Apr 022012
 

Trying out the Sony NEX-7 in Vegas with the Leica 35 Summilux ASPH and Zeiss 24 1.8

This past weekend I was super busy (sorry for the delays in answering e-mails) as I was in Vegas with 6 others for the quick Vegas weekend trip that I maxed out to 7 attendees so we could all stay in the same suite and hang out. It was a crazy day as I arrived at the Palms Hotel at 11:30AM, hoping to get checked in by 12-1. Upon arrival I was told the Suite I had reserved would not be ready until 4, even though I was told 12-1 would be fine.

So I waited..and waited..and waited. I even visited a Psychic in the hotel Lobby and had a reading done.

By 3pm some of the guys were showing up so we hung out for a while waiting for the room. By the time 5PM came around I had complained a few times and then was told my room would NOT be ready until 6pm. Seeing that this was not acceptable I complained and after I said “Do you know who I am”?? (Joke, lol) they decided to upgrade the room to the “Real World Suite” which is the room MTV used to film one of the seasons of the Real World, and at no extra cost.

How awesome is that? A world famous suite and here we were, a few photo geeks just hanging out to shoot and talk shop. The following photos of the room were shot by Todd Hatakeyama with his Leica M9.

After they put us in the “VIP” room to wait for the room to be made available we waited more and when we finally made it into the room at 5:20 we were all going around taking snaps of the kick ass room and checking out the bedrooms. This room was AWESOME and I am thinking of doing a yearly mega Vegas meetup for up to 30-40 poeple and renting this suite for 7 of us to sleep in for the weekend and all of us to enjoy during the day as HQ  – could be a blast.

By 6pm, all of the guys had arrived and we decided to head out and shoot in Vegas instead of blowing all of our cash at the blackjack tables. Photo below was also shot by Todd and his M9.

I had the Fuji X-Pro 1 with me along with the 18 and 35mm lenses as I wanted to shoot with that camera 98% of the time to test out usability, speed, accuracy, and image quality for my upcoming review. I also brought along the Sony NEX-7 with a Leica 35 Summilux ASPH and the Zeiss 24 1.8 “just because”. The other guys had Leica, Olympus, Nikon, Canon and Panasonic so we had a great variety there.

We started walking and shot from 6pm to around 10:30 PM and then headed back to the hotel for some drinks. We had a good time but it went by crazy FAST. I will be including some shots from Vegas in my X-Pro 1 review but I just wanted to show a few snaps I took with the NEX-7 a nd Leica 35 Summilux ASPH FLE from our room. After comparing side by side with Todd Hatakeyama (who took the 1st photo at the top of this page of me shooting with the NEX) we both decided we preferred the richer rendering of the Sony with the Leica over the Fuji with the Fuji 35 1.4. Then again, the Sony combo would cost you about $7k where the Fuji would come in at around $2200.

My Fuji review is coming soon, so stay tuned. For those wondering if I even like it I can say that the IQ is phenomenal but usability is very X100 like. For image quality  – to me, I still feel the best of the best comes from the Leica M9 with Leica glass and the 35 Summilux FLE is IMO, one of the best, of not THE best Leica lens you can buy. Paired up to the NEX with the focus peaking, it is quick and easy to focus and the results are rich and show you the Leica character.

My opinion on the whole NEX system? I find the NEX-7 is a great camera with some limitations. When shooting the 7 it demands the best glass you can give it. With lesser lenses it suffers a bit but with the Zeiss and Leica glass it excels. The body is simple and easy to shoot with, it is fairly quick and very versatile. I did get a few mis-focused shots where the camera told me it locked focus but clearly did not. This was with the Zeiss 24 1.8 and I also had that issue at times when I did my review of this camera months ago.

The NEX-7 is not the best at high ISO in the Sony lineup as the lesser NEX-5n beats it in this department and the video capabilities of the 7, while gorgeous, have been giving me some overheating issues. Other than that I have been enjoying my time with my NEX-7. YES, YES…The Fuji stuff is coming!

The images below were shot with my NEX-7 and Leica 35 Summilux ASPH FLE

I also shot a few with the Zeiss 1.8…

and another one from Todd of me…good timing todd, lol (the truck was driving by behind me when he snapped)

I want to thank all of those who attended! It was quick and fun, and even though I was wiped out from my 6 hour wait in the hotel lobby and 4 hour drive to Vegas I had a great time. We all headed back home on April 1st and before leaving I found out that I would be touring the entire world with Seal as part of a Leica promo deal. Wow, I wasn’t even aware of this news! Lol.

Next up for workshops  – Hong Kong with Gary Tyson at the end of May and a 7 day East Coast and Canada photo Cruise (Yes, as in Cruise Ship)! Can’t wait!

As for the 35 Lux ASPH II…they are hard to find but the best bet would be Ken Hansen (e-mail at [email protected]), PopFlash or Dale Photo.

Apr 022012
 

If you’re “just” photographing your family, get the BEST photo equipment you can afford (that you are able to use, or can learn to use).

— Peter | Prosophos.

___________

I was prompted to write the above after reading yet another, “if you’re just photographing your family, get a cheap point-and-shoot” comment on one of the internet forums.  It always leaves me shaking my head when I come across that sort of statement, not because I have anything against inexpensive cameras (which I’ve used and continue to use, and which can be used to take wonderful photos), but because of the implication behind the words, that – for whatever reason – your family is not worthy of the best* equipment.

Nonsense.

Documenting your family’s timeline – the various trials and tribulations, the tears, the joy, the exciting, the mundane, the…  the anything – is one of the most important things you can do with a camera.  The snobbery around exclusively using “pro” equipment (whatever that is) to photograph athletes, celebrities, or otherwise “important” individuals is laughable.  As if most of us are able to remember more than a handful of “pro” magazine cover images we’ve ever seen…

Instead, it’s all those images reminding us of the births, marriages, and deaths of our loved ones, that burn themselves into our brains.

—Peter.

Mar 312012
 
Painting Zürich with vintage spring colors with 50 mm Summarit 1.5 on an M9-P
Hi Steve! As a long time visitor from your site I enjoy the practical information and the reviews from other users on your website. In the past I used to visit other sites , but looking back to these sites with all these graphs and technical information this was probably an overkill. At the end of a review you would be dounted with numbers but having little visible information on how serious the issue might be or not for practical use!
Currently I am the lucky owner of an M9-P, I was introduced to it by a working colleague, it is one nice piece of machinery and feeling shooting with it. I had to get used to it, using an EOS more or less only for sports shooting! I am slowly getting the hang of it. What lenses are concerned I own a 35 Summicron, the latest version and two vintage 50 mm lenses. A 50 mm Titanium edition summilux (which looks quite good on a total black M9-P!!) and a 50 mm Summarit 1.5 – which this practical review is about. The pictures in this review are not post processed in anyway – some are a little cropped – but all are directly converted from RAW to JPG using iPhoto – i resized them using LR. With the M9-P I shot DNG and Black and White JPG. The black and whites pictures therefore are straight out of camera. Unless otherwise noted the pictures were taken wide open (between 1.5 and 2.8) unless otherwise noted.
During the past months I have read a reasonable amount of reviews on vintage lenses and the results always amazed me. If you look around on the web on these lenses you read about people who love them and hate them and you read a lot of warnings as well. Until recently al these warning actually held me back acquiring one until just recently I saw this 50 mm Summarit 1.5 on display here in Zürich and after a short “inspection” I couldn’t resist buying it. The glass was clean, there was a little bit of oil on the blades – but I thought what the heck lets get this lens and try it!
Since there might be enough people out there that might have drawbacks as well on getting such a lens I thought of providing you my experiences until now and real world samples so that people with an M/Nex/M4T/Fuji might have some leverage in getting it. The lens can be easily found on eBay within the range of $600 to $1500 – depending on the quality.
The first tests I did was making sure if the focus was alright and it was snap on from the closest distance until 10 mm and infinity. Actually I thought I could focus quicker with this 50 mm summarit as with my 35 mm Summicron – but that might  just be a personal preference.
The colors you get from this lens are just as putting a vintage filter on your eyes – they are flatter – even though I think red and blue’s are sometimes a little more pronounced and of course there is this famous Leica Glow on it!
The flat colors can be easily tuned in LR, on the other hand preparing your pictures to look vintage is a completely other story and such a lens does the trick in every shot! Actually if you look at the black and whites straight from the camera – these are lovely!
The Bokeh of this lens is similar to the results you have obtained with your rigid summicron test – a nice swirly bookeh – just as with the rigid summicron. I think this might not be everybody’s cup of tea but it adds character to the pictures and as you can see from the pictures it is not always as pronounced.
I can support the results of older lenses that wide open these lenses are a little soft – but oh man – look at the results I got on this fountain wide open with this lens – simply amazing! If you close it down from up 2.8 upward this lens gets almost as sharp as current lenses!
Lets move on to the pictures – enjoy!
Mar 302012
 

PRESS RELEASE

LEICA CAMERA ANNOUNCES LEICA STORE WASHINGTON DC

Retail concept debuts in North America with inaugural location grand opening May 2nd – 3rd

Allendale, NJ (March 30, 2012) – Leica Camera Inc., the legendary German camera and sport optics brand, announces the debut of its new retail concept in North America with the opening of the Leica Store Washington DC. Located at 977 F Street, NW, in the heart of downtown Washington, DC’s Penn Quarter, the store will feature the entire Leica photography and sport optics product portfolio.  Serving as a gateway into the world of Leica Camera, the Leica Store Washington DC will celebrate an official grand opening on Wednesday, May 2nd and Thursday, May 3rd.

“Perfect for Leica enthusiasts, professional photographers and new customers alike, the Leica Store Washington DC creates a completely immersive experience into the world of photography,” said Roland Wolff, Director of Corporate Retail at Leica Camera Inc. “Leica Camera has always represented the best in German engineering and the special culture of the picture. We are now able to offer a complete showcase for our products and services as well as a creative setting for our customers, bringing this central mission to life in a new way.”

A unique lifestyle destination, the Leica Store Washington DC will provide customers the opportunity to discover the art of photography with a retail space, a photography gallery featuring exhibitions shot with the Leica portfolio and a studioset up to demonstrate the exceptional performance of the Leica S-System. Keeping in line with Leica Camera’s commitment to increasing the enjoyment of photography and deepening photographic knowledge, the Leica Store Washington DC will also be an ideal setting for the immensely popular Leica Akademie workshops. In addition, the store will be designated as an S2 Pro Dealership and provide specialized demonstrations, consultations and support for professional photographers utilizing this revolutionary digital camera system. A knowledgeable and enthusiastic team of retail and photographic professionals will deliver expert information and advice to create the finest customer experience.

To celebrate the grand opening of the Washington, DC location, Leica Camera will host programming throughout a two-day event May 2nd – 3rd which includes workshops highlighting Leica’s product portfolio, a cocktail hour for professional photographers and an official opening ceremony showcasing the new setting to invited guests. The gallery space will feature an exhibition by internationally acclaimed Photojournalist Peter Turnley. As part of a new Leica Lecture Series, Turnley will present “Peter Turnley: Moments of the Human Condition” on May 2nd. Attendees of this lecture will not only view Turnley’s iconic photographs but also hear the stories behind the images that have shaped views of world history from the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 1989 revolutions in Eastern Europe to the devastation at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001 and most recently, the turning point in the Egyptian Revolution.

Leica Stores complement an extensive dealer network and serve to further grow the brand in North America. At present, Leica Camera has confirmed two additional store locations in the United States slated to open later this year, Leica Store New York SoHo and Leica Store Miami. Additionally, the company’s store-in-store concept will continue to expand with the Leica Boutique in Rancho Mirage, CA (located at Camera West) and Leica Boutique in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada (located at Broadway Camera).

The Leica Store Washington DC will be open seven days a week and provides customers with the opportunity to schedule private appointments.

For additional information, please visit www.leica-store-dc.com.

Mar 282012
 

The Great 35mm Rangefinder Lens Shootout! UPDATED!

by Brad Husick March 27, 2012

Many of us have GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and have amassed a generous collection of lenses for our rangefinder cameras. The problem with having a wide selection of lenses to choose from is that when we reach up to grab a lens for our next shoot it’s sometimes hard to decide what to take. At one point my collection was up to 22 lenses and at that point I had become a collector as much as a photographer. Well, over the past few years I have whittled that collection down to the lenses I like most just for their optical qualities. My collecting interest has been refocused on photographs – the ones I take.

Fortunately for this test I still own too many lenses and I have a close friend who owns many more, so I thought I’d begin a series of tests with 35mm rangefinder lenses. These are not laboratory controlled tests of carefully arranged objects but a typical outdoor scene from a local spot here on Lake Washington near Seattle – a subject more people are likely to shoot from day-to-day. The results are my subjective opinion of the optical quality of the photos, and I am including 100% crops for you to make your own conclusions. Here’s the full frame 35mm shot:

Test Setup:

The test was set up to control and keep constant as many of the variables as possible. Photos were taken on a Leica M9-P mounted on a tripod, set at ISO 160, shutter speed 1/750 sec., aperture f/4, lenses set to their infinity focus point. Not all the lenses had the same maximum aperture and the day was bright enough that trying to shoot wide-open would have required the use of ND filters. I did not want to introduce any glass in front of the lenses for this test. The shutter was tripped using the 2-second self timer to minimize any hand vibrations. RAW files were brought into Adobe Lightroom 4 and exported as JPEG files with no adjustments from default settings.

The weather here in Seattle was in the 50’s with complete overcast and light winds. We get this ideal overcast many days a year – great for photographs, not too great for sun tanning.

The Eight Contestants in the Shootout:

MS Super Triplet Perar f3.5 Mark II (Perar)

Leica Summarit-M f3.5, current version (Summarit)

Zeiss Biogon f2.0 T* ZM Silver (Zeiss)

Leica Summilux f1.4 ASPH FLE (FLE)

Leica Summicron-M f2.0 ASPH Chrome (Chrome ASPH)

Leica Summicron-M f2.0 ASPH Black (Black ASPH)

Voigtlander C Color Skopar Classic f2.5 (Skopar)

Leitz Summaron f2.8 LTM/M circa 1959 (Summaron)

Lens Results:

I examined 100% crops near the center of the frame and at the top left corner. I studied the files looking for overall sharpness and ability to resolve detail, micro-contrast, lack of chromatic aberration (fringing) and distortion.

Not surprisingly, the Leica Summilux ASPH FLE was the top performer at both the center and corner of the frame. Leica took an already excellent lens, the Summilux ASPH, and corrected the focus shift issue by incorporating a new floating element in the FLE. The price of the new lens climbed substantially, with some selling for nearly $8000 a few months after introduction when the initial supply ran dry. Prices have since settled around $6500.

Somewhat surprising is how well the Zeiss Biogon performed, especially at the center, scoring a second place for center performance. Sharpness and detail were excellent. Overall contrast was higher than the FLE perhaps due to different lens coatings. Ergonomics are superb with buttery smooth focus and f-stop. Some may not like the chrome ring around the front of the lens that functions as a bayonet for the optional hood, but I don’t think it detracts from the lens. The Zeiss is the performance-value winner here with new lenses available for around $1000.

I compared two seemingly identical Leica Summicron-ASPH lenses, one black and the other chrome. They were not optically identical. The chrome lens was marginally superior at both the center and corner. This could be due to some slight variation in infinity focus between the two lenses. The pair of Summicron-ASPH lenses scored well, coming in second and third at the corner and third and forth at the center. The Summicron has always been a staple of the Leica shooter and will probably remain there. Used prices range from $2500-$3000.

Leica’s modern Summarit-M is positioned as an entry level lens for the Leica shooter, and is a small and affordable package. Optically however, the Summarit came in fifth in the ranking for overall softness and a lack of micro contrast; a somewhat disappointing result for a modern lens design. The Summarit is list priced at $1895 with clean used lenses selling for $1400.

The Leitz Summaron from 1959 is a beautiful lens with sculpted sloping edges and an unusual focus tab that incorporates an infinity lock. Sharpness of the Summaron was soft, but lacked any chromatic aberration – a surprising result for such an old design and the state of lens coatings from that time period. The softness of the lens was pleasing, giving a somewhat nostalgic look to the photograph. Shooters looking for some of that classic old Leica glow won’t be disappointed with the Summaron. However, compared with modern optics the Summaron just can’t resolve the way the newer glass can perform. Clean used Summarons can be found for around $1000.

Last but not least in the shootout was a personal favorite – the unique MS Super Triplet Perar, often called simply the “Perar”. It’s been a favorite of mine because it is simply tiny. It’s smaller than any Leica collapsible lens in the collapsed state! The aperture is step-free and the focus is smooth with a focus “pin” to assist. Traveling with this lens is a joy since it barely sticks out from the front of the camera and it’s always in a ready-to- shoot position, unlike collapsible lenses. As good as the physical design and ergonomics are, the optical performance of the lens is not up to the standards set by the more complicated and expensive lenses in this test. Perar images are good at center but sharpness falls off at the edges. Perar lenses can be found on ebay and at the maker’s website www.japanexposures.com.

Vignetting is not a problem for any of these lenses and chromatic aberration is well handled by the entire group.

Here are my subjective rankings of the lenses:

Note: I’d like to thank my dear friend Ed (goes by the handle “fishandfowl” on many boards) for making available five of the lenses in this test. Ed introduced me to rangefinder photography and thus improved my life greatly.

Brad

UPDATE!!

ARTICLE UPDATE (3-29-12):
In my initial test the Skopar performed quite poorly when set to the infinity focus setting on the lens. I re-ran the test, this time backing the focus off from infinity by the smallest amount I could turn the ring in the case where the infinity stop was overshooting slightly. Center sharpness improved substantially while edge distortion remained problematic. This is probably due in part to the Leica Thread Mount (LTM) – to – Leica M bayonet adapter being used.

Here are the new Skopar crops:

Based on these new results I have revised my rankings:

Some visitors posted comments about the overall quality of the images in comparison to other camera systems. To assist in evaluating these images, I have included two more cameras – the Leica D-Lux 5, a highly respected small-imager camera set to 35mm zoom, f/4 and base ISO, and the Apple iPhone 4S, an 8 megapixel imager with an approximate angle of view of 30mm. I think most readers will agree that neither measures up to the images produced with the Leica M9-P. The iPhone was surprisingly good for a phone and has the unique quality of always being at hand when a photo is required.

iPhone 4s

D-Lux 5

Mar 262012
 
Taking the Leica M9 Off the Streets and into the Wild by Louis Stevenson
Since sharing my experience with the M9 on the Overland Track in Tasmania, I was eager to take it out once again on an expedition, not only to gain confidence using a crazy expensive camera outdoors, but also to feed my soul with what I call “phototherapy”. You know what I mean, just holding your fave cam to your eye, composing, focusing and… Release! The world is beautiful again.
Destination:  Kota Tinggi Waterfalls, Malaysia. This time I was pushing it. A friend called me insane. Another said, that was the last of it. Because I was trekking upriver where 70% of the track was wet and one slip would cause a heart attack not even a heart surgeon could survive.
Weapon of Choice: Leica M9 + 35mm Summicron Asph. Wait the Cron?? Could have just brought the CV 35mm 1.4 or even the 28mm Ultrons since it proved mighty well in Tasmania. And its 5 times less expensive. Screw it, might as well go all the way! And as usual, the Panasonic FT3 waterproof cam for all-purpose shots. Read on to find out if the M9 made it out…
The terrain is uneven and slippery, with loose rocks covered with algae strewn all over the stream. They are not dangerous, but considering that I was carrying precious cargo, I was pretty nervous. 
Some areas, the water level could reach up to waist level with slippery loose rocks underneath. The slightest dip would be devastating! 
Sometimes a picture may seem mundane at first. But before you move on to the next one, try converting it to B+W, instant revival! This turned out to be my fave. 
I opted for the 35mm over the wider 28mm because the sceneries were mostly flanked by forests. Not so much vast landscape to capture. 
 –
There’s some pretty cool climbing involved. Not difficult but can be dangerous due to slippery rocks. Always had a firm footing before whipping out the M9!
As for the Cron, I love the crisp and bright images that came out. I’m glad I made the choice to go ahead with the Cron. 
So did the M9 made it out unscathed? Or fell victim to every non-weather sealed camera’s worst arch nemesis: water. Safe to say that there were no fatalities, In fact, not a single scratch! Here are some precautions I took to ensure a dry and happy M9. Its all common sense really.
Wrist Strap. This turned out to be safer option than a neck strap since the M9 was kept in the cam bag when not in use. Carrying the M9 on your neck exposes it to water spray, bumps and tangles.
Cam Bag. Leave your Billinghams at home! I used the Lowe Pro Apex 120 Aw sling bag which was actually more than enough to fit both the M9 and FT3. I would recommend something smaller, but it did work well for me. Slung it high and close to my body for passing through waist level water.
Leather Case. The Ciesta case which comes with grip was essential. Without it, the M9 could easily slip off my hands.
Usage. 3 Golden Rules:
1. Keep it! I kept it even if it means taking 3 steps to another shooting position across water.
2. Strap on! Secured it to my wrist before lifting it out of the cam bag!
3. Stop and shoot!
So here it is, my experience of taking the M9 off the streets and into the wild. The only gripe I had was that it did not have a flash for taking shots at night when we camped over. Yes, sometimes I secretly wish there was an in-built flash on the M9 which most purists might deem an unholy thought. Nonetheless, the M9 is a good digital full frame option for such treks, and I dream that Leica would introduce weather sealing into the M10, better ISO, and in-built flash. =)
And as always, thanks to Steve, for this great site!
More pictures available:
My other Outdoor experience with the M9:
Mar 232012
 

Down Mexico way with a M9, 50 and 28 by Christian Herzog

A few days ago, prompted by all the talk about the Mayan calendar ending (and a sweet, good-looking woman ;) ) I filled my bag with a M9, Summilux 50 ASPH and the tiny Elmarit 28 ASPH and left my small and snowy Austrian hometown for a trip across the pond to warm and sunny Mexico. With me came only the Leica, the lenses, a few memory cards, 2 batteries and a Voigtländer 28mm viewfinder to help composing when wearing glasses.

I expected the brass and metal construction of the Leica to turn some heads at the air ports security checks and I was not let down. During my travel I was at a checkpoint 6 times, every time I saw the scanner operator making a face and talking to the other security people whizzing around. Three times I was asked for a little show and tell and once (ironically in Frankfurt – close to Solms where my M9 was assembled) they took the camera for a drugs and explosives test.

 

After arriving in Mexico and settling in, the trip led us to Guadalajara to see some Mariachi. I chose the 50mm and we went to explore the city centre and after walking around for a couple of minutes I was pleased. No. I was delighted! The low weight of the camera compared to my previous DSLR was such a relief to me. It was almost like the camera wasn’t there even though objectively, at over one kilogram, it’s pretty heavy! When you sling it across your chest though, it doesn’t really feel that way. The weight distribution due to the slim form factor sees to that. I think no words have to be lost on the 50mm Summilux. It’s nearly perfect in every way. The only critique I can think of is the weight (especially the “chrome” version) and the stiff focusing, a concession to the amount of glass that needs to be moved.

 

Soon night started to fall and the Summilux which shone during the day with its crisp, contrasty images and its smooth bokeh, was being pointed at the dimly lit food stands that framed the path to the famous musicians.

 

The M9 is often faulted with its not-so-great low light performance and from a technical standpoint that certainly is true. However, I feel that nowadays many pictures taken in the evening or at night often tend to lack something: darkness. The current low light specialists can turn night into day! You can’t help but marvel at the ability to shoot in what is basically pitch black! But… do I really want that? When it’s too dark to see, what do I want to photograph? Doesn’t the eerie, spooky feeling of darkness and night vanish when you suddenly have detail in every shadow? Would the shot above benefit from more details in the shadows? I don’t think it would – a better composition, yes, more light not so much… To me the high ISO performance of the M9 isn’t all that bad as it’s made out to be. The limitations are definitely there, yet when coupled with a fast lens and the excellent noise reduction in Lightroom I have only really run into serious problems in fringe cases (see further down).

But the Leica doesn’t suffer from ISO woes alone! At a place with several Mariachi bands my luck struck out. It was then and there that the focusing system of the M that was so precise and reliable only minutes ago failed me catastrophically…

 

 

After having had 2 Tequilas I was faced with a mysteriously progressive misalignment of the range finder! The images went from sharp to soft and from soft to studies of the lens’ bokeh… So unfortunately I have no pictures to show of the musicians… Ay caramba!! By the next day though my focusing problems were resolved, very strange… Probably the weather?

 

Several days later on a guided day trip to Chichén Itzá I relied exclusively on the Elmarit hoping that the wide-angle would make the ruins look even more imposing. What I didn’t know of was a surprise visit to a limestone cavern which was used by the Mayans as a sacrificial site. An interesting location in many ways, however it quickly highlighted the limits of my chosen equipment combination for the day. Since the cavern was only dimly lit by a hole in the roof and some rather small spotlights, I had to shoot fully open (a mere f2.8) and up the ISO to 2000 to reach a meagre shutter speed of 1/30. The images therefore are not really useable for bigger prints and due to the high ISO show quite a bit of noise (which responds well to Lightrooms noise removal though).

Above ground however the Elmarit and M9 redeemed themselves again. I even went to take a picture of some wildlife. Yes! Wildlife! With a wideangle… and a rangefinder! ;)

 

I’m very fond of the Elmarit, the size and feel of it wins me over every time (and say what you want: rectangular hoods are really cool). It’s absolutely tiny. Take off the hood and you could be forgiven when thinking it’s a toy. Its performance however – even fully open – is bereft of any toy like qualities! Beautifully sharp and wonderful contrast. Keep in mind though that when shooting at f2.8 even with lens detection on it tends to vignette quite a bit. Personally I like it but others might disagree.

Another – system inherent – issue are the 28mm frame lines in the M9. I rely on an external viewfinder for framing with the 28. As I said: I wear glasses but even with contacts I still don’t like the eyeball acrobatics required to compose the frame.

This solution works very well most of the time but it can be hard to get a really exact alignment of your subject like you can see quite clearly in this shot:

 

I was standing ever so slightly off the proper axis to get that shot. Unfortunately I didn’t notice that until I was back at the hotel.

 

All in all I massively enjoyed the shooting experience with the Leica, it works wonderfully well as a travel camera, just like you would expect. Would I have been able to get the same images with a different camera? Yes, that’s an undisputable fact. My friend used an E-PL1 with the 20mm Panasonic and she produced some equally great shots (Her shots from Chichén Itzá are better than mine I think).

 

However: would I have had the same fun with it? No way. It’s a completely different shooting experience and I much prefer the slower, more deliberate way of shooting that the Leica forces onto you. The M9 goes out of your way when taking pictures, it won’t interfere, but equally won’t help you much. It forces you to think about the image, the focus, the exposure, depth of field, the composition… If the image doesn’t turn out, I always feel like I messed up, not the camera. I didn’t focus right, I chose the wrong aperture, I misinterpreted the metering. No excuses. If it does turn out though, it’ll give you a strange sense of accomplishment. You really did make that image, the camera didn’t, you did. The Leica is a harsh mistress that will frustrate you, but when you put the effort in, it will reward you with a wonderful experience and delightful images.

 

So finally, what wisdom did I acquire that I can pass on to you? I lost 2 pictures (no problem, they were rubbish) due to the SD Card. The batteries held up quite nicely but you really should have a backup one ready. The world will not end on December the 21st so keep your jobs and…. oh, yes! Don’t try to focus drunk!

 

Christian Herzog

 

Contact:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/noeffred/

see the whole set on Flickr (including a Panorama 17700px wide Pano of Guadalajara):

All images were shot RAW and later processed in Lightroom 3

 

Mar 222012
 

What is to come on May 10th from Leica? I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you…

So speculation is running wild about the May 10th announcement coming from Leica. I was invited to the event in Berlin and really hope I can make it (depends on flight and travel costs) and plan on going but so far if you search the internet you will see many rumors of what is to come. I have been keeping quiet because, well, I already have all of the new Leica products and am under a strict order NOT to talk about them.

Yep, I already have in my possession the new and much talked about M Monochrome, the new X2, the new S3 and an unfinished M10 and I am like a kid at christmas!

Well….no, that’s not true. I just told a big fat lie. :) I figured that by naming this post the way I did would bring in hits from the search engines :)

In reality I have nothing and really can’t say what is to come. Who knows? Instead I will talk about what the internet rumors are saying and then give my thoughts and guesses. But damn, I couldn’t find my crystal ball so this is all blind…

Rumor #1 – A Black and White Monochrome M is the big announcement. Hmmm.

Well someone obviously leaked this out and now it has taken over like wildfire on the internet, unless it was a big made up rumor but I doubt it. The invite Leica sent out sort of had B&W hints all over it. Some are saying THIS is the big announcement. If so, then I think it is pretty damn cool because if Leica went with a B&W sensor then they could also have it perform amazingly well at high ISO. It would be like a classic M loaded with ALL kinds of B&W film. The DR would be better, noise would be better, high ISO could go higher and damn, I am sure it would look sexy as sexy can look. I can just imagine those crazy good B&W RAW files. My concern that is if this is what is coming…how much will Leica charge? It seems like it would cost less for them to produce but at the same tie they could charge MORE due to them being Leica and the fact that there is NOTHING like this out there, at all. I would love to have an M body dedicated to amazing quality B&W with rich output and without having to worry about noise or dynamic range. Want grain? Dial it in with ISO. Rumors are saying it will not have a back LCD but I feel that it would because you would still need to set up the camera as it is indeed digital. Guess we will see if this is even a reality on May 10th. My guess? $7500. Hope it is less though so us mere mortals can afford one. If indeed this is real.

 

Rumor #2 – The M10 will be announced

I originally thought that May 10th meant M10. :) But now I am not so sure. I think Leica is still working on the “10” and will announce this one at Photokina later on. They still have some special edition M9P’s to sell. I do feel that when the M10 is announced that it will have many changes from the M9. But I really do not know, these are just my opinions. May 10th though WOULD be a perfect day to announce an M10. Maybe they will mention it, maybe they will show one. I really do not know. My guess though is that the M10 will be later.

 

Rumor #3 – The X2/Mirrorless IC camera

This is a big one. Some are saying the X2 will have interchangeable  lenses. Some are even saying it will be full frame! Me? I don’t think it will have either but then again, MAYBE Leica is feeling the heat from Sony, Olympus, Fuji…wait..NO, they can’t be..they are Leica! So with that said, I think the X2 will be announced but not sure I expect an IC camera out of it though that would have been a killer move. That would have meant a new line of lenses though and with Leica having such a hard time as it is with delivering their glass, not sos use they would take on an all new mount.

The X1 has supposedly been discontinued so the facts are there… it simply is time for an X2 because like I said, Fuji, Sony, Olympus…they have all made sales of the X1 slow down to a halt. Leica needs an X2 update, just hope it is a good one!

 

Rumor #4 – Again, a mirrorless solution and R solution

Many seem to think that Leica will be releasing some sort of mirrorless camera. I have no clue if this is the case but if they do, will it be a German-made masterpiece with all new lenses or will it be a Olympus OM-D in disguise that takes Micro 4/3 lenses? Knowing Leica…they wouldn’t want to make a 3rd premium German built camera system with all new lenses, as this would hurt it’s M sales and if the X2 is NOT an IC camera, then it would hurt its X2 sales. So where does that leave a mirrorless solution? I wouldn’t put it past them to redesign a Olympus or Panasonic body and go Micro 4/3. But maybe I am just crazy. This is why May 10th will be so exciting, because I love surprises!

But me? I feel that there is something to the B&W rumors, don’t feel an M10 is coming on May 10th and I also feel they NEED an X1 update, in an X2. Just my guesses! We shall see in May! BTW, if Leica is reading this then SEND ME whatever is new and I will review it THOROUGHLY and have it posted AFTER the announcement! Good plan huh? :)

Using the comments below, tell me what YOU hope to see on May 10th from Leica!

Mar 222012
 

Have $30k to spend? Then snag up this White Limited Edition M9-P and Silver 50 Noctilux ASPH!

Looks like Leica is up to their old tricks, this time with special edition M9-P’s. They usually do this near the end of a product run it seems (the white M8, safari M8.2 just before the M9) but this one is not for the weak wallets. For your $30,000 US dollars you get a WHITE M9-P with chrome top and a matching chrome Leica Noctilux ASPH (which I have seen and held in person and MAN OH MAN is this lens a beauty). The kit is finished off with special packaging and a white leather strap. This is only being made in a limited run of 50 for  the Japanese market but I am sure if someone had the desire for one, along with the cash you could snag one up.

Me? I’ll stick with my standard setup :)

Mar 222012
 

A really quick comparison of the Canon G1x and Leica M9 – What?!?! by George Sutton

(From Steve – This was sent in by George last week and figured I would post, as crazy as it is,  for anyone interested in some thoughts on the new Canon G1X compact.)

Steve,

Here is my initial impression of the Canon G1 X including a comparison with the Leica M9. The G1 X has a lot of positives but essentially it is an advanced point and shoot with excellent IQ and modest versatility. It is perhaps best described as a small self-contained DSLR. Its principal competition is probably Fuji X100 and Leica X1 (what is with all the Xs in camera names these days??). In comparison the Canon is less expensive and more versatile.

Its main advantages are the following:

— excellent IQ — DSLR quality

— very sharp lens

— 4x zoom lens compared to fixed lens on many comparable cameras

— articulating back

— good ISO performance all the way to 12500

— HDR

— face detection autofocus

— IS

— good movies

 

Drawbacks:

 

— autofocus is not lightening fast — limited ability to keep focus on fast moving kids

— viewfinder is not very useful

— instruction book not included — requires 240+ page download

— menues are somewhat complicated

 

I think the controversy over this camera has been figuring out its niche. It is a high-end point and shoot, a great camera for traveling and landscapes when you don’t want to carry a bigger camera. It also has very good high ISO performance. I picked it over a Sony NEX because the Sony is significantly larger with a comparable zoom attached. Carrying a Sony is like carrying a Leica M9 and I have no plans to replace my Leica. The G1 X is too large to fit in a pants pocket but it will fit a jacket pocket. And it is self-contained. Lack of lens choices is both an advantage and a limitation.

The photos below show the G1 X at its widest and longest. The photos only demonstrate the camera’s IQ, nothing more. The enlargements are approximately 100% crops.

Canon G1X at its widest  – f/5.6 and 1/180 – click image for full size

Canon at its longest – f/5.6 1/160 – click image for full size

Leica M9 – Click for full size

100% crop from the Leica

The comparison shots with the Leica are interesting in two respects. The Canon lens is very sharp, close to the Leica. The bigger difference is the greater depth and richness in the Leica shots. Maybe that is just subjective, a desire to see some benefit in paying more than ten times the price for the Leica. But that said, the Canon produces a very good photo. For me the camera is a keeper for that reason together with the added versatility compared to an X100 or X1.

The other interesting thing is the moire in the Leica enlargement. If you ever wondered why many digital cameras have low pass filters this shows the reason. Canons have low pass filters (also known as anti aliasing filters), Leica does not. A low pass filter blurs the image slightly to avoid moire. The Leica occasionally shows moire but the rest of the time produces a slightly crisper image. This can be seen in the vents in the building that show through the ad. Look above the model’s hands then follow the line of vents across the whole frame. Moire happens when small parallel lines produce false shapes and colors. This shot not only produced some wild false colors but also produced obvious false lines and shapes.

In the Canon shot the same vents are remarkably sharp and the colors and shapes are accurate. (That isn’t a criticism of Leica. Eliminating a low pass filter is a trade-off — some images will end up with moire in order to make all shots clearer). Hope you found this interesting.

George Sutton

Mar 202012
 

Traveling in South America with the Sony NEX-7 & Leica glass

By Ashwin Rao – See his Blog HERE

 

Sony NEX-7, Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 Sonnar

Hi everyone, recently I had the good luck to receive on of this past year’s most desired cameras, the Sony NEX-7. I initially considered myself a long shot to purchase this camera, due to early reports of difficulties of this camera’s ability to handle wider Leica lenses. On top of this, I am a dedicated Leica M user, and already have a similar camera in the Ricoh GXR/M-mount. Thus, why even bother with a new camera, with 2 ways to already use M lenses?’

Well, the answer is a bit multifactorial. For one, I am, like many of you, a bit of a gear head, and GAS bothers me on occasion, as well. Second, I was curious about the NEX system, and in particular, the innovative NEX-7 and it’s Tri-Navi system. Third, at 24 MP, the NEX-7 has the potential to out-resolve the M9, especially if the rumors at true that it possesses a weak anti-aliasing/blur filter. Fourth, I was curious about how enjoyable it could be to focus Leica lenses via the NEX-7’s wonderful 2.4 MP EVF.  The form factor of the NEX, with it’s integrated EVF, tiltable external viewfinder, and compact build, also was very intriguing. Finally, over the past few months, as the camera has become gradually more available, a slow trickle of positive reviews have come in, including comments in which Leica glass behaved favorably on this camera.  And thus, I started to feel that I needed to give this camera a try.

Sony NEX-7, Leica 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE

I had hoped to procure the NEX-7 in time for a coming trip to Argentina and Uruguay, but after reviewing a few sites and talking to dealers with long waiting lines, I started to doubt the possibility to taking this camera on the road for a real world work-out. Then, this February, my chance finally came, as a good friend, who had ordered 2 NEX cameras, found himself with 1 too many, and contacted me. The combination of my overall curiosity, along with some of the factors discussed above, sent me over the edge, and I found myself with the lovely NEX-7 in hand.

At this point, I decided to make a bold leap. I would take ONLY the NEX-7 to South America. No Leica. No GXR. Just the NEX-7. Along with me would come a Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 lens, for wide-angle work, and a host of Leica lenses, from the 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE to the Leica APO-Telyt 135 mm f/3.4, a notoriously difficult lens to use on the M9 (due primarily to its miniscule frame lines). I purchased a spare battery and a Novoflex Leica M-to-NEX adapter, and decided to go it solo. NEX-7 or bust, in South America! What follows are my thoughts and experiences shooting this system in Argentina and Uruguay in March, 2011:

Sony NEX-7, Leica 75 mm f/2 APO-Summicron ASPH

Gear

When putting together my kit for the trip, I realized that I had to make some careful choices on what gear to take along with the NEX-7. If the rumors were true, shooting with lenses wider than 28 mm would potentially lead to images with the dreaded red edge and cyan drift. Some say that this is a problem particularly noted in the NEX-7, and not the NEX-5N, and I decided to avoid the problem altogether by purchasing a Ziess 24 mm f/1.8 Sonnar, which acts as a 35 mm focal length equivalent on the NEX-7. Along with this lens, I decided to bring the 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux Asph FLE, essentially a 50 mm equivalent lens, my lovely and often underused Leica 75 mm f/2 APO Summicron asph, and the challenging but wonderful Leica 135 mm f/3.4 APO-Telyt. Both of these lenses are somewhat ugly ducklings in the M-system for a couple of reasons, particularly due to challenges in use. The 75 mm framelines are a bit wonky on the M9 and film M’s, making it a challenge for some to use on a full frame body. Similarly, the 135 mm APO-Telyt is a lens that many don’t even consider when using the M system, given that the framelines for this lens are tiny, and adequate use of this lens requires an additional magnifier for many of us with less than perfect vision. This set of lenses represented a useful range from 35 mm-200 mm equivalent, and I was satisfied that all lenses could see frequent use in a land far away. Below is a list of my entire photographic travel kit, all of which fit into my camera bag.

Sony NEX-7, Leica 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE

My Travel Kit

 

Camera: Sony NEX-7

Lenses:

Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 Sonnar (35 mm equiv)

Leica 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE (50 mm equiv) (See Steve’s review HERE)

Leica 75 mm f/2 APO-Summicron ASPH (110 equiv) (See Steve’s review HERE)

Leica 135 mm f/3.4 APO-Telyt ASPH (200 mm equivalent)

 

Bag: Fogg B-Laika Black/Charcoal bag

 

Miscellaneous gear:

Artisan and Artist silk strap mounted on the NEX7

Novoflex Leica M-mount-to-NEX adapter

Microfiber cleaning cloth

2 NEX batteries & Charger

4 SanDisk Extreme Pro (90 mb/sec) SD cards

 

Computer:

MacBook Air 11 inch, with supplemental SD card reader

A wonderful thing about this kit is that the whole system listed above, save my computer,  fit easily into my Fogg bag, which is nicely discrete and doesn’t look much like a camera bag at all. Not once during my trip did I feel threatened, and further, the kit fit comfortably on my shoulder for 2 straight weeks as I travelled through Argentina and Uruguay.

 

Sony NEX-7, Leica 135 mm f/3.4 APO-Telyt ASPH

The Travel Itinerary

Now that the kit was assembled, next up to consider was the itinerary. Ultimately, we decided on an itinerary that focused on northern Argentina and Uruguay.

Buenos Aires

Our travels began in Buenos Aires, where we spent 3 days enjoying the city’s plentitude of offerings, photographic opportunities, and fantastic cuisine. Buenos Aires is a wonderfully walkable city with excellent public transportation, and it’s very easy to get around on foot, by bike, or via their subway system. While in Buenos Aires, we visited the amazing Recoleta cemetery, the politically charged San Telmo neighborhood, the colorful La Boca neighborhood, the uber-chique Palermo Neighborood, and a variety of other locals. We sampled the wonderful Tango culture and vibrant nightlife. Buenos Aires is a city that simply doesn’t sleep (well, maybe during the day, LOL), and is well worth a visit.

 Sony NEX-7, Leica 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE

 

Sony NEX-7, Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 Sonnar

Iguazu Falls

Upon leaving Buenos Aires, we made our way north to the stunning Iguazu Falls. considered by many to be one of the most powerful and awe-inspiring natural wonders in the world, Iguazu Falls is an amazing showing of how the force of nature can carve true beauty on this world. Some of you may be familiar with these waterfalls from movies such as “The Mission”, but for those of you haven’t experienced them, please do. The closest comparison in the U.S. is Niagara Falls, while Zimbabwe houses the inspiring Victoria Falls. I have seen Niagara falls before, but Iguazu Falls makes Niagara falls look ordinary.

Sony NEX-7, Leica 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE

Sony NEX-7, Leica 75 mm f/2 APO-Summicron ASPH

Montevideo, Uruguay

Once we had taken in our fill of Iguazu falls, it was off to Montevideo, Uruguay. Talk about a cool city. Tie together this seaside city’s laid back atmosphere with dashes of San Diego and Miami, and you get an idea of Montevideo’s vibe. This was city of evening culture, music, and cuisine. It was the place that surprised me the most and served as the greatest inspiration for my photography. Montevideo’s old quarter and seaside boardwalk were both fantastic places to find Uruguay’s wonderful people living their own lives.

Sony NEX-7, Leica 35 mm f1/4 Summilux ASPH FLE

 

Sony NEX-7, Leica 75 mm f/2 APO-Summicron ASPH

Colonia, Uruguay

Having enjoyed Montevideo’s laidback vibe and photographic inspiration, it was off to Colonia, Uruguay, which is Uruguay’s oldest city and a designated UNESCO world heritage site. While having a bit of a Disney World-feel, it was full of many opportunities to photograph beautiful sunsets and beautifully crafted colonial architecture. It’s little shops, old cars, and overgrown alleyways make for more fun photographs.

Sony NEX-7, Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 Sonnar

Back to Buenos Aires and Home

Our last day of travel was spent taking a ferry back to Beunos Aires from Colonia, and catching one of the city’s well-known tango shows, which document a colorful side of Argentine culture. It was a chance to test out the NEX-7’s low light capabilities in an exciting setting.

Sony NEX-7, Leica 35 mm f1/4 Summilux ASPH FLE

 

Impressions of the NEX-7 while on the road

During the trip, I began to formulate several thoughts on the NEX-7. First and foremost, I found it to be an enjoyable camera for regular use, and additionally, a wonderful format by which to utilize Leica M lenses. M lenses are, in many cases, far more compact than Sony’s own native E-mount lenses, and they seem to balance well on the camera, giving it a dense, weighty, and confident feel.  The NEX-7’s tiltable viewfinder, in many instances, allowed for discrete shooting in circumstances where discretion was helpful. Further, the camera’s EVF, which in my opinion is one of the camera’s true innovations, was a joy to use.

Focus Peaking- Good, bad, or ugly?

Regarding focus peaking, I have had extensive experience using this method to manually focus M glass when using the Ricoh GXR. With the higher resolution EVF on the NEX-7 and multiple selectable colors (white, red, or yellow on the NEX-7, versus only white on the GXR), the NEX-7 offers an enjoyable focusing experience. However, the experience is far from perfect. At times, the focus peaking feature is not as sensitive enough to critically focus M lenses, particularly when shot wide open. While the focus peaking does work best when lenses are opened to their widest aperture, I found that at times, my images appeared out-of-focus upon returning home or checking the image review on the screen’s rear LCD. Thus, I often found it best to pre-focus on a scene with the lens wide open, and then stop down to get images that were better focused. I could imagine that this system could be difficult with lenses in which stopping down leads to focus shift, but in this case, none of the Leica lenses that I traveled with are known to have a bad case of focus shift.

That being said, in most cases, focus peaking works fine, and it’s a fun way to use Leica glass. Is focus peaking “better” than using a standard rangefinder focusing technique? In my opinion, the answer is “No”. In my experience, focus peaking is inferior to the RF mechanism for focusing wide and normal lenses, especially the 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE.

On the other hand, I found focus peaking and the NEX-7, paradoxically, to be more facile at using longer lenses. Whereas the Leica M system does a wonderful job at 28-50 mm focal lengths, many complain of using longer focal lengths on the M system. While I have never had this issue and comfortably have used lenses as long as 135 mm on the M system, I did find it truly enjoyable to use both the 75 mm f/2 Summicron and the 135 mm f/3.4 APO-Telyt on the NEX system. Both lenses seemed to handle well on the M system, and for reasons that were and remain unclear to me, I achieved a higher percentage of in-focus images on the M system than I was able to with the 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux FLE lens. I’ll let you all debate why this may be the case. But it was my experience.

Sony NEX-7, Leica 135 mm f/3.4 APO-Telyt ASPH

Sony NEX-7, Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 Sonnar

Ergonomics

Ergonomically, the NEX-7 is a good fit in my hand. In fact, I found the NEX-7 to be a pure joy to hold in hand. Whereas I have had difficulty holding other NEX cameras in hand, given their diminutive size, the NEX-7 and it’s fantastic grip are a far better ergonomic fit for me. I found the Tri-Navi feature set to be a wonderful way to adjust ISO, exposure compensation, and shutter speed parameters. Having all of these parameters easily accessible via on-camera controls, in addition to having aperture control directly on Leica’s lenses, afforded me with a terrific degree of control over image making parameters, and I found the Tri-Navi system to be a joy to use. Further, the EVF was appropriately placed and easy to use in concert with the rear LCD screen. In a few instances, I found that my camera strap would cover the EVF’s eye sensor, and in these instances, the rear LCD would go black, inappropriately. While this was not a common experience, it was a bit annoying when it happened.

Another minor quibble is the menu system and layout of the NEX -7. While the menu system is laid out in a reasonably logical way, I simply didn’t find it intuitive, even after prolonged use. Having to press different buttons to access different aspects of the menu was something that I got used to, but only with a lot of work. The menu system of other cameras, such as the Leica M9 and Ricoh GXR, are far more intuitive in regular use. Despite this, once you set up the NEX-7 in a manner in which you feel comfortable, you rarely have to delve into the menu system, and it essentially disappears, which is a good thing.

My final quibble with the NEX-7 was placement of the video record button. I found it very annoying when I was going for a photo, and the video record had been inadvertently triggered by my larger fingers. For future iterations of this camera, I’d like to see it lock out or different placement for this button.

Minor quibbles aside, using the Sony NEX-7 was a joy, in terms of pure usage. This was the case both with adapted Leica lenses and the Zeiss E mount 24 mm Sonnar.

Sony NEX-7, Leica 135 mm f/3.4 APO Telyt ASPH

 

A word on the Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 Sonnar

At the onset of my trip, I elected to purchase the Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 Sonnar to accompany my Leica M kit. I did this for several reasons. For one, I thought that it would be nice to have one high-quality AF lens to couple my manual focus kit, in events where I could hand off my camera to others who were not used to manual focus. For example, for moments where I wanted pictures of myself of my traveling group, it’s nice to have an AF lens to hand off, as using this lens is far more intuitive to the majority of users.

Second, I figured that wide Leica M lenses, such as the Summilux 24 mm f/1.4 are equally large and have a higher chance of producing images with color shifts. This phenomenon, to my knowledge, hasn’t been widely characterized for the Sonnar.

Finally, given that this was Zeiss behind the design of this lens, I hoped that image quality would be comparable to that produced by Leica M lenses, despite the price differential. Sure enough, the Zeiss performed admirably on the trip. I found it’s autofocus speed to be sufficient, and image quality to be exemplary. All in all, I have been very happy with this added purchase to my Sony NEX-7 kit.

Image quality

After all, this is what we are all about, right? LOL. Seriously, as a Leica M shooter, I am used to some of the best IQ available in 35 mm photography. Reading accounts from around the web, I was being lead to believe that the NEX-7 was capable of producing outstanding detail in its image. I was also led to believe that Leica lenses seemed to talk well with the NEX-7 sensor, particularly wide normal, normal, and telephoto M lenses.

Sony NEX-7, Leica 135 mm f/3.4 APO Telyt ASPH

So what do I think about IQ, after several weeks and over 1000 images taken while on the road? Here’s my impression….

The Sony NEX-7 does an admirable job of bonding with Leica M lenses, but it is No M9, in terms of IQ. Images, when brought up on my high Gamut 27 inch home monitor, are slightly flatter and less “3D” than M9 images. The pop that I am so often blown away by when looking at M9 files, isn’t quite there. There seems to be less foreground-background separation, maybe due in part to the 1.5x crop factor that the NEX-7’s sensor imparts. It may be due to the NEX-7’s AA filter, which I suspect is light. It may be due to the CMOS versus CCD properties. It may simply be due to my own perceptions or false perceptions, but while I don’t have side-by-side comparisons, I feel that there is a slight lag in IQ at base ISO’s, when comparing the Leica M9 and Sony NEX-7. Take that with a large grain of salt, but I say it with confidence.

Further, I find that noise is more apparent in NEX-7 files, when compared to M9 files, at lower ISO’s. Maybe it’s the added megapixels, thus leading to an increased on-screen magnification, but I definitely see more noise, particularly in the shadows, in NEX-7 files than M9 files. In stark contrast however, NEX-7 files are fare more useable in High ISO settings than digital Leica M files. I tend to avoid pushing ISO’s above 800 on the Leica M9, but I’d be comfortable using the NEX-7 up to nearly ISO 3200, and certainly to ISO 1600. In one instance, I accidentally ratcheted up the NEX-7’s ISO to 16,000 during a Tango show, and coming home, the images still looked great. Below is one example:

Sony NEX-7, Leica 75 mm f/2 APO-Summicron, ISO 16,000!

And an image at the same show, at a far more reasonable ISO:

Sony NEX-7, Leica 75 mm f/2 APO-Summicron, IS0 800

Even with post-processing NEX-7 RAW files, I don’t see much banding or digital artifacts. The noise properties of NEX-7 files at high ISO is generally pleasing. Overall, I find the NEX-7 to be a better low light machine, by quite a bit, than the M9. But I don’t think that many would be surprised to hear that statement.

In terms of post processing NEX-7 files, I found these files to be quite responsive to editing in Adobe Lightroom. NEX-7 files are a joy to work with, and don’t break apart with digital pushing and pulling, dodging/burning, or other techniques. NEX-7 RAW files do in fact offer a fair bit of creative latitude in post processing, and I’d like to commend Sony on a job well done in this department

Conclusion

All in all, was I satisfied my  Sony NEX-7 travel experience? Absolutely! Would I use this as a primary system for Leica M lenses? Once again, absolutely? Am I satisfied with image quality coming from this camera? Yup. IQ is right up there with high-end digital SLR’s and mirrorless camera offerings? Is IQ comparable to image quality coming from the Leica M9? As stated, to my eyes, the images produced by the NEX-7 are slightly flatter, with less 3D pop, than what I see coming from my Leica M9 at lower ISO’s. In contrast, I find the high ISO capabilities of the Sony NEX-7 to be far better than that of the Leica M9. Would any of these things matter for web-sized images or smaller prints? Nope, I doubt it. But for the pixel peepers among you, I feel that it is fair to convey my impressions. And that’s all they really are: impressions of a camera that I have greatly enjoyed and plan to keep in my kit for some time.

NEX-7, Leica 35 mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE

Further, for the photographically inclined, both Argentina and Uruguay have so much to offer. I suggest that you consider these destinations for your future travel plans. The people, the food, the sites, and the culture are all remarkable and worth directing your collective lenses toward.

I hope that you have enjoyed the words and images (which, by the way, were all edited and processed on the road, using the 11 inch MacBook Air). Until the next time, my dear Huffites, it’s Ashwin, signing out.

NEX-7, Leica 35 mm f1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE

Sony NEX-7, Leica 75 mm f/2 APO-Summicron ASPH

 

NEX-7, Zeiss 24 mm f/1.8 Sonnar

 

 

Sony NEX-7, Leica 135 mm f/3.4 APO Telyt ASPH

 

From Steve: I want to thank Ashwin for yet another wonderful report! To see Ashwin’s blog just click HERE.  His Flickr stream can be seen HERE

 

Mar 142012
 

Are you guys ready for a new Leica announcement/Event? On May 10-11th in Berlin we will find out what Leica has in store for us in 2012. Exciting!

My guess as to what is to come? Well…the date is May 10th and I feel they need to release an update to the X1 and the M, as I was told by Stephen Daniel himself 2-3 years ago that their goal was to release a new camera update to the M and X line every three years. We shall see :)

Also, I just set up a new Facebook page to discuss all of the (rumored) new Leica products on the way – be sure and visit it and LIKE it here as i hope to update it live from Berlin on May 10th-11th.

Mar 122012
 

Shooting wide open in the sunlight with fast glass

So you went out and bought that Leica Noctilux ASPH or SLR Magic Hyperprime T0.95 for your Leica M8 or M9 and you are one of those who want to shoot the lens how it is meant to be shot…WIDE OPEN! Yes, lenses like the Noctilux ASPH are meant to be shot WIDE OPEN and do not let anyone else tell you otherwise! Why else would we spend many thousands of dollars for a 0.95 lens? Well, we wouldn’t! This is also why these types of lenses are generally not meant for every day use. There are better lenses to use stopped down due to the weight and size of these super lenses so when we use one of these masterpieces of lens designs we WANT that 0.95 aperture!

The problem is that many of us who own these expensive but unique lenses realized that we can’t shoot in daylight when the lenses are wide open! I live in AZ and Here in Phoenix it is crazy tough when the sun is blazing down. Even at the base ISO of 160 with the M9 I would normally have to stop down to F/4 or f/5.6 just to shoot the lens, which means if I want that 3D look, that creamy shallowness, and signature look then I am out of luck…UNLESS I buy an ND filter.

I am sure that the majority of you know what an ND filter is but just in case you do not, an ND filter is simply a glass filter you attach to the front of your lens that will block most of the light from coming into your camera and hitting your sensor, allowing you to shoot wide open at slower shutter speeds even in full harsh sunlight.

For lenses like the Noctilux and SLR Magic I would recommend (and I own) a high quality filter such as the B&W 1.8 64X multi coated ND filter. The Noctilux takes a 60mm filter and the SLR magic takes a 62mm filter.  With this filter attached you can set the lens to 0.95 and shoot away, even at high noon in the harshest of sun. When the light goes down you simply take off the filter. I tested out my ND filter at the renaissance fair this past weekend and it worked out great. Usually I would shoot something like a 50 1.4 or 90 f/2.5 at these types of events but I decided to see how the ND filter would handle shooting at 0.95 all day long.

I found minimal vignetting and that crazy cool 3D effect you can get when shooting in the sun at 0.95. I found out the same thing as Ashwin Rao when he shot the Noctilux wide open using an ND filter but I used the SLR Magic T0.95 Hyperprime, and I was wowed by the performance yet again from this lens. If you have ultra fast glass for your 1/4000th second Leica M9, think about picking up an ND filter for daytime use. Not only can you get some unique and beautiful images, you can also have some fun with it.

All images below were shot with the M9 and SLR Magic Hyperprime T0.95 LM lens. Some out of cam JPEGS and a few from RAW. Without the filter, I would not have gotten this “look” which many love and many hate.

Speaking of the SLR Magic…after shooting more with the lens I have to say that it is indeed just as good (if not better) in IQ than the Leica Noctilux ASPH. This lens has a sharpness and 3D pop that is absolutely incredible. Never a focus problem, never un-sharp, and NO CA in any of the shots I took this weekend. Amazing. It certainly is not inferior to the Leica and I think many of you saw that as well since SLR Magic sold out of their 1st run of this lens in a matter of hours last week. The only issue with this lens AND the Leica is that the depth of field is EXTREMELY shallow when wide open. You can see the effects of this in some of the images below. Even with that, it is great to have a lens like this in your arsenal, even if they are insanely expensive. Enjoy!

Click the images for larger, sharper and better 1800 pixel wide versions

Mar 092012
 

Goodbye DSLR’s, traveling light with the Leica M9, Panasonic G3 and Olympus E-P3

by Neil Buchan-Grant – Visit his site HERE

Last year I was commissioned to shoot a travel guide covering the island of Sicily. I had, only the previous year, sold all of my heavy DSLR equipment. Although it weighed a ton, that equipment included AF lenses which covered a wide range of focal lengths from 16mm to 560mm. My M9 kit spanned from only 28mm to 75mm.

Having done a few of these travel commissions before, I knew that the extra range would be greatly missed. So to produce the bulk of the photos, I used an Olympus EP3 and a Panasonic G3 which I used with not only the Leica lenses, but also Olympus mft lenses ranging from 12mm to 600mm. The M9 handled most of the travel portraits, each shot with the 50mm Summilux ASPH lens.

Before, when I used the Canon equipment, my travel work was mostly concerned with the places, the landscapes and the light. Now with the M9/50 lux combination in particular, I feel that portraits of the people I meet in a country will become the heart of any future commissions. I know of course there are fast primes available in other systems and I’ve used most of the Canon ones, but none have offered me the opportunity to record people in such a visually beautiful way as the Leica equipment has. So its safe to say that using this equipment has changed the way I take photographs.

I traded a big heavy rucksack for a small shoulder bag and a belt pack. These are some of the pictures, I came back with.

 

Mar 062012
 

Leica needs a grand slam camera announcement in 2012 – will they deliver?

It has now been just about 2 1/2 years since Leica had their big event to announce the full frame M9. FINALLY we all thought at the time! A full frame digital rangefinder by the masters of RF design, we will never ask for anything more we said. When it hit, those of us who were lucky enough to get a hold of one were immediately in love with the familiar design, and of course, the amazingly creamy sensor made by Kodak. I was so excited to get one of my own at the time, I remember it vividly. When I finally did I couldn’t stop shooting it and it never left my side when I left the house! There was an excitement in the air and in my bones when that M9 arrived and it was due to not only the camera itself being my dream machine but the excitement from everyone else who was waiting for this camera. It was Special. Leica actually created a grand slam with the M9/X1/S2 releases and turned their whole business and profit around. Pretty amazing.

Leica succeeded in making 2009 THEIR year and even today they have been enjoying a huge success with M camera sell outs, and lenses that they can not seem to make fast enough. The prices are sky-high but even in this economy (that many say is so bad) Leica continues to sell out $11,000 lenses and $8000 bodies. On the other hand, the little camera that could, the Leica X1, is not doing so well these days. Sales have slumped for the last few months ever since the Fuji X100 release and prices on the used market have dropped quite a bit. Leica will need not only something new in the M line but also the X line. Who knows, maybe they will shock us and release an all new line of camera :)

Then again, I am also worried about the $$ situation as they seem to raise prices any chance they get and it is starting to get to the point where I am being priced out of the cameras wether I like it or not, and I know many out there feel the same because I hear it all the time. I am not rich by any stretch of the imagination but I own a Leica M9P and a couple of lenses. Why? Well, mainly because I feel a connection to this brand we call Leica, and I also happen to think the output is still today 2nd to none. Yes, I really do. I have bonded with my M like many of my fellow M shooters who are reading this very article. It has given me the best photos and memories of my life so for me, the M will always be with me but if they release a new M at $10k or $11k, I am out.

THE REALITY OF TODAY

This is 2012 and it is no longer the “year of the Leica”, 2009. Cameras have evolved so fast over the past three years that many feel that the Leica M9 is now “old tech”. Sure it has a horrible “worst of the worst” LCD and yes it has a painfully slow buffer, and yes it is noisy (but usable) at ISO 2500. BUT what do we get in return when we put up with all of that? We get amazing file quality when using good lenses and that quality on many occasions has rivaled medium format. Slap on a Leica 35mm or 50mm and be amazed at the detail in your images. But then again we have to take a look at costs because we are talking about spending $7000-$8000 on just a camera BODY and spending that kind of cash TODAY, as in RIGHT NOW is tough. Especially when we have all of these new cameras on the way.

Yes! IN 2012 this is getting a bit tricky because we have cameras like the Fuji X-Pro 1, and I have to say that the more I see of it, the more amazing it appears in regards to image quality. The lenses are sharp and the file quality appears to be equaling the M9 in many of the samples I have seen to date. The styling is like an RF, and it even has a modern-day hybrid EVF/VF and a much better LCD. The Fuji IS NOT an RF but you can surely use your Leica glass on it and take advantage of it having no AA filter. The Fuji has even better color than the M9 and at 1/4 the price of an M9, it will be serious competition to those who have not yet gone with a Leica due to cost, but wanted to. Those who bought an M9 and had focus issues or cracked sensors or have become disappointed with the luxury brand for one reason or another  will flock to the Fuji X-Pro 1 (or even the new OM-D which also look phenomenal) in droves. Others simply see the X-Pro 1 as a viable alternative to the M9..those who are not diehard rangefinder shooters.

Many have been saving for an M9 or M9-P and I have heard from quite a few that they will take that savings and invest in the Fuji X-Pro 1 instead. Superb IQ, great styling, great lenses, 1/4 the cost. It makes sense. Even cameras like the NEX-7 are capable of amazing output with Leica glass attached. So what does this mean for Leica in 2012?

IT MEANS THEY BETTER ANNOUNCE SOMETHING SPECIAL, AND DO IT SOON.

Leica has not yet made any new product announcements but I am hoping and guessing they will do so very soon. If not, they will be in some big trouble as I predict their M9 sales will eventually slow down to a halt while everyone enjoys the new stuff from Fuji, Sony, and Olympus. There is a genuine excitement in the air about these new generation photographic machines in the photography world. Again, keep in mind I am not talking about die-hard Leica guys switching to Fuji, because people like me LOVE their M and will always have one. I am referring to that group of new customers Leica has not yet attracted and those who even went with an M to find it frustrating. I feel if Leica does not announce something amazingly special that this will NOT be their year and they may even lose some sales.

Will they announce a new X or M soon? I do not know… but one thing I hope for is that there is still someone at Leica with a creative mind and that they are really looking at what we want in a new model. I am not hoping for massive mega pixels or a new design. I am hoping for a more “mature” digital M. One that can focus accurately, one that has an LCD  that can let you know if you nailed focus when you look back at your image and one that can possibly have less noise at higher ISO. When you think about it..what CAN Leica do to create a HOME RUN camera?

BTW, I will have a review of the new Pentax K01 by the end of the weekend and the Fuji X-Pro 1 should be arriving to me SOON, so stay tuned! Like I said, this is the calm before the storm :)

Give me YOUR thoughts on what you are hoping to see from Leica. Leave your comments below!

© 2009-2015 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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