed focal plane shutter.” So this is good news for not only Leica fans but Ricoh GXR owners. I’m happy to see them continue to work on this “module” system. As soon as they release this module I will review it! From what has been floating around this will not be until Autumn.

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THE OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE

Ricoh announces development of expansion unit for the

GXR interchangeable unit camera system

Tokyo, Japan, February 1, 2011—Ricoh Co., Ltd. (president and CEO: Shiro Kondo) today announced the development of expansion unit for the GXR interchangeable unit camera system, which went on sale on December 18, 2009.

The GXR is a revolutionary new interchangeable unit camera system in which lenses can be changed by mounting camera units that integrate lens, image sensor, and image processing engine into a single unit. In addition, fully utilizing its unique capabilities, the GXR line will expand to include a variety of devices through the addition of interchangeable units other than camera units.

The GXR line now includes four camera units, but the newly developed unit being announced here is an expansion unit.

Development model name: GXR Lens Mount Unit

・With this lens mount unit, photographers can mount lenses such as Leica M lenses and use them for shooting with the GXR.

・The lens mount unit is being designed to make the best use of the optical characteristics of the lenses mounted. It will have as its image sensor a 23.6 mm × 15.7 mm (APS-C size; total pixels: approx. 12.90 million) CMOS sensor, and it will also feature a newly developed focal plane shutter.

・Release is planned for the autumn of 2011.

There are plans to display a design mock-up of the GXR lens mount unit at the CP+ CAMERA & PHOTO IMAGING SHOW to be held from February 9 (Wed.) to 12 (Sat.) at Pacifico Yokohama.

*The development model name, specs, and introduction timing indicated above are subject to change.

Jan 312011
 

New site sponsor! I am happy to welcome lensrentals.com to the site as a sponsor. They are the largest online site for renting cameras, lenses and even lighting. The awesome part is that they rent out a huge selection of Leica M glass and yes, even the M9. I rented a few lenses from them over a year ago and their service was fast and the items came well packed and I had NO complaints. I am thrilled to have them here to not only help support this site but to also spread the word to all of you about their rental service.

Check out their site here or you can jump direct to their Leica M page here. BTW, they also rent the Leica S2! You can always reach their site using their banner that will be displayed on the right hand side of any page.

Jan 312011
 

THE DEADLINE IS APPROACHING!

The deadline to enter the Great Leica M9 give-away contest is almost upon us. Only 5 days to go as Saturday Feb 05th 2011 at midnight, Phoenix AZ USA  time is the deadline. I will not and can not accept any entry after this date!

As of this writing I have over 400 entries to the contest which means as of right now everyone who enters has a 1 in 400 chance to win the Grand Prize Leica M9! If you did not yet enter, read all about it here and spread the word! The top 10 will be announced on Feb 15th 2011. Don’t forget there will be a 2nd place prize (Leica V-Lux 2) and if you follow me (like) on this facebook page and you win, you will also receive a Leica 50 Summitar lens!

Here are a few of the entries so far. Think you can do better? These are just 100% random picks from my contest folder. They may make the top 10 and they may not! Just a teaser for you guys to get your rear end in gear and enter this contest! Don’t forget to follow Seal or Heidi or any of the other photographers at picortwo.com and to register at this site HERE as well!

GOOD LUCK TO ALL! Remember, FEB 05th is the deadline and that is THIS coming up Saturday!

I am working on the E-PL2 review this week (will be a short one going over new features) as well as lining up some guest posts and hopefully the Leica 90 Summarit review as well. I will be busy going through all of the entries this week as well as I am now getting 20+ every day!

Submitted by Bill Young – “Snowshoes…fun at first”

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Submitted by Margus Udam – “There are some things in life you shouldn’t leave behind”

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Submitted by Giacomo Strinati – “Going to work – every single day”

Jan 282011
 

“Pimp My Leica”

A Guide to Appointing, Mod-ing, and Dressing up your Leica M Digital Camera to make it uniquely yours

By Ashwin Rao

“Part 1- Bags, Half Cases, and Hard Cases”

Hello everyone, it’s Ashwin, back with you all to discuss how to customize your Leica M8 or M9 to suit your aesthetic and functional taste. Like cameras of other manufacture, there has been a burgeoning cottage industry geared toward custom-fitting Leica M cameras to one’s taste and photographic peculiarities. In fact, given the cultural and aesthetic heritage that accompanies the Leica brand, many artisans have thrown their hats into the fray in designing customized bags, straps, cases, grips, and a variety of other accessories for the Leica M digital system. The Leica M system has always been accepting of this industry that has formed in and around the manufacture of its M-line of cameras, but it seems that the introduction of the Leica M8 and M9 have pushed the fold evermore. Thus, it is my goal to introduce you to some of the wonderful products that have been designed with M shooters in mind, and other products that can allow you to make that fancy Leica M8 or M9 your very own, individualized, shooting machine, both in terms of look and in use. So, let’s get started, shall we?

Bags

All of you know that the first question a sales person will ask, after you decide on a camera, is what kind of bag you want? Well, when it comes to Leica, there are some very specific choices of camera bags that are meant to work well with Leica M cameras and the rangefinder system. Traditional SLR bags, manufactured by Lowepro, Tamrac, Crumpler, Tenba, ThinkTank, and the like, are typically designed with SLR’s and their specialized ergonomics, and thus these bags are not often ideal fits for a rangefinder camera. Further, Leica shooters tend to be a unique breed in preferring camera bags that “don’t look like camera bags”, or bags that have a certain vintage look or quality about them, that goes in line with Leica M cameras, even the digital M8 and M9, looking like cameras of an era long past. That being said, Leica M digital cameras are very modern creations and deserve bags that will do the camera justice. In general, Leica and rangefinder shooters prefer bags with some degree of discretion, not only in terms of look, but also in terms of size. Bags for the Leica system, in general, should be small, discrete, and generally not too flashy (though there are exceptions to that rule). They should generally [resemt a classic or classy look that echoes the elegant lines of the M camera itself. Generally, bags for a Leica system should be capable of holding a camera, with lens attached, and 1-3 additional lenses. What bag you chose depends largely on what your kit is; that is, if you are a 1-camera-1-lens kind of shooter, then you’d probably want a bag that fits that system. If you have a larger kit (many of us own 3-4 lenses), many of us might desire a bag that fits this kit, or a couple of bags that fit different purposes (i.e. carrying your whole kit, vs travelling light). Of course, there are many opinions out there about what a bag should or shouldn’t be, but this is just my opinion, and I think it is reflected in many shooters with whom I have discussed such topics over the past several years. With all of that said, let’s go through a few of the manufacturers who design camera bags with Leica M cameras in mind.

Billingham - ( http://www.billingham.co.uk/pages/about.php )

Billingham makes the quintessential Leia camera bag. Their bags tend to embody the classic camera bag look, with high quality fabic, leather appointments, with bags that favor latches over zippers (though not exclusively). Like many camera bags that I will discuss, Billingham bags are typically waterproof, but they do a great job shielding your cameras against the elements, as long as the elements are not too trying (i.e downpoars, blizzard conditions)….

Billingham bags tend to go well with casual and semi-formal wear. They look great whether you are wearing a pair of faded jeans, slacks, or more formal wear. The bags come in a variety of colors ranging from black, tan, to olive, and leather appointments and stitching tend to be of high quality.

The bags come with outstanding internal dividers with outstanding padding. Pockets and divider sizes are designed for rangefinder-sized lenses, so you won’t have to reach far in to grab your lens of choice.

Billingham bags are a great place to start your Leica Bag journey, and you will likely find yourself entirely satisfied with the form and fit of these bags as a warthy companion for your Leica M kit.

Billingham bags tend to design their bags around functionality, that is allowing easy and rapid access to your cameras, while providing sturdy, weather resistant designs. Many of their bags have a overhanging flap, which latches and unlatches rapidly for access the the main compartment, which is designed to hold a body with attached lens and potentially other lens compartments.

Some models that bear particular mention are the Billingham “Hadley” line, the “Billingham for Leica” line, and the “Pola” line of compact camera bags. I started my Leica Journey with a “Billingham for Leica” bag, which was a great way to carry a camera with 3 additional lenses, and ultimately settled the wonderfully compact Billingham Pola Bag, which is an outstanding potion for a Leica M with 2 lenses.

B&H Photo sells the entire line of Billingham Bags - Check them out HERE

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Artisan & Artist - (http://www.artisanandartist.com)

Artisan and Artist are another outstanding manufacturing company that designs products with the Leica brand in mind. This Japanese manufacturer has assumed a very “German” aesthetic to its product line, and A&A bags are very well build, having a slightly more modern look than their Billingham counterparts. A&A bags tend to have a “designer look” and may attract slightly more attention. They tend to display a bit more of the “urban chic” aesthetic, yet they are functionally outstanding in a manner quite similar to Billingham’s products.

One issue that I have discovered in trying out A&A bags is that the internal padding and dividers are not as robust as some of the competitors in this segment. A&A bags use a red cloth based divider that’s thinner/less firm that that employed by Billingham, and dividers can end up getting scrunched down when cameras are place and replaced in their housings.

Artisan and Arist make several lovely bags for Leica cameras, that bear mentioning. “The Image Smith” Bag, “Oskar’s One Day Bag,”, “penn’s Pad & Pencil Satchel”, and “The Evans Walker” bag designs all are worthy companions for your Leica system, and I, in fact, own the low profile “Image Smith” as a way to carry a bulky kit of 1-2 cameras, and 5-6 lenses.

Dale Photo sells the Artisan & Artist line. They can be found HERE.

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Fogg - (http://www.foggspecialistbags.com)

Above photo courtesy of Chiif

Fogg bags are the “Rolls Royce” of Leica bags. The Fogg brand was established by Nigel Fogg and Bee Berman in 1987. The company’s designs immediately were met with critical acclaim, winning a design award from the “London Design Centre. These bags are costly, and often look the part, in terms of aesthetic and design elements. In fact, on their own website, they claim to intentionally disregard product pricing in preference to selecting the best materials for their products. These made beauties are sold by only a few vendors in the US, whie their manufacturing base is in France.

Fogg bags are crafted of high quality fabrics, higher quality leathers, and the finest attention to subtle details such as stitching, form, fit, and function. But their bags can cost $400-$500 and don’t protect your cameras that much better than a Billingham, Artisan & Artist, or any number of more cost effective brands. However, some people would rather prefer driving a Rolls Royce to a Toyota.

Photo courtesy of Jono Slack

The Fogg bag that best fit’s the Leica aesthetic, in my opinion, is the “B-Laika”, a lovely bag that includes padding within the fabric material and is a near-perfect match for a Leica M-camera with 1 attached lens, and an addition 3 lenses, with a side pocket to store memory cards, microfiber cloth, batteries, or other accessories.

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Domke - (http://www.tiffen.com/products.html?tablename=domke )

Domke bags are very popular among both rangefinder and SLR shooters and represent a more affordable entry into accessorizing your M8/9 camera. The Domke name stems from its creator, Jim Domke, who was a photojournalist who turned his passionate “kitchen” project into a successful enterprise and line. Of camera bags. Domke bags are manufactured in the U.S. and emboy an aesthetic of rugged discretion that permeates their entire line. These bags are durable, weather resistant, and low key. Most bags are manufactured from a cotton canvas material, though some lines use ballistic nylon for improved weather resistance. Straps tend to have twin track s of a high friction rubber liner that improves gripability of the shoulder strap, so that it won’t fall off your shoulder anytime soon. Domke bags embody a far more casual look than any of the camera bag lines I have discussed above. Many Leica shooters find Domke bags appealing for their workmanlike charm. Of particular note, for your consideration as a rangefinder shooter, are the F-series line of Domke bag, including the versatile F-3x, the F-803, and the smaller F5XA and F5XB designs.

There are so many camera bags out there, and I simply don’t have time to mention them all. However, let me list a few other brands for you to consider, and you can do your own research. Black Label Bags have long tempted me and appear to be a more robust copy of Artisan and Artist designs. Tom Binh bags are lovely bags, suiting multiple purposes, which can serve as discreet camera bags. While I stated up front that manufacturers such as Lowepro, Tenba, Tamrac, and Crumpler are geared towards SLR and ultracompact shooters, some of their lines of bags can be easily adapted to suit rangefinders, be it with a little creative modding or through the use of cushioned inserts (Billingham has several of these for sale to simply insert into an otherwise unassuming bag. There is really no right answer to what is the “best camera bag” for the Leica digital rangefinder system. I suggest that you try a few and see where you end up. Even these bags tend to hold their values, so you won’t be out too much money for trying out a bag for a while.

I can tell you for certain, that chosing the right bag for you is more art than science. Many shooters go through many bags during their photographic adventures. The term “Bag Acquisition Syndrome”, which correlates well with “Gear Acquisition Syndrome”, is a well known phenomenon in the Leica photographer community. So prepare to lust for and own a variety of bags. I certainly have, and ultimately, I settled for a kit that includes 3 bags. You will find your own comfort zone as well. It just takes time.

B&H pHoto is a dealer for Domke Bags. They can be found HERE.

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Hard Cases

Before moving on, I briefly wanted to mention hard cases, which are a way to store your precious Leica ware in a weather proof, climate proof shell that essentially hermetically seals your camera and lenses away from the elements. While stashed at home, my gear is generally stored in Pelican weatherproof cases. I take care to keep silicon packet inserts to absorb any stray moisture, but these Pelican cases do a great job at protecting my gear, not only in the field during more inclement weather circumstances, but also at home, where the elements can creep in to cause subtle damage to your gear.

Pelican cases (http://www.pelican.com/ ) represent some of the most popular hard weatherproof cases used in photography, but in truth, they are adaptable to a wide range of usees. Pelican cases usually come with foam inserts that you can customize to fit whatever size/shape lens and/or camera you chose, making these products quite adaptable. Their outer shells are made of a advanced, ultra high-impact copolymer resin which is both shock absorbing, protective, and low-profile. In fact, Pelican cases are a trusted product employed by polic, fire, and rescue professionals, so they are more than up to the task of protecting your fancy-pants camera gear ; ).

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Half cases

Okay, now that we have moved past camera bags and hard cases for your Leica M8/9 system, let’s move on to half cases. Leather half cases are among the most popular methods by which to dress up your Leica M body. A variety of artisans have produced their take on these half vases, which essentially wrap your M8 or M9 in a leather or similar shell, providing additional shock absorbing capacity, protection, and grip. Maybe more importantly, many photographers favor leather half-cases because they make the Leica M8 and M9 look oh-so-damn cool ; ).

1. The Luigi Half-Case (http:///www.leicatime.com )

By far the most sought after brand of Leica Half case is the “Luigi case” branded half case, manufactured by Luigi Crescenzi in Italy (see http://www.leicatime.org). Luigi is possibly one of the three most famous Leica-centric artisans on the plan, along with Tom Abrahamsson (of RapidWinder fame) and Tim Isaac (the masterful creator of the Thumbs Up grip line, see below). He is a master leather worker, and he and his elves/minions/collaborators manufacture magic out of fine leather. I am not joking, and let me say it here. Luigi Half cases are a work of art in and of themselves.

Luigi manufactures all of his lovely cases in Italy. Most of his lines are hand-crafted and sewn, while he has now begun to offer machine stitched options, which are slightly cheaper and just as nice as the hand made versions (these versions look a bit less organic, due to the lack of imperfections that are part of the charm of Luigi cases). Regardless, imperfections or not, Luigi cases generally fit Leica M cameras like a glove. They are exceptionally well crafted, and will add to the charm of your camera. Some cases will include cut outs to accommodate a Thumbs up Grip. Others can be modified to include a grip that effectively replaces the Leica grip. Luigi’s cases are quite customizable.

There are several issues with procuring a Luigi case, for which you should be made aware. Luigi’s website, for all intents and purposes, is terrible…it’s ridiculously hard to negotiat, crowded with text that’s hard to understand, and with directions that are even harder to comprehend. The infinite customizability and Luigi’s willingness to manufacture so many varieties of cases leads his site to be nearly non-navigable. It’s really the worst site I have ever seen, in terms of user-friendliness, but I suspect Luigi keeps it that way on purpose.

Here’s the bottom line: Take a look at his site. Browse around and find the case that you want, in the color that you want it, with appropriate modifications. Then just email Luigi. Usually, he’s pretty good about getting back to you, and if you wire him money via Paypal or bank transfer (they are quite expensive, I forgot to mention, usually $200-$350 USD), he’ll get you one of these jewels within 2-3 weeks, and you will forever be thrilled. Luigi cases are that great. So Luigi, if you read this, I apologize for trashing your website, but your products make up for the site! I personally own 2 of Luigi’s cases (both bought second hand, I couldn’t deal with his site), and love both of them dearly. My camera will never be without one….

2. Leica “Eveready” half and full cases (http://en.leica-camera.com/photography/m_system/accessories/cases_and_straps/2221.html )

Leica itself manufactures Leither half and full cases, the latter which add a top cover that protects the top aspect of the camera. I personally have no use for the top case, but in the past, these have been quite popular to protect the Leica M and one attached lens (think Summicron-sized lens).

Leica’s half case is well crafted, but the Leather used for these cases does not seem up to the standard of other manufacturers such as Luigi and A&A. Still, if you must have all things “Leica”, these cases are worth a glance.

3. Artisan and Artist Half-Case (www.artisanandartist.com) - (From Steve: These are my personal favorite half cases for my Leica M's. Soft, supple, fit like a glove and not bulky)

We talked about A&A’s wonderful bag line, but Artisan and Artist also makes a variety of other products, including Half Cases. A&A use high quality leather, an their half cases are very well machined (I suspect that these are not hand made, but rather machine sewn). Their design element is somewhat different than Luigi cases, and their line is far more limited. A&A half cases do not include built-in grip options, and their fit seems to be better for Leica film cameras than Leica digital cameras, in my experience.

The major benefit of A&A half cases is that they are far easier to obtain than Luigi cases, and comparably well made, albeit missing some of the charm of Luigi’s products.

Dale Photo sells the entire line of A&A Cases HERE.

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4. Zhou Cases - (http://members.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=jiozhou )

The final entry, of which I am aware, in the Leica half case repertoire, is the Zhou half case. I have never owned one of these, but I have seen several people who have and have been very satisfied. Zhou cases are manufactured in China by a younger guy who makes lovely case designs, similar in many ways to Luigi cases, but with a more machined look. These cases are not hand sewn, to my knowledge, and have a look of machined manufacture to me. The leather used in these cases appears to be of lower quality, more sythetic, than Luigi’s line, but Zhou cases are far more affordable. Zhao himself sells these cases from his ebay store for a variety of rangefinder cameras for $60-$80, and thus these cases represent the best bang-for-the buck in terms of half case lines, with both nice product fit and finish at an affordable price. I think of these as the “Honda Accord” of half case designs, while A&A make the “Lexus” level of quality, and Luigi represents the “Maserati” line, in terms of quality. Once again, there’s no right choice here, but rather what aesthetic appeals most to you.

Look forward to “Pimp My Leica, Part 2”, subtitled, “Wrist Straps, Next Straps, Grips, Baseplates and Soft Shutter Releases”

After that, I will conclude with the article, “Pimp my Leica, Part 3”, sub-titled, “How to Disguise your M9- Black Dots, Camera Leather, Screen Protectors, and Tape Jobs”

You can see more from Aswin Rao at his very own blog HERE!

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT”S EASY TO HELP OUT!

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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If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page where you can win a cool photo prize that is given away on the 1st of every month! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader!

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Jan 262011
 

Leica must have sent out a new shipment of M9′s. Funny, there seems to have been a new surge lately on M9 sales. For the longest time it was sold out everywhere. Eventually supply caught up with demand a bit but soon the supply dwindled. It seems when the dealers get them in stock they go quick. B&H Photo just posted the black M9 as IN STOCK so if you have been waiting for one, now is the time! Just click here to go direct to the black Leica M9 page. It appears they only have 1 in stock! It also seems the black X1 is in stock once again as well!

Dale Photo also has the black and grey M9 in stock HERE. Dale also has BLACK X1′s as of 1/31/11

Jan 262011
 

The Leica 50 Summarit Lens Real World Use Review

By Steve Huff


So here I am, nearing the end of January 2011. I cant believe that next month will be the two year mark since I posted my 1st article over at the old site. While a lot has happened in those two years, the time has seriously flown by. My son is growing up and when I look back at the old reviews it makes me sad, but also happy to know that here I am, still at my desk every morning writing these reviews! It also makes me smile when I see so many new sites that have popped up providing “real world” reviews now. When I started my site with these “real world” reviews and write ups I was laughed at by many, scolded by a few online website pros, and was told repeatedly how dumb my site was (again, by a select few). Little did I know that two years later (UPDATE: Now 5 Years later)! I would still be doing this AND I had no idea I would inspire so many others to create “real world” blogs. I say this because I have had emails from some of these new blogs thanking me for inspiring them!

I’m happy that is the case because many of us were getting tired of the same old tech reviews with the same old tired looking 90s web site designs and the same old stiff talk. I know I was!

Let’s Get It Started!

Let’s get this party started with a slew of B&W images! All were shot with the Leica M9 and the 50 Summarit at 2.5 – converted to B&W with Alien Skin Exposure 3 – I always love how it just seems easy to capture emotion with a Leica M camera.

So here I am…getting ready  to write yet another review for a lens I have surprisingly not written about yet. Oddly enough,  it is my favorite focal length, 50mm. The lens I will be writing about today is the Leica 50 Summarit f/2.5 and just like the other two Summarits I have tried and owned, the 35 and 75, this 50 is a fantastic lens and the cheapest “NEW” Leica lens you can buy at $1,395. I want to thank Ken Hansen for letting me use this lens to shoot with for the past few weeks. Ken has been an awesome friend and Leica dealer and he has these lenses on hand and usually ALWAYs in stock. (E-mail him at [email protected]) So THANKS KEN!

Getting To The Point

This lens is a typical Leica lens. Small, gorgeous, and of very high optical quality. Leica makes some killer 50′s and in all honesty they do not make a bad lens. In the Leica world of 50mm lenses we have the classic and one of my all time favorites, the 50 Summicron (see my review here). I LOVE the 50 Cron! Period! If I had one lens to buy for my M9 and wanted the best all around lens for speed, size, weight, cost and performance it would be the 50 Summicron. Sure there is a more exotic lens like the 50 Summilux ASPH but it is much larger, heavier and costs much more. You can read about the 50 Lux HERE. Now, for those who can afford it and want the best of the best in the 50mm department then the Leica 50 Noctilux f/0.95 is the one to get. It’s a masterpiece. Beautiful. Heavy. LARGE. BUT DAMN, its GORGEOUS and unlike any other lens made today for 35mm. I have written a review for the 50 Noctilux as well (can see it here). Leica also makes a 50 Elmar 2.8 that collapses into the body. I have not yet reviewed it but I have used it and loved it.

The two photos below were shot with a Leica M8 and 50 Summarit at 2.5

So here I am with the smallest, lightest and cheapest Leica 50 yet and I have to say that Leica has yet another winner on their hands. The rendering of the 50 Summarit is a mix of modern and classic. It is modern because it is super sharp and contrasty, even wide open. It is classic in the way it renders the out of focus areas (Bokeh) and its a tad soft in the corners when wide open, even on the M8. It does retains that contrasty look and feel. To me, the 50 Summicron leans more to the classic side and the 50 Summilux more to the modern side. This little guy is in between the two and what a good mix it is.

After using it on the M8 and M9 I noticed that this guy performs wonderful on BOTH cameras though as mentioned, just a little bit soft at the edges but it sharpens up as it gets to the center of the frame. Of course on the M8 you will need the IR/UV filter and the lens becomes more like a 67mm due to the 1.3 crop sensor but it is still a wonderful lens. On the M9 we see more of a creamy file with more shallow depth of field (because we see the full frame which uses all of the lens). I am supplying sample photos from both camera bodies for this review because I know there are many M8 shooters still around. Besides, the Summarit line was introduced shortly after the M8 so of course they will be superb on that camera as well! Also, the M8 still rocks :)

Leica M9 and 50 Summarit

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Leica M8 and the 50 Summarit

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The Build and Feel


To me and also many others I know, the build of a quality lens is important. If you are going to spend big money on a lens, it better feel like you spent good money on it! Leica is known for not only their optical qualities but also their build. This summarit lens is not as substantial as the 50 Summicron or the 50 Summilux but it does feel better made than the Zeiss 50 Planar. It’s looks like a Leica and feels like a Leica. The aperture ring is solid and the lens come supplied with a soft pouch instead of a leather case. Also, this lens does not come with a lens hood. If you want a hood you have to buy it separate and the hood alone will run you $139 or so. So seeing that this is the least expensive Leica lens at $1395 the build and feel is just fine. One cool plus about the summarit is that it is small but it does pack a punch! Overall, the build could be better but I have seen worse. NOt up there with the big money Leicas but it is better than the Zeiss ZM lenses in build.

The next three images were all with the Leica M8 and 50 Summarit wide open at 2.5

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Is It Sharp?

I already mentioned that this lens is sharp, contrasty and has a mix of modern and classic renderings all mixed into one. Below you can download TWO full size shots so you can see an out of camera image. One from the M8 and one from the M9. Notice the corners are a tad soft but IMO, nothing to fret about. To me, this just adds some of that classic look to your photos.

This is from the M8 with the 50 at 2.5 – click the image to view the full out of camera file from RAW.

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one more from the M8 – click the image to see a resized file with a 100% crop inside. This lens is plenty sharp where it matters!

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OK, here is a test between the M8 and M9 to see how the lens performs on each camera

First up, the Leica M9 with the 50 at 2.5 – click image for full size file – You can see some vignetting here.

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Now the M9 at F4

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and at f5.6 – again, click image for full size

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Now the lens at 2.5 on the Leica M8

Even on the M8 there is some slight vignetting in the corners but overall the lens performs well in real world photos. I never take images of brick walls but many of you like to see a little but of testing when it comes to lenses.

M8 vs M9? Summarit VS ?

So after seeing full size files from each camera, the Leica M8 and the Leica M9…which camera does this lens perform the best on? Well, you are looking at the images here so what do you think? Me, I think the 50 looks its best on the M9 as I see more of the “M9 look” which I love. To me, the M8 puts out a slightly “harder” file which is also fantastic. Basically, no matter which camera you own this lens will perform well for you and on the M9 I would be content with this being my only lens. BUT there are other 50′s to choose from that are actually LESS expensive than this one that do their job very well. Lenses like the Ziess 50 Planar which is a great little lens. Very contrasty, great Bokeh and the color just POPS with a warmth and glow. I reviewed that lens a while ago and it can be seen here. There is also the Zeiss 50 Sonnar that comes in at about $1100. This lens will give you a VERY classic look when wide open  at it’s 1.5 aperture and it get sharp as any lens by f5.6. You can see my old review of that lens HERE. SO many 50′s out there and I have not even talked about the used market yet.

These days, if you are lucky, you can find a used Leica 50 Summicron for under $1000. If its the latest model with the slide out hood expect to pay about $1200-$1400 used. Me, I would take the Summicron over the Summarit BUT then again, with the Summarit you are getting a new lens, with warranty. To be honest, the 50 Summarit is a GREAT lens. A little slower than the Summicron at 2.5 but probably more snappy than the cron as well. Still…the 50 cron is a legend though many complain about its Bokeh. To me, the cron = classic Leica.

BUT, if you want a NEW smallish lens with great color, contrast and a somewhat classic feel then the Summarit should be on your short list. Especially if you want a Leica lens to go with your Leica M. Let’s face it. Nothing looks as sweet as something like an M8 or M9 with a nice piece of Leica glass on it :) I can say that in comparison, the Zeiss lenses seem like they are not built as well, especially the Planar but IQ wise the Ziess are just as good as the Summarit but much warmer in the color rendition.

Next two shots: Leica M8 and 50 Summarit at 2.5

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Bottom Line Conclusion

I won’t drag this review out any longer because all that needed to be said has been said AND shown. What else can I say about this little guy? It’s small, it’s Leicas least expensive lens (when bought new) and it’s a classic focal length that I love. When buying something like a Leica M9 it is sometimes hard to find extra money for lenses let along just one lens. The Summarit line makes it a little bit easier for us to own a real Leica lens without spending $3000+ for it. It’s a great performer if not a little soft in the edges and corners but stop it down and it will clean up nicely. The lens performs well on the M8 and the M9 and makes for a rather small and compact kit. I liked this lens. If I were buying NEW and I had a budget of under $1500 I would either buy this lens of try to find a deal on a 50 Summicron or even a Zeiss 50 Sonnar. I know I will get asked about this lens vs the voigtlanders like the 50 1.1 but IMO, this little Summarit will give you more snap, more contrast and better color than the Voigtlander 1.1. It’s not as fast and even more expensive but it’s got the Leica name and the Leica performance behind it.

I give Leica credit for releasing this line of lenses for those of us that can not afford the big guns. Is it still overpriced? Sure, it’s Leica! But if we want the best, we have to pay for it. Leica has always been Leica and for those who love them we seem to be willing to pay just about anything to own one.

This lens was sent to me by Ken Hansen who sells the entire Summarit line. He also usually has the crons and summilux lenses on hand as well as used lenses. You can email him for availability at his email, [email protected]. Great guy who has been a Leica dealer for MANY years.

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HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT”S EASY TO HELP OUT!

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

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader! Also, the new forums are NOW OPEN on this site so get involved if you like! Thanks so much for visiting my site!

Jan 252011
 

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Cool Links for Tuesday 01/25/11

Haven’t done a cool links post in a while and today I came across a VERY cool link that had me sit here for 30 minutes going through each photo and reading the text. You must see this moving, emotional, and very touching tribute in words and photos from a Son to his Father.

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If you know Spanish you can read this interview with ME on the cool photo blog xatakafoto.com!

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A response to “A Better Camera” by Wouter Brandsma

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How about some Leica dial laptop stickers for  your Macbook Pro?

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My buddy Yanidel has posted a cool article at his blog called 13 ways to shoot candids. I am a huge fan of his photography and street shooting style so be sure and check it out!

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I just ordered one so I could review it! Yep, B&H Photo just posted as IN STOCK the Olympus E-PL2 which IMO looks like an even better camera than the E-PL1 for its body shape, better LCD, jog dial on the back, 1/4000s capabilities and in black it looks sleek and stylish. GET IT NOW IF YOU HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR IT AS THEY WILL SELL OUT QUICK!

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A great Leica M9 review by Otto Shulze who happens to be an amazing photographer. Always nice to see the M9 get more love.

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Creating a 100 Megapixel image with a Leica M8!

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How about the Fuji X100 Viewfinder demo video? If you have not yet seen it, check it out below!

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and while I mentioned her story before, the Vivian Meyer story just keeps getting better and better. Watch the video below for the full story and visit the blog for more. Some amazing photos have been discovered.

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A year or two ago I came across these photos of old abandoned buildings in Detroit Michigan. When I lived in Ill I planned to drive to Detroit to start a personal project on my own, taking photos of the hundreds of abandoned houses and buildings but I moved and never had the chance. A reader sent me this link which is very interesting to look at and happens to be the same photos I saw a year or two ago that inspired me to want to get out and shoot some of these locations myself.

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A comparison between the late and great Kodachrome and a Digital file :) – I may have posted this before…

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Som AMAZING examples of winter photography! Incredible images here!

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Collectible Cameras has a DEMO Black M9 for $6495 – These usually come with full warranty. If you order tell them I sent you!

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B&H Photo has a nice black used M8 for sale if the M9 is out of your budget!

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WIN THE M9!  Don’t forget to enter the M9 contest here on this site! The deadline of Fen 05th is approaching fast so be sure to send in your entry after reading the full rules HERE. I am approaching 250 entries so far!

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And finally…I started a facebook “fan” page because I was told my personal page was in jeopardy of being shut down because I was using it to post links to this site. SO, my new fan page is up and I have had over 1100 of you “like” it within a weeks time. WHat is cool is I decided to start a monthly contest for my facebook followers! Starting March 1st 2011 I will be giving away one prize every month to one random facebook fan who follows my stevehuffphoto.com facebook page HERE. Every first of the month the winner will be posted on the facebook page along with the prize! Fun fun fun. Also, don’t forget that if you win the Leica M9 contest AND are following my facebook page you will automatically be sent the Leica 50 Summitar lens with the M9!

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I will have reviews soon of the Olympus E-PL2 as well as more on the Panasonic GH2 by Amy Medina and a really cool Ashwin Rao article on pimping out your Leica M9! Also, I should be able to get my hands on a Fuji X100 sooner rather than later (thanks to a reader of this site) for a nice un-boxing and first look review. If Fuji would send me one to review it would be much sooner :) Hint Hint…

Jan 252011
 

Fusing Henna and the Nude

By Tapas Maiti

(What is Henna? Click HERE.)

I am a wedding photographer by trade but photography is also my passion and the off season is a great chance to do personal work.

I have always enjoyed shooting fine art nudes because in the same way as most artists do live drawing it really develops your eye and is a beautiful art form in its own right.

I have had two concepts brewing in my head for a while, I love Indian Henna work but find very few examples that move beyond the basic feet and hands to develop the art form. I was determined to use Henna as part of a fine art nude shoot for a while now but use the henna in an edgy more striking way rather than as demurre bridal accessory.

You can’t use real henna for a shoot because the stain lasts for weeks and most professional models can’t have that imposition. I tried an initial shoot using glitter paint and whilst the results were good, the whole feel was different to what I was after.

I worked through the concepts with a friend of mine Preeti (mendhibypreeti) a Cambridge based mendhi and make up artist and she came up with a formula to create the black , silver and purple patterns I was after using non-staining materials. Having worked with Preeti on several shoots, I knew she could deliver the body art and was tuned into the same vision.

The next step was easy, finding a model. I had seen Iveta Niklova’s portfolio several months ago and her striking looks and figure were perfect for this concept.

We shot at a local studio and I went for two lighting styles, a dramatic cross lighting approach to bring out shadows and drama and and almost surreal soft low light.

The more dramatic styling has taken me a while to get right, when I shot with black and white film on a hasselblad, the toe and shoulder curve combined with staining developers made it easy to get the effects I was after. With digital, I have had to adjust my technique to deal with the contrast range. This lighting was created using a Profoto Beauty Dish (with grid) as the key and huge octabox at right angles to create just the right fill, the Octabox effectively provides the “shoulder and toe” its easier to add contrast. The lighting, I think, needs a strong striking model who knows how to work it and Iveta was just perfect.

The softer light photos were simplicity itself just a large Octa and sometimes a bit of fill.

We had some serious time constraints on the shoot due to the wonders of the UK train system and so I had to ditch the Hasselblad and shoot mainly on my M9 and few shots on my Nikon D700.

The Leica M9 is quite good in the studio , especially with a 50mm, a bit harder with the 90mm and the quality is there to see. What I find now is that with reflex cameras, autofocus is a real boon but rangefinders are better for manual focus. Maybe my eyes are not up to focusing a Blad anymore.

It was a really fun day and I love the pictures but there is something so great about being able to take a vision and work with other creative people to bring it to life, it just makes being a photographer so rewarding. You can see more of my work at my website here.

From Steve: Thanks Tapas, beautiful photos and text. If anyone else would like to submit a guest article just contact me here!

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Jan 242011
 

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New lens reviews coming soon for Leica!

Im busy shooting two Leica lenses I have never shot before. The Leica 50 Summarit 2.5 and the 90 Summarit 2.5. I am shooting and testing them on an M8 and M9 so we can see the differences between the two cameras. Lots of M8 shooters still frequent this site so I am happy to be able to still test lenses on the classic M8! The 50 review should be up within 2 weeks shortly followed by the 90.

My 1st impressions of these lenses are that for the money they are just as good as the 35 and 75 summarits I have shot with. The whole summarit line is fantastic and if you want to buy new glass from Leica then these offer the most “bang for the buck”. Of course you could always search for a used 50 Summicron or 90 Elmarit but for new options the Summarit line is the most affordable in the Leica line up.

I was testing out shooting them yesterday while my son had his puppy over at my house. I still LOVE the M8 and feel it is still today a great camera to own if you cant swing the M9. In decent light with a good lens the M8 still provides IQ good enough for almost any situation.

Reviews will be coming soon! Oh and  thanks to Ken Hansen for sending me the lenses to test out! As usual, he has them all in stock. HIs email is [email protected]

This one was shot with the Leica M8 and 50 Summarit wide open at 2.5 and ISO 160 – click image for larger version

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and one from the M9 and 90 Summarit at 2.5 – click image for larger version

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